Notes from Virginia
Friday, October 28, 2005
  Entertainment Journal, Entry #2
Read a "nail biting ... edge of your seat drama and romantic suspense" novel (so announces that the blurb on the back cover): Murder List by Julie Garwood. Pure, unadulterated mind candy. By reading it, I probably shaved a good 10 pts off my IQ. But sometimes I just have to indulge ... and remember why I can't stomach romance novels anymore. I used to read them by the bushel. Mom and I would trade them back and forth while I was in high school and college; they were a way she and I could share something even though we weren't speaking to one another. And the books were a needed escape, a pleasant little bit of fantasy that I could gobble up between richer meals of Nabakov, Ellison, Eliot etalia (all male authors, btw, assigned by professors, usually male, in my literature courses). Now I wonder what it means that my mother and I both yearned for the same type of escape. She so tall and movie star gorgeous with the big house and fairy tale life style. I at 17 short, over weight with acne, hair that wouldn’t take a curl, and a lazy eye. But of course, hers wasn't a fairy tale life as my parents divorce proved much later, and I grew out of acne and learned to embrace the joys of straight hair.

Back to the novel:
The plot: a beautiful hotel heiress, Regan Madison (two presidents' names, get it? So a blend of Hollywood, ultra conservativism, and... I don't know squat about Madison other than his wife was named Dolly and she invented strawberry ice cream for his inaugural ball. I'll have to look him up to figure out how that plays into it) is stalked by a vengeful psychopath who calls himself "the Demon." Alec Buchanan, the drop dead gorgeous excellent detective turned FBI recruit is assigned to the case as Regan's bodyguard. Surprise: there’s lots of sexual tension as Regan resists being protected by her hunky overprotective man. Very Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner. There's the obligatory build up to the final culmination/copulation scene which is immediately followed by the cops arresting the wrong guy and Alec leaves the case (Alec of course thinks they don’t have the right guy because he’s supercop and therefore destined for the FBI. Really negative toward local law enforcement). Meanwhile, Regan is trapped by the bad guy who has her running through the woods like a scared rabbit. She has to use her brains to escape b/c she clearly cannot outmatch him physically (did I mention the "Demon" is obsessed with body building?). She, of course, outwits the lumbering menacing ox by dropping down out of tree onto his head like an over ripe coconut and just in the nick of time, too, as the Demon is preparing to blow off Alec's too perfect head (Alec, of course, realizes after he leaves Regan that he LOVES her and MUST HAVE HER and he also suspects the bad guy is still on the loose--hence why he is an excellent cop). Alec and Regan get engaged and he makes an honest woman of her. The end.

What does it all mean:
"woman" is made to mean: tall and leggy, naturally passive to the point of ridiculousness. In fact, until she rolls around in the sack with Alec, she's Jane Doormat. Suddenly, afterward, she has the needed testosterone to stick up for herself. She also has the requisite great body. Men ogle her but of course she also is incredibly humble so she doesn’t notice=> the ideal woman is a sex object and doesn’t mind being stripped by men’s invasive gazes because she is so incredibly naïve and out of touch that she never notices. If she noticed, she would have to either play up to it (her sexual power that is) and be a “tramp,” be intimidated and timid, or get pissed off (which is the reaction I would prefer but I know that from my own personal history, I would be intimidated and try to become invisible). Regan, however, has the good grace to never notice and therefore she is neither self-conscious nor pissed off. How convenient for the men in the book who are represented as hypersexual to the point of not being able to think straight when around Regan b/c of the sexual fantasies she inspires. Ridiculous and yuck. She is also very rich and very white. Super nurturing, NEVER raises her voice, incredibly repressed emotionally (Alec also helps with this.), a do-gooder (she's the company conscience), innately naive and childish. She cries A LOT. Very emotional. It's supposed to be one of her endearing qualities. Also a bum knee (which makes it impossible for her to physically out run or match her attacker). So the ideal woman is all of the above plus physically frail but wily.

"Man" is made to mean: hero or villain
Hero: ideal, strong, emotionally and physically, rescuer, analytical, stoic, out of touch with own emotions until almost too late, overprotective, jealous but self-conscious about it, sensitive, a g-man rather than a cop, super smart, sloppy dresser and not concerned with fashion but cleans up nicely when necessary, very independentç not under a woman’s control

Villain: obsessed with his own body so incredibly strong physically but a weak mind and psychologically deranged, controlled by an evil woman (in the novel the Demon is the husband of car accident victim, Nina, who we find out in the last chapters is the real Demon behind the scenes controlling everything.

So woman is also made to mean “Demon”: the old Angel/Monster duality. Priceless. Women are fair and foul, and the foul one control the weak men who then are employed to do her dirty work. Gag. AND the fair women are dangerous because they so distract men from their Very Important Business. The only way to neutralize these obvious threats to civilization and society is to 1) murder the foul and 2) marry the fair. In either case, the woman is rendered completely under control.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
  Entertainment Journal
Entertainment journal

Entry #1
While in Idaho, I’ve been waking up at 5 a.m. and watching the morning news. Always female anchors. The national news coverage starts at 5 a.m. on the weekends which means that if I grew up here I would never have seen CBS’s Sunday Morning program b/c I’m generally still asleep at o’dark thirty. In any case, here are my notes on this weekend’s local (as in ID) news morning programs:

“Woman” is made to mean
· early—really really early
· white (no other ethnicity represented on the major channels, and not even on the cable networks like CNN and Fox)
· rich (lots of gold and sparkly baubles, manicured hands, luxurious fabrics and tailored suits, and blonde—lots of blonde hair
· 40 something—which is refreshing because women are usually really young if they are on tv. Good to see some crows feet
· Authoritative but also compassionate and nurturing. Women reporters covered the personal interest stories, especially the impact of hurricane Wilma and local personal interest stuff (a house fire, for example). Interestingly male reporters covered the weather/meteorology (science… suggesting men do science, women do compassion), the war in Iraq (but if irt’s a story on the families of soldiers, a woman covered it), and movie reviews. I don’t know what to make of that.

“Man” is made to mean
· Interested or expert in science, war, and analysis of film.

“Race”/ethnicity is made to mean
· Anglo-European No diversity in race of news reporters. The people in the stories were often non-Anglo European suggesting the victims and perpetrators of crime are non-white which is statistically disproportionate.

· Only coverage had to do with terrorism, Al-Quaeda, and Islamic fundamentalism suggesting that Islam is an aberrant or dangerous religion
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Monday, September 19, 2005
  More notes on effective writing
Our class brainstorm came up with the following list:

effective writing:
stays on topic
flows well
is very detailed
has direction and something to say
includes lost of info and description
uses correct grammar
has VIVID imagery
the reader can SEE what is going on
draws out emotion (positive or negative) from the reader
the reader wants to keep reading
reader can FEEL the story
there is a freshness of ideas or expression
  My personal definition of effective writing
So, today is our first full day workshop after a round of Visiting Writers. I want to begin the morning with a brief reflection on what for us defines effective writing, that is, what should we be striving to accomplish in the workshop session and how (if ever) will we know when it is time to stop tweaking and publish. So, in class we will brainstorm a collective list, but here are some personal thoughts on what makes for effective writing:

Okay, so these are just a few items on my list and its not comprehensive. I'm anxious to hear what you all add when I get to class!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005
  The Valve

A snippet commenting on the new tenor of the culture wars as expressed on the radical academic blogsphere, The Valve:

Perhaps the high point of this blog event, thus far, has been the essay posted by Morris Dickstein, who explains the current academic culture with a surplus of big-picture clarity and judiciousness: "Today the theory era is effectively ending and the public intellectual tradition is reasserting itself, along with a renewed attention in the aesthetic that many theorists dismissed as no more than an ideological formation. But thanks to tenure and the intellectual investments we make as graduate students, theory will have a long afterlife. It will also continue to inflect how many important issues are discussed, including the role of language in literature, the degree to which literary works reference the world outside the text, the role of social construction including class, race, and gender in forming our conventions of representation (as writers) and interpretation (as critics). Critical movements leave behind a residue of common sense after the dust of their polemics has settled and the most extreme positions have been abandoned."

True? What is the "public intellectual tradition" referred to here? Certainly we are operating in a time of anti-intellectualism in some ways unparralleled. Has theory--the tool of revolution against the canon--become canonical? How does that unwrite the tradition itself? I dunno but I wouldn't want to assume that I can do the kinds of things I do with texts without it ....

Saturday, August 20, 2005
  Why write?

For me writing is like ... a halogen lamp. Once I turn it on, I'm in the pool of light it casts and I see things with a startling new clarity. Some of what I see, I don't like: the sharp edges of bias or prejudice, the moldiness of bad thinking, chipped paint of emotions, the broken furniture of ideas. Whatever I choose to bring into the lamp's glow is forever changed, whether that be a memory, a sense of who I am, how I feel about issues and/or people, tricky intellectual matters, or something I've read. Writing for me, in other words, is a means of understanding the world and my place in it in a more comprehensive way. When I better understand myself I better understand how my emotions, assumptions, and ignorances determine how and what I see. I can start to discern that to which I had otherwise remained blind. I think people in general see what they want or expect to see, but when I write I confront contradictions, either my own or those of others, and only then can I start to negotiate or work through those problems of false consciousness. See I'm starting to do it now, using big words to express big ideas, harnessing language so that I can examine my world. Here's another example of how this works for me:

My areas of expertise if you can call them that are Mary Shelley, her circle (father and mother primarily), and the Gothic romance form. I initiated study in these areas because I was hungry to see how these maverick writers used a popular tradition to explore a radical belief system. The more I work on Shelley, though, the more inescapable becomes a sense of her ambivalence about women's rights, about Empire, and about colonized peoples. So, my writing in this area has not served to reassure my assumptions or my original thoughts on the matter. Just the opposite, which is what makes it such an incredibly powerful tool when we give ourselves over to it. Writing does not always lead to self-reassurance.

Other types of writing I do on a daily basis include the following:

Stuff I'd like to write or write about

That's all for now. What kind of writing do you like to do? What is writing like for you? Like a pizza with lots of toppings, sometimes too thick and bready, other times to crisp? Like taking a shower: cleansing and something that the folks around you appreciate (smelly writing and b.o., now that would be an essay topic!)


Thursday, August 18, 2005
  They're Baaaack
Today the faculty swarmed on campus for all sorts of departmental meetings and for our first formal speech from the new pres. The first day of school is amazing for its simplicity, and it remains little changed from when I was in grade school: after weeks or months apart, we come back with new haircuts and outfits, hopes and expectations, and kiss cheeks and shake hands, go to lunch, laugh, stand alone, doodle, and snicker. Today was wonderfully special because of its familiarity. It was also wonderful because for the first time since I've come to Radford (and this is my fifth year), folks were smiling as much after the College and University meetings as they were beforehand. There is a new sense of hope and promise, or at least I feel a new sense of hope and promise. And what a relief it is to be optimistic for once! President Kyle is going to be good for RU. Things are going to change, and that is exciting.
Letters to friends, students, and colleagues.

August 2005 / September 2005 / October 2005 /

Powered by Blogger