30 June 2005

Movie Week

It's far too hot in Redlands to work all day; the dark cave of a frigidly-air-conditioned movie theater makes for an inviting afternoon space. Hence, yesterday we saw Batman Begins—for a fabulous review, check out Greg's post here. Up today: Mr. and Mrs. Smith, where we're sure to find out if all the hype about Brad and Angelina's so-called 'chemistry' is true (and that's what movie-going in America is really all about, today, right?)

Why/How the post below this one is wrong

Just recently, I spent a week reading the entire draft manuscript of Rebecca's book, Art for a Modern India: 1947-1980. The book articulates and analyzes the effort by Indian artists to grapple with the paradox that is a 'Modern India'. Having read the book I can say that Rebecca is wrong to equate so easily art with literature. Myself, I would be very willing to conflate what I do as a political theorist with what someone does who works with literature: we both read, explicate, analyze, and theorize texts. Rebecca and other art historians often do this as well, and in many ways paintings and other art can be read as texts.

However, Rebecca also works with architecture, and from reading her book, I'm convinced that there is something very much distinct about how we read something with three dimensions. Her book—perhaps too much in this draft form—reads very differently in the architecture sections than in the painting sections. It makes it clear, at least to me, that reading is not always reading, and that some people are more adept at working in three dimensions than others. Many film theorists are excellent at this, but while I very much enjoy working critically with the television genre, I have to confess that I almost always turn it into a text.

29 June 2005

is art history different from lit history?

Several days in Seattle this week—very nice. Oddly, however, little access to the internet. I'm all for the internet being free—in your local coffee shop, in your other local coffee shop, in the mall, in the grocery store, in the airport and of course, in your home as you steal it from your neighbor. However, I do wish those free internets would be a bit more reliable, no? Especially in Seattle, right?

And as I've reconnected with the web here in Redlands (yes, we're here for a few days to survey the wreckage of our broken-in-to storage unit), I've been pondering Greg's challenge:

...why art history vs. why literature? Does the choice/decision come down to a matter of learning styles (textual vs. visual)? Does it come down to a matter of cultural import (i.e. I [may] believe that the textual is more important/effective/stirring than the visual)? Does is come down to economics?

Partly learning style comes into play, at least in the initial stages, and certainly crucial moments of professorial influence shape your future interests. But I think it's all the same. I enjoy reading/reading literature, I use it in my writing and read it to help me read the visual, and I know many folks in English that do the same. In some ways I feel more comfortable writing about text, perhaps because I know less about doing it and thus feel less inhibited by artificial boundaries felt by those within the discipline. My interest in music also allows me to have certain insights/appreciation for art/literature. The artificial distinction between studying architecture, music, art, text, performance—it seems to me to be artificial more than distinction.

And let's face it, television is much more important than either Art or Literature, right?

25 June 2005

why art history

So I'm reading Chakrabarty's book (see list of books I'm reading at right—believe it or not I'm actually reading them...heh heh). His second chapter begins with an erudite discussion of the history of the discipline of history, particularly as it relates to India. He's articulating how historians have tended toward the secular, as the discipline itself relies on a certain foundation in reason, but that the problem with this is a tendency to overlook or discount aspects of history that interweave the religious and the political. In other words, how to talk about, say the political history of modern India and the attempt to create secular democracy while allowing for strands of politics that rely on religion, spirituality etc.? How to do that while not providing fodder for a fundamentalist Hindu right? His words:

The self-image of modern Indian secular scholarship, particularly the strands that flowed into Marxist social history writing, not only partakes of the social sciences' view of the world as "disenchanted," but even displays antipathy to anything that smacks of the religious. The result has been a certain kind of paralysis of imagination, remarkable for a country whose people have never shown any sense of embarrassment about being able to imagine the supernatural in a variety of forms. (p. 25)

This got me thinking about art history, and why art history rather than (or as a focus for) the study of history? Some of the attraction for me is I think that enchanted quality of having the "object" of your study be a work of art—something visual, poetic, something that exceeds description and can be read in multiple ways. The wonderment part of art keeps art history engaged with that sense that the world can't be known, can't be controlled, something that Enlightenment reason folks assumed and tripped over to their peril. Like we used to say in grad school: you know what, it is about pretty pictures, at least some of the time. And it is about the way those images can allow access into something that isn't of this world. Like imagining an independent India, or a life without constant back-breaking labor. Little things like that.

24 June 2005

Sponge Bob Birthday

Bday 2005
Originally uploaded by Rebecca the Expat.
Birthday was a great debaucherous success, from sponge bob's wardrobe to peets to powells to Zen Hong. Check it out on my flickr feed. Thanks to everyone for a fab day...

23 June 2005

Happy Birthday to Rebecca!

Someone had to be the first to say it/blog it, so why not me. Technically, since the birthday girl in question was born in Australia, I'm thinking her birthday has almost already passed. Nonetheless, I highly doubt we'll be able to keep her from opening up all the presents (and, as always, there are far too many presents). I promise to capture the moment(s) on 0s and 1s. More, then, later.

20 June 2005

things I will (not) miss: costco

on the one hand, I love costco. the excess. the deals. the mass of humanity. it is the new public sphere (vide Habermas), overtaking the library or the bowling alley (vide Putnam) or the public park as the place families go on a Saturday to have a picnic outside at the snackbar and then go in to purchase a gross of batteries or the latest crap-tv release. okay, so I went in the day Buffy season 7 was released and bought it. who would blame me? but still. there is a dark side to costco, one I witnessed today while waiting in the car for Sam and Tim to emerge.

It seems that those leaving costco emulate various deities by carrying attributes appropriate to their personalities--attributes that deepen our understanding of their powers, perhaps.

Let me explain: one woman I observed seemed to be very proud of her rather large midriff and toted--I kid you not--a costco-size jug-o-mayonnaise on her hip. Like a goddess of plenty, she strutted out of the store carrying her symbol of overflowing bounty, fertility, perhaps also recognizing the double-entendre of its subtle undercurrents of death. I found myself intrigued.

small figure trailing her mother carrying a box of goldfish rather larger than she is: could it be a rivergoddess? goddess of saltysnacks? she clutched the box to her chest--perhaps protector of carbohydrates?

I require a costco iconographer.

18 June 2005

two levels

I'm posting from the mac store in portland, less than a mile from peets. we are not going to peets, sadly. maybe I can convince them. in any event, I just helped the woman next to me discover the glories of tabbed browsing and google maps. spreadin' the good word, my friend. Sam is pontificating on his two-levels theory: the level at which geeks buy technology and the level they buy for their mom. two levels. discuss.

Update: we went to peets! yay!

how to watch golf

some feel that golf is too boring for words, or that one can play golf and have fun but watching golf is akin to watching paint dry. others feel that one can only watch golf if one has played golf. all of these things are untrue. golf is fascinating to watch. like all sports it has inane announcers who make up verbs from nouns—always fun. plus they whisper. fun fun fun. you can also make fun of how fat all the golfers are and marvel that they are able to swing at all. one must always boo at VJ Singh, for his comments regarding Annika Sorenstam at the PGA 2003 Colonial. then there's the fashion. Tiger in robin's egg blue? the horrifying american flag sweaters the wives are forced to wear during the ryder cup? or the fact that they are all blonde? and of course there's the viewer participation. key phrases to know: "git in the hole!" "slow down...sit...sit!...slow down! grow hair!" "get there....go!....go!...grow legs!" finally, choose someone to root for and go for it. after viewing the LPGA in person one year, I decided to follow as many of the korean women I could and thus I now root for all korean golfers. Go KJ Choi!

17 June 2005

peer pressure

If everyone else is blogging, then I suppose I really have no choice (and yes, of course I'd jump off the cliff, that's such a poorly-formed rhetorical question—it utterly misses the point). Besides providing numerous clauses buried within dashes and parentheses (and sometimes both), it may prove hard for me to find my niche. I suppose one can expect posts on technology and ontology. Those two aren't all that different anyway, right (see Heidegger's "Essay Concerning Technology")?

google maps rocks

Driving across the country has dramatically changed since the invention of google maps for the google people are brilliant. Before, eating off the highway involved cracker barrel, dairy queen, or the ubiquitous nut mixes. Finding a starbucks involved doing extensive painstaking on-line searches before leaving or calling friends and family (you know who you are) who would frantically try to answer the question: quick! we're going through St. Louis! Where's the nearest starbucks! Those days are sadly gone. Find your starting point on google maps, zoom out a bit, then click on local search. type starbucks into the left side, leave the right side stating "in the map area below" and you can find all the starbucks in that map area. Just drag the map to the next stretch of freeway, repeat, lather, rinse, and you've got a list of all the starbucks on your route. Now repeat using "thai" as the search factor, and you're listing every thai restaurant on your route. or mexican, or vietnamese, or chinese. Plus you can get a good sense of the ethnic makeup of the US based on the region you're searching and the food you're searching for. We had fab food the whole drive from PA to Den and then from Den to Vancouver. Proudly cracker barrel free, baby.

On landscape

Made it safely to Vancouver, WA via I-80 through Wyoming. The WY-phenotype is, in my view, very akin to the Iranian landscape of Mohsen Makhmalbaf, one of the greatest film directors of all time. See Gabbeh (1996) for an amazing story within a story set in the Iranian countryside following a group of nomads around. The main character is a gabbeh rug, figured as a beautiful woman. See Ikea for the gabbeh rugs that are all the rage right now.

See southern Wyoming for more antelope that you can count, all looking just like they do on Iranian rugs. Who would have thought?

15 June 2005

cafe con leche con sucre?

So as a coffee snob, I must say that cafe con leche should indeed be that. No sugar. Come on people. Creamy frothy milk is enough, no? Hm. Must begin worldwide tour to assess various local "con leches" and the whole sugar extravaganza.

14 June 2005

the literal field

From the window of a wandering Greyhound, Stuart Ressler gets his first look at unmistakable I-state phenotype: unvarying horizon, Siberian grain-wastes, endless acres of bread in embryo. The most absent landscape imaginable, it calls to him like home. Schooled in the reductionist's golden rule, he sees in this Occam's razor-edge of emptiness a place at last vacant enough to provide the perfect control, a vast mat of maize and peas, Mendel's recovered Garden. Green at twenty-five, with new Ph.D., he leaves the lab to enter the literal field.

—Richard Powers, The Goldbug Variations, p. 43.

11 June 2005

peets peets and peets

Posting from peets in Cherry Creek in Denver, Colorado--what could be better? First americano underway.

Sam quotes from memory:

"Peets is the yummiest coffee ever."

10 June 2005


Fab photo taken by Liz, I'm in my famed Manilow hat. Check out the flickr page at:

first americano

In an attempt to test the new blog, I will list the names that we failed to obtain on blogger.com, as they were already taken:

fronesis (of course)
phronesis (of course, taken)
shunya (zero or emptiness, rejected as too nihilistic)
introjection (rejected by us as too psychoanalytic)
brevelatte (too yuppie anyway)
breve (of course it's taken)
(and the above words in greek--not original, but there you go)

more testing to come...