27 February 2007

Take 3

All of you who exlaimed, in response to my choice of book cover, 'but there's no TV in it' may well have missed promising careers in sales. That's precisely what the sales people at the publisher said. Thus, the search continues.

'Anonymous' reader was kind enough to send in a number of images with TVs in them. Sorting through that list, I've come up with a few possible candidates. And since this has been a joint project all along, I thought I'd solicit advice one last/more time.

What do you think any of these?

25 February 2007

I shouldn't....but....a couple of questions re: Israel

Given the way things blew up over at Ffb during the debate over Carter's new book, it is with some trepidation that I pose questions about the state of Israel. But I'm not trying to provoke. I'm genuinely a bit confused and would love to hear responses from ye brilliant readers.

Richard Cohen, in an article about the dilution of the charge of anti-Semitism, writes the following:
[...concerning] the current, ahistorical context for Israel. For many, [Israel] is no longer the orphaned waif of the Holocaust [#1] but the bastard child of Western colonialism [#2].

My questions:
  1. Semantics: does 'orphaned waif' just mean orphaned orphan? Come to think of it, doesn't 'bastard child' really just mean bastard?
  2. Logic: aren't #1 and #2 completely compatible? Can't the state of Israel be both a product of the holocaust (a response to its horrors) and Western colonialism (a creation of its errors and crimes)?
  3. History: why would thinking of Israel primarily through the lens of #2 be ahistorical compared to thinking about it through lens #1 – doesn't he have it exactly backwards? Doesn't the history of colonialism give a broader and deeper context for understanding the plight of European Jews and the creation of the Israeli state? Isn't the simplistic idea that Jews were 'given' the state of Israel as some sort of 'compensation' for the Holocaust a more ahistorical way of looking at the situation? Isn't this the view that extracts from history and context, the view that considers the situation as crime and recompense in a timeless, ahistorical sense?

23 February 2007

Music and Politics. But mostly music

Thanks to my mom, who was (rightly) concerned about my well-being while Rebecca traipses across the world, I'm currently watching the Dixie Chicks performance on Austin city limits. I thought Taking the Long Way really was one of the best albums that I listened to this year, so I was pleased to hear the Chicks raked in all the Grammy's. But I hadn't paid close attention to the details or to the current status of the political conflict that continues to swirl around the Chicks.

But after already impressing me by playing a spot-on version of Patty Griffin's "Truth No. 2", the Chicks really blew me away by playing a song that I'd never heard before. I thought it was called "I'm still here," but googling got me nothing on that. Turns out the song is called "The Neighbor" and was recorded for the documentary movie (about the controversy), titled Shut up and Sing.

At any rate, the google search revealed a few other juicy tidbits (I got them here):
  • After the Grammy's their album has jumped up to No. 8
  • "Not Ready to Make Nice" is the no. 4 single
  • No other group has ever won the Grammy award for Best Country Album more than once
  • The Dixie Chicks have won it for every single album they have ever made (4)
I did some other reading as well and it's clear that the country music industry remains committed to their boycott of the Chicks. They've had to cancel a number of shows, and country radio stations refuse to play their music or sponsor the concerts. But it doesn't matter much when it comese to the music, which is clearly better now than it ever was when they were trying to fit into the Nashville country genre. For anyone who doubts this, please get your hands on this Austin City Limits concert (or go see them live), so you can hear their cover of Dylan's "Mississippi".

18 February 2007

speaking of book covers

in searching for a penguin book, I ran across this flickr site, which is very very cool.


check it out.

17 February 2007

not quite right

For Christmas, I received a loverly camera from Sam, which takes fab photos, walks the dog, does the dishes, and makes dinner. Really. Okay not any of those things except for the first one.

When one buys a camera one is then, naturally, forced (forced!) to purchase necessary accessories for said camera. I mean, you *need* the perfectly formed and sized case to keep all your memory cards in, right? and the remote control--ya gotta have a remote control for your camera, right? and the tripod, and the self-correcting zoom lens that adjusts for the natural wobble (those babies cost upwards of $2000, but I mean, these are needs, right?) and a flame thrower. because you gotta have flame throwers.

Okay, so I didn't succumb to the initial buy-fest that often follows the first purchase of new gadgetry. But I do need some sort of case. I have, of course, a philosophy on camera cases.

  1. it should not look like a camera case. the reasons for this are obvious: a) camera cases are ugly, and 2: camera cases say to potential thief: hey, dude! camera inside, probably a nice one too, since the dude that owns it bought a nice case for it! As I am not a professional photographer I don't need all the pockets and unsightly things that hang off the edges of said camera cases, and thus, no.
    interesting corollary: camera cases tend to look like camera cases. seems obvious, but doing a froogle for camera case does not, in fact, find you a case that looks nothing like a camera case. strange.

  2. it should protect the camera

  3. it should be quickly and easily removed so that it's not a 20-minute process to get the damn camera out.

  4. it should be small enough so that it can slip into another bag or backpack that one is carrying.

As you can imagine, this thing doesn't exist. obviously. none of the cool things exist. aside from the iphone, peets coffee, and google.

I was using a lovely, small velour purse to carry my former camera around--it held an extra battery and snugly fit the camera on top of that. Brilliant.But I now have a digital SLR with lens etc. and it won't fit into said purse. What to do? I realised that I should just search for 'bag' and see what I found. after fiddling with various search parameters (pretty camera bag; small camera bag; bag -camera +cool +stealth) I found the solution. The Roadwired wrap. I have yet to receive it, but it looks perfect, with the one exception that I'm unsure how easy the ingress-egress will be. I will report when I receive.

This got me thinking about my rigid and difficult requirements for things: must have a computer case that protects the computer, fits it like a glove, is easy to use, fits inside other bags, and looks professional (and not in a messenger bag professional way). it must be light and ergonomic such that I don't hurt my back or shoulder carrying it around. it shouldn't look like a computer bag. oh, and it must last for 10+ years and be flexible to the next computer I buy. sure. for £200+ I can set you up with something lovely. Sigh.

Oh, and for those wondering: yellow. of course.

16 February 2007

the sacred text

my lecture on decolonisation caused another small ripple in the time-space continuum of the debate over citations, texts, and what's considered completely legitimate to do in the context of citing existing research, words, and writing.

Via FFB's post, I read Chalmers Johnson's piece on Empire v. democracy, Iraq, terror, occupation and the colonial relationship between Iraq and the US. The piece was good, and the quote from Arendt was brilliant:
In her book The Origins of Totalitarianism, the political philosopher Hannah Arendt offered the following summary of British imperialism and its fate:

"On the whole it was a failure because of the dichotomy between the nation-state's legal principles and the methods needed to oppress other people permanently. This failure was neither necessary nor due to ignorance or incompetence. British imperialists knew very well that 'administrative massacres' could keep India in bondage, but they also knew that public opinion at home would not stand for such measures. Imperialism could have been a success if the nation-state had been willing to pay the price, to commit suicide and transform itself into a tyranny. It is one of the glories of Europe, and especially of Great Britain, that she preferred to liquidate the empire."

I was excited. This was well-stated. I would use it in my declonisation lecture to demonstrate the debates that went on in the metropole and the ethics of colonialism for democracies. But, Johnson had only given the book reference--to a book that's 500+ pages long and published often in three separate volumes. Google book it, you say? of course. I did. Unfortunately it's only in snippet view, but I managed to came up with this:

Arendt, Hannah. 1966 [1951]. The Origins of Totalitarianism. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
p. 216: ...'"administrative massacres" could keep India within the British Empire, but he knew also how utopian it would be to try to get the support of the hated "English Departments"

all other phrases that seemed like good bets turned up nothing. Seems Johnson quoted Arendt via some sort of bizarre paraphrase. Maybe his notes got mixed up. But that's not cool. It's like putting words into someone else's mouth. What if Arendt meant what she said within a particular context of a specific person she discusses on p. 216, and not more broadly as Chalmers Johnson had implied? Hm.

I google further. Google classic this time. I find about 20 references to Johnson's piece in the blogosphere and then the link to victory.

It's not in Origins of Totalitarianism. Here's the correct citation:
Arendt, Hannah. 1958. 'Totalitarian Imperialism: Reflections on the Hungarian Revolution'. The Journal of Politics vol. 20, no. 1 (February), pp. 5-43. JSTOR link, for those with access.

The quote is on p. 35.

At least Johnson didn't make it up. At least they are, indeed, Arendt's words. I was going to blog about the sacredness of the word--the fact that prose often is chosen as carefully as poetry and one shouldn't just paraphrase and then put those words back in the text as if they are actually there, in that order. Just because it 'sounds about right' for Arendt doesn't mean it's okay to do this.

But now it's just a post about sloppiness. Citing properly is important if people are to follow up on your research--not just to check its vailidity but to read more. To engage in the web of knowledge that supported you to get to this point. That's why links in blog posts are so important and such a crucial part of blogging. It seems, however, that sloppiness is okay now. or perhaps engaging with your source's sources isn't something people do anymore. maybe no one else wanted to see the larger context for Arendt's quote. Wow. now that's sad.

Because maybe it's important to know that Arendt is praising the British in light of the Soviet actions in Hungary in 1956. Her work is, from the little I've read, very historically grounded, and thus this context seems important. But perhaps not. Maybe I'm just being nit-picky. I firmly believe, however, that knowing how knowledge is produced is as important as the knowledge itself.

15 February 2007

Cover Time, take 2

Terribly sorry for the pathetic lack of blogging in February. I've been working on that book, which I mentioned a while back, and it's been hard to keep my head above water. I've drafted the penultimate chapter, and then I put together a paper on it, which I gave in London last week and will give here next week. It turned out this chapter had to be about Buffy and thus the massive Buffy literature meant a lot of work for me. Worse still, I made the fateful decision to finally go multimedia, so I've spent dozens of hours deep in the bowels of Keynote, doing everything in my power not to turn into the evil Powerpoint drones that I have cursed so over the years.

Anyway, those are all excuses. This post is about what I hope will be success in sorting out my book cover. Another round of thanks for all the great ideas and feedback from readers last time round. Turns out it's much harder to do a 'concept cover', as my editor called it (perhaps somewhat disdainfully), than we had all thought/presumed. So I wasn't able to use most of the fantastic ideas, since the 'system' is really just to send them a cover and let them go with it.

But I think I've found a cover. What do you think?

13 February 2007


So we went to the Tate Modern last Friday, which was fun. We were in London because Sam gave a paper at Goldsmith's college and I used the opportunity to network a bit with colleagues on Thursday afternoon. Friday was ours, and hence the Tate Modern. I'd been there (for v. important exclusive workshop in the 7th-floor East Room overlooking Wren's sub-par (according to Sam, and well hard to disagree) cathedral and the rest), but I had not actually visited the museum before. Despite my training in art history I am not a museum lover. I've decided (today) that upon re-reading Timothy Mitchell's excellent article on Colonialism and the Exhibitionary Order (in Nick Dirks' Colonialism and Culture) that it's about the unending spectacle. One must be actively seeing/viewing/voyeuring in a Museum. this makes my eyes water and my back hurt. I get the sniffles from the AC. I last an hour, hit the gift shoppe (to purchase some souvenirs in order to commodify and thus make material my viewing experience) and go out into the equally exhibition-like world. sigh. Read Mitchell's piece. it's awesome.

we spent some time in the surrealism wing, which is where I hit my limit, naturally. who wouldn't, really? Some great stuff in that there museum--my fave was the Joseph Beuys installation in this cavernous room (see pic). Chock full of the surreal (Beuys is not surreal, but related via symbolism and myth to surrealist concerns), we wandered around London.

I then had a dream on Sunday night--a dream that I did not characterise as an 'anxiety dream' regarding teaching. And yet it was. So I had a 'decolonisation' lecture to give on Monday, for which I had not prepared at all. It was at 1 pm, so I figure I have the whole morning, no worries, only 50 minutes, I could talk about toothpaste for 50 minutes without any prep, so I figure it's all good. In my dream I realise, having not prepared at all, that it's suddenly 1 pm. Okay, no big deal, I'll just show up and wing it. I go to the lecture theatre to realise that some 'colleagues' are visiting the lecture, namely: James Gandolfini (playing my head of department) and some former colleagues from former institutions that should, really, remain former.

Now it's an anxiety dream. But I play it cool, asking the class to define colonialism (which is, in fact, what I had thought of doing and did indeed do, and thus it became a sort of deja-dream thing in the actual lecture. no Gandolfini, thankfully.) Then suddenly, without my controlling it, a film starts playing in the lecture theatre. I pretend I know what's going on. It's a trailer about race or identity or something (saw Babel in London, btw--worth seeing), and I think: sure, I can fit this into decolonisation...I'll go with it. A second trailer comes on and I think: hm. not so much. I stop the film, turn back to lecture to discover that James and colleagues have left the building. They didn't like the film, or what? Sigh. anxiety now focuses on my failure to hold their attention and the clear lack of teaching ability I have exhibited, in other words: guilt.

I heart surrealism.

01 February 2007

minor blog annoyances

sorry about the visual upheaval on the blog this morning. the blogger folks won't let us switch to the new blogger, but Sam has switched his account, and so this is annoyingly confusing. We thought our template might be the problem, but it wasn't. So here we are in green. enjoy.

I am mostly recovered from the second wave of loss of stuff we experienced in january--it comes and goes like a ghost: where's that picture of Sam making scones in the St. Paul place? or, oh, right. our super-cool chinese warrior lawn ornament. that's gone. and thankfully I have absolutely crap memory so the entirety of our Christmas ornaments going missing is just a kind of grey blur. Ah well. we probably lost a lot of stuff we didn't really like or want anyway. and it will fade into mere memory loss, like something misplaced that you might, someday, perhaps in the next move, run across.

Gandhi has this story in his Hind Swaraj about a robber, and what one should do when someone steals from you. It's a metaphor for colonialism, so not really applicable here, except in that Gandhi's view of the personal as political is, well, somewhat more thorough-going than other political theorists. But he does describe the escalation: you get angry at the robber and gather a group to attack him; his friends gather around him and ratchet up the robberies, expanding to your friends who rallied around you. 'Thus the result of wanting to take revenge upon the robber is that you have disturbed your own peace: you are in perpetual fear of being robbed and assaulted; your courage has given place to cowardice.' (p. 83--and this resonates, of course, with the culture of fear that the Bush administration and now virally, everyone, seems to be perpetuating.) certainly--in my small context--we didn't 'press charges' or even know if the robber was found. we did file an insurance claim. we didn't do what Gandhi advises: '...you argue that he is, after all, a fellow man; you do not know what prompted him to steal. You, therefore, decide that, when you can, you will destroy the man's motive for stealing. ... Instead of being angry with him, you take pity on him'. (p. 84)

I did have a moment of thinking: I truly hope that stealing my stuff helped whoever did it to get what they wanted or needed at the time. I hope they enjoyed my speakers, or used the money they got in selling them to help their parent or child or friend get a needed operation. And I hope that the person that got the speakers at a huge discount is a true music lover. In Gandhi's story, he advises that you should leave windows and doors unlocked. set out your things so that they are easy for the thief to take the next time he comes. this will confuse him. perhaps he will ask around about you, and your generosity of spirit will spread to him somehow. utopic? sure. Gandhi even says so on the same page. but I suppose it's about the energy we put out there and the actions that follow. for him, it's that 'only fair means can produce fair results...the force of love and pity is infinitely greater than the force of arms'.

I'm still locking my doors, I have to say. but I do argue that he or she is, after all, a fellow human being. what is the cause of the theft? how can I, in Gandhi's violent words, destroy it?