Monday, November 26, 2007

Comparative(ly) literature

Apparently a company known as Kalima (funded by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi) has selected 100 "Western" titles to be translated into Arabic. The list can be found here.

Glancing over it, the greatest point of interest to me is obviously classical literaure. But take a look at those selections: Galen? Wasn't he already translated into Arabic in the 9th century and used as a medical handbook? Then there's Euripides' Helen and Cyclops, the former being hardly one of his best tragedies and the latter being our only surviving satyr play, which not even classicists really understand. Finally, Sophocles' Progeny: sounds great, but we actually only have three fragments of this play which were discovered two years ago. Is this a joke?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"Our Entire Banking System is a Complete Disaster"

This, from the most successful hedge fund in US History. The fund has returned all its investors money, saying its not even worth it. “Our entire banking system is a complete disaster,” they wrote. “In my opinion, nearly every major bank would be insolvent if they marked their assets to market.” FT Article

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


More here.

Cheney hids in bushes while Bush talks

this is sooooo funny

Comrade Robot Proposes Five-Year Plan for Wash Av Huffy Crew

cash advance

I know that many of us went to a university of tasered kids and Alberto Gonzalez financial backers, but come on comrades! We need to increase our neologism productivity at least 3 fold.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bad feelings, Comrades

Dear Huffies,

Tonight I royally and utterly misconstrued Marx's base/superstructure theory in the seminar of a professor who claims to have taught Marx "for five years - to socialists." With this black stain upon my good name, I hereby submit my person to the Party for reprogramming. Disgrace!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Notes about capital and power

Common academic surrender phrase: There's no beyond of capital, therefore no way to resist it. What this means: given capital, there's no position from which one could assign values without reference to the value standard of capital, to its institution of exchange value. In other words, there's no site of agency (the power to assign values) "beyond" the already-established value system of capital, the infinite horizon to which all further valuations must refer. If agency is always configured in relation to capital, though, given the institution of capital, then there can be no agency "within" capital, either; in fact, it's only from "within" capital that one reaches the conclusion that no agency is possible "beyond" capital, not because capital rules out any thought of a "beyond," but because the rule of capital is that no one shall make valuations without reference (reverence) to capital - so that it's agency rather than the "beyond" that capital makes unthinkable.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


We discussed Foucault's Discipline and Punish in class today. Without looking at other people's responses, list off the top of your head as many words as you think came up in discussion. The person with the most correct matches gets a prize. ("The," "and," and "um" don't count. These are Foucault buzzwords I'm talking about, people. You know what I mean. Now get down to it.) Rareties (words I remember coming up only once, but which are still crucial) will get 2 pts.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Scary Lines from Book Reviews

From The Nation:
Thomas's predecessor on the Court, Thurgood Marshall, retired at 83. If Thomas does the same, he'll serve until 2031--another twenty-four years.

"Don't tase me, bro" comes home

Student Life: "Student tasered at Gargoyle concert."

And the story hits the bigtime: Pitchfork.

Apparently the party continued afterwards at Sammy house.

In our day this would have been a Mackin stunt, no doubt about it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

On the Shutting Up of Hugo

I feel moved to comment on the latest big story from the Ibero-American summit, featuring a petulant Venezuelan president and perhaps even more petulant Spanish King. The immediate context, to reiterate what's in the BBC story, is that Chavez has just accused the former Spanish Prime Minister (and Iraq War supporter) Jose Maria Aznar of being a fascist for, among other things, supposedly supporting the 2001 coup against Chavez's regime. (Today, Chavez accused the Spanish King of knowing something about it ahead of time.) I've translated this snippit of the exchange:
Zapatero: President Bachelet, I only want to take an issue with some of the words The President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez said in relation to the ex-President of the Spanish Government, Mr. Aznar. I want to express to President Hugo Chavez that in a table in which there are democratic governments that represent our citizens, in an Iberoamerican community that is at its essence about respect, re-spect. You can be diametrically opposed to one ideological position, and I'm certainly not one who claims to share ideas with Aznar, but ex-President Aznar was elected by Spaniards, and I demand ... [interrupted by Chaves]... demand respect.... [Interrupted by Chavez] ... One minute, give me a minute.

King: [To Chavez] Why don't you just shut up!

What's interesting about this exchange is that it brings out all the tensions inherent in such an Ibero-American summit: the idea of the sanctimonious, European "mother" country telling her Latin American "children" how to behave. There's good reason, in my mind, to be furious about an unelected European monarch interrumpting a President to tell him (using the informal "tu") to shut up and listen about democracy. The King's outburst will no doubt give Chavez plenty of new material for his 300-hour (or however long he's now on the air) weekly radio show, and, additionally, new material for his #1 talking point and rhetorical axe: that any opposition=people that tried to kill him=fascists=people that need to be legally prevented from speaking.

Does anyone come out of this looking good? I've praised Zapatero before on this blog and I will continue to do so. As much as partisanship may plague our country, Spain is truly far far worse. That Zapatero had the dignity to defend his arch political enemy from a rather serious accusation -- calling modern conservatives in Spain "fascists" is sort of callous given the country's history -- while at the same time calmly dealing with a rabid Hugo Chavez is a testament to the kind of leadership and rhetorical skill rarely seen these days.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Dead letter office

Has anyone here actually read Norman Mailer, who is as of today quite dead? Is anyone else relieved that we are free from the responsibility of pronouncing him "genius" or "fraud"? This is apparently very important to some people.

When DeLillo passes away, on the other hand, there will come a day of reckoning.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Cynical Humanism

"The world is like a ride at an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it, you think it's real, because that's how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round and it has thrills and chills and it's very brightly colored and it's very loud. And it's fun, for a while.
Some people have been on the ride for a long time, and they begin to question: 'Is this real? Or is this just a ride?' And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and they say 'Hey! Don't worry, don't be afraid -- ever -- because... this is just a ride.'

And we kill those people."

"...And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring the shadows with the prisoners who had never moved out of the den, while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become steady (and the time which would be needed to acquire this new habit of sight might be very considerable), would he not be ridiculous? Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender,

and they would put him to death."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Planning for the future

It's been a relatively easy time to be a Democrat in America, if not substantially (we've failed to stop the President from doing any number of terrible things), then at least rhetorically and ideally. Bush is so bad and his poll numbers so low that one's political convictions need only require a gesture in the direction of the numbers. Anti-Bush sentiment comes fast and easy, and indeed much of the Democrats' 2008 election strategy seems to consist in simply saying what they are not. However, Congress remains deeply unpopular, for whatever reason -- failure to end the war? Lack of substantial legislation passed? Who knows, and who knows what's fair criticism in this respect.

But while it's easy to declare Democratic allegiance on paper, one occasionally comes across things like this: a recent Zogby poll that shows 52% of Americans in favor of "a U.S. military strike to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon." Note that this is rather unclear as to whether the poll is asking if we should strike Iran now, or at some indeterminate time in the future when they are definitely "building a nuclear weapon." I would guess that people getting their news from the major networks think that Iran is, indeed, in the process of making a bomb.

I was incredulous at this number at first, and then frustrated, and then angry at my fellow citizens (especially Democrats -- 44% in favor!), but I was cooled somewhat by remembering Brecht's quip about the Soviet Union, when they found that their policy was unpopular among the population, that they should "dissolve the people and elect a new one." Obviously, this can't be done and shouldn't be thought. But I got to thinking that there will probably be many more moments like this if and when a Democrat gains the Presidency, albeit with the government, not the populace. (Although I'm sure, given my views, that I'll oppose the majority quite a few more times, too.) It's easy to cheer the Dems now, but for me at least, Washington politicians remain an infuriating bunch, across the board.

If you think about, it obviously makes sense to laud Democratic measures that are coming up against Presidential vetoes, like SCHIP and increased social spending. What makes me nervous, though, is that all these are are measures against Bush's policies. They're not necessarily true-blue progressive legislation. And when you consider the fact that 17 Republican senators just voted in favor of expanding SCHIP, you wonder how "liberal" the bill really is. (One mustn't lose sight of the strategic side of things here, though -- it could be that Republicans see the President's unpopularity and want to distance themselves from him; under different circumstances, the same Republicans could vote against the bill to make a Democratic congress look bad.)

So, when Hillary's sitting in the White House, and there's a good chance she will, what will the picture look like? Assuming there's still a Democratic majority in congress, how strong will the legislation be? How progressive the policy? My point is that it will be hard to know, because there will be no alternative to judge it by. SCHIP expansion is great, but what if it could insure an additional 5 million? What if we could guarantee insurance for all children, period? For all Americans? Anything less is anathema to me (while at the same time realizing these things take maneuvering and lots of time), but I have much less confidence in the Democrats. And how will they act in many other areas that are crucial to people like me: poverty, election reform, gay rights, women's rights, foreign policy, demilitarization? Bearing in mind the sluggishness of American progressive reform, there is a potential trap here of accepting with complacency whatever the Democrats offer us, because they are "our" party (and in my case, just barely -- I'm registered, but in less dire circumstances I would string these people up by their toes for what they've done). I guess I'll cheer on election night, but really I would think we should be depressed that Bush is simply finally stepping down from power, rather than having been impeached (not gonna happen), or, in a better world, in a military brig.

Of course, we'll get a lot of hemming and hawing from pundits and Republicans after the election that the Dems only won because of Bush's unpopularity, and, whatever the election spread, we'll get calls from all quarters to govern "modestly" and "from the center" because "that's what the American people always want" (always). Notwithstanding these popular fictions, I think it's high time progressive strategists, social justice advocates, and yes, Democrats, kicked it into high gear and really tried to get things done. And I won't accept anything less. Thoughts on this? Am I courting a social democrat's idle fancy? Should I be more cynical? Is my suspicion misplaced? What are others' thoughts for the future should the Democrats win?

And if they don't, I hope we can all agree that the world is "fucked up," and not just "strangely fucked up," in Austin-5000's distinction.

TPM: How it Affects My Life.

I resigned at the hedge fund. That world was not for me.

Now, I work at, or TPM, on their online TV show project. Veracifier is the name of the "network" they are on. I help produce the TPM Show and all the Veracifier projects. I am going to use a videocamera and film Josh, and do editing for example, the TPM logo at the beginning of the show was produced by our team, as is the filming, and some of the story ideas for TPM. We also create the parties for TPM, which is a knew phenomenon. We are going to host one at columbia.

This is my entry into the media and publishing world, which will be my career.

We are always looking for story ideas and political events of any kind. We have access to people all over the country to film these events, and a staff to write about them.

So, if anyone has knowledge of any events at Stanford, Columbia, or anywhere in the United States, please let me know!!!! We can use the events for the shows. I am sure everyone saw the islamofacism awareness week. we helped produce that. We need more ideas, more storylines, please email me at gmail address.

thanks, fishstix