J.P. Friday

(Click on it for the full version, and happy Friday.)

(P.S. There is a special place in hell reserved for people who write in library books.)


This Is What Happens When You Grow a Hitler 'stache

Ok, so, you're brilliant. You have a tremendous command of ancient Greek and Latin and, like Nietzsche, you assume a major university post at a young age. Your courses on Greece are so popular you have to hold them early in the morning just to get numbers down to a manageable level. Your students (Husserl, Levinas, Arendt) go on to be major philosophers in their own right, and you already cast a long shadow over the philosophy departments of continental Europe by the time you're forty. You argue that the analytic tradition of the ancient philosophers screwed up the entire course of western civilization, and that an appropriate stance is instead a messianic waiting before the becoming of Being. Fine.

Then, when the Nazis take over, you rejoice. You're appointed chancellor of Freiburg University and you give a speech praising the Reich as the fulfillment of the possibility of a rebirth of the West. You, my friend, grow a full-on Hitler moustache. Despite your later claim that you quickly tired of National Socialism, it haunts you for the rest of your life, and your erstwhile admirers are forced to reconcile your philosophy with your politics. A lot of people end up getting tenure writing about that issue, so it's not all bad.

Yet there are some of us who see the pivotal factor not in the implicit fascistic tendencies in your Sein und Zeit, but in that fateful choice of facial hair configuration. You can make a lot of arguments about a massive, nigh-impenetrable philosophical treatise, but there can be only conclusion about a dude who grows a Hitler 'stache.

P.S. "Schmutzig schnurrbart" is German for "dirty moustache."
P.P.S. My homie El has a new fun kiddo blog for her wee funny one, N.
P.P.P.S. Next time: my own special brand of cranky.


This Is What Happens When You Do Speed

You know the drill: you do a mess of amphetamines, you stay up for a few months, and you write the Critique of Dialectical Reason. Sure, you feel bad about it afterwards and claim that you'll come back and finish Volume II, but you never do, do you? You just let the cryptic, labyrinthine language stand, hiding the kernels of genuine insight behind hundreds and hundreds of pages of opaque, impossible prose. The next thing you know, all it takes is one short chapter at the end of Lévy-Strauss's The Savage Mind to take your work apart, and structuralism - and social science as a whole - has scored a crucial victory over existentialism, and with it, nothing less than philosophy itself. Don't you wish you'd stayed clear of the speed, especially at YOUR age?

For next time: This is what happens when you're a towering German classicist in the Weimar Republic.


Stuffing: It's What's For Food

SO. We drove up to B's parents' place on Thanksgiving morning, which was so rad I just about fell out of the car. There was simply NO traffic, you see. I drank a lot of coffee and watched the National Dog Show w/ B's mom, which was awesome, because a poodle didn't win this time (an Australian something-dog did.) Then there was hanging out and fun-having and drink-drinking, and then there was dinner, featuring homemade stuffing courtesy of B's dad. Then I drank too much wine and had trouble following the plot of Ocean's 13 (I'm pretty sure they stole some stuff again.)

Yesterday we headed out to Point Reyes and had a beach picnic, featuring sausage. I put up some pictures on my flickr site. Then we went back and had more turkey n' stuffing for dinner. I also had less to drink, allowing me to more easily follow the plots of Pirates 2 and (part of) National Lampoon's Xmas Vacation (hint to the plot: Chevy Chase falls off of things...FREQUENTLY.)

The drive home totally sucked, but we made it. And I still have one more day of weekend/vacation in which I can get work done, for my PH to the D.

Or maybe I'll just drink seasonal ale and lie on the floor until Monday morning.


At The Risk of Repeating Myself

Here are the reasons that Thanksgiving is the best holiday.*
  1. You do not need to buy anything for anyone.
  2. You do not need to set off explosives.
  3. You do not need to dress up.
  4. There are no parties at which people are likely to shout "wooooo!"**
  5. You do get to eat huge piles of dark meat and stuffing.
  6. You do get to drink a couple of bottles of red wine.
  7. There is the national dog show, hosted by that weird silver-haired guy who lost that celebrity dancing show a few years ago. And the show is RAD.
  8. You get to sleep, and in fact, you are drugged to do so.
  9. School's out! Albeit only for a long weekend!
  10. Work's out! Albeit only for 15 minutes, then it's BACK TO THE CUBE, YOU!
We're taking off for Novato tomorrow morning and we should be parked on the couch sipping on tasty beverages by noon. Happy turkey day, internet!

* Another interpretation would be why thanksgiving is merely "my favorite" holiday. I guess.
** I'm not down on parties or party-related holidays (New Year's, Paddy's Day) per se. It's just...when your chances of hooking up with a hottie actually go down when you stay out late, the attraction to parties kind of drops off.


I Am Lecture! Also: I Am Wimpling!

Part uno:

1. I am lecture! Which is to say: I gave my first full-length lecture today for my TA class. You don't win a prize for guessing that it was on the existentialists. It went fine, although there were a few times in which I had to take moments (during which I thought: "hmm. What is this 'intellectual history' you speak of?), and also, other moments in which I noticed the kids starting to space out (during which I thought: "hmm. What I must do is JOKE in a FUNNY WAY!") I was pleased to be able to use the phrase "sexual hijinks" in a legitimate upper-division history lecture at a major research university.

Part zwei:

2. B has this theory that the reason I'm such a light sleeper and all-around noise-aware neurotic at night is that I was raised in a quiet environment. This may be true. The room I spent a lot of my childhood in was downstairs, kind of half-buried in the side of a hill in a fairly quiet neighborhood in Eugene. On a grander scale, this phenomenon might reflect on my all-around high levels of paranoia and anxiety, insofar as my basically stable and happy childhood left me ill-prepared for threatening weirdos outside of 7-11s, driving in California, getting punched in the eye (happily, it's been a while on that), and so on. In other words, as a happy, non-abused kid, I was surprised to discover just how ugly and awful most of the world is, and I'm still not quite over it.

[Part deux brought to you by my trip to 7-11 last night and the drive B and I just survived going to Bed, Bath, and Butt-related Devices for a new Brita filter.]

[SC friends: do you think the professor blog-reading mafia would disapprove of the phrase "butt-related devices"?]

In other news, I'm pretty sure that the highlight of my year is going to be the two days I spend sitting around at my in-laws' with no responsibilities except for washing the dishes after Turkey Day dinner. I'm finding it harder and harder to squeeze any productivity out of an average day and I really need the recharge.


The 80s: Bad Canadian Music

B's back up at another craft fair and I'm left to my own devices once again. Normally, this would mean pasta + video games. Instead, so far it's meant pasta + Canada. My homie C came over last night and we did what we usually do when we hang out:
  • We drink. Please see the diagram for how normal drunkeness works vs. how it works for C.
  • We talk a lot of shit about the program (but it's constructive shit, I swear.)
  • We watch funny videos on youtube. This time he subjected to me to about two hours of terrible Canadian 80s pop videos. It was brutal. I had no idea how awful a lot of Canadian bands were in the 80s. As he explained it: "well, the good stuff made it down here, but the bad stuff just stayed in Canada."
Anyway, thanks to my bulletproof liver, I feel pretty ok today. And, while I have not yet taken a shower (it's about 1:00pm), I have written a bunch on my MA thesis and the lecture I'm giving on Monday.

Tonight: a wine "tasting" at K and L's. That is, assuming the big protest the stupid aimless hippies were planning for today didn't end up burning down campus.


Never-Ending Math Equation

"I'm the same as I was when I was 6 years old..."

I relate to that song. Despite my deepending awarness of getting older, or maybe because of it, I can't believe how little I've changed. I remember things I did and said at various points in my life and I'm completely certain that I'd do them all the same way now if I didn't know better. There was one nasty twist around the start of adolescence, 11-14 or so, where I picked up the cynicism and the pessimism, but besides that it's been exactly the same bunch of naiveté the whole time.

What I find confusing is that it seems like other people actually, you know, mature. They make better decisions and find ways to make their peace wth life (sorry, sounds pretentious), or at least put on a better show than I do. Maybe it's just that the memories I have of how I felt at various times coincide exactly with how I continue to feel in similar situations. The anger and powerlessness of insomnia, the utter, dizzying terror at doing everything I have to do to finish my degree, the silly elation of an afternoon in which I get to sit around play video games, they're all exactly the same as their equivalents when I was 6 / 12 / 18/ 24 years old... It also has a lot to do with how much I miss people. I can remember too clearly the variations on camraderie and affection with different friends and groups of friends in the past, and likewise, I can feel their absence.

Ironically, I'm not feeling particularly emo today, just kind of pensive. That and I wish I didn't have to take the bus after class today. Maybe I'll just roll down the hill into town.


Subaltern's Log, Stardate 11-12-07

Dear Internet,

Today was pretty great. Last night B and I drank a whole mess of vino and watched The Next Iron Chef, and guess what? Our bald baby boy Mikey "Soul Patch" Symon brought in the win against that cocky good old boy bitch John Besh! Way to go, Mike! After that, we both took a mess of narcotics and got some good sleeping in. Don't worry, internet, they weren't real narcotics, just melatonin and sleep meds. (We can't afford the good stuff.)

Anyway, today started with a big pot of black-ass coffee. I got to sleep in until 8am b/c it's a federal holiday, and there's nothing better than getting an extra hour of sleep followed by four or five big cups of paint-peelin'-of-the-walls-style Java. I read all of my T.A. stuff (Orwell's essays this week. It's hard not to like that skinny democratic socialist...), the rest of the book on structuralism and poststructuralism for Gopal, wrote a couple pages of MA Thesis, and wrote up my reaction for the structuralism book. I noticed that my prose gets more pretentious the more I read stuff for that guy. Coincidence?!

After the schooling, B and I set out for downtown SC. I scored two pearl-snap button shirts at Goodwill for 13 bucks, then picked up an Italian grammar workbook to help me pass my second language exam.* Then B and I went to 99 Bottles and rocked the 25-dollar gift certificate J had hooked me up with as a going-away present after working at UCO this summer. We ate some calamari steak (side note: do I violate or celebrate my love of giant squid by eating their smaller cousins?) and drank a pitcher of Red Tail Ale.

Now we're home. B's working on more craftiness. We can't decide what to have for dinner. I need to come up with my QE gold star chart (which is just what it sounds like) and write to my grandma.

As ever,

* I had a dream the other night of the prof who will be giving me the Italian exam. In the dream, she administered a French exam instead, which I failed, proving that I am a freaking idiot. But what are you gonna do?


Leave It To Deutschland

From the same people that brought you schadenfreude: liebestod! Love-death! The desire to annihilate consciousness in the sweet blackness of eternal nonexistence! (Can you tell I'm still trying to write a MA paper, teach, do two reading seminars, and read for my QEs all at the same time?!)

Another idea:
  • Existentialism was the thesis, a naive humanism that inspired political action.
  • Structuralism was the antithesis, a complex but ultimately stultifying philosophy of inaction.
  • Poststructuralism was the synthesis, but its implications for actual praxis are totally unclear.

Or maybe I'll just do that intellectual biography of Andre Gorz idea.

I'm going to throw a book at the wall and play video games for a while.


This is the best song in the world:


Should Have Been: Artiste

You can tell when you're not going to be able to sleep at about midnight. It just kind of occurs to you that you're not asleep yet and you won't be for hours to come. I've got some sweet new earplugs that work well for making the thumping neighbors less a factor. It wouldn't have made any difference last night anyway.

Fortunately for me, my eyes on the east coast A is very close to a fellow I once knew in Jersey who posts things here and who is now MFA at Berkeley. And how he dances. And how he dances, my friends:

In a best-case scenario, that's what it sounds like inside my head this morning. In a worse-than-that case, it's more like black metal, the really swedish kind wherein they actually burn down churches.


Getting Older by the Shoulder

We've had two days of beautiful cold fog in SC, completely blanketing the town from the hill out over the bay. Some of my favorite moments living here have happened while I'm on the bus, looking out over miles of fog with the odd building or bluff poking out. Granted, it still hasn't rained to speak of, but I'll take this over the stupid (Shakespeare called it "garish") sun any day.

I was trying to figure out this morning what it's really like as you get older. For one thing, you find almost everything outside of a prescribed set of routines really tedious. For another, you always feel tired. It's not just the routine exhaustion of sleep-deprivation and overexertion, however, which is something that plenty of us were familiar with when we were younger. It's a kind of petrification, a feeling that your body is made out of stiff, listless matter whose default state is STASIS. Psychologically, you have the benefit of a kind of caution that most young people (young me included) are too stupid to have figured out, and you come to appreciate close friends at a much deeper level, while having comparatively less enthusiasm for meeting new people. You become, in short, a crotchety pain in the ass.


Another Big Day in Paradise

My homie K demonstrates the finer points of being a Europeanist history grad.

The way I'm certain the year is well under way is that if I work hard 7 days a week, I just about get everything done on time. This week's experiment was to see if I could read three books for my QEs on top of teaching obligations and both seminars/readings I'm doing. If I read one more by tomorrow, I'll have succeeded in doing two. Which is OK, I suppose, for the first week's effort.

Today B's parents are visiting. We're going back to Natural Bridges to look at the butterflies, although I think we all know that since it's about 70 degrees at 10:30am in NOVEMBER, said winged little beasties will probably be happily flying around rather than clinging to tree branches like they're "supposed" to. It'll still be fun to get our picnic on.

After that, B's leaving me for some crafting up north w/ her moms. My plans? The usual: pasta, video games, probably drinking wine with Canadians and Jews (a few of my favorite kinds of people...) My faux-bachelor groove is to be disrupted a bit this weekend since I still have to get a buttload of work done, but oh well.

Hmm. The spell check doesn't think "buttload" is a word. Well, it's wrong.

Oh, also, B discovered an adorable blog of a dad with a kid. And this kid was a robot for the 'ween this year. And she sings a friggin' KRAFTWERK song in this video of her! Holy crap!