Friday, December 18, 2009

Encounter on the Greyhound

On a return trip from an impromptu visit to Columbus I met a man of Dominican heritage who noticed I was reading Rodolfo Acuña's Occupied America: A History of Chicanos. Turns out he is a kind of peace/radical activist of some sort. He travels around the country speaking on various issues.

But I have to say that talking with him was like brushing against the ideologies of my budding early teen activism beginning with the Columbus chapter of Anti-Racist Action. Not only did he hand my a pamphlet I'm pretty sure I owned when I was thirteen on COINTELPRO and its continuation, but also a copied-so-many-times-the-text-is-illegible Black Panther flier. This man was potentially in his late 30s or 40s, and he presented information to me with an attitude that suggested that his every statement should be revelatory.

I don't want to sound patronizing, but I see myself now at some sort of remove from the realm of the political projected by that well intentioned man. Particularly, because he rattling off these implicitly anti-semitic comments about Jews owning the media, which if you actually look at the data there hasn't been the critical mass of Jewish ownership of media conglomerates since the 1960s (he should think about a frightening Aussie running shit instead and the rise of conglomerate produced media).

I guess I don't want to think about this man's thinking about politics as emerging from a kind of ethical bent and personal practice to be obsolete, but I think my understanding of the ways in which governmentality, imperialism, and capitalism shape the space of the political is radically different from what it was when I was passing out the aged fliers he uses to make his speeches. But moreover the arrangement of players and conflicts have changed necessarily reshaping how we understand the political landscape: certain ethnic and raced conflicts don't take shape in the ways that this era of thinking projects (as in the consistent exploitation of African-Americans by Jews for example, there are and have always been working class Jews).

I guess this was a good reminder for me about the minimal progress I've made to think about the contemporary and the possibilities and limitations of the present.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Harrowing Weeks Since

So these last few weeks have produced absolutely no posts from me and this mostly has to do with some emotionally trying and difficult things going on in my personal life. In order to represent its simultaneously painful and tacky, clichéd quality of this experience I present a scene from Fass Binder's The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant without subtitles:

Highlights from the last couple weeks include:

1) Talking my advisor down. Was finally able to make the point that there is in fact a "last instance" when it comes to Latino immigration to the United States (for those unfamiliar with Louis Althusser this will make no sense). He intimidates the crap out of me so this was a step in the direction of me becoming his colleague and not merely his student.

2) Discussing academic porno. So in the reading "How To Tame a Wild Tongue" by Gloria Anzaldua my students and I encountered the phrase "my mouth is a motherlode." This made me burst into laughter immediately which my students didn't understand. Upon later discussion with other grad. student friends we decided that this would be an amazing title for a gang-bang porno staring Anzaldua. Picture the final money shot scene on her mouth, she a nude older Mexican woman, brown breasts flying, turquoise jewelry splayed everywhere.

3) Encountering this phrase in a work by Americo Paredes, "the American taste for ham plays a big part in border folklore, and now and then one hears the term gringo jamonero" as a derisive term for Americans--ha!

4) Despite a broken bike frame that I've had for almost 6 years, I've started sucking it up and working on a much newer frame I purchased to produce my dream bicycle. With some help from friends identifying appropriate parts, I'm feeling pretty good that it might be done by the end of january.

5) Amanda Blank has a few good tracks:

6) The semester is over almost a week earlier than usual and I only have 7 student papers to grade.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Qualifying Exams Update

So about two weeks ago I submitted the second draft of my exam petition/proposal to my advisor for approval. Last time I had made the mistake of sending it to the whole committee before getting his approval and with the breach of protocol he chastened me and decided to wait a month before getting it back to me (beginning of September).

I was sitting on it for awhile in order to complete some reading and get a better sense of the aims and interconnections that might bubble up following said reading. A good friend in the program finally pressured me into revising and submitting another draft. So after a night of mixed drinks and much revising I sent in another version.

It appears that the biggest obstacle to approval is actually my advisor who I respect deeply and consider to be brilliant, but can be a little overly pedantic. The suggestions the other committee members made were minimal and rather rational.

As it stands, however, after my proposal is approved by my whole committee I need to wait at least 12 weeks (putting me at february) until I can take them, which is fine with me because I still have a shitload of reading to complete. That said I am feeling less in limbo and more confident about the process overall with some reading done I feel like I have some ground to stand on. Plus even though my advisor can be a little curmudgeonly he likes me and that also works to my advantage. In particular, he likes it when I make fun of him. One of my committee members, however, is pregnant and will be giving birth right before so I suspect that I will either have to find someone else or have her "skype" in.

Whatever the case I am ready for this process to start drawing to a close. I'm starting to feel ready for dissertation stage now.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pop Tautologies

So I've come to the conclusion that a significant amount of popular music orients its hooks around tautologies, which is to say phrases or expressions in which the same thing is said twice in different words. To speak formally tautologies represent circular logic. When we say things like "I am what I am" we are engaging in a tautological thinking, and a bad cliché.

Pop music often depends on tautologies to produce it's hooks, or perhaps to fill in lyrical lapses that are nonetheless demanded by the music. So for example the Journey track, "Anyway You Want It," the chorus proceeds as:

"Anyway you want it that's the way you need it. Anyway you want it"

(this isn't strictly a tautology because "need" and "want" are easily differentiated synonyms, that might have somewhat dissonant meanings, but the speakers seems to be equating them to some degree.)

Similarly Smashing Pumpkins have a lyric in their song "Disarm" where the chorus involves the lyric:

"What I choose is my choice."

(ostensibly, this statement is meant to indicate that the speaker's choice is one that is resolute or belongs only to him or is made in a context free of limitation or constraint).

So what's my point? I'm not really sure. I wonder to what degree pop music beyond depending on tautologies and clichés to make its products more consumable is somehow pointing to certain understandings of time, the eternal present of capitalist society as observed by Fredric James? Or , perhaps its just that pop depends on simple truths, never endeavors to do more than that? Or that the form of pop music demands certain kinds of concision that limits the degree of explication?

On a related note are certain ambiguous quasi-tautological statements present in pop music that tend to index something outside the circular logic, often because they depend on colloquialisms and clichés. So my favorite example is the chorus for the track "Mama Said" by the Shirelles.

"Mama said, 'There'll be days like this. There'll be days like this,' My Mama said."

Now instead of being a strict tautology this statement seems to be a repetition of the same statement with the "mama said" portion reversed. Nevertheless, it seems like the "days like this" portion seems to be simultaneously gesturing to two different forms of time: "days like this" are either today, recognizable as frustrating, disheartening, difficult, etc., and yet also an earlier instance when the mother gave the advice in the first place, perhaps instantiating the first "days like this" for the singer. But it is precisely the "days like this"'s ambiguity that makes it eternal somehow, that "days like this" are always extant, always repeated. In singing the statement twice the singer not only repeats its significance but repeats the two senses of time. In a way she seems to be not only talking about time, but also some sort of overall cultural recognition of forms of time and experience. "Days like this" are homogenous and instantly recognizable, named by their redundancy.

I have no idea what to make out of all of this, but I think about it too often so I thought it might be blog worthy. Thoughts?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New INVASION video

They released an album in October of this year, still sweet.

INVASION - Spells of Deception from Marek Steven on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

March 4 Strike and Day of Action To Defend Public Education

On October 24, 2009 more than 800 students, workers, and teachers converged at UC
Berkeley at the Mobilizing Conference to Save Public Education. This massive meeting
brought together representatives from over 100 different schools, unions, and
organizations from all across California and from all sectors of public education ?
Pre K-12, Adult Education, CC, CSU and UC ? to "decide on a statewide action plan
capable of winning this struggle, which will define the future of public education
in this state, particularly for the working class and communities of color."

After hours of open collective discussion, the conference democratically voted, as
its principal decision, to call for a statewide Strike and Day of Action on March 4,
2010. The conference decided that all schools, unions and organizations are free to
choose their specific demands and tactics ? such as strikes, walkouts, march to
Sacramento, rallies, occupations, sit-ins, teach-ins, etc. ? for March 4, as well
as the duration of such actions.

We refuse to let those in power continue to pit us against each other. If we unite,
we have the power to shut down business-as-usual and to force those in power to
grant our demands. Building a powerful movement to defend public education will, in
turn, advance the struggle in defense of all public-sector workers and services.

We call on all students, workers, teachers, parents, and their organizations across
the state to endorse this call and massively mobilize and organize for the Strike
and Day of Action on March 4.

Let's make this an historic turning point in the struggle against the cuts, layoffs,
fee hikes, and educational segregation in California.

To endorse this call and to receive more information, please contact and consult

Spring Statewide Conference
The next Statewide Conference was called for Spring 2010 and will be held in
Southern California. We hope that the upcoming Conference can move forward in
democratically deciding on unifying demands, as well as build for the statewide
actions on March 4. The exact location and date are TBA and will be sent out ASAP!

Throughout the day of the October 24 Conference, individuals and organizations had
the opportunity to raise the demands they felt were most crucial to this struggle.
All written and spoken demands are compiled in the document ?Demands 10/24/2009?
attached to the original email. We hope that the upcoming Spring Conference can move
forward in democratically deciding on unifying demands for the statewide actions on
March 4!

Coordinating Committee
A volunteer coordinating committee met after the conference. To join the
Coordinating Committee listserve ? ? please contact if you would like to be added to the email list.

We encourage other individuals and activists to join the coordinating committee. It
is open to all!

The next in person coordinating committee meetings will be on November 7th at 1pm.
NorCal Location: San Jose State; SoCal Location: TBA by participants from the
region. Details will be sent out ASAP!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Latino Popular Music Cultures

So in order to diversify the offerings of my U.S. Latino Lit. course and to touch on some different cultural productions, I've decided to have my students acquaint themselves with some of the dominant trends in U.S. Latino music over the last hundred years or so. Since muxtape no longer exists, I thought I would post some of the songs on the mix I am making them.

"El Corrido de Gregorio Cortez"

Corridos were musical forms produced in the border zone between United States and Mexico used to carry news, gossip, etc. from town to town. This one depicts the resistance of Gregorio Cortez to the brutality and murderousness of the Texas Rangers toward the native Mexican population:

These forms of corridos were replaced in the contemporary moment with Narcocorridos which depict the heroism of drug-runners between Mexico and the United States (see Los Tigres Del Norte, which I've posted earlier).

Perez Prado "Que Rico el Mambo"

This form is Cuban in origin, but Mambo in general was not a phenomenon that really caught on in Cuba. It exploded in the U.S. fostering several films produced in Hollywood around the Cuban-American relationship, and shuttled Desi Arnaz (of I Love Lucy Fame) to stardom. This is by far the most popular Mambo tune in the United states:

Daddy Yankee - "Gasolina"

Representing the explosion of the Reggaeton phenomenon, a sort of Latino Hip-hop constructed around almost exactly the same beat/time signatures, the hit Gasolina:

Abe Vigoda - "Skeleton"

Mexi-American kids from Chino producing tropical punk, of L.A.'s The Smell scene fame:

Diplo - "¡Soy Cumbia!"

Although Diplo is not Latino, he is responsible for circulating historical and current trends in Non-Western music in the United States and Western Europe. This mix from his Mad Decent radio show/podcasts features the 1970s(?) Afro-Columbian trend of Cumbia music.

Los Crudos - "That's Right We're That Spic Band"

Hardcore legends of Ecuadorean and Chicano origins. I've embedded the video for Martin's (the lead singer) famous but now out of print documentary of Latino Punk/Hardcore called "Beyond the Screams."

Miyata Bicycles

I admit I am not an adept bicycle mechanic but with the help of friends, a book I got from five for the winter holidays last year, and Pittsburgh's FreeRide I've been able to learn a few things that have saved me some money on repairs. Also, my friend Jess and I assembled her miyata bicycle together as well, giving me a pretty decent sense of the process.

So a few years ago I purchased a purple Miyata bicycle frame for which I have only just begun to buy parts for. The confusion of the whole thing, because I want to assemble the bike myself, is what parts actually will fit on a frame that is almost 10 years old (my current ride has a 1960s steel Puegeot frame, which is rather heavy despite all the light parts I've added).

I discovered this blog to help me search for parts. It is a series of scanned catalogues from Miyata bicycles that allow you to see the original parts with which the bicycles were outfitted. Also it supplies the following information, that during WWII Miyata was a gun and ammunition manufacturer in Japan, and afterward converted to a bicycle producer, with some of the tubes on the frame matching the shape and size of former gun designs.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mistabishi--Printer Jam

Perhaps its because the only work with a computer I do involves the internet and of course a word processor that I enjoy this song. Or perhaps it is because my own reified consciousness wants to aestheticize that which is symbolic of alienating and poorly remunerated labor. Whichever the case, I like this video forwarded to me by friend Edgar Um

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cuban-American Politics

So since I've been doing a great deal of work reading U.S. Latino literature, theory, and history I've come upon the fanatical elements of 1960s era Cuban immigrants/exiles to the United States. Many of these folks were directly funded in their immigration, often of bourgeois elements or middle class, highly skilled, and as their presence in Miami progressed they became recruited directly into the CIA. Actually, there is a CIA station at the University of Miami that contributes to this flow of people.

Often this generation of Cuban-Americans consider themselves exiles (as opposed to maybe those of the Mariel boatlift era, who were largely motivated to leave for economic reasons), and they orient their politics around "lo que dejé"--what I left behind. The Cuban communist/Castro regime dispossessed the enriched elements (the Criollos) of Cuba instating such "draconian" policies as seizing the properties of those who owned more than one residence, to solve housing shortages in the country. The Cuban-Americans of this generation want those properties, along with their nationality returned to them.

This persistent grudge has enabled some rather unsavory political moves by this U.S. funded exile group (see the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act) including voluntary involvement and attempted-invasion/coup during the Bay of Pigs fiasco, some presence inside the Watergate scandal, working against Communist groups within the U.S. and Latin America, the fatal bombing of a Chilean ambassador to Washington, and bombings/terrorism within Cuba itself. In the below video a journalist recounts how a former CIA agent and anti-Castro Cuban-American Luis Posada Carriles was able to move between the United States and Cuba to cause bombings of the tourist industry and the intelligence agency cover-up of evidence regarding his case, with what appears to be some U.S. government supported mandate. He awaits a trial in Texas currently. This move by the exile community is actually a departure from the left-wing radicalism of earlier generations of Cuban-Americans who were often active in unionization, communist, and anarchist struggle.

Part 1

Part 2

What this reminds us is that to be minority does not equal subordination necessarily, or a standpoint against domination and capitalism. Instead, the case of the Cuban-American community is often one where the U.S. colludes with the national bourgeoisie and perpetuates clientelism in the Americas...NIMBY

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Favorite Hangover Remedies.

In honor of my vow to cease drinking like someone who wants to obliterate his life and start "getting serious" about exam reading (2nd draft of the petition is in the works), I've decided to post my favorite hangover remedies, none of which work 100% of the time. In the order they occur to me:

1) Green tea w/ roasted brown rice.
This is a particular form of green tea which you brew with roast brown rice kernels in the tea. It has a really pleasant savory flavor and can settle an upset stomach well with the added bonus of a little caffeine to wake you up. A nice alternative to coffee on hangover mornings.

2) Brunch.
Usually consisting of pure proteins, eggs (choice of meats, or false meats), fried potatoes, toast, etc. This is actually a great meal if you are worried about the shits post-drinking because both proteins and carbs help solidify your stuff and absorb excess stomach acid.

3) Whining.
This one only applies to those with a roommate or partner who is in close proximity. Whining can offer some relief only insofar as the other person will sympathize, accomodate you, or bring you things.

4) 3 large glasses of water before bed.
This can really work to prevent the negative effects of hangovers like headaches and soreness. Unfortunately, when I need it the most I am usually passed-out or too drunk to remember it.

5) More sleep.
I can't sleep in anymore. I am getting old. Alack.

6) Alka-seltzer.
I am often of the upset stomach, nausea, starving-on-the-edge-of-my-life hungover variety and this little remedy brings much relief and a dose of pain-killer to my dehydrated, alcohol addled body, without the stomach upset brought about by taking ibuprofen or aspirin in the morning.

7) Procrastination.
Avoiding all work and commitments can help you get over your hangover faster.

8)Fluids of Choice: Seltzer/Sparkling Water/Gatorade
For settling stomachs and rehydration. Gatorade's flavor of watered-down cool-aid isn't hard to swallow for the touchy, formerly inebriated, sensitive stomach.

9) Small Glass of Orange Juice Before Bed:
I've heard this gets your liver working overnight to process the alcohol. The jury seems to be out on this one.

Please, feel free to comment with your experience with these remedies and any suggestions of your own.

Also, here is video of a powerfully inebriated man trying to buy beer:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mystical Pornography

Japanese photographer Daikichi Amano renders some strange, beautiful, animist-seeming images interacting with the ancient art of Shunga, woodblock erotica.

See more images at Beautiful Decay Magazine or at his own website

Friday, September 25, 2009

G20 Protest Recap

So the opportunity to attend the G20 protests here in Pittsburgh was too much for me to avoid, particularly because I didn't have to travel anywhere to take part. I attended both days of protest, the first concocted by the Pittsburgh G-20 Resistance Project a group I suspect is one without any organic connections to Pittsburgh and its activist infrastructure. Its clear like most G20 hosting cities, Pittsburgh received a great deal of anarchist tourism, as we suddenly sprouted a wing of CrimeThinc and a group called Greater Pittsburgh Anarchist Coalition.

Anyway the first day I attended the "illegal march" beginning in my neighborhood (Lawrenceville), in a small park behind a middle school, that intended to head downtown and disrupt the arrival of various G20 dignitaries. Naturally, the police wanted to prevent this possibility at all costs. The city's idiot mayor fearing the worst (and instituting a city-wide campaign of fear-mongering) declared a state of emergency and deputized between 1,000-4,00 police officers to assist with arrests, and freeing up 1,000 beds in the city jail. But thanks to Pittsburgh's counter-intuitive topography and urban planning the large extent of protesters were contained within 2-3 hours without officially reaching the Strip District (the neighborhood between Larryville and downtown). Two friend attended the march with me, neither of which was interested in being arrested or brutalized by the police, and neither of which had ever attended a protest before let alone an illegal one, thus I had to shepherd my friends around safely. Here is some footage of the beginning of the march in Arsenal Park, which was apparently 1,000 strong:

Protesters clashed with police on several times in this march, in some cases attempting to build barricades against the police who responded with "sonic weaponry" and OC (apparently this is not tear gas). General disorganization, a lack of communication between parts of the march, and the lack of direction for the march's leadership produced some frustrating and ineffective results. Protesters were summarily corralled, gassed, beaten, and in some cases arrested. Community member response was clearly divided between African-Americans often offering food, support, bathrooms, and waving fists in the air whereas white male community respondents tended to see us as commies (which some of us were) and demanded that we "go get a job."

Apparently, simultaneous actions (and later that night) were occurring in Oakland (the university centered part of Pittsburgh) with much more arbitrary arrests, and police brutality in general. I missed most of this, but here is some video of police trapping University of Pittsburgh students in a stairwell and gassing them.

Here is another of a woman shoved twice by police officers and when she responds is promptly struck twice and arrested:

Also, police photo op with arrested student:

The news footage from our local stations revealed the self-contradicting and and low states of journalism and the anchors from various stations continued to frantically sell the city to uninterested G20 delegates over footage of police abuse.

The official march was as usual boring and easily contained by the rhetoric of free speech and the overall lack of media coverage despite the 10,000 mark, I believe, for march attendees. Highlights included a moment when protesters flicked off Fox News cameras chanting "Fuck Fox News" and the vegetarian tacos provided free of charge by Just Seeds.

Here is the Pitt Student's critique of the police response during the protests.

Overall I think the results of the protests are telling for the reasons Pittsburgh was chosen as the site of the G20 Summit: not because it is the model post-industrial city, but because its streets are difficult to know and navigate/provide ample opportunity of contain unrest, because the police force has few scruples about using unnecessary force to achieve their goals, and because this is not a major metropolis and thus lacks the necessary base for a large protest.

Monday, September 14, 2009


This is an excellent follow up to the video I previously posted. An excellent protest tactic.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

Semester Anticipation, Dread.

The approaching semester and the persistent economic crisis have pushed some residents to rob arriving University students at gun-point. There has always been some animosity directed at the many schools here by local residents at the Universities that do not pay taxes in a city that is bankrupt, even as they swallow up more and more local property.

My own preparation for the upcoming semester is filled with some excitement but mostly dread. My exam committee was mostly on vacation whilst I submitted my first petition on-line (in early July) and I have only received comments back from my advisor (albeit they are not his typical life-ruining/sardonic fare, as in "I haven't a clue what you are saying here", but actually rather helpful). Not having my petition approved when having to potentially face faculty who will be insistent about my tardiness with the exam process in general (technically I should have submitted my answers and taken my oral defense by the end of September, this is not happening) is another blow to my already ailing confidence. Also, I am hustling to get my syllabus ready for my course on U.S. Latino Literature to which I am partially looking forward, and yet severe doubts about my capacities as an instructor undermine this excitement.

In other news trying to get my partner, Five, covered by my health insurance under the University's domestic partnership provision has proved to be more difficult that I ever expected, including having the obtain a legally binding "Will" and "Medical/Financial Power of Attorney," something we should do at some point, but are financial burdens just to make sure Five can get his medications and emergency services covered.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Gay Exorcism

10 minutes of the exorcism of a "homosexual demon" caught in a sixteen year-old's body performed in a storefront church in Connecticut.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Martin Ramirez

In my reading for exam I discovered the "outsider" artist Martin Ramirez (1895-1963), a Mexican-American who fled the Mexico during the revolution only to be diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and interned at Dewitt Hospital in California. His work is considered to be symbolic of the Latino immigrant experience. The repeated emphasis on depth and movement coupled with obsessive iconography makes it worth a perusal.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Toward the Production of a Rainbow Underclass

1 in 100 adults in the United States has spent time in a correctional facility, and also more and more people are sentenced to life in prison 2/3 of which are Latino or African-American according to the New York Times.

The incarceration policies in this country not only function as outright class warfare, but more subtly as the physical and psychological control mechanism producing frustrated ex-convicts and chronic criminals without venues to channel unrest. This is fucking disgusting!

CORRECTION: 1 in 99.1 adults is currently in prison. For minority groups the picture is especially bleak. One in every 36 Hispanic adults is currently behind bars, while the number for African American men is one in 15. More stunning is the rate of imprisonment for black men aged 20 to 34, where one out of every nine is now serving time.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Social History of Bread

So after exploring frightening color advertisements here, I was subsequently forwarded this rather hilariously foppish renarrated history of bread, brought to us from the 1940s by Sunbeam.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Black Swans, Hedge Funds

One other thing I learned at MLG this year (see post below) is that the way Hedge Funds make their money is through betting against events that are extremely unlikely. Dubbed "black swans" these type of events include things like when oil prices rise so will all other prices (at least this was the example I was given).

The problem with this form of institutionalized gambling is that disastrous events do happen.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Marxist Literary Group & PDX

I haven't been blogging in a bit and that has partially to do with an effort to "get serious" this summer and get some reading done for my exams, but also because last month I spent a week in Portland, Oregon attending the Marxist Literary Group (MLG) annual summer institute. I also used this conference as a opportunity to visit with friends I hadn't seen in awhile and see old haunts from when I lived in PDX.

MLG seems to be divided into two "guards" of an older generation of people working to recuperate questions such as Stalin's "real" legacy, or resolving the real implications of various volumes of capital and a new guard largely focused on the question of immaterial labor, neoliberalism, and the bio-political. By far the more interesting work for me came from this "new" guard. There were some fascinating work of left political economy coming from people in literature departments like Berkeley and UC Davis. I saw an excellent paper on "centrist reason" by a graduate student at McMaster, which deliberated on the meaning of people from the Economist, Obama, and those neophytes of the techboom who imagine that the internet has reinvented politics completely. Another paper denied the use or meaning of "ideology" as false-consciousness for Marx.

Also, of note were some of the reading groups particularly one on the Wertkritik ("value critique") school in Germany. Although the discussion thanks to the UC students devolved into a deliberation of a figure I have not yet read, Moishe Postone, the readings themselves were rather interesting. Wertkritik asserts that capitalism has increasingly failed to integrate masses of unemployed laborers into the labor force, particularly in the "developing world." They also suggest that the conflict at the heart is not between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie but the forces of capitalism and those who desire the persistence of life. Capitalism in this reading is oriented against the persistence of life. There work was pretty engaging and scholars have just started translating their work, check out some links here (I particularly recommend Marx 2000).

As for Portland, I was able to visit with several friends, have several brunches which is precisely my favorite meal, and have Stumptown coffee fresh brewed every day despite my moratorium on daily coffee consumption. The Red Bicycle, an amazing breakfast place in St. Johns was probably my favorite brunch whilst in PDX featuring a tempeh-bacon avocado breakfast sandwich. I was able to see several people with whom I organized in a queer collective that occupied some time and a lot of head space for me whilst in Portland. Some of them have moved on to social work (or continued in it), or to having babies, attending graduate school. And a few have continued in political organizing around other issues not related to queer politics at all.

At the end of the institute following the BBQ I met a former co-worker from the group home at a lesbian bar for drinks, but my sleeplessness throughout the conference followed by my inability to sleep in without five in my bed, made me a sloppy/sleepy drunk. I definitely recall half-falling asleep while talking to her, and waking up quickly with the phrase "Hegelian madness..." something she would probably not know about or care to discover its true meaning. Anyway, a little embarrassing.

But Portland has changed a great deal (economically) and several good friends have moved away, so I feel settled in my narrow house in Pittsburgh with my boyfriend, and dog, even though we miss some of our friends there. Also, it is kind of a bubble in terms of the limitations people face in their daily lives be they queer, unemployed, etc. It is almost more important to be in a place where the conflicts at the heart of American society are a little more out in the open.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Death to the Franchise

As much as I sometimes enjoy Michael Jackson's music (earlier better than later), I have to agree with what my friend Luis said,"Come on guys, it's not like it was Prince."

Anyway, Germaine Greer writes something excellent in the Guardian, on the issue, arguing that in death he forestalls aging and irrelevance.

Update: Hitler reacts to MJ's death.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Working Class Studies Conference

So I attended a few sessions of the Working Class Studies Conference in Pittsburgh a few weeks ago, and I wanted to jot down a few observations.

Two of the keynote speakers were two high level union organizers who were discussing the possibilities for transnational work based organizing. Bill Fletcher, a former AFL-CIO organizer, made some really heartening comments particularly about how unions need to start rethinking themselves, i.e. organizational structures, but more importantly what are unions as political bodies, whom do/should they represent? This was his response to questions about sex workers and the increasing percentage of unemployed. He also indicated that unions need to have conversations that in the past one would be red-baited out of the room. For example, unions need to start talking about globalization beyond a kind of nationalist protectionism and in particular capitalism itself--its sustainability and worth. Both concluded that the union movement needs new blood, it needs young people to start infiltrating its ranks with new ideas and forcing older organizers to start retiring. For me these developments, if they are indicative of some larger change in the base of union opinion, were inspiring. Particularly because of my own lackluster short-lived attempts to organize a non-profit for developmentally disabled adults. I found that the organizing tactics that depended on a shared "shop floor" where woefully inept at organizing workers in scenarios where they are geographically contained but atomized into smaller cells.

I attended another panel in which a paper presented new forms of exploitation ("immaterial labor" as defined by Hardt & Negri?) by way of the internship, as essentially freeing business from having to pay workers for training.

Lastly, I attended two consecutive panels arranged around the same theme: Ontologies of Latin American Politics. These were by far the most engaging a difficult panels of the whole conference for me, partially because they would shift in an out of Spanish.

The one thing I found rather troubling was that several participants were overemphasizing the post-Fordist turn (a move away from centralized state planning in economic matters and assembly-line production) in the economies of Latin America. Whilst I think this was definitely clear in places like Argentine and Chile where the neo-liberal changes were imposed in the latter by an authoritarian government. One of the panelists persisted in getting into an argument with one of the older interlocutors both in discussing the political significance of the "death" of the political subject, i.e. the industrial worker. I have to say that any attempt to generalize the post-Fordist condition outside the West is highly suspect, particularly into places where the disaggregated Fordist manufacturing is dispersed into. Certainly, we also see mechanisms like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund training peoples of the "underdeveloped" world into neo-liberal mindsets instructing them to think of themselves like the subjects of game theory scenarios or performing "cost-benefit analysis" for all decisions, not to mention the Grameen Bank model of micro-capital. Despite these distributions the actual predominance of "immaterial labor" does not seem to fit economies still residing with neo-feudal arrangements, the fragments of the West's exported Fordism, and massive informal markets.

Overall though I was fascinated by panelists addressing different elements of this question of the ontology of politics in Latin America, in particular was a paper discussing the development of ideas of "human capital" in Chile, and the necessary rejection of humanism when new labor practices obliterate the difference between "meaning" and "action." Another paper attempted to reject the neo-Hegelian strain of some contemporary Marxisms, arguing against considering the present as "radical negativity" and instead in terms of "ontology," a theory of being in order to offer critiques of things like the bureaucratic classes. The connection between the reasoning here was not altogether clear to me , but it was a surprisingly cogent response to the persistent pull on Hegel as the sort of axiom by which Marx becomes a better philosopher.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

MC Hammer Nostalgia

1st: a video much discussed by a friend on a recent visit to Portland of MC Hammer thrashing about his nether parts in a speedo for all to see, in his attempt to adapt to the predominance of gangsta rap: "Pumps in a Bump" (apparently banned on MTV). Actually, I think Hammer's mistake here with the speedo, the invitation to fixate on his endowment, indicates his incommensurability with gansta-rap as whole given its emphasis on a politicized economically motivated violence and deep urban alienation.

Also, "Can't Touch This" inspired dance in a LA shop vending "skinny jeans."

Monday, June 8, 2009

Google Phone

I just purchased this phone just as it was becoming obsolete,

but I don't care I fucking love it. It is definitively good to be able to access maps when you are lost (as I could have been last weekend in Chicago), access the internet when you have questions, and text with more efficiency and accuracy.

Also it is the closest I will get to Penny's computer book from Inspector Gadget.

Comprehensive Exams Update

So I haven't been blogging a great deal recently because I have been partially immersed in reading and compiling work to put together a decent proposal for my exams. I've added a new committee member who actually specializes in U.S. Latino Literature. She is a Cubana woman who has a great deal of animosity for the Cuban Americans who fled immediately following the revolution. As a result she has written extensively on Cuban working class theater in Florida, that was much more radical than the moneyed Cuban voting block, consistent Republican party supporters. She is also loquacious as hell, and has regailed me with hilarious stories about her youth and assimilation and about the faculty at my university.

This preparatory work for my exams is taking much longer than I and my committee had anticipated. My delay is a large degree to do with the massive amount of anxiety I've built up in relation to the project. Historically, I feel as if I've been judged as valuable only to the degree of what I know. This process essentially tries to measure my knowledge base in a rather qualitative way. The problem is that I am a new interlocutor into this "field" overall (I've spent too much time in graduate school taking courses on early materialism, and film), my advisor (although challenging and brilliant) is terrifying in his ability to kick the legs out from under any project, my friends/colleagues who have taken the exam recently have all emerged exhausted and dehumanized, and I cringe at any sort of evaluation of this form. I am also coming to terms with my general anxiety disorder which is something that I've been trying to deal with in a serious way through therapy in the last year.

Although I am starting to get my anxiety under control to some extent, I frequently find myself turning toward internet, cleaning, pornographic, and dog related distractions in order to procrastinate and forestall the coming anxiety attack about this whole process.

(here's what it looks like)

Hopefully, by the end of the week I will have a presentable draft ready to go out to my committee so I can begin reading in a significant way.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Dick in a Mousetrap"

So recently, I attended my first hardcore show in at least a year at a local venue called the Nerve which was surprisingly quality. Not that I have time to keep up anymore, graduate school has pretty much killed my ability to remain culturally literate (at least in the contemporary). Also attractive hardcore boys who all homosocially mingled and meddled with each other (one running around in a full spandex skiing outfit) reminded me of why I moved to Portland in the first place--because in contrast to what the Christian Right claims it is incredibly difficult work to "convert" the straights (a few tips on this from vice)

Two bands that stuck out to me were Drunkdriver a kind of drudgy punk without too much of the stereotypical sound that tends to make the Crusties wet,

and also Realicide, a kind of industrial, gabber, noise-punk take on hardcore. Realicide was incredibly sincere and kept invoking us to rennovate our lives in opposition to the system, which made me nostalgic for days of anarchism, vegan potlucks, and endless insider jokes.

(note: the DrunkDriver video is the live performance of a single song, the Realicide video is a full set on this show entitled Debunk Punk).

Monday, May 11, 2009


So in order to deal with chronic pain in my arms, shoulders, and back I've decided to heed the calls from the deep believers in my family, who tend to see yoga as a curative for everything. My first impulse with any Eastern semi-religious, cultural practice taken up by middle class folk from the United States is to see it as suspect and part of some search for "depth" elsewhere, when Western culture seems to them parched for meaning amidst rampant consumerism. Also, I didn't really want to get involved in discussions of "downward dog" over family visits.

But after some desperation feeling like the chronic inflammation of my tendinitis was not going to let up despite months break from bicycling, wrist braces whilst typing, and regular stretching I committed myself to a few classes to see if I experienced any change.

At first I felt as if I was aggravating the problem, I was sore the next day after a few sessions, moreover the instructor began and ended class with a chant of "om", at times she leads some meditations, and would sing songs about the "light within"--all laughable crap as far as I am concerned. But my neck and shoulders have started to feel significant relief, and some of the knots that have been cradled beneath my shoulder blades have for several days let up. Five has told me that I am much less grumpy after attending a class (is grumpy my usual state of being?). Taking a class is essential because the instructor tends to move you around to best achieve the stretches.

I think bicycling up hill almost every day with a timbuk2 shoulder bag and too much weight can be ascertained as a significant contributor for my pain, so I am attaching some links to yoga for bicyclists:

Yoga journal

Kundalani Yoga

Friday, May 8, 2009

Money Shots

"Perhaps in the money shot's repeatedly inflated, 'spending' penis we can see condensed all the principles of late capitalism's pleasure-oriented consumer society: pleasure is figured as an orgasm of spending."

--Linda Williams, Hardcore: The Frenzy of the Visible, 1999.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Institution and the Queer

The other day I overheard some discussion by a new PhD student talking to others about how before the moment of the AIDS crisis in the '80s and '90s the gay rights/liberation movement looked exactly like it does today. I blundered into the conversation reminding him that he needed to look further back to the Gay Liberation Front in the 1960s and 70s--who were much more radical than most of the mainstream organizations right now.

He later came up to me and said I was correct that he needed to look further back and I apologized for jumping in uninvited to his conversation. Then he, I, and another graduate student turned to the topic of gay marriage (yawn). He was making this asinine argument that marriage is not an institution, that somehow 1 marriage is not related to another in any particular way. I was taken aback by this neophyte's presumption to just deny the role of marriage as a kind of institution. The non-gay graduate student suggested that to include gays in marriage suggests that heterosexual people would have to rethink the meaning of marriage in a positive way.

My vanilla-ass colleague's logic might make sense if:
1) marriage is somehow not defined by a series of laws that govern how you might enter and leave the arrangement and associated rights and privileges (e.g. citizenship and immigration).
2) somehow culture did not help perpetuate some idea of and function of marriage or any other arrangement, civil, political, etc.
3) every couple is a singular manifestation of a purely unique interaction, which if Freud teaches us anything is that certain familial dynamics perpetuate particular patterns of interaction.

But I realized this will probably this gay-establishmentarian's dissertation topic, and I also realized these are the logical absurdities to which gay marriage advocates will insist on in order to make their case.

I've concluded that actually this sort of logic is exemplary of what is going on with the gay rights establishment. It is a turn to empowerment through member presence in institutions (civil, economic, religious, political). This institutional activism is related to the contradictory importance to the practice of "coming out." Whilst this act is certainly a public acknowledgment and therefore identification with being queer, it also provided for some a sense of safety in numbers--the fact that we are everywhere means that we cannot be eliminated. This practice can be very powerful and important for gays, which depending on community of origin and religious background can be a rather lonely, tortuous, and difficult period of anyone's life.

At the same time this act, for many, functions as a political act in itself which indicates affiliation with a stigmatized group. Now that gays are attempting to enter the sacrosanct realm of marriage this is considered to be the apex of queer political acts for the gay mainstream. I, along with those from organizations like Gay Shame and sometimes even people like Judith Butler and Leo Bersani, have insisted that this cannot be the limit of queer politics, that we need to embed ourselves in the history of non-heterosexual movements to give ourselves a clearer sense of political purpose and clarify our goals.

But the difficulty is knowing or entering this history, it is much easier to "come out" without some knowledge of the struggle, which may or may not be harder to disregard in other marginalized and oppressed groups. Also, the ambivalent "internetization" of gay interaction by sites like manhunt, etc., tends to atomize the community more so than its middle-class, entrepeneurial exponents already are.

I guess I don't necessarily see much hope for a movement beyond this point, particularly if gay marriage finishes off what might have been a much more interesting political emergence, however short-lived it was.

Men's Recovery Project

I love Sam McPheeters.

Goats from Raio Verde on Vimeo.

Monday, May 4, 2009

David Harvey on Democracy Now!

Reminding us to ask the big questions. I can't figure out how to embed Democracy Now! videos so go to this link.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hip hop is Dead?!

This track is a little more groove oriented than most of the hip hop I like, but is worth a gander.

Monday, April 27, 2009

1 reason to become a hippie

Victor Jara, Chilean musician, tortured and murdered by the Pinochet regime.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009


dream car Pictures, Images and Photos

So Five and I are discussing whether or not to somehow purchase a car. Mostly because we have been using Zip Car (a service that allows you to reserve a car for a few hours that is sitting in your neighborhood that has prearranged insurance, gas, etc.) but its prices are kind of ridiculous. We spend $25 to use the car for the 2 hours it takes to get groceries. Not to mention that visits to my family several times a year cost close to $300 for a weekend rental. Other travel is largely hard to do without friends with vehicles--camping, visiting nearby cities, and friends. Also getting the dog to the veterinarian or ourselves to medical appointments further away than busing distance is difficult.

The car, if we were to get one, would only really serve these functions because on a day to day basis public transport and bicycling are going to be infinitely more convenient, cheaper, more appropriate, and keep the weight off. But I am leery of binding myself to more large scale commodities (beside the house). Also, the American obsession with automobiles leads to massive deaths--human sacrifice in late capitalism. Nevertheless, the need for occasional driving seems pretty important.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dog Diarrhea

So over the last few days Hollywood has been releasing these pretty foul dumps, which at times have an almost rainbow color to them (Orange, yellow, and green) and were pretty watery.

It looked kind of like this

Holy fuck
Uploaded by kafka71

or, maybe more like this,

Lightning Bolt - Dracula Mountain from Czlowiek Kamera on Vimeo.

While on walks I became one of those bad dog owners because there was absolutely no way to pick up said deposits.

After panicking, remembering that pitbulls historically have very senstive stomachs, and then turning to my singular source of vernacular diagnosis, the internet, I found this website which recommends giving the dog 3 smaller meals a day of boiled rice and chicken, and also human probiotics (good for intestinal health). After two days of chicken and brown rice the poop has solidified, although remains somewhat fluorescent, her mood is clearly better.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Drunk History Volume 3

This set of youtube videos are rather hilarious. They feature drunk folk renarrating moments from American History which are then enacted by professional actors. Volume 3 is by far the most amusing.

Somali Pirates and Terrorism

So today, on National Public Radio I heard a disturbing and specious set of speculations by international security experts on the possibility that Al Qaeda might turn to the Somali pirates (who recently took a US captain hostage) for aid and support. To set such ridiculous speculations in play in the public sphere seems tantamount to a useless and pathetic scare tatic.

Moreover, it doesn't match the reality on the ground where the so-called "pirates" are actually fishermen who have been fished out of their seas by European fishing boats and the dumping of nuclear waste in their ocean.

A San Francisco Bay View article indicates:

The “pirates” have the overwhelming support of the local population for a reason. The independent Somalian news site WardherNews conducted the best research we have into what ordinary Somalis are thinking - and it found 70 percent “strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defense of the country’s territorial waters.”

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Elderly Defecating

In a brief conversation about having to listen to the elderly person perched in the stall adjacent to your own taking a dump, and all of the important descriptors involved. We began to discuss the ways in which the images such sounds conjure include sea turtles laying eggs, see below:

Cursing President

So in a brief moment of adulation/enjoyment mirroring that for JFK, I delighted myself giggling over a recently discovered an audio version of Barack Obama's book, where he second hand recounts the colorful language of a highschool friend, Ray. Click on the link and listen to the clips. I recommend the one titled "Ignorant Motherfuckers."

Also, after a return to the senses, the new face of imperialism.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Alain Badiou on BBC HARDTalk

If you are interested, Alain Badiou the contemporary communist/philosopher who made me think twice about dialectics, interviewed by some British nitwit. Badiou himself seems to bumble somewhat.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Five Things I Currently Find Annoying About Pittsburgh

1) Itinerant Editorializers:

I swear there is at least of these, either unemployed or friendless graduate student, men wandering the East side per neighborhood. They like to frequent coffee shops, in some sort of oversized sweat shirt that is either a piece of Steeler's gear or something with a three-times-removed Native-American pattern. These people generally address commentary to everyone inside a coffee shop or decide to provide passersby with helpful information about what they are wearing, how to walk their dogs, or the average fertility of lava-based soil.

These men are generally friendly but want to consistently insert themselves into conversations into which they are not invited.

2) At least one schizophrenic or psychopath per coffee-shop and (occasionally) restaurant. In some cases they own the place, in others they've been made the official mascot.

3) Pothole Filling:

Anyone who bicycles regularly can attest to the problem. The method for filling up potholes in this community makes it such that the asphalt buckles halfway out of the pot-hole in effect producing an additional obstacle to avoid, not just the hole that remains (with depth somewhat reduced) but also some sort of rim that sits several inches above the road. The mayor has vowed to fill all potholes in the city, which may mean a much more textured road and a more difficult dangerous ride for bicyclists.

4) People Who Leave Half-Eaten Chicken Parts in the Empty Lots Where I Walk My Dog, Hollywood, which She Attempts to Eat and I Then Have to Wrestle Them From Her Mouth.

5) Pittsburgh Show Attendees with the Wrong Attitude:

I don't know if it is the poor air quality or the over-consumption of ranch dressing but PGH youth have the wrong attitude at shows. When I go to shows I generally want to move a little bit. Kids in PGH tend to bob their heads exclusively. I remember attending a Limp Wrist concert where an audience member yelled, "less ass, more thrash" to lead singer Martin, who at the time was wearing only a jockstrap and a leather vest. Martin replied to the skinny kid, "whatever, you need to eat a hamburger." No one laughed.

This weekend attended a show (band Tyvjk) where some chubby drunk asshole spat a mouthful of his malt-liquor forty ounce at me because I was trying to dance a bit to the music. I promptly gestured in a lewd way that he should perform cunnilingus on me. Later he dragged me into a short-lived mosh-pit--the highlight of the evening.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Native American Studies scholar Ward Churchill Wins Against University of Colorado

Churchill who was ostensibly fired for cases of "plagiarism" and "scholarly misconduct" by the University of Colorado, won in a case against the University recently, which really fired him because of his controversial piece following the Sept. 11th, 2001 attacks in which he called those who died in the attacks, little Eichmans.

Although this is ostensibly a "win" for Churchill (of $1 in damages), because the 9/11 essay was not a sufficient grounds for dismissal, which according to the jury it was, some commentators view the damages as a commentary on the value of academic positions and only a grudging acknowledgment that this case may have been the context for much more intense McCarthy-style witch hunt.

Friday, March 27, 2009

This Band Has Changed Your Life

For a second I thought Morrissey had drained all the talent out of the British Kingdom, but I have changed my mind. INVASION video introduced to me by Ed Um

Thursday, March 26, 2009

This film, however,... much more interesting. Directed by Ken Loach, who also directed The Wind that Shakes the Barley (depicting revolutionary struggle in Ireland), It's a Free World takes a Brechtian approach to the story of a British woman struggling to make her employment agency operate, whilst exploiting underemployed workers throughout Europe, engaging with illegal immigrants out of a conflicted greed and sense of charity.

The preview, falsely, renders this as a movie about a woman's struggle to control her work force, and all the hijinks involved. It deals to some extent with a lack of choices, a flattening of alternatives, and those who are exploited in the process.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Billy Crudup's Blue Wang

This film is fundamentally terrible:

I think those still beating the dead horse of postmodernism as a meaningful or culturally distinctive discourse tend to like this film with its incessantly ironic hypotheticals (what if Nixon was reelected? what if a catastrophe occurred on the scale of the Cold War?). These hypotheticals are however ironic without critique, there is no central vision organizing the various conflicts at work within this film, besides some generalized disgust with human nature by way of the character Rorschach.

The only thing that does seem to give the film some organizing purpose is its constant display of Dr. Manhattan's (actor Billy Crudup's) CGI enhanced blue penis. This was relatively surprising, but fits into the director who incessantly marvels, in 300, at the vitality and mettle of heterosexual masculinity. What I find a little surprising is that Dr. Manahattan's testicles were not also on display, possibly because their presence would reduce the visual impact of the wang. is offering a Dr. Manhattan inspired blue condom for film enthusiasts.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Yerba maté

In an effort to curb the increasing effects of an anxiety disorder by decreasing my caffeine intake I have started substituting black and green teas for coffee, and in particular Yerba maté which ostensibly contains some caffeine, but additionally another stimulate which I find betters suits my needs for focus, and desire not to "tweak-out" after several cups.

Intially I avoided this tea altogether because after tasting the traditional communal gourd of maté, offered to me by my mother's Argentinian ex-boyfriend, I decided that the tea tasted significantly like boiled cigarette butts. Moreover, I love good coffee. The West coast transformed me into an unrepentant coffee snob to such an extent that diner coffee (which, previously, I downed like water) has a flavor of hot soil to me.

But I find maté preferable because it doesn't make me feel simultaneously exhausted and jittery as mugs of coffee tend to do. The only draw back, however, is that the stimulant appear last as long as a coffee might. Also, I've noticed with a little vanilla soy milk, or some honey the flavor can be sufficiently augmented.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Apex or Nadir of Posi-Core?

And then they're tackled by the Fruit of the Loom characters...

"By affirmative culture is meant that culture of the bourgeois epoch which lead in the course of its own development to the segregation from civilization of the mental and spiritual world as an independent realm of value that is also considered superior to civilization. Its decisive assertion of a universally obligatory, eternally better and more valuable world that must be unconditionally affirmed: a world essentially different from the factual world of the daily struggle for existence, yet realizable by every individual for himself 'from within;' without any transformation of the state of fact."
--Herbert Marcuse "On the Affirmative Concept of Culture."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Animals as Cultural Producers

I was recently forwarded this video

of a Lyre Bird, who has the capacity to imitate the sounds in its environment in order to attract a mate. With the incursion of civilization into their territories the lyre bird starts to imitate the sounds of documentary cameras that surround it, chainsaws, and even a car alarm. In effect, according to the voice-over (in the longer version), the lyre bird appears to be singing of its own doom.

In an oblique way, this reminds me of Wittgenstein's query:

"Why can't a dog simulate pain? Is he too honest? Could one teach a dog to simulate pain? Perhaps it is possible to teach him to howl on particular occasions as if he were in pain, even when he is not. But the surroundings which are necessary for this behaviour to be real simulation are missing."

It has been indicated that the capacity of mimicry, in a particular sense, is what makes the human precisely human. The now intellectually defunct Homi Bhabha describes "mimicry" in the colonial context as an attempt to "educate" the colonized into an imitative relationship to the colonist to serve "the desire for a reformed, recognizable Other, as a subject of a difference that is almost the same, but not quite." This figured proximity between animal life and the "bare life" of humans (as opposed to real or political life) has been commented on by political theorist Giorgio Agamben who suggests that the very basis of the political requires a cut in life, the separation of mere existence from real life, or the human from the non-human. Thus particular lives (human or not) remain subject to the state, killed but not sacrificed.

Whatever we might think of the question of human to animal proximity, the domesticated animal tends to have a quasi-social relationship to the human--it is often integrated into a family structure, perhaps a hierarchy, and it substitutes certain functions of other humans might supply. For example, fronting for your band.

Two hardcore bands recently brought to my attention feature a parrot and two pitbulls producing vocals of sorts:



caninus Pictures, Images and Photos

grindcore act Caninus, recently completing a split with vegan gore-metal pioneers Cattle Decapitation.


After a cursory discussion of the education film and the still image film strip projections, accompanied by taped narration, with some graduate students we tried to come up with some formative "edutainment" films from our youth. We agreed on the film "Powers of 10" which begins at a picnic from which it magnifies outward (and backward) from the earth to the "edge" of the known, and then back in similar fashion, following the same line to the molecules and atoms in one of the picnicker's hands.

Someone in the group observed that the "edges of the known" represented in this way suggests a cultural construction of the boundaries of the spiritual, by way of a heuristic common sense/ideology.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Questions of the Digital Documentary

In Media Res is hosting a series of short curatorial statements and questions that arise with the emergence of the digital documentary. One in particular caught my attention which concerned the human as document in documentary studies. Discussing documentaries capturing the human bodies sliced into thin sections that are serially composed to an interesting effect Dan Leopold queries,

"This transformation of the human body into a set of quantified data (along with the aesthetic beauty of the abstracted images of each layer) suggests a need to re-examine the status of the document. An old question within documentary studies: at what point does an image, sequence, testimony, archival footage become documentary proper and cease to be simply a document – the raw, brut material that traces lived experience? This question arises anew in the face of the serializations, modifications, and simulations available to media producers through the digitalization of the document."

I recommend wasting some time at this site.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Los Tigres Del Norte

Los Tigres Del Norte are a multi-Grammy winning norteño music ensemble which usually includes an accordion and the bajo sexto, sounding a great deal like polka music, and is immensely popular with Mexican folk, as well as Chicano people. One of Los Tigres' most popular tracks, entitled "Contrabando y Traicion" (Contraband and Treason), is a narcocorrido. Whereas corridos have been a music tradition that carried news and "augmented" accounts of national events in Mexico (the form is native to Spain), narcocorridos are pieces that extol the feats of drug runners and dealers as they cross borders and fight police to make large sums of money. Below is the video for "Contrabando y Traicion."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Capitalism's Reserve Armies

So in my extended but sometimes surface level stint of reading Marx's Capital Vol. 1 the reading group and I encountered the concept that capitalism maintains reserve armies of labor which remain unemployed, not only in order to manage production in different ways, but more importantly to keep wages down and extract additional surplus from laborers. I incorrectly suggested that this didn't completely make sense because I have always thought that capitalism has an interest in the death of unemployed/underutilized (not surplus) populations (this may have something to do with biopolitics, but that is a subject I am so underread on that I don't want to venture anything). But after some discussion and a little poking around on the internet I am a little more convinced of this phenomenon.

I've been thinking about this because the United States, to some extent, maintains reserve armies abroad, particularly in Mexico and Central America. These armies are constantly struggling to enter the imperial center legally or illegally at much cost and danger to their lives. The video below, Why Braceros? from 1959, is an argument for the "bracero" program which was one of the earliest instantiation of importing labor to the United States.

The dangers faced by most of these reserve armies is now unprecedented as the militarized borders of the United States move further south, in terms of its enforcement of the war on terrorism. Apparently the Mexican government and former paramilitaries from the wars in Nicaragua, now mobilized as brutal gangs, are both involved in the violent control and murder of migrating workers, documented here in Wetback: the Undocumented Documentary by Arturo Perez Torres. I may have found a useful object for my dissertation.