A Masthead for Vagabonds, Drunkards and Saints

Monthly Archives: March 2013

Greetings from the Teutonic Spring


Admittedly, it’s taken me some time to find my rambling voice again. Some of it was just good old fashioned rust: my servos and articulators were all dusty and orange from disuse. And some of it was the pretext for my writing, which I’ll explain momentarily. To add a little context for those of you who have asked–online and off–I’ve spent the better part of the last year and change working (not working) on a book that’s been in some semi-flaccid state of fulfillment for the last 6 months. But just last week I began to see the slowly resolving silhouette of a fully drafted project, and my spirit waxed full. Which is to rationalize–for myself, mostly–that I’ve still been writing, even if I’ve been absent from the circus.

Now, for the pretext. Embarrassingly, I found this address again out of necessity. I was required to maintain an academic blog for a seminar I’m taking in visual research methods taught by the ass-kicking-name-taking Alexandra Juhasz, whose blog should be followed by all men and women of conscience (puckering posterior sound to follow). The problem, for me, was that in all the time I was writing The Rambler, I could never decide who precisely my audience was. The isolationists among us will tell you that your audience doesn’t matter (“write what you know,” “if you build it they will come,” and all that jazz), but I think we can all agree that’s mostly–though probably not entirely–bullshit. However, it is definitely true that if you don’t build it absolutely no one will come. How can you find a community unless you’re building one? Some of us are born into them, of course; Brahmins and Shudras and all that, unfortunately, relevant nonsense. But us bougies, with our super-phones and google mastery, have our pick of the zips and can live where we want–imagined community-wise. So just who do I write for?

Well, the answer to that question was, initially, a bit uncomfortable for me, because I was writing for my class–even though my audience (as directed) could be whomever I liked. Still, it was a balancing act to fulfill the assignments appropriately, and also realize my desire to write for anyone who might be interested in watching Whitman bugger Diogenes, or kicking around with Sappho over Plato in the garbage heaps of history. I liked to keep my academic gentility secreted from my intellectual promiscuities the way French belletrists keep mistresses from their wives, but that’s become untenable. I’m found out–to no particular consequence than my own conceit.

I suspect part of the problem has been that I’ve been hanging out with the wrong crowd. These cultural studies folks are onto something. I started my academic training in philosophy (analytic) then moved to comparative literature (basically continental philosophy), but I never really cottoned to the hyper-theorization of literature: all that Derridean, Foucauldian, Lacanian, et al. defacement of so many perfectly good books felt a little like teenagers scrawling band lyrics in textbooks. But don’t mistake me: I dig Derrida and late Foucault–not so much Lacan–but not the aping of their methods. Never that. Even as an undergrad at UCI in the 90s, I was instinctually repulsed by all the Doc Martin shod sycophants at Derrida’s lectures. Instead, I was partial to Andrej Warminski’s de Manian cynicism–who rarely had more than 8 or 9 students at a time. I don’t mean to cast aspersions, really; I’m sure all those grad students grew up to be perfectly independent intellectuals, but I could be pretty judgmental in my early 20’s. As for the religion stuff–my other area of academic training–well, that’s pretty much all about me and my obsession with mortality and its various faces.

I’ve never really talked about my academic training here before, and I won’t say much more, mostly because I’ve never really cared about my training. I come from a working class family with working class sensibilities, and have been as suspicious of the tower as I’ve been drawn to it. Throughout my life I’ve entered the academy more fugitive than faithful, on the run from some other career I could no longer stand to numb myself to. This time around, however, on my way to a PhD, is a bit different. I have several fully understood motivations, and even though I won’t bore you with them, it’s important to mention that I’m not wasting your time. The Rambler isn’t an exorcism of old resentments, nor is it the mere fulfillment of a course requirement. It’s my yurt at the periphery, stitched with curiosity–a shanty for the loneliest animals.

I’ll be using this way station to puzzle through some problems now and then if you’d like to stop by. I’ll be working on a mini-mini-documentary about Marx in the next few weeks, to be posted here. I find myself in Trier, Germany, the oldest city in the country, and the birthplace of good-old Karl, so it seemed like a fit subject for the few who care, or have to care (my classmates) about things like the organization of a just society. I’ll see you soon.

Documentary Achievements

Strong documentaries wrestle with reality Greco-Roman style, looking for the right grip, the proper leverage to pin their opponents to the mat. (If you don’t like my combative analogy feel free to swap it for one of your own. It doesn’t really matter which conceit we use: a dance, a birth, a long con, whateverContinue Reading

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