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11/12/2010 / Lynn Rabbitts

The Great Communicators’ Subjectivity

Attempt three by one h Richter to summit the hill of Subjectivity, this time with the help of The Great Communicators. God willing, this time it will stick.

This was a difficult subject matter to cover in their time allotted, but they did an admirable job. They brought up the complexity of the matter with the movie Million Dollar Baby where the actress Hillary Swank broke-out of the normal ideology of what a woman   “is” by portraying a female boxer. The Great Communicators used this to portray her as masculine, straight to the point. Then brought in a real life reference of Mike Tyson, and how he used the defense of a woman being overly masculine for his need to rape her.

They next talked about how  repetition produces normality within the system, and how subjectivity works towards conformity making something into a commodity. Essentially letting others become good.

They alluded to the next chapter of speech genres, by stating things people do or say, their actions, can be heard and understood, because it’s tangible, not psychoanalytical.

Finally they brought up how subjectivity is completely individual, and how there are certain things that grow and change even within an individual over  time. Society spends much of their time attempting to understand the subjectivity of others. If you understand it from somebody else you are capable of swaying their opinion  by playing off of this.

This is why, as the Great Communicators put it, it is important to understand yourself, what you find meaningful.

11/12/2010 / Lynn Rabbitts

To the Newberry: A Love Letter

The polished brick floor has been smoothed with the passing of feet. Murmurs and whispers bounce off the arched ceiling, dancing with one another like a secret in a schoolyard. There is peace here, a quiet solace extending to all those who walk through the front door, seeking the comfort of the Newberry Library.

Facing southward, toward the oldest park in the city, near a century and a quarter worth of history stand the walls of this library, but ten fold those 123 years is housed in the knowledge within. When the library was first built, the architects felt this southern exposure would offer the learned scholars entering the gentle grace of sunlight. However it is also this same light, lack of temperature and environmental control that mired the books into trouble.

To preserve these tomes, the Newberry erected a ten-story, windowless construct to the north. This building is not to be made accessible, but more in the lines of a wildlife reserve; a place books might dream deep dreams in their ideal environs, awaiting the day they shall be called upon to reveal their contents.

The door to this building is pulled open, and the smell washes out, washes over, drenching the invader. Not in any crude sense, but a beckoning, inviting one as an old friend from some past life who is known instantly upon meeting. Perhaps this is the feeling Odysseus accepted while lashed to the mast of his ship, listening to the song of the sirens. The book’s call is no less powerful. “Just slip open the cover, flip through a few pages.”

The books placement seems haphazard, until it is revealed they are housed with their family. Now in the care of the Newberry, available to all, the spine backs remain in the same collection from the one so generous as to have donated them.

In the quietude, with the spell of the books still lingering, the fourth floor’s special reading room is revealed. Researchers sit behind glass doors, lingering over the paper in front of them. One such researcher holds up a piece of paper, marked in a purposeful hand for the next book he needs, and a curator walks out to retrieve it. A humorous, yet telling sign is left in his wake: “Please limit your book requests. I only have access to 10 million today.”

Exiting to a crisp fall day, with the lightweight of history still resting on the shoulders, it is possible to see the orators gather at Bughouse Square. The mind feels an ease creep over as a last ray of summer strikes through the fire branded leaves in the trees. Feet press on farther down the pavement, inspired by the journey so many others have taken here before.

A special thanks to my guide, John Brady, the Newberry’s Bibliographer of Americana.

09/12/2010 / Lynn Rabbitts

Chapter 9: Written on a Friend

My friend Audra gifted me Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief under this pretense: This is not a book you lend out, it’s one you give. And she was right. It’s a story about words and less about stories, how words can save a life, the power Adolf Hitler had over words and how stolen words and given words have the ability to shape and make life.

The one promise I will make is not to spoil the book as everybody should read this. I’m bolstered the narrator of this story, Death, who does spoil the ending at the onset of it, and it still works. Some books read like a meal: you know what you’re getting, you savor every bite and immediately want to tell your friends about it.

We’ll be looking at how The Book Thief works in conjuncture with  Communication and Culture’s 9th chapter, written genres.

As it opens, the book thief is quite young, being displaced as the Nazi’s come to power in Germany. One of the first books she steals is from a book burning, the cruelest application of “gatekeeping”. Hitler and co. were seeking to destroy a culture, creating their own and erasing all the knowledge and memories put into a permanent form (CC pg 148) and thereby negating the power of the author (CC pg 149).

The book also deals with the power of Hitler’s penned “My Struggle” juxtaposing it versus the journal kept by Max, a Jew hiding in the Book Thief’s basement. Hitler used his words not just to anticipate what his “audience” wanted (CC pg 150) but also as a form of influence. While Hitler’s Kampf was used as a source to empower him (CC pg 156), Max in the basement used his journal to show how words can set you free.

Writing and authorship are also given time within the book. The Book Thief is a writer who unknowingly leaves her own book for the narrator to find. All writing is something with an intended audience, an author is an individual who is held credible for their work (CC pg 163).

When Zusak wrote The Book Thief it took three years to find the voice of his narrator, in this case: Death. At first Zusak wanted Death to be greedy, ravenous, gleeful in the genocide the world was performing on herself. But as Zusak continued to edit, and re-edit, tear-up and write again, Death became tired, weary of what he was doing.

Communication and Cultures pulls the punch on this aspect. Editing is the most important aspect of written genres. When you communicate through a written medium, it should be both to a level above yourself, and your reader, but without losing sight of the character within the communication or your audiences ability to grasp its intent.

Lastly, books and words should be prized as close as friends. They are creatures who gobble-up information, not greedily, but freely and available to whomever wants to hold their spine, gently turning the page.

Being someone who enjoys the crackle of the record on a turntable and the violence of a typewriter, I still cannot condemn the Kindle. It’s far more important for people to read than an attitude on how it should be done. Ignorance does not behoove words, no matter in what form they are assembled. The argument over electronic readers is in the same vein as people who argue what should be read and what should be burned.

Whether it’s summer trash or a banned book all are parts of our culture–they all should be considered friends.

08/12/2010 / Lynn Rabbitts

Review of the MARG’S Speech Genres

Neil Young, after hearing Nirvana for the first time, immediately went to his garage and played through the entire night because their music kicked his [butt] so much. Young didn’t do this in a competitive spirit—he felt the need to carry on.

It’s inspiring when it happens. It catches you off-guard, making you want to try everything a little harder, sharper, better.

I’m speaking, of course, about the MARG’S presentation on Speech Genres. Specifically, the grace and care they breathed into the subject, transforming an otherwise dry subject in the book and offering it up clean, cut, to the point.

Dissenters will immediately voice their opinion the MARG’S played to my heartstrings with Orson Well’s version of ‘War of the Worlds’. I will blush on this account, and try to look away, but contextually the Well’s performance was:

•    Incredibly well done

•    Scared and screwed with an entire nation

•    Holds up over time

The MARG’S were able to take all three of those aspects and not bend them to their wills, but perfectly fit the notion of speech genres over the top of them.

As they explained, the power of Orson Well’s voice and the different actors, using their voices to both capture the characters they were playing and in doing so, brought the audience along with them for the ride.

The MARG’S used the media of radio, the main form of immediate news dissemination in 1938, to illustrate their point while taking a swipe at the jealous media of newspapers who were still trying to drag themselves out of yellow journalism: fake war with Mars is bad; creating an actual war with Spain is okay.

This brought the notion of speech genre’s to life far better than the book. It’s horribly exciting.

08/12/2010 / Lynn Rabbitts

Review of Invisiweb’s Ideology “Presentation”

In a disgusting display of negligence Invisiweb attempted to portray “Ideology”. While both kudos and congratulations should be lauded upon both Mr. Chris Nielsen and Mr. Arthur Stone, Mr. H Richter failed miserably in his portion of the presentation.

The group termed their creative process as being organic, moving first from a media sample from The Onion and comparing and contrasting its ideology with that of a more reputable new’s source, a move towards goldmine of The Man Your Man Could Smell Like advert from Old Spice.

While Mr. Stone and Mr. Nielsen stayed on point, it was Mr. Richter who continually insisted they separate themselves from the Schirato and Yell’s tomb Communication and Culture, opting to pull quotes from selected philosophers within the book rather than the book itself. The only thought this writer has is Mr. Richter believed he should demonstrate what he learned, not how he learned it.

The real low-light for Invisiweb’s presentation came when Mr. Richter attempted to link ideology to several corporate products, the most “scrape the barrel” of which was something he referred to as: “Facon”–a product  this writer and his crack team of fact checkers have yet to locate.

Once Mr. Richter yielded the floor to Mr. Nielsen the presentation blossomed.

Mr. Nielsen guided the group through Old Spice commercial, carefully selecting images from the commercial to depict what ideology was, and showcasing the hidden subtleties behind what each of the symbols, within the commercial represented.

Mr. Stone brought the entire show home, enticing the crowd with poignant discussion and follow-up questions.

Overall, this was a good presentation, perhaps next time more care might be executed towards the end rather than the lackluster beginning.

11/11/2010 / Lynn Rabbitts

Chapter 6: Subjectfriggintivity

I like the book Communication and Culture. Really, I do. While I haven’t been a vocal proponent of the book, so as not to go against the hegemony of the class, for the most part I have enjoyed it.

That is until I read chapter 6. I have since then: read the chapter, liked it, thought I understood it, done miserably on a quiz, re-read the chapter, stared blankly at the quiz questions again, ripped-up the previously penned blog and considered offering up my cat as a sacrifice to the sikh prophecy (as proclaimed by Marilyn Monroe) “Everything Happens for a Reason” I didn’t receive this chapter for my group presentation.

This chapter should have been broken down into at least two chapters. Yet, since we’re given four parts, and since the previous chapters have instructed us, in terms of framing a context, that he who controls the present controls the past, this post shall be biased towards the final philosopher: Judith Butler.

Okay, complaining is done, blog post begins…. NOW!

I cannot believe I already used Annie Hall prior to the chapter on Freud. I’m a bad writer, this blog is the lesser for it, and, gentle reader, you have every reason to be disappointed. In an attempt to make amends, we shall look at my favorite book, Catch-22 by the immortal Joseph Heller, specifically chapter 23: Nately’s Old Man.

The book deals with the ideology of war, authority and the subjectivity within the hegemony for all participants. Due to space constraints, this will focus around the minor character of an old man residing in Rome.

His quote:

“When the Germans marched into [Rome], I danced in the streets like a youthful ballerina and shouted, ‘Heil Hitler!’ until my lungs were hoarse. I even waved a small Nazi flag that I had snatched away from a beautiful little girl while her mother was looking the other way. When the Germans left the city, I rushed out to welcome the Americans with a bottle of excellent brandy and a basket of flowers. The brandy was for myself, of course, and the flowers were to sprinkle upon our liberators.”

(Catch-22 pg 246)

This is a “performance” of subjectivity. In this case should the old man not follow the new culture his liberators bring with them he could be facing serious consequences in the non-performance or mis-performance of his acts (CC pg 101).

This quote of his performance goes on even further. He goes on to explain how instead of sprinkling the flowers on the liberators he hits one of the Majors in the face. This added performance might be for the benefit of the GIs, and spending subjective legal tender popularized by the American liberators of Rome.

One aspect that interests me, within this book is the institutional agents used throughout. While we are taught “throughout our lives, institutional agents direct us towards normal behavior” (CC pg 94), the institutional agent in this book is survival and self which drives to create the “normal behavior” the brings comedy to the first part of the book.

To me, the anti-authoritarian aspects of this book make sense. Think for yourself, take your actions and then stand-by them. Not because it’s popular or even in the best interests of the populace, but because you believe it’s right.

To further this example (and as I am now completely lost on this chapter) I’ll close with an excellent take on the most recent elections. Here, William Saletan explains how the Democrats didn’t really lose the election. It’s a different subjective take on a widely perceived notion.

And therein is my problem: am I getting subjective confused with subjectfriggintivity? Has years and years of trying to be subjective to principles not allowed me to grasp this concept?

[h.’s brain blows up]


01/11/2010 / Lynn Rabbitts

Chapter 5: Jesus, Christmas, Depression in Hegemony

“People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent.” –Bob Dylan

I consider this to be the most important tenant of my life. Not in a crude statement of faith, or a FOX pundit “bravely” going on television and espousing their beliefs. The same conviction I’ve held that statement to now comes under fire when put under the context of  Chapter 5 of Communication and Culture, where it states “the repetition of ideology across the culture, as Bourdieu suggests, helps to ensure that we forget that ideology… is ideology.” (CC pg 75)

In attempt to illustrate ideology let us look at the  documentary, Jesus Camp. I set out to watch it with the same,  stupid human ideology as the commentators below the movie: wanting to watch something to first become angry, then reach a resolve that you’re better than them and finally resolve to do something to make their lives miserable.

But I didn’t get that out of the documentary at all. Yes, it is scary watching somebody believe so fervently in something, see how easy it is to be swayed to the point of hate, and, as Marx said “create a ‘reality’ so as to provide a false meaning of life” (CC pg 77). The documentary, however,  doesn’t attempt to portray them in a foul light, nor is it sensational enough to make those depicted “hang themselves”. Instead these are people who find beauty through this, and while if they may meat me I would still be considered a heathen, I at least understand, now, where they’re coming from.

World War I, The Great War, was a war of ideology and hegemony. The ideology brought on when leaders decided to play war and the hegemony of their citizens “gloriously” signing-up to participate in the great adventure. It hadn’t been going on for long when The Christmas Truce happened (as described in the article by Simon Rees). Service men, on both sides, bucked hegemony to “see the enemy up close–was he really as bad as the politicians, papers and priests were saying?”

The English and the Germans began to fraternize, to which “Stern orders were issued by the commander against such behavior.”

On some parts of the front this was ignored. Some used it as a somber time to bury the dead left, in other areas Germans and English troops exchanged cigarettes, in one place a soccer game happened–Germany won 3-2.

Hegemony, ideology, war took over after Christmas. Put best by Captain J C Dunn, the Medical Officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers:

“At 8.30 I fired three shots in the air and put up a flag with “Merry Christmas” on it, and I climbed on the parapet.  [The Germans] put up a sheet with “Thank you” on it, and the German Captain appeared on the parapet.  We both bowed and saluted and got down into our respective trenches, and he fired two shots in the air, and the War was on again.”

It’s difficult to respect ideology and next to impossible to love hegemony. It does provide a lingua franca for communication to occur, but throws a monkey wrench into the tenant of my life in that beliefs–conviction  isn’t necessarily a good thing.  It makes  me sad for the world, one that seems too weary to continue on a truce or accept people different from themselves.

Wow, who needs a happy hour?

26/10/2010 / Lynn Rabbitts

Chapter 4: An Island Unto Himself

The movie Annie Hall could be used to illustrated any situation from Schirato and Yell’s Communication and Culture. But it works best, perhaps, within framing context as described in chapter four.

The narrative of the movie is difficult, almost aloof. Yet the rules are explained at the outset of the movie. Alvy Singer is not attempting to re-tell the story of his relationship with Annie, he is attempting to put in a frame what went wrong with all of the relationships in his life. This is not done in a straight narrative, but allows the audience to follow Alvy along as he dissects romantic entanglements to figure out what exactly went wrong.

The movie requires a large degree of specific intertextuality in order to understand the jokes. This is one of the better exchanges within the movie:

Man: “She’s living in Los Angeles with Tony Lacey.”

Alvy: “Oh, yeah? Well, if she is, then the hell with her! If she likes that lifestyle, let her live there! He’s a jerk, for one thing.”

Man: “He graduated Harvard.”

Alvy: “Yeah, He may– Listen, Harvard makes mistakes, you know: Kissinger taught there”

Woman on the Street: “Don’t tell me your jealous?”

Alvy: “Yeah, jealous. A little bit, like Medea.”

The entire joke is predicated on the viewers past knowledge of 1) Kissinger and 2) a minor character from Homer’s Odyssey (CC pg 53). No doubt most of us only laugh about it so we can feel better than those that don’t get the joke.

The rules of genre are also followed, though the rules of discourse are broken in the following scene. In it, we are given the first moment Alvy and Annie hung out. Both need to follow the social mores put into practice by people attempting to figure out a relationship, but it breaks by allowing the audience to read the subtitles of what they actually mean.

Both of them are communicating with a social purpose and occasion (CC pg 56), but the subtitles allow the viewer insight to the meaning of the points they are attempting to convey.

The movie concludes with another joke or parable to Michael Foucalt’s need to create a “power structure, classify and normalize the social world.” (CC pg 59). It contextualizes all that Alvy has learned from the narrative of the journey. This nicely ties in with what is learned from Pierre Bourdieu’s habitus. Even though Alvy has found what has made relationships continually miserable for him, he isn’t about to change, and will, no doubt, continue down the same path in other relationships.

As he says, “We all need the eggs.”

25/10/2010 / Lynn Rabbitts

Mean but Polite

I have learned another valuable lesson: It’s okay to be mean but polite.

My Reporting and Writing class treks to The Clare to cover The New Media Professionals conference.  This assignment is contingent on obtaining one reaction from an audience member and extra credit shall be awarded for each additional reaction at ten points ahead.

My angle comes midway through the conference. An 80 year old attendee makes, what should be, a great comment about women in the media. This story has legs.

I star the woman to get her information and maybe a follow-up quote along with several other people in attendance, but as soon as the conference ends she bolts out the door. And I am Batman, the Bat-Signal has flared in the sky and I’m jumping over walkers, wheelchairs, people heading for their blue-dish dinner at noon.

I corner her in the hallway to get a reaction.

This is a mistake.

She starts at the beginning. Not the beginning of the conference, but the beginning of her husband’s professional life. What’s worse than the juicy quote not falling from her mouth is her actively shooing away other attendees I want quotes from.

I attempt to bring one such piece of extra credit into the conversation, but the woman I’m talking with is having none of it. She’s even going so far as to interrupt the man, “I’m talking with him now.” This may have stirred-up some old wound between the two of them, and now my story might change from a quaint piece on women in the media to “Old Folk Punch Out at The Clare”, and I’m wondering if I should cover it in a New-Journalism style since I, technically, am part of the story.

The embattled man leaves with sharp words, saying if I print anything she says it would be poor journalism, I would be a poor writer and he would make my life as difficult as possible. Any attempts to assuage the situation, or ask him if I could talk with him later fall on deaf ears.

I continue writing down what my quote is saying, realizing what she is saying completely refutes the angle I want for this story. Not only that but I can’t print what she’s saying as most of it is a mathematical improbability.

There are two “worst parts” to this, dear reader. The first is residents of The Clare a flight below me. While they might not add to my story, they would have at least given me the extra credit I so desperately want. However, my new companion insists on escorting me to the door. The second, and perhaps far worse, is my only quote not knowing her phone number, and insisting on me giving her my number so she could call back later.

Her parting comments haunt me. She points to the dining room below, where all of my extra credit was tantalizingly drinking coffee, stating as she has my phone number she can now call me over for lunch.

The art of breaking up with a girlfriend, even a friend is a delicate task. I shall leave for a later date how to break-up with a senior citizen.

19/10/2010 / Lynn Rabbitts

Chapter 3: Fear Exploited

I hated this chapter; this chapter has stuck with me. I realize, now, I was not supposed to read it, but I feel like the cleaning lady who read and hated The World According to Bensenhaver (in John Irving’s World According to Garp), and now feel reflection is warranted.

For both Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault choice is an impossibility (as illustrated in Communication and Culture), and “all practices are informed by notions of power, politics and self-interest.” (pg 43). This is put to song (albeit sardonically) in Malvina Reynolds Little Boxes.

Reynolds song seeks to insight rebellion against the establishment. But as Bourdieu would put it: the attitudes, values, ideologies and dispositions which shape and determine practices need to be naturalized before they can become effective. (pg 51). In effect, she is seeking to create a new practice, her own establishment.

Bourdeiu and Foucault’s argument seems airtight. People are subjugated to where they have come from, what they are, who they will be. Even those that would play devil advocate and live outside of bio-power functions still figure into it based on what it is they are trying to achieve–power for themselves.

This is depressing on more than one level until it is remembered there are those who will stand-up to habitus and redistribute cultural capital. Edward R. Murrow, on See It Now, used cultural literacy in order to prove a point, to disrupt the current habitus. Murrow’s gambit lacked common sense, natural or inevitable (pg43). This was a scary time, and the easiest thing was not to say anything.

Bourdeiu and Foucalt would refute this, citing Murrow’s position of power, and although a self-sacrifice, he was following the journalistic codes ingrained in him. But this feels too simplistic and superficial of an argument; an argument they do not go into enough and instead seek to put everybody “into little boxes.”

There is, no doubt, more to this argument than the book had pages to provide. More research, dear reader, shall have to be done on my part. But who am I to argue a chapter of a book that provides a close reading of the most quintessential movie of ours or any generation.

Perhaps it is best to conclude this on an uplifting, positive mindset: “Just remember what old Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big old storm right square in the eye and he says, ‘Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it.’ ” (Big Trouble in Little China, 1986 non-released-title-though-it-would’ve-been-more-aptly-named: Greatest Story Ever Told.)

Good night, and good luck.