Sunday, January 25, 2009

Homework for Monday, January 26 freewrite coming into knowledge, understanding and wisdom

i want a lot of things from life. i have begun to question whether that is the best thing or not, and furthermore i am now questioning my question and my questioning. i want to evolve my life so that it is as happy, harmonious and sustainably so.

The hurdle to get to these is that i am hard headed. I bullishly pursue certain courses of action, and feel hapless sometimes in changing how I do things. Like the patterns of actvitiy in my past sometimes dictate what I do more than what i figure out is the best thing to do. Also, I feel like the environment I am in plays a huge roll in how I behave. So how does one get outside their old thought patterns and achieve, findoneself in, get to know and appreciate new thoughts? Creativity getting uncorked, if the soil is compacted, how can water and air get down into the non-existent pores of the soil? If my somewhat hard-headed, more robotic thinking may be compared to this soil, than it's obvious to me as a gardener. A hard clay pan of soil will benefit from nobody walking on it, compacting it further. In otherwords don't push on the hardheadedness further by applying more of the same thinking that has got you acting in rigid patterns. Next get some good, dead and decomposed organic material from and cut it into the parent soil, with a hoe or digging fork or shovel. And then get some plants in there! The new soil getting cut into the old clay is new experiences, being consciously intruded into the old experience and directly contradicting parts of it by its presence. Then plants coming into the soil, independent freely living organism, sunloving plants, captures Carbon from the air and builds roots with it, which push down into the new soil and eventually start to penetrate down deeper into the clay layer. Little cracks are opened, where the basic elements of water and air can bring the fire of oxygen respiration down into the soil. These new roots, what kind of plants should we plant in our head?

Other people seem happier and more harmonious even as they react novelly and appropriately to the situations of life. Schooling, what kind of pedagogy, what kind of teaching is going to make students come to vibrant inner life? Specifically, should certain books be censored from the curriculum and if not, why not?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Names and URLs for my English 151 class blogs

Wendy VanDellon

Chris Brausch
Kyle Damron
Daron Disabato
Peter Gaglio
David Ginley
Badger Johnson
Kyle Kaethow
Kendall Kidder-Goshorn
Kevin Kretz
Justin Marcinizyn
Michael Messmer
Brian Muehlenkamp
Kyle Raffel
Jacob Richardson
Jeff Scarbro
Jason Shaffer
Tanner Smith
John Stewart
Mitch Wilcox

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Intention Economy, by Daniel Pinchbeck

While exploring shamanism and non-ordinary states, I discovered the power of intention. According to the artist Ian Lungold, who lectured brilliantly about the Mayan Calendar before his untimely death a few years ago, the Maya believe that your intention is as essential to your ability to navigate reality as your position in time and space. If you don’t know your intention, or if you are operating with the wrong intentions, you are always lost, and can only get more dissolute.

This idea becomes exquisitely clear during psychedelic journeys, when your state of mind gets intensified and projected kaleidoscopically all around you. As our contemporary world becomes more and more psychedelic, we are receiving harsh lessons in the power of intention on a vast scale. Over the last decades, the international financial elite manipulated the markets to create obscene rewards for themselves at the expense of poor and middle class people across the world. Using devious derivatives, cunning CDOS, and other trickery, they siphoned off ever-larger portions of the surplus value created by the producers of real goods and services, contriving a debt-based economy that had to fall apart. Their own greed — such a meager, dull intent — has now blown up in their faces, annihilating, in slow motion, the corrupt system built to serve them.

Opportunities such as this one don’t come along very often and should be seized once they appear. When the edifice of mainstream society suddenly collapses, as is happening now, it is a fantastic time for artists, visionaries, mad scientists and seers to step forward and present a well-defined alternative. What is required, in my opinion, is not some moderate proposal or incremental change, but a complete shift in values and goals, making a polar reversal of our society’s basic paradigm. If our consumer-based, materialism-driven model of society is dissolving, what can we offer in its place? Why not begin with the most elevated intentions? Why not offer the most imaginatively fabulous systemic redesign?

The fall of capitalism and the crisis of the biosphere could induce mass despair and misery, or they could impel the creative adaptation and conscious evolution of the human species. We could attain a new level of wisdom and build a compassionate global society in which resources are shared equitably while we devote ourselves to protecting threatened species and repairing damaged ecosystems. Considering the lightning-like pace of global communication and new social technologies, this change could happen with extraordinary speed.

To a very great extent, the possibilities we choose to realize in the future will be a result of our individual and collective intention. For instance, if we maintain a Puritanical belief that work is somehow good in and of itself, then we will keep striving to create a society of full employment, even if those jobs become “green collar.” A more radical viewpoint perceives most labor as something that could become essentially voluntary in the future. The proper use of technology could allow us to transition to a post-scarcity leisure society, where the global populace spends its time growing food, building community, making art, making love, learning new skills and deepening self-development through spiritual disciplines such as yoga, tantra, shamanism and meditation.

One common perspective is that the West and Islam are engaged in an intractable conflict of civilizations, where the hatred and terrorism can only get worse. Another viewpoint could envision the Judeo-Christian culture of the West finding common ground and reconciling with the esoteric core, the metaphysical purity, of the Islamic faith. It seems — to me anyway — that we could find solutions to all of the seemingly intractable problems of our time once we are ready to apply a different mindset to them. As Einstein and others have noted, we don’t solve problems through employing the type of thinking that created them, but rather dissolve them when we reach a different level of consciousness.

We became so mired in our all-too-human world that we lost touch with the other, elder forms of sentience all around us. Along with delegates to the UN, perhaps we could train cadres of diplomats to negotiate with the vegetal, fungal and microbial entities that sustain life on earth? The mycologist Paul Stamets proposes we create a symbiosis with mushrooms to detoxify eco-systems and improve human health. The herbalist Morgan Brent believes psychoactive flora like ayahuasca and peyote are “teacher plants,” sentient emissaries from super-intelligent nature, trying to help the human species find its niche in the greater community of life. When we pull back to study the hapless and shameful activity of our species across the earth, these ideas do not seem very farfetched.

In fact, the breakdown of our financial system has not altered the amount of tangible resources available on our planet. Rather than trying to re-jigger an unjust debt-based system that artificially maintains inequity and scarcity, we could make a new start. We could develop a different intention for what we are supposed to be doing together on this swiftly tilting planet, and institute new social and economic infrastructure to support that intent.
Daniel Pinchbeck is the author of Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism (Broadway Books, 2002) and 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl (Tarcher/Penguin, 2006). His features have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Wired and many other publications. reposted from

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Summary/Strong Response Essay: Neither sex can be freed in the exploitation of the other

Who are you? You are a unique individual, who is constantly expressing original behavior in all of your interactions with the rest of the universe. Every self-organizing body acts on this principle. Human are subject to this freedom, constantly thinking and moving out of the same unrealized potential. Simply put, our social contract is this: mutual respect for universal self-expression. Unfortunately, many people assign and coercively enforce behavioral expectations on one another that severely limit our ingenuity. At times, these expectations seem as great in scope as the limitless paths they are blocking, but rest assured that division and subtraction cannot really destroy it. One current trend expectation is designed to micromanage everyone's behavior, on the basis of which of two roles your body is predisposed to play in biological reproduction. Since it is unnecessary and oppressive to the open-ended structure of our beings, we should examine this and all other pervasive cultural demands. When we have come to understand them, we will freely reject or accept them to our taste. Current thought blockages demand adherence to a rigid dramatization of our relationships, the parts of which are cast based on gonads and ovaries. Rest in the fact that these social demands are not humans, but ideas, and humans need feel no compassion in dismantling harmful thoughts. In “There Is No Unmarked Woman”, Linguistics professor Deborah Tannen observes and criticizes a particularly offensive demand that society places on female-sexed people.

Tannen reports how in the academic workplace, women are expected to unceasingly project a positive identity, using their physical appearance as a medium. The author objects to this expectation for a number of reasons, mainly because it is a social inequality set up between equals. Tannen makes a linguistic analogy to this expectation , comparing it to a “mark”. A mark is a language particle which tweaks the commonly assumed, basic meaning of a word but remains impotent when not assigned to a root expression. The effect of how women are marked is described through the story of an academic conference. “Each of the women… had to make decisions about hair, clothing, makeup, and accessories, and each decision carried meaning” (411). Tannen proceeds to describe how none of the men present chose to express anything unique about themselves through their dress. In fact, they seemed to be wearing an interchangeable uniform. Tannen makes another objection to the mark, describing how some observers punish women who choose to convey little or nothing through bodily presentation. Finally, Tannen entertains the idea that men are biologically more comparable to a linguistic mark, noting among other things that the default sex of non-reproducing worker ants is female. The author concludes regretfully how the essay’s content may qualify them as a male-bashing feminist, and that being an unmarked woman seems impossible. I agree with Tannen that treating women as marks, who only gain meaning by wearing beautiful accessories, is grotesque and unfair. I also appreciate how well the text flows. But Tannen is overlooking the mark society puts on non-conforming men, and misleads us by suggesting we might solve the marking problem by marking men instead of women. We start moving past the mark by appreciating how broad and mutable our identities are and can be.

Deborah Tannen has observed, recorded and criticized patterns of oppressive behavior. For this they are applauded. Furthermore, Tannen earns more credit for the outrage they muster against the less-than-wholesome role women are brainwashed to enact in the academic workplace. Though the right to dress provocatively remains ours, we must also be able to rely solely on other communication mediums and say nothing particularly with bodily adornment. The ideas we express in vocalized words and gazing could be further explored as alternatives. Reacting to societal expectation requires the use of a person’s energy, time and creativity, and to always be performing a spectacle is wearying. The right to remain silent is supposedly the law of the land, yet women who withhold biography from costume are ostracized. Tannen reports that “a woman whose hair has no particular style is perceived as not caring about how she looks, which can disqualify her from many positions, and will subtly diminish her as a person in the eyes of some” (412). If my English professor embarked on the quest for tenureship at Ohio University, dressing professionally without making her suit an expressionist art piece would unfairly hurt her prospects. If they were a man, they could dress in a uniform suit and tie and be considered perfectly acceptable by the selection committee, instead of inviting scorn for being uncreative or emasculated.

Content considerations aside, this essay effectively unsettled me with its thesis and made for an easy, pleasant read. Tannen’s use of repetition was effective at illustrating her problematic thesis. Each category of a female’s personal accessories was shown as a response to society’s mandatory female expressionism. The essay also utilizes imagery to evoke strong feelings, coherent pathos, early on in the narrative. The description of the conference women, on pages 409 and 410, does a good job weaving the objectively described details about the women's appearances with subjectively experienced qualities about their personas. “the hair robbed her of bifocal vision and created a barrier between her and the listeners”, Tannen astutely observes, noting how the particular woman was “full of dignity and composure.” That description also sets up a strong contrast with the next woman’s appearance, who is portrayed more as an image-sensitive bimbo. These two women are symbolic of the competing needs Tannen describes having, the needs for privacy and self-expression. "Some days you just want to get dressed and go about your business. But if you're a woman, you can't, because there is no unmarked woman." (415) We infer and agree that on any given day, making the choice of broadcasting your personal vibe semiotically, non-verbally, is desirable. Why then did all of the men at the 3 days of conference dress in exactly the same manner?

Tannen shows how all eight of the men were remarkable in their unified plainess. "There could have been a cowboy shirt with string tie or a three-piece suit or a necklaced hippie in jeans. But there wasn't. All eight men wore brown or blue slacks and nondescript shirts of light colors. No man wore sandals or boots; their shoes were dark, closed, comfortable, and flat. In short, unmarked." Would a man be judged unequally if they got more creative in dressing? Is there an expectation of men to be less visually self-expressive than women? The men may have been unremarkable, but were they unmarked as Tannen says? Tannen demonstrates that a large, burdensome amount of personal expressiveness being forced onto women yields an inequality- women are marks without their costume. "The men in our group had made decisions, too, but the range from which they chose was incomparably narrower. Men can choose styles that are marked, but they don't have to, and in this group none did." (411) If only one of these men had chosen to express themselves with more semiotics, they would have been an exceptional case. None could report that this hypothetical, exceptionally dressed human male was completely normal.

Depending on the nature of their deviation, a man's sexual orientation, values and mental balance are intrusively up for question in ways that won't be applied to women. A good example of this is wearing bright, colorful clothes together with a smile. On a woman, bright colors and a smile are perfectly acceptable. However when a male walks into your lecture hall class encased in a pink polo shirt with an indulgent smile on their face, it is stunning, and some people will assume they are homosexual. The guy could be smiling because he thinks the tendency to make major characterizations based on clothing is immature, and is having a private laugh at the expense of his classmates. If people are pigeon-holing such guys as homosexual for utilizing a range of color and facial expressions that are acceptable for females, than they are being judged less fairly than women. Expressive men are judged to be absurd when they stray from their prescribed range of stylistic choices, and yet their range is "far narrower" than that available to women. Men’s prescribed range of expression is more outrageously restricted than women.

For men, dressing uniquely is frequently and incorrectly assumed to exclusively be a targeted attack on common identity. When I wear a kilt to Alden library, some regularly-dressed men glare at me, or cut the sweep of their gaze short when they see the pleats of cloth swishing around my legs. It's true that I do mean to insult the plainness to which they hold themselves. I object to their plainess for two reasons. For one, it demonstrates a stunted version of what masculinity can look like, an immaturity to sees oneself and others as insufficient on their own. Men need women, women need men, and we need to express this as a stylistic codependence to mimic our symbiotic roles in biological reproduction. That is what I see when a guy looks like he's trying to blend in with a bunch of other guys who are trying to blend in. Another part of what I'm objecting to with my kilt is their tense hold on what is acceptable for men to wear. By agreeing to all wear pants or shorts, wearing a kilt makes me look like a wingnut. I am also expressing a positive message with my kilt. The range of possible expressions that we can accept as normal becomes infinite as we accept the infinite expanse of the universe as normal. My kilt expresses that I as a "white" person have ethic roots that I treasure and can use to relate to oppressed minority groups. The native cultural wisdom of my Celtic ancestors was destroyed by the invasion of the Roman empire, and continues to be degraded by the British occupation of Wales, the Isle of Man, etc. We can see what Tannen disregards the mark of socially reinforced, unfairly restricted self-expression on males. Unfortunately they also go beyond this and enter into tired, feminist male-bashing. This detracts from the coherency of the message.

Tannen uses a faulty interpretation of biological phenomena to weakly justify socially marking men, instead of women. They were “intrigued to see Ralph Fasold bring biological phenomena to bear on the question of linguistic marking”. (413) Fasold “stresses that language and culture are particularly unfair in treating women as the marked case because biologically it is the male that is marked.” (413) Tannen is extremely misleading with this argument. Implied is that marking men can be more fair than marking women. I believe that the injustice of marking humans stems from how these coercive, limiting social expectations stand violently in the way of self-expression. Differences in our anatomy, such as whether we have either gonads or ovaries, do not cause our social marking of either sex because people are marked in the mind. From our mind, and not necessarily the particular layout of the sex organs, do we muster the will to express sexist grudges. The injustice of marking females and males is unqualifiedly unfair, and is not essentially why violence against us is wrong.

Tannen questions whether their own activity can objectively be labeled “male-bashing” (414), and concurrently argues for linguistically casting males as superfluous to females. In male-bashing men for an identity that is legitimately beyond their control, Tannen is only insulting one person. A better question that Tannen does not ask is: where do we go from here? As I see it, our task now is growing a society that is more respectful of our own and each others’ freedom, which will lead to more self-expression. That way, people may choose to live out their existence in community that is more beautiful and tricky than a pre-scripted diatribe across some sex binary.

Being socially cast as half of a co-dependent, biological relationship places unnecessary restrictions on one’s range of self-expression. Getting out of this bind can take two routes. The immediate need is to de-attach ourselves and develop a sense of self- worth and that is not sex-dependent. We create the reality of our persona from our self-worth through our words, thoughts and deeds. When we choose how to act and sensibly define who you are, other people must live alongside you in that self-defined reality, and you are free from their social pressure. If they reject you and you do not violate them by accepting their behavior as legitimate, or mark them as less than human because of their unkindness, than you are free during and after you part ways too. The other route that we are using to escape the shackles of our physiological limitations is wrestling them to the ground.

If you were capable of reproducing without anybody else’s assistance, it would put you outside the consideration of the two-sexed reproductive cycle and therefore the precise marks that are reserved for men and women. This is a path that is already being explored by humans today. Women choosing artificial insemination over a man ejaculating inside their uterus are already in this territory. Despite marking being a mental activity, there’s no sense ignoring the current requirement for intersex cooperation to make new babies. Tannen sites that asexual lizards of the Cnemidophorus genus create fertile eggs in their ovaries, without insemination. They make a poor analogy between the lizards and human females: “Thanks to parthenogenesis, they have no trouble having as many daughters as they like. There are no species, however, that produce only males. This is no surprise, because any such species would become extinct in its first generation.” (413) Though the lizards have ovaries and can technically be considered “female”, these lizards are not subject to the duality of the sexes that humans are because there are no males in some of these species. The sexual abilities necessary for reproduction of Whiptail lizards are not divided between two genotypes. All the necessary parts and abilities are united in one being, which can reproduce without help from another being. We have a ways to yet to go on this path, yet. The word “hermaphrodite”, which describes the lizard as analogous to a self-pollinating flower, comes from a mythological concept we have yet to achieve. The male trickster god Hermes, merged with a female sex goddess Aphrodite, into one composite, self generating organism. The gods did it for fun, and medieval European alchemists strove to this ideal in their search for immortality. Will we become de-attached hermaphrodites and realize our destiny as truly sovereign individuals?

Works Cited
Tannen, Deborah. “There Is No Unmarked Woman.” Blackboard. 20 Jan. 2009. Path: WRITING AND RHETORIC I ENG_151_A20_winter_2008-09; Course Documents

Monday, January 12, 2009

Log #2

The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing introduces four new concepts in Chapter 2. The first of these is that we students must memorize whatever basic material we sign up to learn, and then bring the knowledge to new situations and apply it. This deepens our understanding of the lesson, because as we are “wallowing in complexity” our minds are grasping at the material and, finally, getting a hold of it and making it ours. Professors value this probing into the messy (read: apparently contradicting) details that surround problematic situations. The text cites six critical thinking skills to for “wallowing in complexity. Start by posing problematic questions and analyzing the different dimensions of your stated problem. After assimilating, one is charged with making sense of the available facts, imagining alternatives to the problem and then finding an answer which one can defend to satisfaction. Harvard professor William Perry has described that college students come to proficiency in these practices over time, as their experience teaches them that there can be more than one well-argued, satisfactory answer to complex problems.

“The very act of writing- often without concern for audience, structure, or correctness- can stimulate the mind to produce ideas.” This is valuable to understand, because it leads aspiring writers to pen and paper for writing’s own sake in the reasonable expectation of it leading to better writing for an audience. “Good writers use exploratory strategies to think critically about subject-matter questions” is the fifth concept. The strategies that Allyn and Bacon describe are called freewriting, focused freewriting, idea mapping, dialectic talk and “playing the believing and doubting game”.

Freewriting is getting a stream of thoughts down on paper, which can be very general or focused on a specific problem or question. Idea mapping is a similar technique that that utilizes your optic nerve pathways, too. Both of these would be good for exploring what you know about a situation and begin the sensible organization and assimilation of data. The believing and doubting game is pretending to believe and also doubt a thesis and supporting your pretend position with the details that you can entice to mind. This seems like a good strategy to use for assimilating the facts once you have brought them into your mental viewfinder. The dialectic talk strategy seems like it would be really good to undergo between a rough and final draft. Once a framework of ideas is set up in the draft, you can offer it to colleagues and look for contradictions in their work in exchange for similar attention on yours. Holding your mind open to receive dialectic incite sounds helpful in crafting your solutions to be more effective.

Concept six states that a persuasive position statement catches your reader by surprise. Your thesis challenges them by constructing obstacles between them and their opinion with surprising facts, and showing them a different way through the problem. To sustain the effect of surprise, writers hold their reader in tension with ideas that pull them away from their point of view with a “surprising reversal”, a thesis that acknowledges their incite and shows how its problems demand further examination.

The second chapter of The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing comes to a head describing the basic paragraph structure of persuasive, closed-prose writing. We make a point, or rather share our idea, and when we’ve stated this position we must fill in representative data that enforces the idea until it feels well-supported. When the point of opinion has the weight of substantially observable phenomena logically associated with it, the reader can easily begin to play with. Towards the end of a writer’s initial research phase, we begin to assimilate the data and points occur to us. Once we have a few points, we begin figuring out the direction in which a solution lies and our task becomes reporting specific information and developing further points that support our thesis.

Our class read Sean Barry’s sample essay, titled “Why Do Teenagers Get Tattoos? A Response to Andres Martin”. Barry introduces the first paragraph by referring back to the title’s phenomenon, taking takes in a view of it in one, panoramic glance. He concludes the introduction with a thesis statement that I found unsatisfactorily broad. The thesis is a run-on sentence with little tension. For instance, Barry accuses the psychiatrist author he is evaluating of romanticizing the act of getting a tattoo. He cites the psychiatrist’s use of two, identity-seeking Moby Dick quotes as evidence for this. That Herman Melville’s Ishmael character was searching for identity and got a tattoo for it doesn’t address how leaving a visible, symbolic mark on one’s skin has intrinsic deep significance. Since a tattoo will always be with you, even if it’s only as a burn scar from laser surgery removal, Barry has insufficiently supported the point.

I admire Barry’s writing structure, though. It strikes a pleasing rhythm, by smoothly transitioning between the different paragraphs. The paragraphs contain distinct genres of strong writing response that he blends nicely. Going “with-the-grain” of the psychiatrist’s thesis was an effective way of demonstrating that he had read and appreciated certain strengths of his opponent’s thesis. Relating it back to a personal anecdote makes me believe that he opened himself to the psychiatrist’s ideas and simply found them wanting, given the greater bulk of his own experience.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Summary of “There Is No Unmarked Woman”, Badger Johnson

(note: I will be writing a strong respone essay on either this one or August's. which one would you rather read about? both have me pretty stimulated and ready to write, YAY!!!)

Deborah Tannen is a Georgetown University linguistics professor who studies conversation. She gives explanation of the meaning, and motivation, for what we say to other. Her essay “There Is No Unmarked Woman” was published in an anthology on language. In that essay, she describes how normal it is in this society for women to be superficially judged for character on the basis of appearance. This is in contrast to men, who are given the social option to remain “incomparably” unremarked by attire.

The context for Tannen’s thesis is an academic conference, at which all of the men wore similar unremarkable suits, and the women expressed their personas through clothing. The men could have worn more individually expressive costumes but they chose an anonymity of uniform. The women all said something with their clothes, and therein lies Tannen’s thesis: women currently must choose what message they want others to interpret from their appearance, because their character is judged, based on appearance.

“Marked” qualifies an alteration in the basicly assumed meaning. Marking is done by adding extra something to the expression, something extra that only has meaning in the context of the root expression. Tannen brings our attention to what “marked” means for expression of your personality. She uses personal examples of how she is marked: “merely mentioning women and men marked me as a feminist for some.” (My emphasis added). An important observation that Tannen foraged from her conference experience, is how women are expected carry off an expressive visage. “Each of the women… had to make deciscions about hair, clothing, makeup, and accessories, and each decision carried meaning.” They went on citing how the desire to look attractive is often, frustratingly interpretted as acommpanying availability for sexual availability. When a female-bodied person eschews style, for whatever reason, people may well wonder what message the curious person is seeking to communicate. How probable is it that an observer will first conceive that the person being seen wishes to remain unmarked? That the observer will not mark the person in their own mind is possible but less likely. In “There Is No Unmarked Woman”, Tannen highlights the scenario that is more likely and much more problematic: “no makeup is anything but unmarked. Some men see it as a hostile refusal to please them.”

Tannen cites how in the workplace and popular human imagining, men may choose unmarkedness. This is accomplised in these social circles she mentions by wearing suits, slacks, and “nondescript shirts of light colors”. Such uniform does not disclose biographical information, besides a temporary compliance with this currently enacted operating principle of mainstream society. The author cites biologist Ralph Fasold’s conclusion that outside of human society, the female sex can be considered as a biologically “unmarked” sex. She cites the chromosonal basis of sex division: “While two X chromosomes make a female, two Y chromosomes make nothing. Like the linguistic markers s, es or ess, the Y chromosome doesn’t ‘mean’ anything unless it is attached to a root form- an X chromosome.” The point Tannen makes is that if we were to pattern our language after vertebrate zoology, than we might assign males to marked status, females unmarked, which seems like essentially the reverse of the current tendency. She ends the essay with a simple summary conclusion.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Log #1

To successfully stimulate thought, authors often begin by presenting a problem (or opportunity) that their audience shares in. This immediately develops affinity between the two parties. Now on friendly terms, the author will proceed to show a tantalizing glimpse of their personal grapple with the challenge. It’s an offer: the author promises to entertain and pursue the thesis, if the reader continues reading. This literary device is called a “hook”, and a laudably effective example is contained in Allyn & Bacon guide to writing. The authors suggest that engaging their textbook as instructed “will bring you the personal pleasure of a richer mental life”. This is exciting me and so I will describe why it is one of my hot spots.

The brain’s agency can be strengthened with regular use, yet my educational experience is characterized by a derth of original thinking. I used to blame the depersonalizing commoditization of learning (and other abstract forces that I could not deal with directly) for the poverty of my thoughts. After abdicating personal responsibility for the quality of my mental life, I didn’t bother much with keeping my awareness regularly collected enough to ask questions or develop lively ideas. Many times I’ve felt them knock on my door, and slip back away for a lazy want of admittance. Because I am committed to taking 100% responsibility for creating my reality now, this story is changing up.

Through conscientious, rigorous practice, writing as a strategy becomes a reliable tool for powerful, penetrating thought. Committing ideas to paper or screen creates an independent impression of them, which you can then engage in to spur on more, new thinking. In this way, using the writing process one may explore a predictably vast range of previously unknown thought. It’s occurring now in this assignment, my thinking organs are galvanized.

On pages 16 and 17 of Allyn and Bacon, there is a table of writing strategies, which when considered together constitute another hotspot. Asking a question is an invitation to think, and writing to explore a question is a popular means of navigating a topic. The authors have usefully paired strategies for developing a guiding question with tactics for sexing up whatever question you develop, which reminds me of Jeff’s salad bar. The proximate vegetables, olives, fruits and dressings ensure that lunch is always vibrant and balanced. The convenient access to useful ingredients is their main similarity. An example: reporting sudden dissatisfaction with your former opinion begs a guiding question, and describing how divided you are makes it interesting. I will be referring to these pages when writing my strong response essay.

The main point August is making is that there exists a violent cliché in contemporary thinking which excludes, restricts and villanizes all men. In describing the undesirability of this, a call for change is implied. In contemplating August’s observations, I am monitoring and including men, women and transfolk in statements about heterogeneous populations of humans instead of a limited subset. August would doubtless council examination and thorough disintegration of whatever gendered behavioral expectations we carry, towards males in particular because of the misandry embedded in English. Finally, he would kindly demand that we challenge everyone’s assumption that men are evil because of their testosterone or what it says in the Quran.

The first hotspot to discuss from “Real Men Don’t: Anti-Male Bias in English” is how using the term “patriarchy” turns off critical analysis. I wonder who consciously manipulates people through the use of these words, and why they are personally doing so. “The give-away of this ploy,” he says, “can be detected when patriarchy and its related terms are never used in a positive or neutral context, but are always used to assign blame to males alone.” The other hotspot comes for me with the description of what it means to “take it like a man”. Basically it means, degrade your intelligence by deliberately not avoiding pain that someone else unnecessarily upon oneself. We should be way over that because it’s obviously damaging us as individuals, yet we are not over it.
must blog for English 151. newfangled blogger version apparently does not allow cutting and pasting from word, so I'll be posting some stuff on here for this winter quarter. wassail and wassup, N.S.?