Start Your School Year Right, Read Some Marx.

Nate and some other fellars are reading themselves some Marx – I would certainly like to pitch in, but I’m a bit slow on the technological side of the matter and I’m not sure who and how will follow all the posts on all the blogs, if someone can give me a hand, I’d be happy to get right into it.

Aesthetics Research Group

An interesting resource:

The Aesthetics Research Group at the University of Kent is pleased to make public its archive of recorded lectures in aesthetics:

The archive includes audio and video recordings of research talks given by Noël Carroll, Howard Caygill, Gregory Currie, David Davies, Susan Dwyer, Jonathan Friday, Andrew Kania, Jerrold Levinson, Patrick Maynard, Aaron Meskin, Alex Neill, Kathleen Stock, Cain Todd, Rob van Gerwen, Scott Walden, Kendall Walton, Tom Wartenberg.

Jerrold Levinson’s entire lecture series on “Key Concepts in Aesthetics” is also available in audioformat.

For more information:

Liquid Books: The Post-Corporate University

As I noted here, an interesting online experiment is currently taking place. Entitled The Post-Corporate University (Edited and curated by Davin Heckman), it is the second volume in Culture Machine’s Liquid Books series. The volume is available now online and is open for discussion, contributions and open collaboration.

The first chapter, “Neo-liberal Arts and the 21st century University,” is up. From the opening page, “A Call to Action:”

This project presumes that the University is in crisis and that this crisis has been caused by the social and economic characteristics of “Neoliberalism.” I am far from the first person to identify this crisis. I do, however, feel that it has not been addressed adequately or consistently. And, I am certain that it cannot be adequately or consistently addressed but in a systemic way, by many people, in many settings, with many relationships to the University, through multiple attempts at critique and action. As a result, this project belongs to Liquid Books, a free and open wiki-based publication. While I believe in such things as the “Creative Commons,” this project does not belong to everyone, rather, it can belong only to those who hold it in common. Possession of such a project is not simply a given, rather it can only be had by those who care to make it. Thus, I invite readers to participate actively, to build it from the ground up.

As readers will note, this first chapter provides a bit of personal background, a bit of theory, and concludes with a proposal. What comes next is entirely to be determined. I am not an authority on the University. I am only one person teaching at one school. But I do hope that the limited information in this first chapter is provocative enough to generate additional content, some of which might be incorporated into this first chapter, but much of which will likely result in new chapters. My personal goal with this project is not a unitary answer, but possible answers suggested by a multitude of theories and experiences that can move us beyond the grim prospect of our inert state.

As you read, think about what you might write, and let us give our answers to the question: Is Another University Possible?

I’m hoping to have a closer look and make some more substantive comments, but the whole project looks rather promising.  Please see:

BBC Proms: More Shostakovich

Having done 11th with Bychkov the other day, BBC Proms gives us 8th symphony (it’ll be available for 7 days to listen online here), conducted by Valery Gergiev – this symphony was written in 1943 – again, you might skip the pre-symphony chatter (annoying Russian lady that ends every sentence with “ya?” and all, but it’s generally very informative, plus Gergiev gets to say a few words starting from around minute 9), symphony begins at 12:25.

To give you a sense of what I described as a “secret dissident” interpretation of Shostakovich that I think is rather idiotic in its simplicity, check out this description of the symphony and its hidden anti-tyrannical “message” – yak!

BBC Proms: Bychkov Conducts Shostakovich’s Eleventh

If you skip all that chatter (symphony begins around minute 13) in the beginning (all that bullshit about how Shostakovich was really a secret anti-Soviet rebel, sneakily writing music about 1905 but in fact criticizing Soviet system without, however, really leaving any evidence of that), this is a great version of Shostakovich’s 11th symphony.

Hyperbole, Zizek and Israeli Politics

UPDATE: As Hjalmar notes below, this is from the Guardian website referring to the original op-ed: This article was amended on 20 August 2009. The online version originally referred to “Palestinian-frei”, while the print version had been edited to say “Palestinian-free”. This editing change should have been applied to the online version.  [As I’ve been thinking about it, I’m not sure how much difference this actually makes, however.-SO]

The level of discourse about Israel is sinking lower and lower. While I hesitate to even post this given the often unproductive discussions I’ve engaged in online and in-person with people about these issues, I’m just kind of annoyed. An idiotic op-ed from Zizek appeared in the Guardian the other day. I will say this; when Zizek writes:

When peace-loving Israeli liberals present their conflict with Palestinians in neutral, symmetrical terms – admitting that there are extremists on both sides who reject peace – one should ask a simple question: what goes on in the Middle East when nothing is happening there at the direct politico-military level (ie, when there are no tensions, attacks or negotiations)? What goes on is the slow work of taking the land from the Palestinians on the West Bank: the gradual strangling of the Palestinian economy, the parcelling up of their land, the building of new settlements, the pressure on Palestinian farmers to make them abandon their land (which goes from crop-burning and religious desecration to targeted killings) – all this supported by a Kafkaesque network of legal regulations.

there is some element of truth to this. Yes, the “occupation” does not stop. It won’t stop until, if we take Zizek seriously, there will be no possibility for a Palestinian state. I’m not so sure about that at all, however, the issue is that I don’t think it’s possible for Israelis to merely dismiss the occupation as the major problem in this conflict today. For any progress on that front we need to wait for a new administration, but the manner in which Zizek procedes throughout the article is shameless. Here are two absolutely idiotic statements from Slavoj Zizek: Continue reading

This Class Is Brought To You By Matress King.

This was bound to happen – when a smart administrator is looking for extra-cash, they’re bound to find it. Let’s face it, we already have a name plaque on everything that can be sold anyway.  So if you are teaching a class with a donor’s name on the door, why not have a donor for class itself?

To Don Q. Griffin, it was just an idea. But to many commentators, it endangered academic freedom.

Near the end of June, in the midst of one of the worst budget crises in California history, the City College of San Francisco chancellor told The San Francisco Chronicle that any private donor who gave $6,000 to the institution would have the canceled course of his or her choice revived and named after them.

The critics, including trustees who learned of the chancellor’s idea only after reading about it in the newspaper, wailed. While donors have endowed chairs and entire divisions of colleges for years, this was different, critics said. What would happen, they asked, if — for example — the college offered a health course sponsored by a big alcohol or tobacco company? Continue reading

I Like My Physics Like I Like My Opera.

Weird, that is. I saw this in SEED:

Since writing a bestselling book on her fascinating and complex extra-dimensional theory of the universe, Harvard physicist Lisa Randall has been busy re-imagining it as an appropriately cerebral art form—opera. After three years of development, Hypermusic Prologue: A Projective Opera in Seven Planes premiered at Paris’s prestigious Centre Pompidou in June and, like Randall’s book Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions, it manages to translate the impenetrable world of theoretical physics into something that not only appeals to scientists, but to anyone willing to look beyond the obvious for clues about the nature of reality.

Spanish composer Hèctor Parra, 33, first saw artistic potential in Randall’s ideas after reading Warped Passages, which uses plain language to describe how hidden dimensions may explain some of physics’ greatest quandaries—such as why the gravitational force is so weak. When the book was released in Europe in 2006, Parra met up with Randall in Berlin to ask her to write a libretto based on her work. Randall admits she was “a little uncomfortable focusing so much on the physics,” she says, because she didn’t want to alienate the audience. “But I did see that the exploration of an extra dimension could be very nice as a metaphor. It seemed exciting.”

I remember seeing something about it, and here I found some YouTube clips (not of the opera, but of the making of it) – the only question now is how do I get to Luxemburg or Brussels to see it: Continue reading

Another Boring Post: New Book of Interest, Law in Crisis

Description: Taking natural disaster as the political and legal norm is uncommon. Taking a person who has become unstable and irrational during a disaster as the starting point for legal analysis is equally uncommon. Nonetheless, in Law in Crisis Ruth Miller makes the unsettling case that the law demands an ecstatic subject and that natural disaster is the endpoint to law. Developing an idiosyncratic but compelling new theory of legal and political existence, Miller challenges existing arguments that, whether valedictory or critical, have posited the rational, bounded self as the normative subject of law. By bringing a distinctive, accessible reading of contemporary political philosophy to bear on source material in several European and Middle Eastern languages, Miller constructs a cogent analysis of natural disaster and its role in modern subject formation. In the process, she opens up exciting new lines of inquiry in the fields of law, politics, and gender studies. Law in Crisis represents a promising new development in the interdisciplinary study  of law.

  Continue reading