Monday, December 10, 2007

A Tribute

This kinda happened by accident, but I noticed that that in two out of three papers for my 19th C. European Intellectual History class I have managed to incorporate some variation of the locution which doubles as the title of the greatest television program this side of 1998 : Arrested Development.

(Those crazy German Romantics really like writing about the development of man and also things which arrest that development. See, it's easy!)

Here are the two examples:

  • Each believes that a deeper societal concern at once dehumanizes man and arrests his development.
  • Novalis may concede that the reliance on clergymen arrests the mental development of the ordinary man, but that seems to be a concession readily granted...
I think this is a fitting tribute to a fantastic TV show. If we all work together--all three people who have read this blog more than once--and make sure that we utilize some variation of the phrase "Arrested Development" in every paper, blog post, email, google-chat, etc. we can simultaneously confuse our professors/email recipients but also, and more importantly, memorialize a show which deserves our respect.

You Can't Always Get What You Want

Background: The holy sabbath begins at 4:15 PM, which means that even after the large three-course meal (the Jew's weekly Thanksgiving), dinner is over by 6:30 PM. After a long week, there is only one recourse: lying down on the couch--under a blanket--with a book (this particular week's choice: William Gibson's Pattern Recognition). Which means that I am fast asleep by 7:00 PM. On the couch. Most weeks I manage to wake up after half of an hour, maybe forty minutes. Last week, I slept--on the couch--until 10:00 PM.

Now, I'm faced with the Crux: I want desperately to sleep normal human hours at night. A three-hour nap starting at 7:00 PM does not bode well for sleeping normal human hours at night. I figure if I can get myself into bed within three minutes (never has a number been more arbitrarily decided) I should be able to prepare myself for night-sleep without fully awakening. To accomplish this task--suit pants to keep unwrinkled, bathroom to use, teeth to brush--within the self-allotted 180 seconds, I need to summon an intense level of concentration.

Play-by-Play: Concentrating intently, I manage to do all those things within three minutes, and climb into bed at 10:03 PM. Where I proceed to lie sleepless for the next 35 minutes.

Conclusion: Giving up hope for normal human hours of sleep tonight, I go downstairs, back on the same couch, under the same blanket, reading the same book. I continue doing this for more than four hours, until almost 3:00 AM. Good times.

Moral: The intense concentration needed to get ready for bed before your body/mind can fully awake seems to, unfortunately, constitute the very awakeness which I so hoped to avoid.

Another Moral: Don't fall asleep on the couch Friday nights if you hope to enjoy sleeping normal human hours that night.

Last Moral: Sigh.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Procession of Simulacra

I've been thinking a bit about how the line dividing the real and the unreal is eroding. I guess reading Baudrillard's "Simulacra and Simulation" will do that to a guy.

An important excerpt:
Such would be the successive phases of the image:
  • it is the reflection of a profound reality;
  • it masks and denatures a profound reality;
  • it masks the absence of a profound reality;
  • it has not relation to any reality whatsoever: it is its own pure simulacrum

Baudrillard believes that we're in that fourth stage, where things are meant to evoke a past or a present that never, in fact, existed.

The point, in my mind, is that it's not so clear that there is such a thing as fiction/fantasy anymore, because it's all, in a sense, real.

I really like Don DeLillo's White Noise, especially the part about the SIMUVAC (short for "simulated evacuation") technicians dealing with a real life evacuation treat the unexpected event as practice for their simulations: "Are you saying you saw a chance to use the real event in order to rehearse the simulation?" (The answer to this question is: Yes. Yes, they did see that chance.)

A few other, non-literary, examples are in order. Here's one. Here's another. Both are posts from, which seems to have developed an interest in the last coupla days in products that started out as fictional but soon became "real." Adam Lisagor, guest editor of for the week, calls this phenomenon defictionalization, which has a nice ring to it.

Here's another one, about the dilemma facing fantasy sports owners who are torn between rooting for their fake team or their real team.

The desert of the real itself.