Sunday, December 30, 2007

An insect bite can make you very sick. But the insect remains an insect.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Hum II Sp 08

AS2000 A&C Humanities II
Sp 2008

Our topic will be: Dehumanizing Humanity – Technophobia and Technophilia in Modern Culture. We’ll look at this topic in the light of several themes: The foundation of concepts of the human in concepts of nature, work, and technology; Modern media’s power to represent and reshape humanity and social life; Technology’s enabling of the dehumanization of others; Androids, robots, and other artificial human creatures in the modern popular imagination.

Bill McKibben - The End of Nature (2006 ed.) (Random House, 2006)
Stanley Perkowitz - Digital People: From Bionic Humans to Androids (Joseph Henry Press, 2004)
Mary Shelley - Frankenstein (Signet, 2000 – the 1818 edition. Do not get the 1831 edition.)
Susan Sontag - Regarding the Pain of Others (Picador, 2004)

Most of these are available used from Amazon or But be sure to get the right edition.

The following required readings are available free online:
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels – The Communist Manifesto
Henry David Thoreau – Walking
Franz Kafka – In the Penal Colony
Michel Foucault - Panopticism
Guy Debord - The Society of the Spectacle

The following films will be studied in class:
Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1926)
La Jetée (Chris Marker, 1962)
Dr. Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
RoboCop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987)

Further suggested reading:
George Orwell – 1984
Walter Benjamin – The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Bill Joy – Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us
Kevin Kelley – Out of Control
Nick Bostrom - Existential Risks: Analyzing Human Extinction Scenarios
The Unabomber’s Manifesto
Francis Fukuyama, - Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. Picador, 2002

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Love Songs

For "heart" read "sexual organs."

Monday, December 03, 2007

Just a minute left in Joseph Conrad's 150th birthday. We started Heart of Darkness in the evening Humanities section tonight. Nothing seemed to impress them so much as the coincidence of its being Conrad's birthday. The symmetry in this semester is planned: We started out with Civilization and Its Discontents and are ending with analysis of HoD, considering whether it's the same argument in the form of narrative. (More successful and more "earned"--you can see why Conrad didn't care for Freud.)

It's funny how like Mann Conrad is. I remember suddenly realizing sometime back that The Goat was Albee's Death in Venice; of course HoD is DiV, too, only that much darker. These are metamorphosis stories--along with Kafka's actual Metamorphosis--where the central character encounters some sublime force that makes it impossible to live as he once did. It seems like they ought to be all over the place; that every bildungsroman should be a transformation, but they're not; they're relatively rare, compared to takes in which the change is just a melodramatic readjustment to the norm. The real ones are sort of grim, earnest, and religious in implications, like Diary of a Country Priest and Le diable, probablement, The Counterfeiters, Young Torless, Demian.


Dec 02, 2007 @ 11:51 am

I had an amazing time at the reading last night in Baltimore. David Beaudouin, Chris Mason, Bernard Welt read in that order. part ways thru Bernard’s reading the word ecstatic came to mind. by ecstatic I mean that each of the three readers seemed to have left themselves behind as a condition for their having written the things they did. the work all seemed especially unburdened by… I want to say identity, or specific expectations or preconceptions about what being a writer is all about.

I learned from Michael after the reading that Chris had put the three together for this reading. Chris was the only one of the three I knew at all prior to the reading, but I hadn’t seen Chris read, outside of his part in a collab thing I did with him, Bender, Rupert and Adam Good. Chris’ reading surprised me. His presence was not what I would have predicted, tho I’m not sure I can get more specific about that. he was commanding in a very untyrannical way. (not that I was expecting tyranny.) among the things he read were some sound poems called “click poems”. I asked him if he had recordings of the poems and apparently he does, so I will want to get those on the dc poetry site and link to them. I think Chris stands the same way I do when I read. and/or moves or doesn’t move, the same way. same kind of peculiarly intentional verticality. but he moves less, I think.

David, who read first, read a few very different kinds of things. there were some denser longer (but not very long) things that especially worked for me. not dense like leaden. free & surprising, utterly. not like the other kids. Says the i.e. series blog, “He was the founder of Tropos Press, Inc. (1976-2001), one of the region’s most respected alternative literary presses, as well as THE PEARL (1980-2001), a Baltimore journal of the literary and ’spontaneous’ arts.”

I’m not usually comfortable with big words like “astonishing,” but Bernard’s reading could be described that way without fear of excess. he read some things he described as “prose.” among them was a piece (series of pieces?) about George W. Bush. the piece is a series of dream sequences in which George W. Bush — who is always referred to that way in the piece, with the “W” — appears exactly when we least and most expect it. the piece is funny but also devastatingly sad. something about the affect is just so perfect for this particular moment, late in W’s presidency, where we’re all exhausted by what he has wrought, to the point of something like punchiness, at times. something happened to me during the reading wherein I was suddenly struck by my capacity as a human to be affected by what is happening to THE ENTIRE WORLD. at some point in recent years I think I decided it might be possible to only be affected by what is happening within a 10-mile radius (putting aside the fact that my 10-mile radius contains the federal gov’t, etc) and not care about the rest of the world. I’ve even had times where I stopped believing that human beings can care about the out-of-sight. you know, cuz you can’t really hold a whole world in your head. but Bernard’s piece recovered a lot of that for me, my real relation to something as big as the world. (as soon as I publish this blog post I will start working on recovering my indifference.)

Bernard also read a piece called “I stopped writing poetry.” It’s one of these pieces that is just jammed full of things that are funny and true, not only about being a poet but being a human. You keep thinking to yourself as you hear it read, I’m not going to be able to remember all of this so I just need to remember this one sentence because this must be the one that can’t be eclipsed by anything that remains in the piece. but then that happens fifteen more times. It appears in The Best American Poetry 2001, I now know, from a search. So if you happen to have that volume. Hopefully it’s the same version as what was read last night. It is about the numerous times when Bernard has stopped writing poetry and the various reasons for those stoppages. From various searches I now see that the piece got quite a lot of attention way back in the year 2000.

After the reading I asked Bernard if he had any books and he mentioned a book of essays, but he didn’t mention an out-of-print book of poetry — Serenade (Z Press). I see also that he has some things here. The book of essays is Mythomania: Fantasies, Fables, and Sheer Lies in Contemporary American Popular Art. I was able to order Serenade from Amazon, but I’m a little skeptical because it was $5 there and listed in “new” condition, whereas it is upwards of $30 from other sellers. a little worried I’ll get a “just kidding” email from Amazon.