Saturday, November 11, 2006

A new ruling from the Men of the Square Table:

Don't fruit the beer!!!

Cartoons VS Elections and Veterans' Day

Family Guy Democracy in Iraq

The same night that the Simpson's latest "Tree House of Horror" aired, Family Guy also aired an episode with a satirical portrayal of Iraq. This scene makes some rather strong arguments about the "enforcement" of democracy and occurs after Stewie and Brian are relieved to learn they won't have to fight in the war. In the preceding scenes, they try to get discharged from the Army by acting gay and shooting each other in the foot. The army in all the scenes is portrayed as incompetent and fighting for one's country as something to avoid.

I might argue that the timing of both series is also important as they aired the week of Veterans' Day. Furthermore, from a political standpoint the airing of each only 2 days before elections brings current issues into the spotlight (Iraq in general, the incompetency of government, the implications of spreading democracy, etc.). Does this timing add an additional narrative and/or argument to each episode?

Solon raised some excellent questions in an earlier post, and I'll respond to them soon.
Bill Maher New Rules Neocon are always wrong

Harrogate loves Bill Maher. This clip from _Real Time_ is one of his favorites.

Simpsons' War of the Worlds

Some comments that respond to p-duck's comments on the other Simpsons post.

This clip may not be as funny if we were still at war (depending when the clips runs) because people may not notice the reference. I don't think I can address the other questions, but I do think that the Mr. P-Duck's reaction goes deeper than just being over there.

Anywho. This is the full clip for the last Treehouse of Horror VII. There are two narratives incorporated into the larger narrative. The first is the parody of War of the Worlds focuses on the gulibility of the people; the second refers to the arrogance of occupation, which still makes sense but only in terms of the gulibility of the people. (In a way, one underlying claim is that in a democracy, you get the leaders you deserve.)

Below is the full clip from Treehouse of Horror XVII, "The Day the Earth Looked Stupid."

First, does the first narrative soften the second narrative or does it make it worse?

Second, is this an appropriate form of an argument since there may be no chance to refute the show (though you could engage in debate with others that watch it)?

Third, what ethics should the writers of the Simpsons follow?

Fourth, what other themes are in this: the "masses" are stupid; the masses are anti-intellectual and easily duped by the media; government officials are incompetent; the intellectuals know the "truth" (Lisa) but are unable to persuade the masses; and, finally, then there is the invasion/ occupation.

On a side note: I use the episode "Lisa the Iconoclast" to teach Plato's allegory of the cave. Some Plato scholars suggest that Plato's three parts of the soul correlates to three different classes of individuals in society. There is the warrior class, which is based on courage; there are the masses, which are ruled by passions; and there are the rulers (the wise Platonic Guardians), which rule by reason.

In both "Lisa the Iconoclast" and "Treehouse of Horrors XVII," Lisa represents the Platonic Guardian-- she knows the truth but either lies to the masses (noble lie) because the truth would hurt the masses or she cannot persuade the masses because the masses are too stupid to understand.

What are writers of the Simpsons suggesting to their audience: Are they saying that Plato is correct, the masses are too stupid, and this episode not only attacks those that planned the war but also most of the audience? Is there a further joke on the audience that mocks the audience because the audience members don't really even know why this is funny? (If funny is the correct word.)

Finally, there is a relationship between this administration and this interpretation of Plato. Usually, this view of Plato develops from the Straussians, a few of whom were the architects of the current war (Perle, Wolfowitz). How does this alter our understanding of what the writers of the Simpsons suggest?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Women as "Cleaners"

Harrogate posted this cartoon earlier. I think that it should be reexamined.

Historically, this is a comon topos. It dates back to the suffrage movement. The original argument made sense in terms of cultural expectations and speaking the language of the audience: women "belonged" in a certain role and "fulfilled" those expectations that men wanted. When they argued for the right to vote, they adopted the language of those expectations: if you expect us to clean up after you in private, then we should clean up after you in public.

Historically, this argument is not as sexist as typically suggested. By using this argument and by focusing on the "traditional" gender roles, women could gain access to the public sphere. It is a great "rhetorical turn" for gender roles.

One interesting aspect to this would be how this argument worked in terms of class. If women were rich and possessed servants, this option may not be available to them (they did not clean up after their husbands or their family). Rich women faced more restrictions and possessed less access to the public sphere. While they could finance the movement, they had no voice and no possible "duties" to enter public debate.

For a really good example, read Anna Howard Shaw's "The Fundamental Principles of a Republic.".

The question remains: what would be the correct metaphor for women in politics? Women as cleaners still makes sense because of the larger cultural beliefs (men are messy, less responsible), but it does lose some of its power. Any suggestions for the correct metaphor?

The peoples' hearts and minds

If the Simpsons have told us anything, it is that the world is a funny place. In a not so funny way. Well, maybe The Simpsons tell us that the world is not a funny place through funny means. Maybe, that the world is not a funny place and this clip is not even funny. Maybe, just maybe, you should watch the clip.

Jon Stewart: Kingmaker 2006?

Harrogate has enjoyed cruising the Right Blogosphere this week, witnessing the spectacle of sought explanation as they ponder "what happened." We who believe in liberal causes can certainly relate, as before Tuesday we'd been getting skunked for six years running, and for 12 if you count Congress only.

Maybe the most interesting explanation Harrogate has encountered appears in this article, by pundit Rusty Shackleford, whose thesis is that:

one phenomenon has been overlooked. One which I believe was a key if not the key to a Democratic victory. That is the phenomenon of faux news. And Jon Stewart is its banner bearer.
Jon Stewart is an unlikely player in national politics. He's not a pundit, he's a comedian. As unlikely a candidate for Democratic kingmaker as he may be, he's a force to be reckoned with
Harrogate wonders what others think of this article, which makes a well-written and compelling case for Stewart's significance. The proposed analogue to Rush Limbaugh is particularly fascinating, if a bit hyperbolic.

Speaking of Rush, Harrogate thought this little Shackleford tidbit was just priceless in terms of probing the Rethuglican mind, so magnificently does it ooze the hollow populism that Solon so rightly abhors:

Remember the "Rush room"? In the back of restaurants we gathered to
listen to talk radio in a safe atmosphere away from the politically correct ears
of our social betters. Rush emboldened us. He made us feel like we
weren't alone.

Rubber ducky you're the one...

In honor of today's USMC birthday and Veteran's Day tomorrow, I include these adorable military rubber duckies in my post.

I promise future posts will not revolve around rubber duckies and will contribute to the overall spirit of the Rhetorical Situation.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Two Great Cartoons Post Nov 7th

The first cartoon is by RJ Matson, a St. Louis-based cartoonist.


Thank you!

Many thanks for the warm welcome!

Further Pomp and Circumstance for P-Duck

Ladies and Gentlemen...

Please put your hands together and give a warm welcome to the newest contributing member of The Rhetorical Situation:

The one, the only


For those interested in teacherly issues...

Sarah at Mommy, Ph.D. poses some interesting questions about the ethics of blogging about students. Check them out. Post #1 Post #2

Olberman At His Best--Bye Bye "K-Fed," Britney Wins in Landslide

In this clip, readers, you'll definitely see Keith Olberman putting
the biscuit in the basket as he wittily covers Britney's escape from "K-Fed," which was definitely a move resoundingly approved by voters on both sides of the political aisle. None of us were ever happy that "K-Fed" wriggled his way into Britney's world: we were more than happy to make sure that she never had to work a day in her life because, in a way, we created her, made her what she is (and plus we all secretly like her anyway). But "K-Fed"? Come on, now. Even the biggest bleeding-heart liberal is going to balk at supporting such a leech as this.

"K-Fed" has been great for Raw precisely because he is just so damned boo-able, and Harrogate will concede that the dude is doing a great job maximizing that effect. It will be interesting now to see if they make fun of him for losing Britney on that program...

Speaking of Raw. Harrogate was wrong, then, in his suspicions that Raw was setting up an appearance by Britney Spears, but he at least has the satisfaction of knowing that he was among the very first to call the split-up, on election night Tuesday November 7th. Tether that together with Oxymoron's stunning inside scoop on the Claire McCaskill victory in Missouri, hours ahead of the nearest media outlet, and you will see why everyone's talking about The Rhetorical Situation as only second to Pete's Couch in terms of places to be.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Now That He Is Out of Our Lives

Harrogate would like to honor the codger by recommending the above depicted literary bulwark, by far Rummy's greatest contribution to society: Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald H. Rumsfeld, an awe-inspiring piece of literature compiled and edited by Hart Seely.

Here are a few samples of the bard Rummy, including citations for original utterance
and the page number. MLA style, kinda:

Needless to Say
Needless to say,
The President is correct.
Whatever it was he said.
Feb. 28, 2003, Department of Defense Briefing (page 3)

Opinion polls go up and down,
They spin like weather vanes.
They're interesting, I suppose.
I don't happen to look.
Sept 8, 2002, media stakeout following CBS's Face the Nation (page 5)

I think what you'll find,
I think what you'll find is,
Whatever it is we do substantively,
There will be near-perfect clarity
As to what it is.

And it will be known,
And it will be known to the Congress,
And it will be known to you,
Probably before we decide it,
But it will be known.
Feb. 28, 2003, Department of Defense briefing, (page 42)

Bye, Don. Don't let the door hit you on the ass, as they say. Harrogate would offer you good luck sleeping at night for the rest of your life having centrally participated in bringing about tens of thousands of needless deaths for no discernible purpose whatever and to the detriment of the safety stability prosperity and general integrity of not only this country but countries around the world but then you'd need a shred of decency to be able to feel it in the first place wouldn't you?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

McCaskill Defeats Talent

7:00 P.M. CST - The Rhetorical Situation is the first to officially report that Claire McCaskill has defeated incumbent Jim Talent in the closely-contested Missouri senate race. This news comes just seconds after the polls have closed.

(And if we at the Situation have reported these results inaccurately, then this post will make a great photo opportunity for Talent. Just as Missouri president Harry Truman posed with the "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline, Talent can pose with this post.)

(Even If You Don't Care About Wrestling, Please Watch This Clip): The Savage, The White Woman, and The Marine


Harrogate's head almost exploded last night, Readers. Not only did internet-wide predictions about a Cena/Umaga feud come true a mere three hours after Harrogate mentioned it on this very blog, but that feud began in a way that should concern, and excite, every single teacher and scholar remotely interested in American Studies. Whether your area involves postcolonialism, masculinity studies, feminist studies, American literature, literacy theory, fairy tales, westerns, political rhetoric, or just about anything else under the sun, the linked clip has something that will threaten your head with explosure, too.

Several months ago Harrogate expressed concern that Vince was getting a little too cavalier with the whole violence against women thing. Now the scales have fallen from Harrogate's eyes. The age old fear of a savage getting ahold of one of our white women, if not for the protection of a hyper masculinized military, is right here in living color for all to look at. Listen to Jim Ross cry out that this isn't your ordinary Beauty and the Beast story, that any way you look at it, this isn't right. Listen to the crowd go bananas with boos and watch the actor doing Umaga eat it up like parfait(Harrogate always wanted to use that word). Then the best actor on the show this side of Triple H, John Cena comes out and does Richard Slotkin proud, gives us all our Regeneration Through Violence.

Also in the clip you'll see that "K-Fed" and Cena will be going at it on New Year's Day. Gossip around the internet right now has it that Britney Spears and "K-Fed" had a huge falling out last night, that she stayed at Four Seasons Hotel after he punched a hole in the wall and threw a lot of stuff and basically lost his proverbial shit. What caused it all? Why, not only is "K-Fed's" artistic genius going unrecognized as tour date after tour date goes staggeringly unattended and in some cases cancelled, but to top it off Britney made a crack about "K-Fed's" performance on Raw. Wives. Don't worry "K-Fed," John Milton too had problems getting the 100% worship he expected from his wife. What's a poet got to do to get appreciated?

Finally, notice that the commerical preceding this pedagogical goldmine of a clip is another anti-marijuana commercial, brought to you by the same people who brought us Pete's Couch.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Cyber Sunday Results, Raw Preview 11/6

Harrogate has made it clear in recent months that he will no longer be spending money on WWE Pay-Per-Views until that program takes its intensity up a whole series of notches. That being said, Harrogate has also given very recent Raw programming its due as a marked improvement. So he was curious about last night's Cyber Sunday, and admits that he checked the internet throughout the night for results. As yo can see in the above picture (a great picture by the way, bespeaking exceptionalist joy at its most fundamental level), Ric Flair and Roddy "I'm all out of bubble gum" Piper defeated the Spirit Squad and became the new WWE World Tag Team Champions. As usual, Lets Wrestle wrote succinctly about the event overall, but Harrogate must give them a Colbertian "Wag of the Finger" for their extremely silly response to this particular match, complaining that
the legend team of Flair and Piper (PLEASE put a shirt on Roddy) beat the Spirit Squad. I mean, how long can they keep the belts on Flair and Piper before the straps become total jokes?

Okay, first of all, like the Tag Team Championship hasn't been a complete and utter joke for months? Like anyone took the Spirit Squad seriously? Five male cheerleaders (nuff said) splitting the belts between them even though the routinely get their "little green asses kicked," as Flair observed, on a monotonous basis? Now, Lets Wrestle is probably right that the legendary duo of Flair and Piper won't hold the titles that long, but the sheer history of the thing is enough to elicit a salute from Harrogate. And Harrogate sees this title run, however sort-lived it may prove to be, as a great way to reignite fans' interest in the narrative of tag team wrestling. Remember, fans, when tag team wrestling meant something? Harrogate does. Ah, he remembers it well, and hopes for the day to return.

In other news, King Booker won the Champion of Champions throwdown, but only with a little help from--that's right, "K-Fed"! "K-Fed" not only got his sweet underhanded revenge against the heroic John Cena, but he vowed to return to tonight's Raw, something sure to boost paparazzi ratings across the blogosphere. Harrogate is telling you people, it won't be long before the Queen of Etiquette Herself, Britney Spears, involves herself in this narrative. Should be good stuff, if handled right. As for Cena, word around the blogosphere is that the Ongian icon, Umaga, will soon challenge Cena for the Gold, which would indeed make Harrogate's day. Now that's a rivalry to sink teeth into.

One note of analysis: Vince still has a long way to go in rescuing this program. Setting up an Umaga/Cena feud would be great, but he must draw it out over a period of time and let the hatred organically develop. That's how great stories are made. Witness the ersatz DX feud with Orton and Edge--all of the four but Orton are outstanding performers that know how to motivate crowds, and they're all wonderful wrestlers. But the rivalry was, in a word, microwaved just to get them into last night's Pay-Per-View. There was nothing visceral about it because Vince hadn;t given it time. On the other hand Eric Bischoff, who helped Edge and Orton screw DX last night, has been a welcome addition to the story, and he may well represent the key towards making DX a centerpiece worth caring about again, with or without Edge/Orton.

Enjoy tonight's Raw, Oh Readers of The Rhetorical Situation! Harrogate will be right here later in the week with all the most penetrating analysis.

Letters addressing the Haggard controversy

The first is from Ted himself to his New Life Church congregation.

The second is from Betty Bowers, America's self-proclaimed "best Christian." It's much more entertaining than Ted's letter and reminds everyone that he is a bad guy.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Lance Armstrong Surprises All

As you may or may not know, Mr. Seven-time-Tour-de-France-Winner Lance Armstrong ran the ING New York City Marathon today. Many predicted that he would easily break 2 hours and 30 minutes in the 26.2 mile race. These expectations are based on a few factors: he is a tremendous athlete in general; he is a former cross country runner and triathlete (read: he can run, not just bike); and he has a VO2 max that is nearly off the charts. Many sports doctors think the latter is the most important factor in the success of endurance athletes.

Despite the hype, Lance placed 869th in today's race. He completed the marathon in just under 3 hours (2:59:36 was his offical time). What a surprise! Although three hours is an impressive time for most people, it seems considerably slow for an athlete of Armstrong's caliber. I'm sorry to say it.

But you're still an inspiration, Lance. Keep livin' strong.

Signs 2: Not All Colorodans are Blind With Homophobia

ProgressNow has an entertaining blurb from Bush's recent appearance in Colorado. This is something Harrogate has been waiting to see represented for some time now, it's a base strategy for signification from which a whole lot of messages ought to be emanating.
Harrogate remains more convinced than ever that hatred of gays is right there with the abortion slugfest at the controlling underbelly of this country's political consciousness:
Soldiers and foreign brown people and sick and dying poor people by comparison seem more like Doritos: "crunch all you want we'll make more." But don't dare let boys kiss whilst we walk the Earth.
It's time this inane underbelly got turned upside down and exposed, and debated for real. Oh for the day.

Rhetoric Of Signs and a Gender Phenom

Well, it's clearly not just Pro Wrestling Events that witness masterful signholding. The little girl in this photo has made her way lightning-like across the blososphere in a very short period of time. Tester, of course, is attempting what many though impossible two years ago: to unseat Conrad Burns for Senate in, of all places, Red Montana. What would Saussure have thought of these signs--both the one the girl is holding, and of course the photograph itself?

Speaking of Montana, Harrogate saw something last night, can't remember where but when he finds it he'll insert the link, indicating that this state is home to the biggest gender gap of the midterms, with Burns polling among men at something like 85%, and Tester getting the same from women. Fascinating. All Harrogate can say to this is "go ladies go!"
If only because today is Sunday...

Bush here pays tribute to another man who has helped spread peace and love throughout the world.