Sunday, July 23, 2006

Carmen Electra and Hermeneutics, together again.

I recently discovered, that a work of Hans Georg-Gadamer, The Relevance of Beauty and Other Essays, was available at in English. I added this book to my wish list as it is my wont, and those who are familiar with this procedure know that the following page usually lists other books that readers who purchased this work also considered purchasing. I had expected the usual suspects, Truth and Method, The Beginning of Philosophy and maybe some Cambridge or Routledge Anthology, but much to my surprise according to

Customers who bought The Relevance of the Beautiful and Other Essays also bought:

Carmen Electra's Advanced Aerobic Striptease

Carmen Electra's Fit to Strip

and of course...Carmen Electra's Aerobic Striptease

Now it seems that there are three possible conclusions that can be drawn from this:

1) Carmen Electra, the "talent" of these instant fitness classics is a student of philosophical hermeneutics
2) Gadamer fans are really lonely women who are overweight and have metal poles in their living rooms or lonely men who enjoy spandex, sweat, and repetitive counting to either three or 10 with their striptease.
3) has far too many of these DVDs laying around and in a thinly veiled attempt to mass market them, odd juxtapositions have been created with sexy results.

I really, really hope it is 1)...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Soul Brother...Alexander Pushkin

Alexander Pushkin famed Russian author of the verse novel, Eugene Onegin, among many other poems, short stores, and plays is apparently a Brotha. In fact quite proud of his African heritage, an unfinished novel, A Moor of Peter the Great is more or less a biography of his great-grandfather, Avram (Ibrahim) Gannibal. Though perhaps technically he is of Abyssinian and not Sub-Saharan decent, he is quite comfortable with the moniker "negry." Though I would imagine that the term itself "negry" must be understood in a radically different context than the term "black" or "African-American" is used in the United States today; it certainly might be useful to compare his self-understanding as an African and the modern Black experience. One notable point, the "hot African blood" that is often attributed to such other figures as the noble St. Augustine, he himself appropriates it as a driving force behind his many sexual conquests, which he alluded to in conversation and a poem regarding his heritage, "I please young beauty with the shameless frenzy of my desires." Though it seems he is not totally immune to the syndrome that W.E.B. DuBois intimated in his, Souls of Black Folk, the syndrome of double consciousness when he describes himself as "an idle rake, ugly descendant of Negroes, brought up in wild simplicity." It is of course the case that his enemies and rivals used his heritage against him, Faddei Bulgarin, apparently the Dan Savage of 19th century Russia describes Pushkin's ancestor not as "a Negro bought by a skipper for a bottle of rum."

article, by Anne Lounsbery in a 2000 edition of Transition Magazine is an excellent piece on the subject. She suggests that the blackness of Pushkin is not a minor biographical detail for American audiences, though to be honest it was a chance encounter with a question to which Pushkin was the answer did I become aware of this fact. Perhaps, I have been hiding under some type of literary rock and am apparently even more of a Philistine than I had previously imagined, but I guess that is for a later personal-inventory session. Nonetheless, I do believe that Pushkin's African-ness is not a well-known fact for those (and a dwindling "those" in United States) that even know who Pushkin is.

Russians, as I have been told by a number of sources, are uniquely aware of their literary tradition in a way many Americans are not so as it regards our tradition. Many a Russian, both of the literati and proletariat will tell you that Pushkin is the father of the Golden Age of Russian Literature, which naturally had a strong influence on the Silver Age of Russian Literature occurring soon thereafter. Some would suggest he is the single most important Russian literary figure, though I would add such a claim would be significantly more contentious than the former. I am not sure what difference Pushkin's "Negro Blood" makes if any in Russia, but I am left wondering as a last thought, if in the United States a literary figure of the stature of Pushkin could have ever existed or would have been recognized as the "father" of any age of American literature. The Harlem Renaissance is typically presented and conceived of as some brief and isolated outburst of literary genius, a towering mountain in an otherwise unaccented literary terrain. As the name suggests however, it had to be a "re-birth" of something and yet I am at a loss to offer another period in American History that provides a context from which to be reborn. Again, this might be some function of my gargantuan ignorance manifesting itself here in my inability to recognize other significant African-American authors before the 20th century and so further investigations await.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Of Red Cards and Fire Hazards: The Call of Coercion

This year's World Cup, which I have been watching quite avidly, has engendered a record number of yellow and red cards (at last count 27 red cards and 300+ yellow cards) blowing previous records out of the water, with three matches left to tally. FIFA has appropriately defended the referees, suggesting that the cards are given out in a concerted effort to clean up the game of Futbol. Most announcers, from the less than stellar ESPNcadre to the super-excited to be here Unavision crew, have thought the number of cards is ridiculous. In one match between Portugal and the Netherlands, a Russian referee dismissed 4 players and made 16 bookings...leaving a frayed and beleaguered match of 9-on-9 soccer. Let me add here briefly that 9-on-9 soccer is terribly unexciting, players have to cover far too much distance, far too often, leaving them and their passes in less than brilliant form. In the Italy vs. US match, 3 red cards and a number of yellows, turned a spirited and exciting match into a rather boring and defensively minded tilt ending in a 1-1 tie. Certainly there are those who will suggest, that many of the cards were legitimate, and that with some exceptions many of the cards handed out were justified. So this begs the question, has the game become too physical, and have players become too dirty, or too good at diving? Putting aside these contentious issues temporarily, there is another call of coercion which might help put this in perspective.

The new Fire Marshall in the State of Florida responsible for monitoring the safety standards of the buildings on this campus is apparently a card-carrying Nazi. In typical fashion, the University during the summer decides to unleash harsh and intolerable policies on the unsuspecting, though not entirely innocent Greek Life population. Last summer, it was the ridiculously illegal and inane, Amendment 1, which was to allow police officers to randomly walk around the private residences of Greek students. A number of letters to the school newspaper as well as some intervention from some external forces was able to put the kibosh on that University Initiative. However, the administration, a creative bunch, have decided to seek a higher, more uncompromising authority, the State. The State, which holds the bonds on the fraternity and sorority houses, has determined that despite 3 years of no fire issues, the houses are essentially cement encrusted tinder boxes, and someone must be held responsible. In Gestapo like form, the Fire marshals, replete with vague forms and even more vague explanations, stormed through and demanded that many of the lofts, composites, trophy cases and other "abominations to fire safety" be removed and/or taken down, leaving in their wake generally confused fraternity men even more confused and emotional sorority girls in utter shock as their charmingly designed and professionally decorated houses in a state of classroom-like sanitized banality. This is especially disconcerting for our lovely sisters of Greek Life as their houses are a strong selling point among potential new members. Regardless of the validity of such criteria, it is nevertheless the case that many sororities are a bit distraught with the prospect of recruitment, colloquially known as rush, precious few weeks away. What is the most disgusting and annoying feature of this new policy is the rather arbitrary and mean-spirited nature of the requests. Inflammatory letters intimating condemnation and eviction of premises, the terse and rude nature of the fire marshals, citing mysterious fire code violations as the source of our ills, and obscenely short time deadlines to rectify our most egregious errors. Unfortunately compliance is mandatory, and resistance is futile, Thank you, Hans vs. Louisiana

I sense a bit of resonance between these situations despite their radically different scopes. It seems that our reaction to the call to coersion is less a principled or analytically derived response but more an adverse response to new stimuli. The number of red and yellow cards are indeed quite high, but interestingly enough on a case by case basis most of the cards were legitimately handed out, or at least a reasonable defense could be garnered in its favor. It gains this edifice of ridiculousness when interspersed with a few really bad calls which colors all of the cards and dismissals a shade of dark caprice. Much like our dear friends at the Fire Marshall's office, many of the violations are probably legitimate (though I suspect some of then are contrived just for the sake of knee-jerk paternalism), but the sudden, intense and sweeping nature of their behavior, completely skews and in all likelihood blows out of proportion their actions.

One could easily chalk this up to a general suspicion of authority, and though I am often sympathetic to this explanation, I do not believe in this case it is sufficient to elucidate either situation. In the former case, FIFA World Cup Officials are highly respected members of the Soccer World, and for the most part they do an excellent job. In this game of Futbol, the game of the world, with huge social, cultural, political, financial, and as I would suggest religious implications, referees stand at the crossroads, UN ambassadors of the pitch, keeping the intense forces behind both teams on the international stage in usually perfect competitive balance. It is only occasionally that incompetency allows for this balance to be unhinged, and only rarely does it lead to genuinely disastrous results. In the case of the fabulous representatives of the State, I would bet and would certainly hope that they have better things to do with their life then make trouble for some college kids. It has been reasonably suggested that previous Fire marshals have been far too lax with their enforcement of policies, and this was a painful but necessary step to resolve these oversights in enforcement. Perhaps the pendulum will swing the other way once the semester starts, and maybe some compromise will be found. Also, as the World Cup has progressed the number of cards has gone down, and the refs have started talking to the players more, offering warnings before bringing out the book. I believe, if such a policy were adopted here, where the administration would actually talk to us before sending the wolves of the State after us, letting us know of their concerns for our safety, I believe we would have been much more amenable to their suggestions. But as it stands the color of warning, anger, fire and dismissal raises the aversion to coercion and control that we seek to escape in our lives made all the more frustrating when it appears in the outlets of our escape...