How Calling Someone unAmerican is unAmerican 01/25/2012
I've pretty much reviled the term "unAmerican" for as long as I can remember. It's an obvious, cheap rhetorical ploy. But it's much worse than that.
Presidential candidate (and former world-record holder for "head most resembling a muppet's") Newt Gingrich recently attacked President Obama by comparing him to Saul Alinsky, claiming both are "unAmerican." It's one of untold millions of daily uses of the pejorative, but I think it shows how unAmerican the word unAmerican is. The previous sentence shows that there is an ironic double-meaning to the word itself.
First, there is the meaning intended by most:
Second, there is an implied ontological distinction:
Whenever one tries to use the first meaning, what is truly signified is the second.
Let me piggyback the concept of "unpeople" that Noam Chomsky has popularized of late. When a state considers someone or a group of someones to be "unpeople," the someone(s) is/are denied rights and moral considerations. Basically, she/he/they become(s) something(s). American powers do this to decline a moral decision to issues concerning people aligned against the interests of the American polity, not necessarily the American people.
So when Gingrich calls Alinsky unAmerican, he is marginalizing those who move to give voices to the poor. He does this by deleting the man and those of his ilk from radars political and social. Calling someone unAmerican is an act of exclusion from the democratic process; given that the United States was founded on democratic principles, it is a profoundly unAmerican act!
To parse the subtext: He's in a category you do not even have to listen to. Ignore what he says, because he's unAmerican and so does not even really have free speech.
Funny enough, it is precisely the kind of marginalization that Alinsky waged his life fighting--for the equal rights of the poor's say in a democratic system. So marginalization or exploding the margins: which is more American to you?
Contending with My Doppleganger 11/30/2011
I do some independent research in video games and critical animal studies. It's kind of a new thing. But getting into video games is exacerbating a problem I have already had for some time.
There is another, more famous, Larry Butz out there. And there is a striking resemblance.
"Larry Butz is Phoenix Wright's oldest friend and his first client, and a childhood friend of Miles Edgeworth as well. Both overemotional and lazy, he has been involved in Wright and Edgeworth's investigations from time to time, always appearing with a different occupation. Butz also changes girlfriends frequently, with each relationship ending with him being dumped. He has had at least five jobs and nine girlfriends in the space of three years." -Aceattorney.wikia.com
Well, we aren't that much alike really. But there are some coincidences in the scenario that led me to believe in a conspiracy.
For instance, being from a Japanese video game, the character's name was not initially Larry Butz; it was Masashi Yahari. I myself took seven semesters of Japanese language study, as well as courses in Japanese history, literature, culture, and even Classical Japanese language. Lots of Japanese language students are into video games and anime and dream of working as translators one day. Could one of my classmates have suggested the name?
To get to the bottom of this, I looked up the translators. Another coincidence: the lead translator on the project has a background in Classical Japanese. So I contacted him to get to the bottom of this.
It turns out he came up with the name himself out of thin air among several other ideas, and the design team picked the winner. He needed a name that would carry some sense of the pun from the Japanese--Yahari meaning something like "after all", "as expected", or "sure enough"--so he wound up with this:
"When something smells it's usually the Butz".
Oh, another coincidence is that I like puns. My name probably cursed me to it.
Phoenix Wright is an extremely successful and popular video game series. It has been successful since being brought to American audiences as well, which is a problem for me. This other Larry Butz has buried me on Google other search engines for a while. Now that I am writing about video games, however, I am sure I will get buried even further. And now that I have mentioned this game on my site, I may be doomed to results page 5.
So what do I do? After enduring torture over my name throughout schooling, I feel that I own it. It's probable why I haven't taken a pseudonym yet. This whole thing is like a violation of my intellectual property. I wish I would have copyrighted my name, but it would have been too silly to file suit against a video game attorney franchise anyhow.
At least I get some cool nicknames out of it:
I'm holed up in house in a quantum town on the coast of Lake Huron, working on my projects. Sorry about the long silence! Expect an essay to appear soon about an epic battle with my doppleganger (the character Larry Butz from the Phoenix Wright series), as well as some musings on the constant fluxing redefinition of "cool".
You may also be subjected to a review of Wall-E, which will also be a review of the reviews of Wall-E. Is this film really environmentalist, or is that misreading just a sign of the success of environmentalist marketing and a depressing reminder of the lack of awareness of the real issues in "environmental awareness"?
I've written so many articles about auto insurance and alternatives to pharmaceutical remedies lately that I have actually been getting queried by websites, as opposed to the vice-versa.
And when time permits, I spend time in my garden. You should see the Cherokee purple tomatoes I've been growing! (If I find the time, I'll upload pictures so that you can.)
New Cafe in East Lansing 09/17/2010
Okay, maybe there is a small chance that you are in East Lansing, MI, since most people here seem to read from Florida or Texas (for some odd reason [hey, this is just what my stats tell me]). Still, this might be kind of relevant to you, and I haven't blogged in a long time so deal with it, okay?
A new cafe/teahouse opened up on Grand River Ave., just across from Michigan State University's north campus. The cafe itself is extremely inviting, the people there are friendly and welcoming. And the tea is delicious. These people know their tea! They are studied Chinese herbalists and practitioners of Tai Chi and Qi Gong, so the whole place is infused with expertise and a real commitment to wellness.
I have a regular habit of strolling into any new cafe I see, hoping for a great place to relax and do some writing. This is kind of what we writers do, I suppose. We treat cafes like blank pages: use them up in a hurry and only reunder duress.
What makes this such a great place though, and I think I shan't turn and burn this one, is the mellow music and atmosphere, and the internal nature of the customers there. There is a section at the very front that encourages conversation, but it is subtly demarcated from the rest of the place with all the wonderfully comfy chairs (so important!), so a culture of peace hangs over it all. The best rainy day cafe I've been too.
Well, I guess this is relevant in case you want to open a cafe, because these folks did it beautifully.
Most cafes get noisy at one point or another and I've got to stick the headphones in. Then my productivity goes down the pipes.
Anyway, the place's name is The Wanderer's Teahouse & Cafe and it gets the highest recommendation from me: 4 Ninja Turtles and a Splinter.
Come see me read! 06/28/2010
Hey people who somehow share a fascination or similar interest with me,
I'm looking into doing a bit of reading here and there--you know, out loud, with some people listening even--and thought you might be interested in knowing such information.
One of the events is a yet-to-be-announced reading of mid-Michigan writers, and the rest will be at some cafes, bars, maybe a bookstore.
If anyone has an ideas for a venue, let me know. Open mics are fine.
I'll announce the specific dates on I know them here.
How to Eat Bad Eggs--seeing my own voice 05/18/2010
Your skin crawls. Your stomach tightens. Your jaw clenches. And you flush a little bit.
At least I do, when I hear my own voice on the radio or, apparently, see my stories in print.
Ocala Magazine has kindly published "How to Eat Bad Eggs" in their May 2010 issue. You can view it on page 24 of their virtual magazine, available by clicking on it on their homepage.
I've seen my writing in print before, but--and I think this must be peculiar to Creative Nonfiction as a genre--seeing something that is written in MY VOICE, with ME as the narrator, well, my hackles shot up.
As a fiction writer you hide behind the narrator. At least I do. So to bear truths about your own life, your own being, it is rather uncomfortable, even if they are truths you are completely open to sharing. (Otherwise I wouldn't have them published.)
Film actors often say they don't watch their own works because they don't like to see themselves on screen. I suppose it's the same. Even if you're playing someone, even if it's a persona, it's your face, your voice, and their is something uncomfortable about it.
Back Inaction 04/20/2010
I started to have back problems when I was a wee little teenager. Like 13 or 14. I'd be sitting in algebra class and, convinced Luis or one of my friends just stabbed me in the back with a pencil, I'd spin around and glare. They must have thought I was a lunatic.
I knew my father struggled with a bad back because I'd see him lying flat on the grass after a good ten minutes of lawn mowing. If it was a bad ten minutes, I'd see him bent backward over the arm of a couch, groaning loudly.
He said that he hadn't had the problem when he was my age though, so I can only assume it was a combination of bad posture and basketball playing. I played dirty and often found myself staring up on the hoop from the pavement when someone took offense.
My back has only gotten worse as I've gotten older. I'm 23 years old now, and I often feel like my father did at 40. I've worked on my posture a lot, and I do core strengthening exercises and stretches every morning, but at the end of the day I'm bent over backwards, groaning in agony.
Writing probably isn't the best profession for me. Sitting down for 10 hours a day isn't good for my back. It goes out a couple times a month as a rule now. I'm good when I do my writing in bed, but the notebook computer gets far too hot, so I can't really do that for long. And sometimes I need to write by hand to get the juices flowing and stuff the editor in me into a garbage can so I can actually get a few decent words down.
A paradox of writerdom is that, while we all love writing, we hate doing it. That is, most of us will do anything instead of the actual writing. It's true of me; my xbox and my music library will tell you that much. So knowing my back is going to hurt at the end of a session doesn't make it any easier.
Do you know that feeling you get after a day's manual labor, or a good workout, or after you reap the rewards of a hard season's gardening? Perversely, my back pain triggers a feeling of deep satisfaction.
Contrary to popular belief, writing is mostly manual labor in my experience. Murakami Haruki wrote in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running that perhaps it's true that some writers have deep pools of inspiration, but for him, he has to just keep doggedly plugging away in order to find something that works and feels inspired to the eye and ear. I was paraphrasing of course. He said it much better.
So when it feels like a mole is burrowing around my spine and I have to do a prolonged yoga session just to be able to walk again, I get a big smile on my face, because I did good hard work. I can feel good about myself.
Wow, I've grossly inflated my protestant work ethic. Maybe I should write instead of blog now.
Mine Own Voice 02/18/2010
Most people hate the sound of their own voice, I gather anecdotally.
Hearing my voice on the radio makes me blush. It's just embarrassing somehow. I lot of people seem to crave the sound of their own voice, of course, but I wonder if this is true of writers.
Personally, I think the analog that might be true for me is seeing the sight of my own pen. That is, seeing my writing out there does something nice to me. Hearing myself does not.
In creative nonfiction, it is necessary to create a voice for your persona, which is sort of one face of yourself. So, inevitably, that is mine own voice as well. But reading it doesn't bother me. In fact, when I come clear on the page, it is a gratifying experience. it is accomplishment.
To get theoretical, I deduce that we don't actually hate hearing our own voice because of the sound, or the words; we hate the timbre of our voice. We hate the quality of the noise that is our own. The signature of our unique vocal chords, or larynx, our posture and thrust of breath. It might be that it is just weird to hear my entire person wrapped up in a somewhat nasally and back-of-the-throat noise.
Anyhow, that's my take on it at least.
So last time I gave you incredibly short notice, but you all rushed to listen anyhow. Then, you were disappointed to hear the story cut out midway through. Well, here's your chance to hear the ending to "Bomb Threat"! Or hear it all for the first time!
At 7:45 pm, tune in to 88.9 fm if you happen to be in mid Michigan, to Exposure. I listened to the whole program last time, and it was great. I'm sure it will be wonderful this time as well.
And if you're not in Michigan? Well. go to http://www.impact89fm.org/ to listen live.
No excuses then. I hope everyone that listens enjoys.
Thanks for your continued support.
Listen to me on the radio another time! 01/26/2010
To anyone who was listening and got stranded in the middle of the story, I do apologize. Impact had some sort of technical problem.
But no worries, it will air in its entirety at a later date. They promise!
So if you missed it, you get a reprieve.
I'll keep everyone posted, hopefully with more advanced warning this time.