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.