More Election, More Canadiana

I honestly don’t know if I have anything else worth saying about the election. Maybe it’s because I read my friends’ blogs before I write my own, so a lot has already been said. I think it’s quite difficult for commentators on the left to get a grip or even a reasonable perspective. There are now lots of murmurs about how Kerry really won and it was some underhanded trick or failure of poll technology. I have no idea if those stories are true, and even if they are, they still don’t get to the crux of the matter: millions of people voted for Bush. Period. It is true, as always, that he was elected by a minority of Americans (because of the nation’s poor voter turnout in comparison to other democracies, even in this election which is being touted as a success). Politically speaking, the only option for the left is to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get back to work.


Following a talk by Ian Hacking about the resurgence of Cartesianism in new technologies(1), I found myself at Thompson House having drinks with my grad students (and others) Wednesday evening. That morning, the Sound Studies class had suspended normal operations in order to discuss the election betweel 10 and 11:30AM. So in other words, we were talking about it like it was going on even though Kerry was conceding during our conversation. How very Walter-Lippmann-Intro-to-Public-Opinion of us. Still, it was the right thing to do, because there was a sense of urgency at the time, or at least a need to “process” (as they used to say in my Women’s Studies classes) and the sonic relations of buildings and instruments could wait. That evening, over drinks, much of the talk was of the election(2), and it was definitely one of those weird “American in Canada” moments. I would get asked whether I was happy to be here given the election results (note: I would be happy to be here if Kerry won, too). I would get all Michael Moore on them and say things like “your conservative party is kind of like the democrats” “you have universal healthcare” “The Globe and Mail is far to the left of any mainstream US newspaper” and they would laugh at me as an American who idealizes Canada (I don’t. All of my statements in this sentence are true, but I know the place has its own problems, which are discussed in other entries). They they’d prove me right by saying “I can’t believe people are opposed to abortion in the U.S.” “I can’t get my head around that healthcare system”; they would deride the education level of Canadians, but I would point out that on average it’s higher than Americans. The burden of Canadian identity is its often negative relation to the US (ie “we’re not America!” — though it is also sometimes erased, as in those moments when Europeans don’t distinguish among North Americans), but this was one night that seemed perfectly reasonable. Carrie and I went out for dinner afterward — we were hungry and wanted something fast. It was a perfect night for poutine.

(1) Hacking is an excellent academic perfomer and pleasingly contrarian. While I was already convinced of the thesis that people (industry, press, inventors, some scholars etc.) who talk about new technologies tend to bring back Descartes mind-body split (which was one of his main points), he never got around to telling us why we should talk about new technologies in that way.

(2) In the banal good news column, I have become aware of more Canadians interested in American Football. We will have a quorum for a group viewing of the NFL Sunday ticket and the Super Bowl. I have also learned of more interesting music stuff happening locally. Word is that there is a real, operational local indierock scene. I am intrigued.

Lessons Learned

So Karl Rove was apparently strutting around because the Republicans went out and recruited their fundamentalist right wing bretheren who didn’t vote in the last election. They estimated 3-4 million people. Which was Bush’s margin.

Meanwhile, the democrats spent the last four years insulting Nader voters and threatening everyone to their left. They worried about their “base” for the election — with a brief stop for the people so stupid or apolitical that they could actually be “underdecided” — instead of seeking to bring additional voters into the fold. It’s time for the dems to move left and field a real, strong alternative to the republicans. Otherwise, we’re going to be dealing with more DLC mediocrity.

Lots of people I’ve talked to were really emotionally affected by the outcome of the election. I’m angry, disappointed and embarassed (by the U.S., not my views, in case there was any doubt), but I sort of took it in stride. Either the next four years of government will suck in the way the past four have, or the Bush administration will find entirely new and even more spectacular ways to suck.

Bush Administration Comes Out Against Delayed Gratification

After years of sanctimonious crap, the Bush administration has reversed its otherwise Protestant moralistic position to come out against delayed gratification. For the better part of US history, it was not apparent who won the very night of the election. But now, if you don’t know right away, it’s some kind of crisis (for more information, see Gore 2000 concession speech). Now we’ve got the Chief of Staff Andy Card saying he’s sure. Well, that’s nice, but apparently nobody who counts votes is sure and neither are the major networks. I guess it’s different when you’ve got a hotline to god.

That said, it doesn’t look good by any measure. The legislature is looking especially not good, and Kerry must win Ohio.

In other news, I am extremely pissed off at my home state of Minnesota. In my lifetime, Minnesota has gone from a liberal state to a crazy state. I was educated in one of the best public school systems in the country (okay, that’s what they TOLD me; it was at least pretty good). We had high taxes, good social services, good roads, a strong university and public school system, a high relatively standard of living (though that was already in decline on the iron range when I was a kid). The state routinely went democratic and even voted for Mondale in 1984, which was such a blowout that CNN reporters last night were referring to the 1988 Dukakis election as the biggest blowout in recent history because they apparently no longer consider 1984 a legitimate contest for president. Anyway, I used to joke that Minnesotans were wannabe Canadians (except, I have now learned, for one crucial difference: Minnesota had good roads). No more. Now Minnesotans want to be California or rural Pennsylvania or something. A string of republican governors (punctuated by Governor Meathead), consistent cuts to taxes, education, the arts, a stratospheric rise in property value in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and a very organized Christian lobby have effectively changed the state’s political landscape.

I intend to conduct further research (i.e. call my mom) to bring you more information about how my beloved home state has gone to hell.

Now, I must go clean myself, eat breakfast and teach Sound Studies. In that order.

PS – To my knowledge, our department is not hiring this year, though if you are employable in a liberal arts discipline, I’m told there are lots of open positions across the Faculty of Arts. And thanks in part to the Canada Research Chairs program, Canadian institutions across the country are poaching American academics with impunity. Failing that, there are apparently lots of single Canadians.

It’s Election Day and I’m Not Voting

because I already did. If you haven’t and you can, you know what you must do.

This evening, the spectator sports part will set in, and we’ll watch hours of commentary and states lighting up in different colors.

This is the point where progressive Americans make the joke about moving to Canada if Bush wins. Except I’m already in Canada. How cool is that? Someday I’ll write something about American imaginations of Canada. Probably including my own from days passed.

Meanwhile, in my continuing efforts to chronicle escape routes for others, I offer this link. I can vouch for Croatia. It’s really cool and the range of political opinion is all over the map. Extra points: EVERYONE I met there knows their government is corrupt, as opposed to the apparently vast number of Americans who believe theirs is run by men [not sic] of virtue.

While Waiting for the Banana Bread to Come Out of the Oven

The new Autolux CD arrived in Friday’s mail. It rocks. I have read countless articles about how Ken Andrews was the real genius behind the band Failure, and that when they broke up, he took it with him. Well, Andrews has a booming rock voice and knows how to write a rock anthem to be sure, but Greg Edwards’ performance in Autolux suggests that Failure was an ensemble effort, not just Andrews’ vision. Autolux doesn’t sound like Failure, but that’s precisely the point. You can hear Edwards’ creative sensibility mixed together with other members to create something completely different and yet really cool.

The antipiracy warnings on the case and the CD are a little scary looking, though. Once the visual part of this blog is up and running (ie, I get around to buying a scanner and digital camera), I’ll share.

A Blog About Non-Blog Writing

It’s not like I haven’t been writing this semester. On the contrary, I have been writing constantly: grant applications, letters of recommendation, vision statements, lectures for two grad seminars (and more lectures — note to self: don’t ever again assume you can re-use old lectures from graduate seminars), the Derrida obit, endless small items for the tenure file, reviews of journal and book manuscripts, comments on theses finished and in progress (both MA and PhD), this blog, countless emails, an ad for an RA, and countless other tiny bureaucratic documents. Carrie has too. We bought a whole box of printer paper at Bureau en Gros in August, and we’re down to our last ream.

But since the beginning of fall, I haven’t been writing in the academic sense of putting together prose for publication. Well, until the last couple weeks. You’re supposed to get a pass for about a year when you book comes out, which I didn’t take, and you are supposed to get a pass when you move. But I didn’t know I was moving until May, which meant that all sorts of promises were in place for fall under the assumption that i would still be in Pittsburgh. That led to me bailing on two conference commitments (highly unusual for me). And it’s slowed down my writing tremendously. Not realizing how foolish it was, I had promised three people an essay for an edited volume on the voice, to be published in French. They’d been kind enough to invite me to a conference that was otherwise almost all in French last spring, and I am new enough at this business to feel quite honored when someone wants my work to translate it and publish it in another language.

My paper is on recordings of Osama bin Laden’s voice — which, if you read the paper this morning, you know is a current issue. Now that I have a complete draft, I’m pleased to say that it’s decent. I have plans to revise it thoroughly (as usual, I didn’t even get to half the stuff I wanted to cover) and publish it in English as well. As you can see from the blog, I had hoped to finish it off last weekend but couldn’t.

GOOD LORD IT WAS TOUGH TO GET TO THIS POINT. First of all, there are endless distractions and obligationsrelated to being in a new place, being in this place, and not being in the old place, which meant it was hard to get long spans to write. This is not supposed to be a problem as I’ve adoped what I call the “academic Atkins diet”(1), which is a practice of writing where you do an hour or even half an hour a day instead of the binge-purge model of so many academics. One of my teachers once compared academic life (or at least the writing part of it) with peasant life: periods of intense productivity puncturated by long periods of leisure or torpor. Anyway, I have discovered that my plan works best for projects in progress or that have reached a certain critical mass. If I’m under a deadline (or, uncharacteristically for me, way past a deadline in this case), it’s not all that satisfying to see my work inch along. There’s also Endnote, which is wonderful when you cite something the second or third time, but a real pain the first time you cite something. And there were endless newspaper articles, clippings and printouts from websites that needed to be entered into the bibliographic database and then put in my paper. All this is to say that for the last two weeks I have been struggling to get this essay down and to move it forward — partly struggling to find the time to think and write well, and in the absence of that time, struggling to switch gears quickly to get into my writing space while I have the moment. This adds unpleasant pressure to the whole thing, and there were moments when I had serious doubts as to whether I could finish the piece before winter break. It really was a practical problem (I can’t remember the last proper “writer’s block” I had), but it’s hard not to experience it on an emotional roller coaster. Our writing is so tied to our senses of self as academics. Or maybe it’s just me. Like a reverse-metaphysics-of-presence or something. Now that it’s a touch-up away from the button, I of course feel much better. But it’s been stressful, to say the least. I can’t wait for the course release in the winter term so that I can get back to my own work a little bit more (yes, I originally typed “spring” and then fixed it).(2)

And now, looking at the next two weeks, I’ve got two other deadlines approaching. Luckily, it’s for much smaller stuff.

(1) I called it the “academic Atkins diet” because it comes from kind of trendy advice books and has all sorts of names. But the technique is good. I got a ton of writing done last winter doing it for an hour a day. The method probably deserves its own entry but in the meantime, let me say this (which was originally going to be a Bad Subjects essay) about the real Atkins diet. I hate the Atkins diet. I realize that people have lost weight on it. Good for them. But American food culture is so messed up that it has finally found a way to attach a negative moral valence to bread. Bread! Also, there’s the whole anti-vegetarian backlash associated with it, the shameless and deceptive branding by the big food companies, and all that, But that’s for another time. I’m pleased in Montreal to find less Atkins mania.

(2) Carrie took her course release in the fall, and has therefore managed to get more of her own work done. I’m jealous, but after years of me having the lighter teaching load, it’s been a long time coming for her.