Monday, December 29, 2008

Soccer Mom Hair

So in a brief return to suburbia for the holidays my thesis, that haircuts once popular with lesbians have migrated over to the sanctified realm of middle-brow / soccer-mom hair salons, has been reinforced. With the dissolution of the riot-grrl movement and the general migration of its participants from radical womyn's vagina parties to your local food coops, whole foods, and midwifery school, so too the "grown-out" chelsea and the punk-rock version of the Mia Farrow doo also moved to a PTA meeting near you.

Check it out, even Britney Spears' move towards this type of hair style given her pregnancy:

Although I this may seem altogether practical given the fact that the on-line urban dictionary defines "soccer-mom hair" as:

Short, easily managed, but completely unfeminine and unflattering haircut worn by overweight, middle-aged women with 2.6 children who spend more than 40 hours per week, obsessively focussed on their precious children's extra-curricular activities. The often overly highlighted cut is typically parted in the center or to one side, with longish bangs, no hair products and is distinguished from more stylish and current short hairdos by it's roots in 70's and 80's fashion, re-hashing the "dorothy hamill" and "geraldine ferraro" styles, and often worn with "mom jeans," (also rooted in 80's style - high wasted with baggy ass and peg leg), baggy sweatshirts and white sneakers.
i want a short bob, but i don't want soccer-mom hair!

Gays tend to define the extremes of taste, be it the caricature of their own gender (or the "opposite" gender), the height of upper class taste, or utter tastelessness. So perhaps to some extent the evolution of gay taste sets boundaries on heterosexual taste as well.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Communique from Occupied New School

*We write this statement from an occupied New School University.*

At 8pm, December 18th, over 75 students reclaimed the cafeteria at the New
School University as an autonomous student center. Students from several
Universities commandeered this space. Students of City College, Borough of
Manhattan Community College, Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center are
here participating in this struggle. This is every student's occupation.

If this can happen at the New School, through the organized activity
of 75 dedicated students, it can happen at CUNY. And we certainly have
reason to be upset: On the first day of the Fall 2008 semester, the CUNY
budget was slashed $50.6 million. Massive layoffs plague all our schools.
We are now being told of a looming $600-per-year tuition hike and more
colossal budget cuts to CUNY students and teachers, in a school that was
once FREE.

We will continue this campus occupation until our demands are met.
While the demands tonight are specific to The New School we will not be
satisfied until the students and faculty of CUNY, NYU, all the
consortium schools and beyond, have control over their universities.
Education should be free, student debts should be cancelled, students and
workers should work together to achieve our goals, and we start here.

Please, come out to the New School and support us! Join us! We are at 65 5th
avenue (between 13th and 14th St.). The building will be open to all
consortium students at 7:30am, we invite you to come any time tomorrow, but
particularly at 10:30 when there will be a rally and press conference. The
morning hours will be crucial, and the student-occupiers need to know that
we are not struggling alone!

Our next stop? CUNY.
- CUNY students at The New School in Exile

Frank at 718.314.2328,
Conor Tom?s Reed at 979.204.9253,

----below we attach the communiqu? from all of The New School in Exile-----

An Open Letter: Come Occupy a Building with Us...Now

Dear Friends,

We are writing to you from the inside of the New School Graduate
Faculty Building on 65 5th Ave. We are occupying it. Right now.

Students of the New School University, along with our partners from
other universities and groups ? like NYU, Hunter College, City College
of NY, CUNY Graduate Center, and Borough of Manhattan Community
College, have organically risen up to demand the resignation of
President Bob Kerrey, Executive Vice President James Murtha, and Board
Member/torturer Robert B. Millard. We have come
together to prevent our study spaces from being flattened by corporate
bulldozers, to have a say in who runs this school, to demand that the
money we spend on this institution be used to facilitate the creation
of a better society, not to build bigger buildings or invest in
companies that make war. We have come here not only to make demands,
but also to live them. Our presence makes it clear that this school is
ours, and yours, if you are with us.

The outside doors have been closed now, so we can't exactly invite you
in...sorry... We know you wanted a piece of the action, but we'll be
around for quite some time. Join us at 7 AM tomorrow when the doors
open again, or come now to stand outside with a sign in solidarity.
You are cordially invited to join us in any way you can. We are not
going anywhere. In the meantime, check out our Web site: We have all night to make things
interesting, and the website will continue to be updated. Stay tuned
for the musical pieces, doctoral dissertations, and creative
finger-paintings that seem to be the natural result of 150 students
locked into a building together for a night.

We are here, making decisions collectively, doing teach-ins, listening
to music, studying, singing. We've got an upright bassist, guitarists
and vocalists (If anyone can volunteer a drum-set we'll be well on our
way...). We'll be here until this university changes, or until the
party gets boring (but it doesn't seem likely that will happen). We're
not going anywhere. We hope to see you soon, and if you really can't
wait a few hours ? what the hell ? occupy your own universities or
work spaces.

Come use your voice to declare loudly that this school and this world
are yours. Come use your mind to think up a better world. Come use
your body to create it, one all-nighter in the university cafeteria at
a time. Come stand in solidarity with the students, faculty, and staff
of this university. Come to write letters of support to the people of
the village of Thanh Phong whose parents were murdered by the current
President of the New School during his service in Vietnam. Come join
the struggle with the people of Iraq who are being tortured and killed
by a company funded by this university and represented on the New
School Board of Trustees. Come here to join the uprisings and
outpouring of passionate resistance currently taking place all over
this country, and all over the worlds ? from factory workers in
Chicago to students in Greece. Come for yourself. Come for all of us.

In solidarity,

The New School in Exile

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Flexible Accumulation and Academia

Flexible accumulation (a term coined by geographer David Harvey to delimit the Post-Fordist, Keynesian form capitalism manifest in Western countries) is hitting English departments nationally, as more and more the of the professorial workforce is casuallized, made part-time, and eliminated.

Inside Higher Ed reports:

"* Only 42 percent of all faculty members teaching English in four-year colleges and universities and only 24 percent in two-year colleges hold tenured or tenure-track positions.
* Part-time faculty members now make up 40 percent of the faculty teaching English in four-year institutions and 68 percent in two-year institutions. (Part timers are only a subset of those off the tenure track since, for several years now, an increasing share of the adjunct population works full time at a single institution.)
* Huge gaps exist in salaries between tenured and non-tenure track faculty members teaching English, although full-time adjuncts have seen salary growth in recent years. Per-course payments for part-time instructors have been relatively flat over the last eight years."

The humanities and social sciences in particular suffer from these changes in the economy of the university most, not only because they are often produce knowledge and products that are not as easily converted into businesses (as per new models of the neo-liberal university), but also because many of us tend to see our teaching and writing as a kind of radical activism, and thus we tend to feel as if the sacrifices we make personally and financially for academic work are part of some clergical mandate, the lamb we lay at the altar of "the struggle".

It is the extent to which we understand ourselves as "saviors" of our students or, perhaps, history, or even merely the last bastion of the public sphere, that we are all the more exploitable as a workforce for the ends of the late capitalist university.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

David Lynch on the iPhone

Although I am secretly in love with and desperately want an iPhone (it is the closest thing to the computer book carried by Inspector Gadget character Penny), I find Lynch's point amusing as well to some extent something I can agree with. The loss of the collective viewing and immersive atmosphere of the theater (even the domestic home theater) seems altogether lost in iDevice watching. The uniqueness of aspect ratio, the intricacies of staging and mise-en-scene are also to some extent compromised to these tiny spectatorship devices.

The above replies seem to affirm the visual/aural compromises implicit in Lynch's criticism, and also attempt to mock him--almost as if they are saying "this too has been repurposed and reduced."

Intro. to Film Text Books

This semester I was handed an introduction to Film Studies course. However, there were several mandates with which the course came: first, that the course follow a general historical trajectory (with an emphasis on production and economic bases) from the beginning of the film medium (the competing trajectories of the Lumiere Brothers and Georges Méliès), then the "important" narrative film movements, the golden age of Hollywood, the French New Wave, the "auteur" Renaissance in Hollywood, the emergence of the blockbuster; second, that the students have a working knowledge of the vocabularies for talking about mise-en-scène, cinematography, narrative, performance, etc.; the third, an introduction to cultural studies/film studies approaches to film (including Laura Mulvey's theory of the male gaze, auteur theory, Ideology critique, the Frankfurt School, etc.); and finally, I was enjoined to require 3 essays from my students, a midterm and a final exam.

To me this seemed partially an overwhelming set of mandates, particularly because I am a rather new initiate into film studies as I have only really taken interest in them in graduate school. I made the mistake of sticking close to my professor's syllabuses for the first half of the course, as my knowledge is limited on these films. To the second half I added weeks on the Documentary, and Pornography, two topics that are of central interest to me, moreso than most fiction film interests. To the critical perspectives, I added Laura Kipnis on Pornography, Paul Virilio on the Optics of War, Stuart Hall on the notion of audience formation, and perhaps most ill-advised Fredric Jameson on Reification & Utopia in Mass Culture.

The textbooks I selected, because I didn't have time to do the research, are choices that definitely need to be rethought.

The historical textbook I selected was Jon Lewis' American Cinema, recently released by Norton.

American Film: A History

Lewis does an excellent job giving context to a great deal of history and filmmaking. At times he focuses a little too much on specific films (and his descriptions are not always accurate). But he connects aesthetic and production trends to the general economic changes in the industry, acknowledges the contributions of women, talks about competing industries and film forms, and has just overall great big stills from the films which are useful historical documents in themselves. However, Lewis is not a great writer and his lack of evocative prose made it difficult to "riff" much off of the history he provides.

I will definitely select a different text for this. Also, I've realized that I am not great at teaching the historical elements in general, which is something I need to work on.

The textbook I selected to assist in discussing the formal vocabulary, was Bruce Kawin's How Movies Work.

How Movies Work

So I selected this book based on faculty input on an introduction to film studies course. While I think that is has very simple and clear examples, language, and the reading lengths were just right I find the distinctions Kawin makes in terms of techniques don't jibe with other film-studies scholars. This was particularly the case with distinguishing between constructive editing and dialectical editing. I am more inclined to use Film Art for my next course.

As usual, it is very difficult to teach my students (residing in the heart of the US technocracy and the seat of weapons industry development) that there are implicit political logics embedded in the formal, narrative, and representative functions of filmic texts. They had difficulty taking seriously, their own "entertainment," or even their boredom at takes that last longer than 20 seconds.

The misery of so many assignments I feel turned many of them against me.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Think's she's Mrs. Sand, drinkin' out of cups, bein' a bitch

An animation set to the soundtrack of a brooklyner(?) narrating his acid trip:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Wild Blue Yonder

I just watched a rather amazing film by Werner Herzog (now one of my favorite directors since the release of Grizzly Man in 2005). This film recombines documentary footage from the inside of a NASA space vessel, general NASA goings on, diving in the Artic sea (beneath a layer of ice), interviews with mathematicians and what appear to be theoretical physics/astro-physics specialists, archival footage from the early days of flight, along with footage of actor Brad Douriff framing the action. The sections with Douriff essentially re-tell the documentary footage into a science fiction narrative, where an alien micro-organism leaks into the world from an ancient space craft, which prompts the CIA and NASA to send a mission to the outer reaches of the solar system in order to discover other habitable planets. What they discover is the frozen, dying planet, ostensibly home of Douriff's extraterrestrial character.

The addition of a rather amazing soundtrack from avant-garde cellist Ernst Reijseger, Senegalese vocalist Mola Sylla, and a group of Sardinian tenors (Tenores di Orosei) really orients the film toward much more than an awkward composite of contradictory and discontinuous takes. I don't think that any of the footage appears fully integrated into a believable narrative whole, that is to say that their status as documentary footage for other means remains despite the general narrative attempts to integrate these elements into an overall, but at the same time this doesn't seem like some sort of failure as a result. Instead the overall value of the film is bifurcated between its status as framed by narrative (and therefore fictions and fantasy) but also its "truth-value" (inherent for Andre Bazin in the ontology of the film form itself).

Below is the trailer for The Wild Blue Yonder (Herzog 2005).

Herzog himself suggests a new approach to "empirical," "documentary," or "argumentative" filmmaking in this poorly conducted with Henry Rollins, as "ecstatic truth."

Also, of marginal but hilarious interest, is this interview with the BBC where Herzog is actually hit by the bullet of sniper in the hills of LA, and insists on continuing the interview regardless.