Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Friends, Strangers, and the Bridal Panopticon

Finally the semester is over, grades are in, and we can bring you more bliss!! Actually, make that "I." Laura has a June 16th deadline for a full draft of the dissertation, and she is rushing to get a chapter draft done this week. So don't expect to hear much from her until much much later.

Getting married brings out life's paradoxes, and a couple of May events highlighted for us the tension between person-to-person reciprocity and depersonalized mass marketing in the institution of the wedding. First, we got this lovely notice of a bridal (and groomal) shower that Kathy and Eli's old friends Janeane and Gary will be holding for us soon.

Then, not too long afterwards, we received a call at 9:00 in the morning. I answered, and a young man straining to hear himself over the ambient call-center babble asked, "Could I please speak to Lo?"

"Could this be a fan of the blog who doesn't know my fiancee's real name?" I wondered. We have gotten hits from countries where we don't know anybody... I passed the phone to Laura.

The man offered us (through the Bride) a free vacation in the Dominican Republic if the two of us (and only the two of us, not Lola and her mom, not just Lola, not just me) would agree to sit through a weekend presentation on a line of pans and cutlery that his company offers. Free food would be provided! This, of course, is an example of what business gurus are calling permission marketing, in which companies turn consumers into "friends" by using incentives to lead us to agree to receive their marketing messages. In other words, they persuade us to ask them to market to us. Now sometimes such relationships emerge out of the normal run of doing business, as happens between textbook publishers and professors. But this is a scheme to jump-start things through a brief intrusion into the daily life of a stranger that will, inevitably, turn a few of those strangers into new customers.

But where did they get Lo's name? Probably David's Bridal. They don't let you try on the dresses there unless you register. That way they make money whether you buy a dress or not, because they can turn around and sell your name and contact information to people like our new "friend." She gave them the name "Lo" to be able to tell when somebody used the information David's sold about her. Creepy, huh? The wedding-industrial complex may know more about us than the NSA.

As we go to our shower (thanks!!), and to the upcoming weddings of Laura's cousins Beth and Alicia, the ghost of Michel Foucault, in a Texas-style ten-gallon hat, will be lurking in the background.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Yay! Presents!

Look what greeted Pete on Wednesday morning! A smiling box!
It's our second wedding gift, from Margarita and Enrico. It's a clock that allows you to wake up to music from your own ipod. Margi thought that during my last few weeks of dissertating, I could probably use some powerful help in getting me out of bed and to my computer (Margi knows me and my sleep powers well).

Grover was very excited and pleased with this atmosphere of generosity! He wanted to get in on the act, too!

So Thursday morning greeted us with Grover's gift, a self-powered, portable entertainment center:

Granted, this is the equivalent of giving a toddler a Nintendo, planning not to let it go to waste while the kid develops, y'know, motor skills. Grover gamely tried to demonstrate just how much fun these things are, and was sort of ticked when we released his gift in the neighbor's yard. Ingrates, the both of us.

Monday, May 01, 2006


The Day Without Immigrants rally in Austin is probably just dispersing as I write this. Like its predecessor here, it was deeply uplifting, peaceful, and large. Furthermore, as a student of mine said of the April 10th march, it wasn’t the usual protest demographic. Sometimes at an Austin demonstration, the wind will shift, and you get a breeze scented with a mix of sweat and patchouli. Today’s breezes brought the smell of the sun on somebody’s diaper.

That detail alone should put to rest the new spin we got from Leslie Sánchez on the PBS Newshour tonight. To hear her tell it—and watch for more of this in the next couple of weeks—today’s march and boycott weren’t authentic grassroots phenomena like the events of March and April, just a bunch of radical left ideologues trying to fool everybody into supporting an international Socialist holiday and paralyzing the economy.

In answer to that we could mention just how American May Day really is. Or we could listen to a couple of folks I met on the way to Cantu Park. As the march headed east on César Chávez street, I came up behind a down-to-earth Anglo Texan grandmother and her teenage daughter who held a cardboard sign bearing a large photograph of a bronze-colored man in a soccer ponytail bending over a baby. Laser-printed text taped to the sign read, “Some call him an illegal alien. Some call him a criminal. We call him Daddy.”

The woman told me that her other daughter (sister to the marcher) had recently had a baby and married its Mexican-born father, only to have Immigration sweep him away. I didn’t get all the details, but the family clearly didn’t know till it was too late that they had to fill out a visa petition to get the man legal status. Now he’s in detention, and if he’s deported, they may face a ten year separation before he can return. “I thought our government was supposed to be pro-family,” the new grandma told me.

Tell that family and all the others that made today one MORE of the biggest marches in Austin history that this revival of May Day isn’t a grassroots phenomenon. Tell it to the folks from Cristo Rey church who stood on the sidewalk and raised their fists in the air as we marched past. Tell it to the owners of the meat packing plants, agricultural fields, and restaurants that closed today. Or maybe just listen to the corrido.

This post may seem a little long and off-topic for this space, but ultimately, our wedding blog is about making family, and that family that may soon be divided by a “smart” fence could just as well be ours. Or anybody’s.

Any reports on activities in the various cities where our readers are? Albuquerque? KC? Lawrence? CO Springs? Dayton? New York? Post the links!