29 February 2012

Banksy on Advertising

Santorum or Khameini?

This is a fun little quiz from Foreign Policy that I am blatantly and unashamedly stealing because their formatting is stupid. Seriously, who wants to click across nine pages to answer a quiz? I'm attributing it, though, so don't sue me. If you want to take the quiz in their stupid format, you can go to their website via the above link.

Anyways, the idea:

Each of these quotes is from either Rick Santorum (again, don't click the link if you're at work) or Ayatollah Khameini, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Can you guess which quote is from which politician? Answers after.

1."We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth."

2. "We believe in democracy and we also believe in freedom, but we do not believe in liberal democracy."

3. "Although the literal meaning of socialism is equitable distribution of wealth, it is associated with other concepts which we hate. Over time, socialism has come to be associated with certain things in society that are unacceptable to us."

4. "The radical feminists succeeded in undermining the traditional family and convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness."

5. "This is not a political war at all. This is not a cultural war. This is a spiritual war."

6. "This is a war between two willpowers: the willpower of the people and the willpower of their enemies."

7. "Go back and read what the sirens did once you arrived on that island.… They devour you. They destroy you. They consume you."

8. "The American people's hatred for Iran is profound." Oh wait, we got that one backward. Sorry. It should read:

8. "The Iranian people's hatred for America is profound."

Santorum: 1, 4, 5, 7
Khomeini: 2, 3, 6, 8

How many'd you get? My guess: not all of them. This isn't an argument, or good politics - but it is illuminating as to the state of political discourse in this country that we can't tell a government that is supposed to be (if you believe in the constitution and all that) the pinnacle of liberal democracy (I use "liberal" here in the enlightenment rather than the contemporary pejorative sense) from an Islamic theocracy that is supposed to be our strongest contrast.

Pretty Thing of the Day Feb.29

28 February 2012

Homesickness - Ellen Gilchrist

There was a wonderful moment in a restaurant when Aurora didn't want anything to eat. It turned out she was lonesome for her school cafeteria. I left the restaurant and went to a deli and bought her a can of potato chips. "She is hungry for her native foods," I told the Korean waiter when I returned. "She needs contact with her native earth."

That's from page 196 of Falling Through Space: The Journals of Ellen Gilchrist. The scene is of Gilchrist taking her grandchildren on a visit to New York. Somehow it's always the food that makes me miss the south. Reminiscent of this post from last month, in which I quoted Dorothy Allison.

Quotes of the Day

It seems this is becoming a recurring feature... I'm not prepared to commit just yet, but am enjoying it while it lasts. First funny, second serious, both good.

"Yeah who cares what homophones say... they all sound the same anyway."
- Neat skewering of a typo in a previous comment in the discussion thread following an article on an MMA fighter's outing as a former gay porn actor.

"For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been—and may someday be again—a Jew, or a Quaker, or a Unitarian, or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that led to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today, I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you—until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped apart at a time of great national peril."
- John F. Kennedy, as quoted in a New Yorker article on Rick Santorum and the things that make Santorum puke. As with the last time I talked about Santorum, don't click the link on his name if you're at work.

Pretty Thing of the Day Feb.28


27 February 2012

More on Prisons and Rape

In previous posts, I've connected to some critiques of the U.S. criminal "justice" system. The quotation marks should be enough to identify my general position on it.

In my February 15 post "Notes on the Crime Rate" (same hyperlink as above), I quoted an article from N+1 that contained some startling (to some) statistics, and damning analysis:

The statistics touting the country’s crime-reduction miracle, when juxtaposed with those documenting the quantity of rape and assault that takes place each year within the correctional system, are exposed as not merely a lie, or even a damn lie—but as the single most shameful lie in American life.

Now, there's more, and I want to link you to it and give you some key quotes to point out why it's important.

This article is from the New York Review of Books. It's titled "Prison Rape and the Government," it cites four different DOJ studies, and it points out what should be obvious: our incarceratory systems are fundamentally broken.

According to a recent report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), a branch of the Department of Justice, there were only 7,444 official allegations of sexual abuse in detention in 2008, and of those, only 931 were substantiated. These are absurdly low figures. But perhaps more shocking is that even when authorities confirmed that corrections staff had sexually abused inmates in their care, only 42 percent of those officers had their cases referred to prosecution; only 23 percent were arrested, and only 3 percent charged, indicted, or convicted. Fifteen percent were actually allowed to keep their jobs.

How many people are really victimized every year? Recent BJS studies using a “snapshot” technique have found that, of those incarcerated on the days the surveys were administered, about 90,000 had been abused in the previous year, but as we have argued previously,2 those numbers were also misleadingly low. Finally, in January, the Justice Department published its first plausible estimates. In 2008, it now says, more than 216,600 people were sexually abused in prisons and jails and, in the case of at least 17,100 of them, in juvenile detention. Overall, that’s almost six hundred people a day—twenty-five an hour.

Later on in the article, which is about a year old now, we get to the topic of what's being done about this problem. Unsurprisingly, the answer isn't good.

In 2003, seeking to address this disgraceful situation, both chambers of Congress unanimously passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), a law that created a commission to study best practices and come up with national standards for preventing, detecting, and responding to the problem. This commission spent years consulting with corrections officials and other experts. Finally, in June 2009, it delivered its recommendations to Attorney General Eric Holder, who by law then had twelve months to revise them before formally issuing standards that would be nationally binding.

He missed that deadline. The estimate of 216,600 inmates sexually abused in a year comes from a draft of the proposed final standards, which Holder has only now published for public comment—a step that is still far from the last.

In other words: the government said "this is a problem... so we're going to drag our feet about solving it."

Katherine Rentz, from American University's school of communication, offers us an update from earlier this month: Holder's proposed standards still aren't finalized, and won't apply, if they ever are, to any immigration facilities.

When Attorney General Eric Holder proposed regulations in January 2011, he excluded immigration detention centers. His attorneys concluded that PREA applies only to the Bureau of Prisons, which is under Justice. The immigration centers moved from Justice over to the newly formed DHS after members of Congress drafted PREA.

Smith, who has been involved in the matter since recommending the new standards to Justice, said she believes that Holder wanted to cover the immigrant centers but decided he didn’t have the authority. Holder also met resistance from DHS.

Yeah. The whole situation is shameful (not that me saying so is anything groundbreaking or that I'm bringing anything new to the table). How do you reform a system that is fundamentally broken?

24 February 2012

FWPCA Essay Titles

So this weekend, I'm presenting at the annual conference of the Far West Popular Culture Association.

Looking over the conference program, I notice a number of essays with truly amazing titles. My five favorites, in no particular order:

"‘I’m not a hooker, I’m from Jersey’: Constructed Identities and Hyperreal Product Promotion on MTV’s Jersey Shore"

"Break on Through to the Other Sign: a Semiotic Approach to the Words of Jim Morrison"

"Monstrous Iconography: The Carnivalesque and the Grotesque Personae in Lady GaGa’s Music Videos"
- It should be noted that this essay is part of my favorite panel title of the weekend, "Bakhtin on the Edge: Beer, Bartleby, /b/ and Bad Romance."

"A Second Life® for Shakespeare: Experiencing the Bard in the Metaverse"

"The Passions of the Soulless: What Spinoza Can Tell Us About True Blood"


Encountered while using the SeaTac wireless connection:

From the Wikipedia talk page on "Howl" -
Here, you joyless assclown of conformity. This is what you should've had the decency to paste into the talk page to begin with

From the Pitchfork review of Dirty Three's album "She Has No Strings Apollo" -
It seems like only a matter of time before some bloated instrumental rock collective releases an album consisting of fifty-five bowed guitars, ten full drumsets, and a guy hitting a cat with a frying pan, all engaged in a single belabored crescendo.

From a Grantland article on Robert Griffin's draft prospects -
Jerry Jones splash RG3 Texas Cowboys Stadium Jason Garrett job Tony Romo choke RG3 local. No, that's not a complete sentence, but every sort of argument surrounding the Cowboys taking RG3 are just those buzzwords.

20 February 2012

Greenwald on VanderSloot, Sawyer, and Ross

That is, noted journalist Glenn Greenwald has written, in the last week, two blogposts that I'm linking to here, because they should be read (and, clearly, me posting them here will get them to a broader audience than would have encountered them otherwise).

First off, a fairly explosive piece titled "Diane Sawyer and Brian Ross belong in a fear-mongering museum," which breaks down an ABC news report on the threat posed by Iran. Greenwald shows, pretty convincingly, that the logic behind the report is not just flawed, but dangerous.

Note that this entire story is based on pure fabrication — not just by accepting as Truth the Israeli and American accusation that Iran is behind these attacks, but far worse, continuously warning about Iranian attacks on synagogues and other targets inside the U.S. There is literally zero evidence that any of that is happening.

Second, a post that came out yesterday titled "Billionaire Romney donor uses threats to silence critics," which exhaustively and frighteningly shows the lengths to which one of Romney's biggest supporters, and his campaign's national finance co-chair, Frank Vandersloot, has gone in order to silence bloggers, journalists, and websites from posting unflattering information about him. These included, among other incidents

- Outing a gay reporter in rural Idaho after he published a critical article
- Threatening to sue Mother Jones for an article that (correctly) reported on that outing
- Threatening to sue Forbes for publishing an article that (correctly) reported on anti-gay causes Vandersloot had donated to
- Threatening to sue a blogger for writing a critical post
- Threatening to sue that same blogger for copyright infringement for posting the letter in which the original threat had been delivered

...yeah. Not such a nice guy. Big quote, from early in the article:

In the last month alone, VanderSloot, using threats of expensive defamation actions, has successfully forced Forbes, Mother Jones and at least one local gay blogger in Idaho to remove articles that critically focused on his political and business practices (Mother Jones subsequently re-posted the article with revisions a week after first removing it). He has been using this abusive tactic in Idaho for years: suppressing legitimate political speech by threatening or even commencing lawsuits against even the most obscure critics (he has even sued local bloggers for “copyright infringement” after they published a threatening letter sent by his lawyers). This tactic almost always succeeds in silencing its targets, because even journalists and their employers who have done nothing wrong are afraid of the potentially ruinous costs they will incur when sued by a litigious billionaire.

Five Quotes from Empire

All conflicts, all crises, and all dissensions effectively push forward the processes of integration and by the same measure call for more central authority. Peace, equilibrium, and the cessation of conflict are the values toward which everything is directed. The development of the global system (and of imperial right in the first place) seems to be the development of a machine that imposes procedures of continual contractualization that lead to systemic equilibria - a machine that creates a continuous call for authority.

Here, therefore, is born, in the name of the exceptionality of the intervention, a form of right that is really a right of the police. The formation of a new right is inscribed in the deployment of prevention, repression, and rhetorical force aimed at the reconstruction of social equilibrium: all this is proper to the activity of the police. We can thus recognize the initial and implicit source of imperial right in terms of police action and the capacity of the police to create and maintain order.

The most complete figure of this world is presented from the monetary perspective. From here we can see a horizon of values and a machine of distribution, a mechanism of accumulation and a means of circulation, a power and a language. There is nothing, no "naked life," no external standpoint, that can be posed outside this field permeated by money; nothing escapes money. Production and reproduction are dressed in monetary clothing. In fact, on the global stage, every biopolitical figure appears dressed in monetary garb. "Accumulate, accumulate! This is Moses and the Prophets!"

The political synthesis of social space is fixed in the space of communication. This is why communications industries have assumed such a central position. They not only organize production on a new scale and impose a new structure adequate to global space, but also make its justification immanent. Power, as it produces, organizes; as it organizes, it speaks and expresses itself as authority. Language, as it communicates, produces commodities but moreover creates subjectivities, puts them in relation, and orders them. The communications industries integrate the imaginary and the symbolic within the biopolitical fabric, not merely putting them at the service of power but actually integrating them into its very functioning.

This kind of continual intervention, then, which is both moral and military, is really the logical form of the exercise of force that follows from a paradigm of legitimation based on a state of permanent exception and police action. Interventions are always exceptional even though they arise continually; they take the form of police actions because they are aimed at maintaining an internal order. In this way intervention is an effective mechanism that through police deployments contributes directly to the construction of the moral, normative, and institutional order of Empire.

Pretty Thing of the Day Feb.20

19 February 2012

Dust, Flesh, and Bones

I've posted Matt Elliott's music before; this is from his newest album, "The Broken Man." A bit melancholy (okay, more than a bit), but beautiful. Most of the time, when I come across a singer-songwriter using a loop pedal, he or she doesn't have the kind of deep baritone that Mr. Elliott is making use of here... it works wonderfully. The entire album is worth checking out, if you're into this kind of thing.

Some things are so dark that woe betide the light that shines on them
I swear to god I thought it was a sign
This shallow grave recedes with every darkened patch of sky
The withered, wearied features start resembling mine
And in the disparate clamour of the chaos that surrounds you
It's hard to know which of the voices that you hear
Are your own

Some things scar your heart so deeply that a howl is not enough
To adequately purge the soul of pain
Still you yearn for contact but the burden that you shoulder means
you'll never trust a living soul again
And in the disparate clamour of the chaos that surrounds you
It's hard to know which of the voices that you hear
Are your own

This is how it feels to be alone, just like we'll die alone

This is how it feels to be alone
This is how it feels to be alone
This is all that we can call our own
Dust flesh and bone
This is how it feels to be alone
Just like we'll die alone

Yes, perhaps it is somewhat ironic that by the ending of the song he has a full choir singing "this is how it feels to be alone," but, given that every one of those voices is his, and the only accompaniment is his guitar (which comes across nicely in this video), I suppose it's forgivable.

Pretty Thing of the Day Feb.19

17 February 2012

On Mass Arrests

Or "En Masse Arrests," if you prefer.

One thing the Occupy protests have brought back into the public eye - if you haven't done a lot of reading about the anti-globalization movement, anyway, which is where a lot of these tactics got pioneered - is the mass arrests that happen whenever there's a large, confrontational rally.

Example: The recent arrest of 409 Occupy Oakland protesters.

At first glance, this raises the (terrifying?) specter of hundreds of angry protesters committing crimes - and then being caught by police officers, charged, prosecuted, and convicted.

Looking at the actual numbers, though, turns up something that might seem puzzling. Of 409 arrestees, 12 were charged with crimes - that's just over 3%.

12 of 409. That's not very many at all. So why arrest 409 people?

Well... for one, it's a quick way to break up a protest. If you've got a bunch of people that you don't want protesting, there's a simple way to get rid of them: Pen them in so that they can't go anywhere, and then arrest them all for failing to disperse or some similar charge.

This is what the cops did on the Brooklyn Bridge, where 900 New York protesters were arrested: they let the protesters onto the bridge, then closed off both ends and arrested them for disorderly conduct.

In that case, we saw another tactic, and one that reveals the directly political nature of the arrests: the protesters were released with the understanding that if they were arrested again within six months, they would be charged. The National Lawyers' Guild, which represented the protesters pro bono, spoke of a "chilling effect" that such a tactic has, and rightly so.

The police say that there's no political side to this:

The district attorney’s office does not agree that ACDs have a chilling effect on protesters. The source said that if protests are peaceful and “if you are not breaking the law, you are not going to get arrested.” But if people are doing “everything lawfully and they still get arrested,” a source in that office conceded, then the decision about whether to prosecute is “at the discretion” of the district attorney.

So. Mass arrests to end protests (though whether those arrests actually serve that purpose or not is up for debate; it didn't work in Oakland), followed either by no charges or by charges designed expressly to keep people from protesting further.

Does that sound like what the cops are supposed to be doing to you?

To Take a Step Without Feet

This is love: to fly toward a secret sky,
to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment.
First, to let go of life.
In the end, to take a step without feet.
To regard this world as invisible,
and to disregard what appears to the self.

Heart, I said, what a gift it has been
to enter this circle of lovers,
to see beyond seeing itself,
to reach and feel within the breast.

My soul, where does this breathing arise?
How does this beating heart exist?
Bird of my soul, speak in your own words,
and I will understand.

The heart replied: I was in the workplace
the day this house of water and clay was fired.
I was already fleeing that created house,
even as it was being created.
When I could no longer resist, I was dragged down,
and my features were molded from a handful of earth.

Pretty Thing of the Day Feb.18

16 February 2012

1912 and Wealth Inequality

So... Slate's got a new article up talking about a series of hearings that President Taft called before he left office at the end of 1912.

Worth a read. Key passage, from the article's second page:

There is something almost quaint—but decidedly refreshing—about the commissioners’ blunt language. “Effective action by Congress is required…,” the report proclaimed, “to check the growth of an hereditary aristocracy, which is foreign to every conception of American Government and menacing to the welfare of the people and the existence of the Nation as a democracy.” Far from debating whether “corporations are people,” the commission took for granted that concentrations of corporate power were undemocratic, that gigantic fortunes “constitute a menace to the State,” and that it was the duty of government to restore a balance of power.

How did they plan to do it? The commission offered two chief solutions, neither one of which has won much of an airing in our latest rounds of debate. The first was an inheritance tax, aimed not at the fearless entrepreneur, but at his sons and daughters, who had done nothing to deserve a fortune. The second was increased support for union organizing, on the principle that workers deserved to elect their own representatives on the job just as they did in the government.

Both of these ideas ultimately became law—the inheritance tax almost immediately, union organizing rights in fits and starts over the next few decades. Today, by contrast, we seem to be going in the opposite direction, with unions under attack and the so-called “death tax” all but moribund as a political issue.

The Prison Cell Concept of Death

Who wrote that Russian story, was it Babel or maybe Yuri Olesha, about a man dying in his bed. His death is described as a progressive deterioration of possibilities, a methodical constriction of options available to him. First he cannot leave the room, so that a railroad ticket, for instance, has no more meaning for his life. Then he cannot get out of bed. Then he cannot lift his head. Then he cannot see out the window. Then he cannot see his hand in front of him. Life moves inward, the sensations close in, the horizons diminish to point zero. And that is his death. A kind of prison cell concept of death, the man being locked in smaller and smaller cells, his own consciousness depleted of sensations being the last and smallest cell. It is a point of light. If this is true of death, then a real prison is death's metaphor and when you put a man in prison you are suggesting to him the degrees of death that are possible before life is actually gone. You are forcing him to begin his dying. All constraints on freedom enforce conditions of death. The punishment of prison inflicts the corruption of death on life.

- E.L. Doctorow, The Book of Daniel, 147-148

Pretty Thing of the Day Feb.16

15 February 2012

Notes on the Crime Rate

So I've written a couple of posts lately relating to the American prison system. I'm going to do another one.

This article from N+1 is worth a read. Christopher Glazek takes a detailed look at the statistics and the ways they get reported, or don't get reported, in prisons.

The main argument:

Crime has not fallen in the United States—it’s been shifted. Just as Wall Street connived with regulators to transfer financial risk from spendthrift banks to careless home buyers, so have federal, state, and local legislatures succeeded in rerouting criminal risk away from urban centers and concentrating it in a proliferating web of hyperhells. The statistics touting the country’s crime-reduction miracle, when juxtaposed with those documenting the quantity of rape and assault that takes place each year within the correctional system, are exposed as not merely a lie, or even a damn lie—but as the single most shameful lie in American life.

That's a pretty major thing to say, and Glazek's got the numbers to back it up. The big deal here is that a lot of crimes in prison simply haven't been recorded prior to the last couple of years. For example:

In January, prodded in part by outrage over a series of articles in the New York Review of Books, the Justice Department finally released an estimate of the prevalence of sexual abuse in penitentiaries. The reliance on filed complaints appeared to understate the problem. For 2008, for example, the government had previously tallied 935 confirmed instances of sexual abuse. After asking around, and performing some calculations, the Justice Department came up with a new number: 216,000. That’s 216,000 victims, not instances. These victims are often assaulted multiple times over the course of the year. The Justice Department now seems to be saying that prison rape accounted for the majority of all rapes committed in the US in 2008, likely making the United States the first country in the history of the world to count more rapes for men than for women.

Pretty stunning stuff, if you haven't been looking at it dead-on before this. From there, Glazek shifts into a history of the U.S. prison system that points out how things have gotten to be this way - a history that ties into the "Caging of America" post I linked to at the top of this post, but focuses more heavily on the implementation of three-strikes laws, possession laws, and similar harshly punitive measures. Glazek ties these laws, convincingly, to political concerns:

There followed a thirty-five-year period of “tough” crime laws. They began in New York State, with Nelson Rockefeller, the liberalish governor who, having failed three times to secure the Republican presidential nomination, decided he would make drug policy his peace offering to the party’s right wing. Previously an advocate of treatment programs and community supervision, Rockefeller abruptly changed course in 1973, innovating harsh mandatory minimum sentences for both the sale and possession of illegal drugs. In the next thirty years, New York’s prison population sextupled, climbing from 13,400 prisoners in 1973 to 71,500 prisoners in 2000.

The article concludes with a call not for prison reform, but for prison abolition, and it moves to a number of potentially fiery arguments as a result of that move. Convinced that the system is too fundamentally broken to be fixed, Glazek suggests that those in favor of abolishing it will need to make new allies and let go of old agendas - gun control and the death penalty being two of the most potentially divisive issues he brings up.

This is a significant article, and one that you should read if you're interested in the workings of the US incarceral system. Even if you don't agree with his conclusions, Glazek makes some very important points, only a few of which I've covered here.

Pretty Thing of the Day Feb.15

14 February 2012

SPD officer: "I'm gonna make stuff up."

...and you can watch the video, with explanation, at this link from KOMO News.

Story in bullet point form, followed by extended quote:

- Witness reports assault by "two tall, skinny African Americans" in blue jeans.

- Two black guys - one six feet tall and in white sweat pants, one five foot nine and in blue jeans, get arrested, a few blocks away, at gunpoint; one gets kicked in either the face or chest.

- They get put into holding cells, and an officer says they'll be booked for robbery. When they question him, he says "Yeah, I'm gonna make stuff up."

- Neither is charged. Both are later released.

Extended quote:

But then listen to what an officer says on an audio recording after he takes the two to holding cells: "Well, you're going to jail for robbery that's all."

You then hear Franklin ask, "for robbery?" And the officer responds, "Yeah, I'm gonna make stuff up."

It's on video.

Let me say that again: The cops arrest, at gunpoint, people who don't fit the description of the suspects, take them to jail, and then threaten to fabricate evidence in order to charge them with an unrelated offense that they didn't commit.

The whole thing is caught on video.

What's the police response?

We showed Seattle Police Sergeant Sean Whitcomb the arrest video, and he admits the 'make stuff up' comment was inappropriate. But he says the department's Office of Professional Accountability investigated the complaint and exonerated the officer.

"I can tell you we take (complaints) seriously but people have to believe that and they have to trust the system they have to trust the process," Whitcomb said.

Yeah. Your department has been called out by the Department of Justice for a pattern of excessive force, especially towards minorities, you've "lost" more than 45,000 dashcam videos, you're suing a lawyer who asked for videos that were supposed to be public record, you just exonerated a cop who flat-out said he was going to falsify a report, and you want us to trust the process?

Good luck with that.

Valentine Dilemma (from xkcd)

Link to original comic

Thanks to SKH, from whom I stole the link.

Santorum Visits Tacoma

Rick Santorum, he of the Google problem (don't click that link if you're at work; just know that it clicks through to the top result for Santorum's name), visited Tacoma yesterday to give a campaign speech.

The fact that the avowedly anti-gay former senator did this just hours after a gay marriage bill was signed into law by Washington's governor meant that some fireworks were to be anticipated; the event didn't disappoint.

The Stranger's Paul Constant was there, and came back with a few choice vignettes that he fused into an article titled "The Rick Santorum Rally in Tacoma Probably Could Have Gone Better":

Members of Occupy Tacoma embedded in the crowd mic checked Santorum on several different occasions. (Occupy Tacoma headquarters were just 500 feet away from the rally site.) Marriage equality activists started a pro-gay-marriage chant that silenced the candidate for something like two minutes, and they encouraged passing traffic to honk in support of marriage equality and taxing the wealthy, adding to the general cacophony. The concrete plaza in front of the Washington State History Museum entrance, with its sweeping coliseum-style seating surrounded on two sides by abrupt, tall brick walls, was a perfect echo chamber, muddling both Santorum's speech and the shouts of protesters into one dull, angry roar.


Santorum drew a crowd of hundreds of angry Washingtonians to the event. One brave man carrying an anti-Santorum sign ("FREEDOM FROM RELIGION," on one side, "Stop the Drama, Re-elect Obama") was followed around the rally by several Santorum supporters pinching their noses and miming as though they were swatting away flies. "I can't stand the smell of this guy," one fly-swatter said, adding, "it's like he's got garbage in his pockets." An old woman told the nose-pinchers, as she squeezed past the whole scene, "Watch out for the maggots." Another woman clucked her tongue, and told her friends, "If you're an atheist, you'll just believe in anything."


A man carrying a sign that read "Go Rick/PRO-LIFE/PRO-NORMAL-MARRIAGE" ranted at a supporter of marriage equality who asked him what a "normal" marriage was. Gay marriage, the man explained, "is sick. It's against nature. Nature itself says it's wrong, not to mention the Bible."


"Is this about contraception? No it is not," Santorum said, "It's about our rights." As he talked about the rights given to us by God as clearly stated in the Constitution, a liberal heckler to my left shouted, "3/5ths of a person!" The crowd around me cheered their agreement with his sentiment, even though I suspect many of them didn't understand exactly what they were cheering.

According to the article, Santorum was also glitter-bombed; according to the Wall Street Journal, at least two protesters were arrested.

Pretty Thing of the Day Feb.14

Happy Valentine's Day.

13 February 2012

Yo, baby, want a no-no?

Movie inside is big as the wall of a building
and so bright it'd make you throw up
but they watch it the men and they eat and they drink
and they eat and they drink.
Actually it is not just the two of us her and me
There are the cops and me and her and the good for nothing windows
and brown suits and grey suits and blue suits
cars that stop and ones that go
There are palm trees and people
leaning on the palm trees scratching reading
looking at the trash which is empty (believe me) from being looked at
And gargoyles of human beings
hung on the ugly architecture of wobbling lurching bodies
coming down fast like dying empires
after the sun is already dead in their eyes
Rooms full of spooks drunk on dish soap spiked
with whatever was left on the tables when the bar closed
An animal over there with spotted pants
dreams googleplex like the chopped up palm and the broken wall
and is just lost, oh my god, moving like a range of dusty mountains
dead with nothing to hold it down
moved by earthquake or rain that swallows the stars and moon
Get out of the way off the curb
He pukes in the garden and slams sideways into the stucco

Pretty Thing of the Day Feb.13

10 February 2012

What Do You Want?

Some time later, people began to join them in that small windowless room. A nondescript knock, a grunt of "Whaddaya want?" from Tommie, a brief reply, and another man or woman would sidle through the half-opened door. Some were large and hard-looking like Tommie; some were smaller, softer, clerkish types; a couple could have been respectable shopkeepers; one might be plump and solemn, the next skinny and full of laughter.

They had in common a certain presence: an air of being profoundly engaged in whatever it was they did, whether talking to each other, or staring at him, or simply warming their hands at the fire. They didn't appear to be thinking about where they would be later tonight, or whatever might have happened this morning, or how their clothes looked, or whether the person to whom they spoke liked them or thought they were witty.

All they were doing was what they were doing.

They reminded Deliann of a saying Hari Michaelson had liked to quote sometimes, all those years ago: When you eat, eat. when you sleep, sleep. When you fight, fight.

Slowly, through the dazed whirl of his fever and everything that had happened that day, Deliann pieced together a pattern in the responses to Tommie's growled Whaddaya want? at the door. Each answer had been different, which was why Deliann hadn't noticed the pattern at first. One said, I want to come in; another simply said, A choice. A third had said, A big fire and a comfortable chair; a fourth, A good father for my children.

What Deliann gradually came to realize was this: Tommie's grunt was more than a rude greeting. It was a question. The same question he had asked Deliann.

It was a recognition code.

"This room," Deliann said wonderingly. "That's why this room has no windows..."

Tommie grinned at him. "Well, sure. It's not too healthy for us all to be seen together these days."

"You're Cainists..." Deliann breathed.

"Like I tolja before," Tommie said , chuckling, "sometimes it's you bright guys that have hardest time figurin' shit out."

The laughter this brought from the group was warm as a hug. Another knock came, and Tommie growled, "Whaddaya want?" and the reply that came back wasn't an answer.

"It's Caja, Tommie. Let me in."

The room fell deadly silent.

Tommie sighed. "Shit, they broke him," he said, and the door shattered open and shouting men in grey leather flooded the room, firing crossbows in a stuttering drumroll as they came. Quarrels hit chests and faces and heads from so close that they burst out the far sides in sprays of blood and splinters of bone. The impact slammed men and women into each other, going in screaming tangles to the floor, and Deliann could only stare, his mouth shaping a silent No.

"Get down get down get down get down!" screamed the men in grey. "On the floor hands in sight get down!"

Deliann found his voice, and the voice he found said, "No."

Now more men came through the door, and crossbows swung to cover him. "On the floor!"

Deliann rose from his chair, and the fire at his back haloed him with a red-gold gleam. "There's been too much killing."

"There'll be more if you don't lie down," one of them said.

"I suppose you're right," he said sadly, as the fire behind him roared up from its ring of brick and spread phoenix wings that spanned the room: wings that enfolded him, and held him in an embrace of flame.

Quarrels leaped from crossbows, and Deliann did not lie down.

Introduction to my Exam Lists

I view these lists as an attempt to begin mapping out ways to describe specific places and kinds of places. Such an attempt, I believe, necessarily positions my work at the overlap and contradiction of several different theoretical approaches and concepts which can be represented in shorthand (though not limited to) the theorists most connected to them: Foucault’s heterotopias and geographies, Habermas’ public and Warner’s counter-publics, Benjamin’s (anti-)history, Butler’s subject, Hardt and Negri’s global network, Bey’s secret societies.

An engagement with these traditions within the context of this project must begin by limning their boundaries and limitations and establishing a ground for and movement towards an intersectional, approachable, and (most importantly) actionable (both academically and non-academically) theoretical approach.

I find the grounding for this approach in two distinct yet overlapping areas: first, as represented by my primary period, and expanded further in that list’s rationale, 20th-century Americanism; second, as represented by my special topic, and expanded further in that list’s rationale, post-1965 Southern literature. Each of these areas provides, in a different way, the places that my theoretical work seeks to map, and each of them complicates in turn the theories that seek to describe or enliven them.

Pretty Thing of the Day Feb.10

09 February 2012

Chris Hedges vs. Kristof Lopaur - Occupy & Violence

Letters and Politics - February 8, 2012 at 10:00am

Click to listen (or download)

Many thanks to SM for the link... this is a fantastic debate from KPFA radio between Chris Hedges - author of the recent, controversial article "Black Bloc: The Cancer in Occupy" - and Occupy Oakland member Kristof Lopaur. It's a little long, but all worthwhile. I'll write something up about my perspective on this later.

Pretty Thing of the Day Feb.9

07 February 2012

The Path of Faith

DATED PROPERTIES. What could be said of a God that allowed
such horror in the world?
I wept.

The path of faith is a gravel road that spirals up a mountain
whose peak is lost to view. The sky is always gray on this
mountain, leaden and vast, marked only by the fog that ob-
scures the peak, but subtly infused with the bright light of
God's loving presence, which awaits those who make it to
journey's end. The path passes through a country so austere
it appears almost blighted, but this is because everything un-
necessary has been cast away - all the horrors of the world
as well as the dulcet delights of our utopia, that secret and
special place that God blesses but does not deign to visit.
The first stage of the journey had been to realize that there
was a world worth living in. The second stage had been to
actually come to life. The third and final stage was to give
all that up, of one's own righteous volition, for the only thing
that could possibly be better, which is to say, the only thing
in the universe that really existed at all.

Pretty Thing of the Day Feb.7

06 February 2012

Pretty Thing of the Day Feb.6

Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis
vidi in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent:
Σιβυλλα τι θελεις; respondebat ill: αποθανειν θελω.

05 February 2012

Philosophy and Revolution in Brazil

Just about to take off for a Super Bowl party with friends, but I wanted to give y'all a link to this very interesting article on the teaching of philosophy in Brazil, along with two comments that were posted at the bottom of it.

First comment:
Why does the author take it for granted that, under the circumstances described, to "teach students to question and challenge THE FOUNDATIONS OF SOCIETY ITSELF" (my emphasis) is - for one thing - good and desirable and - for another - the task of philosophy??? To me it sounds more like the stock-in-trade of revolutionaries of every stripe, and of extremists and fanatics in particular, so why should any polity encourage such teaching in public schools at the taxpayers expense? Perhaps we should be thankful that Carlos Fraenkel did not write the curriculum for this interesting Brazilian educational initiative.
— posted 02/04/2012 at 16:09 by saksin

Second comment:
@saksin: The purpose of questioning is not to undermine; it is for each generation to relearn the reasons why. That you may occasionally realize the old reasons no longer apply is a necessary side-effect - and the one most needed to save a society from itself.
— posted 02/05/2012 at 20:13 by YKA

Rationale: Post-1965 Southern Literature

This list provides a number of texts which will serve as direct examples and grounds for analysis, as well as complications and challenges, for the combinatory theoretical approach which begins to emerge from my theory list.

My preliminary usage of “Southern” here refers mainly to writers from the former Confederacy, writing stories which take place in that area; by post-1965, I mean both the time at which the stories were written and the time in which they take place. I have, additionally, chosen to focus on writers who, though perhaps had published before 1965, saw the bulk of their careers occur after this point.

My choice of 1965 as a starting point is tied to a number of significant events: the official expansion of the Vietnam War via the acknowledgement of US combat troops; the swearing-in of Lyndon B. Johnson and his subsequent “Great Society” speech; and the passage of the 1965 Immigrant Acts, which abolished racial quotas on immigration into the United States. It is also the year after Flannery O’Connor’s death, and three years after the death of William Faulkner.

With these things in mind, this list is therefore bounded by spatial, temporal, political, and psychological concerns - the ending (at least directly) of the dominant presences within the Southern Renaissance, the refiguring of U.S. borders and imperialism, the restructuring of the state's relationship to its citizens' futures - which echo, in situated form, the concerns of my theory list. A concern with place is thus the dominant framework for these texts - but place as necessarily and unavoidably articulated with other factors (expanded upon elsewhere) which vary in their visibility according to the specifics of each given text.

Rationale: 20th-Century Americanism

I have titled this list "Americanism" rather than "American Literature" for a number of reasons, and with a number of effects. First, and most obviously, this list draws on texts - on speeches, legislation, and essays, as well as novels and books of poetry - that might more typically be organized into separate archives or even disciplines. I have drawn these texts together because they speak not just to a literary tradition, or a cluster of literary traditions, but to the outline of a (necessarily) radically heterogeneous and contradictory mode of being. I would position this mode as, primarily, one which operates in the register of place, in ways that are expanded on in my theory rationale and heightened in my special topics rationale. The struggle over, against, or with place is a unifying thread through the various texts and types of texts on this list. This thread sometimes takes the form of an emphasis on borders and surfaces, sometimes of an emphasis on identities, sometimes on (anti-)histories, sometimes (though, I believe, less often than is generally suggested) on networks. Often, and most interestingly and productively, it takes the form of the intersection of all or several of these things.

Pretty Thing of the Day Feb.5

03 February 2012

Holloway on Dissonance

This is not a book that tries to depict the horrors of capitalism. There are many books that do that, and, besides, we have our daily experiences to tell us the story. Here we take that for granted. The loss of hope for a more human society is not the result of people being blind to the horrors of capitalism, it is just that there does not seem to be anywhere else to go, any otherness to turn to. The most sensible thing seems to be to forget our negativity, to discard it as a fantasy of youth. And yet the world gets worse, the inequalities become more strident, the self-destruction of humanity seems to come closer. So perhaps we should not abandon our negativity but, on the contrary, try to theorise the world from the perspective of the scream.

And what if the reader feels no dissonance? What if you feel no negativity, if you are content to say 'we are, and the world is'? It is hard to believe that anyone is so at home with the world that they do not feel revulsion at the hunger, violence, and inequality that surrounds them. It is much more likely that the revulsion or dissonance is consciously or unconsciously suppressed, either in the interests of a quiet life or, much more simply, because pretending not to see or feel the horrors of the world carries direct material benefits. In order to protect our jobs, our visas, our profits, our chances of receiving good grades, our sanity, we pretend not to see, we sanitise our own perception, filtering out the pain, pretending that it is not here but out there, far away, in Africa, in Russia, a hundred years ago, in an otherness that, by being alien, cleanses our own experience of all negativity. It is on such a sanitised perception that the idea of an objective, value-free social science is built. The negativity, the revulsion at exploitation and violence, is buried completely, drowned in the concrete of the foundation blocks of social science just as surely as, in some parts of the world, the bodies of sacrificed animals are buried by builders in the foundation blocks of houses or bridges. Such theory is, as Adorno puts it, 'in the nature of the musical accompaniment with which the SS liked to drown out the screams of its victims'. It is against such suppression of pain that this book is directed.

But what is the point? Our scream is a scream of frustration, the discontent of the powerless. But if we are powerless, there is nothing we can do. And if we manage to become powerful, by building a party or taking up arms or winning an election, then we shall be no different from all the other powerful in history. So there is no way out, no breaking the circularity of power. What can we do?

Change the world without taking power.

Ha! ha! Very funny.

Interpreting Interpreting Heidegger of the Day Feb.3

The idea of situatedness as indeed a happening that is also a gathering or belonging means that the elements that are gathered together in that happening cannot be understood as elements that have somehow been separated, but are now, in the happening of situatedness, simply returned to their proper relation with one another. Instead, the happening of belonging that is at issue here is indicative of the character of the 'belonging' in question as a matter of the reciprocal determination of elements within a single 'structure.'

That's a quote from Heidegger's Topology, a book I've gotten into over the course of my exam reading this last week.

Essentially - and I'll try to interpret the interpretation -

We start with the idea of situatedness. What does it mean to be situated? Well, if we are going to be situated, we are going to be placed in relation to other things.

Being placed is a happening. We enter into a place, or are put into a place. It happens.

It is also a gathering - because the things in relation to which we are placed are (by being defined in relation to us) gathered to us, or attached to us.

Being in a place, being situated (being in a situation), means being attached.

What this means is that we can't say "to enter a place is to become attached" - because, by being, we are already in a place. To be is to happen. To be is to be attached.

To be is to be attached, and attachment - which is beautifully described by "gathering" - is the creation of structure. To be, then, is to be within a structure of belonging which is tied to a particular place.

That's kind of lovely, isn't it?