Oberlin Blogs

Insanely busy(ier than usual)

November 20, 2010

Tess Yanisch ’13

I began typing this at Brandi's dining room table at a blogger gathering. It was 7:00 and the busy part of the day had only just begun. I'm going to walk you through this day to give you a feel for the life of an Obie.

Keep in mind that this is an unusually activity-filled day for me. Many students' lives are less hectic than this; a considerable number are even busier, and on a regular basis. It all depends on how much you feel like doing--to throw in some psychology jargon, what your optimal level of stimulation is.


6:00 AM--morning lifeguarding shift! Living in North this year is nice, because it's just a stone's throw from the gym. That means I can sleep in a bit later than I would have had to last year, when I lived further away and took longer to get there. (The morning shifts pay slightly more than the regular shifts, because people generally don't want to take them. I actually don't mind them; I like the extra time they give me before classes.) The usual people came in to swim: a few college students and some older people. I hope I'll be up to swimming worksets at six a.m. when I'm in my eighties!

9:30 AM--Linguistic Anthropology. I love this class. Lately, we've been discussing language ideologies and how it's socially acceptable to be dialect-ist, so people often use critiques of language to say racist or classist things they otherwise would not be able to. We're learning about how an Oakland school district tried to get Ebonics classified as a foreign language so that they could get funding for programs teaching students to mentally translate between their home language and Standard English, like any other ESL class. The idea was that this would boost reading and writing abilities in the district. (Ebonics is not just slang; it has distinct grammatical rules that do not always map onto those of English.)

Apparently the media seized onto this and it led to a huge, confusing kerfluffle of misinformation and commentary. Some people thought that recognizing Ebonics as a language meant that classes would be taught in Ebonics; many thought Ebonics was just "sloppy English" and not a grammatically logical dialect; there were accusations of racism thrown at just about everybody. As a class, we found a different flaw in the theory: there isn't just one "Ebonics" variety, nor is it only African-Americans who speak this dialect. But the idea seemed innocuous enough. If Standard English is linked to a positive appraisal of the speaker--and, in most life arenas, it is--the children would benefit from mastering it.

We saw a video clip of an elementary school class in which one of these programs was being implemented. The kids were playing Jeopardy in teams and excitedly announcing that the difference was in the "present tense third-person singular." They'll probably end up knowing more about grammar than those who only speak Standard English, which will be incredibly useful if they ever take a foreign language class later in life. I see no drawbacks to this program.

After that, I did some homework, went to lunch, did more homework.

3:00--Cultural Psychology. Another fun class. Last Thursday, we watched Killing Us Softly 4 and talked about it. In case you didn't know, KUS4 isn't some slasher horror movie franchise--it's a documentary about images of women in advertising. (There are ads that increasingly objectify men, too, but in different, less passive roles.) The link goes to the first part of it on YouTube. I would strongly urge everyone reading this to go watch it; it's very interesting and not a little scary.

What made the biggest impression on me was that ads continue to try to push both the idea of sexiness and of innocence, at the same time; the upshot of the visual representation of this is the infantilization of women and the sexualization of children. There's also the intriguing development that images that used to be confined to porn are now regularly appearing in advertisements. Food is being discussed in terms that used to be confined to sex as well. As far as the actual images go, they're usually digitally manipulated composites of many different women, and some magazines have started retouching pictures of their models to make them appear less skinny.

We had a decent discussion of it in class, though I noticed the men didn't really say anything. In my experience, this is usually the case. I don't know why, but around women's issues, the guys clam up. Probably they're scared of offending somebody by accident (there's "white guilt"; why not "male guilt"?), but I wish they would talk. I would really like to get a male perspective on these things.

Anyway, Tuesday's class was the lecture corresponding to this--cross-cultural ideals of beauty and attraction, then moving on into interpersonal relationships in general.

4:15--class let out. I walked back to Hall with one of my friends who is also in Cultural Psych. Somehow we got onto the subject of music. I learned that she had actually been offered admission to the Con, but turned it down, because she's interested in jazz and there is no jazz vocal major. I mentioned that I wish I could sing and would really like to take voice lessons sometime. She reminded me that you can take $5 lessons from Con students, or take them for credit if you audition. I said I know, and I'll probably do that eventually, because I really want to sing; I'm just a little intimidated by Connies, because I can't--

"Anyone can sing. Come here." She grabbed me by the strap of my backpack and dragged me to Starlight Lounge, where there is a piano. We then spent the next hour on vocal exercises.

The upshot of it all is that she's going to give me informal lessons over Winter Term. We have already determined that I "have good pitch memory" (probably a result of musical training on the violin, although I'm not sure how that translates to voice) and that I can match a note if I hear it on the piano and am given enough time to find it. I'm shy, meaning I don't sing loudly if I don't think I can hit a note, which makes me miss it--I'll have to fix that. I have a two-and-a-half-octave range and I may be an alto, although "if you want to be sure about it you'd have to go to the Con and tell them, 'I can sing low notes' and see what they say."

I am tickled pink about this. Learning new instruments is great, and singing is something you can do anywhere, without equipment! Besides, I like making pretty sounds. It's simple, yet satisfying.

She also showed me where the middle C key is, so I guess I can sort of play the piano now too. What an easy instrument!

6:00--off to the blogger dinner. It's always nice to meet people after reading their posts--you already know a little bit about them, but don't know them. A prominent topic of conversation was Patrick's recent resignation from Student Senate. Over the course of this conversation, I finally made a connection that had been nagging at me for a long time. When he mentioned how great it is to work for Admissions, I asked him how long he'd been there . . .

"Oh no, was I your tour guide?!" Apparently this happens to him all the time; people know all about him and he has no idea who they are. While all bloggers probably experience this to some degree (I do), he's also been giving tours since 2008.

7:30--Ruby and I hitch a ride to a panel discussion of "The Ethical Implications of Social Media" with Ben Jones, our boss (who's semi-famous as the person who first thought of putting student blogs on college websites). The panel was interesting. There was a lot of discussion of Facebook and privacy controls there, along with some widely differing opinions of ObieTalk, Oberlin's anonymous "confessional" site.

People sometimes do ask for and receive genuinely helpful advice on ObieTalk or use it advertise events, but much of the content is lovelorn angst, angry tirades, hookup offers, and rampant trolling. Its defenders claim that it's a snapshot of the current local collective consciousness and/or a collaborative work of art, and in any case the Internet values free speech; detractors see it as a way of circulating rumors and avoiding healthy personal interaction to work out issues. Though it is technically anonymous, people often post initials. ObieTalk in general is fairly polarizing; people either think it's fun or think it's poison. I think it's mostly crap, but I get a kick out of reverse-trolling it sometimes (posting links to funny YouTube videos after a cascade of porn links, for instance).

I found the panel highly interesting. Then again, I am pretty interested in ethics, communication, and intellectual communities (like the Internet).

9:00--Stargate: Universe with my friends. The show is just beginning to get good. We finally know what the purpose of the ship they're all stranded on is. Then they killed off two of my favorite characters in one murder (body-switching stuff...They killed Ginn's body, but it had Amanda Perry's consciousness in it). Grrr.

10:00--Sunshine Scouts practice! We have a show on Monday, so practices are getting pretty focused. We're doing well, I think; I like the way our practice-forms have been going.


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