Sunday, December 19, 2010

Happy Holidays: PS 22 Chrorus sings "O Holy Night"

I might be an atheist, and I might hate how capitalism turns everything with meaning into a consumer event, but I love Christmas and this reminds me why.

I like that they changed the lyrics to be less alienating. It is a public school choir, after all.
Lots to be thankful for this year, that's for sure.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Symbolism is Not Activism

I'm not the first to say this but I don't think changing your Facebook profile picture to your favorite cartoon character from childhood is going to help prevent child abuse. This kind "symbolism as activism" is making me nuts lately, as there is so much of it, and the fact that we participate in these very easy, very convenient protests makes me think it is not just ineffectual, but possibly harmful to the causes we ostensibly care about.

One of the most powerful things that humans do, indeed, part of what makes us human, is that we name something and it begins to mean something.

The good lady above gets a lot of what she says right, but words are not dead. They are not inert. The fact that we make words mean something, and that the meaning changes, tells us that words are alive; we make them live. Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckman considered the process of language creation and assignation part of the Social Construction of Reality, which basically says that we build our world and we give meaning to it. From Wikipedia:

The central concept of The Social Construction of Reality is that persons and groups interacting together in a social system form, over time, concepts or mental representations of each other's actions, and that these concepts eventually become habituated into reciprocal roles played by the actors in relation to each other. When these roles are made available to other members of society to enter into and play out, the reciprocal interactions are said to be institutionalised. In the process of this institutionalisation, meaning is embedded in society. Knowledge and people's conception (and belief) of what reality is becomes embedded in the institutional fabric of society. Social reality is therefore said to be socially constructed.

One of the major principles of the theory is the idea that language and symbols are powerful because they allow us to communicate shared ideas and meanings. They write in their essential book The Social Construction of Relaity: “A sign [has the] explicit intention to serve as an index of subjective meanings … Language is capable of becoming the objective repository of vast accumulations of meaning and experience, which it can then preserve in time and transmit to following generations… Language also typifies experiences, allowing me to subsume them under broad categories in terms of which they have meaning not only to myself but also to my fellowmen” (p.35-39)" So, like the lady above says, it's important that we can say "saber tooth tiger" to one another, but it is fascinating that we can also say "love" and it have nearly the same effect.
I've written about this idea before, in talking about Herbert Blumer and Symbolic Interactionism but Berger and Luckman are talking on the macro scale, while Blumer and SI are really focusing on micro interaction.

I've been thinking lately about symbolism and activism/protest and I've decided a few things. I think that we engage in symbolic activism because we are aware, on some level, that we are creating symbols and we have the capacity to spread those symbols out in the world, that we can change the social fabric. I am not one to argue with the idea that language matters, and that by changing language we can change the way we talk and think about oppression, but I do argue with the idea that wearing a purple shirt for one day or changing your profile picture to a cartoon character is activism. Now, if people are doing these things and admitting that they are merely symbolic showcases of solidarity and not particularly meaningful or effective then I have less of a problem with it. I mean, I still think these people should really do something, like go to a rally or write a senator or adopt an abused kid or join a group who are actively working for social change. I will also point out that changing the way we talk about things like discrimination based on race and gender and ableism and sexual orientation is more effective than relatively quieter symbolic acts because when we change the way we talk we expose the paths of least resistance that others traverse, and we can make people aware of how privilege and oppression are inherently part of the way we talk and think. The difference, however, is that while crucial, this is not protest. Oh, against child abuse? Good, but we shouldn't get rewarded or feel particularly good about ourselves for expressing a sentiment which is clearly the dominant narrative anyway. The next thing you know, we are gonna have cookies for people who don't kick puppies.

I am a long-time reader and lover of Tom and Lorenzo, who do a lot of writing about fashion and TV and who have insights that make watching certain shows way more interesting to me (Mad Men in particular). But they also harbor deep and moving insights about social change. One of the shows they write up is Glee, a show that I have an increasingly tortured relationship with but has remained on my radar because of it's treatment of issues connected with LGBT youth. A recent post beautifully summarizes what i have been blathering on about for too long already:
In recent weeks, there has been a rhetorical explosion around the concept of bullying, especially gay bullying. That's a good thing, of course; a very good thing. Tragic that it took a flurry of young men taking their own lives in the wake of others' cruelty and prejudice, but it put the topic of gay teenagers on the national agenda in a way we haven't seen for some time, if ever. The problem is, when a topic like this is given a little sunlight, people think they know all they need to know because they read a couple of articles or blog posts about anti-gay bullying and subsequently the public has no real concrete solutions nor does anyone do any real work addressing the issue (Did you wear purple to show your solidarity? Did you shoot your YouTube video?) before interest wanes and the topic gets shunted aside. Do we sound cynical? Then we sound cynical.

Listen, I know that time is limited and it feels good to show solidarity with others who want to fight injustice, but you can't just say (symbolically or literally) that you want to fight injustice, you have to do something about it. And doing something doesn't mean buying/ wearing a T shirt. Take for example the recent TSA debacle and the way some people are "protesting". Wearing an otherwise invisible T-shirt with message that will be read by low-level functionaries does not raise the cost of business as usual. The main thing that will be accomplished is generating profits for the T-shirt makers and retailers. That's part of the beauty of capitalism. It takes our dissident impulse, commercializes them, and sells them back to us for a profit.

Before you engage in protest or activism, always ask "Cui bono?"

UPDATE: found another blogger with similar views, at least on this topic. See here

POST UPDATE: hooray! sarcasm!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Say hello to the Peanut

This was taken at 17.5 weeks so they are a little out of date. My favorite is the second one where his hand is raised by his head, as if waving.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

One wait ends; another wait begins

I promise pics will be up soon, just trying to get the scanner to cooperate.

As many of you know, the Bagel and I struggled to get pregnant for the last few years. Last August (2009) after trying for over a year and a half with no results, I finally switched to a new OBGYN who was not petulant or dismissive and I started taking a hormone to help me ovulate. Except I didn't, not often enough. Six months later we started another medicine, called Clomid in addition to the first hormone. The scary thing for me was that I could only be on Clomid for six months. If something didn't happen it would be time to look more seriously at other fertility options. Expensive ones. Scary ones.
We went through four cycles. I really started to despair. I also felt like I needed to make a decision, as I had been simultaneously pursuing grad school and pregnancy. I decided that June would be the last time I took the Clomid until after I finished my Masters; it was time to commit to one path. Then Bagel and I went to Madison to visit my top choice for grad school. We fell in love with it. We had fun. And consequently, we got pregnant.
When I took the test I did it at home alone. You have to understand, we have taken a lot of pregnancy tests only to be disappointed. I didn't want to put Jeff through it again. Convinced I would see only one line, I took the test and a few minutes later wandered back in to the bathroom to discover a blazing neon double line. For the next three hours I paced the house like a crazy person. I took Bean on a walk and wanted to be like, "Hey! Hey tree I am pregnant!" Finally, Jeff got home. He saw through the curtains that I was pacing the living room. I pounced as soon as he was in the door. It was a great moment.
The last four months have been hard and amazing and weird. At first I was in disbelief. When we went in for our first ultrasound I stared to hemorrhage at the doctors' office. It was so awful. They quickly did the ultrasound and found the baby's heart still beating. We went back the next week. They discovered then that the week before I had miscarried a twin. It was a shock. We went back the next week and they confirmed that I had lost one of the babies. I didn't know how to feel. I still don't. I can't imagine having twins. But who was that baby that I lost? Who was he/she supposed to be? Outside of this incident my first trimester was uneventful. However, it made me fearful of making a public announcement before we got far enough along that we could have some reassurance I would likely not miscarry. Then I wanted to wait for some of the screening tests. I kept putting it off because I was scared that as soon as I told everyone, something terrible would happen. I am still afraid, but it is getting better. Someone very close to me lost her baby at nearly this exact point. I can't imagine what it must be like. For this reason, I decided to hold off on announcing publicly until we had our important 17 week appointment, this is what we had today. Luckily, the baby looks great and everything seems fine so far. In one of the pictures from the ultrasound, the point of view is from the top down; you can see his head and his arm is next to it. It's almost like he's raised his hand as if to say hello, or in the spirit of his mom, "Look, I know the answer."
I had very mild nausea for most of the first trimester. I thought I had escaped unscathed until thirteen weeks when suddenly I was yarking all the time. It looks like I may have it for the rest of my pregnancy. This part is not fun.
Tomorrow I take a test that will likely confirm that I have gestational diabetes. Though my weight issues haven't helped, genetics and family history also play a major part. Stupid pancreas. I have actually lost weight since I got pregnant (all that yoga this summer plus I have a gym class twice a week and walk every day. Plus the incessant yarking.) I don't eat sweets, I don't ingest High Fructose Corn Syrup and I eat crazy amounts of green vegetables. I am doing everything right and this still happens. It is frustrating, but I am determined to have a healthy pregnancy and to do everything I can to have a natural birth.
This wait to get pregnant seemed endless. Now I have to wait five more months (about) to meet my son. One wait ends, another begins. Well worth it, no doubt. I hope you all continue to wait with me.

PS- I promise that I will still be writing about things other than pregnancy, but, as one can understand, this is going to be a major topic of discussion.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Joanna Newsom, "Soft as Chalk"

So, so long ago
And so far away
When time was just a line
That you fed me
When you wanted to stay

We'd talk as soft as chalk
Till morning came, as pale as a pearl
No time, no, no time
Now, I have got all the time in the world

Say, honey, did you belong to me
Tell me, honey, was your heart at rest when, darling
All the mourning doves were howling us
A song of love's oh god-awful lawlessness, lawlessness
Say, honey, did you belong to me
Tell me, honey, did I pass your test
I lay, as still as death, until the dawn
Whereupon I wrested from your god-awful lawlessness, lawlessness

I roam around the tidy grounds
Of my dappled sanatorium
Coatless, I sit amongst the moles, adrift
And I dote upon my pinesap gum
And the light, through the pines in brassy tines
Lays over me, dim as rum
And thick as molasses, and so time passes
And so, my heart, tomorrow comes

I feel you, leaning
Out back with the crickets
Loyal heart marking the soon-ness darkness
Tonight, still the mourning doves
Will summon us their song
Of love's neverdoneing lawlessness, lawlessness

While, over and over
Rear up, stand down, lay round
Trying to sound-out or guess the reasons
To sleep like a soldier, without rest
But there is no treason
Where there is only lawlessness, lawlessness

In the last week
Of the last year I was aware
I took a blind shot, across the creek
At the black bear
When he roused me in the night
And left me cowering with my light
Calling out
Who is there
Who's there
Who is there

I watched you sleep
Repeating my prayer
Give love a little shove
And it becomes terror
And now I am calling
In a sadness beyond anger
And beyond fear
Who is there
Who's there
Who is there

I glare and nod
Like the character, God
Bearing down upon the houses and lawns
I knew a little bit,
But, darling, you were it
And, darling, now it is long gone
Sweetheart, in your clean, bright start
Back there, behind a hill, and a dell
And a state line or two, I'll be thinking of you
Yes, I’ll be thinking and be wishing you well
We land, I stand, but I wait for the sound of the bell
I have to catch a cab and my bags are at the carousel
And then Lord, just then, time alone will only tell
You morning dove

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Andrea Gibson, "Photograph"

I signed up for Andrea Gibson's email newsletter because she is a fucking goddess, and writes sentences that make me want to chop off my hands for ever thinking of trying. I was looking at her website tonight, of course very prettily rendered, hoping to find news that she will be in NC soon and instead found some of her poems written out and accompanied by audio readings and reveled. Here is the first section of a poem called "Photograph" that kind of gut punches you and makes you love sick for someone or maybe a version of yourself you may never have actually been.

"I wish I was a photograph
tucked into the corners of your wallet
I wish I was a photograph
you carried like a future in your back pocket
I wish I was that face you show to strangers
when they ask you where you come from
I wish I was that someone that you come from
every time you get there
and when you get there
I wish I was that someone who got phone calls
and postcards saying
wish you were here
I wish you were here
autumn is the hardest season
the leaves are all falling
and they're falling like they're falling in love with the ground
and the trees are naked and lonely
I keep trying to tell them
new leaves will come around in the spring
but you can't tell trees those things
they're like me they just stand there
and don't listen"

yes, please, more like this.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

"Ir's Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers"

The Bagel and I used to have a neighbor with a bumper sticker on his car that read:
"Ask Me About Gourds".

I so so so so want to go back and find him and make him read this excellent piece in McSweeney's. If you like things that are funny, or gourds, or the lucky convergence of the two then you must read this.

It reminds me of the classic first edition of "Sedaratives" in The Believer in which a reader asked how to cook the perfect egg and Amy Sedaris rightly told hum to "just poach the motherfuckers".

If that doesn't do it for you watch this altered Paula Dean video. All I have to say is "We're ... gonna be ... arrested."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

10 Lesbian and Bisexual poets that you shoud read

Anyone who knows me is aware that I'm an A in the LGBTQIA community and that I dig on some poetry so when I saw this post on Jezebel republished from the awesome Lesbian siteAutostraddle who admonish us to read a fucking book already, they had me at Adrienne Rich.( As a sociologist in queer theory, Rich pioneered the concept of compulsory heterosexuality which makes her a total rock star.)
Some commenters complained on Jezebel that there should be some representation for the gays too. I think it is perfectly appropriate that a lesbian site focused solely on women, and hopefully this way, someone else can publish an article about 10 gay and bisexual poets you should be reading.

Also featured are the redoubtable Eileen Myles, spoken word poets Kirya Traber, Alix Olson and Andrea Gibson. Gibson's poem "Ashes" is one of the most personal and important pieces of poetry I have ever witnessed, so if you do nothing else, watch this video.

They also feature personal favorite Audre Lorde who is a damn fine sociologist. She "pioneered the concept that racism, sexism and homophobia were linked in that they stemmed from people’s inability to recognize or tolerate difference." (from the write up on Autostraddle)

From Lorde's “Who Said It Was Simple”:

But I who am bound by my mirror
as well as my bed
see causes in color
as well as sex

and sit here wondering
which me will survive
all these liberations.

So do yourself a favor and check out the original article on Autostraddle, you just might end up reading a fucking book.

A very nice commenter pointed me to a video of Tristan Silverman, a Chicago poet who makes a nice addition here. Check out her performance of the poem "Because I was Asked"

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Not a Giraffe I like. Also, not a lion

This is a site that you could waste several minutes of your life at. This post in particular got me to laughing.

Monday, June 14, 2010

“You cannot hate people for their own good."

Kate Harding's Shapely Prose drops some science.

In any case, shaming teh fatties for being “unhealthy” doesn’t fucking help. If shame made people thin, there wouldn’t be a fat person in this country, trust me. I wish I could remember who said this, ’cause it’s one of my favorite quotes of all time: “You cannot hate people for their own good."

check out her book, too.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

R. Kelly Sings World Cup Anthem, I Am Pissed Because Now I Have To Consider Not Watching World Cup

This is so fucking annoying. I was really looking forward to the World Cup. I know that R. Kelly was acquitted, but give me break, he's a guilty mother scratcher.

From The Atlanticc:

In all his modesty, R. Kelly expects his anthem "Sign of Victory" to "inspire world peace and shine a light on global warming." Hence these lyrics:

Now I can see the distance of the journey/High and front with all your might/You open your eyes to global warming/Been through it all, you sacrificed your life.

Sounds kinda like an R. Kelly song with the the phrase "global warming" randomly thrown in.

Looks like R Kelly isn't the only reason to boycott: apparently there are some other people who recognize the hypocrisy of hosting an event that the majority of a population is financially excluded from. Some artists and musicians have called for a boycott of Thursday night's World Cup Kick Off concert, "for including few South African acts and charging steep ticket prices that are higher than what many workers here earn in a week."

I have written extensively about not supporting artists that promote rape culture so I won't go into my theories again, but I can tell you that this creates a serious moral dilemma for me. I might have to settle for watching Invictus and Dhani Tackles the Globe to get my "football" fix.

UPDATE: it was only while watching the time waster that was Invictus did I find out that it was about rugby and not soccer. Seriously, this movie blows.

Friday, April 30, 2010

love, and patience and madness

I am drowning under a sea of final papers and self pity but I am ruminating on my next post too.
here is a little taste.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ode to Joy: Frank O' Hara

Frank O' Hara calls to something deeply teenaged and romantic in me that I reserve nearly exclusively for good writing. At the same time he is speaking to many of the disparate thoughts swirling in my noggin these days: the construction of symbols, the meaning of distractions, the strange and bawdy terror of love and death.
His images, meanwhile, resonate and encapsulate beautifully the mundane beauties and uglyness of everyday life, like paper dioramas of Blake-ian die cuts.
If you like music with your poetry and would rather listen, try this and gaze at his handsome mug.
Or simply read below.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mike Tyson, former rapist, now fucks up some pigeons

So, you may remember a post I did not so long ago about Mike Tyson, and Hollywood normalizing rape by embracing him and putting him in movies and award shows?
Well, now he's got his own reality TV show on Animal Planet, where he will race pigeons that are allegedly "cherished and respected by their owners".
PETA has a problem with this, and for good reason, but more importantly, EVERYONE should be concerned that a violent convicted rapist is now starring in a family oriented show.
But most people think it's funny instead of indicative of a larger problem in Hollywood.
What does it mean that we let unapologetic rapists have television shows? What does that tell young boys and girl about the consequences and meanings of this crime? What does it mean that the only outrage I can find on the Internet (a series of tubes, btw) is coming from animal rights groups? With a marginal exception of Amelie Gillette of the AV Club's Hater, I see/ hear no commentary from people with a problem with this from a feminist perspective.
While Amelie comments on the similarity (of phenomena and cultural taste) between Tyson's show and O.J.Simpson's proposed reality show Juiced and concludes that murderers should not get shows, she fails to fully come down on the idea of Tyson's show, and sorts of aquiesces to her guest on the Hate Cast who wonders "What else is [Tyson] going to do?"
Right, because the ONLY thing he can do is hope to get on television.
While other sites are putting up pictures to accompany this story of Tyson nuzzling birds, the only acceptable image for me is this one.

No more Animal Planet for me, that's for fucking sure.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"You are the beautiful half/ Of a golden hurt."- Gwendolyn Brooks, Badass.

If you have never read her, do so, now. Probably most famous for her "We Real Cool" a study in colloquial rhythms and social constraints, replete with bravado and place names like "The Golden Shovel".

She says, beautifully, about the structure:
"The WEs in "We Real Cool" are tiny, wispy, weakly argumentative "Kilroy-is-here" announcements. The boys have no accented sense of themselves, yet they are aware of a semi-defined personal importance. Say the "We" softly."

She is also very well known for the wrenching poem "The Mother" which I will forewarn you is like a kick to the stomach. When I read those last lines, I am seized with terror and sadness, as they hit too close to home, too close to what I am most afraid of. It strokes the heart to fiercely, leaves indentations.

But I love her most for her portraits of urban life, especially that of women. Though some might see her as belonging to the Womanist school, I feel that boils down her complexity and fails to see her interactionist framework.

My Dreams, My Works, Must Wait Till After Hell

I hold my honey and I store my bread
In little jars and cabinets of my will.
I label clearly, and each latch and lid
I bid, Be firm till I return from hell.
I am very hungry. I am incomplete.
And none can give me any word but Wait,
The puny light. I keep my eyes pointed in;
Hoping that, when the devil days of my hurt
Drag out to their last dregs and I resume
On such legs as are left me, in such heart
As I can manage, remember to go home,
My taste will not have turned insensitive
To honey and bread old purity could love

Why I Won't Go See "The Ghostwriter"

"If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences"
W.I. Thomas

Roman Polanski, director of The Ghostwriter

I know many of you assume it's because of my aversion to all things Ewan McGregor
but it's really because I don't want to participate in the normalization of rape by Hollywood.

I think it's pretty well established that Hollywood is adamantly anti-woman, but when people there (and in general of course) qualify what Polanski did as ok because
1) "it was a long time ago" and it was "a little mistake"
2) it "wasn't RAPE rape"

3) Dude, they totes had sex before and it was consensual
4) where the fuck was her mother in all this?
or any other lame-ass excuse it makes me really angry.
These are relativistic arguments that go beyond the atomization of larger socio-structural forces and into the territory where they don't even cite personal responsibility of the person who committed the act. Instead, all personal responsibility is ascribed to the CHILD or the mother as apparently men just can't help themselves from drugging and raping children so let's just alleviate them of the blame.

The fabulous writers over at Sociological Images offer their critique of the above The View clip:
Notice that part of her defense (about about 0:30) is that they’d had sex before, which seems to preclude the possibility that he could have raped her (and assumes that those previous times were consensual and that sex with a 13-year-old is okay as long as it was consensual).
At about 2:05 she appears to make a sort of cultural relativist argument, saying that we’re a “different kind of society,” while in other places, including “the rest of Europe,” 13- and 14-year-olds are sexualized. That is, of course, entirely true (that girls at 13/14 have been treated as marriageable/sexual, not that this is specifically true “in the rest of Europe”), both historically and now (my great-grandma married a 22-year-old man when she’d just barely turned 15). There are a lot of interesting points there, but Goldberg doesn’t seem to be making a complex argument–she seems to be saying “in some places this would be okay, so we shouldn’t punish him.”

At 3:15 they discuss the responsibility of the mother, asking what kind of mom would let a young girl go alone with an older man. It’s a very appropriate question to ask. And my guess is: lots of parents in Hollywood, if the older man was an influential director who said he had set up a photo shoot for a major fashion magazine for your daughter. That, of course, is horrid; at the very least it’s extreme denial (“oh, he’s so nice, he just wants to help her get her big chance because he sees something special in her”), at worst it’s actively offering sexual access to your child for a chance at stardom.

I can’t see, however, that it in any way changes the situation regarding Polanski. And the use of excuses like “they’d had sex before, so it couldn’t be rape” is stunning to me.
When we buy art from people who are known rapists do we contribute to the normalization of rape?

I know this, I don't feel good doing so.
When Mike Tyson was in The Hangover I was really upset because I felt like this was giving him an avenue to wider social acceptance and thereby ignoring or dismissing the fact that he is a straight up unapologetic rapist.

We also have to remember the fact that The Hangover was heavily marketed to adolescent boys (of body and mind) and that this portrayal and subsequent embrace by Hollywood significantly reduces the (deserving and usually effective)stigma that acts as a means of social control, undoubtedly creating paths of rationalization that allow us to first celebrate convicted rapists and possibly dismiss the seriousness and damage of the act itself.
Jane Claire Bradley, writer and editor, articulates it succinctly:
To me, it seems sickeningly inappropriate that a convicted rapist should be glorified to an audience predominantly made up of adolescent boys ... I can only conclude that this casting decision was an intentionally provocative one, and that just makes it all the more offensive.
Just what the fuck is "RAPE rape" anyway?

When we define rape narrowly, what we are really doing is empowering rapists.
When we define rapists as deserving of praise, we essentially negate the act of rape they commit.
So, I guess what I'm saying is that Polanski and Tyson are free to make art, but we are also free to not consume it.
I don't buy from companies I find morally compromised, why should I buy from artists that are?
I'm sure someone will take this argument and point out that it could be expanded to include people who are assholes in general but that loses sight of the fact that there are huge implications and consequences (externalities) when we normalize rape. Not so much when we don't buy art from just your average artist asshole.
What do you think?

6/11/10 update:
Natalia Antonova, occasional guest blogger at Feministe says in her blog post about Russian artist fucking asshole Ilya Trushevsky beautifully what I struggled to say earlier. Apparently Trushevsky who is accused of an attempted rape of a 17-year-old, just got a special "Moral Support Prize" from Winzavod Contemporary Art Center a big-time venue in Moscow. She writes:

The award was presented publicly. By a dude who had previously referred to the 17-year-old girl who was beaten and sexually assaulted as a “drunk cow.” And I’m not going to use the phrase “alleged victim” here, because Trushevsky was pretty open about what happened on his Facebook & LJ. He made fun of her bruises. The media reported that he admitted what happened to the cops.

The stated point of the Moral Support Prize (I feel dumber every time I type it out, truth be told), apparently, is to show solidarity with artists who are in trouble. “REMEMBER, HE’S AN ARTIST! We should still totally hang out with him and do coke, or whatever” – that sort of thing. It always strikes me as really interesting, how someone inevitably thinks that these gestures are very important to make when a Guy Who Glues Rhinestones to Turtles Great Artist is involved. Please won’t somebody think of the Goddamn Rhinestone-Covered Turtles ART?!

What bothers me about that – aside from priorities that are just as messed up as the “but we can’t let the parish know that there’s a predator priest in our midst, it’s bad PR, gaiz” thing – is that a particular artistic community indicts itself when it engages in such apologist hand-wringing. The art should be able to stand on its own. Always. And in many cases, it does. “Rosemary’s Baby” is still a good movie. The fact that I’m somehow “supposed” to defend Polanski because I think it’s a good movie is, on the other hand, idiotic. I’ll defend him to people who think he’s a crappy director – because he’s not. But those pesky laws that dictate that it’s illegal to rape people weren’t created as a springboard for a referendum on some Great Man’s Great Work.

Via Feminste

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My favorite comment about the Oscars

Noel Murray of the AV Club
"I want to tread lightly here, but from the red carpet onward, I grew increasingly irritated by the way people talked to or about Gabourey Sidibe: always pointing out how “beautiful” and “inspiring” she was, and suchlike. Even Sandra Bullock in her otherwise well-calibrated Best Actress acceptance speech lingered on Gabby in her kudos to the losing nominees. Sidibe is a good actress. Her performance in Precious stands alone, and is even more remarkable when contrasted with the bubbly personality she’s shown in interviews over the past year. I don’t know that she’ll ever be an Oscar nominee again, but I’ve no doubt that Sidibe will be able to find steady acting work for the near future, whether or not red-carpet hostesses think she’s “amazing.” In short: she doesn’t need their overcompensation. She’s not mentally handicapped; she’s obese. They can talk to her like an actress, not like the subject of a human-interest story."

full article here

Friday, March 5, 2010

More Crazy from the AV Club comment boards

a few months ago I brought you this which still makes me laugh out loud. I think the dude is back:

To me the greatest appeal of gaining supernatural powers is the endless sexual possibilities that opens up


3 March 2010 | 12:37 AM CST

It would be pretty awesome to have healing powers crossed with the ability to manipualte matter so I could use my powers to safely amputate and cauterize my gf's limbs and have all kinds of crazy amputee sex with her (it's really annoying how "amputee porn" is something of a porn cliche yet it is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to find online and when you do it's either greasy poorly lit 70's porn or on a specialty site that costs 50 bucks a month). Give her some scuba gear and mount her so that it's like I'm a mouse riding a cork on the ocean, grab an oar and wear a captains hat and pretend I am an intrepid explorer.

Of course if the coast guard apprehended me and asked me what the fuck I was doing I could do the whole Jedi mind trick "move along, this is completely normal consensual activity" thing and they'd salute and send me on my merry way.

When we reached shore I could pogo stick home and then I'd reattach her limbs and she'd cuddle up on the sofa with me as we watched the directors cut of Blade Runner.

This, btw, on a post about Richard Kelley's horrible piece of horribleness The Box from Nathan Rabin's brilliant series "My Year of Flops".

Friday, January 29, 2010

what I'm reading and what's next

people have been asking:

P= pleasure, S= school
Native Son Richard Wright (s)
The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life Erving Goffman (p)
The Second Shift- Arlie R. Hochschild (p)
Two Girls, Fat and Thin- Mary Gaitskill (p)
Too Much Happiness- Alice Munro (p)
The Children's Hospital- Chris Adrian (p)
Changing My Mind- Zadie Smith (p)
My Life In France- Julia Child (p)
The past three issues of the Believer (p, duh)
Complications- Atul Gawande (s)
The Managed Heart- Arlie R. Hochschild (s and p)
The Pursuit of Attention- Charles Derber (s)
The ABC's of the Economic Crisis- Fred Magdoff and Michael D. Yates (s)
The New Media Monopoly- Ben Bagdikian (s)
Independent People- Haldor Laxness (p)
Up in The Air- Walter Kirn (p)
Under the Dome- Stepehn King (p)

Please get together and work out my intervention.

Are you Lonesome Tonight? Alienation and collective identity at work

Cue your speakers! This is a musical entry

As I was working this evening I took a little break to nerd out on The AV Club and ran across this interview with Joshua Ferris, author of the tremendous Then We Came to the End, a dark and funny and deeply resonating novel about office politics and the formation of identity around work, especially that of collective selves.

I just finished an amazing book by Peter Callero called The Myth of Individualism. Callero’s definition of individualism illustrates that individualism is a particular ideology with tensions between the personal and the social, the private and the public. It also assumes that values of independence and the like are “natural”; a rational worldview with people as free agents making choices with direct outcomes that impact their lives (17). Callero notes that this definition is not inherently a bad thing on its surface, but rather the unintended consequences and ramifications that create negative outcomes. In short, there are limits to the good that individualism can bring an individual and a society.(This would be a great introduction to some of the basic premises of Symbolic Interactionism, the kind of sociology that I heart if anyone is interested. On the micro-level he cites work by Sheryl Kleinman, Arlie Hochschild and Stephen Lyng to name a few.) Specifically he is talking about how the narrative we tell ourselves about how we become who we are is detrimental to us in the end because we fail to realize the power of the larger social forces that shape us. Callero uses great contemporary examples like the Unabomber (attempting to “make sense” of Ted Kaczynski from a sociological standpoint and ultimately seeing him as a “radical individualist” or an “extreme American” (16- 18)) , the mythology surrounding the supposedly singular accomplishment of some famous Americans, and the participation of disparate lliberal-union groups in so-called "battle in Seattle". In short, the myth of individualism was created, perpetuated and institutionalized by those who achieved success in order to 1) prevent people from understanding their own agency and the power of collective action 2) create a kind of flip logic in addition where failures and constraints are seen through the lens of personal responsibility and failure 3) obscure the collective action that allows elites to remain in power 4) avoid examining larger social issues in such a way that the powerful are not criticized. Mills talked about this in The Power Elite and Marx did to, as well as many conflcit theorists, but Callero pointely looks at the way the narrative of the American Dream is scripted for the continued disenfranchisement of those who will be least likely to achieve it. That is, as fewer and fewer people are able to reach success, the more they believe they could do so with lots of hard work and determination.
Callero is NOT saying that individuals are not ambitious and motivated by singular forces sometimes, but what he is saying is that many Americans buy into a dream they can never achieve and the power of that dream prevents them from seeking alternative routes to agency.

So what does this have to do with Joshua Ferris?

Well, Callero also talks about how work is a particularly strong force in how we define who we are and how we construct identities. This is especially important to understand as right now, a new generation of “downwardly mobile” Americans find themselves wondering where they went wrong, measuring their failures by the brutal yardstick of the American Dream and coming up short. When work becomes difficult to obtain, maintain and make meaningful in these contexts it affects our relationships to others and to ourselves. Our personal narratives no longer make sense as they get interrupted again and again. This is a symptom of new capitalism or neoliberalism Callero draws a map from the new capitalism to larger social currents and problems. Issues like crime, education, poverty, divorce, and social isolation cannot be treated as incidents of individual motivation (or lack thereof) that only quantify “individual limitations or personal weakness” (123).

But another limitation, one that also resonates with themes of alienation is how when we do work power separates us. As Ferris says in his interview:

When you’re a member of management, you’re usually not one of the group. Sometimes you have to make decisions that necessarily exclude the collective. It’s more difficult to be a friend—even though they know each other and they treat each other like friends, it’s more of a challenge for them. It’s just institutional fact; the two characters that are the most aloof are the ones who have the most responsibility. If someone were plucked from the group and given those responsibilities, they might find themselves growing more aloof, just by virtue of that promotion. Suddenly the group culture excludes you. I saw this in my own working life, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence—I sensed a kind of loneliness in middle managers especially. The people at the very top could fall by and grace you with their presence and give you a little largesse, and you’d be “Oh, I’m so beloved.” In a way, it was kind of like flattery. The middle managers didn’t quite have that cachet, but at the same time, they had to seem like they were of that caliber. So there’s a little bit of loneliness at the heart of those with a little bit of power.


This statement is so true that is makes my teeth hurt, and it undesrcores the fact that those with power can become disconnected from those without it, even when they don't want to be. Being a manager is a special kind of hell in that you get to observe others forming bonds and creating strong collective identities, but you don't really get to participate. It's a lonely way to form a work identity in that you are usually doing it on your own, surrounded by those with more power than you (and similarly isolated) and those with less power than you (who are socialized not to see you as part of the group). You are from but not of. As Marx would say my "species being" is not being fully realized to my detriment. And I think Callero would say that this is a particularly American kind of loneliness at work.

To quote Bette Middler in Beaches, "Ok, enough about me, what do you think about me?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Next Big Thing

School starts tomorrow, and I don't wanna go. Ah, ennui. At least I have my finger on the pulse of the greatest and newest. Check out the next viral video