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 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 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!



...never mind.