Reason #153: Blogging is Safer than Grill Repair

First signs of spring include firing up the grill and contemplating an oil
change and point by point inspection of the lawn mower.  I did both today,
firing and contemplating.  The firing was inspired when D. returned from
the market with bratwurst; the contemplating was brought on by the incredibly
rapid growth of purple-flowered weed sprigs overtaking the lawn.  Creeping
bellflowers?  Hell, I don’t know what.  But they’re tall and pleading
to be cut soon.  

The Thermos Millennium gas grill is approaching its fifth birthday.  I
spend the better part of Easter Sunday, 1999, with my brother-in-law (well, he
wasn’t my bro-in-law then, but he is now) matching up sprockets, force-fitting
parts and having an altogether bad time of piecing it together.  It’s named
Millennium, but I don’t think it will last more than another year or two, and
certainly no more than three.  Just last week I replaced a couple of bolts
holding one of the gas-regulator dials on; today, it was the igniter dangling by
a wire beneath the grease-caked underbelly.  Tough to get at.  Tough
to fix.  The igniter end is basically a spark plug–a ceramic separator
creates a space for the friction-generated voltage to arc.  The arc lights
the propane.  Burnt meat.  With the igniter end dangling beneath the
grill, I wasn’t sure what to do.  So I found a spot that looked like it
might serve as a shelf to introduce the spark to the gas and propped it
there.  But I had doubts that the igniter was working, so I popped the
ignite button and absorbed one shock.  15 volts?  20?  It was
working; we were well on our way to the first brats of 2004.  Well on our

The shock absorption and my reporting of it to you via EWM warrants a bit of
explaining.  More than a few academic bloggers I read (more conveniently
with the assistance of Mozilla Firefox’s Aggreg8, which I’m learning to love)
have been questioning the vexed relationship between their weblogs and their
scholarship.  I consider myself to be more of an academic fringe-straddler,
one whose life is spread out in ways that conflate academic interests with a
less neatly intellectualized workaday life.  But I, too, wish for EWM to
serve more than a writing habit of convenience, to do more than chronicle day to
day ironies, the flush and flex of life.  I like the way the blog becomes a
storehouse for contingent issues and ideas; its utility is multifarious: writing
habit, public engagement, free-to-explore think space, platform, social forum,
experimental lab, diary-journal, unruly zone for discursive play.  All
of this will be worth returning to in the years ahead.  I’m sure of it.

You’re thinking it was more than 15 volts, eh?  Well, actually, the
shock is significant because I plied through 80 pages of Obedience to
today, and Stanley Milgram’s study was all about the willingness
of a subject to expose a learner to voltage-shocks,  escalating with each
incorrect answer and commanded by an authoritative experimenter. I don’t want to
leave behind the idea of agentic shift as a rhetorical event, especially as it
manifests through deference to technology in the guise of authority.  My
notes are still messy, and I’m just now chomping through the theoretically
tastiest one-third of Milgram’s book, but I am seeing connections, seeing needs
for differentiation and refinement in terms, seeing lots of ways agentic shift
can serve as a descriptive apparatus in composition and rhetoric. 
[situation is a locus of action, opposition to authority, agentic state, peer
rebellion, cybernetics, conscience and tensional system of the individual,
authority communicates itself, constancy of authority system, surveillance-panopticon
iterations *Bentham/Foucault*, Berlin’s noetic
]. I will flesh out those visions here, just as soon as I get my notes
in order.  That, too, is what the weblog does for me.  It’s
ever-present, bringing me to the edge of the reading chair, excited and
interested because my mind feels as if it is wrapped in one of those, "I’m
blogging this
" t-shirts.  The constancy of weblogging potential
while reading is invigorating.

This brings me to one other out there prospect for EWM.  In the
weeks ahead, I have slotted the return of Cross-Talk in Comp Theory and The
Braddock Essays
to my reading list (when does a list grow into something too
big to call a list?).  Brush-up reads to lubricate(!) the merge into a
doctoral program in the fall. So hold me to that; hold me to the promise of
bringing notes (even brief summative jottings) from those fine essays into this
space.  I know, lubricate sounds smartass, but it reminds me of my
big brother who is an adhesives chemist working and living in Detroit.  He
called today from his cell phone while driving to Toronto where he was heading
to troubleshoot something (likely) to do with robotic arms and glue
distribution.  J. and I have a terrific relationship; today he said he
called because he had spare weekend minutes.  And I want to come back to that, also–agency in the communicative act, deference to commodified time as it correlates to telephony and telegraphy.  But not now.  The Practice is on the tube.