Commonplace

“It’s like a fashion accessory and personally, I think it’s typical of the modern footballer. I don’t want to seem like a dinosaur but I think the modern game is full of players who are of the ‘softer option’ when it comes to playing football. I would see it as a weakness, slightly, that they’re not a real man.”

~ Tony Cascarino, on the neck warmers being worn by footballers in the Premier League. BBC trend piece here. I’m waiting for the NYTimes Thursday style piece documenting how this trend jumped to the hipster. I expect it in about two weeks.

Advertisements

Song for the Season: Sufan Stevens, “Once in Royal David’s City”

“Once in Royal David’s City” is my all time favorite Christmas carol, in large part because I can actually sing the descant on the last verse. But it’s also an intricate, simple lullaby. Every Christmas Eve service as a kid began with this song, with single voices, soaring over the back of the congregation. Then the full choir would pick up the melody, and the whole congregation, orchestra, and organ. It turned the coolness of the church and the anticipation of the evening into warmth. It’s a transformative song in that regard, marking the shift from advent into Christmas proper. Unsurprisingly, they lyrics are by a Victorian woman, Cecil France Alexander. She also wrote All Thing Bright and Beautiful.  I love the lines, not normally in the hymnal version, “For He is our childhood’s pattern; /Day by day, like us He grew.” The above version isn’t the one on my mix; there’s a slower, acoustic version Stevens did for the same album that I like much more. Alas, it’s not on Youtube.

A group of teenagers covering Stevens’s version last Christmas.

That inevitable swing back into reality…

Yep, we’re back from Thanksgiving break. The weather is officially nasty, the grading pile has not significantly diminished, I’m doing math (shudder), the mail pile is growing faster than the grading one, I desperately want to write, my apartment looks like multiple small craft projects have imploded all over the place (lil’ sis, be warned, don’t look into bags when you come over), and my cat is giving me that look that clearly says I have not made up for taking her to and from Dallas in the last week.  Oh, and what I really want to do is work on the craft project, bake, and plot Christmas presents. And write. So, here’s somethings to keep you occupied while I do all that other stuff, starting with the grading.

Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me’s Sandwich Monday post. Always a good giggle.

Someone on the Motion Picture Academy’s Oscar planning team apparently has an absurdist streak; Anne Hathaway and James Franco?! are hosting. New York Magazine gives us a nice list of the weirdest Oscar hosts in honor of this odd choice.

TCU is moving to the Big East Conference. I have no clue at all what this really means. I need to go find that collaborative paper some students wrote from TCU on reforming the BCS system. I’m sure it will explain it for me; I did actually understand the system after reading it. I swear.  But I totally over wrote that part of my brain with football (soccer) knowledge. (Oh, and Grey Lady, there are no periods in the TCU abbreviation. I promise.)

The blog Letters of Note posted a letter today from Capt. Robert Falon Scott, Antarctic explorer, who lead a team to discover the South Pole, only to be beaten by a Norwegian team, who made it 33 days before him. He and his team perished on the return trip, and the letter is a ongoing one to Scott’s wife and son. Hat tip Andrew Sullivan.

And of course, The Approval Matrix.

Song for the Season: The Weepies, “All That I Want”

A couple of years ago I made an alternative Christmas mix. It’s not all Christmas music, but it’s all music that feels like the season to me. So I’m posting some of these songs this advent season. And yes, this song was used in a JC Penney commercial, but I like it anyway. There’s something about the evocation of harbors, snow, wind, and coming home that makes the song work.

Commonplace

“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.”

~ Reinhold Niebuhr

Thanksgiving Traditions

1. Making more desserts than is feasible to eat at one time.

2. Group holiday craft projects. This project is the one currently in progress.

3. Continuously cleaning the kitchen.

4. Watching White Christmas, our official best Christmas movie ever.

5. Trying to plan out seeing everyone we want to see without missing anyone, a nearly Herculean task.

6. Multiple grocery store trips, although I’ve managed to go to the store only once so far. And I still miss the Taj Mah Kroger’s. Although, now I shop there versus running around the place with Dan and Tony, singing Pavement’s “Cut Your Hair” at the top of our voices.

7. Trying to shop without going to Northpark.

8. Pulling down the Christmas decorations from the attic, and putting up the advent calendar and nativity scene.

9. Multiple lap kitties.

10. Movies. Lots of movies. And new music.

11. Dessert for dinner, fires in the fireplace, naps, and general laziness.

12. That bag of work that gets rooted around in eventually.

So what are yours?

Song of the Day: Josh Alan Friedman, “Thanksgiving at McDonald’s in Times Square”

I first heard this song on a mix made by my friend Walter; he got it off of a Dallas Observer Scene & Heard compilation that includes one of my favorite Vibrolux songs and a great version of “Everytime We Goodbye” by Marchel Ivery and Cedar Walton.  Happy Turkey Day. 😉

Security Theater, Sex, Power, and Samuel Beeton

As most people know, the TSA has new rules in places for its security checkpoints. These rules/regulations involve a more intense scanning device and a more, em, intimate pat down method for individual searches. I’m less interested in the security theater aspects of these new regulations. I don’t think they’re making anyone more safe, but I’m not an expert in security. I feel remarkably unqualified to judge whether or not these measures will make people safer. I do feel like they are an invasion of privacy, but I also don’t have the whole cost benefit analysis in front of me to properly judge.

I am, however, an expert in gender studies. The whole discourse around these new regulations is utterly fascinating from a gender studies perspective. What I am interested in is the decidedly sexualized and fetishistic nature of the conversation about both of these new measures.  The new scanners reveal the body; they’re not pictures of people nude, but they do reveal the body. Our whole culture’s body image issues aside, the fact that these scanners produce such images essentially makes the TSA agents (and anyone standing near the screen) into voyeurs, a fact that the news media has danced around, but no one has quite said. The paranoic hand wringing over “our daughters and wives” being subjected to these scanners essentially comes down to fear of voyeurism. I’m not sure we are even capable of calling it voyeurism because it is done through a government apparatus; in effect, the TSA has turned itself into agents of sexual regulation. Most troublingly, they’re voyeurs of everyone. So called “real” Americans are subject to these new rules just as much as the Othered people these regulations are supposedly designed to protect us from. Racial profiling is okay in this skewed world view because it means that white people are exempt. These machines exempt no one; everyone’s body is subject to view. No one wonder the right is rabidly incapable of making a cogent argument against these machines that doesn’t involve sexual anxiety. If their bodies can be fetishized as they fetishsize the bodies of the Othered, then they have been stripped, quite literally, of a certain amount of power.  Hence, Mike Huckabee’s rant yesterday about Obama bringing his daughters and wife down to the airport in D.C. and making them go through the scanners. As Josh Marshall points out, “The mix of race and sex and populist demagoguery packed into Huckabee’s verbal slash was enough to bring you back to one of a hundred or a thousand rants below the Mason-Dixon line fifty or sixty or seventy years ago.” Marshall goes on to persuasively argue his case:

Now, let’s stipulate to the obvious fact that having me or you get a pat-down in a crowded airport while most people are more concerned about getting to their planes on time or aggravated about standing in line or whatever is a rather different matter than even imagining the sort of nutso media circus that would ensue with the president having to drag his 9 and 12 year old daughters down to DCA for a pat-down that would amount to a ritual humiliation in front of the international press corps. The comment itself, the visual created, is simply disgusting, as is the whole personalizing of the situation with regards to the president.

Daring Obama to subject his daughters to this media circus carries out the Othering of the President that the right is already committed to. It luridly and reprehensibly takes it further by utterly Othering two little girls, whose only fault is that they happen to be Obama’s daughters and black. Huckabee isn’t interested in protecting people; he’s merely playing out the sexual anxieties of the right. Voyeuristically Othering the President’s family in language gives Huckabee and the right a sense of power that the idea of their white bodies on display takes away.

The more aggressive pat downs present another issue, although they too have been subject to this same kind of sexual panic. James Fallows posted this morning an email from a recent traveller who claims to have enjoyed the pat down.

Yesterday I deliberately opted out of the back-scatter machine at Toronto airport so as to see what the enhanced pat-down is about. I must say I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It is akin to a full-body massage. Just to be sure that I am not the only one who has this unusual view, I posted my experience on Facebook, and immediately several of my friends concurred.

Oh, I forgot to mention that these friends of mine are all gay.

I’m not sure if I want to take this comment seriously. In fact, my instinct is to think this comment is a joke, but it’s a telling one. It reminds me of the debate about tightlacing that raged in the letters pages of Samuel Beeton’s The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine in the 1860s. Many of the letters were from real people, anxious about the effects of tightlacing or trying to honestly protect what they saw as proper. But, many of the letters were semi-pornographic, lauding the restrictive and sexual effects of tightly laced corsets. The above comment seems to me to fall into the latter category, with the nicely added twist of using Facebook for evidence and the last dig about the friends all being gay. Again, it plays into a social sexual anxiety that not only will these pat downs be sexual in nature but also subject people to homoerotic displays. It does neatly invert the trope; most of the fear has been about corrupt TSA agents not travellers who might enjoy being aggressively frisked. And again, we have a tension between power, security, sexuality, fetishism, and a state apparatus potentially erotically touching people.

Grading “Jail”

ProfHacker has had an ongoing series on grading “jail” this semester. Grading jail, for the unfamiliar, is when you either are or feel you are grading all the time. It can also be when you voluntarily block off a couple of days, hours, etc. to grade papers; in that time all you do is grade. At the best of times, there’s a lot of anxiety attached to the process of grading. It’s most teachers’ least favorite part of their job. Essay grading is inherently subjective, and there’s no perfect rubric to make it less so.  And students frequently only see the number at the bottom of the grade sheet, in large part because our culture emphasizes that number so much and not the process by which a student crafted their work. It’s difficult to explain to students why I want to see their whole process (drafting, etc.) when they’ve been told repeatedly that the end result is all that matters.  At any rate, go read the insightful discussion while I grade comp essays. I’ve decided it isn’t grading jail; it’s a way to learn things I didn’t know before. Most of my students have vastly different experiences than I do. Each essay I read teaches me a little something I didn’t know.

Oh, and if the ProfHacker series doesn’t keep you occupied, here’s the Approval Matrix, Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me‘s Sandwich Monday post on a $777 burger, Jim Schutze gleefully detailing more of the political underhandedness better known as the Trinity River Project, or this great mental health break from Andrew Sullivan: