Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dog Poop Consumption

Hollywood has taken up the habit of attempting to eat some of the stray poop laying about the neighborhood while we take walks in the mornings. I have to say for all of the discussion I have generally about the minutia of pooping every day, I find myself a largely repulsed, and a little ill every time she does or tries to eat the feces of other dogs. And since we live in Lawrenceville there is dog poop everywhere. Perhaps, this is a kind of anthropomorphic image that I am projecting on her, like that all cute things should only consume things that are likewise cute, as in sugary, pink foam. A similar anthropomorphism I think occurs when we project the cuteness of babies across species, so that in any other species that has this attribute likewise requires, indeed needs, the care and caresses demanded by babies.


This is a lesson many learn of the chihuahuas owned by a lesbian couple in the neighborhood, who bark madly, particularly when approached by children: lesson being that cute things do not necessarily want to cuddle or even have contact with humans. A former Portland roommate of mine had a dog (Beija) with a similar temperament. Beija urinated in my room several times when I moved in and barked at my every approach, but when I walked her we were best friends, and she is ultimately one of the reasons I wanted a dog at all. Her manifesto "not a stuffed animal" can be read here

Two sites of interest document some of the reasons dogs consume dog poop:

20 Reasons Why dogs eat poop

Dog Eating

Some of the interesting reasons include that dogs learn from their owners (who pick up poop in bags) and do so accordingly, recent mothers protecting their litter of puppies from predators--eliminating evidence of prey-worthy vulnerable pups, poor nutrition from actual foods, and obviously because they like the taste. Although I cannot account for the psychological reasons or the taste possibility, I know Hollywood gets plenty of nutritious food because we often given her broccoli stems, carrots, and fruit bits, as well as holistic food dog treats--yeah, we are that kind of dog owners.

I am hoping with time this tendency will fade particularly because I just imagine all the ways that the consumed poop could emerge out of Hollywood's body, through her skin, etc., which still makes me a bit queasy.

For some reason I accidentally made it such that no comments could be left for this post. That has been changed. Comment away on my dog poop problems.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Significant Moment for African-American Studies

This statement is perhaps redundant, given the fact that the first African-American president is poised to win the upcoming election, but it is precisely the early touting of Obama as the post-racial candidate at the beginning of the election that makes this moment so interesting. Besides spurring some fascinating discussion as the the meaning of African-American identity (particularly with regard to slave-ancestry) there is some notion that the possible Obama presidency symbolizes the notion that the melting pot has come to its fullest realization and now we can look past the divisive racial past (despite its persistent material effects). Indeed, a great deal of White Americans who disdain racial prejudice as attitude, want little to do with ameliorating its persistent effects

On the other hand consistently controversial figure Walter Benn Michaels has written an interesting piece (containing a few massive leaps of logic) in the New Left Review claiming that Obama represents the new face of neo-liberalism. Michaels reminds how, to paraphrase, political oppression expressed in the economic sphere, such as the "glass ceiling," is generally not in the interest of capitalism. However, this is not necessarily how history unfolds (in Capital reading group we discussed this as a sort of long standing form of primitive accumulation?).

We can see the cultural reverberations of this discourse in figures like Amy Winehouse whose national and historical remove allows her to help institute the rise of neo-soul in popular music. A recent article in the nation suggests Winehouse is white woman who wants to be a black man.

And let's not forget Solange Knowles, who in an effort to differentiate herself from the stylings of her sister Beyonce, has also embarked on marketing herself as a proponent of neo-soul. A surprising video here positions her amidst footage of African/African-American struggle, reduced to some extent to fun-loving historical spectacle (evinced in the moment where Knowles and her back-up duck when almost hit with the fire-hose footage directed at Civil Rights protesters from the early 1960s).

The video moves forward through history (and a sequined tank), where black people now live on the moon, and where the song's protagonist is reunited with her love object. Is this the love song to the destiny of African-Americans? Is this the hidden trajectory of African-American struggle toward inter-galactic control? Is this the final supercession of the glass ceiling that becomes science-fiction set on the moon?

It reminds of much more critical, but nonetheless reintegrated films of Guy Debord, where mass media footage is deployed as an effort of "detournement" for revolutionary purposes.

The music of the Civil Rights era and the discourse of post-racial America is now deployed to empty that moment of its content and critique, which may extend to our own moment. Obama is both the fulfillment of the promise of the Civil Rights era and its reduction to the construct of glass ceilings.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Militarization and Culture

In a recent issue of Inside Higher Education Keith Gandal writes,

"If English wants again to be in the position Brooks [Peter Brooks, former MLA President] remembered of the 1980s of exporting its analytic and having an influence even in the larger world outside of academia, then it needs to attempt to develop a more accessible style of expression as well as to import from other disciplines. My suggestion for a new direction in literary criticism is what might be called “mobilization studies,” by which I mean not merely the study of war literature, but much more broadly the study of the wide-ranging social and literary effects of mobilizing armies and populations for war and demobilizing them. Analogous to the new sub-field of social-military history developed by historians, “mobilization studies” will be situated at the intersection of policy history, social history, and literary analysis. It was heartening that this year’s Hemingway Society conference invited a social-military historian to give a keynote address. In terms of literary criticism’s engagement both with the issue of war and with other disciplines, let’s hope it is a sign of things to come."

This is something that I am increasingly interested in, perhaps at the level of a dissertation. Discussing documentaries about Cold War demilitarization, War on terror remilitarization, and the global imperatives of the weapons industry. Not sure on a vector or even an object with regard to this issue, but this is something I want to keep in mind for the future in general.

To this end I recently presented a paper at the "Histories of Violence" conference at George Mason University two weeks ago. It was a small conference but generally quite interesting. As with most Cultural Studies events over the last few years, the notion of the biopolitical (as per Foucault) was by far the most used explanatory vehicle. I did meet some similarly interested people working with similar topics that tended to be less anxious and awkward than most academics I tend to meet, which make conferences a little painful. Some particularly interesting work on mechanical means of seeing the battlefield, and questions of violence as undermining the discourses of human rights.

The optics of warfare as the overlap with the aesthetics of representations of war seem to me to be a fundamentally interesting notion, particularly derived from Paul Virilio. Because of this interest I tend to teach the non-canonical War and Cinema, in every one of my media studies and film classes (2 so far). The students tend to find the text slightly confusing, but I am finding it easier to teach. The stakes are a little diffused for these kids in a text that draws parallels between advances in the technologies of "seeing" the battlefield and those of filmmaking, to indicate that war making has become aestheticized, and thus in Western culture seeing and destruction have become coincident. This is perhaps most clear with the "smart bombing" technologies that involve a sort of "point-click-bomb" concept:

I myself find Virilio's discussion of vision and destruction interesting when placed against the work of geographer and photographer Trevor Paglen who uses astro-photograhy to document not only military surveillance satellite technology but also top-secret bases located in Tonopah Valley, Nevada.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A little Los Crudos for good measure, also

A video for their song "Asesinos"--murderers.

I actually played the slobbering fan at a Limp Wrist show to Martin (former lead singer for Los Crudos) at their show in Portland. When I was 16 having a queer latino to look up to in the hardcore scene was pretty profound, even if it does produce a barely coherent, star-struck 23 year old.

Can't Stop Watching Kylesa

I love this album, although I am a little late.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Goatee Questionnaire

Those who know me know my intense loathing for the goatee, particularly in its "van dyke" form--usually a fu-manchu mustache that then connects to the goatee. To me the "van dyke" reminds me of a mouth emerging from a brillo pad. This is especially the case for dudes whose facial hair does not match their hair color.

Every year after the first three weeks of teaching college freshman I notice that the male students' faces suddenly accumulating unshaved parts, and the goatee is by far the most popular of these "transition to manhood," "out from under the watchful gaze of my parents" grooming changes. I find this at once hilarious, sweet, but also ridiculous.

On the other hand, a full beard (when it can be evenly grown), can enhance the most fugly of faces. But I think I've been a little intolerant of everyone who selects this particular facial hair configuration. I've, over the last few years, even seen a few men whose appearance has been enhanced by the goatee. So I concocted this little questionnaire to give those wanting an opportunity to grow a goatee, a get out of jail free card:

Section 1:

1) Are you a contractor?

2) Are you a gay leather daddy?

3) Are you a transperson or gender queer?

4) Are you a devout Muslim?

5) Is your name Vladimir Ilyich Lenin?

6) Are you African or African-American and keep your facial hair tightly trimmed?

(If you answered "yes" for any of the last 4 questions, do not continue. You are officially absolved for your goatee and can keep your facial hair).

Section 2:

1) Do you agree with the following statement: "Music has never really surpassed the 1990s grunge era. The only comparable era to this moment is the 1960s?"

2) Do you feel your goatee adds a little "danger" to your otherwise pedestrian look?

3) Are you afraid that if you shave your goatee that it will only expose the utter lack of chin you have?

4) Do you regard the goatee as a very contemporary look?

5) Do you find people regard you as a juvenile without your goatee?

6) Are you a regular user of marijuana?

7) Do you find yourself walking around in public wearing sweats or pajama bottoms more than two days out of the week?

8) Do you own an acoustic guitar?

9) Is growing a goatee one thing you have done to accomodate your sense of your own decrease in sex appeal or to address a recent life-altering change (as in a divorce)?

10) Do appreciate what is known as a "landing strip" or completely shaven "parts" on the models you look at regularly in your preferred pornographic material?

11) Do you own any vertically striped dress shirts, particularly in pastel colors?

12) Do you own more than one container of after-shave or cologne?

13) Do you tan regularly?

14) Are you a freshman/freshperson in college?

(If you answered "yes" to more than two questions above you should get that razor out and start whacking).

Please post any other possible questions below.

Below is a typology of facial hair courtesy of wikipedia:

According to the image above (and blog observer Mark), I was wrong. The type of goatee mustache combo I identified was really called "douche bag."

1 - Stubble, 2 - Moustache, 3 - Goatee, 4 -Douchebag, 5 - Mutton-chops, 6 - Friendly Muttonchops, 7 - Van Dyke, 8 - Full beard