Tuesday, December 10, 2013

more odds and ends from last month

Here are a few of the things that were left in my list of things to blog about last month during NaBloPoMo. None of them seems worth an entire post. A couple of them are paragraphs that got edited out of one post or another and then never got put back in.

1. On Edward Snowden: I've resigned myself to the fact that we have very little privacy anymore. Ten years ago, I would have been up in arms about government surveillance of our e-mails, but I can't bring myself to get all that upset about it anymore. Not because I think it's OK, but because that cow left the barn so long ago that I think we just have to accept it as fact: online privacy is a thing of the past. I do, however, think that if there is government surveillance going on, we should know about it.  In other words, I'm ceding my right to have entirely private e-mail (which doesn't worry me too much since I write pretty innocuous e-mails), but in exchange we deserve to know that the government is watching. So I find myself grateful to Snowden. Whether or not he deserves to go to jail is a different question that I have mixed feelings about, but for the most part, I'd say no.  Give him a couple of years of "community" service where he has to work for the feds for free or something.

2. You know, I firmly believe that women are never responsible for men's reactions to them. re-word that: no one is ever responsible for someone else's reaction to them. No matter what they're wearing, no matter how they act. I believe that absolutely. But here's the thing that seems to be getting left out of most of the conversations I've read. What's right, the way things should be, what your legal rights are should a case go to court--all of those are completely different than what's smart and practical. When the speed limit is 75 on the interstate, is it your right to drive that fast even if it's raining? Yes. Is it smart? No. Is it your right to use your cell phone while you're driving? Yes. (it still is around here, anyway) Is it smart? No. Is it your right to wear a bikini on a crowded subway? Yes. Is it smart? No.

3. Sometimes I get whiplash from the differences between my different worlds. I have my family, Evangelical Christians that I love and whose opinions I respect, even when I disagree. (and I know them well enough to know that they're not much like the caricature image most liberals have of conservative Christians). Then I have my more liberal friends here, but we're in the midst of the really conservative Northwest Montana crowd, from conservative Christian to the anti-government crowd, and there's several of those, too. Then there's my friends in academia down in UTown who are really liberal. And all sorts in between. Sometimes I read through my news feed on Facebook and it's ..... it's just mind-boggling the different .... I don't even know how to put it into words. It's like going to another planet from one status update to the next. Sometimes I love that, sometimes it makes me want to just unplug forever.

4. OK, so Miley Cyrus. I wasn't going to go there, but here we are. I don't know her, of course, and I have no idea what's going on in her mind, so this is more just general observations from someone who is a sometimes reluctant, sometimes enthusiastic consumer of the music industry. As LondonMabel said in one of her always astute blog posts, Cyrus is only another in a long line of childhood stars who have flamboyantly rejected their cute, sweet childhood personas by taking on a blatantly sexual persona. It makes sense--of course they don't want to be seen anymore as the adorable pig-tailed 12-year-old who exists only to express the moral-of-the-week. It's not really even surprising. The more interesting thing to me is the assumption made by her many fans that she is empowering herself by breaking out of the mold her early career created. She is still at the mercy of the music/entertainment industry. She's powerful right now because she's popular and she's making music that people buy, but what happens a couple of albums later when her sales nosedive? and what happens to the young women coming along behind her who are less famous but equally talented who want to perform without all the flamboyant sexuality? Has she raised the bar now so that type of performance becomes the expected, the norm for women in pop music? I guess it remains to be seen.

5. Two more short things about grad school, and then there is one longer post (maybe). The first one is just finishing the story. Somewhere during the second semester of grad school, I figured out that I wasn't going to be continuing on for my PhD, which I had secretly thought I would do up until then. Our state university doesn't offer a PhD in literature, but before I started their M.A. program, I had thought I might be able to make it happen anyway through a combination of online work and occasional travel. But if you've been reading along, it will be as abundantly clear to you as it was to me that I just don't have the right kind of (brain? attitude? mindset?) to pursue graduate work. So then the problem was to figure out how to complete the program. I wasn't about to quit, but I wasn't sure how to go on, either. I became very shrewd about figuring out how I was going to be able to actually finish. Fortunately I was able to fill out much of the rest of my coursework with classes that didn't require a huge commitment to a theoretical stance--a linguistics class, a class on young adult literature, an independent study on Ulysses as hypertext. And I found a thesis topic that was a) with a professor I liked (most importantly), and b) felt do-able. It wasn't a particularly groundbreaking topic, but it felt like something I could get done. As many people have told me over the years, there are only two kinds of graduate degrees: done and not done. So I just kept plugging away until mine was done. It wasn't pretty, and by the end, no one was suggesting that I go on for further study, but I finished. It still makes me smile every time I think about it.

6. And the second thing. I spent a lot of time last month talking about all the ways I disagreed with the whole theory thing, but there are many ways that I agree. In fact, there wasn't much of it that I disagreed with, I just didn't want to apply it to the study of literature. Sometimes when you read current literary criticism, it's less about the work of literature than it is about the theory, and that's just silly to me. But there were plenty of times that I read Marx or Althusser or third-wave feminists or eco-critics and  found myself nodding my head in agreement. (That's just much less interesting to write about!)

My reaction to the Marxist stuff is what surprised me the most, because when I saw it on the syllabus, I was dreading it. yuck. But it ended up being fascinating. I'll never be a marxist, because I don't know of any socialist or communist country that I would want to be a citizen of. In real life, it doesn't seem to work all that well. But the marxist critique of capitalism is brilliant. None of it was brand new to me (Evangelicals actually excel at critiquing our culture, although of course that has a different emphasis)(and minus all the weird ways they participate in it), but the power of the capitalist-materialist hegemony became so much more clear, so very obvious. In some ways, it's like waking up from a spell when you see how pervasive it is, how much the consumer mindset has taken over our lives. That's the part of my grad school theory studies that I value every day.  Good topic for Black Friday, yes? [I must have written this one on Black Friday]

A facebook friend of mine posted a transcription of a speech given by David Simon (creator of the TV show The Wire) that says some of these same things, but far more intelligently and thoughtfully, and fleshes out the implications in a thought-provoking way. It's definitely worth a read, but it is a bit long (also, it's kind of confusing in a couple of places, as transcriptions of speeches often are without inflections and body language to clear things up).

7. So my rainbow face. I had one purple-black eye and one red eye on Thursday, then two red eyes over the weekend, and now I'm to the bruised banana phase--sort of yellow and brown all over. It's quite attractive. At least I'm not as swollen anymore. I haven't taken any painkillers since yesterday. In the grand scheme of things, this was a pretty small deal, but it was a much bigger deal than I was expecting. I had no idea that it was going to hurt that much. At my checkup this morning, the perio told me that he rarely does this many teeth at once, so usually it's not so painful. He prescribed 12 tabs of vicodin, and I was planning on stockpiling them for migraines--it never occurred to me that I would need them all for my poor mouth. But today it is bearable with only advil, so progress is being made.


  1. So glad the pain is getting manageable.

    Marxist criticism was my (unexpectedly) favorite theory, too. Finally admitted a couple weeks ago that I'd rather be a grandmother than a Ph.D. - translation, too late in my life, too much of a time and energy commitment. Doable, but not worth the effort.

    I hope teaching, though, is giving you pleasure!

  2. p.s. That is not an announcement of any kind except that if, in the next 10 or so years, I get to choose between time with grandchildren and time with a dissertation, the kids will win every time. As the grown kids do now. Just my personal priorities.

    1. You knew EXACTLY where my mind would go! I was all ready to start cheering. And I completely agree. We are too old to be wrangling with dissertation committees, life is meant to be enjoyed at this stage!

  3. #5, it should make you smile, you worked very hard for that!

    Glad your healing is on course.
    (Even if you have to look like a distressed fruit.)

  4. Lots of interesting stuff here! When I finally read Marx in grad school, I too loved it. I loved the passion! The big language! It was so over the top and exciting! lol