Zarf:

Do you watch All My Children? I don’t… but these clips of the Transgendered character Zarf are certainly making me reconsider. What is going on here!?!?!

From Best Week Ever:

AKA Zarf gets his period aka The Funniest All My Children Moment of All Time. Please watch this. We are busy memorizing it in order to audition for that Grease reality show everyone’s talking about.

In America today…

At least nine electronic devices, planted at bridges and other parts of Boston as part of a marketing campaign for a late-night cartoon, threw a scare into the city Wednesday. Highways, bridges and a section of the Charles River were shut down and bomb squads were sent in before authorities declared the devices were harmless. 

The device?

From Boing Boing:

There was a terrorism scare in Boston today — strange devices were found all over the city. The bomb squad came and detonated one of them, and removed the others. Turns out the devices are part of a guerrilla marketing campaign for [Cartoon Network’s] “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.” The devices are little LED Moominites.

Unfortunately, Meatwad was unavailable for comment at this time.

Honestly though, I was watching CNN’s coverage on this “terrorist scare” and I couldn’t believe it. The hosts, visibly shaken over the ordeal (?!?) kept saying, over and over again “Is there any word on if this has been happening all over the country?” “What is the word on the rest of the country?” “Have they found any of these “devices” in New York yet?”

Then, when it became clear that these devices were an advertising gimmick, the announcers were repeating the refrain “someone is going to get into big trouble over this!” “This is a serious matter that is going to be dealt with severely!” and on and on like this.

Question: why isn’t anyone (and by anyone, I mean government regulators) “taking it very seriously” the panic that this type of “we don’t know anything at this point except that it could be really really bad. Wait, this just in… this could be the work of TERRORISTS!” Was the fear and panic that resulted from this marketing campaign gone awry soley in the hands of the marketing company, or should CNN take some of the heat on this too?

CNN are the TERRORISTS.
The whole thing becomes muddled when you look into it, and find out that CNN and The Cartoon Network are owned by the same media conglomeration…

The air hangs heavy

I live in a basement apartment, beneath a very sweet grandma-ish woman who is hard of hearing.

Today, I come home and the place feels different, I picked up on it instantly. You know that feeling you get when it seems like someone was in your stuff, but you can’t prove it… it is just a feeling? This was that.

A few hours later, my phone rings, and this woman upstairs is calling me. She tells me that if I am hearing strange noises upstairs (?) that I shouldn’t be worried about it, because it was just her grieving over her husband who passed away a few days ago.

Her husband has been living with Parkinson’s in a nursing home for the last five years or so, and the lady upstairs spends every day there with him.  She told me that in a way she felt relieved, but that it was just so “final.”

What do you say in situations like this? I offered my condolences, and offered to help out with anything she needed, but the whole thing just feels really… heavy.  I have never met this man, and the lady upstairs and I have spoken only a handful of times, mainly pleasantries. Yet her grief left me feeling really sad.

Explains why this apartment feels different.

Localized Blogging

I have updated my set of links at the very bottom of this page.

Of interest is a group called “Certain People I Know” which are… people I know. Tonight a good friend joined the blogging order, so go say hi over at Zaph’s new venture Fearless Speech.

For a full list of the blogs I steal from, check out my Bloglines page, which will answer the question “where does he find some of this stuff?” The answer is that I read a lot of blogs, and shamelessly rip them off.

Blogosphere

I was listening to CBC this morning on my drive in, and I heard Dr. Keren (who is giving a talk on Friday on the Blogosphere) discuss about his new book. He is doing a reading at a bookstore in Feb, so I am going to try and catch him then.

This is the release for his talk:

This journey through blogosphere highlights major forces operating in today’s politics: apathy toward political affairs,

resistance to globalization, a quest for redemption through religious

fundamentalism and terrorism. Michael Keren compares bloggers to terrorists,

arguing that while the methods advocated by the two groups are obviously

very different, they both represent a similar trend, one of diversion by

respected but disenchanted citizens from the norms of civil society to a

fantasy world in which the excessive use of words-or bombs-would make

everybody listen.

 

Day: Friday, February 2, 2007

Room: SS729

Time: 12:00 Noon

The main debate for sociologists studying online culture has been whether or not we can call online social aggregates “communities” in the “true” sense of the word, and whether or not people are using this form of communication as a “replacement” for face to face communication. There are many academics who say “no,” and we need to start mourning the loss of “real” communities, and that people participating in online culture (whether it be through blogs, games, or other forms of online communications) are doing so at the expense of making “real” connections.

This is, from listening to Dr. Keren, is one of his main arguments. He talks about this woman who blogs about her cats, and how when one of the cats died, that her “blogging community” (i.e. the people who read and respond to her blog), were in mourning. He noted that at this time there were “important” political events going on in the world at that time, and notes how he checked the newspaper that day and found that it occurred on the same day as the big SARS outbreak…

I think Keren, and other academics who are studying online communities, blogs, etc. have a point – it cannot be denied, that when looking at a woman blogging about her cats, and the community going into mourning when one of them dies, seems, you know, kind of weird.

Yet, on the other hand, my thinking on this is that it isn’t my job as sociologist to make these kind of statements about the people I am studying; it is not my place to impose a moral code of what “should” give someone a sense of community, how they connect, what they “should” be paying attention to in the world, what they should be blogging about… etc. etc. etc. Is this my place to say to this woman and her readers that they are being “silly” because there are “important” things going on in the world? After all, its just a cat right? Further – a cat most of these people have never even seen in real life.

Or can we look at it from the opposite angle: that this woman, who felt a great deal of affection for her cats, would have been in solitary mourning over her loss… after all, it’s just a cat! Yet, here she has this dense community of people who are providing support, giving their sympathy, etc.

Song of the Day: The Sublimation Hour by Destroyer

Destroyer: The Sublimation Hour

(From the album Streethawk:  A Seduction (2001)  – download it for the first lytic alone:

So you had the best legs in a business built for kicks,
but was this changing of the guards really supposed to make you sick?
It’s alright… The Sublimation Hour!
Medium Rotation, the Shock of the New,
and a memo from Feldman saying, “everything is true.”
It’s alright… The Sublimation Hour!

Don’t spend your life conceiving
that the widows won’t get sick of their grieving
’till everyone walks out.
Hey, isn’t that what rock ‘n’ roll is all about, Princess?
Express your bloated self, willful and indignant,
in the face of somebody’s lord!

You try to summon up the spirits live on Face the Nation,
but the Port Authority just taxed incantations.
It’s alright… The Sublimate Hour!
Auction off The Temple. It’s money well-spent.
Hey, are those tears in your eyes as the wind cries, “enlargement”?
It’s alright… The Sublimate Hour!

Don’t spend your life conceiving
that the widows won’t get sick of their grieving
’till everyone walks out.
Hey, isn’t that what rock ‘n’ roll is all about, Princess?
Confess your bloated self, willful and indignant,
in the face of somebody’s lord!

So put your hands together! I hear it’s a must
until this phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust.
It’s alright… The Sublimation Hour!
I guess the streets will suffice till everybody makes nice,
but there’s a rumor going round even Destroyers have a price…
It’s alright… The Sublimation Hour!

Don’t spend your life conceiving…

Live Blogging: PhD Theory Class #3

Start with Mark’s presentation:

Moving forward with deepening our understaning of the text and beyond.

Start with considering the linguistic meanings of the title: surveiller et punir: Naissance de la prison

Surveiller: The closest we have is “to supervise” – also survey, watching in order to protect, to mind; also into proctor; lastly as in watching ones self, ones’ body. All these uses have common elements, though the range is wide. Although this difference seems trivial, draws us to the multiplicities that Foucault had in mind.

Revisiting the chapter “Panopticism” and the description of the plague town. References to inspection of authority on inspected houses. Observation posts / sentinals. Survey; gathering information (p. 196). An emegence of a network, a system based on permanent registration. The binary position : normal / abnormal.

New binaries: “With us or against us”

Centralization of bodies: the penetration of regulation into small details.

What we find here is the creation of the “good citizen” – we are doing it for our own benefit. The parallels that can be drawn.

The distribution is imperfect: the gaze discontinuous. Ideal form is Bentham’s Panopticon. The major effect is p. 201: permanent visibility.

Geneological marker: the transportation of the culture of spectacle to the carceral culture.

This is where we are when Foucault was when he finished.

The monolithic panoptic structure as a metaphor: the sense that there is nowhere to run or hide. This is our inheritance: p. 304: the judges of normality are available everywhere.

How much of Foucaults analysis remains relevant? Opinions are divided.

Straightforward readings: Gary Marx “The maximum security society” Increasingly compact devices: the polarity is reversed. The watchers are being watched.

Two examples: Rodney King / The UCLA tasering

Who is watching the watchers? Now: all of us.

Deleuze: “society of control” -discipline requires enclosure. Today, through computers, societies become unstable, fluid. All the information exists in databanks. Masses become samples, markets, databanks. The man of control is in orbit. Not on the body, but on its data double.

Dataveilance.

Mark Poster: Super-Panopticon.

__________________________

What winds the book up, the tension that animates it, is Foucaults hatred of opression vs. this emerging realization that there is no individual outside disciplinary practices. How else do you get to be? To be a subject is to be subjected. There is no other way to be.

For Foucault, there is the finest of lines… ethical subjects. For Foucault this doesn’t mean, later on, that these aren’t admirable, useful. It is possible to be reflective about the disciplines that inform you, there is some freedom. It’s not setting you free, as there are all these injunctions.

Power / Knowledge trap!

__________________________

Writing a book review (800 words)
Objectives;

  • To summarize the content, including the authors qualifications and involvement:
  • Sutuate the book within a field
  • Books readability?
    • How much work does it take to get through this sucker?
  • Tell those who might read this book why they should they read it
    • Tell those who might not read what they might be missing
  • To offer relevant criticsims: don’t look like you are scoring points.

How do you prepare?

  • What was the most important thing? What did it teach
  • Did it change my thinking on this topic? Can I say that I see things differently?
  • What do I admire about the author?
  • Why did the author write this particular book? Given all the other ways…
  • What are your legitimate dissapointments?
  • Which editorial choices turned out badly?
  • Tell potential readers what they can expect, what they might not expect

Writing Advice

  • Writing to a specific word deadline.
  • Lead that engages readers. Lots of reviews out there, want yours to be read. What is the most engaging line or idea? What moment could make a good lead for my review.
  • Quote the book, but in reviews, keep these short. Avoid block quotations.
  • Avoid adjectives. Show them don’t tell.
  • Keep paragraphs short, sentances short: start with substantive nouns.
  • As you cut “what is the information value” – what does this sentence tell the reader?
  • Minimize references to other books
  • The review is not about you. The least egotistical form of writing, but it is to say something about your style.
  • Learn alot about people about the way they write reviews.

Criticisms

  • Not necessary. No scoring points! What book can cover off everything?
  • Consider yourself accountable
  • Remember how much work it is to publish a book (1 in 100 candidate manuscripts that get published). By the time a book gets to you as a reviewer, it is already high on the pyramid. Be respectful of this!
  • Review the book the author wrote!
  • Avoid criticism like “if I was writing this….”
  • Avoid criticising production values: i.e. number of typos, index, covers…
  • Both praise and criticisms are projections of your own values and your TASTE. A good review are not that far from music criticism. The ultimate goal is to improve the level of taste, and also putting your taste on display.

Use the review to point out what is worth valuing, and why.

Professional issues

  • Double space
  • Deadlines
  • Don’t screw around with someone else trying to do their job

On: The Importance of Neon Bible

One of the key moments of my young music loving career came with the album Louder Than Bombs, the singles compilation by The Smiths. On it, one song in particular struck my young 12 year old brain – specifically the song “Panic” – with the refrain:

Burn down the disco / Hang the blessed DJ / Because the music that he constantly plays / It says nothing to me about my life.

Those words have been bouncing around my head ever since, for what I think are obvious reasons. The fact of the matter is that an overwhelming majority of music produced for mass audiences says absolutely nothing about my own experience. The other half of that coin is that I have spent the remaining years of my life accumulating music that says something about my life.

Last weekend, word spread (aka a dozen emails in my inbox) that the new Arcade Fire album had leaked, and did I want to hear it? I think I have made it pretty clear on this blog how highly I have been anticipating it, because frankly, The Arcade Fire says something to me about my life. Their last album, Funeral, remains one of my favourite albums of the ’00’s. Yet, with all of the 21st century bands that I have fallen in love with in a debut album, almost all of them have let me down in their follow ups. The exception (thus far) being The Shins, who have remained consistent (so far), and even to a degree improving with each consecutive release.

I had high hopes for Neon Bible, specifically on the strength of the songs that have already been leaked – and more specifically the strength of the first single, “Intervention” which is an amazing piece of music, that I will admit here has actually brought tears to my eyes. The song is a plea for people to wake up, to stop putting their faith in dead institutions – when Win Butler sings “You say it’s money that we need / as if we’re only mouths to feed / and no matter what you say / there’s some debts you’ll never pay” and “Working for the church while my family dies / Your little baby sister’s gonna lose her mind / Every spark of friendship and love will die without a home” There is something about Wins voice – this meloncholy sense of resolve and pain, combined with the swirling strings and the grandiose pipe organ that makes me feel something real. Melodramatic? Yes. Effective? Absolutely.

So, it is with this background that I approach Neon Bible, and I will say right away that my expectations were exceeded. These songs speak to me, to us, in this post-911 nightmare that we share. There are a few themes that I am seeing throughout this piece. The first is the most obvious one – a political reaction against the change in America after 911, and indeed throughout the rest of the world. Win sings to his despair at the direction that the world is taking, specifically his unease at the increasing surveillance and panopticism that is apparent to me after reading Foucault all month. For example, in Black Mirror, the opening track, Win sings “Shot by a security camera /You can watch your own image / and also look yourself in the eye / Black Mirror, Black Mirror, Black Mirror.” Later in the song “Windowsill” / “I don’t want to give them my name and address /I don’t want to see what happens next.”

This lyric, the fear and the unease being experienced en masse is another dominant theme that I am hearing here – that general sense of foreboding that I have written about here previously, and captured most perfectly in the second half of the song “Black Waves / Bad Vibrations” – “Nothing lasts forever, that’s the way its gotta be / there’s a great black wave in the middle of the sea / for me.” Indeed, this general feeling of dread comes back in the same vernacular in “Ocean of Noise” – “Left in the morning / while you were fast asleep / to an ocean of violence / a world of empty streets.”

This album is not perfect, but close. The title track “Neon Bible” is an oddity that I will fully admit to not really getting at this point. Compared to the emotional complexity of the rest of the album, this song feels like a toss off. Yet, all in all, this album is really good, ney: really important. A rosetta stone for our times, which future generations will use to help understand where we are at this point.

Apologies to God!

So apparently, God reads this blog, and was highly displeased with the “light blasphemy” I committed this morning. After reading my re-appropriation of Mathew 28, God did not find the humour, and decided to punish me for committing this grave sin by re-killing my newly resurrected iPod.

Sorry big guy!

(I was about to buy the $400 slim cut jeans too, thinking the decision was made for me. Now I am back to the drawing board: $400 slim cut jeans or new iPod? Ahhhh… this decision is consuming my very soul!)

AN EASTER MIRACLE

1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Paul went to look at the tomb where Paul’s iPod was lain to rest.

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an iPod angel came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.

3 Its appearance was like lightning, and its plastic covering was white as snow.

4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The iPod angel said to Paul, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Paul’s iPod, who stopped working.

6 It is not here; it has risen, just as it said. Come and see the place where he lay.

7 Then go quickly and tell your disciples: ‘My iPod has risen from the dead and is going with me into Calgary. There you will see it.’ Now I have told you.”

8 So the Paul hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

9 Suddenly Paul’s iPod met him. “Greetings,” it said. Paul came to it, clasped its shiny metal exterior and worshiped it.

10 Then Paul’s iPod said to him, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Calgary; there they will see me.”

Influences: Seinfeld

As I have been teaching this media course, I have been thinking a great deal about how my identity is almost entirely mediated: the books I read, the music I listen to, the movies I love and the television shows I buy into.  On and on…

Yet, I have been thinking about specific media that I have consumed (or consume), and identify the “key” ingredients to my personal identity.

I’ll start at an obvious point: Seinfeld.

See, when I was in high school, I didn’t just watch Seinfeld. I studied it. I had almost every episode taped, and I never missed an episode. Thinking about why I fell in love with sociology as a profession, I think it was largely due to the influence that this show had on me.

Think about it – Seinfeld, more than any other show on television, is sociological to a high degree (at the very least, Symbolic Interactionist sociology). The whole premise of the show is people, and the minute things they come up with while negotiating the social.

One day, I plan on writing a book on this topic – Seinfeld and Sociology, where I use Seinfeld to deal with specific sociological concepts. For now, some of my favourite scenes:

Decisions, decisions…

Do I spend some money on a new iPod (those drives between the two levels of hell I live in are grueling…), or do I buy a pair of $400 jeans?

  vs

Premium Baxter Low Rise Slim Boot – Dark Wash – $398.00

Specially handcrafted with premium denim fabric from the highest quality cotton. These limited edition jeans were hand constructed by the best craftsmen to have the most unique intricacies, where no two pairs are the same. Individually hand numbered to insure one-of-a-kind authenticity. Each pair features antiqued metal hardware, genuine abrasion patterns, and destruction. Low Rise Slim Boot Fit. 100% cotton. Imported. (ABERCROMBIE.COM)

What do you think? I mean, I gotsta look hot, right? Plus, I am thinking the “slim boot fit” is excatly what I need…

Vote below.

Typical Me, Typical Me, Typical Me…

This morning, I was in the drive-through (or is it “drive-thru“?) at that Canadian coffee giant that shall not be named (ahem), and I pull through and the clerk said to me:

“Ooh! Oooh! Oooh!”

In my tired state (see: pre-caffeinated) I’m thinking “oh god… what now.”

The woman looks at me and says “The Smiths! Can you please turn it up?”

In my tired state, I heard the words, but I wasn’t making sense of what she was saying… so (typical me) I was like “what?”

She looks at me, dead serious at this point: “This place is killing me today. This is my favourite band in the world. Please. Turn it up for just a second.”

I was horrified. “uhhh… sure….” so I turn it up… but when I turned it up, it ended up being way too loud. I’m thinking “oh God…” but I’m going with it. Then we do the Interact thing (Hayden took all my cash for a “book fair” or something…), and, in my tired state, I did everything except hit the “OK” button. So it is taking forever.

All the while, the Smiths are playing really fucking loudly. I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable, to the point that I think I was sweating, or at the very least, I was red faced.

And this clerk… I can see her taking her time so she can enjoy the song, so she is moving very… very… ….. slo….w…ly… All the while, there is this super long line of cars behind me, and I can see the dude in the pickup behind me getting very impatient… the look on his face “unbelievable.”

So she presses the “ok” button, and the transaction goes through. She hands me my coffee, and at this point I have been at that window for about 3 minutes, so the song is over, and she mouths “thank you” to me.

So I do what anyone does at this point: I raise my coffee cup to her, as if in a “Cheers” motion, and peel out of there.