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August 31, 2007

Farmers lock up premier

An angry mob of farmers locked Victorian Premier John Brumby in a machinery yard for more than an hour this afternoon to protest the government's planned north-south water pipeline.
Am I the only one who thinks this is an awesome news story? I especially liked the headline.

"Farmers lock up premier" was posted by dogpossum on August 31, 2007 7:35 PM in the category clicky

did i say unbelievable teaching tool already?

So I'm doing a lecture on the media in war time.
I start with WWI, then WWII, then Vietnam, then the Gulf War and finally the 'war on terror'.
It's been heavy going, to say the least.

I've collected a lot of images from the intertubes, and also some absolutely amazing footage.
I've found some really great sites like, which has some truly awesome AV and sound files, which I've just been popping into my keynote presentations. Keynote rocks, by the way - a truly fabulous alternative to powerpoint. So much easier to use. So much prettier.

I've also been playing on YouTube. Search for 'second world war propaganda', and you get fascinating archival footage - news reels, animations, etc.
Do a search for 'vietnam war footage' in YouTube and you get a stack of archival footage. And some truly freakin's scary red neck racist commentary.

I've just started into the bit on the Gulf War and the 'war on terror', and that's scary. It's really upsetting. The Gulf War is easier to deal with because I'm discussing the way it was sanitised by CNN - lots of talk about technology, lots of computery stuff. Not a lot of bodies.

But the stuff on Afghanistan is really breaking my heart. One of the points I'm making is about the way the internet has suddenly allowed anyone to upload footage of the conflict - US soldiers, local citizens, politicians. I'm also writing about blogs and the US army sites, but the stuff that's really caught my attention is the way ordinary people are using youtube to make little films.
It really reminds me of the stuff I've read about community media and the role of media in developing countries... if you have a camera phone, you can make a movie. And if you can get access to the internet, you can put it online.
I know that getting online isn't easy, and that supplies of electricity are difficult, but still. This is really a massive, massive change in the way wars are represented in the media. And more importantly, the way people in occupied or invaded countries represent themselves.

One thing I have come across is Alive in Baghdad. I've only just stumbled over it, but it's interesting. I know nothing about it, and part of me wonders about anti-US propaganda. But I suspect it's on the level. Does anyone know?

"did i say unbelievable teaching tool already?" was posted by dogpossum on August 31, 2007 5:55 PM in the category teaching

August 29, 2007

i still think i rock

for this punnilicious friday cat bloggage. Props to me.

"i still think i rock" was posted by dogpossum on August 29, 2007 4:49 PM in the category dogpossum

rock on scribbler


The Scribbler has taken the challenge (also ranted on here), for which he rocks.

"rock on scribbler" was posted by dogpossum on August 29, 2007 4:39 PM in the category clicky

August 26, 2007

pimping out cultural studies rock stars


Writing these lectures this semester, I keep coming back to a couple of questions.
Should an undergraduate course present an 'unbiased' overview of a particular area of research? In other words, if you're teaching an introductory media or cultural studies (or gender studies or political science or whatever) subject, should you present an overview of the highest profile thinkers in the field - even if they contradict each other?

Or should you present a subjective overview of the literature and thinking which you find most convincing, which presents a cohesive overview of a particular group or genealogy within the literature or which best represents the theoretical approach of your particular university?*

If only it was that simple, though. I've been also been wondering if an intro subject should present an overview of key thinking within a specific national context - Australian media studies, British media studies, American media studies...?
If you answer yes, then, of course you're also left asking "well, shouldn't I include some of the American (or Australian or British) stuff just as an example of how we don't do things here?" Or perhaps you're wondering if it mightn't be kinda neat to include some work from Indian or Asian scholars...

On the CSAA list recently some of the contributors argued that we have a responsibility as scholars to raise our students' awareness of the various ideological assumptions at work in John Howard's intrusion into rural indigenous Australians' affairs. On the one hand, I agree entirely, in part because it seems the 'right thing to do', but also because it seems the sort of thing that Stuart Hall would approve of. In other words, cultural studies has its roots in social activism (sort of), and issues of class and ethnicity and gender and sexuality have always been at its heart (well, for some people. Some cultural studies kids have decided that that stuff's so last millenium). In this approach, then, you not only outline the various thinking at work in cultural studies, you present it as it if was 'true' or at least workable or something to aim for.
So, for example, when I outline concepts like 'patriarchy' (in a discussion of feminist textual analysis), I don't present it as an abstract concept, but as a real context and ingredient in the texts we're reading and in our lives.

Don't get me wrong - I do agree with these concepts. I do firmly agree that patriarchy needs discussion (and dismantling?), that we should be getting very angry (or at least very active) about Howard's policies, that we should be thinking critically.
It's just that I wonder whether I should be teaching these things as if they were all 'true' (ie from a 'biased' perspective), or 'objectively', as if they are ideologies we should engage with and discuss, but not necessarily believe.

Part of me also worries if this is an entirely arbitrary and bullshit line of thinking. I wonder if it's even possible to do a decent job teaching cultural studies (and gender studies and so on) if you don't present them subjectively. I mean, that's kind of what they're about.
If I do attempt an 'unbiased' approach, am I not simply obscuring or ignoring my own personal beliefs about the world and politics and preconceptions? And if that's the case, what the fuck am I doing calling myself a feminist, if I'm prepared to pretend that an objective approach is possible anyway? I spend three quarters of my time telling students that objective approaches aren't possible - that we're steeped in culture and that to really do 'fair' analyses we should begin by addressing (and stating) our own ideas about the world and how they affect how we read and write and think and talk about culture.

I wonder if this is part of the problem of tertiary education.

Teaching first years basic concepts like active readership, I say things like "Meaning isn't an inherent and static quality of a text, but made through readers' interaction with it" and "There is no single ideology or idea about the world, but multiple and competing ideologies" and adopting an approach in the classroom which explicitly emphasises the idea that 'every reading (or opinion) is important and valuable' so that students feel comfortable speaking up.
With this in mind, it seems logical to rework assessment to make it more achievable for students with 'special needs' (which is all of them - whether they have reading problems, aren't comfortable with English, have to work two jobs to feed their families, care for elderly relatives or whatever), and to use a range of teaching tools and approaches in lectures and tutorials to meet the needs of such a vast range of learning styles and students' needs.
But at the end of the day, the arbitrary marking system necessarily involves being unfair and making it very clear that not every reading style and every ideology and every mode of self expression is valuable or worthy. In fact, the entire marking system, the tutorial/lecture/assignment structure is constructed to encourage and valorise a particular approach to knowledge, a particular way of learning and teaching.
Teaching 'inclusively' (ie practicing what I'm preaching in a cultural studies subject) seems like holding back the tide. Fairly fruitless at best, self-deception at worst.

To this point I've been taking a mixed approach. I present particular ideas as if they were 'true': "patriarchy is..." rather than "some believe that patriarchy is...", and, when the students ask, I clearly state my own ideas and beliefs. I don't think it's possible to canvas every ideology in just twelve weeks, so I present the 'good ones'. I don't think first years are really up to being presented with competing ideas (they're still learning how to learn - getting over that 'just memorise what I tell you' thing and moving towards 'what do you think about what I've told you? Do you agree? Why not? Why?'), so it's best to present a more consistent approach. I also think we should be teaching Australian cultural studies - using Australian readings and ideas. With exceptions for obvious people (like Stuart Hall, who had such an impact in Australia)... but is that just cherry picking?

I wonder if perhaps we should think of the people teaching these subjects as resources in themselves. Not just a pair of legs for walking ideas past the students. We should regard their ideas and work as resources, and expect them to teach those ideas - to bring that** - when they're in the classroom (whether they're in front of 200 or 10 students). Which is really why I think that the very best and most experienced teachers should be teaching first years. ...and why I think we should have the very best teachers teaching beginner dancers too, btw.
But in both dance and acadamia, teaching beginners or first years is seen as grunt work, the lowest status, least important teaching. Crowd control. The stuff we can farm out to pgrads for guest lectures or get in sessional staff to teach, rather than getting the most experienced, highest profile staff involved.
Which is a very great shame, because it's a great opportunity to reach a very large number of students all at once, to fire their enthusiasm for the area, and to - if we're thinking like those CSAA doods - actually encourage critical discussion of the culture we're actually living in.

I also think it's a shame that experienced staff take the least interest in these large introductory subjects. I know I'm only new to this, and probably don't have a clue, and will change my mind as I get more experience, but aren't these the most important students in the university? They're harder to teach because they aren't familiar with universities, and they don't know any of the basic stuff that eventually brings them to more complex research of their own. But they are the people who have new ideas and fresh and unjaded. They don't know what media studies is like. So if you come in swinging, using enthusiastic teachers who have mad teaching skills, really love what they do (and what they're reasearching), surely that will spill over and infect the students (to mix a metaphor)?

And if the people teaching these subjects are also doing their own research, teaching first years will keep them in touch with the basic, fundamental work in their field. If the people doing this teaching are also the big names in publishing and research, won't their enthusiasm for their work also be infective?

This semester, half the readings on the course are by people who taught me in my first year subjects at UQ - Tony Thwaites, Lloyd Davis, Graeme Turner, Frances Bonner, John Frow, etc etc etc. They'd teach subjects in their special areas, but they'd also be our tutors in first year, and they'd do one-off lectures in their speciality area. So we saw and heard and worked with these guys up close.
Now, when I'm teaching these first years, crapping on about how great Graybags is, I realise that these guys are just names to the students. They have no idea why Graybags is neat as a person as well as as a researcher. So they don't really care.
I try to make these guys more than just names for the students - I always use photos of them in my slides, and I try to add in interesting details to keep their attention (I love the story of Roland Barthes for this sort of talk). If I'm talking about uber scholars like the Frankfurt School doods, I describe their social context as well, and how that might have influenced their work. I make sure I show a picture of Stuart Hall and tell them that he wasn't born in Britain.
And I hope that helps them be interested in these people. But really, it would be far easier if Stuart Hall was standing in front of them telling them the story of how he got into talking about media.

This is an introductory subject, so half the job*** is selling media studies to them, making them want to learn more. So it has to be interesting. They have to care. They have to see how they could contribute to the area, how their ideas and experiences are important and worth talking about. And if that means pimping out cultural studies rock stars, so be it.

*Which is, of course, one of the reasons why it's important to be researching while you're teaching, and to have decent collegiality happening in your department.
**The Squeeze suggested the students might laugh less in my lectures if I lay off the ghetto talk. I reject the idea: I am totally street.
***The other half is skilling them up with some basic methodological and theoretical tools.
Textual analysis? √
Feminism? √
Cowboys? √

"pimping out cultural studies rock stars" was posted by dogpossum on August 26, 2007 11:14 AM in the category teaching

August 23, 2007

john from cincinnati


This show is blowing my brain.
Surf noir.
Deadwood on a beach.
Clever dialogue, lovely cinematography, Luke Perry, mysteriousness, freakin' A1 soundtrack, surf-scenes that make me want to get wet*.
Once again, another HBO program that doesn't seem to understand that women are, like, you know - more than for shagging - but that seems par for the course with them...

John From Cincinnati is for you if you like Deadwood. It will make you want to go surfing.

PS I am still crazy for Big Love.
*that's surf talk, you hooplehead.

"john from cincinnati" was posted by dogpossum on August 23, 2007 4:24 PM in the category john from cincinnati

August 22, 2007

the legend of D4E

Whenever I see D4E (which is a few times a year at a lindy exchange - in Sydney, in Perth, in Melbourne) we plug our earbuds into each other's mobile music devices and play each other music.
This is where I learn about music that isn't jazz and wasn't released in 1992 on Shock Records.
I only play music - he makes it.

the legend of D4E Hip Hop Mixtape

(I'm not sure if he rocks, though)

"the legend of D4E" was posted by dogpossum on August 22, 2007 2:12 PM in the category clicky and djing and music and people i know

Some guys really don't rock that hard.

(but don't read the comments.)

"Some guys really don't rock that hard." was posted by dogpossum on August 22, 2007 1:53 PM in the category clicky and music

crazed alpha females in outer space

Thanks for the link, Scotty.

It seems most of my friends are now on the search for interesting active female characters.
The basic rules?
1. there will be 2 or more female characters, and they will talk to each other about something other than men.
2. they will kick arse.
The second is pretty ambitious, considering how difficult it is to fulfill that first rule (can't remember where I read that one, either, sorry - props to whoever it was). But we are on the case.
Perhaps some of the scribblers out there could consider scribbling a female protagonist who meets these criteria... and a couple more?

3. her costume will cover her arse and her tits and her belly. It will not be skin-tight (but it will be well-made, well-cut and comfortably 'cool'). She will not wear high heels.
4. she will kick arse.

I am currently reading a series of freakin' awesome sf books by Karen Traviss (I'd link to them within the site but it's got some nasty frame-type action happening). The protagonist is a woman. An angry woman. There are ongoing discussions about what it means to be 'human', a 'person', in a relationship (where matriarchal polyamoury is the norm), a parent, a soldier, an 'environmentalist', a woman or a man.
I try not to read these before bed because I end up staying up really late because I can't put the damn things down.

It's been a long time since I've read female characters who actually work for me - lots of female characters talking to each other about things other than men. Traviss' Shan Frankland reminds me of Bet Yaeger from C J Cherryh's Rimrunners.

...and while I love this stuff, why is it that the best female characters have to be miserable sods? Guess we've got Tanya Huff for happy female space soldiers who can still kick arse and the women Miles pines for in Lois McMaster Bujold's (fab) books.

--:Edit:-- You can read a bit more about 'the rules' here

"crazed alpha females in outer space" was posted by dogpossum on August 22, 2007 11:39 AM in the category books

August 18, 2007

you know you're in the right job when...


You get to say things like this:

"There has been no final and conclusive research to support this particular idea of ‘media effects’ – there are no definitive studies showing that watching violence on TV does turn you into a serial killer (which is kind of unfortunate because I like the idea that watching Alien and Terminator 2 will make me a superhero)."
Accompanied by these two lovely Ladeez on a giant screen.LindyHamilton.jpg

I guess the interesting part of this particular segue involves some sort of discussion about the point of diversity in representation - if effects theory is crap (and that's a bit of a long bow I know, but I'm making a dramatic point here), what's the point of agitating for, well, female action heroes?

Teaching this semester I noticed (putting together a lecture on cowboys) that there really haven't been any seriously arse kicking mainstream action film chicks since the 1990s. Where are the Linda Hamiltons, the Sigourney Weavers of the 21st century?


Are we, like totally over that now?

Please don't tell me that all we're left with are (literally) Invisible Women who really only seem up for defensive tactics and getting really really upset.
And hey, why the fuck isn't Sue Storm the boss of the F4 anyway? She has the best name, she has the most versatile superpowers, she's totally the boss of annoying people like her brother Johnny... Maybe if she had some sort of serious responsibilities she'd quit obsessing about her wedding and actually have something challenging to occupy her (supposed) super-scientist brain.

Do I need to talk about superhero costumes? I'm as much a fan of the hawt body action as the next red blooded sistah, but I'd kind of like to see some overalls like Siggy's or perhaps some mucho extremo body armour c/o Aliens.

[deep breath] But, as I was saying, it is way neat to be able to actually talk about this stuff with students. And preparing all this lecture material is really reminding me of the pretty radical roots of media and cultural studies. I've been hanging out with swing dancers so long I've forgotten that it's actually way uncool to just accept bullshit gender stereotypes and perpetuate that whole 'boys look after girls, girls look pretty and shut their mouths' crap.

Today I choose to wear full body armour and decimate the patriarchy.


(Hand over that phallus to someone who knows how to use it, motherfucker - the sistah has some multi-tasking to do).

"you know you're in the right job when..." was posted by dogpossum on August 18, 2007 6:22 PM in the category teaching

August 17, 2007



"rly!!!1!" was posted by dogpossum on August 17, 2007 1:25 PM in the category lolfrankie

we can has feminzm now k thx


stealing other people's ideas when I should be finding photos of Britney Spears for work.

"we can has feminzm now k thx" was posted by dogpossum on August 17, 2007 1:14 PM in the category clicky

friday frankie blogging

this will mean nothing to non dancers.


"friday frankie blogging" was posted by dogpossum on August 17, 2007 2:52 AM in the category lolfrankie

August 15, 2007

argh! another cult!

Facebook has eaten my life. I'm trying to write lectures but. can't. stop. checking. wall.


"argh! another cult!" was posted by dogpossum on August 15, 2007 4:30 PM in the category clicky

August 14, 2007

facebook = virus!

Listening to this discussion about Facebook, I was struck by the guy's description of face to face and telephone communication 'inefficient'.

The entire presentation emphasises 'efficency' in communicative and networking practices. An interesting project for someone who's interested in how men and women and different people communicate in person and online?

"facebook = virus!" was posted by dogpossum on August 14, 2007 7:27 PM in the category clicky

August 1, 2007

John Frow = fushizzle

The paper that made hardened ackas cry like babies has been on my mind for weeks now... hell, since December last year when I heard the Fushizz give it (or bring it, depending).

"John Frow = fushizzle" was posted by dogpossum on August 1, 2007 11:52 AM in the category academia