Come on, Vogue!

March 29, 2008

And that’s when I know/she’s gonna be pissed when she wakes up/from terrible things I did to her/in her dreams…

-Ben Folds


Okay, before I say much, here’s an image, linked from (interesting mix of comments there, btw… well worth your time to read).




I’m a fan of LeBron James, though he’s not one of my once beloved Pacers. I’m not so much a fan of Gisele, as she dates that Brady fellow, but I’d like to think LeBron didn’t mean to be presented the way Vogue presented him on their current cover, and I’m not entirely sure Gisele should be comfortable with it, either.

I’ve read many comments around the net, so I won’t claim I have some brilliant observation, but my first thought was “oh, great, LeBron is King Kong stealing Tom Brady’s girlfriend.”

But let’s take a look at this cover, visually. The “real” cover, obviously, is the image to the left, while the alternate cover image uncovered by is  the tasteful photo on the right. On the actual cover, there’s brighter lighting (which brings the skin tone differences into starker contrast), and there are wildly conflicting facial expressions. LeBron looks angry, or beastly, while Gisele looks like she might well have been caught laughing at how ridiculous the image is. LeBron is hunched over, simian (also like one might drive with a basketball, to be fair), and he’s handling a ball. It’s a confusing composition, as I suppose we’re supposed to think we see the “essence” of the two (the intense athlete and the smiling model?) or perhaps that LeBron Kong has taken a woman as he streaks down the court. It’s also interesting that Gisele is wearing a dress that is roughly the same shade as the Statue of Liberty, not that anyone would be playing up the King Kong thing.

Contrast that to the other image, which looks like an actual fashion shoot. The colors are muted, the poses are relaxed and seem human. LeBron’s muscles are highlighted, as is his face (which doesn’t look animalistic in this shot) and Gisele’s figure is showcased without her being presented as if she is being seized and controlled (as a male, I have to say I think she looks better in the white dress, too). The composition has good lines, and other than the awkwardness of placing  Vogue’s header on the page, the spaces for the other cover text are all natural. If the image were cropped right at LeBron’s knees and some extra space were airbrushed in at the top, it’d be a perfect cover.

It looks like Vogue dropped the ball.  So to speak.



Sing(er) me a Song

March 29, 2008

Girl I’ve been shakin and mackin the donkey/Tryin to get to youuuuu and that monkey…

 -T-Pain, from his song with E-40. We all know what it means, but imagine if we didn’t.

I’ve been thinking a bit about remix, and I realized, as I was doing research for another project I want to attempt in the coming weeks, that one of my favorite films has an unconventional example of remix (or collage essay, perhaps).

Let me preface these clips: if you haven’t seen The Usual Suspects, and you plan to someday, don’t watch the two clips. The second on will spoil the movie for you, and the first contains perhaps the coolest line in the whole film. In fact, if you want to watch the movie someday, stop reading this entry. I’ll end up spoiling it, too.

Now then, two YouTube clips:

I gave the first one for context (and because I love the end of it), but notice how Verbal Kent/Keyser Soze/Is Spacey’s Character Either weaves his story, utilizing bits and pieces of things that are going on/sitting around. He completely tricks the police with what is essentially an on-the-fly “verbal” collage essay that utilizes the nature of remix.

As if I needed another reason to love Brian Singer…

What we do

March 29, 2008

I don’t wanna feel so different/but I don’t wanna be insignificant/I don’t know how to see the same things different now…   
-Still Counting Crows, still new album, still awesome   

So I’m about to rush over to a reading group about De Certeau (Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty). I’ve been looking at his work, thinking through the tiny chunk we read for today (and planning to finish The Practice of Everyday Life over the weekend). And I’ve been thinking about the field I’m in.


 I wonder if many of us don’t have it “wrong” on a certain level.  If you talk to a scholar in our field, he or she could probably say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ if you asked “is this rhetoric?” and rambled off a list of potential topics for discussion. We know what’s in our field. Mostly. Some people argue that some of what I– and what my mentors– do is not “really” rhetoric, but I think of those people the same way I thought of myself when I, upon entering my first algebra class, pointed out that X is not a number and shouldn’t be part of math. Sure… there’s a logic to it, but it’s a little short-sighted and immature. 🙂  

I made this argument in my history of rhetoric seminar last semester, and it was received with a mix of horror and interest. So… I’m going to toss it out again for my readers. I think in rhetoric we do ourselves a disservice by not acting like our field IS a field.  

Here’s what I mean.

Go watch Stephen Hawking speak. He’s not going to spend the first half of his presentation tracing physics from the start of the field to his particular brand of science. He’s not going to explain to us how gravity was “discovered” and documented. It would be foolish; that crowd KNOWS that physics is a thing. They came to hear a genius speak about his contributions.  

If you saw this recent news story about the near-retirement-age math genius who solved the “directions to anywhere” problem (I’ll link this later– I have the bookmark at home), you won’t catch him starting by saying “once upon a time there were two numbers, and *insert name* realized that by placing a plus sign between them one could indicate a desire to join them into a single number that was the sum of the two.” In fact if someone started a lecture by doing the basic “here’s six apples. I take two. How many are left?” math explanation we all get in elementary, we’d feel appalled and cheated.  

So that makes me  think that perhaps the answer to many of our problems is to simply stop trying to justify what rhetoric is. Stop tracing back to Plato and Aristotle, and stop charting through the Roman era into the enlightenment. Instead of trying to link everything back to the origin point, let the fact that the field exists do some of the heavy lifting for you.  

I get the feeling this will still be received poorly, but I ask you to consider it. A little field confidence could go a long, long way.

Comcast fail. Life Fail.

March 29, 2008

Shout out to Bill O’Reilly/I’ma throw you a curve/you’re mad at me because I’m a thief/and got a way with words…


I came, I saw, I hit ’em right dead in the jaw.

So I apparently can’t use the Comcast website to pay my bill. *sigh* Luckily the phone works.

Julie has had a rough few days, but she’s such a trooper. I’m about to catch up my posts for the last few days. This one is just to offer one of these fun little modules from I played with several, but I ended up deciding to post this one because it’s just perfect. It’s my band name. I haven’t had the time to do this sort of study yet, but these little plug-n-chug modules are an essential part of digital identity. We need to pay attention to ’em. I’m also a comma, but I lost the code for that one in a “need your password” WordPress wipe. OOPS!


Your Band Name is:

The Supersized Androids
Band Name Generator

My name is not Nathan

March 26, 2008

This dizzy life of mine/keeps hanging me up all the time/this dizzy life/is just a hanging tree…

-Counting Crows (great new CD out today—check it out)

I’ve been thinking about writing this entry for a while and worried that it might offend a few people, but given my stellar track record of late… let’s just say I don’t mind if it offends anyone now (that ship–sailed :)). But to be at least a little subtle, I’m just going to hint to the piece of scholarship I am responding to instead of stating the exact name.

At any rate, during my MA, I took a fantastic class on research methodology with one of my thesis committee members. One of the pieces we read early in the semester was a study by a pair of doctors who watched as their students became integrated into “professional” discourse.  Part of this article’s data—and the analysis of this data—was the slow tracking of one student’s frustration as he essentially lost his voice to become an academic.

At the time, I raged a little in class, and I suggested that perhaps this wasn’t the most healthy thing. Alas, this was the beginning of a full year of discussion in that program of “professionalization.” I whole time we talked about these things, I tried to balance my sense of what was being said and what I see out in the world.

This strikes me as one of the many places where our field has a bit of an identity crisis. I say “a bit,” because I do NOT feel the pressure from my current institution to become a tie wearing, jacket-with-the-elbow-patches, jargon spouting academic (I know this pressure does exist in some places, and I think it’s sad).

But let’s look at this for a second, from a logical perspective. We tell our first-year students to find their voice, to write in interesting and unique ways.

We praise the idea of being creative and innovative.

Then the suggestion is that we should beat a PhD student into being a sort of “disciplined” academic?

Someone actually implied on this blog, in a response, the same sort of mentality. FWIW, I don’t think there’s any specific behavior that defines PhDness or professionalism. I will always teach in shorts in the summer (unless I end up someplace where it’s not miserably muggy in the summer). I will always make pop culture jokes. I will always be who I am.

This is not to say I don’t think there is “a” professionalism. I show proper respect to other academics, I am careful about how I interact within the professional network, and my work does what my work needs to do.

I would argue, though, that the idea that there is some universal “professional” behavior, that we could/should shape every PhD student into a specific product, is ridiculous. I look at my heroes in our field, and they don’t all look and act the same. They don’t speak the same or write the same. They don’t even get along in some cases.

To claim we should all be the same is the very definition of hegemony. And that’s bad, right?

Words matter

March 25, 2008

I’m hearing what you say/but I just can’t make a sound…

-One Republic

I had one of those “wow, these people don’t like me” moments today. In my teleconference class (which is already in and of itself strange—being in front of a projected screen with most of the class on it). We were discussing indigenous politics, specifically a book called The Politics of Indigeneity by Roger Makka and Augie Fleras. The book looks at indigenous political movements in Canada and New Zealand. It’s interesting reading, but this one quote that another student pulled out for us to scrutinize bugged me on some level.

Here’s the quote, from page 32:

Immigrants differ [from the indigenous] in other ways. They have ‘voluntarily’ left their homeland, have opted to abide by the rules of their adopted country, and do not bring a government or legal apparatus that they can assert.

Now within the context of the argument the authors are making about Canada and New Zealand this seems like a legitimate statement, but the student who raised the question, and several others, made moves to equate this to America.

I said “I don’t think an American would ever write this definition of immigrant,” and the room—on TV—went silent. So I elaborated, pointing out that perhaps the most profound immigrant experience stamped into American history is slavery (which invalidates the first two criteria above) and the most currently discussed version of “immigrant” is the “border jumping” Mexican (which many American policy makers claim violate the second criteria above, and who some might argue through the way American law works DO have some measure of the final criteria).

A little more silence.

So I went on to point out, as I have several times in this course, that I am not an expert on Canadian policy or Canadian history, and that it was possible that in that construction (I didn’t get to New Zealand, but the same is true), such a reductive definition might work.

Then someone loudly asks, into the silence, “how can you claim an American wouldn’t write this?” then kept going. This class makes me totally uncomfortable because the only way to be heard is to yell over someone else (which is not my style), so I pointed out that if this were an American author, I would instantly press him or her about slavery (it would, at the very least, require a footnote if this quote were to survive more than a single reading as a rhetoric text). And I reiterated that I didn’t feel Americans could construct immigrant in that way. The person who asked the question then spoke for about ten minutes, moving in a constant line away from the question and into something else.

I asked myself, in the car on the ride home, if this intervention into class was worth it. I had a presentation in this course a few weeks ago, and instead of considering my questions/engaging with them, one of the remote site students (perhaps the same one—their faces are blurry on our screen) spent too much time being outraged about my question than discussing it.

I wrote on my notes, for the two students on my site to see, “I’m pretty sure they don’t like me,” and shrugged it off. 🙂

But I do think the point I made was important, because the text we were discussing today was (even if the prof wasn’t so sure) political science. And if we’re talking about a polisci definition of “immigrant” that one might want to utilize as an American, that definition simply will not work. America has the beloved “melting pot” (which also came up in class, ironically as some sort of support for the quote, which perhaps I’m parsing wrong—if you think so, comment). Immigrants founded this place, and in reality, it would be easy enough to make an indigenous/immigrant binary. The African slaves who later became African Americans were immigrants, if we use the term the way polisci has for generations (they weren’t JUST immigrants, obviously, and it sort of glosses over one of the true horrors of American history, but they were people relocated from one nation to another).

Behold: The Lester Faigley Gargoyle Cometh!

March 23, 2008

I set out on a narrow way/many years ago…

-Rascal Flatts (and yes, I’m a little worried that I hate country music and have found myself listening to a country band twice during my writing time this week, but I like these guys)

It hasn’t quite been a year, but I think I’m finally ready to deconstruct one of the most amusing dreams I’ve ever had. So let me tell you, dear reader, about the Lester Faigley Gargoyle.

Should Dr. Faigley find this entry by Googling himself or some other happenstance, know that I’m a huge fan of your work. I loved Fragments of Rationality. You could even say it got in my head. LITERALLY.

So here’s the story. At the end of my MA, I had a thesis defense/reading exam. This is, I believe, quite common in the field (though I envy some of my peers who wrote 40 pages and defended it—I read approximately 40 scholarly works and wrote almost 150 pages). My exam was scheduled, however, at a time that would work for all three of my committee members, and some of them were leaving the university for the summer. So the week of my exam, my mother had surgery and was laid up in the hospital AND I had three full day sessions of portfolio evaluation.

I hadn’t finished all of my reading when the week started. Yeah, I’m a bad boy. I was reading The Braddock Essays collection, and I figured “oh, I’ll be fine finishing this up!” and I hadn’t received one of the Jay David Bolter books I was reading a chapter of (I love that book, btw—it’s called Windows and Mirrors, with Richard Grusin, I believe, as the co-author. It’s oft overlooked in our field). But I had a pre-defense meeting with my chair, and she gave me a few sample questions. One of them was about Faigley’s book and a point I took issue with (wherein the doctor details online classes where he felt he couldn’t speak—I mentioned that as a longtime digital student/instructor I knew that one just had to take agency).

My chair mentioned that this same question might come up in my defense and that I’d want to have proof ready if I wanted to claim Faigley was wrong (which I’m not sure I was saying; it’s not about right or wrong, but rather it’s about perception of a moment. Chatters, particularly at that moment in internet history, wouldn’t grant space to anyone. It was a “take your spot” time). So I decided I better re-read that book.

The night before my exam was rough for my mom (not an excuse—I still passed with high distinction, and I only fumbled one question because I decided to be honest instead of lying and BSing about a text I couldn’t remember due to my mind just blanking on me out of panic), so I fell asleep in a chair at the hospital reading FoR. In my dream, I was in the room where my exam was to happen, and there was a gargoyle in the corner.

The gargoyle spouted lines and ideas from FoR in the voice of Patton Oswalt impersonating Tom Carvelle. It was a mix of terrifying and comforting, but in the dream my committee members couldn’t hear it, and at times I was using it as a citation.

The question didn’t come up in my exam. In fact no one brought up Faigley’s work in particular (though I used him myself to justify my postmodern stance). But some nights I am still visited by the Lester Faigley Gargoyle. I wonder if he’s not protecting the roof of my intellectual house, insuring that the water doesn’t seep in and cause damage and warding off evil spirits.

Or if maybe my imagination is too wild.