Friday, December 30, 2011

solid, air, etc.

My National Novel Writing Month project began with a simple premise. What if major corporations decided that planned obsolescence wasn't aggressive enough a strategy for provoking consumer purchases of new goods. What if, instead, they had teams of people who broke into our houses, broke our stuff, and made it look like normal wear and tear?

I wrote a brief scene of this last summer sometime, and then it turned into this novel.

And then the novel turned from being a goofy little satire on consumerism, into a black comedy about corporate capitalism. It's become a Kafkaesque satire, which is to say, it's funny in the way that things are funny when your choices are laughing or doom. It's the kind of funny people will appreciate who also appreciate the humor of these lines from the Communist Manifesto:

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

I know! And that's Karl Marx, not Groucho!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

mood, typography, cognitive therapy

Mood's been uneven. The Christmas trip down to LA was good. The Penguins keep winning.

I'm knee-deep in a gorgeous book, The Elements of Typographic Style, by Robert Bringhurst (an acclaimed Canadian poet as well as a typography nut). It's not quite a textbook, and not quite a treatise, on the art of typography. The book follows its own stated axioms, and does so beautifully. Even the paper is beautiful.

Consequently, I'm dreaming up ways to re-format all the documents I used in classes. I'm being playful and ridiculous with the Professional Ethics syllabus, for instance.

One dilemma I already know I have regards the use of ligatures. In a lot of typefaces, they are very nearly obligatory. But since I provide documents online as well as well as in hard copy, I need fonts that are good screen fonts, and ligatures are not very clear on a screen. This is a good problem to have, because it keeps me off the streets and out of my head.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

a little help from my friends

Thanks, everyone.

Elizabeth, whom I believe I know through the kind auspices of Sharon and Dave's famous annual cocktail party, suggested a connection between depression, fear, and capitalism. I'm not super hip to Marxist analyses of the phenomenon we call depression, and with regard to myself, a psychiatric account makes so much sense it's hard for me to see past it. I mean, I was first depressed when I was 9. No kidding.

Yes, even 9 year olds raised in capitalist society experience its contradictions. I think what I mean is that the obvious effects of capitalist economics on my life have grown a lot stronger and more direct since then.

I have no doubt that this recent bout has something to do with the constant assault of the people pushing the corporate/privatized/Friedmanized university (and society). "Torture" may be a gross exaggeration of their way of treating people, but otherwise, their behavior is captured awfully well by Naomi Klein's thesis in The Shock Doctrine (as many in CFA have pointed out). The creation and exploitation of crisis, and the constant application of techniques to undermine my ability to understand the reality of my situation, play very well into my own psychiatric condition. After all, one of our administrators did research on fear as a marketing tool.

(By the way, in my National Novel Writing Month project this year, the Marketing Division of the Corporation is not only the investigative wing, but also arranges torture - i.e., "focus groups" - but also assassinations, in an effort to thwart the underground movement of people who repair things rather than throw them out and buy new ones.)

Lauren was pointing out just the other day how our society trains everyone to imagine that their economic fates are their own doing, and how this ideology really helps the corporate capitalist elite seem to be meritorious, despite their being constantly rewarded for failing. To a certain extent, I fall into that too, blaming myself for my failures in academia, when that's largely discredited by a more objective analysis - say, just pointing out that 75% of faculty that we can count in the US are non-tenure-track faculty.

(Another random aside: I feel like I know and have known a suspiciously large number of people named Elizabeth or Leigh, or versions thereof.)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

2011 can't end fast enough

This has been, all told, a terrible and painful year for me.

Nothing in particular has happened, not among what we might call the objective facts of my life.

Seven years ago, due almost entirely to Lauren's being wonderful and lovely, I was able to make the biggest leap of faith I ever had. I turned my life around, and became happy, deeply happy, for the first time. The demonic rage in my mind was subdued, and I had a chance to like myself.

I did not know at the time, and no doubt would have denied it, that that rage would return. I have spent almost all of 2011 caught up in it. It is a rage directed at myself - a constantly undermining, constantly terrifying anger and hatred. Not usually aloud, but in my head, I am almost always screaming at myself.

Not a nice thought crosses my mind, that is not shouted down by this yelling snarling beast. It hates what I do, it accuses me every instant of fraud, of dissembling by every thing I say or do, or even think. It will not permit me to believe in myself, in my perceptions, and therefore will not let me believe in the reality of my everyday life. Every pleasure and joy are shredded by this monster inside me.

It has been eating me alive all year. I am so sad, and so ashamed, that the only way I can think of to do something about it is to confess my agony and fear on this stupid blog. I haven't even been able to tell Lauren, because I'm ashamed to have ruined her good work and been so careless with her love.

I'm sorry, my friends, for disturbing you with this - I assume it is disturbing. It must be a bit shocking to imagine that as I smile and joke with you, or coolly reply to a comment, or even entertain or delight you with silliness or insight, that I am ruining the experience for myself, and when we depart, I spend all the energy I can muster destroying the event and re-interpreting it as a horrible lie. It is a continual oppression.

I don't get to have an easy answer for this. I don't think therapy or anti-depressants ever freed me from it. I don't believe in god. I can't. It's often hard for me to believe in anything, because I am constantly telling myself that I don't believe what I say and think. So it's very hard to make any kind of effort to change this.

A few weeks ago I woke up full of this rage, just a terrible cursing of everything about me, and I started to cry, and then stopped myself. I told myself I was being an idiot. And I said to myself, aloud, without meaning to, "Please stop hurting me."

I can't take any more hurt from me. I am going to try to stop it. The only thing I can figure to do, now that I've told all of you about it, is ask Lauren to help me, again. I guess that's a new year's resolution.