Post Retirement Income Ideas (Installment 1)

Given my extravagant lifestyle, which includes craft beers and state of the art electronics, I suspect that making ends meet when I’m yoked to a fixed income might be problematic, so I’m entertaining ideas about how I might generate supplemental dinero after I stumble out of the ever more complicated labyrinth of teaching high school.

My latest obsession, fueled by my reading of Grant McCracken’s 2009 book Transformations: Identity Construction in Contemporary Culture, is what Jung called the persona, the public mask we present to the world.  After I googled “personae,”  I ran across this WEBSITE promoting a gallery exhibition called “Projecting Personae.”  As I read the website’s description of the ideas underlying the exhibition, it occurred to me that I could render those ideas a tad bit less pretentiously, perhaps increasing the attendance and garnering more publicity.  I’ll let you be the judge.

The original description:

One’s cultural perspective can be seen as the practice of interfacing one’s psyche with an oppositional world of irreconcilable differences. As we seek to combat historic oppressions and correct cultural assumptions, our identities take on a state of perpetual negotiation—between (sic)* one’s flesh, one’s façade and one’s functions—a convergence of activities, beliefs, costumes and customs, broadcast via the surfaces of our bodies, upon which our socio-cultural transcriptions and evolutions can be read.

My edit:

How you see shit is conditioned by the shit you see all around you — the hobo chugging a 24-oz. Bull, the Upper East Side swell in a camel hair coat. History ain’t been kind to neither black folk nor crackers nor gay queer-theorists nor womenfolk for that matter, so if you’re one of the above, you gotta pretend every now that you ain’t you, slap on a mask, figure out who you wanna look like in various certain situations. This shit depends on your DNA, what you pretending to be, and what you’re doing at the time,   It’s a mash up of what’s going down, what you believe, what you wanna wear according to the situation — whether it be an appearance before a magistrate or a invitation to a pagan Solstice party. I repeat, this display depends on your DNA, the tattoos you’ve acquired, and the life you’ve lived.

Come to think of it, I bet there ain’t much money in it.

* among, not between, goddammit!

One of the pieces from the exhibition

One of the pieces from the exhibition





Are You Telling Me or Asking Me?

I’ve been digging around the internet trying to discover the linguistic answer to why so many females (and increasing numbers of males) end declarative sentences with an interrogative lilt. You know, no matter what they say, even when it’s a universally accepted fact, their voices rise at the end of sentences as if they’re asking a question.

kim-jong-un_416x416Kim Jong-un is a North Korean dictator?

Kim Jong-un has a bad haircut?

Kim Jong-un isn’t blessed with a self-deprecating sense-of-humor?

For whatever reason, this linguistic affectation bugs the hell out of me. I know, I certainly have more pressing concerns — shit like spousal cancer, maternal dementia, my dog Saisy’s insufferable halitosis — but goddamn it, I’m sick and tired of hearing far flung NPR correspondents say “the critical mass of a bare mass sphere of plutonium-239 is 8-10kg? as if they’re asking, “Do you think breast-feeding at a rodeo is tackier than breast-feeding at a Miss Utah beauty pageant?”

I started my quixotic linguistic NetQuest by typing into Google “interrogative lilt” and garnered lots of hits. My first stop was, a website where you can pose a question and have site visitors provide possible answers. Whoever asked the question gets to choose what she considers the best answer and then some sort of arbiter at the site sifts through the received answers and selects what he/she/it deems worthy of mentioning. It’s sort of like Wikipedia except that the responders aren’t even knowledgeable amateurs but uninformed web addicts with way too much time on their hands, in other words, cranks like me. It’s about as scientific as a History Channel feature on Noah’s Ark, but, anyway, here’s best guess:

[The interrogative lilt] is mildly irritating. I think it is an attention getting (sic) device. People do it who are used to being ignored. Asking a question often gets an answer; the listener’s ears perk up. That is why it is annoying because you perk your ears up for nothing.

transformations-identity-construction-in-contemporary-cultureSecond on the Interrogative Lilt hierarchy of Google search hits was endnote 221 on page 367 of Grant McCracken’s Transformations Identity Construction in Contemporary Culture. From what I can glean, McCracken writes about how consumers construct new identities through acquisitions, like newbie surfers peroxiding their hair and stocking up on Rusty tee shirts and Reef footwear (though he doesn’t use that example).

Anyway, I don’t know the context of the endnote, but it reads, “The Interrogative Lilt turns statements into questions, listeners into authorities, and it helps mark and construct power difference between two conversational partners.” This statement is not all that different from the supposition – but the endnote also provides two other ways to describe the interrogative lilt – “uptalk” and High Rising Terminal (HRT), which is official linguistic terminology.

These two terms allowed me to expand my search, and I discovered that what I’m going to continue to call the interrogative lilt (IL) is a hot topic that spawns wide-ranging responses. Many people see the predominance of women ILers as a signal of insecurity. Linguist Robin Lakoff first noticed the phenomenon in 1975 in Australia and attributes the effect to the speaker’s seeking affirmation.

There’s a notable study by William and Mary sociologist Thomas Linneman that analyzes Jeopardy contestants’’ use of IL. According to Bloomberg Business Week’s Caroline Winter, “In total, [Linneman] found that contestants answered 37 percent of the 5,473 given questions using upstalk. In terms of gender, the findings, published in 2013, exposed an unexpected correlation: Successful women were more likely to use uptalk than less successful women, whereas the reverse was true for men.” Linneman dismisses the notion that IL’s only function is to indicate uncertainty but contends that it’s meant to compensate for success.

Mark Liberman who publishes the blog Language Log cites new studies that “show that people who use uptalk are not insecure wallflowers but powerful speakers who like getting their own way: teachers, talk-show hosts, politicians and facetious shop assistants.”

Of course, what do I know, but my theory is that people use IL because they think it sounds cool, or they unconsciously parrot it because people they consider cool talk that way.

spicoli-fast-times-ridgemont-high-surf-no-diceI ran across a couple of Brit sites (the Guardian and BBC) that claim the trend started in Australia. One theory is that it became the cool-speak of the Australian surf sub culture and migrated to California where it morphed into Valley Girl Speak and then spread via the media via Moon Zappa and Clueless. This theory resonates with me. I remember West Ashley surfers I hung with in the early ’70’s affecting this whiny faux-Californian cool-speak.

Anyway, it seems that every generation develops verbal ticks, the “you-knows” of my youth morphing into “likes” and now the interrogative lilt. Is “uptalk” here to stay or will it give way to some new, even more irritating affectation?