Thursday, April 27, 2006

Scholars Discover 23 Blank Pages That May As Well Be Lost Samuel Beckett Play

Jim K. sent me this article from the Onion: Scholars Discover 23 Blank Pages That May As Well Be Lost Samuel Beckett Play. Although this is obviously a joke, the poet and critic Susan Howe, who takes a strong textualist postion, would claim that, yes, the meaning of a text is dependent upon its material form. Howe suggests, for example, that editions of Emily Dickinson's poems in which irregular spacing has been corrected and stray marks from the original manuscript pages omitted alter the poem's meaning. She also objects to editons of The Autobiography of Thomas Shepard that have omitted eighty-six blank pages from his journals on similar grounds.

Ahhhh, esoteric literary debates...

Gender and Education

Does Feminism Control The Bush Administration? The preposterous title of Phyllis Schlafly's op ed piece doesn't really give a sense of the essay's argumen. Basically it decries what Schlafly regards as the pernicious influence of feminism on American higher education. She's upset about the Title IX law that regulates the proportion of men and women on athletic teams.

She claims that's the law has resulted in the "senseless abolishment" of 171 men's wrestling teams, and suggests that a similiar move to effect a more proportional gender representation in math and science will be equally, if not more harmful. What cripples her argument, I think, is her acceptance of the notion that males are innately better at math and science than females. I'm skeptical about this, just as I reject the notion that females are innately better at languages or teaching.

I'm intrigued by the way Schlafly closes her essay. First she decries the gender inequality in the field of teaching. She observes:

The number of male public school teachers has fallen to only 20 percent, and at the elementary school level fewer than 10 percent of teachers are men, giving boys the distinct impression that school is not for them.

I agree that the decline in the number of male schoolteachers in public schools is a problem, not least because young boys do need male intellectual figures as role models. (Based on what I've heard from people who've been certified as teachers, a degree in education and getting certified to teach can be a decidely un-intellectual pursuit. I won't elaborate, but it's the oft-repeated claim that knowledge in a particular subject matter gets trumped by a lot of touchy feely tips. I've often thought it ridiculous that academics with MAs or even PhDs are not automatically qualified to teach in America's high schools, many of which are strapped for teachers. But this is another topic altogether.) There's definitely a need for more men in America's classrooms - hired as teachers, not security guards - though I wonder if Schlafly, like most conservatives, would endorse higher pay for American teachers? A fair salary, coupled with smaller student-teacher ratios in the classrooms, would make teaching a more attractive field.

Schlaffly closes by appearing to support the Liberal Arts, or at least an initiative to get more men to major in these subjects:

Nor do we hear anything about spending taxpayer funds to force universities to attract more men into the soft Liberal Arts subjects that now have a big majority of women students.

I'll refrain from ranting about that modifer "soft," and state that I’m all for more funding for the Liberal Arts subjects (not just for men – but for the Liberal Arts peritod) but I’m willing to bet that’s just a smokescreen.

Bottom line: When we talk about inequalities that undermine the American education system, the root problem remains class.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

What's Your Political Philosophy?

This thirty-five answer quiz promises to pinpoint your political philosophy.

Not surprisingly, I found some of the questions worded using unnecessary absolutes (e.g. always, never, etc., that made me pause about fully endorsing ideological sentiments or positions with which I generally agree. How that impacted my score, I don't know. Had I more time, I'd retake the quiz to better guage how it determines one's score.

I don't take the results too seriously, though I'lll admit to being a bit disturbed by how high my "Foreign Policy Hawk" and "New Democract" scores were. It's pretty obvious that this quiz was made by a North American, probably from the U.S., since it completely forecloses the possibility of holding a socialist political philosophy. Anyway, here's my results. Do not assume these results accurately reflects my actual political positions, which, for professional reasons, I prefer to keep fairly private.

That said, I do appreciate the fact that my initials are EDR.

You scored as Old School Democrat. Old school Democrats emphasize economic justice and opportunity. The Democratic ideal is best summarized by the Four Freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

Old School Democrat




New Democrat


Foreign Policy Hawk




Socially Conservative Republican


Pro Business Republican


What's Your Political Philosophy?
created with

Brothel Brouhaha: Muslim Mob Demands Removal of Pink Panty Poster

Another brouhaha in Europe involving Muslims offended by Western imagery declared to be an insult to the prophet Muhammad. This time the locale is Germany, not Denmark, where a murderous Muslim mob threatened violence against a brothel that displayed an enormous seven-story poster featuring allegedly sacrilegious imagery. No, the poster didn't depict the prophet Muhammad. Designed to solicit World Cup customers, the poster a depicted a woman wearing pink panties lifting up her bra next to the slogan "A Time to Make Friends." Just below the panties were images of flags from the 32 nations that will be competing in the 2006 World Cup, including two Islamic countries, Iran and Saudia Arabia.

Personally, I'm not convinced Muhammad would be bothered enough by a silly poster to demand a bombing in retribution, but to defuse the possibility of a bomb attack or other acts of violence the brothel owners capitulated to the angry mob's demands. The whole scenario is even more ridiculous than the Danish cartoon scandal, but I find the violent imposition of censorship chilling and think those who profess to uphold the right to free speech should take the situation seriously and speak out against a blantant act of intimidation. Read more here: World Cup Row: German Brothel Removes Muslim Flags Amid Threats.

Friday, April 21, 2006

DeLillo Speaks (as little as possible)

This reporter's interview with Don DeLillo yielded little new information about the private author, just a few anecdotes. It does provide some background on DeLillo's new play, Love-Lies-Bleeding, which opens in Chicago next week. I've got a ticket for opening night. In fact, it arrived in Thursday's mail. I'm excited.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Beaver Overthinking Dam

Believe me, as someone struggling to craft a [ahem] 'damn dissertation' prospectus, I can relate far more than I would like to admit to the conceptual agonizing that this poor beaver is going through. Read more about Dennis Messner, a self-described "integration-minded postmodernist" beaver here: Beaver Overthinking Dam.

As for me, I'm off to see Slavoj Zizek speak at the U of C campus, but then must return to work and stop "treading water." Don't want to end up stuck in the mud like ol' Dennis has the past few years.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Yes, I'm Here for the Dialectical Behavior Therapy: Photo of the Day #

... is Dr. Hegel available?

Actually, I don't believe that DBT has anything to do with the Absolute Knowing described in The Phenomenology of Spirit and I doubt 'The Awakening' employs any Lacanian psychoanalysts.

Nonetheless, in an attempt to help the New Agers whom I presume run this 'clinic' reach the truth through error, I would like to bring Slavoj Zizek here and have him present himself as a client seeking their services.

Would this not make a fabulous reality show?

Neil Young Sings "Let's Impeach the President"

It's good to hear that Neil Young still has a heart of gold. If I recall correctly, he endorsed Reagan, at least for a time, back in the '80s, but redeemed himself by taking aim at Bush the elder in the classic rock anthem "Rockin' in the Free World." (1989). Truth be told, it seems as though the song is older than that, which only goes to show I'm aging. The "We got a thousand points of light/For the homeless man/ We got a kinder, gentler/ Machine gun hand" line definitely dates it a George the 1st-era tune.

The next lines, though, fit just as well today, with Big Oil again running the country: "We got department stores and toilet paper/ Got styrofoam boxes for the ozone layer/ Got a man of the people, says keep hope alive/ Got fuel to burn, got roads to drive."

If I were singing the song, I'd change "department stores and toilet paper" to "Wall Mart stores and... buried Nader" and substitute "styrofoam boxes" to "SUVs 'n' Hummers." Jeff, maybe the next time we get to see each other you can get out the gee-tar & humor me.

But the reason I've got Neil Young on the brain, and on the stereo (a 1987 live bootleg that I picked up in Italy), is that the man is about to release Living with War, a new LP which includes a song for Dubya. The song's titled Let's Impeach the President.Could this be the Indedpendence Day anthem of '06?

After treatment for a brain aneurysm in 2005, it appears as though Young is recovering well. He certainly has been busy. He released Praisrie Wind last year and now Living with War. I wonder if a brush with death inspired him to write some anti-Bush-regime protest rock?

Perhaps the Dead Kennedys could redo "Let's Lynch the Landlord" with lyrics updated to better reflect the realities of Dubya's 'ownership society'?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Media Policies and Media Reform

Course descriptions for the Fall 2006 semester are due tomorrow, which meant I had to commit myself to a topic for the Composition II class that I'll be teaching. It's been a few semesters since I've taught comp, and I plan to do quite an overhaul on the way I organize the course. I'll be cutting down on the reading (which is hard to do since most students generally come with less background knowledge than one would hope) and placing more emphasis on the writing. I'm hoping that my daily use of rhetorical templates, as advocated by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein in They Say, I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing will help students to process the course material more thoroughly and enable them to generate ideas and structure their thoughts more coherently.

I'd like to have my students maintain blogs for the class, but will not do so unless I can get my class moved to a computer lab.

In my opinion teaching composition is the most difficult assignment one can get working in an English Department. Naturally, then, the task is generally passed along to graduate students and adjunct faculty, whom we all know are not well compensated for their efforts.

Strike up the band: "No-body said it was ea-saaaay..."

Course # 22418 ENGL 161 TR 11:00-12:15
Instructor: Rasmussen, Eric Dean
Course Title: Media Policies and Media Reform

The disciplinary focus of this class is media studies, with an emphasis on analyzing contemporary U.S. media policies and practices. We will be examining how the media system works in the United States and why, in the interest of democracy, academics and activists are calling for citizens to play a greater role in shaping the corporate dominated media sphere. To learn more about the course topic, visit and

I’ve designed this class to teach you to conduct college-level research and to write intelligently about your findings. At the macro level, you will focus on learning the basics of the craft of research, or writing analytically. That is, having surveyed a range of material on a general topic, media studies, you will then select a narrower sub-topic and independently conduct research on it. Your research project will require you to frame a relevant research question, locate source materials, marshal evidence, construct arguments, and craft a polished 10-page report.

At the micro level, you will focus on mastering the rhetorical forms that structure strong academic and argumentative writing. For each class reading you will be asked to identify the rhetorical moves that the text’s author uses to organize his or her argument. Then, with the aid of templates, you will deploy these same rhetorical moves in your own writing. With regular practice and concentrated effort, you will find that an awareness of these rhetorical moves enables you not only to comprehend better the texts you read but also to generate new ideas and enter into ongoing conversations. In short, you will become a more sophisticated reader, writer and thinker.

Students in this class will need to access and print out online materials regularly. To enroll, you must have daily access to the Internet and a printer.