Tuesday, December 18, 2007

googlicious

some of my favorite referring links from google...who knew people searched this stuff?

"reasons i love my friend" (if you're looking for reasons to love your friend, you probably don't want to take mine)
"cnn grammar activities" (not sure you'd call them "activities"...i may have disappointed this colombian visitor)
"origin of the word rape in video games" (uhh...)
dozens of "gay rape", "gay rape chat", and "gay rape game" (i guess i shouldn't be surprised)
"belief that women are oppressed by men and oppression should be eliminated" (getting a bit specific there, aren't we?)

and the winner

"quotes about jesus being courageous" (ohhh, have i got a deal for you...)

Friday, December 7, 2007

unexpected...

i had a very strange experience yesterday. i'm hesitant to even write about it, for fear some people will take it the wrong way, but...eh. my blog! i do what i want.

anyway, yesterday one of our classmates flew home to be with her father as he underwent heart surgery. she had asked if she could videochat with me from the ICU during class time so she wouldn't miss the review (second time we've done that this semester! macs are so awesome). what was strange, though, was that on arriving to class, i did something very out of character for me (VERY out of character, if you know me at all). i asked my professor if we could start the class with a prayer for our classmate's father (and family as a whole). of course, he agreed, and said a really beautiful prayer as we all sat down together.

now, i'm not a christian. i never have been. i don't have the patience to meditate, and have never had the inclination to pray. i tend to get annoyed when people try to force me to pray on command. but, yesterday, it was important. and it felt right.

don't get me wrong, i'm not converting, i didn't necessarily feel a connection with a higher power or anything like that. i'm not an atheist, but i'm agnostic until i feel strongly otherwise (and if you want to know more about that, feel free to ask). when asked who i was praying TO, i realized that i wasn't in fact asking for guidance from some external, omniscient being. for me, it was about the shared act of, all together, recognizing the importance of a situation, and channeling our love and thoughts and feelings towards that. it was a communal act, for me, more than one of asking for guidance or assistance from above.

nevertheless, it was important, and it felt good.

strange, for me, definitely unexpected...i'm sure my professor, who once had to reply to an email from me asking "just HOW christian is pepperdine, i don't do the whole prayer thing", could probably have been knocked over with a feather. ah well. guess times change.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Entertaining Angels

Hospitality is a virtue that has long been an integral part of countless cultures around the world, regardless of religion, location, or historical epoch. Derived from the Latin word hospes, meaning “stranger,” hospitality in a general sense entails providing for a guest in one’s home, often offering food and lodging as well as protection, company, and support. In the Christian Bible, this simple notion of hospitality is extolled to an extreme degree, challenging believers to give freely of themselves as they have freely received from others (Matt. 10:8) in all aspects of life, without discrimination between friend, enemy, stranger, or kin. While it may not be practical (or even possible) for Christians to follow this doctrine in every respect, a hypothetical society that did take seriously the Biblical call for hospitality would certainly function in a way very different from our own. In particular, the practice and study of rhetoric, specifically in terms of how we conceptualize values, incentives, and exigency, would drastically change in a world where Biblical hospitality stood as our highest priority. As a pedagogical exercise to explore the pragmatic and theoretical features of both Christianity and rhetoric, then, I offer the following hypothetical account of rhetoric in light of Biblical hospitality.

Christian Hospitality
To begin with, we must establish an understanding of what Biblical hospitality is, and specifically how it differs from secular notions of hospitality. Hospitality, at its most basic level, simply means providing food and shelter for guests; this is an attribute that is, of course, praised highly by many people regardless of their religious affiliation. However, Biblical hospitality extends far beyond this simple notion of food and shelter, invoking instead a challenge that influences the entire Christian way of life. First of all, the Scriptures’ rules of giving do not merely apply in cases where an individual in need approaches the home asking for assistance; instead, Christian doctrine argues that one should consider others’ needs in a more general sense outside the home (in harvesting, for example, as per Deut. 24:19-22; see also Gen. 18:1-8, James 2:1-7, and Lev. 25:35-38). Secondly, the Christian act of welcoming and providing for an “alien” in the home entails not just material goods like food and money, but also physical protection and care. In some cases, this may even require the paradigmatic Christian hosts to risk their own safety and security, or that of their families, in order to care for their guests (for instance, see the story of Rahab and the spies in Jos. 2:1-16). A striking example of this is found in the Biblical account of Lot who, when the Sodomites demanded he turn over his guests to satiate their carnal pleasures, would rather offer his own daughters for sex than betray his guests (Gen. 19:1-11). Finally, the authors of the Scriptures repeatedly clarify that such giving and hospitality should be extended to all who are in need, including strangers and “aliens” (as per Lev. 19:34) but also potentially dangerous or unscrupulous characters such as thieves, enemies, and beggars (seen in Rahab’s protection of the spies). Indeed, the word most often associated with hospitality in the Septuagint and the New Testament is xenos, which can mean foreigner, stranger, or enemy (Koenig, 1992, p. 299). In short, the Biblical teachings do not condone partiality or judgment on the part of Christians (as expressed in James 2:1); on the contrary, all individuals should be treated alike, whether friend or foe, family or alien, virtuous man or potential villain.
Given this definition, and specifically these extensive lifestyle goals, we can conceive of Biblical hospitality as a universal rejection of selfishness and partiality. As explained in Finney (1878, pp. 143-165), selfishness is the ultimate root of all sin (beyond just greed, gluttony, and lust), and it entails the rejection of God and God’s will by choosing one’s own gratification over God’s law. Finney also clarifies the distinction between selfishness and desire: While desire is a “purely involuntary state of mind,” selfishness is a conscious choice to allow the will and action to be governed by desire (1878, p. 146). These selfish acts will often be unreasonable, but always voluntary and, most importantly, partial to one person or group (Finney, 1878, pp. 146-151). According to this line of reasoning, the only way to avoid this sin of selfishness is to give fully of oneself to all others, regardless of self-interest and the potential risk of personal inconvenience or even endangerment.
Although at first blush we may not think to apply this concept of eschewing selfishness to the caretaking of our family members or those close to us (both spatially and emotionally), a complete embrace of impartiality would in fact dictate that we ignore all of our own personal interests, including personal relationships. Notably, Finney does concede that, in some situations, our hospitality may for practical reasons be extended primarily to those in proximity to us (1878, p. 149). However, the deliberate choice to privilege some over others (such as acting to benefit friends and harm enemies, a commonly accepted form of “good” praised in Aristotle, trans. 1984, p. 46) is in fact a form of selfishness from which we ought abstain. In other words, the judgment of who most deserves wealth and comfort is not ours to make, but rather God’s; to try to claim this ability would be not only foolish, but also blasphemous.
There are three ways in which this goal of hospitality is both explicated and promoted in the Christian Bible. The first is through explicit calls to action such as “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9; see also Rom. 12:13, Deut. 24:17-22, Lev. 19:34, 25:35-38, Exod. 22:21, 23:9). The second is the positive reinforcement of hospitality in Biblical narratives, found most memorably in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37), but also in stories such as those of Rahab, the widow of Zarephath, and, notably, Abraham (see also Deut. 10:18). Negative reinforcement such as the punishment of inhospitality (or the abuse of hospitality) is manifest in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:1-11; see also Judg. 19:16-30 and Acts 5:1-11). The third is through the continually revisited metaphor of Jesus as both host and guest (Koenig, 1992, pp. 300-301): God’s generosity is frequently described in terms of offering housing, food, and drink to His followers (Psalm 104), while countless tales describe Jesus as a stranger who ought be offered food and drink (Matt. 25:35-40). Interestingly, Tillich (1963) argues that this second concept of God as “other” is crucial to the overall symbolism of a living God, the nonbeing within God’s being, and of the “Divine Life” as a reunion of otherness with identity.
If we were to take seriously this challenge to both welcome and protect the “other,” sharing our wealth and ability both in and outside of our homes, our conceptualization and use of rhetoric would be significantly altered in terms of what we value, what incentives we use in motivating one another, and what topics we see as exigent (or what we use rhetoric to accomplish). Addressing each of these points in turn, I hope to establish a hypothetical image of how our world would change were rhetors, their audiences, and society as a whole to adopt the Biblical concept of hospitality.

Values
To begin with, a complete adoption of this Christian view of hospitality would alter our basic value structure, changing what we see as important attributes in ourselves and others. A rhetor sensitive to this value system would therefore need to substantially alter elements of speech that appeal to our values, particularly in epideictic speech, from the way they are enacted today. In such speeches of praise or blame, the savvy rhetor would no longer laud accomplishments of men or women that involve the conquering of other people or the establishment of material wealth. Instead, achievements that highlight selflessness and giving would become far more important, including humanitarian or charity work. Conversely, rhetors seeking to indict or criticize a subject might highlight selfishness and lack of hospitality as evidence of an unsavory character. While such elements of selfishness and selflessness are certainly utilized today in many speeches of praise and blame (such as those criticizing or supporting political candidates), they are frequently balanced with positive appraisals of wealth and power; in seriously adopting the Biblical goal of hospitality, this second grouping of “virtues” would essentially vanish from the competent rhetor’s arsenal. Remember, as well, that epideictic rhetoric assumes the audience is in some way qualified to make judgments of others’ character; a complete acceptance of Christian hospitality would, however, not allow us to take any action based on these value judgments, since we would no longer be allowed to exercise partiality. This would dramatically alter the potential value of epideictic rhetoric in swaying an audience’s opinion towards or away from some proposal.
A shifted value system inspired by Christian hospitality would also influence the way in which the rhetor establishes a relationship with his or her audience in all forms of speaking. First and foremost, this would eliminate the need identified in Burkean theory to first create a sense of shared identity with the audience before attempting to persuade them; we would no longer desire a sense of proximity, or partiality, to the speaker, since such relationships are deemed irrelevant for making decisions of whom we ought help and support. As an extension of this concept, rhetors would no longer rally support for their own cause by otherizing alternative groups or voices, as seen in the xenophobic rhetoric employed following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, but also the rhetoric used to promote Japanese internment over half a century prior. Both of these examples attempted to distinguish “us” from “them” in a way that justified oppression and exclusion, but would not be relevant in a world where Christian hospitality was vigilantly upheld. Finally, taken to the most extreme level, this concept of Christian hospitality could in fact erase the need for the rhetor’s personal credibility (or Aristotle’s all-important “ethos”) altogether; if we truly believed in Christian hospitality, we would be willing to adopt the proposals of deliberative or forensic rhetoric (if they involved giving something of ourselves or caring for others, which most proposals do) simply based on our ability to carry them out and their ultimate benefit to someone, not because we believed the rhetor to be a competent or worthy person. Such judgments of worth, as applied to the rhetor or other subjects, would no longer be within our realm.

Incentive
A shift in our society’s overall values would also necessarily shift the methods employed by rhetors in creating incentive for the audience to act. A common tactic in motivating audiences is the creation of shared need, or the sense that a proposal will, in some way, benefit the audience directly; as Aristotle explains, the audience “will be ready to attend to anything that touches [themselves],” and appeals such as “it concerns you quite as much as myself” can be valuable in gaining the hearers’ attention (trans. 1984, p. 203). In a worldview dominated by Christian hospitality, this audience-centered view of benefit and cost would essentially evaporate, since personal gain would be eschewed in favor of giving and shared rewards. In other words, a rhetor would no longer have to show why a policy would be good for the audience (and decisionmakers) directly; all that would matter is that the policy benefited somebody, in some way, and that it was within the audience’s power to provide this benefit. One example of where this change would be seen most clearly is in campaign rhetoric: Candidates would not try to “win over” certain demographic groups with promises of how he or she would help them specifically, but would instead be able to champion any policy that provided some good, knowing that their audience would not be partial to one group’s benefit over another.
Another common strategy in motivating an audience, as articulated by Aristotle (trans. 1984, pp. 103-107), is the use of fear. Certainly, fear of things such as poverty, disease, and natural disasters would still be useful as a tool to motivate audiences in our hypothetical society. However, that use of fear that suggests we ought to be afraid of other people taking things from us or betraying us would no longer be applicable. Specifically, since Biblical hospitality encourages opening our hearts and homes to all people, including those who we might see as enemies (as per Exod. 23:5), any proposal predicated on the notion that we should hoard our possessions or close our doors in the face of the enemy would automatically become irrelevant (such as anti-immigration rhetoric that emphasizes fear of the “alien” stealing our jobs).

Exigent Topics
In concordance with these shifts in the things we value and the reasons why we feel compelled to act, an embrace of Biblical hospitality would ultimately change the topics we speak about and the changes we wish to enact in the world. In other words, our entire political agenda would be changed, so our interpretation of exigency (or what needs to happen) would automatically change, along with the rhetoric and policies created to address these needs. To begin with, a rhetor who addressed an audience in the spirit of hospitality would no longer be placing his or her own interests in the forefront; instead, topics and policies intended to benefit others (including the audience, but also strangers, aliens, and enemies) would become just as, if not more, important. As a whole, persuasion would become less relevant for two reasons: first, the homogenously hospitable audience would already agree on how to behave, and secondly, without the need to convince others of right behavior that benefits another, the rhetor would have little reason to manipulate others (as the primary goal would be to offer kindness and generosity, not to force one’s will).
Even if rhetoric were still used to discuss public affairs and propose or explain new policies, the policies being promoted would look strikingly different. The domestic policies, for example, within a nation such as the United States that was suddenly in full support of Biblical hospitality would be radically influenced, as living would now be more or less communal in nature (as encouraged by Acts 2:42-47). For example, things like taxes and welfare would likely be irrelevant if everyone naturally believed that they should give their own belongings to those in need; governmental enforcement of this sharing should be unnecessary. As such, the extensive policies and rhetoric in place now that try to manipulate taxes and social services would no longer be necessary, either.
The relationship of such a hospitable nation with the rest of the world would also be drastically dissimilar from that of the United States and the world today. In particular, our foreign policy rhetoric could no longer justifiably argue for offensive war tactics that took anything (land, money, oil, or other resources) from another group of people. Foreign aid that required either payment of money, a political and cultural foothold (like the Christian missions and other religious aid programs that have been used for centuries, exchanging goods for conversion), or some other sacrifice in exchange would become taboo. Any rhetoric that proposed acts such as the North American Free Trade Agreement would become irrelevant, because partiality, or tariffs and other taxes levied on some “alien” countries but not our own, would no longer be acceptable. Indeed, immigration rhetoric would entirely disappear, since our borders would necessarily be completely open to any and all who wished to enter. In short, much of the political rhetoric (specifically deliberative) employed today would be entirely defunct; foreign policy might instead consist of explaining our policies of giving and hospitality to others, and perhaps trying to suggest to those of other, less hospitable cultures that our ways are beneficial, without needing or wanting to manipulate public opinion to ensure one group’s profit.

In summary, the relationship between rhetoric and Christian values is both clear and strong: Were we to fully commit ourselves to the teachings of the Bible, the face of rhetoric as we know it would be fundamentally changed. Of course, this brief account has not addressed the possibility of conflicting Biblical teachings, nor has it argued for the practicality of such complete devotion to Biblical hospitality. Nevertheless, I have attempted to articulate the specific ways in which the values, incentives, and exigency employed within rhetoric are closely tied to our worldview, and specifically our notions of hospitality and selflessness. As such, when reflecting upon the Bible’s seemingly simple call to “entertain strangers, for by doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Heb. 13:2), we can now perhaps understand a bit more fully all the ways in which such an exhortation has the potential to change our world.

References
Aristotle. (1984). The rhetoric and poetics of Aristotle (W. R. Roberts & I. Bywater, Trans.). New York: Random House.
Finney, C. G. (1878). Charles G. Finney’s systematic theology (J. H. Fairchild, Ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
Koenig, J. (1992). Hospitality. In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Bible dictionary (Vol. 3, pp. 299-301). New York: Doubleday.
Tillich, P. (1963). Systematic theology (Vol. 3). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Persuasive Games

Ian Bogost, Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2007), xii + 450 pp. $35.00 (cloth).


In the three decades since videogames first began gaining popularity, the medium has been alternately trivialized as a mindless entertainment form unworthy of scholarly attention and vilified as a violence-promoting force corrupting our children. In spite of the frequent (and often heated) deliberation surrounding videogames in the popular press and as a political issue, however, the genre is often misunderstood, lumped in with visual or verbal rhetoric with no real discussion of the unique features of the medium. Ian Bogost’s second book, Persuasive Games, attempts to remedy this misunderstanding, constructing a compelling argument for both the legitimacy of the genre as a subject of scholarship and the unique, potentially revolutionary power of videogames to encourage critical thought and positive change. Although at times Bogost becomes embroiled in seemingly tangential theoretical or technical arguments, the book provides an engaging read, primarily as a thorough compendium of both popular and lesser-known games. Indeed, even though his broader arguments are somewhat shoddily constructed, his passionate advocacy and thorough exploration of the genre (including dozens of individual games) offer, at the very least, fascinating food for thought and further discussion.
Bogost’s book, written for a broad audience of videogame designers, critics, and players, primarily seeks to advance understanding of “a new domain for persuasion” (ix) called procedural rhetoric. Procedural rhetoric, as explained concisely on the inside cover of the book jacket, entails both expression and persuasion via procedurality, or rule-based representations and interactions. The procedural rhetoric realized by videogames is founded in the unique ability of computers to run processes and manipulate symbols based on various sets of strict rules or procedures, which can both replicate complex procedures of ideology found in the real world and, according to Bogost, invite players to disrupt or improve such procedures.
Bogost begins the book with an extensive chapter explaining the history of rhetoric, including the subsets of visual and digital rhetoric, and arguing that the rule-based procedurality of the videogame genre renders it substantively different from other types of media traditionally addressed by rhetorical theories. In order to support this argument, Bogost divides the majority of the book into three broad sections: politics, advertising, and learning as manifested in videogames. In each section, he provides a thorough explication of salient theories and historical foundations, followed by in-depth analysis of multiple videogames. The final chapter of the book argues for a somewhat unorthodox conceptualization of persuasion, claiming that a videogame can be persuasive not only by “producing assent, which can be measured with a yea or nay,” but also by simply inspiring “deliberation, which implies neither immediate assent nor dissent” (329). This concluding section functions along with the introductory chapter to create a metatheoretical bookending of sorts, explaining how videogames can (and should) fit into our understanding of rhetoric and persuasion.
Bogost’s book has a variety of notable strengths. First and foremost, Bogost’s role as both a scholar and game designer allows him to provide an extremely thorough knowledge of the field, offering obscure examples of historical videogames such as Johnson & Johnson’s Tooth Protectors for the Atari system along with insightful analysis of popular titles like Sim City and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. He references several dozen games in his writing, but also includes in-depth descriptions of quite a few titles, including The Howard Dean for Iowa Game and Animal Crossing. In many ways, these various examples provide the most intriguing and memorable parts of the book; I was particularly struck by his discussion of America’s Army: Operations, a first-person shooter game commissioned by the U.S. Army as a recruitment tool, as well as his chronicling of early exercise games like Dance Aerobics. Bogost’s critical analysis of these examples is, at times, unsteadily supported; he occasionally offers either praise or condemnation of various games without fully supporting these evaluative claims or even making clear his criteria for such judgments. For the most part, however, both his description and interpretation of a wide range of games make for an engaging read.
In addition to providing extensive information on particular videogames, Bogost also takes care to explain in suitable detail relevant background information from the fields of educational theory, advertising scholarship, political rhetoric, and so on. For example, he begins his discussion of advertising in video games by clearly outlining the three major types of advertising (demonstrative, illustrative, and associative) and giving examples of each type from both traditional print media and videogames. Bogost also goes out of his way to explain how his perspectives fit in with those of other scholars and theorists such as Kenneth Burke, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, and George Lakoff. For the most part, this background information serves to initiate the casual reader into the relevant academic material while also alerting his scholarly audience as to the theoretical underpinnings of his argumentation.
Unfortunately, in his attempt to include a wide range of relevant material, Bogost tends to undermine the clarity of his arguments, leaving the reader lost in a swamp of tangential theories and commentary. This tendency is most pronounced in the first and last chapters of the book, where Bogost attempts to offer the core elements of his theory of procedural rhetoric. He spends a great deal of time explaining the theories and methods of other authors in a concerted effort to differentiate his work from theirs and explain what he is not doing, yet his own voice (and the advocacy he is promoting) is frequently buried in the process. As a result, his overall claims regarding how procedurality works and how it can function persuasively are maundering and difficult to grasp; this renders the book somewhat ineffective as a guide to a new theory of rhetoric. Moreover, his writing style in these metatheoretical sections is often unnecessarily technical and tiresome to work through. At times, it seems as though Bogost inserts brief snippets of intricate programming code or production details that serve more or less to establish his credibility as a designer, not to advance a specific point. In a similar fashion, Bogost’s repeated references to his own company’s games can occasionally come across as self-serving.
In addition to the long-winded nature of his theoretical discussion, Bogost’s primary claim regarding the potential of videogames to advance critical discussions seems overly optimistic and one-sided. Bogost describes his argument succinctly in the book’s final chapter:

The humanities attempt to get to the bottom of human experience in specific situations, to expose their structures. Procedural media like videogames get to the heart of things by mounting arguments about the processes inherent in them. When we create videogames, we are making claims about these processes, which ones we celebrate, which ones we ignore, which ones we want to question. When we play these games, we interrogate those claims, we consider them, incorporate them into our lives, and carry them forward into our future experiences. (229)

Bogost continually makes this argument throughout the book, claiming that videogame consumers use the disconnect between their own understanding of the world and the videogame’s representation (dramatically labeled simulation fever) as an opportunity for “interrogation of the rules that drive both systems” (333) that ultimately leads to critical consciousness. In the case of in-game advertising, for example, Bogost suggests that videogames “expose the logic of situations” (332) in such a way that leads the player to “ask himself questions about the intersection of a product’s features with his own routine and values” (335). While on occasion this argument is tempered with conditional qualifiers such as “might” or “can,” Bogost frequently seems to suggest that such critical engagement with the videogame is a necessary and regular occurrence during casual play, yet no empirical data, anecdotal or otherwise, are offered to support this claim. Nowhere does Bogost consider the possibility of passive videogame players who simply accept the procedures represented in a given game, reifying and normalizing the ideologies promoted therein. Although the suggestion that videogames potentially encourage critical engagement is certainly compelling, Bogost’s blindly confident assertion that they automatically do so is unconvincing, and undermines his overall credibility.
Overall, while the book struggles to advance a lucid claim regarding procedural rhetoric and the persuasive value of video games, it can still function as an enjoyable read that stimulates thought and consideration. In some ways, the three major sections of the book can serve as independent reference pieces for those curious about the genre of, for example, political videogames; certainly, his wonderful descriptions of both historical and contemporary videogames are valuable in their own right without any sort of theoretical discussion surrounding them. Moreover, even if Bogost falters in supporting his claims regarding the revolutionary power of videogames, the overall premises he champions provide excellent fodder for further study and consideration. While he may be a bit too eager to believe that videogames necessarily invite criticism and reflection on the part of the player, such a notion is not unfathomable, and is indeed a welcome alternative to the commonly espoused belief that videogames simply rot the mind. As such, the book offers a valuable perspective on an oft-maligned genre, along with a rich supply of examples, that can hopefully spark interest and reflection among both consumer and scholarly audiences.

Friday, November 23, 2007

eggcorn?

while myriad theories exist to explain the origin of the odd little phrase "mind your p's and q's", i've just thought of another one (which seems to make a decent amount of sense, unlike some of the others).

might it be that "p's and q's" is just an eggcorn of "'please and thankyou's" or "'pleases and thankyou's"? the "p's" could be a truncated "please" and the "kyou's" part turns easily into "q's"...

or maybe i just think about language too much.

edit: not the first one to have this thought. :(

Thursday, November 22, 2007

thankful

i have so very much to be thankful for...as the day progresses, i'll likely add more to this list as i remember all the ways in which i am, really, blessed. so, an incomplete account of all the things that make my life wonderful:

- the pepperdine speech and debate team, for giving me a wonderful education at no cost to me and for introducing me to wonderful people like melissa, canon, james, derek, tom, alex, stevie, april, jonathan, and the rest of the team, while also letting me stay in touch with people who mean so much to me like kasey, keyon, darryl, joe, and everyone else on the circuit.

- my parents' new house, and the people who made it possible for them to own it. i can't remember the last time i saw my mother so happy. i'm in love with the house, too...it's absolutely beautiful, and i couldn't have imagined a nicer place for my family to live. more importantly, though, i am thankful for how happy it has made my parents.

- facebook, myspace, and the internet at large for letting me keep in touch with (and meet) so many people...including the most important people in my life...people whom i otherwise might not get to talk to as often (like steve love!)...and, well, all of you reading this.

- courtney, for always being there for me, no matter what, for always bringing a smile to my face, and for being the greatest friend i could ask for.

- kyle. for everything.

- world of warcraft, for giving me something to do, something to work towards, a way to connect with people, a way for my mom to get out of her own head sometimes, a way for me to deal with my insomnia...

- dr. feinstein and modern medicine, as a whole, for taking care of me this past year.

- old friends, namely chris and jared, for always being there for me, especially during the worst of times, and for coming over to protect me when i was afraid of the dark.

- new friends, namely james and robbie and riley, for good times, good conversation, and everything else.

- j.k. rowling.

- yelp, for some fabulous recommendations, one in particular.

- google, for being amazing.

- apple, for same.

- my mother. i can't possibly list all the ways in which i am thankful for her.

- my family as a whole.

- my dogs, but mia in particular, for bringing so much joy into our lives and making me feel so, so loved.

- dr. selby and sarah for making my graduate experience incredible.

- NCA, for letting me meet people like john and reconnect with other people like bill and matt and crystallane.

- stanford, and all the people there. i can't even begin to explain all the ways it changed my life, and the people like chris, aaron, and matt, who made it incredible.

- craig and all the people from that part of my life. words don't do justice here.

- the moorpark team for making me who i am today, for giving me the chance to coach, and for taking me with them on some fabulous experiences. jim and rolland changed my life.

- the british tour, for believing in me, for giving me some of the most amazing experiences of my life, and for introducing me to wonderful, wonderful people like fitch, rob, josh, gavin, viv, james, and everyone else.

- pepperdine's campus recreation department, also for believing in me, for trusting me to run a ballroom program, for giving me that outlet, and letting me share something i really love with wonderful new people like alex, courtney, jen, and everyone else.

- everyone, even if i don't tag you or say your name, for making my life what it is today.

- most of all, for mini wheats, in all shapes and sizes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

all the world's a stage, and every word a note

i realized several things recently.

a) i haven't been playing as much music as i used to.
b) i feel so wonderful when i do.

so, now that i'm pretty well settled in at the new house, with space for my electric keyboard (and with rock band hopefully on its way soon!), i think it's time to start playing and singing again.

if anyone has requests or suggestions for covers to work on while i get back in the swing of things, i'd very much appreciate hearing them...and if anything decent comes out of it, i promise to record and send it your way. also, if anybody feels like getting together and playing, i would be very interested in that possibility.

in theory, this will all happen in 2.5 weeks when the semester is over. in actuality, it will most likely be a form of procrastination/preserving my sanity DURING the next 2.5 weeks. :)

so, yes. send me requests. it will make me happy. :D

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

omg so delicious.

i've recently been on a major cooking kick since moving out on my own, and have put together some pretty delicious fare lately.

usually, i see this as a step up from the normal packaged dinner/frozen meal.

however, there is one frozen meal that i actually often prefer (for its deliciousness, not just its ease) over anything i make myself.

three cheese stuffed rigatoni with veggies!

omgsodelicious.

it has changed my young vegetarian life forever.

devin makes me LOL

A mother was sitting on the couch reading a book when one of her children walked up to her and said, "Mummy, why is my name Petal?" The mother replied, "Because when you were born, a petal fell on your head."
The next baby walked up and asked, "Mummy why is my name Rose?" she replied,
"Because when you were born, a rose fell on your head."
The last baby walked up to her and said, "BLAS CLAFLAS YIFRASSAM TASSM POONNFFFIINRTY."
The mother replied, "Please be quiet, Refrigerator."

Monday, November 19, 2007

eek!

somebody please tell me this isn't real:



longer blog coming soon, but for now:

- NCA over, went well

- thesis prospectus defended, accepted

- parents all moved out

sigh. back to work.

Monday, November 12, 2007

cuddlysleepy

do not want to get out of warm squishy bed.

do not want to write paper.

do not want to go to school.

the good news is that there are brownies for breakfast!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

ted leo rocks my personal casbah

this week, it seems, the universe has aligned itself in such a way that everything really is going my way. one example of this was manifest in tonight's activities; a stroke of luck had ted leo adding concert dates in los angeles, another stroke had me find out about them two days ago, and yet another stroke sent every one of the students in my class tonight home for some reason (and telling me about it in advance) so i was free to go to the show!

for those of you who don't understand, ted leo and the pharmacists are certainly in my top five favorite bands list, and i was absolutely blown away when i saw them live at stanford in february. the chance to see them live again was, in short, mouthwatering. (editor's note: if you don't know ted leo, i'd start with "counting down the hours", "me and mia", or perhaps "under the hedge" for a fairly accurate introduction to their rock/slightly punkish style)

my ears are still ringing and my eyes are drooping, so i fear my analysis of the show won't do it justice. however, let me say that it was, in pretty much every way, the perfect concert experience, in spite of my going alone and being sleepy, hungry, and a bit uneasy about being in downtown los angeles past midnight. it was at el rey theatre on wilshire, recently remodeled and beautiful with its velvet and chandeliers. i found free (!), safe (!!), close (!!!) street parking, with a pleasant brisk stroll getting me to the theatre 45 minutes early (in spite of nasty traffic). the venue has a lovely cafe, which actually offers appetizing vegetarian options (huzzah!), so i was able to eat. the first opening act (redundant, i know) was quite good: shortstack, from the d.c. area. the second was bizarre, and i wasn't really feeling it: quasi. now, i will say that i was slightly bummed at how late the show ran...i thought it started at 7:30, but it turns out doors weren't until 8, show started at 9, and ted didn't even appear until 11...so after the second band, i was getting a little exhausted. thankfully, el rey has lovely, comfy, plentiful seats lining all the walls, so i just chilled and waited for ted while watching the acid trippish light shows. finally, some random person starting talking to me, which i was happy about since i was alone and bored out of my mind. nice gentleman from russia who knew nothing about anything but had plenty of opinions nonetheless. after he got tired of me, i stared at the walls some more, pondered the merch booth, somewhat dreaded what would happen next...

you see, the last time i was waiting to see ted, i was sitting patiently front and center in kresge auditorium on stanford's campus. the auditorium, designed for lectures but equipped with a small stage, has approximately two feet between this front row and the stage. perfect. i got there early enough to secure this beautiful post, and suffered through a few terrible (and some awesome!) songs to make sure i wouldn't lose it. looking behind me, i saw the (lame, uncommitted) stragglers relegated to the back rows. ha, i said to myself, with just a hint of smug righteousness.

until ted started playing.

at that moment, every snot-nosed freshman who had been previously sitting in the back rushed to the front of the room and stood literally in front of me and partially on top of me, bouncing up and down in front of ted. worse, they were bouncing...and didn't know the words. THESE WERE NOT REAL FANS! these were IMPOSTORS who also thought it was okay to wear wooden wedge heels to this concert while jumping in front of/on my unprotected toes. ow. i almost got in a fistfight with a particularly rude girl who consistently elbowed me after stepping in front of my seat, then had the audacity to mock me and tell me i didn't know how to enjoy a concert. ugh.

shortly after this show, i went to see the faint, another band i really enjoy, at the house of blues in vegas. long story short: more snot-nosed kids, this time with swoopy bangs. i was knocked off my feet for almost the entirety of the show, fistfights kept breaking out, and everyone was stupid and mean. my toes got severely bruised, i literally couldn't keep my balance (much less see), and i decided i hated concerts...what was the point of dancing around like an idiot and getting hurt?

then, of course, i realized i have become An Old Person. that, however, is a different matter.

the bottom line is, i was scared to get beaten up at the ted leo show again. however, i am thrilled to report that his fans in l.a. were just as awesome as he is. the band played an AMAZING set (i love love love all of them, but especially chris, the drummer who looks exactly like my brother and grins demonically while talking to himself through the show), lasting about an hour and a half with the encore. i knew every song and sang along happily, could see perfectly, and didn't get bumped once, but everyone was still really into it and even dancing along (just...reasonably). i even sang along with "hybrid moments", which he sang with nicole from tra la la, and fantasized about him someday asking me up on the stage. also, couldn't help thinking he was singing a few songs (timorous me, anybody?) just to me, but...his eyes being closed kinda broke that dream for me. oh well.

he said many funny yet witty things, like he always does...dedicated a song to lance, his friend who passed away this past week...made a joke about how the whole band was going to dress up as chris to surprise him (beards for all!), but the real surprise was that they were just all lazy. anyway, i got a lot more out of the songs seeing them live...some of them i really connected with in ways i never had before...so my faith in concerts was reaffirmed. little dawn is my new theme song.

bought my mom a shake the sheets shirt at the merch booth (she named our new puppy "mia" after her favorite song on that album, "me and mia", which i'm totally stoked about). got myself some pins; one will be donated to darryl in gratitude for him turning me onto them. ah, darryl...best thing you've ever done with your life.

finally got home in spite of stupid freeway closures and stupider detours not having signs telling me where to go...thanks to my mom and my gps, i ended up winning that battle. take that, caltrans.

am now exhausted, and have 13 major things to do before friday morning, so should probably get some sleep...although, who am i kidding, i won't wake up anytime other than 9:30 no matter when i go to sleep or set my alarm...my body is just totally rebelling at this stage. "all nighters? nope. waking up early to study? not happening."

ah well.

long as i keep up the grades i've gotten so far this semester, i won't complain. ;)

next time: updates on the prospectus and NCA, since i know you're all DYING to know. sneak preview/hint: I'M FINALLY DEFENDING! MONDAY AT 3! THINK GOOD THOUGHTS!!!

and with that i, the happiest of clams, promise to hush until i get some sleep. ;)

*set list from memory and out of order: the sons of cain, me and mia, army bound, where have all the rude boys gone, the high party, the unwanted things, annunciation day/born on christmas day, bomb.repeat.bomb., the angels' share, i'm a ghost, a bottle of buckie, counting down the hours, colleen, who do you love, loyal to my sorrowful country, little dawn (with interlude of "one more time"), hybrid moments (misfits cover), timorous me*

Thursday, October 25, 2007

a midday laugh

whenever i need a laugh, or at least a bit of perspective, this dramatic reading always seems to do the job. thanks, lauren, for reminding me of it! :)

Monday, October 22, 2007

again, a brief update

1. the fires are terrible, horrifying, and traumatic, and my heart goes out to all of those who are in danger or have suffered loss. i am safe, my family is safe, my home is still several miles from the flames and is tentatively okay, but my parents' new home in arrowhead is only about a mile or two from the flames. there isn't much to do but wait. we can't get up there to save anything, but we have very good fire insurance and are hoping for the best. thank you to all who have contacted me in concern; to those who have not, i realize you don't love me/live under a rock, but i love you anyway.

2. i am not sure if dr. casey is still alive at this point; my best guess is that he has passed away, ending the unbelievable pain he was suffering from this weekend. the last i heard, his liver had failed and he was on high doses of morphine to try to make things bearable, but the prognosis was not positive. i cannot begin to imagine the heartache his family is going through, with their home threatened as well. my deepest, sincerest sympathies go out to them.

3. in more mundane news, all of the schools in the area have been cancelled due to the fire/road closures/smoke, so i've just been working hard on packing and the thesis all day. will be continuing throughout the week. we left the tournament in a panic yesterday to get the students home to the dorms (thanks to a police escort), but it seems like it was all a large game of hurry up and wait.

4. it was wonderful to see so many of my debate friends yesterday, especially my old teammates. keyon and kasey really mean the world to me, and i've missed them a lot. i know i'll forget someone if i try to list everyone, but...it was wonderful to see so many people...i was surprised and happy to see nicole, and really enjoyed getting to know/work with matt and chris a bit more. as for the rest...you know who you are. thanks for reminding me how much i appreciate this community.

5. as a final thought...i've been thinking a lot lately about happiness, and what makes people happy, and specifically what makes me happy. of course, i derive happiness from a lot of things...personal success, knowledge, my environment, and other people. at the moment, though, i have a pretty simple answer for something that always makes me happy, and that i'm incredibly grateful for: knowing that there's someone who can make me smile, no matter how bad things look. that's pretty wonderful, and i feel lucky. i have good friends; thank you.

so, even as everything burns down around me, and as i hide in my room buried in presidential rhetoric...

i'm smiling. :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

various sundries

a quick update, before getting back to work...

- a little bummed that i have to miss both chromeo and electric six playing this week because of work, but if anyone's around tomorrow night they should go to the electric six show and tell me how wonderful it is.

- i have recently become rather obsessed with these videos. the first three are songs, the last two dance. these are the things that i've been playing on loop for a week.

chromeo: bonafied lovin (yes that's how it's spelled on the record)
chromeo: needy girl
bats for lashes: what's a girl to do
wade robson's ramalama bang bang
heidi and benji's black mambo

- we should be all moved within two weeks. the process of uprooting 17 years of memories has been more intense than i expected; finding evidence of what my life used to be like can be pretty hard, but also entertaining. i am suddenly thankful that my mom choose to record amusing things i used to say as a child. i will not share them here because nobody other than me and my mom will find them endearing/funny.

- i went dancing last night for the first time in months, back at my old salsa haunt. it's amazing how many people i knew; i barely had a song off to rest, which made me feel good about my dancing. overall, i had an absolutely incredible time and danced more/faster/harder than i have in years. usually, i get pretty self-conscious about my dancing, but for some reason last night, everything just felt...great. it was also interesting seeing my old teacher/mentor and some of the dancers i used to work with...reminded me of a very different, notalwaysgood time in my life. also got kind of upset by the dirty dancing side of the community (the actual style of dancing, not the movie). i'd forgotten about it...and i guess i've just turned a bit more modest in my old age. maybe it's just me.

- i won something last night. that was nice. some national academic thing. i wasn't expecting it. it made me feel a lot better about what i'm doing in school/life. it was also particularly touching because i had to be nominated/supported by a faculty member to do so, and apparently somebody cared enough to do that for me (i certainly didn't ask/apply)...good feeling considering some of the concerns i'd had about not getting along with people in the department. anyway, it's not a big deal, but it came at a really good time for me. yesterday was a hard day (saw one of the professors in my division who had to leave this semester because he has cancer and may not live through the year...he was back to get things from his office, but the chemo has made him look like a completely, utterly different person...literally a skeleton...one of the most awful things i've ever seen). so, there's that.

- i'm pretty sad that it looks like i won't get to have a halloween this year; nobody i know is really that into pumpkins/costumes, nor do i have time to put something together. tragic, because i really, really love halloween. however, i absolutely will not miss nightmare before christmas 3d, even if i have to go alone. if you'd like to join, let me know! i'm SO excited!!! (also: may end up going to see "the seeker" even though i know it's horrible, just because i loved the book so much...)

- i've decided i want to roadtrip across the country when i graduate (may). am now accepting requests for stops along the way, as well as applications for companions for any/all legs of the journey. remember: i have a convertible. i can't wait.

i have far too much to do to justify blogging anything more interesting; for that, i apologize. hopefully things will calm down in a couple of months. just 192 days until graduation!

Friday, October 12, 2007

shelfari!

man oh man am i excited about shelfari.

a variety of factors have come together recently and made me decide that i really wanted a way to catalogue my books, preferrably online. first of all, i have a whole lot of them and tend to forget about ones i want to read; i've had a few for years that i STILL haven't read. secondly, in the process of moving these past couple of weeks, i've come across literally dozens of books that i'd completely forgotten i had, and i'm really excited about reconnecting with these things that were such a huge part of my life for so long (and still are!). finally, i feel like few of my friends ever tell me about good books that i should read, and, conversely, i'm rarely able to spout off my favorite books when asked, so maybe a social networking implementation of my library would help.

so, after a bit of research, i decided on shelfari. so far, i love it. it works with amazon and google's library features, and interfaces with facebook as well. the design is pretty and flexible, i can (and will, soon) put it in my blog, and it has TONS of different editions so you can meticulously recreate your library!

i know i'll give up on the daunting task of entering EVERY one of my books soon, but it's fun for now. i plan to add more once i finish moving and unpack everything; the books i've input already are just ones i can currently see/remember/remember packing. anyway, i'm frescasaurus on there, if you're interested.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

sad truth of today

girl from class, seeing me in parking lot: "oh, hi! i didn't recognize you!!! your hair's so...small when it's wet..."

...

:(

Sunday, October 7, 2007

cnn.com skippeds grammar lessons

front page headline for this story: "Heat strickens 300 marathon runners".

hahahahahaha, as i was typing this draft, they changed the copy to "300 marathoners stricken by heat". good to know someone was paying attention.

Friday, September 28, 2007

to ubuntu, or not to ubuntu...

...that is the veryhardtosay question.

i've always had a small place in my heart for open source operating systems, and based on josh's rave review of ubuntu it seems like i may have found a good point of entry.

anybody had any experiences with it?

i'll probably hold off until school and any other marginally important things in my life are thoroughly over, and i'm really Just That Bored. even then, i'll still have at least one mac to use as my main system. but, oh, the geek points i'd score from being able to say, "oh, linux? i use ubuntu..."

Saturday, September 8, 2007

invisible tetris

strangest thing i've seen all week.

Friday, September 7, 2007

g.w.b. v2.0

from cnn:

"Aboard his campaign bus in Iowa, former Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee told CNN’s John King , 'I think bin Laden is more of a symbolism than he is anything else.'"

...am i missing something?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

pixelated anger

today has NOT been a good day for me, and i'm blaming the internet. while it's true that i woke up to a parking ticket and have had a variety of other issues in the so-called "real world" to trouble me, i didn't expect these problems to be substantially augmented by my morning browse. internet, i look to you for solace, support, and occasionally flash games or journal citations i'm too lazy to find in the library. why hast thou betrayed me?

during my internet explorations, i found three independently unreasonable news stories. i will share my outrage regarding each in turn.

1) APPLE.

yes, APPLE. in all caps. because that is how angry i am.

it's bad enough that i just found out that my beautiful new iphone, which i bought about 5 weeks ago, is now being sold for two hundred fewer dollars. wonderful. but then apple's hot news headlines site has to smarmily crow this information as though it's the best news ever.

no.

it is not.

i'd prefer a handwritten note of apology.

or a REFUND.

but not this chipper "isn't it grand how we're making the iphone so much more affordable for everyone who was more patient than you were" drivel.

i knew the iphone would be encheapened (yeah, i'm a linguistics major) at some point, and that the technology would be improved as well. however, apple generally doesn't slap its hardcore supporters quite so hard in the face quite so soon after the release of new technology. as one site so aptly put it (apologies, i can't find it again to cite it), it will make even the most impassioned of us think twice about supporting apple's newly released products in the future.

oh, and $0.99 per ringtone, plus the cost of the song? lame, apple. way lame.

(i think it may have to do with some licensing issue...but sony's walkman phone never had to do that...nor did motorola, nor any of the other phone companies that let you make custom ringtones for free...)

2) Law and Order Actor Joining Presidential Race

...what?

d.a. arthur branch wants to do things like outlawing abortion?

i just...

no.

*sigh*

i mean, i will say that schwarzenegger hasn't been as abysmal as i expected him to be. maybe there's something to be said for the exceptional few entertainers who can cross over into politics. but, at its core, the notion bothers me somewhat, because i think people already place far too much stock in what these entertainers say and do (and pay them ridiculously obscene amounts of money). this psychological edge that (i have no doubt) millions of americans give to entertainer candidates is what bothers me more than anything; i'm not saying that all entertainers are unfit for politics, but rather that they're not given a fair amount of critical analysis by the voters. sure, i guess it's possible for actors to have experience in politics and entertainment alike, but i think it's difficult to have the time and inclination to be successful at both, and i think that people focus too much on the success of one arena and unfairly apply that same judgment of success/competence/suitability to the other.

i'm disliking this trend...i thought the california gubernatorial election was a joke, and turned the state into a veritable laughingstock. i'd rather the reputation of our presidency not be tarnished any more than it already has been. more importantly, though, the thought of completely outlawing abortion is frightening to me, and i worry about what other worse-than-bush (i didn't think it possible, but he's worrying me) ideas he'll have.

one thing's for sure, in any case. i'll never look at law and order quite the same way again.

3) Dog Gets $12 million Inheritance

...i don't think i need to say much here.

the fact that a dog has been given more money than most people will ever see in their lifetime is disgusting to me. i can see the argument for keeping the money that you earn if you're going to use and appreciate it, but...this is ridiculous. there are SO many people in need, and...it's sitting there being unused, with a dog who doesn't need it and really CAN'T appreciate it.

on the other hand, i find it pathetic that a housekeeper who worked with the dog's owner for three months is trying to get the inheritance because she got bitten multiple times. how greedy can you be? i understand the inheritance is outrageous, but why not try to convince the estate holders or some judge that that money should be put to some charitable cause because the dog obviously can't use that much of it (trust me, i know, my mom's a dog breeder and we've spent just about as much money on dogs as anyone conceivably could, and we're far short of that mark). anyway, getting bitten over a three-month period in ways that were not bad enough to merit a legitimate case previously should probably not all of a sudden be given new legitimacy now, regardless of how much money the dog has.

apologies for how inarticulate this is. i'm riled up.

your comments, as always, are welcome and encouraged.

tweet!

i'm in the process of changing things around on the blog. i realize this is irrelevant since most people likely access this site via a feed of some sort anyway, but i did want to highlight one cool thing: my twitter badge.

i really like twitter.

at first blush, it may seem like just another weapon in the swiftly growing arsenal of stalking tools available to us via the interwebs: check my last.fm and you'll know what music i'm listening to when, check your facebook homepage and be alerted to any changes in my relationship status, and, now, check my twitter to find out exactly what i'm thinking or doing at any given moment. better yet, have these updates sent to your instant messaging program or SMS inbox! exactly what you wanted, i know.

in all sincerity, though, twitter is fairly fun. while i don't know many people on it yet, it is pretty cool to get little updates about interesting (or even mundane) things that people i care about are seeing, thinking, and doing. sure, sometimes you'll get an update that's little more than "Mmm Snickers" (one of my own rather profound offerings). however, i'm okay with that, and if you're not (or if you have a limited text messaging plan and start to get worried), then you can turn off your text or IM updates. whoa, that's a lot of parentheses.

basically, it's like a more advanced version of facebook's status updates. as the grammatically conscious among us will appreciate, twitter doesn't force you into a "Name is ___" construct (I love it when people rebel and say things like "John is Traffic sucks"). also, twitter is available to anyone. finally, twitter gives you more ways to update and be updated; you can "tweet" (the verb form of "Twitter") from a text message, instant message, or the web site.

so, check it out. if you get an account, please add me - my contact information is in the sidebar to the right.

if you don't add me...well, enjoy stalking me thanks to this dandy little badge.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

judge me, please.

i return from a long week in which things began, things ended, and i ate way too many cookies. as i sit here on the couch nursing my bruised ego after accidentally setting off my own car alarm, its plaintive bleating informing the entire world that no, i am not, in fact, cool in any way, i decided to post about a similarly ego-bruising experience that i have endured in silence for weeks. no more, i say!

i. hate. facebook's "compare people" application (and its new competitor "superlatives").

why? because while you might make "the sexiest person on facebook"'s day, you've inevitably insulted quite a few others who notice your decree and find that they are not, in fact, the sexiest person(s) on facebook. worse, how about being ranked #4 in most desirable of so-and-so's friends? oh, that's great. i'm not even a rebound. i'm a rererebound. thanks! some would say "hey, at least you made it in the top ten!" ...no. not cutting it for me.

i suppose these sorts of judgments are made by people every day. maybe you have a secret idea of which one of your friends is the smartest. to me, however, it's not that easy. i don't simply rank my friends in a static ordering of "smartest" or "hottest"...i try to, i don't know, appreciate each of my friends on their own merit, and recognize that a) i do not know every facet of every one of my friends and b) many people have different attributes, or different forms of the same attribute, that aren't directly comparable with those merits held by other friends. while a comparison of two people might come along every once in awhile, i can't say that i've ever tried to rank every one of my friends in comparison to one another...and even if i did, i sure wouldn't tell them about it.

really, it strikes me as purely heartless to have these things posted publicly on your profile. hey, guess what, i don't find you kissable! i didn't even bother to rank you amongst my most kissable friends! yeah, that's really the message i wanted to see when stalki--checking up on you. if you DO think that your roommate/best friend/significant other/person you have no chance with really is "the most dateable" of your friends, don't you think you could, uh, just...tell them? and not hurt my feelings? or does that information REALLY need to be shouted from the metaphorical rooftops?

now, maybe my opinion will change if i add the program (something i've continually refused to do) and find that someone has, in fact, named ME their most kissable/marriage-worthy/intelligent friend. who knows. even if one person thinks that, however, i'm pretty sure the competitor in me is still going to be pretty bummed about everyone else who felt the need to make it clear that they DON'T think i'm kissable/marriage-worthy/intelligent. and that's no fun.

so, please.

think before you superlative.

Monday, August 27, 2007

badger badger badger

thank you, other gavin, for making my day with this news story.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

crotch talk!

i have returned, dear hearts, with perhaps the trashiest post to date.

while bored in colorado, some friends and i were discussing the (swiftly passing) fad of scrolling LED belt buckles. seeing one in a mall, i decided i simply had to have a bright purple one with "bling" around the edges. upon purchasing this delightful accoutrement of self-expression, however, i found myself at a loss for things i could imagine my crotch wanting to say. thankfully, my friends stepped in, and we came up with the following list. please, feel free to add your own, or vote for what you'd like my crotch to say next.

note: it worries me that nearly all of these were offered by debaters at a christian school. their minds are DIRTIER THAN MINE!

wish you were here
$5 admission
tips accepted
must be this tall to enter/ride
please insert here
beaver dam
thank you, come again
no vacancy
trespassers will be shot
caution: slippery when wet
caution: contents may be hot
your mom was here (...?)
master debater (oh, i've never heard that one before)
cunning linguist (nor that one!)
pets welcome
keep off the lawn/carpet
now hiring all positions
picture yourself here
contents may have shifted during travel
maximum capacity: ...?
rogues do it from behind
true north [arrow down]
feed me a stray cat
objects may be closer than they appear
i can't get no satisfaction
open for business
purr
i voted yes on panda sex (thanks, arkansas)
no lifeguard on duty
enter at your own risk
hungry? why wait?
just do it
have it your way
cave tours: apply within/reserve your spot today
caution: tunnel ahead
caution: protective gear required
we reserve the right to refuse service
may i be of service?
take a number
not all bushes are bad
druids do it like a bear
tastes like chicken
the other, other, OTHER white meat

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

i'm embarrassed by how much this excited me.

http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?order_num=-1&SKU=14024263&RN=395

it's so cool.

it's a KNIFE BLOCK without SLOTS!!!

you just cram the knives in anywhere you like!

and it HOLDS them!!!!!!

crazy little plastic or rubber or magical stalks are compressed in the middle, but separate to allow blades to enter.

seriously, just go to your nearest bed bath and beyond and play with one. it will change your life.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

reasons why i love my friends, part 2234906

c: i just madeup a word
oabnsocious
it sounds like it could be a word
seirously

me: no it doesn't.

c: the socious part makes it sound real

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

moving day!

so, i am now more than halfway moved in to my new home! i'm in love with it more than ever, although there are a few things i still need to fix (like, you know, getting hot water there). also, since i don't have internet or phone service until saturday, i won't be officially moving in til the weekend. however, the majority of the moving was done today. i'll recap the highlights here.

1) i want to live in this trailer. it's the one right next to the storage compartment where most of my stuff has lived for the past year.



great, right? so great. wait, there's more, on the other side of the door (yes i know that rhome)...



i am too lazy to make it turn. turn your head. or your screen.

2) i dislike black widows. i dislike finding them in my furniture.

3) there is a rock formation that, by day, looks like a capybara humping a lizard. by night, however, it is clearly two beavers humping. i have thus christened it humping beaver ridge.

4) my Favorite Jeans Ever went from being perfectly whole this morning to having a small hole in the knee and another two in the thigh midway through the day to now having a giant rip exposing half of my knee. god, i hope i don't get kneeraped. i'd be asking for it.

5) internet and phone companies are terrifying quagmires of bureaucracy. i recommend vonage tentatively, however. will report more accurately once it's all installed.

6) i adore rich people. i have gotten for free in this move: one really nice brown suede couch (super comfy!), the aforementioned wardrobe that will transport me to narnia, a steamer trunk from the turn of the century, a large chest, a brown leather settee, a coffee table, an entertainment center, a ship's wheel, a globe, a scent diffuser, various cleaning supplies, a chrome dishrack, a brand new sonicare toothbrush, a wardrobe, a dresser, a playstation, a dreamcast, and a banana republic newsboy cap.

unfortunately, i look very dumb in this last item, so if you know any tough-but-adorable brooklyn kids who might be willing to rally their friends into forming a union while singing, dancing, and attacking their foes with marble slingshots, please let me know.

pictures may be provided of any and all of these things on request.

7) my parents are insane (see below) and, aside from the usual telling me how to decorate my place, also inform me to the tenth of the mile how far it is from major and not-so-major landmarks. like an intersection.

8) my dad...is particularly insane. he insisted on inserting himself into this picture to get advice on whether i should keep this super bizarre deco lamp that's evidently worth like $600. didn't know if it would go in my very vintage 50s kitchen with the suede couch and modern glass table next to it. yeah, i totally have a theme. it's vintage spaceship rockstar.



if anyone has comments, advice, or is willing to rotate my pictures for the small price of my admiration, go for it.

Friday, July 27, 2007

various and sundry updates of an uninteresting sort.

1) i now have an iphone. i love it. it is beautiful and amazing.

in all honesty, my sony ericsson w600i is more functional for me as a phone; louder ringtones, customizable sounds, sleek/small design. however, the sheer awesomeness of the iphone far outweighs anything i've ever had...treo, siemens sx66, the sony ericsson...there's never been anything quite this beautiful. more updates will come as i have more time to play with it.

2) i move in one week. i am ecstatic.

my new home is everything i could have ever hoped for, plus horses. i think the three top things i'm looking forward to are:
a) baking cookies (two batches at a time!) in The Cutest Oven Ever.
b) the new wardrobe i got that has a freaking LION with its mouth open as the keyhole. dead serious. trips to narnia commencing soon.
c) finally having my very own swiffer. oh, you heard me. i will be swiffing night and day. i will have an original swiffer and i will have a wet swiffer. and i will swiff.

3) i'm done with school for the summer, and am very happy about how this class turned out.

reestablished some things that i personally really needed to be sure of...like my ability to write a 24-page paper, with citations, in the morning before class and get 100% on it.

4) i still have not read or seen the new harry potter book/movie.

i know. i know. am going to remedy at least one of these problems this weekend.

5) i am happier than i can ever remember being.

smileys can't do justice to how wonderful my life is at the moment. if you've talked to me in the last year, you'll know how much i needed this. ...yeah. no more words.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

for all those times you thought i was lazy...

...well, i am. sorry. i am lazy about quite a few things: cleaning my car, baking those cookies i still have the toffee bits for, getting my dell/paperweight fixed...

however, there is one thing i am not lazy about that may surprise you: grammar.

yes, ladies and gentlemen, my general lack of majuscules (isn't that word grand? i learned it today. it means big letters.) is a conscious choice.

let me explain.

you see, i'm a linguistics major. this makes me a bit of a nerd overall, but more so of one when it comes to language. moreover, i am a former debater, which makes me somewhat of an activist. finally, i am a graduate student in communication, which makes me both pretentious and insane. mix all of these together, and you have...well, me...but also, an interesting approach to language. in specific, one that chooses to avoid capitalization as a form of commentary.

now, i will be the first to admit that when i first began typing on a regular basis i almost undoubtedly "devolved" to a lowercase style because a) it looked cool and b) i was lazy. i'll make no pretense there.

however, once i started thinking about it, i had A Thought. this Thought was interesting to me, and it ran more or less as follows: why do we capitalize the first-person personal pronoun "i" in english, yet not "you" or "he" or "she" or "we" or "they"? isn't that just a bit rude? i looked into it a bit, and found some interesting things, and didn't find something even more interesting. namely, i found that a whole pile of languages such as italian, german, russian, dutch, and written polish tend to capitalize the second-person pronouns in the singular, plural, or both ("you" in english). what i didn't find was any language other than english that capitalizes the first-person pronoun. of course, many religions also capitalize the names of their deities, but capitalizing yourself? that is a special form of egocentrism reserved only for us english speakers.

so, what to do? i found a problem with consistently placing greater importance, linguistically speaking, on myself rather than the people to whom i was speaking. i didn't want to capitalize every person i talked to, because that would either confuse people more or leave out the people whom i wasn't talking to and therefore wasn't capitalizing. so i could capitalize every person ever referred to in my communication, but that is not only unwieldy, unattractive, and difficult to remember (for me), it also is specifically anthrocentric. now i'll be the first to tell you that there are some basic differences between humans and animals that i'm pretty happy about, but i also think that, in some ways, we have a lot of problems in our world right now that stem from a complete disregard for anything other than the human race. so do i capitalize everything that's living? what about the ocean? does that live too? should we respect that as much as we do, say, a cow? what about dead people? i don't know anymore. how about other parts of speech? do adjectives count in any way? brain begins to melt rather swiftly around this point.

so i chose what i felt was a simple and elegant solution: place all symbols and their referents at the same linguistic level, except when needed for the sake of clarity or humor (see above; aren't i hilarious?). and there you have it: my reasoning behind my consistently low-profile typing style.

oh, i also don't really capitalize at the beginning of sentences because a) you generally don't need to, thanks to the magic of punctuation (tm), and b) i think it breaks the flow of the writing. especially in instant messaging, and in my particular style of writing, sentences aren't always complete; forced capitalization gives the sense that they are. this choice is mostly an aesthetic one, however, and not one i really intend to defend very staunchly.

now, i admit that i still use "proper grammar" for assignments, or for writing to people who likely wouldn't understand/appreciate my point of view (or whom i need to impress without sounding like a total nutcase). perhaps that's cowardly of me, but i don't think so. i am firmly of the belief that i can work within a potentially oppressive system and gain credibility therein before slowly beginning to implement my own advocacy; therefore, i should stockpile respect (and good grades) for awhile longer before i start rocking the academic boat. a friend of mine is the sort who always writes "woman" as "womyn", for example, but i find that people just get annoyed and don't take him seriously because he hasn't really gained the credibility to have an alternative voice yet. sure, there are arguments both ways, but i'm not egotistical enough to think that i should run around making all my professors very confused and disgruntled and change their way of understanding papers just because i have had A Thought (see? funny again!). more importantly, i'm not altogether sure i'm right. sapir and whorf were both wanks, and while i think linguistic relativity (hey look, i learned how to close tags) has quite a bit of validity, i could be wrong about this one. yes, it has happened. i'm sorry to disappoint.

if you were curious, this deep level of introspection resulted from my realization that, while i used "proper grammar" when i first starting writing in this blog, i have recently shifted back into my monoplanar comfort zone. i understand that this change may have traumatized you all, likely causing many a sleepless night where you wondered why, dear lord, why. therefore, i felt the need to clarify for your peace of mind, dear readers.

so, there you have it. the rather long, uninteresting story of why my shift keys remain so underutilized.

next time on the pedant's activism hour: expletive constructions - worthy of expletives or no?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What have I done...

you know what sucks?

having to study for an exam.

you know what sucks even more?

hearing your mother play world of warcraft in the next room while you have to study for an exam.

This Is Not A Book

"Shakespeare said it far more eloquently when he penned the often quoted line from Hamlet, 'This above all: to thine own self be true, / And it must follow, as the night the day, / Thou canst not then be false to any man.' And we would add, 'Thou canst not then be false to yourself."

...really, book? really?

did you REALLY just add a line to shakespeare that amounts to "to thine own self be true ... and it must follow ... thou canst not then be false to yourself"? no, really? being true to myself, leads to not being false to myself?!! BRILLIANT.

...i. hate. this. book.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

i vote no on proposition: adultery

awkward moment in class today:

professor: "anybody know what a 'reference group' is?"

me: "yeah, it's a group you look to in order to guide your choices and attitudes. so, like, if you were a christian, you might go to a group of christians and be like...'hey, i'm thinking about adultery. whatcha think?' and they'd be like...'um...nope. thumbs down. we vote no.'"

professor: "...yeah...that'd probably get a big thumbs down..."

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Evidently, Jesus was courageous!

I currently have the...ahem..."pleasure" of reading a book on intercultural communication that, surprisingly enough, is in its SIXTH edition. Sixth. That means someone has actually thought about this drivel five previous times and decided that this was somehow publishable.

I, however, beg to differ.

My two favorite passages are as follows:
"In fact, although many Africans such as the Yoruba and the Neur, still follow traditional religions, however, most Africans, because of colonization and missionaries, are Christians or Muslims."

And the real zinger:
"As Carmody and Carmody note, 'Jesus was courageous.'"

Yes, these are directly quoted from this book.

Now, there are a few problems I have with this that actually go beyond my standard grammatical mockery.

First of all, the professor for whom I am reading this book ADMITTED that the book is terrible, but told me that I was lucky to be reading this one, because the good one is twice as long.

That frightens me, since this one is ~60 pages/day of repetitive drivel.

It literally hurts my brain to read.

So, the professor realizes this book is bad, yet assigns it anyway? This is a bit frustrating since a) there will be pop quizzes on the reading, and b) she reports some of it in my favorite format, Powerpoint, but not quite all of it...so I'm pretty sure what she doesn't review will be on the quizzes.

I can make it through about 10 pages an hour. That's how bad it is.

The other thing that I find ridiculous, however, is the excessive use of quotations. The example above is pretty wonderful, especially since the authors are trying to make an argument that Jesus' courage has influenced Christian people to be courageous (in a way that other religions don't do, evidently). Yeah, Jesus was definitely the only courageous religious leader. And Christians are definitely the only people who value courage. Yep.

Even when the point is valid/interesting, however, the book quotes everybody and their mother. They do it out of context, without telling us why the quotation was said or why whoever said it should be trusted. Personally, I find that ridiculous. If you're going to quote some random last name at me who said that "religion is the most important factor of culture" (which is entertaining, because I'm FAIRLY sure they directly quoted people in the previous two chapters saying that family and history, respectively, were the single most important factors of culture), you should probably tell me why I want to believe that. Or, better yet, don't make blanket superlative assertions.

It's like these authors were never taught how to incorporate research into their book. Instead, they introduce a paraphrased idea, then quote someone who says the exact same thing, and do so with no interesting transitions whatsoever. Something like, "Islam has spread far over the past two centuries. As Smith maintains, 'Islam has reached many corners of the globe durnig the last 200 years, influencing many cultures.'" Why does Smith need to "maintain" that? Why did you need to quote him/her on that? Why did you need to say the same thing twice? Argh, authors, you frustrate me.

Aside from ranting about this particular book, however, I do have a somewhat relevant point to make: Academia relies so heavily on citations and quotations these days, and I think, at times, we've gone a bit overboard. Unless you're going to tell me who said whatever you're quoting, the context for them saying it, and why it should be trusted, do you really need to be quoting? Do you really need to tell me that some random Jones believes that Islam is the most complex of all religions in a direct quotation, or could you, perhaps, make that argument on your own, citing him and perhaps other relevant individuals as scholars who agree, along with various reasons for the argument? I don't know. It's a fine line to walk, for sure, and I know it's hard in a textbook or summarizing article. It just seems like so much regurgitation. Besides, the greatest minds in our world didn't really cite...anybody. You think Foucault was busy citing anybody else who said that "power structures exist"? Or that Freud needed 12 other authors to suggest that everything is our mothers' fault? Likely not. Now, I'm not saying I'm Foucault (obviously not, since I'm actually coherent) or Freud (because I'm not insane and chauvinist), but, still. When are we going to start thinking for ourselves? Ever? Or will I forever be rejected from academic journals and classrooms without a list of people smarter than I am tacked to the back of my writing?

I realize the importance of being well informed about your topic, and of grounding your argument against others' work. However, what saddens me is the lack of arguments that are being made. Scholars tend to use a statement attributed to someone else and believe that can stand as a valid argument. No, I'm afraid, "because that dude said so" is not an argument. Please stop pretending it is one.

The world will be a better place when our libraries stop being cluttered with unimportant people quoting other unimportant people with no better justification for their claims than "" and a reference list at the end.

Oh well. Maybe I'll feel better once I'm in graduate school, where real learning begins!

...oh...

...wait...

...never mind.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Blockbuster, what do you take me for?!

I recently signed up for Blockbuster Online, and have been thrilled by the resulting onslaught of films on my doorstep: Lady and the Tramp, I <3 Huckabees, and The Royal Tenenbaums have been recent favorites. As soon as I finish watching a movie, I diligently rate it on Blockbuster's site to establish more (and, in theory, better) recommendations. I have so far rated 84 films, so the site should have a pretty good idea of what I like.

...which is why I'm worried that Angel of H.E.A.T. was recommended to me. I mean, I always get insulted when the site suggests a movie that has been given 1.5 stars by other viewers (which is supposed to mean, according to the site, "I really didn't like this movie"). Really, why don't they just give me a scrolling banner that says WE THINK YOU HAVE HORRIBLE TASTE IN MOVIES! But evidently they have somehow translated my love of Disney animation into an obsession with porn, based on the description of the film:

Angel of H.E.A.T.

Full Synopsis:
Videophiles will know The Protectors, Book 2 by its original title, Angel of H.E.A.T.. Porn star Marilyn Chambers plays a secret agent, teamed up with cult favorite Mary Woronov. Their mission is to stem the world-domination plans of evil Dan Jesse. To accomplish this task, Chambers finds it expedient to shed her clothes at the least provocation. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Wonderful. Put it at the top of my queue, please.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Gay/Rape

Maybe I'm getting old. Maybe I'm getting overly defensive. Maybe I need to relax. Maybe it's my problem, but for some reason I absolutely cannot stand hearing people refer to things as "gay" (in the pejorative sense), refer to a disliked person as "fag", or inform me that they got "raped" if they didn't do well in a competition. Yes, friends, I have a new vendetta against language.

Let's address each of these terms one by one, sprinkling in bonus info on less editor-friendly terms like "pussy" as well!

According to the incredibly legitimate academic source Wikipedia, gay became popular as a pejorative term in the 1980s and late 1990s, when homosexuality was becoming increasingly discussed and, as a result, increasingly oppressed by many. Oh yes, I certainly remember that phase of my life when every teenager I knew was talking about "gay" this and "gay" that. I didn't think much of it at the time, thinking it instead to be one of those inexplicable quirks of language that I would never quite understand, such as how for a brief time "bad" actually meant "good". I'll be the first to admit that even I may have uttered one or two "gays" in my younger life, not understanding the implications.

What troubles me is that this term has not died out with the other, more transient elements of the 1990s, like hypercolor shirts or Kurt Cobain (too soon?). It is still in use with abundance and fervor, particulaly in chat on World of Warcraft (I can't speak for other games or chat rooms, as this is the only one I frequent...I am not ashamed). One of my friends surprised me the other day by saying "ghey" with a :P face following it, as though that were somehow an amusing, yet acceptable, alternative. Once again, Wikipedia comes to the rescue, noting that many have tried to use "ghey" as a non-offensive substitute for "gay", as others have tried to use "knigger", thereby only capturing the new meaning of the word without linking it pejoratively to the people it otherwise would reference.

Nope, I'm not buying it.

I can't believe that the BBC ruled that "gay" need not be offensive as a pejorative. I love you, BBC, but you've done me wrong here. There is no way you can tell me that the use of "gay" to mean "stupid" or "uncool" is not a direct (and very recent) derivative of similar connotations against homosexuals. In fact, that use of "gay" directly flies in the face of its original meaning, which suggests "happy", "carefree", and "liberated from traditional constraints". By all accounts, then, "gay" should mean "cutting edge", not "sub par".

I don't think much more needs to be said on the topic of "fag". "Fag", of course, is short for "faggot" and similarly is used in connotation with homosexuals (typically men), although it has always held a more desparaging air. This one I'm not as worried about, because it doesn't masquerade as being acceptable as "gay" now does (according to the BBC, even...for shame). This one is blatantly offensive, and links the offending person with homosexuality and thus, apparently, weakness.

Now, this is just ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. The "N" word is finally all but gone from our vernacular as a pejorative (and the blacks are even reclaiming it!). I doubt these same people run around using racial slurs. So why is it okay to choose homosexuals as the new scapegoat of choice? Oh, right, because they're not being recognized as people yet. Silly me.

I'm not saying that you need to support gay marriage, or that you need to be gay. Maybe I'm dead wrong about language use and it has become separate from the pejorative, demeaning cultural psyche against homosexuality. I doubt it, though. Think about the most offensive terms we have for men: fag is a big one, followed closely by (and pardon my language, I'm just interested in the linguistics here) pussy, cocksucker, and the now-dwindling alternatives of dick and asshole. First of all, I find the obsession with body parts to be remarkable, especially those of a sexual nature. That one, I can't explain. But I do find it frightening that three of these (four, if you want to stretch it) refer directly to homosexuality. Is that really the most offensive thing we can say to a man? That he might prefer the company of other men? It isn't surprising, given our culture's obsession with "manliness". But I've always laughed when a man has been called a "pussy" in front of me, because as far as I can tell, "pussies" have more power over a man than absolutely anything else.

Nevertheless, it seems as though we as a culture are fixated on making homosexuality undesirable. So what do we do? Are homosexuals just the scapegoat of the week? If we move on from this group, do we just pick another? Why don't disabled (differently abled?) individuals get upset at our rampant use of "lame"? Is somebody ALWAYS going to be denigrated?

The Sapir-Whorf stuff about how language defines our reality may have been, well, rubbish in terms of its experimental design, but I think there's some truth to it. As long as we run around saying bad things are gay, we're likely going to think that gay things are bad, too. And I, for one, am not cool with that.

What can we do about it, then? I've had a decent amount of luck just saying to people "Would you mind not using 'gay' to mean 'bad' around me? I find it offensive." There have been three common responses: silence, a surprised "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend", and the oh-so-mature "So you're a dyke then. Lesbo." Classy, I know. But what is the alternative? I ask, dear readers, what I do now? Do I shut up and let this phase pass on its own? Do I politely suggest that people around me not use such language, perhaps reverting to such bland standbys as "bad" or "unpleasant"? Do I get over it and fall into the "it's just language, it doesn't mean anything" camp?

...or do I suggest new, entertaining vernacular!

Now, replacing "bad" with anything else is probably going to offend some people. I've thought of using some objects in that role, since they clearly can't be offended, but I fear the use of "rutabaga" is not only unwieldy, but would also upset environmentalists by saying I am now devaluing plant life and encouraging an anthrocentric mindset. Oops. Sorry, carrots. Okay, how about something that is obviously less evolved? "He's such an amoeba" has a nice ring to it, but people might have trouble spelling it. I think the safest alternative is gibberish: "That party was completely zizzlefex". Perfect. Your submissions are welcome below.

On a more serious note, however, I have failed to address the final, and perhaps most complex, term mentioned above: "rape". Rape is not funny. Rape is not something to be taken lightly. Rape is not equivalent to losing badly in a video game. Rape is a life-altering, psychologically scarring violation of your body and soul. I'm fairly sure you're not going to walk away from a debate round needing years of therapy, hating yourself, fearing all men and unable to enjoy a healthy self-image or sex life. So why do people consistently use this term in video games, debate, and other competition to describe their loss? Is it actually okay, and I'm just getting up in arms? Maybe it's because I'm female, but...such a term makes me shudder, and I think that using it consistently in unimportant settings removes that strong connotation and lessens the importance of that reality. What disturbs me even more, however, is when players or debaters support this act of "raping", getting excited about the prospect of "raping" their opponents. Not only does this devalue the atrocity of rape, it encouragessuch an act. That is something we absolutely cannot afford to do. Am I overreacting? You tell me. I'm curious to know. If I'm not overreacting, though, I think we (especially those in the debate community) need to start doing something about our colleagues and students throwing this term around like a Glow-In-The-Dark Frisbee (tm).

So, there's my opinion. I think these terms shouldn't be used in common speech. I think we need to start thinking about our language choices, because language is probably the most important and pervasive tool of ideology that we have. You may not realize it, but the way we talk about things is directly responsible for how we think, feel, and act about them (check out any number of communication scholars on this topic; Sapir and Whorf are the big ones, but there are others). That being the case, I'm not comfortable with normalizing rape or denigrating sexual choices via my vernacular. Please help me either reconcile these concerns in my own mind, or provide a solution. Until then, I will be celebrating my homosexual friends, avoiding sexual violence in debate rounds, and happily yelling about every zizzlefex fool I come across.