A year, after all, is not an arbitrary thing. Once more around the sun we have gone and another unit of our brief time on this blue-green sphere has flown by.
It's a good time to look back at things accomplished (and not) or to consider what is to come, with, we might say, the standard mixture of hope and dread which we try to cultivate here at Obscene Desserts.
So, to you all (at least those people we don't actively dislike): best wishes for a happy and healthy 2007!
There are far, far more important things going on in the world (which you all know about) and in our lives (which, really, are none of your business), but since this blog got going around a half year ago, I thought it might be worth taking a brief look back at some of the highlights of its brief existence.
So, without further ado (and in no particular order), the top Obscene Desserts posts of 2006. (If you have your own favourites which are not included here, please do let me know.)
On conservative calls for a return of the traditional, 'real' man:
It seems to me, then, that Mansfield and the other people mentioned by Young as longing for some kind of return of manliness (and is it just me or is there something creepy about conservative women getting together at supposedly intellectual roundtables and celebrating the return of the stud?) really don't know what it is they're talking about. They can't really want 'manliness' in its traditional form - since the hard-drinking, hard-fighting and womanising behaviour it entails would seem to contradict their other core values.
2. Craziness, good and bad: Hunter S. Thompson:
The most important thing I’ve recognised, though, which I missed on all my other readings, was something that might sound surprising. If you read carefully and look past the bile and rage, there is a tremendously sensitive core to this writing. That, I think, was the most unexpected thing I could hear emerging from the crazy vortex of Thompson’s writing: an extremely humane voice in deeply dangerous times. (William F. Buckley Jr.'s dismissive claim that Thompson subsumed everything to mere 'vitriol' says a great deal about Buckley's ability to read and nothing about Thompson's to write.)
3. Poseurs of the World Unite
Evidence-based medicine is fascism. Yep, sounded stupid to me too. And to make this post all the more special, it was reprinted as an article at Butterflies and Wheels.
What is 'strange', if anything, is not EBHS's process of eliminating demonstrably ineffective medicine (or, at least not demonstrably effective medicine), but rather the authors' attempt to attack EBHS without ever presenting a single specific instance of how this allegedly sinister, hegemonic means of knowledge production actually comes up short. If it is so all-pervasive and malevolent, then one would think that there's got to be gobs of evidence for this lying about. Nonetheless, in this article, the procedures of EBHS are never critiqued in terms of any clear criteria which could replace it. The only 'evidence' presented that there might be something wrong with EBHS consists of a lot of quotes from a handfull of writers and theorists - none of whom were medical scientists - and a discussion of a well-known novel. (This arduous 'research' was funded by the Research Council of Canada: life is hard under fascism, isn't it?)
4. A design for living
A trip to IKEA can be...thought provoking.
5. Invasion of the academic faith healers
The world outside might be in a state of violent, terminal decline, but here, there is no sign of distress. Nothing out of place. All the bookshelves have, at most, about five books on them. And they’re in Swedish.
There is a lot of choice. There are, in fact, far too many choices.
But, in a seeming contradiction, all these choices begin to blend into one: all these things are so different, but simultaneously all the same. The collision of unity and diversity begins to eat away at my sense of well-being. I reach out for what comfort I can, but I find myself referring to furniture not by its description but rather by a proper name. A name, like a person: usually something which is cute and functional and alien, a combination which I find vaguely threatening.It’s not a chair, it’s Ingolf, Harola or, what seems most strange for some reason, Roger.
A contribution from The Wife on life in the world of people who think for a living (or who don't, as the case may be.
Quite obviously, the critics of Western rationality will not be satisfied with the cushy kind of “light-a-scented-candle-and-meditate-on-the-awesome- reflections-of-the-flame-in-my-magic-crystal” spiritualism its newly appointed defenders might be thinking of when they use the term. They don’t mean the mellow Buddhist capitalism still popular in Hollywood, folks!
No, theirs is a hardcore spiritualism based on total abandonment and an absolute willingness to face and perpetuate destruction as a means to purge the planet of the godless. That violent spirituality of course is the basis of Christianity, although its secularised, mainstream (and 'Enlightened') forms have fortunately transcended it. Present and powerful during the Reformation in continental Europe, it also characterises radical Evangelical sects in the twentieth century dreaming of the apocalypse as their ticket to eternity. Again, this is not something I think should be revived, especially by Western academics who should know better.
6. Novel Campus
The university: a refuge of reason, right?
The (comparatively simple) idea that universities themselves should be given more freedom in designing their programs, organising their funding, rewarding their high-performance staff and selecting their students does not seem to have occurred to anyone at the ministry.
This may be in part because there's a widespread opinion that reforming the universities along more competitive lines is some kind of scary, neo-liberal import from the brutal capitalists and cultural philistines on the other side of the Atlantic. This is profoundly mistaken. As Clark's book points out, in a curious way, a reforming spirit was already present at the birth of the modern university, implicated as it was in the intricacies of the Holy Roman Empire's political map.
7. Random thinking
Breadcrumbs left in an intellectual maze.
I was long plagued by the feeling that 'real' historians developed their conceptual and methodological approach to the world and its mysteries in a coherent, organised way. So, that they systematically and cumulatively increased their understanding of the world starting, let's say, from about secondary school. I have always envied those people, if, in fact, they truly exist. However, I don't think I'll ever be one, as my intellectual development, such as it is, has in retrospect been a rather haphazard undertaking.8. The theory and practice of literary misreading and The (Blit)con-game: or, exercises in deliberate misreading, part II
My (apparently fruitless) efforts to strangle a sinister, mutant meme in its cradle.
Initially, I must admit to the sense while reading this piece that it was written simply to allow Mr. Sardar to deploy what he must think is this very clever neologism in the hopes that it will sprout vigorous little meme-like wings and make a name for himself in the hothouse world of the chattering classes. And that’s fair enough, I suppose. I mean, real flashes of innovative thinking are rare enough things (including for yours truly), so when what feels like a genuine brainwave comes along, it’s perfectly understandable that you just want to shout it out joyfully to the world.