Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Check out Jeff Williams' review of education based left movement Edu-Factory:

Edu-factory is a new group trying to revolutionize higher education. It is a relatively small, web-based collective (around 500 on its list) but casts an international net. It began as a listserv of those doing radical criticism of higher education and has since published a book (Toward a Global Autonomous University), developed a journal (see Edu-factory.org), and sponsored occasional “days of action,” calling for strikes among students and faculty in universities. Its organizers are largely European-based, intellectually coming out of the Italian autonomist movement and historically spurred by something called the Bologna Process.

The Bologna Process sounds as if it might be a political thriller at your local theater, but it’s an agreement of forty-six European countries oriented toward standardizing college degrees. It’s not an act of the EU, but it arises from work issues in the EU. In many ways, its goal sounds reasonable—European universities have a cacophony of regulations and degree requirements, in contrast to the U.S. system, which is more uniform and translatable, particularly after the credit hour was formalized in the early twentieth century. But Edu-factory sees the Bologna Process as instrumentalizing higher education, operating in the interests of capitalism rather than learning, particularly in its focus on assessment and “outcomes” and its orientation toward the vocational use of a degree.

Monday, November 29, 2010

It Does Get Worse

A Season in Hell

In a recent visit to Chi-town I made a stop at Quimby's my source for underground smut, etc. While I was there I noticed a new translation of Arthur Rimbaud's A Season in Hell by Nick Sarno, someone who claims little expertise in French but promised a dying friend he would read the book, and completed a translation in homage to his friend.

Despite my now much more centered research foci I have always had an intense interest in French Modernist writing, particularly the work of homos like Jean Genet and Cocteau, etc. Although I find myself having very little to say that might be new with regard to these interests which is why they remain largely diletantish diversions than anything of the strong academic interest. Thus, Sarno's cottage industry publication appealed to this amateurish and personal fascination with this era. Passages like:

     Beneath the leaves the wolf howls,
     Bright feathers bursting from his mouth.
     The remains of a freshly-eaten fowl:
     Like him I consume myself (80).

get me going with narcissistic reverie. Alack.

Anyway, back to immigrant literature.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Costumes, Halloween and Otherwise

In order to engage in Halloween in a genuine way I have to come up with a costume idea that really engages me in some kind of persona that I either inhabit for the night, or at least some sort of mythology that makes the repeated narration of just who I am "supposed to be" throughout the night remains worth the effort. Last year I didn't do much an essentially recycled a footballer outfit I found in a dumpster, along with a football jersey I found at the thriftstore with the words "Far East" emblazoned on the front (yeah, Edward Said, I'm looking at you), and some smudges of gold to add a little homosexual pizzaz.

This year I selected "El Barbie," or Edgar Valdez Villareal, to be my assumed persona for Halloween.

El Barbie, was so nicknamed for his blonde hair and green eyes, an anomaly amongst the Mexican-American community from which he originated. After some success in high school football he went on to sell drugs and crossed the border, quickly climbing the ladder of the Beltran Leyva drug cartel in Mexico. Eventually he became the kingpin of said cartel and he was known for the torture and decapitation of his victims in the cartel wars with the Zeta cartel.

Personally I'm a little fascinated by the informal market interchanges of the drug cartels in Latin America and how often they are tied directly by a customer base to the United States, or by the internecine combat perpetuated by the proxy wars and Cold War policies of the United State, as in Colombia's FARC. His national origin makes him more interesting still, much like other Latino notables, e.g. the president of the Dominican Republic grew up mostly in the Bronx.

Anyway, I based my costume off of the outfit from his capture video, which isn't that remarkable admittedly. I added a great deal of dried blood and gore bits (achieved by gluing fake-blood soaked cotton balls with rubber-cement) to my arms and fists as if I had been beating and decapitating all day, as well as a few tactically placed blood smears as if I had made casual attempts to wipe my hands clean. The key with this was to make it not look like I was to be some attempted suicide, I achieved this by outlining my knuckles with much blood and gore and making my right arm appear to be more caked with blood and gore.

Unfortunately my attempt to spray my hair blonde with the cheap costume paint yellow made my hair much greener than blonde, a disappointment, but given how good my arms looked, I didn't mind.

I attended a graduate student party for my department that evening and was received with not much fanfare, and the rather irritating effect of having one of my friends follow me around and introduce me to others as an abortion doctor, alack!

Anyway, next Halloween I plan on being much more proactive. After a discussion with my roommate who wanted to play of the sorority girl tendency to make all Halloween costumes sexy + ________ (as in "sexy zombie," "sexy lady-bug," "sexy crack whore"), we decided to do similar but more hilarious versions of the theme such ideas like sexy raincloud, sexy roadkill, sexy orange traffic cone.

Still I kind of want something a little more dramatic + the element of sexy, so I've been considering being a Minotaur inspired by Picasso's own:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Joe Diebes

Visual and sound artist Joe Diebes explores in this video the ways in which musical virtuosity can approximate and approach the mechanical, and machine-like:

excerpt from Scherzo from Joe Diebes on Vimeo.

Monday, November 1, 2010

2 of the better acts from VIA electronic music festival

Expensive Shit (featuring a former member of Modey Lemon, current member of !!!)

Dominique Young Unique (a grouping only possible in Florida)


New Favorite Porn Star...

Kolby Keller, bearded w/ good hair.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Supermarket Ideologies

So two useful lessons to my mind on ideology from your local grocery store:

1) The simplest first: I was thinking the other day how the air pumped into bags of potato chips is a useful metaphor for considering the function of ideology. Althusser in his famous, if incomplete essay (apparently there is a yet to be translated book on the subject, still in French), "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses" discusses the function of ideology thusly,"the very element and atmosphere indispensable to their historical respiration and life." Ideology for Althusser is the necessary element that contributes to the reproduction of conditions of production under capitalism (the division of labor, extraction of profit from labor already in the world, etc.). Instead of being a "mistake" made, a blocking of "real" consciousness, for Althusser ideology was more of a practice. "Ideology," He writes, "represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence." Thus ideology, not only "distorts" or misconstrues the social relationships that undergird the persistence of capitalism (more than just the economic state, but also a social and political condition, a social order) which is actively reinforced by institutions, the family, etc. It is a practice of life and a kind of preliminary, limited, knowledge of life and the world, not generated by some malignant cabal working in an unmarked office somewhere, but an active framing by subjects in relationship to an overall order, thus it is a process of life, not the mere negation of truth as others may have argued in the past.

If we can consider potato chip bag, a finished commodity (fetishism aside), as a good model for this understanding of ideology, where on the one hand the air allows the transport of the bags of crisps/chips without much damage to the chips themselves seems logical, and well motivated, people certainly prefer whole chip slices to the debris left over from crushing and being tossed around, and at the same time the air produces the illusion of quantity, we can see the practicality, commonsensical qualities of ideology as well as its status as that which withholds, whose absence is productive but nonetheless some form of misappropriation.

Our reaction to just how many chips/crisps are inside the bag once it's been opened I think speak to this very problem of ideology, we feel slightly cheated by the reduced quantity than we had expected. As much as we know there will be a certain ratio of air to food content in the bag we are nonetheless disappointed by how this ratio actually plays out when we see the bag is less than half full of chips.

2) The Self-Check-Out Lane as Middle Class Ideological Practice

I think all of us have had a moment in the past where we've been in a rather slow checkout lane somewhere and thought to ourselves, "how hard can it be to scan and cash this stuff out. I could do this more efficiently!"

Any cashier of course would tell you that this is never the case, an experienced, and battleworn cashier is easily the most efficient as her/his job and those who tell themselves that somehow they would be more effective or could more rapidly take care of the cashier's job are deluding themselves. Anyone who has ever had a customer service job could easily tell you that there are a number of things that could go wrong, need attention, knowledges that need to be obtained (what to do if something goes wrong, if an item rings up incorrectly), skills achieved etc. before one becomes proficient at these skills.

The self-check out lane at your local grocery store is therefore an ideological practice oriented at precisely the class most fixated on efficiency, and the ostensible "unskill" of service oriented work, the middle class. What is really going on here is the casualization of paid positions that tap into precisely this ideological fallacy, that an unskilled middle class person can best handle the supposedly simple tasks of a cashier without much knowledge or skill.

From my experience, the reality of this change highlights precisely the problems with this attitude. Self-check out lanes always seem to take forever, and are packed with people, but instead of becoming frustrated at particular employees we are frustrated at the other patrons, if only they could be as skilled and efficient as we in accomplishing their purchase. Moreover, labor that was once a single persons position gets distributed to the customers, so hell bent are they on efficiency, and to a singular cashier who deals with all of the frustrations and problems and receives much of the blame and malign of irate, irrational self-check out users. So you've eliminated multiple jobs and redistributed labor whilst playing into middle-class delusions about its competence to run a register and its further delusion that it runs the society.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Box Ghost/Robots

My office has been moved into a corridor that is split between PhD students in my department, robotics graduate students, and an electron microscope. A few nights ago working late into the night a fellow PhD and I spied what we thought to be some sort of moving camera, box robot, scooting across the ceiling of a neighboring building.

On revisiting the issue we wondered aloud whether or not that odd, dark box was actually the ghost of Max Headroom, MTV's quasi-virtual creation, a supposedly artificially intelligent VJ, and main character of a series (similar gimmicks occurred throughout the 1980s where an artificially intelligent agent posited as the show's central protagonist is actually mostly a tool for human betterment in some way or a means of comic relief) as in below:

Examples like this I think unmask internet ideologies that construe the web as a kind of place of play and free interaction by dating them, yoking them to history, and therefore underlining how the internet is not some universal expression of the essence of Modernity. At the same time the centrality of the glitch to Max Headroom's character highlight's a moment when machines were not self-effacing themselves as products of work (as in the iPod).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Beyond Marriage

Thanks to my friend L, I was exposed to this video:

Which followed from my post of the Beyond Marriage's Strategic Vision For All Our Families and Relationships:

The time has come to reframe the narrow terms of the marriage debate in the United States. Conservatives are seeking to enshrine discrimination in the U.S. Constitution through the Federal Marriage Amendment. But their opposition to same-sex marriage is only one part of a broader pro-marriage, “family values” agenda that includes abstinence-only sex education, stringent divorce laws, coercive marriage promotion policies directed toward women on welfare, and attacks on reproductive freedom. Moreover, a thirty-year political assault on the social safety net has left households with more burdens and constraints and fewer resources.

Meanwhile, the LGBT movement has recently focused on marriage equality as a stand-alone issue. While this strategy may secure rights and benefits for some LGBT families, it has left us isolated and vulnerable to a virulent backlash. We must respond to the full scope of the conservative marriage agenda by building alliances across issues and constituencies. Our strategies must be visionary, creative, and practical to counter the right's powerful and effective use of marriage as a “wedge” issue that pits one group against another. The struggle for marriage rights should be part of a larger effort to strengthen the stability and security of diverse households and families. To that end, we advocate:

Ø Legal recognition for a wide range of relationships, households and families – regardless of kinship or conjugal status.

Ø Access for all, regardless of marital or citizenship status, to vital government support programs including but not limited to health care, housing, Social Security and pension plans, disaster recovery assistance, unemployment insurance and welfare assistance.

Ø Separation of church and state in all matters, including regulation and recognition of relationships, households and families.

Ø Freedom from state regulation of our sexual lives and gender choices, identities and expression.

Marriage is not the only worthy form of family or relationship, and it should not be legally and economically privileged above all others.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My New Favorite Porn Name

(Don't click this link if you don't want to see nude men engaged in lewd acts)

His name is GANGSTA PUSSY.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Recommendations from my exam list...

I decided if anything the completion of my exams should at least result in some book recommendations for those who are intrigued but don't have the time to sludge through the material without much direction.

The Devil's Highway, By Luis Alberto Urrea

If you read one literary account of the tensions at work on the Mexican/American border this would be the one to read. Here we experience the border through the mythology and hallucinations/illusions of slowly sickened and dehydrated “walkers,” “wets,” “Oaxacas,” or “tonks” wandering the Arizona desert in search of their pick up site, nowhere to be found. Here the border region is filled with the dreamy and nightmarish sense bestowed on la frontera by authors like Gloria Anzaldua etc., but it is just as often the result of biological failure and heat exhaustion. Urrea painstakingly reconstructs their stories from the surviving walker’s testimonies, the accounts of those working in the unit that discovered them, the local histories of the region, the surviving families, and the repetitive and haunting repetition of indocumentados wandering in the region.

This book is important not only in its activist journalist mode and its attention to the details and gruesomeness of the state of the border, but also how it links every episode to some wider socio-political/cultural/economic situation that speaks to the breadth of the problems at work the universality of the aspirations that lead to them.

Drown, By Junot Díaz.

Short story collection from recent Pulitzer Prize winner, describes the deprivations and emptiness experience for both American Dominicanos and those back on the island. This central narrative grounds the pieces in the general trajectory of Dominican migration to the United States. Abandonment appears to be a consistent theme throughout the works, the relationships that are bound together by a barely articulable known quality (usually because of the colloquialism and posturing of the authors) and yet often filled with loneliness and isolation.

The title story, "Drown," describes a few fumbling homosexual encounters between a few barrio boys, one who successfully assimilates into a gay identity and a business school. The other of the pair, the narrator, fails to get anywhere and its trapped in a suspended place of "whispers" like that of a swimmer at the bottom of the pool. Whereas one of the boys is advanced and moving through his situation the other seems about to be consumed by the "silence" surrounds his life.

The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo,
By Oscar Zeta Acosta

This book dramatizes consistent problems at work in Latino narratives generally, particularly those of the 2nd generation in a way that eschews the mystifications of these conflicts in many of the proceeding authors. This autobiography is divided into the sections detailing a crisis at the heart of the protagonist’s life as a Legal Aid Lawyer and then a turn to the road, a journey. As the narrator pursues his journey he simultaneously retraces his roots along with the sources of his present misfortunes (a limp wang and an ulcerated stomach). There is an attempt to retrace steps through his home town El Paso and its sister city Ciudad Juarez, only leading to a conundrum of self. What begins as a search for personal and existential identity moves here to a collective and/or political identity (something to which he was indifferent before, Corky Gonzalez). Throughout the journey Acosta faces the choice between two “answers” for his ulcers: that of the psychiatrist the Fordist era regulatory mechanism of psychoanalysis and self-interrogation, and that of his “guru” drug dealer Ted Casey the representative of a counterculture’s desire for escape, to fade away in puffs of smoke even as he is clearly embedded in the excesses of wealth from his dealing. Ultimately he finds that neither offers satisfactory answers.

...And the Earth Did Not Devour Him, By Tomas Rivera

This is an astonishing and brilliant story that begins with a consciousness seeking clarity, but incapable of arranging his experiences with language--he is at a "loss for words." What results is a set of stories that seem to disaggregate into narrative and non-narrative voices, whose sources are relatively unidentified as if they were speaking from some sort of collective choral space (as in a Greek Chorus). At the end of this very short work the voices reaggregate as memories within this singular consciousness constricted underneath a house, riddled with fleas.

This piece depicts not only the misery, and brutality to which Mexican migrants and Mexican-Americans are exposed in their day to day movements in search of labor and dignity, and the ways they are shuttled around by the agricultural industry and the military to serve as cannon fodder. Similarly, the narrator finds himself at odds with and undermining the Catholic based superstitions of his past.

JR, By William Gaddis

This book is simultaneously a work of incomparable skill, intelligence, wit, and also one of the most difficult books to maintain your attention. a novel obsessed with the texture and phenomena of exchange. The novel demonstrates the vertiginousness and therefore insurmountability of finance capital as it divests workers of their pension funds to buy a brewery with poisonous beer, and a deadlock that regularly occurs in basic conversations. The novel is generally praised for its use of different forms of colloquial, American english, but this can at times make it rather difficult read as it spends a great deal of time immersed in various bureaucratic idioms and systemic inanity. This can make for some moments of sustained hilarity as well as frustration.

The Culture of Expediency
, George Yudice

This book represents to me the best summation and argument for the importance of discussing globalization at all as a separate field or set of unique questions that might guide analysis. Rather than arguing for the pure epiphenomenal character of culture in the global era, something of which many seem convinced. Yúdice argues that what is needed is to update the notion of culture beyond the Gramscian understanding of culture as a site of struggle as politics by another means.

In this context culture becomes a great protagonist even as the richness of the concept appears reduced. Culture functions as an expedient in two unique ways as a “panacea” to social conflict and as a vehicle for economic development (tourism, heritage industries, creative cities, minorities as “reinvigorating” areas through diversity, diversity itself as a new kind of political agency).

On the Shores of Politics, Jacques Ranciere

This work takes as its starting point the notion that we are at the end of an era where politics had a sort of effectivity it now lacks, it now fails to fulfill. Ranciére responds by again locating the political at the heart of the organization of society with a few addenda in terms of how the structural relationships functions with regard to social imparity and the like. For Ranciére the political can never be coextensive with the social, which is to say that one cannot be mobilized to completely remedy the ills of the other, there always be some remainder, new names for the people. The politics (the art or techne of politics) seeks to render itself irrelevant, seeks its own, end against this he poses the notion of the political which occurs only in these upheavals where a group w/out a “share” in the community, whose subordinated in that community steps forward to assert itself as equal, in a sense generating and imposing that equality. In so doing this group draws into sharp relief the division at the heart of the community (this can, and very often does include class politics), therefore for Ranciére the beginning of the political has nothing to do with institutions but in the organization of language and the virtual conflict zone organized by this new group speaking the in the name of the people, renaming the people.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

En Fin...

PostPartum-Depression Pictures, Images and Photos

The way the qualifying/comprehensive exam process works in my program is we are supplied with 4+ questions at the beginning of a week and we are expected to select two, write two ten page essays in response to each, and then submit our answers to our committee members as well as 2 outside readers. After the committee and readers have taken the opportunity to read over the documents and your proposal (one element of the process that pushed the whole process further and further into the future for me) they meet with you for a span of one and a half to two hours in order to test your knowledge through your answers, bring other aspects of your reading and understanding the of the material to bear on the discussion, and to ask you to synthesize various schemas and concepts. After your orals then the committee and readers deliberate over whether or not you should pass and then move onto working toward your dissertation or whether or not you will need to do some remedial work in the coming months and undergo another examination.

I passed, but not without some impediments.

I haven't written anything for the last few years so my skills at making, as opposed to marking, arguments in a written form were a little rusty. As a result, I continued to face the radical variations in attention span that are attendant with high stress scenarios for me, coupled with denunciations of my examiners their poorly worded questions. The essays I think came out well in general, given some constraints that came from the coverage of my reading list and space in which to articulate my answers.

My mock orals with the other PhD students also went really well. I did blank on a question, but after I started going my momentum propelled the knowledge. They seemed to be claiming, that I was in fact ready.

The actual orals began with one member of my committee, however, communicating her displeasure at some of the supposed assumptions my exams were making about my field. The fact that they were locked into a particular set of historical circumstances (the legacy of the Monroe Doctrine, the militarization of the border, the rise of neo-liberalism, the possibilities for upward mobility in terms of new immigrant groups, etc.) that according to her didn't look at the long history of the concepts at work. Although I later realized that this reprimand was more directed at those on my committee and our deparment in general and seemed less to do with me specifically. Not having realized this right away I felt increasingly embattled as the exams proceeded, even though I never felt panicked, and I felt confident about my answers.

Anyway, the committee deliberated for what felt like 1/2 and hour (but was probably more like 10 minutes) and then congratulated me on passing.

Aftwards I felt relief but also a sense of loss. I've heard the state I'm in right now described to me as "postpartum," and I agree. There is something distinctly anti-climatic about the whole thing, and I've been feeling waxing and wanning sense of despair and then just orneriness. Also, I plagued with doubts about my performance, and whether or not I was handed, what is sometimes described as the "pity pass." All that said, I am excited to start working toward the diss and other projects I have in the works.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


From Alex de Waal describing the particular form of political patronage at work in Sudan:

“. . . political vernacular is tajil, ‘delay’, from which is derived the particular skill of ‘tajility’, strategic delay or the art of procrastinating until one’s counterpart is exhausted or removed.”

i.e. what I pretend to be doing when I'm actually supposed to be outlining exam essays.

Less than 24 hours until I get my exam questions...

These two videos encapsulate my listening habits of late and also the contradictory state of my emotions right now:



Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Interview w/ Joe Gage

Joe Gage one of the earlier pioneers of gay porn, who tended to focus on predominantly working-class men, getting their same-sex jollies often while on the job interviewed here by Bright Lights Film Journal. (image above is of Al Parker, exemplary of director's choice in "models" but I don't think ever worked with Gage, to my knowledge).

To be consumed...

Video by Pittsburgh artist Michelle Fried

Restaurant Fodder from Michelle Fried on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Palestinian Children's TV

I stumbled upon this while I was looking up youtube clips in giving a presentation of "what not to do while presenting" to my students this summer, under the search term "evil Hamas," for my composition course on terrorism and globalization. I was previously using a video entitled "Hamas eats kittens," that's been taken down for whatever reason but both worked for me as specious examples of "useful evidence" for making particular kinds of arguments, e.g. a terrorist organization is "evil" which is a metaphysical claim that can't necessarily be proven in a 6-9 page essay.

Note: I have no idea how accurate the translations are on here, but I'm waiting for Juan Cole to get back to me on this.

An interesting take on recent Greek anarchist declarations of guerilla war

From Franc-Tireurs, conflating anarchists with neoliberals. I think there is an important critique of the ahistoricism of some versions of anarchism.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Anxiety Dreams

THE GHOST WOLF Pictures, Images and Photos

So, as my exam date rapidly approaches at the end of next month I am seized by both a sense of total unpreparedness and resulting anxiety, coupled with a lackadaisical devil-may-care confidence that I think is circumventing my ability to stay focused. As a result of this internal conflict my subconscious keeps trying to throttle me back into the appropriate attitude by filling my nights with anxiety dreams about some unforeseen confrontation between me and my advisor.

In the dreams I always enter an incredibly dark office lunchroom, that has the blinds and curtains drawn, and everything has a kind of blue cast. I am usually on my way somewhere as I pass through and I notice the silohuette of my advisor and another important person (usually a graduate student who I consider intelligent). They immediately stand up surprised and confront me about my progress claiming, "Are you ready to take responsibility for yourself?" or, more frightening, "We need to talk about scheduling a specific date." Throughout this brief but startling conversation, the shadows on my advisor's face are so dark that all I can see are the jaundiced whites of his eyes, in startling and cartoon-like relief. I think to some degree these dreams were also spurred by my getting a week off course by trying to tackle most of William Gaddis' JR, a 700+ page novel that is almost entirely dialogue.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Chronicle Review Article on U.S. Latino Literature

Ellen McCracken making inclusionist arguments for the field in both English and, more pointedly, in Hispanic studies departments.

On Cynical Reason

Reading Slavoj Žižek's "How did Marx Invent the Symptom?," and came upon the following passage useful for those who want to debunk the sometimes liberatory appeals of postmodernism as a cultural phenomenon, turn in intellectual thought, or symptom of Western provincialism. He writes:

"Cynical reason is no longer naive, but is a paradox of enlightened false consciousness: one knows the falsehood very well, one is well aware of a particular interest hidden behind an ideological universality, but still one does not renounce it."

The notion of cynical reason for Žižek supplements his attempts to renew questions of ideology (the notion of false-consciousness, the primary medium by which we are convinced to pursue interests not our own, i.e. that we believe working 40 hours a week says something about our character rather than reducing our life spans and quality of life by way of stress, etc.) suited to more contemporary circumstances.

For me there is something very useful in thinking about cynicism as the logic of a neoliberal era where capitalism continues to demonstrate its tendency to generate crisis, disaster, and senselessly eat up our lives but we continue to tacitly assent not only to its order, but also to the recommended ways of thinking, e.g. "the pursuit of self-interest by everyone produces the best social outcomes," and refuse to imagine beyond it. This social shift seems by no means total and to some degree isolated, but this notion is a usefully descriptive concept because actually international monetary policy pushed "cost-benefit analysis" in the poor in places like Bolivia (in this case contributing to unintended consequences).

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

AZ, or the historical waves of fascism in the South West

I've been meaning to comment on this for some time but I've been preoccupied with other things, neglecting the blog (some of this I've posted before). The Passage of Arizona's Anti-Immigration Bill SB 1070 seems to be some sort of regressive attack on Latinos that follows from the regressive and nationalist tendencies of the American populace. Here again we have an example where American politics are posited in moralistic terms rather than seeing them in the wider historical sphere: insofar as this turn toward this kind of policy originates in an aggregate of malignant racism at the core of each Arizonan's being and the bill is merely the result of the final mobilization of these abominable sentiments. Although persistent racism against Chicanos and Latinos in the region is definitely involved in the rise of such policy, but I the picture is much more complicated than the typical liberal line attempts to paint it.

There is an important correlation that many scholars have noted, Mario Barrerra among them, that US border enforcement policy has almost always mirrored the needs of US capital (particularly agricultural capital, that established its girth largely on Bracero and illegal labor). One example of this might be noted in the fact that the border and border migration enforcement did not really become a national political issue until the 1960s. Here is a newsreel where the Councile of California Growers justifies to the American population it's use of Braceros (workers with their arms, "brazos").

(notice the appeal to "quality" as a carrot held before newly aware middle-class consumers).

However, during similar periods of economic crisis such as the Great Depression similarly fascistic moves were pursued on a federal level, including the Repatriation Movement (1929-39) which demanded the repatriation of obviously mestizo and Chicano folk living in recognizable barrios throughout the Southwest and California (60% of those "repatriated" were actually US citizens). Similarly, Operation Wetback (1954) engaged in similar bullying and illegitimate repatriation of Mexicans living in the US and Chicanos.

The end effect of these policies historically not only assuages racist and nationalist sentiments at home, but more importantly produces a much more disciplined, precarious, and therefore grateful-to-work population of undocumented and documented Latino workers to be exploited by agricultural, and now border-industrial interests. And, moreover, it disperses communities and exports labor activists in a sense demobilizing any political or politico-economic will emerging in these communities. What you get from this is a population so battered from their dangerous journey to the US and so persecuted by the constant threat of deportation that they are too terrified to organize and seek political recognition and protection. Racialized subjects therefore become reserve armies of labor, permanently mobilized by globalization to endure hardship, obstacle, and loss of life for the pursuit of a rapidly receding American dream.

This is a pretty standard reading of the scenario, but I suppose the only thing I would add is the ways in which the mobile populations of Latinos (not just Chicanos anymore, but increasingly Central American) do bring with them new political forms and possibilities. The Immigrant Rights demonstrations of 2006 were some of the largest seen in LA, Chicago, etc. If they are to be considered labor demonstrations they would be the largest in US history (clearly they are not merely organized around labor but certainly to a great degree). Demonstrations of this size are generally not recognized or even read as significant in US politics but in Latin America these are vibrant and largely significant political manifestations. To me this presents us with some new possibilities for thinking about labor mobilization in this country increasingly dependent on "flexible" working populations and reminds us that No Borders movements do have some progressive trajectories despite their seeming to play into the hands of capitalism (families, peoples, cities, etc. are already divided by the border).

Sunday, June 6, 2010


It has been ages since I posted anything here, and for that I am sorry. To occupy your time please peruse this very surprising website that is a vehicle for the social networking of gay cowboys in Mexico.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Adris Hoyos from Harry Pussy

She's a Latina. I hate to do this politics of visibility or recognition crap (which is a significant diversion from more concrete politics) but I appreciate when underground music icons are also Latino. Harry Pussy is a legendary noise-rock band from the mid-1990s and a late find for myself, and one of my favorite bands. Here is a live performance featuring Hoyos flipping out on the drumset:

And also my favorite song by this group:

And an interview that leads me to believe she must be Cuban-American.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Joaquín Murrieta, social bandit

I've written a little bit before about the "corrido" song form for the U.S./Mexico border but in some reading recently I uncovered an interesting argument over the nationality Joaquín Murrieta, a historical figure from Gold Rush era California who ostensibly fought the racism, greed, and violence Anglo prospectors. This figure is lionized here:

in his own corrido. Apparently, Murrieta was eventually caught by Captain Love and his Anglo Rangers, in 1853, who proceeded to decapitate this folk hero only to soak the dismembered head in alcohol for future public display. History attests to the importance of this figure who is taken up during the Chicano Civil rights struggle by Corky Gonzalez in his famous agit-prop poem "I am Joaquín." But Murrieta is also a figure that turns up as the central subject of a play of Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, and in a novel by Chilean-American Isabel Allende, both who claim or at least infer that Murrieta was Chilean.

According to scholar Silvio Torres-Saillant (from whose article in a 2007 issue of Latino Studies I poached most of this information), "Ironically, the greater the emphasis on affirming the Mexican ancestry of Joaquin [by the corrido and subsequent cultural returns to his legacy], the more his Chilean origins become plausible" (500). Although Torres-Saillant's point in this article is rather minor, that South and Central American immigrants have a much longer legacy in the United States than scholars have afforded them before, it strikes me as uniquely interesting the repository Pan-Americanism that this figure seems to participate in--a revolutionary anti-imperialist doctrine fostered by important figures in Latin America, including Fidel Castro, Jose Martí, Che Guevarra, Bernardo Vegas, and the list goes on. Or at the very least Murrieta functions as a kind of transnational figure for the liberatory aspirations of Latinos both within and without the United States.

Independent Gay Art Porn

Collaborator on the film Short Bus Travis Matthews is composing an independently funded gay porno, following the success of his earlier film In Their Rooms. I've included a clip of I Want Your Love that is really more erotic than pornographic but I think there is some hotness to be gained by the seemingly genuine intimacy shared by the couple.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Exam Date Update

My committee, like those of almost all graduate students I know, has taken two months to figure out an actual date for the oral defense of my exams, which was originally meant to be in Mid-May. In that time I charted out a reading schedule that essentially presented me with the dilemma of having to read a book a day, potentially feasbile if I didn't also have to finish teaching and take notes on said readings.

Thus, I presented myself in a shamefaced manner to my advisor asking for an end of June or early July date instead (summer exams are usually hard to pull off as your committee is not usually around to preside over it). My worst-case fantasy being that he would say, "You know we took a risk on you letting you into the program, and this is below our expectations." Instead he was very understanding and I did not have to relate any of the painful personal details of the last 6 months.

However, although my advisor will be around in that time frame, none of the other members of my committee will be, moving my exam date to August. This is rather late in the process, but I have to say it's a blessing in disguise as I already felt my body converting itself into work-yourself-to-death-breakdown mode.

In other news this song by Kelis rules, and Lady Gaga blows:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"While nobody is so naïve as to believe that there are any
beliefs that are empirically universal, Žižek and Badiou sensibly affirm
that a truth without a universal vocation is a poor thing—in short, not a
truth at all—and that furthermore, without the notion of truth (a belief
which is addressed to everyone), there can be no ideology (or rather, only
one entirely hegemonic and therefore invisible ideology) and therefore no
politics, only the management of (cultural, linguistic, professional, etc.)

--Nick Brown "{∅,S} ∍ {$} ?, Or, Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek,
Waiting for Something to Happen."

Radicalizing the Youth One Footballer at a Time

Over the last 3 years I've been teaching a composition course on the topic of Terrorism and Globalization. The composition course criteria for my university are less oriented toward great books (in the traditional model) but introducing students to standards of academic argumentation by way of a particular controversy.

As an ideologue I have two barely-veiled and interrelated intentions with this course:

a) to emphasize the novelty of terrorism so as to reject its embeddedness as an antedeluvian, knee-jerk cultural reaction (also to emphasize state-terror)

b) to challenge the culturalist assumptions to underpin most of U.S. public discourse about terrorism, mostly that somehow Islam is a monolithic civilization and that fundamentalist politics in the Middle East are commensurate with fascism.

Every semester, for some reason, I have at least 1-2 football players in my class and because they are not here with any prospect of an American football career afterwards (we have a team with which no one is particularly enthusiastic, and not competitive in any way) they are really hard and sincere workers. Although in high school football team members were generally objects of extreme ire and fear for me as well as intensely frustrated desire, now I have a lot of respect for these kids for working so diligently and moreover because of their work becoming radicalized (at least for the duration of the semester, or merely to please me, I have no idea) as a result.

I was confronted with this tendency the other day while conferencing with my current footballer student who indicated that he found the two articles that were most radical in the course (one by Noam Chomsky and the other by Mahmoud Mamdani) to be the most logical and the arguments he most agreed with. Fucking awesome!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

50 Cent has "Gay Face"

So, although I suppose there is some scientific verification for identifying gay men by their face besides the ever-present Lance Bass (who sometimes looks like a lesbian)

Lance Bass Pictures, Images and Photos

and I myself have considered, in an off-handed kind of way, that "gay face" is evident in some sort of ratio between chin and cheekbones, I think I know now why there has always been something "off" about 50 cent for me--his gay face.

I noticed it most recently in his video "Have a Baby By Me, Be a Millionaire." I don't know if it's his long eye-lashes, the recent Price-era facial hair he dons in the video, his utter lack of chemistry with Kelly Rowland (ostensibly his real life girlfriend, although who knows some people can't act), his lack of delivery on his tracks about his sexual prowess, or the rumors of his attendance of certain New York gay-sex parties but he seems to me to be a fitting example of "gay face." The video itself has a strange disconnect between 50 Cent's self imagining as a great lover/father/romancer and the chorus which discloses massive payment for producing proof of his viable heteronormativity to the lady in question.

That said, searches for the biological bases of homosexuality and it's identifiable traits scare the fuck out of me ("Biological, Don't Bother," as Shaquille O'Neil once rhymed).

Friday, March 5, 2010

Free Education Movement

After seeing former Weather Underground member Mark Rudd read from his new book, and discuss a rather hilarious attempt by him to "breach" his heteronormativity by, in his words, "fondling JJ's penis amidst a threesome," friends and I reflected on the meaning of student occupation of University property (Rudd had occupied the University President's office in his early days of activism) which brought us to the Free Education movement going on currently in California, and perhaps nationally.

Rudd kept discussing how the problem with the Weathermen was that they elevated a tactic to the level of a strategy, that tactic being militancy. H asked a question to the effect of "are there contexts where elevating a tactic to the level of strategy would actually function, as in the Free Education Movement, where these activists are arguing 'occupy everything, demand nothing'?" Rudd proffered an answer that was rather unsatisfactory, and I don't even remember what it was. One thing of note which was not very surprising but Rudd consistently spoke to the necessity of non-violence, because to use violence was to necessarily "do the work of the right for them."

Whatever one might want to take away from these observations, here is a manifesto-esque video from the free education demonstrations:

Friday, February 26, 2010

The face of God


Peter Hallward on Haiti

Peter Hallward editor of Radical Philosophy, and one of the most prominent commentators on the work of Alain Badiou, was on Democracy Now! recently discussing the situation in Haiti. The key point he makes, which I am sure others have made before him, to my mind here is:

The crucial thing is the—I think, to facilitate something like a genuine collective mobilization. But Aristide has his place in that. He’s one of many people who could contribute to that. But he is the most important person, I think, the one who has the highest profile, the person who is—who was able, has been able to do this time and time again, to find the right words to say what has to be said. This is what people appreciate about him, and to do it in ways that are not deferential. You know, one of the things that people appreciate him is that he stood up to pressure and that he stood up for people’s right to confront military pressure, for example, and to defend themselves. So he’s been a very articulate spokesman for that, for justice and for empowerment. So he’s important because of that, not because of he’s an individual, he would come and have all the solutions [inaudible]. I’m sure he’d be the first to say that’s not the case.

But that the empowerment of Haitian people, as a whole, and in meaningful ways, not in the kind of trivial ways that everyone will say, it has to be driven by the Haitian people. What does that actually mean concretely? And I think, concretely, in terms of organization, in terms of having something like a program for national change, it’s been Fanmi Lavalas, the mobilization around Fanmi Lavalas, that has been the most important development in Haitian politics since the mid-‘90s. So, to maintain a kind of continuity with that, to allow it to go forward, to allow the organization to reestablish itself, to reorganize itself—it suffered a great deal, you know, under the pressure of the last six years, in particular—would be a very important way forward. It’s simply allowing the Haitian people to use the resources that they’ve got, rather than maintaining them in a sort of state of passive, deferential docility.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mobile Device/Internet as Thematic

(Wow, that last version was very poorly edited. Here I hope I've cleaned up some of the mistakes.)

In the back of my consciousness the question has persisted for some time as to why cultural objects that try to thematize the internet, computing, or mobile device use seem so utterly banal? Books like Jeannette Winterson's The PowerBook, or even any of the sci-fi that tries to use cyberspace as a setting for action, e.g Neuromancer inspire a kind of detached interest if not an altogether indifference. To some degree Neuromancer suffers from what most sci-fi novels attempt, which is over-description of the accoutrements of the future, revealing a limited sense of the movement of history and the present in order to conceive of the future, or at least a kind of inertia within the social entrenchments of its moments (not to mention the vacuous overdescription of what each character is wearing and how they have their "hair-did" generally in the cyber-punk subgenre). So for example the fact that we have wireless, touchscreen devices, equipped with voice-recognition capacities and yet not at the same time as hover crafts (as per Back to the Future II's speculative future) shows the limitations, at least in terms of product development, that is necessarily part of any vision of the future. Clearly this dated quality carries over into other attempts to specify the context of cyberspace present and future, insofar as the rate of innovation seems to unevenly correspond to the social imaginary.

But I also wonder to what extent so much of this cultural production that seeks to thematize the internet and wireless technologies tend to be so uninteresting to me is that they overinvest in the ideologies of the internet itself as a space of liberated, anonymous interaction and self-creation. A place and non-place at the same time, a unique context of total and egalitarian interaction, sort of like market ideology. Correspondences with market ideologies, the ideology of internet technologies never seems to match the "reality" of internet and wireless device use, which as research has shown just increases our contact with the 8 people we know already, and is not drawing us closer to Bangladesh or Bolivia. Or the kind of atomized, and perhaps alienated, experience of computer use in general that is also a decisive part of internet use and spectatorship. In other words, every text is not like an orgasm (as per Lil Kim below, even though I love her otherwise).

In order to facilitate a discussion of these questions I've included several music videos that try to thematize the internet as a vehicle for sexual contact or romance. Check them out:

Imagining fame as an internet function.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sergei Eisenstein's Sexuality

Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein, director of The Battleship Potemkin (1925) and originator of the strategic dialectical montage, spent some time in Mexico filming for a never completed film called ¡Que Viva Mexico! It was meant to depict the struggle of the Mexican Revolution (1910) and simultaneously articulates a critique of the corruption issue from the institutionalization of the Revolution. Eisenstein encountered in Mexico and Mexican culture "the outspreading of my innermost," and simultaneously the place where he had his first homosexual encounter, which rid him of a ten year "complex."

Upton Sinclair (an important "realist" American novelist) and his wife funded the filming and because Eisenstein lacked a sense of budget he continued to outstrip his resources. Reflecting back on the issue Sinclair claimed in 1950, "All [Eisenstein's] associates were Trotskyites, and all homos".

According the really informative article by Tony Wood (writing for the London Review of Books) the film was never completed by Eisenstein who only saw the rushes and several approximations made of a film with his footage.

Here is a demonstration of Dialectical Montage for those not "in the know:"

Kuleshov Effect - Eisenstein Montage from Filmstudies_DaVega on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fuck the Snowpocalypse and Fuck the Police!

Pittsburgh is suffering under the duress of 2 feet of snow and it continues to snow. In other news, my advisor has given me the go ahead on my exam proposal, meaning I will take them in early May, that is if my other committee members get back to me soon.

Here's a climate appropriate track:

And also,

Thursday, February 4, 2010


A friend of mine has always argued that death comes in threes: Howard Zinn (should be reading this soon), J.D. Salinger (just read Catcher in the Rye), Jay Reatard (never actually listened to him). And I recently lost my paternal grandmother.

She has been in a deteriorating condition for almost a decade due to Osteoporetic breaks which would never heal. More recently I received an e-mail from my father (under the advisement of his father, and his brother) that my grandmother was on the verge of death and we should all "pray" for her or keep her in our thoughts. My brother and I decided it was probably a good time to go back to Mexico City and see her one last time. This happened several weeks ago.

The return to Mexico City (after 6-7 years) was amazing, beautiful, and sad. Unlike freezing, snow-ladden Pittsburgh, Mexico City was warm, balmy, and the sunlight sat on the city like that of summers in the American Midwest. This city is a construction of nostalgia for me in a lot of ways, associated with an idealized period of my youth before my family's departure for a new life in the United States. The mix of colonial, minimalist/modernist architecture, and the improvisations of those at the bottom of the economy with concrete and corrugated aluminum spread out in immense and counterintuitive patterns. It's a city pulsing with life and imperial decay, corruption and movement. After a long stint at a mezcal bar with my cousin and his girlfriend, and discussions with family I realized that I could really live in Mexico City.

Seeing the father's side of the family for the first time in years was also gratifying and worthwhile now that I am starting relearn my Spanish back. Although there was a prolonged argument about "human nature" (whatever that is) where I got really hostile over a plate of molé. But I think my insecurity about my ability to communicate along with the easy mapable positions of everyone at the table, made me angrier than it should have.

Seeing my tiny grandmother almost incapable of communicating, over her pain-medications effects and her persistent pain (broken femur, hip, and pelvis), falling asleep from the effort of straining to talk was very difficult. As was having to lift her up in a set of sheets in order to help change her bed--she was wincing terribly. I spent a half hour the night before my return just telling her that I was happy, expressing my feelings for her, and that I looked forward to seeing her again. She died a few weeks later, not from anything specific (osteoporosis isn't terminal it's just degenerative) but from what I am assuming is a lack of will to live. I've always thought such statements were always some sort of mystical/bullshit explanation for the limits of medical science to chart reasons for death, but I believe it now. Her exhaustion, discomfort and the ceaseless arguments between family members about how to best care for her probably did her in.

We haven't been close in years, with decreasingly frequent visits (given my financial limitations), and some personal realizations that wouldn't jibe with her devout catholicism (gay), but I have such fond recollections about the gentle care she provided me as a child and the scent of the cream she used on her hands. So saccharine, I know.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Grassroots Mapping

This website is amazing. It offers social cartography of extralegal indigenous communities in Peru.

A disaster that bears your name...

"Individual life is a serialized crisis in miniature, a disaster that bears your name."
--Brian Massumi.

(oh, the creative uses of stock footage).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Beats...

So reading On the Road for my exams, which is much better than I remember it being pushed me to seek out photos of the Beats, in particular Neal Cassady the avenging angel and inspiration for On the Road.

Additional history offered by the introduction indicates that Neal Cassady, recalling his days as a street hustler, amorously pursued Allen Ginsberg in order to coax Ginsberg to teach him to write poetry. Moments in the novel suggest a quasi-sexual union in which Ginsberg (i.e. Carlo Marx in the novel) and Cassady take benzedrine and speak with complete and utter honesty with each other, experiences of which Cassady's girlfriend at the time was extremely jealous (suggestive rather than illicit).

Anyway, hot photos of Cassady and also William Burroughs looking sophisticated and hot in his youth from the Allen Ginsberg archive.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Honour Killings

I love London Review of Books, they give you some rather in depth history of a subject often reviewing multiple books so you don't have to, or exploring significant issues with some sense of the interlocutors. Here is one article that seized my attention by Jacqueline Rose discussing "Honour Killings" committed by immigrants to Europe.

She is careful to distinguish exactly how these killings are mobilized for internal and external colonial efforts and brings the relevant issues to bear on feminist approaches to the subject.

I'll be holding all the tickets, and you'll be owning all the fines.

Monday, January 4, 2010


This is a band I happen to enjoy but can recognize the monotony of their sound over 3 albums; or as my sister once put it, "this sounds like elevator music," on a long car through Mexico. I think for Ratatat detractors you might find their sound a little more palatable or interesting when added to the work of already extant artists in the form of remixes. Here are a few I recommend (although I reveal too much with suggesting one of these):

(this video kind of sucks, but the track is pretty good)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Moral Hazards

I was listening to the Bill Moyers Journal podcast a few days ago, and came upon an interview with an organizer for the organization City Life / Vida Urbana who assist people whose homes are being foreclosed upon, by informing them of their rights and helping to make them stay in their homes, and perhaps compelling the banks who "own" the foreclosed homes to resell the mortgages at the current market price to its current occupants. One of the interviewees made an excellent point about the rationalization of foreclosure and the ways those working markets seek to "punish" lower-strata consumers.

From the transcript of the interview:

"One of the unheralded things about this crisis right now is that there's an awful lot of owners who come to us who cannot afford their home at the inflated value, at the adjustable rate mortgage price. But they have plenty of income to afford their home at the real value at a 30-year fixed. And so why not just give them the property back at that amount? If they're foreclosed on, the best the bank that can do is sell the property at the real value. By definition, that is the absolute best.

If Deutsche Bank forecloses on Joe Schmoe the best they can do is to sell that property at real value. So if Joe Schmoe can afford the property at real value, why not sell it back to him? But the only reason the banks aren't doing that is because of what they call moral hazard. They say basically that homeowners should be punished because they signed these loan documents.

These are the same guys who have run our entire economy into the ground and who have been rewarded with billions in taxpayer bailouts and have used billions of that money to give bonuses to the very executives that drove their companies and the whole economy into the ground. And they are citing moral hazard as the reason why they can't resell that property to the existing homeowners at the real value. That is disgusting and hypocritical and in the extreme."

The fact that there are mechanisms within the housing market to not only dole consequences out to buyers but also "punishment" all under the suspicious concept of a Moral Hazard seems almost like a textbook example of an ideological construct. But makes starkly apparent how the "punishment" or austerity of a financial crisis always gets displaced down to the economically subordinate, whilst those at the top are shuffled around, nameless, and without material consequences.

This story also reminds me of other recent movement within the U.S. to occupy unused and/or tenantless property and institutions. For example a movement in St. Louis that moves homeless people with major health problems into empty homes, or the recent University of California student occupations. A paper presented at last summer's Marxist Literary Group Annual Institute where the presenter described movements to occupy and retake the housing presented the possibility for a new radicalism in the United States organized around housing.

In a post-civil rights movement moment it would almost seem like civil disobedience tactics like occupation would seem to not really address the fluidity of power (thanks to networked communications technologies, i.e. you can't shut an institution down by merely occupying it, thanks to these technologies an institution can continue to function). But such tactics seem to be gaining national momentum and attention.

Trapped in the space of the 1990s

2009 was a pretty terrible year for everyone I know. But for some reason my lack of knowledge about contemporary music in general has pushed me to return back to the 1990s/early aughts (meaning '00s) for guidance.

I even recently looked up Hot Water Music, a band popular with many of my friends at that age, but not so much with me. I found this video for their track "Remedy:"

As a result I returned to an earlier conclusion that the lead singer for Hot Water Music is indeed fucking hot as hell, and their music is ok. (For some reason the visual and soundtrack don't match for the whole video.)