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A Journal of Postmodern and Critical Thought
Devoted to Academic Discourse on Peace and Justice

Volume 14, No. 13, Week of November 18, 2002

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TOPIC OF THE WEEK: Dumb Questions


The Chicago Closet for Dumb Questions

Where did you go? Out.

  • To the American Society of what was it?, oh, yeah, Criminology.
  • Yeah, those meetings in Chicago.

What did you learn? Nothing.

  • I don't know.
  • About the Berlin Wall.
  • Well, they put us in a closet.

You guys are always afraid to ask a dumb question. Give it up. Parents, teachers, professionals have such an edge on dumb questions, you'll never catch up. Pat and I audibly winced on Friday at the Chicago Art Institute when a mother cooed to her toddler as they headed for the coat check room: "Now, what did you learn today?" In chorus we yelped "I don't know," and "nothing." and prayed for the future sanity of the child.

And then we saw the parallel to our own insecurities as Susan and Gail and Pat and I worried that the UWP students on Thursday had lots to say, while the group on Saturday was so quiet. Well, of course, on Saturday, the rooms were all screwed up so we had to move about, some of the professionals were arrogant as puffed up bullfrogs, especially considering that we had lots more people than they did and equal entitlement to the contested room (but one group was nice enough to offer to exchange with us), the lighting was awful in the closet we commandeered, and the chairs, those wonderful chairs were comfortable enough to go to sleep in, which some of us promptly tried to do. No wonder we behaved differently. It's called the "definition of the situation" in symbolic interactionism. And Howard Blumer would say that the individual selves we insert into the situation, together with all the objects, like big old comfortable chairs, would have a lot to do with constituting the salient transactions.

The first installment on our adventures in Chicago is at Dumb Questions and how we managed, well, sort of, to get around them in Chicago. It was all a little crazy, especially the lady who insisted upon giving her eighth grade lecture on the Berlin Wall; but there were good moments, too. We hope you have time to share them.

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Joan . . . 's Lil Blue Plane - somehow, I've lost the template art page with all the old art.  Will hunt for it. jeanne
Jeanne and Pat and Arnold are home, sort of . . .

Somehow we got lots of comments up and began to understand the theory grounded in our insistence upon dialogue. And somehow we got to the plane and Chicago and figured we had everything under control. Wrong. We don't know about the rest of the world, and we don't even want to construct a theory about it, but in our late 60's, we aren't ever doing an overnight flight like that again. Not even a three and a half hour overnight flight. Not even first class, 'cause that didn't help either. Sleeping to South Africa it wasn't.

But our suffering did have a good side. I raised such a fuss and was so commanding about getting our rooms, even though it was only 5:30 in the morning (all it took was a two-second switch of numbers in the computer - trouble was their receptionist didn't know that - but we did get a supervisor and he did tell me he would be gald to go through all the complex steps needed to change rooms. Hah! And these are run-on sentences, designed to give an impression of how this all felt. It did all run together. Just remember you aren't allowed to express such feelings in traditional academic writing.) I think it helped that I suggested that he had a choice between changing the numbers or calling the paramedics for me and Pat. Arnold was still standing, but just barely. Three hours later as Arnold and I registered after a brief nap (Pat was smarter; she slept most of the day.) people from the Section on Minorities and Race recognized me from the scene at registration, and I made some wonderful contacts and bought some books I'll put up notes on, maybe today. So I guess it all worked out for the best.

Trust me, the way it really feels on an overnight.
Trust me, this is how it really feels on overnight. jeanne
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Merriam-Webster Dictionary Search:

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New This Week NEW for the Week of November 18, 2002


    TOPIC OF THE WEEK: Dumb Questions

    Where did you go? Out.

    • To the American Society of what was it?, oh, yeah, Criminology.
    • Yeah, those meetings in Chicago.

    What did you learn? Nothing.

    • I don't know.
    • About the Berlin Wall.
    • Well, they put us in a closet.

    Why are these questions dumb?

    • Could you rephrase most of them into: I'm thinking of something you should have learned. Can you guess what it is? Is it bigger than a bread box? The 20 questions guess what I'm thinking dumb question.
    • Where did you go? usually entails so much that you know you're going to be trapped if you try to answer it. So, OUT.
    • They are subtly complex. If you want a ritualized "How are you, I'm fine, thank you," we might have time for it. But if you really want to know how I feel, then we'll need an illocutionary discussion at some point.
    • Genuine performative answers are going to require some dialog, not just cocktail conversation tidbits. When you ask such general open-ended questions, you don't usually want detailed cognitive answers. Imagine if that poor child had answered his/her mother/guardian with: Well, actually I rather liked the way that Munoz captured the ambiguity of human transaction with the eyes. I hadn't seen a sculptor use that technique before. The raised bridge across the center of the eye could have resulted in a tear, could have resulted in the suggestion of different perspectives. Do you think that Munoz intended one of those interpretations more than the other? Oh, and I kind of liked their bottoms, too. Didn't you?

      Sitting in a large closet, in big comfy chairs, with at least one person required to talk if we just lay back and listen, I don't think I'd want to talk about Munoz' technique with eyes or bottoms. I'd just want to hibernate comfortably,and let it all roll over me.

      What we're calling dumb questions here are questions that are intended to bounce the ball into the Other's court, and let the Other struggle with saying something substantive and significant. That way, we don't have to work so hard. If the Other is practiced at using big words to say not much, then we can carry on comfortably what I call cocktail conversation without much inconvenience.

      Dumb Questions and Measurement of Learning deals with the unstated assumptions behind our questioning, especially the questioning meant to highlight learning.

    Reinterpretation of Theory:

    On Asking Bishop Oxon to Reinterpret the Effect of the Market Economy on Poverty. Link added November 19, 2002.

    Theoretical pieces I'm working with for theory publication and for teaching Sociology of Reality as a curricular project in the Spring, and as a course in the Fall of 2003. Remember that some of these pieces require an advanced background in theory. Others are more readily accessible. Please choose what is comfortable for you to read, and if you are interested in a difficult piece, e-mail your questions, or raise them in class, or personally.

Grades and End of Semester:

This section is designed to give you enough examples of my grading that you will have a very clear idea of what is expected of you for the grade you would like to earn. If you have failed to participate reasonably in this class, you have a problem. But then, you already know that, don't you? I'll try to put the grade records sheet up tomorrow. jeanne

Records of Learning

Just started to update the records. Sorry, it seems we needed all these comments up with my comments to establish interactive learning. Now that I've learned how to do that with you, please use the examples up. There is no way I have the luxury of several interactive sessions with each of you, since there are more than 200 of you. But recognize that many of those whose comments are up have not hd long private tutoring. We're using every moment available wherever it occurs. I won't be able to do any more until I return from Chicago. But that gives us weeks, three, I think. So we should all be OK. Meanwhile, I've begun to record these transactions on the Records of Learning Sheet. jeanne


Coping with Acknowledgment: What Do I Do When I Love Him Anyway?.The pain of dealing with domestic abuse. War in the private sphere front. This kind hurts worse; for this kind is interpersonal. Nowhere to escape to the not-personal. This is one of those deep questions about how can it be true and not-true all at once; how can I love that which harms me? what is love? Link fixed on November 10, 2002.

Making Sense of Menopause U.S. News & World Report. More and more we are learning that who we are is not a static quantity. We grow and change; we respond to chemicals that change our emotions and our physical well-being. We need to understand ourselves, and spend a little illocutionary time with ourselves. Agnes is in charge of this semester's workshop on menopause. We'll probably hold it in our Feminist Theory class in SCC A 153 on a T or Th morning.

Theoretical Musings for Us by Us

Stories of Lived Experience Lived Experience: Emancipatory Narratives

Comments on Eminem article by Caren Davis. Maybe in the long run it's the respect and dignity with which we treat our children that really counts the most. Link added November 12, 2002.

    Discovery of similar lived experience across race with Eminem Link added October 28, 2002.

    Some of the comments from this article that might catch your attention:

    • " . . . He's rapping about life you know, stuff that we go through out here. Some of it's a goof, but some of it's real, and it sounds like it comes from the heart, you know. A lot of us can relate to that."
    • "He needs to calm down with all that crazy white-boy stuff that fight music, yo. That's gonna get him hurt. He's a good lyricist. He should concentrate on that."
    • "I don't like him," he said of Eminem. "He talks about killing his wife in his songs. I don't care what she did to him. That's wrong."

    So what are the limits on rap, and similar genres? Is it wrong? Period. Even to fantasize it? Where does fantasy begin and life leave off? Do our kids know the difference? Can you prohibit fantasy? Do you want to?

    What does it say to us that such race crossovers are possible? Does it matter whether the story of his life that Eminem tells is true? What is truth?

    What does all this tell us about criminology and the definition of crime? When men and boys and women and girls are locked totally away from the rest of the population, are their lives about fantasy or about reality? How do those two interact? What happens if society so distances you from your lived reality that only fantasy beckons? Is there a way to recapture reality one day? These are some of the deeper questions we haven't asked frequently enough of prisoners and those who manage them, and of our children and ourselves who manage the children.

    Art Shenanigans

    recent photo

    • How do you feel about the photo, now that you've come to know more about it? jeanne Story at Art Shenanigans. Week 12.

    • Here's the rendition I did on Monday when we got back from Chicago. I wanted the colors to be bright; I wanted the memories to be joyful. So I strengthened the colors. And I added a lot of black (one of Rouault's techniques) and deep pink and orange that weren't there at all in the photo. And the teacher who died handing the children out to safety appeared on the right-hand side in an academic gown walking off into the shadows.

    Out of sorrow the memories of joy

    Out of Sorrow, Memories of Joy