Disney's Avatar?

I recently saw Avatar and must say I enjoyed it. But that doesn't mean I don't think this "review" of the film isn't funny as hell.


Successful Surgery

Rowan had her medical port removed this morning after being cancer free for over a year. The surgery was very quick (about a half hour) and she is feeling fine (singing along with Dora as I write). It has been a trying 18 months, but this is a big step back towards normalcy. Thanks to everyone who helped us along the way.


Robertson is Crazy

Sometimes rhetoric is just about identification, and I hope that subject line identifies me properly. Robertson probably doesn't warrant any more analysis than what Olbermann provided, but Scott McLemee over at Crooked Timber has an interesting piece that examines the relationship between Haiti's revolutionary Toussaint and Voodoo. The only lines you really need:

Naturally this god—like any of the loas presumably also invoked before the uprising began—would not count as a “devil” in the eyes of the believers. But then you can’t exactly expect Rev. Pat to be that interested in the nuances of Voodoo theology.

Ill Doctrine offers a brief nod to America's debt to Toussaint and our responsibilities.


A Brief Definition of Rhetoric

Today was Jim Corder day in my Digital Citizenship/Expository Writing classes. I use the Corder piece to provide a substantial definition for rhetoric--since I study one of the few things in a University that people rarely recognize. If you study biomedical chemistry, people likely have no idea what you do, but they know what you do. Rhetoric, however, is often a mystery.

Anywho, here's my brief definition(s):

  • How humans create/digest/circulate meanings
  • How to get others to listen to your meaning
  • persuasion, conflict, argument, change, identity, cohesion

Notice the shift from plural to singular.


Won't Somebody Please Think of the Children? (No, Seriously)

The other day Casey posted an interesting article on the globalization of American psychological disorders; to which I responded my interest in how contagion can be discursive: "if you word it, it will come?" I was reacting specifically to a story on the rise of anorexia in China: after a particularly public episode, during which news coverage began integrating American terminology for anorexia, China saw a significant spike in documented cases.

Today, I read on Slash.dot of the rise in Youth depression and hypomania. One of the study's principal researchers, Jean Twenge, is the author of The Narcissism Expidemic. A student used portions of this book last semester in a paper critiquing social media websites such as Facebook and MySpace as nothing more than broadcast machinary for the 21st century's increasingly self-absorbed subject. I, expectedly, poo-poo'd the idea since I see these media collectives as more about "us" than "me" (and I say "more"--this is certainly a "both-and" rather than "either-or" effect. But now, especially with the discursive nature of affliction on my mind (and a 2 and 1/2 year old daughter at home), I do worry a bit more about the ideological-cultural world my kid [self-absorbed narcissism alert] will inhabit.

In the article, an undergraduate offers the following response to the study:

The unrealistic feelings that are ingrained in us from a young age - that we need to have massive amounts of money to be considered a success - not only lead us to a higher likelihood of feeling inadequate, anxious or depressed, but also make us think that the only value in getting an education is to make a lot of money, which is the wrong way to look at it.

On a theoretical level, I think of Lacan's notion of symbolic order as an psycho-social membrane--that which articulates subjectivity--is always plagued by the Real that it must include but cannot incorporate. Reflecting here--there is a sharp division between cultural expectation [narrative] and economic reality [scene], and one cannot help but think that a few characters are getting squished in the middle. On institutional and pedagogical levels, I feel particularly close to the student's final line--that "we" [that's "us" people--you know who you are] have to do a better job at re-articulating and promoting [rhetoric] the function of a university. My own research agenda involves doing this historically--to compare contemporary justifications for the University [whether official: i.e., the Modern emphasis on research or unofficial, i.e., the student/societal emphasis on employment] to classical notions. I am currently working on a project with a graduate student that aligns Cicero with early American pragmatists to generate a vision for the University that returns it to its pre-Italian humanist roots (humanist as in "studies how human beings do things" rather than humanism as in "studies THE human being's condition").

Off to the library. The RESEARCH library.


Adrian Beltre? Seriously?

Ok, I have no idea what Theo Epstein hopes to accomplish in 2010. Because Adrian Beltre just screams "one-year-wonder-during-the-hight-of-the-steriods-era." I know its only a one-year deal, and that the Red Sox are angling to trade for Adrian Gonzalez during this season, but this signing makes no baseball sense to me.

You give up Mike Lowell's solid defense in exchange for Beltre's at times questionable glove. Additionally, Beltre struggled with injuries last year, and hasn't topped 30 homeruns more than one in his career (2004, when he hit 48). He has never walked more than 60 times and has posted OBP's of .303, .328, .319, .327, .304 in his previous five seasons. He is the spitting image of underachieving, overpaid mediocrity. And now he's our third baseman. WTF.

I have similar feeling regarding the Cameron signing--another free swinging 150+ strikeout guy who seems to betray our historic focus on plate discipline. The Lackey signing is odd only because we gave a long term deal to a pitcher who hasn't started more than 27 games in two years and is on the wrong side of his 30th birthday. I think we are going to see that in the post-steriods era players will begin aging again. We'll see. Regardless, by letting go of Bay and signing Lackey, we are turning into the 90's Braves: a franchise with excellent starting pitching (to win games in the regular season) and not enough offensive pop (to win games in the post season). I hope I am wrong on this one.

Epstein has always been one of the best drafting GM's in baseball--I would never question any of his draft choices. But his track record in free agency thus far has been less than effective. J.D Drew? Matt Clement? Edgar Renteria? I hate to say it, but I think we'll be adding to names to this list this season. My gut feeling is that after the Lackey signing, knowing he had already given up his first round pick to the Angels, Epstein in going to spend on free agents this season. But I'll go on record: I would trade Mike Lowell for Adrian Beltre straight-up and would take several other names on this list of free agents over Cameron (Rick Ankiel? Brian Giles? Randy Winn?). Salary flexibility is important, but so is fielding a winning team.