Saturday, September 5, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
The way it feels. There's something so particular about the air and the light. September, for me at least, has an intention. It's the month that captures all the liminal textures of life and spreads them evenly across those amazing thirty one days. It's my favourite month, quite obviously. I can feel it in my bones now, the nostalgia. When I walk around, especially in the early evening, I imagine the months ahead- even though they are essentially the end of a year, they always feel like a beginning to me. It's like I always have butterflies in my stomach for no apparent reason. Are people who love autumn obsessed with death, rather than birth or re-birth?
I like the feeling of the slightly cold air on the tip of my nose in the evenings. I enjoy September music. It's the time when the dust is brushed off the Interpol and Counting Crows records and everything becomes less silly again.
A new friend and I had a discussion about this the other day. There's nothing about either the Passion Pit or Phoenix album that will last beyond Labour Day. Even though my summer was spent in a library, rather than outdoors as usual, I'm ready for the cold air again. I'm ready to leave London right about now.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Once I'm done this lovely piece of work (my dissertation) I'll write that entry about child labour in the Central Asian cotton industry.
prescription: second-hand, organic cotton, or just do a little research.
Just a little dose of Alexa for all of my darling female readers.
"A man behind me has stolen dennis hopper's voice and is using it with gay abandon. A real headfuck when I do a 180"- Alexa
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
MOST interesting characters at the archives today. The old man who sat behind me repeatedly exclaimed random words from the documents he was reviewing. "Krieg!!" "1942!!" "Vereinbarung mit der Sowjetunion!" "Gewerkschaft!" I tried with ALL of my might not to burst into hysterical giggles. Not to mention, he smelled like urine. Oh, and that's not all. The youngest archivist, whose sexual orientation I can't seem to gage, was drunk. He seemed so excited to see me: "Hallo! Frau Wiesen!" So when I asked him to fetch me these files, he came back with the wrong ones, only to stumble out of the room again.
Tomorrow is my last day in Berlin, and I've got to say, I'm going to miss the oddness of this place and its people. But alas, I must return to my second home, the library at the London School of Economics and Politics.
I miss Weldon. The last few days of my undergrad, some dear, like-minded friends and I decided a photo-shoot in our 'house' would be just the thing to finish off the year. My feeling is that, the more industrial the library, the more efficient I am. I suppose it would be entirely different if I was studying English literature or something equally romantic. But oh no. Onto empiricism, tables and graphs! Enough to make any historian shiver, really. And that's the thing...I feel like I've become a real historian. I balk at the thought of enumerating trade data, as opposed to diplomatic exchanges. The latter, which includes personality quirks, childish behavior, (see King of Spain, telling Chavez to 'shutup') and general madness, shape what we plebs understand as international relations. It's bloody brilliant.
Best example of what I'm talking about. Chavez verbally bitch-slapping Bush. Wonderful. Posterity will be grateful for Youtube. THIS is the future of history:
Here's the Weldonia, a fortress of greatness.
ps. I'm really cool.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
I spy with my little eye: a girl that has a crush. He came in, gave her a kiss on the cheek and asked for a beer. As he turned to find a table to sit at, I saw that very same cheek flush as she ruffled her hair. Rearranging herself. Shyly asking her co-worker how she looks. He likes her too. She just brought him his latte, and his eyes followed her all the way to the patio. He's a writer. Working on his manuscript. Every time she passes him by their eyes meet. It's silly, but so damn beautiful.
Do I have to mention the obvious? I'm attracted to the fact that they were not yet an item. Thrills, and all.
Friday, July 24, 2009
What happened at the archives yesterday? Well, I took 1200mg of Ibuprofen (accidentally on an empty stomach) to take care of a suspect back ache. About an hour into my research things started to become strange. The somewhat creepy, but entirely charming archivist, Herr Jakobi, approached me requesting with urgency that I give him two documents dealing with Chile in late 1972, right before the coup. The files had nothing too outlandish in it, but some details of CIA contacts with the right wing opposition. Unfortunately, I was working on one of them. Jakobi explained that a gentleman needed to see them right away and pointed in the direction of a young guy sitting by the computers. Fire red hair, muscular, with a sarcastic facial expression that was all, 'I'm not your average historian'. At this point, frantic and unnecessary questions began to monopolize my thoughts. 'Why did he need to see these files so urgently? Surely Historians are never in a rush?', 'What's in this file?'... and so on.
I daydream a lot, but yesterday was different. My drug induced imagination began to run wild. Here's how it went:
Firebox, (ie. the man who wanted the files), came and sat down beside me, browsing the internet on his laptop, while pretending to look through some documents. His phone was constantly vibrating, and he would leave the reading room, stand behind the glass door and stare at me. When he returned, I politely asked when he needed the document by, and he replied impatiently that as long as I was there on Monday, all would be well. Why Monday? I then imagined that he was from the CIA, and that he was trying to prevent me from uncovering some dirty dirty secret about America's role in the Pinochet coup. Recent literature on the subject has come to the conclusion that what happened in those fateful years in Chile, unlike Guatemala, was mostly a result of economic mismanagement and extremely polarised political forces, fighting for supremacy. The US role, despite Kissinger's famous words, "I don't see why we have to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people," was in fact not so important in the downfall of Allende's government. But what if there was something more we didn't know? It's not like it would change anything, it would just further solidify the arguments of those who believe America is a pure Empire (such as myself). But truth is justice for so many people in the world. Reconciliation also has to come from the US side.
My mind started spinning. I imagined that on my bike ride home from the archives I was followed by a black unmarked car that I stealthily got away from on a dirt path. Before going back to the house, I decided to hide behind the fence near the train tracks, and sure enough, there was Firebox at the door, snooping around. Somehow I procure a gun, approach him, and tell him that he better confess. I order him to give me any weapons he has, immediately. And then, just like Jack Bauer, I make some empty threats: "Tell me what you know!"
At this point, Firebox leans over to me in the archives and introduces himself. He's a student, with the army, and he wants to use the document for his dissertation, just like me. He then proceeds to tell me that I look pretty pale, and should probably go get some fresh air. Anyways, the moral of the story is, I am Lois Lane, especially when I take too many pain killers.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
As most of my friends will know, I develop obsessions easily. In fact, it can take a mere 45 minutes with a human being for me to fall madly in love... . (Of course, it's never real. It fades. When it doesn't, that's when I know he/she/it/that is a Lifer.) Casablancas is what I like to call an adopted obsession. Because credit has to be given where credit is due: Anna 'T. Pain' Wiesen. Little sis' was all over The Strokes at the tender age of 13, when I was convinced that big arena rock/hip hop acts were where it was At--- see Incubus, and/or Jay-Z. However, there's nothing that reminds me of my first love more than 'Between Love and Hate' from Room on Fire. All this nostalgia led me to google countless photos of the one and only Julian. Needless to say, my obsession has kicked into high gear. If I can't be with him, I'll just BE him.
So my tomboy side will come out for a little while. I will start walking/talking/drinking like a guy- or more specifically like Julian. Is this a relevant topic for all you people? Probably not. But maybe I'm not the only one. Maybe there are countless others out there who suffer from what I call 'permanent-obsession-disorder'.
Sometimes I worry about this. It's creepy, I know. (As always, my mind oscillates between worrying about Kazakhstan's use of child labour in the cotton industry, which is seriously troubling, and I'll be writing a post about it soon, and my own neuroses). It's just that I find all different types of human beings so deeply inspiring. It's the only thing that keeps a cynic like me going. Here are some key words that mark the obsessions I've had over the years: wood/south/poets/north/deathly thin/homey. Shit, son. These men and women have helped construct the person I am now. It's why I'm such a contradiction, but also never afraid to admit it. There's something really important about how syncretic personalities are. Though, I don't think there's anything so awesomely unique about anyone- attributes have come from SOMEWHERE. But the way it all comes together- like a kaleidoscope- ya. It's brilliant. But moreso, I need to leave the West. I enjoy transnational frames of mind that bind young people from Toronto to New York to London, Berlin and Stockholm. But I also know that Marcuse would shake his head at me. I know that the vacuousness of my surroundings are only accessible because someone else is suffering. It's a mind-fuck. Sorry...but it is. And I can't see. So I'll be peacing out to meet more interesting minds very soon. Once I make some money, and once I spend some time with loved ones. Once I shake off this Masters degree for a while. (Oh, right I haven't graduated yet.)
But still.... my obsessive personality will never change.
I know it's not fair or overly creative to pick someone who is already in the public eye, and decide, oh hey, they're really awesome, I want to know what the essence of their Being is all about. But people do it all the time. W.W.J.D.? W.W.O.D? (Obama). And now, in my case, W.W.Julian.D? He would make a new album!
Photo illustration by Williams and Hirakawa
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Here's my new bike! My life has gotten about 49.7% more enjoyable since forking up the 40 quid for this little gem, that I have dubbed Mitch. (Mitch is not cool, Mitch is probably the nerdiest, shoddiest bike in all of London). However, not only can I get to Uni in under 20 minutes, but I can avoid the trauma-inducing tube. Why did I put this off all year? Must say, I was a bit fearful at first. I've historically been a complete reject on bicycles (see summer 2007, where riding my mountain bike like someone at my skill level should just didn't seem appealing enough to me). Needless to say, the horror stories of London cycling were enough to discourage me. But by the end of exams, I knew that warnings from my mother could no longer keep me from one of my deepest passions.
Here I am with my mountain bike that I miss dearly.
I've always had a thing for riding bikes. It's in so many ways a proletarian thing to do. But as anyone living in a big hip city knows, it's also become simply "the thing to do" as a young person. Fixed-gear madness abounds at Brick Lane, or College Street or Brooklyn for that matter. This idea that walking or taking public transportation (gasp!) is somehow less cool than riding a bike is one that seems odd. Rather, the bike has been appropriated from the world's peasantry. My friend from China believes that riding a bike in London is a petty bourgeois choice. (I disagree respectfully, of course, because riding a bike is carbon neutral, and any environmentalist is obligated to do so). Why would you want to ride a bike? He asks. Apparently he had to ride them so much as a kid, because there was no alternative, that he cant stand them anymore.
But I persist. In many ways the bicycle went from being something that was "just for kids", family picnic trips, and hardcore athletic types to being an active form of resistance to the monolith that is car culture in the West. See this dude's tattoo really captures the sentiment!
But now, and especially here in London, the anti-establishment symbolism of choosing a bike rather than a car has been undermined by the aggressive incursion of capitalist values of 'cool'. I find myself admiring other people's bikes all the time, and Mitchy becomes much less attractive. Why? It's just a bike! Just a way to get around! Does capitalism have that much power? Or am I just too weak to resist shallow cultural trends? Both of these questions of course lead to the more long-standing issue of what trends mean (a friend would point me to Bourdieu's 'Distinction') in a class-conscious framework. Not to delve too deeply into a regressive enumeration of how and why people identify with certain trends in a capitalist society, I think it's fair to say that bike-loving hipsterdom is a far cry from the kind of life-choice that is made by eco-socialists. The kind of choice that is made, perhaps, in solidarity with the world's poor who ride bikes as a basic necessity. We may pity that kind of situation, yes, but in fact, we shouldn't. We're the pathetic ones, polluting our air with inefficient SUV's that crawl through cities like bloated cows, farting out the non-biological equivalent of methane. The bike is the better way to get around. It's the fastest way. And its no longer only for the alternative types. This yuppie-friendly mode of transportation is indeed popular among all sorts of people, which as a walker-bus-tube person I didn't expect. At the end of the day, I'll know my world has changed when I see P. Diddy or Jay-Z rolling around on the two-wheeled gems of joy.
I'm in muddy waters. My very own ideological quagmire. I spent the afternoon and evening at the Marxism Festival held at the University of London campus. What I thought would be a loose organization of left wing groups, concerned about how aspects of Marxism are still relevant today, about how we have to fight retrenchment, the alliance of corporations and government, and about how we can awaken people to the reality that unmanaged capitalism is a destructive force, turned out to be something very different. Most of what I heard appeared to be contrived table stomping. I know they would all slap me silly if I said Sweden was the ideal (which it really is, and I want to live there), but I didn't expect them to be SO dogmatic.
The socialist workers movement in the United Kingdom has been historically robust and militant when compared to the rest of Europe. But most former supporters of Labour in many ways feel betrayed by the party. Some will stay, out of habit, others (this shouldn't be exaggerated though) will join nationalist parties, like the BNP, and still others drift further to the left. The most mainstream party in the UK that represents this new group is the Socialist Worker's Party. They were the ones who organised the festival. They constantly receive heavy criticism from the other communist groups, for 'buying into the parliamentary game'. What I find troubling, is that the SWP seems way too concerned about this criticism, and they've taken to heavy posturing in the past few months. Individual members talk about the coming revolution, that now is the time to take the state in the name of the workers, and expel capitalism once and for all.
This is all well and good, and should technically be taken seriously, because the SWP has a significant support base. But it's not serious. The party has never done anything to embrace this so-called revolution beyond hosting anti-capitalist street parties at Canary Wharf, and large talking shops for left wing academics. (Who I am mostly fond of, I might add). However, as a free thinking individual, with anarchist leanings, I felt entirely offended that young dudes from the (also) sell-out organization patronised me, and shamed me for not joining the party. I thanked one guy for his work on the festival, (ironically, it wasn't well organized, considering they are communists) and gave a polite no thanks when he told me to join the SWP. I specifically remember the words, "If you really care, then join a revolutionary movement, join the SWP". Now THAT's insane. I wanted to ask him with all honesty, if he knew how to shoot a gun. My guess is he can't. And there certainly won't be a peaceful road to socialist revolution, because the democratic state just isn't going anywhere. Also, the left is divided on the matter of how to 'smash the state' as it is. So without violence, there really is NO revolution in the West. What the festival brought to light was just how diverse the left is! The Spartacist League, the Socialist Equality Party etc etc. They mainly try to deligitimise each other. It's a waste of time.
And here's my biggest quibble: the way 'comrades' went out of their way to point out that what was going on in Latin America wasn't really revolutionary. For example, there was criticism of Evo Morales' politics. Many believed he was 'negotiating with the fascists' in Santa Cruz. This just seems silly to me. In light of the complex societal dynamics there, and the historic and ongoing power of the military (see Chile '73, Honduras '09) what else was Morales to do? He isn't Chavez. He doesn't have the power to simply drive through reforms. (To their defense, it is from a marxist point of view analytically sound to critcise 'reforms' in and of themselves, because reformism can never be revolutionary). Call it what you like, but in my mind, reformism is just delivering more right now. What is going on in so many countries in Latin America is more revolutionary in actuality than anything that talk-shopping marxists in Europe could ever hope to do. They will remain irrelevant, while Latin American leftist leaders will struggle and achieve some successes in bringing equality to their people by avoiding bloodshed.
My main conclusion has been that the trouble with Western marxists today is that they want to have their cake and eat it too. From their high horses, and deeply informed marxist views, they asses every situation without taking account of nuances or limitations. In fact, they are betraying the entire movement by leaving BEHIND the dialectic analysis of the historical role of monopoly capitalism. Zizek's contributions to the debate were the most entertaining, and interesting. Where I think Marxists should play a role is in fact in criticism. Agitation. ETC. Keep building the kadres, keep an open mind, and embrace every comrade on the left, regardless of whether they are eco-socialists or feminists etc etc. If they fail to do that, then I'm afraid they will lose ALL relevance, and people will indeed find nationalist parties more appealing. I don't need to bring up THE example, but I think we all know what happens when the ranks remain divided in the face of an unprecedented economic crisis. Fascism will win, democracy will collapse, and the entire left will be thrown into camps. The proletariat will never benefit from a divided left. However, the route to overcoming this division is NOT imposing uniformity on the movement in a Leninist/Stalinist way, but rather to accept differences of opinion, and to continue to debate them in the open. In many ways that was the one positive thing about the Marxism festival. But I must say, the Anarchist Book fair back in November was much more enjoyable. If any communist accuses me of being afraid to join 'the revolution', I would ask them where the potential for revolution in the West lies? I would ask them to stop eating meat, and start TRULY living in solidarity with the world's poor, to embrace TRUE internationalism, which means NOT shopping at Tesco for cheap food. Solidarity means personal sacrifice. Too many members of the SWP are two-faced hypocrites. This is something I can't say I found under the anarchists. They lived their cause.
Here's Zizek's contribution, if you're interested. He's inspiring, and I loved his answer. I agree because its logical. Revolutionaries are those who want to overthrow capitalism and replace it with something new and modern. I don't think anyone on the left is brave enough to carry out his prescriptions, though:
Thursday, July 2, 2009
I'm not a Canadian citizen yet, but I should finally be able to get Dual this summer. I've always felt extremely Canadian, having grown up in a small town, with lakes and forests. A large portion of the kids that went to my school were aboriginal, and learning about the different tribes in our area was a big part of our education. Most of our parents were employed by the government. But it was still a very forgotten place. So when Michael Ignatieff talks about his Canadian-ness, I sometimes question the validity of his claims. Defining what is Canadian has got to be one of the most challenging and nebulous discussions of all time. But I know one thing for sure... he's a different kind of Canadian than me. Although I don't hold a passport, I understand the mindframe of rural folks in a way that I'm not sure he'll ever have access to. Does that make him a bad potential Prime Minister? No. Identity is best left to the Andersons of the world... as someone who believes most nationalisms are rubbish anyway, any discussion of Iggy's Canadian street cred seems useless to me. Can he govern in a way that delivers what MOST Canadians want, and not what HE thinks is best for Canada? That's the more important question. In effect, will his arrogance get in the way of his politics?
Monday, June 29, 2009
There's plenty of things I should keep in mind: I'm the kind of person who absolutely cannot mix work and play. I had a pleasant idea: on Sunday I would get away from my dissertation work and head to Brighton to smell the fresh sea air. Good idea? Seemingly so. Except I didn't consider the fact that I was already feeling a bit sick on my way to the train station. As soon as the Paracetamol began to wear off the wooziness began. And it was only getting hotter. Seven hours later I finally made it home with heat exhaustion and a fever induced by my cold.
However, I had extremely pleasant dreams last night. I moved back to the small town I grew up in, and fell in love with a boy.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Sunday, May 31, 2009
One of my favourite films, REALITY BITES!
Saturday, May 30, 2009
As noted below, I adore this personality. I don't watch much TV, but when I first moved to the UK, early mornings were accompanied by T4 Music's 'Freshly Squeezed' episodes. She's probably one of the most clever and annoying TV presenters out there. Alexa Chung's got 'fly' style and she makes me smile. An inspiration, really. But now she's moved to New York City to star in a new MTV daily show. Alas, I will have to resign myself to BBC Breakfast. I'm avoiding the headlines from now on since the expenses scandal has brought out 'the bitch' in one of the anchors: pretty much half-yelling at guests and MPs. Deserved, no doubt, (who charges taxpayers for moat-cleaning?) but it's not something that's particularly pleasant to listen to at 7 am.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
Friday, May 15, 2009
Vincent Moon's films are quite epic. His empire is expanding, truly. My recent hunger for Patrick Watson tunes was entirely satiated by this video. It's equally as amazing as Moon's Yeasayer piece.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.
Recently I've been experiencing extreme bouts of the above sensation. Memories are prompted by the most odd and random things. They'll linger for a mere second, and leave you so fast you can't even manage to capture consciously what the memory was. But I've been winning! Keeping record of them here, that is.
The jingling of the keys hooked to my bag- reminds me of the first hipster I ever truly loved: the tall gangly dark haired tattooed bartender at Sneaky Dee's that may very well be gay.
Cigar I smelled on my way home from the tube- balmy summer dinners with my parents and friends in our screened in porch- sheltered from the buzz of the mosquitos in the woods. The evenings wind down after too many glasses of wine and long political discussions with my Dad. The conversations almost always end on 'the Ronald Reagan factor'.
Skinny Love by Bon Iver- summer on Borden Street accompanied by late night excursions to corner stores with friends that are boys. Talking about anarchism on sidewalks at 5 am avec une popsicle.
My multi-coloured beaded necklace sitting on my desk- the summer that I worked in the sun.
More political and historical thoughts to come. I'm developing something interesting right now, with respect to the left and what I reckon will continue to be a problem- namely: class war.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Friday, November 7, 2008
On to the real issues: Obama's Election
The way in which Barack Obama's election is dealt with in the American historiographical landscape will be unprecedented. It has to be. So spare me, here, and allow me to indulge in a somewhat contrived comparison. Obama's victory speech was littered with allusions to the 'great American' moments. It was moving, but it was also very unnerving. Was it the time to be calling on the past to make a case? Current wisdom tells us otherwise. But I can't really bring myself to be critical. How inspired were you? In any case, in the context of what his election means, it seems almost obvious that he would recall Abraham Lincoln's legacy. In 1860, Lincoln's election prompted Southerners to fight for, and lose, an institution which had enslaved Blacks for nearly two centuries. Lincoln was not an abolitionist- he was not Frederick Douglass, or William Lloyd Garrison. He was a man in a distinct political position, who faced an opponent, very much akin to John McCain. This opponent, Stephen A. Douglas, was after all a professional politician whose middle-of-the-road approach had caused him to fall out of favor with a large section of his own party, swing-voters, as well as his traditional constituency. During the election, Douglas had to pander to the more extreme end of the democratic party, while at the same time trying to convince non-abolitionist capitalists in the 'middle-states' that voting for the 'Illinois Senator' was a death wish. Similarly, John McCain, also failed to appeal to the most powerful constituency in his own party, remaining awkwardly in the middle, unable to make a significant incursion into his opponent's support base. Lincoln was energetic, but not by any means the acknowledged superior. It was his orratorical talents that allowed him to captivate crowds. Were Lincoln and Douglas radically different men? Definitely not. Both were career politicians who negotiated between certain realities, but their own understanding of their ability to shape institutions was different. Lincoln believed he could hold the country together. Again, the parallels seem obvious, McCain and Obama are not as different as their spin-doctors make them out to be. Lincoln and Douglas were both moderates in a time of extremism. The same can be said of Obama and McCain. The comparison is only appropriate because of Obama's own identification with Lincoln in his victory speech. The difference is that the country does not stand as 'divided' as it once did. In fact, Obama won by a much larger margin than expected. If McCain had not picked such an inappropriate running-mate... I don't know... things might have been different. But then again, maybe not.
Anyways, I'm really interested to see how his foreign policy will change. America's Empire of Freedom and Democracy is on the brink of collapse....while some celebrate this potential (myself included), it will not end Imperial behaviour. It will come again, from other corners of the world. It must then become more appropriate to speak critically about China's new role in Africa or Russia's grip of oil-based hegemony in Eastern and Central Europe. It must then, necessarily, become less 'Western' or hypocritical, to speak out against their Imperial slights-of-hand. Because, the West has not 'won' and if Paul Kennedy is right, and Empires collapse under the weight of over-stretch and over-spending, America is headed down a very dark path. What President Obama's agenda implies is resurrecting the moral conviction in America's foreign policy on the basis of a stronger liberal-internationalist consensus. But will that be enough to secure America's role in the world?
Obama? Is that you?
Monday, August 11, 2008
I want to explore concepts. Dissect them. I don't intend to make any sense. Sense is elitist, isn't it?
Regardless, my interests are namely imperialism, (in all its forms), hegemony, anarchy and existentialism. Studying history gives me much, but I'm only stimulated insofar as subjective empiricism goes. After all, the western historical canon is quite evidently an imperial one as well. What would Chomsky have to say about 'our' story? The beautiful narrative of international law and progress and human rights that almost all cosmopolitans subscribe to? That's something I grapple with every day. I protest. I call for action in Darfur. Yet, in discussions with friends its clear that my goals are much less decisive: its that I want awareness. The actions called for by the institutions created by 'our' story, (like the post-war U.N.) are up for debate in my mind.
I'm excited for my studies! I always seem to stress the importance of macro-histories and my ambitions as a political scientist lead me away from potential archival work, however, maybe I need to rethink that. We'll see....
Anyway. I'm in a really fascinated personal state right now and I need to express that beyond the realm of ink on a page. It's pure, energetic liminality that I'm faced with every day. Like China?