Miscellany

Three things

1. You should read this essay about racism as reflected in postcards. Here's a taste:

Postcards, like the ones I will show you were sold openly without embarrassment from approximately 1900 to 1960. They were mailed from all over the United States by and to regular citizens. They are racist and they are shocking. As denigrating of African Americans as they are, I want you to remind yourself that like slavery in America they are the invention of white Americans. These images tell us much more about the people who made them, bought them and sent them than they tell us about the subjects of these cards – African Americans. In places I have also included the text written on the back of the cards – at times the text is also racist, but to me more shocking is that the messages are usually totally mundane; the stuff of everyday life. That white Americans would send cards such as the ones I will show you for the most ordinary of purposes indicates the frightening extent to which they had internalized, accepted and condoned the presentation of African Americans that were the public face of the cards they sent. If you find the images too upsetting and need to step out of assembly I fully understand.

Via Metafilter.

2. The Dairi Burger is officially the awesomest blog ever and best site devoted to girls' young adult fiction of the 1980s. Particularly good posts are here and here. Via Feministing.

3. If I could choose any superpower, I would choose telekinesis. It's so easy a choice that I wouldn't even have to think about it.

On Memorizing Poetry

A great post I missed from Amanda:

The thing about remembering a poem, one line at a time, one word leading to another, anticipating when the next rhyme is coming around or where the line is about to break — the great thing about it is that it's a form of heightened concentration. It helps push other thoughts to the side. Almost as if the poem were a mantra, or a charm against "whatever it is that's encroaching" (to borrow a phrase from Charles Simic). Poetry sometimes seems to be quite close, even now, to its early roots in incantation, and I think memorization brings one near those roots. It certainly worked that way when I invoked Coleridge and Keats against the tedium of running. I've been having an unusually rough couple of weeks, and I'm finding that it still does. Now it's more likely to be Ashbery, or Stevens, or Bishop, or Yeats, but the fact that they're still there in my head is strangely encouraging.

The "memorize a poem" assignment in literature survey courses has been maligned by many as...I don't understand the specific objections, but I'm glad I was required to do it in high school and college.

Blog reading and other thoughts

Inside Higher Ed features two point/counterpoint articles about academic blogging, one by Adam Kotsko (the skeptic) and the other by Scott Eric Kaufman (the enthusiast). It should be said that Kotsko has extensive experience blogging, so his skeptic's take carries more weight than the likes of Ivan Tribble's.

Kotsko brings up some very good points, particularly that attempts to centralize (as in form a group blog) and, as he puts it, "quasi-institutionalize" blogging tend to silence discussion (perhaps for example, as much as I hate to say it, MediaCommons) or polarize it. As evidence for the latter, Kotsko provides the best analysis of the Long Sunday v. The Valve rivalry I've seen.

I think the best group blogs are those that seem more accepting of not Having Discussions and are more like collaborative commonplace books with notes and clippings, such as The Long Eighteenth, 3 Quarks Daily, and (okay, I'm biased) Kairosnews. These blogs are kind of like the Ron Livingston character in Office Space -- as in, okay, I'm going to post a link to this article and some of my thoughts about it because I think it's neat. I'm not going to try to throw in some provocative bait for discussion; if you want to leave a comment, great; if not, that's cool too.

There's good stuff in Kaufman's article as well. He makes a strong case for the benefits of academic blogging, especially the ways blogging can help an academic join a community and write for an audience. Two quotations:

I’m talking about a regular engagement with each other’s intellectual concerns — everything from the pains of preparing for the job market to the theoretical implications of an interpretive move you’re not sure you should’ve made — all communicated in a medium able to accommodate everything from idle chatter to earnest manifesto.
[. . .]
There’s no reason our community needs to consist solely of people we knew in grad school. Why not write for people who don’t already how you think about everything? Why not force yourself to articulate your points in such a way that strangers could come to know your thought as intimately as your friends from grad school do?

Okay, shifting gears here a little: I haven't talked about this much on here, but my blog reading habits have changed quite a bit in the past few months. I don't know if it's Google Reader or what. I still read many of the same blogs I always did, but now I read a lot more lifehackery blogs and frugality blogs, like the sites affiliated with LifeRemix. One nugget from these I'd like to share is Unclutterer's Unitasker Wednesday. If you like product snark (I have Collin and a few others in mind here), you'll love Unitasker Wednesday. Even if it is a little sad -- to my mind, anyway -- sometimes.

A final random note. I've decided that the best clothing fabric for the climate in southwest Louisiana is really thin cotton linen, as close to draping yourself in a few strips of cheesecloth as you can get:

I am Stuart

I don't read the Bechdel comic so I don't know what this really means, but I thought those of you who do might find my result entertaining:


Which Dyke to Watch Out For Are You?
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as Stuart

You are Stuart, partner and co-parent with bi-dyke Sparrow. You believe that values need to be backed up with action, which can make you a bit impulsive at times. Make sure to budget time and money in order to afford the winter-length utili-kilts and Air America Radio shirts you've had your eyes on.

Stuart

70%

Clarice

65%

Lois

65%

Mo

55%

Toni

40%

Sparrow

35%

Sydney

30%

Via Nels.

Linkety

  • Ex-Millennial Girl has written her last post. I know I have no right, but I'm very disappointed and kind of peeved about it. I really want to know how the story ended. For those who don't read her, Stefanie's blog is a remarkably detailed memoir of her experiences in 1999 and 2000, during which time she was an exotic dancer addicted to opium. Her opium addiction narrative is the most interesting part; several times she kicks opium but ends up using again. The blog ends with another decision to kick opium, but the last post reveals that she was still using drugs well into 2003 and 2004. What I am yearning to know, as are her other readers, is what finally happened to help her kick opium long-term. It may be that she has a book deal (and tells the rest of the story there); if so, I'll probably be preordering it on Amazon.
  • Interesting comparison of the California fires and Hurricane Katrina.
  • Rad Geek critiques debates about health care funding in the U.S. As usual, his "anarchist, radical feminist, anti-war, anti-racist, pro-labor, populist, and humanitarian" as well as "both anti-authoritarian Left and libertarian" take makes me think.
  • Finally, flutter-flutter...swoon.

Presumptuous Expressions

I detest the following two expressions:

1. "Jane and John are expecting their first child." Let's unpack the ignorance:

--Maybe Jane and John only want one child

--Maybe Jane and John have serious infertility issues, went into $100K of debt for treatments to have this one baby, and can't afford another one

--You never know, Jane could develop a major health problem toward the end of pregnancy or during birth, so bad that the doctors would tell her she'd die if she tried to have another child

2. "Shall I schedule you for a cut'n'color?" Actually I've probably groused about this one before, but when did it become the default that everyone -- every woman, anyway -- colors his/her hair? When I noticed salons starting to ask this question if you called to make an appointment, I started getting my hair cut ONLY at Fantastic Sam's and Supercuts type places where they don't even DO coloring.

Hmph.

Heroes and Poboys

Jonathan declared at dinner just now that we have consumed four feet of poboys today. Indeed, we each had one entire poboy for lunch, and another for dinner. My white bread and fried shrimp quotas have been far exceeded.

Oh, and we are going to watch much more Heroes tonight.

One more thing for lagniappe: I hope you will consider attending The Louisiana Conference on Language and Literature, which will be held in February here in Lafayette.

List of Links (Funny and Sad Edition)

Links collected over the course of the week:

A review of Rock of Love in The New York Times. Well, if the Times is willing to review it, I might as well confess my own love for the show. Maybe in an upcoming post, I'll even explain why I think Flavor of Love is the better show.

Minimalism taken too far. I laugh every time I read that post; there's something kind of David Sedaris-like about the writing.

That last one was funny; this one is sad or poignant, at least to me: Jessica Lagunas' pieces titled "Ái Spik Ínglish," described as "7 Fictional short dialogues of low-income Latino immigrants adapting in the US, using English phrases in their Spanish pronunciation." A sample:

New Occupational Certificates, courtesy of Dean Dad. The folks in the comments add to the list, and while I admire their efforts, their additions don't quite hit the pitch of Dean Dad's.

Another sad one: I think you need to read it anyway, though.

I'll end with a fabulous one: Subversive Jewelry. The pieces aren't for everyday wear, but I love them for evening as, for example, an accent piece with a simple black dress.

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