Monthly Archives: January 2010

Sectarian Realism

This is in response to the news regarding Speculations and is taken from an email I sent to Paul last night when asked about my thoughts going forward with the journal.

I’m not sure what I think the plan should be going forward. I think an SR journal would be appreciated and useful. One thing that worries me is the prospect of (for lack of a better term) “crowding the market.” SR is young. I’m not sure I understand the benefit of every “club” within it having its own journal. That’s how orthodoxies are formed and dialogue avoided. I work in psychoanalytic theory and you see the same thing there; they all begin with the basic assumption that there is something called an unconscious but other than that Freudians, Kleinians, Jungians and Lacanians have nothing to do with each other. They don’t even want to talk to each other. They certainly don’t learn from one another. There is no room for conversation or disagreement or debate but only for exegesis of the master or adherence to their principles. I don’t like the idea of Collapse devolving into a love of neuroscience (and I’m not saying it is necessarily, though that’s clearly how Graham sees it and I’m sure he’s not alone; I haven’t read the last volume but am anticipating the next one), with the vitalists setting up their own little clubhouse before certain people decide we’re all politically naive (or dangerous!) and start their own journal for contemporary Marxism, etc, etc. Pretty soon each of us end up in isolation running our own little journal and we might as well have just started blogs (which we all already have anyway).

I guess I had always hoped that there would be a general journal for SR all along. The important thing is to be excited about the work being done. I don’t like the unnecessary emotion brought in to intellectual work, with one group sneering at another. Frankly it seems stupid and arrogant. I’m not going to go to Anthony or Reid and tell them Laruelle isn’t worthwhile just because I happen to disagree with his understanding of science or his treatment of Deleuze or whatever, just as I wouldn’t tell Nick he’s wasting his time with politics or Ben that there’s no point in grappling with the concept of slime or the work of Lovecraft. Just because we disagree with each other about things (and I’m not saying I disagree with the aforementioned examples at all!) doesn’t mean I am not genuinely excited about their work or the future of philosophy. I disagree with Graham for example on things related to causality, possibility, and will, which is exactly what I was writing about for the journal, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like him or his work. It’s invigorating to read someone you disagree with on things and understand why and talk it out. I don’t see any merit in walling ourselves off from each other anymore than I see the merit in imagining some grand break in the history of thought. We’re always in dialogue, we might as well be honest about it and open to it.

To put it simply, I’d rather be park of a big tent full of excitement and conversation than a little tent where nothing happens.

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What Late Night Television Says About Media Today

I love this clip. I don’t watch late night television because I don’t find any of them funny. I was excited when Michael Ian Black was competing to take over for Craig Kilborn on CBS but lost interest when Craig Ferguson beat him out. I have however been unusually interested this whole late night fiasco. I think it’s the same reason I’m interested in the effect that comedy shows have had on politics. As I’m sure people have noticed, politicians are far more likely to be taken less seriously. We see this with The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, but it has been far more apparent in Canadian comedy.

What’s the joke here? Harper is often accused of being cold and antagonistic towards the media (as well as his own cabinet) and in the above video he acts the opposite to this, with an accompanied laugh track so we all know it’s a joke. Nudge nudge wink wink. Oh that Harper! Rick Mercer also took Prime Minister Paul Martin out to Canadian Tire to help him fix his windows and took Jean Chretien out for burgers. What are we to make of this? Isn’t it just another way for politicians to show us that deep down they’re people too and they can goof off and be silly? Isn’t it the equivalent of when Zizek (in the documentary Zizek!) says that he is a monster who plays that he is human? The whole “deep down I’m just like you, I love kittens and chocolate cake” is the utmost of ideology today, the idea that deep down even political monsters (not that Harper is the equivalent of a Hitler or whoever) have these soft sensitive centers. The criticism is appropriated, it’s a joke now. If a politician wants a scandal to go away, they shouldn’t argue against the claims or deny it, they should make a joke in public. Poof! I suppose the joke then is really on us, the joke being that we elected him in the first place.

So what does this have to do with the late night shenanigans of late? All of the late night programs (with the exception of Jimmy Fallon as far as I can tell; he’s just happy to have a job) have been making jokes about the whole thing. What is the consequent of this? A tremendous increase in ratings. These are the highest ratings they’ve seen in a long time! What’s fascinating is that all it took was self-referentiality. Television talking about television. The substance has become identical to the form, with all of the jokes being about television. So the ratings go up. People start “supporting” Conan by watching his show and posting on Twitter that they love him (though clearly not enough to have been watching his show for the past several months). Who wins in this? NBC. NBC wins the day: they have a public feud between Leno and Conan so millions tune in to watch the feud, increasing the ratings of both shows. Yet, the people “supporting” Conan are anti-NBC and are angered by their decision. The whole situation is amazing to me.

What does this self-referentiality ultimately mean for media? For one thing we can expect no change from the establishment. NBC will not claim fault for this whole thing. Why would they? They’ve appropriated the antagonism of the situation and profited from it. Job well done, they’ll say. Leno will go back to his old time slot having once again survived a public battle for late night. In the clip below we can see the end result: jokes will be made, people will laugh, all will be forgotten.

[EDIT: I realize that some background might be helpful. Here is the original announcement about moving the whole NBC lineup and here is Conan’s public letter about the whole thing.]

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January Update / a new body, a new blog

monsters

Something I don’t talk about on here because I’m never sure how personal I want this blog to be (I waiver between wanting it to be fairly academic to being simply the personal blog of an academic) is that I suffer from depression. I have for a number of years now (twelve in fact) and it’s just something I have to deal with. I’ve been in something of a funk since classes ended last month and besides that, editing duties have kept me from writing anything substantial. I know I owe a couple of people emails and I’ll get back to them soon.

I have however decided I should talk about another blog I’m running now. I started a Tumblr a while ago basically just for myself as a way to keep track of things I like or thought were interesting but for one reason or another didn’t want to post on here. I always feel somehow guilty when I post something like a video or a work of art on here without commentary, whereas the Tumblr is something of a dumping place for anything and everything that interests me. I’m considering it something of an aesthetic experiment since it is largely filled with pictures and video, almost as if I am deriving my own aesthetic through collecting. I really like the idea of balancing out my interests, saving this space for texts and the Tumblr for collections and fragments. So if you’re interested, that is, if you share my aesthetic for the nostalgic, for the fragmented, etc, then drop by a new body, whose title comes from a work of fiction I wrote and destroyed some time ago, but whose title I always liked. It’s got a fairly substantial archive at this point and should take someone a while to work through. I’ve begun adding to it regularly.

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