Monday, December 21, 2009


I got my first two chapters back from my advisor with annotations today. I'm now grumpy. I knew handing it in that there were some considerable problems. I knew the form was bad, and that the points were not reached with clarity or even always purpose; and I'm trying hard to bear these things in mind while I mull over his recommendations. I cannot help but think I've significantly diminished myself in his eyes. Ultimately that doesn't matter, since the final product will redeem me (or I won't get a degree, I reckon).

But as seems always to be the case lately, I went home and the first thing I read applied directly to my worries. Here is Adorno from the second section of Minima Moralia:

[epigraph:] "Where everything is bad it must be good to know the worst." --F.H.Bradley

Memento -- A first precaution for writers: in every text, every piece, every paragraph to check whether the central motif stands out clearly enough. Anyone wishing to express something is so carried away by it that he ceases to reflect on it. Too close to his intention, 'in his thoughts', he forgets to say what he wants to say.

No improvement is too small or trivial to be worthwhile. Of a hundred alterations each may seem trifling or pedantic by itself; together they can raise the text to a new level.

He goes on to make several more good points, and I'm a little happier knowing much of my poor writing is my fault, rather than a result of my faults; that is, I don't think this is a problem of inadequacy but a sort of inattention.

And I didn't say anything nasty in that whole post! :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Goodness, two posts in one day is terribly unfashionable. I should wait an hour and a half.

I was talking to a brilliant friend of mine today about religion and lingering narratives. We talked about the problems with marriage, and the exchange economy that surrounds it, the pressure to conform and perform a gendered role, the appropriation of individuals in the interest of tradition, and, especially, the devaluation of lifestyles that do not involve participation in this sort of economy--whether by judicial force or personal choice. OK we didn't talk about all that, but it's all implicated in what we did discuss.

We talked about the mysterious pleasure of religious ceremony: the reverence of a cathedral, the community of the call to prayer, etc. It made me think of a cute song I had thought of posting without commentary. I initially decided against putting it up because I had little to add to it, and because I get a little trigger happy with the facebook links. With the added context of today's conversation, it seems more worth the time.

Now almost all my friends are non-theists, either because they've thought about it and feel it's the position that best lets them be honest with themselves, or because they have not thought about it and it is simply who they are. My coffee conversation is one of my few Christian friends, which face allows me the delightful opportunity to explore in dialogue experiences that I otherwise overlook. In spite of my recent ramblings on religion, I hadn't thought much of late on what role religion may still play in my life. Because I don't spend any time with Christians in a context that allows faith as an appropriate topic of conversation, I don't get asked why I celebrate Christmas.

Tim Minchin is Australian, so Christmas comes for him in the summer. He is also usually funnier than this:

I think this has something to do with why non-theists still have a stake in marriage, too. The mysterious community of ritual is not merely religious (anthropologically speaking, it casts religion in the light of an accidental appendage). Indeed, in addition to extending beyond the reach of religious discipline, it would too seem to surpass the proprietary structure of the traditional family. The ritual that Minchin sings about is a singularity of support, the bare trace of a religious experience stripped of its judicial baggage. If there is a thread of this in marriage, then there is some hope for divorcing that institution from its sordid past; better put, given this hypothesis, marriage in and of itself needs no help, it simply needs to be let free.

It surely goes without saying that so long as religion remains a negative theology it will not know how to do any good in this arena.

Dresden Codak

I cannot adequately express my admiration for this author. No one else leaves me feeling quite so warm, yet I know I will have trouble sleeping tonight because of it. Here is his latest piece:

The rest of it is also well worth exploring. It is a very good idea to read the entire Hob series.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

OK, so years and years ago, back in my Santa Cruz days, an Indian artist called Panjabi MC had a song on the charts in the US called "Beware of the Boys." Jay-Z got ahold of it and did a few verses over it, and the first time I heard it was when my alarm went off at some obscene hour; I was in one of those hazes where you're half asleep and sorta dreaming whatever you hear.

What I thought I'd heard was Jay-Z blaming Ronald Reagan for September Eleventh (which is a pretty strong political statement, especially for a less political rapper like Hova). I was pretty jazzed, so I told a friend or two about how rad that was. Then when I heard the song later I never found section I'd heard when half asleep. I concluded that I must have completely dreamed it. After all, an NY mc as mainstream as Jay-Z isn't likely to start making aggressive claims about 9/11 only a year after it went down. So from then on I would tell people the funny story about how I dreamed Jay-Z hated Reagan.

Now I'm not sure if I just missed it every other time I heard the Jay-Z version of the song, or if it was censored on American Radio. I never bought the CD, and was never a particularly big Jay-Z fan, so it's possible I just never payed close enough attention at the right time to catch it. Pandora is using the full version, and I was taken aback to find that my dream was a reality. Here's a transcription of verse two found online:

Ma, I ain't gotta tell you but it's ya boy Hov
From the U.S., you just, lay down slow
Catch ya boy minglin' in England, nettlin' in the Netherlands
Checkin' in daily under aliases
We rebellious, we back home, screamin' leave Iraq alone
But all my soldiers in the field, I will wish you safe return
But only love kills war when will they learn
It's international Hov, I been havin' the flow
Before Bin Laden got Manhattan to blow
Before Ronald Reagan got Manhattan to blow
Before I was cappin' it then back before
Before we had it all day, poppin' in the hallway
Cop one offa someone to give you more yey
Yea, but that's another stor-ay
But for now mami turn it around and let the boy play (Jay)