the twit


    public tallying 2

    less misanthropic today. also, i've reminded myself-- while re-reading my "i have a problem with ritual" mess-- that over the past few weeks i've herded various co-workers through a rather fixed loop from the office, to the starbucks in the student union, back to the office-- with specifics paths taken to approach and to leave the starbucks, and a with the same order made each time: a grande iced americano, no room for cream (but in which i allow a splash of milk, if only to watch the inky cloud resulting). this procession is-- at this point-- intentional, and comfortable. and a ritual, no doubt. as with my morning routine: press snooze three times, turn on the espresso machine, shower, dress, drink espresso, leave. this brings up the question: when does a routine become a ritual? what problems do i have with the ritual of walking down the aisle that i do not have with walking by the lyceum?


    the public tallying of desire

    i have a problem with ritual. well, i'm not sure that's so much accurate as it is a nice out-of-the-blocks sentence. i have a difficult time coming to terms with ritual; i have a bothersome relationship with ritual. something.

    in any case, i often plant myself in a constructivist corner when the importance of a birthday, a holiday, or an anniversary is brought to issue. embrace the arbitrary; do not mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself; grumble grumble grumble.

    from this admittedly overly skeptical vantage point, rituals of common social gravity seem to receive the most flak. marriages, for instance: generally possessing neither rigidity nor sanctity, they are nevertheless serve a reasonable role in attempting to package public acknowledgment for something that already exists. a ring does not a marriage make; a "she's my girlfriend" does not a boyfriend (or girlfriend) make. a marriage exists, and a ring acknowledges it-- but does not create it.

    in this regard, i have much appreciation for the catholic church's understanding of the sacrament of marriage-- which is not a sacrament conferred or consecrated by a mass or a priest performing a mass or a father trying not to cry at a mass; it is a sacrament consecrated by the actors themselves (in part by getting it on, yes), in the esoteric and inscrutable intertwinings of their being alive, and the "getting married" part-- i.e. the white dress, the ring barer, and the creepy uncle-- is merely an attempt to say "this thing exists," to give a visible, rigid instantiation to something that requires neither, and at the end of the day seems neither necessary nor sufficient for the existence of the thing it is acknowledging to exist (and particularly not sufficient). in this light, the catholic understanding of annulment is also impressive, for it is not an act of canceling a marriage (i.e. a divorce), but rather the acknowledgment that a marriage never happened-- that there was only the finger pointing, and never the moon-- and the blushing bride, the squirming groom, the dancing flower girl, and grandma's china were all-- in a sense-- duped by a massive parade of social signifier that had form, but not substance. this is a ritualistic orientation i like, one that has no pretension of it's causal or necessary/sufficient powers-- an honest attempt at signifying, without being convinced that signifying is necessarily creating.

    on the other hand, it is kind of nice to see an otherwise fancy couple sitting together at a coffee shop-- accompanied by an absurd and pink/purple embellished teddy bear, who gets the occasional kiss on the nose.

    all this "being limply defiant" burst forth while reading, "of valentines jinxes and packaged gnocci," by rebecca traister in, february 14, 2008:
    As Valentine's Day approached with all its humiliations and hormones-- the in-class carnations and kissing and public tallying of desire!


    Don't misunderstand. I have never given a good goddamn about Valentine's Day. Only intermittently has it had any emotional impact. Once, in the midst of a particularly agonizing winter breakup cycle, my jaw went slack during a sushi dinner with a girlfriend who was devastated that her swain would be out of town on business for the big day. "I'll know I have a boyfriend, but I'll feel so pathetic when all the women in my office are getting ready to go out for dinner and it'll look like I have nothing to do!" she said, as I quietly wondered if I could drown myself in a shallow pool of low-sodium soy sauce.

    I recall a few limply defiant all-girls gatherings, designed to take the sting out of being single on the biggest Hallmark holiday of the year. But most of those ended at a dive bar, gossiping about jobs and boys. Putting energy into hating Valentine's Day is as hackneyed and old hat as hating New Year's Eve. There's no traction or originality there.


    And then I rolled a perfect gnocchi.

    taken at the MS state fair, 2007


    noticed: misc

    just set up internet in my new apartment, so hopefully that will allow for better writing patterns. oddly enough, i always seem to be either wrapped up in work at the office or on the road, clinging to my ipod (with which i recently discovered npr podcasts).

    that being said, there are piles of random "noticed" blurbs that were neither typed up nor was time found to comment upon them. so, a bit of a purge (also, in the next couple of days i hope to do some commentary on community meetings i've been attending):

    from "Maternity Fashions, Junior Size," by Katha Pollitt, in The Nation, January 21, 2008:
    Teens getting pregnant: bad. Teens having babies: good. If this makes no sense to you, wake up and smell the Enfamil. It's 2008!


    In Juno, the pregnant girl is the central figure, a witty oddball who drives the action, beginning with the sex; neither the boy nor her father and stepmother, a well-meaning but rather oblivious pair, much affect her decisions. Thus, Juno goes for abortion alone, without even telling her parents she's pregnant. In real life, this would most likely have been impossible, because nearly all states in the Midwest (where the movie is set) have parental notification or consent laws.


    Juno is sensible enough to realize she's just a kid and makes the choice that not long ago was forced on middle-class white girls [i.e. carrying to term]. These days, 29 percent of pregnant teens have abortions; 14 percent miscarry; of the 57 percent who carry to term, less than 1 percent give up the baby. Paradoxically, the women's movement destigmatized single motherhood and thus helped make a world in which some of the old justifications for abortion no longer seem so forceful. Now it's abortion that is a badge of shame and "irresponsibility."


    Just to bring the whole reproductive carnival full circle, Florida's "Choose Life" license plates, of which more than 40,000 have been sold, have raised more than $4 million for low-income single moms. But there's a catch: only women who choose adoption qualify. A woman who wants to keep her baby can just go starve in hell. Since only a handful of woman want to give away their babies-- even among pregnant woman who plan on adoption, 35 percent chance their mind once the baby is born-- the money is just sitting there. Maybe someone, someday will make a movie about that.

    from "Totally Spent," by Robert Reich, in The New York Times, February 13, 2008:
    The underlying problem has been building for decades. America’s median hourly wage is barely higher than it was 35 years ago, adjusted for inflation. The income of a man in his 30s is now 12 percent below that of a man his age three decades ago. Most of what’s been earned in America since then has gone to the richest 5 percent.

    Yet the rich devote a smaller percentage of their earnings to buying things than the rest of us because, after all, they’re rich. They already have most of what they want. Instead of buying, and thus stimulating the American economy, the rich are more likely to invest their earnings wherever around the world they can get the highest return.

    The problem has been masked for years as middle- and lower-income Americans found ways to live beyond their paychecks. But now they have run out of ways.

    The first way was to send more women into paid work. Most women streamed into the work force in the 1970s less because new professional opportunities opened up to them than because they had to prop up family incomes. The percentage of American working mothers with school-age children has almost doubled since 1970 — to more than 70 percent. But there’s a limit to how many mothers can maintain paying jobs.

    So Americans turned to a second way of spending beyond their hourly wages. They worked more hours. The typical American now works more each year than he or she did three decades ago. Americans became veritable workaholics, putting in 350 more hours a year than the average European, more even than the notoriously industrious Japanese.

    But there’s also a limit to how many hours Americans can put into work, so Americans turned to a third way of spending beyond their wages. They began to borrow. With housing prices rising briskly through the 1990s and even faster from 2002 to 2006, they turned their homes into piggy banks by refinancing home mortgages and taking out home-equity loans. But this third strategy also had a built-in limit. With the bursting of the housing bubble, the piggy banks are closing.