Voyou Désœuvré

A day when the Spice Girls are rumored to be reforming seems like an appropriate time to mention my surprise that, according to Google, no-one has made the obvious “zig-a-zig objet petit a” joke. Or maybe ten years ago it didn’t occur to anyone to use a global computer network to disseminate such a mediocre gag.

In other Spice Girls news,  I was interested to find an article on Girl Power that says a lot of what I had vaguely imagined might go into a theory of Marxism-Britneyism.

At Moscow Gay Pride, tATu briefly found themselves between homophobic protesters and the media. Unexpectedly, the SFPD seem to be taking a leaf out of the Moscow police department’s book, discouraging people from coming to various Gay-Pride related events for “safety” reasons. This comes on the heels of the city’s idiotic response to the other main gay festival, Halloween, where their plan for the past few years has been to first claim the event can’t possibly go ahead safely, then refuse to engage in any planning as to how it might be organized, then try and shut it down while people are still arriving, then claim that the resulting chaos proves that the city was right all along. The SFPD’s problem here probably isn’t homophobia, though, but a more general hostility to any kind of collective use of public space (see also critical mass or the love parade, for instance).

The decision by tATu to attend Gay Pride in Moscow does strike me as genuinely admirable and even courageous; they are as charming as ever in an interview on the topic. And, in other tATu news, part of the novel on which tATu’s forthcoming film is based is available on the website of its author, Russian MP and pornographer Aleksey Mitrofanov.

I see that the theme for this year’s parade is “Pride Not Prejudice.” Good to see some innovative thinking there. The previous years’ themes of “Shame and Discrimination” and “Hatred and Regular Violence” were surprisingly poorly received.

The pious outrage Thursday over heiress Paris Hilton’s “early release” from jail in Los Angeles, accusations of “special treatment” and the vindictive demands that she receive “justice,” i.e., punishment, have nothing healthy or progressive about them.

Excellent article about Paris Hilton on the World Socialist Website. While k-punk’s criticisms of the musical defense of Paris Hilton are on target, that doesn’t rule out the value of a political defense. Or, not a defense of Paris Hilton herself (she hardly needs communists fighting her battles for her), but a defense of left-wing politics against the kind of thinking that goes into much of the hostility toward Hilton. An awful lot of the dislike of Paris Hilton really is misogynistic but that is, hopefully, easily identified and disposed of. But, as the WSWS argues, there’s a criticism of Paris Hilton that presents itself as left-wing but which is just as reactionary.

Hilton seems to get a lot of stick not just because she’s rich, but because she hasn’t either earned her wealth or used it in some kind of worthwhile way. To a communist, on the other hand, this is one of Hilton’s most positive qualities. Certainly, on any reasonably calibrated ethical scale, Paris Hilton is obviously superior to, say, Bill Gates or George Soros. Read more↴

As I understand it, radical feminism, particularly as developed by MacKinnon, is based on a binary account of power in which having, or not having, power, is what defines gender. It’s paradoxical, then, that one of the main criticisms radical feminists make of post-modern feminists is that the posties, in critiquing the idea of the subject, deprive women of agency; it’s surprising, because hadn’t the radical feminists, albeit unintentionally, already done that? I’ve been wanting to think about this question for some time, and more generally about the questions about agency and subjectivity that are raised by debates between radical feminists, feminists of color, postmodern feminists, queer theorists, and others. As luck would have it, I also need to pick a “special topic” for a forthcoming exam on contemporary political theory; so, “Feminist political theory from 1980 to the present” it is. I’ve made a preliminary reading list, mostly obvious texts, with a couple of additions I happened to find in second-hand book stores. Any recommendations you have (for things to read or, indeed, for things to avoid) would be gratefully received: Read more↴

Outside my department, there’s a bookshelf where faculty leave books they want to get rid of. This being a political science department, most of the books are unutterably dull statistical analyses of votes in congress, or whatever, but last week I did pick up an interesting looking book called Socialist Visions. There’s a great essay in the book that starts with pictures of soviet visions of collective architectures, and ends with a plan for chopping up suburban housing estates and reconfiguring them as communes. Another essay contains one of the stupidest sentences I’ve ever read:

Elsewhere I demonstrate that the symbolization of nature as an object that must be dominated by an ostensible separate subject is generated in the nuclear form of (what Dinnerstein calls) “mother-monopolized” child rearing, and that the emergence of authentic forms of shared parenting established the necessary unconscious basis for a post-objectifying symbolization of nature and the technologies that are its materialization.

I see: the problem of industrial capitalism can be explained solely by reference to child rearing. What is up with (a certain form of) psychoanalysis’s obsessive desire to, as Tocqueville put it, “see the whole man in the cradle”? It’s such an absurd piece of romantic mysticism, imagining that children have some absolutely sui generis fragility, and, in contrast, that adults are totally self-determining. It’s a bizarre re-reading of Freud as if he were the most conventional of liberals.

Especially as it was preemptively won by Alistair’s definitive top 100 songs of the 90s.

I must admit, I found the short lived outbreak of 90s-pop hostilities a little depressing. Not because the songs were terrible, although some of them certainly were, indeed the opposite; the music of the early 90s was often so good, current pop music can’t really stand up. I realize there’s a danger of nostalgia, but this isn’t just a matter of subjective taste. The diffusion of acid house and hardcore into chart music that was such a big feature of the early 90s is, in hindsight, kind of amazing, and a positive development that I can’t see much to equal today. Marky Mark is a particularly good example. When I remembered his existence, I had no memory of what the song sounded like; certainly, it didn’t occur to me that a manufactured pop idol would was launched with a song that owes so much to an Italo-house classic. If you want to be depressed, just compare Marky Mark’s amazing track with the contemporary equivalents (James Blunt, maybe, or Daniel Powter).

Well, there are a couple of contemporary trends that give some hope. One would be Timbaland’s remarkable queering of R&B, particularly on the Justin Timberlake album. Pleasingly, this is being picked up by other R&B and hip-hop artists, particularly in the Bay Area, as I discovered from this great hyphy mixtape (mix-podcast?). Particular good is Berkeley group The Pack’s track, “At the Club,” which, unexpectedly, sounds like nothing so much as Belgian New Beat.