Slash is clearly a word to watch. Slash I do mean word, not punctuation mark. The emergence of a new conjunction/conjunctive adverb (let alone one stemming from a punctuation mark) is like a rare-bird sighting in the world of linguistics: an innovation in the slang of young people embedding itself as a function word in the language.

Slash – The Chronicle of Higher Education

I don’t know if I count as young here, but I use this all the time. Seems to obviously be an outgrowth of the use of the slash in academic discourses, spilling downward. Because where else is the slash regularized in everyday language? 

The Food Channel fetishization of cooking has made it look intimidating …

This post by Mark Bittman (more on his review of Michael Pollan’s new book on cooking below) finally brought in to focus something I couldn’t quite put my finger on, namely, why I dislike all those shows like Chopped, etc, on television. 

Now, I love cooking shows, shows with recipes and instructions and ingredients. I even prefer Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals to all those semi-homemade, professional, and industrial looks at cooking. Maybe it’s the teacher in me, or maybe it’s the scholar, but either way, regardless of the celebrity chef du jour (your Boy Meets Grill, your Molto Mario, your Naked Chef), I really enjoy cooking shows.

Which makes my disdain for most* all the more jarring. When the Cooking Channel, launched I was ecstatic. First, because it gave me the satisfaction of being right. It fulfilled a prediction, which I would tell to all and sundry, that Food TV was going to alienate the initial audience that earned it a devoted following, and that another channel would step in and fill that void and steal their audience. Second, because it started with a lot of actual cooking shows. (I was also hopeful that, since it was Food TV doing this, that they realized precisely what I thought was wrong with their programming and would keep it cooking-oriented. Alas and alack, that did not last very long at all, to my great disappointment.) 

And Bittman’s comment gets at the thing that really bugs me: the programming that slowly seeps in has an entirely different idea of the subject watching it. Cooking shows imagine producers, people who care about the details and are trying to increase their capacities for living in and engaging with the world around them**; shows about restaurants and cake’s that look like animated characters imagine the opposite, consumers, slowly persuading*** us to “outsource all our cooking to corporations” (as Pollan says).

Bittman notes the extremely cynical argument that some make, that it is “a waste of time for anyone making more than, say, $20 an hour.” Talk about life stripped of all the living. I really like Pollan’s writing (and hope to incorporate it into future intro to college writing courses), and I’m glad he’s now covered pretty much the whole food chain. I am also particularly attuned to both Bittman’s and Pollan’s argument that we need “to create a gender-agnostic cooking culture.” It’s high time for that statement to be obvious. 

*I do like Iron Chef, though for a long time I didn’t like the American version. The original was just so far out there, like the Bob Ross of cooking shows. 

**Though my appreciation is not quite so naive as above, simplified as it is for this topic. There are many perfectly justifiable and important critiques of both cooking shows and Michael Pollan … for another time. 

***In the sense of the term John Berger uses it, in his excellent book Ways of Seeing.

Left alone with his judge, he fills the stage with his own sense of apocalypse, a blazing nihilism.

From a review of Sobata Komachi/Yoroboshi, London 2001 (The Observer).

I saw Tatsuya Fujiwara as the titular blind young man in this, my introduction to Mishima and to Nō. For years, I had failed to figure out which play I had seen; as the internet got better, it got easier. That I have looked for an english translation for over a decade will tell you something about the impression this modernized version of an ancient Japanese drama had on me at the time.

I was drawn back to this text as I reflected on teaching Oedipus Rex this week, and fell into a reverie contemplating a modern production of this most enduring of tragedies (in this, a month of tragedies both local and national). Mishima’s stylized yet modern plays, both Yoroboshi and Sobata Komachi (‘a mausoleum beauty’), leaped immediately to mind. 

That I saw this production seems now to be serendipitous, if not luck beyond belief, staged as it was in London for less than a week. As one reviewer noted, it was “written in white heat, played at white heat,” and in that it evokes the terse, bitter retelling of the ancient myth, the curse on the House of Laius. 

Obama’s campaign began the election year confident it knew the name of every one of the 69,456,897 Americans whose votes had put him in the White House. They may have cast those votes by secret ballot, but Obama’s analysts could look at the Democrats’ vote totals in each precinct and identify the people most likely to have backed him.

The Definitive Story of How President Obama Mined Voter Data to Win A Second Term | MIT Technology Review

So much for the secret ballot. We now shed so much data in the wake of our everyday digital lives that the most intimate aspects of our political lives–much less our intimate ones–is easily discernible by clever people collating that information. 

B.B. How have you raised the problem of choice and nonchoice?
M.F. I will say that, in fact, there should not be any privileged choice. One should be able to read everything, to know all the institutions and all the practices.

Michel Foucault, “The Order of Things” (Interview)