Saturday, July 29, 2006

Monday, July 24, 2006

Dschinghis Khan - Moskau

I'm a few months late, but if you know me at all, you can probably guess what I'm doing right now.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Day Sixty-One

For some, an easy target. I try to keep an open mind, really I do. In the dearth of any television to watch (and obviously because I can't do anything else but watch television right now), I turned to Lifetime.


What the fuck is going on?


In the midst of trying to blog about this, more and more absurd scenes come one after another. This may require stepping back for a day or so. Before my brain explodes, I'll say that the movie involves a couple who are adopting a child from a surrogate mother, who, funnily enough, is crazy (prone to disrobing in public, extortion, innuendo).

Monday, July 17, 2006

Day Fifty-Seven

A few weeks ago Brad Kreit and I debated the extent to which obesity was a problem. I suggested it was overblown and he asked if I had been to West Virginia. My opinion is that obesity is epiphenomenal to significantly larger issues of consumerism and class aesthetics and as we exhort our fellow Americans to exercise more and eat right, it's akin to cutting off the dandelion at the stem instead of at the root. To be sure, often times the most complicated solution serves simply to reinforce the outcome, but in this case, I think the solutions and the causes have locked themselves into some form of circular and cumulative causation.

Take for instance this article on Oak Park, IL from Ostensibly the article is a remark on both how suburban Oak Park has become more exclusive in the past few years, and at the same time, an admonition on Oak Park for not explicitly telling plus-sized retailer Lane Bryant to take its fat-encouraging fashions elsewhere. Of course, leave it to fark to be snarky:

Fancy Chicago Suburb enacts literal "No Fat Chicks" policy by trying to prevent
a Lane Bryant store from opening in their town

And really, how much of this is Oak Park reinforcing the conflation between status and body image? Even if Oak Park were to take up the author's gauntlet and tell Lane Bryant it doesn't want to deal in obesity, wouldn't that also be reaffirming the imaginary boundary between the "thin and rich" and the "fat and poor," and in some sense, suggesting to their residents that if they're fat, they should shop elsewhere? It seems to me that the cultural boundaries between classes form around the waistline rather than the city limits (how's that for an aphorism?).

And a few weeks ago I think People and Star had front covers that excoriated celebrities for being too fat for summer and being too skinny for... um... being celebrities. To see those two portrayals of body image juxtaposed against each other on one newsstand was hilarious, but I guess only to me. So Martha Stewart has cellulite and Kate Bosworth has visible ribs; in all honesty, I think that the same body image/class anxiety/class comfort dynamic is at work here too.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Day Fifty-Six

From comes a link to Wikipedia's "The original Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense" page, a page from what I can surmise, is a listing of deleted entries and modifications to Wikipedia pages that were deemed funny. Admittedly, some of these don't make any sense, but some make enough sense to be comic non-sequiteurs. Look up HareKrishna on that page -- in my opinion, I think it's pretty hilarious.

And this laud from a user on on the third Brady Bunch retcon movie, "The Brady Bunch in the White House":

Of all the films I have seen, songs I have heard and books I read, this is
without doubt the one piece of art that people will continue to appreciate with
awed reverence 500 years from now. It totally changed my life. When I saw it, I
felt that I had been born on this Earth to be at this particular place and this
particular time to experience this incredible feat of human artistic excellence.
I am absolutely convinced that it will make stars out of every single actor
associated with this film, and will one day win the Nobel Prize for Literature
for its scriptwriters. While the Brady Bunch is a milestone of Western
Civilisation, and the Whitehouse one of its greatest architectural monuments, no
mere mortal would have ever thought to put them together. But the producers of
this movie are clearly no mere mortals. The staggering genius on display here
simply takes the breath away. The words simply do not exist to describe this
film. Watching it, I clearly felt the presence of the Lord. If Leonardo da Vinci
were alive today and had a movie camera, I have no doubt he would be making
films like this, as well as pornos. Look upon this work, ye mighty, and despair.

As well as pornos indeed. I enjoyed the use of Ozymandias at the end.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Day Fifty-Five

So if I believe me and I'm actually funny, then according to this article, I'm like this year's tiny dog that can fit in your handbag.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Day Fifty-Four

So it would seem that Kidz Bop -- my least favorite watering down of pop culture -- has once again returned to make more saccharine already craptastic top 40 music. This compilation, Kidz Bop 10, features such amazing shit as little kids singing the Black Eyed Peas' "Pump It." Actually, all the samples on the site show why I hate this concept, which parallels why I dislike mainstream collegiate a-cappella so much: you take marginally good-to-bad songs and make them even worse by putting them through a process that sucks out whatever redeemable qualities the song had in its original presentation. While conceivably you could improve upon a song through harmony (or having a choir of kids shout the choruses), the sincerity gets lost and the "edge" gets worn down. Anyway, Kidz Bop sucks.

I haven't been able to sleep well lately because I've been so itchy. It's certainly not dusty in my room, and it's not that my room is infested with insects, so I'm stumped. What I can surmise is that my body hair is somehow causing this.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Day Fifty-Two

As I toy with main theses for my dissertation, I'll share my thinking with you. Could it be that the "civil society coups" in the Philippines, Venezuela, and Ecuador were moments where a self-proclaimed "middle class" attempted to extrapolate beyond its weak (and arguably ambiguously-defined) structural presence into a political and social one, with serious effects on democracy?

I think that question is interesting in conjunction with this one: Why is it that despite the attempts of many, the operative understanding of social and political life in those three countries, and indeed many other peripheral nations, centers around the "masses" versus "the elites?" Arguably in both the Philippines and Ecuador, the working class movement has been comparatively weak, and despite the "threat" of labor politics in both countries, I don't believe that the operative political and social distinctions are between "workers" and whomever exists at the top. Though speculative, I think many Filipinos and Ecuadorians would probably make reference to the vast gap between the rich and the poor, and make a passing remark about a small middle class. And, even in Venezuela, where working-class politics has been deeply intertwined with the corporatist state, Chavez somehow managed to eliminate the "worker" and subsume it into the "masses."

So, I could see these supposedly revolutionary events as attempts to "will" a nation into accepting a middle-class centric vision of society. As it would seem, in none of these three cases did that concept hold steady. In the Philippines, the middle-class dominant idea remains comforting to some, but only because society and politics continue to be defined so starkly along lines of oligarchs and the masses. In Venezuela, the failure of the "civil society coup" and Chavez's continued and growing presence in Venezuelan politics indicates that his preferred distinction -- between the elites and "the people" -- remains at the forefront of discussion. This, of course, after nearly forty years of a national political scene dominated by two parties, technocrats, and a corporatist labor movement. Ecuador, I know the least about, but from what I've read so far, ejecting Gutierrez from power has not redefined the nature of Ecuadorian politics around a middle-class centric conception of society, especially with the presence of active indigenous movements and undeniable oligarchic politics.

I wanted to somehow work Chile into this -- perhaps the most stable nation in Latin America, and one that continues to present a weak version of "social democracy." While Chileans will mention that there are vast amounts of poor, many will readily concede that new elites -- really bourgeois elites -- have become dominant in politics, while the working-class has been cowed by economic restructuring and the bloody dictatorship that preceeded. One interesting thing about Chilean politics in the past twelve or so years has been the rise and fall of Joaquin Lavin, a right-wing politician and mayor of the richest section of Santiago. Lavin lost the 1998 presidential election in a runoff with watered-down socialist Ricardo Lagos and did not make it to the second round of this year's elections, and in fact, was the weakest right-wing candidate. Lavin's style has been demagogical and populist, and despite enormous success at the municipal level, has not been able to carry a right-populist message to the presidency. One could say the same for the Chilean Communist Party, which has suffered under Chile's binomial electoral system (changed though as of December 21st!), but has not been able to rally the disaffected poor and the workers to any sort of real political success.

So is the easier way to put this, when is populism so powerful that it can transform the understanding of the social order? If we look at ourselves, how much do you think that FOX News and the Christian Right can move our understanding of American society into one that eschews the presence of a middle class, and, as Liberals who ask "what's the matter with Kansas?" would we be complicit?

Don't put apricots into your San Pellegrino -- it makes it taste like grass. This is how I make classy water into vulgar water.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Day Fifty-One

Take two... Summary: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest wasn't so hot. It was filler and a weak pretense to show a third movie. More importantly, however, I went with my brother who cried when I left. And, on a side note, Keira Knightley has the same misalignment with her lower incisors as I, of course indicating our destined future together.

Day Fifty-One

The Friday before I left, my brother and I saw the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie. By his estimation, the movie was "lousy" and I think I'll concur. Mick LaSalle of the Chronicle Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"

Mick was spot-on: the movie was essentially filler for the third Pirates movie, with nothing more than sixty billion plot points (5,999,999,999 that were unnecessary) that had the pathos of the last five minutes of an episode of Enterprise. On an encouraging side note, Keira Knightley's bottom front teeth exhibit the same misalignment as mine. This is encouraging because then when we date (next Friday, by the way), I can tell her we're fated to be together on account of our bottom incisors. Google reveals that she can play her teeth. Never mind. We're breaking up.

When I left Saturday morning, my brother cried. He called me when I got home and said "Mom wanted me to tell you I cried all night last night because I missed you. But I'm better now. Ok, bye!"

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Day Forty-Seven

So Saturday will soon be upon us, which means I'll have to head back to Providence and my life as the least mature graduate student ever. As I creep slowly to my 26th birthday in November, I will need to have accomplished a whole bunch of shit, viz. my dissertation proposal and all the attached funding proposals for it. In addition, I'll need to have done my prelim paper by December. I still can't seem to wrap my brain around this middle class thing, knowing only that it's time someone did something new and it might as well be me (thought shoddily, but hey, it's new at least).

But looming in my mind are the more immediate, small things I want to get done. For instance, filing all those damn articles I used to write those prelim papers and waiting with anticipation for Dell to finally deliver the RAM I ordered nearly two weeks ago. I also have to make friends with our subletter, return those damn cable boxes, and dust my room.

In conversation the immediate future looks mundane. So here's another absurd moment -- trying to have a conversation with someone, let's say a stranger, and convince them that what I'm doing in the next few months is at all interesting. I think a large part of that is me not actually knowing what I'm looking at when I see middle class revolts and so I can't really convey that to anyone. Secondly, I'm personally convinced that my life in the near future is so mundane it's not even worth talking about.

So the question is how do I live an existential life and still make friendly with other people?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Day Forty-Five

Ok... Thanks Patrick

Inside: Paul Wall (whom you might have seen on "Wild n' Out", if you were observant in your MTV viewing) rapping about finding chicks on the internet. Does he indeed have the internet going "nuts?" You tell me.