Thursday, April 24, 2008

More on John Ashcroft

We're in the national news again!

As I mentioned before, John Ashcroft came and spoke at my school Tuesday night. (For the coverage in the school newspaper, click here—and check out the videos!) As might be expected with such a controversial conservative figure at a decidedly liberal institution, not everyone was happy about that, and there were a number of protests. In the Discourse section of today's issue of TKS, there were a number of responses to the protests, and while some were positive, others were decidedly less so, including one column entitled, "You embarrass me and yourself." Some of my fellow students have been called "rude," "immature," "disgraceful," and even "despicable," and I must say, I really don't think that's correct, necessary, or helpful. Now, I don't know that I have my thoughts very well organized at this point, but I'd like to put them out there, so I hope you'll bear with me.

Some people are upset because, they say, most of the Knox attendees had their minds made up about Ashcroft beforehand and went in closed-minded, with the intent only to ignore and mock him. To the second part of this, I can say that the people I went with, at least, had no such intentions; sure, we all went in not liking him, and came out not liking him, but we only wanted to see what he was going to say. And we got to do that. The protestors didn't stop that from happening. He wasn't there to change anyone's mind, and if you think otherwise, you really are deluding yourself.

Furthermore, I want to point out that if Knox had its mind made up about Ashcroft beforehand, he almost certainly had his mind made up about us. That "skepticism vs. cynicism" comment was certainly not off the cuff. Besides that, he knew the atmosphere of the campus coming in, and he was in full deflect mode; he didn't give a single straight answer during the entire Q&A, even to questions that weren't directly confrontational.

And speaking of questions, if you want to accuse students of not being prepared to listen, you must also realize that Ashcroft was not prepared to answer. He has proven himself many times over, in the media and elsewhere, to be completely unwilling to answer questions about the issues raised by the protestors and questioners. The point of these questions is not to get an actual answer, because we all know that won't happen. The point is to underscore the fact that there are differing opinions and to start a conversation about them, not in the context of the speaker—as I have said, that is not a practicable venue for such discussion—but later on, discussing things with friends in smaller groups afterward. Unless I read it wrong, this was, in fact, the goal in bringing Ashcroft to campus.

It has been pointed out that Ashcroft himself was not entirely blameless, as he ignored questions, turned them around, and even attacked some of the questioners; it has also been noted that his responses only became hostile because the questioning had grown hostile. I'd like to back it up a step further and point out that the questioning did not start out that way; it became hostile because Ashcroft was very blatantly not answering the questions posed. As I've said, this is to be expected from political speakers; however, his twisting of words, nitpicking at irrelevant details, and especially the wilful misunderstanding of questions seemed to me to be particularly blatant, even for a politician. I would expect an educated man addressing a college audience to have some modicum of respect for our intelligence; I didn't even ask a question, and I still felt insulted.

I'm not saying absolutely everything was perfect, or even acceptable—the gentleman who demanded to know how Ashcroft sleeps at night and whether or not he has a soul was out of line. I think we can all agree on that. But questions of that nature were not the majority. No other questioner made blatant personal insults as a part of a question; in fact, aside from a few poorly organized ramblers, I found the level of the questions to be quite acceptable, and often insightful and to-the-point.

In his piece, For Shame, TKS's perennial conservative columnist Chris Berger wrote, "I know students who want to transfer because of [the protests], and one professor contemplating not teaching next year if apologies are not issued." To people holding this opinion, I can only say, please go. People have the right to express their opinions; Mr. Ashcroft completed his speech without a substantial breakdown of order, people got to hear what he had to say, and hey, nobody got "tased." With the possible exception of Alex Enyart (the "do-you-have-a-soul" guy), no one but no one needs to apologize for stating their opinions. If this kind of dissent is enough to sour your opinion of the entire school, you're not the kind of people I think of when I think of Knox.

I highly encourage everyone to at least glance over all the articles in the Discourse section linked above, particularly the Thoughts from the Embers and Graham's column, "Regarding Politeness" (Graham was the student whose question about LGBT rights was quite blatantly dismissed).

And to Devin Day, Chris Berger, Melinda Jones, Lauren Peretz, and anyone else who's feeling embarrassed over this, you have every right to feel that way if you want to. But please speak for yourselves—I am most certainly not ashamed of my peers, and if you are, then I have to wonder, for whom?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I have seen the face of evil...

...and it is a wrinkly politician.

Y'know, I probably wouldn't have said it aloud like the guy did in the Q & A, but I do legitimately wonder how John Ashcroft sleeps at night.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Did you feel it?

There was an earthquake today. Seriously. And I didn't feel a thing.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

ballroom photography

The ballroom competition at Northwestern was this past weekend. It had its, shall we say quirks? but it was a good time nonetheless. Seriously, an entire day of ballroom—what's not to like?

My own dear camera is incapacitated for the time being, so I got to use my mumsy dearest's, which was not to my particular liking, but it sufficed. The biggest problem was that her memory card is a quarter the size of mine, a fact of which I was not aware beforehand. It was rather disconcerting when, about an hour into the morning's events, I suddenly ran out of room on the memory stick and had to start deleting pictures right and left. It made the final culling process shorter, I suppose, but it also meant that I missed some lovely photo opportunities because I was busy sorting through the last handful I'd taken, always hovering at less than a dozen photos short of capacity. Ah well. I got a Facebook album's worth of good ones, at least. You can see them here, if you're interested (it's a public link, so you don't have to have a Facebook to see them [Mom]).

And now I'm going to go do some homework. Really.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Thursday, April 3, 2008

minor cleaning

I did some cleaning up in my room this evening, and it's lookin' pretty spiffy if I do say so myself. And I do. And then while the mood still had me, I started cleaning up some stuff on my computer, reorganizing, sorting pictures, things of that nature. And I came across this gem that I'd taken and meant to post back in December.

It's a billboard for Huntington University. There are many reasons why I did not go to Huntington University. This was not one of them, but had it been up when I was college-hunting, it would have been.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

learning to read, revisited

So, my roommate just posed a seemingly simple question: what sound does the 'a' in "brandy" make? And out of the five college students in the room, none of us could come up with a definitive answer. The closest thing we could come up with was the short 'a' sound, as in "cat," but that still doesn't really sound right to me. And this makes me really wish I'd actually bothered to learn the IPA when Mrs. B. made me write out my songs for voice lessons in it; I feel like that would be helpful in this situation. Perhaps that will be my next course of weekend Google study. And in the long term, perhaps someday I will have the good fortune to take a linguistics class; that would be lovely.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

fun with silent film

So, I'm taking Black Images in American Film this term, and for our first movie, we watched Birth of a Nation. No surprise there. It was technically impressive and horribly racist and on and on, and plenty of people have commented extensively on it and so I don't feel the need to do so here, especially since I'll probably end up having to write about it later anyway. But I do have to say that the music was bizarre. Like, to the point of being highly distracting. It almost never seemed to sync up with the onscreen action, and often seemed in fact to contradict the mood of the scene.

Now, my understanding is that generally with silent films, they would have a pianist or organist or some sort of live music, so I wonder if that's part of the issue—the film didn't have a score of its own, so they just slapped on some music for the video release and went with it. This is the theory that makes the most sense to me, anyway. However it came about, the end result is that it makes the film difficult to watch (not that it wasn't already, given the content), often confusing, and sometimes inappropriately hilarious.

Suffice it to say, I'm really glad they came up with talkies.