365 for 2012

12/26/11 by Errant Ventures
12/26/11, a photo by Errant Ventures on Flickr.

As a fun side project I’ve decided to pick up my camera again and try to take a picture a day for the next year. I’ve tried this sort of thing once before (in 2010) and…well…I failed. In my defense, things were a bit busy that year. Not that things aren’t busy right now, but what they hey. Even if I only last a month, I’ll have a month of pictures and hopefully some interesting posts for this bog. I like the idea of challenging myself for a full year though. So, why not go all out?

You’ll also notice that I’m starting a little early (December 23rd technically). I could have made it a resolution for the new year, but I was feeling creative and decided there was no real reason to wait for the arbitrary date of the first.

Above is one of my first pictures for the project. It’s of an antique typewriter of mine that’s been living in storage for a few years. It’s found a home in the corner of my parent’s living room. Frankly, I’ve always loved it and it looks great in my parent’s house.

Reading Cultures With Silent Workers

I thought I’d pass along a brief juxtaposition of articles today. First is Farhad Manjoo’s critique of your local book stores vs. the power and convenience of Amazon over at Slate. Manjoo apparently isn’t taking into account the used book market or local book shops of that variety. Having lived in college towns as an English major myself, I have to say that this is a pretty glaring oversight. That situation might not apply to everyone, but I still think there’s a lot to be said for the local book shop beyond Manjoo’s limited critique.

As a counter point, I wanted to post this story from The Atlantic by Vanessa Vaselka about labor practices at Amazon and her attempt a few years back to start a union movement. There are a few aspects of Vaselka’s article that I found wanting. In particular the focus is mostly on Vaselka herself rather than a wider labor movement. I realize Vaselka didn’t get far in her recruiting, but I’m curious about the union (ILWU) and wider efforts for unionization. In other words, it’s a good slice of life experience of unionization, but not particularly enlightening to the larger picture I happen to be intrigued by.

More to the point in this post, Vaselka’s article puts one of Manjoo’s claims into a sharper perspective. Amazon is incredibly efficient, but its important to remember that this efficiency comes at a price and ometimes a particularly high one at that.

Rigging a Match

I happened across this article at Slate regarding how soccer matches get rigged the other day. I thought it was a fascinating read on a subject I knew was out there, but haven’t given much thought. While it made me slightly depressed for the sport, it also made me desperately want to watch a match. I decided at the start of the term that I didn’t get to watch any soccer until the dissertation is done. There’s a carrot at the finish line though since the Euro 2012 will happen the month after I defend. This will likely turn into a soccer blog for the duration. Fair warning.

I get it, I get it…

Chris Moody has an article up at Yahoo News that represents one of my favorite sorts of articles to bring up in composition classes. Moody provides an overview of the strategies Republican thinkers have come up with to counter the rhetoric of Occupy Wall Street. I highly recommend a full read of them based on the insight it provides into both the Occupy movement (or at least popular perceptions of it) and into the political politics of the day.

What I’m immediately drawn to though is the way that these sorts of stories highlight the fluidity of language and the oftentimes quite easy means to manipulate it. In the composition classroom I find an article like this one to be a way to make a compelling case for specificity in writing and, above all, the importance of evidence. Moody’s article is a great one for pointing out just how much our political rhetoricians tend to talk about these issues in generalities that ultimately mean nothing. Changing phrase A to equally meaningless but less offensive phrase B doesn’t get you anywhere and once they’ve seen it in action, students are quick to point out the doublespeak. Watching students begin to take this sort of rhetoric apart (whatever its source) and replace it with their own nuanced critiques is honestly one of the best aspects of teaching composition.

I have to say that number 7 on the list Moody gives us is my personal favorite. “I get it” is just a dodgy sort of response to the legit concerns of voters. I’d think that in most cases it would fail (miserably) in signifying that the speaker comes remotely close to “getting it.” The strategy that Frank Luntz (the Republican strategist who came up with these talking points) suggests here tells it all. After saying “I get it” you’re supposed to start offering Republican solutions to the problems. Maybe Luntz also said that you should listen carefully to the complaints first. Let’s be honest though, the strategy in practice translates to “I get it, now please be quiet so I can talk at you until you vote for me.” Ultimately that’s politics though. I’m not saying this to be pessimistic either. You can be involved in politics and make a real difference in society. At the end of the day though, they’re selling a product though. To engage in an actual dialogue you have to see the boundaries your interlocutors are attempting to establish and see when those boundaries are being manipulated to your detriment. “I get it” is just that sort of manipulation.