I am worried that I am getting sick. No big symptoms yet, just far too tired considering how much sleep I've been getting, relatively unfocused, bad mood. Here are some thoughts and events:

My own special Alzheimer's I've had since I was about 22 kicked in something fierce yesterday and I left the mp3 recorder we use to record world history lectures in the classroom. Either, by some miracle, it turns up or I get to buy a replacement. Fuck.

Show on PBS last night involved a biologist who raises orphaned river otter pups in his house and uses them for community outreach in an effort protect the species in Michigan. Holy...shit. Baby otters running around and hiding in washing machines is brutally cute.

Three (maybe) funny euphimisms for masturbation:
  1. Checking your e-mail.
  2. Scholarly pursuits.
  3. Organizing your stuff.
(Number 2 is taken from an Arrested Development episode.)

I'm reading some Mexican history for the world history seminar. Mexican history might be almost as depressing as Russian history. Isn't it weird how every historical narrative involves elite landowners somehow finding a way to squeeze their peasants/serfs even more? After 30 consecutive generations of squeezing, how on earth was there anything left to squeeze?

I want a new tattoo. It's been years.



Here's a list of requisite academic character traits that bug me:
  1. Going over class time. You know five languages but you can't tell time?
  2. Not answering e-mail.
  3. Answering e-mail in such a way that the fact that you never read my e-mail is obvious.
  4. Long verbal lists of books I should read or, worse, authors I should read. I won't remember. Because you're talking to me and I can't memorize twenty books names on the fly.
  5. Treating graduate teaching assistants as ugly mules to be worked to death (haven't had to deal with that at UCSC...yet.)
  6. An inverse relationship of scholarly knowledge to social skills.
  7. Never shutting up.
  8. (Related to #7) confusion as to the difference between soliloquy and discussion. Hint: the latter involves other people in the room speaking.
That's all I've got at the moment. I bring this up because I worry that the fact that I don't think I suffer from any of the above afflictions actually means that I'll never be able to hack it.

Side note: I hate Tuesdays. Here comes another one.

Too Early for Haiku

...but that won't stop me!

Bill Gates, new Windows
He wants you to "upgrade" now
Send a turd instead

The Rick James bassline
Once we thought "it's hammertime!"
Now we know better

When I'm dictator:
Mario Batali cooks
Rachel Ray is fired

Perry Anderson
Revolution won't work, dude
Snappy sweater vest


Drunken Pasta and Heavy Metal

Last night, following C's success a few weeks ago, I decided to make some drunken pasta. It was truly awesome. Here's how it all went down:
  1. Onions, lots of garlic, ground turkey, oregano, Trader Joe's bolognese sauce, salt.
  2. Boiling 2-buck Chuck with a little water (didn't want to use two bottles of vino just for pasta), whole wheat spaghetti.
  3. Marathon viewing of both Royal Tenenbaums and yet another season of Arrested Development.
  4. I got a little too wasted considering it was just a fun mellow night at home.
Anyway, I feel fine now. Becky's off visiting her folks in Novato, so you know what that means: madman bachelor for a day. As in, I listened to Motorhead a bunch this morning and, well, vacuumed. And played with Pesto. I am off the fucking hook, people.

In an hour or so I'm off to catch Perry Anderson's lecture on campus. After that I hope to convince Ms. Rossi and The Shirtless Canadian to get some food and booze with me.


Things That Go WOOOOOOOO In the Night

To the uninformed: I have a policy in which people who shout "wooooooo!" immediately get kidney stones. Don't ask how I set that up; I just do.

Here's a retrospective of the last 10 years of sleeping arrangements:
  1. The house on 24th in Eugene. First year: quiet, because we were a weird, dysfunctional group of kids. Also, when it was noisy I didn't care, because I was 17-18 and stayed up late.
  2. The house on 24th in Eugene. Second year: paint-peeling-from-the-walls party house. I got so used to sleeping with the pillow over my head it felt weird to switch it back over. I was generally in the thick of it anyway, so it rarely bothered me. But the seed of the inhuman rage was planted...
  3. England: never-ending screaming, false fire alarms at 3:00am, noisy dickheads everywhere.
  4. Crappy apartment in the student ghetto in Eugene: never-ending screaming, noisy dickheads everywhere.
  5. The Epoxies house in Portland for almost 2 years: I had to get up at 5:30am for work and I lived with a new wave/punk band. I lifted a lot of weights and drank a lot of alcohol and simmered with rage.
  6. Apartment on Stark in portland: The kids downstairs didn't get the memo that you don't get to have band practice IN AN APARTMENT. That said, it usually wasn't that bad.
  7. House in Eugene: two houses full of 19-year-old girls gone wild on each side of us...for two years. I got cozy with the cops, I chased hobos with my maglite, I told drunk teenagers to get the fuck off my porch. I was a cranky old man at 26.
  8. Now, the apartment in downtown Santa Cruz: against all odds, it was the quietest place we've lived, ever. For three-something months, there was blissful silence almost every night. Now, the teenagers (we think there are two of them) downstairs slam doors and bang around until well after midnight most nights. Once again, I'm going to have to go do the confrontation thing. What fun.
The moral of the story is that I regret nothing about being a perma-broke-ass graduate student and I'm happy with my lo-fi bohemian lifestyle, but sometimes I still dream of lottery winnings and a house made of solid concrete and sound-proof padding. I think if I had a whole year of quiet nights, my internal sound-sensitivity meter might reset.

Oh, those halcyon days of youth...


An Unofficial Party ON!

Becky (unofficially) got the job! We're both excited, happy, and confused. And suspicious. Because nice things are hard to come by. The official offer is supposed to roll in early next week.

It's like the house-hunt back in August. It all turned out fine, it was just hell while it was going on. All you can do when you know someone going through waiting-game bullshit is say "it's ok, it's going to be fine" and, you know, buy them drinks. (Hint, hint.) But no one can really tell if it's actually going to be ok, going to work out, etc. And, after a while, keeping one's chin up gets really tiring.

Anyway, it's pretty great. Becky will have health insurance. We'll be able to afford the occasional burger. A parade will ensue, featuring retired astronauts.

P.S. This is all thanks to Elizabeth, who alerted us and put in a good word. Now, we now have no purpose except to die in battle on her behalf.


Sometimes you have to throw in the towel, get a DVD of the first season of Arrested Development, eat a dinner comprised of cheese, nan, sausage, and hummus, and drink a whole mess of cheap wine. On a Tuesday. Sometimes you have to do that.

Other times, you have to take the bus somewhere and listen to White Zombie on the way.

Still other times, you have to read hundreds of pages of world history detritus.

Finally, still other times you have to think deep thoughts about capitalism "in the current conjuncture".

P.S. I stand by my last post: 6:00am is bullshit. And to my homies who think I'm a wimp because they have to get up at 5:00am, I have two things to say: no one said that I'm not a wimp, and it's not that 6:00am isn't bullshit, it's that 5:00am is EVEN MORE bullshit. It brings back memories of my year and a half of 5:30am wake-up calls: I was constantly angry, I lifted weights, I drank beer.


This Is Ridiculous

Ok: I did not get into this business to get up at 6-fucking-AM. I got into this business to sleep until 7:30 or 8:00, toodle off to campus (that's right: I said toodle), and get paid to read and teach. And drink coffee. I want to get paid to drink coffee. Either way, of the things I dislike and resent about UCSC, the prevalence of 8:00am classes is number one on the list. It's worse than the busses, man.

Also: my presentation on Marx went fine. Hooray for me.

Also: if you haven't already, you ought to click on all of the blog links I have over there to the right. Good-looking, funny people to a one. Their names are many, for they are legion.



I'm giving my presentation on chapter 1 of Capital in about an hour. I'm apprehensive. The theory-heads in the seminar, most of them lit kids, are not to be trifled with. Further, as I learned last time, careful phrasing, an impeccable rhetoric, is key. We'll see how it goes.

Latest navel-gazing history thought: historians are poorly equipped to take theories seriously, this despite my earlier insistence that everything we do is (at least implicitly) informed by theory. The reason for this is that we study how ideas arose in context and fell out of favor in context. We study the historicity of things like "reason" and "justice" and, especially, "truth." Again, implicitly, we think that people in the past were wrong. Granted, they might not have been wrong at the time: when wealth was measured in bullion, maybe the major powers of Europe were right to think that there was only so much out there, so the proper economic role of the state was to grab up as much silver and gold as possible. Nevertheless, we now think that they were wrong: wealth can be created (think of "intellectual property") and those poor 17th-century saps were just lost in the dark on that.

My point is that even when confronted with really compelling, recently-written theory, historians are wary, because we know that this theory will be just another footnote in 20, 50, or 100 years. Maybe that's why so many historians "hate theory"; they sense how fragile and ephemeral it all is and they pretend that they can operate without it (I still think that they just replace formal, codified theory with informal, unwritten theory and proceed with business-as-usual in that case.)

Anyway, it makes taking classes in other disciplines harder. I think some of those lit and political science and philosophy kids still harbor some hope for truth.


Karl Marx: Crackin' Wise

"Let us now accompany the owner of some commodity, say our old friend the linen weaver, to the scene of action, the market. His commodity, 20 yards of linen, has a definite price, 2 pounds. He exchanges it for the 2 pounds, and then, being a man of the old school, he parts for the 2 pounds in return for a family Bible of the same price."
-Marx, Capital I, Penguin Classics Edition, p. 199

Belive me, the above counts as high comedy when you're halfway through reading 100 pages of the decidedly old-school Das Kapital.

On an unrelated note, last night's history grad student outing to the Poet + Patriot Irish pub was a resounding success. I was especially pleased by the fact that the 4th-year kids, many of whom are now actively working on their dissertations, and the 1st-year kids, many of whom have no idea what their dissertation topics are going to be as yet, all got to hang out and drink beers. The tables we were sitting were so sexy by the time we left that I'm fairly certain the bartenders were impregnated via proximity.


I'm All About It

  1. When bands refer to being in a band in a song. "Do you want to come next week and see us play?" (Freezepop, "Duct Tape My Heart")
  2. When metal bands prove that they did in fact play a lot of D+D at one time. (Song titles from the latest Melvins album include "Blood Witch," "Civilized Worm," and "A Vast Filthy Prison.")
  3. You make-a the pasta sauce with-a the onions and several cloves a garlic.
  4. Wine list! We're keeping a list of Trader Joe's wines under 5 bucks. We have a column for good, a column for bad, and a column for mediocre. There is no point in buying wine for more than 2 dollars (in California, 2-buck Chuck is actually 2 bucks) if it doesn't deserve to be in the good column. 2-buck Chuck is easily mediocre, so why pay more?
  5. Catching jokes in another language. Simone: she was often funny.
  6. Sleeping in.
  7. My iPod condom. It keeps my iPod safe from jostles and STDs. Thanks to my iPod condom, my iPod doesn't have the AIDS.


Slamming, Rhetoric, Slamming Rhetoric

Well, I confronted the crap out of a...uh, teenage kid. It turns out the slamming in the apartment below was indeed caused by the moving-in of new neighbors, now featuring kids (tm). Why they were up until 2:00am the other morning I have no idea. Anyway, this kid that looked like a chubby Harry Potter grunted at me while I talked to him about sound travelling and last night there were just a few minor bumps.

Either way, I drank a little too much 2-buck Chuck after dinner and left the bunny out all night (she was fine. She just pooped on the carpet a lot and was happy to see us this morning.)

My latest attempt to make a grad-school point: I started getting annoyed with the introduction to an anthology I'm presenting on in my World History training seminar next week. The editors were taking pot-shots at contributors for being insufficiently historical. "But there is no cultural essence! And "freedom" is historically constructed! And citizenship was contested!" I have read equivalent assertions ad naseum for the last three years and I'm getting tired of it...not because they're not true (OF COURSE abstract terms don't define concrete social phenomena; they're TERMS), but because it's the most pedantic, boring, predictable trope of academic historical writing to insist on greater specificity and greater historicity. When it's a corrective on an overly-crude summary, fine. But it seems like it's usually just problematizing-for-the-sake-of-problematizing-for-the-sake-of-getting-something-published.

The problem is that intelligibility hinges on abstract concepts. All of my friends, particularly at Oregon, who claimed to "hate theory" were, in a sense, in bad faith. We all use theory, explicitly or implicitly, to make sense of the cacophony of things going on around us or things that happened in the past. Likewise, we need to categorize things to make them comprehensible.

It was Adorno that insisted on the need of the most careful rhetoric in philosophy (and hey, kids, we're pursuing doctors-of-PHILOSOPHY degrees here [PhD], so bear with me...) because "constellations" of truth are all we get in a world without recourse to empirical standards and those constellations have to be built very carefully out of language. So I sympathize with historians who take issue with crude categorical language, and I regret dumbing-down Marx's problem with Hegel in class the other day. But I get sick of the use of deconstruction for purposes of making things less intelligible, especially in academia. If we aren't here to make MORE sense of things (albeit very carefully), why don't we all just go become performance artists?


Die, Die, Die

Something has happened with someone in my apartment building. I think it's whoever has moved in to the apartment directly below us. Every few minutes until 2:00am last night a muffled slamming sound would resonate through the walls. Is someone still moving in and shifting furniture? Is it one of the two-bedroom units and the two people inhabiting it are just used to slamming doors over and over? What the holy fuck is going on?

As everyone knows, I hate people who make noise at night. One of the things I hate about the phenomenon of noise-at-night is that I am invariably the person who sorts it out; I call the cops, I knock on the door and confront the perp, I chase the hobo out of the yard with my maglite (I'm not making any of this up.) And I hate confrontations, so this is not a fun thing for me.

One way or another, the slamming is going to stop tonight.


So That's What College is Like

It's interesting to take classes outside of one's discipline. My History of Consciousness class on Marx met for the first official time yesterday (the booze-up at the prof's house on Friday didn't count) and I'll say this: the level of discourse was elevated, the grasp of theory was tight, and the reprimands for misrepresenting Hegel were stern. I imagine that my experience in this class this term will be similar to what it's like to be a lit student or a philosophy student at a big school. It also reminded me of the kind of discussions the people I study had during their university careers; do you really know what Hegel meant? But what does it mean?! These are questions that Simone and Jean-Paul really really gave a shit about.

I also re-learned some things:
  1. Lit students are hipper than history students, but less friendly.
  2. Never, NEVER let your caffeine levels drop below normal when you have to talk intelligently about dialectics for three hours.
  3. No grad-level class should start before 9:30am or end after 4:00pm. Both of my seminars violate this principle this term, at opposite ends of the day.
What I really want to do is skip the undergrad lecture I'm supposed to go to, go home, and play video games. Instead, I will read Capital until the undergrad lecture I'm supposed to go to starts.


I Am 1,000,000,000

I am the one-billionth graduate student to sit in a bare room provided by an academic department and take careful notes on the first volume of Das Kapital. From my vantage point in history, I now create a teleology in which all of human history, and every other graduate student to have diligently and carefully read Marx, has contributed to this moment here in the Bunker on the campus of the red-headed stepchild of the UC system.

Note to my commie friends who live elsewhere: you really ought to be here. Histcon is the brain trust of the pinhead revolution of all our tomorrows.


Criminy, That Was a Crappy Movie

First, cool stuff: My homie E has become quite a flickr whore since purchasing a high-quality digital camera a few months back. She took the shot of Becky and I sporting our xmas shoes, which was promptly scooped up by some weirdo who scours flickr for pictures of shoes and added to the mix (listed as "cool kids shoes.") Now I have my feet on some random blog and a few of my tats on Devo's official website. The world is my, not really oyster, but maybe bottom-feeding shrimp. The world is my bottom-feeding shrimp.

Anyway, the movies. If you haven't already seen it, you owe it to yourself to go rent Hedwig and the Angry Inch. We watched it again for the third time last night and it hit the rock-spot. Which is a spot that was discovered by a team of scientists around the same time the female orgasm was established as a possibility by NASA.

Hedwig worked especially well as a contrast to the god-awful Velvet Goldmine, which preceded it here at Chez KFR. I remembered Velvet Goldmine as being a kind of fun, goofy, moderately-low-budget rock movie with some good tunes. Re-watching it last night, Becky and I were forced to remember just how much we used to drink. So, if you're a complete lush, Velvet Goldmine might be an option. Otherwise, avoid.

In other news, I'm heading back to the bunker to do some further world history reading today. As a FYI, Wallerstein's world system series is one of those things wherein one to three real points are made per chapter; the trick is wading through dozens of pages in search of those points. It's like being in a huge thrift store looking for that one cool shirt you just know is buried somewhere. For chapters 1 and 2 of volume 3, here's how it all goes down:
  1. The industrial revolution and the French revolution are both inadequate as explanatory concepts. They only make sense in a global perspective.
  2. England's wars with France in the mid-to-late eighteenth century gave it a permanent edge and allowed it to achieve global economic hegemony in the nineteenth century.
  3. The French Revolution was a fundamentally anti-capitalist event, but it was ultimately defeated. It also undermined the possibility of France's recovering and possibly contesting England for dominance.
  4. You, shook me all night long. Yes you, shook me all night long. Knocking me out with those American thighs.


Top 5s

Inspired by Jeff's skilled list-making, here are some of my top 5s on this frigid, clear Saturday morning (sorry, California central valley citrus growers. It's a bad morning to be one of you.)

Top 5 of Bunny Ownership:
  1. Easy to litter-box train, easy to clean up after.
  2. Bunny sprints around the apartment: adorable.
  3. Bunnies have personalities. Bunnies are smarter than you think (those two count as one.)
  4. Softest...animal...ever.
  5. Fun to sit on the couch and watch movies with.
Top 5 Ongoing Difficulties I Face:
  1. The language issue.
  2. Metabolism slowing down, recovery time for hangovers slowing down even more.
  3. Compulsion to try to be friends with everyone I meet.
  4. Hate flying, don't want to have to travel for scholarship, totally have to eventually.
  5. I'm constantly horny (sorry, overshare.)
Top 5 Academic Words (or Phrases) I Like to Use in Context:
  1. Discursive.
  2. Ontological.
  3. Heuristic.
  4. Logics.
  5. Unmitigated Horseshit.
Top 5 Favorite Places in Santa Cruz:
  1. The wooded paths of UCSC.
  2. Steamer Lane and the lighthouse field overlooking it (surfers + otters.)
  3. The Poet + Patriot (Harp + Guinness.)
  4. My apartment: it's not tiny, it's CONCISE!
  5. The Bunker.
I feel like the wind sort of left my blogging sails over winter break. I'm going to try to get rev things back up again and re-deliver the blog-cargo. I will deliver more mixed metaphors than a steam train to the top of the line!


Cuz We Are the Aqua Team...

(In casual British parlance, one would say "Cos' we are the Aqua Team"...but then, I'm only British by descent.)

Here's how it all went down:
No word on the job for Becky yet. Today is quite possibly the day we find out, however. Everyone think good thoughts, if you've got any to spare.

...make your homies say Ho! and your girlies wanna scream.


Media Review

First of all, the new Tom Waits 3-CD album is badass. I'm particularly fond of the second CD, "bawlers," which is mostly his slower, piano-y-er (pronounced "pee-ah-no-ee-er") stuff. If you've got a couple few thirty bucks burning a hole in your pocket, I highly recommend it.

Second of all, Night at the Museum is a solid nothing-else-to-do-tonight type movie. I'm always excited by the prospect of a charging hun (there are several hun charges...as in, rampaging huns, who charge), and one of the characters is working on her history dissertation, so I have to get behind it. I'd say wait until it hits the 1.50 theaters and/or DVD.

On an unrelated note, Becky's interview for the prospective utopian job on campus went well today, so now we just keep our fingers crossed.


Eat Out More Often

(ha ha ha...never mind.)

This weekend saw visits to local eating establishments and drinking holes. And it got me to thinking. Going out to eat has to be the worst value for your money of practically anything you can do. Beers with your homies? 12 bucks, minimum, if everyone buys pitchers. Going out for dinner at a reasonably nice place? 15 bucks + tax and tip, minimum, if you only have one drink with dinner. Lunch at a dive Mexican joint? 7-something bucks a person. Meanwhile, we had a lamb steak dinner with good bottle of Cotes du Rhone and salad at home for something like 11 bucks in materials last night...

BUT: you still have to do it. Going out is fun. There's some kind of ineffable thing to spending time with your S.O. or your friends (or both) in a public place with waiters and bartenders and food service cards. The trick is to go on recon missions and find reliable places that don't suck for the money. Since we were so ass-broke for the first four months in Santa Cruz, we never had the chance to do that; now we try to make up for lost time.

My conclusion is this: never, never eat at the Mexican place across the street from the big arcade down by the boardwalk in Santa Cruz. It's bad like clinical depression. And if you're going out for upscale greasy bar food, go to The Crow's Nest, not Seabright Brewery (although I did appreciate that their menus have a day-by-day countdown of how long it is until Bush is out of office.)

Also, Becky and I have been together for 7 years and 2 days. Neat, huh?

Also, today starts the Marx seminar. By the time you wake up tomorrow, the worker's paradise will have come to pass. (And I'll be swinging from a gibbet, obviously.)


With the Spinning and the Hurting and the Kicking

I passed my French translation exam. I had to do a nasty passage by Sartre and a slightly less nasty passage by Beauvoir. I was dreading the test; my adviser administers the French exams and his French is comparable to that of any random member of the Acadamie Française. I screwed up a few things, but he was satisfied overall.

On the one hand, I'm relieved. Language exams in the humanities are a nasty hoop everyone has to get through, and since 9/10 of us grew up monoglots and didn't attend to our language studies more seriously as undergrads, they suck. On the other, it would have been pretty pathetic if I'd failed. I, you know, based a 120-something page Master's thesis on French sources that I ostensibly understood.

In other news, our homies Sarah-Jane and Dave are spending tomorrow evening with us, which promises to involve burgers and beer. Nous allons!


Welcome to Our Planet

No, seriously, click Play.

Big ups to Jeff for the tip.

I Love the Bunker

I'm in the new UCSC History Grad Lab: The Bunker. No windows, flourescents, currently no furniture besides some office-space style desks + the old broken Macs. I tore open the plastic wrap on our books and claimed a shelf for my detritus. I noticed a few things:
  • The Lit grad students have their grad lab next door. I will make a sign welcoming them.
  • We have an enormous blackboard in here. I will make a sign welcoming us.
  • If the department won't take care of us, we'll have to take care of ourselves. I'm thinking old comfy furniture runs and, possibly, cardboard cubicles.
Hail Satan that the holiday break is fucking done. I'm ready to get back to the grind.


Rotten Days / Aesthetic Moments

First: It's been a shitty couple of days. Becky's been clobbered by a cold (this happens to her...when she is in a stressful or tiring situation, like driving 1800 miles in 6 days, she does great until she gets back and gets to relax. Then: sick.) I sent some well-meaning but, in retrospect, patronizing advice to my brother and pissed him off. My mom called this morning to report on massive family drama.* So I did what any enterprising 28-year-old with a new iPod would do: I went and bought enough cold drugs to last out the winter and got another cup of coffee.

Second: The other thing I did was go and buy my books for the History of Consciousness class I'm taking this term: Marx's Early Writings, Capital Vol. I, and Capital Vol. III. I walked back out onto Locust St. with three huge tomes of Marx in my bag and a Sleater-Kinney song came on. Foucault was reminding me the other day (we've got a personal relationship at this point) that the Greeks believed that one lived ethically in order to live beautifully, not because doing so would grab a good spot in the afterlife or even because it would hold the Polis together. Ethics were a question of aesthetics. So, following the Greeks by way of Foucault, I enjoyed my ethical-aesthetic moment of stodgy Germanic socialism mixed with hip Washingtonian radicalism.

* I'm really unused to family drama. Compared to just about everyone else, I had a great childhood (prompting the question: why all the neuroses, bucko?) So when this shit bubbles over, I'm out of my element.


They Don't Have to Suck

Parades: how can we make them better? In the words of Vladimir Lenin, what is to be done?

Yes on:
  1. Retired astronauts. Maybe in drag?
  2. Drum lines of really badass drummers wearing black.
  3. Metal bands on floats with big diesel generators powering their amps.
  4. Two-man chariots with ballistae (like giant crossbows) which zip around shooting down cartoon character balloons, if any snuck in.
  5. A float on which people are making wine by stomping on grapes in a vat.
  6. (Becky adds): flamethrowers.
  7. A public spectacle of punishment, particularly for pop-culture related crimes. Like, put the All American Rejects in a big scaffold on a float and have the crowd pelt them with fruit.
  8. Eagles of Death Metal frontman Jesse "the Devil" Hughes as master of ceremonies.
I bring this up because I still don't understand why so much mainstream media is so banal. I assume parades descended from the Roman Triumphs, which were pretty badass, so I don't understand why we can't have equally badass ceremonies today.

Anyway, happy 2007 everyone.