Friday, September 26, 2008

guess we'll see how this goes

We're now former Washington Mutual customers, since they bit the big one last night and were forcibly sold to JPMorgan (as they call the conglomeration of former banks and financial institutions). It's the largest failure in US history as of 6:48 PDT today, but there's no really good reason at this point to believe they'll hold the record all that long.

So, the question I have is, how do I pay my rent? What happens to the automatic bills paid out of that account?

It's gonna be an interesting month.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

business as usual for Dow

Dow chemical got out of a lawsuit today that accused them of selling a pesticide that they knew caused sterility. They knew of the problems since the 1950s, continued to sell the pesticide in the US until it was banned in 1979, and continued selling it overseas until the mid 1980s.

The suit charged Dow with genocide and crimes against humanity, and the federal court ruling basically says the case doesn't fit the description of those crimes. It does not say what Dow did was acceptable, just that it wasn't deliberately genocidal. Dow's attorney claimed the ruling meant that Dow "is completely blameless, both factually and legally." He did not add "... of a deliberate policy of genocide."

All of which adds up to a new corporate motto:

Dow Chemical: Not As Bad As Mengele

Monday, September 22, 2008

my loveliest's birthday

This is for my love. This is the fifth of her birthdays we've spent together. It may not be high art, but it's meant.

impossible to contemplate
a thousand days without you
a century ago
the million hours
passed in the dark
uncountable dark

when I say you are a miracle
I mean you are the sun,
I mean you are
impossible to contemplate,
I mean you are the sun

impossible to contemplate
the dawn without you
or centuries, or hours
or anything,
even the dark

when I say you are the sun
I mean you are a miracle,
the centuries, the hours,
the miracle of light,
impossible to contemplate

some of these things are not like the others

Two timely items from the ongoing list of

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

18. Live theatrical performances. I just love 'em.

As advertised, we saw Cabaret in San Francisco Saturday night. It was terrific. At the end of August we hit the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for A Midsummer Night's Dream and Othello, which were also terrific.

But indeed, I have a history of enjoying theatrical performances even when they're not any good. Way back in college, UNC Charlotte hosted the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival every summer - the only free professional theater in the US at the time. Mainly the plays were excellent, the performances excellent, but every once in a while there was a stinker. There was a completely useless and bizarrely inept staging of a Tennessee Williams play one summer that I probably should have been thrown out of. It was great.

Live theater always gives you something. Sometimes it's of questionable intrinsic quality, but you still get it. And it's all happening right there in front of you, so if it's a train wreck, it's a train wreck, and nobody can stop it. That's thrilling.

17. Ironic political comeuppances. I just love 'em.

Turns out that John McCain's chief of staff is gay. So McCain, who is in favor of states passing constitutional amendments forbidding same-sex marriages, and whose choice for vice-president is a devotee of a bizarre hate-mongering religious cult, apparently either doesn't know, or doesn't mind that Mark Buse, his chief of staff, is gay. (It's unlikely he doesn't know, if, as has been reported, McCain has attended dinner parties thrown by Buse and his partner.) It's a level of hypocrisy that most people find objectionable, and frankly difficult to reach. But McCain is a talented guy.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

quick with the updatings, cuz tired

Back from a whirlwind trip to San Francisco to celebrate my loveliest's birthday. I had a sneaky plan all cooked up, to crash at an old teeny hotel and to go see Cabaret at the SF Playhouse. Cabaret was terrific. I think most people have only seen the rather tame movie version; this was something else entirely, and excellently done.

But I've still gots stuffs to do before class again on tomorrow morning. To read a blog with more actual content than this, do go check out my sweetest's entry concerning women's rights and the election.

Friday, September 19, 2008

morning constitutional

It's Constitution Day!

Please take a moment to reflect upon the Constitution, whether it's the constitution of meaning by an intersubjective community, or the constitution of fraud by a series of acts, or even just the reconstitution of lemon juice in one of those little oval squirt bottles.

Or, if you swing this way, you could celebrate your Constitutional rights by wire-tapping yourself.

EDIT @ 7:03 AM:

This just in from the Modesto Bee: Economy in crisis. I guess that when, finally, the Bee notices a news story, it becomes more official somehow.

Monday, September 15, 2008

fun and frolic in contingent academic employment

I subscribe to an email list for contingent academics. Someone on the list half-jokingly suggested that there should be an Exploitation Of The Week archive. It might be warranted, following the last week.

On Thursday, Inside Higher Ed published the story of San Antonio College administators requiring part-time faculty working full-time to sign a waiver indicating they are still part-time and won't be paid for additional work, or receive health benefits. The contingent academic email list went nuts. The comments section on the Inside Higher Ed story went nuts.

Almost immediately, San Antonio college officials said they'd restore wages and benefits, and that the whole policy would come to an end. It turns out, according to one dean, that nobody ever told the administration that it was wrong not to pay people for working. Some people need practical advice.

This morning brings the news that a long-time faculty member at Central New Mexico Community College has been summarily separated from employment, with apparently no notice, after hosting a Bastille Day event commemorating folkie/activist Utah Phillips.

(Neither college has a unionized faculty. I don't think that's a coincidence.)

What will tomorrow bring? It's almost as exciting as watching the finance industry collapse!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

what we have here is failure to communicate

One of the reasons I got into philosophy was a keen interest in communication breakdowns and meaninglessness (along with identity crises, personality collapses, world catastrophes). This led me to a nihilistic brand of existentialism, wherein hope for meaning or authentic communication between persons is always dashed because of a fundamental human incapacity for empathy. [As I think I've noted here before, I was a strange kid.] A few thousand pages of Pinter, Joyce, Nietzsche, Camus, de Sade, Stoppard and Beckett later, and I turned out to be a rather misanthropic and somewhat paranoid person.

Right about then, I ran into phenomenology, in particular the phenomenology of language and meaning as discussed by Ricoeur and Merleau-Ponty. Here was something entirely different. Directly challenging my sense of the meaninglessness of communication - and the communication of meaninglessness - these guys were saying that human life is meaningful, expressive and communicative from the level of speech all the way down: gesture, physical style, even the style of perception.

I had been thinking of the problem and tragedy of communication as the failure of language to express and to create intersubjective communion between persons. Pinter's plays, for example, are exercises in people speaking in ways that torture meaning and other people. Any time anyone in any of his plays says anything, they demonstrate the futility of communication - at least, this was what I thought.

But I had to re-appraise, because while speech seemed a hopeless avenue for communication, gesture didn't. I eventually came to feel that intersubjective communion is formed not through but almost despite speech, or, better, that speech is what we do when intersubjective communion can't go further. To put this another way, I was on the verge of the thought that intersubjective communion is silent sharing of present-tense living experience, and that we resort to language, to breaking that silence, only when there's a gap, a hole, or an obstacle to communion. Speech is what happens when shared meaning breaks down.

You get that in Beckett very nicely, I now believe. There's a whole heck of a lot of silence in Beckett's work, especially the novels. And in the novels, the torrent of words describing nothing serves as the background for the revealed meaning that silence has in relation to it.

Ever interested in pathology, I took up this silence project in order to ask whether the technical world of constant media bombardment could so overwhelm us that the silence is drowned out, obliterated - and with it, the possibility of meaning. This is all much more nuanced than I'm laying it out here, thanks to Dauenhauer, Merleau-Ponty, and other folks I'm reading, but the project is returning me to those old and fundamental stakes of my involvement in philosophy.

I'm working on what I'm calling for the moment the Strange Thesis, which is that communication always succeeds and always fails, in that it needs silence for speech to have a place, it needs speech for silence to have a direction and meaning, and it needs to be obstructed for there to be anything to communicate.

That's been my day. We also went to the post office.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

blogging for dummies

Tomorrow my classes start. It'll be 103, so I'm not walking to school, which is very disappointing, because I like walking to school.

In the meantime,
Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

19. Picnics. I just love 'em.

Food, the outdoors, people you like - what could be better? My favorite picnics involve fresh bread, cheese, fruit, and wine, but excellent results are obtainable with PB&J, a bag of mini pretzels and bottles of water, or really just anything that's eatable outside. A body of water nearby is a huge plus, and available shade, preferably from trees, is a sine qua non. Having hiked helps, too.

Saturday is the annual university labor unions-sponsored picnic. It's gonna be big this year, I hear: 250 or so have RSVPed. It's gonna be 103 Saturday, too. Apparently, CFA has rented shade for the day, and it's going to be near the pond on campus I call "Projectile-vomiting Goat-head Lake," but I think hiking is out.

I've picnicked in all kinds of weather, including some weather that strongly contraindicates picnicking, so this is nothing new.

20. Internet time-wasters. I just love 'em.

I'm always grateful when bloggers link to online quizzes, personality surveys, IQ tests, trivia games, and other goofy crap like that. I don't spend an inordinate amount of time on them, but occasionally one finds oneself enraptured by them. I think the most dangerous is Lolcats. Damn, is it easy to spend an hour on Lolcats.

I've also recently been digging image generators that let you do stuff like add cartoon speech or thought balloons to images, for instance:

Or book covers:

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

how can this be? tell me!! how??!!

The 2008-2009 academic year begins tomorrow, with a day of long meetings of university, college, and department faculty, when we'll all hear about the wonderful plan CSU has for our lives.

I start classes on Friday, which is completely ridiculous. It's not the first time.

So, although I regret the end of the summer, I do have that strange feeling of a new beginning that I often get at the start of a school year. Or is that heartburn?