back spasm

Last Wednesday I suffered an awful back spasm. Couldn’t even walk. Definitely cannot sit. Not supposed to be on the computer til next week, but thought I would sneak in a post. Went to the chiropracter for the first time, x-rays were taken, it didn’t look good. However, thanks to an ice pack, a devoted boyfriend, a new dvd player and the Sex and the City boxed set, I’ve been getting better everyday.

More blogging in May when I’m 100% better and I’m done with final papers.

And as usual, I believe that if I were in New Orleans, none of this would have happened! 😉


first trauma theory post

Having received the official word that this will, indeed, be my last semester of coursework and that I can spend the summer studying for the comps and trying to publish something, anything, I’m ecstatic. Also making me ecstatic are my tax return, distinguished scholar award money, and a June trip to Kona thanks to Pat and Vanna (don’t ask!)

In “what theory am I gonna use” news, my current reading of the work of Cathy Caruth and a stack of others points in the direction of trauma theory. I know I posted earlier about using it, but I hadn’t actually read any of it until this week and it’s quite interesting. An order from Amazon is on it’s way, but here are a few tidbits I want to share (hence the reason I added a trauma theory category). I’ll be composing a lit review for my Criticism and Theory class and hope to let that extend into a summer directed study and area of my comprehensive exams, but the putting together of that exam committee can’t start until I finish this semester. Well it probably could start before then, but I am swamped with final papers, teaching stuff, and my parents are in town for Easter, etc., etc., etc!!!!

So back to the trauma, here is Cathy Caruth’s definition of it:

…the response to an unexpected or overwhelming violent event or events that are not fully grasped as they occur, but return later in repeated flashbacks, nightmares, and other repetitive phenomena

She also writes of a model form the trauma takes:

traumatic experience, beyond the psychological dimension of suffering it involves, suggests a certain paradox: that the most direct seeing of a violent event may occur as an absolute inability to know it; that immediacy, paradoxically, may take the form of belatedness.

I find this amazingly well-suited for my dissertation. To begin, a trend already proven by Pew is that more and more people turned to online sources for information and to make donations after the hurricanes. And that number has grown since 9/11. And remember the Tsunami blog?

Furthermore, my research will illustrate how evacuees of Hurricane Katrina used websites and blogs to post information, correct the television broadcasters, or call for help for people who stayed back. They turned to the web for comfort and it was the only means with which to take action. Because they (me included) were not there, they could not see things directly for themselves, but they could turn to the web to try and find out. For New Orleans natives, who were not even allowed back to their homes (or the debris) until October, all there was to do was wait; therefore, subsequent suffering and belated immediacy.

Work by Caruth is used in Samuel Pane’s “Trauma Obscura: Photographic Media in WG Sebald’s Austerlitz” and that brings in narrative theory too. But another resource I’ve found on this topic is the work of Bessel van der Kolk. He connects the body and mind and suggests trauma victims need more than traditional “talk therapy,” which led to his research involving brain scans. According to van der Kolk, what these scans revealed is that “when people relive their traumatic experiences, the frontal lobes become impaired and, as a result, they have trouble thinking and speaking. They no longer are capable of communicating to either themselves or to others precisely what is going on.” Most importantly, van der Kolk “credits Hurricane Hugo [1989 Puerto Rico] with showing him how physical helplessness contributes to the development of serious post-traumatic symptons.” read more in the PDF here.

I’m not sure how or if I will connect these points to online usage during Katrina and since the storm, but I feel they are important to note, especially considering a move beyond Freud. I realize I am throwing a couple of quotes out there and expecting whoever reads this to see the connections I am making in my head as to how I plan to use this, but I just wanted to post something to show that the reading I am doing is exciting me and I can’t wait to write more.


Save the Big Easy petition


This is the form email I got and promised to send along:

I found this great web site that is trying to save New Orleans from another hurricane. They are trying to collect 1 Million signatures so Congress will pass a bill to rebuild the levees stronger this time.

I just signed the pledge. Please sign now before you forget, go to http://www.savebigeasy.org.

The email I received from New Orleans actors and friends was much more persuasive and I’ll post some of that here too:

I wonder if the rest of the country realizes that this was a manmade disaster. New Orleans survived the hurricane, but it was the levees that failed, and all recent studies have proven that the multiple breeches were due to sub-standard building by the Army Corps of Engineers years ago, and I believe along with many that they should be held accountable. People have lost their homes and lives due to poor federal governmental planning and execution, and although we have been told our levees will be restored to “category 3” by June1st, who can guarantee that the many miles of similarly sub standard levees will hold?


MySpace or yours?

After reading an article in Vanity Fair last month called “Will Success Spoil MySpace?” [who knew that Rupert Murdoch had purchased the company!?] and constantly hearing on the local news that schools are banning students from accessing MySpace from school computers, I began to wonder whether or not this will have an effect on my requiring college freshman to blog. I don’t ask them to write anything personal or even post their name on a profile [the Blog@USF server doesn’t even prompt one for that information], but it surprised me that so many of my students resisted talking about their computer usage in a paper on technological literacy and have not taken to blogging when they are all over Facebook and MySpace. They love/hate those sites and that fascinates me. I wish I could have been at the Blog SIG, but I am happy to see someone has responded to my comment on Clancy’s post. I have not explicity asked my students to explain this anomaly to me but hope that their critical readings of the Vanity Fair article will bring some insight to the table.

I’ve also asked them to consider the followin when composing their response:

Knowing that your instructor is a blogger and proponent of technological literary but does not have a MySpace account, would you say that she is missing out on something? In your response, use what you learned from the article as well as your experience with the site or lack thereof to make an argument for or against her joining the social-networking bandwagon.

I have a feeling I might join one day to see what the fuss is all about or just to be able to comment on friends’ MySpace blogs, but so far I am refusing.

After seeing Dateline tonight and its story on MySpace, I can only wonder what the effect will be to public writing assignments. I doubt these exposes will scare us away from blogging or social networking, for as my students will tell you, they only joined the sites to keep in touch with existing friends instead of make new ones, but you never know. Parents who read Internet Safety sites like this one might issue complaints about student required internet activity and that might lead to all sorts of new restrictions and possible violations to the First Amendment.

Who knows, but I think it is a interesting topic to discuss further.

EDITED to include this Newsweek article on how the cops are using MySpace.


demolition man

It still up in the air what my parents plan to do with our house, but I got the word from my mom that our across the street neighbor torn his down this week. He is a young high school teacher who had just bought the house a couple of years ago, if that. He bought it from our longtime neighbor Mrs. L. who way back when befriended my mom when she was still pregnant with me. Needless to say, I practically grew up there too so it’s very sad to hear that it’s gone now. Poppy links to this post whose feelings are captured quite eloquently.


spring cleaning

I know, I know.

I have slipped into my Spring scant blogging behavior again. I hadn’t looked at my MSN blog in awhile, but reviewed it today [thanks to Rita’s post] and saw this post. That Don Cesar time is right around the corner, and it freaks me out that AC and I have been together a year! And what a year it has been…I’ve found the man of my dreams, yet I’m still missing my former life in New Orleans.

But I have to remember that since Katrina, that New Orleans really isn’t there anymore. The people are, though, which is comforting. With Gavin’s sudden death this week, the theatre community to which I belonged has come together to share memories and at this minute are at his funeral. I thought about flying there for it, but just couldn’t break away with only 3 weeks left in my final semester. I hope that doesn’t sound like a lame excuse for not facing the truth and the sadness of a funeral, but sometimes I think keeping blinders on and finishing the tasks at hand is a better way to go.

So with that said, the fact that I will begin studying for my comprehensive exams this summer is actually more exciting than scary. Soon I can begin “da diss” and, like Clancy says, hope to “tell a story that teaches somebody something. ” Until then, bear with me as I take a final exam, host my parents for Easter weekend, write 2 lit reviews and grade my students’ final papers. Although, if you know me, then you know that procrastination is often the name of the game so who knows, blog posts might appear more frequently!


the sad news

David Cuthbert
Theater writer

Gavin Mahlie, one of New Orleans’ most active and popular actors, died in his sleep Tuesday morning. He was 42.

The only actor to have appeared in all 12 seasons of The Shakespeare Festival at Tulane, he had acted in more than 60 local theater productions at virtually every stage in town. His “Richard III ” and Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” were but two of a gallery of his celebrated Shakespearean portrayals. He was also a regular in the political plays of local playwright Jim Fitzmorris.

His last performance was in the title role of “Uncle Vanya” for the Red Noses theater company, which he helped found. He was to have reprised his baggy-pants comic version of Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for school audiences this month and was set to star in “Kimberly Akimbo” next month in Southern Rep’s first post-Katrina staging.

I think tomorrow’s paper in New Orleans is to have more information. EDITED TO INCLUDE LINK TO OBITUARY HERE.

I am still finding out information and have spent all day remembering Gavin’s performances and quirky personality. I’d never have thought he would be a fan of the Black Eyed Peas, but he was. That still makes me smile.


in loving memory

I’m just getting more of the details surrounding my dear friend Gavin’s heart attack and death, but it’s hard to believe when all that you can rely on is a network of phone calls. It’s been confirmed that he was found in bed this morning and I just wish I were in New Orleans to join the rest of the theatre community to celebrate his life and wonderful talent. No one could perform Shakespeare like him and I’m honored to say he was my friend. More memories to post soon. Here’s last year’s press on him.


I swear I am related to Bob Schieffer

Although people who are related generally disagree….

Here’s the deal: I had the same thoughts as Bob years ago when I heard about the money being spent on a Mars mission. I have nothing against NASA or other scientific powers that be. My father made pieces of the external tank of the Space Shuttle at Martin Marietta for 30 years. But I cannot understand why the government would fund space exploration at a time when, as Bob Schieffer puts it, “We can’t figure out how to get those thousands of trailers standing empty in Arkansas down to New Orleans down to house the people who lost their homes during Katrina, but we’re designing housing for the moon?”