Monthly Archives: June 2011

Is Internet Drama really more dramatic when around women’s issues, or does it just seem that way?

Internet Drama makes me roll my eyes, shake my head, and do multiple *facepalmheaddesk* moves. And yet, I can’t look away.

The latest: Circle of Moms held a contest for the Top 25 Political Mom Blogs.  Lots of really good blogs on this list–I had been familiar with many of them long before the contest started: Viva La Feminista, The Radical Housewife, and MomsRising, in particular, I think are doing wonderful work, and they all made the top ten.

And they, as far as I know, played pretty much no part in the drama. (Unless they have covert Twitter IDs and stayed way under the radar…which is unlikely.) They were kind of extras in the production, part of the scenery, or like those people in Shakespearean plays who get born, arrive somewhere, live, or die based on something the Third Soldier comes onstage and announces in one line. So this ain’t about them.

The leads, and incidentally the two blogs that, for most of the contest, were running neck and neck in the lead: Political Mommentary and The Feminist Breeder.

Political Mommentary is one of those scary (to me) blogs by a woman spouting right-wing unfounded nonsense that sounds reasonable and intelligent until you smell the whiff of bovine excrement in the facts and assumptions beneath the reason, the kind of thing that makes one grateful she’s too busy twittering about the fabulousness of Michelle Bachman to actually blog much. (How can a blog that hasn’t had a new post since May 13 be in the running for top anything? Two posts in May, and before that, March? Top blog indeed.) Her twitter account is on fire, though, and she and her husband (who, in my edumikated academic opinion sounds like what my grandmother would have called “a real piece of work”) (which is “grandma” for “umitigated jackass”) and her many many right-wing followers spent lots of bandwidth campaigning for her to win this contest.

The Feminist Breeder –another interesting entry. And if “saying controversial stuff and having a lot of rants” constitutes a “political” blog, okay, she belongs there. But really–she’s a passionate mommyblogger. She talks about breastfeeding, babywearing, parenting issues, and raising girls to not yield to gender roles.  I actually enjoy her blog a lot, when she doesn’t spend so much time hawking merchandise for her various sponsors, which she has seemed to be doing a lot lately. She is also known for two other pertinent quirks: She has a gajillion groupie-type followers who adore everything she says and tell her so in gushing detail, and she has a sizable number of people she has pissed off at some point in the process, who assert that she insists on ALWAYS being right and that anyone who disagrees with her is immediately deleted and banned from her pages–something difficult to check, of course, because, you know, deletion…She has inspired a darkly humorous satire site (the content of which I have to admit is spot on, though there’s a lot of real Springer-esque ugliness in the comment strings…) She is the blogger I also wrote about a few months ago who was incensed that her professor would dock her participation points for leaving class early when sick-while-pregnant.  This does not, IMO, constitute a “political blog.”

Neither of these women are among those I would have gladly invited to my home for dinner at any point in time, though having them both there together, with the cops on standby, could have been a really entertaining evening. I just kept quietly voting daily for my three favorites and following the drama wherever I could, because I’m just that kind of person, I can’t resist a good drama. Or a bad one. Or anything to distract me when I should be actually working.

So…TFB (The Feminist Breeder) posts all these things on her Facebook page about how “they” are calling the feminists “commies and drug users” and must be defeated at all costs. This of course stirs the indignant groupies to get furious and Refuse To Be Treated Like That, and go vote against the Mommentator. I, out of curiosity and knowing TFB’s penchant for hyperbole, couldn’t resist checking out the Mommentator’s (open) Twitter stream, as well as her husband’s and followers’, and found nothing of the sort. There were some “commie” comments from followers, but not from the actual candidate, or her husband.  In the last few days of the contest, there were references from the husband to “defeating the feminists,” which to me hardly constitutes violation of anyone’s TOS, but Circle of Moms gets to make that call, I guess…

And call it they did. After first winning the contest, the Mommentator was removed from her winning slot, disqualified due to violations of the TOS by her husband/campaign manager. (Her words. A campaign manager? For a Circle of Moms Top Blogger contest? Really??) She had apparently been “warned” by the CoM group, but apparently violated their rules anyway.

I have to assume TFB was warned also, because partway through the contest her “stop the evil dirty campaigners” campaign stopped fairly abruptly, doubtless leading to her highly dramatic drop in votes, leaving her trailing to third place by the end of the contest. Unless she just stopped out of the goodness of her heart and a Desire To Do The Right Thing. I’m sure that was it…

Then this morning, on TFB’s Facebook page: she has been disqualified too, for “category misplacement.” Like, as in, well, someone realized she’s not really a political blogger per se, unless  “saying controversial stuff and having a lot of rants” constitutes a “political” blog.

So, what have we learned?

We had two blogs in a contest, in a heated battle: one right wing blogger who seldom bothers to blog, one left wing feminist who blogs all the time about whatever she feels like (i.e. pretty much herself and her life) and seldom politics, both of whom have passionate groupie-followers, whose primary motivation in the contest seemed to be to utterly destroy the other.

It seems they were successful.

And now the top sites on the list are those of genuinely political moms with genuinely political goals and motivations. Long may they blog.

[UPDATE: one of the commenters on this post suggested the same concept, asking why does it always seem to be WOMEN doing this crap? The plot thickens: Hacker Impersonates Circle of Moms.

I still don’t think TFB belongs in the political blogs list.  But this is just…surreal.)

Barthes, Bourdieu, and Blogwars

This has been bothering me for a few days, and it took me till last night to put my finger on why.

Clarissa’s blog pointed me in the direction of FeMOMist’s blog, which had a gently acerbic fun-poking post (which of course erupted into accusatory mayhem) at HistoriAnn’s blog, in which that blogger attempted to explain why, in all her blogging, she had never self-identified as a mother on her blog.

Please feel free to follow those links and come back.

Done? Okay, we’ll continue.

One comment bothered me and continues to bother me; it was left by Fie On This Quiet Life. Quoth she:

“There is a body of theoretical evidence that states that the reader’s response to a piece of writing is where meaning lies, regardless of the author’s intentions (Roland Barthes, etc.). So it doesn’t matter whether H meant to make me feel something. I felt it nonetheless. And that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with ME. There is something wrong with the patriarchal system in academia! We women should be on the same side about this, and yet, we are divisive and complicit with the system in many, many ways…”

I left a comment on the site identifying the surface level issue I had with this comment, but as I continued to think about it, I realized that this exact misapplication of litcrit reader appropriation is at the core, or at least somewhere in the stormy magma, of probably every single blog skirmish I have ever witnessed.

(Okay, slight exaggeration. Some of them were due to outright assholes. But leave me to my hyperbole.)

It’s not even really just about literary criticism, honestly–it’s all wound up in that whole “when you said this you made me feel X Y and Z” crap we hurl at each other like so much 3-day-old roadkill, blog in and blog out. But this comment was the first time I’ve ever heard anyone attempt to use literary criticism techniques to justify it.

Which I appreciated, honestly. That’s why I enjoy academic blogs, especially women academics’ blogs and especially those in the humanities; they seem to engage in a level of self-examination with some outward link to some societally or academically (or societally academic) rooted legitimacy.

In this case, though, the outward link IMO does not stand up to scrutiny–or at best, invites further probing and more links which cause the initial assertion to break down.

Now I freely admit that litcrit is not my field; I only have worked with it as a tool in my own. But even so…

Okay, we’ve got Barthes. Reader-originated meaning, no anchor in the author’s intent so the reader’s reaction, whatever it is, is valid. Something like that; I don’t have time to craft a Perfect Explanatory Paragraph.

But then we’ve also got Bourdieu, for whom the whole reflexivity thing was key–yes, the reader’s response to a text is absolutely 100% valid and true, no we do not get to dismiss it just because the author did not mean to put it there, but–this is due to the relationship of text and reader. And part of the reader’s responsibility in that relationship is to examine her habitus, her “place” from which she comes, all the stuff she brings to the reading.  The relationship is not between author and reader, it is between text and reader. Then we’ve also got Ricoeur, who laid out very neatly the three-fold examination of looking “behind the text,” “in the text,” and “in front of the text,” holding out each one as crucial for examining a piece of literature (or whatever–works for music too).  The three perspectives are different and fairly distinct, and remembering their distinctness is pretty important for making it all work and make sense. Three different “worlds” of the text.

Which is a long, rambly, and not at all footnoted (do your own Google searches if you want) way to say that while the author does not have any right to tell a reader s/he got something “wrong” when she read a particular Something into a piece of writing, likewise the reader maybe should think twice about blaming the author for something s/he took from what was read. This stuff only works if the text is its own distinct entity separate from what went into its writing. FieQuiet is reading in front of the text, saying, “this is how this made me feel.” HistoriAnn is writing behind the text, saying, “this is why I did this and what I was thinking and feeling at the time.” Each from her own perspective.

So when the accusatory back-and-forthing begins (not just this debate, pretty much any such online personal debating of this kind, and there’s a lot of it), it seems to boil down in the end to “that’s not what I said” “is too” “is not” “is too” “is not,” which eventually just gets sort of pointless.

Seems like there’s a level of boundary-setting that, if it could happen, might help people get less pissed off with each other, and maybe also enable better communication in the process.

But maybe I’m reading too much into it.


A New Routine

Even when my kids aren’t at home, I find it almost impossible to get any quality focused work done there. There is laundry to be done, clutter to de-clutter, snack food to munch on, and six partially-read books and a couple of unwatched DVDs scattered everywhere. That the books and DVDs are high quality and worth the time it will take to (eventually) sit down and process them isn’t really relevant to the reality that if I do that, I’m not doing what I’m needing to do and what I’ve verbally contracted to do for some fairly wonderful people who think I have enough firing brain cell cylinders that they want me to write a book.

I learned years ago that it’s pointless (for me, at least) to start with an existing deeply ingrained pattern and try to shift a few elements to make it do something else. Doesn’t work for me.  What I need to do is ditch the pattern entirely and create a new one.

So now that the children are in summer camp, my pattern is to drop them off and drive immediately to the local public library with my computer, where I can set up and get a good 2-3 hours pure writing time in before lunch.  Then I can drive to my regular office (where it is also impossible to get quality focused work done) and work for the afternoon there. Life is quiet enough in the summer months that the last thing they need is me at a desk for 8 hours; 4 is quite sufficient, thank you, and I can answer emails during the morning as needed.

The plan isn’t foolproof. There’s still the tendency to futz and blog-write while at the computer at the library. (Ahem. Current post as case in point.) And the twin tendency when I hit a momentary writer’s block to click that happy little “Facebook” link at the top of my computer screen. But this is now day 2, and yesterday I got a good 6 pages done.  I may be able to finish the first half of the first (of 10) big section this morning, which isn’t half bad considering I have till the end of this month to even send them a chapter and outline (I’ll send them 6) and till the end of August to finish the first draft. I can live with that.

I want a home office. I bet I could do this at home if my “workspace” weren’t the family room couch with a computer on my lap. Comfy, but impractical…

Pandora Radio

Pandora radio has up until now been something I just sort of enjoyed, thought was cool, whatever. We’ve used it on long car trips with the kids to keep everyone entertained. I’ve tried putting it on at work, but every channel I’ve tried (choral radio, symphonic radio, Brahms radio, etc.) has been the kind of thing I had trouble concentrating to; I tend to start listening to the music instead of doing whatever work I am supposed to be doing. (I should have known; it happens all the time, and that’s why I seldom just “listen” to music of any kind. I find it too distracting.)

Then I made a “new age” station.  I could concentrate quite easily to it, but it got really annoying after a while. (Also not surprising; that’s why I seldom listen to new age music.) Just one shade better than white noise. Or maybe not the one shade better. White noise seldom makes me roll my eyes.

I kept trying. Celtic Women radio? Cloying as hell. (My best friend loves them. I keep trying, but it doesn’t quite take.) Beth Nielsen Chapman radio? Pretty, but then they keep sticking Fiona Apple and Sheryl Crow and other much more mainstream artists in there, and if I’d wanted them I would have had a station with their name. And distracting. Bach radio? Ten times worse than Brahms or Beethoven; it makes me think too much. Palestrina radio? Getting closer…

Then, just for the hell of it, I created the Eric Whitacre Radio Station. I think I’m in heaven. They keep throwing me, mixed in with Whitacre’s music, some Part, a little Lauridsen, a Durufle (which I found a little odd; it stuck out like a sore thumb, albeit a lovely one), and even some Russian Orthodox music.

For one thing, I can listen to most of this stuff without getting too distracted, as long as they stay with the slower pieces.  Whitacre and Lauridsen, especially, have that sort of slow harmonic rhythm, whatever else is going on, that at least for me it doesn’t pull the brain too far unless the brain chooses to be pulled.  On the other hand, it’s gloriously beautiful music, so it pulls me only at brief moments, and then I can go back to writing or copying or whatever.  A lot of music is of the squishy-twentieth-century-tonal music variety that’s been very popular for years, that Very English Many Non-Chord Tones Ethereal Transcendent stuff. (And the more English it sounds, the more likely that it was written by an American.) And then there will be this moment of sublimity tossed out at you, like a selection from the Rose Ensemble’s “Fire of the Soul” recording of 17th century Russian and Polish music.

For another thing, and perhaps far more important–it never occurred to me that Pandora could be a fabulous way to familiarize myself with some of the huge portions of the choral repertory I just have sort of missed in the years I’ve spend doing nothing but Catholic sacred music. The recordings.  The ensembles.  The other conductors.

I’ve discovered the Schola Cantorum of San Francisco through these randomly selected pieces Pandora has thrown at me, singing gorgeously enough that I went to find their website–only to discover that their artistic director is an old friend from grad school.  (I can’t say I’m surprised–he was stellar twenty years ago, there’s no reason he would be anything but twenty years more stellar now.) Several other lovely ensembles, too. And familiarizing myself with Whitacre’s work, which I’ve not yet had the opportunity to sing myself. And several very fine pieces by composers I’ve never heard of.

I’m enjoying this…

A Case for Qualitative Research

Check this out:

Study Finds Brain Differences Based On Faith

And this is a quantitative study, folks! A sampling  of 268 adults–they didn’t give very good info in the article re how the subjects were selected, nor other factors such as where they come from, their age, etc. and so forth…

But it’s quantitative. Deals with actual facts and numbers. Very linear, very direct. Much more worthy of attention than any loosey-goosey qualitative study.  Naah, this is a good one.

(Oh, shut up. It’s not my Roman Catholic background that has me pissy about this, it’s the ridiculous conclusions drawn from a way-too-insufficient study being presented as “study finds.”)

I’ve already got my next three books plotted out…maybe the fourth one can be “A Qualitative Analysis of the Bullshit Surrounding So Many Quantitative Analyses.” Think it’ll sell?