main: January 2008 Archives

Over the past couple of days, I have been corresponding with Mr. Kelch John of the Apex Bank in the Republic of Benin. It seems he is supposed to give me a very special ATM card that will allow me to withdraw up to $20k per day on an account his bank needs to disburse, for reasons I do not entirely understand.

There is some paperwork involved, and I am supposed to send him $103 via Western Union.

I have promised to do so just as soon as I have the ATM card in hand. He hasn't gone for that idea, and insists that the fees must be paid before he can FedEx it my way. He points out that I need to trust him. The only alternative, he says, for me to come to the Republic of Benin and handle the paperwork at his office.

At this point, I am taking him up on the offer and promising that he will be paid in cash after we go to the nearest ATM machine. Here's hoping that his schedule permits. I think my frequent-flyer miles should cover the trip.

As a gesture of appreciation, I have also offered him lunch at a restaurant of his choice, on the assumption that he will know what the good places to eat are, there in Benin.

January 31, 2008 9:56 AM | | Comments (7)

Nina Hagen's Nunsexmonkrock is one of the great albums of the early 1980s. I always assumed that her wild vocal shifts (from Exorcist-style growls to angelic soprano passages) were made possible by multitracking in the studio. But no -- a search for video footage of Hagen in performance shows that she could get that dissociated-personality effect live.

Here she is in 1980, doing an inspired cover of a David Bowie song:

Interesting commentary on some of her early records here.

January 30, 2008 8:43 PM | | Comments (5)

The website Books That Make You Dumb seems designed to bring out the scolds among us. The methodology is dubious (use Facebook to determine the ten most popular books among students at various colleges and universities, then organize this data according to average SAT scores for each institution) and there is no reason to suppose the books cause stupidity, rather than serving to diagnoise a preexisting condition.

The creator of the site, Virgil Griffith, acknowledges the problems. "I'm aware correlation [does not equal] causation," he says. "The results are awesome regardless of causality. You can stop sending me email about this distinction. Thanks."

Gripe if you must, but diverting the chart certainly is. The Book of Mormon falls right in the middle. There is probably a Mitt Romney joke to be plucked from this, like over-ripe and low-hanging fruit. Verily I say unto you, have a look. (via Librarian.net)

(crossposted from CT)

January 30, 2008 10:24 AM | | Comments (0)

Per today's column, I must confess to being pretty enthusiastic about the slogan "Revolution in the '80s -- Go For It!"

January 30, 2008 9:44 AM | | Comments (0)

Apart from being overextended on various fronts, I've been going through a little spell of uncertainty about what role blogging plays -- whether actually, potentially, or what have you -- in my work as a writer. Hence the slowdown here over the past two or three weeks.

When Quick Study launched a year ago, it was with an essay of sorts on the experience of finding myself both caught up in this medium and out of touch with the culture it is fostering.

Actually, rereading it now, that inaugural post still seems like a pretty good diagnosis of the confusion and ambivalence lately at hand. There may be very little to add to it. The situation it describes is not going to change -- or at least not for the better.

January 29, 2008 2:49 PM | | Comments (11)

Some guy named John Gibson, who appears on the so-called Fox News Channel, has made homophobic remarks about the actor from Brokeback Mountain who died a few days ago. Well, that sure is surprising. Discussion of this is taking place on the radio as well as in the blogosphere. Example here.

Instead of complaining about Gibson being obnoxious, though, why not do him one better? Rather than gripe, let's respond with a rousing chorus of the MDC song "John Wayne Was a Nazi."

They first recorded this circa 1981, while based in Austin and playing as the Stains.Sure wish I still had the single. The flipside was something like "No War, No KKK, No Fascist USA."

Back when nobody could imagine that a black presidential candidate would ever try to make nice about Ronald Reagan. A certain clarity about things does seem to get lost over time.

January 24, 2008 6:57 PM | | Comments (1)

The third anniversary of Intellectual Affairs is coming up soon. The first column appeared on February 1, 2005, and it looks like the two hundredth will be published at some point within the next few months.*

intellectual_affairs_medsmall.gif

Over the past several years, various people have suggested that it might be worth putting together a collection of my essays -- which would mean, among other things, making a selection of IA pieces, transferring them from cyberspace to the printed page.

The very idea has tended to induce a deer-in-the-headlights response on my part, at least in the past. The thought of rereading twenty years of my own stuff is not thrilling. All the biting of the tongue it would involve is disagreeable to imagine, and there is a real question whether the occasional pieces add up to some kind of whole. But maybe it's time to find out.

In any case, another more short-term prospect has come up, which is to create a webpage at IHE offering a "Best of Intellectual Affairs" selection -- maybe six or eight columns.

A few possibilities come to mind. But at this point, honestly, after writing about 180 columns, I can't even remember all of them.

So all of this is prologue to asking friends or regular readers for nominations. If you recall anything that made an impression, please either leave a comment here or send a note via the address thing over in the right-hand column. Don't worry about indicating the exact title or date. Just the topic ought to be enough for me to track it down.

Presumably this will also be helpful in putting together a collection of pieces, too, if it comes to that.

* Speaking of anniversaries: Quick Study is coming up on its first birthday. It seems like a lot longer. Then again three years of Intellectual Affairs feels like a decade.

January 21, 2008 9:32 AM | | Comments (6)

Today's column tries to launch Erika Falk's new book Women for President: Media Bias in Eight Campaigns (U. of Illinois) into non-academic conversation. It has been linked at Media Bistro, and I'm told the piece has been sent around to other such venues.

Apart from whatever effect it may have on behalf of Falk's book, my great hope is that it will help relaunch the political career of Victoria Woodhull. Given that the two Democratic frontrunners are both creatures of the DLC, I figure you might as well vote for a dead candidate.

January 16, 2008 8:41 AM | | Comments (1)

Thanks to recent developments in the Democratic primaries, trivialization of Martin Luther King's legacy is off to an all-time early start this year. But Christopher Phelps has just published an excellent overview of recent historical work on MLK that knocks some of the ceremonial tinsel off -- the better to see the real figure, who would never get a word in edgewise today.

January 14, 2008 3:50 PM | | Comments (0)

Without going on hiatus, exactly, it looks like things will be slow around Quick Study for a week or two. I've got a backload of work, some of it now seriously overdue.

And in any case, the topics of the day of late seem to be Clinton v. Obama or Liberal Fascism. People are scrutinizing the latter and finding that it's by no means well-argued or deeply informed. Which is sort of like slicing open a cantaloupe and discovering that it is not, in fact, made out of cheese. Just how many demonstrations of this are really necessary?

January 14, 2008 10:53 AM | | Comments (4)

thanks to David Glenn for the link

Summer blockbuster advance notice: Nixonland by Rick Perlstein

January 10, 2008 5:23 PM | | Comments (3)

The National Book Critics Circle has announced the eight new members of its Board of Directors, elected amidst the heaviest voting in recent memory.

Imagine lots of bookish Iowans braving the weather to make their voices heard. Something like that, probably.

Previous item.

January 9, 2008 6:08 PM | | Comments (8)

Walking back from the Cliopatria banquet on Friday night (see photographs here), some of the participants had a brief experience of the leap from blogospheric glory to real-world fame.

A guy on the street -- in his early twenties, it seemed, and too casually dressed to be in town for the American Historical Association, probably -- saw a cluster of us approaching and seemed to take notice. As we started to pass, he stopped us.

"Are you Juan Cole?" he asked Juan Cole.

"Yes, I am," said Juan Cole.

Who, it turns out, is quite used to that kind of thing.

January 9, 2008 9:23 AM | | Comments (1)

Catching up with the latest round of debates among the Democratic candidates, I cannot avoid a sense of deja vu.

kangkodos.gif

It seems obvious that Hillary Clinton is, in fact, a space alien. It is difficult to believe that she has gotten this far without saying, "The politics of failure have failed. We have to make them work again."

Related thought: Barack Obama embodies Clintonism with a human face.

It's seeming more and more as if this might be the time to donate to the Moore-Alexander campaign....

January 6, 2008 4:48 PM | | Comments (3)

At the end of each year, Newsday asks a few of its regular reviewers for a short comment listing some of their favorite recent books.

The resulting piece -- which ran a week ago, on December 30 -- will probably not be available online for all that long. And so

Here's my bit:

January 6, 2008 4:30 PM | | Comments (4)

It seems as if the exhibit hall at MLA gets a little smaller each year. The one in Chicago took no time at all to cover -- even with a few impromptu discussions with editors and publicists along the way.

Since returning home, I've been drawing up a list of publishers who weren't there but ordinarily would have been. Maybe people just didn't want to go to Chicago in mid-winter? But the shrinkage (as it were) was evident last year at Philadelphia, too. It's probably just another sign of the "crisis in academic publishing," which just keeps rolling along.

One title I had hoped to see on display in Chicago is the Parlor Press book Framing Theory's Empire, about which more here. But it was nowhere to be found.

framing150.jpg

Upon returning home, however, I find that my contributor's copy has arrived in the mail. So yes, the book actually does exist as three-dimensional artifact. As John Holbo pointed out last month, you can get it from the publisher for less than Amazon will charge.

January 3, 2008 10:14 AM | | Comments (0)

The year starts with a bit of poison penmanship coming in over the digital transom:

I really have never seen on AJ Blogs such a self-centered blog. Your hair, your schedule, your tastes...I hope that the new year brings a bit more interests in things beyond yourself.

Well, sure! Good point! The pile of stuff on my desk at the moment includes

-- at least five sets of galleys of new books, to be reviewed posthaste
-- several university press catalogs brought back from MLA
-- some Congressional documents concerning the subprime mortgage thing
-- a set of pamphlets from the 1920s by a renegade monk who became a propagandist for atheism
-- the revision of my introduction to a volume of George Scialabba's collected essays that will be published in a few months
-- several issues of Line of March: A Journal of Marxist-Leninist Rectification from the years 1981 to 1984 (long story)

Stuff that piled up in the final weeks of 2007 because, obviously, such things are all about me. Seems like '08 will finally be the year to start developing a wider range of interests. And not a minute too soon!

January 1, 2008 5:22 PM | | Comments (9)

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