Thursday, July 24, 2008

Things I considered posting these last two and a half months

Oops, there went a week without a post. Did I worry you, my last three or four readers? Well, I won't make extravagant promises about returning to the old frequency with which I posted once upon a time, but I'll try to maintain a minimum of one post a week. Hopefully that will get me back into the blogging habit.

At any rate, my online silence didn't come about for lack of postings. Quite frequently topics presented themselves to me, but as a result of busyness, ennui, or simple laziness -- all coupled with the blog-killing tendencies of Facebook (damn you, Facebook!) -- these posting ideas receded into the horizon of my thoughts, finally becoming old news-enough that it felt odd to waste electrons on them.

So here's the Coles Notes, then -- all the stuff in a nutshell that was on my mind since the beginning of April. There's more than this, actually ... these are just the greatest hits, as it were.

1. Puffins, Icebergs, and my Mom.

My lovely mother visited me for a week in mid-May and was treated, much to my chagrin, to some of the most frigid May weather I've ever experienced here. She was also treated, much to her delight, to the biggest crop of icebergs in recent memory. Everywhere we drove, as long as we could see the ocean, we could see icebergs. To cap it all off, we drove down to Ferryland one day (the weather had mercifully warmed somewhat), and walked the trail past a massive grounded berg; and then drove to Bay Bulls and took the O'Brien's boat tour to get up close and personal with the ice ... and see puffins. Which, I must add, are the most comical of animals, even edging out penguins and ducks. Watching them try to take off from the water and end up skipping like stones while trying to get their speed up counts as one of the most hilarious experiences of my life.

2. My Father, the (Not-so-Ancient) Mariner

While my mother was visiting the Rock and bundling up against the cold, my father was in St. Maarten in the Caribbean preparing to sail with some friends to New York City. A friend of my parents, a member of the same yacht club as them, has been tooling around the Caribbean with his wife on their 36-foot sailboat for a few years. Unfortunately, the wife's health has deteriorated, precluding further shipboard life ... leaving the husband with the task of bringing the boat home. Enter my dad and two other sailor friends, who agreed to help. For somewhere in the neighbourhood of four weeks they sailed north, with a stop in Bermuda, braving everything from Coleridge-esque doldrums ("Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down, / 'Twas sad as sad could be, / And we did speak only the break / The silence of the sea") to a few genuine Atlantic gales. Said my father when all was done, he was happy he was able to do this ... and now, he'll never do it again.

3. The Endless Democratic Primary

Yeah, I'm not saying any more than that. I'm just happy we're on to the next stage.

4. My First Time as External Examiner

Back in, oh, April I think, I got an email from Kristen saying that Tim Blackmore -- a friend, and professor of Media Studies at Western in the faculty she works in -- had been casually asking her about when I might be visiting London this summer. I had just booked a flight for late June, but she couldn't remember the dates exactly, so she suggested I email him directly. This I did, telling him when I'd be in town. And received this response, in I think minutes (those who know Tim will recognize his markedly calm and retiring manner): "AHA AHA!!! I want to borrow you, son, for a verrrrry important, important I say, defense! (Some Foghorn rolled in last night)."

The long and short of it was, Tim needed someone as an external on a Masters thesis he had advised, and given that there is no money available for Masters' externals for travel &c, the fact that I would be conveniently in town anyway rocketed me to the top of the list (hey, it's an honour just being nominated).

I was, needless to say, quite delighted to be asked -- it was my first external examination, the thesis looked cool, and I was happy to do a favour for someone I hold in high estimation both professionally and otherwise. The thesis in question, "Augmented Ability, Integrated Identity: Understanding Sapienism, Adaptive Technology, and the Construction of Disability," was written by a quite remarkable student named Jeffrey Preston, whose muscular dystrophy has confined him to a wheelchair since a young age. Did I say confined? I mean he has been liberated by his wheelchair, a technological device that gives him a freedom of mobility he would not otherwise have. His thesis very thoughtfully reconsiders the cultural values and stereotypes attached to disability, and focuses on the way in which dystopian narratives of technology actually contribute to the negative perception of such devices as wheelchairs. Suffice it to say, it was a remarkable piece of work for someone that early in his academic career.

5. Rachael Ray: Terrorist

This one's my favourite.

You are probably familiar with that annoyingly saccharine Food Network personality Rachael Ray; what you might not know is that she's a terrorist sympathizer. In addition to her other (too many) appearances on television, Ray has been schilling for Dunkin' Donuts. In an ad for some iced coffee product or other, she is wearing a patterned scarf. Conservative pundette and blogger Michelle Malkin -- who now has the dubious distinction of being slightly more insane than Anne Coulter -- posted on her blog that the scarf in question is in fact a "keffiyeh" of the sort routinely worn by Arab men (Yasser Arafat would be the most obvious example here). OK ... I can see the resemblence ... but Malkin, making with the insane, goes further to note that this is an example of "jihadi chic" and "hate couture," and that she hopes Ray's fashion choice "was spurred more by ignorance than ideology."

Seriously? Seriously. Malkin later defended her comments by claiming that western designers have deliberately marketed such scarves as statements of solidarity with Palestinians. Even if this is true -- and I deem it highly suspect -- the easy conflation of Arab=terrorist, or sympathy with Palestine=support of Hamas is rhetoric of the worst, and laziest, kind. As one person commenting on this idiocy mildly observed, "what about all the Arab men who wear the keffiyeh who aren't terrorists?" Let me dig that particular ration out of my notes .... (Incidentally, once of my students wore a nearly identical scarf to class this week. I congratulated her on bringing America one step closer to destruction).

What makes matters worse is that, in an act of cowardice that makes the Lion in The Wizard of Oz look like John Wayne, Dunkin' Donuts pulled the ad. I wish we had one in St. John's so I could boycott it.


Tim said...

Everything you say is true, esp. about the reserve part! :D

What cools my head somewhat about the keffiyeh thing is that Dunked-in-Do'h-Nutz's apparent food-like substances are more murderous than any jihad. Whoever dropped the twin towers have nothing on North America's love affair with heart-disease-producing products.

It was wonderful to have Chris on the committee -- he was a very generous and thoughtful examiner, and showed more class in one exam than I've seen with some other folks over their whole misery-inducing careers. Next time, we'll pay your way, dammit!

Krysta said...

I have the same scarf as Rachel Ray. Or at least one that looks very similar. I better be careful where I wear that thing.

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