Monthly Archives: February 2013

Literaturlenz at the Goethe Institut

I went to a nice reading tonight featuring some contemporary German-speaking authors at the Goethe Institut, entitled, “Literaturlenz: Reading with Authors from Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.” Silke Scheuermann, Ulrike Ulrich, and Cornelia Travnicek each read aloud excerpts of their recent work in German, while an English translation of the text was projected onto a screen behind the authors.

After the readings, I spoke briefly with Ulrike Ulrich about computer technology’s role in human communication in her latest novel fern bleiben, and Franco Moretti’s quantitative methods in the field of literary theory.

I wish I knew German better so that I could have understood their readings, but regardless it was still a great event, even for non-German speakers.

Conference on Hegel at Birkbeck, University of London

There’s going to be a big conference on Hegel at Birkbeck in May, entitled “The Actuality of the Absolute: Hegel, Our Untimely Contemporary”. The event’s description asks an interesting question:

What if the ridiculous image of Hegel as the absurd “absolute idealist” who “pretended to know everything” is an exemplary case of what Freud called Deck-Erinnerung (screen-memory), a fantasy-formation destined to cover up a traumatic truth? The task of the symposium will be to unearth aspects of this traumatic truth.

It’d be interesting to attend this one. I’m sure Slavoj Žižek’s presentation will be fantastic. His tome Less than Nothing is still sitting on my bookshelf, but I’m working towards it.

A Trip to MCA Chicago


I went out to the MCA today to see the new exhibition, “Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962.” I found out about the show when MCA’s Twitter account posted a video of Saburo Murakami’s son breaking through paper at the exhibition. Below are two pictures I took of the aftermath later on in the day.



Looking through the paper at Shozo Shimamoto’s “Sakuhin (Ana)”

I had known of Saburo Murakami from learning about the Gutai group, and especially its emphasis on bodily movement. Although it wasn’t mentioned on any displays at the MCA (perhaps I missed it), the Gutai group was influenced by Jackson Pollock’s paintings. They were specifically influenced by the way in which Pollock himself moved to create his work. Photographer Hans Namuth provided some documentation of Pollock’s process in 1950:


Another famous example of the Gutai group’s focus on movement is Kazuo Shiraga’s “Challenging Mud”:

Kazuo Shiraga, "Challenging Mud," 1955

Kazuo Shiraga, “Challenging Mud,” 1955

I’ll have to return to the MCA again to see more of the exhibition, since I was only able to see it for about 30 minutes before the museum closed. I was happy to see that they featured Antoni Tàpies. I had originally been drawn to his work simply for my attraction to abstract Rothko-esque color-fields, but, of course, there’s more to his work than that. I’ve never before seen his stuff in person, so I’ll be happy to visit again soon.

Another Small Step with Python

As I blogged a while ago, I was planning on better learning Python and programming in general. Every once and a while I’ve been doing a tutorial, but there’s been no significant progress really. The last few days, I’ve been working on understanding the manipulation of lists and dictionaries in Python. These two aspects are essential for my little project of practicing vocabulary words for German.


I had been trying to find a way to iterate through a list of items, each of which contained both a german word and its english translation. I kept getting errors, and I finally figured out that these items are called “tuples”, and thus, have to be manipulated in a slightly different way.

One problem I was having had to do with how to go about looping through a list of tuples that included both parts of each tuple. I had to use a for-loop with two items (such as v and k in line 4):


Now that I had figured out this small problem in creating the for-loop, I was able to allow the user to delete each item (vocab-card) in order to take it out of the “pile”:


In this way, the user is able to work on the list until all tuples have been deleted. This isn’t an accomplishment to advanced programmers, but it’s cool to figure out these things.

The Death of Doc Knittel

Gregory “Doc” Knittel, my Greek teacher in high school, sadly died last week on February 5th. In those years, Doc was one of the most inspirational figures for me. I’m sure he cultivated a love of learning in many of his students through the years. His obituary can be found here.

Ittai Weinryb and Bronze

Earlier today (yesterday now) I happened to be told about a guest lecture presented by the Smart Museum, in which Ittai Weinryb would be giving a lecture on Medieval Art. I know little about the field so decided to sit in on it.

Focusing primarily on the bronze doors of the Mausoleum of Bohemund I at Canosa di Puglia, Weinryb explored the interesting properties of bronze. The bronze used for such doors is an alloy, and it is in this mixing cultural ideas are revealed. The Christian mystery of the trinity is one such cultural idea connected to the process. The lost wax technique of casting bronze is connected to the Christian symbolism of the Holy Spirit breathing into Christ’s nose, thereby animating him.

Dr. Bloodmoney

I just finished Philip K. Dick’s novel Dr. Bloodmoney. Before this, the only other book I had ready by him was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. With both stories there is a weird sense of the narrative pushing along with an undertone of dread—the kafkaesque twists of Androids, the characters’ surreal perception of their crumbling worlds, and solipsistic insanity crawling into their minds.

The character Hoppy in Dr. Bloodmoney has to have been an inspiration for some of the characters in Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love: there’s telekenesis, his body’s limitations, his cult-like leadership of a community, and his creepy sense of control.