Monday, December 31, 2007

Insomnia



Right now, I wish I were this:


But instead, I am this:















Balls.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Blog Lang Syne

I stoled this idea from a couple of brainy women.

February: This is the first blog I've ever written--and it was prompted by some bad news.

March: Just found out I'm moving to NY in the fall, to work on the faculty of St. John's.

April: Yesterday (Tuesday) morning--So I woke up yesterday morning to the sound of running water in my laundry room.

May: I have recently discovered the Tootsie Roll Pops are a wonderful device for invention.

June: When I get to New York, I want to hang out with this guy.

July: One week until the defense.

August: Who invented ice cream? Because I'd like to shake his/her hand.

September: I love football season, but we should probably leave before Zack starts calling everybody bitch.

October: I just got back from the DMV with my New York license in my wallet.

November: So it's been a couple of weeks, and my favorite tech-stalker has told me to stop with the not-blogging and start with the blogging.

December: I just finished reading Dune.

Monday, December 24, 2007

I might be a Redneck

Here's the story:
I went out with some old friends on Saturday night in my Alabama hometown. We had a good time, ran into some other old acquaintances (which is always so interesting because many of these people were sadistic assholes in seventh grade, and now we hug. weird). Anyway, we saw some music, we drank some gin, we laughed--it was wonderful. These are great friends, and I miss them.

So, after we closed the bars down, A and I were hungry. And, in Huntsville, AL, there are only 2 places you can go when you're hungry at 2AM: Waffle House or Krystal. Waffle House is good, but you have to sit. We wanted to go, so we stopped by Krystal (mmmm, little tiny hamburgers and chili cheese fries). There were a zillion people in line. We waited for a while, and then, right before we were about to order--my other friend popped in. He wanted us to order for him and the two people in his car.

I saw the looks on the faces of those behind us, and I thought, "oh no." So I went to the bathroom. And when I came out, my two friends were arguing with the two guys behind us. And things were escalating.

Lots of "Fuck yous" were thrown around. The little guy (the Bantam Rooster) said, "If I were ten years younger, I'd kick your ass." And I said, "You're gonna have a heart attack if you keep yelling at random people about things out of your control." And some other stuff.

Pretty soon, the patrons were mostly soothed. We reminded everybody that it was Christmas and that Scrooge is actually the Bad Guy--and there were these two cute boys who were standing between my friends and the Bantam Rooster, saying," It's alright, everybody's gonna get their food, let's just calm down."

Anyway, the food finally came. By the time it did, we were the heroes of the place--because we are charming and not assholes (mostly). The second of the original guys, as were leaving, said to my friend, "Thanks, Jackass!" With this dopey grin on his face.

However, Bantam Rooster and his icky friends were not happy, so, as we were leaving, one of them said these two things to me!!:
1) Hey, hooker, you need to stop wearing those boots.
2) And maybe you should think about plastic surgery on your eyebrows.

Wait, what? My EYEbrows? I should have been a better person. I should have realized that these people are from Lacey's Springs, and that their lives are small and their perspectives smaller. I should have recognized that I come from a place where Scrooge is the Bad Guy. Instead, I said, "Yeah, and maybe you should stop hanging out with rednecks at Krystal, Fatty Boombelatty.'

For serious.

You might be a redneck if you get in fights at Krystal.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

My mom, the movie critic

Mom's Summary of "13th Warrior":

"How typical of men... to fight with each other over who's got the bigger penis when everybody's about to get ravaged and torn apart and eaten by varmints."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Light-headed,
I am holding my breath.
I am waiting for you.

I cannot think.
I am Useless and Bitter, and I cannot think.
I used to be better at seeing you.
I used to be better at saving you.

Trying to keep myself busy, I am mixing magic.
It is time-consuming,
all-hands
all-fingers
concentration.
The stirring must be constant.
The temperatures, precise.

I will cast a spell.
And after you wake, we will drink syrupy sweet, iced tea.
It will be summer.
You will be tired and beautiful.

Trying to keep myself busy, I practice war.
Running,
I stretch my arms over my head.
and pull my hair out by the roots.
I will discard the extra;
I will become
Limitless and omnipotent,
And I will pull you out of the abyss.

I stand, feet wide apart:
I am a remorseless Samurai.
I brace myself for the onslaught:
I am a bloodthirsty Viking.
I build a fortress out of rage:
I am a righteous God.

I am holding my breath,
I am waiting for you.

Monday, December 17, 2007

On being effective

It's the very end of the semester. I just uploaded my final grades for the fall, and I am so sorry that I had to do everything from long-distance. Despite all that, my students rocked it. They are wonderful, and they made this first semester as a prof totally fun.

Sometimes, though, I wonder how much these people will remember. I know I share these concerns with my fellow teachers. So, when I received the following note from a student I taught last spring, I did a little dance:

"So all that stuff about structure of papers and speeches that you went on and on about in class last semester believe it or not actually got put to good use recently. We had a take home test in [insert class name here] and I used the forms you taught us and got a 99. I thought to myself, James would be so proud. Just thought I would let you know!"

Triumph is a good note to end the semester on, I think.

Friday, December 14, 2007

In the Spirit of Z

I have loved George Michael since I was 10. I only discovered Robert Earl Keen when I got to Texas... which was a shame. I wish I'd known him earlier.

I will write something more substantial in this blog at some point. Right now, though, because I am thinking very hard about the people that I love (and my heart is tired and far away), anything longer than a few sentences would ring false. So, in the Spirit of Z and Christmas and not-blogging, this post goes out to my family and the Fogelboys and Southerners, in general.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Friday, December 7, 2007

A Revelation

I was talking to a dear friend the other night about going home for the holidays. He is from Texas, and he was telling me about the high school friends he will see this year. They work at places like the mall and oil processing plants. The friends that I will see, on the other hand, work for politicians and websites, law firms, hospitals and universities, in music and in movies. They are bakers and lawyers and consumers of MoMA.

As we were sitting there on the bus, I said two little prayers:

1) Thank you, deity, for bringing this wonderful friend into my life.

And

2) Thank you, deity, for reminding me, every once in a while (in both soft and hard ways) how blessed I am to know the people that I know, to have the things that I have, and to remember the things that I remember.

Amen.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Things I Love

Hearing the voices of old friends

Hot tea with Drambuie

Ginger

Making out

Good sentences that seem to come from somewhere else

Waking up on sunny days

Smart people doing interesting things

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" sung by Neil Diamond

Things I Hate

Smugness

Not being able to zip cute dresses up over boobs

Feeling fat because of the above

Feeling petty because of the above

Sallie Mae

Discussions of retirement plans

Texting during class

Endings

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Reading Time

This love affair has lasted longer than we thought it would.

Actually,
If we thought about it at all,
We thought mostly with our fingers
And our hands,
With quick breaths
And naked, arching, limpid throats.
With fast-and-furious,
With slow-and-deliberate,
We thought around the possibility of time.
We thought we could act ourselves
Free.

But we are still in this place,
This demanding and insistent love affair…
A place where the words we use
Sleep next to us,
Rather than the partners we chose,
Years ago.
We are locked into place
By syllables
And analysis.
This is a prison.
We did not make it,
But (we must admit)
We sang.
We were the canaries—
Thinking (with our tongues and with our legs and with our wrists and elbows)
That this place would have to,
Would absolutely have to,
Diminish...
Ever So Slowly
Slowly
Slowly
With Time.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Apparently,

December the fifth is Ninja Day--which is awesome.

Snow, Snow, Snow

It snowed yesterday, and it was gorgeous. Today is weird and not-so-cold, so the snow has all melted. But I gotta tell ya, living somewhere that snow is normal might not be so bad.

In honor of the snow, and the holidays, and my eternal love for George Michael, here are two music videos that capture the spirit (multi-consumed and hyper-mythical) of a snow-filled Christmas with(out) love.

1) Judy Garland's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." The quintessential melancholic Christmas song, this version is the original. Current versions of the song are happier, sung in present tense and inclusive. Judy's is not... instead of "hanging a shining star upon the highest bow," in this song we just "have to muddle through somehow."


2)Wham's "Last Christmas." Deep, symbolic (note the down-turned brooch), and filled with hot eighties people frolicking, this video is still one of my favorites.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Mind Erasers and Vegan Things

I just finished reading Dune. It is wonderful, and I miss it already. I wish I could erase it from my head, like with one of those sticks from "Men in Black," so I could read it again. That would be neat.

Also, I need a vegan recipe for potluck. We are having a Saturnalia party in my classes, and I am bringing my famed White Trash Veggie Casserole. However, because it is a white trash sort of dish, it is not-so-vegan-friendly. Can anybody recommend a savory vegan-friendly dish to bring along with that one?

And you will know me by the trail of happy, well-fed vegans.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A non-unique post for an infuriating Friday afternoon


Yea, "Married to the Sea." I have been laughing at these in my office all day long. When I wasn't getting confused and angry about TIAA-CREF, mutual funds, annuities, and other various retirement investment options.

I am going to see the tree at Rockefeller Center this weekend. I will tell you all about the s(t)imulation next week.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Damn War Eagle

Less penalties = more winning.

That's your enthymeme for the day.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thin walls

The people downstairs have been yelling really nasty things at each other for days. It makes me sad.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Trytophan and judgment

So it's official--I'm sick. I always get sick this time of year. Sore throat, stuffed up face, coughing. Over the next couple of days I will get better, and then, right at the end of the semester, when I get home, I will get super-sick again. But I will be home then, so my mom can ply me with hot tea and Drambuie. Mmmmm, being-taken-care-of and Drambuie. Right now, though, I am sitting in my red chair, watching "Snakes on a Plane," writing to you, and drinking hot (non-alcoholic) tea.

Two of my dearest friends in the world came to visit me for Thanksgiving. We have spent the week New Yorking [shopping at various places--like H&M and shoe stores, wishing we could shop at other places--the eighth floor of Sak's with its Prada shoes and high-fallutin candy, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade--live! from the corner of 46th and Broadway, meeting folks at the parade--this adorable family from Jersey, another adorable family from NYC who are moving to North Carolina, and this asshole couple who stepped on our feet and then acted like we were the tourists]; cooking [turkey and dressing and Sonya's yummy cranberry sauce, white trash casserole and pumpkin pie. I wanted pecan pie, but I was voted down. That's ok, I can cry myself to sleep on my huge piles of leftovers]; and chatting [about all sorts of things. These are some fantastic, clever women. I am lucky to know them. After supper yesterday, we sat, drinking wine, and talked about everything from illegal immigration to maternity leave to true love to passing judgment].

From all of these conversations and interactions, I have learned a few things.

First, I am lucky to know people like this. Not only do they teach me about cranberry sauce and freezing turkey--they show me what it is to love somebody unconditionally. They are good at loving each other, and they are good at loving their friends and family. I am lucky that they let me into that precious space.

Second, our strolls through NYC made me wonder--what is a tourist? Can one be a native tourist? What is the value of "touring" a place or a person (i.e. is there such a thing as permanent tourism, and, if there is, is that a good or a bad thing?). There might be something gorgeous in re-learning things as you go, approaching even familiar people and places as if they were always already new and sort-of-dangerous and delectable all at once. On the other hand, that would be exhausting, and we all need a break every now and then, right?

Finally, in these tourist spaces, we must be on guard. That's one of the first things we learn when we are planning travel--keep your money close, watch out for strangers, look both ways before you cross the street, pay attention to local customs and habits, don't be an asshole. You know, your basic rules of different. Thinking of the conference last week and the holidays coming up, these guidelines might do me a world of good; instead of assuming that the friends and family we love will not pass judgment or tell stories about us is a bad idea. The ease with which we pass judgment (on ourselves and on loved ones) can make every place we go a tourist trap. The sad thing about this (and I'm thinking of DJ Joshie's blog about gossip here) is that, if we are constantly aware of the possible pitfalls and traps into which we could wander, we never get to rest. Josh writes about the never-ending cycle of gossip that drives large groups of people. And the result of that discussion is to make us all very solipsistic, very self-obsessed people--when we read his post, when we hear people talking, we automatically assume the worst: that the gossip is about us and that the gossip is bad. Touring on purpose is one thing, touring because that's the only option is another thing entirely.

That being said, may you and I both give and receive a little bit of rest (from gossip, from judgment, from hypocrisy and thoughtlessness) this season.

Monday, November 19, 2007

For serious

My dear friend includes this phrase in his "About this Blog" description: Approach every day as if your hair were ablaze. Which is a yummy phrase--and totally apropos of the conference that just ended this weekend.

NCA = 'Normously Communicative Academics

It was fun and ridiculously exhausting, like it always is. A couple of other folks have posted some bits about the whole convention experience. The thematic words seem to be things like "fast" "swarm" "hot" and "nookie" - all of which, you may be saying to yourself, do not seem so much academic as they are, well, Dionysian. Apollo and Dionysus used to hang, though, just so you know. And it's nice to see them sitting together again, once in a while. They enjoy Chicago, btw.

So, in honor of my listing obsession, here are some of my own observations of the Light and Dark this year.

1) Walt Whitman was right.
2) Carol's Country and Western bar may be my new favorite place on earth--overly aggressive girls in the bathroom line notwithstanding.
3) I know way too many smart, gorgeous people. Man, can they wear good shoes and talk good theory. It's just downright, frickin delicious.
4) Riding in a limo through downtown Chicago with old friends is fun.
5) Smoked salmon at the Hancock building is actually all that you can hope for and more.
6) My dearest anonymous continues to be a rock star.
7) Chicago is a very dry town. Despite the fact that they are situated right at the edge of a very large body of water, the environment is despicably arid. Also, they still allow smoking inside places; hence, said places make you stinky.
8) The best panels I went to were populated by people whose names you do not know. Not that the big panels with the big names are not good. They are wonderful and they say smart things. But the great unknown panels are surprising. Because you do not know these folks, alot of the things they say and write and think are unexpected. Unexpected can be very, very cool.
9) Dunkin Donuts does have better coffee than Starbucks.
10) Got some good ideas about new directions to send the dissertation.
11) There are black people who do Civil War reenactment. Seriously. (Thanks, Patricia!)- more on this later.
12) The beds at the Chicago Hilton are made of angels.
13) "Fairytale of New York" is still my favorite Pogues song.

Friday, November 9, 2007

My new favorite phrase in the world

is cock a snook. Right now, I can think of several people who could use a good snook-cocking.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Have I got stories for you...

So it's been a couple of weeks. My favorite tech-stalker has told me to stop with the not-blogging and start with the blogging.

I have been busy. It is indeed that time of year. I like lists because they are egalitarian--you are free, up to a point, to interpret lists as you see fit.

Top Ten Things that Happened since the Last Blog Post
1) Went to Austin. Saw a bunch of folks. Was alternately sad (because I miss their faces and bustle and love) and happy (because I am not debilitated by the missing--I was eager to get home to my apartment and my life). Had coffee and blueberry Danish at Quack's, Kao Soi from Madam Mam's, a walk around Town Lake with two nubile young things, saw the advisor and the office ladies who got me through dissertation, visited the IMC, spent some time with the ex, shopped, enjoyed sunny summer weather in the fall, and generally chilled like the proverbial villain. It was delicious.
2) Finished the genre paper. Woo Hoo! It is a horrifying, Frankensteinian mess of ideas, but it is done. D. O. N. E.
3) Met a cute boy. Went on a date with cute boy. Two bonuses for cute boy: good conversationalist and lives in Arizona. No messy commitments required. Awesome.
4) Flat tire on car.
5) Couch is broken. In order to get the couch around the hairpin turn at the top of my stairs, the movers had to remove bits of the couch. Apparently, the couch misses those bits. Couch is now sitting on its back. I am not sure how best to deal with this situation. Continue to use broken couch and hope for best? Hammer something? Renounce material goods and live on pillows?
6) The cat is Dis-Mayed at broken couch. Where will she leave the bulk of her fur now?
7) Reading Dune.
8) Haircut and highlights tomorrow. I cannot afford them, but I'm worth it. That is my new slogan. Actually, I think that may not be new so much as always-already my slogan. Either way, watch out, Chicago.
9) Dr. Who Night Saturday!!!!
10) Watching Season 2 of "Home Movies." I am more in love with Coach McGurk everyday.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Flu shots and Neil Patrick Harris

Last year, I got a flu shot at UT and had no adverse reaction. So, I thought, I'll get another one this year--because I'm in a new place and it'll be cold and there are all these germ-y college people around. So I did. And it blows.

I went to my new doctor last night; she is very cool and her office is, like, an inch away from my house... which is good because I had to stop and rest a couple of times on the way home from the shot. Now, part of my reaction may be my over-active imagination--I could actually feel the bad bits moving through the muscles in my arm. Seriously. And then I got light-headed and then I went to bed at 8:30. I think I even had a fever during the night. Awesome. Now my arm is sore, and I think I still have a fever--I NEVER get fevers. Am wondering if this is the doctor for me. She's obviously trying to kill people.

On a totally unrelated note (possibly induced by random-fever-related-inability-to-think), Neil Patrick Harris is delicious. Loved him in Doogie, loved him in Harold and Kumar, love him in "How I Met Your Mother." Plus, his bf is yummy. The End.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bobby


When I first moved to Austin five (Five!) years ago, I was lonely. But one day, when I was walking through the parking lot of my apartment building, I heard a strange little howling. Lo and behold! It was a kitty, a dear, funny, sort of stupid kitty, caught in between a fence and a tree. I saved the kitty, planning to be a foster parent for a little while. But the kitty was wonderful, and the kitty became a part of my life.

Yesterday, the kitty died. He had a liver ailment, and he was really sick. His name was Bobby Doyle, and I will miss him.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

For those in peril near a can opener

This morning, I sliced my finger open on the edge of an open can lid. Thought to myself, "I can totally handle this. Just keep chopping, and all will be well."

No dice. Had to lie on the floor of my kitchen while all the blood in my head rushed to the fingers on my left hand. Luckily, there is a rather comfortable throw rug there. And my kitty, who understands these spells, came to sit with me for a little while.

I am wondering if hypnotherapy/some sort of anti-psychotics could help me. I would be a Very Bad Vampire, kinda like this guy. Yech.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Universal memory

I am supposed to be working on my genre paper--which I've been sort of doing for several weeks now. For some reason, I agreed to write a paper using generic criticism to examine instances of simulated masculinity. I know nothing about generic criticism. I know nothing about masculinity. So it's been a roller coaster of reading about both of those things... with some pretty neat discoveries, and some not-so-neat ones. Come hell or high water, that thing is going to be done by the middle of this week--because then I have to finish the tenure application forms, the abstract for "Ninja Warrior," and midterm grades.

In the middle of the genre paper reading and percolating, though, I have been (mis)reading a couple of other things: Heidegger's "Being and Time," Chuck Klosterman's "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs," and Brad Warner's "Sit Down and Shut Up." Just like in grad school, different levels of salience highlight interesting connections between these seemingly different treatises on Buddhism and Being and "Saved by the Bell." The first thing is, of course, the shape and form of masculine performance. Each of these guys is doing alot of Really Masculine type stuff... which isn't bad or good. Just interesting. According to a dead German philosopher, a connoisseur of popular culture (he totally mentioned "Fifteen" which is this Canadian soap opera from the late eighties that I used to watch that NOBODY ever remembers. It had Ryan Reynolds in it. Seriously.), and a punk-rock-playing Buddhist monk, Being a Man is a business of knowing how to do things nobody else knows how to do, being very certain about knowing those things, and explaining lots of terminology in the process of the knowing. There are many dissimilarities, too, of course. But genre criticism is, after all, the seeking of similarities across different moments, right? Look at me, doing genre...

Not necessarily related to performed masculinity, another noticable similarity among these texts is a focus on/discussion about balance--or the lack thereof. In the pop cultural world of Klosterman, balance is a bad word. In H's world of World, balance is an imaginary--unavoidable and ignorable, bothatonce. And in Warner's world of practice, balance is a fact--whether or not we can recognize it. So, here is a a quotation for my dear anonymous, something that speaks to balance, responsibility, and the intersections between them:

"It's damned tough to practice that kind of compassion. But I can give you a little bit of incentive. No matter how unacknowledged your act of compassion, the universe always notices it. And the universe has a very long memory."

Friday, October 12, 2007

Results of Train Experiments

I just remembered that I never provided any conclusion to the possible train-travel-related events mentioned in a previous post, and, since I am mostly a fan of a satisfying denouement, I am going to do so now.
1) The "Denying the Laws of Physics" Possibility: When a wireless network is detected, will I be able to check my email before we Speed out of range?--- Um, no. And I may have messed up my computer's ability to detect wireless networks within range because I am a spazz. So, bad idea all around, apparently.
2) The "Agatha Christie" Moment: Will there be a mysterious/possibly homicidal maniac in the bar car?--- Luckily (or sadly, as the case may be) I was unable to detect any homicidal mania either in or near the bar car, so I never got to test my mettle in that way. My mettle was tested, however, by the vomiting baby--her mom had given her a lunch of hot dogs and Yoohoo earlier that day. Bad planning, I think. But after the sickness drama, me and the baby got to run up and down the train car, laughing... which was super-fun.
3) The Sandwich Debate: Should I bring turkey or tuna fish?--- I ended up taking a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a New York magazine, the NY Times, and several pieces of fruit. They were delicious.
4) The "Andele, Andele" Concern: Will I make it to the (freakishly early) train on time to check my baggage?--- Totally.
5) The "To Write or Not to Write, That is the Question" Discussion: Will I actually write my genre paper, or will I read the Neal Stephenson book that my friend loaned me instead?--- Nope. But I thought very hard about it. :)
6) The "Seat Partners" Dilemma: Who will be sitting next to me on the ride down? A charming, witty, handsome professor of Economics or the creepy, handsy guy from Eurotrip (Mi Scusi!)?--- Neither the handsy guy nor the professor made an appearance. But I met the cute/vomity baby, a nice older lady from NC who square dances, a Mom from Iraq with her two sweet boys, a graphic designer on his way to a presentation in Richmond (we chatted about performed masculinity and its boundaries), and a lovely Spanish lady en route to visit her mom.
7) The "Fall that was Promised" Conspiracy: When I get back to NY, will it feel like fall or will it continue to feel like hot, humid Texas (i.e. when will I actually get to wear my new sweater dress)?--- It was SUPER hot in NC. But today is a gorgeous, crisp, breezy fall day. Sweater dress is coming out on Monday, baby.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Be Afraid

In memory of dead-a-licious Halloweens past, I dedicate this scary post to my UT peeps. Mmmmm, Brains...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

How to Survive Disappointing Wonderwoman Revelations

After I thought a little bit about my unkind post to dear Wonderwoman, I decided that she and I could both use a little forgiveness. Forgive me, gone-but-not-forgotten idol, for assuming that you could always be as wonder-ful to me as you were when I was five. I forgive you for needing a sandwich (and a wardrobe change) so desperately. And, since I can't share my pastrami with you, I'll share a little Leonard Cohen instead...

Concerns about Super Heroes


I was just looking for a picture of Wonderwoman (please don't ask why), and I came across this image:



Man, did I love Wonderwoman when I was little--had a bathing suit like her, birthday cake in the shape of Ww, imagined my own adventures in the jet... I used to terrorize the neighborhood boys by jumping out at them from various trees and bushes, yelling about justice and the Lasso of Truth. I also thought that she was beautiful--but that was sort of beside the point. In my five year old world, she mainly kicked alot of ass. But now I look at Linda Carter's picture, and all I can think is: She seriously needs a sandwich. And possibly some Wonderwoman underoos. That's what I get for re-visiting childhood memories of awesomeness: Amphetamine-drenched Super-heroes shaped by corsets & camera screens--anorexic, exhausted, and camel-toey. Ick.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Taking the train to North Cacky Lacky

Am going home this weekend--yea, the South! I am taking the train from Penn Station all the way down into the Piedmont. Below is a list of possible train-travel-related events:

1) The "Denying the Laws of Physics" Possibility: When a wireless network is detected, will I be able to check my email before we Speed out of range?
2) The "Agatha Christie" Moment: Will there be a mysterious/possibly homicidal maniac in the bar car?
3) The Sandwich Debate: Should I bring turkey or tuna fish?
4) The "Andele, Andele" Concern: Will I make it to the (freakishly early) train on time to check my baggage?
5) The "To Write or Not to Write, That is the Question" Discussion: Will I actually write my genre paper, or will I read the Neal Stephenson book that my friend loaned me instead?
6) The "Seat Partners" Dilemma: Who will be sitting next to me on the ride down? A charming, witty, handsome professor of Economics or the creepy, handsy guy from Eurotrip (Mi Scusi!)?
7) The "Fall that was Promised" Conspiracy: When I get back to NY, will it feel like fall or will it continue to feel like hot, humid Texas (i.e. when will I actually get to wear my new sweater dress)?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Audience Adaptation

If you want to listen to something both beautiful and creepy, click on this. It's web radio developed by the Music Genome Project, and the way it works is this:
1) You type in a band or song that you like.
2) The website generates a (sometimes funny) description of the musician/music type listed.
3) And then it starts playing music in the same style. You, the listener/guinea pig get to "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" the different selections.

I'm using it to talk about audience adaptation next week--it's AI and Rhetoric working together. Who knew robots could be so rhetorical? Dr. Who, maybe. And Dr. Baltar. And that guy from the Cantina who doesn't like Luke. And House, of course, because he knows Everything.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Cognitive Daily

would be a good name for a band. Turns out it's also a good name for a pretty neat website featuring a new cognitive psychology article nearly every day. The most recent article is about friends with benefits, and here is a link to an article about eyeballs and color-perception (thanks for the note, Dave!). Actually, it's almost more fun to read the comments following the article. But I think that is the case with most web-related writing.

Things to make your day worse

Dear President Bush,

You are a bad man. People who prefer to spend money killing people (Blackwater and Halliburton) instead of providing them with health care, education, and not being hired thugs (SCHIP Bill and last summer's bills to expand embryonic stem cell research and troop withdrawals, respectively) are often referred to as dictators, kingpins, and warlords. You are one of those people, but I don't know which label best suits you. I will get back to you on that.

I wonder if the money you spend on secrecy and wire-tapping might be better spent elsewhere. I wonder if the ethical and monetary debts you owe to your present and future citizens (as well as the rest of the world) will ever be repaid--and who will do the repaying. I wonder if all of the people you have murdered while you were governor of Texas and while you have been the Stolen President of the US are waiting for you in some other dimension. I wonder how you sleep at night. I wonder if you wonder these things.

Watching the Blackwater hearings as I read about your vetoes makes me feel dirty. Despite my votes against you, you have made me a party to your greed and ambition. This country and the world are worse places because you lived in them. What an awful legacy to leave.

Sincerely,
A Concerned Citizen

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Two things to make your day better

First, you should dance to this:


Second, you should laugh at this.

You're welcome. I share because I care.

Something like a phenomenon, baby



I just got back from the DMV with my new New York license in my wallet.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Weeds

Quote from Andy, the hot hot hot slacker/pothead/brother-in-law:

Bush invaded a sovereign country in defiance of the UN. He’s a war criminal. And now I’m supposed to be one of his disposable thugs with a fucking target on my head in the middle of the desert waiting to be blown up by a car bomb rigged by a 12 year old who loved Friends and Metallica until one of our missiles blew up his house?!

Friday, September 28, 2007

things happening right now

It is Friday afternoon, and I am listening to the Mountain Goats sing, "I did not come to play handball."

It is a gorgeous, crisp, sunny day. My friend, the debate coach, is driving to Vermont this afternoon with a minivan full of college students.

I would rather not work on my tenure paperwork. My friend, the professor, told me that the paperwork and form-filing that occupies a first year prof would be sort of overwhelming. Oh, yes indeedy. Paperwork makes me anxious.

"You're Just Somebody that I used to Know" by Elliot Smith is playing.

Last night, I went to see the New York Philharmonic play Tchaikovsky. It was sublime. The tone of instruments together felt like part of my skin. All those people who talk about how difficult it is to language the sublime--not just whistling dixie.

After the Tchaikovsky, it was also difficult to emerge into a crowded New York street and ride a hot, overcrowded subway. But, in the end, I didn't mind so much. I like opposites and contradictions.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Back then that was tomorrow

Here's some simulated love for ya:
Thanks, Professor X, for the share!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I am making chicken soup today

It’s too warm for soup, but I am homesick this afternoon.
I chop carrots and celery and onions,
Placing them into the water
With sprigs of parsley and
Bay leaves
And garlic.
And I am caught in a memory-stirring moment—
The movement of hands and fingers,
The scent of fresh vegetables and spices,
The hot smell of simmering stock...

I remember the photographs I threw away
So I would not think about the angle of your neck
When you lean in to kiss me,
Or see the soft, vulnerable skin under your jaw
As you stretch in the morning.
I threw all of those photographs away…
On purpose.
To erase the images of your hand on my back,
Your grin at the birthday party,
And our sunset shadows, mingled,
Like short stories waiting to happen.

The photographs are gone,
And I am walking determined.
This is my kitchen, and this is my chicken soup.
But almost-ghosts are everywhere
(the Things That-Might-Have-Been),
Despite my best efforts to erase them.
They wander through the city with me,
Quietly keeping me company as I laugh with
New acquaintances,
Whispering suggestions as I shop
For shoes,
Singing along with the songs stuck in my head.

Breasts, Ideals, and Halal

I went shopping at H&M yesterday afternoon with my new football friends (before Alabama lost to Georgia in an ultimately disappointing but better-than-I-thought-it-would-go game). There are some delicious new sweaters and colors out there, so, on the one hand, I am very excited about the Swedes. On the other hand, I have a bone to pick... I bought this beautiful, gray silk dress--it looks like a jumper (E, darling, you will be very excited about this purchase). And I didn't try it on in the store because I had no desire to grapple with pre-pubescent customers or languid sales-clerks in the small, hot, dark dressing rooms.

Instead, I try on the dress this morning, and it looks fabulous EXCEPT for the fact that it won't zip up over my breasts. Good length, good material, good color, good fit everywhere else. And then the Jessica Rabbit effect. Nice. I am taking it to the tailor--"Tailor, my friend," I'll say, "we must adjust this dress away from the French ideal of perfect breast size (fitting into a champagne glass) toward the American ideal (fitting into a... well, a more substantial container, I imagine)." I hope that my tailor will work with me.

One more thing--had a deliciously Manhattan moment before the Bama game. We were standing outside their apartment on 53rd street, waiting for plates of yummy Chicken and Rice. That's right, this food stand has its own wiki. And, man, is that wiki deserved... super tasty, cheap, and the yogurt sauce is awesome. Of course, because of their reputation, the lines are always long. We got in line about 7:30 (game started at 7:45 but they have TiVo. Plus, all we missed was stupid Georgia scoring on the first fucking drive. Stupid Georgia). We got our food at about 8:20... and the line was still growing when we walked away. Chatted with some interesting dudes behind me--one of them is beginning his dissertation at Princeton. His field is Islamic Studies, and he's thinking of writing about the concept of duress in discussions and applications of Islamic law--i.e. when in situations of coercion and duress, when are laws being broken? Does the Koran allow for recants if admissions were made under duress? I don't know anything about those discussions, but it did remind me of our boy, Aristotle, and his inartistic proofs.

So that was my Manhattan moment--chicken and rice, Islamic studies, and Aristotle under a New York moon. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday night.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

These are my people

I am from the South, and I have always been conflicted/intrigued by the rhetorical constructions of what "the South" actually is. Songs like "Redneck Woman" and "About the South", movies like "The Color Purple" and "Fried Green Tomatoes" and "Mississippi Burning," books like "The Color Purple" and "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" and "Gone with the Wind" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Growing up in Mississippi"... The people and places populating these rhetorics are endlessly fascinating. The South itself becomes a kind of compost heap--of organic protest and racial hatred and historical aphasia. And, the thing is, as fictional as some of these constructions may seem (especially the ones with happy endings), I have met these people. I have danced with them, been to weddings with them, seen them at the carnival and Krystal, listened to their ridiculous politics, gone to class with them, flirted with them at football games... Dear E! told me, this morning, to listen to this song, so I hope you do, too--and read what's written below with these words and images in your head.

My little sister has recently developed a new hobby--she is a dancer in this group that travels around my hometown--at various venues and places. So, last night, to support her in this new (and somewhat puzzling) endeavor, Mom and Daddy went to watch an "Ultimate Fight" match.

No. I am not kidding.

Naturally, I was desperate to hear what had happened, so I called Mom way too early to find out. Now, I just gotta remind (or inform) you that these parents of mine are not the Ultimate Fighting types. They are more the US Open/PGA Tour types. But they love us, unconditionally, and they have always been supportive of the weird things that my dear sister and I do. My dear, dear parents, in their inimitable fashion, had a couple of different things to say about the fights.

Mom's Take:
"Well, the announcer had dark black hair and that deep announcer voice--you know, everything is sort of a yell. And most of the people (there weren't many people there, altogether) were sitting really close to the ring, getting very excited about the boy that they wanted to win. And sometimes one boy would be on top of another boy, and I would ask your dad, "Does it look like he's winning? I think that boy on top is winning." But then he would give up and throw in the towel and the other boy would get the belt. I really have no idea how they determined who won and when. At one point, the boy on top was losing his pants, so I said to Daddy, "That boy on top looks like he's losing his britches." And Daddy said, "I think that's the least of his problems."
And there were Hooters girls there. And some people brought their children--little boys and girls--and I thought that was unfortunate.
I overheard a conversation between one spectator and another guy, describing a fight that had happened before. He told his friend that one roundhouse punch (I think that's what it's called) looked like the puncher had started from the floor--"that punch had so much power; he swung all the way from the floor up to the other dude's face." And all I could think was--"if the punch started so far away, couldn't the other boy have gotten out of the way?"

Daddy's Take:
"They looked like incompetent gladiators."

There are all sorts of interesting things going on in these stories--about class and race and region and worldviews. Mom and Daddy are very good observers of the world; they notice things (kindly and with reverence) and they have taught me and my sister to do the same. At least, that's what we try to do. Mom and I laughed quite a bit at her understanding and descriptions of the fights, the participants, and the spectators--because these things are funny. I know that they are funny.

But that's not all they are.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Before Buffy, there was Ripley

Books I need to read:
1) Being and Time
2) The Pickwick Papers
3) Alien Woman--a book about Lt. Ellen Ripley, my favorite favorite favorite movie character ever. (The cover says this: "Alien introduced audiences to their first enduring, self-reliant female hero, Lt. Ripley. Subsequent writers and directors of Alien films in the 1980s and 1990s, left to grapple with a strong female protagonist, re-envisioned Ripley to express and promote changing ideas about gender, sex, the female body, and woman's place in the 20th century.")
4) Things by Levinas. I will, of course, need help with this. Wanna start a book club?
5) Reading Lolita in Tehran
6) Biographies of presidents. My friend's dad did this--starting with George Washington, he read biographies of each pres, in historical order.
7) A Confederacy of Dunces

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Things a Samurai notices

For my favorite... my dearest, loveliest anonymous:

"Generally speaking, fixation and binding are to be avoided, in both the sword and the hand. Fixation is the way to death, fluidity is the way to life. This is something that should be well understood."

See? Told ya.

If a samurai says it, it must be true.

There's something about Samurai

I am reading Miyamoto Musashi's "Book of Five Rings" right now. It is an explanation and exploration of Musashi's martial arts in both theory and practice--he was a rogue samurai, and, according to Musashi, was never defeated (in, like 60 battles).

This is a very certain book, and I am seduced by his certainty. I like certainty-- mostly because it's foreign in my country. That being said, here is a bit that every teacher (coach, carpenter, trainer, parent, warrior) should put on her wall:

"Efficiency and smooth progress, prudence in all matters, recognizing true courage, recognizing different levels of morale, instilling confidence, and realizing what can and cannot be reasonably expected--such are the matters on the mind of the master carpenter."

Musashi has got a thing for carpenters--the building, the care required, the various and sundry uses to which even the crappiest piece of wood can be put--it all comes together for him in a delicious and symbolic construct. I like that certainty. I like that the world described by Musashi (a world almost 400 years old) is a nonsensical place that still deserves care and deliberation. I like that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Being and Time

I finally got my Heidegger book. Gonna be a rollicking good time, I can already tell.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

This just in

1) Seventh grade cliques are the new scholarly forum. Seriously. Pick a side, call yourself critical OR material (you have to choose... red pill or blue pill ? red pill or blue pill? red pill or blue pill?), and do it quick, man!

2) If you are as ridiculously bad at resisting temptation as I am (oh, you don't even know the HALF of it, people), never bring a magazine and a scholarly book (bothatonce) to the laundromat, thinking that you will read the book and not the magazine. You will read the magazine. Instead of re-visiting the structure, meaning, or significance of Systems of Objects, you will learn about interesting new trends in systems of objects (apparently, hotel Botox parties and high-heeled oxfords are going to be all the rage this fall, just fyi)...

3) I want to hang out with this person.

But the real question is: "Will there be a nasty, one-sided rhetorical forum (which isn't really a forum at all, actually) about "Leaving Britney alone" in the next issue of "Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies"? I think we should start posting the forums on youtube. I'm gonna suggest that to the editorial board.

Alabama 41, Arkansas 38


Sweet, Sweet Victory. I love Alabama football.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Also

I love this site, but I take their conclusions with a grain of salt because, right now, it's about 61 degrees outside my door. And they say I don't need a jacket.

I suspect that they are Yankees.

Words that Work, Part II

"For all this I know that I was in my heart so innocent and pure, so earnest, so passioned and so true, that while I laugh, I mourn a little, and while I think of the discretion I have gained since then, I remember with a touch of sorrow, what I have lost."

-"DC", manuscript version

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A New York State of Mind

Student: "james, I finally remembered this morning who you remind me of."
Me (shuffling peer evaluation forms): "Oh? Who is that?"
Student: "Do you ever watch 'Reba'?"
Me (oh no, I have a sinking feeling it's not Reba): "Yes, I've seen it a couple of times. It's funny."
Student: "You know Barbara Jean?"
Me: "The gigantic ridiculous blonde?"
Student (giggling): "Yes. You remind me of Barbara Jean."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Another Technological Triumph Deserves 2 posts in 1 day


I could be working on the chapter for Barry (which is going to be about Ninja Warrior).
I could be typing up a peer evaluation form for my student speeches tomorrow.
I could be working on my paper for NCA (which is about masculinity, cultures of violence, and simulation).
I could be reading about sidewalk ethnography or punk rock Buddhism or samurai worldviews or sweet, sweet David Copperfield.
I could be sweeping.

Instead, though, I am playing with my camera phone and missing my Johanna. Stupid, rainy, New York Tuesday.

Welcome to China, Janine



If you find yourself suffering from insomnia, here's a way to pass the time: watch "Home Movies" on youtube, adore Coach McGirk, and eat sour patch kids. Delicious and good-for-you.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Words that Work

"I began, by being singularly cheerful and light-hearted; all sorts of half-forgotten things to talk about, came rushing into my mind, and made me hold forth in a most unwonted manner. I laughed heartily at my own jokes, and everybody else's; called Steerforth to order for not passing the wine...

I went on, by passing the wine faster and faster yet, and continually starting up with a corkscrew to open more wine, long before any wine was needed...

Somebody was smoking. We were all smoking. I was smoking, and trying to suppress a rising tendency to shudder. Steerforth had made a speech about me, in the course of which I had been affected almost to tears...

Somebody was leaning out of my bedroom-window, refreshing his forehead against the cool stone parapet, and feeling the air upon his face. It was myself. I was addressing myself as 'Copperfield,' and saying, 'Why did you try to smoke? You might have known you couldn't do it.' Now, somebody was unsteadily contemplating his features in the looking-glass. That was I too. I was very pale in the looking-glass; my eyes had a vacant appearance; and my hair -- only my hair, nothing else -- looked drunk."

-"David Copperfield"

It's nice to know that there are some constants--even if one of those constants is the idiocy of too-much-wine.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Something Intriguing

This link will keep you going for the rest of the day. Promise.

DMV = 2, james = 0

The computers were down. No processing today.

I'm off to the NYC DMV



Round II, bitches...

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Definitionally Speaking

"My school-days! The silent gliding on of my existence - the unseen, unfelt progress of my life - from childhood up to youth! Let me think, as I look back upon that flowing water, now a dry channel overgrown with leaves, whether there are any markers along its its course, by which I can remember how it ran."
-"David Copperfield"

I am always meeting interesting, informed people in (and not in) this profession. They tell good stories, they share charming anecdotes, and they quote philosophers. I get the feeling, alot of the time, that I am definitely (and definitionally) not-in-the-loop... I find myself wondering, as I listen to these charming, philosophically grounded anecdotes--do these books get read for fun? Is there some big, fun book club in which people discuss these things? How do I become a member?

Maybe this is not a definitional issue; perhaps it's disciplinary. Because you know what kind of books I read for fun? FUN BOOKS. Like Fitzgerald and Austen and "The Red Tent" and "Lord of the Rings" and stuff about traveling Swedes. The other stuff, the Agamben-Levinas stuff--that's work. And I have no problem with those two classifications-in fact, I kinda like the typology (I know, I know, E! is going to have a moment with this)... So I read work books during work time--and, apparently, retain none of the cute anecdote material. And I read fun books during fun time.

Oh, I can quote Dickens. Yes, I can.
Not so much with Heidegger.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Roll Tide

I love football season, but we should probably leave before Zack starts calling everybody bitch.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Resistance = Delicious, Good-for-you, and Life-Saving

My friends Bryan and Dana and Katie and Jennifer and Stefanie and Randi (along with Kenneth's family, and people all over the world, and a bunch of other people who I'm forgetting but who are awesome, as well) saved a life today.

Kenneth Foster Is Not Going To Be Murdered By The State Of Texas. The governor of Texas commuted his sentence earlier this morning. According to my dear friend and activist, Jennifer:

We Win!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We just heard: The Governor just commuted Kenneth Foster's sentence. Keith Hampton, Kenneth's lawyer, credits the movement with putting the necessary pressure on the system for this victory.

Resistance, apparently, isn't completely futile... "Look at yourselves. Some of you teenagers, students. . . How do you think I feel to have to tell you, 'We, my generation, sat around like a knot on a wall while the whole world was fighting for its human rights - and you've got to be born into a society where you still have that same fight.' What did we do, who preceded you? I'll tell you what we did. Nothing. And don't you make the same mistake we made...."--Malcolm X

Monday, August 27, 2007

I wonder...

what the IRB protocol would be for a virtual ethnography?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

In which the author lives different lives

When I was living in North Carolina years ago, I became sort of addicted to the game "Zeus," in which you really are the master of your own universe. I was good at it--building cities with plenty of running water and entertainment, hiring the appropriate heroes to complete the various mythological tasks assigned, keeping the people happy. I was a smart, firm ruler--am I not merciful?--and I seriously seriously seriously loved that game. "Roller Coaster Tycoon," not-so-much. In "Roller Coaster," I was the opposite of a tycoon, a physics-challenged crusher of park attendees. As opposed to my well-behaved and super-docile "Zeus" citizens, the people who came to my parks (and made it out alive) did not like my death-dealing roller coasters. Luckily, there's no jail time in that game.

Now I study simulation. And so, in honor of my old favorite, Zeus-y, and my new favorite, JB, I recently created accounts at two different places (games? worlds? spaces? I need words here): Second Life and RedLightCenter. [Are any of you in these worlds? Is that even an appropriate question to ask?]

Second Life, the firstworld, as you may or may not know, is a virtual reality in which avatars wander around, well, doing stuff. I'm still new, so I'm not exactly sure what that stuff is. I'll keep you posted. The second, RedLightCenter, is a sex world. Where there are hot tubs and bathhouses and virtual drugs. Yes, I said virtual drugs. The creators of RedLightCenter built it, they say, to let people live their wildest fantasies. It's a virtual Amsterdam--with bordellos and museums and sex-crazed tourists.

I am going to write about these things. There's alot going on here, I know--and there are some very interesting material consequences beginning to manifest from these virtual events.

Right now, though, what I'm really wondering is this: how many people (in this Massively Multi-User world folks used to call the Real One) trudge around their carpeted gray cubicles or their dimly lit factories, counting the seconds until they can get home to their keyboards and get into their Second Lives? There's something deliciously, devastatingly seductive about these virtual places (worlds, spaces, dimensions) and all the opportunities they seem to provide. Ahhhh, JB, whither thou goest...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Thoughts for the last weekend of summer

Not to be beaten out by the summer of divorce, death, and dysentery, this summer has been one of the more eventful summers in my life. All in all, I'd give it a solid A-... lots of emotional revelation (missing all my dear friends at home; seeing Jocelyn, Susie, Alan, Jeff, Vijay, Brian, Daniel,Mom and Daddy; realizing that old hurts are just that--old), completion of ridiculously time-consuming projects (take that, dissertation bitches), and plenty of yummy flirtations (mmmmm, Army rangers and economics professors... delicious). So, in honor of my A- summer of events, I've put together a list of things to practice. Some of them are skills I will need to maintain; some are skills I've yet to master. But I think endings are a good time to make lists--beginnings are great for lists, too, but beginning lists are awfully bossy. Ending lists are a lot less demanding.

Things I Do Pretty Well
1) Make people feel comfortable and included.
2) Reading
3) Witty repartee
4) Obsessing over various moral philosophers
5) Making spaghetti sauce
6) Forgiveness
7) Learning to live in new places

Things I Wish I Were Better At
1) Russian.
2) Non-procrastination.
3) Financial bits.
4) Diplomacy/non-committal grunts.
5) Alphabetizing my books.
6) Teleportation.
7) Dusting.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Orientation

The St. John's library lady, wonderful and helpful, is talking about all the online and physical resources of the St. John's Library. But all I can think about (other than my desperate need for a nap) is this:

The 3rd Tokyo Conference on Argumentation
Sponsored by the Japan Debate Association

Conference Theme: Argumentation, the Law, and Justice
Keynotes : David B. Hingstman, JD and PhD
Japanese keynote speaker to be announced

CALL FOR PAPERS

The 3rd Tokyo Conference on Argumentation will be held August 8-10, 2008, in Tokyo, Japan. The conference is sponsored by the Japan Debate Association (JDA). The conference is designed to encourage exchanges of views on the theory, practice and instruction of argumentation across the disciplines. Presentations related to the convention theme "Argumentation, the Law & Justice" are encouraged, but proposals are not restricted to it.
Potential topics of interest include: argumentation and rhetoric, forensic pedagogy, the philosophy and psychology of reasoning, practical studies, and studies of historical argumentative texts. Qualified papers will appear in our Proceedings to be distributed at the Conference.

On-line submission of abstracts will be accepted starting November 16, 2006. Submit your title, affiliation and abstract (200-300 words) by January 15, 2008, on our web site at: http://www.kt.rim.or.jp/~jda/tokyo_conference/

Acceptance will be notified by February 15, 2008. Accepted authors who wish to have their papers considered for publication in the Proceedings must submit full manuscript by May 15, 2008. If you have questions, please contact Planning Committee
Chair Takeshi Suzuki, Dept. of English, Tsuda College, Tokyo, 2-1-1 Tsudamachi, Kodaira, Tokyo 187-8577, Japan, or send your question at: http://www.kt.rim.or.jp/~jda/form/question.html

Anybody wanna go to Japan?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Happy Ending, sort of

Right after the DMV debacle, I got myself a cup of coffee from the Dunkin Donuts across the street. As I was making my way to the bus stop, coffee in hand, this lady wearing a pink hat and pushing some sort of weird black cart, said, "Watch your step... bitch."

Me: "I'm sorry, were you talking to me?"
Pink hat: "You just watch where you're going with that coffee."
Me: "My coffee? Why?"
Pink hat: "You come over here with that coffee and you're gonna get hurt. You'll see."
Me: [Silent disbelief]

So, as Josh Ritter says, "We're all half crazy, but all at least half all right."

Except that lady. She's clearly unhinged--which makes me feel totally better about the rest of us.

There's no crying at the DMV.

No, wait, yes there is.

This morning, laden with a variety of Important Papers, I went to get a NY driver's license. I had (count 'em) TWO passports--one with my old name, one with my new one; divorce decree and legal request for name change; social security card; letter from social security administration indicating that they have changed my name in the system officially; my new Bayside lease; a letter from my new New York bank (as proof of current NY address); my TX student ID; and my TX driver's license. I waited in the first line to get an application. I waited in the second line to show all of my Important Papers to the bored DMV employee unlucky enough to draw me as the next customer. The guy looks at all the papers and tells me that there is no date of issue indication on my TX driver's license. So, apparently, I could have gotten that nasty little official document sometime in the last six months--which is, apparently, No Good. So, what I need to do, continues the bored DMV employee (with no clue about the insanity lurking just around the corner), is contact the TX DMV, get them to MAIL me a copy of my TX driving record abstract, and then bring that fucker BACK to the NY department of motor vehicles. No, I cannot get a fax. And, no, he cannot call them and find out himself.

Now, mind you, the bored (but increasingly alarmed DMV employee) shares this information with me after another series of unfortunate events. (1) An early, early alarm clock I set because I wanted to get there early (thinking that the lines might be less overwhelming-which was incorrect) and because I wanted to put on eyeliner for the stupid ID photo (yes, I put on fucking eyeliner for the ID photo); (2) A missed bus; (3) Spilled hot coffee and some cursing; (4) A 40 minute long bus ride to the mysterious DMV location somewhere in Jamaica, Queens; (5) And an hour wait in different lines. [Addendum: (A) the abstract request is gonna cost and (B) I can't come back today because I have to wait for the TX mail.

And so I cried at the DMV. Total breakdown... eyeliner running all down my face, feeling very sorry for myself (and the other poor idiots in line and the poor idiots behind the counter who had no idea what to do with the crazy, weeping TX white girl).

Now this may seem a bit of an over-reaction, I realize. There will be other days to stand in line. And, eventually, I will get my license--sans eyeliner, I can assure you. But I am beginning to recognize, I think, that this little vacation in NY is not going to end with my eventual and safe return to my comfortable, familiar house in Austin. And that is probably why I cried at the DMV--which I could not explain to the sad sod behind the counter.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Movies

I juat watched a really disturbing horror movie. It's called Bad Reputation. I just rented it, thinking that it would be delicious and funny like Ginger Snaps, which depicts female teen angst in a horrific (and simultaneously sympathetic) manner. Turns out, not-so-much... It gets really bad before it gets sort of good. The revenge bits are OK. It won all sorts of awards from a variety of horror film festivals. But I didn't enjoy "Bad Reputation" much. It's obvious and boring and the lead-up to the main character's Carrie-moment takes. For. Ever. "Ginger Snaps" is much more subtle and fun.

On Labyrinths

Her head of hair was something, a labyrinthine, billowing wreath of spirals and ringlets, fuzzy as twine and large enough for use as a Christmas ornamentation. All the disquiet of her childhood seemed to have passed into the convolutions of her sinuous thicket of hair. Her irreversible hair. You could polish pots with it and no more alter its construction than if it were harvested from the inky depths of the sea, some kind of wiry, reef-building organism, a dense living onyx hybrid of coral and shrubs, perhaps possessing medicinal properties. - Phillip Roth

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Rhetoric Quiz

If you're interested in gettin' yer hate on, take this quiz. The answers might surprise you.

Then again... they might not.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Unpacking, bourbon, and new friends

I am never buying anything again.

Unless it's closet space. Which I don't think is sold in New York. Or bourbon. Which is sold in New York.

There are some cute local bars in this area--and a neat-O Episcopalian church--not that those two things are related. In the cute bars, I met some nice folks. Jeannie and Rich were at the first bar. Both of them are crazy Yankees fans. Also met a bartender named Danny who is, of all things, a U of Miami fan. What the hell? Danny, the incongrous Miami fan, tells me that he does not have a good feeling about Alabama football this year. Bastard.

I also met some nice Irish men last night. One is named Rocky, one is named John. John is a chef--we chatted about the merits of Southern food. Mmmmm, fried green tomatoes and chicken fried steak. Rocky is not a chef--I don't really know what he does except wear shirts with the sleeves cut out and flirt with women. He did tell me, though, that since I moved into the neighborhood, I am part of the family. So, he said, anybody who fucks with me will be "taken care of."

So watch out, people. Just watch out.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Today

Bought a trashcan. Went to the beach. Had a little fight with my mom--mainly because I was being an asshole, and she was sick of hearing the asshole talk.

Here are two conclusions:
1)The beach in NY is not so nice as the beach at Cancun. Or Gulf Shores, for that matter.
2) Southern hospitality is no myth, baby, but everyone's an asshole sometimes.

Also, I am going to miss my mom awfully. She is leaving tomorrow.

Adjusting to Life in the Big City

So, first of all, I need to thank Becky for the marvelous bathroom storage suggestion--girl, it works, and it saved me so much headache. I love all my bathroom bits, so I didn't want to get rid of them. And, thanks to you, all the lotions and bandaids and hair products are living hapily together in a not-so-crowded bathroom.

Next, I am truly a suburb-kind-of girl. Living in this city is going to be different. We went to Manhattan yesterday, to do some shopping at Bloomingdale's. Luckily, I got a bit familiar with the MTA when I was here in June with dear E!. So we traveled pretty well (considering that my poor, dear elderly family members had to truck it up and down all the stairs in and out of the subway system. They were pooped when we finally got back to Bayside). And we had a wonderful time--mom got me some new Gucci body lotion and shower gel, so I am gonna wow those St. John's folks with my yummy self when school starts. Also, Bloomingdale's is everything it's cracked up to be. Super-nice salespeople, DELICIOUS and numerous selections of shoes (I could seriously hurt myself and my credit rating in this place), and all sorts of beautiful things to buy.

That being said, getting things like a trashcan and a dish-drying rack are another story entirely. Gone are the days when strip malls full of Bed, Bath, and Beyond or Target are, like, an inch away. Daddy and I drove around last night looking for a place to get trash bags and paper towels. It's a whole new world, man.

I'm trying to be cool about it--when all I can think is "Different is bad. We fear change."

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Why I Love Men Who Lift Heavy Things

Just got into the apartment today. I have worried about this for so long that I don't know what I'm going to do with myself tonight. Maybe I should start worrying about school now.

The move has gone surprisingly smooth so far. Schnapps is doing well. The apartment is gorgeous, and the movers got the couch up the stairs.They were awesome, btw. They are called Personalized Moving, and they are wonderful. I found them via this website. I told one of the movers that I would say nice things about Personalized Moving online. So I have...

Now I just need to figure out how to fit the furniture into the right spaces--and where the hell I'm gonna keep all of my different bath bits. Not-a-lot of storage in NYC bathrooms.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Ice Cream, Pear Vodka, and Insomnia

Who invented ice cream? Because I'd like to shake her/his hand.

Also, pear vodka, by itself, tastes like perfume, and not in a good way. Pear martinis need some other sort of pear-flavored thing in them to taste anything like pear. That may be the most times I've ever typed the word "pear" in my life. Pear.

I was lying in bed, not sleeping, wondering these things just about five minutes ago. I should be somewhere else, and it's making me tired-but-not-tired-enough-to-rest-in-a-healthy-way. So here are some ideas for papers I might write soon:

1) Something about capital punishment. The recent rash of movies/TV shows about vigilantes is a side item view of capital puniushment--a justification of killing people as long as they're the "right" ones. Some examples: that HBO show, "Dexter" about the would-be murderer turned CSI investigator. "24"--fascist Jack Bauer. "Boondock Saints." "The Brave One"--Jodie Foster's new movie. "The Hitman"--Timothy Oliphant's new movie. I guess there are probably several comic book movies to list here--will have to check them. The goals of this paper would be to (a) investigate whether or not there is some thematic relationship/homology between these stories and (b) interrogate their rhetorical justification of state-sponsored/individually-performed killing. Is there some clear rhetorical connection between the trigger man and the state's definitions of "bad guy"? Actually, now that I think about it, every "Die Hard" might be one of these. This may not be a recently developed thing, but I think it's worthy of study. If we continue to find evidence (via DNA and eyewitness testimony) that the death penalty, as activated by the states, is killing innocent people, then why are there so few people trying to change it? Is there some other cultural phenomenon keeping it either under the radar or justifiable? People like Kenneth Foster and Rodney Reed are losing precious time.

There are a couple others I want to write about heroes and ambient intimacy, and I need to re-work the cultural aphasia one (to include more simulation and less civil war blather), but I can't remember them right now. Think I'll try to sleep again...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

She

Deliberately setting her hand on the table,
As if she were bracing for the next attack,
She tells me that she is angry with me…
A bit.
And I am glad to feel her anger.

She is strong.
She stands against the wall,
Scanning the crowd for worthy adversaries,
Listing off allies in her head.
I am one of the allies
And one of the adversaries,
Bothatonce…

Beautiful,
Leaning into a laugh,
Diving into a pool,
Dancing onto a veranda…
She is the sharpest line of a stone.
The rooms she enters are brighter when she is there.
And darker when she is not.

I am blessed-
To have known this strength,
To have seen this sharpness.
To have learned this beauty.

I am blessed to feel this ache
Because she is so far from me.

But all I can think about is the firsttime
She hugged me.
It was a surprise…
We had only just met,
And she was so cautious.
I did not know yet that she loved me..
I did not know yet that I was a lucky one.
And she drove me to the airport
(because he would not, but that’s another story).
She drove me to the airport,
And, as I was moving to open the door,
She hugged me.

And so I joined the ranks…
Deliberately.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Simulating Masculinity

I am just now starting to realize that I won't be going home to Texas. It makes my heart hurt. I am so glad to see all of these people at home, and I am so excited to meet all of the new people in New York. And I wish that, after all the seeing and the meeting, I could go home and drink some wine with my best friend on a regular, boring-old Tuesday.

That is what I wish.

Also, the title of this post is what I should have called the marginal wacko paper I'm writing for NCA. A declaration-I am going to make a conscious effort, as of this writing, to forego semicolons in academic titles. It's too late for the dissertation, but it's never too late for the next essay.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

In case you were wondering...

These are the people who rock and who made the diss do-able.

Mom, Daddy, Jocelyn, Alan, Susie, and Grandmother. I am here because of you.

My Johanna—who adds passion, fervor, and elegance to both living and arguing; Jennifer—who reminds me, always, that these things we say must be driven by flesh and blood; Kevin—who keeps me sharp and laughing; Katie—who makes sense from the nonsensical; Gretchen—who heals and reconstructs; Meredith—who promises to be a rock star; my PoMo personal trainer—who makes JB human; and the goddesses—Jessica, Angela, Lisa, Kristen, Caroline, and Amy—who pave the way to strength AND beauty.

And thanks to: Barry for being such a wizard; Dana, for being such a warrior; Rick, for being such a debater; Diane, for being such a hero; Matt, for being such an ally; and Josh, for being such a friend.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Git Ur Done

So now I'm a Doctor of Philosophy!!!

And Transformers rocks. Seriously. I might go see it again this afternoon--test out my new doctor-y eyes.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Heart Attack

Tomorrow morning at nine am. I think I'm having a heart attack.

Also, Transformers is awesome. Just btw.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Days Left

One week until the defense. Two weeks until the departure. Pretty soon I can start counting the wake-ups. I will miss waking up in this town, I think.

And, also, I have too many flippin' books. Am seriously considering giving everything away... except Fitzgerald. And Dickens. And maybe that one about that whale.

And I really want to keep my JB books--he and I have grown close these last few months.

And I wouldn't want Hemingway to feel left out... God forbid he have another reason to bitch.

And Jane, well, I can't leave Jane--or all the books about motives because those seem fairly perceptive. And I don't want to leave Billy Collins. I would miss him.

Never mind. I'll just give away the couches.

Friday, June 29, 2007

RD Addendum

I'm not gonna lie. The ear-slashing bit still makes me feel sick to my stomach. To this day, I can't listen to "Stuck in the Middle with You" without feeling slightly nauseated.

Reservoir Dogs

"What you're supposed to do is act like a fucking professional. A psychopath ain't a professional--can't work with a psychopath. You don't know what those sick assholes are gonna do next."

This may be cliche, but, man, do I love Reservoir Dogs. Seriously. I like the suits and the guns and the fast-talkin-robber-guys. I like the commode story and the "I don't like alarms, Mr. White" and the random conversations in diners. Recent Tarantino, notsomuch, but Reservoir Dogs and True Romance. I could eat them like sandwiches.

And Harvey Keitel. Harvey Keitel is yummy--which I know is sort of weird. But I like him in the suit. And I like when he gets naked in the Piano, too.

So there.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Never fly Northwest

Alright, I got the apartment, so I was specially touched by the good karma fairy this trip. It is beautiful! Hard wood floors, near school and cool restaurants/bars, a little yard with trees. Awesome.

Here's the newest news, though. Apparently, the weather has decided that I should be a New Yorker NOW. My flight home last night was canceled, so I got a flight home this morning... which was also canceled. Not-so-Awesome.

Perhaps I can defend my dissertation via Skype.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Start Spreading the News

I am in New York right now--looking for apartments. Tomorrow I have a couple of appointments to see some places, so cross yer fingers.

Also, aside from the apartment-hunting plan, I wanted to meet a New York cop, so we went to a towny-looking Irish bar on Bell Blvd. And, who should we meet at the towny-looking Irish bar but a New York cop! How cool is that? Actually, the New York cop wasn't so much fun (cute but SUPER drunk, so the fact that he may be a close-talker in real life was exponentially multiplied by, like, seven thousand bud lights). Close-talkin-drunk guy did have a very nice friend. We talked about Billy Bragg and growing up in the eighties.

So, two things down.

Tomorrow evening we go to Manhattan for dinner and martinis.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Re-watching movies I didn't like the first time

The ending of Heat would have been a whole lot cooler (not to mention, more honest) if Bobby DeNiro and Al Pacino had made out. I mean, their characters are totally gay for each other... which seems to be a theme in Michael Mann's movies: crazy amounts of homoerotic sexual tension, very little payoff.

I'm just sayin.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Ooooh, two posts in one day...

I like the congregation of smoke and green leaves,
When you lean in close, and I can smell the end…
The inevitable, passionate union
Of old secrets and new branches.
We are sitting in the middle of a broken fence,
The slats sway from side to side,
Reminiscent of cartoons and Halloween.
White—tilted and tired and tiered,
Each part of the fence leans.

We are not not dancing,
But the immobile things around us dance—
Breathing,
Pulsing,
Blood-filled and haunted.
This house is swollen, and
We fill it with our ghosts.
The tidy walls are just a cover,
A justification of the suspicions that they have always harbored.

I like your voice.
I like the commands it contains.
I like that you call.
Even when I do not answer, I am listening…
Waiting for you to say something impossible
And precarious.
This is not an act of hope.
We are faithless and metaphoric.
We are virtual and untied.

We might be perfect
(Which is just another word for dead).

Luckily, there are no synonyms in our language for redemption.
There is no other way to resurrect,
So I fill my mouth with different things.
I eat your voice like ice cubes.
I tuck your syllables away behind my teeth,
I place your subjects under my tongue…
You are in communion with the gods of Lesser Things.
You always knew how to speak different languages.

So many delicious British poets...

so little time. What IS IT about fast-talking dudes with beards? Seriously. Somebody needs to tell me.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Rhetoric: The Dark and Sticky Art

I don't think that Mark Danner will ever get invited to give the commencement speech at Texas. Call it a hunch.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Ambient Intimacy

So I was flipping through (is that the right phrase?) blogs today, and I came across an interesting discussion of this thing called Ambient Intimacy. I like this idea, I think--it seems to be a sort of corrective to the scary/gigantic/randomness of the Internet... Reconnecting with old friends via Myspace (I recently met the ten year old daughter of my best friend in elementary school--she and I lost touch after she got married, and I missed her. Meeting the kid was icing on the cake), playing poker and chess with friends who live a thousand miles away, checking out recent pictures and sending your own to friends and family, following the lives of distant acquaintances (especially some really smart folks I've met at school and conferences) are all mainfestations of this turn.

Of course, I do have to mention the simulational aspects of such a mediated intimacy--there are several layers to these online connections that could stand some intimate investigation of their own.

But, for now, I like the idea of these connections. Especially considering the upcoming sea changes I and many of my newly hired buddies are going to experience in the next few months. It's comforting to know that I can still see their sweet faces and learn about their adventures when we are living thousands of miles away from each other. We can maintain, if we work at it, some semblance of daily interaction with one another, so we won't, ideally, have to reconnect ten years down the road.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Homecoming

This is an homage to all the travelers returning home today... especially you, my dear anonymous.

I've missed you.

Friday, June 1, 2007

New Crush



When I get to New York, I want to hang out with this guy. We can watch Alabama football and drink Early Times whiskey. Mmmmmm, football and whiskey...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Imaginings

I am going through my things, books, CDs, photos, knick knacks--trying to figure out what I don't need. Aside from realizing that I have spent the majority of my life collecting ridiculous bits, I came across an old CD mix the other day. Years ago, when I was in my MA program, this boy that I knew gave me a mix. I don't remember why or if he gave it to others (mostly because those days are a haze of ethical dilemmas, Max-Alerts, bad decisions, and martinis), but I do remember the boy. I always suspected that he had a bit of a crush on me--but he wasn't my type. Nice, scientist, kinda skinny, very logical and quiet...

Anyway, I come across this old mix, and I listen to it. And I'm wondering if there was more to this mix than I ever imagined. My friend--whom I also knew back then--tells me that I am displacing. Imagining that there is more to this little conglomeration of songs (about love and beauty and heartbreak and temptation), instead of paying attention to details of the present. Regardless of my doubtful friend's psycho-analytic diagnoses, I imagine there was (there always is) alot more to that sweet, quiet med student than I ever noticed, maybe...

Either way, it's interesting (sad, a little, but interesting, too) to think about things we maybe miss... for whatever reason. Because we're young and stupid. Because we're swimming in martinis. Because we're distracted or disbelieving or angry.

I imagine that boy is well and still reads poetry. That he still listens to good music and has someone beautiful and kind to share his favorite songs with.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Addictions

Some people like the Sopranos. Others are addicted to (and I mean they may need an intervention before too long) The Wire..

Either way, it's always good to know your Mob Nickname.

Seriously, people. Check it.

Sincerely,
Dr. "The Hobo Clown" James

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Some More Reasons to Worry about the State of the World

Wide Web, that is.

I was just paging through some of my friends' bloglists, and I came across a blog about new media and rhetoric. The blogger, a professor at ECU, posted links to three different articles about women and the web--all of them about the psychotic threats received by different female bloggers. "Sexual Threats Stifle Some Female Bloggers" is just one of them.

Now, honestly, I think Michelle Malkin is a racist, homophobic, classist waste of fashionable shoes. And I LOVE arguing with people who can bring it--this is why, this is why, this is why debaters are hot.

But (and you may call me old-fashioned, if you like) I don't think that the process of bringing it should include red herring, mean-ass death threats.

Another of my dear friends, who is currently working on a monumental tome about "Eyes on the Prize," was talking with me the other day about the portrayal of violence in discussions of the American civil rights movement. The tension between force used by the downtrodden and force used by the powers-that-be, she says, are clearly major concerns of those who document the history of civil rights heroes and martyrs. I mean, today at the gym, I was sort of watching some special (I did not catch the name of it) about black American heroes--the people buried in Arlington, memorialized on the Washington Mall, etc. Joe Louis was mentioned prominently, as was the first black man to become a four star general. Those violent black men were totally acceptable to American history and culture. But notsomuch with Fred Hampton and other Black Panthers murdered by the police. There is quite a bit of debate about the meaning of "free speech" and "appropriate use of force." Is it OK, for example, when the cops come to your door (unprompted and without PC) to meet them with the same kinds of weapons that they carry? How much political and social work gets done when protesters of various ilk get beaten on--again and again? When is it OK to turn the guns around?

These blog threats seem to demonstrate an intriguing (and techy) facet of that old chestnut--who gets to talk, what do they get to say, when, and why? It is a fucking shame, though, that the same people who are more likley to suffer physical mistreatment on the street are now getting mentally and psychologically abused by keyboard-bearing sadists. And add to that the physical potential of these threat, and we're not really so advanced as we think we are... regardless of increasing Internet-fu.

Makes me want to quit school and watch the "The Wire." Actually, most of the time I want to watch "The Wire," so these phenomena may not be causally linked.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Three of My Favorite Things

1) TC's lounge in Austin, TX--a juke joint (for reals) where a bunch of sweaty people drink cheap beer, listen to yummy blues, and dance, dance, dance. Also, there's a crock pot full of good-ness (sometimes chicken-n-dumplings, sometimes chili--you get the idea).

2)The phrase "ass bucket"--invented (we think) by my sister in a fit of road rage.

3) Squinting at walls (i.e. Believing in good magick).

Saturday, May 19, 2007

I can stop anytime, really...



Just this one pair, and I am done for the summer.

Promise.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Summer Time

Delicious confusion of Sundays
were the summers when we were small.
Hotsunset, hotsunrise…
Each day began with chlorine and frogs,
the crispness of early morning light failing under
the weight of smoldering Alabama afternoons.
The heavy, yellow smell of honeysuckle
followed us inside after every late night
game of hide-n-seek.

So, naturally, we would get the days confused.

Not that we were irresponsible.
We went to the birthday parties
of the girls and boys we didn’t like
because Mom and Grandmother said we should.
We were quiet in
all the Libraries—
it is important to walk softly on the cold tile,
to turn the rough-smelling pages carefully.
We were polite to the church ladies,
who wore pantyhose even on the hottest days in August—
we smiled and thanked them when they told us we were going to be just
as pretty as our Mama,
and just as smart as Daddy.

We were not irresponsible;
We just forgot the order of the year.
We did not read our calendars or check our due dates.
We did not schedule.

You and I were very good at summer.
Taking naps in the heat of the day—
Making mud stew in the backyard and trying to get the dog,
who was way too smart for that,
to eat it—
Gorging on slices of watermelon until our hands and faces were slick
With sticky, black seeds.
You would laugh then,
at the seeds on my forehead or neck,
giggling at my vain attempts to remove them without getting more juice in my hair.
And I would laugh, too,
because your baby giggles were contagious,
and because another endless summer night was just a few hours away.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

This song is for the philosophers

In this section, then, I define and diagram the argumentative construction of simulation—and the ways in which simulational arguments persuade. First, I provide several definitions of simulation, highlighting the two major elements of simulation (represent-ability and performativity). Next, I discuss the advent and progression of simulation—as seen in Jean Baudrillard’s theoretical exploration of the concept. Finally, I investigate the ways in which the arguments of a Simulated History are constructed, presenting different examples of Simulated History and introducing my particular case study (Civil War reenactment).

“Simulations are controlled representations of reality.” Simulations are cinematic, “prosthetic experience[s] of collective power… [or] collective desire.” Simulation is similar to, but different than, reality; it consists of
images… [that] depict or re-present realities but are not themselves realities. We usually know the difference. If an
image depicts a place we have visited or reminds us of something that once happened to us, or something we could
imagine happening, we call it realistic But that is still not “real.”
Simulation is an experiential laboratory, a research method establishing the difference between textual investigation and experiential data—a way of “rediscovering data that had been lost from traditional written and iconographic resources.” “Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being, or a substance. It is the generation of models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal… It is… the precession of simulacra…” In each of the previous definitions of simulation, the differences (and intersections) between simulation and representation are shady theoretical places to dwell.

Each of the above definitions plays with the fine lines between “real,” the “representation,” and the results of such a representation. The first definition, that simulations are controlled—comes from an old article about the uses and abuses of simulation in educational situations. A more philsophical conception of simulation often links it with concepts of virtuality, as in the second two definitions—simulation as a kind of experiential prosthetic (an observation made by Susan Buck-Morss, when she discusses the various political ideologies represented in cinematic simulations of Soviet and American identity), and simulation as a collection of “realistic” images (a definition proposed by Todd Gitlin in a discussion of over-mediated contemporary culture). The fourth definition, taken from a book about living history, touches on the notion of experience, as well—echoing both Ochoa (the educator) and Buck-Morss (the political theorist), Jay Anderson describes simulation as a valuable and experiential learning tool.

The final definition is taken from Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation and is a more ontological description of simulation—placing simulation within the practices of culture, Baudrillard’s definition departs a bit from the others but still hits on the two main elements of simulation: represent-ability and performativity. Although there are many different definitions of simulation—across scientific, philosophical, and educational circles—a “notion that appears persistently is that simulations are representations of reality.” Another notion that appears in definitions and conceptions of simulation is ideas about performance and performativity. Simulation, then, is the performative process of re-presenting a real—when the real is some concept of “things as they are” or “things as they could be.” In these figures (things as they are or could be), the argumentative structure depends upon both the realistic power of representation—to demonstrate, realistically, some idea about the world being simulated. There must be a represent-ability to the real things being simulated, or the simulation will not convince. Second, simulation’s argumentative structure also depends upon the convincing power of performance—to experience, realistically, some idea about the world being simulated.

Simulation, a performative process of representing the real, gets used rhetorically in a variety of ways. As we see above, simulation is an educational tool—simulating controlled situations in the classroom is a classic pedagogical device used to place students in different environments. Simulation also works as a reasearch method—to fill in, as Anderson suggests, theoretical knowledge gaps with experiential information. These two uses of simulation demonstrate its persuasive, practical, performative power: simulation convinces (works) because it is practically and performatively applicable. The more theoretical definitions—exploring the cultural, cinematic, or technological reach of simulation—emphasize simulation’s representative power; in these definitions, simulation convinces (works) because it effectively re-presents the realistic and realist expectations of its audience. Whether the simulation occurs in a classroom environment (to teach students about the functioning of the stock market) or in a national identity (to teach citizens about the true purposes of democracy), simulations are persuasive.

Before I explore the argumentative dimensions of simulation, though, let’s investigate simulation as a cultural phenomenon. Jean Baudrillard, throughout his career, struggled to elucidate the connections between the cultural phases and philosophical facets of simulation. The basic definition of simulation, according to Jean Baudrillard, is that simulation was once the process of making a copy, a referential territory in which the symbol or thing being produced had some real relationship to that which it represented. Simulation has become, however, a symptom of the hyperreal: “the generation by models of a real without origin or reality… [a] map that precedes reality—precession of simulacra —that engenders the territory… It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges persist here and there.” This definition of simulation, then, is twofold. First, it is a process. And second, it is argumentatively powerful because it plays upon the concept of the real—which is a powerful postulate—and because it allows for (requires? Cannot be without?) a multiplicity of meaning. In "Symbolic Exchange and Death," he introduces the notion of simulation as a progression; each step proceeded, he argues, further and further from the actual reality it seeks to represent. The problem with simulation is that it creates its own reality—and once it has created that reality, simulation becomes a representation of only itself. Simulation becomes more real than, more exact than, more perfect than, the real, and, in so doing, simulation usurps the real it purports to represent.

Baudrillard’s discussion of simulation and its stages changed throughout his life. At the earliest, he descibed them in this way:
1) Simulation stands in for reality
2) Simulation hides the absence of reality
3) Simulation produces its own reality

In "Simulacra and Simulation," Baudrillard introduces a fourth stage, the stage in which we currently find ourselves—the viral or fractal or simulacral stage. This stage stems from the third stage—a metamorphosis into the simulacral form. The orders of simulation are really a kind of ontological precession of reality—in that each step causes a regression overwhelming the relationship between reality and its others in the previous stages. Each stage eats the previous stage; this is the hyperreal. This is where simulation is so endemic, so big, that it’s eaten all the real before, and there’s really no way of getting back to the real.