Sunday, December 8, 2013

breakfast burritos. rhetorical strategies. love.

 Miguelito’s Breakfast Burritos: The best and most convenient and most romantic food item ever assembled by human hands.

Illustrating Ideas by use of examples

See that young man?  His hair still wet and ungroomed.  Odd line around his neck from his wetsuit—pale below and tanned brown above?  He’s been in the cold water all morning and he’s ravenous.  What does he need?  A breakfast burrito.  Nothing else would be as good.  See that young woman at that library table?  At first she strikes you as somewhat attractive—but then you see she’s reading Shakespeare—and she becomes the most beautiful young woman you’ve ever seen.  She’s been reading since 8pm and it’s now nearly midnight.  She closes her book and heads out, a determined expression on her gorgeous face.  She knows what she needs—she’s thoughtful about what she eats but not obsessed—she’s on her way to the taqueria that stays open all night.  But not for tacos.  She’s going to order a breakfast burrito.

Classification as a rhetorical strategy

For the purposes of our discussion here let’s divide Mexican food into four broad categories.  We all know corporate Mexican food. One can get Mexican food at several different large chain restaurants.  You know the places.  The food is not inedible but it’s not that good.  And it’s overpriced and not the most convenient and often brought to you by an overworked server—and maybe the beans come out of a big can in the back.  You can’t be sure.  Worse than corporate Mexican food is something called Tex-Mex.  It is a nightmare of culinary imperialism. You take what’s good about Mexican food and bury it under Texan-ish-ness.  It’s like the George W. Bush of Mexican food.  At least it’s an honest name; I think they applied the “Tex” part of the name to acknowledge that they’ve messed up Mexican food.  Every body knows the best-tasting Mexican food is of course home-made—made with love by your mother or your tia or your abuela—with tortillas hand-made as well.  Although this type of Mexican food tastes best, it’s not the most convenient—it’s not always available.  Or not available at all to those of us who lack the good fortune of family from Mexico.  So finally we have food from your local independent taqueria or take out.  It may not taste quite as good as grandma’s but it’s close.  And what gives it the edge in terms of importance is that it’s most convenient—sometimes even available 24 hours a day.  And it’s affordable.

Comparison (and contrast) as a rhetorical strategy.

One would be irretrievably foolish to assume that all burritos are created equal.  In our effort to understand the preeminence of the breakfast burrito, we might examine it alongside another commonly consumed burrito.  I live in a state that has the misfortune of having its name attached to a horrible thing: The California burrito.  The California burrito is an abomination.   One feels the need to shower or otherwise cleanse oneself after just being in the vicinity of a California burrito.  In a breakfast burrito the ingredients balance perfectly and complement one another.  A hungry scholar can find nourishment and peace in consuming such a delicately balanced work of art.  A California burrito contains French fries.   A breakfast burrito combines ingredients to create a delicate interplay of flavors and textures.  A California burrito tastes like somebody was clearing dishes in a fast-food restaurant and just scraped the leftover scraps into a tortilla.  Nobody who is pure of heart could possibly appreciate such an abomination.


Eating a breakfast burrito is like being in a classroom where nobody uses a cell phone.  A room full of real humans who actually read.  Humans not enslaved to their electronics.  It’s like entering a world that you thought could only exist in the world of ideas.  But a breakfast burrito is not just an ideal.  It’s real and you can put it in your mouth and taste it and know that something like peace and balance is attainable here on earth.  It’s like hearing that song that played when you first kissed your true love and you knew that she was pure of heart and you knew that she knew that you were pure of heart.  That song never gets old. 

Process Analysis

One may not understand the paradoxically sturdy but delicate beauty of the breakfast burrito immediately.  At first one might eat some eggs and bacon wrapped up in a tortilla.  This could be one’s first step on the road to understanding.  Miguel Paniaugua Salsipuedes Cienfuegos Buenaventura had his first proto-breakfast burrito on boy scout camping trip.   It was not a breakfast burrito.  The tortilla came right out of the package and was wrapped around the campfire-cooked ingredients cold so it lacked those little lightly browned flaky areas from contact with the grill. An inferior shadow of a breakfast burrito—but it started him on the path.  It has been a long journey, but after years of trial and error he would eventually find just the right combination of ingredients and preparation that were necessary for the breakfast burrito that now bears his name.

Cause and effect

Studies show that regular consumption of breakfast burritos reduces stress and removes impurity from the heart of the consumer.   King Lear had three daughters:  Goneril, Regan and Cordelia.  You know the story.  Goneril and Regan lied about their love for him, took their inheritance and then betrayed him.  Cordelia actually loved her father, was honest about it, and was loyal to the end.  Guess which daughter ate breakfast burritos 3 or 4 times a week.  Cordelia.  Exactly. 


The word ‘burrito’ means, of course, ‘little burro.’  Some suggest that the name came about because the food resembles the bedroll carried on the back of a burro—others, more crudely, suggest it points to a part of burro anatomy.  Most experts believe this important food originated in Northern Mexico and was loved for it’s portability as well as for it’s deliciousness.  Ciudad Juarez claims the burrito as it’s own.  The Wikipedia entry on burritos also emphasizes the contribution of San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco in the development of this most important food item.


Once upon a time there was a boy who loved to read books and to listen to sad songs.  He read novels, plays, poetry, everything.   Nobody paid him any mind.  Except his math teacher who would yell at him and tell him to put away the books and work on his math.  Mostly he would read.  He didn’t play with his phone or post stupid stuff on facebook.  Nobody noticed him.  So he would read some more.  When the new girl arrived he looked up from his book and watched her find a seat.  She was pretty.  But still.  She probably wouldn’t notice him either.  He went back to his book.  Or tried to.  But then he looked up and saw her reading.  Not a textbook or anything, she was reading Franny and Zooey and he saw that she had a copy of Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters in her bag.  Now how was he supposed to ignore her presence and get back to reading?  She had become vastly more beautiful in the few minutes she’d been in the room.  She was radiant. 

He continued passing his eyes over the words for the rest of the day, but he was by no means reading.   He could only see her face.  The way her brown eyes moved across the page she was reading.   Her lips.  The way one side rose slightly when she focused more intently.

He went home.  He couldn’t sleep.  He listened to sad songs almost all night long and when he finally drifted off—just ten minutes before his alarm rang—he dreamed of talking to her at school under the two-trunked tree.

The next morning he was so wrecked and agitated that he knew he needed the peace that comes from his favorite food.  He picked it up on the way to school and when he got there—perhaps prompted by his dream—he sat under the two-trunked tree to eat it.

He didn’t even see her come around the corner and approach the tree.  She was trying to read and walk down the hall at the same time and when she almost tripped on a crack in the sidewalk she looked up and saw him sitting under the tree.  She put her book in her bag and approached him. 
“What are you eating? she asked quietly.

He finished swallowing although it was difficult.  “Breakfast burrito,” he choked.

“What kind of breakfast burrito?”  she asked, again, quietly.
“It’s kind of embarrassing,” he said, setting the little red salsa cup on the book at his side, “it’s named after me.  I ordered it so often in this particular way that they put it on the menu.  Miguelito’s breakfast burrito: eggs, bean rice and cheese.  I’m Miguel, I mean, my name is Miguel.  But Marielena—the lady that works at the counter at Don Miguel—calls me Miguelito because the owner’s name is Miguel.”
“What did you say was in it?” she asked.  And time seemed to stop for Miguel.  He couldn’t believe she was talking to him.  Could she really be interested in the contents of his burrito?

“Eggs, beans, rice and cheese.”

“No.  Way.” she said after a long but in no way awkward pause, her brown eyes placid but widening as she considered what he was saying.  “No.  Way.”  She paused and reached in her bag.  “I have to show you something.”  

She handed him what was clearly a burrito, still warm and wrapped in yellow paper.  On the paper a name was written in Marielena’s elegant red letters.  Miguelito. “I didn’t know what it said", she whispered, "or what it meant.  Until now.”
(Irene Jacob from Kieslowski's "Red")

And they lived happily ever after.  With their dog named Jack.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

it is important that awake people be awake

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give - yes or no, or maybe—
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

Poem: "A Ritual to Read to Each Other" by William Stafford, from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems © Graywolf Press.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Product (an extra document for the city of dreams final?)

Troy Jollimore


I’ve been trying to remember life before the product.
It can’t be done. It isn’t very pleasant, anyway.
In this country, when we think, if we think, we think
about the product. The product is our great joint project.
If poetry were still being written in this country,
it would be about the product. Thinking on other subjects
is permitted, for the most part. But who has the time?
What if, as some say, this is the only life we’re given?


I take a dollar bill. I slice it down the middle.
I eat one half. The other half I lick and crumple
into a tiny ball. I place it behind my ear.
In the morning, when I wake up, I know it will be gone.

The rest I put in savings. I realize at this rate
it will be a very long time before I can afford
a unit of the product. Still, I’m among the lucky.
There are those who have never even heard about the product.
They can’t even dream about it. What do they dream about?


Also, of course, there are the thoughts that are forbidden.
But we are very clever. We’ve trained ourselves not to think them.
It is hardly ever necessary these days in our country
to track down and to put under arrest and to punish
anybody because they’ve been thinking non-permitted thoughts.


The product is always moving.
The product will not stand still.
Nobody knows what the product is,
though some say they have seen it, lurking by the docks,
or backstage at the awards ceremony. Last year
my favorite network won the award for Best Awards Show.
The ceremony, frankly, really wasn’t very good.

When the product moved from the East Side to the West Side,
politicians trembled. Doctors removed their stethoscopes
and patted at the sweat that had sprouted on their foreheads.
Grandmothers gripped their mugs of bourbon tightly,
whispering to each other in the fragments of Morse code
they remembered from the Cold War’s empty endless afternoons.


“What’s going on in this country makes me so upset
that I just feel like I have to go out and, I don’t know,
buy something.”


Like my father before me, my job is to make
a small part of a machine that they use to make
a machine that they use to make the product. It’s
a copper semi-circle, small enough to fit into
the palm of my hand. I’ve been assured
that the role that it plays in the proper functioning
of the machine that makes the machine that makes
the product is extremely important. I assure
myself. I have trained myself to reassure myself
most efficiently and most effectively, with a minimum
of wasted effort. Somewhere there’s a four-color graph
on which my satisfactory, perhaps even exemplary
progress in this respect is plotted.


The ones who track the product, who say where it should go
are handsomely rewarded even though it does not go
where they say it should. Every day, men are dying for
the lack of what is found within the product, or not found
within the product. For the lack of units, or, at times, an excess
of units. Their obituaries make a paper garden
in the financial section of our annual report

As for myself, I don’t know where I will be buried
or whether anybody will report it. I sometimes
feel I am already being buried. When I was
a boy, and the world was full of promise, my father
used to hit me all the time. It didn’t change the way
I saw things, the fact that the world was full of promise.
I suffered it. That’s what you do. You’re tough. You suck it up.
You go to a room deep inside. You think about the product.


Some people who should know better
have said that some are suffering.
But if people are suffering
why aren’t they saying anything?
If they are saying something
why haven’t we heard?


Dear Ms. Vanderhaven:
lately I’ve become quite concerned about
my corporation. It seems sad somehow, listless. When I ask
what’s going on it insists that everything is fine,
but I trust my intuition. Please tell me what you think
I might do. Signed, Concerned About My Corporation
in Columbus.

            Dear Concerned,
It sounds like you have cause to be concerned. Remember,
corporations are just like the rest of us: they need love
and affection, even and especially in those times
when things aren’t going well (have you checked the S&P Index
today?) and it wonders whether it even deserves
to be loved. Go to it with open arms, embrace it,
tell it you’ll be there in the good times and the bad,
and most important, listen. Listen without judgment.
You’ll see it blossom like a flower. No need to thank me,
                                                Ms. V


I was of three minds
like an elevator in which
there are three men with cell phones
talking about the product.


My friend bought a box of the product. Is a box
a unit? Why is there no one who will answer this question?
He keeps it on a shelf. It comforts him
to know that it is there. In the evenings we go over
to his house and gather all around it. He tells us
that he will never open it. Though someday he might open it.
But only if he needs to. After all, what if he opened it
and found it disappointing? After all, what if he opened it
and found he was unworthy? What if he realized he had panicked,
acted out of desperation, opened it too soon?


Then the hard times came.
Years of trial and tribulation.
Many people died, but the product survived.
About "The Product," Troy Jollimore writes:
For further reading: Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagel, The Myth of Ownership: Taxes and Justice; , Dennis R. Fox, "The Law Says Corporations Are Persons, But Psychology Knows Better."

i was born in a house w the television always on. guess i grew up too fast. and forgot my name.

is this a link to the final exam prompt?

Monday, April 1, 2013

war stories for third graders?

New York approves war-oriented reading textbooks for third-grade classrooms

Last Updated:9:33 AM, March 18, 2013
Posted:1:15 AM, March 18, 2013
Tales of war, bombs and abduction — coming to a third-grade classroom near you.
City and state education bureaucrats have given the green light to an English curriculum for elementary schools that includes picture books with startlingly realistic portrayals of war — to be read by 8-year-olds.
They include “The Librarian of Basra,” which contains drawings of fighter planes dropping bombs on a palm-tree-lined Middle Eastern town.
In another illustration, the protagonist looks worried, peering out a window at soldiers manning machine guns on a rooftop.
The terrified townsfolk wonder, “Who among us will die?” and “Will our families survive?”
Similarly, “Nasreen’s Secret School” depicts the abduction of a young man from his home in Afghanistan by soldiers and discusses Taliban rules that forbid women to go out in public alone.
“There’s no way in hell that I find it appropriate for third grade, let alone elementary school, on so many levels,” said a Queens elementary-school principal who was shown one of the books by colleagues outside the city.
“We don’t have to bring the message of war with it. We don’t have to bring in guns and bombs,” said the principal. “My assumption is that some person would have read the material and gone over it and approved it, but I don’t know in what world they could have been living.”
The books are part of a new English curriculum created by Expeditionary Learning, a non-profit arm of the group Outward Bound.
The content was commissioned by the state Education Department for grades 3 to 5 as part of New York’s unique bid to adopt a statewide curriculum.
Last month, that curriculum was recommended by the city’s Department of Education as one of two options for students in grades 3 to 5 because it aligns with new national standards known as The Common Core.
The standards emphasize using more nonfiction texts, but that has also raised questions about when students are ready to be exposed to world issues.
“If you ask me do I think guns and war are appropriate for children . . . I would say certainly not,” said Susan Neuman, chair of the Department of Learning at NYU Steinhardt. “This is likely to be too adult and too complex for them to understand meaningfully.”
Last week, the Chicago public school system deemed “Persepolis,” an autobiography about growing up in Iran, too “graphic” for the students in seventh grade, who were reading it as part of the Common Core-aligned curriculum.
New York State and City education officials emphasized that the preferred curricula are only recommendations, and that principals have the final say over what books enter the classroom.
"Some of this [Common Core] material can be emotionally charged or may use language outside of a student's particular cultural experience,” said SED spokesman Tom Dunn. “The curriculum materials are only suggested - with the decision to use them made at the local level.”
But one upstate principal, whose school spent thousands of dollars on the Expeditionary Learning books at the state's recommendation, said SED should be playing a more hands-on role in screening content.
"I think somebody at State Ed should have a responsibility to read all the books they’re recommending," he said. "I think they have to do their due diligence and take a look at it before it’s kicked out to us."

Read more:New York approves war-oriented reading textbooks for use in early grades - NYPOST.com

optional (but recommended) article for war story project

Amy Goodman: Tomas Young and the End of the Body of War - Truthdig