31 March 2006

like a car wreck

so I was going to blog about something utterly serious (end of world, global warming, those folks in Tuvalu losing their entire country because of the seas rising) but this Britney Spears statue is just so hilarious that I can't look away. so join me:

salon's commentary here and here which has links to images of the work

sculptor's previous work, entitled 'The Ted Williams Memorial Display with Death Mask, from The Ben Affleck 2004 World Series Collection' here

and the capper: go fug yourself's faux letter from Britney. completely hilarious.

my two cents:

1. is the clay sculpture fired? Doesn't look like it from the photos (and from the classy plywood platform it's on) and so calling it a monument is intriguing. I don't think anyone has mentioned the medium of the work in this whole discussion, a serious oversight in my mind (Adam made out of clay/biblical etc. etc.). also a missed opportunity to see that the thing isn't supposed to go into Central Park someday...but perhaps it's supposed to be cast in bronze once the show is over. ooo. bronze. I recant.

2. complaints are over the realism of the sculpture (her face is calm while her baby is crowning...she actually had a C-section...what's up with her knees/hips/toes...the caressing of the bear's ears....) not to pull the superior art historian card, but this sculpture just gets funnier the more questions people have. and the pro-life literature in the gallery. it's just all part of a massive performance piece. the virgin-badgirl-mother-sexpot-celebrity on a bearskin rug. wow.

cannot ...... look ...... away.

29 March 2006

the pusher

the other thing I did with Mona is to introduce her to the wide world of internet shopping. I know. terrible. I am such a pimp. but seriously. she didn't know about jjill.com. or garnethill.com or anthropologie! or, god help us, bluefly.com. And so. here we are. I am an enabler, a pusher, a pimp. I am feeding the capitalist beast. and I'm feeling pretty good about it, I must say.

28 March 2006

announcement: hijab is now a verb in english.

this week has been a lesson in talking for me and in being with a single human being for long stretches of time (Sam doesn't count) without work, life, or other things interfering. and I've learned a lot--about myself, my tolerance for conversation, my tolerance for shopping (low, by the way), my tour-leadery skill level (high). and from Mona, my friend from St. Mary's Academy High School in Denver (yes, Condi's alma mater. what can I do?), I've learned a lot about women's rights in Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East. And what's disturbing to me is the dissonance between talking with this woman who, without revealing her entire life on my blog, has had an extremely varied and interesting go of it, balancing family expectations (marry a good Arab Muslim man) with her own desires/life path--the dissonance between talking with this person I've known since I was 16 and the nonchalance with which she tells me things like: oh yeah, they had to get married before they could even rent an apartment. or, well, the father has to file for divorce in those cases, the woman can't do it on her own behalf. or, yes, and so she lost her three kids to her husband's family.

it's disturbing also because when I teach images of women in Islam, or third world feminism, I struggle to get my students to understand that the veil does not equal oppression, that women in the Middle East aren't living in some backwards, horrible slave-state, and that the situation over here in the "West" isn't that peachy to begin with. and I talk about Saudi Arabia as a different case, try to diversify their understanding of women's lives in places like Iran versus places like Saudi or places like Lebanon. it's not that I paint this rosy picture, it's that I'm fighting so hard against the stereotype that I sometimes forget that oh, yeah--women don't inherit the property from their parents. women don't presume to get half of the stuff (or even their own stuff back) when they divorce (if they can). women can't live by themselves without massive stigma and even then they'll need a male relative to help them rent a place.

and so Mona and I talked about whether so-and-so had a "hijabed" wife, marriage across religious/cultural/regional/age lines, anti-Americanism, being Arab, American, Arab-American, Lebanese-Egyptian of Palestinian descent, growing up with princesses, whether buying Versace was really following Islamic tenets, and never knowing when you'll just have to pull up and leave the country.

and Mom tells me Beirut was the most beautiful place she visited when she was growing up.

26 March 2006

even rock stars have moms

the good news: I've been shortlisted at two jobs, which is great, validating, hopeful, and very exciting. I've done the job search thing enough to know that at this point it's the little things and political stuff that decides it, and so I plan to perform well on the day (this is the phrase they use here in the UK: "performance on the day" which really does sum it up) and try to secure an offer. and then, as Liz says, we will burn that bridge when we get to it.

but initially one of the interviews was scheduled to take place tomorrow, and this past week I had my mom visiting, followed by my good high school friend Mona, whom I haven't seen in almost 10 years. and the thing is, it's hard to be the rock star that you know yourself to be when someone who saw you sing "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" at full volume in the kitchen when you were 3 feet tall is around. likewise, it's difficult to retain your connection to the current person you've become when someone is visiting who still calls you "Red" based on that semi-disastrous henna dye job you managed in 12th grade. I mean sure, these are legitimate elements of who I am and what I have become, but they do make it difficult to conceive of oneself as an academic rockstar with books and seriousness and poststructuralist epistemes and the like.

so it's good that the first interview is postponed. I'll report back once I'm again in rockstar form.

When dukes and maharajas ask the time of day from me....I say my special word and then they ask me out to tea!

21 March 2006

I have no excuses

It's true: I've been a rather awful blogger lately. End of term, plus multiple visitors, plus a trip, plus a chapter to write, plus Rebecca blogging every day – all of it has put me in a blogging slump.

But the daffodils are blooming, spring is here, and term is over! I'm off at 6am tomorrow to try to recruit US liberal arts college students to come to Wales for a year and complete an MA. The economics work out nicely for them, so we'll see if I can sell them on the other bits.

More from me, then, from the road!

20 March 2006

now that Roe is almost defeated...

let's move the fight to birth control!

I've written here about the accessibility of birth control in the UK, where it's free and easily available by going to a clinic (for free) and asking for it. even if you're 16. and I noted how this would change the equation in the US were it to be the case, where it is undoubtedly not, and even wealthy folks like myself have to make sure to have multiple prescriptions on hand in order to make sure i don't have a gap in the pill--some insurance companies only allow you one month at a time, which is ludicrous, and if you, say, go traveling for 40 days, you have to get special dispensation from the higher-ups at the insurance company to get an extra month. because low doses of estrogen are so popular with the kids these days. and then there are the pharmacists who refuse to prescribe the pill. so it's not in any way easily accessible in the US, and that doesn't even include the prohibitive prices.

so it is with some horror that I read Priya Jain's article about the anti-contraception movement, a collecton of still somewhat out of the mainstream groups who are fighting to ban contraception. or more specifically, as the article cogently argues, they are fighting to impose their idea of what a proper, healthy, moral lifestyle is on the rest of us. they argue that contraception is bad for your body, it ruins your marriage, it is morally wrong. some of this might be coming from the Catholics, sure, but it seems to be a bit more widespread than that.

rather than re-hashing the article, which you can read yourselves, I'll just pull out two things:

it correctly and helpfully pinpoints part of the convoluted rhetoric of these groups, where they lay claim to be fighting for women's rights: men force the pill on women, who then (supposedly) have a lowered sex drive and are "forced" to have sex, thus we are liberating women from oppression by banning contraception. the article quotes Chris Berlet who calls this "faux feminist rhetoric"--first of all, alliteration. love it. second of all, yes! This is exactly it. the article goes on to talk about the appeal of pre-20th century gender relations, where women were protected by manly men. Now, while the article doesn't go into this, the mythical historical past which these groups call up, in which we are all happily members of a family with a mom and a dad, never really existed, not for everyone and certainly not for all classes--not to mention the extended family groupings that helped to shelter single women and their children. faux feminism that leads to patriarchy. love it.

number two: toward the end of the piece, Jain quotes Martha Kempner of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States:
Kempner thinks that, in the face of the anti-birth-control movement and Web sites like NRFC, the pro-choice side has to have "as many, if not more, places where [people] can get real information. And we have to teach critical thinking skills -- one of the most important things a comprehensive sexuality education can do is teach you how to look at information and understand what makes it scientific, what makes it biased, and what makes it opinion."

critical thinking. critical reading. critical writing. sounds like my platform on the importance of the liberal arts. reading for faux feminism, convoluted arguments, and thinly veiled attempts to restrict family choices, women's choices, place limits on women's bodies, access to health care, and the rest (don't get me started on the third plank: anti-abortion, anti-contraception and, oh, anti-child care). they literally want us barefoot and pregnant. all the time.

19 March 2006

turning point

the last few days as I've read the headlines on the BBC feed or the wire stories list on salon, I find myself watching for it. "it" is undefined. perhaps it's the continued stories of bird flu deaths: is this the one that turns it into an epidemic? is this the one they'll make the made-for-tv-movie about? perhaps it's the nuclear and political tensions around the world, perhaps its the continual loss of women's rights to control their own bodies, perhaps it's just the media hype about these things.

it's also that I'm about to give a lecture on the "Ayodhya issue" with its pivotal moment on Dec 6, 1992, when Hindu nationalist organizations tore down (by hand) a 16th century mosque that stood, so they said, on the birthplace of the god Ram. a pivotal moment, sure. but how to explain the run-up? the political machinations that led to this? the way the game was manipulated to produce a pile of rubble where a mosque once stood?

and watching the final two games of the Six Nations rugby tournament yesterday, it strikes me that sports is a good metaphor for assessing this "turning point" problem: is it the missed tackle at the goal line that caused the opposing team to score? or the bad call by the ref 2 minutes before that gave them possession? or is it the pivotal penalty given 10 minutes prior that turned the tide and pushed the momentum to the opposing team? the answer is generally: we don't know and yes. and what decides the headlines the next day has largely to do with the media commentary as well as the spin of the folks on the team/in the coach's office. Sure, it's based on the "truth" of the game, but it's more about the reading than the event itself.

so Emery's post about the so-called "existential threat" that George Will has claimed the US is under comes at a good time for me, in that Will seems to embody the hype, the sense of: could this be it? could this be the pivotal moment? and really, these questions are about the need of those in power to feel that what they are doing is pivotal, and that they are handling it well. but perhaps we should remind them that, like sports games, there are people on both sides watching. and many people watching who aren't on either side. and they too can see the game for what it is, at least, I assume, if they mute John Madden.

17 March 2006

mm. rocks.

Three Cliffs Bay
Originally uploaded by doppio macchiato.
pics are up! click on image to access the flickr site and see various Three Cliffs Bay photos, plus: graveyard! don't miss it...

could not be cuter....

from the Crufts dog show BBC pics

16 March 2006

where is Islamic art?

In several panels at the recent CAA, as my colleague over at moksha has discussed, how to define the boundaries of Islamic art became the central topic of discussion. South Asianists focusing on the past millennium of Indo-Islamic art, Southeast Asia specialists working on Indonesia, or China specialists working on the myriad Islamic traditions of both western China and the more mainstream heartland (as in Xian), have long been marginalized (like their counterparts studying sub-saharan African Islam) in the academic field of Islamic art history. In museums, this becomes a difficult problem, because the categorizations are not commensurate. With typologies of temporality (Renaissance, 1500-1525), region (Asia, the Middle East, Africa), and religious culture (Islam, Buddhism) vying for space, manuscripts like the Hamzanama cannot easily be placed: is the 16th century figurally-illustrated volume commissioned for the Mughal ruler Akbar Islamic art? or South Asian?

These are questions that many have had to deal with and juggle in their museums, something that will likely not end or be decided any time soon. But the discussion at CAA took a more strident turn than this, indicating that the conservatism of Islamic art history, perhaps a result of Oleg Grabar's lineage at Harvard, remains entrenched. Islamic art, according to this view, is only art of the Mediterranean Islamic world, with a few concessions for the related but very different orbit of the Persianate Islamic world, but not extending eastward past the Indus river, or westward to include the Umayyads in Spain, or even including more recent developments in world-wide Islam. And, as Stefano Carboni's quote about an exhibit of Southeast Asian Islamic art in today's NYT suggests, this difference can be mapped onto Art (with capital A) versus culture (with little c):
Stefano Carboni, the associate curator of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan, said the show was probably more a cultural experience than an artistic one, an effort perhaps to help the audience connect with Southeast Asia.
In general, he said, he believes that Islamic art should feature calligraphy in Arabic form, with geometric and arabesque patterns. "You can argue one way or the other, it's a very thin line," he said. At the Met, Indonesian textiles are placed with Oceanic art, and the Chinese export porcelain with Islamic inscriptions that flooded Southeast Asia is shown as Asian art, not Islamic art.

The Met, is, of course, an extremely conservative institution. And thus it is also a touchstone (among many) by which folks measure what Islamic art is. I'm not sure what the "thin line" he's talking about is. (And I will note here that the only direct quote is a bit strange. Perhaps Carboni's meanings/words are utterly taken out of context, since he isn't quoted otherwise.) If you restrict Islamic art to objects associated solely with religious worship, you are doing short shrift to the overwhelming visual culture of those parts of the world affected by Islam since the 7th century. Plus, I doubt that every object in the Met's Islamic art collection is "Islamic" even by the Carboni's definition paraphrased above. The Automata manuscript that pops up on the first page of "highlights of the permanent collection" (see above) is, by his own understanding, not Islamic art. And yet here it is. And it is crucially important for understanding 14th century Islamic culture. I don't see the thin line. It seems to me to be a rather thick one, that, if carried out consistently, would limit Islamic art displays to Qur'ans, prayer rugs, architectural decorations from mosques, and that's about it.

I have taught my Islamic art courses as I was taught Islamic art: as a cultural category that is fairly problematic, but if one makes sure to keep that problem in mind, it can be a fairly helpful category. The analogy is the Christmas tree: is it Christian? not particularly. but it is part of "Christian" culture, adapted from earlier traditions, specifically a Germanic tradition of decorating trees in winter. It's Christian-related culture. Similarly, is the Persian Book of Kings or Shahnameh Islamic? not really, but it does include some important foundational stories for many Islamic cultures, and thus it is culturally related to Islam.

Perhaps we should do away with the religio-cultural category of Islamic art, as the conservative faction does have a point: once you start to include the Great Mosque at Xian, Tipu's Tiger, the installation art of Mona Hatoum, and the Mosque Maryam of the Nation of Islam, we must acknowledge the historical and local specificities of Islamic culture, something certainly shaped by religion but perhaps primarily about something else entirely.

15 March 2006

Cary Tennis is awesome

words of wisdom from Salon's advice columnist, Cary Tennis today, to a woman dealing with the potential that her two-year-old is autistic, but as always with Cary, the words resonate beyond this single situation:
Don't so much try to live with reality; just try to let reality live with you. It will do what it needs to do, reality will; it doesn't need your help. It doesn't even need your permission. Just make some space for it so it doesn't crowd you out.

yes. quite.

blue skies

I will soon post pictures of our most recent trip to Three Cliffs with the folks over at OaO--but I want to say now that the entire time they were here--three full days--the sun did not come out but once, for about 3 minutes. They left at one this afternoon. It is now almost 3 pm, and it's fully sunny and beautiful outside. much like the child in Ray Bradbury's short story about Venus, rain, and sunshine, they did not see Swansea in its sunny glory. And so they will never believe us that it is often sunny here. But there you are. I must go find my sunglasses....

14 March 2006

w7 of tb2

it is indeed w7 of tb2, that is, week 7 of the second term (who knows what the "b" stands for) and we are thus ready for an update. as of today, March 14, I finally have internet access from my office, I am able to print on-campus, and I have acquired an ID card as well as my first paycheck (260 quid, if you must know. very exciting.)

it was a bit of a struggle (as usual) to get the internet thing to happen. multiple steps included: getting my contract, finding out my employee number, generating an e-mail address, finding a PC so that I could then change my allocated password (for this can only be done on a PC), getting my picture taken at the records office for my ID (which I now have), having my blood pressure checked by the occupational health office (a very nice nun did this for me. turns out I'm relatively healthy) and then about 15 e-mails, calls, and on-line forms before I found the right person to log my computer's MAC address into the system such that I can use the ethernet network.

seven out of ten weeks done, and finally I have my computing needs in order.

it seems that certain things do not change once one crosses the atlantic. the role of IT in university environments appears to be top amongst those. I can't complain, though. I'm all sorted now, as they say.

11 March 2006

More Posts up at iWeb Site

Still doubtful that I'll make the switch, but there are some advantages. I've also gone ahead and figured out how to do comments (not as a simple as it should be, but doable). Would love to hear feedback there (and to see if feedback works). Go here please.

10 March 2006


Here's what literally 5 minutes will get you using the new iWeb. Check it out.

time without art

Sam spent the day fighting to get the fonts to display correctly in Mail. really.

I spent the day fighting to get my sentences to sound halfway intelligent in my book. it's called rewriting, and it's hard.

Tarn's post of a few days ago on time has a certain resonance for me, as I too have been enjoying the luxury of relying on someone else for my daily expenses, enabling a whole range of activities, almost all of which I do not do. Some of the time it's because these extra activities cost money (yoga classes, traveling, shopping) but much of the time it's because my time is so entirely mine that I feel a bit stingy about giving it out. When your time is your own, "free" time doesn't exist. So it's okay to devote time and energy to two things: working on your career/vocation (in my case writing and publishing) and doing things like networking, part-time teaching gigs, conference-going, and the like in order to set yourself up to one day re-enter the workforce, hopefully in a job that matches your qualifications. or hey, even values them. let's just get crazy now.

so time has become my only currency. perhaps that is what Tarn was trying to say, at least in part. time's value changes when it's yours to parcel out. it's not that you have a ton of it, but it's that it's your responsibility to decide what to do with it. and what I'm experiencing is that I'm really really busy right now. with this rewriting, with the teaching gigs, with conferences and talks and coffees-toward-something-bigger. and I'm so busy that I'm not sure how I ever did a job and all of this. but of course I didn't do that. I let writing slide for a year, or at least until summer. I would spend no time on teaching. I would run around, never work out, eat poorly, and let piles of clothes accumulate on my floor. but back then I had an excuse for letting things slide--the job. now I don't. academics on sabbatical feel this way after a year as well: how did it go by so fast? why didn't I get done what I thought I would? I'm on a sabbatical with no set end-date, and I've managed to fill it up amazingly well. I suppose that's success, on one level. or it's utter failure--failure to value time that is blissfully, gleefully, guilt-free free.

08 March 2006

the great game, welsh style

While playing gywddbwyll Arthur and Owein were amazed to hear such a noise, and as they looked round they saw a rider on a dapple-grey horse. This horse was a remarkable colour: dapple-grey, with a pure red right leg, and from the top of its legs to its hooves pure yellow; and both horse and rider were clothed in strange heavy armour. The horse was covered from the pommel up in pure red linen, and from the pommel down in pure yellow linen. The youth wore a great gold-hilted one-edged sword on his thigh, with a new pure green scabbard and a tip of Spanish brass, while the sword belt was of blackish-green cordovan with gilt crossbeams and a clasp of elephant ivory with a pure black tongue. On his head he wore a gold helmet, set with precious stones of great value, and on the crest a yellow-red leopard with two blood-red stones in its head, so that it was dreadful for any warrior, however stout-hearted, to look at the leopard's face, let alone the rider's; in this hand he carried a long heavy green-shafted spear, blood-red from the grip up and the blade covered with ravens' blood and feathers. This rider approached the gwyddbwyll players and they saw that he was tired and angry; he greeted Arthur and said that the ravens were killing the squires and pages, whereupon Arthur looked at Owein and said, 'Call off your ravens.' Owein replied, 'your move, lord.'
—The Dream of Rhonabwy, The Mabinogion, pp. 187-88.

I've been reading the Mabinogion for a little while now, taking in a story at a time and gradually getting used to words like "gwyddbwyll." This is my favorite story yet, as it's the most visual (obviously) and makes me laugh. This is one of about a dozen horsemen that come in to interrupt Arthur and Owein's game (which sounds a bit like chess, and is a metaphor within a dream for various regional battles) and each one has a different fabulous ensemble, coordinated quite literally to the hilt. I chose to regale you with this one because of the pure green scabbard with its tip of Spanish brass--what makes it Spanish? is that somehow fashionable? All the horsemen are wearing spanish brass this season, except for that sloth Ysbaddaden, who is still wearing Danish brass. sooo 1198, no? Owein replied, 'your move, lord.' dark.

07 March 2006

Where Have I Been?

OK, so I know I don't live in the country any longer. And yes, I've been really busy over the past two weeks trying frantically to draft this chapter of the book (on Butler's ontology, if you're interested). But still, I try to keep up with what's going on in the world, and I somehow managed not to see this one coming.

South Dakota bans abortion. Yes, that's a total ban. It's illegal. No excpetions for rape or incest, and while there is an exception to protect the life of the mother, the Bill is worded to strongly indicate that her life should not be seen to outweigh that of the unborn baby.

Many will respond with outrage over the way that this limits the reproductive rights of women. I've no intention to downplay that. However, with only one abortion clinic in the entire state, women's reproductive rights in South Dakota (as in many states in the US) were already severely constrained. In many places, access to an abortion is already limited to those who are adults, with plenty of money, and plenty of social resources to rely on. What I mean is: you need to be over 18 (because of consent), you need to have the time and resources to travel to a clinic, and you need people to support you along the way. The 'right to abortion' was severely curtailed long before yesterday.

Given that, I want to rant about two other things. First, there is Governor's statement concerning the Bill. He opens with this:
"In the history of the world, the true test of a civilization is how well people treat the most vulnerable and most helpless in their society"
So I'm assuming that South Dakota has already done away with homelessness, severe poverty, domestic abuse, and all the other evils of the world that affect 'the most vulnerable and most helpless'. Good for them.

Second, there is the sheer flouting of Federal law. I mean, what's next? Alabama passes segregation laws? Utah outlaws alcohol? Texas secedes? I know, maybe Maryland can place a tax on the Federal bank!

05 March 2006

Blair: trotskyite?

file under: things that a US president could never do
file under: yet another thing that Bush has likely not read (either book, by the way)
file under: now I have to read this biography. damn.

Blair Says Trotsky Book Inspired Him

- - - - - - - - - - - -

March 04,2006 | LONDON -- Prime Minister Tony Blair, who wrenched his party from the left to the center of the political spectrum, said he had been inspired to enter politics by a book about socialist icon Leon Trotsky.

At a World Book Day event at London's Commonwealth Club earlier this week, Blair said Isaac Deutscher's biography of the Russian communist leader was the book that meant the most to him.

Deutscher's three-volume work -- "The Prophet Armed," "The Prophet Unarmed" and "The Prophet Outcast" -- paints a sympathetic portrait of Trotsky, who helped Vladimir Lenin lead the 1917 Russian revolution but was later driven out by Joseph Stalin. He was murdered by an agent of Stalin in Mexico in 1940.

"I might as well make a confession now," Blair said. "There were people who got me very involved in politics. But then there was also a book."

Blair said the work "made a very deep impression on me and gave me a love of political biography for the rest of my life."

"My association with books has continued through the rest of my adult life but particularly with my children," Blair added.

He said the book he read most often was "Flat Stanley," a children's story loved by his 5-year-old son, Leo.

"I know more about Flat Stanley than I ever really wanted to."

04 March 2006


so the crisis of the week is that the DVD burner we bought for Sam's parents is broken. this is our lifeline to US television, and more specifically Gopher hockey. and so, while the burner is being repaired (est. time: two weeks) we thought we might try to get a replacement for them to try out. so off to bestbuy.com. but instead of typing that, we type: bestbuy.om

which leads me to my post today.

why do we not start a set of domain names that end with .om? here's the concept. you mis-type the big box retailer you are trying to find: target.om. what comes up but an appropriate mandala (say, a concentric circle one with lots of red) and an appropriate mantra, with audio to boot. perhaps something like Robert's throat-singing recordings? a link at the bottom says: to leave the spirit-anchoring world of the om and continue on to the desire-centered world of the com, click here.

or, stay awhile and recenter yourself.

Genna Gurvich, Mandala of the Red Circle, 2001

03 March 2006

The Convergence is Upon Us
But it's Sneaking in the Back Door

Folks have been talking about a 'convergence' between the living room and the home office - between, that is, your A/V set-up (what non-Geeks call their TV and Stereo) and your computer (non-Geeks still call this I computer, I think) – for quite some time now. But there's really been no sign of the 'killer device' that would effect this change (and yes, that's the one use I know of in which effect with an 'e' is used as a verb).

Apple just announced stage two of the Intel revolution, in the form of the Intel Mac Mini. For 600 bucks (or about 400 quid), it's a lot of computer in a small package. But it's the 'other bits' that are most significant: 'Front Row' software and a simple infrared remote control lets you plug your Mini into your TV and have access to all of your music, photos and video with just a couple of clicks (of the remote, not the mouse). More significant is the fact that this new version of Front Row will let you access shared iPhoto and iTunes libraries. Simply put, this means that you have access to all the media on all the computers in the house, all from your couch.

Still, folks are complaining about what the Mini does not do: namely, replace your Tivo. Apple has responded, and I think appropriately, by saying: why would you want to replace your Tivo?. The Mini is not designed to let you watch TV or record it; Apple assumes that you'll continue doing that as you've been doing it, but that you also want to hear your music, watch the episode of Lost that you just downloaded from the iTunes store, and maybe check out all the free trailers (I'd provide links, but can anyone tell me how to link to the iTunes store).

My thesis is that the 'convergence' does not require the 'killer device'. Whether it be Apple's solution, or the growing-in-popularity Media Center PC's, the idea is not to have your computer take over your living room (Media Center PC's do this quite poorly). The idea is just to place another network device in your living room, linking your home network to your A/V.

This is also, by the way, why the Slingbox is doing so well. It doesn't replace anything either; it just hooks your network into your Tivo so that you can watch TV on your computer, and do it anywhere. I will buy one of these the instant they release a workable Mac Client.

Some people like to pose the following non sequitur as if it were a question: 'but do I need a Mac Mini?' Look at it this way instead: do you need a DVD player, a DVD burner, or a CD player? If your Mini is plugged into your TV and on your wireless network, then you don't need any of those devices, and the Mini doesn't just replace them, it moves you into a much better paradigm for accessing your media. Take the cost of those devices and compare it to the cost of a refurbished Mini, and perhaps you see my point. Or, if you don't have a TV (and the ONLY TWO people out there reading this know exactly who you are), then add in the cost of the TV and compare it to what you get in the new Intel iMac with gorgeous 20" display. Mine arrives on Tuesday!!!

Katie makes a spirited and highly cogent defence of Media Center PC's in the comments. Let me clarify: I did NOT mean to diss the Media Center as a device that can usher in the very sort of convergence that I'm talking about in this post with the Mini. I was only saying that the Media Center isn't ready to take over your living room (neither is the Mini - though the Mini isn't trying, and perhaps the Media Center is). Now, Katie argues that their Media Center has worked as well as a Tivo, meaning it might well be ready to take over. However, most folks will still prefer their Tivo for a number of reasons. Mainly, the Tivo is a simpler, more intuitive device; it works with a simple remote, etc. And most folks don't want 'a computer in their living room' (thus, the advantage of tiny devices like the Mini, but there are PC's like this as well). Also, I'd say just about anyone can set up a Tivo, but not a lot of households have gone to Media Center PC's, probably because they are a lot harder to set up and to deal with (think Keyboards and Mice).

Another way of putting it is this: for earlier adopters, and tech-savvy folks like Katie, placing a PC at the heart of your A/V system is going to happen sooner rather than later (they've already done it!). But I'm arguing that 'the convergence' isn't going to come about through a computer taking over the living room, because most folks aren't early adopters or tech-savvy the way Katie's household is.

Now, Katie also properly calls me out on my Anti-Microsoft bias. Again, to be clear, I'm not denying that I'm a M$ bigot, but in this case that's not relevant to the post. The pure Mac Zealot would say: 'Microsoft sucks and they can't build a convergence device, but our savior Steve Jobs will come up with THE answer'. I'm not saying that; I'm denying that. Steve can't build it either. My point is that there is not AN answer. We'll get the computer into everyone's living room by putting it NEXT TO the Tivo, not in place of it.

02 March 2006

on captions and girls

from salon:

And here's the caption:
Palestinian girls wearing Hamas scarves and headbands during a campaign for Student Council elections at the Arab American University in the West Bank town of Jenin on Feb. 27, 2006.

wow does the caption completely and utterly undersell this fabulous image. The doll in the foreground with her bib blowing over her face in some sort of accidental echoing of veiling; the man standing in the background with the microphone and the baseball cap, reminiscent of many camp counselor types. maybe it's the scarf he wears that's so similar to Baden Powell's own nationalist uniform for the boy scouts. it's one of those photos from which I wish I could pull back to see the bank of photographers shooting these girls to force them to represent the bigger worries of the west regarding the recent election in Palestine.

and all of this is to overlook the iconography of fear linked to the specter of the veiled woman toting/hiding a gun, familiar from the Iranian context and re-interrogated by Shirin Neshat's early work.

this photo is about so many different relations of power, from the white, blonde doll to the man-over-girls to the objectification of the veiled middle eastern woman to the reassertion of her power through arms and militancy to a whole history of girls' and boys' organizations and the inculcation of (nationalist, religious, gender) values.

what a great picture. the caption, I will say, makes it better, in that one does a double take on the photo. perhaps it will make people look closer.

some people start to look like their dog...

and Debby and I start to look like our co-editor! here's us, proud editors of the Asian Art anthology, in the book fair at CAA. we used to get confused quite a lot, when we TA-ed together at Minnesota. back then we didn't really look much alike--I had glasses, Debby had bangs--but then, I also get confused with my colleague Ruth, who sports long dark hair. the book is, however both virtually and literally real. thanks to those at the conference who purchased it, despite my protestations that y'all are grad students and don't need to do that, and both Debby and I hope that it is helpful in your teaching of this 5-millennia, continent-wide "specialty" we all share.

01 March 2006

the 3Ps: polls, politicians, and partition

over at Emery's place, he's been discussing the extremely low polling numbers that Bush is getting these days, particularly riding on the aftermath of the bombing of the Shi'ite mosque in Samarra last week. I just read Juan Cole's short piece on the aftermath of that bombing in Iraq, now that ostensibly the reaction has died down, and I find it quite incisive, as usual for Cole. He knows the region, he knows its recent and not-so-recent history, and he can boil it down well for those of us who do not.
Cole details the various reactions of politicians and players in Iraq, specifically the three primary Shi'ite clerics. it's interesting to me because I'm just through lecturing (in my Colonialism & Nationalism in India module) on the political maneuvering during the decades just before India's independence, as they struggled to maintain the unity of India while acknowledging the voices of various minority groups, most prominently Muslims. Just as in India, the discourse has solidified around binary religious groupings (Shi'ite/Sunni, with the third term of the Kurds receding into the background it seems, just as the untouchables or the Sikhs in India were silenced by our search/need for two opposing sides) and the question of Iraq as a unified nation is also central. And so each of the clerics used the bombing to their own rhetorical and political ends, whether for Shi'ite power/autonomy or for national unity:
These three Iraqi clerics all employed their influence and authority among the Shiite rank and file to make the Samarra bombing work for them politically. Sistani expanded his militia and stayed at the forefront of the movement by encouraging peaceful rallies. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim used the explosion in Samarra to bolster his own authority. ... Muqtada al-Sadr used the incident to push for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, something he has wanted since the fall of Saddam. Abroad, Supreme Jurisprudent Khamenei [of Iran] blamed Bush and his Israeli allies, a monstrous charge but nevertheless one widely believed.
and what's interesting here is the unity against the US presence and the alliance of a West-Israel common enemy is clearly there in the discourse as well. The question is, just as it was in India, will that negative unifying discourse be enough to keep Iraq together? Or will inter-religious rhetoric win in the end? partitions work so well, or not: as millions of dead in South Asia and Israel-Palestine and the Balkans have learned the hard way. I hope that the Bush folks are reading their history (and their polls), and not the Raj nostalgia stuff they seem to be reading lately.