Thursday, March 13, 2014

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Mark O'Connor Sidewalk Performance 3/24/13

The inimitable Mark O'Connor.  There are some musicians out there for whom I have no adequate words because no words will do them justice.  Legendary fiddler/violinist and composer Mark O'Connor is one of those musicians. Here he is playing on the sidewalk outside of the Balboa Theater in San Diego with guitarist Tony Ludiker.   Thanks to joyoffiddling for sharing the video.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little coarse and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.” 

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, November 22, 2013

Shirtless Mark Twain

                                Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, 1883. 
                                (Public domain image Courtesy of NPR)
 Just because.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket (PBS Documentary)

A truly beautiful revolutionary spirit, James Baldwin has been a powerful inspiration to me and many others.  Here is a recent PBS documentary about his life and work.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Food for Thought: Chipotle's New Ad for The Scarecrow

So a lot of folks have been raving about Chipotle's new ad for its iOS app-based game "The Scarecrow".  The ad features a dystopia of unsustainably produced and chemically saturated corporate fast food products, complete with high-budget emotionally loaded 3-D animation and a hauntingly seductive soundtrack featuring Fiona Apple singing "Pure Imagination", a song off of the 1971 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film soundtrack.   The protagonist of the ad, The Scarecrow, leads the viewer into and out of this morbid and darkly bleak world and into what appears to be the initial stirrings of the groundbreaking emergence of a utopian promised land that is of course made possible by Chipotle's comparably uplifting style of (presumably) ethical and sustainable corporate food worlding.  Chipotle parted ways with McDonald's back in 2006 and ever since has been trying to brand itself as a corporation committed to "Food With Integrity".  As part of this branding effort, in July 2013 Chipotle became the first corporate fast food chain in the U.S. to attempt to completely rid their menu of GMO products.


Chipotle's new ad has received a lot of positive feedback from viewers.  Indeed, there is no denying that this is a very innovative ad that is, to a certain extent, far more truthful and ethically ambitious than most global corporate food chain ads.  No other global fast food chain in history has ever publicly presented this kind of unapologetically critical portrayal of the cruel, unhealthy, unethical and completely unsustainable global food system that the mainstream fast food industry actively maintains, and for this I applaud Chipotle.  However, while I am impressed by some of the critical content featured in the ad, I nonetheless have very mixed feelings about it.  For all of its captivatingly emotional hooks, bells, and whistles, this creative ad is at bottom a corporate branding strategy designed to increase consumption of multiple commodities controlled by large global corporations like Apple and Chipotle.  Part of the genius of this ad is its ability to market the Chipotle brand in ways that initially appear potentially subversive to corporate branding as such. The Chipotle logo itself actually has a very subtle and limited visual presence in this 3-D animated ad.  Indeed, it is only towards the very end of the ad that we see any explicit reference to Chipotle.   However, the effect is arguably an even more profound branding dynamic that simultaneously replaces and reinforces a corporate brand with an entire way of life, in a way that seems to both echo and exceed the prototypical 'life style marketing' strategy of global corporations that investigative journalist Naomi Klein brilliantly showcased in her powerful 1999 documentary 'No Logo'.  In addition, I couldn't help but notice the conspicuous absence of any coherent reference to farm workers in the ad.  How does/will Chipotle ensure sustainable and socially just labor and living practices for farm worker families in its corporatized vision of "food with integrity"?  Another question that concerns me is how does/will Chipotle, a giant global corporate food chain, impact local and regional sustainable food restaurants and eateries that are not global fast food chains? These are just a few of the concerns that struck me as I watched the now viral ad.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Happy Birthday to Donna J. Haraway: Reflections on Situated Knowledges

Today, in honor of the birth of biologist and feminist philosopher of science Donna J. Haraway, I am very briefly reflecting on her notion of partial perspective as laid out in her famous essay Situated Knowledges, in the context of colonialism and academic knowledge making.  I have been revisiting the writings of Franz Fanon in preparation for a course I am currently designing to be taught later this year, and Fanon has me thinking very intensely about colonialism as of late.  Admittedly, what follows is my own uptake of one general theme I sensed in the essay and I wanted to apply this theme to a general idea of colonialism and the notion of an ever lingering colonial gaze that continues to haunt much of traditional Western academic thought like some kind of imperial phantom.  I do not claim to offer a succinct 'revelation' of what Haraway was actually thinking or believing when she wrote the essay in 1988.  Nor do I advocate any kind of 'pure' standpoint or offer any close-ended exclusive assessment of Haraway as a certain 'type' of intellectual.  I am only speaking for myself about some of my own current reflections about what I gleaned from this deep, rich, and very thought-provoking essay.  Here I am thinking with Haraway's concept of Situated Knowledges in contexts of colonialism and accountability.

I am writing in the first person, not because I see myself as a colonizer, but because I recognize the pollution of the colonizer inside of me, and inside of much of the knowledge and knowledge practices that have surrounded and shaped me within institutional academia for so many years.  This is not the first time I have been conscious of this.  Historically, as academics and public professionals ritually subjugated by the Eurocolonial Western world, we have too often sought to escape history and subjectivity--indeed our own humanity--in the pursuit of certified knowledge.  We are literally trained to do this, as well as rewarded for it.  However, this feat is not only impossible but ethically irresponsible. We are limited and partial forever. The world is not ours.  Nobody gave it to us.  The universe is bigger than any human--or any human capacity for knowing--will ever be. We see everything through conditioned eyes, forever.  We are situated, we are located, we are materially and ontologically constrained as knowing subjects.  Our visions are not pure or absolute.  We are polluted, interested, and conflicted, and subject to waves of unquenchable desire, in spite of everything we know.  This applies not only to the colonial gaze but also to various subjects of the colonial gaze, including historical 'underdogs' that are often rendered unaccountably pure, innocent, primitive and/or naive simply because they represent that which is not the colonizer. The violence of subtraction and rarefaction in the colonial gaze is both real and multidimensional.  There is no truly innocent standpoint.  However, while there is no truly innocent standpoint, we can assume that the narratives of historically marginalized subjugated standpoints beneath "the brilliant space platforms of the powerful" (Haraway 1988) generally offer more grounded and ultimately transformative accounts of the world.  Recognizing the reality of situated knowledges does not in any way, shape, or form call for the obliteration of objectivity or the fetishizing of relativism.  On the contrary,  far from it.  Rather, it is about holding oneself and one's material practices of seeing and doing more accountable when making knowledge.   Indeed, it is a reason to make our objectivities stronger and more meaningful, and therefore less arbitrary, violent, and unaccountable.