July 15, 2007

On the Move

Filed under: All Dog — jrice @ 7:47 am

The drive to Indiana felt long. Vered’s “I don’t cry” reputation turned into an hour and a half of wailing (sometimes in sync with the cat) as I navigated the pitch dark US 231 at 10 o’clock. Earlier, I had a weird cellphone conversation while driving. The shipper of one of our cars was in Columbia and not happy with the cashier’s check made out to the company I had hired. For some reason, as the subcontractor who didn’t know me, he wanted the check made out to him. I’ll have to blog later about the “calling card” he gave me in Ferndale, the one which identified his interests in “tax education.”

By late Friday we were in West Lafayette and found T & J (and little baby P)’s house. P likes to scooch around on the floor and type imaginary e-mails on a keyboard. At one point, Vered lived up to her blog’s name and shot poop straight out at her mom’s leg. Saturday was spent at the Lafayette Brewing Company (pictures soon on Make Mine Potato), the site where Jenny and I “met” (not counting one earlier brief encounter) at Computers and Writing Purdue. We then got some frozen custard at Ollies. Then T and I downed several bottles of beer throughout the evening – Stone Vertical Epic, Back Yard IPA, Hop Head Ale, Arcadia Hopmouth, New Holland Expedition Hopwine, Alpha King, Crooked Tree, and so on.

We’ll be in Columbia tomorrow.

July 11, 2007

A Post To Keep You Reading in Your RSS Feeds and To Generate Some Direct Hits Though It Has Very Little Substance

Filed under: All Dog — jrice @ 10:44 am
  • We’re feeling those “the books are packed so the house echoes” rooms right now.
  • Is there a place to buy date sugar in Columbia?
  • Mizzou-Wiki is just about live…
  • Neil Young’s 1971: Live At Massey Hall is a pretty haunting set of acoustic pieces. Still, Jenny hates the song “A Man Needs a Maid.”
  • Vered will soon meet Paul.
  • I’m really kicking myself for not buying the New Holland Existential Hopwine I saw on the shelves a month or so ago. I bought a bottle for my brother in-law and planned on getting some later. Bad mistake. They have long been gone.
  • On the right hand side of this site, I changed the url to my academic site. I’m using a blog format there as well.

July 9, 2007

The Long Goodbyes

Filed under: profession — jrice @ 7:54 am

We’ve had some nice goodbyes this weekend with friends and graduate students (not that the two are separate….). In those sit-downs, I hear about some departmental stuff going down (I’m long out of the loop) that I completely disagree with (and that re-enforces my feelings that the department is need of serious over-haul before it becomes irrelevant in English), I hear about some folks’ future plans and want to butt in with advice (“what you need to do is…”), and I hope everyone gets through with their PhD work in good time and finds good success finding the type of job that they want.

And I also feel some regret I can’t be around to help out these folks I enjoyed working with (despite what they may think, I did enjoy it!). When I ponder between being at a nice Liberal Arts college or a Research I school, I also think about how – in the Research I school – I get to work with folks in trying to decipher this beast we call “the job market.” Because there are no easy answers, because it is a frustrating beast that tricks our perceptions and expectations, because it is the most serious of all academic challenges (far more challenging than writing a dissertation or publishing), and because it is always on our minds, I, even with clenched teeth, like meeting that challenge. And I like trying to learn the role of mentor so that I can work with others to meet that challenge. Not an easy task. Not for me or the student. But maybe that’s why I find it so attractive.
In a previous post, I commented on the un-fazed responses some of us faculty get from graduate students who don’t believe in this challenge. What such students often fail to realize is that in our zeal and over-enthusiasm to help students prepare (and we can be over-zealous), we are also trying to head off all the potential pit-falls, distractions, un-necessary hand wringing, un-needed hyperbole, and false thinking that keep us from addressing the challenge. The challenge cannot be figured out. It can only be approached. But it can be approached in a number of ways. The trick is doing your best to have multiple options.

All that is to say, keep in touch Wayne-iacs.  I’m still interested in how you set up and work with such options.

July 6, 2007

Filed under: Vered — jrice @ 8:16 pm

We bought this new toy for Vered that she just loves. You put her in the middle, and she is fascinated by all the hanging toys, the mirror, the beeps, and the music. I was doubtful when we bought it, but the “Best Toy” award plastered all over the package, and a total stranger’s pledge that her kid loved it convinced me.

Vered does love it. But what bugs me is the music. You get either Mozart on a Midi sounding piano or nursery rhymes. First of all, nursery rhymes are fine. We all have to go that route at some time. Yes, yes. The ring does go around the posey. And yes, we all do fall down. But Mozart? Come on! I don’t want my kid growing up liking Show Tunes (and its Broadway cousin) or Classical Music. Why not put some Muddy Waters on this toy? Why not some Miles Davis? Or Zappa? Or Sun Ra? Some Funkadelic? Or even Dylan? Do I want a kid who tunes into the Classical station (which is always somewhere in the 80s on the dial) every time we get in the car? No. I want her liking good music.
There’s got to be a better interpellative way.

July 4, 2007

Ted Nugent: Look out! Look out!

Filed under: music — jrice @ 8:50 am

The other day, I said to my wife: “Ted Nugent isn’t so bad. If only he wasn’t so conservative.” To which, she was shocked. Our northern Michigan neighbor, who today is best known for hunting with a bow and arrow and endorsing ultra-conservative politics, was at the center of my teenage record collection. Notably, Double Live Gonzo, was one of my favorite discs. In fact, the nickname “Gonzo” was attributed to me by various high school folks, and I had it put on the back of one of my hand me down army jackets my dad was always giving me.

For such a wild man, running around the stage in nothing but a piece of animal fur, and for someone who came out of the 1960s, Nugent is the antithesis of the hippie/drug movement. Like Zappa, he’s often mistaken for having outlandish “values.” But also like Zappa, he’s led a drug-free life. He has a few words to say about hippies and drugs in today’s WSJ. Again, I can’t agree with what the Nuge says, but I like his take on hippies: “Forty years ago hordes of stoned, dirty, stinky hippies converged on San Francisco to ‘turn on, tune in, and drop out.’” Hippies. Eric Cartman was right! “They’re Hippies, they don’t have any money!”

Which reminds of Double Live Gonzo. A two disc album in the glory days of two disc albums that I purchased throughout my teenage years (The Stones’ Love You Live, Black Sabbath’s We Sold Our Soul for Rock and Roll, The Grateful Dead’s Europe ’72), its focal point is the Indian-ode “The Great White Buffalo.”

Well,it happened long time ago,
In the new magic land.
The Indian and the buffalo,
They existed hand in hand
The Indian needed food,
He needed skins for a roof.
But he only took what they needed,baby.
Millions of buffalo were the proof.

That all changes, of course, with the arrival of the White man. And in this “conservative” statement about the pillage of the West by American frontiersmen, a call goes out to the Great White Buffalo, the leader of the land.

But then came the white dogs,
With their thick and empty heads.
They couldn’t see past the billfold.
They wanted all the buffalo dead.
Everything was SO sad.
When I looked above the canyon wall,
Some strong eyes did I see.
I think it’s somebody comin’ around
To save my ass,baby.
I think…I think he’s comin’ around
To save you and me.

And then comes that great mid-song cry which stretches out “Across the Canyon Walls”: “The Great White Buffalo! Look Out! Look Out!”

Such are musical memories. That song had all the markings of a late ’70s song: too long to be a single, long instrumental breaks, recorded “live,” anthematic. It’s also a fitting tale for patriotism, when, as Dylan sings, “patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings.”  When the ultra-conservative patriot can critique his own symbols (like Western Expansion), isn’t that, at the least, some kind of positive sign for a conservative politics that typically cannot do likewise?

July 3, 2007

For Those Who Want to Know: Wikis Used for Professional Writing Situations

Filed under: wiki,writing — jrice @ 3:59 pm

July 2, 2007

Sociology + The Internet = Silly

Filed under: networks — jrice @ 3:17 pm

While it no doubt sounds snarky, I find this kind of “research” quite silly. Boyd, whose popularity I still find puzzling (Why is she so popular? Based on what output? Has she joined the ranks of “faculty” yet?), did get a lot of unfair critiques already on her blog accusing her of being racist and whatnot, so I’ll just say a few things here as to not contribute to these attacks which have nothing to do with what I briefly what to say.

There is a rhetoric to the kind of work Boyd engages with, most of which takes the cliché and turns it into an astute observation. The most active clichés in this short blog essay center around the essentialist behaviors individuals may or many participate it (Do all members of X group really do the same thing?), the usage of the words “hegemonic” and “subaltern,” and the notion that an “observation” qualifies for an assessment.

For instance, I would be interested in knowing – given what the words “hegemonic” and “subaltern” mean – how a teenager is either hegemonic or subaltern. True, early cultural studies work labeled anyone who put an earring in a part of their body that is not the ear, or who took something (a shirt, a board, a pin) and used it in a way not intended, “subaltern.” Such studies also made every act of pleasure or enjoyment one of resistance despite the lack of evidence that any situation was being resisted (or in the over-glamorized world of hip-hop delivered by Tricia Rose and others, that the “resistance” was not a drive to join the dominant). But given how hegemony works, how do teenagers instill it in any kind of situation? Being rich (and Boyd offers no evidence that any users of MySpace or Facebook are rich or poor) as a teenager does not mean one is hegemonic. Hegemony is an institutional situation. Teenagers do not create and maintain power structures. They may be born into such structures, but they don’t sustain them (regardless of how and where they shop; being a shopper is not a hegemonic power; if anything, the traditional argument is that one is being subjected to hegemony via shopping patterns).

But Boyd’s blog essay gets a bit sillier.

People often ask me if I’m worried about teens today. The answer is yes, but it’s not because of social network sites. With the hegemonic teens, I’m very worried about the stress that they’re under, the lack of mobility and healthy opportunities for play and socialization, and the hyper-scheduling and surveillance. I’m worried about their unrealistic expectations for becoming rich and famous, their lack of work ethic after being pampered for so long, and the lack of opportunities that many of them have to even be economically stable let alone better off than their parents. I’m worried about how locking teens indoors coupled with a fast food/junk food advertising machine has resulted in a decrease in health levels across the board which will just get messy as they are increasingly unable to afford health insurance. When it comes to ostracized teens, I’m worried about the reasons why society has ostracized them and how they will react to ongoing criticism from hegemonic peers. I cringe every time I hear of another Columbine, another Virgina Tech, another site of horror when an outcast teen lashes back at the hegemonic values of society.

All of this soap-box preaching from comparing MySpace to Facebook. Such a passage reads like a first year textbook writing assignment, which typically is taught as cliché : compare and contrast two online writing platforms and how they do X or Y. Facebook kids have unrealistic desires to be rich and famous? Because I am on MySpace, I am ostracized? I’m going to “lash back at the hegemonic values of society” whatever that hegemony (as if there is only one) might mean (Boyd never defines what is this hegemonic situation). Can Boyd really believe such a thing?

Come on. Does sociology – or at least, sociology of the Web – have to be this under-theorized and this silly? Is this the CNN/Entertainment Tonight equivalent for academia? Generalize and essentialize?

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