Mark C. Taylor Speaking About Religion, But Not Really…

I went to hear Mark C. Taylor this evening, his talk was titled “Religion in the Age of Globalization” but it was mostly about things he apparently discusses in his recent work, namely, on money and markets and on religion and auto-immunity. He talked about all these issues in a kind of “theory of everything” manner which, if I understand it, he tried to summarize in his work on complexity and networks. Now I have to say I had no idea Mark C. Taylor was publishing all this stuff. The last thing I remember him doing were all those things about Altarity and Imagologies. He certainly tried to present his recent research in a kind of basic power-point-like presentation (with very basic diagrams, in fact, so basic that one wonders if he needs to hire a good media person to help him with the visual stuff), but he spent an incredible amount of time trying to explain very subtle economic matters to the audience that was primarily interested in religion and philosophy. Continue reading

Wednesday Afternoon Jazz: Arthur Doyle

Arthur Doyle with Han Bennink at Trinity University in Texas last January.

In addition, I just picked up an outstanding recording with Arthur Doyle and the amazing Sunny Murray released by the wonderful Ayler Records label. Watch them together here

More On McGill TA Strike and Related Issues.

Marc Bousquet reports on the on-going TA strike at McGill and anonymous commenters provide more information about the situation on the ground:

Some background: the Administration has been on a campaign for a few years now to fight student autonomy and representation on campus, from forcing referenda on the campus-and-comunity CKUT radio station, undergrad The Daily newspaper, to attempting to shut-down student-run food services, such as the Architecture Cafe (and attempting to centralise all food services under the international conglomerate, Chartwell’s), to disempowering the SSMU undergrad student union (for example, by charging students for access to campus for events), to ignoring the demands of the PGSS grad student union, to banning all rallies and protest on campus. The campus itself has become a security zone, with rent-a-cops on every corner, ready to quash everything from a stray protest sign (or even a bit of protest clothing, as I have discovered) to forcing cyclists to dismount while giving priority to car traffic (all this security is all under the Columbine pretense). Quite simply, McGill is on lockdown as a security state. […] Continue reading

Žižek’s New Book: In Defense Of Lost Causes.

Terry Eagleton reviews Žižek’s new book:

The self-consciously outrageous case the book has to argue is that there is a “redemptive” moment to be plucked from such failed revolutionary ventures as Jacobinism, Leninism, Stalinism and Maoism. Žižek is by no means a champion of political terror: the Mao he offers us here, for example, is the mass murderer who mused that “half of China may have to die” in the Great Leap Forward, and who remarked that though a nuclear war might blow a hole in the planet, it would leave the cosmos largely untouched. His aim is not to justify such demented views, but to make things harder for the typical liberal middle-class dismissal of them. In pursuing this goal, the book offers us a wealth of political and philosophical insight; but it is not at all clear that it validates its central thesis. […]

It is not the nave of its central thesis which makes this book so compelling, but its side chapels. Slavoj Žižek, as usual, seems gratifyingly unable to remember what case he has just been pursuing, and there are some splendid digressions, including an account of the changing role of the scherzo in Shostakovich, a disquisition on Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”, and reflections on Eisenstein’s lost masterpieces. In Defense of Lost Causes is a frenetic, eclectic parody of intellectual scholarship, by one so assured in his grasp of the finer points of Kafka or John le Carré that he can afford to ham it up a little. Read the whole thing.

I did buy Parallax View when it came out, but I think I only used it as a reference guide to see what Žižek had to say about certain subjects – I’m not sure if I could read it all the way through. Should I buy this new one or is Žižek’s fame slowly fading away and I no longer need to familiarize myself with his ever-increasing body of work to stay “hip”?

Guilt by Association: Obama and Wright

A few weeks ago Stanley Fish wrote this in his column Think Again:

Renunciation of a position you no longer hold and now consider to be profoundly in error may be helpful to your psychological health. Renouncing a group from which you have broken away may serve the useful purpose of warning others away from the dangers you have now escaped. Denouncing is a bit different. Usually we denounce our opponents, not our friends or associates or loved ones (unless we are living in a totalitarian state where denunciations are offered as proof of loyalty). So it seems overly dramatic to denounce a supporter because he or she has uttered an opinion you find distasteful. Better to say something mild and nuanced – I don’t agree with that, but I’m not going to turn my back on someone because of a few unfortunate remarks – and get on with the real business at hand. That is what Obama did in his justly praised speech.

These days Obama has shifted gears. Certainly, Wright has said some um..unfortunate things in the last few days. Today’s NY Times editorial says it all:

In the last few days, in a series of shocking appearances, he embraced the Rev. Louis Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism. He said the government manufactured the AIDS virus to kill blacks. He suggested that America was guilty of “terrorism” and so had brought the 9/11 attacks on itself.

The first two claims caused me to raise my eyebrows, the last claim is pretty boring at this point. Certainly, given the symbolism that 9/11 wields such a claim would make a slick politician like Obama rather nervous. Continue reading

Reading The Book of Disquiet

Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet is one of those books I keep coming back to. When I first bought it I sat down and read it straight through and I have found that over the years I will, from time to time, pick it up and either flip through it reading random passages or get lost in the aphorisms and burn through the whole text all over again. It’s an autobiography in the form of journal entries by Pessoa’s “semiheteronym” Bernardo Soares, because as Pessoa describes it, “his personality is not different from mine, rather a simple mutilation of it.” I don’t know what grabbed me early on, perhaps the musings of the everyday (“the quotidian is maternal”), the utter and hopeless solitude, and the periodic fits of frustration and failure that mark many of the pages. Or maybe its the moments of what seems to be a series of transforming realizations that Pessoa dutifully reports throughout. Yet, most of all is the constant wrestling with what Benjamin Kunkel calls–in an excellent reflection about reading The Book of Disquiet— “a kudzu Cartesianism: a crazy interior multiplication of egos, each thought or feeling producing a separate spectator self, a subject then made into the object of a brand new subject, and so on indefinitely.” It is this seductive solitariness, the complete withdrawal into dream life and at other times, more mildly, a vacillation between waking and dream life that always jumped out at me. Regardless, this passage caught my eye this evening, having picked up the book on a complete whim:

We should arrange our lives so that for others they are a mystery, so that the people who know us best don’t know us from closer range than the rest. I shaped my life that way, almost without thinking of it, but I put so much instinctive art into doing it that for myself I have become a no to all my clear and sharp individuality.

Kunkel’s article in The Believer is well worth taking a look at. [There, that should fulfill my pretentious post quota for the month, and not a day too soon!] Aces…

Derrida Today: New Journal

[Here is some information about a new journal – Derrida Today – that will be launched this summer as a conference in Sydney, Australia in July 2008 – keynote speakers are Catherine Malabou, Andrew Benjamin and Martin McQuillan]

DERRIDA TODAY is a refereed journal, published by Edinburgh University Press ( ISSN: 1754-8500)

General Editors: Nicole Anderson & Nick Mansfield


Reviews Editor:

Martin McQuillan


  • Derrida Today will focus on what Derrida’s thought offers to contemporary debates about politics, society and global affairs.
  • Derrida Today will explore how Derridean thought and deconstruction make significant contributions to contemporary issues and practices.
  • Derrida Today will invite papers that deal with the ongoing relevance of Derrida’s work and deconstruction to contemporary issues and practices; to the way it reconfigures the academic and social protocols and languages by which such issues are defined and discussed, and innovative artistic practices that adopt a “deconstructive” approach to how our contemporary situation can be represented.
  • Derrida Today will accept articles on any aspect of Derrida’s work or deconstruction in relation to various topics and contemporary issues, such as: philosophy and other theoretical/philosophical thinkers, literature, psychoanalysis, architecture, law, film and visual studies, photography and art , embodiment, feminism, race studies, politics, ethics, sociology, cultural studies, queer theory, sexuality, education, etc.

Where to Submit Articles: Continue reading

Dangerous Ideologies? Sadly, Yes.

This story from Brooklyn has received some attention in today’s New York Times and I think it deserves even more attention:

Debbie Almontaser dreamed of starting a public school like no other in New York City. Children of Arab descent would join students of other ethnicities, learning Arabic together. By graduation, they would be fluent in the language and groomed for the country’s elite colleges. They would be ready, in Ms. Almontaser’s words, to become “ambassadors of peace and hope.”

Basically, it seems that Almontaser was forced to resign as a result of a targeted personal attack on her by a good old-fashioned “negative campaign” but what bothers me the most about this story is the fact that people who initiated the attack are so open about their anti-Muslim attitude: Continue reading

Oh the Inhumanity.

Over the time I’ve been working on my Masters in Human Rights I’ve come to realize that studying genocide causes me to read books of a slightly different nature than what most of my fellow grad students are reading for their theses.

Therefore, I’ve come to the conclusion that my books are competing with each other for most depressing title:

Titles include We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families, A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide, Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany, How Can We Commit The Unthinkable?: Genocide, the Human Cancer, The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil, Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing, Why Did They Kill? Cambodia in the Shadow of Genocide, Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide, The Holocaust and Other Genocides, Genocide, Century of Genocide: Critical Essays and Eyewitness Accounts, Destined for Evil?, The Media and The Rwandan Genocide, Mass Hate: The Global Rise of Genocide and Terror, Why Not Kill Them All? The Logic and Prevention of Mass Political Murder, Justice on the Grass: Three Rwandan Journalists, Their Trial for War Crimes, and a Nation’s Quest for Redemption, Genocide and Human Rights

I have to tell you, my works cited pages always look awesome.

Hilary Hahn: Schönberg and Sibelius Violin Concertos

Is it concertos? I thought it was concerti… oh well. This CD came out recently and I heard/read all kinds of great things about it, and now I can confirm that all of those things were true – excellent record. I have some records by Hilary Hahn and I was surprised when I heard that she was recording Schoenberg’s Violin Concerto primarily because most of the other stuff she did was so… traditional. Actually, I have admit that I did not realize how much stuff she already recorded as I checked my own collection and I think now adding Schoenberg to her repertoire is a great thing – it is an amazing rendition, you should do yourself a favor and check it out. One thing I did not like about the recent Hahn-related material was the most boring documentary ever that just came out in 2007 – Hilary Hahn: A Portrait

Here’s a review from always insightful Ionarts: Continue reading