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March 21, 2004

Some Quick and Random Notes

A Few Art Links

I've always had issues with Lyotard, considering his iconoclastic obsession with the Second Commandment and fetishization of "difference," but I have a desire to reconsider him somewhat these days. Pursuant to that: at panel-house Steven Husby uses Lyotard to beat back Lane Relyea and the October crowd (I'd pull a quote or two, but I can't make sense of their non-compliant punctuation encoding).

On a similar note, peep this skeptic's consideration of the importance of Foucault:

I say all this as someone who does often talk about an agglomerated postmodernism rather loosely, and who certainly views it quite critically. I reject almost all of the deeper ontological claims of most postmodernists and poststructuralists, and I find the epistemologies that many of them propose crippling, useless or pernicious. And yes, I think that a lot of them are bad writers, though let's leave that perennial favorite alone for once. But I still recognize the ontological challenge that postmodernism, broadly defined, offers as a very serious, substantial and rigorous one. Nor do I just brush off the epistemological challenges that postmodernists have laid out: they're real and they're important. (Though yes, at some point, I think it's perfectly fair to say, 'Yeah, I get it, I get it' and move on to other things. You're not required to read and read and read.)
The thing I regret most about casual rejectionism of a loosely conceptualized postmodernism (or any body of theory) is that it seems to deny that it is possible to read a single work and extract some insight or inspiration from it that is not really what the author's full theory or argument is meant to lead you to. It's rather like one of the professors who I encountered in graduate school who would circle words or terms he didn't like and ominously ask, "Do you want to be tarred with that brush?" It's a theory of citation as contagion.
Taken in totality, I think Foucault is doing his damnedest to avoid being pinned down to any particular vision of praxis or anything that might be summarized as a 'theory', in a way that can be terribly coy and frustrating. Inasmuch as he can be said to have an overall philosophy, I find it despairingly futilitarian and barren, and I accept very little of the overall vision. Taken instead as a body of inconsistent or contradictory suggestions, insights, and gestures, his work is fairly fertile for historians.
If nothing else, he opened up a whole range of new subjects for historical investigation from entirely new angles: institutions like prisons or medicine and their practices, forms of personhood and subjectivity, and sexuality. It's interesting that the historical work which Foucault inspired often ended up documenting that he was wrong on the actual details and often even the overall arguments, but even then, you can clearly see how generative that his choices of subjects were.

And finally, some quality art writing at Art Forum (imagine that).

Naming Names

After his commanding win in last Tuesday's Democratic primary here in Illinois, Barack Obama's campaign for the U.S. Senate is likely to garner quite a bit of national coverage, if it hasn't already. What most commentators dissecting his overwhelming victory over a field of seven other candidates (including former front-runner, the wife-beating [alleged], coke-snorting, card-counting multimillionaire Blair Hull) have failed to recognize is how attractive of a candidate he is in terms of personality, leadership, political intelligence and credentials. Consider this, pulled from the Council for a Livable World's endorsement:

He received a degree in political science with a speciality in international relations from Columbia University. A community organizer in some of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods, he helped church groups develop job-training programs and improve local schools and city services. At Harvard Law School, Obama graduated magna cum laude and was the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. After law school, Obama served as Illinois Executive Director of PROJECT VOTE!, which added over 100,000 newly registered voters in Illinois. Currently a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago Law School, Obama has served on the boards of some of Chicago's leading foundations.

On top of that, should he win he would become, I believe, only the third black Senator since Reconstruction. But I don't mean to get too political on you. I mostly bring it up on account of his funny name (election night an ABC news correspondent, in an unfortunate flub, referred to him as "Mr. Barack Osama") and thus as hook into a brief list of surprising names from Tuesday's ballot: Michael J. Fox (Circuit Judge), Jerry Orbach (Circuit Court Clerk—a law and order candidate, har-har?), Clarence Darrow (State Rep.), with honorable mention going to Michael Moses (State Rep.) for splitting the bill with ward boss Bernie Stone on their bold, blaxploitation-sounding STONE MOSES campaign signs. And for Lifetime Achievement, the perennial punch line, from the "he's not dead, he's my candidate" vault: LaRouche, Jr for President—at 81 years young and with $838,848.34 in Federal Matching Funds, it's time you took a look at a "real Democrat."

One Year Ago Today...

While I'm on a vaguely political topic I'd like to mention that one year ago at this hour I was locked in a 100 square-foot jail cell with 30 other men, 7 hours into a 35-hour visit in the south side jail on 111th St (Dan's jailhouse index: 35 hours of punitive detainment without due process, 4 hours sleep (cumulative), 2 pieces of Wonderbread, 0 phones calls). I may flesh out some details some other time, but for now I think I'll just go down to the basement, turn on all the lights, remove my belt and shoelaces, and try to catch a nap against a cold, concrete wall—it's time to reminisce a bit. Maybe tomorrow I can find an opportunity to piss in front of 30 other guys. Good times.

"Some Quick and Random Notes"
Posted by Dan at 04:47 AM


Referenced in this post:

Art Forum: Historical Fiction—Tacita Dean
Barack Obama Campaign
Blair Hull: The House that Blackjack Built
Council for a Livable World: Barack Obama of Illinois
Easily Distracted
Easily Distracted: Quicksilver and Foucault
FEC Approves Matching Funds for 2004 Presidential Candidates
LaRouche in 2004: LaRouche Forces Ready to Confront Kerry in Next Round of Primaries
Panel-house: Riposte: 'All Over and At Once'—Steven Husby