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evangelical grammar: “jesus wants you to throw us beads,” says Russian Olympian

February 26th, 2006 by Bolibuckness

Music: This Week with George Stephanopoulos

It is the dreaded “day after” the Spanish Town Mardi Gras, made worse (we predicted) because it rained the entire day. Indeed, it DID rain on our parade, however, this did not damper the unstoppable spirit of blasphemy and unbridled joy: beads were flung with abandon (as well as stuffed animals–a new height of Mardi Gras freebie-ism), elected officials were skewered, there was revelry and much drinking and dancing in the rain. It was, by most accounts, an absolute blast, and indeed, the good times rolled like a Chocolate City semi-truck through the skinny, elm-lined streets of Spanish Town. I have never seen so many beads for a parade . . . I mean, there were mounds and mounds of them!

Today, however, is hangover helper day: there is always a price to pay for drinking all day beginning at 9:00 a.m. Today I do not feel too horrible (always stick to sugarless alcohol, I say, on marathon drinking days), but I know a lot of those mimosa slurpin’ hotties may feel a little death: the screaming evangelical fundamentalist warned that “the wages of sin is death.” And though we all knew he was right, there was something amusing about seeing this guy get pelted with wet beats . . . as Tracy screamed into the PA system: “Jesus wants you to throw us some beeeeeeeeeeaaaaaddddssss!!!!”

So we are recovering, but with lots of fun memories. Of course, I’ve uploaded a photo gallery, which you can access here. Unfortunately, my memory card filled up too quickly, so the debauchery after the parade was not documented (at least not by me)–including the part when people were jumping off the porch into the “party gravy” down below. Good times.

naked life

February 21st, 2006 by Bolibuckness

Music: CBS Early Show

Today shall be spent (a) waiting for the plumber as a consequence of a series of minor plumbing malfunctions (the consequence being no hot water—indeed, no water at all—and the unflushable and unsightly guest turd); (b) grading; (c) writing/reading Agamben. Regarding the parenthetical turd of (a), I am convinced that “naked life” finds a representative anecdote—or perhaps, a token remainder. Isn’t it curious in the mad rush to combat naughty dualism and embrace “body” that the dirtier aspects of continental are not written about in our “importation” . . . .

Dr. M, Tremblebot, Lil’rumpus, and Ken: y’all rock! Thanks for chiming in with your takes on zoe and bios. Here’s what I wrote last week but was uncharacteristically sheepish about throwing out there:

Unlike Hobbes, Rousseau, or Schmitt, Agamben’s understanding of human being is anti-essentialist and anti-identitarian, which leads him, in the end, to argue against the idea of sovereignty on the basis of what some have termed an immanent ontology of potentiality. Space limits discussing this ontology in any detail, however, a brief sketch will prove helpful. In much of his recent work Agamben advances an understanding of human being as an existential potentiality, abandoning the essentialism of “human nature” and the logocentric notion of identity that informs it. Human being is to be understood as “the single ways, acts, and processes of living” that are only possibilities, never determined or given in advance. Agamben argues that

Each behavior and each form of human living is never prescribed by a specific biological vocation, nor is it assigned by whatever necessity; instead, no matter how customary, repeated, an d socially compulsory, it always retains the character of possibility; that is, it always puts at stake living itself. That is why human beings—as beings of power who can do or not do, succeed or fail, lose themselves or find themselves—are the only beings for who happiness is always at stake in their living, the only beings whose life is irremediably and painfully assigned to happiness.

In a strongly qualified sense, one is tempted to characterize Agamben’s understanding of human being as being on this (left) side Rousseau in spirit, except that for Agamben the sovereign is always involved in a kind of slight-of-hand that threatens human being in the name of protecting it. “Political power,” says Agamben, “founds itself—in the last instance—on the separation of a sphere of naked life from the context of the forms of life,” thereby cleaving human content and form, as it were, or eroding what we might term “the good life.” The content, or “naked life” (zoe), and the form, or “the manner of living peculiar to a single individual or group” (bios) are separated by the sovereign, who establishes his or its power by meting biological and political death. The power to mete life and death can only be established if one has the power to define life, or what constitutes a valuable life. Agamben suggests that such is the function of the modern sovereign: it decides what lives are worth living (e.g., citizenship) and what lives are merely bare or naked lives and therefore dispensable. “A political life, that is, a life directed toward the idea of happiness and cohesive with a form of life,” continues Agamben, “is thinkable only starting from the emancipation from such a division, with the irrevocable exodus from any sovereignty.”
The second reason why the assertion of sovereignty is problematic is because its materialization has changed consequent to the emergence of what Foucault termed “bio-power.” Blah blah blah . . . .


Ken, I like the formulation that naked life is “life that is the ground of its own worth, which is it say not much worth, actually,” which I take to mean without bios, which provides the measure. It’s my understanding that Agamben takes the “side” of naked life (or at least forwards it as the underdog to champion) from necessity as a result of the cleave forged by sovereignty. Lil’rumpus was worried about my term “madness,” which Tremblebot discerned as my tendency to shunt this through some reference to the Lacanian real. Where I was then going to transition (somehow) is to the homological relation of the homo sacer to the sovereign and a gloss of Agamben’s comparative reading of Benjamin and Schmitt. As I gather (I haven’t read that chapter in months) Agamben suggests Schmitt and Benjamin were (loosely) in dialogue, and the disagreement involved this locus of anomie: is it containable or circumscribed by the juridical (Schmitt), or is there some powerful, explosive, uncontainable “pure violence” (a sort of disembodied, or multi-bodied rather) that Benjamin said was outside of the juridical but that could be harnessed for political change (revolution). I need to get the language of this disagreement more precise, but as I understand it the argument hinges on a dialectical relation between the law and violence—where the law is understood as an instituting and regulating structure (e.g., the father function in Lacan-o-speak) and “violence” is disruptive, uncontainable, er, energy or life-force or, well, death-drive or aggression. Held in tension the currently “political system” works quite effectively, but when they are caused to collapse Agamben suggestions that “the political system transforms into an apparatus of death.” By madness I mean mania in that Greek sense (I’ve been reading Plato, you see): chaotic ecstasy that can lead to beauty as much as harm—the ecstasy of belonging that can lead to joyful murder. I tend to think of a film like War of the Worlds, a violent and exciting tantrum, and serving up a celebration of the apparatus of death promised my collapse of the norm into the exception.

Ok—I should write all this in the essay instead of in the blog. I hie me to WP.

getting to Agamben

February 19th, 2006 by Bolibuckness

Music: Danzig: Danzing IV

I managed to get some “scholarship” accomplished yesterday, and I’m itching to continue with it today, but I regret I have to hang it up and switch gears—from political theory to psychoanalytic squabbles among the culturalists and the essentialists. Anna Freud is not as fun as Giorgio Agamben.

Agamben, however, is not clear, and I’m getting all confused about “bare/naked life” (zoe) and bios or the life qualified by morality and socius. Or rather, I think I get this stuff, I just don’t know how to transition from Rousseau’s notion of popular sovereignty to Agamben’s horrific re-reading of Schmitt. Any of you Agamben fans out there want to give me their slang-style definition of “naked life” in relation to the sovereign? I’ll gladly steal it.

And my girl cat is meowing like crazy. It’s starting to drive me slowly insane.

Well, here’s a bit more from the essay “Staging the State of Exception” as I compose here. Today on tap is the short introduction to sovereignty before I dive headlong into Agamben-speak.

The Rhetoric of Exceptional States


Sovereign is he who decides on the exception.

–Carl Schmitt
The paradox of sovereignty consists in the fact the sovereign is, at the same time, inside and outside of the juridical order.

–Giorgio Agamben

In the Western intellectual tradition, the concept of sovereignty descends from assumptions concerning how human beings would “naturally” behave in the absence of governance or the “state of nature.” Perhaps among the most famous arguments made in favor an absolute sovereign were penned by Thomas Hobbes in 1660, who wrote in The Leviathan that in the state of nature humans would behave as if at war:


In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

Hobbes argued that there are five fundamental “forces” of nature exemplified by humans most blatantly in war: egoism, competitiveness, distrust, and glory and power seeking. Only an absolute sovereign willed collectively by the people, he argued, could maintain justice and keep the peace. In the next century, Jean-Jacques Rousseau would base his social contract theory on the opposite view of human essence: human beings in the state of nature are noble savages, “born free” and inherently good but perverted by society. Such perversion results from the scarcity of resources that are a consequence of increasing populations, and to escape a progressively degenerate and deadly state of nature people must contract with one another to subsist under the rule of morality or law. For Rousseau, passage “from the state of nature to the civil state” occurs when a people recognizes itself as the “body politic” or capital-S “Sovereign,” which he likened to a rather large family. This comparison was obvious to Rousseau, who said the family was “the first model of political societies: the ruler corresponds to the father, and the people to the children . . . .” For Rousseau, the sovereign is the people, and government fulfills the father function.

Of course, much has been written about the concept of sovereignty since the eighteenth century, and one could easily detail many different types. After the advent of fascism and the horrific holocausts of the twentieth century, however, scholars have been drawn to discuss the inherently paradoxical character of the sovereign as a law-giver or enforcer who has the power to transgress the law. Conceptually, Hobbes resolved this paradox in the absolute collapse of power and the law, the merging of the political and juridical: Whatever the sovereign decides the people should do is justice, as long as it is in the interest of peace (peace for Hobbes is defined negatively as the absence of killing). The issue is more complicated with the popular sovereignty advanced by Rousseau, Locke, Jefferson, and others, however, because the sovereign is the result of the “will of the people” contracting under the rule of law. The paradox of sovereignty then concerns relation between its power (or politics) and the rule of law, not in a state of normalcy, but rather when asserting something exceptional, like Marshall law. In his career-long assault on liberalism, the political philosopher and Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt attempted to resolve the conceptual problem of the sovereign by embracing the paradox as its core: “it is precisely the exception that makes relevant the subject of sovereignty, that is, the whole question of sovereignty.”

For Schmitt, sovereignty is established or founded in moments of crisis and anomie. For This is why sovereignty is fundamentally a “borderline concept,” which does not mean that it is vague or ambiguous, but rather, that the character of sovereignty cannot be discerned from the mundane or routine, but only at the extremes. The fundamental character of sovereignty is only discernable when events resemble the mythic state of nature, when a polis is unquestionably in some kind of emergency, because its power is fundamentally and decisively transgressive. “Sovereign is he who decides on the state of exception,” writes Schmitt, meaning that the sovereign is the body or individual who paradoxically is legally sanctioned to declare an exceptional right to lawlessness in states of emergency.

As a number of scholars have commented, Schmitt’s conception of sovereignty is easily illustrated by contemporary political and legal events. The most recent and familiar assertion of sovereignty in this Schmittian sense has been by the president of the United States, George W. Bush, whose “military order” on November 13, 2001 authorized the indefinite detention of suspected “terrorists” at prison camps in Guantánamo Bay. After the events of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration has repeatedly declared that the country is in a state of emergency (or in a “war on terror”) and has asserted that many of the controversial practices of the military and other government bodies (e.g., wire tapping, torture, and so on) are exceptions to the rule of law. The Italian philosopher and Giorgio Agamben argues that these more recent, post-9/11 assertions of sovereignty are problematic–indeed, dire–for two reasons. First, they reflect a more Schmittian view of human nature as fundamentally dangerous or “evil,” which contributes to the kind of dehumanization of others that can lead to destroying them. Second, such assertions are symptomatic of a troubling political trend first noted by Walter Benjamin: “the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule,” meaning that the norm has collapsed into the exceptional, thereby tempting atrocity and madness. I will discuss each objection in turn.

. . . but not now. I have to write it first. Stay tuned.

postcards from the (pacific) edge

February 15th, 2006 by Bolibuckness

Music: White Rose Movement: Kick

With much delight I received this postcard from Lin-Lee and KKC all the way from Japan! They were visiting the Oba Hiroshi Memorial Museum. “This is a self-portrait of [the] cartoonist,” says Lin-Lee. “His nose, his hair, and his cat reminded me of you!” said Karlyn. “All you need is a ruff and the hat of a Dutch [illegible].” Ok, this is all well and good, I say. I am quite fond of the Dutch, and especially their open embrace of heroin use and then free methadone when you’re finished with that kick. But I have two cats, and clearly, this man is holding a dog. “Yes, I know there’s a dog,” says Karlyn. “but it’s a cat in disguise—in honor of the year of the dog!”

Happy New Year!

And props to Benny Boop for turning me on to WRM. Wow!

invention: prepping publics

February 11th, 2006 by Bolibuckness

Music: Harold Budd: The Room

I have actually managed to write this week, and am taking a quick break from writing today. Today my goal is to finish explaining the concept of sovereignty, and to figure out how best to do it, for an essay on War of the Worlds. My pickle is this: I have in mind, first, the audience of Rhetoric and Public Affairs, a largely conservative journal that I’ve been rejected from four times. I like the editor (who is fiercely ethical and very fair), and respect the readers and editorial board. Now, I’m using just a teensy bit of Agamben’s State of Exception, which is quite complicated. To properly contextualize his work, I would have to discuss Foucault, biopolitics, and the critique of the sovereign; Schmitt; Walter Benjamin; and a host of other tendencies (e.g., does he abandon existential dialectics or embrace immanent modes of thinking . . . or both? [I think both are held in tension]). That audience will not go for it. So, I’m thinking, what if I sink a bunch of stuff in the footnotes, explain the sovereign first with Hobbes and then link to Schmitt and Agamben? I mean, my ugrad degree is in philosophy so I’m mildly versed in the basics of social contract philosophy and all that, but I cannot assume this is true of my (imagined) audience, can I? How much “teaching” do I do? Or do I just jump in, assume reader’s are familiar with the debates/issues revolving the sovereign, and . . . .

See. I should stop going back and forth, write, and see what comes out, yes? I think I’ll take that “let’s see what comes out” approach.

As a teaser, here’s the introduction to that essay. I’ve not got much more than this but a few paragraphs. Also, if any of my students are reading this blog, I have uploaded a scan of the original draft, so you can see the editing process (non-students: we’re talking about writing for publication in class a bit).

Ok, here goes:

Prepping Publics: Staging the State of Exception in Spielberg’s War of the Worlds

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.–Psalms 8:2

After learning that Manhattan has been besieged by large, Tripod-driving invaders from another world, Ray Ferrier, a single divorcee and presumably a rotten father played by Tom Cruise, loads his two visiting children into a stolen mini-van and races toward Boston to escape life-zapping heat rays. As the final draft of the shooting script of Stephen Spielberg’s War of the Worlds details, approximately 31 minutes into the film, the not-so-subtle subtext comes out of the mouth of a babe:


. . . the kids begin SCREAMING, but it’s hard to hear over the racing engine, the SCREECHING tires. Ray leans forward, trying like hell to see through the windshield, through the smoke that’s now blanketing the block. THROUGH THE WINDSHEILD, we see he’s reaching the end of the block, which is a T intersection. Directly ahead of him is a bank of row houses. As we [the spectators] look at them-their second floors burst into flames . . . . BACK IN THE CAR, Ray cuts the wheel to the left. Robbie turns and looks out the back window, gets just a glimpse of the top of the Tripod as it rises up over the rooftops behind them. ROBBIE [the teenage son]: WHAT IS IT? RACHEL [the eleven-year-old daughter]: “Is it the terrorists?!”

The decision to explicitly reference the events of September 11, 2001 was Spielberg’s. In an interview with one of the two script writers, David Koepp explains that, owing to its theme of invasion, all iterations of the H.G. Well’s story have “vast political implications”: “In the late 1890s, it was about British imperialism; in the late 1930s, it was about the fear of Fascism; in the early 1950s, it was the Commies are coming to get us . . . .” Because spectators and critics would inevitably yoke the destruction of the film to the destruction of the World Trade Center, implies Koepp, “we just decided not to censor ourselves, because that’s not realistic, that’s not the world we live in.” Says Koepp:

As for specific 9/11 references-like Dakota’s [Fanning] character [Rachel] saying, “Is it the terrorists?” or when Tom [Cruise] is covered in ash-those weren’t put in because of 9/11; they were put in because we all lived through 9/11. . . . In the first draft Dakota didn’t have that line, but Steven said, “Wouldn’t she think it’s the terrorists?” And I said, “Well, yeah, but do we really want to evoke that, do we want to come out and say it?” And he said, “But she would, she’s 11.” And it’s true, she would. So she did.

Spielberg’s insistence that an innocent yet precocious child explicitly establish the relation between that bloodthirsty, exogenous evil from beyond and the staple enemy of our current contemporary, political discourse confounds the often printed sentiment that War of the Worlds is a “piece of perfectly realized, pure entertainment.”iii Unquestionably, as the scriptwriters admit, War of the Worlds enacts a politics that extends beyond the screen. As Barbara Biesecker has persuasively argued of Saving Private Ryan, this politics bespeaks a nostalgic reclamation and resignification of World War II in contemporary discourse, a trend continued by the deliberate if awkwardly anachronistic, 1950s aesthetic of War of the Worlds. Biesecker argues that Spielberg’s spectacles over the past decade have buttressed a well-worn “American” identity, forwarding a patriarchical, civil pedagogy of complacency as the answer to the anomie and chaos signified by “meticulously chronicled mass slaughter.” Insofar as the “civic lesson” intoned by Saving Private Ryan in the wake of bloody spectacle assists in the “reconsolidation and naturalization of traditional logics and matrices of privilege,” we should expect a similar, violence-then-lesson progression in War of the Worlds. In Spielberg’s films, the event of filmic violence usually heralds a tutorial in civic or familial virtue.

Of course, ideological interpellation is rarely straightforward, and consequently we should be suspicious of the ostensible lesson offered by any popular text-from the bromides that conclude televised situation comedies to the Faustian injunctions of science fiction films. Not surprisingly, many critics were suspicious of the War of the Worlds, which was almost universally criticized for the implausible and unsatisfying moralizing that concludes the film. After a relentless parade of horrific chase scenes, “numbing portrayals of social collapse and chilling references to 9/11,” the story is resolved with a paean to passionate parenting: “when it’s time to protect his kids, Ray is a great dad.” The film ends when Ray and his daughter are joyfully reunited with his son and ex-wife at the Boston home of the former in-laws. In part, this ending was panned because it is emotionally unfair: Spielberg asks audiences to open a would by surfacing the memories of the real trauma that concentrates U.S. political discourse, but fails to close it by rigorously keeping the narrative apolitical. As Stuart Klawans suggests, the rather cloying conclusion in Thanksgiving-style homecoming, particularly after excruciating “eruptions of violence, which in length and intensity surpass all expectation,” points to a blind spot in Spielberg’s vision. The director’s refusal to see himself as the source of ecstatic violence without reason or political import, Klawans argues, “deserves our attention,” because “this refusal of self-knowledge” is homologous to other “daily silences-the newscasts that don’t reckon up the war dead, for example, or the conversations where people won’t call incipient fascism by its name.” The critic suggests that it is as if the filmmaker threw a violently spectacular temper tantrum with “vast political implications” that are abruptly abandoned in favor of teaching us that father knows best. This disjuncture or contradiction in both the narrative and the emotional experience of the spectator is a symptom of a deeper ideological labor.

In this essay I argue that the civil pedagogy of War of the Worlds is, in fact, that father knows best, but only insofar as the father is understood as the absent patriarchical sovereign–the strong, seemingly omnipotent political figure that fails to appear within the filmic frame. “If films are to a large extent public dreams,” as Janice Hocker Rushing and Thomas S. Frentz have argued, then War of the Worlds is a nightmare registering the fears and longings of a public besieged by “terrorists” less than five years ago. Although Spielberg intends an obvious lesson in paternal responsibility, I argue that in trying to answer the question, “what is a father?” via the trauma of 9/11, War of the Worlds ends up encouraging the spectator to yield to the figure of a dictator. Because of its relentless scenes of violence, few films in recent memory are as successful in creating a feeling of prolonged dread, fueling a profound desire for the fictional State to enter the scene and protect its citizenry. Within diegetic space of the film, however, the sovereign never arrives, and responsibility recoils to the family father to provide a sense of safety, however precarious. Within the larger, cultural context of contemporary political events, however, this fictional figure is metonymy for a real world, political sovereign who has the power to ignore the law as well as the power to protect us from an exogenous threat. In short, I argue War of the Worlds, however unwittingly, is a lesson in desiring fascism.

seduction theory, melanie klein style

February 8th, 2006 by Bolibuckness

Music: Turin Brakes: JackInABox

reparation

February 5th, 2006 by Bolibuckness

Music: Arab Strap: The Red Thread

I have been reading the work of Melanie Klein, and work about the work of Melanie Klein, all day—in between phone calls and chat sessions, that beloved and bemoaned labor of love (and Klein is appropriate here, as there is some attempt to render and restore my relation to my mother and my girlfriend, in the same day, via the mediation of the gadget). I have only known Klein from the sound bashing she gets from Lacan, and so I was somewhat excited to read this material with “an open mind.” I must admit it’s fascinating reading, not only because her ideas are plausible (her vision of the traumatic and barren, somewhat Hobbsian state of nature that is infantile fantasy is as captivating as it is abhorrent, and abhorrent because it rings of truth), but because so much ideological work is being done through the vehicle of theory, presumably in the name of pragmatics. Klein, known for pioneering (along with her enemy Anna Freud) psychoanalytic work with children, also marshaled somewhat of a proto- or pre-feminist scholarly front against the boys club that was psychoanalysis in Vienna and Berlin—at the level of ideas, of course, but also at the level of writerly style

I don’t know why I’m posting, because I don’t have much to say yet—-I have to process this material. But I guess I’m just excited to learn this stuff, and cannot wait until class tomorrow to talk about it. Not that there is any danger in me becoming a Kleinian—I’m much too wed to the ontological dualism of Lacan, and I find Klein’s essentialism bothersome. I guess it’s just exciting to finally get a chance to read this stuff and get the “whole story,” to read the stuff that I never got a chance to read in grad school because of this or that silly ideological prohibition. It’s been over a year since I’ve taught a grad seminar, but this afternoon, as I was reading and writing notes and what not, I re-discovered why I love my job: learning is fun! Sounds cliché, but this is what I signed up for . . . new preps are a lot of work, granted, but if the payoff is a kind of satisfaction that I discovered something; my head now has new pieces of furniture. If I can somehow convey that excitement to the other seminarians, I think this is going to be an awesome and transformative class. I know that sounds all Pollyanna like, but it’s the truth (to me).

I’m also thinking now that, by necessity, I’m going to have to teach a new prep every couple of years or I will lose this feeling and excitement about ideas. I can remember taking classes when it was obvious the teacher hadn’t revised or revamped the material for many years. New preps are a lot of work, as I said, but they also give me a chance to take a class myself . . . I’m not done with this class and I’m already fantasizing about all the stuff I want to take/teach. I suppose I will have to wait until I get tenure before I teach my seminar on “Shit and the Western Anal Economy.”

making good

February 3rd, 2006 by Bolibuckness

Music: Judge Judy . . . well, now it’s Judge Alex

I resolved for the new year that I would visit all of the Blue Lodges in downtown and “move my letter” from my home lodge in Baton Rouge to the one that feels the best. I have visited with Neil Porter Lodge (all of them are cops or ex-cops; I didn’t fit in as well there) and with the Austin 12 lodge (there were a lot of 30-somethings, which is good). Last night I visited with University Lodge, presumably so-named because it used to meet on the University of Texas campus. Technically, I can just show up at any stated meeting and get in with my dues card and the password and pass-grips; these days, however, it’s such a rare occurrence that someone my age shows up at a Masonic meeting my dues card does the trick.

As a fraternity that is at least 200 years old, one would expect Masonry is not always “up with the times,” and so I was not surprised to hear the secretary of the lodge tell me to “bring a lady-friend” for a special, Valentine’s dinner. So I had a date last night! I brought my neighbor and friend Kay, who happens to be a lady, and we had a marvelous time. Kay got a rose, and we both scarfed up the free lasagna. We were entertained by magic tricks. Unfortunately, when it was time to go into the lodge meeting proper, I was informed that it was “men only.” This was irritating and too old fashioned. In my much beloved and missed home lodge, when “lady-friends” or friends in general were invited to the lodge, the lodge was open to guests. The folks were nice, but I don’t think I’ll be joining this particular lodge. Regardless, we came home last night full and happy.

Speaking of happy, I picked up the new Cat Power album, The Greatest, on Tuesday, and I am so pleased! I have always liked Chan Marshall’s work—but usually when I was drunk. It was such a bummer to listen to sober. The Greatest is “draggy,” as my mother would say, but compared to her other albums one could say it is downright cheerful! The song writing is very strong, the lyrics, often biting, but overall the tone is hopeful. It feels at times like a much less Pollyanna Nora Jones, but with more of a funky-middle-class feel. I like the song “After it All” the best so far, punctuated as it is with gentle whistles. Three cheers for therapy and Prozac! If only Zwan sounded as good . . . .

POST-POST EDIT: Ok, so, I am feeling bad about mentioning Cat Power, who is now on an end cap in Target stores across the country, without mentioning the other albums I bought on Tuesday:

THE DEL MCCOURY BAND: the company we keep. This is one of the absolute best bluegrass/rock fusion (thought mostly bluegrass) out in the past year. My rule is: if you download more than three songs and listen to them constantly, then you must buy the album. It’s an ethics thing I have about stuff on minor or small labels. The album is freakin’ awesome, by the way.

A=HA: Analogue. I think it was David Terry who told me the new a-Ha album was the shit, and as a self-professed BIGGEST FAN EVER of synth-pop, I couldn’t resist that endorsement. It’s not domestically released, but, the import of Analogue is still rather cheap. This is a great pop album (it reminds me at times of the new Coldplay, and at others, of Indochine’s Paradize album). Great, solid pop with catchy harmonies and smart pop lyrics. Why Madonna makes it big and real talent like these dudes do not is beyond me. I guess CRAP is shinier, even in sonata form (not that I don’t appreciate crap; it’s just a shame the chorus of songs like “Cosy Prisons” or “Analogoue” will never be heard by Americans).

andy rooney

February 1st, 2006 by Bolibuckness

Music: A-ha: Analogue

A long day at the office, for vetting applications and writing letters; for teaching the rhetoric of alchemy, H.P. Blavatsky and the Urantia Book; for having lunch with mentors; for going to the library (and for discovering their having lost the Agamben book I wanted ); and for vetting more applications. After the office, I went to psychotherapy (which is usually very cheerful and not very painful, although I suspect one day my parents will have to come into it), then I jet down Congress to Ruta Maya (their coffee is absolutely divine, so I stocked up), and then I took in my healthy, one hour dose of Austin rush hour traffic (45 minutes to go six miles north of I-35).

I hate it when I go to the library for a book that nary a soul has expressed interest in for as many as five years, only to find that it is not on the shelf, nor in the distribution center. Scene: after looking in the shelves for fifteen minutes, then scoping the distribution area for another ten, a librarian approaches: “hmm, let’s see.” I hand her the print off from the card catalog. “Does it say that it’s on the shelf?” The paper is a print off from the card catalog. It says in boldface the book is on the shelf. “Yes,” I respond. “Hmm. Did you check the B 100 shelf for it?” she asked in a sincere way. “Yes m’am. I even checked the shelves on either side in case it was misshelved.” She looked concerned. I was standing in the relevant section of the distribution shelving. “Well, did you check here?” she motioned to the shelf right next to me. I politely explained I had an appointment at two and had to leave. There’s more to this story in respect to my encounter at the circulation desk, but even I bore of my complaining.

American Idol tonight was about the Austin auditions this summer that jammed traffic for a week near campus. The show was hilarious. Apparently it took the producers a while to realize the city motto is “Keep Austin Weird.” It took a non-stop parade of creative singers, and then some devoted Austinites dressed as the living dead (with make-up) terrorizing the auditioning guppies wound around the Erwin center (an arena that resembles a nuclear reactor) for the AI peeps to figure out Austin’s self-image is warped (I guess they have the learning curve of your typical android).

I am going to try to break the writer’s block tomorrow. I wrote a few paragraphs on Tuesday. I will consider a couple of paragraphs tomorrow a success. My topic: Agamben and the state of exception. Today I’ve been reading Carl Schmitt. You know that you’re reading Carl Schmitt when half the book is composed of a forward and introduction explaining (away?) his involvement with the Nazi party. I would not be reading Schmitt again (this time, Political Theology) were it not for the recent presidency. Didn’t we see the SOVEREIGN thrust and throb in last night’s address? I urge everyone to read Schmitt and Agamben. Unless you have heart trouble, in which case, stick to Walt Disney movies.

Bah humbug. Three of the eggs in my new carton were cracked. Grrr. [sound of farting]