Archive for the General Category

Here’s a new gig

Posted in General with tags , , on September 14, 2011 by Bola C. King-Rushing

So, I’ve got a new gig: I’m the volunteer editor of the Ventura County AIDS Partnership‘s new blog over at http://vcaidspartnerhip.wordpress.com.

For me, this is a new direction for an old set of skills. Foremost among these is editing; I have been a print editor in the past, focusing on grammar, style, and consistency among multiple authors. I think this project also counts as digital humanities/social sciences, as we’re trying to build an online community. Finally, I’m using regular old planning and organizational skills to pull the whole thing together.

Check it out! Subscribe, comment, participate if you’re so inclined. I’m hoping this project will also get me going on this blog again. I haven’t had a lot of kvetching to do, and I’ve been très busy with work, dissertation, and life in general, but I’d like to get back into blogging. Wish me luck!

Song of the moment: "Own the Night," Chaka Khan
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Alternative Career Choices for English PhDs

Posted in General, School with tags , , on April 8, 2011 by Bola C. King-Rushing

This is an update of an essay I wrote while studying at UCSB. I was becoming disillusioned with the prospect of becoming a professor. Since then, several people have found it helpful, so I thought I’d share it here. Feel free to add your own ideas…

The PhD program in English is, in many ways, an apprenticeship: you are being taught by English professors to use their tools and processes with the ultimate goal of becoming an English professor. But there are other options, other paths that are open to you, that you might take for any of a number of reasons.

Continue reading

Hehehe…

Posted in General with tags , on November 23, 2009 by Bola C. King-Rushing

Does it make me a bad person if I still giggle with glee at the memory of Christian Bale’s Batmobile being destroyed?

I’m not sure why it is, but I still feel a visceral disgust at that abominable vehicle. I don’t think I’ve felt so strongly about an automobile before, at least not negatively. It was just…so completely ugly. There was nothing, in my opinion, remotely pretty about it.

Except its being broken.

I suppose you could say that it did have a positive effect on me: I could not have gotten so much joy out of its destruction if it had never been created in the first place. But something about that logic strikes me as not quite right.

Forgive me for beating a dead horse (or a dead Batmobile). I just needed to get that out, I guess.


Song of the Moment: "Say Hey (I Love  You)," Michael Franti & Spearhead

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Digital Humanities

Posted in General, School with tags , , on November 23, 2009 by Bola C. King-Rushing

So I’m involved in this year’s HASTAC community, and I’ve done a little blogging over there. This is a repost of one of those–it got a great response, and I thought the conversation was worth bringing over here. Apologies to those who’ve already seen and / or responded to it.

“What Are We Doing, Anyway?” (11/13/09)

I’d like to revisit Amanda Visconti’s blog post about the must-have technical skills for a digital humanist.

Our department’s Literature.Culture.Media Center was fortunate enough to be visited by Dr. Patrik Svensson today. Of course, I had class and then a meeting during his talk, but I was able to make the reception afterward and hear him talk about digital humanities–and, in particular, the state of the field.

Or lack thereof. It turns out that “digital humanities” is, like most things humanities, a slippery thing to define. Do you remember when it was “humanities computing”? Do you remember even further back, when it was just a humanist who knew a little about Unix, HTML, or C+?

But to get to the point: what are we doing when we claim to be “digital humanists”? We are clearly not all doing the same thing, or (I suspect) even on the same page at least part of the time. So what would you say to someone from the “outside” if they asked you what you mean by digital humanities?

Part of my reason for asking is that, even though I’m in an English department, my dissertation has slid significantly into the social sciences by way of online virtual worlds. I keep my humanist focus, at least in my own mind, by steadfastly sticking to qualitative methodologies. But my digital credibility–well, I’m not so sure where I stand. I use a lot of technology, and I understand a lot about its technical underpinnings, but coding left me behind right about when amateur programmers switched from PASCAL to C. Yes indeed, that was a very long time ago.

Thus, I consider myself part of the DH universe mostly because my object of study (virtual worlds) is digital, and I approach the analysis of it from a humanities or humanist perspective.

But that’s just one approach. As implied by Amanda’s blog post, the DH universe also includes those people who do humanities with digital tools, often creating said tools themselves with their programming prowess. Is that enough? How digital do you have to be, or how humanities, to be considered DH? Is it even right to try to fit such disparate activities under a single categorical umbrella?

One pragmatic / cynical way to look at it is in terms of fads and funding. The money (what little there is) is in digital humanities, so we have an interest in being considered digital humanists. But when the money turns its attention elsewhere in a few years, what will we have left?

What are we doing? What are you doing, and why do you call it digital humanities?


Song of the Moment: "Do You Love Me," The Contours
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Ideas? Suggestions?

Posted in General, School with tags on March 19, 2009 by Bola C. King-Rushing

Once again, it’s been quite a while. I fully intend to post more often…we’ll see how that goes.

Part of the problem is that I’m closing in on the ABD phase of the PhD program. Yup, one more course remaining, and then all I have to do is write a minor book while three faculty members monitor every step of the process.

Good times.

The funniest thing is, the more research I’m doing for this dissertation on virtual worlds, the less time I have to spend in virtual worlds. Did I say “funny?” Sometimes it seems cosmically perverse. That’s OK, though. I’m still learning a lot, and I’m still enjoying most of the learning that I’m doing.

One thing I’m look at right now is fiction centered on/in virtual worlds. My hope is to find some good fiction to which I can apply the research I am doing for a literary application of the work. This is where I need some help. I’m not sure what’s out there as far as relevant fiction goes. My current list:

  • Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
  • Tea from an Empty Cup, Pat Cadigan
  • Otherland, Tad Williams
  • Circuit of Heaven, Dennis Danvers
  • ANIMA, Dalian Hansen

I haven’t yet read Otherland and ANIMA (subtitled A Novel about Second Life). If you’re familiar with even a couple of these titles, you can probably see where my thinking is.  (If not, what I’m looking for are stories which take place in or prominently feature digital virtual worlds – not, however, just representations of the internet like Gibson’s “matrix” in the Sprawl series, but worlds designed and presented as such.) I know there are not many readers of this blog, but I’m asking in every venue available to me, including this one, whether anyone has suggestions for other works I might look at.

Thomas More’s Utopia has been suggested, as has Edwin Abbott’s Flatland. I haven’t read them, but I’d also love to get feedback on whether either one fits.

Let me know. I can use all the help I can get. Hey, who can’t?



Song of the Moment: "Rockstar," Nickelback
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No on Proposition 8

Posted in General with tags , , on October 3, 2008 by Bola C. King-Rushing

OK, it’s been a while. I could give you all the excuses reasons for that, but in the end what’s important is that I’m writing again. At least right now.

In any case, I live in the land of the political initiative, referendum, or proposition, and it seems we’re called to the polls at least a couple of times every year to cast votes on the welfare and direction of the Golden State. Which, if you ask me, is pretty cool, though it takes a little getting used to.

This November, along with the national ballot, we have several state and local measures to consider. The two of these that I think are of greatest import are Propositions 4 and 8. I might talk about 4 some other time, but for right now my concern is Prop 8.

Put simply, Prop 8 if passed would ban same-sex marriages in California. You may or may not know that this is an issue that’s gone back and forth in this state; most recently, a California Supreme Court ruling held that it was unlawful to limit “marriage” to strictly man-woman couples. This means that same-sex marriages are valid and recognized in California at the moment, but Proposition 8 aims to add wording to the state constitution to the effect that only a man-woman marriage would be valid and recognized here.

That’s just wrong. There are a whole host of reasons that I hold that opinion, and I may go into them another time. What interests me right now, though, is that this issue – both locally and nationally – points a giant, sore finger at the massively gaping hole in the supposed wall between church and state. Half the problem here is the blanket use of the term “marriage.” If you stop to think about it, you realize that agents of religious authority (clergy) are given permission to perform a ceremony that affects the status of a couple in the eyes of governmental / civil authority. If we’re supposed to support the separation of church and state, isn’t that whole setup in direct conflict of the principle?

There should, from the very founding of this nation, have been a distinction made between the union of two people in a religious context and a similar (though not identical, and sometimes completely different) union in a civil context. The fact that some religions or denominations recognize same-sex marriage while their local governments do not points to that as a basic truth. Or how about this  one?: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (yes, the Mormons) once allowed and recognized polygamy (some fundamentalist groups not affiliated with the mainstream church still do), but the federal government of the USA has never recognized polygamous marriages. This demonstrates quite clearly that marriage does not mean the same thing to religion as it does to government.

But those who support Prop 8 – that is, those who wish to ban same-sex marriage – conflate the two contexts. They claim that if the state recognizes same-sex marriages, then their religious beliefs will be in danger. But wait: if we really have separation of church and state, then no state decision can impinge upon their beliefs. So what’s to be afraid of? The Catholic Church supports Prop 8, but the state is not going to force Catholic priests to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. So the Catholic Church (and all who support Prop 8) is not really defending their right to do things their way; they’re specifically hoping to restrict the rights of others to do things a different way.

I think civil union (marriage in the civil context) should be separated from matrimony (marriage in the religious context) altogether as a matter of principle. It would make sense for those who are religious to have the two be combined or overlapped in some way, but we now live in a time where there are lots of people who for many differing reasons have or want nothing to do matrimony, while still desiring the rights and responsibilities of civil union. Not to mention many who are married in name but don’t really live that way.

It’s to the benefit of the state to allow same-sex marriages. Just as with heterosexual marriages, it promotes social stability and contributes to economic stability. Beyond that, though, it’s straight-up illegal for the state to discriminate against people on the basis of religion or sexual preference / orientation (among other things, of course). By banning or prohibiting same-sex marriage, for whatever reasons, the state is by definition treating one group of people (homosexual couples desiring to be married) differently from another (heterosexual couples desiring to be married) on the basis of sexual orientation and possibly religion. These two sets of people are otherwise indistinguishable: in each case you have two people who are probably in love and want to publicly and socially declare an intent to commit permanently to each other and obtain all the rights and responsibilities that accompany such a declaration; the only difference is that one pair has different plumbing, while the other pair has the same plumbing. The state should not be in the business of discriminating between people on the separate or combined bases of sexual orientation and religion.

Wait, isn’t that basically what the California Supreme Court said?

Come on, people. How hard is it, really? Do you want to live in a land where discrimination is ok? I probably shouldn’t ask that question – too many people, if they answered truthfully, would say “Yes.” But if you don’t, then oppose Proposition 8 this November. If you live in California, vote against it. If you don’t live in California, urge any Californians you may know or come into contact with to vote against it. It’s that simple.



Song of the Moment: "Hawaii Five-O," The Ventures
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On The Dark Knight

Posted in General, Uncategorized with tags , on August 11, 2008 by Bola C. King-Rushing

Well, I couldn’t miss it, so (even though it took me a while) I finally got around to seeing The Dark Knight.

Let me first say that I really didn’t like Batman Begins. As I’ve already mentioned to some people, I think Christian Bale was only OK as Batman/Bruce Wayne, the story wasn’t all that fun, and the only image that I really appreciated was the picture of Gotham glittering in daylight. Plus the Batmobile was an atrocious-looking monstrosity of a vehicle that didn’t even have the brutish beauty of terrifying power.

So (spoiler alert!) I’m glad they finally blew it up. That little motorcycle-type thing wasn’t much better, though.

In any case, The Dark Knight is a far superior movie. Yes, I enjoyed it. While the story was really good, I don’t think that Heath Ledger’s performance was really worth all the hoopla that the critics have been making. The opening sequence was great, and the Joker’s legendary madness was well-written, more or less. And Christian Bale has grown into the Batman role a little more.

Overall, the movie was a helluva ride, which is generally what I’m looking for in a movie that comes from comic books. Of course, you get a better ride from something like Ultraviolet, and I’m looking forward to the Watchmen movie next year, but that’s not important right now…

While I enjoyed the movie, there is a major philosophical beef I still have with its existence. This issue dates back to Batman Begins, and is essentially going to be a fundamental problem with every installment of the new Batman movie franchise. The problem is a lack of respect for canonicity.

Now, I’m not one who insists that a comic-based movie adhere rigidly to the established stories of the comic. Marvel’s movies have convinced me that movies are a different medium and their stories must therefore be constructed differently. That’s totally fair.

What bothers me – has bothered me since Batman Begins – is that the established canon of the four previous Batman movies was simply erased. Some of us appreciate a consistent story universe, and this has now been completely destroyed. I feel it as a personal affront, that the creators of the two latest Batman movies simply have no respect for their forerunners – and no respect for those of us who have some degree of fondness for those earlier films.

A new Batman movie could have gone with new villains and executed a graceful transition from the more campy movies into this darker vibe. That would’ve been artful. Instead, we just get conceptual amputation. Reboot. A total do-over, as if all that came before was a waste of time that deserves to be forgotten. It’s rude.

And Christian Bale’s Batmobile was just ugly.



Song of the Moment: "Low Place Like Home," Sneaker Pimps
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