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Tuesday, 31 October 2006

October Surprise: Clobber the Blogger

At a campaign stop in Charlottesville, Virginia, staffers for Senator George Allen (R-VA) beat up Mike Stark, United States Marine, University of Virginia Law student, and blogger for Daily Kos.

The issue which gets neglected due to the unseemly and easy-to-sensationalize behavior of Senator Allen’s staffers (and which Stark tries to raise before being assaulted) is Allen’s apparent history as a bully. Allen’s sister, Jennifer Allen, explains in her book Fifth Quarter: The Scrimmage of a Football Coach’s Daughter,

We all obeyed George. If we didn't, we knew he would kill us. Once, when Bruce refused to go to bed, George hurled him through a sliding glass door. Another time, when Gregory refused to go to bed, George tackled him and broke his collarbone. Another time, when I refused to go to bed, George dragged me up the stairs by my hair. (22)

Possibly hoping to embarrass Senator Allen about similar abuse Allen may have committed against his first wife (the divorce records are sealed), Stark approaches Allen after the speech but is physically barred by Allen staffers. Dismayed, Stark says

Why are you putting your hands on me? I'm asking my senator—I‘m a constituent. He’s my senator. I’m asking a question.

Stark is then shoved by one male staffer who tells Stark to leave the building. Stark tries to ascertain whether the staffer has the authority to eject Stark, and the staffer replies he is not a part of the Omni Hotel staff and proceeds to beat Stark with the assistance of a second staffer who places Stark in a headlock. Stark resists defensively (he does not fight back, attempting only to elude his assailants) and shouts at Allen

Senator Allen, did you spit on your first wife?

The first staffer then responds, "Aw, now you’re getting personal” and throws Stark against the corridor’s windows and to the floor. Stark maintains his composure and replies, “I didn’t touch anybody.” Stark stands and the first staffer tells Stark, “You need to move on out of here, now,” shoving him one last time as the second staffer, arm encircling Stark, pushes Stark toward the exit.

Before leaving, Stark says, “If the hotel asked me to leave, I’d leave” and the first staffer (off camera) responds “You getting personal?” Just before exiting, Stark asks “Did he [spit on his first wife]? What do you know?” The second staffer says, “I know he’s a good man” and the first staffer shouts, ”I know you’re a punk!”

The video is a tough break for Senator Allen and his rapidly southward-bound reelection campaign. Stark is composed and respectful. He only asks to speak with Allen and he does not fight back. Allen’s staffers behave atrociously and commence assaulting the peacable if resistant Stark. All the while, Stark clearly states he desires only to speak with his elected representative and that he is confused about why he is being physically abused.

However, my tentacle-wagging at the Senator Allen’s ill-mannered henchmen staffers is not what Allen should worry about. What the Allen campaign needs now is to understand that his thugs cheerleaders have physically assaulted an ex-Marine who from all appearances understands how to put together a lawsuit. In a letter to the Charlottesville-area NBC affiliate, WVIR, Stark states

I will be pressing charges against George Allen and his surrogates later today. George Allen, at any time, could have stopped the fray. All he had to do was say, "This is not how my campaign is run. Take your hands off that man." He could have ignored my questions. Instead he and his thugs chose violence. I spent four years in the Marine Corps. I'll be damned if I'll let my country be taken from me by thugs that are afraid of taking responsibility for themselves.

It just isn't the America I know and love. Somebody needs to take a stand against those that would bully and intimidate their fellow citizens. That stand begins right here, right now.

WVIR report on Allen campaign staffers assaulting UVa Law student Mike Stark

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Trick or treat, Senator Allen. Trick or treat. end of article


Boingboing post: “George ‘macaca’ Allen’s staff beats up blogger at campaign rally1

The Huffington Post on Jennifer Allen’s Fifth Quarter: The Scrimmage of a Football Coach’s Daughter

Wonkette post: “Allen Staffers Beat Up Blogger, Nation Celebrates

WVIR article: “Incident at Allen Campaign Stop in Charlottesville

1 Boingboing’s report of this incident is the first one I encountered.
Works Cited

Allen, Jennifer. Fifth Quarter: The Scrimmage of a Football Coach's Daughter. New York: Random House, 2000.

Saturday, 28 October 2006

Stupid Me

Before getting yesterday carried away by a gushy, embarrassing tide of love for my former and future loves, I started with the observation that

Earlier this week I made a push to begin (I always begin at the beginning) my first sustained piece of research post-dissertation. Integrating research after-the-fact has been more difficult than I ever imagined it would be. Many of the anxieties of dissertating came up, and I am realizing now that having bypassed those anxieties and having written around existing research now troubles my current writerly form.

Qualified though it may be, that’s terrific news for my research. I analyzed, fractured, and reconstituted the main components of my argument and am now in the process of recombining them, synthesizing new material along the way. Here’s the introduction to “Prototype for a Cyborg Subject” as it exists now:

Even after the publication of Donna Haraway’s “A Manifesto for Cyborgs” a quarter of a century ago and bell hooks’s cultivation of a “radical postmodernism [which] calls attention to those sensibilities which are shared across the boundaries of class, gender, and race” in order to forge “ties that would promote recognition of common commitments and serve as a base for solidarity and coalition” (“Postmodern Blackness”), scholars of American literature and culture have devoted scant attention to mapping the intersections of race and cybernetics in ways that question the conflation of technical competence and white masculinity.1 As a result, several aporia manifest in the critical field regarding the nature and origins of cyborg identity, the strategies and tactics available to and employed by American racial subalterns, and the way in which race is generated and destabilized by electricity as a medium.2 The problem has many dimensions with none more significant than those which relate to origin and lineage. That is, what are the earliest literary uses of what we today call cybernetics, how do these uses intersect with race, and how does this affect our understanding of subsequent literary and cultural representations of race and cybernetics? Some of these very complicated questions can be addressed directly by considering Ralph Ellison’s 1952 Invisible Man, a novel that is considered by some to be the most important work of American fiction of its era.3

In this essay I focus my attention on Ellison’s Invisible Man using several disparate areas of critical discourse: recent criticism considering electricity in Ellison’s Invisible Man, scholarship concerning the concept of the cyborg, theories concerning the nature of media and its effects on subjectivity, and the work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari pertaining to their notion of the “body without organs.” My general argument is that while the boundary between animal and machine is often construed as an ontological barrier, Ellison’s Invisible Man reconfigures this boundary as an interface whose primary substance is electricity. Electricity is a medium that binds humans to other humans and to non-humans by virtue of its abilities to carry information and to flow through the very (conductive) materials of which organisms and machines are made. In other words, electricity is well-suited for improvising networks of heterogeneous elements. Not until nearly twenty years after the publication of Invisible Man, when Marshall McLuhan identifies electricity as a medium whose “implosive factor [ . . .] alters the position of the Negro, the teen-ager, and some other groups,” is this transformative capacity of electricity more widely acknowledged. McLuhan explains that “They [the Negroes] can no longer be contained, in the political sense of limited association. They are now involved in our lives, as we in theirs, thanks to the electric media” (Understanding Media 5). McLuhan understands electricity has the power to connect groups of people who had formerly been segregated and that, more generally, it has the ability to couple entities which inhabit disparate ontological orders.4 Electricity, in other words, operates as a transducer.5


1 Cutting against the critical grain, several noteworthy studies do consider the relationship between race and cybernetics and how the myths which pervade both race and information technologies affect public perception, social policy, and cultural production. One source of such studies is a collection edited by Beth Kolko entitled, simply, Race in Cyberspace which contains a number of pioneering articles which consider race in the contexts of film, games, and the web. Included in that collection is Tara McPherson’s well-regarded “ I’ll Take My Stand in Dixie-Net” (2000) which analyzes “neo-rebel” web sites that use covert racism to underwrite the figure of “the Southern gentleman,” a figure constructed by “Southern nationalists” meant to preserve Southern heritage. Another excellent study of race and cybernetics is Thomas Foster’s The Souls of Cyberfolk: Posthumanism as Vernacular Theory (2005) which concludes

Posthuman narratives ambivalently but inextricably connect empowering uses of new technologies, new possibilities for self-control and self-definition, and new possibilities for cultural diversity outside the universalizing framework of the normative human form, with increased possibilities for external control and manipulation of those possibilities. It is precisely this internal debate over the meaning of these new possibilities [. . .] that makes posthuman narrative a model for the dialectical relation critics need to develop toward new technologies and technocultures[. . . .] (244)

In “ The Multiplication of Difference in Post-Millennial Cyberpunk Film: The Visual Culture of Race in the Matrix Trilogy” (2005), Lisa Nakamura argues that the Matrix trilogy divides “interfaces” along black and white racial lines such that black characters are used to sexualize the visual frame of white interfaces at the same time those black characters are also marginalized into supporting roles for white characters. (I return to Nakamura’s concept of racialized interface in my discussion of Invisible Man's factory hospital scene.)

Such studies are the exception as the overwhelming majority of research concerning cybernetics uses Donna Haraway’s groundbreaking “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century” as a pathway to concerns of feminism, gender, and sexuality. When writing about cybernetics, rarely do writers consider issues of race even though race and its representation have deeply affected the applied uses of industrial technology and, as I argue, electric technology in the first half of the twentieth century. Even rarer are studies which attempt to understand the representation of race in the post-industrial but pre-electronic age. I discuss some such studies below.

2 The main exceptions to this critical oversight are discussions of the effects of globalization on African and Asian nations with regard to manufacturing and disposal and assessments of the “digital divide” between whites and non-whites in the United States.
3 Writing for The New York Times Book Review, A. O. Scott notes that in 1965 The New York Herald Tribune published a survey that identified Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man as “ ‘the most memorable’ work of American fiction published since the end of World War II” (“In Search of the Best”).
4 This is not to say that laws such as the Fourteenth Amendment and their interpretation in cases such as Brown v. Board of Education did not play a crucial role in the creation of a more racially heterogeneous society. Electricity does not displace print so much as it, in this case, assists print’s juridical aims.
5 In his introduction to Transductions: Bodies and Machines at Speed, Adrian Mackenzie explains
[. . .] transduction designates both a process that lies at the heart of technicity and a mode of thought adapted to thining how collectives are involved, as Deleuze puts it, in the “establishing of communication between disparates” [(246)]. Transduction names the process that occurs as an entity individuates or precipitates in a field of relations and potentials. (N1 24-25)
Works Cited
Deleuze, Gilles. Difference and Repetition. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. Vintage Books ed. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.
Foster, Thomas. The Souls of Cyberfolk: Posthumanism as Vernacular Theory. Electronic Mediations: 13. Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota P, 2005.
Gillis, Stacy. The Matrix Trilogy: Cyberpunk Reloaded. London, England: Wallflower, 2005.
Haraway, Donna Jeanne. "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century." Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York, NY: Routledge, 1991: 149-181.
Kolko, Beth E., Lisa Nakamura, and Gilbert B. Rodman. Race in Cyberspace. New York, NY: Routledge, 2000.
Mackenzie, Adrian. Transductions: Bodies and Machines at Speed. London; New York: Continuum, 2002.
McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964.
McPherson, Tara. " I'll Take My Stand in Dixie-Net." Race in Cyberspace. Eds. Beth E. Kolko, Lisa Nakamura and Gilbert B. Rodman. New York, NY: Routledge, 2000: 117-31.
Nakamura, Lisa. "The Multiplication of Difference in Post-Millennial Cyberpunk Film: The Visual Culture of Race in the Matrix Trilogy." The Matrix Trilogy: Cyberpunk Reloaded. Ed. Stacy Gillis. London, England: Wallflower, 2005: 126-37.

Oh, and what prompted this entry was my thinking about my (as of this writing) broken blog entry.1 I am going out tonight but not in costume (though I hope to shoot some video) and several thousand of my synapses realized that fifteen or twenty feet of 1"-diameter clear PVC tubing wrapped around my torso would have been the perfect costume. When someone asked me about it, I would have been able to respond, “I’m the Internet.” end of article

1 Broken because as of Friday, 27 October, YouTube has removed all Comedy Central clips from its servers, including clips of the Daily Show. For now, Google video still has some Comedy Central content available on its servers. I may be fixing my broken blog entry in the next day or so.

Friday, 27 October 2006


I even started believing former desires pass, that I could reconcile the past through ghosts of the present. (Maybe I’m the ghost.) Tonight, on the phone with a woman with whom I once fell in love, after recounting the mind-numbing details of an infatuation with a one who canceled a date with me (cough cough) forty minutes before I was supposed to pick her up, I understood I know nothing about love, nothing about desire.

A pop tune’s fragment came to mind, “that all who fell in love were foolish.” I have always loved you AB, ERH, and KRP. You, too, Sarakittie.1

There was a point to this onset, to this last week of extended childhood, but I can't recall what that point was. Something about inevitability and acceptance, solitude and recompense. I don't know why things become the way they do. I only know I wish you were here. end of article

1 I remember even you, Erika, who I met in Los Angeles at the age of four, and you, Jen, who confessed, “When I met you, I thought you were a bimbo.” I love all of you whose lives have touched mine in the way that only desire and romance can. You, Laura Beesley, and Barbara Johnson, and Donna Schwab. I remember every contour of each of your faces, every line and curve, every dimple. I remember your beautiful smiles.

Wednesday, 18 October 2006

The Demise of an American Tradition

Walking back home across College Green this afternoon, I encountered someone whom civility demanded I hail and for whom I removed an earbud from my left ear.

“Hi, _______. How are you?”

“Hi, Johnnie. Not bad. Listening to something new?”

“Not new. Old.”

“Is it something good?”

I looked skyward to signal thoughtful debate because DEVO’s ”Race of Doom” had shuffled in and while it’s a brilliant commentary on the futility of competition in a materialist society, good depends on mood and I had been deciding whether to skip to the next random track. “Mm, not bad,” and thinking about my interlocutor, “It's OK.”

“Do you have lots of good stuff in there?”

I sense an agenda that has nothing to do with me. “Some. I have it on shuffle.”

“So you're a victim . . .” at which point I signaled the conversation was over by turning away.

“See you later.”

“Bye . . . and enjoy, or not . . .”

I should have told the truth, that I listen to my iPod as prophylaxis against conversations with the socially inept. end of article

Saturday, 14 October 2006

Data Dada

Great boobies, honey bun! My lower intestine is full of spam eggs spam bacon spam . . . spam spam spam . . .


Monty Python

The Brothers McLeod Spamland #1
Ctrl/Right-click on the link above to “Save File As . . .”

The first episode of Greg and Myles McLeod’s Spamland is uncanny, portentous, and beautifully rendered. The short evokes a sense of narrative but the narrative, of course, goes nowhere. The cues to narrative flow are abetted by a brooding and atmospheric soundtrack whose texture evokes scorched metal, fractured concrete, and twisted rebar.

Spamland #1 (00:04)-'Transmission Begins'
Transmission header (Timecode 01:00:04)

The narrative accretes by disjunctive synthesis and acoustic transformation, distortion and modulation. The opening frame announces, presumably, the sender and date of the transmission. In the context of Spamland, it is not unreasonable to assume this is a reference to the sender of junk email. If so, viewers are unable to fully orient themselves because the transmission header does not have an email address for the real name, XOCHIQUETZAL GEROW. The transmission was not meant to facilitate response.

Spamland #1 (00:14)-'Spaminism?'
Organism at coordinate origins (Timecode 01:00:14)

The landscape, geometrized and ancient, parodies logical order by placing on a Cartesian plane an ambiguous animated figure whose cardioid morphology suggests both a plucked chicken and an internal organ, a stomach perhaps. The agonist’s prickly, tufted tail and claw-terminated arms could be sutured vessels which once connected to the circulatory or gastrointestinal system of an even more grotesque organism.

The agonist’s gestures are indicial, emphatic, and actional. With the base of its tufted tail nearly at the the apparent origin of the frame’s coordinate system, the agonist reaches toward the entrance|egress commenting upon and telescoping (narrating) its actions, “Quietly forward, hands extended. Fingers lightly bowed!

Spamland #1 (00:18)-'Fingers lightly bowed!'
Fingers lightly bowed! (Timecode 01:00:18)

The frame zooms to the agonist’s climactic revelation that “Iron John was . . . ,” but the clause is never fully predicated. The frame dollies three clicks up the Y-axis, visually intercepting a passing insectoid, a cross between a lamprey and dragonfly whose asymmetrical dilated pupils, long eyelashes, and badminton-racquet wings seem displacements, perhaps by three units along the Y, of our cardioid agonist’s morphology: fowl metamorphosed?

Spamland #1 (00:21)='Agonist Dopplegä'
Foul Metamorphosis (Timecode 01:00:21)

The frame cuts to mid-distance, the agonist’s dopplegänger exiting frame left, at which point the agonist and narrative capitulate, the agonist helplessly exclaiming, “That’s why there is no record of them!

The acoustic landscape unquestionably owes a heavy unacknowledged debt to Aphex Twin’s “Analogue Bubblebath 3 (excerpt).”1 Another “source” for this disjunctively synthesized narrative is repurposed content originally designed by humans to circumvent software that hinders the transmission and replication of what we call “SPAM.” That such software can be fooled, whether by specially-engineered semiotic fragments or statistical improbability, means that the spam now contains what is by definition (because it escapes the software definition of “junk”) meaningful content. Pieces of narrative, proper nouns, plot trajectory: filter-dodging junk email transmissions contain renatured semiotic resources, and these resources can be used to coax, by the Twenty-First century data bricoleur, narrative structure and movement.2

In this instance, using that which is at hand deforms the topology of the body without organs by reterritorializing flows previously connected to the production of scam and spam. The procedure is dizzying even as it articulates a schematic of datastreams engineered, pilfered, and redirected. Fragments of syntax designed to open informatic throttles—so that transmissions may reach humans who will, upon receiving that information, direct portions of symbolic and electronic capital to those very networks whose production is inhibited by those throttles—are synthesized into a contrafluent narrative. That is, spam networks profit by successfully routing data using data as camouflage; however, when bricoleurs like The Brothers McLeod mine that data for narrative source material, the body of capital buds a new organ which secretes intended aesthetic value. end of article

1 The track comes from a compilation album titled Trance Express, Vol. 1: The Sound of European Trance.

2 What follows are replicas, found in Google’s cache, of transmissions containing the semiotic fragments (identifiable, below, by their green coloring) which comprise the agonist’s monologue.

Source 1:


best online prjce on












with a sheaf of papers.

Excellent, Narcoses said. You have the will? The young man

nodded. The door was closed and sealed again.

Source 2:






Economize 50 % http://www.k[...]e.com


Quietly forward. Hands extended, fingers lightly bowed. Iron John was

order around, sit up, beg.

Whats it I done wrong?

Source 3:


It is so common to have problems with erecxxtion,

Try VIrAGRA and forget about it http://www.b[...]n.com

must have been settled well before the League ever found this planet.

Thats why there is no record of them.

Who are them?

Wednesday, 11 October 2006


Caitlin emailed yesterday. I had been thinking about her these last two days, that we had once—twice kissed: on Mendy’s balcony and in her apartment in Graduate Court. Kelli lived in Graduate Court. Maybe Reetika, too. The first time I kissed Caitlin was at a party where I felt dejected because Bess was dancing the night away | tripping the light fantastic | waving magic fingers with Bill and Rob. I was too proper to look (and, plus, we had a date the next night), but apparently Bess’s boobs were flying everywhere. Bess is one of two women whose breasts to me were perfect.1 The other one smokes.

Anyhow, enigmatic elusive Caitlin emailed and I thought about her dating the Gordon. Smart guy. Not smart enough to know humanists make things up, or either humanists understand this about themselves. Heck, even Rorty knows. The last time I saw Caitlin was in NYC while eating lemon-grass crickets. I was too inebriated and they too cold for me to distinguish. I recall my mouth was spiny. As we walked to an Irish beer hall to meet (or go along with) Tony’s friends, I had fantasies of us making out.

While I wasn’t serious about then and there, I was saying in my sorry stupid way I’d always thought her beautiful, that I was curious. Friends is good, too. When I returned to Ohio, I emailed her but the mail just, sort of . . . sat there.

She says she lives in Dallas. end of article

1 There are other aspects of a woman more compelling than her breasts, and there are many kinds of perfect.

Tuesday, 10 October 2006


Have you ever woken up and felt you were somewhere you just didn’t belong? end of article

Saturday, 07 October 2006

Dreaming of You

In the midst of distorted memory, searing nostalgia, and unspoken wishes, you came to me. Years pass and I have explained to everyone I love that no one ever comes to my dreams until they are gone. Your coming haunts me because you never came that you could go in the first place.

We sit directly across from each other on your couch. You invited me in and in place of words I embrace you. We kiss. I don’t know if we are in love. You are wearing thin black pants and a peach scarf whose islets of ochre have thin red borders. Your earrings are long and golden. They remind me of 1997.

Once the one you are not said that after you leave the company of the last person you fell in love with, at least five years must pass before you can meet the next person you will fall in love with, regardless of whether you are still in love. You called it “The Five Year Rule.” How have you been this last half decade?

The second time, I had a radio, like Cheever's enormous one. Still, I was surprised that I could hear you talking in your house when it was on. In the morning, I was surprised you and he were waking in each other’s company. I didn’t think you two had that much in common.

You both were talking about me. end of article

Friday, 06 October 2006


This post is intended as a mild rant. Forgive me if it goes farther than that.

On my workstation, I don’t use any instant messaging client because in addition to being sticky, instant messaging clients are designed to facilitate interruption. With regard to AOL Instant Messenger, many of the preferences are means to customize or eliminate interruption: sounds for message sent, sounds for message received, actions to take on message received from a particular user, etc. This paragraph is a long way of saying I don’t invite instant message interruptions on the computer where I get most of my work done.

My AOL IM icon
My AOL IM icon
My 12-inch laptop, however, is a playground of interruptions, especially as far a instant messaging is concerned. There, Growl throws up notices when a buddy connects or disconnects, when my friends (or their cats) return to the computer after having left it, and, when someone sends me a message to start a conversation, my computer chirps the cheery AOL-first message received and speaks the text of that message so I can hear it from other parts of the house.1

What I’m on about here is how someone else has decided to personalize an institutional AOL instant messaging identity. My university’s library makes its staff of librarians available through several instant messaging services. I have had occasions to chat with one or another of the librarians and have gotten the information I needed in a timely and professional manner. The librarians at Ohio Unversity’s Alden Library are courteous, knowledgeable, and responsive. But this is a rant, not a foot massage.

My AOL IM icon
[One] is known by the company [one] keeps.
For the last several days, the librarian(s) logged on AOL instant messenger have been using the icon visible to the right. I despise this icon mainly (but not only) because I cannot tell who is supposed to be represented. Is “ohiolibref” actually both of these people? One of their children? Are these people professionally or personally related? Does it matter? Why do I care?

The other thing that bothers me about the image is that it is ambiguous. Athens, Ohio, is on the fringe of Appalachia. I’m down with that. I understand people native to this area have specific regional customs that manifest in their behavior, dress, and speech. For the last three days when I’ve had occasion to notice ohiolibref’s AOL Instant Messenger icon, I’ve found myself wondering whether the clothing worn by the persons portrayed therein are dressed in the manner of rural Appalachians or if they are in Williamsburg, Virginia, and dressed in period costume. Or something else.

The ambiguity of the image makes me feel that the entire “personality” of ohiolibref is ambiguous and this is not the feeling one wants when contemplating one’s reference librarians. I want certainty, stability, persistence, and singularity in my librarians’ online personae. Is that too much ask?

Plus, the heads of the persons depicted in ohiolibref’s running buddy icon are just too small to see any detail. All I see is a big hat, a beard, a bonnet, and two smears that might could be smiles. end of article

1 So, yeah, if I’m sitting at my workstation I usually can hear who is initiating an instant message and (inasmuch I can decipher the computer-modulated text-to-speech) what the initiator has typed. However, I’m not liable to hurt anyone’s feelings by not being immediately available since the idle on that client won’t change.

Thursday, 05 October 2006

First Chain Art Post

I have never responded to a chain anything. Until now.

My main medium is the written word. However, for this meme, I will declare my medium of choice to be digital pictures and a short piece of writing.

Here’s the deal: if you are one of the first five people to comment to this post and add a similar meme to your own blog, I will craft a 128 pixel x 128 pixel image that is unique to you accompanied by a few brief words about you and the image.1 In the best of all worlds, that image will be logo-ready and the writing pithy and flattering, but I reserve the right to improvise depending on who responds.

Takers? end of article

1 In other words, you do have to have a blog to participate. I will accept MySpace pages in cases of urgent need.

Wednesday, 04 October 2006

Cyberspatial incohesion

In Mark Neale’s 2000 documentary No Maps For These Territories—a desynched moving epitaph and paean to the moment that both passes and arrives—William Gibson recalls the disruptive 1960s and his draft dodge which brings him to Vancouver. Gibson admits his dodge was not guided by politics and that “[i]t had much more to do with my wanting to be with hippy girls and have lots of hasish than it did with my sympathy for the plight of the North Vietnamese under U.S. imperialism . . . much more, much more to do with hippy girls and hashish.

William Gibson in automobile, cruising
From Mark Neale’s No Maps For These Territories (2000)
Gibson’s honest admission is a confession and, in my opinion, another dodge. That is, he is not acknowledging that chasing after "hippy girls and hashish" is in and of itself a political act. One need only think back to the feminist slogan “The personal is political.” The confessional side of Gibson’s recall of his draft dodge is aimed at expressing how politically ineffective “hippy girls and hashish” are for opposing (in this case) U.S. imperialism. Here, then, is the crux of liberal chemical permissiveness: does altering one’s nervous system with recreational drugs undermine the ability of Western capital to operate?

Gibson goes on to explain

What you couldn’t have told me at that stage of my life . . . what I couldn’t have told me at that stage of my life that I’ve subsequently come to accept is that all any drug amounts to is tweaking the incoming data. And you have to be incredibly self-centered or pathetic to be satisfied with simply tweaking the incoming data.

I think Gibson too quickly dismisses the potential for mind-altering substances to dislodge people from their recitations of decorum and capitulation to hegemony. People who ingest MDMA (for example) are engaging in antiauthoritarian activity by cultivating states of consciousness that inhibit the prevailing social order’s ability to continue its ills such as the destruction of human dignity and the rampant exploitation of the defenseless. However, such “antiauthoritain activity” also disrupts the prevailing social order’s numerous goods, such as the promulgation of liberal humanist ideals which include the equality of all people and the right to self determination. Citizens of the imperialist U.S. have a different experience of the world than subjects of any number of totalitarian regimes where complaining about the government will get a person jailed, tortured, and killed.1 (None of this is to say that the promulgation of these liberal humanist ideals do not depend on the exploitation of people either inside the system or elsewhere.)

In addition to Gibson’s remarks about the political ineffectiveness of altering one’s consciousness with chemicals, aha-erlebnis strikes me when Gibson discusses his former habitual marijuana use and chemical daring-do. He explains,

The opiates aside, I tried whatever was going. You know, I sort of prided myself on it. In fact, I was sort of a very regular cannabis user for a number of years, in spite of the fact that I always had a terrible time with it . . . and, you know, I've long since come to realize that I suffer from cannabis dysphoria. The lowest possible dose of cannabinol makes me incredibly uncomfortable and unhappy.

Gibson’s experience of marijuana reflects my own and it is something that I have encountered also with alcohol. It has been a long time since I’ve been a habitual user of any substance (though in the winter after I finished my dissertation there was a period where I was drinking two martinis a day), but I vividly recall the desperation, the weakness, and the lack of imagination that kept me using something that unquestionably made me feel bad.

Not until I realized chemical dysphoria was in fact worse than facing what directly was in front of me could I leave such things behind. end of article

1 Presently, it is no secret that civil liberties in the U.S. have been eroded to the point that the power of habeas corpus has been nullified, so these remarks, which depend on Americans’ First Amendment Rights, may soon merely be a quaint reminiscence.

Tuesday, 03 October 2006

YoYos and Passion

On Wednesday, 27 September in the Baker Center Ballroom, Angela Keslar, who presently lives in Amesville, Ohio, gave a talk about her involvement with Passion Works Studio and Project Runway.

Angela Keslar presenting in Baker Center Ballroom, Athens, Ohio, on 27 September 2006
Angela Keslar in Baker Center Ballroom, Athens, Ohio
Photo courtesy of Lindsey Burrows and Speakeasy1
To my close friends, I have made no secret that Laura Bennett is my favorite for the simple reason that with the first show I cathected to her poise, carriage, and manner of expression. One friend finds her “controlling” and I don’t disagree, but I also don’t find that characteristic off-putting. Some might observe that having five children (a sixth on the way) has aged Laura prematurely, but, if so, the effect has only emphasized her elegance and beauty. I also am impressed by Michael Knight’s intelligence regarding matters of design. Of the others, I only had strong feelings regarding the cheater Keith Michael (note the lack of an unrestrictive comma!) and Angela.2

Angela, for an unpinnable reason, annoyed me to no end. I think (and I am guessing here) it had to do with the streaks of irrationality and emotionality that seemed present in ”A Designer’s Best Friend” (episode 3) where she tramped up her model and made, as Tim Gunn writes, a skirt “embellished with florets -- lots and lots of florets.” Maybe these florets (which Angela called ”rosettes” on the show) is what attracted my ire. They to me resemble the proud flesh of a suppurating wound. I don’t know, it’s irrational but the personality the show presented was to me very unappealing. From what I saw on the TV, I would not have wanted to be anywhere near Angela. When I learned that she was a smoker, too, my first full impression of her was complete. She was my enemy.3

However, my friend’s description of Angela’s presentation deepened and changed my opinion of Angela.4 Angela is a very articulate yet down-to-earth person. For example, offshow, Angela refers to the florets/rosettes as ”yoyos.” Angela is a bit nutty, but I found the self-ironizing and evocative name Angela had chosen for her sartorial tic endearing. That Angela chose to call them rosettes onshow also reveals an awareness of social context that is not apparent in the episodes overall, and I appreciated that the Angela I got to know through Project Runway is at best a distortion of the person who is Angela Keslar. Also, the hype and glamour of Project Runway—a show about fashion no less—seems not to have egotized Angela. On the contrary, Angela has a very good sense about the way in which only a slice of her personality and the personalities of the other designers could be presented even across episodes.

Angela Keslar’s tie of rosettes
Tie of Rosettes
I began wondering if Angela was under an NDA but, hey, this is a blog and anything could be true. First, it turns out that Keith is not the only lying, cheating, fashion plate-consulting dawg on the show. Jeffrey Sebelia also looked at Keith’s books. The matter was brought to the attention of the producers and the producers were going to overlook this breach of designing ethics until Katherine Gerdes, in a fit of ire after having been auf’ed, threatened to go public. The producers decided they couldn’t risk the damage to the show’s reputation and, to keep Katherine quiet, disciplined only Keith even though both he and Jeffrey had consulted the designer’s references. Furthermore, the scenes where Kayne Gillaspie talks with Michael and the other designers were all shot after the fact. The narrative presented in ”Reap what you Sew’ (episode 4) is a televisual fabrication. Bastards.

The other issue Angela broached is something that is up front in small print: the judges do not have autonomy in deciding the winner of the contest. The winner is decided as a joint decision between the judges and the producers of the show. This means, of course, that outcomes are rigged. In several IM conversations with a friend, I refused to believe that the heart and soul of Project Runway had been pithed. I argued, ”It just couldn’t be.” I was wrong.

Thanks to corporate sponsorship, my world is a sadder place. end of article

1Lindsey Burrows of Speakeasy magazine has also written up Angela Keslar’s presentation.
2 OK, I have to admit it. I hated the hell out of Vincent.
3 I never said I was fair.
4 Somewhat.

Monday, 02 October 2006

Robert Frost’s “War Thoughts at Home”

Robert Stilling, a University of Virginia English Ph.D. candidate, has discovered a formerly unpublished poem by Robert Frost entitled ”War Thoughts at Home.” Stilling has written up the story of his find and the background of the poem in an article titled “Between Friends: Rediscovering the War Thoughts of Robert Frost.” Stilling explains

I was digging around the University of Virginia’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. I had been tipped off about a new collection of Frost’s correspondence and rare editions. These books and papers once belonged to Frederic Melcher[. . . .] After just an hour or so sifting through some not-yet-catalogued binders, I found a few letters that set off little scholarly alarm bells. The first was from Charles R. Green, the librarian of the Jones Library in Amherst Massachusetts. In 1947, Green wrote to Melcher, “Knowing [his] long time and intimate friendship with Mr. Frost,” to inquire whether Melcher had any “important” or “interesting” inscriptions that the library might preserve on his behalf. Melcher, demurring, replied:

I would like to think the inscriptions in my books were important, but they’re really not. . . . [A] copy of a “North of Boston” which [Alfred] Harcourt gave me way back in 1918 has an unpublished poem about the war which has not been reprinted, and I am not sure whether he would want me to pass it around, even for filing purposes.

The words “unpublished poem” written in 1947 could easily mean, “published hundreds of times since.” Still, I went back to the desk for the book in question and, within minutes, I had in my hands a puzzle. There, inscribed by Frost, was a poem that began with a “flurry of bird war” and ended with a train of sheds laying “dead on a side track.” What war thoughts were these, and who was this Melcher who had held on to them?

NPR is carrying two stories regarding the find, one about the discovery itself and another about Virginia Quarterly Review more generally. I remember Ted Genoways quite well and am glad he’s helping bring to light such important material.

When I surfed over to VQR to read Stilling’s article, I was surprised to find that Art Spiegelman is publishing a series of comix titled Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@?*! about his development as an artist as an exclusive for VQR.

Hm. end of article

Sunday, 01 October 2006

Lovely October

This year October has a Friday the 13th. A six-foot one Dutch woman I once used to know told me that 13 is a lucky number in The Netherlands. Tall as she was, Zita loved wearing four-inch stock heels. I remember liking her in heels, too.

But I was talking about October.

My mother has been in remission for three years and as many months. When I first moved here (and was living in The Plains), I had a dream in which I was flying like I used to do in my zombie nightmares, except it wasn’t clear there were zombies to fly from. They had dissipated into the mountains. As I flew, the landscape below shifted, the outlines of valleys and ridges subtly converging in the shape of coffins. I tried not to fly directly over the coffin shapes. In the twelve months that followed (after the dream), I attended two funerals and at least two of my friends were diagnosed with cancer. (I didn’t know September is prostate cancer awareness month, but it is.)

Making a website pink for one month is perhaps a pointless gesture, an empty symbol, a bankrupt signifier. No one will be cured by seeing bunches of pink. But: meaning transpires at the moment of recognition and affinity. This site is pink so that you don’t have to. Unless you want.

Months only are lovely as the people in which they die. end of article

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