Monthly Archives: February 2007

Sound Poems, Digital Speech

I saw the poet Christian Bök read the other night and I have not yet digested the event. He appears to be a very nice person and this is not negligible. The work, although interesting, seemed clever but cold.

Some of the things I appreciated were his interest in French avant-garde writers, which I share, his knowledge of them, which I admire, and his excellent voice, which is better trained than he modestly admits. He has an uncanny ability to discern and reproduce phonemes. He can speak the alien language he created for a television program, and it is very beautiful. He is able to recite Kurt Schwitters’ Dadaist sonata Ursonate, which I like very much.

However: he seemed at times to be repeating some early twentieth century experiments, and while I admired his virtuousity, I was less impressed than I might have been had his work seemed more original to me.

I was the most interested in what he had to say after the reading: poets are like scientists, working in the laboratory of language, to discover the possibilities. This is not original, either, but it is not said enough. Bök said it very well, and his performance demonstrated it.

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry

Incroyable

I received this e-mail and have been meaning to report about it, for the interest of Louisiana faculty.

The Board of Regents has an ambitious agenda for the upcoming legislative session. The following link is to a story in the Baton Rouge Advocate.

This quotation is from that story:

“Leaders of Louisiana higher education are seeking more money for new projects than usual because of the state’s estimated multibillion-dollar budget surplus. The recommendations to the Governor’s Office include fully funding the state’s higher education funding formula for the first time since 1981, increasing faculty pay by 5 percent and starting a student financial aid program based on need, not academics.”

The need based financial aid program is especially good news. But I have not been watching, so I do not know how we got this budget surplus, or how the state may be planning to use it to benefit New Orleans.

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Exhuming Banes III

I

I have some terrible habits of thought which I did not learn in graduate school, but rather as an assistant professor, in conjunction with Reeducation. As we know, Reeducation meant the acceptance of a standard interpretive paradigm which called itself ‘growth’ but was in fact asphyxiation. This weblog was created in part to cast off the principles of Reeducation, which were Banes.

Reeducation taught extreme self-criticism and self-doubt. School did not, and that is one reason I have always liked it better. What I did not like about school was its trade in timidity and conformity, and at times in unfounded fear.

II

School, when I was in it as a student, was a creative refuge. When I became a professor it revealed itself as a war zone where paralyzing gases wafted, and the earth belched fire. Ever since then, I have wanted to run away, and a certain portion of every workday is devoted to resisting this instinct. I like to live far from campus – preferably in another municipality – so that I can indulge, at the level of fantasy, my desire to really get on the road and go at the end of each day.

What I tell myself to repress these temptations is that in fact everything is really all right. Don’t like your job? Concentrate on what you need to do to move up and out. This and other sensible advice is in my view based on denial of what present experience is, and how long it may in fact go on. For example: if present experience and conditions are antithetical to moving up and out, simply gritting one’s teeth and trying harder will not do the trick in and of itself.

My terrible habits of thought are related to having been hammered for so long with these forms of “wisdom,” and to subjection to abusive power structures for which this “wisdom” is, I am quite sure, a palliative masquerading as a cure. I try and try to fit myself into the wisdom, and to accept the palliative. I am embarrassed that these are insufficient for me, but they are. They may apply to men whose situations are already good. But I notice that those who most insist on the sufficiency of this “wisdom” also drink to the point of blackout most nights.

I suspect we could turn on a black light and rewrite all of these dark perceptions as positive discoveries. I suspect my negative habits of thought exist to censor real rebellion – the not-very-sensible but true thoughts I actually have, the ones I believe to be disrespectful or destructive, but which, if let loose, would reveal themselves to be inspired and creative – or let us say it, revolutionary.

III

I had a colleague once who having male privilege, did not suffer from the same level of self-doubt as I, despite feeling as irritated as I did. We both liked to work late, and would chat sometimes in the uninhabited halls. I would then say, “It’s late, I’m going.” I would go to art studios and jazz bars. He would say, “It’s late, I am going, to write something responsible. Someone has to make an effort to save this degraded profession, so I shall.” He could say this because had reason to believe his calls to comparative sanity would be heard.

I know this colleague admired my form of jauntiness, but I envied his evinced ability to stand above it all. At that time I rejected it for myself. I know it is not available to me in the way it is to men. Still I am attempting to conjugate within myself the two attitudes, his and mine, so as to rise above the obedience which reigns, and the drudgery.

Axé.

2 Comments

Filed under Banes

Banes and More Banes

This is one of the days on which my instinct to cut and run from the academic fold is very strong.

These are some of the Banes with which I have always tried to work and to say are “all right” – but which are hard to handle in large doses, especially when there is no antidote or counterbalance close at hand.

1. Officiousness.
2. Groups of men in positions of at least semi-authority, repeating to each other conventional wisdom as though it were new data.
3. Irresponsibility.
4. Inefficiency.
5. Self-serving entities.
6. Self-aggrandizement.
7. Muddledness.
8. Egotism.
9. Dearths of creativity.
10. Empty convention.

I am in an anti-academic mood of the Nezua style, tired of the repression, the suburban dream, and the bourgeois aspiration which often seem to be the most important elements of the work. After careful consideration over a space of many years, it really seems to me that these are the three keys to success – it is not yoga but conformity with these modes and desires which enables people to sit and work on their narrow specialty, while energy-sucking blandness reigns.

I have also begun reading Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas. Woolf suggests that it is the daughters of educated men who have the least power and agency, because they are the most superfluous of people. This is interesting, as it may help to explain my constant malaise. The malaise could be a combination of 1. not having the social power and privilege one believes oneself to have, 2. not being recognized as an autonomous being, and 3. being unware of 2, or unable to believe it because it is so irrational – and confused therefore by its symptoms. It is clear that I will have to study a few things about class and gender.

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under Banes

Picky

I have just finished a list of works cited. It was the pickiest such job I ever undertook, because I had never written anything that cited so many very old books. Getting the editions straight, and discovering the conventions for citing these particular people, seems to have taken as long as writing the article in the first place.

I always find MLA style very cumbersome for citing old texts. I sometimes wonder whether this is just my ineptitude, or whether it is a quasi-religious difference, like the battle between PC and MacIntosh users.

I like the Chicago Manual of Style, DOS, and UNIX, and I would like LINUX if I had a word processor for it that I liked. Others appear to prefer MLA style, Windows, and MacIntosh. “It is easier, it is streamlined,” say one and all. So streamlined, I think, that there are many things they do not cover without great contrivance.

Axé.

3 Comments

Filed under Bibliography

On Citizenship and Language Death

Northern Russia is home to more than 40 indigenous peoples, all of whom have their own language. But many of them are on the brink of extinction.

Nenet people with reindeer

Fayina Lekhanova has a broad face with a flat nose and dark, deep-set eyes. She looks exactly like the Eskimos I remember from the books I read as a child but, as she explains, the Eskimos are just one of dozens of tribes indigenous to Russia’s far north.

The vast expanse of the Russian Federation, from the Kola Peninsula in the north west to the Sea of Chukotka in the north east, is home to 41 indigenous peoples.

They have evocative names like the Saami, the Nganasan, the Itelmen, the Ulchi and the Tuvinian Todzhins. The area they have traditionally inhabited makes up more than half of the entire territory of Russia.

But today their numbers are dwindling, and their languages are dying out. Some have never even been written down.

That was Chloe Arnold of the BBC. Read her entire article. Language death is one good reason to dislike the nation-state.

Then, from Walter Mosley in the February 12, 2007 Nation, we have this:

Citizens. It doesn’t matter what crime you’ve committed; if you are a citizen of this nation, then you will continue to be one. No matter if you kite checks, get into bar brawls, murder for hire or tunnel into banks. It doesn’t matter if you have carried an illegal weapon or even committed some heinous crime against children or the elderly. No matter what you’ve done you are still a citizen, and as a citizen you have certain unalienable rights. And the most important of those rights is the franchise to vote.

The article is not just about voting. It is about our rate of incarceration and how felons are stripped of their rights as persons and citizens. This is not required by the Constitution. It could be changed.

In the context of globalization – internationalism’s evil twin – I have nostalgia for the nation-state. I was also raised to believe that the expansion of citizenship rights would solve many problems. In several ways, however, the nation-state seems intended precisely to limit these. I am studying anarchism.

Axé.

2 Comments

Filed under News

Ballad Of Hollis Brown

Continuing on through the eternal present, we have Bob Dylan as broadcast on Folksongs and More Folksongs, WBC-TV, May 1963. My family did not yet have television. We listened a year or two later on the phonograph. Here are the lyrics; observe the mystical ending “somewhere in the distance.”

Hollis Brown
He lived on the outside of town
Hollis Brown
He lived on the outside of town
With his wife and five children
And his cabin fallin’ down

You looked for work and money
And you walked a rugged mile
You looked for work and money
And you walked a rugged mile
Your children are so hungry
That they don’t know how to smile

Your baby’s eyes look crazy
They’re a-tuggin’ at your sleeve
Your baby’s eyes look crazy
They’re a-tuggin’ at your sleeve
You walk the floor and wonder why
With every breath you breathe

The rats have got your flour
Bad blood it got your mare
The rats have got your flour
Bad blood it got your mare
If there’s anyone that knows
Is there anyone that cares?

You prayed to the Lord above
Oh please send you a friend
You prayed to the Lord above
Oh please send you a friend
Your empty pockets tell yuh
That you ain’t a-got no friend

Your babies are crying louder
It’s pounding on your brain
Your babies are crying louder
It’s pounding on your brain
Your wife’s screams are stabbin’ you
Like the dirty drivin’ rain

Your grass it is turning black
There’s no water in your well
Your grass is turning black
There’s no water in your well
You spent your last lone dollar
On seven shotgun shells

Way out in the wilderness
A cold coyote calls
Way out in the wilderness
A cold coyote calls
Your eyes fix on the shotgun
That’s hangin’ on the wall

Your brain is a-bleedin’
And your legs can’t seem to stand
Your brain is a-bleedin’
And your legs can’t seem to stand
Your eyes fix on the shotgun
That you’re holdin’ in your hand

There’s seven breezes a-blowin’
All around the cabin door
There’s seven breezes a-blowin’
All around the cabin door
Seven shots ring out
Like the ocean’s pounding roar

There’s seven people dead
On a South Dakota farm
There’s seven people dead
On a South Dakota farm
Somewhere in the distance
There’s seven new people born

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under Songs

Hattie Carroll

This is, and these are the lyrics for The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, by Bob Dylan, a true story of 1964. The clip is from the Steve Allen Show, and it is blurry but worth it.

William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll
With a cane that he twirled around his diamond ring finger
At a Baltimore hotel society gath’rin’.
And the cops were called in and his weapon took from him
As they rode him in custody down to the station
And booked William Zanzinger for first-degree murder.
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take the rag away from your face.
Now ain’t the time for your tears.

William Zanzinger, who at twenty-four years
Owns a tobacco farm of six hundred acres
With rich wealthy parents who provide and protect him
And high office relations in the politics of Maryland,
Reacted to his deed with a shrug of his shoulders
And swear words and sneering, and his tongue it was snarling,
In a matter of minutes on bail was out walking.
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take the rag away from your face.
Now ain’t the time for your tears.

Hattie Carroll was a maid of the kitchen.
She was fifty-one years old and gave birth to ten children
Who carried the dishes and took out the garbage
And never sat once at the head of the table
And didn’t even talk to the people at the table
Who just cleaned up all the food from the table
And emptied the ashtrays on a whole other level,
Got killed by a blow, lay slain by a cane
That sailed through the air and came down through the room,
Doomed and determined to destroy all the gentle.
And she never done nothing to William Zanzinger.
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take the rag away from your face.
Now ain’t the time for your tears.

In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded his gavel
To show that all’s equal and that the courts are on the level
And that the strings in the books ain’t pulled and persuaded
And that even the nobles get properly handled
Once that the cops have chased after and caught ’em
And that the ladder of law has no top and no bottom,
Stared at the person who killed for no reason
Who just happened to be feelin’ that way without warnin’.
And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished,
And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance,
William Zanzinger with a six-month sentence.
Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Bury the rag deep in your face
For now’s the time for your tears.

Today’s featured posts are Zuky’s, with clips of Dylan, twice, and Malcolm. Listen to the Malcolm one especially. Then, see this fragment of Hattie Carroll, from 1965:

Note the differences:

But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take the rag away from your face.
Now ain’t the time for your tears.

Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Bury the rag deep in your face
For now’s the time for your tears.

Axé.

8 Comments

Filed under Songs

Alguien se levanta…

What I dislike about the academic advice which has been forced upon me over the years is that it was advice to lead the life this man describes. I have also been instructed to say no a lot – no to the more creative, interesting, or challenging research, teaching, and service assignments and projects because these, according to my advisors, were not those which would lead me “up and out.” What I have most disliked about this advice have been the threats with which it has always been delivered. “We know who you are and what you are and are not capable of! Do as we say or it will be the end of you!”

“Advice” in my experience is never conversation or support, it is a strategy for undermining, destabilizing, and terrorizing people. “You will not be able to do this correctly, so I am going to explain to you how to fool people into believing you have” was the deep structure of the advice forced on me.

It has always seemed very strange to me that the more one advances, the more it is assumed one is incompetent and needs advice – advice which is, essentially, advice on how to fake progress. A friend informs me, however, that the reason for this is that most people at a certain point hit their limit and need advice on how to fake progress so that they can advance further. Perhaps it is that when I got to those points at which people tend to hit their limits, it was assumed that I would, too.

My own judgment, when I am not too beaten down to follow it, has always turned out to be the best. This is because I have excellent professional training although people in my graduate program claimed (and I disagree) we were given none. Perhaps what they meant was that we were not given enough advice on how to fake progress.

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under Banes, Resources, Theories

Elementary

The university of vanity, said my friend, treats everyone like a child. As everyone is assumed to be a denizen of vanity, nobody is trusted to know what they are doing. No decision can be made without interference, sometimes known as “mentoring.” Standard advice abounds, and is reiterated whether or not it actually fits. It is often proferred by persons who do not fully understand it – because the university of vanity works at a remove from intellectual life and values simulacra.

It has often seemed paradoxical to me in universities that you are to produce original, groundbreaking research, and yet also be pliant and conformist to the core. You are to accept childlike status on a permanent basis, when your situation requires higher than average levels of adult fortitude. I have not yet figured out whether it is my issues which have made it difficult to synthesize these theses and antitheses, or whether they are a general problem. It was interesting to hear someone else discuss it.

Axé.

9 Comments

Filed under Theories