Monday, December 17, 2007

A few of my favorite things

Because it's holiday time, I figured it might be fun to share some thoughts about a few of my favorite things. Now, don't get your hopes up. If you're looking for gift ideas, these recommendations won't exactly help you. They belong more to the category, "useful things I've discovered online" than to the category, "things you can buy for friends and loved ones at the store." Anyway, I hope you enjoy.

Grammar Girl
For those of you with grammar questions--or, for that matter, for those of you with grammar guilt--this is the place to go. Mignon Fogarty is an authority on the subject, and her posts and podcasts will tell you all you need to know about how to make your prose sing. What I especially appreciate is her sense of English as a living language, and thus her sensitivity to the history of its grammar. So, for example, my high school English teachers drilled the "never split infinitives" rule into my head ad nauseum, presumably because most had had the rule driven into their heads ad nauseum. Fogarty, however, explains that the rule is a hold-over from the world of Latin declensions, and that it's little more than a vestige in the English language. There are lots of other gems like this, so I'm grateful to my friend, Suzanne Enck-Wanzer, for turning me on to the site.

An anonymous commentator on my last post turned me on to this site. As a professor of media and cultural studies, I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't know about its existence beforehand. In a nutshell, SourceWatch is a wiki site dedicated "to produc[ing] a directory of the people, organizations and issues shaping the public agenda." In other words, it's dedicated to peeling back the layers of public information, in an effort to shine a light on all the public relations and advertising folks who are working behind the scenes. The site is a project undertaken by the Center for Media and Democracy and, of course, by its many contributors. (I just wonder how they keep all the PR mavens from spinning their own entries.)

The Century of the Self
This video was recommended to me by my friends Elaine Vautier and Timothy Roscoe. It's a four-part documentary directed by Adam Curtis, and it focuses on the history/uptake of psychoanalysis in the United States and Britain in 20th century. What's especially fascinating is to see how different approaches to psychoanalysis fell in and out of favor over time, and how the vicissitudes of the profession affected the way in which psychoanalytically-inclined press agents and advertisers imagined both their audiences and their work. The third installment is the most interesting to me, in that it charts the rise of the "empowered" self. There seem to me some fascinating connections to be made here to the rise of so-called "active audiences" in cultural studies.

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