Monthly Archives: February 2006

The Decision

Meetings on my side and theirs interfered with communications about the position today — phone tag, essentially — but I’m hoping that things will be finalized when we talk tomorrow afternoon. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that all goes well; it’s a place I like for lots of different reasons.

Other things are shaping up nicely as well, thanks to one colleague’s kindness and the writing skills of two other colleagues, and to top it all off, I was fortunate enough today to be able to turn in a glowing letter of recommendation for a former student. One of those days to make the past five months seem not quite so ambivalent and anxiety-ridden; one of those days to make “professionalization” seem not like such a vexed word.

(Don’t you dare jinx it for yourself, now, Mike.)

More from the Recipe File

Monday’s the day when I make the decision — or the decision gets made for me — as to where I’m going in the fall as Professor Edwards. I like one alternative more, but it’s less likely, and to be frank, the choices to be had are excellent. I didn’t get my “reach” school — and I probably shouldn’t have expected to, though that’s a hard thing to tell oneself — but I was a very fortunate job candidate.

Until Monday, food to enjoy; one of those rare recipes to which I know I’ll continue to return. Although overall start-to-finish time is four and a half hours, actual cooking-effort prep time is maybe ten minutes, max: the rest is just time spent doing other things; reading, grading papers, and the like. And they’ll come out as the best OMG juicy and tender pork chops you’ve ever had.

Brine:

2-4 boneless pork chops, 0.75 to 1 inch thick (don’t get the thin-cut)
1 small onion, sliced thin into rings
2 bay leaves
10 peppercorns
3 cloves
3 tablespoons white sugar or brown sugar
3 tablespoons coarse salt
2 cups hot (nearly boiling) water
1 cup cold water
3 tablespoons strong-flavored hard liquor — bourbon, scotch, sambuca, or what-have-you; the meat will soak up the flavor
2 tablespoons walnut, hazelnut, or vegetable oil
1 cup combination liquid sauces of your choice, as long as they’re not too salty (Thai peanut sauce, Teriyaki sauce, barbecue sauce, Chili sauce, liquid wasabi, honey, et cetera)

Put the pork chops into a dish that’ll allow them to lie flat and three cups of liquid to cover them completely. Arrange the onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, and cloves on top of them.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt, and nearly boiling water until the sugar and salt dissolve. Then whisk in the cold water, liquor, and oil and combine well. Pour over the pork chops. Put the dish with the pork chops into the refrigerator and chill for two hours, turning the chops every hour.

After two hours, pour off one cup of the brine, and add the 1 cup of liquid sauces. Marinate for another two hours, turning the chops twice.

Cook:

2 tablespoons oil, melted butter, or melted margarine for egg mixture
2 tablespoons oil, melted butter, or melted margarine for pan
1 beaten egg
2 tablespoons milk, beer, water, or broth
0.5 teaspoon black pepper
0.5 teaspoon cumin
0.5 teaspoon curry powder
1 cup self-rising cornbread mix
2 tablespoons flour

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Pour 2 tablespoons of the oil, butter, or margarine into a clean baking pan big enough for the chops.

Mix together the dry ingredients (spices, flour, cornbread mix) in a separate pan big enough to dredge the chops through.

In a bowl, whisk together all the remaining liquid ingredients: the oil or melted butter or margarine, the beaten egg, and the milk or beer or water or broth. It should be thick enough to stick to and coat the chops. Dip the chops into the egg mixture, covering them entirely.

Then dredge the chops through the dry ingredients, covering them well but shaking off the excess.

Bake in oiled pan at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Turn chops gently, not losing the breading, and cook for 10 more minutes, until both sides are golden brown. Let stand for 3 minutes and enjoy while hot.

Probably best with a big grassy fruit-bomb Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc.

You did save a bottle, didn’t you?

Affect and Pedagogy

As a student or a teacher, are you emotional in public?

And if so, what did you make of the fierce review offered by James D. Williams in the November 2005 College English? I was looking at it again for its angle on the personal, but on a second read, it struck me as absolutely blistering in its privileging of rationality above all else, and it made me — someone who scores so far over at the “T” end of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator that it’s not even funny — uncomfortable in that regard. Williams was talking about standards of evidence for academic texts, and while I agree that careful analysis quantitative data for such purposes is essential, I’d also propose that alternative forms of evidence are equally as important. In fact, I wonder whether the bruising critique Williams offers, in its supreme privileging of hyper-rationality and alleged objectivity, fails to allow for alternative possibilities.

Laura Micciche, in an essay I find somewhat problematic for its generalizations (“When Class Equals Crass,” in Blundering for a Change, Tassoni and Thelin, eds., Boynton/Cook 2000), suggests that working-class students are encouraged to “exercise ‘appropriate’ emotions” (25) because “emotions such as anger, rage, and sorrow are generally considered unacceptable in the classroom” (31). But the perspective Micciche offers is important for its view on the work of affect, although I worry that it’s too easy to perpetuate a binary that equates emotion with the working class and logic with the middle class, and I think that’s a class-bigoted simplification — not that Micciche is performing it, but I worry that the distinctions she sets up make it an easy place to which to go.

There’s an simple question: Are working-class students more emotional?

It’s a bad question, and the wrong question. Lynn Worsham argues (nod to the recent UMass guest speaker) that people separated by the reason/emotion binary are taught that emotion should be subordinate to reason and so that people categorized as “emotional” should take subordinate positions in society as well. Indeed, Micciche cites Spelman’s observation that “while members of subordinate groups are expected to be emotional, indeed to have their emotions run their lives, their anger will not be tolerated” (Spelman 264, qtd. in Micciche 33).

I’ve quoted before Hardt and Negri’s assertion that in today’s emerging economy, there are three varieties of immaterial labor: first, “an industrial production that has been informationalized,” second, “analytical and symbolic tasks,” and third, the emotional work involved in “the production and manipulation of affect” (293).

Political economy is personal, and the economy is affectual. This holds true for the classroom as much as for any other space.

Upgrading

Just moved to WordPress 2.01. It’ll take a little while before everything’s back the way I like it, but I’m hoping it won’t give you all those problems we were having with posting and reposting comments. Let me know what works and doesn’t?

(Most important things on the agenda: getting recent comments to show up in the sidebar, putting the sidebar in proper order so links to recent comments are near the top, and — probably last — putting together a nice theme with lots of bright green, inky black, and bold sans-serif fonts.

Cause I love that green and black.)

Update: Things seem to be edging back to normal. Firefox misaligns the footer image by 1 pixel, and only on the main page and on post pages with comments — posts without comments seem fine, and no other browsers I’ve tried do the same thing, so I’m puzzled. Archives are broken, so I’ll have to check the WP support forum.

The FaceBook Storm

On Tuesday, March 30, I’ll ask my students to read an introductory collection of essays that introduces the “Adding to a Conversation” essay, where they survey the breadth of research and discourse and written conversation (in academic journals, popular press, and elsewhere) on a topic of interest, attempt to find the lacunae and interstices in that conversation, and add their own perspectives. The current edition of the textbook that I helped our Writing Program to construct includes model or sample conversations about guns and school violence, censorship and youth culture, and debates about stem cell research and evolution. I’ll have left the program by the time next year when they start thinking about revising the textbook, but on March 30, I think I might test-run an initial unit of readings that focus on the recent two-month perfect storm of controversy swirling around the Facebook and notions of academic and pedagogical freedom and restraint, with an eye towards suggesting it as a possible addition to the textbook.

Student Life on the Facebook
Teens’ Bold Blogs Alarm Area Schools
Facebook Face-Off
Facebook Drama at SU
Of Free Speech and Student Materiality
When Journalists Attack!
Facebook, Online Student Networking, and Strategically Designed Student Selves

There are interesting subtle resonances, for me, with the things I’ve had to say about affectual labor and the commodification of identity, so I’ll be curious to see how it plays out and what my students’ reactions might be. Additionally, while I never, ever want to be the kind of teacher who requires his students to read his own texts, I wonder if there might be some way to get that article Casey and I did (if you want to make me happy, ask me for the link) on commodification and online identity in there, since it seems to be on (rather long) hold in terms of publication.

Now with Even More Sexism!

So I watched the SuperBowl with my attorney, and we were both struck by the even-more-sexist-than-usual tone. Bill DeGenaro has already had smart things to say about the sexualization surrounding the game environment itself, but even my relatively unenlightened sensibilities were amazed by all the advertising violence against women’s bodies, explicit (the Mission Impossible commercial) or implicit (Burger King says women are tasty in sandwiches), and all the ogling and leering. On the other hand, my attorney was pleasantly surprised at the fact that the Steelers don’t have a cheerleading squad. I don’t want to come across as some grim, puritanical sourpuss here — I definitely got a kick out of some of the advertisements’ surrealism, and I’ll confess to a weakness for women in knee-length skirts and calf boots — but I gotta ask: was it just us, or was the misogyny in this SuperBowl’s advertisements even more over-the-top than usual?

Everybody Knows

Everybody already knows how good Michaél Bérubé’s blog is, which is why I don’t put it in my blogroll: doing so would be like linking to Google and saying, “Check out this cool search engine!” But I gotta say, his extended piece last week on academic freedom merits the linkage anyway. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.

Best New(ish) Music

My dad got me Gramophone magazine’s The Classical Good CD & DVD Guide 2005 for Christmas, which I’ve been enjoying flipping through, but here’s what I’ve lately had in heavy rotation on the CD player.

Gogol Bordello. These guys proudly proclaim themselves to be “Gypsy Punks,” and that’s about as apt a description as you’ll find. Imagine the Clash getting together for a jam session with the Moldavian gypsy-brass band Fanfare Ciocarlia and some accordion and fiddle and saxophone and several crates of strong Ukrainian vodka thrown in for good measure and you’ll have an idea of what these folks sound like. Totally infectious, over-the-top, exuberant stuff, and it doesn’t hurt that the singer has the sort of Eastern European accent usually only heard coming from James Bond movie villains. They’ve got these stomping Romany rhythms and some fierce guitar, but you’ll also hear bits of ska and flamenco in there, and they’re far too good to take themselves too seriously.

Firewater. Ever since New York alt-metal band Cop Shoot Cop dissolved (they had an almost-hit in 1993 with “$10 Bill” but I was always more fond of the creepy, operatic “Room 429″ and the bitingly funny “It Only Hurts When I Breathe”), I wondered what had happened to vocalist/songwriter Tod A and his gargle-with-razors voice and wickedly sharp lyrics, and then I heard him singing a cover of “Folsom Prison Blues” on the radio a while back and had to immediately find the album. As it turns out, their first effort, “Get off the Cross… We Need the Wood for the Fire” is the album to have; Tom Waits-style cabaret and klezmer are obvious influences, especially with the instrumentation (bazouki, djembe, saxophone, clarinet, accordion, violin, in addition to the usual drums-bass-guitar), but you’ve really got to hear “Bourbon and Division” for its relentlessly catchy, swinging nihilism. And my personal favorite, “When I Burn This Place Down,” is a wonderful tango (a tango!) with the pricelessly bitter line, “And baby if you were drowning / I’d throw you a funeral wreath.”

Secret Chiefs 3. Members include Mr. Bungle veterans Trey Spruance, Trevor Dunn, and Danny Heifetz, so you know what you’re getting into. Think freak-out Middle Eastern / West and South Asian techno beats and instrumentation mixed with thrash-metal guitars and achingly lush Ennio Morricone arrangements and melodies performed by an amazingly tight band. “Book of Horizons,” “Book M,” and “Second Grand Constitution and Bylaws” are all brilliant and really, really strange.

A Digital Working Class?

In Cory Doctorow’s excellent short story “Anda’s Game” (which Michael Chabon included in the 2005 Best American Short Stories), a Tijuana labor organizer named Raymond explains to the title character that the missions she’s being hired to complete in a massively multiplayer online game similar to World of Warcraft are actually destroying the avatars of in-game sweatshop labor, who lose their (real) day’s wages when “killed.” Unfortunately, the scenario isn’t only fictional: such sweatshops actually do exist, and stand as remarkable evidence of the ways in which virtual online economies are increasingly intersecting with today’s “real” economy of individuated production and consumption — and having real and concrete effects on the ways people experience socioeconomic class.

Today’s individuated economy is making newly heightened demands on certain classes of people (the in-game sweatshop workers; the people holding down two jobs who take online higher education classes when they get home at night in the hopes of securing better employment) while opening up new opportunities for others (those who exploit the in-game sweatshop workers; the digerati who have the access and training to construct and manipulate new digital texts). So the immediate question to ask would seem to be: who are the new digital working classes, now that increasing efficiencies of production and the changing economy are reducing the ranks of such conventionally working-class occupations as machinists, farmers, and factory workers? Besides online in-game sweatshop workers, who else might we understand as being working class in the context of digital technologies — and how might composition pedagogies account for such people?

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