Friday, December 31, 2010


With an hour and a quarter left until this year ends, I am tempted to join in the widespread bout of nostalgia this time of year prompts. I am not immune to its attractions. And I have much for which to be thankful this year.

The turn of the year, though, gets to be even more fun for me, now. Last week saw Christmas. This week is seeing New Year's. Next week sees my anniversary.

It is a good time.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


On December 27, 2010, the online New York Times published an editorial, "The White Coast." The editorial compares what is called the "Boxing Day storm" to blizzards in 1978 and 1993, noting that the message sent by all three was "Stay indoors and stay put." Now that the storm is past, the editorial notes, comes the fun of cleaning up, which prompts longing for spring.

Even now, as I look at either my backyard or the street--er, avenue--in front of my apartment, I see mostly sheets of cold whiteness. In my backyard, this is understandable; I've got no great desire to shovel snow, and no great need to do so on that side of the building. In the front, though, it is more of an issue. Traffic is still non-existent on the avenue. The few vehicles that have tried to drive down the block are axle-deep in upchurned snow, frozen and freezing monuments to the majesty of this little Boxing Day blizzard. Train service is still well, with a number of trains simply not going where they are supposed to.

This, of course, includes the train I usually take. Fortunately, I have other options, but still...I have to go out today. It will prove inconvenient (and cold!), and I find myself annoyed at the prospect.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Now that one of the major holiday weekends is past us (and I had a fine one, thank you very much), it is time for a bit of a return to work. It won't last too long, of course, since National Hangover Day is coming up, and not long after that, I, at least, will be back to my actual job.

Until then, though, I intend to be doing a lot of writing. And, as usual, some of it will have to do with what goes on in the world.

In my small part of it, snow is on the ground. In abundance. My backyard IS a snowdrift, one nearly as tall as I am. Out front, the road and sidewalk are near-unbroken mounds of fluffy whiteness. It's pretty, really, and makes me happy that I get to stay inside for a while.

Also in my small part of the world, my local paper ran this editorial, "The Repeal Amendment." Towards the end of it, the writer (for convenience, I'll pretend it's one) articulates the ideas 1) that, in a bit of cliché, the Constitution exists to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts, and 2) the kind of past that the current conservative movement seeks a return to (in a manner reminiscent of the Reagan who is so widely idealized) is a myth.

Myth is a powerful thing. It has a powerful hold on the collective cultural consciousness of the group which gives rise to it--and upon the groups claiming descent from them. Witness the continued invocation of Greek and Roman cosmology in the names of the heavenly bodies or our depiction of extreme efforts as "Herculean." Witness also the very names of the days of the week in English, which are most of them derived from the names of Asgardian indwellers (with another coming, again, from the Greco-Roman cosmology). Note also the pervasiveness of the idea that "Columbus discovered America" (about which, as I discuss such things with my students, I note that "You can't discover something where people already are") or that the Founding Fathers were actually committed to the idea of universal freedom (Washington and Jefferson, remember, both owned slaves) and opposed federal overreach (note the Whiskey Rebellion, in which Washington himself led federally-authorized troops against American citizens to assert federal authority to tax).

But myth is myth precisely because it is not fact. Certainly, there are truths embedded in the myths we tell and are told, and even in their exaggerations and untruths, they show us much about ourselves. But they never show us all of what we need to see, and that is one of many reasons that it is dangerous to base our concepts of reality and where we ought to go upon such things.

Friday, December 24, 2010


While preparing another short summary for future classes (I do this because it is a nice bit of mental exercise--warm-up for the brain, as it were), I ran across Paul Taylor's "Who Should Be the Judge?" in the online New York Times. His article, updated on December 23, is placed in a larger context of discussion of the American middle class; in doing so, it addresses a topic of interest for me, as I think I may have suggested.

The article does, though, directly address another topic of interest for me. Taylor asks "where does the impoverished grad student fit?" And, having been a poor grad student, being married to a wonderful wife who has also been one, having many friends who are them, the question resounds.

But I have an answer:

A tiny, tiny hole, the better to promote self-loathing and angst.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


The Fall 2010 semester at the college where I work formally ended at 4pm today. My contribution to it ended some twenty-four hours earlier, when I submitted the last sets of grades I had to turn in. There were quite a few failures among those sets, though in almost every case those failures resulted from students simply not showing up and doing the work.

I have no doubt that I shall once again find myself inundated with grade complaints over the next few weeks. It happens at the end of every semester, though I have an inkling that matters in that regard will be a bit worse this time around; there were a lot more Fs going around. In a number of cases, those Fs mean exactly what an old office-mate commented F stands for.

You know who you are.

Grades in my classes were pretty bad this time around. In one class, only four students passed; the highest grade among them was a C+. Another had only nine still enrolled at the end of term; again, only four passed, though the high grade was a B-. A third did better, with seven passing and several of those earning Bs. The last composition class did best, with twelve passing and one earning a B+. My remedial English class saw four of nine remaining students pass, though with better results than the similarly-populated composition class. One of my two speech classes fared much like the third composition class, but the other one was quite good, indeed; fifteen of eighteen passed, with two earning an A- from me.

There are several things that this could indicate. One is that my standards have increased. I tend to reject this idea, since I worked this term to make my assignments more accessible and set things up so that the information from one assignment could be--and indeed was supposed to be, as I informed my students repeatedly--used on the next. But it is possible even so that I did not explain myself as clearly as could be done, something suggested by comments from the school's learning center (oddly received only in the last two weeks of the term) that the tutors themselves had trouble understanding my teaching methods. I shall work, whether my standards have increased or not, to clarify my expectations and the ways in which they can be met still further.

Another thing that the generally poor performance of my students could indicate is that the curricular shifts imposed from on high had a culling effect. A number of students were issued Fs through administrative action, the result of their not being deemed eligible to take (or, in two cases, failing) the exit exam my department instituted this term. After the cut-off date, at which time I had to inform students that they could not sit for the exit exam, many simply stopped attending--for which I cannot blame them. And, really, many who were deemed ineligible were nailed for simply not turning papers in. I do not know how to work to fix that last part, and I have voiced my objections (complete with reference to current research in composition studies--I do take both CCC and College English, after all) to the high-stakes exam.

Yet another potential cause, and one that seems borne out by my institution's recruiting practices and events during the semester, is that this semester saw an awful lot of off-key students. My school does serve traditionally-underprivileged populations, so that the difficulty of accommodation to the discourse community of collegiate study is expected. But when students throw chairs at their college instructors or brandish weapons at one another during class time (both of which occurred), matters have passed beyond the simple disjunction between student socialization and expected practice. Such an environment is hardly conducive to formal learning of any sort, let alone the "higher education" that is supposed to be taking place at any college. It is hardly helped by the "bring them in at whatever cost" mentality that all too often permeates the admissions offices of such schools as the one at which I teach; some of my students have been homeless and have done fine work even so, but a great many others in less-unfortunate situations use their socioeconomic circumstances as excuses to make trouble.

Only one of these is even partly under my control, and I am going to be working on it, as noted. As to the other two, I can only take the break to rest and pray that next semester works a little better than this one did.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


All I have to say about what appears below is that I have disturbing thoughts sometimes. This is true for us all, I think, but unfortunately for all of you, I am given to voicing (or posting, as the case may be) those thoughts.

There is an old fairy-story beast
One Tolkien doesn't talk about
Called the banshee
Bean sidhe
Wailing Woman
La Llorona
And many other names.
The details of the stories vary.
There is a common thread.
The screeching call
Summons the souls of the living
To join the dance of the dead.
I have heard that plaintive wailing
In the sibilant scream
Of subway car wheels
On the rails.
Not long ago
I caught myself
And now I have to wonder
Am I going to end up responding to that call?


In a post to another blog I have recently started, I drafted a summary of a article dealing with some of the effects of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal. I'll not repeat myself here, but I will add to what I posted as an example for my students that I find it interesting that so many of the university presidents have so suddenly expressed support for ROTC. I also find it interesting that one of the professors who is on the Stanford U. committee that will rule on whether or not to open more fully to ROTC notes the possible issues of political expediency that resulted in the shut-down of the Stanford ROTC in 1973.

Is it possible that there is a similar political-expediency motivation behind the current upswelling of support? Given the multiple calls for engagement by the academy with the outside world as well as concerns over the diminishing relevance of university education, I rather think so.

Even so, I am minded of the concept of the Fortunate Fall: without sin, there can be no redemption. So even if the motives behind the push are politic rather than sincere, I cannot say that the expansion of the ROTC program is bad. It opens access to higher education, which is good. It also promotes service, which is good. And every so often, it introduces people to each other whose later unions produce people I value.

My parents, after all, met in ROTC.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


When I got home last night from taking in final papers and doing a last bit of Christmas shopping, I was pleased to find my copy of CCC 62.2 (December 2010) waiting for me. I just got done reading Profession, and it is good that I get to keep keeping up with the research in a large part of my work--I am a medievalist by training, but I end up being a compositionist by institution and sheer dint of course-load.

As to that, I am unsure if I have discussed this, but in the Fall 2010 term, I taught 29 hours of coursework across seven sections. Four of those were five-hour developmental freshman composition sections (two, in the evening, were five-hour solid blocks). Another was a section of the new remedial course at my institution (which seems to have worked out well), and the remainder was taken up by speech.

In the Spring 2011 term (which will begin on January 12, last I heard), I am teaching only slightly less; I only have three of the five-hour courses, while the rest remains the same. My days are still more or less shot, but I do have a bit more time in the mornings, which will be of great help; one of the hardest things this term has been teaching until 10pm and having to be back on-site at 9am the next morning.

I will be hard-pressed, I know, to get my dissertation done for presentation the Spring 2011 term at my PhD institution. I should still be clear to go for the year, however, which is some comfort.

Monday, December 20, 2010


I noted in my last post that I had received my copy of Profession 2010. Some days later, after a holiday party and several sets of exam-gradings, I have finally finished my first reading of it, and as with the previous issues, I find myself quite pleased with the text.

The 2010 issue is divided into some four sections. The first, centering around the Presidential Forum, discusses translation studies, which is a seemingly strongly emergent field of inquiry in the humanities and one which piques my interest both as one who does work as a medievalist (which almost always involves some translation) and as a teacher at a school largely populated by non-native speakers of English. The second discusses disability and language, a field with which I have had only limited contact. The third is a less-organized grouping of articles discussing a variety of subjects (including one relevant to this blog and all blogs, generally), while the fourth is the "Forum" in which Philip Goldstein and Gerald Graff argue about what the latter states in Profession 2009.

A concept that I had had earlier but that I find reinforced by the translation studies section of Profession 2010 is the notion that translation traditionally relies on the concept--not entirely accurate--that there is a single, stable version of a given language, which can be converted into a single, stable version of another language. For example, Naoki Sakai directly addresses the futility of the idea in "Translation and the Figure of Border: Toward the Apprehension of Translation as a Social Action." Professor Sakai notes that "The unity of language cannot be given in experience because it is nothing but a regulative idea, enabling us to comprehend related data about languages" (27); Sakai cites Kant's definition of the regulative idea as one not actually in evidence but applied so as to make possible systematic interpretation of present evidence (I am, of course, paraphrasing). In Sakai's view, the concept of unified language accompanies unified nation-hood, and both are comparatively recent concepts that are artificially developed (30-31), and as such, both are contingent upon an Other (32). Sakai's viewpoint opens up any translated text to postcolonial analysis, really, and so the article serves to undergird more critical work.

More work on translation is, in fact, called for by the articles in the translation studies cluster in Profession 2010. As part of this, Catherine Porter notes that there is demand for qualified, productive translators (7), seemingly as an imminently understandable response to globalism and the breakdown of sociolinguistic hegemony. Verena Conley expands upon the notion, stating that "the global circulation of languages and cultures that, intersecting and interacting multifariously, are the foundation no longer for Towers of Babel but for myriad networks in and between which translations proliferate" (19). And it is in this multiplicity of sociolinguistic interaction that my teaching begins to be affected.

As I noted, many if not most of my students are not native speakers of English. By the time they reach my classes, though, they are expected to be able to function at the collegiate level (whatever that means) in English, largely as a result of having taken and passed a long sequence of ESL courses offered by my institution. In large part, they are; the tasks I set before them, they accomplish, perhaps not spectacularly well, but competently.

But there are always some who manage to slide through and should not have. I know I am not always as patient with them as I ought to be (though in one or two cases, I have been far more forgiving than is entirely appropriate). Still, at what point do I actually enter the sequence? I know that much of what I do is explicitly the development of vocabulary and specific modes of thought and inquiry which are derived at length from culturally-specific underlying concepts, and that the cultures spawning them are not the same which give rise to my students (including many of the native speakers, though I am not about to go into that particular discussion at the moment). Am I not then simply doing what we might call a more advanced level of ESL? Or is it something different altogether?


Works Cited
~Conley, Verena. "Living in Translation." Profession 2010 (2010): 18-24. Print.
~Porter, Catherine. Introduction. Profession 2010 (2010): 5-8. Print.
~Sakai, Naoki. "Translation and the Figure of Border: Toward the Apprehension of Translation as a Social Action." Profession 2010 (2010): 25-34. Print.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I have several things to note today. One is that today is my dear younger brother's birthday; I have already called to wish him well.

Another is that my copy of Profession 2010 has arrived. It seems to be of slightly less extent than the previous few editions, and I am not yet sure of the implications of that. I have not yet had a chance to read it fully, though I have gotten through the two introductory pieces. I do, though, intend to do as I have been doing with the journals I take: after reading through, or reading into, I am going to write some kind of response to one or more of the articles contained within. As usual, they will appear here when done.

In the interim, though, I offer the following (in part so that I will have examples for my students in coming terms):

On December 13, 2010, the online New York Times released an op-ed piece by David Brooks, "Ben Franklin's Nation." In the article, Brooks notes that the world is increasingly composed of the middle class, and that the growth of the middle class across the globe will increase in the next few decades. Brooks sees this as an opportunity for a redefinition of the place of the United States in the world; rather than being the world leader in standard of living (which we will not be able to sustain), we can become the world leader in determining what it means to be middle-class. He writes: "Americans could well become the champions of middle-class dignity. The U.S. could become the crossroads nation for those who aspire to join the middle and upper-middle class, attracting students, immigrants and entrepreneurs." He goes on to note that doing so would oblige the US to redefine and enhance what it means to be middle class, arguing that doing so could make the twenty-first century "another American century."

I am, in part, pleased by this message. As I have noted elsewhere, I am (despite being a liberal elite who, as an academic, is supposed to hate America) more or less fond of the country of my birth, and so I cannot help but be moved by the idea that American exceptionalism can be perpetuated; I confess to being enough of an egotist that I like seeing that which is associated with me and with which I identify valorized. And, if nothing else, it is a better view of American exceptionalism than that which holds that the country has the right and duty to police the world.

That said, as one of the "pointy-headed elitists," I am aware that there are problems with the middle-class ideology that Brooks espouses. In its current form, at least, the American middle-class-ness of which I partake and which Brooks lauds is based upon the exploitation, both historical and current, of various populations. Immigrant laborers and overseas sweatshops do much to make the kind of consumption upon which middle-class life depends--even when predicated upon social contexts, following Brooks, since "the community clubs, the professional societies, the religious charities and Little Leagues" that he notes have material requirements--possible. So for Brooks' idea of a worldwide middle class led by the American concept of the same to work in an equitable, sustainable, ethical sense will require not so much a refiguring of what the middle class is as a resetting of it to an (idealized or romanticized?) earlier notion of it.

There was a time in the United States, so goes the story, that a solid manufacturing job would enable a person to enter into some kind of middle-class life. Perhaps wealth and "luxury"* were beyond the average factory worker, but that worker could support a family of four or five reasonably comfortably, taking an annual vacation and making another annual trek back to old homes to meet with family over the holidays. Parents could afford to help their kids through college, helping the next generation do better than they themselves did.

That condition, if it ever actually existed, certainly no longer does in the United States, and I have doubts that it exists elsewhere in any great abundance. Until and unless it does, unfortunately, the utopian middle-class world Brooks envisions cannot--and damned well ought not to--come to pass.

*I use the term advisedly, realizing that for many people, having enough food to eat each day and a secure place to live is a luxury currently beyond their means.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I do a lot of reading, and I do a lot of thinking about what I read. As I do so, I sometimes find myself in uncomfortably strained positions, largely resulting from my being (politically) moderate-by-the-law-of-averages.

For instance, I believe in the value of the military as an institution. I also believe that the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for certain crimes, as corporal punishment is an appropriate response to certain childhood behaviors. I have heard the arguments against them, and I understand (most of) them, but I find that they suffer from a supposition error. Quite frankly, there are people who will not amend their behavior without the application of physical force, and some will not amend their behavior even then.

At the same time, I am cognizant that I speak from a position of privilege. Being definitionally a WASP, I am very much the kind of person who is serviced by the prevailing traditional cultural practices of the United States at large (and I am aware of how nebulous and inexact such a descriptor is). I believe in the worth of a great many social welfare programs and the ability of an active government to make things better for those who are less fortunate, particularly as I have derived benefit from them--I went to public schools, state colleges, and I paid for the latter with federally-subsidized loans.

It comes up even in discussion of speech acts. I want to believe in free speech; I want to believe that I should get to say what I want to say, when I want to say it, and wherever I happen to be. But I cannot set aside what are reasonable restrictions upon that principle (the classic shout of fire in a crowded theater, for instance). And I find it difficult to determine where humor stops being a joke--which ought to be protected--and becomes something restrictable.

Free speech necessarily involves giving offense. But at what point does "offense," which we may execrate as being in bad taste or contrary to prevailing social standards, become "harm," and therefore restrictable? How much do I, do any of us, have to worry about causing "harm," so that we have to censor ourselves? And cannot the instillation of such fear itself be construed as "harm?"

These are the kinds of questions that bounce around my mind. These, and "Ought I to stop off and get a beer after work tonight?"

Monday, December 13, 2010


There is a certain satisfaction to proctoring an exam in a room thoughtfully provided with a computer for me to use. Normally, on exam days such as this one, I would run out of things to do. Even now, my grading is caught up and, because I am at a different campus than my dissertation materials, I cannot be expected to get back into revising a chapter (which I really, REALLY need to do). But today, I have a computer in the room, and only five students scribbling in blue books in the hopes of passing my class.

It is a good thing.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Thank God for small problems.

I subscribe, at least in part and in my moments of greater lucidity, to the idea that we are presented challenges so as to have some reason to grow greater than we now are. My teaching is predicated upon the idea, in fact, and when I am in better control of myself, I strive to do as I teach others to do.

I was presented with a small problem not long ago this evening. As I was sitting at the dining table--which has not been used for dining in entirely too long (though the tree that occupies it at the moment is quite nice, it must be said)--I heard the sound of glass breaking. And falling.

I thought that one of our two cats had knocked something over, so I got up ready to scold one or both of them. When I did, though, I saw that both were snuggled quite contentedly in my good chair--neither seemed to have moved such that the glass had broken by their actions.

Immediately after, I went to where I had heard the break: the bathroom. There, I saw that the interior, frosted pane on the stationary shower window had popped and pieces of it had fallen all about the bathtub. I was taken aback by the event, actually, and had a bit of a panicked moment as I scrambled for what to do. But I was able, in fairly short order, to get calmed down and to call for a bit of advice on a temporary patch. (I intend to call the landlord, but I know for a fact that the office is closed right now, and that it will not open again for a while--the point is that I'd have had to put in a temporary patch, anyway, so I took care of it first.)

After I slapped an ugly construction of cardboard, plastic, and duct tape in the space between the broken panel (there is still glass wedged into it, and I am not going to mess with pulling the remaining glass out without help) and the bathtub, and even while I was assembling the contraption, I groused about how annoying having to take care of such things is. And it is, admittedly, hardly the most pleasant of experiences to have shit in the house break.

But at least I have a home to fix.

That thought occurred to me about two minutes after I got the patch placed. And I realized that, as a problem, patching a window so that cold air doesn't cascade in is a small, small thing. I could be like one of the all-too-many homeless people in New York City, and instead of patching a window in the warmth be shivering in the cold and hoping to scrabble enough together to get a bite to whatever means are available.

So I am not displeased at having to patch the window. I learned a little bit more about how to make due, and I was reminded that I have much for which to be grateful. Neither is a bad thing.

Friday, December 3, 2010


Amidst meetings with students regarding their grades and why what they turned in to me is, in fact, plagiarism, I have been looking back over some blog entries my friends and I have made. The perspective is quite nice, and I enjoy the kinds of comments that get exchanged.

I also enjoy the occasional text-message, such as one I received from my lovely and surpassingly excellent wife just now. She writes* that a student of hers offered up the funniest and most inadvertently astute misspelling: "If we want to sell imported whine, we would have to find where the rich people live."

Aside from the joke embedded in it--one that I found especially funny, given my experience with the wealthy in my hometown--the comment reminds me of an article from College English 73.2 (November 2010), Cathryn Molloy's "The Malcliché: An Argument for and Unlikely Episteme." In the article, Molloy argues that the misuse of the much-maligned cliché is a way to "transcend uncertainty in ways that make our mortality a bit more tolerable" (147), one that is valuable because its unintentional origin reveals much about the perceptions the utterer has of social structures (146, 149, 151). While I am unsure that there needs to be a new label for the phenomenon (is not what Molloy, following Freedman (139), calls the malcliché already subsumed by the definition of "malapropism?"), I do find myself at least partly convinced by the argument, generally.

What, then, is revealed about the student who errs this way? What is revealed of my wife and myself, who both found the incident funny enough to relate? What is revealed of the reader who reads this, whatever the reaction of that reader may be?

*Is "writes" the correct verb to use to refer to text messages? Should it be "texts," or "messages," perhaps? I do not know, and I would welcome input.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


It has been some time, I know, since I commented. In that time, the semester has drawn closer to an end, and I have worked to explain to my students the concepts of counter-argument and rebuttal.

It has gone as well as it ever has, which is to say "not well at all."

As I was explaining it this week, though, an example occurred to me. It is a bit of a lark (satire or parody, whichever allows me protection under Fair Use), yes, but still, I thought it worth much as anything I write ever really is.*

The archetypal Mighty Weapon can be defined as a crafted or artificially-produced object (i.e., one not occurring in nature) which, whether by design or accident, is capable of inflicting significant harm on places, other objects, or people. Often, the Mighty Weapon will have qualities or attributes that violate the commonly-understood nature of reality. The "food" that can be gotten from Taco Bell meets this definition handily; it is a manifestation of the Mighty Weapon.

It is admittedly true that food is not often considered a vector for such an archetype as the Mighty Weapon. Food is a necessity for life, which is not regarded as true for Mighty Weapons--or, indeed, any weapons, if pacifists are to be believed. Additionally, weapons are typically conceived of as implements used for striking in some form, and food, except in school-house cafeterias, is not often enough employed in such a manner as to facilitate the identification of any particular food item as a weapon.

In this, as in so many other cases, common thought is misleading. While food is necessary for life and is not typically employed in a striking capacity, it has on no small number of occasions been used as a vector for chemical and biological attacks--poisons both and therefore weapons, if markedly ignoble ones. The storied presence of food-tasters speaks to the recognition of such a venue for attack. So, too, do various food-tampering laws in the United States and elsewhere. Even hygiene standards and the simple existence of the Heimlich Maneuver in some measure address the potential lethality of food, and if a thing can be made lethal, then it can be made into a weapon. Food thus presents itself as a suitable manifestation of a Mighty Weapon, even if it is one not commonly understood as such.

The destructive powers of Taco Bell "food" in particular is well-known. The Adult Swim cartoon The Venture Brothers includes in "The Trial of the Monarch" a warning from Dr. Orpheus, calling upon people to avoid the bathroom he recently vacated because he "had Taco Bell for lunch!" This is hardly a ringing endorsement of the safety such "food" provides. Instead, it likens the after-effects of consuming Taco Bell to serious health hazards, and while the warning offered refers specifically to the effect of eating Taco Bell on others, is it not the effect of a bullet upon the one it strikes, rather than upon the one who fires it from a gun, which is the thing to be avoided? Taco Bell "food" is thus tacitly connected to the use of weaponry.

In addition to the pop-culture reference, a friend of mine (who will remain nameless here not so much for his own protection but because his name ought not to be presented where children, the elderly, or the infirm might accidentally come into contact with it) tells a story of an occasion of particular stupidity in his life. On that occasion, he and some of his other friends thought that it would be a good idea for them to get into an eating contest in which the objects of consumption were to be Taco Bell soft tacos.

As he relates the story, there was no winner. While it was true that one among them did prove to have a greater capacity for consumption, that one proved also to have a greater amount of suffering. Diarrhea, indigestion, nausea, and extreme discomfort were all attendant upon the "victory," and to as much greater an extent upon the "winner" than upon the "losers" as was the margin of excess. None of these, admittedly, are "harm" in the same way that amputation and death are, but as those who have suffered them are aware, they are hardly pleasant, either. And it is not necessary for a weapon that it inflict catastrophic injury, as the development of non-lethal ammunition such as beanbag shells and tasers suggests; the level of incapacitation that gastrointestinal distress inflicts is comparable to some non-lethal ammunition, so that the "harm" administered by the consumption of Taco Bell "food" does attain to the level delivered by more traditional weapons.

Situation of Taco Bell "food" as a weapon, though, does not make it a Mighty Weapon, though it is necessary for it. The mightiness of the weapon is a result of its insidiousness and ubiquity. The former is addressed, in part, above; food is not commonly understood to be a weapon. Many times, the un-looked-for weapon is the one that strikes most deeply and to greatest effect. That Taco Bell "food" is sneaky in this way increases its effect, lending to its might as a weapon.

Similarly, the comparatively low cost of the "food" available from Taco Bell masks its destructive potential. Typically, armament is quite costly, so that a low price is disassociated with martial possibility. Related is the fact that armament tends to be highly esteemed. In the United States (and elsewhere, admittedly), the esteem in which something is held often strongly correlates to its assessed financial value, so that things which cost more are perceived as more worthwhile and more important. Conversely, things which cost less are perceived as less worthwhile and less important, so that the low price of Taco Bell "food" distances it from more conventional weapons, aiding in the development of the stealth which increases the destructive effect of the "food."

Being able to strike from hiding tends to increase destructive capacity. So, too, does being able to strike from multiple locations. Taco Bell, as franchised fast food, is amply situated to attack along multiple vectors. There are Taco bell "restaurants" on street-corners, in malls, in college food-courts, in airports (which prompts the release of their effects in cramped, crowded spaces, increasing the severity of those effects yet more), and elsewhere. Each one carries a payload of gut-destroying "foods," all easily and quickly available to any who ask and pay the nearly-nominal fees for the products. While it can be argued that the individual effects of each item of Taco Bell "food" are minute, they are available in such numbers that the collected "food" cannot be considered anything less than a Mighty Weapon of high order.

This, of course, leaves aside the soul-crushing despair that nearly-universally accompanies work in food service franchises, the detrimental effects on people and the environment that the food production supplying the fast-food industry creates, and the demonstrated adverse health-effects of fast-food consumption. Factoring those in removes any doubt that Taco Bell "food" is one of the many manifestations of the archetypal Mighty Weapon, one lurking throughout the United States and waiting to be aimed at each one of us.

*Self-pity aside, it's a joke, folks. Also, I am not going to provide full and formal citation here, and for the same reason: It's a damned joke.