Friday, May 09, 2014


At a recent science fiction convention, I think I accidentally walked in on two-men-I've-never-met plying their romantic wiles on two young ladies, one of whom was a friend of mine.  The two men were from out of town, men who travel the convention circuit, hawking their creative wares, and while they did nothing unethical, I couldn't help but sense:  at least one of them was hoping that the evening might end without an old man sitting down with them at the table, turning the nice round number of four into the number five.

I can't even type about this except euphemistically.  One was looking for a convention hookup.

In discussing my intrusion with friends, we started processing all sorts of expectations about sexuality.  I have friends (male and female, though overwhelmingly male) who could imagine being someone-from-out-of-town, presenting at a conference for just two nights, who might expect that a sexual encounter could be found in the hotel bar.  Those friends might also walk into a bar on a Saturday night with the same expectations, and who will hit on more than one person of the opposite sex until they get the result they want.  I have immense affection and respect for these friends (because I cannot befriend someone whom I do not both love and respect), but this is a dimension of their personality I often just don't get.

My puzzlement over the appeal of casual sex, I think, I resolved partially in conversations with a Romanian friend more than a decade ago.  I was reading eastern European literature (think Milan Kundera, Unbearable Lightness of Being), in an attempt to come to understand her better, and I finally just asked her:  These books are filled with characters who seek vacuous sexual relationships.  Why is that?  I don't get it.

Her answer boiled down to:  You try living under communism, and tell me what you seek in life.

This answer helped me immensely, because it helped me understand that people's different expectations for sexual relationships vary so much, based on such a complex of variables in their background and their emotional needs.  I don't share their backgrounds, and I don't know their needs;  how can I understand their own expectations for sexual relationships?


So what are the dimensions of a Generation X kid like me, as I think through my own background and needs, and how they structure my own sense of sexuality?

I can more or less talk about them in chronological order.

1.  Catholicism, good old Catholicism.  I was an altar boy.  I was a lector (reading the scriptures) from middle school on.  I was a catechist, planning church retreats.  I read theology on weekends.  For a while, I was a Catholic, and while all of the structures of belief have fallen away, some of the social mores did not fall away.  I am not addressing strictures against pre-marital sex;  the idea that sex was somehow more appropriate after marriage never made sense to me.  After all, my mom was a single mom, and sex was part of her life.

I am talking about the judgement that my mother received as a single parent, that my sister endures today, still, even though we are relatively enlightened in 2014.  Single parents were/are considered wholly inadequate to the task of parenting, and their children were/are disadvantaged from the start.  That's impossible junk, it's clearly not true.  I turned out just fine, and not because there is anything special about me.  I see the superhuman efforts made by women like my mother and women I know today to raise incredible children.

But I also know that I am not that strong.  And I needed to make choices that would protect me from failing to be that strong.

2.  The AIDS crisis was still a crisis when I was a kid.  I knew only a handful of gay men (no lesbian women until I was in my twenties), only one of whom was HIV positive and would eventually die.  But all of them were freaked out, afraid of what this meant for them as a community, afraid of what sexuality had become for them as individuals.

Some acts of sexuality that might have been a sign of intimacy in the past had now become flags for a desire to hurt oneself;  sex without protection (outside a committed monogamous relationship) became less a sign of trust than a sign that you were no longer interested in living a long life.  I was never a member of this community, but I was a friend, and I experienced that transformation in my friends.

When Coil's cover of Soft Cell's cover of someone else's "Tainted Love" (linked above) was played for me, my feelings were crystalized: the playful, casual dimensions of human sexuality were, if not lost, at least not easy to recover, for me.

3.  The first two reflections were really about, I think the fear of the consequences of being too casual about sexuality.  A properly well-adjusted person might be able to work through those, and I hope I did, eventually.  But there is a more persistent dimension, one that I am still working through.

I'm a communication person, ostensibly, but really, I'm a language person.  I am most comfortable in the world when I work with language, which is a rich and polysemous but at least I think I know how to manage it.

An example.  For about three months, I have been using "winking" emoticons on Facebook.  Three people have asked me:  what do you mean by this "winking"?  So I ceased using the emoticon and replaced it with images of Clark Kent winking.  That substitution was clear as mud, so I finally started typing "the wink indicates a special filiation, like the special relationship Clark Kent had with the kids reading his comic, who knew he was Superman even when Lois and Jimmy didn't."

The only way I know how to communicate with anything like confidence or clarity is in language.  To communicate by gestures, by nonverbals, by images, these are things that often exceed my depth, though I work on them all the time as best I can.  Sexuality is, for me, also a dimension of communication, one that is wildly outside my ability to grasp, certainly to control.

A few weeks ago, one of the student organizations on campus organized a "You Moustache (Must Ask) for Consent" week, which included pasting post-it notes of moustaches in unusual places around campus.  I love these kind of campaigns, because only in universities can a post-it note on an elevator control panel become a place for political communication and a kind of playful re-enchantment of public space.

Consent is an important, integral part of my understanding of sexuality, a knee-jerk response, maybe, to attending an all-male high school where women were discussed as objects in spaces where they had no voice and no agency, and probably a result of taking courses in feminism which impacted me deeply.

But at the same time, I will admit:  I don't always know what it means to understand consent speaking not just as consent to a physical act, but to the communicative act.  Sexuality as a communicative act is deeply polysemous, and that polysemy places it outside my comfort zone (as a language guy).

I find it a thousand times easier to imagine consent in this scenario:
"Would you object if I read to you a series of poems which I believe will bring you joy?  I would love it if you might read to me a series of poems that you think might bring me joy.  Perhaps, as the time progresses, I will cease reading you my favorite poems, and I will start improvising new ones.  Some will be terribly derivative, knockoffs of William Carlos Williams, Russell Edson, and John Berger.  (The ones in the style of Russell Edson may ruin the mood, but be patient, please.)  There will be some 15-line attempts at sonnets, some haiku with too many syllables in the last line.  In the end, though I claim to be someone interested in language, I am a terrible poet.  But my poems will be genuine attempts to respond to the poetry you have shared with me.  At some points, the only possible response from me might be silence;  so often, for me with poetry (which sometimes is a form of language that escapes me, too), all I can do to respond is think.  If you are amenable to this arrangement, let me pull out my copy of Asphodel: There is something/ something urgent/ I have to say to you/ and you alone/ but it must wait/ while I drink in/ the joy of your approach[...]/ And so/ with fear in my heart/ I drag it out/ and keep on talking/ for I dare not stop."
Poetry is a deeply polysemous use of language.  (Every time I meet someone who thinks that Frost's "road less travelled" poem is a positive exhortation on individuality instead of a lamentation, I know, poetry is deeply polysemous.)  And that polysemy is both a source of joy and anxiety in me.  (As my friends know, the list of things that make me anxious is immense.)  But the polysemy of acts of sexuality are a thousand times more complicated (to me) than the polysemy of poetry.  Imagine what that does to both the joy and the anxiety.


So what does this mean?  Before watching Amazing Spiderman II, I was talking about bar culture, casual hookups, and hitting on members of your preferred gender with two friends.  I said something that surprised me to articulate it in this way, though I know it to be true:  I've never entered a room with an expectation or even a desire for "hooking up," for hitting on someone like this, and in fact, I do pretty well avoiding these kinds of contexts altogether, or any contexts that look remotely like those contexts, lest my brain explode.

The same night I was at the convention and became a fifth wheel, I set out to have dinner with two friends, one male, one female.  (The nice thing about a convention in the Cities -- I get to see nearly a dozen friends from Duluth, from Minneapolis St Paul, and from the rest of Minnesota -- see you all at SpringCon in a few weeks, too.)  I made plans to meet the female first, because I needed to walk to her convention hotel to meet her first (because you never let a lady walk alone in a city -- my grandfather's rules run through my dna).  In doing so, I set off a button in her, I think:  she replied, maybe with a little anxiety in her voice over the phone:  "is it just the two of us?"  No, I reassured her.  We are meeting [the guy].  But part of me wanted to say:  No, it is not just the two of us.  That looks a little too much like the kind of encounter that I can't manage, can't control, can't even wrap my head around comfortably.  I need the group of three for perhaps the same reason the dude at the start of this blog post was disappointed when a fifth person showed up -- because it shifts the dynamic to unquestionably one of a group of friends.  If there were a chance it would just be the two of us, I would be using this phone call to tell you to grab dinner on your own in your hotel restaurant or with someone else.

(Or, maybe I misread her question, and all I am really recounting here is the story of my own anxieties wallpapering over reality.  That happens a lot, too.)

Anyway.  These are the limits within which my brain, my body and my heart operate, lately.


This post took so freaking long to write.  I could have written a draft chapter of the book project I am working on with Jamie in the time it took me to write about this, because every time I reread it, I realized a section or segment where I was being inauthentic, where I was being euphemistic, where I was not being entirely clear because I wasn't being entirely honest with myself or my articulation.

But I really like the passage about reading poetry, so I think I can stop now.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Reflecting on Art before Game Night

Tomorrow, I get to spend time with the spouse of a friend, an artist who does collage. I'm going to try to get down some thoughts;  many of them will be highly derivative, as I am still learning to write and think about the visual arts.  This reflection is in two parts:  one on medium (especially the construction of depth in a collage) and one on theme.

Let me start with the medium.  Robert Adams does collage, and you can see at moments how he both plays with and against what we might expect in the medium.  Comparing "Horse with a Colorful Mask" to "Oregon Civil War," there is first the simple tension between the purity of the colors within "Civil War" and the lack of such purity in "Horse" -- in one piece, coloration (and whatever complexity of coloration is achieved in the piece) is achieved by the complex overlapping of pieces of paper, while in the other, within a single piece of paper, there is variation of color (was the original paper colored this way, or did Adams color it, I do not know).  "Dandy Horse" appears to be closer to "Horse" in its construction -- more variations within the sheets of paper that form the collage.

If some artists (Matisse?) turn to collage as a way of working through the limitations of painting, Adams seems to approach collage differently, as a tool that can do the work of paint, but that allows him to play differently than paint and canvas might.

Why am I fixating on this?  Because one of the most interesting aspects of Adams' collages are the way he plays with depth.  And if "Civil War" were representative of his style, I would see the way he plays with depth as indicative of the limitations he sets for himself within the medium.  Instead, in comparing the three, I see someone who can play within and against those limitations to interesting effect.  So, in "Oregon Civil War," there is depth, insofar as optical effects push some colors closer to the front of our vision than others.  But there is no field, no genuine sense of forward and back, within the frame.  The same could largely be said of the "In Formation" series, though the presence of the wood-as-canvas seems to complicate the experience of depth. "Horse" offers us something closer to genuine spatial representation.

"Dandy Horse" shows us what I think is characteristic of what Adams is really trying to do with depth, across the works I have seen (at  That is, in "Dandy Horse," there is depth created.  But it is a depth of planes.  One plane recedes behind the other, in a way like the three-dimensional "Viewmaster" slides of my youth.  The distance from the "horse" in the foreground to the trees, from the trees to the buildings, from the buildings to the mountains, from the mountains to the clouds, is incalculable, or at least, it's not a matter of interest to the artist to represent.

So what is Adams representing here, for us, in his collage work?  I look at these works, at least these three, and I feel someone who is trying to represent the ways that the world rushes forward towards us.  "Civil War" and "Dandy Horse" especially are works that, in the end, press the world forward towards the surface of the canvas.

I look at these collages and what I experience is what I experience when I fall asleep on a park bench on a sunny day (I did that a lot when I was younger).  You wake up, you open your eyes, and the sun is bright and shining and the world just rushes into your irises and you can't stop it.  Adams creates that experience in an 8x8 square.

"Horse with Colorful Mask"

"Oregon Civil War 2010, Third Quarter"

"Dandy Horse with Italian Leather Saddle"
"Anti-Aircraft Gun"

"Exploit the Opening"

I wanted to talk about theme, a little bit, but I do so with a caveat, again:  art escapes me sometimes.  So I see two themes here, and they are blunt and obvious:  a fascination with the military (perhaps biographical, given the piece called "Dad" depicts a man in military uniform) and a pop sensibility that at times reminds me of Rosenquist.  In saying that it reminds me of Rosenquist, I am not calling it derivative;  rather, the strategies of fragmentation, magnification, and intense, vibrant coloration are deployed to different effect and purpose.

So for just a second, I want to think about the confluence of the pop and military thematic.  When I was growing up, which is about the same time I think Adams was growing up, the military occupied a rather complex place in pop culture imagination.  On the one hand, the threat of nuclear war loomed large and terrifying.  Any minute now, we could all be killed in what was called "mutually assured destruction."  But oddly enough, though this was a product of the "cold war" and the "military-industrial complex," it wasn't really a function of the military.

The "military," as in "men with guns," occupied a strange location.  On the one hand, the wounds of Vietnam were still fresh.  On the other hand, a series of tiny exercises (Grenada? Libya?) and a series of movies (First Blood, probably culminating in something like "True Lies" with Arnold S.) were helping to recreate an image of the military.

I look at works like "Dad," "Horse with Mask," "Anti-Aircraft Gun," and "Exploit the Opening," and I see someone trying to work through these kinds of historical processes:  someone who, on the one hand, wants to earnestly reflect what the military is, while at the same time, hammering at some of the pop culture absurdity that accumulated around the military, especially during the Reagan and first Bush administrations.

I could be crazy here.  I guess I'll find out tonight.

Friday, March 14, 2014

"To Go in Close Means Forgetting Convention, Reputation, Reasoning, Hierarchies and Self"

So I'm still playing with the idea of "likenesses" in John Berger's The Shape of a Pocket.  Briefly, and no doubt in distortion of what Berger was getting at, I am extracting the following ideas from the book, heavily inflected by what I want to make of his work (the beauty of life after tenure, I suppose, is that there are moments when you can simply bypass questions of whether you got the source material "right"):

1.  Photos are (more or less) direct representations (this can be argued with trivially;  it's a foil point to help make the claim about painting);  paintings are "likenesses."
2.  Paintings, as likenesses, try less to capture the other person, and try more to capture some kind of energetic collaboration between the painter and the subject.
3.  What the painter captures, then, is not the person, but rather the experience of the person as absent -- the traces that the other leaves behind in the mind and heart of the painter.
4.  As a result, what a painting captures, as opposed to a photo, is the experience of the other as absent.  A painting of a loved one does not bring the loved one closer, the way a photo might;  it creates both intimacy and longing, as the painting is presence and absence simultaneously.

I am way off the rails in that last bit, pushing Berger further than he would go.

Constructing the experience of presence and absence, simultaneously.

This all makes sense to me on two dimensions, one relevant to notions of "collaboration" and one relevant to notions of "presence and absence in a likeness."

Collaboration:  As a person and as a scholar, I derive the most pleasure from collaborating, from the process of working with someone to build something.  It could be a writing project, it could be a relationship.  The idea of a painting as a collaboration between the artist and the subject is so energizing to me, so much an inversion of what one might expect, I find it amazing.  I want to keep pushing it as I keep thinking about this.

Likenesses, Presence and Absence: when we talk about how a son shares a likeness with their father, we are both seeing the father present and absent.  I suppose if we say that the Judeo-Christian god made humanity "in his likeness," we can see how that might signify the presence and the absence of that God.  So I like the idea that some arts don't just produce representations;  they produce likenesses, and in that likeness, there is the simultaneous experience of absence and presence.


I am thinking, especially, of interactions I have had lately.  I am meeting new and different people, and there can be a moment of sparkling intensity at the beginning -- those moments when you are comparing notes on each others' lives to be able to see:  How are we the same?  How are we different?  How do the stories I have constructed to make sense of my life work for making sense of your life?  Will the palette of colors I have brought to our relationship capture your likeness?  (What is "umber" and why is it always "burnt" anyway?)

I can offer an example.  In an exchange with a recent colleague-friend, I heard what I thought were the traditional anxieties of the untenured -- the stresses about whether you will be "good enough" to be retained, sometimes heavily inflected with the "impostor syndrome" (the anxiety that someone will discover that you do not belong, you are an impostor).  And that narrative worked for a while, but as we kept talking, as we kept exchanging stories, I began to hear echoes of what I now recognize as the experiences of first-generation academics.  I experience the sense of dislocation that comes from being the first one in my family to finish college, the third one to finish high school, even... The palette was changing, the colors I was using to paint her, to paint our relationship and the ways we interact with each other, were changing.

I still write about listening, once in a while.  Attentive, active listening sometimes mean saying to the other person:  this is what I hear you saying.  this is where I think you are, this is who I think you are becoming, as we speak.  In doing that, I am sharing what-we-are-building with my conversational partner.  Sometimes, the sharing only makes clear the disconnect between partners in a conversation. Sometimes, the sharing becomes intense;  the back and forth, the collaboration, becomes a series of bellstrikes, more and more resonant.

Berger talks about this as a dangerous moment:  "To go in close means forgetting convention, reputation, reasoning, hierarchies and self."  There is the possibility that the artist will "dissolve into the model" or be "trample[d] into the ground" by the subject.  (The cacophonous vibrations of the bells, ringing and ringing, threaten to dissolve me.)  That happens to me, sometimes, with some people, people with personalities that are bright and magnificent and sometimes troubled (because inevitably, to be bright and magnificent is to be troubled in the mundane world we share).  The other person shines and shimmers and I am mute.

But when a conversation works, when it works well, there is a real sense that we are making something together.  What we are making is the structure from which a friendship is possible, though admittedly, it may take days or weeks for that structure to be visible;  it may take weeks before one can be sure that the structure is viable.  Collaboration.


The conversation has to end, though.  Time grows short, work calls, or sleep beckons.  The bells cannot continue indefinitely;  the enervating and energizing presence of the other becomes absence.

More later...  on Presence and Absence.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Poem from a Friend

There is loss at the center of who you are.
You paper over it, and enough paper will hold your weight and you can rest.
But it's still there.  --jkd

Thursday, March 06, 2014

To feel presence despite absence must be to experience joy and loss at the same moment.

I visited three colleagues at UWS today.  One, I first met eight years ago, when I was fresh and new and eager to find colleagues.  One, I met about three years ago, and she is now a collaborator and friend.  And one, I met just a few weeks ago.  

This post is about that third person's office, which struck me as particularly vibrant, a window into some aspect of their soul that goes beyond the usual symbolic code of the professor's office.  Profs think simply about their decorations: I hang this poster, to assert my love of music.  I post this quote from some dead dude on my door, to appear wry or educated or cynical or... I carefully place this action figure or statue or other mass-produced goodie to tell students who I am as a nerd.  

Instead of mass-produced bric-a-brac, my friend's office held original works of art, painted by her husband.  Most academic nerdly, a sketch of Merleau-Ponty rests atop a shelf.   Four paintings of a toddler in a single frame stand at the edge of the desk to the left.  Two canvases, still lifes, basically, hang across the top shelf of a bookcase.  

Her office is an environment rich with art, dense with art, that gives me a chance to try out some of the ideas from The Shape of a Pocket.  

"Every authentic painting demonstrates a collaboration.... When a painting is lifeless it is the result of the painter not having the nerve to get close enough for a collaboration to start. He stays at a copying distance." 

Do these works represent a genuine collaboration between artist/painter and subject?  Merleau-Ponty is dead;  we will never know the answer there.  The daughter painted four times, in a surface level "Brillo" Warhol-style of repeated imagery, nonetheless feels to me like she is her father's collaborator.  In that sense, her father's struggle to paint her is not, like the Warhol gesture, the struggle to reproduce her.  She is not a can of Campbell's soup on a production line, nor is she a screenprint for a thousand posters for sale.  

The artwork, raw in its coloration in a way that brings energy to the image of the child, feels to me like a sign of artist and model, father and child, collaborating (as Berger describes the model-artist relationship) to create her in color and canvas.  I have never been a parent and may never be one, but perhaps this is in a way similar to the way that a parent must collaborate with the child (and with the child's mother) to help the child become.  The rawness, the energy there -- this is not just a painting of the child at a certain age;  it is a painting of the child as coming into being, an energy that one image could not contain, and so there needed to be four.

“What any true painting touches is an absence - an absence of which without the painting, we might be unaware. And that would be our loss.  [In a painting,] we feel less alone in face of what we ourselves see each day appearing and disappearing."

A photograph on your desk is a momento, a memory cue, designed to remind you of family and friends.  "Here is the thing that is not here," the photograph says to the viewer.  Berger believes that paintings operate differently, and I think this may be true here, too.  

Berger claims that a good painting achieves a likeness.  If I understand him correctly (and the man speaks with so much poetry, I may not), what makes a likeness possible is that, in the absence of the person, we feel them nonetheless present.  Photos make the absent present;  paintings that carry a likeness to someone make us feel the presence of the absent, even as they remain absent.  

So this painting of this beautiful daughter is not designed to make the daughter present.  A snapshot would do that.  Instead, it makes makes my friend feel the presence both of the daughter and her husband, the painter, despite their absence.

I can imagine nothing more beautiful and, at the same time, nothing more sad.  To feel presence despite absence must be to experience joy and loss at the same moment -- a complex of feelings that we don't expect to experience together.  Maybe our contemporary culture discourages these kinds of complexes of feelings.

This tension can be fixed, thankfully, when the lights are turned off and my friend can go home and make the absent present, again, with hugs.


Addendum:  My therapist has already said, several times, that "you think too much."  Yep.  Yes I do.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Media Consumption Log: Sherlock, Season 1-3

While I am deeply disappointed that this show fails the Bechdel test, I love it every minute.

Media Consumption Log: Aspen Showcase, etc.

So pretty, so vacuous.

Media Consumption Log: Deadline (Marvel Comics)

Clever premise (about a journalist investigating revenge killings with a supernatural twist), but I never found the narrator likeable.                                                                                          

Media Consumption Log: Team Titans (DC Comics)

Time traveling Teen Titans story with none of the joy I hope for in these comics.

Media Consumption Log: Assembly (Antarctic Press)

Clever take on education, but otherwise nondescript.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Just a personal note...

About 16 months ago (October 2012), I learned something that probably put the next year onto edge, that probably put me into the weirdest life position I have ever occupied.

About 6 months ago (August 2013), I realized that I wasn't just in a position;  I was on a trajectory, and I only then realized where the trajectory was heading.

About eight weeks ago (December 2014), I arrived.


One of the problems with the current life circumstance I am enduring is:  I have no idea when it will be over.  I have no idea what it will mean to no longer be afflicted by the loss I am feeling.

When I was younger, and I lost my last grandparent (it sounds odd to say it that way, but in my family, my grandparents, great grandparents, and great aunt all lived together, so losing this last one of those five was substantial), I thought I was over it, thought that I had moved on from the sense of loss.  Then, one Sunday, something like a year after the death, maybe more, I got good news, and I dialed, instinctively, the number of my grandparent's house -- and got the "number has been disconnected" recording, and almost wept, again.  I wasn't over it, I hadn't completely (or as completely as I would like) moved into the next phase of life, a life where being unable to talk to anyone at 414-562-2106 was the new normal.

This feels like that, with an additional dimension, one that troubles me because I don't know how to process it.  That loss, I could process quietly, alone, and pretend, at least, that it did not mar my human relationships.


I spent a portion of last night with people whom I think of as friends or whom I think of as possible friends.  In these contexts, I feel like I did when I was sixteen and I was hit by a cab while riding my bike.  I bounced off the cab's hood, my bike was a little bent but unbroken, and I was able to ride away (thank you, helmet!).  As I got home, I wasn't sure whether to tell friends and family that I was hit by a cab.  I mean, I was shaken, but I didn't want people to treat me differently, to go concussion hunting, whatever.

Do you enter into a human relationship acknowledging that you are wounded?

As I approach times like last night, with these people, part of me feels like I should open with:  I was hit by a cab eight weeks ago.  If I start acting funny, please tell me.  If I am hurtful, I do not mean it;  if I should be listening to you and instead I space for a second, it's not about you.  It's that my helmet was on too loose when I hit the boulevard.

And yet part of me wants to ignore it, to say:  I bounced, I'm okay.  Thank you Helmet.  I'm okay.  Please enjoy my company the way you might have, all the time, anyway.  If my eyes glaze, well, I've always had a certain eye-glazey charm.

How do I earnestly and honestly enter into human friendships in this position?


I chose teaching as a career because I like helping people learn to express themselves, and to achieve what is possible when they communicate well.  I'm the helper, you know?


But what bothers me most is, I don't get to decide whether I have an (emotional) concussion.  Telling people I was hit by a cab doesn't make the (emotional) concussion go away, if I have one, and not telling people that I was hit by a cab doesn't make the emotional concussion go away, if I have one.

I keep saying "if."  Surely, I must.

I don't get to decide when I am okay.  I am not even sure I trust my own ability to know when I will be okay.

  • I feel certain that the minute I feel that my loss behind me, I will feel it, as my friend Michael Gillespie calls it, washing up as waves of anger and sadness.  
  • Claims that I am okay, at some point, will feel to me like evidence that I am not, that I am trying to force emotional healing that I can't force, can't resolve.

Part of me wants to know when I will be "me" again.  And part of me knows that whatever me I will be, when I am through this process, will be unlike any "me" I have been before.  I don't know that I have ever lived with this much uncertainty before.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Media Consumption Log: Monsters

Imagine "The Mist" without any of the character complexity or special effects (and they were minimal in that movie anyway), with a healthy dose of not-quite-right-feeling representations of Mexicans (is this an awkward metaphor for immigration, hamfisted?).  You have Monsters.  I type this while 2/3 through the movie, preparing to pack it up and send it to my sister.

I mean, why would you give your passport to the guy who was so slimy, he snags a one night stand

Media Consumption Log: Various Issues of Animal Man

Alright.  I wanted to like this.  I wanted it to be more than a "message" comic (not so much) and more than Verti-gore (the direction of the adult comics in the 1990s.

But with the exception of the Wile E. Coyote issue, unremarkable in retrospect.  This set will be sold.  That issue will be kept in hopes of use in some later teaching project, I think.

Synopsis for "The Coyote Gospel"
A truck driver for the Ajax Trucking Co. picks up a hitchhiker named Carrie. During their journey through Death Valley, the truck runs over a bipedal coyote-man wandering in the desert who appears to come out of nowhere. Horrified by what he has seen, the truck driver refuses to stop, but unknown to the driver or Carrie as they drive away, the badly mangled coyote miraculously heals from his wounds.
The story takes up one year later...  In the desert, the truck driver hunts the coyote-man, having discovered that he is still alive. In the time since their previous encounter, the truck driver has suffered numerous misfortunes, including the deaths of several people close to him, and has snapped upon learning that Carrie has ended up a drug-addicted prostitute who died during a drug bust. The driver has become convinced that the coyote-man is Satan and, blaming him for his recent misfortunes, is determined to 'save the world' from him. Tracking the coyote-man to his current whereabouts, the truck driver sets numerous traps; although the coyote-man is badly injured by each one, to the truck driver's increasing horror he nevertheless heals each time. Their battle culminates in the coyote-man setting off a rigged grenade which, when it explodes, critically injures both; where the coyote-man recovers from his injuries, the truck driver does not.

...The coyote-man then gives Animal Man a scroll which tells of his exile from another dimension, one similar in nature to Looney Tunes-style cartoons, where he was an anthropomorphic coyote named Crafty. Along with his fellow cartoon characters, Crafty endured an eternity of suffering and violence for the amusement of their artist, presented as a cruel god-figure. One day, however, Crafty snapped and went up to 'Heaven' to challenge the artist; displeased by Crafty's presumption, the artist exiled Crafty to this reality, where he now wanders the Earth trying to find someone to help him return to his reality of origin and end the artist's cruel reign...

Media Consumption Log: Flight of the Living Dead (Zombies on a Plan)

I tend to dislike zombie movies that lack some reasonable explanation for zombie --- if an explanation is offered.  I am cool with inexplicable zombies, but I am uncool with "mysterious gas has zombie virus developed by US military" zombies.

So this movie starts with one strike.

Strike two, no one is likeable.  That may be life for some people, but not yet for me, so strike two.

Strike three, I am sure that the tissue paper that constitutes most of the material in a plane would have ruptured a thousand times before the movie was half over.

So what is there to like about this movie?  Implausible mythology, implausible setting, and distasteful characters.  Yeuch.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Media Consumption Log: Green Lantern Animated Series: Revenge of the Red Lanterns

Computer animation still feels uncomfy, to me, but it works here.  The series is a fairly complex in its season-long arc, for a kid's show, and it is also violent and bloody series for a kid's show.

I make a mistake in calling it a "kid's" show, though -- it's a boy's show.  The female characters fall into flat stereotypes (the first recurring female character is a navigational computer).  Green Lantern always had this problem, as a property, at least as long as Hal Jordan was the Lantern, so this doesn't surprise, but it disappoints.

The idea of the forgotten sector could have been a powerful nod to questions of colonialism...  But I expect a lot of the kid's show.

Worth a watch on reruns;  maybe not worth the $10 I spent for the DVD.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Media Consumption Log: Star-Ving

Well, David Faustino and the Guy from Parker Lewis Can't Lose make a low-level web comedy.  I watch it like I watch Saturday Night Live -- in the hopes that it will be better than it is, and with comfort with the stars and unchallenging premise.

Media Consumption Log: Ultimate Marvel Team Up

Some of the best artists in the comics business (including Sienkiewiczd, Mahfood, others) cannot save Bendis from himself.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Media Consumption Log: Teen Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day

Three issues for the sole purpose of establishing the death of Donna Troy, which is undone by the end of the series, more or less.  Why?

Media Consumption Log: Doctor Who: End of Time (The Last Tenant Movie)

This has not stood the test of time.  The sense of impending end which made it so powerful to watch has made it hard to re-watch.  The long goodbye now feels like a Minnesota Goodbye -- it lasts long by virtue of convention, rather than emotion.  It feels very much like the first goodbye for fans who aren't used  to regeneration yet -- so much emotional load, very Logopolis in this way.  And Logopolis is both a favorite episode and a strangely melodramatic one.  Perhaps this is a reminder that Russell T. Davies would, had he remained there longer, proven to have more in common with John Nathan-Turner than would be visible on the surface.

Media Consumption Log: Generation X #1-30ish

Man, I remember why I bought these -- I loved the idea of Emma Frost and a school full of teens.  The powers were weird (one kid didn't stretch -- he just had "extra skin").  But man, the art now feels so 1990s, and the storylines dragged and dragged with teen melodrama.

Media Consumption Log: Alien Trespass

Was this intended as horror?  As humor?  As homage?  Because I can't tell, I can't quite enjoy this movie.

Media Consumption Log: The Crusaders (Red Circle) (2000s)

Manga-Animated Style on some classic characters -- not to my taste, despite my love of the characters.

Media Consumption Log: We Will Bury You

It's flappers and Browning's "Freaks" in a Zombie comic.  Clever, but the characterization never lived up to the plot gimmicks.  So reluctantly, with three issues of the four in my collection, I sell -- though I might buy a trade if I find it.

Media Consumption Log: Call of Wonderland

Wow.  There was a time when I thought Zenescope books were clever -- a kind of second tier Fables.  They lost me a while back, I guess.

Media Consumption Log: Alias

Bendis:  slow, dragging, and just plain unrealistic and unfun.

Media Consumption Log: Blackest Night Spinoffs (JSA, etc)

What if:  a poor concept for an "event" series became a poor concept for mini-series that fail to advance that event series?  I won't collect "Blackest Night," and upon consideration, I won't collect the attending series, even if they are of characters I otherwise collect.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Media Consumption Log: 28 Weeks Later

Fast Zombies:  I'm okay with that.
Part of me wants to read this as a post-9/11 metaphor -- we cannot go back to the way we were and we cannot leave behind the atrocities we committed in the name of our own defense.
Part of me wants to read this as a "divorce" metaphor, a broken families metaphor.
At any rate, I enjoyed the movie a great deal.

Media Consumption Log: Justified, Season 1

It's kind of fun, watching the last tropes of old-school masculinity played in this way.  The hero does not relish the violence he is forced to enact;  rather, the criminals and the situations he encounters force him to kill, to punch, to wear the ten-gallon hat (literally).  It's kind of like watching an episode of the Red Show Diaries, but with violence instead of sex:  it's not particularly pornographic, but you know, in your heart, that this is not quite right, not quite real. At least you hope so.

Media Consumption Log: X-Men: First Class (Movies in the Park)

Sometimes, the origin story is better for having an investment in the character, first.  I wish that some of the other franchise comic movies realized this.  I wanted Emma Frost to be more developed, as a character (really, is there any character who has appeared in so many comics and yet still seems so much a cipher in the wrong hands?).  I always fear the "Magneto as Holocaust Survivor' trope, but it worked well here.  All in all, the movie I always wanted as a comics fan.

Media Consumption Log: Thor (Movies in the Park)

Magnificent noise and bombast, bright colors, amazing effects -- a 1960s comic come to life.  And I love it for being that, while wishing it might have been more.

Media Consumption Log: Night Skies

Was this made for cable TV?  I guess there is some value to the "everybody (almost) dies" horror/alien movie, but this one seemed brutal for letting what could have been interesting characterization just slip away in the name of advancing the brutality.

Media Consumption Log: Finding the Future

I understand the whole "science fiction writers are visionaries" trope.  I can't understand the "science fiction fans" are visionaries" trope that runs through this documentary.

Media Consumption Log: StarWoids, the Force is With Us

I loved fan documentaries until I saw two Star Wars fan documentaries too many.  These were them.  Not that there is anything wrong with these, and based on release date, they could be pioneers.  But there is too little new in these.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Media Consumption Log: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

It felt too soon to reboot after Raimi and Tobey and company, but really, when you watch this re-creation, it feels right.  Parker is back to being an inventing genius (inventing his web shooters), and maybe more importantly, and in line with Iron Man and Man of Steel, Parker is no longer alone in the burden of being Spider-Man.  Worth seeing twice, so I did.

Media Consumption Log: IceQuake

Oh, what some dry ice, some computer graphics, and no writers can do for a movie.  This is the kind of made-for-cable-TV disaster movie that must have followed in the wake of The Day after Tomorrow.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Media Consumption Log: Enter the Dragon

The lush sound and saturated colors of the 1970s... this movie is magnificent and dated at the same time.  Most significant, I think, is that Bruce Lee never looks triumphant, never looks comfortable, in his use of martial arts.

Media Consumption Log: Cape Fear (1962)

This is what noir is all about, in some ways -- at least, from a cinematographic angle, this is a movie set in darkness, and I like it.  What is disappointing is the clean division between good and evil.  There is no chance to sympathise with the villain nor to complicate identification with the hero.  And man, this is total PG compared even to an episode of Criminal Minds.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Media Consumption Log: Star Trek, The Next Generation, Seasons 1-3

What felt sharp and inspiring when I was a child now feels flat and comic booky.  I can see why this franchise came to an end.  At the same time, I can see why these characters and narratives are beloved.  We tend not to love Othello or Hamlet;  those characters and narratives are too complex.  Instead, in ST, TNG, we have an ensemble cast that allows us to identify both deeply with one character and to feel, in the tensions between Whorf and Picard, for example, the tensions that exist within ourselves.  In this way, there is some advantage, I guess, to the kind of distribution of the richness of human identity among some flattened character types.

The show remains a candy cane confection for me, one I value.

Media Consumption Log: "Nao of Brown" and "Not My Bag"

These two graphic novels are a study in the contrasts of the indy, creator-owned, original graphic novel movement.  On the one hand, in "Not My Bag," we see a graphic novel of nearly meaningless scale:  the story of a retail employee who discovers that parts of life are more important than being a retail employee.  It's tough -- I worked retail for seven years, and I know how much good stories about life behind the cashier can both inspire creativity and make someone a hit at cocktail parties.  But the subtexts in this story (about the value of fashion, about fashion and identity, especially sexual identity, as the narrator is one of the rarest in fiction, a gay male) are ignored.  While this is a fine afternoon read, one that turns the pages for you, almost, that's about all it is.

"Nao of Brown," on the other hand, is an immediate case of reach exceeding grasp.  The graphic novel is filled with possibilities -- with the biracial identity of the narrator, with the mental/emotional challenges faced by the narrator, with the stroke which overcomes her partner.  Filled with possibilities that it never quite fulfills.  Just like "Not My Bag," this novel reads quickly and is beautifully drawn, but in the end, and unlike "NMB," it feels inauthentic:  these characters are flat, their problems are genuine but their responses feel forced by the structure of the story, rather than springing from the core of their being as humans.

In different ways, I am glad to have read each.  But I am not, I fear, likely to reread either.

Media Consumption Log: Thunderbolts

Thunderbolts, the Marvel Comic, has been instructive.  I thought I loved this comic, in much the way that I thought I loved the Exiles, and I imagined, like Exiles, that the comic took a terrible turn.  In the case of the Exiles, that turn came when Exiles began dying in multiples on every mission -- the comic equivalent of torture porn -- and greater emphasis seemed to fall on following the murderous characters than on the actual stars of the book.

In other words, I thought the plot took a turn for the worse, and I decided not to turn with it.

Thunderbolts, on the other hand, has a cleaner "turn."  Without being hypercritical of people doing their best, I simply like the attention to character and archetype that Kurt Busiek creates.

Media Consumption Log: The Cell

I remember watching this in the movie theatre, because I was asucker for anything that promised Virtual Reality.  I remember thinking that the breathing noises made by the people next to me meant they were there for the scantily clad J-Lo scenes.  When Kate brought it home from the Disc Go Round out of the $2 bin, I was surprised.  Today, it reads like murder-melodrama;  in a certain sense, Criminal Minds (another of Kate's favorite shows) has given use better insights into the fantasy worlds of fantasy murderers.  And Virtual Reality, write large, is now the stuff of every movie -- every movie is a virtual reality adventure.

So in the end, this movie feels as locked in the 1990s as it no doubt was at the time of release.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Media Consumption Log: Girlfrenzy The Mist

Mary Marvel, Black Hand, and a supporting cast member from Starman.  Hmmmm...

Media Consumption Log: Star Trek/X-Men

These crossovers are always cheesy, but the pinups are awesome.  I liked the Gary Mitchell/Phoenix moment, I guess, if I had to like something.

Medium Consumption Log: Adventures of Superman (post-death era)

Mullet-Superman, some interesting stories about identity, rendered almost unreadable by the "triangle" system of numbering Superman comics so that four comics were essentially one storyline.  While the odd issue is interesting, on the whole, in the Great Comic Purge, they have to go!

Media Consumption Log: Media Matters DVDs

I don't want to think this hard when the TV is on.  Respectable, and useful for pedagogy, especially the startling first video about perceptions of color -- but not something to watch on the weekends, when apparently, to my weary eyes, media matters less.

Medium Consumption Log: Star Trek, Into Darkness

The first Star Trek of the J.J. era was a reinvention on the scale of Joyce's Ulysses (I exaggerate, but only a little).  This movie is a remake on the scale of the Family Guy recreations of Star Wars.  Deeply disappointing.

Medium Consumption Log: Resolved (Documentary)

An interesting video for a rhetoric professor to watch -- one that teaches us something about the education system broadly and the different ways that access and economics and culture are reinforced by educational practices and traditions.  While the use of Freire is slight, the overall is thought-provoking.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Media Consumption Log: Various Manhunter Comics of the 1980s and 1990s

So wait -- was Spawn the Manhunter in the DC Comics of the 1990s?

And the 1980s -- is there any Manhunter comic that isn't a reworking of the anxieties and strains of the shadow cast by the 1970s Manhunter comics?  (I have hope for the 2000s series!)

Media Consumption Log: Iron Man 1, 2, 3

Probably the best-ever trilogy of superhero movies -- better than anything Batman or Superman franchises generated, and more consistent than then X-Men franchise.  #1 recovered the magic of the comic series while reinventing the narrative.  #2 sustained, even if it did not innovate, and #3 recreated the Mandarin for the 21st century and cemented the idea that continuity in comics can be an innovative way to conceive a movie franchise.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Media Consumption Log: The First Episode of Lost in Space

Watching ME-TV in the background tonight.  Like most of my generation, I disrupt my focus on work by tuning in to sound in the background.  (I killed this habit pre-tenure, and welcome it's return.)  The premiere episode of Lost in Space was almost real science fiction -- I was actually feeling dread for the characters' fate!  What a turn from the cotton candy of later seasons!

Media Consumption Log: Babylon 5

Steve Farnham suggested this.  It's not too bad.  I wouldn't own it, mostly because the makeup on aliens is poor theatre quality -- the designers in the bonus materials said they wanted to go beyond the forehead appliance (used in ST:TNG), but they should have only done so if they were ready to surpass the forehead appliance.  But mostly, in the end, it suffers from the same slow-moving politicking of Star Trek: Deep Space 9, a slow moving-ness I tolerated because I am committed to  the franchise -- I am not committed to this franchise.

Media Consumption Log: Iron Man, circa 2000+

In this period, Iron Man divests himself of his fortune (clever), then nosedives away from being the man who was sharply critical of his family's and corporation's role in weapons development for the military to becoming a wing of the military (SHIELD and the Initiative).  Really, is there no sense of continuity among comics authors after 2000?  I hereby move to divest myself of all comics published by Marvel in the Bendis Era.

Media Consumption Log: Iron Man Hypervelocity

Iron Man meets Cyberpunk and Rave Culture of the 1990s -- in the 2000s!  Oi.

Media Consumption Log: Justice League Task Force #1-10

...because comics need a team of super-heroes capable of undercover insurgent political action.  It's thinking like this that also destroyed the Dalton bond flicks.

Media Consumption Log: King Corn

It amazed me, and with SuperSize Me and Food Inc., it changed some of my consumption habits.  Yet, in rewatching, it grinds so slowly.

Media Consumption Log: Fantastic Four #566-569

Mark Millar gives us yet another "one decision by Reed Richards could destroy the multiverse" story.  No one uses a multiverse more mundanely than Marvel!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Media Consumption Log: Being Human (BBC)

Man, is this series good -- crisper than the US version, though both are strong.  And really, a thousand times better than most other weepy vampire crud.

(PS:  I weep at the beauty of Lenora Crichlow.)

Media Consumption Log: Bloodrayne

Are all video game movies this boring?

Media Consumption Log: Green Lantern #157

Of all the mid-2000s GL comics, with their Hal Jordan traumas and their Women in Refrigerators and their Hate Crime rhetoric, this issue stands out -- Jay Faerber delivers the goods on an action/adventure story as well as a slice-of-life story that treats the women characters as characters (more or less -- still questionable on the Bechdel test, but at least a worthy effort and an entertaining read).

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Media Consumption Log: Justice League Task Force #11+

The 1990s were not kind to the Justice League.  While Elongated Man and Martian Manhunter and even Gypsy created connections to what used-to-be, the rest seemed 1990s creepy -- Vandal Savage as organ-plunderer, Despero's body inhabited by another (L-Ron), and so on.  The introduction of Peter Cannon was sweet, but even that story lacked panache.

Media Consumption Log: Judd Winick era of Green Lantern

I loved these comics when they were initially published -- the Kyle Rayner journey toward being the Only Green Lantern and then the First of a New Corps was awesome.  But it is tainted for me -- tainted by the Women in Refrigerators controversy that was catalyzed by this book, tainted even by the eventual struggle for how to rehabilitate Hal Jordan.  As such, I reread these comics with something like a bitter aftertaste.

Media Consumption Log: Escape from New York

Escape from New York:  I didn't want to like this.  After all, I liked Logan's Run when I re-watched it for the first time in 20 years, and that was a bit embarrassing.  Surely Escape from New York would be the same...  and I would be similarly embarrassed.

I did like it, but for a very odd reason.  There is a whole class of movies with post-apocalyptic settings that appear to simply be the same urban settings you would see on Kojak, grimy and dirty, with some trash cans set on fire.  Apparently, the city was already post-apocalyptic in 1975.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Media Consumption Log: SyFy's Flash Gordon

Slowest start to a TV show ever, but by the end, it recovered.  Flash and Zarkov and Dale never really became the iconic characters from the newspaper strips, but the show moved toward a real crescendo that recreated Ming for the 21st century in a powerful, plausible way.

Media Consumption Log: The Last Man

This movie is awesome for one reason:  Jeri Ryan (formerly "7 of 9" on Star Trek: Voyager) plays one of the leads.  But that's about all it has going for it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Media Consumption Log: Killing the Cobra (Comic, IDW)

Vampire veteran of the Iraq War becomes caught up in the Chinese criminal underworld.  Clever.

Media Consumption Log: Marvel Adventures Fantastic4

I love this series.  I am removing it from the collection because I would prefer trades to these floppies.  But, for example, in the Annihilus issue, the villain is not a homicidal warlord maniac, but an old-fashioned "meanie" who is more bug that murderer.  Love it.  Kid-friendly, nostalgia rich.

Media Consumption Log: City of Heroes Comic

If I were asked to predict that a comic about a massive, multiplayer online game would be this good, I would have failed.  All the tropes I loved best from comic universes are present.  If you loved comics in the 1980s, this is the comic universe for you.

Media Consumption Log: The Last House on the Left (Remake)

So, if I understand, this is a remake of a film that was, basically, a reinterpretation of an even older film.  Cotton-candy.  Glad to watch a horror movie that doesn't devolve into a morality play or pointless gore, entirely.  The final scene is unnecessarily gratuitous.

Media Consumption Log: World of New Kryption

It is fitting that a comic series that appears to be mostly about political intrigue on Superman's homeworld be abbreviated "wonk."  Even the appearances of Jemm, Sun of Saturn and of Adam Strange could not save this series for me.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Media Consumption Log: Gobbledygook

Non-Turtles comics by Turtles creators (and others, e.g. Richard Corben).  Flat, to me.

Media Consumption Log: Godzilla, Kingdom of Monsters

Ironic Godzilla comic.  Not to my taste.  Godzilla should be played straight.

Media Consumption Log: The Answer

I LOVE THIS COMIC -- enough to wait for trade.  (PS:  Mike Norton is one of the traditional comics geniuses active today -- not a revisionist, but just a great comics storyteller...)

Media Consumption Log: Conrad Thrillogy

Oh, when Indy Comics were just Heavy Metal with slightly less sex and smaller pages and poorer printing quality...

Media Consumption Log: Elric (Pacific Comics)

Cutting edge printing technology in 1980.  Mud in 2013.

Media Consumption Log: Gorilla Man

Marvel's Atlas reinvention takes a wrong turn.

Media Consumption Log: Dino Island

Amelia Earheart (kind of) and dinosaurs.  Clever comic concept.

Media Consumption Log: Brainchild (MCAD)

A comic literary magazine for an art school in Minneapolis.  Yeoman work.

Media Consumption Log: Daring Escapes (Image)

Concept:  Houdini comic.  Awesome.  Execution:  Houdini occult weirdness.  More than I can handle.

Media Consumption Log: Fathom (Comico)

Clever plot, terrible art.  Neither action nor cheesecake, kind of like reading a newspaper comic.

Media Consumption Log: Call of Wonderland; Grimm's Fairy Tales after #75...

When GFT ceases to be playful recreations of actual fairy tales, it becomes a poorly drawn cheesecake comic.

Media Consumption Log: The Alan Moore Pastiche Purge

1963.  Tomorrow Stories.  Tom Strong.  Voodoo.  Top 10.  Why did I buy Alan Moore's recycling of tropes when I could have saved the money to buy the original manifestations?

Media Consumption Log: Oscars 2013

I hate Seth McFarlane.  He ruined animation and he's not doing well here.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Media Consumption Log: DC Universe Legacies

If I want to be nostalgia about comics I have already read, I would read them again.

Media Consumption Log: The Guild

I love this online media property.  I didn't want or need all this backstory, which hinders my ability to identify with the characters.

Media Consumption Log: Guardians of the Globe

Normally, I would love any effort to create a comics universe, but Kirkman hasn't sold me on this -- probably because of the bloody back-narrative to Invincible.  For the same reason I can't do The Mighty, Irredeemable, etc....

Media Consumption Log: Guerillas (Image Comics)

Trained killer apes in the Vietnam War?  I'm not willing to follow this one.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Media Consumption Log: Frankenstein Mobster

Genius art.  High Concept.  But I never felt engaged with the narrative.

Media Consumption Log: Superman: Metropolis

This is the best we can do for Jimmy Olsen in the 21st century?

Media Consumption Log: Toby the Flying Pig

Tragic comic.  Makes me unhappy.

Media Consumption Log: Phazer Crossover

Awesome idea, mediocre art.

Media Consumption Log: Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel

Rewriting African-American heroes into comics history seems specious to me.

Media Consumption Log: ION

"women in refrigerators" spoiled a lot of Ion stories for me.

Media Consumption Log: Captain Britain

Nothing good can be found after House of M in Marvel.

Media Consumption Log: Dark Reign Fantastic 4

In the post-House of M era, Mr. Fantastic is a jerk.  Delete.

Media Consumption Log: Adventure Comics' Peter Pan

Take a complex text (in terms of colonialism) and keep that complexity as you update it.  Not for me.

Media Consumption Log: Dalgoda

Sometimes, even though the concept is good, you have to decide not to collect a title.  You need room in the apartment for the wife, after all.

Media Consumption Log: Jingle Belle

I want this as a trade, too.  Individual issues are not "of the satisfying hunk," as Heidi puts it.

Media Consumption Log: Planetary Brigade

I want this as a trade paperback.  I will follow Giffen and DeMatteis to the ends of the earth.


Color does not improve the humor.

Media Consumption Log: Supernatural Law

Great concept.  Too "punny" for me.

Media Consumption Log: Dante Primer

Meh.  I wanted to like this.

Media Consumption Log: The Tick - Big Blue Destiny

The humor is too juvenile for me.

Media Consumption Log: Thunderbolts (post-Civil War)

Not even the addition of Man-Thing and the murder of Hyperion the Nasty Plot Device make this comic an exception to my plan to divest of nearly all post-House of M Marvel comics.

Media Consumption Log: Tom Strong

Having decided that Alan Moore is simply the 20th century's best homage artist, I am divesting myself of these comics.

Media Consumption Log: Darklon (Pacific)`

Not every science fiction piece by Jim Starlin transcends the time of its composition.

Media Consumption Log: Unknown Quantities

From the apolitical Neil Gaiman piece to the ponderous Alan Moore piece to the Ted Rall piece (one of the best), this collection dated unevenly.

Media Consumption Log: The Killer

This Archaia-comic reads like David Ware does "noir."

Media Consumption Log: Justice League Elite

Feels like "Grim and Gritty Justice League" to me -- no thank you.

Media Consumption Log: David & Goliath

This Image Comic is too anime-animated in its style, for my tastes.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Media Consumption Log: Countdown, Countdown: Arena, and Countdown: Ray Palmer

Countdown was largest waste of hundreds of dollars of DC Comics. Why did I keep them? Why did I keep buying them?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Media Consumption Log: Damage #11, #6

I'm holding onto these issues. Phantom Lady appears, in a very sensible 1990s bicycle shorts style outfit. Hooray for sensible costumes. Given that Phantom Lady was often half naked and tied up in the 1940s, this is a real advance.

Media Consumption Log: Damage

DC Comics' Damage brings teen superhero angst together wih explosive powers... Powers so explosive the caused the big bang at Zero Hour. Maybe it's me, but I find the characterization flat. I am also biased against zero-hour comics, I think.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Media Consumption Log: Common Foe

I am interested in all Keith Giffen monster stories. Issue #1 is just a tease. I hope to find the rest.

Media Consumption Log: Chosen One

I think this collection will also be free of Mark Millar. Especially blasphemous Mark Millar?

Media Consumption Log: chronicles of wormwood

No Garth Ennis ever, in this collection. Purged.

Media Consumption Log: Chimera

The dying days of Crossgen were not fertile. I will never find #1 of this series, and #2-4 feel like 1970s military sci fi with a chick headliner. I'm sure I would enjoy it more had I issue #1. But i do not.

Media Consumption Log: Cholly and Flytrap

Even if we bracket claims about plagiarism in Suydam's later paintings, which turn me off to his later work, this work is rough and kind of 1970s underground in its feel. Purged.

Media Consumption Log: Valiant Comics

I can't afford to collect everything. Purged.

Media Consumption Log: Clerks comic

Awesome visual design, but I can't buy Kevin Smth and his concepts. Purged.

Media Consumption Log: Awesome Comics, Coven

Alrighty, outside the Supreme issues released by Checker, is any Awesome comic worth owning? Purged.

Media Consumption Log: True Blood Seasons 1-3

The public library is the perfect source for a TV show like this -- one I would not pay for via cable or DVD. Anna Paquin's character is empty and purposeless. Bill is empty and motiveless. But the real wonder of the show is not the vampires, werewolves, or sex. It is the very deep suffusion of southern culture into the fabric of the show. Frankly, I can't believe a show this Southern is on TV.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Media Consumption Log: Big Bang Theory

If someone offered you a thin, stereotypical, image of yourself on national television where, heretofore, there had been none, you would buy seasons 1-4, too.

Media Consumption Log: Hairbutt the Hippo

Not quite noir, not quite funny animal comic, not quite drawn clearly enough for a black and white comic so that I can follow the story easily. Purged.

Media Consumption Log: Grey's Anatomy Season One

Imbought this for Kate in the six week period when every woman was watching this show. We never will, again. Purged!

Media Consumption Log: Reb Brown As Captain America

Were these movies made for TV? They look and feel like it. And like all TV art in the 1970s and 1980s, everything awesome about Cap in these movies is about his ability to ride a vehicle. His shield is redone as clear and red concentric circles so it can serve as a windshield for his motorbike. And he spends more time in dramatic chases on that motorbike than he spends pounding baddies. But mostly, this Obie shows that a baby boomer is not a likely fit as a Cap. This Cap wants to discover himself with all the language that my mother used to talk about finding herself. It isn't Cap, for me. But this DVD stays in the collection -- as a cautionary tale.

Media Consumption Log: Hard Time

Steve Gerber sometimes offers hamfisted social critique. The issues I have of this series promise something more -- an exploration if gender, race, Columbine... This is a keeper, at least until I can read the whole series...

Media Consumption Log: Girls Next Door Season One

What was Kate, my beautiful wife, thinking when she bought this?

Media Consumption Log: Wonderland/Neverland

These Zenescope titles are too much cheesecake and too much horror about properties I feel no nostalgic connection with. Purged!

Media Consumption Log: Season of the Witch

This Image comic starts promisingly. It feels like an update of the 1980s DC Amethyst comic. A keeper on potential.

Media Consumption Log: Avengers Movie Suite

The climactic Obie, the Avengers, was awesome in every way a fanboy would dream. Characters who were flat and cipher-like in earlier movies (Tnor, Captain America) or frankly overdetermined by aspirations beyond their reach (the Hulk should smash, damn it) were brought into dynamic, lively, energetic interplay. This is Joss Whedom's gift, to be sure. The Iron Man movies were richest in their characterization. How much of that is the genius of casting an actor who feels palpably like character he plays. These DVDs will not be watched every month, probably one once a year, as a new movie in the franchise comes out, but they are core collection.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Media Consumption Log: Tim Truman's Scout

Two issues in, and I feel like I am reading dated 1980s apocalyptic fiction. Kind of a Native-American Road Warrior vibe, a Mad Max with visions....

Media Consumption Log: Halcyon

This comic has real potential -- it touches all my sentimental chords in terms of a worldwide super-powered team. I enjoyed the possibilities it holds. I'll keep issues #1 and hope to find #2 and up in quarter bins.

Media Consumption Log: Kelley Jones' The Hammer

This Dark Horse comic is rich with occultism, and Kelley Jones has an organic, fleshy style that makes demons seem real and tangible and absolutely gross. There is a certain "1970s Creepy Magazine" feel to the art, even, that resonates badly with me.

Media Consumption Log: Hawaii Five-O

It's by sheer accident that I watch this show on Mondays on broadcast TV. It stars at least three geek-tv Asians (Asian actors from Lost and Heroes; Asian Actress from Battlestar Galactica), but this is not geek-tv. It's all about hypermasculinities in an exotic locale. So I watch with a book open on my lap. When the lead actors are on the screen, I read. When the supporting cast is up, so are my eyes.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Media Consumption Log: Ice Age: Meltdown

I love the acorn obsessed Scrat, but Sid stole my heart in this movie. He's a fun loving sloth who knows how to encourage others but yet also seeks the approval of others. The Fire King scenes were a delight even though the little ones try and sacrifice Sid. But, there can't be a movie without some sort of suspense. The "food, wonderful food" singing vultures were also a favorite as they stalk the animals traveling towards higher ground. Overall, I give Ice Age: Meltdown a B+. --kvtb

Media Consumption Log: Martin Gardiner's Hepcats

I wish I liked this. I enjoy the indy, real-life vibe. But I can't get the complete story, and I can't enjoy the anthropomorphism in the black & white art. I want it to be a funny comic. I know, I know, similar arguments are made about comics I love (Maus), but in this comic, I can't look past it.

Media Consumption Log: Harlan Ellison's Dream Corridor

Imagine a text-heavy comic, a comic choked with text, which depends on an intrinsic interest in Harlan Ellison to make you want to read it. Not me.

Media Consumption Log: Hawkeye and Mockingbird (Heroic Age)

As I purge my collection of stuff I'll never want to read again, let me start here. I have mostly ceased collecting Marvel comics after Civil War (the special event of several years back), but occasionally take a chance on mini-series. This series fails because: 1. It depends on nostalgia recollection of comics from the 1980s and 1990s to generate motivation or conflict. 2. It reintroduces a family member entirely for the purpose of dramatically threatening their life. 3. All told, then, characterization is minimal, and plot is simplistic.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dollars, Dames and Daniels
by Jamie Cottle and Anthony Peruzzo

Comics used to be filled with these awesome shorts -- 5-9 pages in length, usually a twist ending, a story defined by plot, not character. The character, in this case Bob Sly, Polyspecies Integrator, is revealed a wink and a nod at a time, a brief glimpse in each story. This series belongs to the traditions of Space Cabbie (, Star Hawkins ( and more.

The art is by a fellow Minnesotan, and the book is well worth the $4 I spent at The Source (
Comics I Refuse to Collect:

Any Marvel Comic related to the following crossovers:
Secret Invasion
Civil War
The Initiative

...because these crossovers are low-quality, in my opinion.

Any Fantastic Four book by Hickman, maybe no books by Hickman, because he's insensitive.
The Marvel 2000-era Moon Knight comics, which are bloody and violent and take something mystic and reduce it to gore.

Blackest Night
Brightest Day
Green Lantern Corps (2000s series), except for the excellent issues about the Star Sapphire, because they are bloody, bloody, bloody.
Where I'm blogging lately:
The Blogora of the RSA!

Sample entries below!

Rhetors in the News

* news

Submitted by syntaxfactory on January 13, 2011 - 4:00pm

If you happen on a rhetor on the news in the next few weeks, post a link here:

Schiappa in Mpls, MN:



President Obama's speech in Tucson

* presidential rhetoric

Submitted by syntaxfactory on January 13, 2011 - 10:55am

To the families of those we’ve lost; to all who called them friends; to the students of this university, the public servants gathered tonight, and the people of Tucson and Arizona: I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today, and will stand by you tomorrow.

* Add new comment
* Read more

Lyceums, etc.

* cfp
* public address

Submitted by syntaxfactory on January 11, 2011 - 5:30am

Where goes AGR goes smartness. Worth a look. --db

The Cosmopolitan Lyceum: Globalism & Lecture Culture In Nineteenth-Century America
full name / name of organization:
American Antiquarian Society
contact email:


An Interdisciplinary Conference
American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA, 23-25 September 2011

Confirmed Speakers:
Thomas Augst (New York University)
Peter Gibian (McGill University)
Angela Ray (Northwestern University)

* Add new comment
* Read more

Moment of Silence

* Giffords

Submitted by syntaxfactory on January 10, 2011 - 11:25am

It feels like the Blogora should acknowledge the tragedies of the weekend. Every media or popular culture website, after all, is finding causes and reasons in the political rhetoric of our time. There may be time for that later; there may be time to rethink those assumptions, as well.

This morning, though, this post just represents a moment of silence -- a moment to reflect and to offer our respect and our condolences to all affected. --db








* Add new comment

Linked Courses

* pedagogy

Submitted by syntaxfactory on January 9, 2011 - 11:08pm

Any literature like this in Comm? --DB


Happy New Year, friends

Rich Haswell and I are delighted to announce the publication of Michelle LaFrance's new bibliography on linked writing courses.

* Add new comment
* Read more

Rhetorical Birthdays

* birthdays

Submitted by syntaxfactory on January 9, 2011 - 6:49am

January birtgdays: send wishes to these rhetors; pick up their work again like an old friend:

* Add new comment
* Read more

rethinking the dissertation

* the profession

Submitted by syntaxfactory on January 8, 2011 - 1:17am

I think this is an awesome idea. --David

* Add new comment
* Read more

The "Rhetoric Society's Second Purpose"

* the profession

Submitted by syntaxfactory on January 5, 2011 - 5:38am

A lot of things have changes since the 1960s. From the first issue of RSQ:

"The Rhetoric Society's second purpose will be to disseminate knowledge of rhetoric and the powers of rhetoric to those who have been previously unaware of it."


* 1 comment

cfp: Tokyo

* cfp

Submitted by syntaxfactory on January 3, 2011 - 12:15am

The Fourth TOKYO CONFERENCE ON ARGUMENTATION: The Role of Argumentation in Society

August 10-12, 2012
Sponsored by the Japan Debate Association (JDA)
------------------------------------Keynote Speakers------------------------------------

David Zarefsky, PhD Yoshiro Yano, PhD
Northwestern University Chuo University


* Add new comment
* Read more

Corder on Love

* argument
* love

Submitted by syntaxfactory on January 2, 2011 - 6:12am

For Slewfoot and the Islands in the Stream, from Jim Corder, "Argument as Emergence, Rhetoric as Love," and a good way to start a new year.

* Read more

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Director of Writing Program/Professor of Rhetoric and Composition

Haverford College

September 14, 2010


Position Description:
Tenure Track


Communications, English/ literature, Faculty/ research, and 2 more...
All Categories

* Communications
* English/ literature
* Faculty/ research
* Humanities
* Speech/ rhetoric

Employment Level:
Full Time

Not specified

View all jobs from this employer Apply Now Save Job

English: Haverford College invites applications for the position of Director of the Writing Program and Professor of Rhetoric and Composition, rank open, beginning Fall, 2011. The successful candidate will assume leadership of the Writing Program and oversee the strengthening, relocation, and staffing of an expanded Writing Center whose general purpose will be to foster a vibrant culture of writing at Haverford. Responsibilities will include teaching first-year writing seminars, supervising writing fellows, coordinating first, second, and third-year writing-intensive courses within departments, and supporting senior thesis projects. Candidates must have relevant administrative experience and must have completed the Ph.D. Apply by submitting a single PDF file containing a letter of application, curriculum vitae, and a statement of research and teaching interests to Three formal recommendations, submitted separately by referees, are also required. Applications received by November 19, 2010 will be given preference. Preliminary interviews will be conducted at the MLA convention in Los Angeles. Haverford is an Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action employer, committed to excellence through diversity, and strongly encourages applications and nominations of persons of color, women, and members of other under-represented groups.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

for the last two years, as a service to my students, I pumped job ads up here like crazy. is that still a valuable thing to do?

Washington University in St. Louis, Department of English, Director of
the College Writing Program

We seek a new director to help develop a changing and growing writing
program. Qualifications to include a terminal degree in English or
related field (Ph.D. preferred); a demonstrated commitment to
excellence in writing and writing instruction; substantial experience
in writing program administration, in working with colleagues across
departments, and in the mentoring of young instructors. Two-course
teaching load per year, including the training seminar for new
teachers. Appointment as Professor of the Practice of Writing, a
non-tenure-track, renewable (3-5 year contract) faculty position.

Please submit a letter of application, CV, and recent writing sample
to Robert Wiltenburg, Chair of the Search Committee, Washington
University in St. Louis, Campus Box 1122, One Brookings Drive, Saint
Louis, MO 63130.* Review of applications will begin *October 15*,
2010, but the search will continue until the position is filled.
Washington University in St. Louis is an equal opportunity/affirmative
action employer. Applications from women and underrepresented
minorities are especially encouraged. Employment eligibility
verification required upon hire.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Recent posts at the Blogora:
Follow me at:


Journal for Public Deliberation

Submitted by syntaxfactory on September 4, 2010 - 10:13pm

Kansas State Univ’s ICDD adopts Journal for Public Deliberation
by Sandy Heierbacher

Add new comment Read more

You Can't Win This if You Don't Apply, Either

Submitted by syntaxfactory on September 3, 2010 - 11:56am


Add new comment Read more

On the economics of college textbooks

Submitted by syntaxfactory on September 2, 2010 - 9:52pm

On the economics of college textbooks:

Add new comment

Budget Crises Continue

Submitted by syntaxfactory on September 2, 2010 - 9:30pm

29 Faculty to go in Mississippi

Add new comment

You can't win if you don't apply!

Submitted by syntaxfactory on August 31, 2010 - 8:41pm

The American Society for the History of Rhetoric invites submissions for the 2010 Dissertation Award. Dissertations must have been defended between June 1, 2009 and August 31, 2010 to be eligible. Required submission materials include an abstract, table of contents, a representative chapter, and a letter of recommendation from the dissertation advisor or a committee member. Submissions will be evaluated on the following criteria:

Add new comment Read more

Disciplinarity for Rhetoric; for Writing Studies...

the profession
Submitted by syntaxfactory on August 30, 2010 - 3:07pm

In the TOC thread to the left, see the TOC of the new CCC on "the future of rhetoric and composition." Therein, Phelps and Ackerman note the success that rhetoric and composition has had at attaining some markers of disciplinarity. In summarizing their claims below, I want to ask whether this project, done on behalf of "rhetoric and composition," could/should be a goal of "rhetorical studies" as an interdisciplinary nexus of scholars in English, Speech, Classics and the other disciplines represented by the RSA.

1 comment Read more

Harlot Journal

Submitted by syntaxfactory on August 25, 2010 - 10:01pm

Online rhetoric journal Harlot just received word that it now has an ISSN number. And it's now listed in the MLA directory of periodicals.


Add new comment

Crowdsourcing peer review...

peer review
Submitted by syntaxfactory on August 25, 2010 - 9:59pm

Add new comment Read more

RIP: Frank Kermode

Submitted by syntaxfactory on August 23, 2010 - 9:32pm

Frank Kermode R.I.P.

There is no one in rhetorical studies who would not benefit from reading Kermode. At minimum, he was the first major literary/rhetorical thinker to ask: how is apocalyptic discourse transformed in the 20th century (in Sense of an Ending). --David Beard

from The Valve by Rohan Maitzen

From The Guardian:

Widely acclaimed as Britain’s foremost literary critic, Sir Frank Kermode died yesterday in Cambridge at the age of 90.

The London Review of Books, for which the critic and scholar wrote more than 200 pieces, announced his death this morning. Kermode inspired the founding of the magazine in 1979, after writing an article in the Observer calling for a new literary magazine.

Prominent in literary criticism since the 1950s, Kermode held “virtually every endowed chair worth having in the British Isles”, according to his former colleague John Sutherland, from King Edward VII professor of English literature at Cambridge to Lord Northcliffe professor of modern English literature at University College London and professor of poetry at Harvard, along with honorary doctorates from universities around the world. He wa

2 comments Read more

Course in Argumentation Theory

Submitted by syntaxfactory on August 23, 2010 - 8:01pm

A regular course in argumentation theory is going on here:

Sunday, March 21, 2010


English Faculty
Carroll Community College
State/Region: MD
Posted: 03/19/10

Assistant/Associate Professor - English-Rhetoric and Writing Studies
University of Texas - El Paso
State/Region: TX
Posted: 03/19/10

Full Professor in Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication
James Madison University
State/Region: VA
Posted: 03/19/10
192. the rhetoric major of the future...

This is what I think of when I think of the rhetoric major of the future.

Arts & Contemporary Studies

Ideas that Shaped the World

In a set of common courses in the first two years of the program, you study the great ideas that have shaped the world from ancient times to the present day. These courses are interconnected in a manner that stimulates and challenges your sense of what it means to live as an individual, a citizen and a member of a complex, multifaceted and volatile global society. You learn about the challenges and perspectives offered in the works of such divergent thinkers as Northrop Frye, Albert Einstein, Margaret Atwood, Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci, Dionne Brand, Karl Marx, Jacques Derrida and Tomson Highway. You draw connections between such topics as literary theory, philosophy, history, religion, science and global affairs.

Skills Development

In other core courses in the first two years of the program, you develop skills that are essential in today’s workplace. You will hone your ability to read precisely and critically with a comprehensive view of language and its roots; to communicate effectively in speech and in writing; to design, implement, and evaluate research projects; to create strategies for lifelong learning; to think critically; to mediate conflict; and to work in teams.


In the last three years of the program, you may direct your studies by selecting courses from one of eight options. Four of these options are subject-based, and four are interdisciplinary.

Subject-Based Options

* The English Option focuses on how to read a wide range of literary and cultural texts critically. Through an engagement with narratives of the past and present, you will develop an understanding of contemporary cultural production.
* The French Option gives you the opportunity to concentrate in this important linguistic and cultural field, while acquiring critical insights into the role that French and Francophone culture play at a national level and in the broader international context.
* The History Option offers not only a study of the past as a way to understand the present, but also a range of skills applicable to many jobs – those which require an understanding of research techniques, analysis and logic.
* The Philosophy Option provides you with a broad understanding of the main historical trends and contemporary developments within the discipline, while encouraging you to read and think about philosophical issues in an active and critical manner.

Interdisciplinary Options

* The Culture Studies Option examines the forms of culture and entertainment which reflect who we are and who we dream of becoming. You will examine cultural identity as it is expressed in both high culture and popular entertainment.
* The Diversity and Equity Studies Option focuses on diverse and politically charged social issues and explores the encounters of language, perspective and value that shape contemporary politics, culture and society.
* The Global Studies Option explores how people are interconnected environmentally, politically, culturally and economically on a global scale.
* The Inquiry and Invention Option explores institutions, systems and ideas as they relate to scientific discovery and technological innovation.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Full-Time Faculty Position: English
Northern Essex Community College
State/Region: MA
Posted: 03/09/10

Assistant Professor of English
Southwest Minnesota State University
State/Region: MN
Posted: 03/09/10

English Faculty - Developmental
West Virginia University at Parkersburg
State/Region: WV
Posted: 03/09/10

English Faculty Position
West Virginia University at Parkersburg
State/Region: WV
Posted: 03/09/10

Saturday, March 06, 2010


What I've been up to: Blogora blogging below.

Also: I started posting job ads here for students of mine and younger friends. This may be one of the few places to list rhet/comp and rhet/comm jobs, both. Are these still valuable? Or should I cut that stuff out? Drop me an email at

Book: Ananios of Kleitor

books rhetoric and poetic
Submitted by syntaxfactory on March 6, 2010 - 7:10am

So I am just fascinated with a book reviewed in Rain Taxi ( called _Ananios of Kleitor_ by George Economou. It's reviewed in the poetry section of that journal, but it appears to be less than 25% poetry and 75% apparatus.

Add new comment Read more

Book: Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics: Landmark Essays and Controversies

Submitted by syntaxfactory on March 5, 2010 - 7:10am

Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics: Landmark Essays and Controversies
SKU: 978-1-60235-135-6
Edited by Lindal Buchanan and Kathleen J. Ryan
Lauer Series in Rhetoric and Composition
Edited by Patricia Sullivan, Catherine Hobbs, Thomas Rickert, and Jennifer Bay

Add new comment Read more

Book: Humanistic Critique of Education: Teaching and Learning as Symbolic Action

Submitted by syntaxfactory on March 5, 2010 - 7:08am

Humanistic Critique of Education: Teaching and Learning as Symbolic Action
SKU: 978-1-60235-157-8
Edited by Peter M. Smudde

Add new comment Read more


journal toc
Submitted by syntaxfactory on March 5, 2010 - 7:04am

Critical Studies in Media Communication: Volume 27 Issue 1 ( is now available online at informaworld (

Special Issue:Space, Matter, Mediation, and the Prospects of Democracy

Original Articles

Textural Democracy, Pages 1 - 7
Authors: Donovan Conley; Greg Dickinson
DOI: 10.1080/15295030903557261

Add new comment Read more

CFP: Encyclopedia of Women

conferences and calls
Submitted by syntaxfactory on March 4, 2010 - 11:01pm

We are inviting academic editorial contributors to the Multimedia
Encyclopedia of Women in Today's World, a new print and electronic
reference that will look at women today around the world and delve into
the contexts of being female in the 21st century. Thus the scope of the
encyclopedia will focus on women's status starting in approximately 2000
and look forward.

Add new comment Read more

NCA Summer 2010 "Hope Conference" (Institute for Faculty Development), Theodore F. Sheckels

conferences faculty development
Submitted by syntaxfactory on March 4, 2010 - 10:02pm

NCA Summer 2010 "Hope Conference" (Institute for Faculty Development)

Add new comment Read more

Post-Publication Review of Scholarship

awards publishing
Submitted by syntaxfactory on March 4, 2010 - 4:56pm

So I've been reading my own links posted to Blogora in the last few days, especially the ones about academic publishing.

3 comments Read more

Award: Political Communication

Submitted by syntaxfactory on March 4, 2010 - 1:06pm

The Political Communication Division of NCA is pleased to open nominations for its awards. We offer awards for outstanding book (published in 2008 or 2009), outstanding article (published 2008 or 2009), and outstanding dissertation (completed in 2008 or 2009). No nomination materials submitted for book, article or dissertation awards will be returned.

Add new comment Read more

CFP: The Good Life!

conferences and calls
Submitted by syntaxfactory on March 4, 2010 - 1:00pm

The Good Life
Call for papers and panels for the 33rd annual meeting of the Organization for the Study of Communication, Language and Gender Hosted by the University of South Florida, Tampa, FL Held at TradeWinds Island Resorts on St. Pete Beach, FL (guest room rate is $129) ).
October 14-17, 2010

Add new comment Read more

CFP: Speaker and Gavel

conferences and calls
Submitted by syntaxfactory on March 4, 2010 - 12:59pm

Speaker and Gavel
A publication of Delta Sigma Rho-Tau Kappa Alpha

Add new comment Read more
189. From the Blogora

Book: Ananios of Kleitor

books rhetoric and poetic
Submitted by syntaxfactory on March 6, 2010 - 7:10am

So I am just fascinated with a book reviewed in Rain Taxi ( called _Ananios of Kleitor_ by George Economou. It's reviewed in the poetry section of that journal, but it appears to be less than 25% poetry and 75% apparatus.

"Apparatus" is apparently a kind of misdirection. As I read the reviews, I was hoping for a work something like _Protagoras and Logos_ -- Ed Schiappa's masterful book which both makes sense of the fragments of Protagoras and makes sense of the ways we make sense of fragments. No work in rhetorical studies is more interesting to me, perhaps because I am completely incapable of doing it, than the work of making sense of authors from whom a thousand years of visits to archives might yield 22, instead of 21, pages of text in a no-longer spoken language. No wonder Bob Gaines made such impassioned arguments for the study of classical rhetoric as the study of “anything written using any medium that has survived complete or in fragments ... [including] original and copied writing on papyrus, wood, wax, or animal skin or writing on or in pottery, masonry, stone or metal... man-made objects of aesthetic, practical, religious or other cultural significance” (in _Viability_). When all of those texts could be collected on a single DVD-ROM, and still you'd have only scraps of someone as central as Protagoras, these claims are both important and feasible.

As Schiappa demonstrated, Protagoras became a site of projection, as various scholars saw in Protagoras what they wanted to see. Economou tells a similar story of Ananios. According to the review in TLS, "The fragmentary Ananios of Kleitor is an almost blank screen on to which others project their own fantasies, with the same rapacity that their compatriot soldiers and tourists approach the people of modern Greece... So, Ananios turns out to be an imaginary object of desire, endlessly recreated by his later readers."

I felt a little ripped off, to be honest, when I discovered that there was an Ananios of Clitor, that Economou has been publishing new translations of his poems in poetry journals lately, but that the apparatus is all fake.

The scholars surveyed who engaged in reading and rereading Ananios are as fictional as the interpretations they produce. Fine enough, I guess. Oddly enough, the University of Michigan has deposited the drafts of Economou's books, which include fictionalized texts by fictionalized interpreters of the real Ananios, into the University of Michigan's Papyrology library -- giving a strange kind of epistemic status to this work of fiction.

Still, I think I want to read it. The TLS review makes clear that it is an engaging read:
"The scholarly ventriloquism and the command of details are impressive, certainly, but the fictitiousness (for example “Kythe College, Cambridge”) is too visible for any reader to be fooled into mistaking this world for ours. What it actually is, however, is harder to define: perhaps equal parts academic parody, postmodern romance and prose poem, a kind of ancient-world equivalent of Nabokov’s Pale Fire. Some sequences are uproariously funny, but others are provocative, moving or horrifying. It draws to the surface the absurdity, myopia and arrogance of academic prose and the awful conjunctures of history and scholarship; but it is also an affectionate and humane tribute to the power of poetry to lend new meanings to new readers’ lives across the ages."

It's just that, now, the book will sit on a different "to-read" list. Instead of competing with the latest scholarly monograph, it will now compete with _The Avenging Mind of Steve Ditko_, by the co-creator of Spider-Man, in the recreational pile.

I'd welcome thoughts on this kind of work: the continuing "making sense" of classical fragments in rhetorical studies... whether anyone would buy a book about fictionalized scholars dueling over the interpretation of George Campbell... I'm not sure where I'm going with this, in part because I just don't know what to make of my combined sense of disappointment in the book and yet desire to read it,

--David Beard, UM Duluth