February 2007 Archives
There is a four DVD set called Animated Soviet Propaganda now available.
It might be possible to come up with a title more likely to appeal to my interest than Animated Soviet Propaganda but that would really take some doing. This one goes to the head of the list, at least until somebody brings out Animated Maoist Propaganda.
My new column takes off from the misguided decision of one university to fire up its faculty and staff with a motivational speaker. It may be that $20,000 for ten speeches was actually a pretty good deal, given the usual rates. But you know who would have been cheaper? Matt Foley, "living in a van down by the river."
Usually I think of Chris Farley as a strangely talentless perfomer, but this bit seemed rather inspired.
See also "Dysfunction Junction, What's Your Function?" (my column from a year ago about the field of Oprah Studies).
I've started watching Dragnet 1967 on DVD -- a show my wife dislikes on the grounds that it is terribly dated, which is, of course, exactly why I love it. Jack Webb was so square that he comes out the other side as the coolest hipster ever to appear on network TV.
Supercilious wordsmiths acquisitive of notoreity for capacious lexicons cogitate upon thesauri, deploying locutions whose signification is superannuated at best and preposterous at worst. An injudicious cupidity for exactitude recoils upon the oblivious dilettante, engendering nebulae of Latinate verbiage uncongenial to the conveyance of rumination. In such connections, a canny scribe should optate in favor of availing himself of colloquial Anglo-Saxon nomenclature.
-- Adam Kotsko
It feels like I started something with last week's reference to Gershon Legman. Comments from friends and readers imply as much, anyway, and I'll try to write more about him, and about Neurotica, as soon as possible.
My friend and former editor Richard Byrne, who runs the Research section at the Chronicle of Higher Education, is heading off to Prague, where the one-act version of his play Burn Your Bookes is being performed in the Prague Post's English-language playwriting contest.
Of the various projects and ensembles that Robert Fripp has been involved with over the years, my favorite is his short-lived band The League of Gentlemen, which released just one album, back in 1981. Part of the soundtrack of my first year away from home. Only part of it is available on CD (along with tracks from other projects, including "Under Heavy Manners," one of the "Frippertronics" pieces). But Fripp released a sort of authorized bootleg live album from the League called Thrang Thrang Gozinbulx in the mid-1990s. It took me a while to track the latter down -- and not just because of the spelling -- but it was definitely worth the trouble.
The compositions were all instrumentals, with Fripp playing intricate, fractured, eloquent guitar lines over a really tight rhythm section that included Sara Lee, who later played bass for Gang of Four. Sort of a brainy dance band.
As it turns out, there is some footage of the League performing in 1980. And despite one visitor's protest when I put up a YouTube video earlier, I'm going to do so again now, because hell, it is my blog, after all:
When the news came over the weekend that Jewcy, a website run by young Jewish writers, would be offering running commentary about Crooked Timber, where I blog, my initial response was great interest in seeing what would happen.
As friends know, I always wanted to be a young Jewish writer. That is not a joke. That it proved not to be possible has been one of life's great disappointments. All those readings of Norman Podhoretz's memoirs, and for what?
Perhaps you had the same response I did to hearing that Camile Paglia is returning to Salon: "Oh, is Paglia still around?"
Gershon Legman and the now mostly forgotten journal Neurotica have long been interests of mine -- so it was probably a matter of time before they ended up, as they did today, in my column. Actually I hope to return to both subjects again in the future.
It is February 14, and that can only mean one thing -- the arrival of this year's batch of Valentine's Day slogans from the Freedom Road Socialist Organization:
Proletarians And Oppressed Peoples,
1. Progressive And Revolutionary People Everywhere, Resolutely Uphold The Militant Bolshevik Spirit And Revolutionary Romanticism Embodied In Comrade Valentine!
2. Decisively Smash Retrograde And Joyless Ultra-Left Lines Which Disparage Proletarian Love And Desire!!
3. Warmly Celebrate The 20th Anniversary Of ACT-UP, A Militant Organization Which Attacked The Bourgeois State and Big Capital On Behalf Of LGBTQ People And All AIDS-Affected Oppressed Communities Worldwide In 1987 And Has Remained On The Offensive For Two Decades!!!
Commenting on the dismaying experience of reading the official publications of the French Academy, Voltaire writes:
The cause why all these academical discourses have unhappily done so little honour to this body is evident enough. Vitium est temporis potiùs quam hominis (the fault is owing to the age rather than to particular persons). It grew up insensibly into a custom for every academician to repeat these eulogiums at his reception; it was laid down as a kind of law that the public should be indulged from time to time in the sullen satisfaction of yawning over these productions. If the reason should afterwards be sought, why the greatest geniuses who have been incorporated into that body have sometimes made the worst speeches, I answer, that it is wholly owing to a strong propension, the gentlemen in question had to shine, and to display a thread-bare, worn-out subject in a new and uncommon light. The necessity of saying something, the perplexity of having nothing to say, and a desire of being witty, are three circumstances which alone are capable of making even the greatest writer ridiculous. These gentlemen, not being able to strike out any new thoughts, hunted after a new play of words, and delivered themselves without thinking at all: in like manner as people who should seem to chew with great eagerness, and make as though they were eating, at the same time that they were just starved.
Sounds like some sessions at 21st century academic conferences -- or any of several university-press offerings on the shelf now, three feet away.... (Via Rough Theory)
So far, the interview with Danny Postel about his pamphlet Reading "Legitimation Theory" in Tehran in my column yesterday hasn't exactly set the Interweb on fire.
Maybe one of those "skyhook" blogs will pick it up and change all that. Or a Digg listing? If you can help, please consider this a pititful cry for same.
At his blog, Joseph Duemer files the following comment under the headings "reading," "poetry," and "philosophy." But it also has political applications:
Sentimentality is the substitution of emotion for intelligence; sentimentality requires the reader to assent to heightened feelings not legitimated by the matter at hand; sentimentality seeks to manipulate the reader's emotional response by calls to conventional wisdom or attitudes; sentimentality seeks approval by reference to the vast warm blanket of majority opinion; sentimentality never, ever risks the disapproval of any member of its intended audience.
Via Antigram, which also includes a report of Zizek's fondness for video games. His favorite>
Stalin Subway, a Russian one: Moscow 1952, the player is a KGB investigator, called by Stalin Himself to unearth the plot to kill Stalin and other members of the Politburo. One can arrest and kill suspects at one's will. If one wins, one gets a medal from Stalin and Beria! What more can one expect in this miserable life?
But one of Antigram's readers makes clear that this might not be one to track down:
From the couple of levels you can download, I fear Zizek may be exaggerating the brilliance of Stalin Subway; it appears to be a fairly bland shoot-em-up type game, albeit with rather nice graphics of the Moscow State University.
The world's oldest newspaper, the Post-och Inrikes Tidningar of Sweden, has not only gone digital but also shut down what once would have been redundant to call its "print edition."
The one shot the Velvet Underground ever had at mainstream success was, of course, the memorable performance of "Sister Ray" on The Lawrence Welk Show in 1968:
Until seeing this video, I had no idea that a banjo was involved. (Not mentioned in this otherwise thorough Wikipedia entry, for example.) It's said that the engineer fled the studio while "Sister Ray" was being recorded. In his haste, he must have failed to mike all the instruments properly.
Yesterday was a milestone of sorts for Intellectual Affairs, my column: the second anniversary of its debut. For the first ten months, I wrote it twice a week. Since then, it's run at the somewhat more leisurely pace of once a week.
So far, it comes to 132 columns. I'm making a selection of them now for a short book. But clearly the smart move would be to shift over to broadcasting....
Last year the Smithsonian and the cable network Showtime announced that they had entered a thirty year contract to create a new, on-demand digital TV enterprise, thereby creating some competition for The Hitler Channel.
"Theory," if you take it back far enough, derives from a root referring to vision or eyesight. Maybe it's pushing it to say that there is, then, inevitably an aesthetics of theory. But there's definitely an aesthetic dimension to some of the paperback editions of serious books. In a piece for Lingua Franca almost a dozen years ago, I quoted a (then-)recent discussion of the commodity fetishism some of us went through during the 1980s as various theoretical works came out in nicely designed series:
The New Left Books of the mid to late 1970s, with their "covers with Robert Natkin paintings that looked like pastel burlap," were followed by the wave of volumes from Minnesota University Press and Routledge during the 1980s -- that "great era of . . . translations of every interesting or even uninteresting Continental theorist...."
Man, that really takes me back, albeit in a superduper reflexive way: Now I'm feeling nostalgia for my nostalgia....