Sunday, January 10, 2010

HNY 2010

Dag. What a big number! 2010!

Well, not quite as futuristic as the movie 2001 and the (underrated) tv show Space 1999 projected. (Remember that show? With the wonderful -- and formally married --acting pair Martin Landau and Barbara Bain?)

(from Space 1999 wikipedia entry)

I don't know about you all but this year feels different for me. Last year was a little "dramatic" toward the end so I figure this one will "come in like a lamb" to borrow from the expression. I love the New Year and we get to commemorate the Lunar New Year in about a month -- going from Ox to Tiger.

So I felt the itch to starting writing for January (and usually feel compelled to write) because I love my life and the riches of the world. (Saccarine, much?) Really though! Life's just amazing. I'm a (notorious) Gemini, as everyone who knows me knows and we twin folks are famous for loving contrasts, especially when it comes to communication. (Hey, star-gazing is entertaining! The poet Sekou Sundiata used to say he'd look at the daily astrological forecasts and whichever he liked the best, that's the one he'd believe. I go for that system!)

Over the years that I've written for this lil blog, I usually demonstrate my affection for contrasts. I love so many things and when they crash into each other in my comings and goings, I feel so happy! The world is amazing, funny, sad, infuriating and wonderful.

Even in New York in January. Cold, filthy and did I mention cold?

(from website. Yeah, go already.)

Started off the year with some fun: The New Year's Reading at St. Mark's. I dragged Elliott Sharp into my scheme (like Lucy did poor Ricky) and we enjoyed ourselves. We did a cover! Sorry you had to be there...I've performed w/ Elliott a bunch so it wasn't horrible and surprisingly stress-free. I like going to the Project and trying out new stuff on New Year's. Keeps me on my toes!


Now that the year is really, really here, I found other pleasures before classes start: I was geeking out to hours and hours of a wonderful podcast called "Philosophy Bites" out of London ( It's all about European philosophical traditions/ethical questions/notable theorists. As an adoring fan of J.L. Austin and a newcomer to this world (I didn't seriously start exploring philosophy until my last go-round in grad school except for the required basics for my PoliSci undergrad degree). it's nice to get the overview/review. (Descartes, It's been ages! Rousseau, what's up? Isaiah Berlin! Derrida, you codger!)

What I'm interested in contributing to the field, I hope, is a consideration of the ways that non-Eurocentric (and the implicit cultural baggage of top-dog status) can inform and be informed by seemingly oppositional cultural/political philosophical viewpoints. In other words, how can we converse with the goal of everybody learning something. Know why? Because we're all influenced by each other (sometimes for better, sometimes not). I like to look at the surprising ways in which ideas are linked. I guess John Berger's "Ways of Seeing" got to me as a kid when the show was re-run on PBS for a while...

(via Ways of Seeing wikipedia page)

I like Philosophy Bites (and its sibling "Ethics Bites") because it has a great deal of affection for "the western" half of the equation. I like going over this stuff! (To be fair, they did have a podcast on Eastern -- i.e. Indian -- philosophy w/ Keith Ward but that was out of 111 episodes. That's their thing and it's cool. They're upfront w/ the perspective). Of course I'm not making a point about the backgrounds of the commentators but the subject matter being discussed. As y'all know, I like Shakespeare plays so it's not my first time at this western (love-fest) rodeo! (corny pun. get it?)


Now if doing cover tunes in an experimental way and listening to Classical Philosophy isn't enough of a contrast, I've got another one for ya: A friend of mine started circulating some clips of the great Paul Mooney opining, acerbically and hilariously, on Pres. Obama, Tiger Woods, Richard Pryor, etc. O.M.G. Mr. Mooney is always deep! I had the pleasure of interviewing him many, many years ago when I was doing some freelance writing for the Amsterdam News and I also have to say that in person, he is one of the most beautiful people I've ever seen. What comes out of his mouth is really caustic! But: gorgeous skin, cheekbones somewhere around his temples, just beautific. I think he looks good bald, too. Even in his late 60s, he's stunning. I mention this because it's one of the things that really stands out about him and one that's not discussed that much. (There are plenty of other things to talk about!) I'm also reminded that he could have easily gone the Hollywood way. He's tall enough, too (even though most famous actors are pretty short.). I'm sure he coulda gotten "the gig" and played the docile, adorable "Black Guy" (either leading role or buddy) but he decided to walk the road less traveled -- and will not change! He's an old-school, thugged out in-your-face bro who's still justifiably angry!

(via STLToday -- St. Louis Today)

Now, before you finish the thought of "But do you agree when he said_________" -- Fill in the blank with anything! I don't think it's a matter of agreeing with him or not. Paul Mooney does two things and he does them quite well: He forces people to confront their racial assumptions and he makes jokes. Those two things are what his comments are in service to. It's like asking if Andy Kaufman really thought he was doing justice to his rendition of the Mighty Mouse cartoon theme song on Saturday Night Live: that's not the point. I'm equivocating a bit because I do think that Paul Mooney means what he says but what he does, in fact, mean by what he is saying is predicated on the two goals I mentioned. He was a nice person to interview, too. A real family guy and very loyal to his friends (which includes quite an array of now-famous celebrities because of his help). He had a bit of an edge but he seemed to be a very caring person to me -- except when it comes to the feelings of his audience: then it's no holds barred. I find that I consistently say whenever I hear a Mooney clip that famous Black accolade for shock: "That's messed up!"

Wrapping up the last ten days, I finished the first drafts of some articles/commentaries I have coming out this year and a few were recently published. The ones that have hit or are hitting the stands are in the current issue of boundary 2 (fall, 2009) and the upcoming Eco-Reader that Brenda Ijima is editing. When the other two are out, I'll let you know. I'm fixing them up over the next week or so as well as writing a blurb for a very prestigious person (that is more intimidating than writing an article) that'll also be out this spring. Trying to get some work done. What I find most challenging about writing articles is finding the balance between what's an interesting way for me to write and sharing my info. with the reader. I'm generally asked to write about poetics and in a sea of "conventional" articles, it is always more interesting for me to write from another tonal perspective and hopefully an engaging, challenging one.


Speaking of which, the meta-themes ideas inspired by my perusal of Philosophy Bites (and my PoliSci reminiscing) made me return to an older article I skimmed but only recently really read: economist Paul Krugman's lovely and clear commentary on the debate between economic schools, the "saltwater" versus "freshwater" analyses in his NYT article from last September "How Did Economists Get it So Wrong?" I liked it not only because I sympathize (I'm on the left side of the divide surprise, surprise) but because he alluded to a notion that's regularly brought up in Humanities circles and that is the need to "scientist-ize" (not a real word!) everything. What I mean is that sometimes I think we over-privilege scientific thought above creative thinking to "prove" we're serious. The artistic/intuitive element of any cultural discourse is central to the way we understand how the world works just as much as the rationalist side (no, I'm not advocating that we start using astrology for analyzing everything!). Krugman doesn't make this point but I do think of it when he says: "As I see it, the economics profession went astray because economists, as a group, mistook beauty, clad in impressive-looking mathematics, for truth." Toward the end of the article he states: "When it comes to the all-too-human problem of recessions and depressions, economists need to abandon the neat but wrong solution of assuming that everyone is rational and markets work perfectly." The "all-too-human" and abandoning "the neat but wrong solution of assuming that everyone is rational" is what the arts, performance and humanities explore all the time. While I'm not suggesting that Paul Krugman be replaced with Eric Bogosian (same birth year), it might not hurt to hear what Bogosian has to say about the microeconomics of art. And I'm sure Mr. Mooney (same first name) has a thing or two to say about the housing bubble...


Didn't know you'd start 2010 at Nerd Central, did ya?

(via Never encountered the website before but hands-down the coolest image evah!)


Essay on Man, Epistle II
by Alexander Pope (excerpt)

I. Know, then, thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reasoning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much:
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused, or disabused;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!
Go, wondrous creature! mount where science guides,
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time, and regulate the sun;
Go, soar with Plato to th’ empyreal sphere,
To the first good, first perfect, and first fair;
Or tread the mazy round his followers trod,
And quitting sense call imitating God;
As Eastern priests in giddy circles run,
And turn their heads to imitate the sun.
Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule—
Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!
Superior beings, when of late they saw
A mortal man unfold all Nature’s law,
Admired such wisdom in an earthly shape
And showed a Newton as we show an ape.
Could he, whose rules the rapid comet bind,
Describe or fix one movement of his mind?
Who saw its fires here rise, and there descend,
Explain his own beginning, or his end?
Alas, what wonder! man’s superior part
Unchecked may rise, and climb from art to art;
But when his own great work is but begun,
What reason weaves, by passion is undone.
Trace Science, then, with Modesty thy guide;
First strip off all her equipage of pride;
Deduct what is but vanity or dress,
Or learning’s luxury, or idleness;
Or tricks to show the stretch of human brain,
Mere curious pleasure, or ingenious pain;
Expunge the whole, or lop th’ excrescent parts
Of all our vices have created arts;
Then see how little the remaining sum,
Which served the past, and must the times to come!