A blog about life, language, writing, and other trivia.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


The Yes Men are coming to BG in a couple of weeks.

They're a satire/performance art team who impersonate everybody from WTO spokespeople to Exxon executives, travelling to oil conferences and business schools giving fake talks in which they propose the most vile, outlandish, utterly unbelievable products and initiatives. They describe themselves as "impersonating big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them. Targets are leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else." And this from Wikipedia: "The Yes Men are a group of culture jamming activists who practice what they call 'identity correction' by pretending to be powerful people and spokespersons for prominent organizations. They create and maintain fake websites similar to ones they want to spoof, and then they accept invitations received on their websites to appear at conferences, symposia, and TV shows."

And, more often than not, their performances are swallowed hook, line, and sinker. Here's an excerprt from their account (told in a straight, unblinking journalistic style) of a November, 2006 talk:

Philadelphia - At a Wharton Business School conference on business in Africa, World Trade Organization representative Hanniford Schmidt announced the creation of a WTO initiative for "full private stewardry of labor" for the parts of Africa that have been hardest hit by the 500 years of Africa's free trade with the West.

The initiative will require Western companies doing business in some parts of Africa to own their workers outright. Schmidt recounted how private stewardship has been successfully applied to transport, power, water, traditional knowledge, and even the human genome. The WTO's "full private stewardry" program will extend these successes to (re)privatize humans themselves.

"Full, untrammelled stewardry is the best available solution to African poverty, and the inevitable result of free-market theory," Schmidt told more than 150 attendees. Schmidt acknowledged that the stewardry program was similar in many ways to slavery, but explained that just as "compassionate conservatism" has polished the rough edges on labor relations in industrialized countries, full stewardry, or "compassionate slavery," could be a similar boon to developing ones.

The audience included Prof. Charles Soludo (Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria), Dr. Laurie Ann Agama (Director for African Affairs at the Office of the US Trade Representative), and other notables. Agama prefaced her remarks by thanking Scmidt for his macroscopic perspective, saying that the USTR view adds details to the WTO's general approach. Nigerian Central Bank Governor Soludo also acknowledged the WTO proposal, though he did not seem to appreciate it as much as did Agama.
In addition to doing performances, they have also made a movie (with another one apparently on the way) and written a book. I intend to check both of them out. There's also a Bill Moyers interview with them available on the web (one word: Vivoleum!)

This is pretty radical, amazing stuff. I'm looking forward to their visit.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Tasting Notes

I tasted several nice wines last night, including a very interesting Malbec that smelled like meatloaf and tasted like green peppers, herbs, and burned leaves, but this sangiovese from Napa Valley stood out. If you had told me beforehand, in fact, that it was a Chianti Classico Riserva, I'd have believed you without hesitation:

Winery: Gargiulo Vineyards (Napa Valley)
Wine: 2004 Aprile Super Oakville Blend
Grape/Blend: sangiovese (96%), cabernet sauvignon (4%)
Price: $40 (suggested retail)
Aroma: cherry and oak
Body: medium to medium/full
Taste: chocolate-covered cherries, candied spice, oak
Overall: complex, with a pronounced flavor arc and a sustained finish

Assessment: Very good


Sunday, September 16, 2007

BG Idol Auditions

Because Lee and I share childcare responsibilities and use daycare and babysitters minimally (daycare two days a week, sitters on an ad hoc basis), we often break up the work day so that she gets to do academic stuff while the sun is out, and I get to do academic stuff when it's dark. (Yes, it's about that precise.) Consequently, I am frequently in my office when the maintenance staff of East Hall are hard at work, which means I am regularly treated to enthusiastic performances of whatever happens to be coursing through the earphones of the woman who usually works on the fourth floor.

What I couldn't have predicted is how difficult it is, even with my door closed, to concentrate on composing a simple email while listening to an uncaccompanied, atonal rendition of "Like a Virgin." Or, at least, I couldn't have predicted that I would have to try.

Still, though, this only seems new to me because, at Elon (where tuition is high and labor is cheap), they made the maintenance staff come in at, like, 5:00 a.m. Better for me, but I suspect much worse for the staff.

[Update: I'm going home now, to the (approximate) tune of "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart."]

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tis the CCCC-son

It seems like forever since I've landed a favorable time slot for my C's presentation. Last year I presented Saturday afternoon, and it was ten minutes past the starting time for our panel before our first audience member showed up. In fact, only two of the three panelists even showed. (Ok, three actual presenters showed, but Lee and I were presenting together, so in terms of our time alotted, we counted as one person). Of course, there are advantages to that, too: there was no pressure, and we ended up having a very pleasant, personal conversation with our fellow presenter and those people who did drop by the session. Still, it's nice to have an audience.

This year, though, I'll be right in the thick of things. I've been placed in the H 14 session, which takes place Friday from 11:00 to 12:15. That's no guarantee that the room will be packed, but it certainly makes it easier for anybody who might be interested in the panel to attend.

And that's another thing: I'm actually on a panel that promises to be coherent. Submitting an individual proposal, as I have done a few times, means you risk being lumped together with presenters whose topics and arguments just don't work well with yours. We all recognize those panels on the program, and I suspect we generally avoid them. I do, at least, unless I have a friend presenting or there's that one presentation that I just can't miss. But this year things seem different. Since I don't know yet who the other presenters are or what they'll be talking about, all I have to go on are my proposal and the title of the panel, but they are, for once, perfectly aligned. I suppose one or both of the other panelists may feel differently right about now. But with "the politics of the personal" right there in the name of the panel, it seems unlikely that the other presentations will be too far from mine. (I already replied to my invitation and can unfortunately no longer retrieve the exact title of the panel; it's something like "Anger, Defensiveness, and the Politics of the Personal: Problems with Composition Theory.")

All that to say that I'm more excited about this year's C's than I've been in a long time. Oh, yeah--it also doesn't hurt that, a) I feel I have something really important to say, b) I've already written the paper on which I'll base the presentation, and c) it will be Lee's and my first trip to New Orleans since we adopted a one-day-old Olivia (she was born just across the river in Gretna--more on this later, perhaps).

So, congratulations to everybody who will be on the program, and laissez les bons temps rouler!