Monthly Archives: February 2007

Silver Dazzle

Paul Dresman’s The Silver Dazzle of the Sun is a brilliant book of very well distilled poetry, with Southern California as one of its major backdrops.

Today we have what we call “California weather,” meaning 75 dry degrees in a cloudless sky with high, bright white light. On a winter day back home the sun shines silvery just like this, and the sea turns gold.

I thought of Los Angeles and its odd pleasures as I drove out to lunch, seeing the sun glance off the asphalt and dazzle the cars.

There and also here on a day like today the sky is so transparent you see straight to Oxalá as you pick up a fried pork chop, peas and greens from a jaunty and unpretentious stand.

Axé.

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Kiri Davis

I had been searching for Kiri Davis’ video A Girl Like Me, and now I have found it. This classic text demonstrates, among other things, why the claim to “colorblindness” is a pure and absurd luxury.

Axé.

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Joanna Russ, Christine Delphy

From the new Feminist Reprise, now freed from both Blogger and WordPress, a key quotation of Joanna Russ:

As Christine Delphy [the French feminist sociologist] says, first comes the fact of exploitation; then come various kinds of oppression to keep the exploited weak, miserable (and busy), and hence exploitable. Then (both logically and chronologically) comes the ideology that justifies the oppression and the exploitation in order to pacify the consciences of the exploiters and to muddle the common sense of the exploited, thus mystifying the situation of exploitation and oppression so that the exploited will accept it as natural, God-given, nobody’s fault, morally correct, and inevitable.

As Delphy puts it, There is no mystery; we are oppressed because we are exploited. What we go through makes life easier for others.

Feminist Reprise has more posts on Joanna Russ. Here is Yer Daily Joanna, and here is Joanna Russ, Again. And here is another pithy quotation:

The crucial idea that all women’s experiences are equally valid has been supplanted by the new and totally muddling idea that all women’s opinions are equally valid, a piece of mystification that accepts almost anything a woman says or does as “feminist” simply because it was a woman who said or did it.

Axé.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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