Saturday, June 26, 2004

By Way of Deception

I promised myself I'd refrain from saying anything more about Fahrenheit 9/11 until I'd seen it, but want to archive this positive review, By Way of Deception, written by Stuart Klawans, the film critic for The Nation.

In response to my post regarding Hitchens' attack, a friend (y'all will know who immediately, but I'll keep the name anonymous) wrote me the following: "I really dug that piece by Christopher Hitchens from your blog. I saw him on Dennis Miller a few years back and thought he was just about spot on. He was smoking and drinking scotch the whole time too like a true journaliste'. I haven't seen the film yet either, but Moore has long bothered me and Hitchens nails the reasons why. Michael Moore is really a paddy cake and should stick to paddy cake subjects. No wonder the French love him."

Regarding those remarks, I have a few comments... One is that of the three political commentators mentioned above, Hitchens is the only true journalist and writer; Moore is a skilled provocateur, and Dennis Miller is the true paddy cake. I lost my HBO, but as of about 9 months ago I found that Dennis just isn't funny any more, unless you find smarmy frat-boy humor (e.g., jokes about turning the Middle East into a parking lot and other allegedly 'patriotic' statements) to be clever. Dennis ain't anywhere near as smart as he wants to believe, and his rightward turn and subsequent defense of the Bushies and the civil-rights violations and constitutional attacks authorized under Homeland Security just proves that he sees the world in black and white--them (those A-rabs) against us (the US of A). Moore, on the other hand, can be reductive, but at least he does do work that qualifes as, or at least draws from, investigative journalism.

Moore should definitely not stay away from the Iraq War or other difficult topics. In fact, part of what let us into the mess we're currently in is that the mainstream media i.e., the big TV networks, e.g., ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and newspapers such as The New York Times) refrained from asking the hard questions about the Bush Administration's reasons for invading Iraq. Either the journalists were intimidated by the right-wing pundits into thinking that rigorous questioning of Bush and co. would tag them as the "liberal media" or their corporate handlers silenced them either indirectly or directly. In any case, the Bushies got a pass. The amount of attention paid to Whitewater or Monica Lewinski with Bubba's administration paled in comparison to the attention that should've been devoted to asking the hard questions about Iraq.

I don't know whether Moore asks or answers these questions in his film, but since our media failed to do so, more power to Moore for making an effort before the election to alert the American public to why the Bushies' really wanted this war with Iraq (sorry, Hitch, but helping the Kurds has nothing to do with it) and how our democracy is taking a beating as a result.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Jack Ryan: Just Another Family-Values Republican

Lesson of the day: If you're planning to run for public office, you might not want to marry a famous actress, take her to S&M clubs and try to get her to perform sex acts on you while other people watch, and then get a messy divorce from her. Republican Senate candidate Jack Ryan, of Illinois, may have learned that lesson the hard way. Court documents the couple has fought to keep private contain allegations by his ex, actress Jeri Lynn Ryan ("Boston Public," "Star Trek: Voyager") -- made during a hearing about the custody of the couple's young son -- that Ryan demanded that she accompany him to sex clubs in New Orleans, New York and Paris. The New York club, she said, had "cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling." Ryan admitted only that he did take his wife to "one avant-garde nightclub in Paris which was more than either one of us felt comfortable with. We left and vowed never to return." Despite controversy over the allegations, Ryan says he'll continue his run for Senate. (Associated Press)

C: Wow. I had no idea Illinois politics was so interesting. I guess Ryan is just another typical "Family Values" Republican.

E: That'd be ILL politics....

My favorite bit was that Jack Ryan referred to the swingin' sex establishments (S&M dungeons for repressed Republicans) as ‘avant-garde’ clubs. I was just discussing the concept of the avant-garde in class on Monday, & will have to bring up Ryan's recent attempt at resignification. (I wonder if he considered the anonymous voyeures, who were invited to watch him and his wife go at it , to be in the position of the vanguard?)

Heh, heh... It's not schadenfreude if the people who get their comeuppance were hypocrites, right?

I hope this incident means that the Illinois senate seat is Obama's come November. Obama, to his credit, has refused to comment on Ryan's sexual past. When asked, he simply responds that the issues he wants to address in the campaign do not involve Ryan's personal character, but are about issues that effect the pubic, such as poverty, health care, etc. Classy.

Hitchens Can't Take Any Moore

I'm eager to see Fahrenheit 9/11 and am curious to compare the reception it receives from the public and the pundits. In "Unfairenheit 9/11 - The lies of Michael Moore," Hitchens, a man of the left who left the Nation because (as far as I understand) he was the lone hawk regarding Iraq amongst the magazine's regular contributors and editors, attacks Moore what could be (not having seen the film) a legitmate flaw -- an inconsistent argument and position regarding the Bush Administration's foreign policy.

Although I thought Moore's Bowling for Columbine was definitely worth seeing and deserved credit for being ambitious, I left the theater thinking that it raised too many questions about violence in America without seriously, i.e., rigorously, trying to provide any answers. As a consequence, at times the film seemed either exploitative (of the victims of gun violence who appeared to be bearing their wounds publically for no discernable purpose) or too glib. That said, the film was worth seeing, and I hope the scenes of middle-Canadian hunters, etc. might help to dispel the idiotic myth that people in countries with more strict gun regulations are somehow emasculated, disempowered, or less 'free' when compared to Joe America.

At this point, I'm wary of being overly critical of Moore's larger project (unlike Hitchens, I think Moore provides a genuine service by informing people about facts and phenomena--rural poverty, the waste promulgated by the military-industrial complex, etc.--that are generally ignored in school, on television, the radio, etc.) since I think the majority of Moore's political pranks are well intentioned and display enough irony to distinguish them from propaganda.

As Hitchens suggests in his article, the left needs figures who can 'entertain' if they are to attract an audience in our mass-mediated wasteland. It appears that, at present, Moore may be as good as it gets. (I'm told Jon Stewart is rising to the challenge, but alas, this scholar of the postmodern can't afford cable TV, which is, in itself, a perfect pomo paradox.) Moore's message is more fair and better thought through than the bulk of the lies we get via Fox News, etc., but it may ultimately be the case that you can't do justice to complex issues while employing soundbite editing (Please provide with with emperical proof to refute my last hypothesis) for an image-driven medium. In any case, I'm damning Moore with faint praise and will hold off making any more pronouncements until I actually see the film.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Via Chicago, it's Wilco

Wilco (from left, Glenn Kotche, Jeff Tweedy, Nels Cline, John Stirratt and Pat Sandone), photographed by Tony Cenicola for the New York Times.
Wilco
Originally uploaded by erasmus.

Warming up to Wilco's "Ghost"

As I was telling Jimmy yesterday, I was out & about in Wrigleyville with my iPod & it just clicked for me--A Ghost Is Born I mean. Initially, the songs I'd downloaded (still don't have the full album, but will break my moratorium on CD purchases for this one) failed to grab me the way, say, "Jesus Etc." did from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but that might've been because I was listening to the tracks as singles, individual songs, shuffled in random order, rather than as part of an organized larger whole. What, back in the day, used to be known as an LP record. Seeing Wilco play "Hummingbird" on Letterman the other night softened me up to the newer songs as well.

In any case, here's an ok article from the Sunday New York Timesabout the band titled "The Ever-Expanding Legend of Wilco" that is slightly annoying, because its stereotype of fervent Wilco worshippers strikes me as being largely a straw man constructed by the reporter to show off how 'broad minded' his or her tastes are. Where the reporter, Kalefa Sannah, gets the notion that the bulk of Wilco fans are aging boomers, I don't know. Someone should tell Sannah that people in their late 20s to mid 40s are not baby boomers. ('Course, as Westerberg put it "We got no war to name us," so perhaps this generation remains as demographically invisible as Douglas Coupland and all those generation-X writers believed back in the early 1990s.) In the course of discussing A Ghost is Born, Sanneh never explains why he would pick J Lo & the "mutiethic hordes" (whores?) on the dance floor over Wilco's rock 'n' roll experiments, but, then again, who cares.

There's not a lot in the article that hasn't been written elsewhere (last week's Chicago Reader cover story had the full scoop on Tweedy's recent struggles with anxiety and addiction and Wilco's shifting lineup and it didn't present it in VH1-behind-the-music-tabloid fashion), but at least this NYT article has a great photo of the band. It'll be interesting to see how Ghost does when it hits the stores on Tuesday.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Site Updates

Yesterday, I switched my posting font from Hellvetica to Baskerville. Serif fonts are more readable for longer lexias, and I find Baskerville to be a particularly eloquent font. Unfortunately, it's produced a bit of a technical glitch on my site. Apparently, the punctuation marks (apostropes, em-dashes etc.) in some of my previous posts are now unreadable in Baskerville. I haven't yet decided if I should switch back to the sans-serif, Helvetica, switch to Times New Roman (or a simiar serif font) or stick with Baskerville. I know I don't have the time to go back, line by line, to corrrect the typos in previous posts, and though nobody else in the world probably cares a bit, as someone committed to aesthetic theory, I am annoyed by the unprofessional looking typos on my website. What to do, what to do... For now, I guess, it'll stay, as is. Perhaps I can find an effecient fix. In any case, the site may be experiencing some technichal aberrations if not difficulties the next few days as I do some experimenting with the coding.

On Interviewing Slavoj Zizek

Been revising an introduction for my forthcoming interview with Slavoj Zizek, which will appear in its entirety online in ebr and in condensed form in the the minnesota review. I'm posting my draft here to get a better sense of the online layout. I need to see if I should break up my three paragraphs for easier reading on the screen.

The following interview with Slavoj Zizek took place on the morning of September 29, 2003 in the Palmer House Hilton, a Gilded Age-era hotel in downtown Chicago. In the hotel's opulent lobby, it was easy to spot the bearded Zizek amongst the nattily dressed businesspeople and well-healed tourists. As befits a self-described "old-fashioned left winger," Zizek seemed to be dressed down for our meeting. Yet when Zizek lectured at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute later that night, he wore the same striped knit shirt and casual pants and looked even more disheveled. But although Zizek's comfortable attire and his unassuming demeanor lacked the authority and panache of an 'academostar' such as, say, Edward Said (who had passed away just four days before and whose elegant and opulent fashions even The Nation remarked upon favorably), once Zizek began to philosophize he instantaneously grew in stature. He spoke extemporaneously with an arresting verve and displayed the theoretical prowess and outrageous sense of humor that have established him as one of the world's foremost intellectuals.

Not that such academic accolades probably mean much to Zizek, who described himself as a philosopher with "a very technical, modest project"--to reactualize the legacy of German Idealism. After determining that it was too noisy in the bustling lobby to conduct the interview, we headed to Zizek's room. "So, what's your agenda?" he asked me conspiratorially as we entered his room, which appeared almost ascetically empty. Zizek was on the road for several weeks, but he apparently traveled with only a single duffel bag, a laptop computer, and some novels by Henning Mankell, the Swedish detective novelist. Zizek was coming down with a bad cold, and apologized for his sniffling. While I readied my recorder, he climbed into bed, pulled up the covers, and in an comfortably reclined position, cracked a joke about waxing philosophical from his sickbed. His self-deprecating humor helped me to relax, not least because Zizek's posture reminded me of the provocative author's photo adorning on the back cover of The Puppet and the Dwarf. Shot at the Sigmund Freud museum, on the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jacques Lacan, the photo features an intense looking Zizek lounging on a canopied couch covered with a southwestern-style rug. Immediately above Zizek's outstretched legs, affixed to the back of the couch, is a framed picture of the bottom half of a woman's torso with her hairy vagina prominently displayed. I half expected to see the picture hanging above Zizek's hotel bed, but in the interest of professionalism refrained from telling him so and launched into the interview, which lasted just under two hours.

Despite being under the weather, it didn't take long for Zizek to display the vigor and loquaciousness for which he is famous. As he launched into a polemic against the Other as posited in Levinasian-Derridean theory, Zizek lurched up from the bed and began gesticulating with his arms, his strength increasing with each idea that rapidly came to mind. For the remainder of our interview Zizek was extremely animated, and the rapidity of his speech increased with each passing minute. It quickly became clear that I would be unable to ask all of the questions I had diligently prepared and, in retrospect, I wish I'd more thoroughly interrogated him about his animosity towards deconstruction. My sense was that, were I to ask only one question, Zizek would've continued to talk for the remainder of the interview. In order to get my questions in, I had to speak quickly and risk interrupting the verbose Zizek, who was understanding of my desire to direct the interview but clearly wanted to insure that he was able to elaborate upon and clarify his points. Not surprisingly, then, the interview ran over its allotted time by almost an hour. After all, two new books on Deleuze and Iraq were forthcoming, and Zizek enjoyed joking with Irina Rasmussen Goloubeva, my Russian-born wife, about Western misconceptions regarding Soviet-era life behind the Iron Curtain. As he apologetically escorted me and Ira out the door, Zizek was still theorizing at a machine-gun rate. "When does he get the time to write?" we wondered, in awe of our encounter with this sublime, yet humble, Slovenian philosopher.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Welcome to Bush and Cheney's America

Read here about a UK journalist's horrifying Welcome to America. More evidence suggesting that the Cheney-Bush regime are using the war on terror as cover for turning the U.S. into an authoritarian police state. Dissenters beware, if you don't toe the Republican party line you too may be detained. The arrogance and stupidity of the security guards is disgusting, though their demeanor matches that of our so-called Commander in Chief. It all makes one ashamed to be an American. Even if Cheney and Bush are ousted in November, it will take years for our country to recover from the damage that they've inflicted on our democracy.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Even the Losers Get Lucky Sometime

When I returned home from teaching, a wecome message awaited me on my answering machine. After a couple listens I was able to discern that I'd won two tickets from WXRT to see the Cowboy Junkies play a secret show Tuesday evening at Schubas Tavern, an intimate little club on Southport, not too far from my home, that specializes in singer-songwriter and folkier indie rock. I didn't even remember entering WXRT's contest, so this was quite a surprise. I just wish Ira was in town for the show, but she's in Dublin, downing Guinnesses in honor of James Joyce and Ulysses.

I haven't seen the Cowboy Junkies live since, if my memory serves me well, 1992, when they opened for the great John Prine at a show I attended with Steve Horowitz, who was then teaching journalism courses at Coe College. I'll reminisce about Steve another time, but do want to say that he still practices music journalism and is one of the critics polled for the Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop list. Steve's top-10 list is generally filled with goodies, and I credit him with predicting that I'd be getting into more country music as I aged.

I must confess that I haven't kept up with the Cowboy Junkies. Black Eyed Man (1992) is the last CD by them that I bought, and Pale Sun Crescent Moon is the last CJ CD that I've heard in its entirety. So, it'll be interesting to see if their sound has evolved at at. In any case, I expect Margo Timmins' voice is as haunting as ever.

This concert should be the third great Americana/Y'alternative/Alt-Country (or whatever they're calling quality country music these days to distinguish it from the phony crap heard broadcast on stations throughout middlebrow America) show that I'll have seen in five days. On Friday night, Jim Kourlas and I heard Nora O'Connor play some songs from her forthcoming (due in August) album on Bloodshot records. For those who don't know of the lovely Miss Nora, she's an Irish-American girl from Chicago's southside, and she's got a voice as good, if not better, than that of the more famous Irish singer who shares her last name. I like to describe her as the Emmylou Harris of Chicago's indie scene, and as if to justify that description she played a couple songs that Emmylou has covered the other night. On Saturday, I returned to The Hideout, where I met Jim and Leo, to attend a secret Handsome Family show that was also a celebration of Brett and Rennie Sparks' 16th wedding anniversary. They playfully bickered throughout the whole set, & it was just fantastic. Brett singing reminds me of Peter Sellers morphing into a cross between Johnny Cash and Nick Cave. That is, his barritone conjures up the Cash and Cave comparison, while his facial expressions add a touch of the comic to the often gothic scenarios about which he's singing. More on The Handsome Family later...

Time for the News Hour, some exercising, dinner, and scholarly pursuits.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Eric Rasmussen, self-portrait, Chicago, 2002

I'm just experimenting with flickr, a beta interface that enables one to upload and store digital images on their site. Right now, the service is free. Unfortunately, Blogger's profilie feature isn't working properly, as I'd like to add a picture into my toolbar. For now, though, this'll do the trick.
Eric Rasmussen self-portrait
Originally uploaded by erasmus.

Rage Against The Republican Noise Machine

(Attempted to post this on June 12, using "BlogThis!," but it didn't work; however, the text was saved in an e-mail that I received, so here it is). I'm posting this link to an article/book excerpt for possible future inclusion in a composition course that would focus on ideology and the media. Not sure whether 'teaching the conflicts' is effective, or if I should simply teach more overtly left-leaning material (say, from The Nation or In These Times that provides a more fair and reasonable take on current events than the right-wing propaganda that David Brock once wrote and now wishes to expose in his recent book The Republican Noise Machine. The argument against spending time reading material from the far right is that students are already bombarded with the biased bullshit espoused by Rugh Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, etc. Therefore, time would be better spent reading materials that they are less likely to be exposed to, ideally journalism and academic texts that strive to maintain a sense of professional integrity by being intellectually objective and, if overtly political, then doing so whilst retaining some standard of the objective truth

Epochality and the End of History

Yesterday I picked up a cheap copy of The Cultural Turn, Selected Writings on the Postmodern, 1983-1998 by
Fredric Jameson
. It's a book that I should've read long ago but didn't, because I was under the impression that the book just recycled essays, including the famous "Postmodernism and the Consumer Society," that had been published before elsewhere. Although much of what Jamseon has to say in the book is already familiar to me, I'm finding it quite useful for my own research on the present-day status of the aesthetic. In particular, the chapter "'End of Art' or 'End of History'?" is proving to be a great catalyst for my thinking about a cluster of novels written in the past couple decades.

For example, I'm quite taken by the term "ephochality." I know, I know, y'all think that academics are all too frequently smitten with neologisms and esoteric jargon that makes their writing impenetrable to all but a select coterie. Well, in this case, I'm here to tell you that the term is straightforward and necessary, for it provides an effecient way of describing a pervasive phenomenon of our--hell, let's not be bashful about using the term--postmodern condition. Jameson uses the term "epochality" to describe the dominant attutide that we have to the beliefs held by people living in other temporalities. Jameson writes, "I believe, however, that the historical significance of Fukuyama's essay is not really to be found in Hegel or Kojeve, even though I also think we have something to learn from them: namely, a relationship to our own presesnt which I will call 'epochality' and by way of which we defend the historical meaning and significance of the present moment and the present age against all claims of the past and the future" (CT 90).

Jameson is commenting here on Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man, an enormously influential article and later book (Fukuyama had a position in the George H.W. Bush's State Department). I don't want to rehearse Fukuyama's arguemnt, which concerns the idea that from an evolutionary perspective, political systems have reached their final stage of development. In other words, the Westernized liberal democracies that emerged in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in the United States, France, etc. are more or less where it's it, and everything to come will just be fine tuning the systems to make them better conform to the abstract ideals (liberty, fraternity, equality, etc.) upon which they were founded. egarding our relationship to the present, namely, our inability to imagine that alternative beliefs from either the past or the future could alter our beliefs about the present. I us "ed the colloquialism "where it's at" deliberately, because one of Jameson's insights into Fukuyama's essay is that "despite the appearances, Fukuyama's 'end of history' is not really about Time at all, but rather about Space" (CT 90) and the recognition that, in the new globalized economic system, there are virtually no uncommodified parts of the world left.

But let's return to "epochality." The term, as Jameson uses it, provides a shorthand way of articulating our (i.e., those of us living in Westernized democracies) inability to imagine that beliefs from either the past or the future could possibly alter our beliefs about the present or provide the model for an alternative social system. In his previous writings, Jameson urged readers to "always historicize," but recently he has, I think, grown even more aware of the amnesiac nature of our contemporary existence.

One result of our lack of knowledge about the past is that it makes it more difficult to imagine that the present too will one day be regarded as a historical moment. Thus, our attention is fixated on the present and the immediate, or, at best, the near future. In the United States, for example, the general failure to act now in order to limit global warming, or the tendency to ring up huge debts without much consideration about how future generations will pay them off are two symptoms of our epochality.

Basically, Jameson is concerned about our inability to imagine a better world than the one in which we currently live, which is filled with extreme poverty and suffering due in part to inequalities perpetuated by global or postmodern capitalism. Because capitalism is fueled by the capitalists' extraction of surplus labor from workers, and because the current global capitalist order is, to a widely unacknowledged degree, dependent upon a pyramidal distribution of wealth and resources, including food, shelter, health care, etc. Jameson believes that we need to implement a different global social order. Unfortunately, in his view, this project strikes most people as being not just impossible to realize, but impossible to even conceptualize. That is, for many, at least for the political and economic elite who own most of the world's wealth and are the primary benefactors of the all-mighty market, the present order appears to be the be all and end all. Jameson is a Marxist thinker. He still believes in a socialist or communist project. What I would like to know, is how does he think we could get from here to there without a bloody, world revolution that could possibly leave the planet uninhabitable?

Saturday, June 12, 2004

The Republican Right's Lies and Propagagnda

I'm posting this article/book excerpt for possible future inclusion in a composition course that would focus on ideology and the media. Not sure whether 'teaching the conflicts' is effective, or if I should simply teach more overtly left-leaning material (say, from The Nation or In These Timesthat provides a more fair and reasonable take on current events than the right-wing propaganda that David Brock once wrote and now wishes to expose in his recent bookThe Republican Noise Machine. The argument against spending time reading material from the far right is that students are already bombarded with the biased bullshit espoused by Rugh Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, etc. Therefore, time would be better spent reading materials that they are less likely to be exposed to, ideally journalism and academic texts that strive to maintain a sense of professional integrity by being intellectually objective and, if overtly political, then doing so whilst retaining some standard of the objective truth.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Christopher Hitchens on The stupidity of Ronald Reagan

I've had to turn off the tube and the radio entirely these past few days, because I was getting nauseous from all of the slavish media coverage surrounding Reagan's death. It's one thing to pay respect for a dead leader, but it's another to completely distort and deny historical facts in order to create a faux hero. Thankfully, there are a few dissenting voices out there amidst all the bullshit passing for journalism in the conservative media sphere. One such voice belongs to Christopher Hitchens, who can generally be counted on to challenge the prevailing wisdom among both the right and the left. While I think Hitchens was overly hawkish in his support of the current war in Iraq, his remarks on the Reagan Administration's lies and corruption are spot on. Hitchens' Not Even a Hedgehog - The stupidity of Ronald Reagan provides a welcome anecdote to the myths and propaganda we've been bombarded with over the past few days. And while we're wearing black, let's pay our respects to Ray Charles who died today at the age of 73.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Ding Dong the Wizard's Dead

Well, Ronbo has finally kicked the bucket. I predicted the Gipper's death would occur in the midst of the 2000 election 'recount, when it might've helped the Republicans to shift attention from the nasty realpoliticking going on down in Florida, but apparently he lasted a bit longer. Not surprisingly, the conservative mainstream media are fawning over the dead president. It's quite disgusting, & I'm sure right-wing sycophants will use Ronnie's death to divert attention from the current troubles that the Cheney-Bush administration have created in the country and abroad. Could Ronnie's death have been timed so that the GOP could take airtime away from the attention that Bill Clinton and his memoirs will likely receive? I'll leave that one for the conspiracy theorists to mull over.

In the meantime, let's have no nostalgia for an age that never existed & remember that Ronnie's administration was one of the most corrupt ever. His aides were charged with the most ethics violations of any U.S. administration ever, & Iran-Contra was a true scandal on an even bigger scale than Watergate. I, for one, am not at all saddened to know that Reagan has died. He was a deceitful politician who was little more than a puppet for crooked handlers who used him to advance a non-egalitarian political agenda that further divided America into a land of haves and have-nots.

The Hives Live

Here's hoping that I can get tix for The Hives w/ Sahara Hotnights at the Metro on July 26 and that the show will be an all-ages affair. Usually, being an old man & all, I prefer to see shows without the youngun's present, but Daniel, my 19-year old son, will be visiting from Sweden. I want to make this a family outing. It'd be cool, if Ira, Daniel, & I could see two of Sweden's best bands playing here in Chicago. Note to self: Tix go on sale June 12. From the sampling I heard at their website, Reigning Sound, a Memphis band, should be worth hearing too.

Back in Chicago...

Returned from Sweden last Sunday afternoon, but have been too busy to post. My trip, by the way, was a success: Ira received her visa and will be joining me later this month. Our son, Daniel, (it still sounds strange to me), will join us hear for three weeks in July. Hopefully, I'll be able to get him into some jazz clubs. As he is an aspiring saxophonist, I really want him to experience Fred Anderson's Velvet Lounge.

When I arrived home Claire, my sister, was waiting for me at my apartment. Claire was in town for the Law & Society Association's 2004 conference and was staying at my place until Wednesday morning. Since we only get to see each other about once every two years or so, I wanted to make the most of our time together. At the same time I had to make final preparations for the "But is it Art?" course I'm teaching at UIC, which began on Wednesday, and catch up on all sorts of personal things that were left unattended in May.

In short, it's been a busy, but rewarding week. As always, it's good to be back in Chitown. I love this city, though I'll admit that the poverty remains something of a shock whenever I return from Sweden, which has a much more successful welfare system, in part because they haven't fought in a war for the past two-hundred years and tax kroners go primarily to fund projects at the local level. Ira told me that something like 90 or 95 percent of one's taxes are used at the local level. As a side note, I should say that Sweden's record of pacifism is quite admirable, though remaining 'neutral' in World War II strikes me as an act of extreme bad faith and quite cowardly. On the whole, however, the Swedes seem to have used their democracy to work out a savvy blend of socialist services with an innovative capitalist economy. But let me return stateside...

During her stay Claire and I went to the Art Institute, saw Jim Jarmusch's new film, Coffee and Cigarettes (which I'll report on another time), shopped in Wrigelyville, dined at Standard India's buffet, and just hung out together. It was a lot of fun, and I hope we'll get a chance to see each other again in August, when Ira will be here. At the Art Institute, we spent the majority of our visit in the modernist and contemporary art section. I needed to spend some time taking in the Abstract Expressionist paintings in preparation for teaching Vonnegut's Bluebeard, a fictional autobiography written by a 'erstwhile' Abstract Expressionist painter named Rabo Karabekian. I'm also teaching a book titled A Flight of Birds, which features fiction and poetry inspired by some of Joseph Cornell's boxes, so we spent a fair amount of time leisurely taking in the Bergman's fabulous collection of surrealist art.

I'm hoping that I get a chance to take my English 109 class to the Art Instutute. I'm quite excited about this class, but will save my posts for that later. I need to eat and should get outside since it's a beautiful day. Although I should stay in and write, I think I'll go to Montrose Beach and read Richard Powers' Plowing the Dark and/or Walter Benn Michaels's The Shape of the Signifier.

Signing off...