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Debate and Class Rescheduling, CSUDH: Week of October 3, 2004

Requiem to another beloved cat.
King Tut of Gray Puss

Jeanne won't be in class Tuesday, October 5, 2004.
King Tut died suddenly, and I've left to be with Arnold.
It may sound a little silly to the real world, but we loved him dearly.

How Community Works Across the Internet
Painting by Aidan Acone-Chavez, age 8, done with PAINT software program.

How Community Works Across the Internet
by jeanne

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: October 3, 2004
Latest Update: October 4, 2004

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Topic of the Week:

Jeanne and Arnold and the White Brick House

Jeanne has lived in the Hollywood Hills for twenty-five years. She lives with Arnold in the first and only house they ever bought. They bought it when they got married, and moved in their two cats. It was an old neighborhood when they moved in. They were the "young ones," (fortyish) receiving advice, though little neighborliness, from all the old residents. They got a dog, and came to know every dog in the neightborhood. That was Sanchez' house; that was Carter's house, that was Celia, who lived up the street and visited whenever their door was open as they unloaded groceries. But only the cats and dogs came out to play.

Over the years, jeanne was always at the computer writing, putting together teaching materials, going to law school, teaching law and social justice. Arnold knew some of the neighbors, but jeanne knew only the ones right across the street. But they were happy, and over the years, there were many cats and dogs who were dear friends and family members. Oh, and they raised a daughter, too, who went off many years ago to Smith College and a year in Italy, and on to her own life and family.

Through this long and fairly ordinary family story, lots went on in our community. We adapted during the Cold War to nuclear proliferation mostly between Russia and the U.S. and to the long march towards the corporate model of late capitalism and the civil rights march toward equality for women and minoritites. These seemed far removed from the cats and dogs and people in the white brick house on the corner with the longest fence anyone has ever seen except on a ranch in Texas.

But after the Cold War sort of petered out in Russia's collapse into warring components, Marxism as theory lost prestige, and "liberal" became a pejorative in the booming world of late capitalism in which the wealth gap loomed ever more enormous. The "left" was more fashinoably called the "Progressive," and the "right" was well, corporate America, where everyone could get "rich" on "streets paved of gold." Bill Gates became the "modern Rockefeller," multinational corporations gobbled up "mom and pop" enterprises, and later, startup Internet winners; and government, in accord with corporate Republican doctrine, privatized whatever it could, although that didn't seem to stop government itself from growing into its own version of a corporate enterprise. The libertarians, who wanted "limited government" didn't get their dream either.

Meanwhile, at home in the white brick house in the Hollywood Hills with the longest fence outside of a Texas ranch, jeanne struggled to ignore a genetic problem that resulted in acute pain. That meant she wasn't very social with her neighbors, 'cause she had a job to do. The doctors said she mustn't just work and sleep; that she had to have a life. They just didn't tell her how to pay the mortgage if she had a "life," too. But she was lucky. One night, around 11 p.m., on her way home from Dominguez, where they were planning a televised version of Moot Court, scheduled for a few days later, the electric system on her car went out, and jeanne was a SigAlert. The SUV she was driving rolled twice on the Harbor Freeeway, and she was taken to the USC trauma ward with a C2 fracture. Thank God for trauma wards.

Pat and Lois and Richard (all from CSUDH) managed to keep Arnold nearly functional. The paramedics and the trauma unit did a wonderful job. And three weeks later, with help from many of the CSUDH students, jeanne was back at school, at least enough to wind up the semester. But there was no more acute pain. The jolt that broke her neck, altered the energy flow, and eliminated finally the pain she had had since early childhood. She does not recommend breaking your neck to cure acute pain. It's risky folks; she could have died instead. But do notice that none of the medical people, and none of the alternative medical people had ever been able to assuage the pain. There is much we do not yet know about the human body and mind.

Now, our poor and tragic heroine, jeanne, of course, has only a broken neck. Much better than acute pain, but she still has a mortgage and a job. Budget cuts, from the corporate world so seemingly far away from the white brick house, mean that it's hard to have the pool reconstructed when a storm fells a tree and cracks the pool. Minor problems, just like all the rest of us "middle class" folks, who are finding that our salaries keep up less and less well with inflation, corporate growth, and the Internet, where "everyone is making millions." But jeanne and Arnold both work, in spite of the fact that we all "know" that jeanne belongs at home taking care of the family.

Insurance changes, and her plan will no longer pay her doctors. In her 60s, recovering from the broken neck, she must find new doctors. State budgets are cut and cut and cut, so classes at school get bigger and bigger, and jeanne thinks finding the energy to teach and do reasearch is getting harder and harder. She knows that the state has cut huge slices out of indigent defense, which is what Arnold's income depends on. He doesn't tell her because he doesn't want her to worry. But the total loss of one income means to most families that it's going to be hard getting through. It was for jeanne and Arnold, too. And while they struggled, not knowing their neighbors to start with, they didn't have either the energy or the entree for talking to people in their own neighborhood.

Then on Tuesday, just before they rushed off to the New Orleans Conference on Race, Class, and Gender, jeanne received a visit from some city official saying that there had been a complaint and that they would have to "clean up the pool." That's the pool into which the tree crashed and that's going to cost thousands to fix. Duh! Jeanne told Arnold, whose first response was, "That pool's not visible from any of the houses around here!" Well, maybe so, but the yard needs gardening and the fence needs replacement (we rented one), and I guess if you were rich when you moved here, you don't know about struggling with no pay increases and inadequate equipment and broken necks.

Now that brings you up to date on the story of the white brick house, and here we are at present day:

At school, I wailed to Pat, as I called Arnold to let him know. And Pat told Michelle, her daughter, who came up with a wonderful response that Aidan, her son helped her create on Paint. Pat brought me the Painting on Wednesday. This morning, as I finally got back to work at my computer, I smiled at the wonderful power we have as people in this Internet-age to tailor the communities we need to support us through all these ups and downs that for most of us are part of our daily lives. I wanted to share Aidan's painting with you, for it expresses so well, what Pat and Susan and I are trying to teach. Community is not about geography, or class, or age, or race, or even how much one "knows." Community is about illocutionary understanding, in which we hear one another and support one another sometimes right, sometimes wrong, in our common humanity.

Some approaches to community and the Internet study only people who communicate by computer, over the Internet. That's a very limited (constrained) view of the computer and the Internet. It's a dominant discourse view of the Internet as fancy technology that works for business and for kids to play games, even, occasionally, educational ones, but that isn't really a part of our community. The computer offers us much more, and Aidan's painting makes that clear. For Aidan's painting to have happened we had to have had a community of caring that went beyond Dear Habermas, beyond the classroom, for neither Michelle nor Aidan were on Dear Habermas or in the classroom. It's a small world. As each of us reaches out to each other, and as we use whatever tools are at hand, the community broadens and is more solid and more like the old communities in pre-industrial times, what we in sociology call "face to face communities" that shared their daily living together.

Michelle knew that I wanted to redo the fence and paint the garage door. And by the end of the semester, I hope I'll have the energy and the physical mobility to be able to do that. She translated that understanding of my frustration at so little time and so intense an obligation with Dear Habermas into a vision. But she discovered that translating that vision into the painting she wanted me to put on the garage door was something she hadn't yet acquired the skills for. She turned to Aidan, who is 8 years old, and whom she is "home schooling," to help. She tried to give directions for the painting, and was told, quite seriously, "We artists know how to do it, Mom."

The painting done, Pat brought the print to me. And I scanned it into the computer and onto our website, though Pat was sure I'd lost it (as I tend to lose most papers). But i got it home, Pat. And there, suddenly, is an image of our family, in all it's crazy complexity, including the newest cat, black and white spotted Talking Cat, who simply crossed the canyon and moved in with us. There I am feeding the cats, which they, at least, consider a major part of my responsibility to our world, and Arnold lying under the tree, with other cats about. It's true, we're missing a dog. I have to fix the fence up first, and then there'll be one, or maybe two, or maybe three if one moves in unannounced. Arnold rarely sleeps in front of the garage, but he has been more tired lately. He's only three years younger than me. And don't worry about the bird. The cat on the tree knows that's not allowed at our house. The birds have protected hanging food dispensers.

So somewhere there's a neighbor dissatisfied with the speed at which I'm recovering and getting to the house. It's true; I could have not created the Transforming Dominant Discourse Model, and maybe gotten to the yard and pool a little faster. But the painting doesn't reflect a "me" that's worried about fancy appearances; it reflects a "me" that is concerned about caring connections. Those connections will bear fruit long after the painting of the fence and the garage door, and the yard work and the pool. Aidan's painting reminded me of all that. Maybe I will get it up on the garage door. In December or January, after we've shown off our model of Transforming Discourse. And then, maybe I'll manage to spend just a little illocutionary discourse time with my neighbors. I'll bet I'd like some of them almost as much as their cats and dogs. So Aidan reminds me also of a piece of life I haven't yet picked up again since that broken neck.

This is the kind of communication we're asking each other to put in the place of dominant discourse that treats rumor and unconfirmed belief, and images plastered across our TVs and computers as though they were "truth," with little afterthough, with little concern for each of us as humans, each with a story and a family and many paintings to share. An 8-year-old who lives some 30 miles away from me, can offer me the "good dog" I need to keep going. So can thousands of other people out there, if I reshape my psychological life space and think about all the doors I've left closed for so long. Then dominant discourse can become "just what folks are saying," maybe right, probably wrong, and something I'll have to look into.

As you go out on your field work assignments this semester, remember how easy it is to open doors in long unchallenged lifespaces.

NEWS, Announcements, and

Current Discussion Topics:

Classes and Presidential Debates at CSUDH

URGENT: Women and Poverty will NOT Meet on Tuesday, October 5 at 5:30 p.m.
Vice Presidential Debate at 6 p.m.
Jeanne plans to watch in Student Union and then try to hold Law class afterwards in SBS B110 from 7 to 8:15 p.m.

The debate will not affect the Agencies class. We'll meet on Tuesday and Thursday (no debate) as scheduled. Thursday's classes will practice for the field work as outlined in Planning your field activity on transforming dominant discourse

Magic Numbers

Magic numbers were taken care of. jeanne has the enrollment records.


Nathlyn added all the e-mail addresses you gave me. You should be getting Transform messages now. e-mail: I slept all day yesterday. And I'm working on the site now. I'll tackle Earthlink, India tomorrow to get my e-mail unblocked. It was partly my fault. I didn't turn it off while I was gone because I couldn't figure out how. Too many new software programs all at once.

Topic of the Week

MLK Petition

How Community Works Across the Internet

The advantage of governance and illocutionary discourse is not just that we are better informed to make local, national, and global decisions, as a people, but also that in the process we are better informed and more aware of each other as people. My neighbor, whichever was mad about my broken pool, may still be mad, but illocutionary discourse let's me accept that more easily in the broader community of people I know and trust, and may one day bring me to a point that I come to know and understand that neighbor, too. You see, that neighbor also lacks community, for he/she resorted to government (which we haven't enough budget for) instead of making a connection that could have helped our community, at no cost to the public. So the neighbor needs governance discourse just as much as I do. I hope the neighbor also has someone like Aidan that can make such a painting of his/her family.

Not talking to each other about things that matter means that we don't know how to talk to each other about simple local issues either.

And as I pondered all this, Miko Garcia sent me this link: to the Interview with God Site. It's a lovely piece, calming; you might like to spend a moment with it when life gets hectic, which it usually does for me almost every day. It's probably Christian, though it doesn't say so. But even if you don't believe in Christianity or even God, you should be able to relate to the search for peace and caring and parenting. jeanne

jeanne's Lecture Notes:

Using Academic Language Effectively

Merriam-Webster Dictionary Search:

and Careers

  • Resumes:

  • Letters of Recommendation:

    • Letters of Recommendation: How to get me to respond to your request. Many of you need letters. If you will follow this format, I can do them quickly and make them good.
    • Dog Letters If you do not give me adequate information, but do manage to get my attention, you may end up with a dog letter. That is a letter that says that you work well with people, that you are enthusiastic, that you persist at getting things done, and that everyone likes you. Of course, my dog gets along well with people, brings his ball to them, is enthusiastic, and persists at getting them to take his ball. Everyone likes my dog. That's a dog letter. It's so general it could be about my dog. jeanne


Doing Art: Who Should Get to Do It?
What About Dominant Discourse?

Academic Authority and the Devil

  • The Devil in the Decanter By Adolfo Albertazzi. An Italian novelist from Bologna, who wrote at the turn of the last Century, describes in this short story the arrogance of certainty in the German academic. Never, of course, would such arrogance occur in our day or in our universitites.

    I found the link to this delightful translation online in the NY Times book review on Sunday, October 3, 2004. The Words Without Borders Site offers translation of foreign works that we who speak and read only English rarely encounter. In the interest of community globalism, read and enjoy this delightful story. And remember that it was written almost a century ago. jeanne

That Was Fun! Sneaky Strokes and Flying Good Dogs

Flying Dog is also a painting by Zhang Kai. Best I've every come across to illustrate our site with magic numbers and unicorns and whipped cream cats and now, flying dogs:

Flying Good Dogs: Whenever something happens in class that works out well, that inspires you, that helps in studying, whatever, take a few minutes to send us an e-mail. We'll post it where all of us can learn from it, including other teachers.

You can also send an email to the Who to Take Site:

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