Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Three stories from a work in progress

Whoever said getting there is half the fun never tried to get to Algeria on a Fulbright. I received the news of my grant back in April; it is now nearly October, I only just got my visa, and I have yet to book a flight. I am in Beirut, where I have been studying Arabic for the last three months. In less than a week, I fly back to the United States for my sister’s wedding, armed with a new stack of flashcards and a gently used copy of Al-Kitab, volume one. The wedding is on October 23. I leave for Algiers on October 24. My entry visa expires two days later. Number of entries: wahida.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I was supposed to arrive in Algiers weeks ago, with more than enough time to establish residency, set up my apartment, and prepare for the school year. As things stand now, I get off the plane and go into the classroom. I know what I’m teaching, kind of, but other than that, I’m not sure what to expect. Every university has its own culture, and its own set of protocols and procedures, all of which gets framed by different national and international standards. This is my fifth university in five years so I’m something of an expert when it comes to hitting the ground running. Nonetheless, for me, the University of Algiers is something new, as yet unknown. I’ve taught in the Arab world before, but it was in the context of an American institution. And while that experience gave me some familiarity with the French educational system, Lord knows how that’s been reshaped by the arabization campaigns of the post-colonial era, or if it’s been thrown out altogether. In short, I have no idea what I’m doing, and precious few clues about what I might encounter.

Also, I have no idea where I am living and, as far as I can tell, neither does anyone else. Population in Algeria is booming and, as a result, there is a severe housing shortage in Algiers. I am only half-joking when I tell people that I’m bringing a tent.

While its abundant oil and natural gas reserves ensure a healthy amount of coming-and-going among the business-types, Algeria is not a country that really encourages or receives tourists. Which is one of the reasons that this is so difficult, and one of the reasons I want to go. For most places, to be plugged into the global economy is to be carried away by a set of commercial flows that, while always reconfigured through local norms and conditions, generally blunt the rough edges of cross-cultural exchange. Homogeneity has not yet conquered difference, but pretty much anywhere you go, there’s going to be a Starbucks, and they will speak American. Such touchstones constitute a sort of lingua franca for the global elite, and they make it incredibly easy to get along in the world.

For the most part, this is a phenomenon of the post-Soviet era, one of the things that scholars mean when they throw around portentous words like globalization. Given the coincidence of its civil war with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the reorganization of the world system, however, Algeria has, thus far, avoided re-colonization by the forces of global commodity culture. One decade into the new century, Algeria is one of the few countries not yet reshaped by the Anglophone currents of contemporary capitalism. Just getting there is no mean feat, and once on the ground, English is a minor language, at best. Almost anywhere else in the world, Americans can show up, buy a visa, and be whisked off by an English-speaking cab driver to a moderately priced luxury hotel without much premeditation or worry. Once at the hotel, the staff will greet them in English, and they will meet people at the hotel bar who, because they come from a variety of linguistic backgrounds, speak to one another in stock phrases learned from American television. When it comes to Algeria, however, almost all of this must be negotiated in advance, and in languages that are, for most Americans, hardly familiar.

For me, all of this is part of the appeal. What I am interested in, very generally, is how the idea of America gets thrown about in the Arab world, the ways in which the idea of America is translated into a multitude of competing positions within Arab cultural and political discourse. And because Algeria has not yet been infiltrated by American culture, this makes it something of an ideal laboratory for such experiments. Elsewhere in the Arab world, America is much more present, and ideas about America are generally grounded in material culture. Whether it’s movies, music, or military occupation, for many in the Arab world, images of America are concrete and unavoidable; opinions about America are, as a consequence, shaped in relation to the traces of those tableaux. In Algeria, by contrast, the image of America remains rather indistinct.

The first night I spent in Algiers, I sat up, drinking Pastis, and listening to a radio program on the legacy of the revolution. My Arabic being hopelessly schematic, and my college-level French a distant memory, I spent most of the program struggling to keep up. I managed to catch every fourth word, but otherwise I missed much of the story. Here and there, the name of a place would ring out, as would famous personalities and dates; yet, had it not been for the recurrent strains of Ennio Morricone’s score for Battle of Algiers, I would not have known what I was listening to, or what to listen for, nor would I have paused long over the frequency. Radio in Algeria tends to be a lot of talk, and as someone weaned on a steady stream of commercial pop, it’s simply not my thing, even before the troublesome question of language comes into play. For me, radio has never been much more than background noise, an ambient hum that, especially in solitude, helps to evoke an ethereal, if illusory, sense of connection. While talk has never been particularly congenial to that illusion, other languages have proven downright poisonous. Nonetheless, here in Algiers, silence has a life of its own. At night, it creeps into the house and rearranges the furniture. Rooms echo, doors rattle. Here and there, something will pop. In the neighbor’s apartment, plates clatter in the sink. Radio is my only defense; it gives me the courage to get up from the desk and make a cup of tea, to walk to the balcony and fasten the latch. As the evening draws to a close, I turn on the radio largely to anchor myself, to hear the familiar analog hiss, to lose myself in the quality of the sound, this small measure of security.

Fanon wrote about Algerian radio in remarkably similar terms. In his estimation, radio came to Algeria as something more than a technological innovation or a commercial novelty. For the settler, the colonist, he argued that it offered nothing less than sonic affirmation of imperial power. “[The] radio reminds the settler of the reality of colonial power and, by its very existence, dispenses safety, serenity…Radio-Alger, for the settler, is a daily invitation not to ‘go native,’ not to forget the rightfulness of his culture. The settlers in the remote outposts, the pioneering adventurers, are well aware of this when they say that ‘without wine and the radio, we should already have become Arabized.’” (71-72) For the native, of course, the situation was quite the opposite. Pointing to studies on Algerian psychopathology, Fanon described the radio as a “highly aggressive and hostile” intrusion into Algerian psychic life; its “metallic, cutting, insulting, disagreeable voices all have for the Algerian an accusing, inquisitorial character,” he averred. “The speech delivered is not received, deciphered, understood, but rejected. The communication is never questioned, but is simply refused, for it is precisely the opening of oneself to the other that is organically excluded from the colonial situation.” (88-89)

Fanon’s analysis in L’An Cinq, de la Révolution Algérienne, the monograph from which these passages are drawn, unfolds, if implicitly, as a point by point refutation of the more egregiously racist mis-characterizations of Arab culture long promulgated by the intellectual stewards of European empire. Confronted by an enemy whose brutally repressive war of counter-insurgency was authorized by the Orientalist canard that, left to their own devices, native Algerians would be lost, trapped within the amber of their own recalcitrance, Fanon explored the very real historical dynamics at work within native society. In addition to his exploration of radio, in his study, Fanon considered questions of dress and comportment, gender and family structure, medicine and health. For Fanon, as for Said, the apparent backwardness of native society on many of these points was an illusion, one made manifest, if nominally, through the violent imposition of Europe’s Orient on the social and cultural dynamics that had shaped the greater Arab world.

Following this argument through to its logical conclusion, Fanon stated that, if the native held fast to his traditions, it was only because he rejected European standards as objects emanating from an occupying power, “rooted in the colonial situation,” and thus inassimilable to his way of life. By the same token, if Europeans insisted upon understanding certain practices and social relationships as evidence of Arab backwardness, the poverty of their assessments had no bearing on the historical dynamics operative within those areas of life that they characterized, so dismissively, as traditional. In Fanon’s estimation, areas of life commonly dismissed as traditional had a life of their own, one that was being channeled, and reconfigured, through the dialectic of the revolution. Thus, the haik, long overburdened as a site of cultural struggle over and within the native family, was made over as an accessory of the revolution, “a technique of camouflage,” both adopted and abandoned as a matter of tactical expediency. So too with the radio. Once little more than a mechanical contrivance so thoroughly coextensive with empire that it appeared in dreams and hallucinations endowed with a hostile agency all its own, in the course of the revolution, the radio was made revolutionary. “Listening in on the Revolution, the Algerian existed with it, made it exist…Incorporated…into the life of the nation, the radio will have an exceptional importance in the country’s building phase…The fruitful use that can be made of the radio can well be imagined.” (93, 97)

I have to confess that, on the night in question, I was not interested in listening to the revolution, or in on the revolution, nor was I considering the fruitful uses to which radio might be put. I was, however, enjoying the story of the revolution, even if I couldn’t understand the words, and almost as much as I enjoyed the obscenely French digestif I found squirreled away under the sink in my new apartment. In some very real sense, the language in which it was told didn’t matter all that much, since I come to this story well versed in its broad outlines, if not its particulars. That is to say, I know my Pontecorvo, and I know my Fanon; I have more than a passing acquaintance with Alistair Horne. If anything, the Morricone themes that opened and closed the program signaled that I was hearing a pro forma, if not totemic, mediation of the Algerian revolution, one that was no less comforting, in its way, than the soft, analog hiss that eventually carried me off to sleep. In this sense, it was entirely apposite that the following program was devoted entirely to disco classics, opening with “In the Navy” by the Village People, “Hot Stuff” by Donna Summer, and “Good Times” by Chic. Once the illicit sound of a liminal culture, a non-normative space of sociality and sexuality, here were the remnants of disco as a commercial phenomenon; less the sexualized thrum of the early New York club scene than the groovy soundtrack of someone’s misspent youth. Like the story of the Algerian revolution, here was evidence of all the hallucinatory potentialities that emerge from, nurture, and sustain social and cultural movements, but presented as an opportunity for nostalgic reverie, evidence of someone’s misspent youth. Disco, like revolution, as little more than a security blanket, one that was somewhat frayed, but all the more effective for it.

This, of course, is the sort of thing Fanon was getting at, in Les damnés de la terre, when he warned about custom as the worn out husk of culture, the sort of artifactual, anthropological remnant that occupies the European expert on native cultures. Falling asleep with my glass of Pastis—listening not to the revolution but somebody’s secondhand version of the revolution, read through my distinctively first world fantasy of revolution—I found myself in the position of both the colonist who heard in the radio confirmation of the world as he knew it, and the arch-Modernist, here representative of the “Enlightened circles” that go into “ecstasies when confronted with [the] ‘inner truth’” of native tradition. Against much of what has come to be thought of as conventional wisdom, here Fanon’s hypothetical European primitivist is not the romantic who seeks to harness the animus of the other for his own spiritual regeneration, but the expert who finds, in thrall to these ossified traditions, some respite from the onslaught of history.

“The colonialist specialists do not recognize these new forms and rush to the help of the traditions of the indigenous society. It is the colonialists who become the defenders of the native style. We remember perfectly, and the example took on a certain measure of importance since the real nature of colonialism was not involved, the reactions of the white jazz specialists when after the Second World War new styles such as the be-bop took definite shape. The fact is that in their eyes jazz should only be the despairing, broken-down nostalgia of an old Negro who is trapped between give glasses of whiskey, the curse of his race, and the racial hatred of the white men. As soon as the Negro comes to an understanding of himself, and understands the rest of the world differently, when he gives birth to hope and forces back the racist universe, it is clear that his trumpet sounds more clearly and his voice less hoarsely.” (242-3)

It’s important, I think, that in making this point, Fanon reaches for America, and to a distinctively African American cultural form. By the time of his writing, of course, jazz had already made its way around the world, its globalization occasioned, in large part, by the expansion of American military and political power. When African American GIs landed in the ports of Europe and North Africa during the first World War, they brought the blues tradition with them, rooting what had been largely rural traditions in altogether unlikely urban settings. Jazz became the unsuspecting soundtrack to the Allied cause in that conflict, an ironic counterpoint to the occupied peoples’ defense of their occupiers. In the intervening years, the popularity of jazz helped facilitate the emergence of commercial broadcast media, an innovative market in recorded music, and the global reach of American film. Whether commenting on the broad comedy of Charlie Chaplin or the expressive eyes of Marlene Dietrich, as a component of Hollywood cinema, jazz acted as an aural solvent working away at the boundaries between linguistic traditions, helping to translate distinctively American images for a myriad of local idioms. In the years following World War II, as the Cold War turned hot, jazz became a critical part of the American diplomatic mission, as the State Department sought to harness the popularity of jazz in the propaganda war between the First and Second Worlds. Many jazz musicians became remarkably canny players within the American diplomatic community, using their international visibility as icons of Americana to launch covert attacks on the apartheid culture at home. At the same time, just as many drew the ire of younger, less worldly musicians, who saw their elders’ engagement with US empire as little more than a collaborationist shuck and jive.

This, of course, is the moment Fanon gestures at when he refers to bebop and the white critic, the moment when the community of jazz musicians becomes fractious, its family romance turned predictably sour. Given over to sanctimoniousness, recrimination, and acrimony, after 1945, the children of the jazz age stopped coming home. With the advent of bebop, a more explicitly oppositional consciousness emerged among the community of musicians, one that railed against the compromises of an earlier generation by taking a more aggressive posture towards Jim Crow apartheid, and demanding a higher standard of artistic integrity among jazz musicians. While many of the earliest jazz musicians were happy just to get paid, beboppers wrestled with their commodification, seeing the market as an alien influence, one with undue power over their choices as artists. They did not, however, cease to be commodified; and while the increasingly esoteric jazz forms pioneered in the wake of bebop eventually allowed that other child of the blues tradition, rock ‘n’ roll, to run away with the piggy bank, the posturing of bebop artists helped redefine the ways in which future modes of African American cultural production would be packaged and sold. Where the first generation of jazz artists were presented as avatars of the primitive, since bebop, African American culture has been continually refigured as the quintessence of rebellion.

There are no doubt many other processes in play, but whatever its genealogy, in the post-war United States, rebellion has become one of our most important thematic concerns, the trope through which post-war American society, despite extraordinary internal fissures, has managed to reproduce itself and its political culture.

In many ways, the creature comforts of global travel are the latest manifestation of post-war suburban domesticity, outposts of consumerist retreat far removed from the plebian rabble. Since 1945, Americans have wrapped themselves in a cocoon of relative affluence, one underwritten, for many years, by America’s unrivaled status as industrial capitalist superpower. As long as there were big profits to be made from manufacturing, industrialists kept wages high; in turn, unions more or less agreed to forego extended labor actions. And as long as profits, wages, and benefits continued to rise—something made possible by the growth of overseas consumer markets and the increasing productivity of American labor—the system hummed along nicely, with government greasing the wheels through various forms of social and economic subsidies, as well as direct intervention in contentious business-labor negotiations. Through the GI Bill and the Interstate Highway Act, the federal government funded the emergence of a relatively affluent, educated, suburban, white middle-class. Still reeling from the austerity of the Depression and the trauma of the war, this middle-class quickly shuffled off its urban ethnic working-class roots, losing itself in a fantasy of consumer choice, upward mobility, and racial exclusivity.

Oh yeah, and all of this was made possible by cheap energy, brought to you courtesy of ARAMCO, the US corporation that, since the mid-1930s, controlled the majority of oil production in the Arabian peninsula.

This utopia was never available to everybody, and its stultifying culture of white-bread consumption and cultural homogeneity has turned on its head many times over the past seventy years. Beatniks, rockers, hippies, punks and skaters, as well as any number of their more obscure subcultural progeny, have emerged in reaction to suburban domesticity, and as potentially radical experiments in race treason and class suicide. Of course, over the past forty years, the flight from suburban domesticity has become part of the narrative—and the prerogative—of middle-class privilege, with the subcultures that were forged in that flight packaged and put on sale for suburban consumers. Since the end of the Vietnam War, the ability of the suburbs to accommodate difference has become one of their greatest recommendations, even as the suburbs themselves were becoming economically unfeasible. With the recovery of European and Asian economies in the 1960s, facilitated by American investments and driven by the rising demand for American-style consumer goods, American industrialists began to see declining profits. This decline was rendered all the more severe by the sharp spike in transportation and shipping costs brought on by the 1973 energy crisis. Unwilling to accept even a moderate decline in the rate of profit, business leaders began railing against the greed of unions and the largesse of the state, advocating actively for a wage-freeze and a severe reduction in upper-income taxes. Convinced that American industry was a loss leader, investors began funneling their capital into derivatives, removing their money from the material economy of commodity production and household reproduction by placing it in the ever more profitable domain of the financial marketplace.

And that oil thing? In the 1970s, after more than two decades of Palestinian displacement, the Arab League and OPEC decided to use their access to energy as a weapon in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Saudis nationalized ARAMCO, and in 1973, the Arab states turned off the tap. The price of gas shot up. Since then, America and its allies have intervened, at somewhat regular intervals, to disrupt the formation of any Arab power bloc. The price of our cheap gas and our suburban comforts is political instability in the Middle East.

Incidentally, this is the reason why Reaganomics doesn’t work, except to the benefit of financial markets. For a feudal society to function, the lords need either to love, or fear, the peasants. And, at this point, the lords of our economy have neither love nor fear. As far as they are concerned, the vast majority of the population is now beside the point, only distantly connected to the creation of wealth. The American people are an expense, one justified by the legitimacy they bestow on the regime of pillage and plunder. This is, perhaps, the biggest reason why America seems to be on the brink of a new reckoning, a correction in the fullest sense of the word. Over the last seventy years, the narratives through which Americans have organized their lives—whether those of bourgeois domesticity or its companion, bohemian decadence—have become entwined with the prosperity bestowed upon us by our infinitely flexible economic system. Now that the system has reached its outer limit, its point of utter incoherence, those narratives are unraveling. This is registered, at one level, as a crisis of national identity, as evidenced by the stark differences in national narratives proffered by the so-called Tea Party movement and the partisans of Camp Obama. In some sense, however, the crisis of American identity is perpetual; people have been trying to figure out what an American is since before there was an America to worry about. What is perhaps more important is what this crisis moment means for the narratives that organize the ways that we live, day-to-day, year-to-year, the ways in which we plan the arcs of our lives. To be middle-class in American once meant that you could expect certain things—a decent job that provided reasonable health care, a thirty-year fixed-rate mortgage at a relatively low interest rate, a secure pension. None of these things entirely mitigated hardship or struggle or the tough times that inevitably come, but they did provide some anchorage in rough seas. Now, I find myself surrounded by peers, all highly educated and well paid, who can barely afford rent on a one-bedroom walk-up in the city.

“The last few years have been marked by an inverted millenarianism in which premonitions of the future, catastrophic or redemptive, have been replaced by senses of the end of this or that (the end of ideology, art, or social class; the 'crisis' of Leninism, social democracy, or the welfare state, etc., etc.); taken together, all of these perhaps constitute what is increasingly called postmodernism. The case for its existence depends on the hypothesis of some radical break or coupure, generally traced back to the end of the 1950s or the early 1960s.” That’s Fredric Jameson in 1984. Here, nearly thirty years later, a decade into the new century, the sense of the end remains, but it is a far more eschatological sense of the end, one tied to very real premonitions of environmental calamity and economic exhaustion.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Notes from my daybook, 27 October 2010

Coffee, read



Walk neighborhood

Work on rough syllabus

Write letter to friends
Book—stuff re: embassy

Blog entry

Email PR with blog post

L. on Iranian liberalism

* * *

My Algerian daybook is remarkably uninspired. Each entry begins with the same litany of tasks: wake, breakfast, coffee—read. If I instruct myself to write, I will then move to the computer, from the breakfast nook to the dining table, before wasting myself, in thrall, to one project or another. Some days I generate enough momentum to keep at it well into the evening. More often than not, I am exhausted by lunch. Words come easy, but purpose does not. One point rarely leads into another. My thoughts are febrile; my face is flushed.

The days are extraordinarily long, distended even. They have shape only to the extent that I give them shape; to the extent that I make notes for myself about what I should be doing, what I need to do, what I want to do, where I need to go, what I need to buy. There is food and all the rituals of food. There is coffee, and then there is tea. I work until dusk, or until I hear the muezzin call for maghrib. I make dinner. I read a book. After dark, the city stops. From my window, it is fluorescent and it is orange, all shadow and reflection. It is wind and the absence of wind. I stand on the balcony and watch the dogs forage through the trash. There is a heavy tread on the stairs, slow and brooding. Somewhere, next door, something falls.

Silence lives in Algiers. At night it creeps into the house and rearranges the furniture. Rooms echo, doors rattle. Here and there, something will pop. I turn on the radio. I go to bed.

* * *

This is a character I play. You will know him by these signs.

A Fragment of a Point that Might Well Lead Somewhere But Doesn’t As of Yet

Yesterday, after a brief stop at the embassy to turn over my housing deposit, I went downtown. The geography of Algiers is still somewhat baffling, but as the car descended the hills into lower town, even with all the defensive walls and blind curves, I began to understand how the city fits together. For the first time, I was near the sea and, as such, I could plot myself; if not in relation to the city, then to the historical geographies of the greater Mediterranean. To the east is Sicily; then, further on, the Phoenician ports at Tyre and Saida, on the Levantine coast just south of Beirut; to the north, there is Barcelona and Marseilles, with its legendary port; to the west, Oran and, further still, Gibraltar, the narrow strait through which Europe absorbed its knowledge of the ancient world. Along the sea, the city itself is crescent shaped, and from the corniche, near the Grande Poste, I could make out Martyrs’ Memorial across the bay. From there I walked north, on Didouche Mourad, toward the Casbah, before getting lost in a tangle of streets that deposited me, bewildered but unharmed, under the loggias that line the western shore. Here and there was a garden, a fountain, or a memorial to something so apparently obvious that it need not be explained. And rising above all, like a visitation from the specter of Baron von Hausmann, row after row of whitewashed buildings, done up in the style of the Second Empire, the uniform blue of their shutters momentarily contrasted with the cloud-hung, steel-slate sky.

Near the center of town, in the middle of Didouche Mourad, a statue of Emir Abd al-Qader sits in a small park, penned in, on all sides, by shops and administrative buildings. The emir faces east, astride a horse, situated atop a high pedestal. In one hand he holds the reigns of his mount. In another, his scimitar; it is raised, waiting to strike. Wrapped around the base of the monument are other images, either representations of the emir at different moments in his life, or portraits of his comrades, fellow horsemen doing battle with the infidel French. The portraits are stylized, as is the statue. It reads as deco: the lines are a bit too dramatic, the curves far too severe. It would not be mistaken for life, but it is as representational as the non-representational ever hopes to be. It has that look: the look that screams Works Progress Administration, or early Soviet Realist. The legend on the monument is composed in Arabic script, and placed near its summit, four or more feet from the ground. Given the angle, and the stylized lettering, it is almost impossible to read; its legibility depends, in large part, on the time of day and the quality of light. Beneath, near the base, someone has scrawled a more obvious, more insistent, dedication. “Bab El Oued lves Cristiano Ronaldo.” The glory of the professional soccer player, here invoked, is apparently as compelling as the immortality of the scholar, the soldier, the man of God.

Monumental art, of this variety, is designed not to invoke memory but to stabilize its contents, to cut through the rhizomorphic density of signifiers that constitute the monstrous body of the past, and to articulate some purpose, some direction, some significance. This emir is not the emir, but the emir as mnemonic, both a pattern, and a prompt. He is the condensation of a revolutionary history, the meaning of which depends upon the performative register of historical narrative. This emir is not the emir, and the emir has no meaning, absent the retelling of twice-told tales, and the inscription of his life—an idealist conceit—over the fractious body of the nation. This emir is not the emir, but the embodiment of the heroic mode; here brought to earth, but not too near, by the very familiarity of the visage. This emir is not the emir, but the emir as embodiment of all men in the struggle, the representation of a particular type of man, of masculinity, of strength in pursuit of power; and of power pursued not for its own sake, but for the purposes of justice. This emir is not the emir, but the emir rendered for the purposes of state; a nationalist icon, surrounded, if not overwhelmed, by the city that surges around him.

Ronaldo, by contrast, arrives as the monstrous body of capital itself. Only a fragment, a seedling, a sliver, it grows and it festers. In agitating, it remaps the social body, rendering it in his image. Ronaldo arrives as the consummate body: he is the avatar of neoliberalism. His story is well sold. He grew up poor, his house barely a shack. He was saved by football. He built his mother a home. He gets his teeth fixed. He strips off his shirt. He goes shopping. He vacations in France. He is desire embodied; not desired or desirous, but representative of the desire to realize one’s desire, to live and to be and to make oneself through consumption, through spectacle; to be seen, to become not a person, but a body, an object among objects; to be secure in that firmament, held fast as a thing within the order of things.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


Graffiti on the door to my classroom at Bouzareah: "exterminate all the brutes"

Wasn't Conrad more direct?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Zombie Goats

Goats are scary. Delicious, but terrifying. This, at least, is what I was forced to concede when I stumbled upon one during my afternoon walk. Adha is upon us, and so are the goats, recalling traumatic screen memories, and touching off long dormant childhood fears. If you did not happen to grow up in a region of the world where children were in thrall to the Goatman, be very very glad.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Does delusion rhyme with Deleuzian?

I don't know, but when you wake to Sade on the radio at 4:30 in the morning and head straight for Virginia Woolf before making breakfast, downing four cups of coffee, and planting yourself in front of the word processor, you find yourself wondering these things. Especially after you decide that the only way to understand Cristiano Ronaldo is as "the monstrous body of capital, the avatar of neoliberalism itself." That voice is hard to shake: it's so nightmarishly portentious it seems like you must be getting at some deep insight when, really, you're just skimming off surfaces.

The rains done come. Sountrack for the day: Toto's "Rosanna"

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The new masculinity

Until next month, my internet is going to be spotty, but I will do my best to stay in touch and keep everyone updated. Expect a barrage of posts after December 9. For the meantime, chew on this: On the statue of Abd al Qader in downtown Algiers, we find this graffiti: "Bab El Oued (the neighborhood immediately west of the Casbah) lves (sic) Cristiano Ronaldo" Analysis forthcoming.