Friday, December 12, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Time to spend lots of money! No, the economy's not in great shape right now, and you've probably got a bit of debt piling up. Sure, the obsession with stuff has some serious consequences.

But did you know that you can do your bit to save the economy by buying stuff?

Of course, what you buy is almost as important as how much you spend. Make the wrong decision, and you could end up in the doghouse.

So, Target wants to make things a little easier by sorting their products into appropriate categories for the special people in your life:

So, a few of these "personalities" have pretty similar gender options ("Doting Grandma"/"Doting Grandpa" etc).

Others, however, have only rough equivalents. How about "Corporate Diva" and "Office All-Star," for instance? Here we have a woman's success as a personality trait, one with negative connotations of being arrogant, self-centered, and hard to get along with. The man's success, on the other hand, is attributed to skill. It also links him to sports at which he, presumably, also excels. But not like a diva; the all-star is the best on his team. We could also look at "Corporate" as an adjective implying the cold, cut-throat world of business and "Office" as a team-oriented space. It almost turns the "man as rugged individual, woman as social" on its head, except that it turns the woman into an aggressive loner (as women in the business world are often stereotyped to be).

Then we have "Nature Lover" and "Outdoor Explorer." Anyone else seeing hippy treehugger on one side and mountaineer on the other? That's encoded in the language. "Nature" implies a more subjective or experiential perspective, one which is frequently associated with positive things like harmony or order and gendered representations ("natural order of things," "Mother Nature"). "Outdoor," on the other hand, is equivalent to "wilderness," or that which is "outside" the limits of civilization. Rather than a place of order or harmony, it is untamed and dangerous. Of course, "Lover" is connected with emotion and peaceful co-existence, whereas "Explorer" sounds an awful lot like "conquerer" in connotation. So, women are in sync with the harmonic order of things, and men are brave conquerers of untamed wilderness. Yeah.

One more: "Domestic Goddess" and "Mr. Fix-it." The "Domestic Goddess" is not only responsible for the peace of the household; if we look at representations of goddesses in popular culture, she is also hyper-feminine and sexualized. She is like the 19th century ideal of the "angel in the house," a woman who is responsible for maintaining a peaceful home (so her husband has nothing to worry about there) and keeping her family morally upright. Compare to "Mr. Fix-it," who, by definition, appears when something goes wrong to make it right. He is the rescuer, the one who steps in when the poor female's brain has been overtaxed by problems like leaky pipes or squeaky doors. Notice how she maintains an aura or atmosphere of peace, whereas he takes an active role in fixing things that go all pear-shaped.

I want to emphasize the problem that these stereotypes create for everyone who doesn't fit traditional gender roles. By pigeonholing desires based on gender, companies define the limits not only of proper behavior but also of proper self-identification. A man should not want to hug a tree; a woman should not want to mend a flat tire. A "Guy's Guy" should want things to do with beer and meat, especially things covered in camo. By buying the proper things, by accessorizing one's gender identity, a person submits his/her/hir gender expression for the approval of the community. This system renders invisible those who either diverge from traditional roles for their genders or whose gender expression doesn't fit traditional categories at all.

And I didn't even go into the kids' categories...

What are your experiences with gendered marketing? Have you ever been "targeted" (or not) based on presumed gender (ie Facebook ads, telemarketers asking for your husband/father?) Ignored or assaulted by perfume spritzers in malls? Had salespeople recommend or discourage you from clothes based on (perceived) gender?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Warning, contains nudity and possibly feminism.

Check out this "about" statement from clothing company "Two in the Shirt" [emphasis mine]:

Two In The Shirt is a fresh new company with a focus on bringing tastefully provocative clothing to the forefront of fashion. The name 'Two In the Shirt' is derived from the acronym T.I.T.S., which is quite fitting considering the nature of the clothing itself.
T.I.T.S. merchandise consists of men's and women's apparel printed with original designs. Each design showcases classy prints of nude or nearly nude women. "Like a training bra, support T.I.T.S."

I'm intrigued by the contrast between the rhetoric of this statement ("tastefully," "classy") and the visual rhetoric of the website (I'm not linking it here, but you can find it if you want to. Some images on the blog are VERY explicit). In the "lifestyle" slideshow, all the clothes (most with provocative images of women on them) are modeled by men in dominant, powerful postures. Images of women in the blog are hyper-sexualized and, often, faceless. If you head over there, I recommend checking out the "Wifey" and "American Flavors" collections.

There is a long tradition of depicting the human body, especially the female body, in fine arts, and that's part of what T.I.T.S. is trying to evoke with their language here. Compare one of their products with a more recognized "artistic" nude, Manet's "Dejeuner sur L'herbe," which caused great controversy when it was first exhibited:

I'm going to hold back a bit and see what you all think about these. What similarities/differences do you see in these two approaches to the female body and the power relationship between women and [actual or implied] men? Is there something artistic about what this company does?

Friday, November 14, 2008

This blog was really meant to be more academic/personal than political, but somehow the political keeps edging in, so let's run with it, shall we?

I've met an awful lot of people since I started grad school who see our field as apolitical, and I have a real problem with that. What we study and teach wasn't created in a vacuum. The writing of it, and our reception of it, is colored by innumerable histories, prejudices, and assumptions. Even the choice to look at something as a purely aesthetic object makes a statement about the relationship between Literature/literature and society. That's a context, and context (constituted of relationships and hierarchies) is political. And it's something we *have* to be aware of, if we want our work to have integrity.

Of course, the political in research is a different animal to the political in the classroom. Matthew M. DeForrest expressed it much better than I could a couple years ago on InsideHigherEd:

How often do we assign plays like Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People or essays like Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” or Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and then discuss the issues of war and civil rights that swirled around them yet limit the realm or discussion to the purely academic?

They often hear us speak. They do not often hear about what we do.

So long as we do not model behavior, students will not see anyone participating in the civic realm. The politicians they see on television aren’t real to them. They do not regularly see a person that they know and can personally identify with actively engaging in the civic discourse or hear about the struggle to choose the best course of action to make our towns better from an array of bad options.

What I am advocating here is not something tied to one party or political philosophy. Whether you are a left-leaning anthropology professor or a member of the right of center business school set, we should all be active participants in the civic realm and, importantly, our students should know that those activities are a part of our lives.

This blog, of course, is not a classroom, and so I feel perfectly free to impose my political position on you with impunity. So make a note: tomorrow afternoon, millions of people in the US and around the world will be gathering to celebrate love and take a stand for equal rights. I'm one of them, and I hope you will be as well. Check the links to find details about rallies near you.

This song is "an anthem for the equal rights movement born from the passage of gay-marriage bans in the United States during the 2008 election. Footage in the video is from the candle vigil rally and protest march in San Francisco days after the election.

The song will be up on iTunes and other electronic stores for purchase in about four to six weeks (by mid/late December), and I [Sean Chapin, the awesome fellow who wrote the song] will be donating most of the proceeds to charity."


When you're in doubt take my hand
I'll stand by your side tonight cause
We will be better when we are together and
We are united in love

When in despair take my arm
As I hold you close to me and
We will go farther when we are together cause
We are united in love

When you're feeling good
I'll capture the time
When you're feeling sad
I'll help you remember
When you're feeling fine
We'll stay on our path
When you're feeling bad
I will be there for you and

Our love will sing loud and strong
Our love will keep going on

When you're in fear take my heart
I'll give you a hug tonight cause
We will be better when we are together and
We are united in love

When you're in angst take my lead
I'll show you the way today cause
We will go farther when we are together cause
We are united in love

When we're feeling rich
I'll never let go
When we're feeling poor
I'll help you recover
When we laugh away
I'll give you a smile
When we shed a tear
I'll comfort you gently and

Our love will sing loud and strong
Our love will keep going on

When you don't know take my word
I am here to stay with you, cause
We will be better when we are together and
We are united in love

We are united in love
United we love

Saturday, November 8, 2008

I am sure that my fellow blogistas are just as disappointed about the passing of Proposition 8 in California as I am. In fact, I definitely cried about it. More than once. It was only compounded by the fact that the ballot measures banning gay marriage also passed in Arizona and Florida. Oh, and gay couples can't adopt children in Arkansas, because we all know that gay folks will corrupt the poor innocent little children in their care.

You all know that I'm an optimist and an idealist, but this was a major blow. It's hard to keep your head up when you face this kind of discrimination.

While browsing Feministing today, I came across this post about the Prop 8 aftermath. At least in California, people are not giving into this easily. You can read about all the protests in the post. At the end of the entry, there's a quote by a blogger named Pam:

"If victories make us complacent, it is our defeats that rally us to a new level of community and activism. We stood up after mortal blows from Anita Bryant pushing her anti-gay vitriol in Florida. We rallied to the bedside of Matthew Shephard in his family's time of tribulation. More recently, we re-committed our vows to protect our youngest members in the wake of the murder of Lawrence King by a fellow classmate. In the wake of the passage of Prop 8, we see now and will see another historic re-awakening of our community."

My response to that: Hell yeah!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I've had more work than time lately, but everyone needs a little procrastination now and again. In that spirit, here are a few spooky internet things for Halloween...

A virtual video of Edgar Allen Poe reciting "The Raven":

A choose-your-own-adventure zombie movie:

And, most terrifying of all:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Between I and Thou

In a class this week someone mentioned Martin Buber in the context of a discussion on the responsibility of an editor. Since I'd never heard of this fellow before, I started doing some informal research to see what he was all about. So here's me thinking out loud about what I found...

One of the ideas Buber is most known for is the "I/thou" and "I/it" perspective on religion (and, by expansion, relationships of many kinds). "Between I and Thou there is no purpose, no greed and no anticipation," he wrote (I and Thou). Real living is composed of I/thou encounters, spaces in which each participant exists unreservedly in the presence of the other. There must be two because they affirm one another.

I/it occurs when the I is imposed, as it almost always must be at some point, by preconception, assumption, or objectification, onto the other, taking away its independent existence by conceiving it as a construction in the mind of the I.

If we think of the editor of a text as the I, then we can think of the original author(s), previous editors, potential readers, and the text itself as the thous. And I have to wonder if its possible for an editor to maintain any of these I/thou relationships and still perform her/his function, which is, essentially, about making assumptions and impositions. Is it something to strive for anyway? I want to say yes, because I think my approach as an editor (in different kinds of situations) has generally been grounded in an essential respect for the text and its creator(s). It doesn't have to be-you don't have to be-what I expect/assume/want you to be.

It very quickly begins to sound very vague and touchy-feely, but that's not what I mean at all. It's not that the I/thou encounter takes away the power of the participants; rather, it enhances their power because it is a relationship in which no one takes anything away from the other. In a relationship with a thou, I am not asked to be less than I am by another's expectations. It's something we experience in the best kinds of friendships, with people who know us better than we know ourselves, people from whom we don't need to hide anything.

"I knew nothing of books when I came forth from the womb of my mother, and I shall die without books, with another human hand in my own. I do, indeed, close my door at times and surrender myself to a book, but only because I can open the door again and see a human being looking at me."

"I think no human being can give more than this. Making life possible for the other, if only for a moment."

Martin Buber.

And, in a similar vein, here's a really charming book cover I stumbled across (via)(check the link for an interview with the designer:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hello Fellow Academics...

Are we still alive out there?

We're halfway through

And, I

are we still alive out there?

Hello Fellow Academics...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Important Academic and Life Concerning Announcement:

Today (Sunday, September 28, 2008)
is the first day in
that I don't have to
grade a

I feel a breath of life returning; let the 24 hour celebration begin before receiving more papers on Monday!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What am I Doing on a Saturday Night?

Ladies, we've been tagged.

Tina at The Bigger They Get (who is, by the way, the top Google result for ["George Clooney" "chocolate pants"]) got us. She says, "Okay, I’m going to tag some of my favorite academic chickies who need to do something unrelated to things like composition and rhetoric and literature and literary criticism and textual theory and thinking up assignments and grading papers and attending classes and, and, and…well, they NEED a distraction. So, Lady Audley, Rhetorical Twist, Teacher Poet and DocHoc, spill…" The rules:

Meme Terms and Conditions
  1. Link to the person who tagged you.
  2. Mention the rules on your blog.
  3. List six unspectacular things about you. [As if there's *anything* about us that isn't spectacular...].
  4. Tag six other bloggers by linking to them.
So, six unspectacular things about Lady Audley:

1. My favorite bookmark at the moment is a small piece of paper with the William Carlos Williams poem, "This is just to say" on it.

2. I have bed sheets with fish on them, which I love because they remind me of Mrs. Dalloway: "For this is the truth about our soul, he thought, our self, who fish-like inhabits deep seas and plies among obscurities threading her way between the boles of giant weeds, over sun-flickered spaces and on and on into gloom, cold, deep, inscrutable; suddenly she shoots to the surface and sports on the wind-wrinkled waves; that is, has a positive need to brush, scrape, kindle herself, gossiping" (p.161, Harvest Books 1990 edition).

3. I am a sucker for steampunk. Like these guys:

And this.

4. I know I'm an English nerd, but I really like geometry.

5. The first book I remembering thinking of as my favorite was The Neverending Story.

6. One of my biggest pet peeves is when a footnote give away a plot point. Things like, "the author's use of water images foreshadows [character's] drowning."

And I'm tagging whichever of our readers feels so inclined. (Leave a comment with a link to your blog, or post your answers as a comment).

Thinking is not part of your DNA...or is it?

Are you a born conservative (or liberal)?
A new study suggests that your political attitudes are wired in from the beginning.
By Denise Gellene, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 19, 2008
Oh, please! I'm just thankful the end of the article pointed out how one could make a case for interpreting fear as making one pro/con gun control. Otherwise, I would be very disappointed with the Los Angeles Times.

Sneaky Little Rights Violations

I am well aware that universities work in weird ways. However, I got this e-mail a few days ago, and I am pretty sure there are some constitutional rights violations going on. I'm horrified. Now, I know they have sneaky ways of getting around inconsequential things like constitutional rights (ie: like the way my dear alma mater did when certain fundamentalists came to town), but this irks me.

The text of the e-mail, followed by my questions (demarcated by dashes):


Prohibited Political Activity :
Upcoming elections and how this impacts you as an employee

Tuesday, November 4, 2008, is the 2008 Presidential Election. There will be many activities on campus and nationwide related to the election over the coming months. So, it is important that as an employee of the [Cornfield Univ.], you are aware of the elements of the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act that may impact your participation. First and foremost, the law is not intended to hinder or in any way violate your individual freedoms. In fact, the activities defined as "prohibited" per the law are only prohibited while employees are on University time or using University resources or property. If the appropriate benefit time is charged and the activities do not take place on University property, it is permissible for you, while representing yourself individually (not as a University employee), to become involved in such events.
The concept of prohibited political activity is challenging to fully define, so it is always a good idea to consult with the University Ethics Office if you are unsure

Some of the main categories of commonly occurring prohibited political activity are explained below. Remember, these are things employees can not do while working, when on University property, while using University resources (e.g., phone, fax, paper, email, etc.), or when acting as a representative of the University; but they are things that can take place if the appropriate benefit time is used and University property and resources are not involved:

  • Preparing for or participating in any rally or event related to a specific political candidate, party, or referendum - this includes preparation and circulation of campaign materials, petitions, or literature
  • Soliciting contributions or votes on behalf of a particular political party or candidate
  • Assisting at the polls on behalf of any political party, candidate, or organization
  • Surveying or conducting an opinion poll related to anticipating an election outcome, or participating in a recount challenge related to an election outcome
  • Running for political office

The law isn't always as clear as we'd like, so here are a few specific examples to better define what is and what is not considered prohibited political activity (can't be performed on University time without appropriate benefit usage; and never on University property or using University resources):

Prohibited Political Activity
Acceptable Political Activity
Wearing a pin or t-shirt in support of the Democratic Party or Republican Party, or a Democratic/Republican candidate vote pin/buttonWearing a pin encouraging others to vote that is not specific to any particular party or candidate
A supervisor requiring an employee to engage in political activity outside of work
An employee independently choosing to engage in political activities outside of work
Distributing, producing, or posting flyers or other campaign literature on campus during lunch or break time
Distributing, producing, or posting flyers or other campaign literature at an off-campus location during lunch or break time
Registering employees to vote in a booth that is clearly designated to one political party or candidate

Registering employees to vote while on their lunch or other designated breaks in a party-neutral booth

Specific examples of things that are expressly prohibited include:

  • Placing a collection jar on your desk or even in a break room to solicit funds for a specific political candidate or party
  • Attending a rally on University property specific to a political candidate or party - regardless of whether or not you are on University time

The University Ethics Office can not and does not intend to police each of the campuses for political buttons, t-shirts, bumper stickers, etc. Instead, we ask that employees educate themselves and become aware of their responsibilities to the law as it relates to employment with [Cornfield University]. Knowing the various aspects of the prohibited political activities section of the Ethics Act will simply assist you in acting in a manner that is consistent with the law.


All righty. I understand why it is unethical to use university resources available to you as an employee, or why it would be unethical to use the time they are paying you for to further your own political affiliations. HOWEVER, the fact that you cannot, at any time, engage in political activity on campus cannot be legal (wait, wait. Who am I kidding? Anything is legal under this administration). What I gather from this is that if you are an employee of the university (and guess who falls under this category? Moi) you may not ever, at any time, engage in political activity. That. Is. Out. Rageous. I am going to get in SO much trouble during my time here. So much.

Thoughts? I cannot be much more coherent than this because I am utterly flabbergasted. Rendered speechless.

I wonder if this applies to elections only, or all political activity? 'Cause if it's all, they should just fire me now...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"Fun" Reading and the Other Kind

Mama Audley and I have had this conversation many times. I tell her what I'm reading (Victorian novels, theory, philosophy, history), and she asks, "but what are you reading for fun?"

Then I irritate her by deliberately misinterpreting the question and saying, "this stuff is fun!"

But I know what she means: what am I reading simply for pleasure, deliberately resting my critical eye (insofar as it's possible) to just enjoying a book? Not for what I get out of it or what it says about its time or how I can teach/write about it, but just for its own sake. And when life gets busy and I feel like I'm constantly reading something for a reason or a goal, the answer is, too often, "not much," or "nothing."

So, earlier this week, in the middle of five projects that felt like fifteen, in the middle of constant and severe multi-tasking (the kind where you feel guilty for not working on three things at once), in the middle of citations and theory and archives and periodicals (all of which I love and enjoy, by the way), I turned off my computer one night, made myself a cup of tea, and read for fun.

My go-to book that evening (which is actually not mine, but was "borrowed" before I moved from Mama Audley's friend {and drinking buddy} Military Mom) was The Standard Book of British and American Verse, 1952, because it contains this poem:

When You Are Old and Grey, W B Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

On nights like that one I read it to myself, sometimes out loud and sometimes in my head, and the more I read it the more it sounds like music, and the more peaceful my mind becomes. Soon I'm not thinking about my to-do list or my what's-due list. I'm thinking about how beautiful those words are. Sometimes I read some of my other favorites, or I recite one of the handful I've memorized and so always have with me, but I always come back to this one. I could probably articulate why, but the point is, I don't have to. Because this, Mama Audley, is what I'm reading for fun.

So, my crazy, busy, book-loving friends. What are you reading for fun?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Duh Duh DUHHHH!: The Research Paper!

Dear teachers (old, new, and not yet practicing),

In a few weeks, my composition class will be embarking on the BIG research paper adventure. I'm not looking forward to it, if only because I have to re-learn how to teach them all the steps of the thing, which is something that I have internalized.

That aside, I am seeking some advice in terms of their topic. I want to give them the freedom to write about something that matters to them so that the paper is more than an fruitless exercise, but I don't want the topic to be too broad (ie: "write about whatever you want!") Therefore, I am seeking general topics that will allow for a variety of subtopics. One example is "education." That narrows the focus a little bit, but it allows them to pick something within education that matters to them.

Thoughts? Other suggestions for similarly broad, yet not too broad, topics?

Yours sincerely,
Rhetorical Twist

Friday, September 12, 2008

Just Call Me "The Liberator"

I had the first student come to talk to me about revisions on his first paper. After talking about his essay, he had to ask me one, final question:

"So, uh, do we need to have an intro, 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion? 'Cause, like, I didn't know what to put in the third paragraph."
"Well," I said, "you do need an intro and a conclusion, but you can use as many paragraphs as you need."
He looks at me suspiciously. "Really?"
"Really," I said. "If you need 2, use 2. If you need 4, use 4."
"But I thought..."
"You thought wrong."
"Um, okay. So, as many paragraphs as I need?"
"Yes, liberating, isn't it?"

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Serving Your Country Linkapalooza

This awesome blog has listed voter registration deadlines for every state, with links (via).

Why students are finding it difficult to vote.

Feministing calls out Republicans for trying to block foreclosure victims from voting.

Journalism or entertainment? The media's election "coverage" (via).

John "I-Was-A-Prisoner-Of-War" McCain doesn't have a position on helping veterans register to vote.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thought of the Day

Worksheets are environmentally unfriendly tactile evidence of students' "work" (not to be confused with learning) that is, in turn, offered up to the gods (by the demi-gods) for appeasement.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lesson Planning While Drunk.

I learned an important lesson today. Mixing allergy medicine with lack of that wonderful rejuvenating fluid we call water can yield disastrous results! And caffeine does not remedy the situation. Oh, no. It certainly doesn't.

Here's what happened. I got a little busy, you know? I may have skipped lunch to talk about the Whorf-Sapir hypothesis with Dr. Coffee Beans. Okay, I did skip lunch. I generally neglected to drink any fluids throughout the day. I made it home just fine (because my empty stomach kept me focused on getting myself to the dinner table). Approximately two minutes after the table was cleared, however, I crashed.

As in, didn't even make it through the first of four readings. I simply had to read the short stories and write a lesson plan that would apply Fretag's Pyramid. Remember that plot outline? Set up, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution? Apparently that's Gustav Fretag's organizational skills. Suffice to say I did not get so far as the rising action of the first reading. Um, yea.

Took an hour nap and woke up worse than before it. So much for a power nap, eh? Then finished the first reading and tried to make it into the second but found myself nodding off by the first paragraph. And, let me just add, the reading is interesting! Took another nap and woke up feeling like I downed two bottles of night time Nyquil.

In other words, it feels like someone stuffed a pillow in my brain. Additionally, two Serta counting sheep have claimed my eyelids and have bedded down on them, forcing my eyes shut. I have a feeling you could tell me that there had been a terrible mistake and my entire family had died and all I would be able to manage as a reply was, "Mm? I just wanna sleep five more minutes, Mommy...five more...zzzz."

Rhetorical Twist, this was just a dramatization. I promise I will drink lots of water tomorrow and eat a healthy lunch. No worries.

Academic Standards: Students, there won't be a test on this. Use your No. 2 pencil to write the following on your SCANTRON, "In case of fire, throw this in."

Visual learning aid to help illustrate my productivity level today:

Sunday, September 7, 2008

They Call Me "Freeway Flyer"

The life of a traveling adjunct.

Let's Do a Little Rhetorical Analysis, Shall We?

I received the following chart in an e-mail. The person who sent it e-mailed it to a group of people saying, "here's a great chart that will give you all the straight facts on the issues." Read the chart. Who do you think the creator of this chart favors?

E-mail text:

This is a really neat comparison table that someone took the time to create - but really shows GOOD comparison to the candidates and what they stand for and the web sites do substantiate their platforms

We all need educated discernment for this election





Favors new drilling offshore US



Will appoint judges who interpret the law not make it



Served in the US Armed Forces



Amount of time served in the US Senate


173 DAYS

Will institute a socialized national health care plan



Supports abortion throughout the pregnancy



Would pull troops out of Iraq immediately



Supports gun ownership rights



Supports homosexual marriage



Proposed programs will mean a huge tax increase



Voted for making English the official language



Voted to give Social Security benefits to illegals





0% on home sales up to $500,000 per home (couples). McCain does not propose any change in existing home sales income tax.


28% on profit from ALL home sales. (How does this affect you? If you sell your home and make a profit, you will pay 28% of your gain on taxes. If you are heading toward retirement and would like to down-size your home or move into a retirement community, 28% of the money you make from your home will go to taxes. This proposal will adversely affect the elderly who are counting on the income from their homes as part of their retirement income.)



15% (no change)


39.6% - (How will this affect you? If you have any money invested in stock market, IRA, mutual funds, college funds, life insurance, retirement accounts, or anything that pays or reinvests dividends, you will now be paying nearly 40% of the money earned on taxes if Obama becomes president. The experts predict that 'Higher tax rates on dividends and capital gains would crash the stock market, yet do absolutely nothing to cut the deficit.')



(no changes)

Single making 30K - tax $4,500
Single making 50K - tax $12,500
Single making 75K - tax $18,750
Married making 60K- tax $9,000
Married making 75K - tax $18,750
Married making 125K - tax $31,250

OBAMA (reversion to pre-Bush tax cuts)

Single making 30K - tax $8,400
Single making 50K -=2 0tax $14,000
Single making 75K - tax $23,250
Married making 60K - tax $16,800
Married making 75K - tax $21,000
Married making 125K - tax $38 ,750
Under Obama, your taxes could almost double!



- 0% (No change,20Bush repealed this tax)


Restore the inheritance tax

Many families have lost businesses, farms, ranches, and homes that have been in their families for generations because they could not afford the inheritance tax.


New government taxes proposed on homes that are more than 2400 square feet. New gasoline taxes (as if gas weren't high enough already) New taxes on natural resources consumption (heating gas, water, electricity) New taxes on retirement accounts, and last but not least....New taxes to pay for socialized medicine so we can receive the same level of medical care as other third-world countries!!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Rules for New Teachers

Or, "Rules for Short, Young Looking Teachers." Coming, of course, from exactly one week of teaching experience.

Rule #1: Use the Fear They Came With

After months of going back and forth between what my students should call me, I decided to go with my first name for several reasons:
1. My personal pedagogy really does dictate it.
2. They are more scared than I am
3. Since they are more scared than I am, one more barrier isn't necessary.
Thus, Rhetorical it is.
The school system has already sufficiently pounded them into submission, so use that natural fear if you have first time teacher concerns. Sure, it may go against your personal feminist philosophy, but damn, it sure helps you get through that first week! (Besides, being called "Ms. Twist" made my insides curl...)

Rule #2: Get a Killer Outfit

If you are scared out of your mind about teaching, you need The Killer Outfit. Put your well honed visual rhetoric skills to work: gray dress slacks, a black button down shirt, heels, and pearls (not real pearls, mind you, but they get the job done). This creates "instant teacher," otherwise known as: "I am older than you, despite external signifiers that may indicate otherwise." There is something super official sounding about high heels clicking on those wooden floors. To complete the persona, perfect the jingle of keys in your hands that indicates, "I have an office," and the stride. To maximize the official sounding click from those high heels, you have to get the pacing right. It can't be too hurried, nor too leisurely. It has to be just right and clearly convey, "I've got heels on. Fear me 'cause I'm all kinds of official."

Rule #3: Learn the Proper Facial Expressions

No matter how huge that silence is in your class, never let the very casual, "I've done this SO many times before" look come off your your face. This can be really difficult if you walk into class 10 minutes early to set up and they are completely silent, just STARING at you, even after saying, "you guys can keep chatting you know." Silence. "Or not." It will be the 10 bloody longest minutes of your life, but don't break.

Rule #4: Lie your ass off

For the nervous first time teacher, a few well placed indicators that you've taught before, or you're older than you look, can be helpful. Practice phrases such as these:
~"I had a student once..."
~"When I was an undergrad (of course, that was back in the day)..."
~"I've been studying English longer than I care to admit"
~"I'm going to try something that I haven't previously attempted in my other classes..."

Yeah, you are lying, but it does make you giggle a little on the inside.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Favorite Conversation of the First Week

Scene: Satellite L, ENG 100, Computer Lab.
The students are about to embark on an in-class writing sample.

Me: Ok everyone, let me know if you have any questions.

*glances over to Student's computer*

Me: Student, no myspace--turn that off.

Student: But Prof. Dochoc I need to listen to music to write. It helps me flooooowww *makes gangsta "flow" motion*

Me: I understand, but not when you're in a classroom with others who need silence.

Student: Oh no no Prof. Dochoc, it's ok! Really! I already talked to the people next to me...they don't mind.

Me: Student...turn it off.

Student: *reluctant sigh with a slight grin* Ok Prof. Dochoc....

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

High Body Counts in Critical Theory

Or, The Death of the Author, and the Critic, and, Well, Pretty Much Everybody

So, today in one of my classes we did a Roland Barthes hit-and-run, the kind of discussion where we touched on a point here and there without getting into the meat of the essay. Now, I’ve never been a fan of his ubiquitous
manifesto (1977, I think?), but not being able to get into it in class left me rather unsatisfied. So this may be a bit of a rant. For those who would rather not (re)read it, the essay goes something like this (but is much longer and more complicated and lacks my amiable tone and asides):

The voice that we hear as we read a text is often mistaken for the voice of the Author, but it is actually so many different voices, layered over one another (characters, narrators, and the various voices of the writer), that it is impossible to distinguish a single voice of the author. Since the author has no distinguishable voice, it is impossible to point to an interpretation and say, "this is what the Author intended." Thus, the traditional critical approach ("the Author encoded a meaning in this text; the Critic deciphers it") is rendered useless. This end to the myth of the Author’s… well, authority, is what Barthes means by the "death of the Author." Thus rendered obsolete, the Critic subsequently succumbs to a somewhat less publicized death in a garret somewhere. Tragic.

Writers, have you been under the impression that you have intentions or your work has a meaning? Nope, sorry, guess again. Since the language you use, the phrases and the ideas, are just borrowed from what you’ve read, heard, seen, and learned from the world around you, there isn’t actually any such thing as "self-expression," and you can’t control the innumerable meanings that are consequent to your use of language. Nice try.

By the way, this new way of thinking about writing is "properly revolutionary." That’s because to deny there is one fixed meaning in a text "is finally to refuse God and his hypostases, reason, science, the law." *

So, if a text is just a mish-mash of recycled meanings and images and ideas with no unifying meaning, and the author is dead, what comes next? Well, next we have the reader, who acts as a sort of receptacle for all these ideas. But the reader must be impersonal in order to comprehend all the elements and potential meanings of the text without limit or prejudice.

And I have to quote his conclusion in its entirety, because… well, just because:

"The reader has never been the concern of classical criticism; for it, there is no other man in literature but the one who writes. We are now beginning to be the dupes no longer of such antiphrases, by which our society proudly champions precisely what it dismisses, ignores, smothers or destroys; we know that to restore to writing its future, we must reverse its myth: the birth of the reader must be ransomed by the death of the Author." [emphasis mine]

First of all, I think Barthes must have been a scientist in a past life, because he removes his subjects from their messy human contexts and dissects them entirely in the abstract. I suppose he’s trying to pursue a sort of pure theory or something. (What’s up with that, Humanities people? Why do we buy into this idea that our work needs to be framed in the language of labs and theories in order to seem legitimate? But that’s probably a rant for another day [or another writer- I know Twist has some experience in this area].)

Anyway, after all that trouble to sound scientific, it’s rather jarring when he leaps into this rousing speech at the end. It leaves me with the vague sense that I’ve been challenged to join some sort of battle. But, like an outsider watching Don Quixote posture against his imagined enemies, I really can’t tell what all the saber-rattling is about, or what the real point of all the theory has been.

I do understand what he’s getting at. Traditional criticism is based on a misguided distribution of power. The Author isn’t the source of Truth, and the critic’s job is not to decipher the meaning of a text. Meaning happens in the reader.

The problem is, his ideal reader is an impossible theoretical construct, impersonal and capable of comprehending all meanings. S/he does not exist. Barthes’s revolution does not privilege the reader (the real person reading); it privileges the text. "It is language which speaks, not the author; to write is, through a prerequisite impersonality… to reach that point where only language acts, ‘performs’, and not ‘me’," he writes. Language is the only variable in his equation capable of pure existence; the text is only space in which all its potential meanings can be held, because it has not been limited by the intentions, assumptions, and prejudices of actual people.

And, since I’m not much for lab work, actual people are the ones who really interest me.

*This acknowledgement that these principles have implications for existing power structures is as close as Barthes gets to practical application. There is a lot of potential for applying his ideas about authority, criticism, the role of the reader etc to the politics of the literary canon, among other things. But he doesn’t go there; he remains firmly planted in the abstract.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

This is the Part of My Life I Call "Meeting People Who Won't Be My Friends"

Or, starting grad school, part I.

A fine tradition in many academic communities is the annual welcome party, designed to introduce new graduate students to the old ones, those folks ranging from the "young and idealistic" to the "is that my 30th birthday rapidly approaching?" We new grad students look forward to this kind of thing, hoping to make a friend or two in the sea of people in this enormous university. We don our spiffiest duds, spending time negotiating the fine line between "too dressy" and "not dressy enough" so that we might make our best first impression.

I should interject with my first lesson of my grad school career: when the host of said party tells you to bring a drink, you might want to consider something along the lines of beer or cheap wine. Not orange soda. You'll be the only one walking in with your 2 liter bottle of bright freakin' orange beverage, and you might feel, well, a little silly. Time for a paradigm shift, kiddos.

So. In order to make this a successful welcoming party, you are as nice as possible and engage all kinds of people in conversation, no matter how shady they might look. You smile, introduce yourself, and listen carefully to what they have to say. It's a given that in any social group there will be some bad eggs. Here I present lesson #2: beware of the bad eggs.

I got stuck with four bad eggs. FOUR! [Well, #4 has since redeemed himself] Avoid these kinds of bad eggs:

Bad egg #1: The Traditionalist
This young scholar has a thing for Milton, which is fine, but be very careful when trying to joke in any way with him. He doesn't like jokes, especially when they are about Milton. He'll get offended. After discussing our particular research interests, The Traditionalist said to me, "you know, I just don't like Composition Theory." Thinking, "ah ha! Time for a joke!" I said, "Oh, that's okay, I don't like Milton! We need some of each of us in this world." He looked at me with a wide-eyed, deer in the headlights expression and sputtered, "what?! Do you have some sort of crazy feminist bias against Milton?!" Crazy feminist? Did he just call me a crazy feminist? Oh, the blood begins to boil...but no! No blood boiling is allowed at such parties, because one must be on their best behavior. So I made nice with him. ["Next time, Gadget, next time..."]

Bad egg #2: The Conservative
This mature scholar has a thing for lecturing, which, you know, whatever. Do your thing, man, do your thing. However, he also has a thing against alternative methods of teaching, and began to inform me just exactly what is wrong with the work of Paulo Freire. Now, I don't mind if you disagree with one of my favorite dead people in this world, but at least have a good reason. Saying, "oh, if I lecture, Freire says that I am an oppressive monster who is taking away the humanity of my students in the interest of serving the fascist regime" does not fall under the category of productive discourse. So I just ended the conversation politely by excusing myself and saying that I had to *mumble mumble* nice talking to you *mumble mumble* See you around *mumble mumble*

Bad Egg #3: The Racist, Who Only Confirms Your Prejudice Against People from the South
And his wife, too. I discovered that I actually live quite close to this young couple from Alabama. I got really excited! We're neighbors! We can do neighborly things together! Like...borrow sugar! That kind of thing! But no. No, I will not borrow sugar from them. He asks, "so, do we live in the ghetto or something?" I tried to pick my mouth off the floor as I replied, "Um...excuse me? I'm not sure that I understand you." "Well," wifey says, "some of the houses around us look rather run down, and it's just the people who live there...I don't know. There are lots of minorities, you know what I am saying?" So I was horrified, but was still very polite and said, "you object to living where we are because of the...African American...population?" All she said was, "well, it's not what we are used to." Umm. Another instance to quickly think of a get away excuse. The poor folks. How did such a lovely white couple end up HERE? Poor dears. [And for the record, the neighborhood is not run down. I don't know where the hell these people lived before...]

Bad Egg #4: The Inebriated Creative Writing Student
Pretty self explanatory. He nearly fell on me when trying to introduce himself. This child is now one of my office mates, and we have desks right across from each other. He has since redeemed himself, so there's no urgent need for me to totally avoid him. Unless he keeps up the subtle flirting. Then we've got a problem. ("Sorry dear, but I happen to be totally in love with Teacher Poet, and you just don't compare. I'm sure her poetry is better than yours anyway...")

In the next episode: "This is the Part of My Life I Call 'Orientation,'" a segment in several parts.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

And I Shall Call Thee...

...Professor Coffee Beans!


Monday, August 18, 2008

Happy, Happy, Disconnect: see subtitles

Button Up Your Geek!
As I left the Education Building and danced my way over to the English Building the thought crossed my mind that most people, if they knew the reason for my elation, would yell, "button up your geek!" But that didn't stop me. I took the stairs two at a time and knocked on Mrs. Awesome Assistant's door with a huge smile on my face. I opened with, "Guess what I found out today? My student teaching placements!"

Her eyes widened and she humored me, "Ooh. Where are you going to be?" That's one of the things I love about her, she isn't just humoring you. She cares. And, of course, I told her and she was happy for me. Then I went straight for Dr. Rhetorical Action's office. I had to tell him! I was, after all, in his office when he got the phone call that his book was finally and completely ready for print. He would understand, is what I'm saying. So I said, "I know my placements! They don't tell you until December but yadda yadda yadda and I had to talk to the Field Experience office about it so blah blah and they told me where I'll be placed!"

Now you have to understand something here. Dr. Rhetorical Action's blood is made of, well, Life or something. When he laughs, it carries down the entire hall. And when you hear his laughter, you can't help but smile and walk with more spring in your step. Yeah, he's awesome. (And, shoot, he's probably reading this but I don't care. It be a true account.)

So I totally gushed and told him, "I'm placed at Cream of the Crop Middle School! And, it gets better: Small Town High School!!! Ahh, this is totally what I want! This is... Well, this is exactly the sort of placements I've been talking to [my mentor] about wanting to have all along! My mentor rocks! The practicum teacher rocks! Yay!"

Bag of Books
Then I got to have a nice chat with Dr. Rhetorical Action. Such dialogs always prove
1) refreshing
2) engaging
3) inspiring
He also showed me the books he's going to send to Rhetorical Twist. His hot-off-the-press book is included in the stash. I looked over the titles and none of them are already on Rhetorical Twist's bookshelf. She will be very happy when she receives them, let me tell you! It'll be a kid at the candy store sort of reaction. Oh, man, it was a great day.

Parental Units
When I told my dad about my placements he was, of course, very happy that I was happy. I love my dad to pieces. (I also love my mom to pieces, in case you were wondering.) But sometimes... there is a disconnect.

I explained to him how I'm glad I'm placed at Cream of the Crop MS because it should be a good experience. However, I would never apply to Cream of the Crop School District because, well, I dunno, the students' allowances happen to be more than my salary would be! The price tag on their cars, too. Something tells me that I'd be dealing a little too much with concerned parents. By concerned I mean, in this instance, parents who make so much money they think they can bully a teacher into changing grades because they earn too much salary for their child to get a [insert B, C, D, F] on the paper/test/report card. Yea, thanks but no thanks. My father, on the other hand, did not hear what I said. Okay, let me rephrase that. He heard, all right, but he didn't understand what I said. His response? "A job is a job." So I said, "Right. But why would I apply to a district that I had no desire to teach in?" Teach, that is. I have plenty desire to student teach there. It's different, don't ask.

Then there's the part about how everyone seems to apply to that school district. In other words, Cream of the Crop also has its pick of the cream staff. "You don't have a 4.0? Sorry." I don't, by the way, have a 4.0. What does my dad say? Well, there's what they want to hire and what they will hire." Um, hello? Did you just hear what I said? Green teachers flock to apply at Cream of the Crop. Teachers teaching in other districts repeatedly apply to Cream of the Crop. FOUR POINT OH. This isn't the sort of situation where they say, "we want 4.0 graduates" and then hire someone with less than that because they already have a kazillion 4.0 applicants for one position. But, whatever. It was just a small disconnect. He was very happy that I was so stoked, and probably rather proud that I'm so excited about my vocation. At any rate, unless I had an absolute ball while student teaching at CCMS and was offered a job before I left student teaching, I can tell you this: I won't be applying.

My eye finds Small Town High School (and its ilk) much more pleasing. That's just how I am.

Oh, yes. It didn't take long before I text messaged the love of my life about the good news, either. That's right. You get your own photo!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I'm Stuck. Help?

Hello my fellow academics.

I'm sort of stuck on some fun/interesting classroom ideas for both a Cause and Effect essay, as well as an Analogy essay (although I do have *some* ideas for the analogy essay).

Any thoughts?

I'm looking for anything that will interest the students and keep them actively engaged during the discussion of these two types of rhetoric.


ps. Ew, I don't like this color.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

No, I have not fallen off the face of the earth...

...not yet, anyway.

So as my face is about to hit the keyboard with exhaustion, I thought I better blog to my fellow bloggers and let you all know YES, I AM STILL ALIVE.

Approximately one week's be exact--three days ago I was doing well. My syllabi were finished, perfected, and were giving off a slight glow from my bedside in deep anticipation to make their debut in two weeks.

But then IT happened. As I was smiling and skipping around in a nonstressful manner at my place of PT employment, my phone rang.

"Hi Kayla this is 'Satellite-Campus-LU-I'm-10-Minutes-From-Your-House,' would you like to teach 3 courses for us this fall?"

For a brief moment, I stopped and thought you SOB...I've WAITED for you to call all summer, and now I'm traveling hours way just to teach!! But then she said something that I couldn't refuse:

"For some reason 'Satellite LU Main Campus' didn't send us down your resume until now, and you're EXACTLY what we're looking for with you being so close. Actually, if you're interested, and if you can help us out in this dire need this will get first priority of classes from here on out until you decide you don't want to teach here anymore. I can promise you four classes every semester and two or three in the summer."

And that's where I gave in.

Prayers have been answered. I can barely afford to drive the distances I'm driving just to gain experience--but as someone wise once said, "Welcome to the temporary adjunct part of your career."

When it comes down to it, I realized that I need to do what I need to do. So here I am: a first year teacher who is about to embark on a 7 course load semester. Is it going to suck? YES! But once I get through these 15 weeks, I'll be so excited to be driving only 10 minutes away next semester.

And besides...I'm resilient (at least that's what I've been told time and time again). And I figure, if I can complete a full Master's program in 3 semesters, and also work a job for 10 months where I was working nearly 70 hours a week....hmmm I can do this. Right? (And this is where I need excessive amounts of encouragement).

However, on a completely different do I handle teaching someone I graduated high school with and have hung out with multiple amounts of time? I'm finding this situation soooo weirddddd.....