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.