(sometimes withershins, widershins or widderschynnes) means to take a course opposite that of the sun, going counterclock-wise, lefthandwise, or to circle an object, by always keeping it on the left. It also means "in a direction opposite to the usual," which is how I choose to take it in using it as the title of this blog. We're all in the same world finding our own way.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Cognitive Dissonance and the Dual Life of Danny; or Facing a Privilege of Knowledge

As most of you know by now, I'm an English Lit/Kinesiology double major. A lot of you also probably know that I consider myself a heArtist, an activist from the heart, with a decent working knowledge of gender/queer/racial theory and praxis.

I often find I introduce myself with: "and I prefer he/him/his or they/them/theirs pronouns."

I question the use of race and ethnicity in any kind of survey format.

I cringe when someone uses "sex" and "gender" interchangeably.

Rather than calling myself a feminist, I say that I work on feminist projects because I think that with many of the postmodern influences within contemporary, third-wave feminism it's very hard to "be a feminist."

In short, I'm a bit of a queer who questions institutionalized systems, even those bureaucracies that I work for.

Being a Kinesiology major then has proven somewhat ironic at times as I constantly feel as if I have to question authority and what I'm learning. Kinesiology as a generally health-related field is biased against me in many ways. I'm generalizing, but it in part instills the kind of institutional behaviors and thought processes that I spend most of the rest of my time fighting to educate people about.

Let me give an example: most of my kinese-peers are fairly athletic, or at least active. We're constantly studying the human body, how it works, how to make using it more efficient, how to fix it when something goes wrong. So it wouldn't be uncommon to hear someone make a comment about a person needing to find the right diet/exercise program to lose weight and be happy. While it is true that changes to behavior can lead to changes in mood, the assumption that they have to happen in order to be happy is fat-shaming. But in many ways it's built into our field of study because from a clinical perspective to be obese is something that needs to be fixed.

I'm always working to be very careful to frame my arguments in ways that are sensitive to people of different body types and even catch myself before I outright agree with any claim that would denigrate another person's body. But the bias is there. It infuriates me when people don't take care of their bodies, when they are lazy and inactive and only eat junk and then complain about feeling like shit.

I constantly have to remind myself though that there are institutional pressures that affect these kinds of things in so many ways. Race, class, geographic location, education, all these areas I experience as privilege allow me the time to eat pretty damn well and make the free time to work out, part of privilege is access.

Talking with a friend before class the other today I had to explain what asexuality is and how it's different from most people's colloquial conception of it, and while he was open to the concept it was so foreign to him that he barely had words to respond to me. Part of privilege is being so normal the sometimes if you're outside of that normal there aren't even words for you.

This is the field I'm going into right now.

And I recognize that I will face similar conversations and thoughts in any field I go into. The fact that the discourse of the field itself is often part of the problem drives me crazy though, just a little, because it often marginalizes or erases any recognition of the kinds of privileges and oppressions concurrently at work in favor of the stripped-down facts.

How do I do this without removing the humanity?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Imposter and the Problem of Self-realization; or Oh Gods He's Blogging About Class Again

My first assignment in Eng 423 is to read the short story Imposter by Philip K. Dick. I will admit that the first thing I did upon learning the premise of the story was to skip to the end to find out what happens. There's very little in the way of spoilers to me since half the time a classmate or professor will spill the beans anyway, plus the story is only 14 pages long in the anthology we're reading. So consider this a spoiler warning if you care.

What strikes me about the ending is not the fact that Olham is actually the Outspace robot carrying a bomb, but rather the dissonance within the assumed knowledge that the detonation sequence for the U-Bomb would be in a spoken phrase. The last lines:

"But if that's Olham, then I must be -"
He did not complete the sentence, only the first phrase. The blast was visible all the way to Alpha Centauri. [emphasis mine] 

The implication of this penultimate sentence being that the phrase "But if that's Olham" is the trigger. Let's pause for a moment. The trigger (if indeed it was a spoken phrase), is a fairly innocuous utterance premised on a non-knowledge that Olham is not the real Olham but a robot impersonating him. Destruction hinges on the uncovering of knowledge and a verbal recognition of the deceit. The Outspacers were counting on the Earthlings to discover their ruse.

Had the authorities completely ignored the threat, the chances of that particular phrase being uttered are reduced to the level of turning Olham's life into a situational comedy where hijinks ensue. 

What's more, because of the particular ways in which Olham replicates the mind of Olham-prime, the robot was completely equipped to continue with the "Project" and ultimately be the doom of the Outspacers. 

Fundamentally then, it is the self-actualization of Olham as the robot that destroys humanity. Like a child who looks in the mirror and for the first time connects that what he is seeing is actually himself, once Olham sees the body he gives up the illusion that he is the human Olham, and then he explodes. The suggestion is that it is our humanity that destroys us, the constant yearning for knowledge and the "real" undoes us, especially when we are faced with the metaphysical realization that what we know as real isn't real at all. Once we're adrift from this basis, once we're destabilized, we are no more. It isn't just Olham who is destroyed, but given a blast "visible all the way to Alpha Centauri" the entirety of the solar system is gone.

To summarize, I'm really excited about this class.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Abarat: Absolute Midnight, or Why I Think Somebody Needs to get Candy Quackenbush a Sandwich

So I just finished reading Abarat: Absolute Midnight.

Without giving too many spoilers, I just wanted to ask what exactly does Candy Quackenbush run on?


  • While Candy is depicted sleeping twice in the entire book, both times she's dream traveling. Not very restful.
  • Multiple times she has her life force, her very essence, drained from her body. Then while she's one step from dead, forces herself to run away, despite any pain or discomfort or physical reliability left in her body from the stress.
  • She does not eat. Food is talked about a few times, and the group that Candy is with even eats ("As Eddie paid for Betty's meal, Candy searched her pockets. She had two patterzem and some change." - Chapter 33) but before Candy herself puts any food in her mouth she's distracted looking for Malingo, meets an old acquaintance and the whole group decides it's time to run for their life.
Given this, my only possible conclusion is that Candy is solely sustained by magic throughout the book. That or the blatant Christ-figure references are to be deduced that she is a God and therefore does not actually need sustenance.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Lavender Rosemary French Bread by Danny

Since Larkin, Rachel and Jacob all requested I share my secrets, I thought I would post the recipe to my blog. This is a recipe I modded off of a fairly simple French bread recipe I found online. I've made it enough times that I rarely measure my ingredients very accurately. I'll update this post with pictures when I'm done.

1 packet yeast (or a good spoon-sized scoop)
a generous pinch of sugar
1 1/2 cup warm water

~4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp butter or vegan butter substitute
~1 Tbsp fresh/dried rosemary
~1 Tbsp fresh/dried lavender
~1/2 cup vegetable or olive oil
extra flour for hands/work surface/whatever you use as a rolling pin

1/4 cup oats or cornmeal
coarse sea salt
1 cup water

large mixing bowl
measuring cups/spoons
rolling pin
baking sheet
sharp knife
pastry brush (though you can use your fingers)
small oven-safe bowl
bread knife
  •  Prep the yeast by mixing it with sugar and warm water in a large mixing bowl until dissolved and let sit for 10-20 minutes
  • Once yeast is prepped, add butter, flour, rosemary, lavender. Mix until it starts to clump into a ball. Let rest for about ten minutes.
  • Lightly flour your hands and the work surface.
  • Dump the dough onto the work surface and knead for about ten minutes. If the dough sticks to your hands too much, heavily flour your hands. 
    • It should be fairly sticky for the first few minutes but as you knead it will eventually become a nice ball that sticks to your hand when you touch it but doesn't leave any dough on your hands. Add pinches of flour to your hands, the dough or the work surface as necessary if it's too sticky.
    • If the dough is too hard and looks dry instead of kind of elastic, add water 1/2 a teaspoon at a time as you knead until it reaches an appropriate consistency
  • Set the dough aside. Wash and dry your large mixing bowl (or use a different mixing bowl, I just like fewer dishes). Add the oil to the bowl and roll your ball of dough around in it. Let rise in bowl, covered, in a warm place until doubled (about two hours).
  • Go do something else. Read a book, watch an episode of some television show, do homework, write a blog post explaining to people how to make bread, make juggling balls, just leave the bread alone while it's rising.
  • Spread oats or cornmeal out on the baking sheet
  • Check your bread, is it risen? Good. Punch it down and cut it in half, trying to leave as much of the oil in the bowl as you can (you might want it for later).
  • On a lightly floured surface roll out half of the dough into a good sized rectangle, about the length of your baking sheet.
  • Tightly roll the rectangle of dough into a solid tube. It should start to look like a loaf of bread. If the ends are little messy or the edge kind of unfolds, just dip a fingertip in that cup of water, wet it and then squish it together until the dough holds.
  • Place the loaf on the baking sheet and repeat with other half of the dough.
  • There are a couple different ways you can do this next step. For this recipe I like to use the sharp knife to cut a line a good half inch deep the length of the loaf, but you can also cut three or four diagonal slashes or cut Xs. Get creative!
  • Let the bread rise for about an hour.  Preheat the oven to 400*F 
  • Go do something else. Read a book, finish that episode of some television show you started earlier, do homework, write a blog post explaining to people how to make bread, just try to leave the bread alone while it's rising.
  • Using the pastry brush or fingertips, lightly brush the loaves with water (or some of that leftover oil) until they have just enough of a coating that you can sprinkle the sea salt over them and it will stick.
  • Lightly sprinkle sea salt over the loaves.
  • Dump half the cup of water in the bottom of your preheated oven (careful of steam!), place the rest in a small, oven-safe bowl on the lowest rack. The steam you're creating here helps give the bread a nice crust and means you won't have to brush it with egg or anything.
  • Bake the loaves for about 40 minutes on middle rack.
  • Remove from oven when crust is a nice golden brown.
  • Let cool (or don't, but don't say I didn't warn you it can burn), slice, serve, and enjoy!
Sorry if the directions were a bit much, but I was trying to be more detailed than most recipes I see online. You can easily modify this recipe. Leaving out the lavender, rosemary and sea salt gives you a plain french bread. You can also form your loaves differently. One time I cut the dough into six balls and made them that way instead of standard loaves.