Category Archives: News

Consider this a warning.

I want you to know you’re killing me.

You always were. It isn’t news. But assume your postures of defense if you think I’m wrong. Tell me you’re protecting the economically disadvantaged in dire straits, stripped of health care because they can’t afford it, and what could I possibly know about that; and I promise, I promise, I won’t tell you in return how I teach a 4:4 load, tutor four hours a week, do freelance editing, and still have to ration out my doctor visits with a careful hand and weigh the costs of medication against the costs of my next meal. I won’t tell you how before ACA I had to ration physical therapy visits because of lifetime caps per body part and condition, or that I suffered pain like slow implosion for years before accepting a prescription that made life livable, because I couldn’t afford it. I won’t breathe a word about how all the proposed cuts, if I choose to live with them, will leave me with the kind of debt you can’t breathe through, like what ought to take your breath away, but won’t, the knowledge that millions like me or worse are imperiled by you.

Today you’re everywhere with your circle-jerk applause and sound-bite rhetoric you can easily repeat. Some kind of Yes, calm down, you’ll be fine, there are protections in place you know but really, you should know better, you should have taken better care of yourselves, eaten better, exercised more, stayed away from treatments your insurance wouldn’t cover, stopped getting sick, stopped aging, stopped having babies, having sex, moving, breathing, stopped your beating heart, if you knew you couldn’t pay the price.

What’s left that we can afford, but suicide, or murder.

You make it our civic duty to go off our meds and buy guns we’ll gleefully wave at anyone who is or isn’t there. Drown our unwanted in the bathtub like feral kittens. Put our dependents on the streets when they become too expensive. Die at our desks of chronic illness, cancer, heart disease, dementia, stroke, pneumonia, the flu. Decay into our landscapes. Hang ourselves high, where the warlord can see us and count us part of his triumph.

This is what we’re calling the new normal, or at last, a victory. That death is less ruinous than what you propose.

You know who you are. You are the ones who will denounce the above with apoplectic rage, but just tell me how it’s anything else. You know. You aren’t stupid. You exist to be unaccountable. You are the waterproof bandages with which we seal our outcry. You fashion greasy casual nooses and jeer as we walk by, all righteous fury because the world isn’t deepening the divisions you need. White/black. Able/disabled. Rich/poor. Living/not worth keeping alive.

You like it this way.

But we aren’t stupid, either, and we are not resigned. You’ve always been here, knives out and aimed at our guts, but it’s not for nothing that we’ve survived this long. We have learned how to outlast, with all our wits about us, we know that the kingdom you are building to map the heavens is habitable by monsters alone, that the closer you come to this 1:1 reflection the more you reveal that the gods as you spell them are ugly and false. Try to stamp us like cockroaches to primordial ooze, but we’ve always been oarfish, swimming vertically and forever, the messenger you are always killing before we expel even a breath to recount the error of your ways.

There is no heroism in murder.

Wield your signing pen against us like the Reign of Terror’s guillotine, and I promise, I promise, you will breed a nation of dissidents, a pantheon of deities rising from below, where we hail from in all our diversity, too far down the ladder for you to ever grasp.

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NYT Room for Debate: Uncut

I published a solicited opinion piece in The New York Times Room for Debate in response to questions about Internet trolls, anonymity, and 4chan. The word limit was 300. Of course I initially submitted something more like 400, which was then cut down to 300-ish, but I was asked to write more to clarify and not worry about the word count. So of course I ended up with 800-ish words. The top editors then cut it down to 230, and after some back-and-forth with the editor who had solicited me (and who worked hard to preserve the integrity of the original), we settled on a version that was 311 words, that didn’t alter factual meaning, that retained the gist of the earlier drafts, and that still seemed to contribute substantively to the discussion.

As a side note, I find it both flattering and terrifying to have my headshot and bio alongside greats like Gabriella Coleman, Whitney Phillips, and others whose work I frequently cite in my own scholarship. It’s one of those “Have I arrived? No, probably not” moments where I’m straddling others’ assumptions about my expertise in, well, anything, and my own infamous self-deprecatory and cautious sense that I will never be expert in anything because expertise is unachievable. There’s always something more to observe and know.

I’ve worked with editors before on both creative and scholarly publications, but never a mass media outlet, and the differences are striking. I’m blessed to have only had to revise and resubmit a scholarly article twice, once just to make the material more accessible to a layman audience, the other time an overhaul of a couple of sections. Both times, even where sections were slashed to the bone or sentences were ghostwritten as an example of what they wanted me to do, the editors were careful in their use of language to leave my original meaning intact. With regards to creative work, my edits tend to be few and have thus far boiled down to negotiations over a handful of words. We’re talking a back-and-forth for ten emails to figure out a more accurate word than “screaming.” There was a deep respect for what I had already produced.

I’m good with fast turnaround–I had about a day after being solicited to draft the Times Room for Debate piece–but the edits initially threw me into panic mode. I’m lucky to have been solicited by an editor who cared about preserving the meaning and factual accuracy of the piece, albeit within the limitations imposed on her from above, because the round of edits from Above (capital A) not only stripped sentences of accuracy, purportedly in the interest of accessibility, but also were grammatically incorrect. (I believe there’s still a pronoun without an antecedent in the final copy.) Maybe it’s because I’m a writer/editor and I’ve developed a particularly obsessive eye for fine details, but in a few minutes my agent and myself figured out what from the old draft needed to be retained

I’m posting the old draft after the jump, for multiple reasons and readers. For readers of the Room for Debate piece who might find their way here by clicking on links in my Rutgers profile. For former students who stalk me online, and possibly for future students, because there is a teaching moment embedded here in the transformation across drafts: namely, this is what radical revision looks like, and your professors have to face it too. And to assuage my own feelings of having ever-so-slightly sold out, although the published piece is something I can live with (and had I not been able to live with it, I was prepared to rescind it).

So, without further ado:

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Sometimes images do suffice.

24 hours to go.  Expectations high.  Review pending.

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21st Century Statecraft, PIPA, and My Love Affair with Anonymous: Too Big to Judge

First, a message from Anonymous, vanguard of the revolution along with any and all associated hacktivist groups.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L87SPk6i-hM&feature=share%5D

To the Citizens of Turkey:

We are Anonymous.  Over the last few years we have witnessed the censorship taken by the Turkish government, such as blocking YouTube, Rapidshare, Fileserve, and thousands of other websites.  Most recently, the government banned access to Google services.

These acts of censorship are inexcusable.  The Internet is a platform for freedom, a place where anyone and everyone can come together, discuss topics, and share information, without the fear of government interference.

We, Anonymous, will not stand by and let this go unnoticed.  We will fight with the Turkish people against their government’s rain of censorship.

Citizens of Turkey, Anonymous now fights with you.

We are Anonymous.  We are legion.  We do not forgive.  We do not forget.  Turkish government: expect us. Continue reading

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“Preemptively dodging the assassin’s bullet”

I have nothing academic or intellectual to say about this.  It is Julian Assange, and he is dancing.

Your argument is invalid.

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Prison Labor, version Warcraft

China Used Prisoners in Lucrative Gaming Work

No pun intended, but…WoW.  Just wow.

The Guardian reports that Chinese prisoners were forced into World of Warcraft gold farming at labor camps in place of physically intensive labor.  For those of you not in the know, gold farming is the process of earning online credit inWorld of Warcraft.  The credit may then be sold to gamers for real-world cash.

China’s labor camp ideology is “re-education through labor,” remembered by one inmate as “backbreaking mining toil,” hand-ruining carving, and forced memorization of Communist literature to “pay off his debt to society” (Vincent).  These chores were performed during the day; World of Warcraft occurred at night, after which the gold was exchanged for real money by the prison guards.

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“Trying to find the right answer at any cost.”

I’ve written a lot about secondary and inner-city education lately, since that’s what my summer employment entails, and a lot of it concerns a lot of emotionally difficult stuff.  And I haven’t even gotten to the truly infuriating qualities of the organization itself, which, among other things, include rampant nepotism, cronyism, and deep-seated insecurities about power that lead to sabotage of coworkers or employees, backstabbing, and termination over asserting an opinion that differs from those of managing staff.   That’s a multi-part series for another day.  Right now, though, I want to bring it back to higher education, specifically an issue that plagues college writing classrooms: plagiarism. Continue reading

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First blood.

Wednesday was my first day with the rising 9th grade (the students who have just completed 8th grade) at the nonprofit organization where I teach full-time during summer academics.  I have them for 2 hours Mondays and Wednesdays for essay writing.  It’s their last class for the day.  I have all 16 kids in one group, which presumably would be similar to last summer, where I had 2 classes of 15 kids each, though each class was 1½ hours instead of 2.

These kids are angry.  They are hot.  The air conditioning in the school is often broken or barely effective, and the past couple of days have peaked at 102 degrees.  The last time I worked with this group, during ELA prep in afterschool program, DeVon threw a metal folding chair at me, or at least in my direction.  I’m still not sure how it just barely clipped my shoulder, when I was too startled to really move all that much.  I’d chaperoned this group on field trips before too, and witnessed Shaun shaking hands with the skeletons at the Bodies Exhibit.  My first class with them was on a 101 degree day, for 3 hours, from 1:00 to 4:00.  I know some of them by face but I haven’t earned their respect yet.  They don’t know me as someone who will stick around, or someone who gives a damn.  Mainly, all they’ve seen of me is that I can’t command their attention in the classroom and I can’t project my voice enough to drown them out.

So I wasn’t entirely surprised when, after I was left alone in the room with them, DeVon and Shaun, who are friends, started play-fighting.   Continue reading

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When we were (never) treated fairly.

“As I got to know my adjunct colleagues better, I began to see these largely invisible, voiceless laborers as a hugely diverse group of amazing teachers.  Some are employed at full-time jobs in education or elsewhere, some are retired or supported by wealthier others, but far too many are just barely surviving.  While instances of dumpster diving are rare, adjunct shopping is typically limited to thrift stores, and decades-old cars sometimes serve as improvised offices when these “roads scholars” are not driving from campus to campus, all in a frantic attempt to cobble together a livable income.  Some adjuncts rely on food stamps or selling blood to supplement their poverty-level wages, which have been declining in real terms for decades.” (Brown)

I’d read “Confessions of a Tenured Professor” in Inside Higher Ed a while back, but it left me too incensed to coherently think—not because of Prof. Brown’s views on the situation (which I think is commendable, as there’s so little published on the subject in widely-viewed forums, let alone in such a nuanced manner)—but because the subject itself is one that fills me with homicidal rage.  Obviously. I mean, it’s the reason this blog exists.

Today my friend C. forwarded me this article in The Atlantic, which compounded my rage by asking the impossible-to-answer question: “Why Does Academia Treat Its Workforce So Badly?”  After frothing at the mouth for a moment, I thought that maybe I should attempt to think about the issue beyond just “OMG RAWR,” a reaction probably prompted by the impossibility of reducing it to one (or even three, or five) reasons why academia treats its adjunct workforce so poorly.  So here I go, take one, from the top. Continue reading

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Bearing witness.

This month marks the first anniversary of the bloody end of Sri Lanka’s civil war.

On 2009 May 17-18, depending on how you look at it, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (தமிழீழ விடுதலைப் புலிகள்), also known as the LTTE or Tamil Tigers, were routed by the armed forces of the primarily Sinhalese government.  The war, which was the product of years of ethnic tension between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil minority, lasted 25 years and was marked by the ruthlessness of both government military and paramilitary campaigns and guerilla warfare and suicide bombing employed by the LTTE, both with little regard to the cost of civilian life.  We saw this magnified in the end stages of the war in May 2009, when the LTTE brought over 80,000 civilians with them into a tiny spittoon of land in the northeast, using them as human shields and impressing them into service (“Sri Lankan Government and LTTE Must Heed Demands from UN Security Council”), and the Sri Lankan army indiscriminately shelled the shrinking warzone, as it had hammered designated no-fire zones such as hospitals, bunkers, and other areas in the Vanni with a known civilian presence in flagrant disregard of the laws of war (“Sri Lanka: Repeated Shelling of Hospitals Evidence of War Crimes”).

In May 2009 my sanity was eroding and I cried almost every night, barely slept, was made numb by President Rajapaksa’s victory speech.  People celebrated in the streets of Colombo and throughout the country.  Like many others, most of whom were Tamil, this victory felt hollow and strange.  Thousands upon thousands of civilians died in the months leading up to May 17.  And while I personally condemn the actions of both the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government, I didn’t know what to think when confronted with the news of LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran’s corpse.  On the news segment his forehead was covered.  There were flies.  I wanted to see the bullet hole for myself.  Wanted proof.  Felt like a part of my life had ended.  At that point I hadn’t lived my life outside of the shadow of Sri Lanka’s war. Continue reading

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