Sunday, December 12, 2010

Freud Lives

In a previous post, I recounted the sad tale of opposition to a course I had proposed on Freud's Interpretation of Dreams. I predicted eventual success despite this opposition, but that it would require many hours of tedious and contentious committee meetings. This turned out to be the case.

After wending its way through the program faculty, the advisory board, the curriculum subcommittee, the college council, and finally the university policy committee, I am pleased to announce that there is now a course on Freud at my institution. By a single vote, my colleagues decided that perhaps there was still some reason to teach Freud – despite assertions that his theories have been discredited, that his ideas may harm vulnerable students, and that lawsuits against the university would be imminent. It was a sad, frustrating and time consuming series of debates, but at least it is over now.

The process has taken its toll on my enthusiasm, and left yet another bad taste in my mouth concerning campus politics. However, I will strive to enjoy the new course. There are a surprising number of students who seem to be very excited about the class already. I find this charming and I imagine their enthusiasm will soon rekindle my own.

Warhol's Freud

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Best Excuse Yet

This semester I had a student offer me the following excuse for missing class:

He was very sorry, but he had been in a bar fight. He was hit over the head with a bottle and wound up in the hospital with a concussion.
I assume the story is true, since only someone who is concussed would think sharing this story with your professor was a good idea.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ooh, Shiny!

I can barely believe this...
Robert Zoellick, the head of the World Bank, kicked it off on Monday. In an op-ed in the FT he called for changes to the the global currency system. Among other things, he wrote:
"The system should also consider employing gold as an international reference point of market expectations about inflation, deflation and future currency values. Although textbooks may view gold as the old money, markets are using gold as an alternative monetary asset today."
I tend to agree with Brad DeLong's assessment of Zoellick's claim that markets are already using gold as a an alternative form of money:

They do not. They simply do not. That is not true. Markets are using gold as a speculative asset and a hedge. They are not using it is a medium of exchange, a unit of account, or a safe store of nominal value.
He really may be the Stupidest Man Alive.
Harsh, but accurate. I do find it shocking that the head of the World Bank is this confused about the difference between shiny things and money. When Ron Paul or Glenn Beck makes this mistake, I can chalk it up to ignorance. This is harder to fathom.

If we are going to go back to linking money to some other commodity, I think we should at least pick something more interesting than gold. My personal choice would be bubblegum. I like the idea of money as something you chew up and spit out. I'm also pretty sure the price of bubblegum has been less volatile than that of gold in recent years.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Obscene Litigation

Via ZDNetPorn Filesharing Lawsuits Crest 30K Defendants

Last Monday saw numbers skyrocket in porn’s war against piracy and torrent sites when four porn companies filed suits in California to target 9,055 alleged file sharers. That was a week after director Axel Braun filed in West Virginia to sue 7,098 alleged pirates for one film, Batman XXX: A Porn Parody.
This is not to be confused with the seven West Virginia suits filed in late September, suing 5,469. That was just before three porn companies came together to file against 1,100 alleged torrent pirates in Chicago. None of these were filed in conjunction with Hustler/Larry Flynt Production’s now-total of four lawsuits for This Ain’t Avatar XXX, with its own defendant total of 7164. ...
The porn industry is not being shy about using shame over its own product as a threat, and this is particularly troubling. While the defendants initially coming up as “John Does” in filing, companies like Hustler/LFP are working the “name and shame” angle and asked a U.S. District Judge to green light revealing the identities of Does from Internet providers. Another adult company preparing to expose the identities of defendants is Third World Media. Once they are identified, they are more likely to settle whether they are guilty or not because of the content. ...
And just how much can that mean to cash-strapped pornographers? According to Dallas attorney Evan Stone (no relation to adult performer Evan Stone), who is handling a number of bittorrent lawsuits including Hustler/LFP, “We usually ask people for $1,500 to settle out of court.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A Picture Is Worth 10,000 Words

Here is a wordle picture of the current state of the first chapter of the book project. I find these snapshots oddly helpful. Even when I start to doubt the sense of the words on the page, these clouds display a visually reassuring alternative coherence.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Democracy Is Hard

As the midterm elections near and we find ourselves deafened by the noise of unending tea-baggery, it seems to me that a brief dose of Jacques Barzun, by way of a W. H. Auden review, may be salutary.

Democracy Is Hard
Of Human Freedom, by Jacques Barzun
Democracy, to maintain itself, must repeatedly conquer every cell and corner of the nation. How many of our public institutions and private businesses, our schools, hospitals, and domestic hearths are in reality little fascist states where freedom of speech is more rigorously excluded than vermin?

We undervalue the comforts of conscience and the power of ideas, while grossly overvaluing our brute strength. ...

In a democracy the great problem is less to educate everyone beyond his intelligence than to make the intelligent feel socially responsible. To think and act socially is not a form of charity to one's neighbors. It is a form of self-preservation.
I hope these extracts are enough to convey an idea of the grace and common sense of this book. ... I do not think that democracy can be sustained or defended unless one believes that pride, lying, and violence are mortal sins, and that their commission entails one's damnation.
With our current spectacle of Christine O'Donnell, Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, Rand Paul and others saturating our national debate with intellectual, moral and linguistic atrocities, it is hard not to see the spread of "little fascist states" and feel the need to "make the intelligent feel socially responsible" once again. Certainly we have seen "mortal sins" aplenty perpetrated against our democracy this election season and I hope a little "self-preservation" may yet emerge.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Strip Mining the Mind

This is a lovely video of a lovely talk. Here's another equally lovely quote from Robinson:

Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth: for a particular commodity. And for the future, it won't serve us. We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we're educating our children.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Get a Job

via SlateHyper-libertarian Facebook billionaire Peter Thiel's appalling plan to pay students to quit college.

Thiel's latest crusade is his worst yet... The Thiel Fellowship will pay would-be entrepreneurs under 20 $100,000 in cash to drop out of school. In announcing the program, Thiel made clear his contempt for American universities which, like governments, he believes, cost more than they're worth and hinder what really matters in life, namely starting tech companies. His scholarships are meant as an escape hatch from these insufficiently capitalist institutions of higher learning.
I'm simply wondering if professors will be allowed to nominate students for these fellowships.

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Money Trick

Somehow, I had never read The Great Money Trick before. A friend uses this as an in-class readers' theater for teaching Marx. I tried it out in my class yesterday as a prelude to reviewing for the midterm, and it worked great! The students enjoyed it, plus I had an excuse to feed them all pumpkin bread. I also learned that my students can't fake a good Cockney accent to save their souls. It was both pitiful and hilarious at the same time.

'As the working classes were in need of the necessaries of life and as they could not eat, drink or wear the useless money, they were compelled to agree to the kind Capitalist’s terms. They each bought back and at once consumed one-third of the produce of their labour. The capitalist class also devoured two of the square blocks…'

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Here is the reaction from my colleagues in the psychology department to a proposed undergraduate general education course on Sigmund Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams:

We would be concerned if students had an academic experience at [our University] that endorsed psychoanalysis as a viable approach to personality and the meaning of dreams in an era where psychological inquiry has for decades relied on scientific methods that have dismissed psychoanalysis along with phrenology, astrology and other invalid explanations of human behavior.
Salvidor Dali's 1939 sketch of Freud.
It's not that the psychology department itself has any interest in teaching courses on Freud. This we knew already. However, the fact that they wish to prevent any "academic experience" of Freud by students anywhere at our university is new.

I don't believe these objections will prevent the course from being offered, but it will consume the time and energy of many people around campus. This is the level of intellectual debate that occupies much of my time as an academic. Some days it strikes me as comic. Other days, it just makes me sad.

Perhaps the next course I propose will be "Psychoanalysis, Phrenology and Astrology." That should make for some entertaining committee meetings at the very least.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Climate Change For Gardeners

These maps are from the Arbor Day Foundation. They show the gardening zone changes in the US from 1990 to 2006. If you follow the link, you can see a nice animation of shifts.

Since gardeners are everywhere, I would have thought that such easily visible changes in the zone maps at your local nursery would be simple evidence for climate change that cut across ideological boundaries. Evidently, not.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fight For Your Long Day

Duffleman (or "Duffy," as he is called) is the creation of Alex Kudera, a longtime Philadelphia adjunct whose novel, Fight for Your Long Day, is about to be released by Atticus Press. Duffy's narrative on this long day catalogs a list of the kinds of insults that are part of an adjunct's daily existence -- and documents, too, his continuing sense of obligation to his students.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Get Over It

Here's a picture of actor Ian McKellen at a protest over Pope Benedict's recent UK visit. Most of the protesters' shirts read "Some People Are Gay. Get Over It." Sir McKellen's is wonderfully different.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

Blake It Yourself!

I may have to try this. I think an authentic Nayland Blake hanging on the wall of my office would be pretty kickass.

Two phrases any contemporary artist is apt to hear are “That costs how much?” and “Hell, anyone could do that!” and what the hey, sometimes it’s true. There’s a lot of art out there I’d love to own, but can’t afford, and I have a lot of friends who can’t afford to buy my work. So here’s my solution: once a month I’ll give you step by step instructions for a piece that I have specially designed for this website. You can make your very own Nayland Blake, with a certificate of authenticity. I’ll try to keep the material costs low, the skill level easy and once you’ve got your finished piece, you can send me a picture of the results and I’ll post it here for the world to see.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Puppet Portrait

This looks fascinating. It seems to be an adaptation of Cixous' "Portrait of Dora" with puppets. I wish I could understand it...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Wilde Zizek

From Oscar Wilde's essay, "The soul of man under Socialism:"

The majority of people spoil their lives by an unhealthy and exaggerated altruism - are forced, indeed, so to spoil them. They find themselves surrounded by hideous poverty, by hideous ugliness, by hideous starvation. It is inevitable that they should be strongly moved by all this. The emotions of man are stirred more quickly than man's intelligence; and, as I pointed out some time ago in an article on the function of criticism, it is much more easy to have sympathy with suffering than it is to have sympathy with thought. Accordingly, with admirable though misdirected intentions, they very seriously and very sentimentally set themselves to the task of remedying the evils that they see. But their remedies do not cure the disease: they merely prolong it. Indeed, their remedies are part of the disease.
They try to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, by keeping the poor alive; or, in the case of a very advanced school, by amusing the poor.
But this is not a solution: it is an aggravation of the difficulty. The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible. And the altruistic virtues have really prevented the carrying out of this aim. Just as the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it, so, in the present state of things in England, the people who do most harm are the people who try to do most good; and at last we have had the spectacle of men who have really studied the problem and know the life - educated men who live in the East End - coming forward and imploring the community to restrain its altruistic impulses of charity, benevolence, and the like. They do so on the ground that such charity degrades and demoralises. They are perfectly right. Charity creates a multitude of sins.
There is also this to be said. It is immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from the institution of private property. It is both immoral and unfair.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Marx, Marxist, Marxian...

... Marxitudinal, Marxical, Marxal, Marxidinal, Marxican, Marxicano, Marxy, Marxial, Marxupial, Marxinally, Marxiness, Marxiginous, Marxissity, Marxiginal, Marxicality, Marxolydian.

I've been doing some writing lately and I've been feeling the need for some alternative ways of writing about Marx in order to avoid sounding repetitious.

I'm over that desire now.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Librarians rock. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, recently announced six new revisions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, including:
(1)  Motion pictures on DVDs that are lawfully made and acquired and that are protected by the Content Scrambling System when circumvention is accomplished solely in order to accomplish the incorporation of short portions of motion pictures into new works for the purpose of criticism or comment, and where the person engaging in circumvention believes and has reasonable grounds for believing that circumvention is necessary to fulfill the purpose of the use in the following instances:
(i) Educational uses by college and university professors and by college and university film and media studies students;
(ii) Documentary filmmaking;
(iii) Noncommercial videos
(2) Computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications, when they have been lawfully obtained, with computer programs on the telephone handset.
(3) Computer programs, in the form of firmware or software, that enable used wireless telephone handsets to connect to a wireless telecommunications network, when circumvention is initiated by the owner of the copy of the computer program solely in order to connect to a wireless telecommunications network and access to the network is authorized by the operator of the network.
(4) Video games accessible on personal computers and protected by technological protection measures that control access to lawfully obtained works, when circumvention is accomplished solely for the purpose of good faith testing for, investigating, or correcting security flaws or vulnerabilities, if:
(i) The information derived from the security testing is used primarily to promote the security of the owner or operator of a computer, computer system, or computer network; and
(ii) The information derived from the security testing is used or maintained in a manner that does not facilitate copyright infringement or a violation of applicable law.
(5) Computer programs protected by dongles that prevent access due to malfunction or damage and which are obsolete.  A dongle shall be considered obsolete if it is no longer manufactured or if a replacement or repair is no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace; and
(6) Literary works distributed in ebook format when all existing ebook editions of the work (including digital text editions made available by authorized entities) contain access controls that prevent the enabling either of the book’s read-aloud function or of screen readers that render the text into a specialized format.
This is great news for bloggers, teachers, and civilization in general. Prior to this, circumventing the copyright protection on a DVD was always a felony regardless of its purpose. This caused me a twinge of concern whenever I assigned video work for my classes where using clips from other videos might be appropriate. I had vague visions of my entire class being busted for digital piracy. Now, no more worries about encouraging students to do video mashups for class!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Thursday, July 08, 2010

I Read Some Marx And I Liked It

This is brilliant! I will be using this on this first day of class in the Fall.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Crisis Cartoon

Animated David Harvey!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Saturday, June 05, 2010


And here's the worst option I've seen yet for dealing with the spill: the nuclear option. Literally.

The Russians previously used nukes at least five times to seal off gas well fires. A targeted nuclear explosion might similarly help seal off the oil well channel that has leaked oil unchecked since the sinking of a BP oil rig on April 22, according to a translation of the account in the daily newspaper Komsomoloskaya Pravda by Julia Ioffe of the news website True/Slant

Live Streaming by Ustream.TV

Monday, May 03, 2010

All Grading And No Play

All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All grading and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Happy May Day!

Waiting for the great leap forward...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

David Harvey and the Enigma of Capital

Via. David Harvey's Enigma of Capital Lecture at the London School of Economics.

Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8

"Debt encumbered home owners don't go on strike" (3:50-5:00 in the video). This is the most cogent one line explanation of the roots of the current crisis I've heard.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Via Logical Regression:

I find this juxtaposition absurdly wonderful:
What I do like the idea of though is perhaps claiming such constellations as ‘readymades’, in the way that Duchamp once famously claimed a urinal to be ‘art’ (Fountain, 1917). Though the Carina Nebula declared as ‘art’ arguably has the opposite effect of the urinal declared as ‘art’. Where the latter gesture confounded the judging panel at the exhibition to which Duchamp submitted the urinal, as it was deemed to bring art down to the level of the toilet – the pissing bowl – it is more likely, when applied to the Carina Nebula to confound the kind of people who want everyone to be equally enthused by the enormity of the Universe. At the least, it seems to reduce, make palatable, the Universe, rather than demeaning art.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Fair Hitler Use

Via abject learning:

Critical Commons gets screwed on fair use

And here is a meta-parody of these recent events:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pure Poppycock

Auto-Tune the News:

Good Charlotte singer Joel Madden and Matt Drudge. Separated at birth?

"I do it all the time. Making up shit is so sublime." Evidently, this line when sung by a man in a fedora means that you must be doing a Matt Drudge impersonation. Even the Drudge Report thinks so. And they would never make shit up. This is despite the fact that Madden wears a fedora in public almost as frequently as Drudge. I love how this "news" story resonates with the Auto-Tune lyrics about being pulled under by the "riptide of lies" online. Life imitates art.

In other news, Matt Drudge and Nicole Richey are now engaged:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Music Roulette

This is by far the best use of ChatRoulette I've seen...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Outsourcing Grading

This idea is almost tempting at the end of semester with term papers piling up...

Corporations have taken advantage of outsourcing for decades; the process lowers costs and often allows services to be provided which could not be otherwise accommodated. Now some university faculty believe the same principle can be applied to the task of grading papers written by undergraduates. The graders working for EduMetry, based in a Virginia suburb of Washington, are concentrated in India, Singapore, and Malaysia, along with some in the United States and elsewhere. They do their work online and communicate with professors via e-mail. The company advertises that its graders hold advanced degrees and can quickly turn around assignments with sophisticated commentary...

Sunday, March 21, 2010