Thursday, December 29, 2005

Bye-bye bookies

I have many books for which I have no use anymore. Some I never had a use for. Others were part of a passing obsession, yet I am quite certain that I will never read again. But I hate to get rid of anything. On the other hand, I do need new shelf space. I am torn. I wonder how much I can get for them at Half Price Books. hmm. Some have no jackets but some are in very good condition. Many of them were bought at HPB to begin with. I guess it's just the cycle of book life. Hmm. Any advice? Should I keep books for which I have little/no use? Should I HPB them or eBay them? I really need to trim down my book collection for easy moving.

Update: Okay, so, I'm keeping a lot of my stuff from my period of fascination with European royal history. But I'm tossing the trashy modern tell-alls about the Windsors and the biographies of the Queen and her children. I'm keeping the "good" fiction that I'll re-read but I'm selling the dime-novel wannabees/Christian romance novels/and dorky science fiction. I'm also tossing some of my political porn, but only stuff that is particularly dated/stupid. And the conservative stuff I bought back in the day. Sean Hannity has been on my shelf for far too long for comfort. As has Bill Bennet, but that's kind of in the next category: my Christian non-fiction. Loads of apologetics. Some inspirational/devotional books. HPB always has lots of those. (Does that mean that I'll get good money for them or that I won't?)

Update 2: So, I decided to keep a lot of the trashy fiction--the scifi and one-shot afternoon reads. You never know when you just need an okay book. And some of the royal biographies. Even the trashy ones. But not the spectacularly bad ones. And I decided to keep some Sean Hannity. He's now relegated to my section of funny books, though.

Update 3: I really can't bring myself to throw anything out! Most of it's back on my shelves. Some of them I found happy homes for. Especially some of the trashy romance and Christian romance. I even found a home for some of the better/more scholarly Christian apologia. Nobody, however, wanted The Purpose Driven Life.

Some of my conservative stuff went to someone who I'm not entirely sure if he wants it because it's deeply ironic or because he enjoys it. But I can't, simply cannot, give up my Sean Hannity. It was tempting to keep some of the Lady in Waiting/God Writes Your Love Story stuff, but I had to finally take a stand on not talking myself into keeping everything, and that was the line.

I kept the Left Behind series for a few reasons: 1) I've recently read a few books analyzing evangelical Christian culture through the lens of this series and the ensuing phenomena, and I thus intend to re-read them, 2) most (okay, all) were actually purchased by my mother, and thus it would be wrong to sell them, and 3) they have no covers anymore, so even if I did decide to sell them, their value has already gone down considerably.

So, because I clearly suck and am too attached to my books (even the stupid ones and the ones that are no longer relevant to anything... I just want to keep them, just for the memories... remember, this is the person who still has her sixth grade "Socail Studies" notebook in her closet), here is the pitifully small number of books that shall forever leave my life tomorrow:

Bye-bye bookies

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Nobody except Thomas

Apparently Justice Roberts is starting out his term well. At least in terms of getting along with everyone. And he's funny.

In oral argument for a case concerning first amendment protections for public employees, his first question began: “If I get a memo from a law clerk that says, ‘Justice So-and-So's jurisprudence is wacky … and I fire them because I think that's not appropriate to put in a memo …”

Scalia then interrupted with “Nobody's wacko here.”

From dceiver over at Wonkette

Trent Lott Swings on his Front Porch
It's been pointed out to us that statements that Trent Lott has made in his past, such as: "The Democrats seem to think that the answer is a lawsuit. Sue everybody." And: "If their answer to everything is more lawsuits, then yes, that's a problem, because I certainly don't support that." And: "It's sue, sue, sue... That's not the answer."

Do not jibe with the measures he's taking to rebuild his famous front porch: "Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott and his wife sued State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. to force the insurer to pay for damage to their house in Pascagoula on the Gulf of Mexico, which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina."

So, if you're scoring at home: Sending the Solicitor General to advocate on behalf of golddigging whores -- vital to the national interest. Megarich Senator spends taxpayer dollars suing to have his "in harm's way" gulf state home rebuilt -- terrifically important. Valerie Lakey nearly vivisected by a pool pump -- surely she can pull herself up by her bootstraps!

Since I'm lazy, I just figured I'd copy and paste. With proper citation, of course. But, I think this is so typical of politicians (in general, not just Republicans!) that I had to share it. Republicans are all for states' rights. Until a state wants to legalize gay marriage. Then it's time for a constitutional amendment to stop any of that. Democrats... somebody help me... I am in no way claiming they are non-hypocritical, I just can't think of a great example at the moment. Regardless, no one stands on principle, they stand on politics. And, grr.

Late night Wal Mart run

See, oh wonderful blog readers, the exciting things you will be treated to now that I am camera-ful?

A random late night excursion to find Ashley a shirt to wear for her family pictures tomorrow brought us to Wal Mart. Where we proceeded to play in the aisles, try on random hats, and generally mess things up. See for yourself.

Turns out the fitting rooms aren't open at midnight. So Ashley tries on clothes in a secluded area.

Ashley and Michelle have better pictures on their cameras. But they also have extraordinarily unfortunate pictures of me. So they won't be posted.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Happy Holidays!

So, I got a digital camera for Christmas. This first picture is of my roommate, Ema, who is having her picture taken very much against her will. The second is of my sister, Cynthia, and her cat, Comma. against her will.

EDIT: Apparently, Ema didn't like her picture and insisted it be taken down. (Well, she did ask politely, and the picture did make her look rather like she was missing a front tooth.)

Friday, December 23, 2005

The apps are in!


Well, three of them are! Or, will be after I go to the post office today.

Including...drumroll please...all of my letters of recommendation. (Finally.)

I am finished with applications for UC-Santa Barbara, UW-Madison, and Northwestern.

Now I just have the January 15 deadlines to get ready for: Indiana University, UT-Austin, Arizona, and UMass-Amherst.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Everything I need to know I learned from scary conservatives

I have a confession. Many of you who know me in real life already know this, but here goes: I love conservatives. Scary ones. Yes, I know, in a very condescending, pat-on-the-head-aren't-you-cute kind of way. The KKK? Awful, evil, horrible. But kind of funny. I feel kind of like a bad person, but there it is. Now, people who are racist/sexist without knowing it, they make me sad/mad. "Colorblind" racists, "personal responsibility" racists, etc. (I am not saying that colorblindness or personal responsibility are bad things, in themselves. They have, however, become codewords for a particular brand of conservatism that doesn't amuse me in the slightest. Mostly because I can see people taken in by the rhetoric, people who wouldn't at all consider themselves racists.)

With sexism: I love Phyllis Schlafly and (which, by the way, is wonderful. You should check it out.). I hate Katie Roiphe and Naomi Wolf. You getting the idea? Pat Robertson's argument that feminism causes women to leave their husbands, get abortions, and become lesbians is funny. Roiphe's pseudofeminism that uses a tactic similar to the "colorblind" racists just grates.

So, you can understand why watching videos and listening to clips on would make a good time for me. I have spent the last few hours combing through Media Matters' archive and learning new and exciting things about the world. I will share some of them with you.

First off, I learned that the reason I have time to type this up is that, like most liberals, I clearly have no family or church responsibilities. That's okay, though. I won't cry over it. However, "somewhere Jesus is weeping" over the charges and media discussion about Bill O'Reilly's sex scandal. Speaking of God's concern over media whores, apparently God talks pretty regularly to Pat Robertson. And Pat takes notes. I do often wonder, and I'm entirely serious here, if God gets pissed off when people like Robertson purport to not only say, "I feel God is saying that..." but actually read something that he claims is word for word what God actually told him. First person and everything. What's funny, though, is that it was from the beginning of the year. And God (or Pat?) was kind of wrong.

When it comes to feminism, I learned that it was actually "established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society" (Number 24 on Limbaugh's 35 Undeniable Truths). Also, women still live longer than men do because they have easier lives. Oh, and Harvard's fund set up to bring more women on to the faculty? The point is that they give them 100 pairs of shoes. But why do that? Just hold more dances.

Now we get to race. A black conservative group says that blacks who curse America are actually cursing God. God was good enough to allow them to be sold into slavery so that they could end up in America, the land of opportunity. Now that they're here, though, "they" have the problem of crime. And it's not a result of poverty. Crime results from a "lack of moral character." We can see this by looking at Katrina: "Look what they did to the Dome. In three days they turned the Dome into a ghetto." Pat Robertson reminds us that Dems need to carefully choose who they put up for nomination because "Black folks aren't going to vote" for a Democratic nominee not nicknamed "Bubba."

Why are people poor, anyway? In this country, poverty can only mean irresponsibility and laziness. Or stupidity, mental illness, and/or addiction. Because in America, anyone who wants to can make it. All you have to do is want it and work hard for it. This is not a new lesson, and it's one that to me is more annoying than amusing (considering its, um, convincing untruthfulness), but I thought I'd share it anyway. Also, in the event of a terrorist attack or natural disaster, we should totally save the rich people first. The poor people are just a drag on society (but we should try to get them, too, if we can).

Finally, I learned a lot about homosexuality and gay marriage. Not only does David Brock have "the lisp," ("I don't like guys who sound like that, they give me the creeps. I don't trust 'em, that's all"), but he also wants to rape your son. As do all gays (lesbians, too??). They are also "self-absorbed narcissists." But, fear not, homosexuals can be cured by exorcism.

Cure or not, though, they have an agenda. They are responsible for no fault divorce and abortions-on-demand (amazing, considering that they can neither marry nor procreate biologically with their chosen partners). Beware, lest they infect you via screen. This is for you, mom: apparently gays and lesbians are all over HGTV. Speaking of infections, some believe that gays should apologize to straights for introducing HIV/AIDS into society. Lesbians, however, are jealous and pissed because "they don't have an AIDS epidemic that they can cash in on."

Finally, there were many warnings (most coming from Bill O'Reilly: he seems obsessed by this) that the legalization for gay marriage would cause all sorts of odd marriages, such as "marriage between daddies and little girls...between a man and his donkey." Also, we hear from Falwell that saying that you don't support gay marriage but you do support civil unions is "like saying 150 years ago, 'I'm opposed to slavery, but if my neighbor wants to own one, that's all right.'" It's funny 'cause 150 years ago he totally would have been all about the slavery. That's why conservatism is fun.

Friday, December 16, 2005

I promise I'm not kidding

Right now, on the Maury Show (I swear I don't watch this regularly), the theme of the day is, literally, "my girl looks/acts like a boy and this bothers me exceedingly." Mothers are bringing their tomboyish daughters onto the show because they are really bothered by their not being feminine and girly enough. The mother on right now is really and truly upset that her child doesn't like to wear makeup or dresses, hasn't had a boyfriend, and won't go into Victoria's Secret. "I'm a girly girl and it really bothers me that I can't share that with her." Seriously. And now, the teaser for the next segment shows a younger girl who has decided to come on to the show and dress like a girl to make her parents happy: "if they're happy, I'm happy." They are currently sad because she wears hoodies, burps, and is often mistaken for a boy. She says she likes the freedom that comes with being a boy and never wants to wear tight clothes. But, she will conform to traditional femininity to make everyone happy. How... traditionally feminine...

I wish I were kidding. This is disgusting and awful.

I am so glad my mother is cooler than this.

UPDATE: Maury to one teen: "Admit it, sometimes you close your door and dress up, put the makeup on, and try it out, don't you?" Um, no.

UPDATE 2: "This is my style, this is me." Maury: "No it's not your style, that's a boy's style." Ugh.

UPDATE 3: You know how sometimes you're drawn to a train wreck? Well, I couldn't stop watching this episode. Next came the makeovers. I never saw mothers so excited to see their daughters' cleavage! Crying.. "Now that's my daughter!" She wasn't your daughter before the makeup, skirt, and visible breasts? Interestingly, there was a bit of a racial difference in the makeovers: the white girls got attractive yet conservative outfits: mid-length skirts and shirts with denim jackets over them. The black and Hispanic girls were put into short skirts and there was often visible cleavage.

Oh: and it turns out that the only reason these girls dressed like boys was that they had low self esteem. They didn't think they were pretty: "You didn't think you could look this good, did you?" See... that's the only reason why girls might reject overt femininity... they don't feel good about themselves. Yeah.

One girl said she wanted to change so that she could have new friends at school. Maury: "You think when you go back to school you're gonna have some new friends? I bet you will!" They even followed her back to school, and, sure enough, she had new friends. 'Cause those are the friends you want, right?

So, it's past midnight on the 15th...

...and I'm still missing a letter.

And not the one I got all overdramatic about on Tuesday. Yeah, she pulled through this morning. No, this is the guy who emailed me back and said he was going to it on Wednesday. Yeah--no letters yet.

Well, if I've learned one thing this week, it is that I will make a good professor because I, too, procrastinate like mad.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Just a note: if ever you want to invoke the concept of "choice" to explain why things are the way they are, think about it and define what you mean. Consider how choices are bounded by so many things such as society and identity, etc.

It's really annoying to me recently to hear people say that poor people make poor choices, that they choose to be poor. Is it a poor choice to, say, drop out of school? Sure. But, was that freely chosen, or were there other factors going into that "decision"?

How about claiming that women and men simply choose certain career paths and that alone explains occupational segregation? Sure, women choose to become nurses and men choose to become doctors in disproportionate numbers, but unless you're prepared to argue that there is something inherently "male" or "female" about nursing or doctoring (and, don't get me wrong, I know some people are prepared to argue just that :-) ), it's tough to say it's simply personal choice.

You know?

I'm not saying "choice" is bad or not useful, but for it to be really useful we have to understand the bounds within which those choices were exercised. Okay?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Where oh where?

Oh where, oh where are you my third letter of recommendation writer??

The first got hers out yesterday and responded to my email the same day I sent it. The second I emailed at 8 this morning, just got a response, and he plans to send out my letters tomorrow.

But--number three: where are you? I emailed you last week, no? I do not want to get annoying and email you again. I know someone else who is expecting something from you who has had no response either. I hope everything is okay. And not simply because I need your letter. But that is a large part of it.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005


I made up this word a while back, during an AIM conversation with a friend. Turns out that the word exists, but I did independently come up with it. Its construction is actually quite logical and therefore it's not surprising that my creation is less than totally original.

Anyway, chronocentrism means believing the prevailing ideologies and ways of viewing the world in your present historical era are more superior and right than all other eras. Actually, it can best be applied to ideas/people who are not aware of historical ways of thinking and take their view on issues to be eternal or timeless. Very rarely is this true. I would venture to say that it never is.

It is this realization, more than anything, that has structured my intellectual transformation since I began college. This realization that the frames and lenses through which we view the world are inherently shaped by our culture and our values (and that culture and values change over time) caused me to question some of the fundamental tenants of my worldview. What seems "natural" no longer seems so. Things that appear to be "inevitable" are actually a result of a particular historical progression.

Not only are our perspectives shaped by our historical and cultural location, they are shaped by our cultural location. This awareness, that all of our knowledge is situated, leads me to the study of race and gender and class. How are our experiences shaped by these variables and how do those experiences alter our perceptions and interactions?

These issues are what I most try to impress on people when getting into discussions about broad social or religious or moral or political issues. "What we know" is not only incomplete and situated but could also be very different. Thinking inside the chronocentric box limits our thinking and our possibilities for change.


What does it mean to say that certain religious ideas are socially constructed? Sacred texts may be the word of God, heck, lets even assume that they are literally the Word of God. Even better, lets assume that English translations are still the word of God. Given those assumptions (bear with me), there's still a problem: interpretation always, always, always occurs in a social context. And the social context can change dramatically.

1850: The Bible is used to justify human slavery.
1950: The Bible is used to preach liberation for oppressed people.

Very few, even the most racist Christians, would argue that the Bible allows for slavery today. (And, I should know, I ordered the KKK starter pack just to see what all was in it, and wow, but that's a post for another day.)

But that one's easy. And doesn't challenge chronocentrism. I mean, you can still say that those wacky Southern slave holders were wrong, but finally, today, we have the One True Interpretation of scripture. Harder would be to challenge a current belief and show 1) it's constructed nature, and 2) how it could be different.

Let's take, say, homosexuality.

Ok, I am not going to get into the massive, huge, ongoing debate about what scripture actually says about homosexuality. That is beyond the scope of what I'm trying to do. But, just so it's out there, there is by no means consensus among religion scholars that the present-day interpretation of Biblical scriptures as banning homosexuality is "correct." Much of this debate centers on the original language of the works, the social context of the writing, and issues arising from translation. It is fascinating stuff.

But my point is to look at how interpretation of scripture has been altered by social context. What is the context of the scholarly debate going on and how did we get to this point in our reading of what the Bible says about homosexuality?

When I started out this post, I thought I was going to finish it. But I realize now that that would be too much of an undertaking. I need to do some more reading to present a more complete and fair analysis of homosexuality in Christianity (historically). I found some interesting stuff about how homosexuality (mostly male that I could find information on) was not only tolerated but accepted in the early church. But it didn't have sources and felt incomplete. I need to do more reading on this topic. I may start with this?

But, to illustrate my broader point, I'll choose another topic and give it a quick and dirty run-down. Abortion. Many Christians oppose it. And they say that their opposition is rooted in their faith. And I believe them. Because faith is something personal, not something historical. Faith is what you believe here and now, not what Christians have always believed. Faith is a good thing, I have faith. I'm not knocking it at all. But faith often does not come with a view of the constructed nature of its beliefs. It often takes those beliefs to be timeless and eternal. Faith can still hold after a recognition of its situatedness, but it's harder.

Anyway--back to abortion. Hebrew law says that if someone attacks a woman and kills her, the punishment is for murder. However, if someone attacks a pregnant woman, injures her, but kills the fetus, that is treated as a property crime rather than as a murder. This is similar to the Aristotelian idea of "delayed ensoulment," the idea that the soul doesn't actually enter the body of a fetus until it is well along in development.

Some in the early Christian church opposed abortion:

St. Hippolytus (circa 170-236 CE): "Reputed believes began to resort to drugs for producing Sterility and to gird themselves round, so as to expel what was conceived on account of their not wanting to have a child either by a slave or by any paltry fellow, for the sake of their family and excessive wealth. Behold, into how great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by inculcating adultery and murder at the same time." Refutation of all Heresies 9:7

Minicius Felix (Christian lawyer, circa 180 - 225 CE): "Some women take medicines to destroy the germ of future life in their own bodies. They commit infanticide before they have given birth to the infant."

St. Augustine (354-430 CE) reversed ideas about abortion, returning Christian theology to a "delayed ensoulment" kind of philosophy. The consequences of this are that abortion early in a pregnancy is not murder, as the fetus is not seen to have a soul.

Some Christian leaders, however, did not totally buy into Augustine and still punished abortion. However (and this, to me, is a big however), it was generally grouped with sins that prevented conception such as practicing coitus interruptus or through consuming products intended to induce sterility. It was also grouped with sins meant to regulate sexuality, such as oral sex.* However, in comparison with these other sins, abortion was actually considered a less serious offense, with punishment requiring 120 days of penance and the punishment for oral sex lasting from 7 years to a lifetime.

Several Popes (Steven V, Innocent III) then took the view that abortion is not murder until quickening, the point at which movement by the child is first felt. St. Thomas Aquinas did not consider abortion murder until quickening, when the fetus was "animated."

Sorry, this is going on far far longer than I thought it would. Needless to say, there are many switches, but the quickening doctrine was pretty stable in theology and in law. In America, we begin to see the first abortion laws in the 1820s, which forbid abortion after the fourth month of pregnancy. By 1965, all states had some abortion bans, though they varied widely from state to state. Most of these bans can be attributed to the rise of physicians as a profession, and gynecology as a speciality. You see, midwives were the primary providers of abortion services to women. They were huge competitors with doctors. The AMA was really influential in getting state-wide bans. In 1973, when many of these bans were overturned by the US Supreme Court, we began to see the rise of abortion as a religious issue. I, of course, am opposed to abortion. But I like to think that I am reflexive about why, and I recognize the sociohistorical context in which ideas about "life" are salient as religious ideas.

I guess that my overarching point in this is that people who are socialized to view abortion as a religious issue aren't wrong--but they are acting within a social context that has given them a particular "knowledge" about certain issues and urges them to think about them in a particular way. If they had been born in a different time, they would not see abortion as a religious issue. Is their view of Christianity and abortion "wrong"? That's their call. What I am calling for is a recognition of the history. We need to get away from the chronocentrism and the arrogance that suggests that our philosophy, that our teachings, that our interpretations of scripture are the only ones or the best ones.

Another example: conservative religion + conservative politics. Not natural bedfellows, really. But I know several conservative Christians who would say that conservative politics (tax cuts for wealthy, supply side economics, minimal welfare state, etc) goes hand in hand with their faith. Well, um, no. I mean, it does in our present culture. But it's by no means fundamental. Look at fundamentalist and evangelical populist and socialist movements back in the day. Our present religio-political climate encourages the linking of political and religious "knowledges" and thus what seems "natural" is in fact highly strategic and engineered. There are several books on this subject and histories of how the two came to be linked. I'm not passing judgement on this link, but what I am saying is that it is not natural or inevitable.

Another quick example: Baptism as "outward sign" and "Sinner's prayers" as leading to salvation. While these are not by any means the only Christian views on the subject, they are certainly hegemonic within modern day Christianity (here are examples of people who reject those particular doctrines). But they are new. It has not always been the case that Baptism was an outward reflection of an inward change. The idea of praying your way into salvation is also a relatively new one, theologically speaking. Are these ideas wrong? Again, not for me to decide. But--people who believe these should confront their chronocentrism and realize the historical nature of their beliefs. Those weren't the beliefs of, say, the early church or the medieval church. And that's ok. But, they were constructed.

And the realization that all of what we believe (not just religion) is constructed is important in order to be able to challenge our accepted notions and assumptions about how the world works. Thomas Kuhn argued that the biggest revolutions in physics have come, not from physicists, but, rather, from people outside of that field. Disciplines socialize people into how to think about issues. That's a good thing, because it gives us focus and a theoretical framework. But it also gives us blinders. That why people trained in a different field, such as mathematics, were able to look at a problem confounding physicists in an entirely new and different way. They didn't share the same limiting assumptions.

This ability (or at least the potential ability) to question my assumptions, to always look at the history of ideas, to understand the ways in which ideas have been constructed, has revolutionized how I think about the world and how I relate to it. Central to this has been overcoming chronocentrism.

So, yeah, the point of this post: go forth and use the word "chronocentrism." If I ever read it anywhere, I will assume that I started it, even though a google search reveals otherwise.

*I argue that the current pro-life crowd, at least the leadership, is less concerned with "life" per se and more concerned with the regulation of sexuality, particularly womens' sexuality. I will post about this later if I think about it. NB: I am not the only one (by far) to take this view, but, coming from my background, it was a big step to take and I came to it independently.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


So, I am finished with all of my schoolwork for this semester. If I am feeling particularly...non-apathetic...I may proofread this last paper before I turn it in tomorrow. But, honestly, that's doubtful.

I just wrote the crappiest paper. This is not false modesty. It is so bad. Like, there are no words.

This semester is not going out with a bang, it's leaving with a whimper, slowly dying. My enthusaism left long before the end of classes.

I am pretty sure I've put this quote on here before--probably at the end of last semester--but I do believe that it's applicable now:

"You don't say, 'I've done it!' You come, with a kind of horrible desperation, to realize that this will do." ~Anthony Burgess (author of A Clockwork Orange)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The final stretch

I have one, ONE, paper left to do before my next-to-last semester as an undergraduate is over. And I really can't work up the motivation to work on it.

On the upside, I know what I'm taking next semester, even if I'm not registered for some of them: Historical Inquiry (necessary for my Gender Studies major... my "disciplinary methods" 'cause I can't use social statistics from my sociology major) , Gender and Work (taking solely because the class sounds interesting, I will have friends in there, and I like the professor), Cultural Regions: Latin America (taken because I have to. But it sounds interesting?), Social Stratification (it's a graduate course, and I'm taking it because it's interesting and I like the professor), Politics of the Judicial Process (no reason except it looks interesting. If it turns out not to be--or if it turns out to be more work than an elective is worth [hey! senioritis here!], I may just drop it). I think I've decided not to do a Gender Studies thesis? I can deal with only getting honors on one of my degrees, really.

With the semester drawing to a close, that means that I need to start working on graduate school applications. Oh my gosh. I am so behind.

Incidentally, how does one remind one's letter of recommendation writers that some of the letters are due in two weeks? I don't want to sound nagging or like I don't trust them. But I want to make sure they're in on time, you know?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

From the favorites file

So, I have a problem. I am a constant bookmarker. If I read an interesting article, see a funny website, or just think that sometime in the vague and distant future I may want to see whatever it is I stumbled upon again, I bookmark it. But, the problem comes when the bookmarking gets so excessive and so unwieldy that the original purpose, finding things once thought interesting, is nearly impossible.

I've had Percy, this computer, for over two years, and during that time I haven't deleted a single "favorites" link. Kind of like I can't throw away old papers. And I don't just mean freshman-year-too-embarrassed-to-read-rubbish. No, I have my Socail* Studies notebook from sixth grade and my write-up from an Oregon Trail game** in the eighth grade. So, never deleting any links, my "favorites" list is made up of well over 250 websites.

I decided I was going to clean them out as an end-of-the-semester, getting organized kind of thing. It felt right. But, soon I got lost in memories. Looking through those links is like tracing an intellectual history. I can see where I was obsessed with certain topics. I can see where I was doing research for papers. I can look back to when I got on a grad-school-hunting kick****. I can fondly recall my desperate search for presidential debate drinking games*****. I can tell when I was in arguments with people about gay marriage, abortion, or affirmative action by noticing the trends in links.

In short, I decided that I am not going to clean out my favorites. There's too much history there.

I'm trying to work out a similar justification for not cleaning out my car and closet.

*Yes, it was spelled like that on my folder. This makes me so sad now. In fact, the handling of social studies throughout the school district I grew up in saddens me greatly. The folder had several checks and stickers, one for each six weeks of the school year. Yet the teacher never corrected my spelling.
**No, I don't mean the computer game (but, dude, that computer game rocked!). In my history class in eighth grade, we split up into teams and drew fate/circumstance cards (or something) and had to make it across the U.S. We then had to write up our experiences. I'm considering turning this paper in for my graduate school application writing sample. It's quite good.***
***Well, perhaps not, but I do believe that I can honestly say that it's better than the freshman-year-too-embarrassed-to-read-rubbish. I am ashamed that I ever turned that stuff in. Particularly papers from Intro to Sociology (which I hated, ha) and Race, Gender, and Class (throughout the course of which I was gaining a sociological imagination, but not without considerable resistance). I need to apologize to those teachers.
****Yeah, I was all enthusiastic when it didn't matter. Now that I'm in a time crunch with grad school stuff, I can't work up the motivation.
*****I bookmarked many, but actually did none. They're kind of funny, you know, take two drinks whenever Kerry says "purple heart," or Bush says "9/11." Not being 21 at the time, my intentions were, of course, to use soda or juice.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Well, now that I've taken this quiz, I feel like I can legitimatley submit my grad school applications... haha

You Should Get a PhD in Liberal Arts (like political science, literature, or philosophy)

You're a great thinker and a true philosopher.
You'd make a talented professor or writer.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

read it yourself

I think I am going to start talking about books I've never read on here and pretend to say interesting and insightful things about them.

You see, I just now looked at my statcounter (which I usually can't log into but for some reason allowed me to this time) and found that many people have been finding my blog by searching for things like "invisible heart by nancy folbre cliff notes," "little women cliff notes," "feminist novel," "left behind reading guide," or other silly stuff. So, in order to help these people out, I am going to start posting plausible yet completely untrue summaries and analyses of random books.

Monday, November 21, 2005

I hate poor causal reasoning... even when it's in the service of good

Radio spots. They're awful about it. I just got out of my car, where I heard a spot by United for Peace and Justice, a faith-based social justice group. They were pointing out that third grade test scores are exactly correlated with the number of incarcerations a few years on down the line, so why don't we focus on education and not building more prisons? I agree. Education > prisons. However, implicit in how they phrased the spot was "low test scores cause future criminality," or, at the very least, "low levels of education cause criminality." Now, undoubtedly, there is a connection. Criminals tend to have lower levels of education (depending on the crime, obviously). But that connection isn't necessarily causal. Could it be that there is a common cause, contributing to both low test scores and high incarceration rates? Poverty, for one. Maybe instead of building new prisons, we should focus on lifting people out of poverty?

Also, I keep hearing a PSA on the radio claiming that if you only have dinner with your family, your kids will be so many times less likely to do drugs. Now, I do not doubt that there is a correlation between having family together time and low rates of drug abuse. But, again, kids do not not use drugs because their family ate together. No, it's something else. Something about families that tend to eat together causes kids to be less likely to do drugs, some other characteristic(s) that are found in families that typically have family-time. Closeness? Openness? Who knows. (I'm sure someone has done the research.) But, while they are in the service of good, they are making claims that simply aren't backed up. Correlation doesn't equal causation.

Another example: MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) has a radio spot telling parents not to give their kids alcohol because they younger that you give it to them, the more likely they are to have an alcohol problem when they grow up. This is based on research showing that the earlier that kids have their first encounter with alcohol, the more likely they are to have problems with it. The problem with their analysis is that when parents give their children alcohol, it's not necessarily the same situation as when a kid gets alcohol from a buddy. I know many parents who let their children sample alcohol at home so as not to create a problem of "forbidden fruit" or whatever. Those kids (I would bet) are less likely to go on to abuse alcohol. At least, that sort of reasoning is behind recent programs at colleges (sorry can't be bothered to find links, I'm lazy) which seek to introduce students to alcohol as a "normal" part of meals, so as to curb binge drinking. But for MADD to say that the earlier a parent gives a child alcohol, the more likely he or she is to abuse it, based on research showing that earlier first consumption leads to abuse, is kind of misleading.

Anyway, that's all I wanted to say. All of these ads: I agree with them. Well, maybe not the MADD one. But certainly the education>prisons and the family-time one. But it seems like it hurts more than helps when they use not-good-reasoning.

Happy Birthday!

Today "Random Rants and Ravings" is one year old!

It has gradually evolved. And been, at turns, neglected. But, through it all, I've kept it up. Well, despite that one 2-month-long summer hiatus.

Here's to another year!

*goes back to studying*

Friday, November 18, 2005

The semester is almost over

and I am about to tear my hair out.

This sensation will be much worse next weekend.

(note: this was my justification/excuse for lack of updating)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A feeble attempt at updating-without-actually-updating

You are Michel Foucault! You wrote groundbreaking
histories of prisons, hospitals, asylums, and
sex. Interestingly, you thought basically the
same thing about all of them. Your historical
accuracy is a bit dodgy, but that was never
really the point. You were very obsessed with
power roles - so obsessed that you frequented
gay S&M clubs, and died of AIDS in 1984.

What 20th Century Theorist are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Monday, November 14, 2005

I have spent an obscene amount of money on printouts recently.

I am literally* swimming in ink and paper. My quarters and dimes are gone.

Pity me.

*Edit at 3:58am: I can't sleep. But I was looking at the post and am amused by the fact that I said I am "literally swimming in ink and paper." Obviously, the statement was metaphorical. Yet I said literal. But it doesn't seem weird, it sounds normal. I hear people use "literally" like that all the time. Interesting**. How did the word "literal" come to mean the opposite? (e.g., "I am literally going to explode," when a person is not actually about to explode.) Am I making any sense? Or are these thoughts that one can only have at 4:01am?

**arguable, granted.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Today was a sucky day.

We had a field trip for one of my classes today. I saw honking huge hogs being slaughtered. (It was a work & occupations sociology course.) Wonderful way to begin my morning. But it got better. Turns out I had locked my keys in my car. At the hog-slaughtering place. So, one of my classmates gave me a ride back to school, where my roommate (shout-out to Ema!) took me back, I got my car, and I came back to school.

Today is/was just a bleh-y day.

I am also theoretically confused. Quite literally. I am confused about theory. Not so much about theory itself, but what I think about it. That makes no sense. Oh well. We need a real feminist theory class at UTD.

I have so much to do this weekend. I procrastinate too much.

Honestly, and I'm not making excuses, one of the reasons I've not updated lately is that for some reason blogger wouldn't let me log in from my computer, saying something about cookies or some other nonsensical thing. So, yeah, I was totally going to update Tuesday night. I was going to whine about my theoretical confusion. I may do that later. Who knows.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

In case you care

So, I realize that I'm being an abysmally bad blogger as of late. But I have been busy. This weekend, for example, I have written. Lots. I have written three essays since Friday night. And am about to start another. And I intend to get my reading for next week done tonight as well. And I have talked to all of my letter of recommendation writers and given packets with forms and info to all but one of them (and I'll do that on Tuesday). Tomorrow morning I am going to go to Grayson County College and politely yet firmly demand that they send out my transcript. This is important on multiple fronts: in order to apply for graduation next semester, I need to have my stupid college algebra and Texas government credits. Also, I need them to send out copies to potential graduate schools. On time. This is very important. And kind of scary. For almost four years I have been submitting requests for my transcript to be sent to UTD. No luck. I kind of want to stay there and watch them do it. But that would be rude.

In case you care, here is where I am applying to graduate programs in sociology:

UC-Santa Barbara

Wish me luck! I still need to straighten out my statement of purpose. If anyone who is vaguely sociology-ish (or even if you're not!) wants to look it over and critique it for me, I would love you forever and ever. Just reply or send me an email or something.

Tommorow I get to register for classes next semester. This is exciting, as always, but presents somewhat of a dilemma. There are only two classes that I have to take to be able to graduate with my Sociology and my Gender Studies degrees. But there are lots of classes that I want to take. But classes invariably sound a lot more fun the semester before you take them than they do when you're in the middle of them. I guess I have tonight to figure that out. Oh. And I'm writing one or two senior honors theses next semester. I'm not sure if I'm going to do one in gender studies as well as sociology. Either way, I need to come up with topics and talk to potential advisors.

Anyway, I'm off to get some writing and reading done. I feel like I am on such a roll this weekend! (Whether any of it is any good, however, is an entirely different issue.)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Excuses, excuses

So, for some reason my computer will not let me log into Blogger. Thus, that is going to be my excuse as to why it's taken me so long to update. Because, clearly, if my computer/the Blogger site was working properly, I would be updating like mad, at least twice a day. Yeah.

Anyway, as for general updates:

I am so over the GRE. I've taken it, it's done. I did really well on the verbal; I could have done better on the quantitative section. But, you know, I'm ok with that. None of this, "omg, I have to take it again!" I am just glad that it's finished, given how far behind I am on everything else.

I am so behind in writing. Guess what I get to spend the whole of this weekend doing?

I'm sitting in the computer lab here at UT-D, and I can't think of anything else to say. So I'm going to head off to a meeting with my advisor.

Monday, October 24, 2005


So, Republicans are testing out how they're going to deal with charges coming down later this week in the Plame affair.

Talking Point #1? Well, the prosecutor is going to try to come up with something so it won't look like he wasted two years. Anything. Even something stupid that doesn't matter. Sound familiar? My senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison: She hopes "that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn't indict on the crime and so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars." (emphasis mine)


Let's recap: Kenneth Starr, special prosecutor for Whitewater "couldn't indict on a crime" and thus a president was impeached on "some perjury technicality."

Who's a flip flopper?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

I do it sometimes, too, but...

So, I'm taking a break from doing loads of reading and writing to be annoyed at something I've noticed recently, from both me, the news media, friends, and various pundits.

Why is it that when we're talking about Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, we feel sufficiently close to her to refer to her by her first name? Only her first name. right now has a headline: "Condoleeza's Alabama Homecoming." Would we do that for anyone else in the administration? Donald to go to visit troops in Iraq. Dick to take lollipops from young children.

It's because she's a woman. I hear the objections already. 1) We don't call Margaret Spellings "Margaret" (or other women in the admin.) or 2) Condoleeza just has such a unique name, of course we use it.

1) Well, that's true. I think because Rice is the only woman in a major policy making, highly public role, her gender is particularly salient.

2) Well, what about other women to whom this happens?

I've even seen this about Harriet Miers: "Harriet blah blah" not "Miers etc etc." Now, did we see stuff like this about John Roberts? Or judges (umm... well, potential judges) anyway? I've, personally, never seen "Antonin to go to gay rights parade" or "Clarence seen at porn store."

This happens to Hillary Clinton, too, who we are free to call "Hillary."

Why, though, is this the case? Is it because we just feel less respect towards women in these high-power positions? Research would seem to indicate that when women are in more leaderly (is that a word?) roles, they are evaluated less favorably than men in similar roles (Eagly and Karau, too lazy to look up date). Do we feel more "familiarity" with them because they're women? This is interesting.

Anyway, I know this post contains no insightful analysis or interesting perspective. But, do think about it! And I'm going to get back to work--currently in the process of reading Battered Women and Feminist Lawmaking by Elizabeth Schneider. The part I'm reading now is fascinating: about the different legal strategies used by feminists to draw attention to and define battering/abuse/gender violence and the struggles over naming and the implications coming along with different names. She talks about the role of "rights talk" in shaping identity and public discourse and expectations. But, of course, talking in terms of legal reform and rights can't really get at fundamental issues of social structure and gender inequality. Asking for a right is asking to have access to the system as it is, not asking to fundamentally alter it. Legal activism isn't sufficient for those sorts of goals.

She talks about different conceptions of domestic abuse and about how recent/not so recent attempts to project a gender symmetry ("women do this just as much as men"), or to paint victims as somehow pathological, or to think of it as have solely to do with issues of power blinds us to the gendered dimensions of power.

Where I am right now, she's discussing tension within the battered women's movement and within feminism more general between victimization and agency, arguing that that's really a false dichotomy: focusing on victimization ignores agency, but we can't act as if women are free agents in a vacuum, outside of social constraints and power relations.

Wow, I've gone on far too long and probably not made a whole lot of sense. I tend to ramble when something is interesting. Maybe later I'll post a more logical and coherent summarization of Schneider's arguments.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Get stuff done or die. Those are kind of my options this weekend. Wish me well.

Yeah, sorry I suck at updating.

I am so unbelievably busy. This weekend, not only am I determined to be productive, but I have absolutely no choice but to be productive.

First, before I can do anything, I have to clean. I can't work in the mess that is my room/desk at the moment. That's what I ought to be doing right now. But, it's amazing 1) how clean my room gets when I need to get homework done, and 2) how good a blogger I become when I need to be cleaning.

Tomorrow, I have an appointment at 12:30 and then I get to go see LaBoheme (go Lauren!) at 8pm. During the interim, I will concentrate on doing GRE math reviewing. On Saturday morning, bright and early at 8am, I have a practice GRE to take! Then, on Saturday, the rest of the whole honking lot of stuff to do begins:

--read book on Affirmative Action & begin to think about paper
--start reading loads of stuff for paper on fatherhood and welfare reform (may want to change topic?)
--start writing/write essay on a book I've already finished (thankfully!) that will probably be due in two or so weeks
--write short paper about advertising back in the day (which requires reading quite a lot of stuff that I didn't read when I was supposed to earlier in the semester for various reasons)
--decide definitively what graduate programs I am applying to
--write up Statements for each program (I already have statements for UT-Austin, Northwestern, and Wisconsin. They may suck, but they're done, and that works for me at the moment)
--decide who to ask for letters of recommendation and begin to gather needed materials to give to recommenders (resume, transcript, SoPs, etc)
--begin to fill out applications and gather supplemental materials--writing sample?! ahh!
--read for various classes next week
--read fascinating new book by political scientists about the Christian Right and American politics
--read exciting book Ema got from the library in which Jane Eyre is set in space. I'm totally not kidding.
--(but I may be kidding myself if I'm thinking that I'll actually get to those last two agenda items)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I am such a dork.

So--UTD decided that professors had to give all students midterm grades starting this semester (rather than just the freshmen). So, I decided that I'd check my midterm grades to see how I was doing. And, I see this B- in one of my classes. A class that I've been doing well in (or so I thought) and for which I had taken the midterm on Monday. Maybe, I thought, I really, truly screwed up on the test??

I was freaking out. I reasoned that it must be a mistake--there was no way I could have done that badly on the midterm. But it was still bothering me. In between classes all day, I have been ducking into computer labs to see if it had been changed because there was an error. In fact, I am sitting in a computer lab right now, having just finished my last class of the day.

I had seriously been thinking about what I was going to do had I actually bombed the midterm. This is a required class for my Gender Studies major. I contemplated dropping it. If it weren't offered next semester, I figured I could just do without the gender studies major and just stick to the sociology. Seriously, these contingency plans were going through my head. It would have ruined my GPA. If I stayed in the class, I was figuring out how to send out transcripts to prospective grad schools before grades were in at the end of this semester, so they would see my current GPA rather than my marred-by-midterm GPA.

So, I stop into the computer lab just now, check my email, and what do I find?

Just a warning: I was misinformed about when midterm grades were due. Ithought I had until noon on Friday to enter them, but the actualdeadline was 10 a.m. on Thursday. I could not possibly get all yourexams graded by then, so I have entered a "dummy" grade of B- forEVERYONE enrolled in the class.When you get your examinations back, you will have a more accuratereflection of your grade so far.
I feel so ridiculously relieved. I am such a dork.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Instead of writing a real post, or, you know, working on my paper that's due in the morning...

...I'll give you a quiz.

You Are Likely a First Born

At your darkest moments, you feel guilty.
At work and school, you do best when you're researching.
When you love someone, you tend to agree with them often.

In friendship, you are considerate and compromising.
Your ideal careers are: business, research, counseling, promotion, and speaking.
You will leave your mark on the world with discoveries, new information, and teaching people to dream.

Pretty good predictor, I guess!
Anyway, I am now addicted to Rilo Kiley, just so you know. Back to work.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Midterm grades

So, I've gotten two of my midterm grades back so far and I'm happy with them.

I took my final midterm last night. I finished it, turned it in to the professor and walked out of the room. While waiting in the hall for a friend to finish, I happened to look over the test itself, noticing for the very first time that there were bonus questions on the back of the page. Bonus questions that I had not seen and thus had not answered. There were five points there, so I was darn well going to get them if I could. I sheepishly walked back into the room. I got a weird look from the professor and said, "I know I probably can't do it now, but I totally didn't see the back of the page." And--he let me go sit back down and do the bonus questions! I could have gone out in the hall, looked them up, and then gone back in and gotten them right (I was out there for a good five minutes). But, he (and he knew my name! and I never talk in that class! and it's kind of big!) let me do it again. Now I have this guilt that I should actually read for that class and start paying attention and participating. Just 'cause he was so nice.

In other midterm-related news, I got my grade back for one of my classes today. And, there was an error. The last page, where all of my partial credit, etc, was added up showed that I had missed a short answer question. I hadn't. I looked through the test like five times. Now, because of very generous bonus points, I still had over a 100 on the test (101, actually). But, darn it, I wanted those four points! So, I felt like a crappy person, standing in line to have a correction when I wanted to get a 105 instead of a 101, but, it IS four points, you know?

Anyway, I just was working out and am kind of gross, so I'm gonna go take a shower.

Edited to add: I know that last bit sounds a bit annoying... oh no! 101! how tragic! But, seriously... four points... may come in useful later if I don't do so hot on other assignments.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Reason #1,568 why google is cooler than dry highlighters*

I was looking for an article that is stored in an encyclopedia that one can only get access to through a paid subscription. So--when I googled what I needed, the first result was a page in that online encyclopedia. I click. It tells me to join for access. I click back to my search results and, in my computer illiterate style, wonder what "cached," a link right under the page I need, means**. I click on it. Apparantly google takes snapshots of pages when they crawl the web. And a cache is that snapshot. I have everything I need. I have cheated the system. I feel cool and special. And am now returning to writing my essay***.

*and those are ridiculously cool. Other than that, though, they have no relation to this post whatsoever.
**please do not ruin my illusions by commenting that any idiot would know what a cache is. I feel special in my unique knowledge at the moment, and I'd prefer to leave it that way, thank you very much.
***from which I was procrastinating by writing this post.

Monday, October 03, 2005

So, Roberts ditched the Gilbert & Sullivan stripes.

I'm kind of sad.

In better news: Roy Moore is running for Governor of Alabama, which should provide me with quite enough newstainment.

Move over chess people--

UTD, ever the nerdy school, can now boast, in addition to its number 1 ranked chess team, the third best debate team in the country.

Finishing ahead of UTD in the latest rankings were, in order of finish, Missouri State University and the University of Kansas. Rounding out the top 10 were the University of California – Berkeley, Wayne State University, the University of Michigan, the University of Iowa, Emporia State University, Miami University of Ohio and Dartmouth College.

I admit, I like going to a school where our top "sports" are chess and debate, even if I am myself am a pathetic slacker.

Of course, our football team is undefeated...

And, you know, nonexistant. (For now at least.)

But, seriously, congrats debaters! I only know a few of y'all, and even though you're weird, you make me proud(ish) to go to UTD.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Funny Design

Here are two articles you must read about intelligent design. No, they're not deep philosophical treatises about either science or education or evolution or creation. But they're kind of funny. And they make some very good points (well, especially... no.. only the Lithwick one. But you should totally read the other one first.)

"Intelligent Design" by Paul Rudnick, from The New Yorker, 9/26/2005. It's hilarious.

Day No. 3:

“Just to make everyone happy,” said the Lord
God, “today I’m thinking oceans, for contrast.”
“It’s wet, it’s deep, yet it’s frothy; it’s design without dogma,” said Buddha, approvingly.

“Now, there’s movement,” agreed Allah. “It’s not just ‘Hi, I’m
a planet—no splashing.’ ”

“But are those ice caps?” inquired Thor. “Is this a coherent vision, or a highball?”

“I can do ice caps if I want to,” sniffed the Lord God.

“It’s about a mood,” said the Angel Moroni, supportively.

“Thank you,” said the Lord God.

Also, Dahlia Lithwick's "Mind the Gaps" over on Slate.

But the critics are missing the beauty of this new theory. Because the really great thing about intelligent design is that it takes all the awkward uncertainty out of science. It says, "You know those damn theoretical gaps and conundrums that send microbiology graduate students into dank basement laboratories at 3 a.m.? They don't need to be resolved at all. Go back to bed, sleepy little grad students. God fills those gaps."

Let's face it: The problem with science has always been that each new discovery unleashes thousands of new questions and ambiguities. So really, the more we discover new stuff, the stupider we get. Clearly, that isn't working. ID says we shouldn't bother ourselves with resolving scientific inconsistencies or untangling puzzles. We should recognize that what God really wants is for us just to stop learning.

I can't sleep.

So I figured I might as well update.

I took my two tests today: one went fine. The second one I'm sure went fine, but I'm concerned about a few things: 1) in the main essay we were given a choice between two readings we had been assigned to apply to a particular framework and I had not really read either of the readings well. But that might be ok, I might have winged it, but I am particularly mortified by, 2) the fact that I think I might have, throughout that essay, referring to the concept of "technical control" as "technological control." Why I would do this, I'm not sure. I'm just as unclear as to if I even did it. I just have this vague sense that I might have and it's freaking me out. I don't think it will count too terribly much against me, if I did. But it will make me seem like a great big idiot, won't it?

Anyway, this will be a busy weekend. I suppose that the group I was going to get together for study with for my Wednesday midterm isn't going to get together. We were going to meet tomorrow. I could be a good person and email everyone and set it up. But, really, studying in groups isn't for me. At least not until I've had a chance to work out the material on my own for a while. Groups are good for discussing things and helping out other people and explaining it (for some reason, explaining an issue makes me understand it a lot better), but as I've not really studied at all, meeting in the morning would be a bad call. Also, given the fact that it's around 4:30 am, meeting in the morning poses other challenges as well.

I need to study for the GRE.

I know I talk about it and make jokes about it and buy books right and left about it. But, now I actually have to, um, use the books.

I also need to clean my room. Quite honestly, it amazes me to behold every semester anew the depths to which my room will sink during midterms and finals weeks. It's truly quite bad. I would take pictures except, 1) I don't have a digital camera, and 2) it would be embarrassing.

In addition to getting loads of reading and planning and studying done this weekend, I have a lot of Thinking to do.

Oh, and I also just started a fascinating new book and finished a fascinating old book. I promise to blog about them later. Indeed, this weekend I have so many things to do that I am sure I will need a nice way to procrastinate later on, and blogging about books seems by far the most appropriate way to go about doing that.

And, in searching for articles about something completely different, I found several interesting looking articles (though I don't know that they would look quite so interesting if I didn't have quite so many other things to do!) that I intend to read this weekend. I will, of course, be blogging anything interesting. As if you cared.

Anyway, I am now starting to feel vaguely sleepy, so I'm gonna head to bed. Sorry for their very unwieldy and rambling post about nothing at all. If you're still reading, I offer my apologies. If you've skipped to the last paragraph, well, you haven't missed much!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Light posting this week

I have two tests on Thursday and though I undoubtedly have very fascinating and important things to say, I will not be saying them. At least not until Thursday night.

Feel free to leave me encouraging messages.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Why I am a generally useless person:

I have nothing whatsoever that could, by anyone, be construed as mildly interesting to say. I am still feeling sickish, I have to read for my class tonight, I will probably read spark-notes rather than the actual text, I have to read for classes tomorrow, I can't bring myself to do any sort of homework until I clean my room, and although I have a low tolerance for mess, I generally dislike cleaning, I have to study for two tests on Thursday, I have to study for the GRE, and I have to seriously start thinking about graduate schools.

And all of the above is why I suck and am useless. Alas. I need some motivation. And some advil.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Is Little Women a Feminist Novel?

Whether Alcott’s LW is a feminist novel depends on many things: namely, how one defines “feminist” and how one reads the book. I believe that LW is a feminist book, and I am defining feminist as a book that values the experiences of women and empowers women to see beyond socially prescribed gender roles and empowers them to be creative and take control of not only the text but also their lives.

Certainly one could do a reading of this book and see that it enforces separate spheres gender roles, that Jo may be a tomboy when she is younger but that she gradually grows into the “Mother Baher” role at the end, taming her wildness and her anger. Mr. March praises Meg for her “housewifely skills,” and Amy learns not to be selfish or vain. But Beth, who seems to embody the ideals of separate spheres, a true “angel in the house” who had no greater ambition than to stay at home and keep house, dies from what Barbara Sicherman calls a “failure of imagination.” The Castles in the Air chapter shows that the girls have creative dreams and ambitions, even though they don’t really achieve them in the end.

But the thing about the ending is that it’s so easy to ignore, and, indeed, that’s what many women have done. In the end, Jo gets married and gives up her writing (because Prof. Baher disapproves) to serve as a mother to not only her own children but to other peoples’ as well. Sicherman says that because the ending seems so forced and artificial that LW has become a “problem text” that women keep coming back to, and, in some cases, like Simone de Beauvoir, exercising their own creativity, letting our their inner Jo March, and rewriting the text. Though the ending conforms to social expectations for women at that time, we can see through the text the ways in which those expectations are resisted, especially by Jo, who not only wrote stories that she wanted to, but got paid for it! M. Carey Thomas, as well as de Beauvoir, imagined themselves in the role of Jo, they saw themselves and their ambitions to create and write in her and used Alcott’s text as an inspiration.

Another way in which LW can be considered a feminist novel is the way in which it values the experiences of women. At the time, under a doctrine of separate spheres, women were in the home, and the truly important stuff was what went on in the public world. Notably missing from the text of LW are references to the outside world. Events such as the Civil War are only relevant to the extent that they intrude upon the private world (i.e. Mr. March being away at war).

The experiences of the family and of private life are most important. Bonds between women are valued. Most of the men in these novels served a plot function rather than a character function. Mr. Brooke forces Meg to deal with her materialism, Mr. Laurence helps Beth to overcome her shyness; in short, the men are there to help the women on their quest for moral development. Laurie is the only truly developed male character, but that makes sense within this framework, because he’s essentially an honorary March girl. He even has a girl’s name. He participates in the Pickwick society and promises to play by the girls’ rules.

LW also shows that being a good woman isn’t all sitting around the house, being nice, and looking pretty. It takes work. She shows us Meg’s experiences making the jelly and struggling with balancing being a good mother as well as a good wife. Alcott also dispels the notion that women are somehow just naturally better than men, naturally more moral, sweeter, kinder, etc. She shows us that not only does Jo have to deal with her anger but Marmee, who has been set up almost as this paragon of virtue who is looked up to by all her girls, struggles with anger every day of her life.

In the end, when all the girls are married off and have families of their own (except Beth, being dead and all), they come back and Marmee reminds them that their bond, the mother daughter bond, the sisterly bond, was what’s most important in life. Important stuff may be going on in the outside world, but, ultimately, it’s the relationships that matter. So, it seems that Alcott does endorse the idea of separate spheres in LW, but somewhat radically suggests that the private sphere is more important than the public one.

So, in the end, while LW does have this overt endorsement of separate spheres ideology and can be read as a set of instructions on how to become a good woman, it can also be read as valuing women’s relationships and experiences in a way that they usually weren’t valued or appreciated. Though (and kind of because) it has a problematic ending, women have been able to disregard the fact that Jo eventually is tamed and see themselves in Jo, to be able to aspire to write, to achieve, to be successful. I do believe that LW is a feminist novel precisely because it allows the readers to interact with the text and empower themselves, as Thomas and De Beauvoir did.

Why I love Jason's family:

"Mom threw me out of the house earlier...then told me not to go because I couldn't take the car." --Jason, just now, in an IM conversation

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Well, I went ahead and did it...

I wrote a really crappy essay that I'm going to turn in tommorow.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

On Writer's Shame (Or: Why Smaller Classes are Better)

I am never happy with the sorts of papers and essays I turn in in classes. I always know that I can do better. But one thing that's interesting over the past year or so is the degree to which that shame has spurred me on to do better. See, my freshman and sophomore years, I knew that my writing was crap, and it upset me, but I didn't feel any personal attachment to it. I was in big classes, I never spoke up, professors never knew my name. In short, a teacher may read my crappy work, give it a grade, give it back, and never think, "Oh, that's Jennifer Bridges's essay" because they simply would never associate the name "Jennifer Bridges" with anything other than a name on a roster.

Maybe it's the same now, but I like to think not. I regularly participate in classes and all of my teachers know my name. Plus, my classes are alot smaller. All of this has been something that has happened in the past year. And the thing that I've noticed coming along with this is this deeper sense of shame about my writing. Honestly, I don't think my writing is terrible. I mean, I get good grades on it. I just have this niggling feeling that if I spent more time on it, it could be so much better.

Now that my teachers know who I am, I feel a greater responsibility not to turn in utter crap. I feel like my work will be more associated with me rather than just a grade to type into the computer. Maybe I'm wrong and teachers, even if they know your name, really don't care and don't think about who's writing what.

Either way, I've said all this to say that I have a stupid little essay that I have to write. I can sit down and get it done with quickly. It won't be very good, but it will meet all the requirements. But I just can't bear the idea of a teacher reading it and thinking, "that's Jennifer's work." But, darn it, I'm just so lazy.

If Horatio Alger was really a subversive author making fun of a ridiculously static class system....

...somebody didn't get the memo.

"Ragged Dick"

Everyone knows the Horatio Alger myth, right? If you just work hard enough and are good, honest, and worthy enough, you can be socially mobile. This is the American dream: we have a classless society where everyone has the opportunity to pull her- or himself up by their bootstraps.

Well, in one of my classes, I had to read Alger's Ragged Dick, which, I thought, confirmed my suspicions about the capitalist propaganda that was being employed. After all, Dick, a bootblack in New York City finally made good after he began to stop doing his frivolous things, set up a bank account, saved his money and continued to be exceptionally honest and trustworthy. He embodied Weber's idea of the Protestant work ethic: he worked hard, lived modestly, and saved his money. Several older men tell him that "your station in life is what you make of it," and that they were poor when they were young and worked their way up, etc etc.

I thought, "well, great, that was an interesting and entertaining bit of propaganda that was fed to working class Americans in order to encourage them to be good workers and give them false hope."

Then I read this book chapter by Marcus Klein, who argues that actually Horatio Alger is giving this subversive version of the American dream, critiquing it while apparently endorsing it. Evidence: in all of Alger's books, the main symbol of a character having "made it," becoming respectable, is a new set of clothes and using less slang. Klein argues that in using that trope, Alger is kind of making fun of "respectability," that it's all just playing a part. Good things happen to Alger's heroes by luck. In the end of Ragged Dick, Dick gets a good job because he happens to save the life of a millionaire's son. This is typical for Alger. Fosdick, Dick's friend and roommate, happens to get a recommendation (and thus a job) because of his social networks. Quite by chance.

So, then, is Alger actually writing this subversive tale that says, "this whole middle class thing, yeah, all it is is acting a part. And you can do all this hard work crap, but you're not going to make it to the top without just pure, dumb luck"?

My first thought was, why would anyone want to read that? I figured people would want to read the propaganda because, well, you want to have hope that working hard will lift you up, right? The Alger myth helps sustain that. But, here's the question: if along with the Alger myth comes the idea that if you're poor it's not because of structural issues but because you're a bad person, or you're not working hard enough... why would working class people want to read that?

It's hard to know exactly what readers got out of these books when they were published (nineteenth century). I mean, we can see what readers of, say, Little Women (published around the same time) thought of that book because it was primarily a middle class kind of book. These were people who kept diaries and wrote letters. The working classes, who were much of the Alger and dime novel audience, weren't keeping diaries. So, how did they interpret these books? What did they mean to them? Did they see them as subversive? "See, my failures aren't character flaws, this whole system is screwed up!" Or did they see them as hope? "See, if I work hard like Dick, good things will happen for me, too!"

I should be sleeping but instead I'm going to semi-coherently rant at you.

Today's NYT has an article on Ivy-league women who are increasingly saying that when they have children they will either leave the workforce or do part-time work. The article notes that this is a change from the previous generation:

What seems new is that while many of their mothers expected to have hard-charging careers, then scaled back their professional plans only after having children, the women of this generation expect their careers to take second place to child rearing.

So, basically, women are "realizing" that "you can't have both" and scaling back their plans accordingly. Now, if a woman chooses to stay home with her children, that's a perfectly legitimate choice. Certainly (as noted in previous posts about the Folbre book and caring labor), the work that she's doing (and it is work) is important to society. But, I really don't like the way that this article treats this subject.

First, this sort of "choice" really only applies for class-privileged women. The fact that they are making the choice to stay home with their kids is dependent on the idea that they're going to marry rich husbands (which will probably happen for most of them). Most women don't really have the option that they have.

Second, there's an assumption that a parent at home is the best way to raise children. I'm not saying that it's a "bad" way to raise children, but there should be something said about the benefits of interaction with other children. Honestly, I'm not aware of all of the research on this topic, but I seriously doubt that there's a clear consensus that mom-at-home is best for kids.

Third, and kind of the biggest issue for me: this article doesn't really look at this concept of "choice." Yes, it kind of looks at the idea that historically women have done the childcare work. But why is this a decision that women and not men have to deal with? Are women "naturally" wanting to stay at home? Are these choices made in a vacuum? Well, it says that many of the young women were influenced by their mothers... Are they socialized this way? Does it matter? I guess this wasn't the point of the article... but I wish it were.

I really like this quote from Dr. Laura Wexler, professor of American studies and women's and gender studies, and I wish they would have more fully taken up this issue:

"They are still thinking of this as a private issue; they're accepting it," said Laura Wexler, a professor of American studies and women's and gender studies at Yale. "Women have been given full-time working career opportunities and encouragement with no social changes to support it.

"I really believed 25 years ago," Dr. Wexler added, "that this would be solved by now."

They (and we) still think of this as a private issue. Each woman (and man) makes their own decision about work/family issues. But what we don't see is that it's not private! It's actually very, very social. It's based on assumptions about men and women and public vs. private spheres and ideas about productive labor vs. caring labor, etc. But those are so much a part of the underlying ideology of our society that we don't even consider them.

The other part of Wexler's comment, that we allowed women to enter the workforce but didn't change the workforce or society at all is, I think, an important one. Yes, women can enter the workplace, but it is a workplace that is built around a male ideal worker. Women that are successful in the terms of this masculinized environment are often the ones who conform to the masculine ideal. They either don't have children or don't take time off for them, they act in "masculine" ways in terms of leadership styles (but they must walk a fine line between being perceived as too masculine and too feminine... maybe I'll write a post about this later, it's interesting).

How could the workplace be made more accepting of women? I was going to write accommodating, but why should the workplace accommodate women? That's like saying, "ok, this is still a masculine place, but we'll carve out the women's section.. here ya go!" The workplace should be entirely restructured and our ideas about workers should be fundamentally changed.

But, short of that...

  • we could allow part time work that is paid at the same rate as full time work, that is not seen as not being properly devoted to the company and that comes with prorated benefits
  • we could come up with some sort of nationalized system of childcare
  • we could rethink our ideas about productivity in the workplace. Is face time the most important thing, or could you argue that someone who does just as good a job in less time is in fact more productive?
  • Dude, there are so many more things that I'm going to stop listing them now.

In short... this article annoyed me. There's is absolutely nothing wrong with staying out of the official workforce, or leaving it temporarily to raise kids. It's not being lazy, it's not being weak, it's doing important work. And we should totally value it more. I just wish that we could get to a point in our society where it's a choice that everyone has. That women don't feel pressure to choose that path in order to seem like a good woman/mother and that men feel free to choose that path without being labeled as "feminine" or a "wimp" or as demasculinized (see, and the fact that we as a society think that about men shows the extent to which man=worker in our collective consciousness. One Harvard guy in an American Family class said of women staying at home: "I think that's sexy." Well, of course you do, because that's, like, the most feminine thing a woman can do, and to be "supporting" her is the most quintessentially masculine thing you can do, at least according to our society. Very sexy, I'd say... I wonder if porn where women are submissive is more popular than where women are dominant... I'd bet it is.)

Isn't it funny that we as a culture tend to think that having a mother at home is a very Good Thing for, um, white middle class women? But when it comes to women of color or poor women, our first impulse is to get them into the paid workforce and away from home, where they were probably sitting around being lazy anyway. Hmmm...

Monday, September 19, 2005

I would never want a student like me.

I am being such a poor student lately. Not only did I surreptitiously listen to the John Roberts confirmation hearings in the middle of two of my (large) classes last week, but I am currently in the process of relying on Sparknotes (free and online Cliff's Notes) for some reading that I ought to have done this weekend, but, um, didn't.

I should feel more bad about all of this than I actually do.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

This makes me sad:

So my mom gave me a few books to sell for her at Half-Price Books. While perusing through the stack, I saw a book called The Ezekiel Option by Joel C. Rosenberg.

So, I look on the back, where I am horrified to see that it has recommendations from not only Tim LaHaye (understandable, after all, this is Christian fiction... TL=Left Behind co-author) but also from...

Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and This makes me truly, truly sad.

Limbaugh: "Rosenberg nails it--a provocative, conservative, political thriller that reads like a major Hollywood blockbuster."

Hannity: "So intertwined with modern events, it's scary."

NewsMax: "Eerily prophetic."

Reviewers at seem to believe that this book is either an interpretation of scripture or that it is itself prophetic. Interesting. People reacted like this to Left Behind books, as well.

This phenomenon is so interesting... the intertwining of political conservatism (Limbaugh, Hannity) and religious conservatism (the Pat Robertson/LaHaye-Jenkins set) that is, at least from my perspective, becoming more and more common. Why is it inherently natural that people who don't believe in abortion or gay marriage should want tax cuts for the rich? It's not! In fact, considering the fact that fundamentalist/evangelical Christians tend to be more working/lower-middle class, big-business conservatism actively hurts them and their best interests. Yet they ally themselves with the Republican party and the larger conservative movement.

This is what I'm interested in studying: the ways in which these two seemingly-at-odds groups can get together and often the cultural/religious conservatives get lip service from the real movers and shakers but not a whole lot more. Is there really going to be an anti-gay marriage amendment? No. Bush and the Republicans aren't that stupid. But they sure will talk about it.

I'm interested in the ways in which these two groups interact and form a coherent identity as "conservatives," how big-business conservatives who probably couldn't care less about gay marriage or abortion or sex education (and might even support access to all of those things) think about using cultural conservatives.

I'm especially curious (and don't have a whole lot of ideas on because I haven't really researched it) the ways in which conservative Christian culture (through things like this Ezekiel Option book and the Left Behind books and Pat Robertson's 700 Club) convince people that economic/foreign policy conservatism is in their best interests. Because there are undoubtedly political elements in them (beyond the obvious religious-related ones).

Free market capitalism and conservative Christianity aren't natural bedfellows. But, they have become aligned and I'm really curious how and why.

Sorry for rambling on and on and on.

How bad has it gotten...

...when studying for the GRE is my procrastination drug of choice?

Seriously, doing multiple choice tests on the computer is a whole lot more fun than reading or cleaning or working on essays.

Don't worry, however. I'm not studying so much that it might actually help my score. I haven't gotten that desparate yet.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Isn't it weird?

I happen to part my hair on a different side and everyone I see asks if I've gotten a haircut or done something to my hair. No one knows what's different but insists that something is. The funny thing is that I didn't even realize what was different until like three people had mentioned something being different.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A long list of random complaints that you really don't have to read; in fact, I would advise against it.

I want to go to sleep. But I have class at 7. ugh. It's a very interesting class, and I enjoy going, but right now I just want to curl up on my bed, put on a Harry Potter audio book and go to sleep.

Last night I stayed up reading until around 4 and then woke up around 9. 5 hours of sleep isn't so bad, really, but ever since I got up this morning I've just felt... icky. There's no more accurate word to describe it.

I generally don't eat breakfast if I wake up right before class, and I'm usually fine until lunch. But today, I was really hungry. So I went to the soda machine to get some water, and it gives me lemon water. But, I didn't have another dollar, so it had to do. I think it made my hunger worse. So, after class I was feeling a bit nauseous, but thought that maybe if I got something to eat I would feel better. I went to the student union and got some fruit, some grapes and pineapple chunks. Well, I don't think the acidity of the pineapple in particular agreed with me. I went to my next class and was thoroughly miserable. I came home, took an hour and a half nap (and I usually don't nap in the middle of the day), and am now getting ready for class, feeling less than thoroughly refreshed. I still feel vaguely nauseated, but I don't know why or what I can do.

Anyway, I'm off to finish my reading for class!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Racism and weather

Bush today informed reporters that hurricane Katrina was not racist. "And neither will [be] the recovery effort."

Because that's what people are saying. That this mixture of water and wind simply doesn't like poor, black people. Either he's being stupid, or he is stupid. I'm going with the former.

Obviously the storm was not racist, but it certainly highlighted racism. It showed the poverty in which people lived in New Orleans. It's certainly brought out the racism in Rush Limbaugh, who not only blames the residents for not getting out but for not taking some personal responsibility to make sure that the levies were in good working order. Yeah. I'm sure every morning Rush and his pals go out and check the infrastructure in his town, just to make sure it's in good working order. I know, personally, that I checked the traffic lights at the Coit and Campbell intersection and tomorrow morning am going to check out UTD's waste management system.

Rush (9/1/05):
The non-black population was just as devastated, but apparently they were able to get out, and the black population wasn't able to get out. Maybe New Orleans has a half decent mass transit people and some of these people don't need cars.

It actually has a not-so-great public transit system, but good thinking!
What if they can't afford cars?

Well, why is that? Why can't they afford them? What is it about New Orleans that doesn't pay? It's a 67% black population. They have lots of black-run businesses. Why is this they don't pay well down there?

Again, acting stupid or being stupid? Are we truly to believe that this self-described genius has no clue about the economic conditions that cause poverty? About the role that race plays in that?

Later on, he refers to Mayor Nagin as "Mayor Nayger."

Richard Baker (R-LA) was quoted in the Wall Street Journal: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." ["Washington Wire," Wall Street Journal, 9/9/05]

So, no, Hurricane Katrina was not racist (unlike some people, I do not impute natural disasters to God's wrath for the things we humans do), but people are. The fact that Katrina hit New Orleans, and that the victims were disproportionately black and poor brought the economic and institutional racism in this country into focus. The best thing that could come of this awful tragedy is that we begin to think about those issues. But if we continue to pretend they don't exist (or create a straw argument, knocking it down by saying, "Those lefties say Katrina was racist, but the storm doesn't discriminate!"), then we can't address the real issues. And that's sad.

edited to add: Part of the problem, I realized, after talking to a friend, is that we tend to think of racism as an individual thing, i.e. if I don't personally dislike people, then I am not racist, or if we have public schools for everyone, our society is not racist. I think there's a problem with our vocabulary because the word "racism" means everything from Klan members burning crosses, to following people in stores because of the color of their skin, to quality of public schools and so much more. We need to really think about was racism is, not just on a personal level but on an institutional and societal level.

edited again to add: see here, Repent America claims that God sent the hurricane to N.O. because a gay festival is held there annually: "This act of God destroyed a wicked city," according to R.A. director Michael Marcavage. Looks like they and the God-did-it-cause-of-abortion set are going to have to duke it out over who gets to speak for the Almighty.

L.A. power outage:

It's probably New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin's fault.

No? Well, then LA Gov. Kathleen Blanco, surely.

*rolls eyes*
this is an audio post - click to play

Shout out to Jason

Despite wasting a whole honking lot of gas money on a necessary trip to Denison this afternoon, there was one benefit: I got back my laptop, which, thanks to Jason's mad computer skills actually kind of works. AND--I was able to take advantage of his rocking internet to download some songs and watch some videos that my poor, pathetic dialup simply cannot handle!

Now, I have to head back to go to class tonight at 7. But, with laptop in hand I can take super speedy notes as well as play solitaire if necessary. I usually don't do that in class. But, it's always good to have the option, you know?

Note: this is an attempt to do more normal sorts of blogging, e.g. talking about what I am doing during the day rather than using the blog simply for ranting about politics or culture. We'll see how it works out.

Sea change

Am I the only one who has noticed the phrase "sea change" being used much more frequently in the past few weeks/months?

I've heard it used by friends, acquaintances, t.v. newscasters, radio talk show hosts (liberal and conservative), professors, bloggers, newspapers, news-magazines, and even I, myself, have been using it more frequently (no doubt related to the fact that I'm hearing it so often).

Maybe I'm just noticing it more?


Anyway, it's 3:33am and I have to get up at 7 so I'm going to try to go to sleep.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

More Folbre

We don't have to believe that markets are intrinsically bad to acknowledge that "who owns what" matters. We don't have to believe in decision-making-by-committee to fight for better rules of democratic governance. And we don't have to embrace the current policies of the welfare state to defend the principle that each of us has some obligation to care for others. --p. 230

Folbre gives a few guidelines about how to do this, which I'll summarize.

1. Reject the idea that women are simply naturally more altruistic or caring than men. We shouldn't expect women to do all of the caring labor in society. Men are just as capable and we need to make it possible for them to do it.

2. Defend family values against individualism and self-interest. Even though we live in an advanced capitalist country where women are no longer as expected to do the caring labor, the caring labor still has to get done. We shouldn't get to a point in our society where it's every man-or-woman for her- or him- self without regard to the children, to the elderly, the poor, etc. We have to maintain our sense of obligation and responsibility.

3. Work on establishing democratic governance in our institutions, families, and governments. This will help ensure equitable distribution of resources.

4. "Aim for a kinder and wiser form of economic development." Development isn't just measured in corporate profits. We should be looking at education, health, families, etc.

5. Reward caring labor. We need to think about the best ways to make caring labor pay, but not to make it just another commodity.

Anyway, I know I've been quoting Folbre without talking about what she's really about. The book, The Invisible Heart: Economics and Family Values, argues that Adam Smith's "invisible hand" of the market is gradually undermining the "invisible heart," the caring labor that has been traditionally done by women.

See, back in the day, women did all the work in the "private sphere." They cleaned the house, prepared the food, raised the children... All of this (hard, hard) work was considered "unproductive." It was assumed that women did it out of love and altruism. But, when we view it as unproductive, we miss the crucial part that this work plays in reproducing labor for society, and reproducing culture in general.

In this traditional family structure, with the wife at home, there are a lot of costs that come along with this family labor. First, there's the obvious opportunity cost: the education and wages given up. But, also, women become economically dependent. These costs are hidden from society as long as women are willing to do this work.

But, when women gradually move out of that sphere because they're given more opportunities in the "public" sphere, strain begins to show. Folbre would say that you can see capitalism as a gender struggle: who bears the (opportunity) costs of raising the kids?

Folbre argues that we must begin to value the work of care. The first thing we have to do is not to push women back into the homes so that the work will get done, but to recognize the work when it is done, whether by men or by women. We need to make it so that people who choose to stay at home with their children or otherwise invest heavily in caring labor don't take such a big economic hit for it.