November 26, 2004

The Calm Before the Storm, Thanksgiving

Category: Personal — Biella @ 7:01 pm


Most of us have heard from some Great Aunt “Ohhhhhhhhhh Thanksgiving, it is so ‘precious’, it is the ‘least’ commerical of our holidays….” Well that is true so long you ignore the day after Thanksgiving: America’s Busiest Shopping Day. You don’t need to commericalize a holiday that marks the beginning of the uber-commerical holidays…. In this light, Thanksgiving is the day of gluttony where folks stuff themselves silly, packing in the calories needed to fend of the crowds the next day during the day of consumer gluttony. (In other words, today it was a *bad idea to go food shopping at the same strip mall where Best Buy is located… and actually, though you might not be able to tell, I actually really like Thanskgiving..)

November 24, 2004

Is it even debatable?

Category: Other — Biella @ 1:01 pm

Was Ozzy right to confront burglar?

BBC: I mean is this even a debatable question? Ozzy is a rocker, a ROCKER… Of course he has a right to go after the burglar and I hope at least writes a song about it.

November 23, 2004

The Politics of Architecture

Category: Politics — Biella @ 5:54 pm

Yesterday, I headed to the Business School’s new “home” an architectural wonder built on the corner of 58th and Woodlawn. The building is stunning, a purely absorbing wonder largely because of an obscenly huge atrium that leaves no doubt about the weather outside and the shape of the clouds. I can’t wait to go there during a massive Chicago snow storm.

Along with the starkly stunning architecutre, using this building reminds me of flying first class. The extravagent perks are everwhere: a gracious dining hall, a rec room with multiple pool tables, security guards wearing spiffy maroon coats and equipped with the latest walkie-talkie technology, parking for the profs, wireless throughout the building, some insane antique piece of furniture that serves no purpose except to give a sense of tradition and time to this otherwise postmodern structure, and my favorite, tons of indoor plants, including bromeliads by the hundreds. Really pretty bormeliads.

Now, in this day and age of the “service economy” the “B-school” students are a little closer to customers than students. They pay out of the roof so it is no surprise the roof in thier new building is so high and the accoutrements so lavish.

But there is still something that bothers me about the surplus of elegance, of resources of this building in relation to the rest of the university. Spatially, it inscribes the reality of the assymetries of value in our universities, which also are almost direct mirror reflection of broader social assymetries and social values. That is while U of C has some motto “Let knowledge grow from more to more; and so be human life enriched” some types of knowledge makers clearly are able to command pretty flowers and glass ceilings in a way that others can’t.

Now again the b-students are more like b-customers. They pay and I and many PhD student don’t (though some do as do most of the terminal masters students). At this time, everyone is allowed in so the perks are there to be most shared (though I am not sure if this will last or if the wireless netwokr is open to all).

I also realize the University as a whole is spending a huge amount of money to spruce up the campus and bulk up our resources. Already they have built a new gym, parking lot, hospital wings. But really the GSB buidling takes the cake. They can add the golden touch because they are awash in resources given business school alumni are awash in resources.

What I find so interesting is not really the fact of assymetry but its presentation. There was once a day in which the b-school was smaller, less important. And it also seems there was once a time when the ideology of “valuing all” types of knowledge may have still been ideological but closer to its message. Ideology I think still comes in degrees.

And I know there was never an Eden, a time when the University was impervious to the reality of market forces. After all the University was established by one of the captains of the industry, John Rockefeller and then home to Milton Friedman’s free market fundamentalism. It has in different decades been strangled by the market. All private universities are quite beholden to the broader economy..

But ideology through the ages does not act with the same force. It is now acceptable to accept the assymetries and to even relish in them.. We accept them as fact: some of us get to fly first class, others don’t.

And though in some ways I am clearly bothered by this (I am after all writing about it) I am not entirely sure if this is a bad thing. Sometimes I think like the GSB glass architecture, such clarity is something that can maybe lead to some critical kernel… But necessary and what seems totally absent is more public discussion about the “future” of the University given real market demands and assymetries in funding. How if at all is money redistributed? At what point does the b-school evince such wealth and command of resources that it takes a life of its own, away from the larger “community? But at this time the only think that is speaking is the architecture…

November 20, 2004

A Linux Distro for Barbie?

Category: Wholesome — Biella @ 10:23 pm


A Linux Distro for Barbie?

Making a bid for a piece of the emerging desktop Linux market, Mattel, Inc. announced the immediate availability of downloadable beta ISOs for BarbieOS 0.99, and said it hoped the final 1.0 retail version would be on store shelves in time for Christmas. The new OS was created by Mattel to power the upcoming revision of its popular B-Book line of laptops for girls between the ages of four and eleven. The original B-Book laptop, which ran a modified version of PalmOS, was a huge hit with consumers last holiday season, so much so that many stores had trouble keeping them in stock. This year, Mattel is upping the ante by making the B-Book into a full-fledged desktop replacement targeted specifically at toddler through preteen girls who are currently Windows users but may be seeking alternatives, possibly due to increasing licensing fees or out of a desire to break free of vendor lock-in. Read the Rest..

What a brilliant parody that so misues and abuses the cherised Name and Object of Barbie and all her glittering associations. According to Bill Brown, the “misuse of objects” is wherein lies a dual political possiblity. To misuse an object is to change its ontological status from an object (that assumes a sort of uncritical closeness) to a thing, which has its own autonomy, experienced as distant and seperate from us and those ripe for reflection. Misuse dismembers objects from “the systems to which they’ve been beholden” (1998:953). A dismemberment that actualizes a freedom that breaks open, for all that are privileged to witness and herald creative abuse, the conventionality of meanings that we place on objects, whether the spoon that feeds us or the Barbie doll of our past. Yet as much as misuse is essential and essentially pleasurable, we can never obliterate all meaning for that is the nature of human sociality: to extend ourselves and connect to objects and others through the medium of meaning. Our intersubjective meanings are the glue that binds, for better or worse, in good and bad, us and objects together in an awfully dense matrix of meaning and power.

Yet when we can no longer see the medium of connection as something alterable, as something that is in our partial control, then it is time for playful and vulgar misuse. For if we are subject in blind and capricous ways to our systems of meanings, then there is no way to critically appreciate what it is that binds me to you, you to me, and all of us to each other through the objects of our daily use.

Bill Brown. 1998 “How to do with Things (A Toy Story). Critical Inquiry 24: 935-964.

November 17, 2004

Aesthetic Violence

Category: Not Wholesome!!! — Biella @ 10:33 pm

Well well well. If it was not enough that Walmart has ruined the lives of countless women all over the country, now the are going to go South, and along with all their usual shady labor practices, they are going to conduct serious aesthetic violence by opening a big fatty outfit in the city of Teotihuacan otherwise known for its stunning ruins. Teotihuacan, also known as -The Place Where Men Become Gods- should be renamed to something like Walmart: Where QUETZACOTL *– shops.

Worse is that “the national anthropology institute that oversees the ruins says the building poses no threat.” Blargh

But really, as my friend dmh sardonically reminded me on irc today there is a sliver lining to this dark cloud. “On the plus side,” he said “you will be able to conveniently develop your photos of the sacred ruins.”

The God of Convenience has indeed become one of the scariest, ghoulish gods of our times…

* Aztec God of Sun and the Air

ps– Thanks to Anne for bringing this to our attention.

November 14, 2004

The holidays are coming

Category: Humor — Biella @ 8:55 pm


And it is not even Thanksgiving yet… Clearly people have too much time on their hands but I have a feeling that a lot of this work gets done at “work…” The few times I had a job inside the fortress of florescent light (office-landia), it amazed me how much down time there was. In fact, Friday was useless, a near zero day of productivity. Anyway I am glad something may be coming out of it.

November 13, 2004

the phenomenology of blogging

Category: Uncategorized — Biella @ 11:47 pm

I am knee-high immersed in the waters of phenomenology, the study of being-in-the world. I have reached that point in the dissertation when I finally get to the nitty gritty details of a hackers life, looking at the ways in which the practical action of hacking (social and technical) comes to bear in their ethical conceptions of freedom. I am well beyond the half-way mark which is exciting but still feels fakely odd to me as if everything I have written needs to be entirely revamped, ground up.

I have always had a soft spot for phenomenology, perhaps because it questions abstractions and because it implicitly affirms the anthropological method which is learning through experience of the world. It is a philosophy that has always struck me as more graspable than most, a comforting affirmation that what we experience and how we act upon the world, structures our perceptions and modalities of being yet it is still precisely action by which new layers of perceptive sediments are built:

“To be born is both to be born of the world and to be born in the world. The world is already constituted, but also never completely constituted; in the first place we are acted upon, in the second we are open to an infinite number of possibilities. But this analysis is still abstract, for we exist in both ways at once. There is, therefore, never determinism and never absolute choixe, I am never a thing and never bare consciousness…” (Merleau-Ponty 1962:453)

Lately I have been thinking of blogging as an peculiar set of experiences, wondering why I like writing blogs and reading them. The reasons are many but I like having a glimpse into the experiences of others in a way that would perhaps not emerge through other media or means. For me, I use my blog a little like an annotated photo album, well except minus most of the pictures :-) It is somewhat of an abbreviated tracking of my life but I write on about a peculiar set of things and reasons: that which impusively catch my fancy, things I can’t shut my mouth about (though no one else is probably interested), a place of ironic and at times cynical escape from the rationality of our lives and my work, and the desire to give a little more form to what is otherwise floating to the far corners of mybrain…

If nothing else, by reading blogs we get a glimpse of the ways in which people move through the web, which is a mutliplex of chaos with streams, reams, and beams of content. It historically tracks our movements and moreover, how we think of them which is what I usually find most interesting.

For those who are far away from me, I like to drop in to witness thier thoughts. I know it is no replacement for the ‘real thing’ or whatever, but given the extreme distances friends and families find themselves in, a blog can be a nice technology to attenuate the distance. I love reading comments from friends though I am terrible at responding for reasons that are not clear to me. It amazes me how much easier it is to reconnect with those far from me if I read their blog or if they hang out on irc. In fact even though my bloglines is filling up, I wish more of my friends of mine would blog but I find this technology still circumscribed among a certain group of technology minded folks.

And for those who have recently emerged out of the obscure fog of my past, finding me through my blog (ie ted), and said you would write me an email –> if you are still reading this –> please do!

November 9, 2004

A baby seat and beer cooler in ONE!

Category: Other — Biella @ 9:49 pm

Today, at the doctors office, I was sitting in an uncomfortable chair, engrossed in some two year old issue of Family Circle, when a man walks into the waiting room, holding what looked to me like nothing short of a portable plastic beer cooler. Though Family Circle was truly fascinating, I put it down immediately as I was simply struck by this man with the heavy coat and beer cooler. Being it was a doctors office after all, I was excited by the potential disruption he might bring to the otherwise dire predictability of a suburban doctor’s office. But within moments, I was greatly dissapointed to find out there was not such prospect of disruption as I soon discovered he was only carrying his newbord kid in a plastic car seat. But within mere seconds again, I was struck again, thinking “how strange than an middle aged American man was taking his kid by himself to the doctors office.” I mean I know it is the 21st century and all, but it is rare to be in a doctors office and have the male side of the couple be with the kids, especially alone. But his other female half finally walked in, and the momentary lapse out of normality vanished… Not only no drunk man, but it was typical hetreonormativity in La Grange, as usual.

But I did not take this event in stride, for I thought to myself: given the endless market for consumer goods in our great society, why not make a baby seat a two-in-one gizmo –> a baby car seat and beer cooler in one? I mean the plastic is insulating and there is aready a good sizeable dip to stash the beer. All you would need is a nice fitting, snug top and vualla –> a good to go beer storage unit that moreover keeps your beer *as safe as your baby* while you are driving the precious goods to your family outing or fishing trip with the guys.

Given the article I was reading in Family Circle (on husbands playing second fiddle to the newborn and thus feeling loathsome and jealous), it seemd to me that this fine invention of mine was not only nifty, but could perhaps make a worthwhile, positive psychological contribution to the treacherous state that becomes marriage when a newborn kid hits the scene? Thus this is a tool that is pragmatic in more ways than one…

November 6, 2004

Freed from ones self

Category: Personal — Biella @ 12:03 am

This was the first day in a long time I have felt like myself in part because I was finally freed from an heightened focus on myself. As I already mentioned, I spent most of last week sick and a better part of this week off-center especially after I found out that I was much sicker than I first thought. Now that I feel better, last night and today were the first days in a long time when I was able to fully enjoy the presence, company, conversation and laughter of others because I was no longer entrapped by a gnawing pain and discomfort that turned too much of my attention away from others and onto myself.

One of the peculiar things about illness and pain is that it induces an accentuated focus on ones self, creating a very peculiar, specific experience of autonomy that in no way frees you but momentarily disables you. No matter as much as I would like to transfer my pain outside of my self, I cannot (and would never want to) transfer my pain to another person. It is me and I and me and I alone that suffers the full bloodedness of pain; I feel stuck in me, which is the last place I want to be. At times like those pain seems as one of the least fungible of experiences.

But even while pain makes me feel trapped in my own self, I also know and experiene otherwise. I am always amazed during those times, if I let my pain and vulnerability known to others, at the kindness I receive, a thoughtfulness that warmly pierces through the isolation of illness that results from this strange accentuated focus on self. Without the kind response of others, the pain of suffering would switch from being awful (but bearable) to intolerable. For to be denied the love, warmth, and response of others during times of pain is to be treated as an isolated self, which, is the last way one (or at least I) ever want to be treated. While kidness and warmth may not cure the sting of pain, in so far as it denies the sense of automous isolation that comes with suffering, it always heals.

November 4, 2004

James Boyle Response to Richard Epstein

Category: Politics — Biella @ 1:09 pm

Here isJames Boyle Response to Richard Espteins highly ideological and ill informed assesment of open source and here is some additional commentary from Grok Law