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Monthly Archives: August 2009

One thing I’ve never managed to get around to  §

is the tracking of academic opportunities. These things come and go at a ridiculous pace, like pedestrians at a busy train station.

I’m on the mailing lists. I get the piles of several hundred messages a week sporting a veritable cornucopia of riches—conferences, calls for papers, memberships, roles and jobs (unpaid, of course—what do you think this is, the marketplace?) and so on…

…and I let them all slide by without so much as opening them.

I even have a reminder in my calendaring system that pops up a little message on my PC screen (which is, by and large, 90 percent of my universe) telling me to survey the field of opportunities and take advantage of the really sizzling ones.

Twice a week I dismiss the reminder. I forget to even look at it any longer. It’s become so automatic that I don’t even notice what it says, except on nights like tonight, when I look at it and realize with some regret that though I created this set of “recurring appointments” over a year ago, I’ve read exactly zero of these circulars that could, no doubt, make or break my career, offer me the academic equivalent of endless lottery winnings for life.

If only I see the right opportunity before it scrolls out of the temporal window of the present.

If only I pay attention.

I don’t; I have work to do. Work, as it turns out, is orthogonal to opportunity.

Who knew!?

Once I was brilliant  §

but that was before the gray hair and the miles. There are these endless miles, and they have been full of joy and full of suffering and full of a few things in between, and of course a few of them haven’t been full of much of anything at all.

But in any case, once I was brilliant. Also more fiscally sound. I remember at once point having stock options. I don’t quite remember what it felt like, but I do remember that I had them. And then I sold them.

Because I was brilliant.

These days I’m not so so sure I’m brilliant. I’m more stable and less affected by the world, and I’m more quietly determined and maybe just a bit more able to exercise perseverance. More than I used to, I get things done.

Question is, is it cooler to get reasonably good things entirely done or to get absolutely amazing things only half done? I suppose that’s one of the unanswerable questions of the universe.

Yeah, yeah, I can hear all of the self-important types out there screaming platitudes at me right now espousing one or the other position as the answer to that value question, but that’s just the thing—it’s just a value question, and if you’re trying to answer a value question for me, I hate your values so shut up.

Or maybe I don’t.

Maybe I just hate the competition.

In any case, it’s the end of August 2009 and today was rainy. It was a damned and damnable beautiful day and I was sitting in Mike’s Diner in Astoria with my wife and thinking about how beautiful everything just seemed to be.

I was also thinking that the very large window that opened on to the street made me feel incredibly productive and connected to the world, and I told my wife as much, but I’m not sure she understood what I meant. But that’s probably because I’m often fairly unskilled at expressing myself.

But no matter, it was a very lovely morning and I came home and was very productive, which is a fitting sort of segue into Fall 2009, which is just a few months before the arrival of 2010, the second decade of the millenium, and of course of the century.

Not so long ago, at the turn of the first one, I was sitting by myself near the top of a mountain under the gaze of my alma mater (actually, in one of the parking lots of my alma mater). It was a great night, and a terrible night, which is good for balance, or at least for balance in memory.

This is clearly a post about nothing. Maybe it’s just a post about what a beautiful day today was, and about the smell of rain in the late summer.

So I’ll finish with things.

Things:

– At some point you give up on politics

– Slow cookers rarely get used, but they appear to sell well

– There is actually no point to “filling your freezer”

– The USSR has been gone so long it starts to feel like fiction you read

– I’ve never been to Australia

– I never used to wear pajamas but now I seem to

– Beer

– On a cube on our kitchen wall is a small clock whose battery I’ve never changed

– On the same wall are somehow hung hours and hours of invisible academic work

– I will never see any of my grandparents again

– Every object has about it the air of the tragedy of the passing of time

– Chinese stores are always cheaper

– It’s decades since I heard about metaphysics, epistemology, ontology, or phenomenology

– I still don’t really know what they are

– But I write about them all the time

– My wife and I are unsure about Brazilian food

– There is a nick in the right, rear tire that will have to be dealt with

– Stokes Brothers, long out of business, is where I got my Atari 2600

– In the 1990s, Lollapalooza was greater than it is now

– But music used to be greater than it is now

– Unlike technology

– Ambient noise is the dream medium of the city’s consciousness

– And endless traffic is its conscience

– For ever and ever, amen

The thing about brilliance is that it’s terribly, terribly expensive. In the end it probably costs you just about everything else.

Worth it?

You can’t know, even if you’re brilliant. The bad money picks a side in this fight. The good money hides under a rock and refuses to come out.

Fine.  §

Fine.

The word of the day is  §

“benighted,” as in “Americans are as a rule so terribly benighted that it makes my teeth cry out in mortal pain.”

After using Chromium for two days now in place of Firefox, I can honestly say that I hope to god the team gets together and implements the rest of this thing because it is a damn nice browser…but without printing, it’s also categorically the wrong browser for an academic.

Speaking of, the massive pile of texts that civilization has produced accumulates in rather the same way as ocean silt. I wonder how many press-printed/published titles (not individual books, but texts as such) there are laying about in ontological reality that not a single human soul has read during the last ten years. I wonder how many there are that didn’t even make it into any of the databases that emerged at the dawn of the posthypermodern era.

The number, on both fronts, is most surel massive.

That’s called one of forgotten knowledge, mind-numbing fiction, or fractalic concept-noise.

Walter Benjamin’s  §

Theses on the Philosophy of History may be the most profound thing ever written by human beings.

Don’t just be good, be bewilderingly amazing. Don’t just be qualified, be wildly overqualified. Don’t just be a match for anyone, be the one that embarrasses everyone. Bring an overwhelming display of force to every encounter. Always be better. Make it so you can . not . be . turned . down for any reason.

The semester is about to start again.

I think time is different for me than it is for most other people. My conceptual metaphysics is just a couple of degrees rotated relative to the norm. I don’t know whether the rotation is clockwise or counter-clockwise.

On a rainy day in the city, the motion of the public turns the entire world into a business exchange. On a sunny day in the city, the very same motion turns the entire world into a horde of tourists.

For those who can’t figure it out  §

I often can’t bear reading reviews  §

of great works written by the general public.

The anti-intellectualism of the public, the extent to which they mock “intellectuals” and put the word “intellectual” in scare quotes (as in, “I’m sure that this pile of steaming crap will be endlessly analyzed by ‘intellectuals’ who will no doubt find in it a great deal of meaning”) is simply evidence of their inferiority, and makes a nice list of those who ought to be either marched off to elimination or at the very least prevented from voting ever again, given that they bear a demonstrated lack of capacity for complex comprehension.

The use of the punctuated scare phrase “the intellectuals” is, in short, evidence of complete and final intellectual inadequacy and the compensation attempts that result from it. Anyone who looks askance at “the intellectuals” or “the eggheads” probably ought to be given no responsibilities and should certainly never have their opinions or ideas taken seriously by anyone in positions of responsibility.

I’d like very much to watch lots of violence on television today. Instead, I shall read Nietzsche and Heidegger. Sigh (but not a bad sigh; something approximating wistful amusement).

End of summer, 2009  §

approaches with a strange kind of irrelevance that I’ve never known before.

How do I feel?

Strange is the word for that, too. I feel indirect, disconnected, depressed, disinterfaced, as though I’m experiencing the world through a haze, through a curtain, through a membrane. I feel awkwardly forgotten and full of forgetfulness.

There’s a storm brewing outside today, but I say that with a distinct lack of convicton. I was just standing in it and the damn thing felt academic, theoretical, not-there. The storms are no longer real, just as they days are no longer real.

All feels manufactured, artificial, liminal.

As if this isn’t life; life is elsewhere or elsewhen. What we are living now is non-life, in-between, the negative image of being like a negative image on film, an inversion, an anti-real that presupposes the real whilst living in its shadows and crevices and calling it into existence by marking its ontological boundaries. The temporal underside, outside, genocide of the real.

It is as though this entire year is falling into an abyss of nonbeing, being rent from space-time by the machinery of cosmic metaphysontology, and we—because we happen to be standing in the middle of it—are in danger of being deleted as well.

This is what it feels like to be forgotten, not just by people or time or space, but by oneself. I forget that I exist. I forget that I am here. I forget that I am forgetting.

Healthcare, socialism, and why you’re wrong  §

Dear friends and family (all of you know who you are), you know your politics make me crazy, mainly because you’re so wrong and so factually lost it makes my teeth hurt. You have been lied to. You believe the world is flat. You believe that electricity is magic pixie dust and that cars run on angel power. You, yes you, are not clever enough to have figured it out.

Since I am tired of hearing you badmouth “Obamacare” and “socialism,” here is an article from Media Matters to make you feel stupid.

http://mediamatters.org/research/200908200002

Please note that if Obama were actually a socialist, I would be overjoyed and my problems in life would be solved.

Do I look overjoyed?

Does it look as though my problems are solved?

Please stop sucking eggs and lemons. Please also wake up and smell the turpentine. Your opinions are based in froth, not fact, and you look vaguely stupid most of the time as a result.

Best,

Aron

P.S. I just want to add, for the “government never does things well” subgroup of you all, that you couldn’t sound more stupid.

Government does things incredibly well. It manages energy infrastructure, roads, emergency response, safety, and national defense. Through NASA and academic science programs, it is responsible for most of the technology we take for granted today.

It created and/or manages the internet, the electrical grid, the highway system, the water system, the library of congress system, the national state universities system, social security, medicare, and medicaid.

And with regard to the last two, these are excellent examples of government-run health care that are cheaper, faster, safer, better regulated, and that sustain better customer satisfaction than the private insurance plans of this country.

Who doesn’t do things well? Well, let’s see… Think about the major crises we’ve had in this country. The depression. The environmental crisis and pollution. The dot-com bubble. The subprime crisis. Enron. Exxon. And so on.

I’ll tell you who can’t do anything right. That would be private corporations and the free market, that’s who. Look at the record, you idiots, rather than listening to each other and to Rush in a giant circle jerk.

Show me a country whose founding ideology  §

is “Give me liberty or give me death!” and I’ll show you a country that relishes the murder of women and children in the name of “freedom.”

Fucking Americans.

How many dreams must be deferred,  §

how many careers must be ended,

how many children must suffer,

how many lives must be destroyed,

before we decide to put an end to slow driving?

Trap  §

It’s a trap, it’s a catch-22, it’s a vortex. I have to change. Downward acceleration breeds downward acceleration. The energy required to arrest it increases exponentially with further progress. I must arrest immediately.

Immediately.

It . is . time . to . play . the . giant . again .

Summer notes on ebooks  §

So it’s been about two years since I read my first eBook (Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not) on my Palm using Mobipocket reader, and about a year since I got ahold of my first-generation Kindle and started filling it with books.

Last week sometime, it became clear to me that the time had come to actually organize the several hundred books I have on Kindle. I’ve read a good three dozen or so and my reading list is, at this point, quite long. As a result, the “home screen” (book index) of my Kindle was getting a bit out of control, for several reasons that I’ll describe presently.

Two years on, here’s what I think of the current state of ebooks and ebook readers.

The Good

– Reading experience better than reading paper books

– Less cumbersome

– Consistently, evenly printed

– Never heavy, no matter how long the book

– Automatic bookmarks and notes

– Lots of room for lots of books

– Get new books instantly just with a few button presses

– All books are now searchable

The Bad

– Dedicated reader devices are still quite slow

– The screens are a little too small

– The resolution is still a little too low

– Battery life needs to be improved

– Lots of books aren’t yet available as ebooks

– Many books may never be available as ebooks

The Ugly

– Publishers treat ebooks like second-class citizens

– Lots of absolutely shitty formatting and attention to detail

– Variable use of metadata makes book and author lists a mess

– Absolutely no technical documentation of devices, formats

– Inconsistent implementation of file format standards across devices

– DRM-protected books for which you can’t even fix metadata

– A total nightmare for openness

– That makes for a total nightmare in quality control

– That is also and as a result completely unfixable by end-users

– No folders or other organizational tools

– Total lack of user control over the experience

I couldn’t be more in love with the idea of ebooks and ebook readers. The technology is absolutely fabulous and could make books entirely obsolete tomorrow. The execution, however, is half-assed and piss-poor, and all for non-technical reasons. The lack of openness, complete lack of attention to detail and lack of quality control, and lack of respect for users turn a fabulous product into a love-hate product, half salvation, half nightmare.

I have 550 books or so on the Kindle right now. About 60 of them are Amazon-purchased, about 55 of them were able to be De-DRM’ed and have their metadata fixed. The rest are from Gutenberg. It took days to fix the metadata for them all (except the still DRM’ed Topaz format books, which can’t be fixed). Before this latest round of metadata-fixing, the device had become unusable; the alphabetization features were useless (the Kindle claimed to alphabetize, but in fact displayed authors and titles in completely random order) and there were 40+ pages of books in the main index. Now it’s mostly fixed, but there are still the problems of crap attention to detail (rushed ebooks with absolutely piss-poor formatting, missing sections, line breaks everywhere, four or five blank lines between paragraphs, etc.), lack of organizational tools (folders, categories, anything), and lack of documentation (you have to be very tech savvy to find out that the Kindle, for example, supports Palm books, Mobi format books, that AZW is really Mobi with a Kindle-specific PID, that AZW1 is actually Topaz format also known under TPZ, etc.)

This is a long post and I don’t usually make technical posts, but I’m excited enough about ebooks and worried enough about ebooks that I want this on the record. These are great, amazing devices with great, amazing potential. I have at my fingertips a searchable library of nearly all English language classics that can fit in a handbag and can download any text in the world over a network—in theory. It’s hobbled by the same old fucking corporate control and capitalist nonsense that turns all great ideas that could improve human life into shite.

So let’s hope ebooks aren’t killed or permanently hobbled by corporate attitude problems. And let’s hope someone comes up with a nice, open ebook reader that shares the spirit of the Linux operating system on which nearly all current ebook readers are based.

There is a fine line between…  §

you know the rest.

Gotta calm down  §

Sometime around midnight or 1:00 in the morning, I invariably start to freak. I lose my mind. Not good.