Friday, July 18, 2008

RIP Lindon Barrett + FISA + iPhonery + Miscellany

It's been a long while, more than a week, since I last posted (I've added my unfinished post from yesterday). It's not for want of things to post about, but a general lassitude and inability to muster the energy to write up things as well as add photos and hyperlinks.

Posting one-line entries isn't my thing, but far too many paragraph-length posts have died on the...cybervine? Or remain as ghost entries in the editing box. And so much has happened over the last few months too. So here go a few brief notes.


My sincerest condolences to the family, close friends, colleagues, and students of Lindon Barrett, a brilliant scholar, who, I'm sad to report, was recently murdered in his home. I posted the following on the CC list yesterday about Lindon, whom I met only once in person, in DC many years ago, but we did speak over the phone more than once and he never failed to offer sage advice or read a manuscript if needed when I had to call upon him.

I'm so sorry to hear of this horrible news. Lindon was so smart, a lovely man, and one of the important figures in the new generation of black and out LGBTQ scholars who've reshaped departments over the last decade and a half. His intellectual range was impressive. I worked with him a little bit in the early 1990s, and he was unfailingly helpful and kind. His tragic death is so saddening.

A member of his family has suggested donations to the Winnipeg Public Library in his memory, as he greatly loved books and literature, which his scholarly work testifies to.

There's also this Lindon Barrett tributes site, if you knew Lindon and would like to post some memories or kind thoughts about him. A terrible loss, for so many reasons.




Both Audiologo and Eileen posted in the comments section about how their Senators with the FISA vote last week, which left me so apoplectic I couldn't even post a denunciation. Both of my home-state senators also voted against the bill in its final, toxic form, and my Congressperson also voted against the House's version of this immunity giveaway. But as is now well known, and I gather forgotten (and forgiven?), the Democratic nominee Barack Obama not only voted for the bill but offered a series of insulting, distorted justifications for doing so. I have wracked my brain trying to figure out why he sold out on this, and I keep coming back to the idea that, as was the case with Bill Clinton with the first Bush-and-Reagan administration crime syndicate, he's decided that rather than investigate and prosecute the full range of violations by this current administration, he's going to take give them every pass to clear off the stage in the hope that he can start fresh and not look back. I would imagine that since figures in the Democratic leadership repeatedly acceded to or complied and colluded with the administration, and since it appears increasingly likely that Obama will be president, he's also decided that to ensure smooth relations with them--the leadership--he'll give them a free pass as well. It's all very disgusting, disillusioning, and par for the course, but we do end up with the governments we deserve, and until we create viable party options, particularly to the left, we will be stuck with the capitutionalist and collusionist Corporatocrats at the federal level. As I said, both of my Senators and my Congressperson did not fall in line, so it's not the entire party, but it must be noted that in the case of the former, neither one made any effort to filibuster, hold or in any other way obstruct the passage of this bill. Why?

Remember, the actions of the president were so grave that the extreme right-wing Attorney General John Ashcroft, on his sickbed, refused to sign on them; his deputy, James Comey, also refused to sign off; Comey contacted the head of the FBI and requested that authorities be stationed in Ashcroft's hospital room to keep a close eye on the actions of the president's henchmen, including the disgraced and now nearly unemployable Alberto Gonzales; both men and a number of other top officials Justice Department officials were threatening to resign en masse if the administration didn't stop what it was doing and adhere (more closely?) to the law. Learning what was behind all of this is only one of many reasons why I think the new FISA bill should never been passed, but there are many others, based on the text of the horrible bill itself. As Eileen points out, the ACLU has filed suit to prevent the law from taking effect, so let's see what happens, but cynically, I wonder if the courts will shelve it, and if Obama, when president, if he starts receiving the sort of extreme, biased and unmerited criticism that Clinton did, will see how far he can stretch its now tyrannical provisions.

The Strange Bedfellows Congressional accountability PAC is still seeking funding, so if you can contribute, please do so.


jottI was a little fascinated by the iPhone frenzy last week, but having joined in the iKlatsch last winter, when the price of the phones dropped considerably from their July 2007 launch prices, I was not going to seek an upgrade. After listening to C's caution about the 2.0 upgrade for the first generation phones, which proved a disaster for countless customers, I waited until Saturday morning to update my phone, and it went off without a hitch. Both old and new users have access to one of the best things Apple has devised yet, an application (app) store, which is easily accessible and has a sizable number of free and lowcost apps you can download swiftly and easily.

I downloaded about a half dozen, then ended up erasing most of them because I didn't need them on my phone, but as a result of my colleage Alex W.'s suggestion, I signed up for Evernote, which I haven't really figured out how to use yet but has the capability of translating any photographed text into printed text (sort of like an OCR scanner), and I also kept Jott, which allows dictaphone-style notes that a computer transcribes and then emails to you! I have used it a few times and it does work well, though I have to speak slowly and spell out words my accent usually mushes together. And best of all, both are free! Now I just have to figure out how to use them. One unpleasant side effect of the new upgrade, however, has been a more sluggish overall trend to the phone's operation. It's as if the new software added molasses to its circuits. I do sync it regularly, though, and back up my computer, because I learned the danger of not doing so a few years ago....


For the first time in a few years, I didn't watch this year's Major League Baseball All Star Game, which was played at the soon-to-be-destroyed Old Yankee Stadium. (I think I only voted once, online.) Or to be more accurate, I watched the introduction of the players, which the league switched up this year by including a tribute to past Hall of Famers and All Stars alongside the elected and appointed players, a nice but eventually boring touch, and then we went back to whatever C was watching. (I can't even remember what happened on half of what I've seen on TV this summer; it's all starting to blur together, save Life on the D-List with Kathy Griffin, which is unfailingly packed with ridiculousness, which is to say, hilarious). Those who know me well know that I am, or was, a longtime baseball fan; I used to memorize stats, read boxscores daily in the newspaper, and follow the on-field minutiae of various players I championed. But this season, as has been increasingly the case over the last few years, my interest has waned substantially. Part of it has been the ongoing doping-steroid scandal, which MLB, the Players Union, Congress, and the courts have all handled poorly. Part of it is, I think, my own personal maturity and a shift in interests, along with a general dwindling enthusiasm about most professional sports and athletes. Part of it is my recognition that in these incredibly difficult and uncertain economic times, most of the people on these teams are making millions of dollars per year, and many still want and crave more. And part of it is outrage at situations like the one Willie Randolph faced with the New York Mets' ownership and hierarchy. The net result is that while I do still check the box scores regularly, I've yet to attend a baseball game this season or watch a complete one on TV, and can go days without knowing whether the Cardinals or Yankees or any other team won or lost (that is, if I miss the late evening news sports wrap ups.) The All Star Game came and went; I barely recognized half this year's players--a sign I'm getting old and haven't kept up--and even when I learned that the American League had yet again won, thus giving that league's eventual champion the home field advantage in the World Series, I didn't bother to check the game's box score. I guess I really should try to catch a game in Yankee Stadium by the end of the year, though, since I haven't been there in years. As for Shea....


By this point last summer, I think I'd read about 4-5 books I'd had on my waiting shelf, but this year it's been slow going. I'm not sure, but I think I'm still trying to get up to gear. I have browsed a number of books for my work, and my little bookshelf at the library stays full with volumes for projects. One book I've been reading for pleasure is Nathalie Stephens's Je Nathanaël, which imagines and embodies the eponymous, absent assistant from André Gide's Les nourritures terrestres (The Fruits of the Earth) (L'Hexagone, 2003). Queer, hybrid and challenging its core, it's a lyrical text in which substitution and transformation in and as language repeatedly take form before one's eyes in the shifts between words, passages, forms, genres--languages. Stephens writes in both French and English, and has the mastery of both languages to draw as much out of both as possible. I've been studying and luxuriating in the book's French and thinking about how it differs from the English of Stephens's other works, but also considering how the deep(er) knowledge of the other language frees up hidden possibilities in English, how it colors and queers it. Here is one little passage, in French:

Entre deux mots le souffle.
Entre deux corps le chagrin.
Entre deux villes la douleur.
Entre deux voix le désir.

Entre nous le livre à feuilleter. (p. 59)

And, quite appropriately of Gide himself, and what he did write and couldn't in his era:

Je suis un livre qui a déjà été écrit.
Je suis le livre que personne n'ose écrire.

Qui es-tu Nathanaël? (p.65)

Who are you, Nathanaël, a question Gide asks of the assistant, but that Stephens raises reflexively, for the lyric's speaker, as the author, to the reader. Who are you?

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