Monthly Archives: December 2013

Same old neos

From an article by Rodolfo Acuna at

The neo-Robber Barons resent paying for higher education. So they have already privatized public higher ed. At California State University Northridge, students forty years ago paid $50 a semester; today they pay $3200 a semester. CSUN’s blue collar jobs are contracted out; food services are franchised; and the Tseng College, a private college, uses state facilities and state technology. Its president and vice-presidents are paid executive salaries; middle management earns the equivalent of private corporations.

Lagging the Popgeist: Pacific Rim (2013)

As a general but far from inviolate rule PG-13 films, often action genre blockbusters, are written with 12 year boys in mind. Pacific Rim tends to follow this convention, featuring stock characters, awesome visuals, and a formulaic plot that predictably offers the barest gesture at psychological interiority in its undeveloped themes of intimacy and loss. Rather than recapitulate that narrative structure, it might be more interesting to focus on a handful of related signs that should be interpreted as speaking to the desires and anxieties of Pacific Rim‘s intended audience. For example, the character of Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), an attractive and damaged orphan raised by the film’s dominant (though not sole) father figure, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba). In semiotic terms, Mori’s hair style speaks volumes about the nature of early adolescent male heterosexuality– a fraught topic to be sure, but one mobilized in the most innocent, perhaps even prudish, fashion. The touch of blue coloring Mori sports indicates a personality that is not entirely bound by the traditional sense of modesty western audiences have been led to believe via a charged orientalist discourse that women of Asian descent share.

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The Face of Another

Here’s an outstanding example of Japanese New Wave cinema from the 60s, directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara and based on a novel by Nobel prize winner Kobo Abe. Criterion calls it an “existential science fiction” film. Beyond the themes of identity and subjectivity, this is a great looking cinematic work that benefits from intelligent and original art direction and camera work.

Mandela Uncut

I know you’re busy, but you might make the time to read this comment piece by Seamus Milne on the self-serving revisionist adoration of Mandela. Those who’ve read Ferey’s Zulu might be particularly interested:

Airbrushed out of the Mandela media story has been the man who launched a three-decade-long armed struggle after non-violent avenues had been closed; who declared in his 1964 speech from the dock that the only social system he was tied to was socialism; who was reported by the ANC-allied South African Communist party this week to have been a member of its central committee at the time of his arrest; and whose main international supporters for 30 years were the Soviet Union and Cuba.

It has barely been mentioned in the past few days, but Mandela supported the ANC’s armed campaign of sabotage, bombings and attacks on police and military targets throughout his time in prison. Veterans of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the ANC’s armed wing, emphasise that the military campaign was always subordinate to the political struggle and that civilians were never targeted (though there were civilian casualties).

“Mandela has been sanitised by hypocrites and apologists”

Student Evaluations of Teaching (HUM303/415/510)

Student evaluations are open until the last day of classes, Dec. 16. This kind of feedback is very useful for me because it helps me to think about what works and what doesn’t in pedagogical terms. You can access SETE via ilearn. SFSU is so interested in having you evaluate your courses that they are willing to “reward” you with early access to your grades.

Stir it up

Three articles, the first two about SFSU and the last about Mandela, the ANC, and the unfinished work of emancipatory politics in South Africa.

Item One:

Item Two:

Item Three:

Final Exam Prep (HUM303/415/510)

We’re going to prepare for the final a bit differently than we did for the midterm. Rather than grind out a study guide I am asking that you come to class on Tuesday fully prepared to design the final exam. That means everyone will need to complete any unfinished readings and peruse their class notes. We will spend the time we have creating a final exam. You can expect to do some written work. Bring all of the texts we’ve read since the midterm, including MacKay/ Abbott.