Bidding the Summer Farewell: Revisiting Some of Its Finer Reads

Link dumps occupy an odd place in the blogging universe, and are to be treated alternately with curiosity, suspicion, and a modicum of heightened alertness.   For one, they are points of reference that fully haven’t been taken in by the poster of said links.  Had the person posting the link truly made the works they reference his/her own, then the poster could just as well dispense with the reference altogether and have the reference return as some artifact or remnant within another work the poster provides (preferably with a link if it’s online).

As with practically everything that is done here at tirado/thrown, the bullet points that follow are not meatballs, but barbecue: charred, gristly, messy, and nearly-indigestible.  However, as a way to look back at the summer that will have just passed on September 22, here are some links to short pieces to that helped make it worthwhile:

  • Boston’s master of experience, James Parker, dwells in the marrow of the MBTA’s scorned jewel, the Orange Line.  Incidentally, the line passes through our beloved Jamaica Plain, where tirado/thrown calls home. [Boston Globe]
  • Though tangled in the throes of a post-racial America (whatever that means), the term “Racism” has some words to offer the kind folks at We Are Respectable Negroes on its use and abuse.  [W.A.R.N]
  • Theory spares us from disasters:  A brilliant interview with Sylvere Lotringer, co-founder of that most abrasive and alluring of publishers, semiotext(e)  .  He speaks with Nina Power on art, the academy, thought, and theory’s ongoing relevance.  [frieze]
  • Our favorite blogs are the ones we are entirely jealous of when we come across them, leaving us wishing that this blog were only as good.  Planomenology is in fact one of those blogs that belong in the class ‘aspirational peers’. The posts can be lenghty at parts, but there’s some visceral and fascinating stuff going on there- not to be missed.  [Planomenology]
  • Another philosophy blog worth paying attention to:  The Inhumanities launches with a discussion of Matthew Callarco’s book, Zoographies, which is sitting on the shelf waiting to be read.  We wish we were better readers, as much as we value our idleness.  However, work towards an articulation of being that includes the world of animals and tilts its spears towards unseating anthropocentrism as a philosophical paradigm is an admirable and necessary task. [Inhumanities]
  • Having just mentioned in passing an outstanding blog with vegan links, we continue with a nod to our ethical impotence.   The New York Times discusses the Sonorense, the Chicano/Mexican contribution to the American hot dog landscape. How could something so wrong just be so good?  For our money, though, Daniel Hernandez’s LA Weekly piece on danger dogs from early 2008 remains the best treatment on the bacon-wrapped hot dog thus far. [NYT]
  • Over at Buddyhead (when was the last we read that???), Chris Checkman offers readers a passionate, bile-laced appraisal of James Carr, whose rendition of “Dark End of the Street” lets us know the Flying Burrito Brothers could conjure up the soul, but not like Carr.  Checkman (aka Papa John, the former host of KXLUs infamous Blues Hotel) should be read with Carr’s music playing loud.  Conveniently, the article has samples of Carr’s output to allow readers just that pleasure. [Buddyhead]
  • Our closer: What if Fantasy Island were actually set on Beirut’s Riviera instead of some tropical island?  We think that visitors would have been welcomed with the sounds in video Filastine Frequencies posted at his blog. There he invites us to imagine a Middle East not besmirched by crackpots, fanatics, and imperialists alike, and witness hybridity at its finest.  The video for the Bendaly Family’s “Do You Love Me?” also leads this post.  [Filastine Frequencies, with a big nod to WayneandWax]

Work Cloud


The image above is from artist Micheal Lewy’s City of Work tumblr.  (His website is well worth paying a visit.)  It caught my attention in light of some reflections at ICite that I’ve been following at a distance concerning the phenomena of word clouds and their relation to language, poetry, politics, psyche, and symbolic efficiency.  It started with this post, and has so far continued here and here.  Juxtaposing the blog posts and Lewy’s work raised more questions than answers.

First, some questions regarding the relationship of Lewy’s piece to language, its social use, and the piece’s orientation as an artwork.  If, as ICite argues, word clouds flatten sense and the possibilities of meaning (through ‘marking a moment’, or being a form of secondary orality, a trace of chatter, or a positionless marker of intensity, etc.), does Lewy’s rendering of office lingo serve to pit this terminology against itself?   In effect, the piece seems to expose the terminology’s flatness, its lack of tonality, and its reliance on the frequency and intensity of its use in our working lives.  Could it be argued that Lewy’s piece is a parody of technical applications of language upon the seemingly neutral language of work?

A second group of questions arise with respect to discourse, psyche, ontology, and politics.  Is workplace jargon an apparatus of master discourse reliant upon biopolitical coersion to acheive its politcal-economic ends?  Does it not reveal that the language of work is not merely natural, but vulnerable to a decline in symbolic efficiency? 

It would seem that Lewy’s ‘work cloud’ brings to sharper relief the contingent properties of social relations, capitalism included.

Inflicting Wounds Whose Scars are Borders
February 1, 2009, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Chicano, Flaneurie, Ideas, Literature, Philosophy, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , ,


From Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera (1987), as quoted by Alfred Arteaga*  in Chicano Poetics: Heterotexts and Hybridities:

“The U.S.-Mexican border es una herida abierta [is an open wound] where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds.  And before a scab forms it hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country – a border culture.” (3)

When placed next to the image of a border fence in Nogales above, the words in each citation seem to make their meaning all the more truthful.  The graffiti above reads, “Borders: scars upon the earth.”  

These structures are performative signifiers of the State’s violence, a power enacting a logic of exclusion.  The fences, walls, agents, and surveillance equipment are ciphers encoding action, establishing identity, and determining the value of who can cross and who cannot.

On the one hand, the State’s constitution excludes portions of humanity to include a remainder and establish the social bond by an oath, a pledge promising the subject’s personal sacrifice for a teleological end.  The ultimate wages of transgressing against the State include surrendering the claim to membership in the community and becoming party to a non-sacrificial death: to be killed.  

On the other hand, borderlands include the excluded and the excluder alike in a relationship of tense exposure to one another where it becomes possible for language to not be sanctified, where the apparatus of the State is exposed and can be brought to question.

Image Credit: Nogales, as photographed and thoughtfully reflected upon at La Gringa Rusa Mexicana, via Citizen Orange.

*A note of gratitude to Sound Taste for bringing my attention to Alfred Arteaga in a moving tribute to his memory.

Harvard Square Flaneurie

Walks to my psychotherapist’s office from the Harvard Square train station often yield varied results. If I’m running a couple of minutes late, I’ll charge out of the last train car and storm my way down Massachusetts Ave. in the hopes of reducing the amount of time already lost. Whether I’m barreling through or weaving around my fellow pedestrians in my path, I’m inhabiting a vulgarized version of Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit, concerned with my tardiness, cursing under my breath and thoroughly frustrated. If I’m running on time, I walk briskly and confidently, gathering my thoughts in anticipation of the fifty minutes on the white couch.

But last Saturday I was running early, enough to slow down and think about grabbing a bite for breakfast before heading up to the therapist’s office. It was the rare occasion where I could take in my surroundings and unintentionally indulge in a bit of free association in the process.

The station-to-office trek always takes me past the Harvard Book Store. Its windows display a revolving set of enticements and possible treats for book-lovers or people who just want a good read. But what’s so special about the window? It’s just a bunch of books, right? Sure. Point conceded. But the books showing at the windows somehow push the right button, or get me on the path of re-evaluating my wish list- whether new hardcovers or featured remainders. My favorite window, though, has to be the “Featured Press” window, and I needn’t justify reasons as to whether I’m driven by fetishism or brand loyalty. This is where the accidental flaneurie begins.

Last week’s featured press at the window was Continuum, the UK-based publisher whose strongest fare is consists of scholarly books in philosophy, theology, religion and literature, with some the occasional trade titles and series. The press’ books most prominently displayed at the window were from the critically-acclaimed 33 1/3 series, consisting of texts offering extended treatments of somehow important or influential albums. When I gazed upon the pocket-sized copy of the book discussing Tom Waits’s Swordfishtrombones to get a closer look, my mind’s eye didn’t see the imprint’s triangular logo on the book’s cover,

Continuum logo

but that of Mexicana de Aviación, an icon whose impression is the pathway to memories of journeys to Mexico and Guatemala as a boy.

Mexicana Logo

The raw visual similarities in each of logo’s design elements (the ‘m’ at the bottom third of the image and the emphasis on the right hand side of the logos) temporarily scrambled my imagination and thought process. While looking at the covers of these books about ‘great’ records, I got to asking: with the exception of the ‘honoraries’ (aka The Smiths), why aren’t any of pivotal chican@/latin@ crafted pieces tackled in this (arguably indie rockist) canon for rock aficionados? It would not be for lack of available material. Obvious places to start would be Los Lobos’ career-defining opus Kiko or El Vez’s sweeping piece of detourment, Graciasland. These records certainly deserve the 33 1/3 treatment, to say less of a record that, at the time, seemed to have brought mid-90s Mexican rock to the attention of an American listening public. I am referring to Café Tacvba’s searing covers record, Avalancha de Exitos. Indie-philes would also do well to catch a glimpse into the reverse-pochismos of Plastilina Mosh.

Give me a couple of years to listen and research alongside a modest advance, and I’ll think about writing about them all. Or with no advance, I could run a serialized posts on each record and possibly grouse about the cultural and business politics suggested by the selection of titles in the series.

As of this post’s publication, the 33 1/3 series has neither published a piece on a latino-made record, nor do any appear to be planned. While waiting without holding our breaths, here’s a little Cafe Tacvba to keep the home fires burning and the thoughts incubating.