My Horoscope Likes the Rhetorical Self

Your powers of persuasion are kicking some serious butt right now, and you could sell ice to an Eskimo if you had to! But the only thing you should be selling right now is yourself! This is an excellent time for you to promote yourself at work or in a social context — you are a valuable commodity, and everyone needs to know it. Ask for that raise you’ve been angling for. Ask that cutie to spend some time with you. The responses you get will make you smile.~Yahoo Horoscope for Cancer on January 29, 2008

It’s not necessarily what the horoscope says that I find interesting, but the fact that horoscopes, in general, tend to offer advice about what you should do. That because the moon is in a particular alignment with Saturn, I should sell ice to Eskimos. (Yes, yes, of course that’s not what it’s saying.)

It creates this division in the pathos and the logos. For instance, the economy is in a down-turn, shall we say… a recession, which would indicate to me that asking for a raise would be naive, but, hey, my horoscope says I should do it and the humanity in me wants to cling to that hope of an invisible force guiding me to a good decision.

Plus, how many people fall within my sign? Could you imagine if all the Cancers in the world suddenly went to work and asked for a raise? It’d be a coup! Hmm, now these horoscopes could be interpreted as some grand conspiracy theory about trying to ruin the economy or such. We’ll be calling out astrologists like communists at the McCarthy hearings. Oops, there goes my flight of fancy.

Back to the point. It’s like these two sides are competing. My logical self wants to disregard the information as mere frivolous fun and, yet, it’s still on my homepage. I don’t consciously believe that I have some sort of super power of persuasion right now (or ever really), but it’s probably worked its way deep enough into my subconscious that I’ve decided to talk about it here. Perhaps disregarding horoscopes as absurd is just a defense mechanism; I’m really a true believer, ready with planets and charts to search for my destiny. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? That even though I don’t want it to have an effect on me, it still does. On some level, I am persuaded that today was a good day or will be a good day, simply because there was some indication that it would be a good day. That, because I was told I’d be persuasive, I then must fulfill it and become persuasive.

Oh, but if my boss is reading this, I’ll take any kind of raise you give me.

Venice Beach: Rhetorical Mecca

Just off the skate park in Venice Beach, a few yards away from the boardwalk roller bladers, snake charmers, and sunburned hippies selling bundles of white sage, a group of graffiti artists quietly works. Every day, the cement wall –the last remnant of the Venice Beach Graffiti Pit–is covered with tags, portraits, and large-scale collaborative works of art. Early the next morning, a new group of artists begins again. They cover the previous day’s designs, responding to the wall’s patterns, images, and textures, and challenging the next day’s artists in a visual call and response. I visited the beach to catch a sunset with my sister and her husband during my LA trip this weekend. While we watched the artists work, my sister mused aloud, “I wonder how large that wall will eventually become.” She was referring to the layers and layers of paint literally making the monument grow. Later, I did a few online searches for the pit and found that the area has been somewhat immortalized in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 video game, spreading its influence even further.A few loyal photographers cover the evolution of art on the wall of the graffiti pit. Here’s a link to one. (You can also easily find footage on YouTube.)

And We’re Launched!

Exciting times.

We’ve now unveiled our (temporary) home for Harlot. It contains our call for submissions, information about the origins of this project, the pilot issue and sample texts we presented at the Feminism(s) and Rhetoric(s) conference, and a link to this blog. If you haven’t already seen it, take a look: We always welcome and very much appreciate feedback of any sort.

And now we’re moving toward the next phase: solidifying our editorial process and producing a tech platform (content management system) to streamline that process. It’s interesting how the conceptual and technological are working hand in hand for us. As we make decisions about what the editorial process will entail, we are customizing the back-end system to allow such a process to take place with ease. And, yet, at the same time the existing technology is showing us how a version of how this process can work and is thus affecting the details of the editorial process.

A symbiotic relationship it is.

It’s cool that we’ve come to this juncture with two solid frameworks – one a publication process and the other an existing and powerful software – that must adjust in other to accommodate and complement each other all while preserving the mission of Harlot.

If anyone is curious, we are looking at Open Journal Systems (OJS), an open source software we hope to customize. The system itself is already quite advanced and complex enough to handle general editorial processes for journals, but as it is geared toward print publications, we need to work out what may be the limitations of its setup and how we can make it friendlier toward multimedia and multiple-file submissions. We will also have to adjust the default front-end (interface), which means we will be designing and building our website all over again. Our current site, then, will eventually be an artifact of our journey, but it has been a big stepping stone for all of us: We can all understand tech-speak better than we ever imagined, and we’ve all become a bit more savvy at matters of design and Web publishing. We hope with the publishing of our debut issue will come our best design yet.

We’ll keep you tuned in on how our progress is going. In the meantime, we’d like to give a heartfelt thanks to Kaitlin, who’s worked endlessly and tirelessly with us in producing the current and pilot sites for Harlot. We are grateful for all the time, work, and heart she’s put into this effort with us. And as the pendulum swings from techy to even more techy with the customization of our back-end system, we’re putting our faith in Warren and Shilpa, who are fluent in languages we’ve never heard spoken before. They are certainly the next generation of computer whisperers.

“The Rhetoric Beat”

There are “aspects of our present political and cultural reality that underline the need for a prominent, persistent, and intellectually honest airing of our linguistic dirty laundry,” writes Brent Cummingham in this article, “The Rhetoric Beat.” He argues we need more public discussion of the language that frames our national discussions and savvy rhetoricians to parse apart the dominant discourse on such topics as war, climate change, and education. People must become more “aware of how the seemingly benign words and phrases they encounter daily are often finely calibrated to influence how they think about ideas.”

He says the best chance we have for this to happen is the major media outlets. Bah. I don’t see FOX news establishing a “De-Spin Rhetoric Zone” anytime soon.

The best chance we have for this are all the dedicated folk driving a project like Harlot.

(Also, why limit ourselves to just our “linguistic” dirty laundry?)

2008 Banished Words (and Phrases) List

Lake Superior State University Banished Words List has entered its fourth decade of existence, and there you will find 2008’s banished words list. Here’s a quick description from their site:

This year’s list derives from more than 2,000 nominations received through the university’s website, Word-watchers target pet peeves from everyday speech, as well as from the news, education, technology, advertising, politics, sports and more. A committee makes a final cut in late December. The list is released on New Year’s Day.

The list makes me chuckle.

Happy New Year everyone.