Always write your notes as if they’ll be found

While I was transcribing my notebook today, I came across this paragraph I wrote about the first chapter of Richard Miller’s Writing at the End of the World:

Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club is discussed in detail and while I’m pleased we found the time to discuss a female writer, I’m saddened that her story has to be about hope generated through the expression of her psychological and physical trauma and that her contribution is about forgiveness. Thank goodness for the lady nurturers. “It might seem that by organizing these readings in this way, I’ve been building up to a spirited defense of the social and therapeutic value of writing one’s memoirs” (24). Reader, he is not. Amis, Krakauer, Descartes all new that writing could exemplify, amplify their anxieties: “extend one’s sense of despair and one’s sense of superiority” (24) but they lacked the knowledge that Karr had, that writing could generate hope and forgiveness and an understanding of one’s own past and path. Miller forgets to point out that men often have the space, time, leisure to amplify their pain because the women compromise, cajole, and cooperate. Karr finds hope and optimism because she is not allowed the space to brood and sulk in the literary world. Her pain isn’t vented through literary doppelgangers or shooting sprees—it burns until it’s contained and only valued when her trauma is transformed into that most useful of all stolen artifacts—hope.

In which I get in my own way, again

Vague spoilers for Hunter X Hunter and Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, I think.

I don’t know if I’ve talked about this before, but when watching Hunter X Hunter, and the Demon Slayer movie, I found myself puzzle by the deaths of certain characters and the emotional toll that it placed on the protagonist. I felt that it didn’t work. The protagonist hadn’t spent enough time with the character to create a bond worthy of such pain.

Actually, I hadn’t spent enough time with the character to make me relate to the despair of the protagonist. ‘Yes, but,’ I think to myself, ‘you spent as much time as the story gives you. That should be enough to bond with the character through the protagonist, right? You have no other qualms about the writing in either story, right?’

Right. And as I was typing up my notes this morning, I found myself following a similar line of thinking concerning The Time Machine, George Pal’s 1960 adaptation of H.G. Wells’s scientific romance.

The humorous bond the time traveler creates with a distant mannequin, the change in whose outfits represent the passage of time, is forced, an obvious point to…wait a minute.

It’s me, isn’t it? I’m the issue here. I’m the one that needs much more time with a character (or real life person, to be honest) for some sort of bond to form. Ah! I get it now.

Remember when you’re analyzing or critiquing a piece of art, search for signs of yourself that may be getting in the way. Your experience and existence are integral to your unique view, but make sure that what you’re seeing in the work isn’t just a mirror.

Enjoy your stuff.

No one likes me and that may be good

During my PhD, I have been concerned and a little jealous that I haven’t been able to connect personally with any of my professors. I am either their age or older, I live an hour away, and, to be fair, I don’t have the best personality. But when I see other students getting asked for favors, or editing, or other research work, I wonder what I’m missing out on and how that will affect me in the long run.

Lately, as I watch my colleague being taken advantage of by a professor with favors and tasks while not fulfilling their part of the deal, I’m a wee bit grateful that I am ignored. I AM VERY MAD AT THIS SITUATION BECAUSE MY COLLEAGUE DESERVES SO MUCH BETTER.

Who gets to be a teenager?

An open letter to NPR:

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/news-wrap-teenager-pleads-guilty-to-killing-ten-black-workers-and-shoppers-in-buffalo

Why purposefully use “teenager” in this headline to describe the adult male pleading guilty? His attack was racially motivated and since we have a long history of “aging up “ Black people in our media to make them seem more threatening, this is a bad editorial choice.

“Man pleads guilty to killing ten Black workers and shopper in Buffalo.”

There. You don’t even have to put “white” before his name if it makes you uncomfortable, because we know. Of course, we know.

Summer School? 🤖

Just proposed my first summer course: Terminators, Cyborgs, and Hackers: the thematic algorithms in science fiction film. If it gets picked up for the schedule, I’ll post the syllabus here. Phew.

Heather annotates: “Beware the ‘Storification’ of the Internet”

Stewart, Sophia. “Beware the ‘Storification’ of the Internet.” The Atlantic, 17 Nov. 2022.


I really appreciated Sophia Stewart’s review of Peter Brook’s Seduced by Story: The Use and Abuse of Narrative, as it’s probably a book I would pick up and read as supplementary to my exam readings in rhetoric. I especially appreciated the shortcomings she outlined and wanted to share my own thoughts on her review. I am thinking of making this a regular thing.

Also, I think anyone doing rhetorical commentary has to do more than mention the Internet. It is the driver of discourse in a number of ways, particularly in what media outlets choose to cover. The average person may not be on Twitter or TikTok, but they’ll hear/read about it over their morning coffee.


"There is a growing trend in American culture of what the literary theorist Peter Brooks calls “storification.” Since the turn of the millennium, he argues in his new book, Seduced by Story: The Use and Abuse of Narrative, we’ve relied too heavily on storytelling conventions to understand the world around us, which has resulted in a “narrative takeover of reality” that affects nearly every form of communication—including the way doctors interact with patients, how financial reports are written, and the branding that corporations use to present themselves to consumers. Meanwhile, other modes of expression, interpretation, and comprehension, such as analysis and argument, have fallen to the wayside."

On the surface, what Brooks seems to be asserting is bull. All things are stories. The things listed here are parts of narratives and this is just some tiresome way of saying personal ≠ rational.

"The danger of this arises when the public fails to understand that many of these stories are constructed through deliberate choices and omissions."

So, like, what the humanities provide? The thing we’re defunding?

"In other words, we could all benefit from a lesson in close reading and a dose of skepticism."

Interpretation is deliberate choices and omissions!

"In times of turmoil, we search most desperately for the familiar hallmarks of storytelling: clearly defined heroes and villains, motives, and stakes."

This will never really change, it is part of the human existence. What we have to do is not rely on a single story – but a breadth of voices to give a full picture.

"His sole mentions of the internet—vague acknowledgments that “Twitter and the meme dominate the presentation of reality” and that ours is an “era of fake news and Facebook”—fail to grasp that on the internet especially, more attentive, analytical reading is essential."

His observation is based on the story of the Internet woven by outdated media institutions.

"But it also provides language for hard-to-articulate feelings: In another video, a forlorn teen stares into the camera above the text, 'i know i’m a side character, i have no purpose except to sit and wait for my next scene.'"

People who have grown up in front of the DVD player, with videos streaming on tablets at their youngest age, whose adolescence is framed through a Snapchat filter will invariably describe their lives in the vocabulary of the mediums they use. Every generation does this.

"As narrators of our own lives, Brooks writes, 'we must recognize the inadequacy of our narratives to solve our own and [others’] problems.' Pulling from Freudian psychoanalysis, Brooks concludes that telling stories should be a tool we use to understand ourselves better rather than a goal in and of itself."

Adriana Cavarero talks about how we are not the ultimate authors of our lives, it’s those we know who tell our “true” story – I am slowly becoming convinced of the realness of this message (though I am resistant.) The Internet accelerates the dispersion of our story, but ultimately is not the final editor. Our stories are told over and over, in various way, through various mediums and with various intent.

"Although Brooks briefly worries about 'inflated claims about [narrative’s] capacity to solve all personal and social issues' in the first chapter, it never comes up again in the many rich and rigorous close readings that follow."

Sometimes narrative’s role is just to show that those personal and social issues exist.


Perhaps I should have organized this as more of a narrative, but I labeled this as an annotation so there wouldn’t be an expectation of me spinning a story.

Smile when you say that

Thanks to the If Books Could Kill podcast and its co-host, Peter Shamshiri, I started listening to 5-4 — “a podcast about how much the Supreme Court sucks” which Peter also co-hosts. It’s good, infuriating, and informative. But handing you a new podcast to listen to is not why I’ve asked you here.

There is a promotion at the half-way point for a newsletter — Balls and Strikes — that another co-host, Michael Morbius, narrates. They seem to run it each episode and I’ve started noticing something. Actually, I’ve noticed that I’ve noticed something. It’s a bit meta.

I’m getting there.

At one point as he speaks I could tell that he starts smiling. The change is clear but undescribable. I don’t know why my brain has picked up on this. Less so, do I know why he’s smiling. So I went to the Internet, as I do, to find out why my brain does what it does.

My first stop was this article in Discover Magazine that showcases a study suggesting that if you can sense a smile in a voice you’re hearing, and not someone you can see, you tend to smile back. The article and the study it links to–well done, consumer science journalism–discuss the lack of research on what constitutes this auditory smile. Checking the paper’s sources, I ended up here: “The vocal communication of different types of smile” in Speech Communication. The study is from 2008 and I’m not sure if I’m going to see what builds upon this research. But I was still curious to see who else out there was wondering, “did I just hear you smile?”

Then I got here:

“Smiling voices maintain [increased trust] even in the face of behavioral evidence of untrustworthiness.” (1)

…and here:

“We present an experiment in which participants played a trust game with a virtual agent that expressed emotion through its voice, in a manner congruent or incongruent with its behavior.” (1)

…and here:

“Using an investment game paradigm, we found that positive vocal emotional expression – smiling voice – increases participants’ implicit trust attributions to virtual agents, compared with when agents speak with an emotionally neutral voice. As previously observed, the monetary returns of the agent also affected implicit trust, so that participants invested more money in the agent that was behaving generously.”(1)

And this is the point where I’ve saved the citation in Paperpile, sat back with my arms folded and leaned over to look down into the murky depths of this rabbit hole. I still don’t know what stimuli my brain is picking up that translates into “smile” after Michael says “Supreme Court sucks”, but I can pick up the danger of being able to simulate this in such a way that creates trust between yourself and stranger on the phone.

This is more than just Cash Green’s white voice in Sorry to Bother You, this is the “right voice,” the one that flicks an unknown switch in your head and you picture a reassuring smile. The “right voice” is built upon the research that pull the secrets out of our brains and tools them for algorithmic benefit. The “right voice” won’t just relieve people of their hard-earned money, it will lead them astray, down paths not yet cut.

What do I do? This digression has made me thoughtful. Sigh.


(1) Torre, Ilaria, et al. “If Your Device Could Smile: People Trust Happy-Sounding Artificial Agents More.” Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 105, Apr. 2020, p. 106215. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2019.106215

Goofing around with the social medias

  • I signed up for Post.News a few days ago and think it’s fine for now. I’m not sure who will adopt it outside of journalists (if they do), but I think I will stick around for a while.
  • I finally got my Mastodon.Social account set up as well. I’m still wrapping my head around the Federated system, but I see that I don’t necessarily have to split myself into multiple pieces. I already have multiple personalities online, so I need to be careful here 😉
  • Slowly I’m coming back to tumblr too, under my personal name, and want to use that as a place to post comments on articles and asides. While I wanted to keep everything here on my blog, I would still like to reach a larger audience.

My plan is to have daily summary of the things I like elsewhere until that becomes unnecessary or unwieldy (or I just abandon it due to forgetting, which is more likely). Feel free to follow me in any of those places.

Giving you the raspberries

Image from TN Nursery

The latest episode of Last Seen a podcast by WBUR in Boston focuses on the reporter’s search for the elusive black raspberry, not in its usual ice cream form, but in the cultural wild, so to speak, the farmer’s market or grocery store. It’s an interesting look at the agricultural choices that are made by farmers, marketers, and consumers. At one point Amelia Mason meets up with a forager, who says:

Foraging is one of the last activities out there that does not involve a financial transaction of any kind…

Russ Cohen

And I 100% understand the spirit of this comment. Foraging is just you and the wild, building knowledge of what is and isn’t nibble-able.

But the sentiment renders the capitalism invisible.

  • Who has access to these wild areas? (How do you get there? Drive? Bike?)
  • How does one find out about areas that are accessible?
  • Who owns that land? (The state of federal government? Private citizens?)
  • Who preserves that land? What labor is involved?
  • What kind of transactions are needed to keep the area undeveloped?

All of these questions involve financial transactions in one way or another before one black raspberry is picked. We need to stop thinking that preservation can only exist outside of capitalism, because, frankly, nothing exists outside capitalism in our current world. To put it simply, if you know about it and can access it, a financial transaction was necessary for just the knowledge to get to you.

There’s no aspersions cast here because of the one quote. I loved the episode and want to grow my own black raspberries one day, but I’ll need land for that, and the money to buy it, and the money to buy the bushes, and the ability to provide the labor to do it, and the wherewithal to continue to own the land to see those berries come to fruition.

We’ve already grafted financial transactions onto every branch and when we pretend we haven’t, we think we can see the boundaries of capitalism, but they’re further out, past the brambles, down the slope and away.

Keep looking.

So I’m typing up my notes on Sorry to Bother You when…

I noted that apparently horrible real-life person Armie Hammer’s Steve Lift had to be based off the “WeWork” guy, so looked up Adam Neumann, clicked on his wife’s Wikipedia page and then found this:

Her father had a direct mail business and spent a number of years in prison for tax evasion.

Rebekah Neumann’s Wikipedia Page

Because, of course. That’s all.