Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Say what you want, but there's no denying how timely and relevant our course is. Check out the purely coincidental discussion of Wilson's book over at The Pomo Jukebox. Oh sure, you could note that there's a permanent link to that blog in our list of blog links that would suggest that I might know some of the bloggers over there which is why I took the liberty of linking them back to this blog in an effort to broaden your audience and all. That might be true. However, what's also true is that I had no idea that they would be discussing the book at the same time as us! As before, uncanny is the word.

Monday, November 29, 2010

So, Professor Fisher's last post led me to aimlessly look at youtube videos of Celine Dion. College, right? And I can't help noticing a lot of what Wilson says. My background on Celine Dion was pretty minimal before this book, or at least I thought. I, of course, knew she sang "My Heart Will Go On" and felt that I had to know some of her other songs, but none came to mind. I also know that anyone who noticed this tiny book in my room with Celine's shining face on it, immediately made fun of me for owning it-- all I could do was shrug and defend myself by saying it was for a class.

Looking at youtube videos, I realized that I did know quite a few of her songs. Mostly the ones that came out in the late 90s that I probably blindly sang along to as a ten year old. I find the fact that I couldn't recall any of her hits rather telling. Wilson talks about a lot of criticism of Celine being that she has no personality, and this makes sense. I couldn't remember that these songs were sung by Celine because they sound like they could be sung by anyone. I had a better memory of the SNL skit of Celine Dion than of her actual voice or style (SNL).

Looking at some of her music videos, I couldn't but help thinking of Wilson's book. The music video for It's All Coming back To Me Now is pretty ridiculous, schmaltzy, even. And the music video That's The Way It Is seems to be going for a modern, urban vibe. There's a lot of races and ethnicities shown in the video and the lyrics of the song seem to imply that Celine is their quasi-champion, urging the young, hip minorities on in life? I'm not quite sure, but there's definitely something going on.

And it's pretty funny to look at the related or suggested videos on the right. They mostly include Mariah Carey, Barbara Streisand, and Shania Twain.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen the Links Are in Cyberspace

All, here is a link to an old You Made Me Theorize post that contains various links to some of the multimedia elements that Carl Wilson mentions at the beginning of his book.

And below is a clip of Spiritualized's "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space" just because.

Science is Culture

I'm currently reading a collection of discussions between scientists and artists (and sometimes, if not often, scientist-artists) entitled Science is Culture. I'll go ahead with the strong opinion that no department of academia can afford to separate itself from another and declare absolute sovereignty over its' productions. Science is Culture does a great job of forcing the two seemingly disparate worlds of science and the arts together--don't let the title mislead you into thinking that the contributors see the arts as nothing more than quantitative data--and I think this sort of renaissance, this science-art instead of science/art, has the potential to alter English discourse and offer some very interesting (and very new) ways of critically theorizing.

There is also, of course, the danger of certain renegades turning each twist of narrative or plot into quantitative data and compiling a sort of mathematical literary theory that does nothing but offer patterns of change. But I think (if we really do study literature and not just theory; I've noticed in my honors seminar that theory takes precedence over art) being informed by, for instance, neurological processes could lead to some amazing appreciations of literature. And, at least for me, the only reason I'm putting up with so much theory is so I can feel more interconnected with literature, as if each school of criticism is a medical tool that can help me both dissect and sew up novels. And perhaps art--if we assume art to be what is unsayable, or unthinkable, or what hasn't be said or thought--could inform the sciences by making the internal external, or, study-able, able to be scrutinized.

I suppose what Science is Culture has really done for me is instill a vehemence toward any professor that wants to keep things separate. I imagine myself asking any given professor her thoughts on where art and science intersect (i.e. how do you think biology informs literature?) and, should the answer be one of segregation, I'll storm out and throw my books and stride down the hallway like Captain Jack Sparrow!

Perhaps that wasn't the best way to lead into this question, but what do you all think of separating science and art?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Food For Thought

As I've been doing the reading for Tuesday about soap operas and their implications for genre and gender, I can't help but think of the Real Housewives franchise. I am sure most of you are familiar with the premise of the shows which involve wealthy women from cities all over the United States who are thrown together in awkward social situations and various expansive displays of wealth and hedonistic pleasure despite not really being friends in "real life."

What made me think of the shows is Gledhill's use of the term "unchronicled growth" in which we think that the lives of the characters on the shows continue despite the shows not being on television at the present moment. In the case of the Real Housewives, their lives really are continuing because they're real people. However, the shows are heavily scripted and the women are told by the producers to say certain things or perform certain actions in order to incite squabbles or God knows what else. It could be said that there is some kind of story line or plot occurring, since the producers clearly have in mind specific scenarios they hope to see happen as a result of the pettiness and vanity of these women.

Also, these shows are geared towards a female audience, to be sure. You'd be hard-pressed to find a guy who's willing to sit through an entire episode without feeling acute pain. These shows are marketed as "real" depictions of "real housewives" across the country, from Beverly Hills to right here in DC that women are supposed to be able to relate to on some level.

That being said, do you guys think that the "Real Housewives" could be considered a soap opera? I think that Gledhill's arguments in Chapter 6 of Representation combined with popular knowledge about the shows and their premises makes for a pretty convincing argument on behalf of them being soap operas.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Paralyzed Veterans: Advocating and finding a cure?

So I didn't get to talk about this in class, but I intern at this nonprofit called Paralyzed Veterans of America. The goal of the organization is exactly what you'd expect: We advocate for veterans with spinal cord injuries, as well as other disabled people who fall under that category. (If you're wondering, the broader Disabled American Veterans also exists.)

One of the events we sponsor every year is the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, which is our version of the Paralympics. It's always amazing to me to see what these veterans can still do, even in wheelchairs. The other day I was labeling some pictures of a basketball from a past NVWG, and competition is fierce -- there were people getting knocked out of chairs and struggling to get around defenders, and all the typical excitement you'd expect in a basketball game, except, of course, the players weren't on their feet.

I think it's also pretty interesting to see what the veterans do with their lives after being paralyzed. This guy ran for state senate in Illinois against an incumbent and only lost by five percentage points, which is pretty impressive.

Also, as a more relevant observation, there are a lot of people who work there who are in actuality paralyzed veterans. I remember when I went in for my interview, I was in the elevator, and it stopped on a lower floor and a man in a wheelchair got in. It gave me a little bit of pause, because I didn't often see people in wheelchairs, regardless of what the organization is called. I think in the introduction to Davis, there was a statistic that labeled disabled people as the smallest minority we have, which is what makes it so jarring when we do see people who are in wheelchairs or have prosthetics. After being at PVA for a semester, however, I've found that I'm less shocked when I see people wheeling around the office, maybe because I'm getting used to it.

As much as we advocate for and are proud of our members, I think it's interesting that another main concern for PVA is "finding a cure for SCI/D [spinal cord injury and disease]." We were talking about how the medical establishment rejects disability studies because they'd rather find a cure for paralysis than advocate for it, but PVA mixes both ideas. What do you guys think?

Cool article on Ethnicity and Identification - The GW Ace Magazine

Friday, November 19, 2010

Science of Attraction

In light of yesterday's discussion, I thought it'd be interesting to discuss the science of attraction with evolution theory at its basis. Something that repeatedly confounds me is the belief that I can force myself to be attracted to someone, or, wielding the ethics of the modern progressive family, can look beyond physical attraction and find something hidden deep in my object of interest, and then I'll fall in love, and flowers will blossom and a golden light will lazily hang across everything I see.

This has yet to happen. To what extent can I manipulate my subconscious, natural desires? Is the purpose of disability studies to get people to the point where they can gaze at a disabled person and feel attraction? I suspect the latter question is a no--that the purpose is to turn the disabled from object to subject--but I have to wonder, Are we expected to look at an amputee with the same amount of amazement as we are Venus de Milo? (I'd also like to point out that the West's infatuation with Venus may not be due to her level of physical attraction, but the expertise of her sculptors; sculptures of Egyptian Pharaohs are physically attractive, but their sculpted form isn't as 'realistic' as that of Venus or many other classical Greek works).

This all comes back to me being wary of Theory, yet, at the same time, Biology. What can the mind control, and what is it forced to leave be? I suppose this most comes up when reading Lacan, the man who so forcefully divorces biology and the mind, especially in the case of the death drive and many psychosomatic disorders (anorexia, etc.)

I've just confused myself more. Thoughts?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Beauty and the Wheelchair...

Beauty and the Wheelchair

First of all, the fact that we have a Miss Wheelchair America, and the award has been going on for nearly 30 years is astounding! I did not know that at all! That automatically brings up the question, do TV companies not feel the show is worth a televised event because there wouldn't be a market/audience for it? Are able-bodied women the only ones who can be objectified on television by a panel hosted by Mario Lopez? Nigeria disagrees.

The article notes that this pageant is not a beauty pageant, and the contestants are judged on "their achievements since the onset of their disabilities, their projection and communication skills, and their abilities to successfully advocate for over 20 million Nigerians with disabilities." Now although I see a hint of Marxism in the commoditization of the "beauty pageantry" but this specific event seems less of an excuse to see women in bikini's and evening dresses, and more of a feel-good marketing technique to spread the word "disability", "wheelchair", and "normalcy" around.
I don't mean to sound harsh, but as Joe brought up yesterday in class, there is hardly a doctor out there who doesn't believe that the human mind finds the disabled repulsive. I'm about to geek out, but I waited on line 8.5 hours last night for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In the movie, Voldemort says "Professor Burbage believes that Muggles and Wizards are no different. She even advocates that we should mate with them." Voldemort and the Death Eaters strongly believe that the Muggles, or the disabled, do not deserve to live, let alone co-exist with the wizarding world. It's seen in the new statue in the Ministry of Magic, where Muggles are crushed by the "Magic is Might" monument.
Not to steer away from the Miss Wheelchair Nigeria, but in some respects, their plight is related to that of the Muggles in Harry Potter. Both are ostracized from society, because of a disability. My grandfather is a man of many wheelchairs. He has had 7 since I was born. Not because they break or rust, but because he likes to add knick-knacks, toys, and whizzing sounds to his wheelchair. At first I felt he wanted the image of himself in a wheelchair to look much more grand than it was, but I now know that he has realized that he will be in a wheelchair for life, and if he can't have fun standing, he sure as hell will have fun sitting!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tyler Perry: Helping or Hurting Perceptions of Black Masculinity?

Today in class, when we discussed black men playing the stereotypical black Grandma, I immediately thought of Tyler Perry. Perry is a prominent black actor,director, and producer. He is known for his Grandma roles in the "Madea" films that he makes ("Diary of a Mad Black Woman," "Madea's Family Reunion," "I Can Do Bad All By Myself," et al.) In each of these films, Perry plays a heavy-set, aggressive, yet loving black grandmother. Perry masters his character very well, and plays Madea's husband at the same time throughout most of the films.

The potential problem here, is that Perry's films tend to portray black males in a very negative light. While the message of his films are usually uplifting and relatable to the black community, it is debated that Perry might be perpetuating the violent perceptions of black males through his plot choices. In "I Can Do Bad All By Myself," for example, one of the female characters is in an abusive relationship to a morally-deprived black male. It is a Latino male who steps in and saves her. In "Madea's Family Reunion," though one of the female characters ends up happily married to a good black male, she first endures an incredibly abusive relationship with a rich black male. According to black film director Ernest Harris, Perry's most recent film, "For Colored Girls," also places black males in the criminal, misogynist, abusive category:

"It sure does get old being portrayed as the villain in popular culture.

I am referencing the latest in a long line of heavily hyped feature films that jump on the bandwagon that seems to believe the only real Black man is a drug dealing, two-timing, woman-hating, physically abusive criminal, as is portrayed in Tyler Perry's latest film, For Colored Girls."

So while paying homage to all of the tough, motherly black matriarchs, Perry might be lacking in portraying enough positive images of black males. Here's the full article from the Huffington Post by Harris on this debate:


Any comments? In my opinion, Perry is doing positive work by casting phenomenal black actors in a film market that centers on the racial majority. His profound messages can be felt by all races, not simply african americans. The fact that he writes movies like "Daddy's Little Girls" with a black male character who fights for his daughters, shows that Perry isn't denigrating black masculinity.

The Week That Makes Me Question My Masculinity...

I'm scared to go to class tomorrow.

Not because I'm only half done with my summary paper or because I have to comlete my syllabus for Thursday's presentation, but because our topic this week is Masculinity.

Do you know what that means? It means 9:30, with Dunkin Donuts in my hand, I'll be questioning my masculinity. Now let's start with Dunkin Donuts. I always told myself that Dunkin Donuts was the MANLY coffee, while Starbucks, it's fancy shmancy cups, sizes, syrups, topings, teas and what nots were as feminine as they come. Do I still believe this? Yes, yes I do. But apparently there are aspects of masculinity that are not so materialistic and so simple as coffee and the clothes I wear.

Looks like I need to buy this book and learn a few things. Apparently, Peter McCallister (if you remember your movie trivia, Peter McCallister is the name of Macaulay Culkin's dad in the Home Alone movies) tries to go back in time and compare the modern man to his historical counterpart. I want to talk about masculinity before I read the chapter in Representations to compare my thoughts before and after they are toiled with during class.

McCallister uses anthropology and archaeology to compare the ancient "man" to the modern "man," and according to his findings, the modern man is down, losing terribly to the old timers. Is this true? Do men need the muscles, the cars, the women, the success, the stats and the facial hair to prove our masculinity? Do we not match up to the men who had neither escalators nor cars? Do we need to have Men's only professional sports, to differentiate what Men can do and what women can do? It's funny (and ironic) how all this talk of Masculinity brings back Chapter 4 of Representations, where Hall writes about linguist Jacques Derrida claiming every representation has a binary opposite. "'There is always a relation of power between the poles of a binary opposition.' (Derrida, 1974) We should really write, white/black, men/women, masculine/feminine ... to capture this power dimension in discourse."

I know Butler was changing gender studies by including her notion that the lines separating men from women was blurring, being replaced by QUEER, but I feel that as the lines blur, men leap at a chance to reinforce the walls again. More importantly, I think men feel the need to separate themselves from women, more so than women wanting to separate themselves from men. The frailty and fragility associated with women (not all, but just as a general adjective) is something that frightens most men. Don't you think so? I think this is the main reason for the sexual domination men NEED. Without having this power, they are just like women in the most manly arena in the world: the bedroom. I can be completely off my rocker. What do you think?

Damn Nixon...

Damn Nixon

I knew I'd walk out of class and start thinking of things that men have done that can't be misconstrued as feminine. And though I'm still having trouble coming up with something, I found something coincidental. I was up late last night reading Representations, and my cousins in California asked what I was up to. I explained what I was reading and then I got this email from them this morning after class.
Hey Arjun,
Remember Anchorman? Can you believe people are overanalyzing the movie? What message? The movie was just funny. Hope this helps you for your class.

Apparently the IFC feels there's more to Judd Apatow than just comedy. He subtly includes what I've come to understand as "anxious masculinity," where women enter the ring and threaten the Boys-Only club. Not only the IFC feels this though. Texas Christian University will have a panel discussing this as well. Am I crazy or are there panels happening out there in the world based on our syllabus while we're in class Tuesday and Thursday mornings?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Not Totally Egregious and Unnecessary Sports Post

What kind of masculinity is the following clip exhibiting?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

19? Really?

So I know we're all over Foucault-- that was so last week-- but I took a look into the Duggar Family and they happen to have their own website, which is totally normal and not at all ridiculous. So I'm not really that aware of this family, other than knowing they have or at one time had a TV show. But just casually browsing their website is pretty interesting.

So obviously there's a lot of God things going on, but there's more than that. The first thing you see on their homepage is a sort of request to see that they are an ordinary family, which I see as a desire to be normal and not a perversion; they are trying to normalize having 19 children, and the possibility of more, as their motto seems to be "19 Kids & Counting!" There are so many pictures of the family all over the place, and obviously an emphasis on the children. Having your own website and TV show are clear indicators that this family has turned itself into a commodity, which is more Marxist, but I feel that because it all revolves around the amount of children this couple has it becomes sexualized. The whole gimmick is the craziness of having 19 children and then of course, their religion.

In the "About" section, the parents go right into talking about how when there were first married they used birth control but after a miscarriage they thought it was the wrong course. These people clearly like having sex. And talking about it. Yet their religion values modesty and basically the suppression of sexuality-- at least pre-maritally. The children must wear modest clothing and I find the set up of their house telling. There are pictures of their house, which is quite big. Apparently all of the boys are in one bedroom and all of the girls in another. This is quite average, but after Foucault's reading it becomes more complicated. Like the German schools, are the boys and girls separated because of the possibility of sexual interactions? I understand that them being siblings, there's perhaps a greater question of incest here, but still. Sexuality is made into an issue by separating the children by gender; if sexuality isn't an issue, then why bother?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Totally Egregious and Unnecessary Sports Post

Yes, I am blogging at 9:30 pm on a Friday night. I am blogging because my condominium is in a state of renovation disrepair. I do not have a functioning shower. My bathrooms do not have doors on their hinges. I bathe, and brush my teeth, in my kitchen sink. My home is, as the expression goes, a hot mess. All of this is why I have turned to writing to pass the time.

I have also, for the first time ever, turned to Twitter for some light recreation, specifically in the form of this particular Tweet, which owns the world for the funniest Tweet ever. Just like last night, I'll be smiling for the remainder of the evening thanks to Paul Pierce.
I know that my week of blogging is coming to a close, but I couldn't resist posting about our reading for next week from Lennard Davis' Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body. As I was doing this reading, I kept thinking about one of my favorite artists, Jenny Saville. She is a part of the "Young British Artists" movement which counts among its stars Damien Hirst and Dinos and Jake Chapman, among others. (Sorry, I am a bit of an art nerd!)

I'm actually writing a paper on Saville's work for my Aesthetics class this semester, and some of what I will be discussing is relevant to this reading. Saville is known for her huge canvases of the female body, with a twist. "Her published sketches and documents include surgical photographs of liposuction, trauma victims, deformity correction, disease states and transgender patients." Her paintings are difficult to look at, but they are truly beautiful, masterful works of art.

This one is my favorite, and the subject of my Aesthetics paper. It is entitled "Hypen," and is supposedly an image of Saville herself with her sister. I think that this plays directly into Davis' Venus and Medusa concept...although I'll leave that discussion up to you!
Here are some more of Saville's works for you to enjoy (or revile):

Saville's works

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Uncanny Part II!

Professor Fisher's post about the Westboro Church made me think of my favorite clip from David Lynch's Mulholland Drive which deals directly with the uncanny. I think I might have mentioned it in class, but here it is in real life! I dare you guys to not be somewhat unnerved by this scene. I apologize for the crappy quality and Portuguese subtitles, but I had to take what I could get!


The sex and gender question, infiltrating our use of the internet.

Okay, so I know it's not my turn to blog this week, but I can't help sharing this, because I think it's super-relevant to what we were talking about today with the Butler reading.

This is a blog post by someone who uses deviantART, which is a web community where artists can upload their work and share it with others for comment and critique. During the sign-up process, like many other websites, dA asks users to select their gender, either male or female. There were some transgender users who found this extremely offensive, and there was a huge blow-up about it, the details of which are outlined in the post. The fact that there was a huge outcry and debate over the distinction between gender, sex, and the various kinds of genders that people can now identify with, lead dA to change the way it let users display (or not display) their gender, as is explained in dA's CEO's blog post on the subject.

I just wanted to know what you guys thought about the subject. Did the users go too far in assuming that dA was being disrespectful? Did dA go too far in changing their sign-up interface? Or is this all just nuts?


The caps are definitely warranted on this one, because I just realized that we discussed Judith Butler on the very same day that The Westboro Baptist Church was in town discussing Judith Butler!

I don't know how to reconcile all of this all of us being queer and all of us being made in God's image and all of us being hated by Jesus. Maybe we can use the comments section to do some theorizing?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Lesbian Body

I took a dean's seminar freshman year called "Sensing Bodily Boundaries" which dealt with a lot of what Judith Butler talks about in the selection we read tonight. I wanted to read a little more in depth, so I found the main textbook we used for the class, "The Body: A Reader," edited by Mariam Fraser and Monica Greco, and thumbed through it.

I found an interesting selection by Barbara Creed entitled "Lesbian Bodies: Tribades, Tomboys, and Tarts" that I thought you guys might be interested in in light of Butler's arguments. It is a little more focused, as it is about lesbianism specifically, but still recalls many of Butler's ideas, namely those about the role of gender performance and gender as an act that is continually repeated.

The selection claims three stereotypes of the lesbian body that Creed argues cannot also be applied to the non-lesbian body, thereby introducing an interesting duality into Butler's arguments about the female gender.
These stereotypes are:
  1. The lesbian body as active and masculinized
  2. The animalistic lesbian body
  3. The narcissistic lesbian body
The active, masculinized body is referred to as the "tribade" by Creed. Tribade is another word for lesbian, as "tribadism" is another word for lesbianism. This stereotype says that these women are actually men trapped in a woman's body, to put it simply. They are the dominant, powerful women...the "tomboys."
The second stereotype, that of the animalistic lesbian body, connects lesbianism with bestiality, and places the lesbian as part of the natural world yet different from those who are "civilized." Therefore, this image is the most closely connected to that of the "Other."
Finally, the third stereotype of the narcissistic lesbian body plays on the natural tendency of women to copy and imitate each other when they are close to each other, creating a "forcefield" of femininity that is impenetrable by men. This idea of the "lesbian double" is threatening to men precisely because it allows no room for them.

I just thought that this selection provided an interesting corollary to Butler's selection from Gender Trouble, as well as some fodder for further thought. Lesbian stereotyping is apparent in all areas of our culture, from television and movies to music and art. I am interested in hearing some examples that you guys can think of!

Visual Food for Thought for the Butler Reading

This is one of my favorite photographs by one of my favorite photographers, Diane Arbus. Just an alternative to Miss Jay (no offense to him) and a truly beautiful, arresting shot.

Monday, November 8, 2010

"Birth of the Prison:" Race Behind Bars

While reading "Birth of the Prison," I couldn't help but think of the current trend of black males in the carceral system. I don't think that this topic is after Foucault's time, and I believe his analysis of the origins of the prison connects to modern prison demographics.

2004 (http://www.prisonpolicy.org/articles/notequal.html)
incarceration rates by race graph

In discussing the prison cycle, Foucault writes, "Although it is true that prison punishes delinquency, delinquency is for the most part produced in and by an incarceration which, ultimately prison perpetuates in its turn."

The rates of black male imprisonment has become so high, that it seems like the prisons are producing black males. The prevalence of black male criminals and black males in jail perpetuates ideas of what a criminal should look like. Thus, recycled perceptions of the black male as aggressive dangerous, and criminal. Tea Party member, Al Reynolds made this perception quite clear in his remark in October that, "Minority men find it more lucrative to be able to do drugs or other avenues rather than do education. It’s easier.” Sadly, such racialized remarks as these are dominating representations of black men (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/26/al-reynolds-tea-party-can_n_774432.html).

Foucault says, "The prison is merely the natural consequence, no more than a higher degree, of that hierarchy laid down step by step. The delinquent is an institutional product."

The prison is a natural consequence for social hierarchy and the disadvantaged state of the black male. He is disadvantaged in both education and the work force. He is more likely to be poor. All of these factors increase his likelihood of ending up in prison.

The notions of institutions of "repression, rejection, exclusion, marginalization" are all tangible effects of the carceral system on black males.

Thankfully, positive steps have been made to reduce the disproportionate and at times, unfair imprisonment of black males. Before the passing of a recent bill for example, blacks caught with crack received heavier sentences than whites caught cocaine, the same substance

Foucault & Popular Culture

This might seem like a ridiculously naive connection to make, but while I was reading Foucault's selection from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, I couldn't help but think of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Having recently read the novel for my Contemporary American Literature class, its themes are still echoing through my head. The emasculation and infantilization of the male psychiatric patients by Nurse Ratched, portrayed brilliantly in the film version of the novel by Louise Fletcher, reminded me of Foucault's references to "technicians of behavior" at Mettray whose sole responsibility it was to take away the individuality of the children. Indeed, the most tragic scene in the novel is at the end, where McMurphy has been lobotomized and therefore robbed of his unique personality.

Another reference to popular culture appeared in my mind while reading the selection as well, and I thought of the film version of A Clockwork Orange. Alex's experience with the Ludovico technique while in prison, which destroys his free will, resonated with me. These "therapies" that have been socially accepted as "useful" for psychiatric patients and violent prisoners alike seem so similar to the techniques used at Mettray which Foucault described.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

This is a link of Mayda del Valle performing at the White House poetry slam. It reminds me of Gloria Anzaldua's "La conciencia de la mestiza" and Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's "What is a Minor Literature?"

"Won't somebody please think of the children!"

When reading Foucault's The History of Sexuality, all I could think of was this quick clip from The Simpsons. A large portion of our reading focuses on the repression of sexuality in children, as it becomes generally accepted that it is unnatural for children to be sexually aware or active. Foucault speaks of German secondary schools in the 18th century that taught sex to children in the least sexual way, to ensure that there was nothing perverse in their understanding. The children were able to talk about sex without any embarrassment because sex became solely scientific. Children are separated by gender early on, due to a fear that any sexual experimentation should happen between them.

Children and sexuality is a major issue in our culture. We all know the joke about kids asking their parents where babies come and the awkwardness that follows. I also remember the whole scandal of hugging at school and the debate over whether it should be allowed or not. Here's an article from the New York Times about banning hugging, it's a bit old but it serves its purpose.

In this clip, the the wife of the town's reverend asks in outrage if anyone will think of the children. I forget what this is in reference to, but really it doesn't matter. I believe her comment is supposed to be random and out of context and the ridiculousness of her exclamation highlights the extreme to which concern over children has reached.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Growing Pains

I came across this article about "growing up on Facebook" and the impact it has had on kids in middle school and high school, especially girls, the other day and wanted to share it with everyone. I think it's interesting partially because I know that I, for one, went through middle school and most of high school without any form of social media. It's kind of crazy to think that we are the last generation that grew up (or at least experienced the social Mount Everests of middle school and high school) without an ever-changing, ever-updatable online record of ourselves.

Another reason I found the article interesting was in light of the Mulvey reading we did about the male gaze. The impact Facebook has had on young girls has been severe--a recent study of 1,000 girls ages 14-17 conducted by the Girl Scouts of America showed that 68% of girls had been bullied or gossiped about on a social network. Furthermore, the online personas that middle schoolers and high schoolers are presenting on networks like Facebook often have a large disconnect between their real personalities and their "cool, sexy" online personalities.

What brings me to Mulvey is this--I think that the profiles girls are posting these days to appear more cool, interesting, and sexy present a similarity to the female characters of Hollywood in the 1950's and 1960's which Mulvey describes as having a "to-be-looked-at-ness." The whole point of social media like Facebook is to be gazed at, adored, venerated--or bullied, gossiped about, and ultimately, ostracized. I find it interesting that girls are placing themselves in this position knowingly and in direct contrast to their male counterparts, who are less likely to lie about themselves on Facebook. Ultimately, it provides a somewhat dismal outlook for the future of our young girls today, as it will soon prove impossible for them to escape their online personas, and the division between one's online self and real self can often prove to be too much to bear, in the case of young girls who have committed suicide in recent years over online bullying.

Here is the link to the article:

Butler, Drag, and America's Next Top Model

I found Judith Butler's article on "Gender Trouble" both complex and interesting. Butler discusses the fluidity in the meaning of "female," the woman as a "mystery" to men, and the sex/gender distinction. After exploring gender as a social construct, Butler concludes that genders can be "neither true nor false, neither real nor apparent" but "thoroughly and radically incredible."

Butler frequently touches on the impersonation of women through drag: "Is drag the imitation of gender, or does it dramatize the signifying gestures through which gender itself is established. Does being female constitute a 'natural fact' or a cultural performance...?" Drag, as well as roles of transgender and other non-heterosexualities, transcend the male/female binary opposite by creating a sort of in-between, undefined role.

Butler cites Esther Newton to expand her assertion that gender is "neither true nor false:"
"Drag is a double inversion....Drag says my 'outside' appearance is feminine, but my essence 'inside' is masculine. At the same time it symbolizes the opposite inversion; my appearance 'outside' is masculine but my essence 'inside' is feminine."

Butler's discussion on drag/imitations of gender and gender identity caused me to think of J Alexander, more commonly known as "Miss J," of Tyra Banks's America's Next Top Model. As Newton states, Miss J's appearance is an "illusion." By dressing in drag, Miss J's outside appearance is feminine. Despite this, his inside/body remains masculine. Further, his outside/gender is masculine, but his inside/"essence" is feminine. Therefore, he doesn't "imitate" gender, but rather defies gender norms. This "double inversion" is visible on the show.

Miss J is the runway coach for the aspiring models. He wears female clothes and models/walks like a woman. His feminine exterior (clothes), however, cannot hide his true masculine body. I think that one of the most interesting parts of Miss Jay, is that he also dresses in masculine clothes and at times, seems to talk like a man. He also has a non-biological son, further defying the male/female binary.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

You Made Me Theorize: Cornel West Is Always so Cutting Edge

You Made Me Theorize: Cornel West Is Always so Cutting Edge

Writing about the potential aspirations of black kids reminded me of this poignant picture. Another reason why West should be happy for the new roles to which black kids can aspire.

President Barack Obama bends over so the son of a White House staff member can pat his head during a family visit to the Oval Office. The young boy wanted to see if the president's hair felt like his own. (May 8, 2009) -http://1websurfer.wordpress.com/2009/07/30/39-heart-warming-photos-of-barak-obama/

Cornel West Is Always so Cutting Edge

Look, I know that it's a bit hacky and somewhat lazy to link to articles from The Onion, but this one is just too relevant to our recent discussions not to be linked to on the big board here. Whew! That's an egregious amount of prepositions. Comment on the article, and/or my bad grammar, below.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Junot Diaz: Why race is still relevant in fiction.

Junot Diaz

In light of everything we've been reading about race, language, and masculinity, I thought it'd be interesting to throw Junot Diaz into the mix. If you've never heard of Diaz, he's a Dominican American author who currently has two published books: Drown, a collection of short stories, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a novel that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008. All of his writing has to do with the experience of Dominican immigrants in the United States, and many of his stories are told from the point of view of Yunior, a young Dominican American man.

I found this interview with Diaz on the NPR website and thought I'd share it, especially because he's an interesting guy to just listen to, especially because I've found that his manner of speaking is very similar to the way he writes.

In this interview, he talks about the fact that not many other people are writing about the Dominican American minority group, how he writes in English despite the fact that the language doesn't feel "organic" to him because it isn't his first language, and why he chooses to insert Spanish phrases into his writing without translating them -- much like Gloria Anzaldua.

I thought it would be interesting to put a more contemporary writer alongside everything we've read to so far, just to show how minority writers still see the things we're learning about as being major issues today.

Also, if you're interested, here's a story by Diaz, which was published in The New Yorker, just to show you what his writing is like.

And also because it's a really good story.

On a Less Academic Note...

Here are a few concerts of some smaller bands that I am attending this winter. I suggest taking a look if you enjoy new, live music:

Trampled by Turtles is a small bluegrass band out of Minnesota that mixes classic bluegrass instrumentals with catchy pop hooks. They are playing at the State Theater in Falls Church and the tickets are $15 a piece.

"fun." is a band comprised of ex-format leader Nate Ruess and his compadres from such bands as Steel Train and Anathallo. The band released their first album last year and is on their first U.S. headlining tour. They are stopping in D.C. on December 2nd at the 9:30 club, and the tickets are only $15 a piece.

I know what you're thinking... isn't this the band that is known only for their mediocre pop hit "The Middle" which came out ten years ago? Well I'm here to tell you that they are much more than that and actually have a pretty diverse and long discography. The band has been around since 1993 and have accumulated quite the fan base as seen by the size of the crowd in the video above. They are playing an unheard of small show at the 9:30 club in February which is sure to be an awesome song. They will most likely play some of their deeper licks in this small show which makes it worth the $35 ticket price.

Before You Do The Anzaldua Reading:

By coincidence I happened to just have read and given a presentation on "Borderlands/La Frontera" in my Gender and Literature class. While doing research for my presentation, I stumbled upon an interview with Anzaldua that reminded me of the discussion we had last class regarding Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s article. Anzaldua had just finished explaining her frustration with the way Borderlands is taught in colleges and high schools, claiming that they leave the angrier parts of the story out. The question and answer following her explanation of frustration is what reminded me of our discussion of Gates:

"Interviewer: The task, therefore, is to keep the traditional approaches in mind somehow but don't stay there, right?

G.A.: Yes, that's it. It is the same kind of struggle mestizas have living at the borders, living in the borderlands. How much do they assimilate to the while culture and how much do we resist and risk becoming isolated in the culture and ghettoized? This issue applies to everything."*

This is the same dilemma that Gates spoke of in his article about black writers. How much of one's culture must one sacrifice in order to be received by the literary elite? This is an interesting thing to keep in mind for the Anzaldua piece we were assigned to read for tomorrow. The language and genre shifting text seems to challenge this notion of "holding back one's culture" as Anzaldua pushes the boundaries of texts that has been received critically. Providing no english translations, Anzaldua will switch between english and spanish without warning and without regret. Some entire pages are taken by the language shift, and only meant to be understood by those who speak the native tongue. She feels that the best way to represent the things that she says is through spanish, so she makes no sacrifices and does so.

The book was still received very well by the public, but she says that the way it is being taught is not in the way that she had wished. So, in Anzaldua's case, by ignoring the assimilation into the "white culture" Anzaldua did not sacrifice critical reception, but rather critical misunderstanding. I'm not sure which is worse, but both seem to be unfortunate poisons for the "minority literature" writer.

*The interview can be found in the back of the Third Edition of the Aunt Lute Books publication.

Monday, November 1, 2010

What Sanity Means to Me

Around a month ago when John Stewart and Steven Colbert announced their joint rally/march for sanity/fear I was left confused. I knew that the event was in response to Glenn Beck's rally to restore honor and was interested to see exactly what message the two comedians were going to try and send. I was surprised to find that neither comedian explained their rally's meaning in their shows leading up to the big event, leaving me blinded to the exact intention of the rally I was going to attend.

So with this knowledge I woke up Saturday morning with really no expectations for anything. The first thing I noticed was the fact that the event was taking place on the opposite end of the mall from GW and from the usual setting for rallies, the Lincoln Memorial. The first thing I thought when analyzing the odd location of the event was its "representational" implications. Martin Luther King seemed to have establishedthe sight of the Lincoln Memorial as a place to get a message across. The sight has become infamous for large gatherings including last year's HBO concert event on the mall as well as the location for Glen
Beck's rally which took place only a few weeks earlier. With all of this in mind I came to the conclusion that maybe Colbert and Stewart really weren't trying to get a message across. Maybe this event truly was intended to be a bi-partisan gathering where everyone could simply come, get along, and be entertained. This notion pleased me but I couldn't sit with that being the fixed meaning of the location. My mind quickly turned to the other events on the mall I have attended in my two years living in Washington. The one that stuck out was obviously the inauguration of the 44th president, Barack Obama. This brought out a completely different meaning of the location. It seemed to me pretentious that these two comedians would chose the location of the inauguration of the presidents to hold their rally on "nothing". I then remembered that this class has often led me to question the meanings of things since my enrollment and quickly dismissed all notions as absurd.

My View From Crowd

With a clean slate I showed up at the event not really caring or knowing what to expect. Lucky for me I was able to get some VIP passes for the event through a fraternity brother and only had to show up to the event an hour before it started. The place was packed with people from all around the country, some dressed early for halloween and others with hilarious signs that they had prepared for the event (See Below). The program started with a musical introduction from The Roots who kicked things off with a bang. The performance set a tone for the rest of the rally which was very musically centered with very little comedic antics from Stewart and Colbert. Performances from John Legend, Ozzy Osbourne, Cat Stevens,and Jeff Tweedy of Wilco seemed to be when the crowd was most engaged with the happenings on stage. This seemed to be intentional as Colbert and Stewart for most of the event seemed to be more of emcees than they were hosts of the event. Of course Stewart closed the event with a long speech, but even that seemed to have little to no intention.

Because of the importance of the music to the event, and the lack of seriousness on stage, I found meaning of the event not in what was happening on stage, but rather what was happening in the crowd. Everyone around me seemed to have this same realization as people were able to communicate positively with each other with great music as a back drop. The only thing uniting the people in the crowd was that they all showed up to an event with no idea exactly why they showed up. This notion ended up being a beautiful thing that made for a friendly and seemingly low key event for the 200,000 people that showed up. Stewart's rally for sanity to me was the nation taking a deep breath and a step back from everything that is going on. Sanity is a word that he was using to tell people to simply calm down. The purpose of politics in this country shouldn't be about which party wins, but rather what the people themselves want. Sanity is something we as an American population should share and embrace as it is something we would all be happier in having. By staging a rally for nothing, Stewart was able to create an environment where everyone could simply get together and have fun and that is exactly what happened. See below for some pictures my friend took of what I believe "sanity" means:

American history, punk rock, and a little bit of Foucault...

(So Blogger doesn't support audio hosting and I couldn't find this song on YouTube or anywhere else, so I had to make a Tumblr and host it on there. Anyway, if you want to know what I'm talking about in this post, follow this link and listen to this song: "The Corrupt Bargain," from Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.)

Anyway, on to the actual post:

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I have a weird thing for rock musicals, and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, the newest Broadway show in that category, is no exception. The show tells the life story of our seventh president, Andrew Jackson, through punk rock and a little imaginative storytelling (in other words, don't expect to find this expletive-laced version of events in any American history textbook).

I've always liked "The Corrupt Bargain" for two reasons: 1) it's really amusing and 2) it's fairly accurate to what most people perceive the Corrupt Bargain of the Election of 1824 to be. Basically, the myth is that Andrew Jackson lost to John Quincey Adams when the presidential election went to the House of Representatives not because Adams actually won, but because Henry Clay convinced the House to vote for Adams once Adams agreed to appoint Clay to be Secretary of State.

I know it's confusing. It's a little less confusing in song.

Why is this relevant? Because somewhere in the middle of the song is the line, "I'm sure Michel Foucault would have an opinion, but he hasn't been born yet." We haven't gotten to Foucault in the Norton yet (and we won't until next week), but the song begs the question: What would Foucault have to say about this bit of American history? And what might he say about our current discourse about the Election of 1824? We are making punk rock songs about it and putting them into a Broadway show, after all.

Just some food for thought. And some music from my massive random collection for when you feel like procrastinating on whatever paper you have to do.