Sunday, June 23, 2002
Friday, June 14, 2002
Wednesday, June 05, 2002
Tuesday, June 04, 2002
Professors make interesting subjects. There's a whole sub-genre of literature about college professors. Like "Wonder Boys", which I didn't read, but saw on video recently. The movie suffered from some of the same problems as another Michael Chabon work, "The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay", those being mainly over complication and too many subplots. Ironically, overwriting is the problem the protagonist is having with his novel in "Wonder Boys". I loved the set-up, and the interactions between the different characters, but in the end, there are too many lose ends that don't add anything and that all get solved together, with really no solution.
Friday, May 31, 2002
Thursday, May 30, 2002
I've said it before and I'll say it again: there is a huge audience of right wingers for any attacks on the academy. But while Rory and others may gain fame and Patriot readers, they're just a bunch of self-hating intellectuals.
Monday, May 27, 2002
Anyways, I hope to post soon regarding Wonder Boys (which I finally just saw), relating it to Michael Chabon's other book and the television show Max Bickford. And I'm reading Jonathon Safran Foer's book Everything Is Iluminated; a review may be forthcoming.
Thursday, May 23, 2002
By the way, is a potential war between India and Pakistan news anymore? (Asked about his statement a few days ago about "war clouds," he said, "The sky is clear; there are no clouds." He quickly added, "But in a clear sky there can be sudden lightning." Then, whether to keep Pakistan off guard, or because he is willing to give peace a chance, he said, "I hope there will not be any lightning.")What do they call this, saber rattling? It must be another Star Wars metaphor.
Wednesday, May 22, 2002
Also, on the way home I noticed a flyer for the Clarendon Hills. They're playing this Saturday at 925 Gilman (8pm, $5). Back in the day, these guys played the Green Party Party (I couldn't link to the image so I stole it). Pepito Pea was also once a nominal Satellite editor.
Tuesday, May 21, 2002
Sunday, May 19, 2002
This reminds me of an idea I had a little while ago. I hate the a cappella groups that seem to be ubiquitous on college campuses, Berkeley not excepted. They always do the same old songs. Wouldn’t it be more interesting if they did songs based on the news? A little political parody might go a long way. Possible topics include the Catholic Priest scandal or the Palestine-Israel conflict. There’s a whole genre of Mexican music that does this kind of current event reporting, and rap occasionally does it too.
One of my guests pointed out a contradiction in the conservative’s argument. If marriage is truly about protection of children, you should want people adopting children to marry, and thus homosexuals, since they can adopt, should also be able to marry. I suspect he doesn’t really support the right of homosexuals to adopt. If I’m right he’s being very intellectually dishonest.
Later in the day, we watched as the Lakers demolished the Kings in Sacramento.
Thursday, May 16, 2002
Speaking of Shaq, those Lakers are sooo good. As predicted below, the conference finals are down to 1st vs. 3rd seed match-ups. The symmetry of how they got there is pretty amazing. Each series went 5 games after being split 1-1.
The new issue of the East Bay Express has an article about David Brock’s tenure at the Daily Cal, where he was known to embellish and generally cause trouble. The article details numerous discrepancies between his book and reality. In other words, he’s a liar. I think my response to the article was the opposite of what the author intended. I feel, actually, kind of inspired. Although one must, I feel, uphold journalistic ethics, David Brock comes off as someone who could always find the most interesting part of a news story. His hubris may have reached too far, but at least he isn’t boring.
Regarding the Daily Cal’s trouble with the ASUC, I have a couple questions which perhaps somebody can answer. As the recent earthquake reminded me, isn’t Eshleman going to be torn down pretty soon? In that case, the Daily Cal needs to find an alternate space regardless. And what about the seventh floor? Can’t that be made usable for ASUC groups? What has the executive vice president been doing all year anyway? I think if anything, the Daily Cal’s lease should be made less expensive. I’m sure the market value of that kind of space is a lot lower than it was a couple years ago. But regardless, I think the paper will pull through. We’re only going through a temporary slump in ad revenue that is affecting all kinds of publications, but the economy is bound to turn around soon.
Tuesday, May 14, 2002
I guess I should make more of it than a chance to update my blog. I guess I'll go study for a bit, before my next class.
Sunday, May 12, 2002
Thursday night I went with Erin to Yoshi's for the first time to see the Brad Mehldau trio. We stayed for both sets, which was good because the second set was better than the first. I don't know enough about jazz to really talk about it, but I think their music is beautiful. Erin says its "moody jazz" It's very composed and kind of down tempo, especially the two ballads that they ended each set with. They played a cover of Radiohead's "Everything in its Right Place" that was fantastic.
Thursday, May 09, 2002
Daily Cal Review editor Sen Onishi reviews the state of campus publishing in today's paper. His article seems intended to encourage people to join student publications, which is of course a noble goal. But did he forget what section of the paper he's writing for? I want value judgments! I want to hear: Berkeley Political Review is useless, or Satellite is "strangely boring" as some seem to believe, with perhaps an few explanations of these judgments. Instead he just lists which publications exist and divides them into categories. He explains the increase in publications with the tech boom, without mentioning the improved funding structure Satellite and others worked hard for, or the Daily Cal's own incompetence, which has led directly to some new publications.
Wednesday, May 08, 2002
Besides the spiffy new PCs, this year also saw the reopening (finally) of the beautifully refurbished Berkeley Public Library (check it out if you haven't), as well as the Bear's Lair. Also a slowly but steadily improving Publications Center in Eshleman, campus speakers like Christopher Hitchens, Noam Chomsky, and Ralph Nader (who some of us had been trying to get here for 4 years). And Russian-American pop artists Komar and Melamid for a whole semester.
Tuesday, May 07, 2002
UC is already suing over Enron's inflated profit reports, but it will be hard to recover anything. What I would like to see are criminal prosecutions.
Monday, May 06, 2002
Also, the tickets for Superb's Spring Concert (Sat. May 11 at 5pm) featuring Black Eyed Peas and Spearhead are available now at Zellerbach. Last year with the aging Violent Femmes was horrible, but maybe this one will be more like the concert two years ago when
Anyone interested in working on a student publication next year might want to check this out.
What's up with the ASUC website?.
Sunday, May 05, 2002
I saw part of the White House Correspondents Dinner on CSPAN. Drew Carey hosted. I learned a couple new things about him: apparently he's a Republican, and he doesn't wear glasses anymore because of laser eye surgery. Somehow this new Drew Carey isn’t quite as funny. His best line came after he acknowledged Colin Powell and another top general. He then complimented the regular troops, who follow every command, “even the really stupid ones.”
Improvisational sample musicians Scattershot Theory (friends of a friend) played the Bowles luau tonight. I enjoyed the music but the residents seemed more interested in the fire.
Thursday, May 02, 2002
Theater Review: Tony Kushner’s Homebody/Kabul
by Michael Rochmes and Erin Schmidt
Homebody/Kabul is the new play by Tony Kushner (Angels in America) that made headlines when it debuted on Broadway after 9/11. Although written before the terrorist attacks, it became only more topical afterwards. The play takes place in London and Kabul, August 1998, when America bombed Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan in response to the bombing of US embassies in Africa. Kushner is a pessimist—on KQED’s Forum, he said we live in one of the most frightening times ever—but in Homebody a character points out that disdaining the time in which one lives is a constant throughout history. Perhaps it is this cynical nature that draws Kushner to Kabul.
In a rambling monologue that consumes much of the first act, we meet a bookish, apologetic homebody (played well by actress Michelle Morain) who discusses her marriage, anti-depressant pills, and the history of Kabul. She reads to us her discoveries in an out-dated guidebook to the city, and as the scene progresses you see her interest develop into obsession. Her world is almost entirely internal, and her description of a foray to a local Afghani shop warps into a fantasy of sexual connection in faraway Kabul.
Kushner leads the audience to follow this character as she journeys to Kabul, but then he goes Psycho on us, and kills off the main (up to now, only) character between scenes. When we catch our bearings after the sudden change in location, we find ourselves in Kabul where a grieving husband and his daughter (hidden behind a sheet so as not to betray Taliban sensibilities) listen to a doctor describe in gruesome detail how their homebody was murdered for appearing on the street without a burka. (Or is she really dead? This is a mystery that motivates much of the rest of the play.) The homebody created a tangible personality through her winding, exasperating and intermittently funny speech, and even if we didn’t particularly like her, when she disappears we are left without a hold to grasp onto, in the middle of mysterious and dangerous Kabul. While her husband, Milton (Charles Shaw Robinson) seeks escape just as his wife had, their daughter Priscilla (Heidi Dippold) ventures into the streets of Kabul in a search for the truth. In a somewhat manipulative move, Kushner has her constantly taking off her burka in the middle of downtown Kabul. One can’t help silently berating her: “Don’t be stupid; put the damn burka back on!”…and the Taliban have already won.
To fill the hole left by the homebody, another bookish woman appears. In what is in many ways the emotional center of the play, Priscilla meets Mahala (Jacqueline Anteramian), a polyglot librarian desperate to flee cruel, bookless Afghanistan for London. She raves in a mixture of Pashtun, French, and English, with a smattering of Russian and German. Although a Tajik man serves as translator to Priscilla, whose face and reactions we cannot see, Mahala is most powerful when her words come flooding out in an unstoppable torrent. Her speech recalls the meandering monologue of the homebody, whose thesaurus-riddled language was similarly incomprehensible, leaving only the impression of ineffable emotion.
Kabul is a city with a long, violent history, the proving ground for many bad ideas—Imperialism, Communism, the Taliban, but it also represents lost potential. In Homebody, the skeleton of a ruined building provides the ubiquitous background for the Kabul scenes and a supporting cast of Afghanis who have lost their entire families, as well as a British NGO worker turned junkie. The play’s failed utopias even include Esperanto, the wish for a universal language. Kabul, once a crossroads of the world, and as recently as the seventies a self-sustaining, vibrant city, has, by 1998, become a wasteland.
The play is smart, if overly long and heavy-handed, and very well acted. Homebody/Kabul is at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre through mid June.
Tuesday, April 30, 2002
Friday, April 26, 2002
I went to the Christopher Hitchens lecture today at Boalt. He was introduced as a "public intellectual of an exemplary sort". His speech was pretty brief and straightforward.
Let me paraphrase: Globalization exists economically and to oppose or deny it is to stick your head in the sand. But a global society does not yet exist, and we must strive to create one in the image of the United States. He said that the European Union should evolve in that direction and become a United States of Europe. He noted that some of those who oppose this the most are conservative: Heider, Le Pen, the Greek Orthodox Church. He also argued that Islam has been in an internal "civil war" for some time (at least since 1989) over whether Islamic law should apply to Muslims or everyone. Those who want Islamic law to apply to everyone use attacks against the west to win both their internal Muslim struggles and their more general goal. He used the fatwa against Salman Rushdie as an example. Rushdie was neither Muslim, nor a citizen of the country from which the fatwa was issued (Iran?), but the religious leader who issued the death warrant wanted to make the point that only he had license to define and enforce Islam. Some examples Hitchens gave as to where this "civil war" is going on now : Nigeria, Indonesia, Pakistan. He cited Algeria and Iran as counter-examples. He recommended Jihad vs. McWorld, which I guess goes into this in more depth.
A note about Le Pen: If France had instant run-off voting, that election would look a lot different.
Thursday, April 25, 2002
Trivium is a website with potential. Academic articles and essays.
Here's an email I got from Jim Fung of the Campus Greens, re: my remarks on the ASUC (Wed. April 17):
Hi Michael, I've been reading your blog. I disagree with you and Paul Thornton. The ASUC stakes are only small if people let it become so. Peter Camejo was expelled by the university so that the anti-war slate could not take over the ASUC Senate; clearly the university feared the ASUC, then, and the ASUC is still the same ASUC as far as I know ... but with less activist involvement.
and my response:
I agree that the ASUC used to be more important. The ASUC has started a lot of stuff that grew and was then taken over by the university (such as the Cal athletics program). But there is no Vietnam war today or any social movement like the anti-war movement. What gives the ASUC any potential for importance is its money. The ASUC cannot create such a movement, it can only be a tool of that movement. The only activist-based parties are Cal-SERVE and DAAP. These parties get their strength from race-based platforms, which will also prevent them from growing. Most activists think the ASUC is a waste of time. The only way to take over the ASUC for activists would be to convince a large number of them early (like September or October) that this is worth their time and effort, have them follow the ASUC and work inside it, create a new party or join with CalSERVE, and mount a full campaign. Even Chuck McNally couldn't get elected last year (although he came really close), because there was no real campaign among progressives. Even then, its debatable whether you would gain more than a couple extra seats.
For those who think the war in Afghanistan wasn't enough, here's a funny/sad email somebody forwarded to my girlfriend:
> > > >>" Budweiser incident (not a joke)! How Budweiser handled those who
> > > >>laughed at those who died on the 11th of September, 2001...
> > > >>Thought you might like to know what happened in a little town north
> > > >>Bakersfield, California. After you finish reading this, please
> > > >>this story on to others so that our nation and people around the
> > > >>will
> > > >>know about those who laughed when they found out about the tragic
> > > >>events in
> > > >>New York, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon.
> > > >>On September 11th, a Budweiser employee was making a delivery to a
> > > >>convenience store in a California town named McFarland. He knew of
> > > >>tragedy that had occurred in New York when he entered the business
> > > >>find the two Arabs, who owned the business, whooping and hollering
> > > >>show
> > > >>their approval and support of this treacherous attack. The Budweiser
> > > >>employee
> > > >>went to his truck, called his boss and told him of the very
> > > >>event! He didn't feel he could be in that store with those horrible
> > > >>people.
> > > >>His boss asked him, "Do you think you could go i n there long enough
> > > >>pull
> > > >>every Budweiser product and item our beverage company sells there?
> > > >>We'll never deliver to them again."
> > > >>The employee walked in, proceeded to pull every single product his
> > > >>beverage company provided and left with an incredible grin on his
> > > >>He told
> > > >>them never to bother to call for a delivery again. Budweiser happens
> > > >>be
> > > >>the beer of choice for that community. Just letting you know how
> > > >>County handled this situation!!
> > > >>And now the rest of the story: It seems that the Bud driver and the
> > > >>Pepsi man are neighbors. Bud called Pepsi and told him. Pepsi called
> > > >>his boss
> > > >>who told him to pull all Pepsi products as well!! That would include
> > > >>Frito Lay, etc. Furthermore, word spread and all vendors followed
> > > >>At last report, the store was closed indefinitely. Good old American
> > > >>Passive-Aggressive Ass Whooping'! Pass this along. America needs to
> > > >>know that we're all working together.
> > >
And I got tickets to Homebody/Kabul for next Tuesday. I'll put up a minireview after I see it, but in the meantime you can listen to playwrite Tony Kushner on Forum.
Sunday, April 21, 2002
Friday, April 19, 2002
Thursday, April 18, 2002
Wednesday, April 17, 2002
Even a minor surgery like mine makes your life flash before your eyes. I didn’t see the life I’ve already lived, but a future old age when my health deteriorates. I think of my grandparents or Iris Murdoch in Iris (I’m terrified of Alzheimer’s). I’m hobbling around the house like a sick septuagenarian. I suppose at 22 it’s called self-pity. But if we’re lucky we grow old, and that’s a little bit depressing.
The surgery itself was painless—I was put under general anesthesia. It was different from the movies: the operating room didn’t fade away. It was more like sleep usually is: you’re awake and then you aren’t, except since there weren’t any dreams I was awake and then next thing I woke up in the recovery room.
In bed I’m reading The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood. My dad recommended it. The narrator is an old woman, and the book deals with old age and the nostalgia that comes with it. Interspersed is a novel written by the narrator’s sister that also includes another novel within it. I haven’t gotten very far into the book yet, but so far it’s very well written. Atwood has a way of creating subtle metaphors, and then bringing them into focus with a pithy sentence at the end of the paragraph.
My grandfather always nags me to write down my experiences, both, I think, to practice writing, and to have something to look back on when I’m old. As Lorraine Adams noted recently in the Washington Monthly, this kind of nobody memoir has become one of the most popular genres. (link via ALD). Last week my literature professor brought up the same desire; it turns out memory and nostalgia are two of the main themes in the work of Russia’s most popular young writer, Tatyana Tolstaya. My professor said she wished she had written down names on all her photographs. But every time I start a journal, I quit. My best bet is to combine my journalism, saved emails, and something like this blog.
Okay, it's back to school and work today.
Saturday, April 13, 2002
Friday, April 12, 2002
There goes the pulitzer: the front page correction to yesterday’s story about the “god bless you” man reminds us that we shouldn’t automatically believe what we read online, or in the Daily Cal.
More thoughts about the new Hardboiled: CalStuff has a pretty good analysis of the issue. Hardboiled seems to have lost the sense of humor it had a couple years ago, when I started reading it. Even the Beau Sia interview mostly talks about his race. And just for the record, Satellite had a similar article about the internment of Japanese-Peruvians a year ago.
I've been reading the best-of issue of Granta, "21". The magazine was born the same year I was. One of the stories is "The Men's Club," which is actually the first chapter of a novel of the same name by Leonard Michaels. It's a fabulous, if somewhat distasteful look at men the way they might really be. It takes place in Berkeley, all in the course of one night at the inagural meeting of a men's club. I wonder if it's ever been produced as a play. It would work, because it's mostly dialogue.
Thursday, April 11, 2002
The new Satellite issue is out. The theme is simulation. I'm going to distribute it right now. I also put issues in Wheeler (near English dept.), Heller, and Moffitt (near computer lab). Problem is, most of the issues are still in Max's car.
Tuesday, April 09, 2002
Satellite is coming along well. It looks good. New issue should be out in a few days.
Hardboiled came out today. I noticed it's on better paper. Only 12 pages though, and no full page ad. I like the cover. It's reminicint of Satellite's first cover. I only read the first one and a half articles so far. It seems they're taking the Hindu/Muslim divide of India and Pakistan to America. For some reason I thought there were better relations among South Asians in America. We have a guest coming this weekend who spent some time in Gujarat last year before the violence broke out. I'll ask her what she thinks.
I guess no bowling tonight. Got to make up for the lack of sleep last night.
Oh, and I was looking through the Johan van der Keuken website below, and it turns out that unlike a certain other filmmaker, he really did die sometime last year. It's a shame.
Monday, April 08, 2002
The other popular issue is Israel/Palestine. Seems to me, both sides (in the Middle East, not Berkeley) are totally passive-aggressive. Suicide bombing is the ultimate passive-aggressive act: "look what you're making me do!" And building settlements is another form of passive-aggression: They pretend they are just creating a place to live, but they are really trying to prevent any land for peace deal, and actually hoping to incite violence. It's like running in front of a charging basketball player. Sure, they might call a charge, but you can't say you aren't iniciating the contact. The idea of revoking Arafat's peace prize is interesting to me. It's a compelling idea.
But I'm just as interested in non-political questions. Art, music, film, books. I just read Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. I was disapointed. And I just saw Y Tu Mama Tambien. I really enjoyed it. The voice over, and the way the camera kept leaving the scene like a kid with ADD and a liberal consience reminded me of a movie I saw at the PFA about India called Eye Above the Well. I forget who the director was, though. (OK, I checked on google: Johan van der Keuken). He would move the camera, but with less purpose, just to remind you that there was something outside of the frame. There were no subtitles, so it was like a silent movie, or better--actually being in a foreign country. Eye Above the Well was so beautiful, I wish I could see it again.