So said Donna, calling me a “techhead” at the end of the Deaf-Interpreter Community Forum today. As I drove the 3+ hours to get there this morning I listened to NPR’s Weekend Edition. Several stories caught my attention. First, an interview with Tom Wolfe, discussing the role of speech (he means language) in human evolution. Next, an interview with the author of Challenger Park, a novel about an astronaut mom. I was already interested because of my own childhood fantasies of space travel. I also remember driving from one job (at UPS) to another (at Taco Bell) on the day the Challenger expoded. I heard it on the radio and cried. What really hooked me was the notion of being so far removed from your child that even the possibility of communication is prevented.
Then there was the story about Desi Arnez being an auteur. I can’t seem to find the interview (poo) but the argument was that Arnaz himself was really the first tv auteur. This article credits the combined team Desilu (with Lucille Ball). I’ve been more exposed to arguments about Ball’s genius; it was interesting to listen to this perspective arguing that Arnaz has been somewhat overlooked. There was a line about the genius of making fun of himself (as Ricky Ricardo) except when he was performing as a musician, then he was always taken seriously.
Finally, a graduation speech by Scott Simon: Platitudes with Attitude. My students definitely deserve this one!
Oh, and there was a brief mention of Winston Churchill? Today is the anniversary of his assumption of the role of Prime Minister at the beginning of WWII. He proclaimed, in deep stentorian tones: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”

Glen gave a very interesting paper about the PR strategies of the Humane Society of the US and the National Forest Service regarding bear hunting/trapping in Maine and coyote hunting in Vermont. All of us got to practice recognizing our own biases and trying to learn to talk without our own propagandistic rhetoric! One of the questions I posed was whether this either/or dualism is a false dichotomy: can one be both in support of animal rights and in support of hunting?
If you’re interested in coyotes, one of the storylines in Prodigal Summer, a wonderful novel by Barbara Kingsolver, concerns a forest service naturalist who has a love affair with a bounty hunter. There’s an incredible section in there about the role of the predator in maintaining biological diversity and ecological balance.
I didn’t write much about it when I listened to it on tape. There is one hint about wildness and another hint in this prayer for life offered up by the naturalist.

Paula hopes so, reflecting (by email) both on an impressive Day Without Immigrants demonstration in Amherst yesterday and this national media event:
Colbert rips Bush to his face (video) at the White House press correspondents dinner.
I imagine many, if not most, of the persons who made an appearance in his speech weren’t too happy about it. There was laughter from the crowd at some points, as well as by some of the individuals targeted. There were also palpable silences.
Previous protests for immigrant rights on April 10 surprised politicians in Washington forging ahead with their elitist agenda. The Boston Globe reports largest local participation for yesterday’s protests within Latino communities. The NYTimes headlines the Show of Strength.

Hilarious! Thanks Viveca, for sending the link.
Looks like C-SPAN2 will air his keynote address at UMass’ Communication in Crisis conference this Sunday at 1 pm EST on the program Book TV, and again at 11 pm EST.

Mark Crispin Miller gave an impassioned, persuasive, and deeply unsettling keynote address at the Communication in Crisis conference held at UMass-Amherst today.
He focused on the findings contained in his new book, Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election and Why They’ll Steal the Next One Too. I followed some of the controversy as it was covered by Tom Atlee of The Co-Intelligence Institute. Miller presents a compelling array of “copious evidence” that touchscreen voting is a major culprit of vote fraud, and discusses the fear and denial driving major political figures and the media in general to avoid this most crucial fact of our times.

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I want to go to this conference in Chicago next fall.

Just peeking at the introduction to a collection of essays, The Grammar of Politics, which attempts to apply Wittgenstein’s reputedly conservative politics to more radical practices.
A quote from his later work speaks to my writing students and to my own linguistic evolution (if I can be so bold as to hope certain changes are an improvement).
“But how many kinds of sentences are there? . . . There are countless kinds. . . . And this multiplicity is not something fixed, given once and for all; but new types of language, new language-games, as we may say, come into existence, and others become obsolete and forgotten. . . . Here the term ‘language-game’ is meant to bring into prominence the fact that the speaking of language is part of an activity, or of a form of life. (PI $ 23)” (p 5-6).
A bit later, the term “moral imagination” (coined by Sabina Lovibond) is introduced to describe a commitment “for creating and sustaining immanent yet sometimes oppositional political languages” (6-7). Indeed (referencing James Tully’s Political Philosophy as Critical Activity, and aligning with Quentin Skinner, Charles Taylor, Jonathan Havercroft, & David Owen), “This approach starts from the rough ground of practice rather than theory: from political language games that are experienced as problematic and are called into question to become the site of struggle” (8).
The goal of such engagement (genealogical in some respects) is “to change our conventional way of looking at problems in which we are entangled and to enable us to think differently about them” (9).

When I learned of these cartoons (via two headline stories in the NYTimes a week ago), I inquired of a journalist friend. I then summarized our conversation to another friend via email:
“We agreed that provocative humor is important but ought (?) to be wielded with an eye toward some ‘higher’ goal rather than the mere incitement of xenophobia. My pal also talked about the editorial responsibility of making the decision to publish. In the current political context, there needs to be complete assurance that no one’s job is going to be sacrificed to appease the predictable public outcry. In other words, the decision to publish carries a lot of ethical weight. It must be clean and clear enough to be justifiable and withstand criticism.”
She responded:
“I agree on your point about editorial accountability/responsibility, in the muhammad cartoon debate. I also find it very interesting to think about how the issue has been conceptualized in terms of minority/majority cultural conflict; however, who constitutes the threatened minority (muslims in denmark or danes in the world?) and who constitutes the majority in power (danes in denmark or muslims in the world) changes continously, depending on whose perspective is assumed.”
Meanwhile, I received an inflammatory anti-Muslim email from another friend, which I passed on to my journalist buddy with the comment:
“I became friends with this woman, a Jew, who impressed the hell out of me on every level…. our friendship has cooled some since I learned of her rabid views but I’m intrigued…. how can such contradictions be possible in one otherwise kind and wise?”
The response was both sharp and insightful:
“Yup, and then there’s that. How easy it is to be asking “But why aren’t they rising up?” of downtrodden people, uneducated and unemployed, whose lives have, for generations, been mired in helplessness, forced and ideological submission to clever thugs… cosntantly searching for something spiritually meaningful (if material welfare is not to be had at any costs).”
I had all this in mind when I was reading the comments posted in two British web-forums last night (excerpted in Dr Suess and WAR). Toward the end of a long, detailed, markedly “rational” discussion, someone blames the media for making it such a circus. Of course, the participants neglect to notice how their own comments inflame and enliven the very tensions they bemoan.

Who knew? Dr. Seuss was overtly political? I know there are metaphors for social relations in his popular children’s books but not that he also sketched editorial cartoons. Cool. I wonder if he’d take a pro/con side in the Mohammed cartoon bisaster? Here’s some disturbing anti-Muslim discussion on the Sheffield Forum and a bloglink to The Daily Ablution‘s roundup of UK news coverage from Feb 3rd, which includes some streaming video.
A friend recently lauded Robert Fisk but not so Scott Burgess, who takes Fisk to task.

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Paul Loeb wrote earlier this month to encourage a filibuster of Alito: Extraordinary Circumstances Indeed.
The Daily Kos posted Kerry’s declaration of support. The Washington Monthly is less sure but thinks it is at least worth the effort. CNN (!) recounts the build-up to today’s “showdown”.
The magic number for the Democrats/those opposed to Alito is 41.

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