Friday, March 21, 2003


Nothing original here today, folks. Can't get the blog checking monkey off my back, I'm afraid. I'm spending all of my time at The Command Post--it's like 2, 2, 2 blogs in one! Well, more like 50 blogs in one, but the syllables didn't work out for the Certs commercial ripoff when I said it that way.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Grocery Slumming

Because I'm trying to wean myself (unsuccessfully, thus far) off of clicking all over my blogroll every 6 seconds and obsessively scanning every news site on the planet, I've decided to take a step back, breathe, and focus on the mundane.

So Lileks and Instapundit had some sort of bizarre "grocery-off" via their blogs this morning, with Insta musing over a margarine wrapper and Lileks doing the grocery shopping full monty. This made me think that I'm missing out on the whole grocery experience. See, I live outside of Raleigh, in what used to be a pretty rural area. Until recently, we had only one grocery store: Food Lion. I hate Food Lion with large chunks of bitter hate, because it is the antithesis of everything I look for in a shopping experience; namely, The Shiny. Food Lion has no Shiny. Food Lion doesn't even have a muted glow. Food Lion is dull and unpolished, and it sucks the life right out of me every time I go there. And I go there a lot, because the next most "convenient" store is about 10 miles away.

The clientele at the local FL all look as though they'd rather be ANYWHERE else, shuffling dispiritedly through the badly lit, kiosk-obstructed aisles, loading their tarnished, squeaky carts and wrestling them to the checkout, then toting their drab plastic bags to the exit. I can see their shoulders straighten and the faint blush of life returning to their cheeks as the automatic doors open and allow the fresh, fresh air of freedom to caress their careworn faces. Okay, so that's over the top. I still hate Food Lion.

Not even the food looks happy to be there. The produce is sad and listless, despite the best efforts of the water-misting system to keep it perky. The bananas all huddle together on one side of their display for comfort, and the meat department frankly forces me to avert my eyes. Even mass-produced canned goods manage to seem as though they've been recently discovered in a cold war era bunker and yanked from their underground lair for our consumption. And this is AFTER a 6 month renovation to the store. I can't even remember what it looked like before the "improvements"--I think I'm suffering from a post-traumatic memory loss.

So imagine my delight when I discovered that a new grocery store would be coming to our area. I waited impatiently for the ground to be cleared and construction to begin, visualizing a shopping area with cheese that didn't all come from Kraft, and a bakery that didn't consist of 6 shelves of Merita's Sweet Sixteen powdered doughnuts. Finally one day as I drove past the site, I saw the long-awaited sign announcing the arrival of the new store. In large letters, it read: Coming Soon! Food Lion! My tears were bitter indeed.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Self-absorption 101

I know this has been done, but I'm sorry, I've just gotta get it off my chest. Let's kick it off with this quote:

When you get to the point that the war actually begins, that's a point when many... feel they have to take the strongest action they can personally take,"

And what might these actions be? Let's recap--first, the absurd:

  • In Portsmouth, N.H., protesters plan to make noise by banging pots and pans

  • Many groups plan to carry out die-ins, where activists lie on the ground to symbolize war victims and to block passers-by

  • Some students at Swarthmore College, in Pennsylvania, plan to lower campus flags to half-staff

  • In SC, they want to plaster a federal building with duct tape and plastic sheeting

  • And the ubiquitous naked thing--again, I respond with, the HELL?

Next, the mildly annoying:

  • In Seattle, envelopes with white powder and anti-war messages were left at six locations Monday, including a post office that was evacuated.

  • Eight anti-war opponents were arrested Monday in Traverse City, Mich., when they tried to block an Army Reserve convoy headed to a training area. One handcuffed himself to a truck and the other seven locked arms in front of the vehicle, police said.

  • Four others were were arrested in Lansing, N.Y., on Monday on charges of trespassing at a military recruiting station. During the protest, about 20 people splattered what they said was their own blood onto recruiting station walls and windows and an American flag.

And finally, reckless endangerment of the lives of ordinary folks:

  • San Francisco anti-war groups have laid out similar plans on a larger scale for the outbreak of war, including blocking traffic and an effort to shut down the Pacific Stock Exchange and some high-profile commercial buildings.

  • "The bare bones of the plan is to basically shut down the financial district of San Francisco. The way we see it is that we basically unplug the system that creates war," said Patrick Reinsborough, an organizer.

Sooo, blocking traffic that could result in the deaths of people who are forced to wait for police or medical assistance because of your arty "traffic jam for war" is just dissent, eh? Oh, you didn't THINK about that, did you? Or perhaps you just don't give a shit. I'm thinking you're leaning toward the latter.

And let's not forget the calls for actual attacks on military installations.

When it's pointed out that perhaps there are more constructive ways to protest, here's the response:

"What else are we supposed to do? Sit and say nothing ... and be silent? That's not very American."

Umm, no. But you could adhere to the "civil" part of civil disobediance, you know, the part where no one gets hurt as a result of your actions? I mean, I thought that was what being "for peace" was all about. Guess I was misled. It's obviously just all about you not getting your way and throwing a tantrum. Don't make me come over there and give you a time out.

Anatomy of an Academic Bloat

Ever wonder how new courses of study pop up in academia and rapidly become entrenched, even when, to the casual observer, they seem pointless?

This article, on the free version of the Chronicle, provides insight into just that phenomenon, even though I don't think it's the article's intent to do so. The subject is the development of the "field" of Comp-Rhetoric, which is basically teaching college students to write (At State, the course for Freshmen is English 111, which I taught for a couple of years while I worked on my MA. Interestingly, I had no idea that there was a Comp-Rhetoric discipline, or if I did, I didn't care. But I digress).

Apparently, the field is gearing up for a big "theory war." But the more interesting angle is that the development of this discipline is evolving in the same way that most twentieth-century additions to the curriculum have:

  1. Federal cash flows into universities in the '60s to address a "problem"--in this case, it's poor writing skills.

  2. Educators follow the money, and create a new sub-cateogory, "rhet comp," which has a decided lack of a curriculum. Professors fill the void by dumping linguistics, developmental psych, sociology and anthropology into the "rhet comp" field of study.

  3. Newly minted PhDs begin to take up "theoretical stances" pertaining to their discipline.

  4. Intra-discipline debate becomes Pythonesque, as the intellectual equivalent of "Follow the Gourd" versus "Follow the Sandal!" ensues and the whole discipline just gets goofy.

  5. Someone finally admits the truth, "It may very well be composition's dirty little secret that many of us who teach writing would rather talk about cultural studies or critical theory and not trouble ourselves with the writing that our students do,"

  6. The truth, however, doesn't have the power to stop or change anything, because professorial ego, cash, and prestige are now involved, the field has reached critical mass, and its own inertia keeps it moving inevitably on. When you think about it, it's kinda like a Usenet thread...

  7. Meanwhile, actual Freshman Composition is being quite adequately taught--by graduate students in the Lit. field.

For a fun exercise, substitute "Women's Studies," "Higher Education," or any other new discipline for "rhet comp" and then ask yourselves again what you're paying for when you send your kids to college. Whee!

Monday, March 17, 2003

Cho-sen for All the Right Reasons

Short posting today, as the bizarre confluence of green beer, shamrocks, and stuff getting ready to be blown up REAL GOOD is making me a little edgy. But--I did notice today that State will be hosting a Tunnel of Oppression during next week's Unity Week! My joy knows no bounds. In related news, Margaret Cho has been invited to campus to perform during Unity Week, "because her performance addresses such a wide variety of issues, including race relations and gender equity."

Nowhere in the article does it state that Ms. Cho is being invited to perform because she is actually funny or entertaining. She may well be both, but apparently these considerations are not important in light of the fact that she is both Korean and bisexual, and thus "a great figure to promote diversity."

And here I thought she was a comedian. Thank God for Unity Week; otherwise, I'd have been forced to evaluate Ms. Cho on the basis of her entertainment value, not her value as a disseminator of, well, campus lip service to diversity. I wonder how much the university shelled out for the experience?