Sunday, July 30, 2006


Academic Aggrandizement: Green Republicans and Crunchy Conservatives
by pam ashlund

There are times when someone pens a really good title, where that title actually compels me to read that tome. Rod Dreher has written such a title, let it speak for itself:

Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, and their diverse tribe of countercultural conservatives plan to save America (or at least the Republican Party)

It even brings a smile to my face on re-reading. In 1995, when Keith Schneider wrote The Green Republican, I thought that was a great title. A Green Republican, yep, but a birkenstocked burkean crunchy con? How cool is THAT?

Gordon Durnil tried his hand at the multi-adjective title with less effect “THE MAKING OF A CONSERVATIVE ENVIRONMENTALIST With Reflections on Government, Industry, Scientists, the Media, Education, Economic Growth, the Public, the Great Lakes, Activists, and the Sunsetting of Toxic Chemicals”

Crunchy Con, Green Republican, Conservative Environmentalist? All the same idea, but one, just so much funnier than the others. “Crunchy” is one of those self-deprecating phrases that for some reason has stuck over the years. One still hears California referred to as the “land of fruits and nuts” in the mid-west, but I don’t think the average Californian would even get the joke, more or less have heard the phrase. Likewise, who (under forty) even knows that calling someone a “crunchy granola” type was a reference to the hippy practice of baking ones own granola (I tried it once, it wasn’t bad)?

TANGENT: In her article “No Mark of Distinction” Jennifer Jacobson writes about the literary debate over the use of the colon in titles. Now there is a serious topic to stay up nights worrying about. The funny thing is I read this article in the SF Chronicle back in the 90’s and it has influenced my opinion on the lowly colon ever since. I got the same glowing sense of intellectual superiority that washes over me every time I hear someone say “irregardless” instead of “regardless”.

META-TANGENT: Got into a heated argument the other day about whether “irregardless” was a real word. I grabbed my Websters to prove my point and found (to my dismay) that the incorrect use of this word had been upgraded to “common usage” and therefore was the second acceptable form of the word! I don’t know why it comforts me, but at least Microsoft (and by inference Bill Gates?) still recognizes “irregardless” as a spelling error.

But back to colons (and it is really hard not to side-track to a conversation about IBS)…Apparently academics are not thrilled with the overuse of the colon or semi-colon. To quote a quote (probably academically distasteful too) Jacobson quotes Armato from the Minnesota Press as saying "The traditional university-press titling protocol is the interesting title that grabs your attention, followed by what is the real title of the book, which is what comes after the colon".

That setup (title colon real title) does imbue a book with an aura of importance. But sometimes, just the colon itself can add clout. One may wonder, why does “Hawthorne: A Life” sound so much better than “Hawthorne’s Life”? It’s the dramatic pause of course!

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Saturday, July 08, 2006


by pam ashlund

Amazing how quickly employment law can be formed. It all seemed so simple, thou shall not write about work on the web (I better write that on the blackboard a 100 times). The blog Dooce became famous when Heather Armstrong, the blog’s creator, was fired for publishing gossip about her employer. She now has her own catch phrase: To be "dooced" is to be fired for writing a blog.

This from Heather:

"I started this website in February 2001. A year later I was fired from my job for this website because I had written stories that included people in my workplace. My advice to you is BE YE NOT SO STUPID (emphasis added). Never write about work on the internet unless your boss knows and sanctions the fact that YOU ARE WRITING ABOUT WORK ON THE INTERNET. If you are the boss, however, please don’t be a bitch and talk with your hands. And when you order Prada online, please don’t talk about it out loud, you rotten whore (emphasis mine)."

Looking more like Sarah Jessica-Parker in Sex in the City than a web rebel, Heather Armstrong defies being reduced to a stereotype. I’ve taken a few peeks at her blog site and don’t really see more than any other mommies personal diary (sorry Heather), BUT, she holds a place in history and although I wasn’t fired for writing a blog, I WAS “counseled”!!!!!! Just for her gutsy stupidity, she will always be my role-model.

In the shadow of Enron and other scandals, corporations all over the country are rolling out policies. Mandated by Sarbox (or SB1262 for nonprofits) these policies ensure that an employee will NOT suffer retaliation. Okay, this is the good part: blogging about work will get you fired, whistle blowing won’t get you fired, therefore, whistle blowing about your company in a blog will…. Nobody has tested it yet, but I can NOT wait.

Also see followup article: Whistle-Blogging Part II

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THE GRAFFITI PROBLEM IS A VERY SERIOUS ONE: & other excuses for inaction
by pam ashlund

Moved into the Lincoln Heights area of LA recently. The first thing I noticed about my building was a corner of Graffiti “art” gracing the wall. The second thing I noticed about the block were the much less artsy scrawls tagging almost every building in the vicinity. The tags on Michaels Furniture Store had been painted over, leaving only the rectangular square of a lighter shade of tan over the rest of the tan wall. The liquor store on the corner was painted with a mural, but every part of the mural was tagged. I counted over eight unique tag signatures. Some made reference to gangs in other areas; some seemed to be individual names. Whatever the meaning, the mural was completely defaced.

After a month of pondering the graffiti, I decided to contact the City. I could have called the “311” graffiti hotline, but it seemed so impersonal, so instead I walked over to my local Councilman’s office. This wasn’t difficult to do since the office for Council District 1 was on the other corner of my block! I asked my father to accompany me, hoping he would add a measure of maturity and gravity to my case.

The secretary at the Council office told me that the Councilman wasn’t available but I could speak with a “Case Manager”. The Case Manager for my area wasn’t available but another area Case Manager came out to hear my plea and then told me to wait for a moment to speak with a “Deputy”. A few minutes later, the Deputy came out and said that the City could provide some rollers and paint, but that it would be a standard color (not custom) or I was welcome to call the “311” number.

I had come over to the office only intending to offer my help, but frustration overcame me when I felt what seemed to be a very familiar bureaucratic apathy. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and I found myself crying out “but don’t you think even if we can’t solve the whole problem, the Councilman could just keep his own little block clean?” “Well” said the Deputy, “the Graffiti Problem is a very serious problem in the City”.

Luckily my father intervened at that moment, interrupting what could have been a disastrous tirade with “Well, anything we can do to help, we have to get going now” he cheerfully offered. And that was that.

I’m a nonprofit accountant by trade and as I pay the bills I too have contemplated the “graffiti problem”. We pay the paint companies over $100,000 a year for the paint to cover over this “problem”. The thing is that to sit at my desk and moan about what a waste it is to spend this money for paint to paint over paint, is one thing, but to look at on my own block is a different thing entirely.

Hoping to find some more innovative solution, I set out to do a little research. To my surprise I found a man named Ward blogging about the subject in a blog called “The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal”. His blog took it’s title from Mark McCormick’s 2001 award winning video. This video (summarized in Wards blog) “makes the observation that the process of destroying one art form unwittingly creates another”. An idea I certainly never considered before.

TANGENT: Ward, it seems, in addition to blogging, is also a Graffiti artist himself. His work (painted on walls around Atlanta under the pseudonym “Canon” is a bit reminiscent of Picasso in his Blue Period. As a fan of Guernica and the Portraits of Sylvette, Ward/Canon’s art holds appeal. Sadly most has been painted over, but are recorded in his photo journal. That would be the downside of unrequited wall painting.

The next week, as I drove around the block, I noticed that the mural on the corner liquor store (in all its vandalized glory) had been painted over. I will probably never know whether it was our visit to the City, or the liquor store owner, who brought about this little bit of social change...but...who cares?

This blog has been cross-posted in Lofty Thoughts.