Friday, February 24, 2006

daily tao friday 2.24.06

Some say that my teaching is nonsense.
Others call it lofty but impractical.
But to those who have looked inside themselves,
this nonsense makes perfect sense.
And to those who put it into practice,
this loftiness has roots that go deep.

I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.

Translation by Stephen Mitchell.Site Copyright (C) 2003-5 Glen Sanford

notes for 1020 on Culture

texts you might think about using for your culture paper:

Tough Guise with Jackson Katz (video)
Parisi: 'Black Bart' Simpson
Baber: 'Is Tupac Really Dead?'
Sieving: 'Cop Out?'
Tupac Resurrection (video)
Mehta: 'Society's Need for a Queer Solution'
Intro to 'Reading Culture'
Pough: 'Do the Ladies Run This?'

see The World is a Text for page numbers and etc.

on cultural theory and same-sex relationships in culture

in an effort to make some connections in what will ultimately end in a simplistic discussion, and which may even potentially result in some misinterpretation of Benjamin, Adorno, and Williams. Here goes…

The other day I finally saw Brokeback Mountain, which is in line to win some Academy awards, has already won some awards, is bring praised in many circles for its quality, etc. I haven’t really followed any of the praise or criticism, though I am surprised that I haven’t heard more criticism given the fact that the movie portrays a romantic relationship between two male cowboys, and in fact includes a nearly explicit sex scene. In any case, this movie has been with me for days now, for a variety of reasons (including but not limited to my sudden desire to move to Nowhere, Wyoming and write stories that pull on your heart strings, or even effect change—the movie is based on Annie Proulx’s short story set in Wyoming), part of which is the issue of the movie’s popularity, particularly when in the last major elections a number of states changed their constitutions to definitively ban any ideas of legalized same-sex marriage.

And so, I turn first to Benjamin with the hope that this movie might be considered an example of his idea of the potential democratizing nature of film. I don’t believe Benjamin thought any sort of a utopian society was possible, however, the idea of potential utopian impulses in art and culture would dictate that we all be allowed to love and relate regardless of sexual orientation or whatnot. And so, the utopian potential in art, and particularly in the form of mainstream film, might then be a place for positive political action. If you were ambivalent about whether or not two male cowboys could find true love before you entered the theater, you might have come to a more clear opinion upon leaving. You might then vote differently, next time around.

I don’t know what Adorno would have said if he saw this movie. But I will make something up. I can’t help thinking about the lack of challenge to the movie by the conservative religious right, for example. Maybe there has been some criticism that I’ve not heard because I don’t pay enough attention. But I feel like if there were going to be a cultural filter working toward maintaining the conservative status quo, the religious right would take on this role and make a fuss about the content of the film. I’ve heard no fuss, only praise. The film seems to be doing something new and different in its opening up to the mainstream these traditionally non-mainstream issues; it is not simply the same reiteration of conservative cultural messages. Of course, we could make this argument for many films that come out of corporate Hollywood yet challenge dominant cultural ideologies in some way or another; certainly these are complicated notions that can’t simply be simplified. Nonetheless, here is another simple question: isn’t this movie still just doing the same thing that we have already seen and read a million times? Isn’t it, after all, the same old classic tragic love story, the Casablanca unfulfilled love story, the metaphorical unfulfilled life story? How is the movie actually different than the one we want to hear time after time: that we need passion and pain to know that we are really living, etc, etc… So, does Adorno ultimately win on this one?

Or, is it (silly question) more complicated than this? I am still working through Williams and his reiteration that everything is more complicated. We can’t simply reduce Marxism to basic notions that will help us analyze literature or art, for example. We can’t also simply talk about our social culture in terms of determined and static institutional forms and traditions, but that ‘social consciousness’ emerges through lived, active, relationships, and ‘in relationships which are more than systematic exchanges between fixed units.’ Social consciousness then is a process, and this process can result in, as he says, ‘frequent tension between the received interpretation and practical experience’ (130). A film such as Brokeback Mountain may then be seen as responding to, or participating in, a social moment of more open feeling for, and understanding of, the difficulty of ‘closeted’ sexual orientation. Although there has been greater (and more genuine) representation of same-sex relationships in the media, one might still argue that this film makes quite a leap away from the more stereotypical gay characters of Will and Grace to challenge ‘real masculinity’ in its portrayal of gay cowboys.

We might also combine the contemporary cultural sentiments of greater openness at the time of the movie’s release with the history of the writing of the story by Proulx, and the torture and death of Matthew Shephard, a gay college student in Wyoming, in the late 90s. We have here a combination of institutional changes (more legislation against hate crimes, and greater awareness of the destructive nature of violent prejudice, etc.) and personal changes in perception by individual members of society. Maybe this film, as an example of Williams’ ‘articulation of presence’ (135) points to the forming of a new ‘structure of feeling.’ He writes:

as a matter of cultural theory this is a way of defining forms and conventions in art and literature as inalienable elements of a social material process: not by derivation from other social forms and pre-forms, but as social formation of a specific kind which may in turn be seen as the articulation (often the only fully available articulation) of structures of feeling which as living processes are much more widely experienced (133).

And I’m going to leave it at that, for now, and keep working on Williams...

Monday, February 20, 2006

1020 response week of Feb 20

On TUPAC RESURRECTION and in relation to what we have been talking about for this section on Culture: think about why it is important to interpret and analyze contemporary American culture and, as it says in Reading Culture, ‘how cultural ideas and ideals are communicated in the home, the workplace, the school, and through the media’ (2). What are cultural ideas? How are these communicated? Why is it important to think about them critically as both individuals and members of the larger society?

Respond on your blog by class time Friday

Monday, February 13, 2006

the t-shirt commodity as a site of resistance

'The Black Bart T-shirt is not alone as an expressive use of a commodity to support personal and social identity and convey resistant social messages.'

(Peter Parisi, "'Black Bart' Simpson: Appropriation and Revitalization in Commodity Cuture')

In the early 90s t-shirts with different ethnic and cultural representations of Bart appeared ('illegally' produced) all over the country. According to Parisi, the cultural icon-ness of Bart was subverted and the image Bart as Black or Asian or Rastafarian used as a means of resistance against the larger cultural domination of whiteness. Whiteness is all pervasive and it is 'unmarked' as in while it is the norm (against which all other non-white groups are compared, or are set in relation to...) we don't even see it; we don't recognize how white prime-time television is until we see that there may be alternatives. In the early 90s, more diverse respresentation was badly needed (we might argue it still is; but then again, so much more is also needed on prime time and etc tv programming!) on the television. The Simpsons in its unfearing raising of and commentary on every sort of social issue, race and ethnicity issues included, may have pointed to first its own whiteness (yellow still assumed as the white norm) and second to the lacking other-than-whiteness of the show. And so, whether or not resistance forms in the minds of the industrious persons who happen to print and begin to sell the shirts, it is intuited in the masses who consume and popularize the visual message of the call for greater representation.

And so the commodity (the shirt, and the Bart as icon commodity) is used to express both the personal (intuited or overt) sense of making a social/cultural statement, and the larger social call for recognition of group identity in various forms of media. On the surface, a shirt is just a shirt, but thinking a little further we might notice how a shirt can present a message that is one in contrast to more dominant messages dispersed as cultural norms.

1020 response for week of feb 13

Interpret the lyrics and content of a hip hop song (or you can use another type of song if you like). Include the name of the song and the artist. Include the address of a web page where a reader can find the lyrics (if you can find one; for example I found the lyrics of Ice-T's 'Cop Killer here:

Can the song you chose be interpreted in different ways? How or why? Does it have deeper social or cultural implications that may not be specifically stated in the song? How might we use this song to think about larger social or cultural issues in some way? Explain.

post by class time on friday.

Monday, February 06, 2006

1020- Response for week of Feb 6

This week we will be talking about culture and watching a video called Tough Guise. What does it mean to put on a 'guise'? What does Jackson Katz (from the video) have to say about how gender is constructed in our society? How do we learn to 'act' masculine or feminine? Use some specific examples from the video to explain your response.

Post by class time on Friday.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Guidelines for Personal Essay Group Review

The guidelines are posted below. You might want to print them out so you can follow them while responding. Please follow these, respond to your group members' papers with specific written comments (you can post comments to the blog; use email if something doesn't work right with that), and print and attach the comments to your draft. On Monday turn in the final, revised version of the paper along with the draft from Friday with the printed comments. Please email me with any questions/issues.

Also, please note the sections in the SF writer that you may find helpful in writing your essay. Flip through and find the places that may be most relevant to your particular writing situation:

Part 1: Working as a Writer
Part 2: Shaping Language
Part 7: Understanding Grammar

1020 Darling
Guidelines for Personal Essay Group Review

Please respond to at least 3 papers from your group. Look at the comments and respond to those who have not otherwise received comments (ie. make sure everyone in your group gets 3 readings/sets of comments in response to their paper). Please send me email if you are having trouble getting comments on your paper from your group members.

To the Writer: Write a little about the purpose and audience for your essay and attach it to the bottom of your essay blog post so your group members can see what you’ve said about the following: What are you trying to accomplish and how does the paper go about doing that? Who is your audience for this paper and how did you take that into consideration while writing?

To the Reader:

Write comments to the writer’s blog post that respond specifically and thoughtfully to the following:

Does the essay have a clear focus? What is it; what is the main idea?

Is the essay clearly and fully developed around this focus/main idea? How might the writer focus more clearly? Do places in the essay need further explanation and development? Where (point these out specifically in your comments to the writer) and how might these places be further developed? Does the writer need to use more or more specific examples as support for the claims s/he is making? Respond and explain.

How is the essay organized? Offer the writer suggestions for more effectively organizing the material in the essay.

Does the essay cohere? Does it flow clearly and effectively; does it make sense from beginning to end? Do the individual paragraphs make sense from sentence to sentence. Are they thoughtful and fully developed? Are there any paragraphs that need to be expanded or are there places that need more explanation? Are the individual sentences grammatically and structurally correct? Are there sentence-level errors that need to be fixed? Explain and respond specifically and fully so that the writer can revise her/his paper effectively.