Sunday, March 30, 2008
A Little Sunday Reading v. 10
A NYT essay about books has got me thinking....

The essay claims that listing your favorite books and authors is a type of self-branding. Totally. It also claims that reading habits are indicators of other personality traits. Yes. It concludes that most serious readers have encountered a moment when literary tastes conflict with romantic hopes and caused a break up. Meh....

You have to read it if you are a book lover. Seriously. And read the comments over at Papercuts. They are completely awesome. Both because of how pissed people are about the topic AND how dogmatic people are about their deal breakers. As an aside, I cannot believe how many people hate on Ayn Rand. My favorite comment?

The Beats, especially Jack Kerouac. Not only does he have bad taste but he will justify cheating on you philosophically.

Maybe it is because most people I've dated aren't "readers" and the person I married doesn't read fiction--ever--but I don't think that different literary tastes are grounds for a break up. If a partner refuses to read to a child before bed? Dump him! If a partner doesn't support your reading habit? Kick em to the curb. If a partner exhibits absolutely no intellectual curiosity? Totally lame and should be discarded. But if a reader has a whole bunch of popular fiction on his or her shelf? I just don't think that's a problem.

I hope you all have your impressed faces on right now. This is quite possibly the least intellectually elitist thing I have ever said. Inmywholelife. Remember how I judged my childhood friends for their reading habits? Exactly. Don't get me wrong, the chances of me ever marrying a person who reads nothing but graphic novels? Probably slim (both because I'm already married and because I think I am missing the part of the brain that allows me to comprehend that type of media). A partner who has never heard of Jane Austen? Not gonna happen for me. My friend, Bethany, once said that it takes a certain amount of nerd in a man for her to date him. That is most definitely true for me as well. But I'd like to think that it doesn't take a certain type of reading for me to date him.

I enjoy talking about books. I do it all the time. I constantly recommend things. It is annoying. Even to me. But I can't stop. Drew entertains me. He asks about the books I read. He buys me reading lights. He is supportive of my addiction. He values books. He values learning. So I'm okay that we don't read the same things. Do I wish we could share recommendations back and forth? Kinda. But that's also risky. A great passage from a book I read last year, Mister Pip, sums it up....

Personally, though, I am loath to push Great Expectations onto anyone, my father especially. I am mindful of Mr. Watts’ disappointment in Grace’s ability to love what he loved, and I have never wanted to know that disappointment, or for my father to feel, as Grace must have, like a pup with a saucer of milk pushed towards her in the shape of a book. No. Some areas of life are not meant to overlap.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008
I-Tues v. 10
Like most people teetering on the edge of cool*, I like Death Cab For Cutie. Many of you probably do as well.

You can stream their new single here.

I need to give it another listen. First time through didn't impress me much. I really enjoy Ben Gibbard's vocals so I'm not sure why they wait more than 4 minutes to bring him into the song.

*or people who watched The OC

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Monday, March 24, 2008
The Professor as Open Book
The NYT has an interesting article about why professor's use the internet to disclose non-academic things about themselves. The article discusses how professors of all ranks use websites, blogs and social networking sites to reveal more personal information about themselves. The article interestingly asserts that it is part of a disturbing trend to treat professors not as teachers but as entertainers. While I agree with this basic statement, and it is a claim I've long used in the classroom, ("I'm not here to entertain you, I'm here to teach you and sometimes I may [unintentionally] do both." ), I don't think it gets at the reasons academics blog.

I am under no illusion that my students visit my blog and think "Kristen is SO funny. How have I not noticed this in class?" On the contrary. I suspect that any student who visits my blog who does not enjoy my class would quickly navigate away from it OR, worse, make fun of it. I do not blog for my students. I never encourage my students to "check out my blog" and am a tad creeped out by professors who attempt to connect with students via the internet. If I can't make a connection with one in the classroom, I certainly don't want to do it virtually. I don't use Facebook to reach out to students. Something that is missing from the NYT article is the idea that professors have friends, too! And we spend a tremendous amount of time on the computer and it helps (and hinders) our writing to have some recreational outlets on the net.

However, I do think my blog serves a pedagogical purpose. First and foremost, it keeps me connected to a more "popular" account of feminism.* What I mean, is that when I think about movies, books, television shows in an in depth way, I can bring in those thoughts to the classroom. Inevitably, my class responds more to a discussion about Juno than they do to a generic reproduction essay we've read for the day.

Blogging also has scholarly purposes. It helps to write. I know a lot of academics who blog daily. The daily blogging gets them started on their daily writing projects. It helps them organize their thoughts and/or try out new arguments that become part of scholarly essays. In short, it helps to write publicly. It also helps to belong to virtual networks. They are both heuristic and enjoyable.

* I use "popular" loosely. Obviously if feminism was popular, I wouldn't have near as much to critique.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008
Dangerously Reading v. 3
I'm plugging right along in my Dangerously Reading Challenge. I loved this month's selection--Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood.

Even though the book took me forever to get through, I loved it. I wish I had been able to devote more consistent reading time to the book as I fear I missed subtle things here and there. And at 400+ pages, I won't be reading it again any time soon.

As you might suspect, 400 pages allows for lots of material to be covered. This book is a feminist land mine. Atwood takes on bullying, mother/daughter relationships, motherhood, marriage, depression and problems with the second wave feminist movement. WOW. You will think hard throughout this book. You will feel both sympathy with and anger at, Elaine, the narrator. You will struggle with the biases you bring to the story. But mostly, you'll ponder gender expectations and the pressure they place on women. The social criticism is so poignant that, at times, you forget that you're reading a beautifully written novel.

This was my first interaction with Margaret Atwood. It was fantastic. I can't wait to read her other fiction. She is a must-read for feminists. Perhaps my favorite part of her style is how flawed her characters are but her writing is free from judgment. She relays stories of failed marriages, bullying, poor mothering and does it without deeming actions good/bad or right/wrong. Rather, she opens up our minds and allows us to contemplate the *why* behind individual choices. That contemplation reveals that often people are limited in the choices they *can* make.

Some notable passages:

I am very curious about the BOYS door. How is going in through a door different if you're a boy?...The boys don't have a separate classroom, they're in with us. They go in the BOYS door and end up the same place we do. I can see the point of the boys' washroom, because they pee differently, and also the boys' yard, because of all the kicking and punching that goes on among them. But the door baffles me. I would like to have a look inside.

Now that I'm more or less safe from him, and him from me, I can recall him with fondness and even in some detail, which is more than I can say for several others. Old lovers go the way of old photographs, bleaching out gradually as in a slow bath of acid: first the moles and pimples, then the shadings, then the faces themselves, until nothing remains but the general outlines. What will be left of them when I'm seventy? None of the baroque ecstasy, none of the grotesque compulsion. A word or two, hovering in the inner emptiness. Maybe a toe here, a nostril there, or a mustache, floating like a little curl of seaweed among the other flotsam.

"What's with her?" says the painter. "She's mad because she's a woman." Jon says. This is something I haven't heard for years, not since high school. Once it was a shaming thing to say, and crushing to have it said about you, by a man. It implied oddness, deformity, sexual malfunction. I go to the living room doorway. "I'm not mad because I'm a woman," I say. "I'm mad because you're an asshole."

Love blurs your vision; but after it recedes, you can see more clearly than ever. It's like the tide going out, revealing whatever's been thrown away and sunk: broken bottles, old gloves, rusting pop cans, nibbled fishbodies, bones. This is not the kind of thing you see if you sit in the darkness with open eyes, not knowing the future. The ruin you've made.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008
A Little Sunday Reading v. 9
I haven't been doing much leisure reading. Right now I'm working my way through Margret Atwood's Cat's Eye. I'm really enjoying it but it is not a light book and I don't have much time to devote to it. But I have some bookish links for you...

**If you need even more help deciding what to read, you can ask this database-- What Should I Read Next? You type in a title and author. You hit the button and BAM you have a brand new list of things to read.

**I'm visiting Seattle in a couple months. Should be a great time, since it is a city filled with readers.

**My favorite book in 2007 that was written in 2007 was The Post-Birthday World. I adored it. You can read an online book discussion over at Everyday I Write the Book blog. People have differing opinions on the book!

**Earlier this week I finished Charles Baxter's The Soul Thief. I liked it. I think I need to read it again to fully "get it." It is a dark story. Very dark. But also charming and well-written. The two characters are graduate school classmates. But, to say the least, their grad school life is waaay more exciting than mine. The NYT's reviewed it a couple weeks ago.

**I can't be the only one who wants to read this book. The creator of the thesaurus? And he has mental problems? And made lists all of his life? Count me in.

Happy reading.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008
I-Tues v. 9
A fun website that Drew passed onto me. Black Cab Sessions. One Song. One take. One Cab. Our favorite artists are singing our favorite songs in the backseat of a cab. Totally weird and totally awesome.

If I may make some recommendations:
Chapter Thirteen: The New Pornographers
Chapter Sixteen: Elvis Perkins
Chapter Thirty One: Spoon
Chapter Eighteen: The National

Check it out. Seriously. When else will you see an accordion being played in a cab? Um. Never.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008
The Election continued...
I remain undecided between Clinton and Obama. My horse was Edwards. Still is. I don't feel particularly inspired by either Clinton or Obama. It goes without saying that I feel either are better than McCain. McCain is scary. He's out of touch. I'll be disappointed in anyone who votes for him just like I think those who voted for Bush (especially in 04 when they knew what they were getting) owe the American people an apology for what he's done to our international reputation, our economy and our morale. But I digress....

I feel that my lack of strong support for either candidate gives me a unique perspective into the election. My only agenda is to see a Democrat take office in 08. So some thoughts...

1. If people truly want change. Truly? They would take a stand and not vote for either of the two major parties. I still don't understand why Obama and Clinton are out "changing" one another. I really don't understand how Obama gets to claim this narrative of change. As illustrated by the negative tone of the campaigns, the amount of money needed to participate and the airwaves being dominated by the pundits rather than the "common" people, politics is politics. Obama is not an outsider. Clinton isn't either. Both are entrenched in party politics. Both want to win. I think it is naive to assume that the only way to inspire is to claim outsider status. I am inspired by a politician (with experience) looking out for the middle class. I'm inspired by someone who has an understanding of the game of politics while playing it fairly. I'm inspired by someone who maintains a position of privilege maintaining a stance that shows they also stand on margins to fight for fairness and rights for those who often are overlooked.

2. I still have a hard time distinguishing between politics and sexism. I do think that Obama gets a free pass on many issues. He's treated better by the media. He's romanticized. Is that because Clinton's policies stink or is it because we have a deep seated distrust of women? I can't distinguish. I do know that more often than not Hillary is accused of being manipulative. She is accused of being calculated. We all know that there is nothing in any campaign that isn't calculated. I think it is more acceptable to accuse a women of playing games than it is a person of color. Don't get me wrong, racism is alive and well. When people go into that voting booth alone with their biases, I think racism could rear its ugly head. Sexism just gets to be alive and well in the open public sphere. I know a lot of smart and progressive people who pull for Obama who reek of sexism. I'm talking about the comparison of Hillary to Tracy Flick (in Election fame). I'm talking about the people who criticize her use of emotion (of course they never accuse Obama of "manipulating" the African American speaking style of past heroes). People who critique her role as mother (she isn't a "good" mother, she uses Chelsea) as if it matters to her potential job as President.

3. The newest thing to really piss me off? The claim that Clinton really has no "foreign" policy experience. It isn't that she has no foreign policy experience. It is that her foreign policy experience mostly deals with women's rights abroad. Not surprisingly, these efforts go unnoticed and are cast aside as not important and not "real." It goes without saying that it is a mistake for Obama to get into a "credentials" battle. I'm not sure why he is going there. However, even if it wasn't, the media would do it for him. Sexism.

4. The "war" issue. To be sure, neither democratic candidate is anti-war. Neither espouse a pacifist paradigm. Neither were actively trying to change American foreign policy until the 08 election approached. Neither would be afraid to use force. If someone is truly anti-war, they probably feel by the false choice of either Clinton or Obama. This is an issue I'm really struggling with in 08. I don't feel at home with either democratic candidate. Will I support the nominee? Yes. But it isn't exactly because they are "anti-war." They are other things. They uphold other policies that I hold dear. But they don't represent an anti-war alternative. Clinton, who I know to be intelligent, was "duped" by the Bush Administration. Obama, who is anti this war has threatened a Pakistan invasion and, by most accounts, over-sold his plan for Iraq troop withdrawal.

I want the primary to end soon. I'm getting annoyed at both candidates, the media, and the dogmatic fans of both candidates. In true hyper-competitive political fashion, we're splintering the party. We talk about the differences between Obama and Clinton (which are slight) instead of priming the American public for the larger issues of differences we'll see in the general election.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008
You Probably Didn't Know....
Inspired by this one and this one. Also? A desperate attempt to prove I'm not as cliche as this one makes me sound....

...Live concerts unnerve me because music is played in a different order than one finds on the cd. It normally takes me until the first chorus to stop humming the song my memory tells me is supposed to be playing.

I'm desperate to find myself on the pages of a novel, the canvas of a painting or the lyrics of a song. A muse of sorts. But I know I'd secretly feel betrayed by the violation of my privacy.

In a perfect example of my impatience, I've burnt rings in the bottom of my dutch oven because I turned the heat up too high. The instructions clearly told me not to cook above medium heat. It gives it character, says Drew. It gives it my character, says me.

I can't stand the red and green color combination. I decorate for the Christmas season in silver and blue. In fact, most holiday color combinations are hideous. People lose all sense when it comes to holidays.

I like the way people look when they have their hands in their pockets. It charms me.

I can drink hot drinks year round but only eat ice cream when its warm outside. I eat ice any chance I get. It is a horrible habit.

I'm beginning to like Jon and Kate Plus 8 more than LA Ink. TLC programming is perhaps linked to stages of life. Just a new theory Drew and I are working on....

I don't like socks, tight shoes, or carpet. I can't think when my feet are restricted. I'm skeptical of people who wear socks to bed. It seems they're just asking for a night of taunted sleep.

I obsess about the color of my lips. I over-exfoliate, use more than a dime-size of moisturizer, shampoo everyday and don't floss enough. I'm okay with that.

I like to talk to strangers. It always makes me think of my grandfather.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008
An Apology
I've been a sucky blogger lately. I'm sorry. To make amends, I'm giving you two other blogs to read in order to get your Georgia feminist fix.

Because we've talked about the power of the internet for minority communities, my Women's Studies classes have made their own blogs. The sites are places for them to post their assignments for the class. The first assignment is up and running--an interview project. A media analysis project will follow later in the semester. The students are excited to see their work made public and are eager for readers outside the class. Feel free to post supportive comments if you're so inclined.

I hope you enjoy the blogs as much as I am.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008
I-Tues v. 8: Athens Music Edition
This year Drew and I decided to get more involved in the ATH music scene. We're both big music fans and music plays a huge part in our life. But we've been pretty lazy when it comes to seeking out concerts. In the past, we haven't even managed to make a concert a month. We've seen some good stuff (Pat Green) and some weird stuff (Of Montreal) and some stuff over and over and over (Modern Skirts).

Athens venues are making it pretty easy for us to get more involved. In January Mike Doughty came. He was awesome. And he had cool shoes.....

Modern Skirts made an appearance last weekend.

And we have the New Pornographers and Josh Ritter on the horizon. If you've been paying attention, these have been featured artists here at DD. Great stuff for a great price in great venues.

You should all move to Athens and listen to music with us. And then I'll post your picture on my blog. Dreamy.

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