The Socratic Method Man

Today, we were discussing the Khilafat Movement (1920) [i do not have a good link here because the stuff on the internet is terrible. I will write up a short thing if interest is shown by anyone remotely interested]. I have read and thought about this mass movement in India and I was hoping that I can convince my students to note the development of the political use of religious symbols as an anti-colonial practice.
My students are smart kids. Very smart kids. But they all suffer from the same epidemic – let’s take these writings at face value – which prohibts any critical engagement with the text. I prodded them. I poked them. I stopped that guy who had not even DONE the reading. I even laid out my thesis in clear bullet-point.
Yet, I did not make it through. Or at least, I don’t think I did. They were un-impressed. They did not buy it.
As I walked back from the class, I thought to myself…what if I am the one who is wrong? Why is my interpretation any more valid? Is my job as a teacher to make them see something only I see? Or is it to come to a consensus as a group? Or is it just to throw non-sequitors into the empty, booming space?
I am not sure. This is my first seminar class – so, hopefully, answers will come with experience. Hopefully.

Edmund Husserl’s PussyCat

Yesterday, we were supposed to go see Russ Meyer’s magnum opus Faster, PussyCat Kill! Kill! at Doc Films – which is having a banner quarter (kudos to the volunteers-check the calendar here). I come home around 4ish and I am not even tired. Yet, when Eduardo called me at 6 to go, I was fast asleep. He could not persuade me to move, though he made one HELL of an argument that normally would have had me bolting outda door.
I felt bad afterwards to have missed the movie on the big screen.
I was looking around to see if T&A was an actual film term and I discovered that Barnes & Nobles has an excellent Film Glossary that covers every aspect of the film industry. Way to go B&N.
Oh, the answer is No. T&A is not a accepted film genre. PussyCat would be a Girl Gang Film. Grumpy Old Man would be a Gerontological Film. And I am tagging Phenomenology genre as an upcoming post.

On Clans and Communities

What would be an acclaimed blood line in the US? A source of pride and embellishment? Bushes? Kennedys? Rockafellers? There is, at least in the north-east, an interest in tracing one’s lineage back to, say, the Mayflower. The true blue blood bestows a degree of respectability over the individual. Our President’s clan came on the upper deck of Mayflower, the story goes. The fact that most people on the Mayflower were weavers, fishermen and farmers translates into direct lineage of the Earls and Dukes nowadays. There are other sources of geneological pride. Regional history is often a source.
In the Islamic world, there is one supreme blood line: the blood line of the Prophet’s tribe, the Quraish. The descendants of this tribe affix the honorarium “Sayyid” in front of their names. The designation affords them instant respect and, in olden days, even government stipends. As evident, the “true” descendants have to battle the false claimants by drawing out and keeping handy their complete geneological chart. Pretenders are scorned in private and gossiped about in public.
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MakeOver Nation

I am stunned by this makeover madness on the telly. In my nightly crawl of cable, I see people get makeovers for their cars, their houses, their partners, their careers, their pets, their face, their bodies.
On and on and on.

Americans have given up. Thrown their hands up in the air, and yelled to the Gods: We Sucketh. Expect Us Not to Organize, to Learn, to Manage, to Cope. And the Gods have answered with a crop of gay lifestyle experts, hunky carpenters, teams of surgeons, acerbic wits and Visa/MasterCard. Their dreams come true, they get a new wardrobe, a plasma tv, a new attitude, a new fame and we, the viewers, are satiated. Another one of us is rescued by the Gods. We cheer the triumph of a team of specialists with unlimited budgets over our lives’ most intractable problems. We hope we are next. A nation of 250 million awaits their makeover – one by one.

In this weird moment in American cultural history, the viewers of the 90s reality tv fad (Real World, Springer Show etc.) have become the participants of the new decade. No longer are we content with voyeurism of the freaks and geeks but we have to manifest our own identity as their opposites. We all deserve better. We should dress better, make more money, look prettier, have nicer friends, have passionate sex, and millions should KNOW us. Oprah can sell us a contract and allow us to overcome ourselves. The makeover shows give us all the help we need to finally free the “real” me trapped under bad fashion and bad fat.

What I would like to know is, where does it go? Will the audience grow impatient with the rate of makeovers? Will we have mobs of people hunting experts down? Where is the makeover madness taking us? I can tell that for one, it is taking us to EXTREME editions. Sure, but is that all? Aren’t there bigger issues than teen body image problems arising out of Swan? The very ethos of can-do, do-all Americana is at risk, I venture.