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


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


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:

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:

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


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


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...