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February 25, 2004

In Other News...

Here are a few passing thoughts that never quite achieved blog entry status:

I'm turning into a political junkie. I really can't get enough now. The combination of the presidential primaries, early polls, and the immediacy and volume of news and commentary in the blogosphere is turning into a serious addiction. But, anyway, the turnout for the Democratic primary in Utah probably isn't good news for Bush, as Utah voter Blake Sarlow pointed out (Yahoo link may not work):

Officials printed 5,000 extra ballots in Salt Lake City to accommodate the demand. "Three blocks from Temple Square and there's a giant line of Democrats," said Blake Sarlow, waiting to vote. "It's the craziest thing."

I watched Catherine Hardwicke's Thirteen (IMDB) last night. I was rather impressed by the film's clear-eyed treatment of teen partying and sexuality, but found the formal technique of gradually washing out the film's colors until it was virtually monochromatic to be not only distracting but also heavy-handed. Quite honestly, at first I thought something was wrong with my television. Still, the screenplay, co-written by the film's supporting actress, Nikki Reed, was rather sharp, and performances by Evan Rachel Wood and Holly Hunter were very good. Looks like Steve Shaviro and I disagree about the formal elements, although I'd agree with him that the quick camera movements added to the film. I'd also agree that the film seems too moralistic for my tastes. One other question about the film: Doesn't it seem strange that the film sets us up to condemn teen sex and that the girls generally have sex with black men? Is the taboo against representing interracial sex in Hollywood being used here as a way to communicate the dangers of having sex as a teenager?

I've been reading Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed for a potential paper on teaching globalization via representations of work, and it's an intriguing book. Her descriptions of working for Wal-Mart certainly remind me of my experiences working for Home Depot when I was a graduate student at Georgia State. I know the book has been criticized because Ehrenreich is essentially a "tourist," and to a certain extent, I was, too. I knew that eventually I'd leave the Depot for a PhD program, which allowed me to protect myself emotionally from that life, but the book absolutely opens up some questions about the difficulties of getting by on near-minimum-wage pay. In a sense, I think the work that Ehrenreich discusses is actually beyond description, that low-wage service work cannot really be represented adequately. This goes beyond the simple distinction between an object and its referent to me; it's something more visceral, physical, emotional, mental, psychological. Even with my distancing techniques, when I stepped into a Home Depot, I became a different person. When I heard an interview conducted at a Home Depot while watching TV at home, I immediately felt myself falling into a bad mood, just from hearing the atmospheric sounds on my TV.

Posted by chuck at February 25, 2004 1:36 AM

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Two comments:

1) I've kind of gone the opposite direction. In the 90s I was a political junkie. But after the 2000 "election" I could no longer stomach it. What is happening is so bad to me that I can't watch/read about it without total cynicism: it makes me immediately aware that there is nothing I can do. We can only hope for 2004.

2) I used _Nickel and Dimed_ in a course last year and really liked it. It did catch a lot of flak but I too worked *only* those kinds of jobs until I got a GTA position, which some may argue isn't much better, but it was *a lot* better to me at the time. I think the book does capture that feel, as much as it is possible to do so. The criticims of the book never bothered me. Somebody has to be talking/writing about this issue!


Posted by: B. at February 26, 2004 8:46 AM

Regarding politics: I think that Bush's cynicism has motivated me a little, but I'm not sure why. I'd guess that part of the addiction in my case is greater access to information. I didn't have any television reception from something like 1998-2002, although I frequently listened to a community radio station that kept me fairly informed.

Ehrenreich: I think you're right. Few people are talking about this type of work in any real way, or the difficulty of getting by on $7 an hour. In what context did you teach her book?

Posted by: chuck at February 26, 2004 11:21 AM

Turnout here in Utah was something else, indeed. While there's little doubt the state will go to Bush, I think it's important to note that the divisions between this neo-con administration which has done almost NOTHING for domestic policy (as is to be expected from neo-cons) and the paleoconservatives (such as Hatch, McCain, and Buchanan) are beginning to become clearer and clearer. This has been brewing for a long time (there was a WaPo piece on this a long time ago).

Additionally, Utah is going to turn down NLCB funds, and will thus set the precedent for what will surely be a nation-wide rejection of the plan in its current (and completely un-funded) iteration.

Posted by: Scott at February 26, 2004 3:07 PM

I know that Virginia, another relatively conservative state, has also rejected or at least announced their intentions to reject NCLB. Interesting times.

Posted by: chuck at February 26, 2004 3:19 PM

I used ND in a junior level nonficiton class. At Mason we have a _Text and Community_ program where each year a text is selected, a number of courses use the text, and speakers come in to talk about the texts. ND was one of those. The larger panel discussion with speakers from multiple disciplines was really interesting. The economics guy got harashed by the crowd :) Affordable housing is almost nonexistant up around DC.


Posted by: B. at February 29, 2004 4:38 PM

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