Wednesday, May 24, 2006

this is hilarious.

what men really think about dating

some of you may know that one of my greatest pleasures in life is trashy magazines. no offense to these magazines is intended, since what i mean by "trashy" includes everything from the Enquirer to the New Yorker. basically, anything that's not a scholarly journal. and i love them all.

yesterday, i read this in "Marie-Claire," part of a feature about what men really think about dating and sex. it's hilarious:

"I have my first date with Vicki, whom I met online. I see dating as a necessary evil, but it helps you learn about yourself, so I do it. My goal is to find someone intelligent, classy, funny, and sexy as hell. So I'm pleased when I meet Vicki, because it turns out she's really hot. I take her to Red Lobster. When our food comes, things get interesting; Vicki doesn't hold her fork and knife right when she eats. The fact that I have to teach her how to use utensils completely turns me off. Call me a snob or bourgeios, but I can't be with someone who has no concept of dining etiquette. I won't be calling her again." -- Jovaughn, 23, "model."

First of all, Jovaughn: wow. are you EVER a douchebag.

you took Vicki to Red Lobster and then denigrated her for not having good manners !?! she probably got the impression that since you were taking her to Red Lobster, she didn't NEED to use her manners.

but moreover: as soon as you take a woman to Red Lobster on a first date, you forfeit the right of first refusal. my guess is that she was TRYING to put you off so as to avaoid the whole awkward climbing-out-the-bathroom-window thing. so don't worry about calling her again; she probably changed her number. in fact, you're lucky she didn't punch you.

call me a snob or bourgeois (which i am guessing you'd actually take as a compliment), but i would never "be with someone" who took me to Red Lobster on our first date.

ladies, discuss.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I encourage you to dig Tony Lopez's (British) take on avant-garde/language vs conservative poetics. One thing that I got out of Lopez's short piece was a confirmation of the fact that the very existence of poetics is evidence of precisely the LACK of threat posed by what Silliman calls the School of Quietude, all the while re-affirming the cultural/political efficacy of an avant-garde, n'est pas?

hey now

So, you know, I have always thought that my blog just wasn't self-centered enough. Like I need, maybe, more about me and less about who the fuck cares on this blog.

I am, of course, joking. I already talk exclusively about myself on this blog and I find that I only want to talk about myself MORE. And since I will never be famous enough to take the Proust questionnaire in the back of *Vanity Fair,* I'm going to take this one from *Jacket* instead and treat myself to a bit of a Warhol. I'm not sure if the questionnaire was intended for taking, but that very confusion signals a metacritical moment that I cannot help but take part in.

The original questionnaire can be found here:

I encourage you to treat yourself right and indulge.

Sophie Calle and Grégoire Bouillier


Translation by Bill Berkson
then answered by Harry Mathews,
then answered by Andrei Codrescu,
with thanks to Constance Lewallen and Harry Mathews, and with a brief note on Proust.

When did you last die?
-- With each and every bad first date.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?
-- The promise of coffee. Today, a very vocal cat.

What became of your childhood dreams?
-- They moved to the suburbs and bought a Range Rover.

What sets you apart from from everyone else?
-- Precisely nothing.

What is missing from your life?
-- A stainless steel Bodum French press pot.

Do you think that everyone can be an artist?
-- Sure.

Where do you come from?
-- Maine.

Do you find your lot an enviable one?
-- Obviously, since I really only want for a coffee pot.

What have you given up?
-- Giving things up.

What do you do with your money?
-- My what?

What household task gives you the most trouble?
-- Putting things away: laundry, clean dishes, silverware. I can clean these things but I can't bring myself to put them away.

What are your favorite pleasures?
-- Magazines, cooking, wine, cupcakes, squeezing.

What would you like to receive for your birthday?
-- A stainless steel Bodum French Press pot.

Cite three living artists whom you detest.
-- No way. Unless they are, in fact, dead, there's always a chance that they'll end up on the search committee I'm interviewing with.

What do you stick up for?
-- Babies. Worth noting: not the same thing as "fetuses."

What are you capable of refusing?
-- Not much. For now, marriage.

What is the most fragile part of your body?
-- 3 way tie: the skin on my chest, my self-confidence, and my poor teeth.

What has love made you capable of doing?
-- Getting from Michigan to Maine in a terrible blizzard; Jager shots; forgetting myself in ways both bad and good.

What do other people reproach you for?
-- My taste in men; my spending habits; inability to stick up for myself; inability NOT to stick up for myself.

What does art do for you?
-- Makes me poor.

Write your epitaph.
-- "It wasn't THAT bad."

In what form would you like to return?
-- As Ben Harper's guitar.

YOUR turn.
Everyone should be required to teach an intro lit class while they are preparing for their QEs. It really requires you, if I may speak plainly, to get your shit straight vis-a-vis the trajectory of a given field.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

foucault is famous

the series finale of the "West Wing" managed to show the cover of -- i believe it was -- _Discipline and Punish_ not once but twice as it was removed from President Bartlett's shelf.

good for you, Foucault.

Lilac's Back!

And, god love her, she's as crazy as ever.

The above is of course a reference to the ongoing "Lilac Debacle" on Silliman's blog. And please note, I use the word "crazy" advisedly; that is, given my own contentious relationship to emotional balance (in the form of panic attacks and chronic, debilitating insomnia) I don't take that label lightly. I am well aware of all the overdetermined connotations it entails. However, when one crosses the line from instability or emotional difficulty into manic, compulsive, paranoid-anti-semitic ranting, one runs the risk of losing my sympathy REAL FAST.

Lilac, I'm looking in your direction here.

Because while there are a fair number of garden-variety weirdos lurking around Silliman's blog, Lilac's particular brand of crazy is beginning to seriously impinge on the well-being of Silliman's comment fields -- if not Silliman himself. Ron, man, I'm sorry you have to deal with this. The difference here is that the weirdos are just that: likeably weird, enthusiastic conversationalists. What's not to like? Besides, you can always direct your browser elsewhere. Lilac, though, is not in control. She seems to obsessively read Silliman's blog and interrupts ongoing conversations to call Ron -- and his commentors -- "Zionist" racists. And her own blogs are largely devoted to conversations with herself that re-cap Silliman's wrongdoings and narrate what she imagines is his perpetually expanding conspiracy against her. Did I mention that it's a "Zionist" conspiracy? It really seems that she cannot stop herself. And that's unsettling, to say the least. Ignore her and she'll go away? Unlikely, and, even so, since when are we ignoring crazy facism-promoting "poets"? It's simply disturbing to know she's out there.

Here's my version of what went down, in the interest of fairness (since when am I fair? since now.): Lilac referred to a poet featured on Silliman's blog as "exotic." Moreover, she stated that the woman's poetry was far less compelling than her "exotic" looks. Now, I think that it's a little reactionary to brand this comment "racist." Her gender politics are far more egregious; since when do we accept that women can devalue other women's work based on looks? Still, the whole thing could have ended there, had Lilac not felt compelled to then go ahead and PROVE that she's racist. Lilac told the blogsphere about how she knows many "minority" women whom she employs to clean her house so that she is able to do her "important" work. She then regaled us with the fact that she indeed knows a "Phillipina" (the "exotic" ethnicity in question) who cleans her friend's house. Aside from her endemic misspelling of Filipina, is this beginning to stink to anyone else yet? Lilac managed, perhaps due to her inability to control her interactions with others, to convince us of her bad race and gender politics in one fell swoop. I won't attribute bad class politics to her too, since if I could afford it I would sure as hell have some help cleaning around here -- given that the person I employed was willingly employed as such and not being exploited, etc, etc. Because I don't like cleaning. So I'll skip that part of the argument. But one day, when I have a real job and a real paycheck, I will also not refer to my subcontracting cleaner as "my Phillipina cleaning lady." You get the idea.

At some point, Silliman pointed out -- I'm not sure why -- that Lilac is an "Anglo woman living as a Muslim" in Lebanon. I'd guess that this was primarily for context, or because he foresaw what might come next: Lilac's assertion that she was being persecuted because, and I quote, "Ron is Jewish" (maybe Silliman was also trying to somehow explain Lilac's manic side-rant about KS Mohammad's secretly being a bin-Laden, which I STILL can't figure out...). Leaving aside her problematic assumption of Silliman's ethnicity (he is, in fact, and Episcopalian or something, but who cares?), Lilac essentially showed all her cards at that point. Manic, compulsive and paranoid, meet anti-semitism. I wouldn't want to play against Lilac in a game of Risk, if you know what I'm saying. But all this old news is merely context for my point, which is this: Lilac has not stopped; she has in fact amped it up enough so that her charges against Ron and his ilk now include "Zionism." Thankfully, she's overseas, because what we have here is the kind of person who begs for a restraining order. And why do I care? Well, as one commentor said: "I thought Lilac sed she wuz leavin? Nothing worse than a huffy fuck-you followed by hanging around in the hallways for another quarter. Michael Jordan, Jay-Z, meet Lilac. She's a Muslim living as a Muslim in who the fuck cares." I mean to suggest that, by hanging around in the hallway, Lilac is totally impinging on people's rights to unharassed discourse. And it's fucking creepy. And Ron, along with his whole wacky-blog-family, shouldn't have to feel creeped out in their own home. Because when you can't be sure that you can go about your daily business unmolested by someone else's unreasonable hatred, you start to feel a bit violated, and at some point you're not really going about your business "freely" anymore.

It's unlikely that this fate will ever befall Silliman's blog. Still, I had to get that off my chest. Lilac's creepy, is all I'm saying. You hear that, Lilac? Get some help, sister.

Okay. Now can we talk about School of Quietude? I'm embarassed to say that until recently, I didn't know what this term meant. Now I am waiting to see if anyone else wants to do something more interesting with SoQ than just argue about it.

I'll get back to you on this one.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

from the cupcake bread line

the picture of cupcakes on jessica's blog reminds me.

i love cupcakes.

this weekend, when Caesy and I were strolling about town waiting for baby-sister news, I decided that maybe we should get some cupcakes. you know, as a treat... for me, mostly, but i happen to know that most 2-year-olds like cupcakes too.

so we went into this bakery. there, on the counter, sat these enormous chocolate cupcakes covered with about five pounds of icing. wow.

me: "do you have any other cupcakes?"

bakery lady: "do you have a problem with these cupcakes?"

me: "no, they're beautiful, i just wonder if you have anything... smaller?"

bakery lady: "something wrong with my cupcakes?"

now, Casey likes sweets as much as any toddler, but she has not yet discovered chocolate, and i have gotten the impression that her parents would like to keep it that way. plus, you really only give a 2-year-old a chocolate cupcake the size of her head if you *want* her to have a meltdown. i wasn't born yesterday.

me: "i just thought maybe you'd have something that wasn't chocolate, in the back. i don't like her to have chocolate."

note that Casey has been sitting, silent smiling, and compliant, in her stroller the entire time.

bakery lady: "maybe your spoiled child needs to learn to be happy with what she's offered."

me: "are we not *paying* for the cupcakes?"

bakery lady: "it's about time for her to learn that she needs to take what's given to her."

for a minute, this wasn't about a five dollar cupcake in Birmingham. oh, no. we were back in the bread lines of moscow, in all their glory. so i packed up my ration cards and took my surrogate spoiled brat for pie at the diner next door.

i'm updating my blogroll soon

i swear. it's on my to-do-list.

except that it's, like, towards the bottom.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

a whole new sarah

my good friends Tricia and Rob have a new baby named Sarah.

she was born yesterday, May 6th, while I was giving their 2-year-old, Casey, her nighttime bath. Casey and i spent yesterday celebrating "big sister day," which includes activities like shopping, playing at the playground, going out to lunch, and watching Dora the Explorer.

oh, and buying balloons. that was the most important part. "big sister day" also includes Eating A Lot of Candy, or At Least More Than You Normally Get To, because my feeling is that when you are 2 years old and your life is about to be turned upside down by a tiny, wrinkled, squawking interloper who hogs all the attention, lollipops (pronounced "yahdipots") might help soften the blow.

even though i did absolutely nothing of importance to this event, i still feel proud and honored to be somehow included in such an incredible happening. i remember how good life can be. so, thanks for having a new baby, Rob and Trish. well done, baby Sarah.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

leafy limbswish

let's get serious for a minute.

about prostitutes. (alternate title: see, I do work!)

“Leafy Limbswish; Limpid Thoroughfare”
The Boulevards, the Baroness, and the Otherhow of Benjamin’s Prostitute

And already, even as she stood there, in her very well cut clothes, it was beginning…. People were beginning to compare her to poplar trees, early dawn, hyacinths, fawns, running water, and garden lilies; and it made her life a burden to her…. For it was beginning.
Virginia Woolf

Information sheet question: “Does she enjoy having her photograph taken and posing for them?”
Rachel Blau DuPlessis

In his essay “The Voids of Berlin,” Andreas Huyssen reminds readers that “the trope of the city as book or text has existed as long as we have had a modern city literature.” That is, he goes on to suggest, there is nothing inherently new about reading the city. Yet it is still crucial to contemporary narrative theory to ask, with Dianne Chisholm: “How does the city function as a vision of collective memory when official history dominates image production?” In this paper, I will argue for a re-imagination of the figure of the prostitute in the work of Walter Benjamin as an understanding of how narrative can figure the city to produce what Chisholm calls “critical countermemory” (“CM” 197). More specifically, I will suggest a reading based on Benjamin’s repeated imaginings of “prostitutes in doorways,” which figure the prostitutes at the thresholds of public sexuality and the domestic interior. Here, these women of the night figure as indexes of desire in late capitalism and thus support an avant-garde urban topography based in the erotics of countermemory; we can read Benjamin’s prostitutes as perhaps a “conceptual bridge back from ‘now time’ to a new narrativity,” as agents of “the creative intensity of the erotic and the political as a double awakening.” Of the possibilities of reading an agent at the threshold, Benjamin writes: “I am not concerned here with what is installed in the chamber at its enigmatic center… but all the more with the many entrances leading to the interior…. These entrances I call primal acquaintances… so many entrances to the maze.” Benjamin’s entrances, read through the figure of the prostitute, mark the “profane limit of bourgeois decency,” where embodied desire cuts across the modern city as a “nomadic assemblage” of radical sexual resignification.

What is at stake here is a re-imagining of the prostitute that resists what Chisholm calls “the recuperation of sexual outlawry by a politics of representation” (“OM” 171). Instead of “colluding with the mechanisms of legitimization which aestheticize and neutralize” radical sexuality, it is necessary to find, in the figure of the prostitute “a final front against rationalization and embourgeoisment” (“OM” 195). I mean for this paper to be an exploration of the possibilities of resignification as a strategy that replaces “reverse discourse and other foibles of ressentiment” with a mobilized Benjaminian feminism that works within the Passagenwerk’s “entry-way” poetics of contiguity to deploy this poetics in the figure of the prostitute (ibid.). Benjamin opened this figure in “Berlin Chronicle”:
There is no doubt, at any rate, that a feeling of crossing the threshold of one’s class for the first time has a part in the almost unequaled fascination of publicly accosting a whore on the street. At the beginning, however, this was a crossing of frontiers not only social but topographical, in the sense that whole networks of streets were opened up under the auspices of prostitution. But is it really a crossing, is it not, rather, an obstinate and voluptuous hovering on the brink, a hesitation…. But the places are countless in the great cities where one stands on the edge of the void, and the whores in the doorways of tenement blocks and on the less sonorous asphalt of railway platforms are like the household goddesses of this cult of nothingness. (“BC” 11; emphasis added)

Revisionist Modernism insists, as I do, on reading Benjamin’s texts as “deployed” in the Foucauldian sense, wherein, according to Eva Geulen: “Emphasizing the kind of intimacy and clearly erotically overdetermined relationship that binds sexuality to image and image to sexuality in Benjamin’s writing surely catapults the discussion out of the confines of Benjamin scholarship and into the highly contested arena of debates over the relationship of discourses and gender, images and bodies.” To read Benjamin’s texts as eroticized illuminates the entry-ways and passages as moments of what Geulen considers “the site of Benjamin’s challenge to feminism, which has for the most part avoided the true scope of the gender problematic in Benjamin by restricting its investigations to safely identifiable motifs of (presumably) determinate gender, such as the lesbian and the prostitute” (168). Resignifying Benjamin’s prostitute would amount to a realization of the erotics of Benjamin’s texts as “a moment of discursivization that emerges in the diversification, disruption, and pluralization of sexuality and gender” in both the content and construction of the texts (ibid.).

The figure of the prostitute, then, can be deployed in and by Benjamin’s work as a figure of “countermemory,” itself a Foucauldian term, defined as “a competing narrative of the past composed of memories that exceed official public history.” Countermemory, for Foucault, is a way to “remember having been,” wherein intimacy “becomes a shared history as much as a shared space; internalized as behavior patterns through its integration into memorial narratives of pleasure, intimacy becomes the basis for a collective futurity” (11). While Foucault’s countermemory is specifically queer, and is a function of urban gay males, I would argue that narratives of sexual outlawry can and do produce countermemory in similar ways that are crucially aligned with eroticized materialist history. More to the point, countermemory creates “moments of discursivization” that confront the normalizing “sexualization of discourse” that seems to hold sway over desire (Geulen 168). Benjamin’s Passagenwerk “Invents techniques of remembrance… bound up with objects of the past still traceable to the present”; his “city of memory,” mapped by the prostitute, “harbors erotic fantasies at the thresholds of life and death, antiquity and modernity, propriety and delinquency, and transgression and prostitution” (“CM” 198;200). The situation of the prostitute at the threshold or limit of bourgeois decency should, as the Passagenwerk demonstrates, be read as a simultaneously discontinuous and contiguous index of desire that “affects the story of calling history to remembrance”; here, feminism can read the prostitute’s situation as an opening of the multi-directional historicity of Benjaminian contiguity that allows for discursive intervention (“CM” 214).

In the Passagenwerk, Benjamin writes: “We have grown very poor in threshold experiences.” The statement comes from one of the passages that comprises “Convolut O,” which is titled “Prostitution, Gambling.” In what follows, Benjamin makes clear his idea of the threshold, seeming even to anticipate later criticisms of his treatment of the prostitute: “It is not only from the thresholds of these gates of imagination that lovers and friends like to draw their energies; it is from thresholds in general. Prostitutes, however, love the thresholds of these gates of dream. – The threshold must be carefully distinguished from the boundary. A Schwelle is a zone. Transformation, passage, wave action are in the word schwellen, swell, and etymology ought not to overlook these senses” (494). I would argue that this passage confounds simplistic readings of the prostitute as “both seller and commodity in one”; likewise, the metaphors of “penetration” that saturate, to greater and lesser extents, feminist readings of the figures in Benjamin’s city, would find themselves troubled. If the threshold is a “zone” of the type constructed by the Passagenwerk, we could argue, along with Judith Butler, that the construction of the figure of the prostitute is no longer simply a matter of “constructivism, but neither is it essentialism.” Geulen notes that the saturation of Benjamin’s texts with “the imagery of gendered eroticism” informs “the political materialism of his thought that is, after all, concerned with ‘bodies that matter’”(Geulen 162). In Bodies That Matter, Butler writes: “For there is an ‘outside’… but this is not an absolute ‘outside,’ an ontological thereness that exceeds or counters the boundaries of discourse; as a constitutive ‘outside,’ it is that which can only be thought – when it can – in relation to that discourse, at and as its most tenuous borders” (8; emphasis added). “Construction,” Butler concludes, “must mean more than such a simple reversal of terms,” a foible of ressentiment; in turn, as Sue Best writes, “penetration is thus no longer possible” (Butler 9).

Put far more simply, the deployment of the prostitute as an agent of countermemory mobilizes her arrest as “trope.” This “new and disturbing articulation” of textual erotics via countermemory “cuts into the sequence” of representation (“CM” 213). Historical sequence, like a signifying chain, determines the relative immobilization of gendered representations. “Experienced in sequence,” Chisholm writes, “history appears continuous,” as does signification (ibid.). Radical sexuality “cuts into the sequence,” across it, with mobilized, eroticized narratives. In The Pink Guitar, Rachel Blau DuPlessis calls this cutting “Rupture”: “To refuse the question asked. To break through the languages of both question and answer. To activate all the elements of normal telling beyond normal telling.” DuPlessis’s countermemory as activization “beyond normal telling” points to the avant-garde potentialities of the kind of Benjaminian feminism that I am proposing here.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006



my ON DEMAND's free, bitch. you're just the added bonus to, like, Blow Out and Big Love.