Thursday, March 26, 2009

This week, I have gotten:

-back to Knox.
-my groove on.
-tipsy.
-sick as hell.
-better.
-some books.
-ahead in my reading.
-tired of the caf.
-started with my classes.
-thoroughly excited for this term.

It's been a week of ups and downs. It was really nice to get back Sunday, obviously. Home is really boring. And we had a dance party that night, which was fun and dance-y. And then Monday I was sick. At first I thought maybe it was a hangover, except I didn't drink enough to be hungover, let alone that hungover. As in, I woke up and puked first thing (incidentally, the first time I've puked since the sixth grade—it's something I generally just refuse to do), then spent the day in my bed and then in the hammock feeling like death, and then I kind of passed out on the way back to bed, which was scary. But then I woke up Tuesday and felt better. So that was good.

And now I've had each of my classes once each, and I'm pretty damn psyched for all of them. Mondays and Wednedsdays I have History and Structure of the English Language, which sounds hella nerdy, because it is, but it's exactly the kind of nerdy that appeals to me. Tuesdays and Thursdays I have Young Adult Lit, which is my only 300-level class (the other two are 200s), and it's my favorite type of literature, and it's with Barbara Tannert-Smith, who is six different kinds of awesome. It's going to be like Children's Lit, except better, because we're reading Twilight, and I cannot wait for that because it's going to be excellently hilarious. And then on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have Alternatives to Consumerism, which is exactly the super-liberal hippie-type class that conservative, capitalist-types think of when they think of the liberal indoctrination going on at those damn liberal arts colleges, and I'm SO EXCITED FOR IT. It's a topic that is interesting to me, it has real-life applications, and it's graded pass/fail, so it's pretty low stress. Also, the prof seems like rather an awesome dude.

I think I'm going to buy a video game this afternoon. I'm in quite a good mood today. Later.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

password lulz

When you reset your password on the Knox network, you get this message:

I love this place.

dog whistles

In today's news, it's still spring break for another couple of days, so I don't feel guilty about staying up all night surfing the politics blogs. I haven't done that much since I got back from Spain, and I realize now that I kind of miss it—I've been focusing far too much on school and my own life lately. I can't tell if that statement is ironic or not...

Anyway. So it's a bit old, but chalk it up to me just getting back into the swing of these things, and go read (or skim, at least) this article on Politico. Now, can I get a WTF?

Now, forgive me if I'm stating the obvious, but it seems like the author of this article may have missed a fairly crucial bit of evidence here: Barack Obama is—how shall I say this?—black. We understand this, yes?

This talk of "dog whistle politics," I really can't see how it applies here. I mean, if Mr. O were trying to keep his racial identity a secret, perhaps, but he's clearly not (or if he is, he's doing it really really wrong). Dog whistling is what happens when a politician wants to signal something to a specific group of people without the general populace knowing what's up—Bush's "phrases lifted from church hymns and the Bible" is an example of this because, generally speaking, non-Christians aren't going to catch those references. The Bible may once have been part of the popular lexicon in the US, but (and especially for my generation), this is increasingly not the case; hymns, often being specific to a few denominations, are even more obscure. Therefore, if you're not in the target audience, you probably won't catch the reference: hence, dog whistle politics.

However, the cited examples of Obama's "dog whistles"?
*“American dreams that are being deferred” - maybe it's just me, but I thought everybody read A Raisin in the Sun in high school. I mean, we read it in my (private, very whitebread) high school, in Indiana, no less. Just sayin'.

*Michelle's “South Side of Chicago" - Jim Croce was talking about this in 1973, and everybody's seen Save the Last Dance or an equivalent thereof. Next.

*"we as a people will get there" - Y'know what? I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land, and there are white people over there who know that MLK made more than one speech (*gasp*). And I bet I'm not the only one on this side who knows that either.

*Okay, the last one, I'll admit, I didn't get to Spike Lee and Malcolm X until college. But I did get there. And still, that's hardly obscure.
Again, dog whistles, to be effective, must generally be audible only to members of the target audience. I am not black, nor do I come from anything like a racially diverse background. I easily pick up on these references. Therefore, if they are dog whistles, somebody's DOING IT WRONG. More likely, however, is that the author of this article is grasping at straws to prop up an invalid and pointless argument.

A few more points with which I must take issue:
"Imagine John Kerry or Hillary Clinton saying, ‘Yes, we can!’ It would have sounded phony — only in what I call a ‘black-cent’ can it sound prophetic and arousing."
Um, no? It's a piece of rhetoric. Imagine John Kennedy saying that—could he have pulled it off? I think you'll agree he could've. The issue is not race, the issue is rhetorical prowess. I think we can all agree that John Kerry, among other things, was sorely lacking in that category.
Beyond speech, blacks have picked up certain of Obama’s mannerisms, particularly his walk, that signal authenticity. Bush had his cowboy strut, and Obama has a swagger — a rhythmic lope that says cool and confident and undeniably black. It was most noticeable on his first post-election trip to the White House, some said.
I really don't have much to say to that except, WTF? Does Obama swagger? Because I have certainly not noticed that. And even if he does, how the hell is that "undeniably black"? Besides being mindblowingly ridiculous, that strikes me as quite a racist thing to say, all told. Am I alone in this?
Notably, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has used phrases recently like “bling bling” to describe the stimulus package and “off the hook” to describe the new RNC outreach plans, at a time when he is trying to step up the party’s appeal to African-American voters.
You'll notice Obama doesn't do that. The reason? Because he's not making very obvious attempts to play focus-group, target specific politics. Those phrases would be tacky coming from Obama, just like they're tacky coming from Michael Steele, or anybody in any sort of position with political power and authority.

Takeaway lesson: Obama's NOT TRYING TO ACT BLACK. He IS black. There's a very important distinction there. He connects with young, intelligent, informed constituents, because he is young, intelligent, and informed. Not because he has a "black-cent" or because he "swaggers" or because he talks about "bling bling" (I'm fairly sure he does none of these things). Now, can we please get back to matters of policy and substance? (I know, it's a lot to ask from the politics blogs. But hey, a girl can hope.)

Friday, March 20, 2009

spring break

I'm so tired of being at home. There's nothing to do here. And, counterintuitively enough, sitting around all day doing nothing makes me really tired. I just want to sleep all the time, and then I feel like a slug for spending half the day in bed.

I need to be back at school. Then again, that brings with it its own set of difficulties. But really, it can't be as bad as this.

If you're reading this, it has been a waste of your time, and for that, I apologize. I'll quit whining and post something interesting when I get back to school, I promise.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

inappropriate

So, I'm chilling in my room for a bit this afternoon, taking a brief, celebratory semi-nap after finishing one ten-page paper before I have to start the next one (argh). I want some background noise, and I can't find the speakers for my mp3 player, so I put on the TV and put it on MTV-U, the college version of MTV, which is what we get with the Knox cable package, because they usually play music, and I really don't care what music it is, because I don't care about listening to it, I just want the noise.

So it's playing in the background, and I'm sort of half-dozing, half-facebooking, glancing up every now and then when I hear something that strikes my fancy, which does occasionally happen, because unlike regular MTV, MTV-U actually plays good stuff once in awhile. And then I hear this. On second thoughts, don't click that. It's the video for "Right Round" by Flo Rida. (And can I just say, that name is just too cute by half. And I mean that negatively.) Anyway. Have you heard this? It's a remake of this, which you should click on, because it's the video for Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round." The original is full of 80s win. The new one? Is about a blow job. Seriously. I am SO DAMN SICK OF HEARING RAPPERS RAP ABOUT GETTING BLOWJOBS! (See, it ticks me off so much it makes me CAPSLOCK. GR.) It was annoying when Lil' Wayne did it, and it's still annoying now, and it will ALWAYS continue to be annoying, from now until FOREVER. So to any rappers, future rappers, or wanna-be rappers (or anybody else, really) who might ever see this: I DON'T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE GETTING A BLOWJOB. EVER. And if I ever do, and then happen to meet you in person, I will gouge out your eyes with rusty spoons. Seriously. I am going to start carrying rusty spoons on my person, so that I will be prepared for this potentiality.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

haunted by history

So, I spent basically my entire weekend researching and writing a ten page paper for my poli-sci class about the US's founding fathers and the separation of church and state. It was a pretty interesting topic, and the paper, while rushed, came out pretty decent, I'd say. But I think the extreme immersion in books about dead white men has addled my brain.

For example, I'm sitting here reading an article for a paper I'm writing in another class, and I'm kind of sleepy, so I'm dozing a little off and on, and I just had the most bizarre dream, where the ghost of James Madison was haunting my bathroom, except he had the appearance and personality of Napoleon. I don't really know that much about Napoleon, except that he was short and power-hungry, but I knew that's what he was like. But he was still James Madison. (I told you it was bizarre.)

Anyway, in my dream, I was taking a shower, and he (the ghost of James Madison) was standing outside the shower, and we were talking, but of course it was a dream and I found it totally normal that he was there, talking to me like my mom does when I'm showering at home and she comes in to brush her teeth or something. Anyway, we (the ghost and I) were arguing about something, I forget what, and then I went to get out of the shower and we were really arguing by this point, and he pushed me over, and I'm like, fuck that shit, so I said, "Begone, James Madison, you don't actually exist," (because of course he's a ghost). And he disappeared. And then I woke up.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

in which there is some long-overdue Twilight hate

A preface
[I'll admit, I read all four books. All my friends were doing it, and it seemed like the thing to do. I know, I know, peer pressure is bad. Well I found that out. Anyway. I have lots of problems with the Twilight series, some of them more fleshed out in my head than others. Probably first and foremost are issues of content, that is, subjects, themes, and particularly the disturbingly anti-feminist messages that seem so glaringly obvious throughout the books. However, I'm in English-student mode this evening, so this post will focus mainly on form and style. Okay, disclaimer out of the way. ¡Adelante!]


So, I've made this rant to a few people now, but I really just want to put it out there: speakers of American English DO NOT SAY "ER." Y'know, "er," the little filler word they use in place of "uh" in the Harry Potter books. They don't. Think about it. Have you ever, EVER, in conversation, heard a speaker of American English say "er" without consciously thinking about it? No. No you haven't. Because speakers of American English do not say it. They say "uh."

Now, the reason it's in Harry Potter is because the British *do* say it; however, spoken with a British accent, "er" would be basically indistinguishable from the American "uh." It's the same sound. They just spell it that way because they're British, and their 'r's don't work the same way ours do.

However, whenever I see it in a novel by an American, about American characters, it ticks me off, because it is WRONG. And it is particularly prevalent in one of my favorite targets of hatred, the Twilight series. Stephenie Meyer loves "er." Seriously. Pick a section of dialogue from any of those books, and besides horribly stilted and crappy prose that would make you cringe to hear out loud, you will also find "er" in large quantities.

I'm fairly sure this is because of Harry Potter, and the semi-creepy fetishization of all things British that has followed those books' rise in popularity among some groups on this side of the pond. I mean, you read any half-decent Harry Potter fanfiction (or even the truly terrible, actually), and you will likely find "er." And really, the only things that distinguish Twilight from really crummy fanfiction are that 1) the characters' names are not recognizable from a previously published work (though their personalities are generally direct lifts from any number of stock characters throughout the history of FOREVER), and 2) you're reading it on paper, not a computer screen.

And besides that, it really does have all the hallmarks of truly terrible fanfiction. The heroine is an obvious Mary Sue (didn't Meyer even come right out and say that Bella was based on herself? I can't find it now, but I'm sure I read that somewhere...), with a "flaw" (klutziness) that is supposedly major in her life, but perceived as everyone around her by adorable and/or endearing. The characters are, for the most part, completely and utterly flat. Seriously, some of them have real potential—the dad, hello?!—but Meyer just leaves them blank, with a few tacked-on adjectives or superficial descriptions serving as placeholders for depth. The dialogue is stilted and cheesy, and the prose in general is overly descriptive and weak (I love adjectives and adverbs far more than is healthy for a creative writing major, and even I was fed up!). And the entire plot is glaringly predictable: Edward wins. Edward is going to win from the first moment Bella sets eyes on him from across the cafeteria. Those die-hard Jacob fans were fooling themselves the entire time, because Bella's feelings were were described so heavy-handedly, it was like Meyer took one of the Cullens' baseball bats and whacked the reader over the head with it, shouting, "EDWARD IS GOING TO WIN!" Really. Just like that.

But the coup de grâce, the absolute most truly terrible fanfiction moment, was the child's name in Breaking Dawn. I thought real people knew you weren't supposed to combine two fairly normal names into some strange, exotic-sounding bit of nonsense and then label a person with that. Seriously. Reneé: perfectly respectable name. Esme: a little soap-opera-y, but okay, I can deal with that. But Renesme?! If there were a kid named that, she would be laughed out of kindergarten, by the teacher if no one else. The epilogue to the Harry Potter series was bad enough, what with the kids being named things like "Albus Severus" and "Theodore James" or whatever the hell they were...I remarked to numerous people at the time that I loved the book, up until that, at which point it sounded like bad fanfiction. Which is exactly what the Twilight books sound like, except all through.

Oh and speaking of Harry Potter, I must express my extreme distaste with the near CONSTANT comparisons between Stephenie Meyer and J.K. Rowling.* They have both written extremely popular series of (at least nominally) fantasy books geared mainly towards children and/or young adults. This is where the comparisons should end. While I recognize that J.K. has her faults as a writer, her stories were well plotted, her characters were (for the most part) fleshed out and realistic, and the books were genuinely entertaining. The Twilight books share none of these characteristics. Even Stephen King thinks so—in what is probably my favorite bit of reporting ever, he is quoted in the U.K.'s Guardian as saying, "The real difference [between Meyer and Rowling] is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can't write worth a darn." Now, let's be honest kids, Stephen King is not a stellar writer. He writes entertaining stories that sell well (though I found his Dark Tower series to be highly enjoyable). And if even Stephen King thinks you're a bad writer, well, that's saying something, y'know?

Anyway, I'm beginning to exhaust my hate for the evening, but I do want to quote this passage from an article in Time Magazine, contrasting Meyer's writing with J.K. Rowling's:
Rowling pieces her books together meticulously, detail by detail. Meyer floods the page like a severed artery. She never uses a sentence when she can use a whole paragraph. Her books are big (500-plus pages) but not dense--they have a pillowy quality distinctly reminiscent of Internet fan fiction. (Which she'll readily grant: "I don't think I'm a writer; I think I'm a storyteller," Meyer says. "The words aren't always perfect.") Whereas Rowling's works maintain a certain English reserve, Meyer's books are full of gusting emotions. Bella never stops gasping and swooning and passing out and waking up screaming from nightmares. Her heart is always either pounding or stopping. (Bella's histrionics don't feel at all unrealistic. When you're writing about adolescents, melodrama and realism are the same thing.) Rowling labors over her intricate plots, but Meyer's stories never bend or twist or branch. They have one gear, and she guns it straight ahead till the last page.
This passage in particular, and the article in general, were written in what seemed to be a praising tone. That makes me sad. If any of the above were ever said about a piece of my writing, I'd probably want to throw it out and start over from scratch. If this is what the public wants, I shall never, ever be published. And I can't find it in my heart to say that'd be an entirely bad thing.

*But, you might be saying, isn't that exactly what's going on in most of this post? And I would answer you no, what I am doing is contrasting, not comparing, which is entirely different and completely warranted in this situation.