Monthly Archives: October 2008

The Contact Zone. Close Encounters

1. Bonus product review, very fresh: contact lenses. I have contact lenses. I am new to glasses and did not know I would ever be a candidate for contact lenses. However, after several twists and turns I walked out of the store wearing contact lenses that cost less than good glasses and realized I could see everything. I could also walk any old way. I had not realized how much I was correcting my movements for what I could not see, or would not see because I was concentrating on seeing something else.

These lenses add to the general clarity. You put them on, and then you put on eyeliner. They make things like eyeliner exceedingly easy to see. You can wear them for seven straight days, including to sleep. Learning to put on contact lenses, I was just like my students, claiming it was impossible to do and that I would never succeed. But I did.

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2. A MAN ON A WHITEMAN

Man: This whiteman is very defensive, he seems to have been deeply wounded.
PZ (Soul of Discretion): Yes, he has had a difficult time of it, it is nice you want to be friends with him.

PZ (aside, with no audience): Yes, whitemen feel most wounded when their ideological blinders are so thick that they cannot imagine what they might have done wrong – and must therefore call everyone else irrational. Then they can be sorry for themselves and other people can feel sorry for them and they do not have to think about modifying any of their behavior.

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3. ON AUTHORSHIP

I might be an author. There is a class on theory, and it is blogging. Some of the students – more, perhaps, than I have linked here – have written about Professor Zero posts in relation to Barthes, Foucault, and the idea of authorship. It is quite illuminating.

I considered changing the post to include commentary on these theorists but then realized the smarter thing to do was to write a new and different post at some point, or academic article on the author function. I also need to think about the “author function” in relation to my struggles with academic writing.

Part of my struggle with academic writing is that I feel I am procrastinating, while doing it, about getting on with life. Time spent on academic writing is time I could be spending studying for the LSAT, working a second job to make more money, or racking up the units part time toward a degree that would get me a good job in a city. So I am impatient with academic writing because while I enjoy it, I perceive it as tying me more tightly to places I do not want to be and lives I do not want to lead.

Note 1: I have designed my current book to be an antidote to that, and I need to keep this in mind.

Note 2: The feeling that academic writing is serious, and that I need to reserve my serious time and energy for things I actually feel serious about, is only an indication that I need to compartmentalize academic writing more. As in fact I used to do, before Reeducation!

I may also suffer due to Foucault’s “author function,” i.e. the requirement that I be “an author” in his sense. I must consider this. I do realize that one is written as much as one writes, one does not own one’s texts, and that one’s texts are not a summary of oneself. But I was also taught that writing was ventriloquism and the writer, if they were me, had to be the dummy. My role as ventriloquist’s dummy was to channel a twist on official doctrine which would be new but not mine. If it were new not mine (it should be the ventriloquist’s), it would be acceptable. Then I would get a check, which would enable me to live.

This never seemed worth it, since there are many ways to get checks. It is not that I want to write naively, in some sort of Rousseauesque paradise. It is that I don’t like to ghost write for an external authority and then carry the added burden of having to call that writing mine and having to answer for it as such.

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4. Every time I go to buy groceries, which is less and less often, I am amazed at how much things have gone up in price since last time. I do not remember ever seeing food prices go up so quickly in the United States. I note I have started thinking about food as a luxury item. I did not learn to do this at home, where it was considered a normal necessity. But now I count out pieces of fruit, save half a tomato for later, and freeze three quarters of a package of sausage. I make potato salad to serve as vegetable at the same meal where the main dish is beans. I just thought twice about using a whole onion and decided against it.

My fig tree has figs, but Hurricane Ike took out one of my lime trees, and an orange tree seems to have a disease. I have many scallions and herbs growing. The bananas and mushrooms are over. I must grow lettuce and vegetables.

5. AMERICANS

I am trying to rent my house for next semester, when I will be on sabbatical. Here is part of my conversation with one of the people who answered my ad. It is typical. I’ll bet it is a McCain voter.

Prospective Renter: You mean you are going out of state?
PZ: Out of the country.
PR: Wow! Where?
PZ: Brazil.
PR: That’s a really long way to go just for a sabbatical.
PZ: It’s just an overnight flight.
PR: Are you from there?
PZ: No, I am from here.
PR: And you want to go there?
PZ: Yes.
PR: Well, I guess it is all right, if that is really what you want to do. I am not sure I want to rent from someone like that, though. Good luck in your search.

Axé.

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Lima: un vals y un recuerdo

It is getting cold in Louisiana, like Lima in winter. There, of course, it is spring, and summer will soon be coming in. And it is the weekend, so we will sing from the memories we wish we had of Lima in the 1940s, with “a waltz and a memory.”

Strangely, the Lima I first knew, of the late 70s and early 80s, seems closer to the Lima of the 40s than does present day Lima. I suppose it is not surprising, since it was almost thirty years ago I first spent time there.

Axé.

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A Very Important Point

[E]mpire building always has gone hand in hand with impoverishing the population of the imperial center as well as its periphery.

This is why I want to study economics, history, sociology, and political theory. It is also why I think people should study in general, and why I believe in rigor. Thinking on my own, my early patriotic education gets in the way and I forget that empires have always done this – from the beginning, as policy, and not only in their later and more desperate stages.

ETA: See also the Changeseeker on W.E.B. DuBois and current events.

Axé.

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Friendship Around the World Award

Geoffrey Philp, one of the very best bloggers, has given me a Friendship Around the World Award, and now I get to award it. I am very much honored to have won this award from Geoffrey Philp. I will not award it to any blogs on Philp’s list, although I would have chosen some of these blogs otherwise, especially POEFRIKA. I will try to award it to nobody to whom I have given an award to before, although I am not looking back. I am not listing blogs I have not actually communicated with, much though I may like them. I am not listing any blogs of people I met IRL first. I am trying to emphasize non U.S. blogs, although I am including some U.S. ones. I was born to be friends with MORPHOLOGICAL CONFETTI and the UNAPOLOGETIC MEXICAN but I have already given them too many awards. And they are in the United States, like AUTOMATIC PREFERENCE and the CHANGESEEKER, whom I would also have liked to include here. Finally, I am trying to avoid listing professors as much as possible, although I have included some, anyway. But that is how I am now snubbing HISTORIANN and the ANGRY PROFESSOR, both loyal Americans (voting Democratic next month!) who offered me shelter from Hurricane Ike. This list is in alphabetical order, with numbers first.

112. Deep activist thinker. This award is shared with Servetus, WoC PhD, and Hattie. We critique academia.

13 Stoploss. Has content and can write. This is a very understated recommendation.

A Room Of Our Own. By the first person I didn’t know to ever comment on my blog!

Antrobiótica. From México, D.F. No longer posting but still the most literate blog in the known universe.

Anxious Black Woman. She is a professor. If this is just her blog, what must her classes and books be like? I have given her blog an award before, but I cannot resist.

Choledad Privada. A humorously serious, non-academic and intelligent blog about race and culture, from the grass roots up, organized in Lima. It insists that we recognize our inner cholo, a concept the authors explain in person.

Dissent. Some of the very best professors, serious about teaching, research, politics, art. And they are having fun! It is as though a 19th century German research university had met a California community college and had a brood of children incorporating the best aspects of each.

Georgia Popplewell/Caribbean Free Radio. Great music, news, and cultural commentary from Port of Spain, that place which feels so much like home. Reach out and touch it.

Jennifer Cascadia Emphatic. Theory currently emanating from Western Australia. Bracing.

Honorable mentions go to Ridwan Laher in South Africa, Peru Food on one of the world’s great unknown cuisines, Sarhua, un sitio tan lleno de cultura y ternura que da ganas de llorar, and Tasneem Khalil, who speaks for himself, and whom I admire ustedes no saben cuánto.

Axé.

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Ways to Oppress Girls in School: Open Thread

Having been the recipient of wisdom which was also undermining, although I did not realize it at the time, having had important information withheld from me and/or not having had access to it, and having had basic principles pronounced at me as the ultimate in new wisdom when I have said things which did not actually contradict these but went beyond them (and were therefore taken for misunderstandings), I have finally noted that these were largely strategies to oppress girls in school.

It is interesting that I did not receive any of these pieces of information until graduate school, that the rain of them was stepped up when it became apparent I would finish graduate school, and that it has not stopped. We will therefore begin to make a list of these statements. This is an open thread. Please comment.

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Graduate Student Z: I am not going to that event because I am studying for my Ph.D. exam.

Whiteman: Do you not realize that to take an exam you do not have to write the history of the world, all you have to do is answer questions?

Graduate Student Z (with slight frown). Yes, well this is not the History department, which is indeed more demanding. Our exam only covers 70 primary texts. Questions may speak to secondary texts or other works, but each must each focus on one of the primary texts listed. So the exam does not cover the history of the world, it only asks certain specific questions.

I am getting ready for those and I am studying 36 hours per week. I work 25 hours. This adds up to 61 hours already, and then you have to add in the classes I am auditing and the rest of life. I have discovered that in 36 hours I can really only cover five primary texts, and 70/5=14, and a semester is 15 weeks, and the examination is in finals week, so I really cannot sacrifice any of those 36 hours.

The plan I have made gives me completely flexible time only on Fridays at 5 to Saturdays at 7, and Sundays from 11 to 7. That is an entire period of more than 24 hours, and the greater part of a whole day, every single week. I am available to attend events at these times.

Whiteman: I see. You do believe you must write the history of the world. And you are very controlling. Did you not know that was a bad thing?

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Other strange pieces of advice and lore I have received include, but are not limited to:

You are so good at administration, you should manage this project of mine for me, it will be good for our department.

You are not in graduate school any more, so you should give up your dreams of research. You are here to teach.

Teaching is not valued, so you should do as poor a job of it as possible.

If you did a good job teaching, it is because you wasted inordinate amounts of time on it.

You will never write.

You will never get anything published.

It is selfish of you not to be married.

Because you have a career, it is selfish of you to imagine having anything else.

You will never try.

Because you go swimming every day, you do not suffer enough to be an academic.

You will not finish your degree on time.

Because you are blond, you cannot be intelligent.

Axé.

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Positive Thinking Has Wrecked the Economy

I am really glad someone has expounded upon this.

Positive thinking is endemic to American culture – from weight loss programs to cancer support groups – and in the last two decades it put down deep roots in the corporate world as well. Everyone knows that you won’t get a job paying more than $15 an hour unless you’re a “positive person” — doubt-free, uncritical, and smiling—and no one becomes a CEO by issuing warnings of possible disaster.  According to a rare skeptic, a Washington-based crisis management consultant I interviewed on the eve of the credit meltdown in 2007, even the magical idea that you can have whatever you truly want has been “viral” in the business culture….

Axé.

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A New Whiteman

HYPERBOLIZED FOR HUMOROUS EFFECT

PZ: You want me to engage in a major service project to benefit you, and you will stay here if I succeed within three years? Who are you, again?

Axé.

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