Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Supporting the Troops

Here's a story run by SF-Gate about that guy in the famous photograph the Wingers like so much, the "Marlboro Man" soldier that's meant to represent our real American soldier in Iraq.

He's back in Kentucky now that Bush is done with him.

He's quieter now -- easier to anger. He turns to fight at the sound of a backfire, can't look at fireworks without thinking of fire raining down on a city. He has trouble sleeping, and when he does, his fingers twitch on invisible triggers.

The diagnosis: post-traumatic stress disorder.


James Blake Miller was born in Pike County in the hills of eastern Kentucky, where Daniel Boone is said to have walked and where moonshine is still consumed. An average family here makes about $24,000; the only decent-paying jobs are down at the coal mine.


For a while, Iraq didn't seem all that bad. Miller and his fellow Marines settled into a routine in Anbar province in western Iraq, setting up hiding places among the palms and sand, and watching for the white pickups that insurgents would use to plant bombs and fire mortars.

There also was time for candy and laughter with the Iraqi children who came running to see the American troops. Miller felt like he was helping.

Then, on Nov. 5, 2004, in the middle of a sandstorm, the Marines got the word that they might be heading for an assault on Fallujah -- at the time, the capital of the Iraqi insurgency.


The assault on Fallujah began Nov. 8, 2004, when U.S. planes, using a combination of high explosives and burning white phosphorus, hammered the city in advance of the artillery push. Miller was under fire from the moment he stepped out of the personnel carrier.
It lasted into Nov. 9 -- the day that, for a while, would make Miller's face the most famous in Iraq.

As Miller remembers that day, he was on a rooftop taking fire and calling for support on his radio - a 20-pound piece of equipment that he had to lug around along with nine extra batteries, hundreds of extra rounds of ammunition, and a couple of cartons of cigarettes.

As insurgent bullets from a nearby building pinged off the roof, a horrified Miller heard footsteps coming up the stairs behind him. He raised his rifle -- and barely had time to halt when he saw it was embedded Los Angeles Times photographer Luis Sinco.

Miller returned to his radio, guiding two tanks to his position. When they opened fire, he said, the thunder left his body numb -- but the building housing the attackers had collapsed. Later, he said, they would find about 40 bodies in the rubble.

"I was never so happy in all my life to take that handset away from my head," Miller said. "I lit up a f -- cigarette."

His ear was bleeding from the sound of the tank firing -- Miller still can't hear out of his right ear. His nose bled from a nick he took when his rifle scope and radio got tangled up midfire. He looked at the sunrise and wondered how many more of those he would see.

He was vaguely aware that elsewhere on the rooftop, Sinco was taking pictures.

At a briefing the next day, Miller's gunnery sergeant walked up to him, grinning, and said: "Would you believe you're the most famous f -- Marine in the Marine Corps right now? Believe it or not, your ugly mug just went all over the U.S."

The Marines wanted to pull him out of Fallujah at that point, Miller said, not wanting the very public poster boy to die in combat. But he stayed.

He won't talk about the weeks that followed. He only mentions moments, like still frames from a film. The day his column barely survived an ambush, escaping through a broken door as bullets struck near their feet. The morning he woke up to discover that a cat had taken up residence in the open chest cavity of an Iraqi body nearby, consuming it from within.


There's more.


One of my students just sent me an article filled with research proving that if you exercise thirty minutes a day -- this has to be aerobic exercise, mind you -- you need less Xanax.

Hah! say I.

Obviously, if you take more Xanax, you can do without the fucking exercise.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Enemy of Truth

I used to think we could co-exist with the religous folk. But frankly, I'm starting to doubt that possibility.

Here's Richard Dawkins:

...you can't judge by example. We don't judge Christians by Hitler's claim to be one, and it is equally irrelevant that many Christians, like many atheists, are nice people. The point is that faith, even moderate faith, is pernicious because it teaches that believing something without evidence is a virtue. Moderates, as Sam Harris shows in his devastating book, The End of Faith, "provide the context in which scriptural literalism and religious violence can never be adequately opposed". Or, in Voltaire's words, "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities". One of my TV locations was a London school that follows the (American) Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) syllabus.

The day after watching my show, three colleagues told me they had interviewed, for a place at university, a young woman who had been taught (not at the same school) using ACE. She turned out to be the worst candidate they had ever encountered. She had no idea that thinking was even an option: her job was either to know or guess the "right" answer.


And you know, he's right. I see this with many of my students, students who are bright enough -- some of them are very bright -- but have home-schooled by well-meaning, intelligent fundie parents. I get them into freshman comp, where I'm meant to be teaching them critical thinking and how to evaluate texts, and it's hopeless.

"You've got to argue with the text," I tell them. "You've got to read against the grain. What's not being said on the page?" I say, and the fury and dismay builds in their eyes, because that is wrong, wrong, wrong. They do not argue with the text. They do not challenge the authority of the text. The authortity is paramount. The authority is there to lead them to righteousness, it has been given to them by God, it's not something to be challenged.

And I'm an agent of Satan, to suggest any other thing.

Or, you know, a Leftist.

Same thing.

Well, how am I meant to educate -- turn into thinking beings -- people who have minds cast in that mold?

And who want to keep that shape to their minds? Because most of them do. They like that worldview. They cling to it. They've come to the university not to be enlightened -- Good Gosh, no! -- but to get a degree in cleaning teeth, or in keeping books, or something that will let them buy their own Hummers, like Jesus means them to, somewhere down the road.

They have no interest at all, in other words, in critical thinking. Or in challenging the text. Or in challenging any sort of authority.

Educate these folk? Influence these folk? Don't I wish.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Boldly Going

Gotta love that Gay Agenda:


(Via DED Space http://www.dedspace.blogspot.com/)


I've been leaving our buddy over there at Christian Conservative alone for the same reason I've been staying away from Dennis Prager over at Townhall -- you don't put a stumbling block in front of a blind man, you don't mock morons, you don't shoot fish in barrels, there just isn't any sport in it, folks.

But heavens. I can't resist this one.

Michael's found some academic somewhere who says he doesn't support the troops.

Michael is all triumphant, parading around saying ho-ho, I told you so, academics really ARE traitors! Only Good Christian Conservatives Love Their Country!

He finishes with the fine sentence:

This is how these academic yahoo's think.


Which if he hadn't I think I could have just shrugged and moved on, because you know, I've seen that stupid dance before.

I know these Christian Conservatives don't know anything about actual universities -- mainly because they haven't been to one since they were nineteen and weren't actually paying attention then -- so their ideas about universities, well, they're like all their other ideas, aren't they? Based on nothing but faith -- which is to say, based on nothing.

But that last sentence. Hee.

It's so cute.


And then in the comments, one of his commentors brings up the dearly held belief that those on the "Left" are "persecuting" those on the "Right," by refusing to let them teaching in the universities.

Yep. We're keeping all these high-paying teaching posts, all these positions of huge influence, for ourselves, forcing Christian Conservatives to work in the real world. Heartless of us, isn't it?

Le and Michael and all the rest, they could come teach in the universities. They'd just, oh, need to be able to do a few little things first. Like be able to spell. And reason. And think critically. And pass a few exams. And write a dissertation. It only takes seven or eight years. I'm sure they'd be up to it. So why don't they do it?

Then they could come teach in the universities too. And influence the lives of dozens of students at a time. For forty thousand dollars a year.

So what are they waiting for, that conservative crowd? Come on in. The water's fine.

(And by the way, Mike? My students are those troops. So fuck you.)

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Back to the Future

Here's where we're heading, folks:

I remember getting introduced to something called septic abortion. It is a condition that is caused by the breakdown of bacteria in an infected site. I remember a woman losing the tips of her fingers because of the endotoxic shock causing the blood vessels to shrink down. It was just terrible.

They were denied the medical help to save their life unless they confessed. Detectives came in and were questioning. Whenever we got a hint that it might be illegal, or the causation was some sort of illegal operation, we had to report it.

I'd say, "You're going to die if you don't tell us. You're going to die and it's going to be terrible." That's a horrible thing for a doctor to have to scare the hell out of his patient in order to save her life. It's terrible, but that's what we did. That's what we had to do.:::

The image that I retain was that of a 31-year-old Mexican-American woman who died of endotoxic shock with her husband and four or five children around. I see the bed. I see the kids crying and I see the husband crying. It's a strange condition, this endotoxic shock. Your ability to reason and talk is fine. You just don't have any blood pressure and have a blue coloration. We know they're going to die and yet they haven't lost it. The last thing that goes is the brain. The kidney is shut down. The heart's going a little irregular and there's nothing we can do, because the bacteria and clots have gone throughout the body into all the blood vessels of all the vital organs, and yet they're talking to us. It's a sense of helplessness.

Dr. William Harrison of Fayetteville, Arkansas, has ignited a recent firestorm of condemnation among the religious right. But he has a long memory, too.


Friday, January 27, 2006

Well, Best...

Driving to Aikido yesterday evening, the kid says to me, "Is Arkansas the best state?"

"Um," I said. "Well. No. Actually not."

"It's not?"


"Is it one of the best?"

"Um. It's among the worst, actually," I admitted.

She burst into tears.

"Hey," I said. "Hey, hey, hey, now."

"I can't believe you said that!" she wailed. "It is not the worst! It has a WENDY'S!"

Thursday, January 26, 2006


I've created, out of my spring schedule, a small (four-hour) Thursday morning space in which I can write, while the kid is at school, and before I have to be up here at the U to teach.

Can I just say -- it's nice.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Reading the Texts

Though I always sort of like it when people move to ban books, since that means they are at least taking literature seriously*, I agree with DED Space 110% here:

Blaes thinks the fate of Lolita in Marion County should be decided by the community, however, because "...that's the American way of dealing with controversial books."

No, Terry. The supposed American way--the way set forth in our Constitution--is to let individuals read what they want.


*Yes, this is sarcasm. I don't actually think such folk are taking literature seriously. Wouldn't it be lovely if they did?

All right now

I needs to get me one of these...


Back in the saddle

I am back at work despite still being whacked from this flu or whatever it is. mr. delagar said I was insane and threatened to hide my car keys again. He's always threatening to hide my car keys. He knows he better never though. (Picture the raging feminist WITH flu and migraine...)

Yes, I have a migraine, on top of the flu, or whatever it is. Some disease that makes every single bone in my body ache --not the whole bone, just the ends of the bones -- and made my throat swell nearly shut, and gave me a raging fever with very pretty fever dreams, I must say, and made me unable to eat for the past three days. I did eat soup on Sunday, but it didn't stay down. And last night I had an egg cream. mr. delagar made it for me. He was lying in bed watching me mutter about how hungry and how sick I was, naming things I might eat -- "Buttered toast?" "Popcorn?" "Tomato soup?" "We have that real Coke, I could put it on ice for you?" -- at each of which I gagging and grimaced and made appalled noises, but when he got to egg cream, ah, egg cream, food of the gods, and we actually had the fixings, real Fox's U-Bet syrup and some seltzer and milk from Marshall's dairy....

Anyway, I had an egg cream last night and all went well.

So I guess I'm getting better.

Except for the migraine, which hit yesterday afternoon. I see from this blog that it's been about ten days since my last migraine started -- that one lasted five days -- so if they hit every ten days and last five days each, well, as you can see, that makes MY LIFE A LIVING HELL.

Just to speak plainly.

I need to get a new neurologist.


Monday, January 23, 2006

Seeing Brokeback

I have a fever of 102, so this will be brief --

We drove up the mountain yesterday, in the rain and cold, fifty miles to see Brokeback Mountain. I had a fever of over 100 even then, but I didn't tell mr. delagar because I reckoned he would use it as an excuse to stay home -- the rain is usually enough for him to refuse to drive anywhere.

Anyway, everyone knows this already, since I'm likely the last person on the planet to see it, but what a fine movie. Heath Ledger is just brilliant. And the mountains. And the rocks. What great rocks in this movie. (All right, leave me alone, the landscape is a character in this movie, it's not just that I'm obsessed with geology.) And a stellar supporting cast. Great script, too.

Such a bleak ending. But what other ending was there?

The theater was packed, btw, even at 1.25 on a Sunday afternoon.

And I see why audiences are laughing at the scene when the wife sees the two cowboys kissing -- it's not hee hee laughter, it's oh-my-god laughter.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Sweet Dreams

The kid woke up with a blissful smile on her face this morning.

"Oh, I had such a good dream," she told me.

"Did you?" I said.

"It was about a very helpful monkey. He went around helping everyone!"

"That does sound like a good dream."

"For instance," she said, "he went to the White House, and lured George Bush out of the White House with a banana, and lured him all the way to Texas, and left him there forever! And EVERYONE was happy!"

Maybe I've been talking politics too often at home.

I do like that banana bit though. You so know George would fall for that.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Brokeback Mnt

I just heard from Zelda (http://darcy12.blogspot.com/ ) that Brokeback Mountain is coming to Fayetteville -- just up the hill from the Fort -- this weekend.

So all right then!

Thursday, January 19, 2006


The kid and I are studying Greek Mythology together, as I prep for the Mythology in Literature class I'm teaching, TR afternoons this semester.

(You should see this 2 volume Manga book on Greek myths she got for Hanukkah this year -- it's manga everything these days, I suppose, but nevertheless it cracks me up, especially the footnotes: for example, right after Gaia and Ouranos "get married," which is how the text puts it, the manga version has a footnote: "You're probably wondering how a mother can marry her son! Well! Lots of strange things happen in mythology!" <-- That's the entire footnote, I swear.)

Anyway, studying an academic subject with your seven year old is an experience not to be missed. She asks me endless questions, some of which are just annoying, but some of which are actually fruitful -- for instance, what *is* up with those ashtree nymphs?

You remember. This is after Kronos castrates his father (The Manga version tastefully cuts away and doesn't show precisely what Kronos is doing to Ouranos, just that he's wounding him somehow) and throws his whanger into the sea?

And as he's flinging the whanger into the sea, some drops of blood fall onto "the dark earth"?

And from that union of dark earth and blood spring first the Furies, and second, the Giants, and finally the Ashtree Nymphs.

Okay, the Furies make sense. They're Vengeance demons. You can see why the blood of a castrated father would cause them to be born.

And the Giants, well, they're monsters. They cause a lot of trouble during the War with the Titans, later on. Still making some sense.

But the Ashtree Nymphs? They're sort of...sweet. What is up with that?

(And the last thing to be born, after Ouranos's whanger falls into the sea, by the way? It floats around, and foam foams up around it? And from this foam? Arises Aphrodite. Lovely Aphrodite. Goddess of Love. Meditate on that one a bit.

But even that sort of makes sense. Love is dangerous, as Billy Bragg says. And Aphrodite did start the Trojan War, as the kid pointed out to me. So.)

So why the Ashtree Nymphs?

I hunted around and found this article


which helped a bit -- basically what it's saying is that the ashtree puts out a substance like honey or like manna, a sweet sap, which, when it ferments, will get you high.

Peyote, if you will.

Blood of the gods.

Or the god, in this case.

Since we're all born of Aphrodite, in one sense, born of her blood, which is in another sense Ouranos's blood; and since the ashtree puts out Ouranos's blood, exudes that blood, if we drink that blood, according to this myth, we're connected back to the god.

Anyway, the ashtree nymphs are another way to connect to the gods -- I think. They leak the blood of the wounded god, and if we drink that blood, we become part of the god, for awhile.

Not that I'm advising anyone to do such a thing! Heavens no! This is all academic here!

Paying Students to Spy

This is from today's Chronicle of Higher Ed -- a birk named Andrew Jones, taking his cue from our pal Horowitz, is paying students to report radical professors.

An independent alumni group formed to attack "radicalism" at the University of California at Los Angeles has offered $100 prizes to any student who turns over extensive documentation of cases in which professors show political bias in the classroom.

On its Web site, the Bruin Alumni Association says it will also offer the use of recording equipment, and students who simply pass on a tip about "a problem professor" will be rewarded with $10. To earn $100, a student would have to turn over "full, detailed lecture notes, all professor-distributed materials, and full tape recordings of every class session, for one class," and would have to obtain the professor's permission to make the recordings. A companion Web site, UCLA Profs.com, says it is dedicated to "exposing UCLA's most radical professors" and lists professors who "are actively proselytizing their extreme views in the classroom."


Not surprisingly, the article goes on to say, most professers listed are left of center.

What a charming country these folks must want to live in.

(Hat tip to the Professor Down the Hall.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


This site is whack.


I am a low-tech bint, mind you. I just got an i-pod six months ago, I was the last person on the planet, I believe, to start writing on a computer, and to this day I still get up from the sofa to adjust the volume on the television (that little remote control boh-hickey makes me itch), but even so, surely the posts on this site have moved beyond hi-tech and into the realm of surreal?

I mean, i-pod jeans?

We are jesting, yes?

(Via Geeky Mom, source of all things cool: http://geekymom.blogspot.com/)

The 100% Solution

What Diana says here:


My (usually male) students who argue that we don't need to teach birth control methods or protections against STDs in high schools because abstinence is all anyone needs to know about -- and they know that this is true because they do just fine without sex, don't they? -- just miss the point.

They aren't the universe. They aren't the world. Their situation isn't everyone's situation.

Barbara Bush is missing it too, of course. Maybe she can just say no. Maybe her marriage and her life allows her that right, that luxury. Not everyone lives on her planet, though.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


If it offends the Fundies, I'm happy.

"In its never-ending quest to sexualize everything in our culture, Planned Parenthood is selling a line of condom key chains that offends just about everyone in the country," said Jim Sedlak, executive director of American Life League's STOPP International. "Some are even blasphemous."

The condom key chains, featuring 28 different designs, are offered for sale on Planned Parenthood of Connecticut's Web site. Each chain has a picture or slogan on a plastic holder containing a latex condom.

"Planned Parenthood offends religious people with its key chain that shows a portion of the famous painting from the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo gave us a beautiful image of Adam stretching out his hand to God, with God's index finger about to touch Adam's index finger," said Sedlak. "In Planned Parenthood's blasphemous version, God is handing Adam a condom."


Did I ever tell y'all about the student in my Comp II class?

I had that take-off of the Flying Spaghetti Monster picture on my door for awhile -- the one where He's touching Michelangelo's Adam with His Noodly Appendage? A nice enlarged full-color print-out, it was very pretty.

Anyway, one day I hear one of my students say to another student: "You orta go by and see her door sometime, she's got this dude on it with his whanger hanging out. All sorts of stuff!"

Yes, indeed. Arkansas.

Monday, January 16, 2006

More Migraine

Fourth day of the migraine. They're coming about every ten days, and the drugs really aren't doing so much anymore.

My neurologist has me on 200 mg of Topomax and 200 mg of B2 -- that's his new idea, even though, to quote him directly, "I've never seen it work," and Frova and Midrin as needed, and I myself have tried giving up everything from alcohol to chocolate to smoked meat to nuts to you fucking name it. Nothing works.

This is wearing me out.

Friday, January 13, 2006

No, I need MORE education, see...

Here's what I'm thinking, if mr. delagar gets around to writing his dissertation, I'm thinking I'll get another Ph.D., see.

I just can't decide in what.

Linguistics, geology, and medieval studies are the current top contenders.

Trust me, this makes perfect sense when you're whacked on migraine medication.

Blogging about Migraines

Yes, it's that time of the year again.

Not that my head ever really stops hurting, mind you -- but the onset of winter weather and the start of the Spring Semester often touch off a bonanza of migraines.

This is due to the Hell of Other People.

(1) Other People like to use that thing called Central Heat. Why, I cannot tell you. I would prefer just to put on more socks and wear several thermal shirts and maybe a nice parka all the time. What would be wrong with that? Some of those gloves without any fingers are also pleasant. Then one can avoid central heat altogether. But no. I came home yesterday and mr. delagar had the heat not only on but turned up to 72 degrees. I mean, what the fuck? I can see no call for such behavior. (The minute, btw, I stepped into the house, my head went WHANG.)

(2) Other People wear perfumes, aftershaves, lotions, things like that. Why, why, why? I can't think why. What's wrong with the nice clean smell of soap? (Pears soap, that's my suggestion, if you're interested.) Then, because many of them are my students, they come into my office wearing nasty sharp perfume or aftershave or lotion stench and ask me questions. As if I could hear a word they were saying with my head going WHANG.

(3) Other People insist on smoking cigarettes. In their own cars, yes, I know, and I'm not arguing anyone's right to smoke whatever anyone wants to smoke, your body, your lungs, your business, but if you're going to smoke in your car, roll the damn window up, will you? I don't want your smoke in my car. I don't. And yes, it does drift back and get into my car. It does. And then? Yes. WHANG goes my my head.

(4) Cooking. In the student center cafeteria. All right, people have to eat. I'm not sure why, because I never eat lunch, but I do understand that y'all other people like to. And this is America. So you have a perfect right to eat at noon if you want to. Fine. Whatever. Make yourselves happy. It's just that smell you make while you're doing it -- frying onions. Frying spices. Frying ANYTHING. And my office is, what, thirty feet away from the kitchen vents? WHANG.

Anyway. This has been the migraine venting session. Excuse me while I go and hurl briefly.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

More on Horowitz

From an article posted on Inside Higher Education:

David Horowitz, the conservative activist who has led the push for the hearings in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, admitted that he had no evidence to back up two of the stories he has told multiple times to back up his charges that political bias is rampant in higher education.

He added, however, that “everybody who is familiar with universities knows that there is a widespread practice of professors venting about foreign policy even when their classes aren’t about foreign policy” and that the lack of evidence on Penn State doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem.


Ah. You gotta love these guys on the Right.

"Evidence? We don't need no Stinkin' Evidence!"

(Hat Tip to The Other Liberal Professor.)

Monday, January 09, 2006

Basalt of Fear

Green Gabbro is one of my favorite blogs anyway, mainly cause of her Friday Rock Blogging, but this one just cracks me up:


No Shock, But...

Over in Utah, the Mormon owner of a theater complex has yanked Brokeback Mountain from the line up days before it opened. Too damaging to the morality of his audience, you know.

(Via DED Space: http://www.dedspace.blogspot.com/)

How much you want to bet he had no problem, and will have no problem, showing films like Jason X and Quentin Tarantino's latest bit of violence porn, (reviewed here http://www.lancearthur.com/archives/001555.html#more )
and all the rest of those countless movies that celebrate violence -- but a movie about human emotion? About love?

Shit, dude. That's obscene.

(Little classical pun there. Ain't help myself.)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

More Fiction

That Strange Horizons site rocks.

Here's another great story off it, this one by debco:


Friday, January 06, 2006

A Story For Wordsmiths

Eleanor Arnason, who wrote one of my favorite SF novels, A Woman of the Iron People, has written a a perfectly delightful story, which I found thanks to debco's blog (http://www.iknowiknow.org/), which has a link to the online SF mag Strange Horizons:

You need to read this story.

"The Grammarian's Five Daughters"
By Eleanor Arnason
29 March 2004


Lance Mannion

A blogger after my own heart.

He says this:

"Drivers of Hummers, I think we can all agree, have no souls."


Which reminds me of a conversation that happened in New Orleans over the holidays --

The kid: "I told Uncle Mike that you hated SUVs. He said that's because you're a GD communist."

Me: (being tanked on Xanax, which is the only way I can actually take my family, and so very calm and idle about this whole conversation): "GD socialist."

The kid: "What?"

Me: "Tell Uncle Mike I'm a GD Socialist and he should GD get it right the next fucking time. Okay?"

The kid: "Okay."

Back to the Mines

Last day of winter beak before the semester takes up on Monday.

I'm not deeply pleased by this. Not that I don't have a good semester coming up -- it's a nice enough one. History of the English Language again, a new class of my own design, Mythology in Lit, which ought to be fun, Chaucer again, and a second-semester comp class. Only four classes. I can teach a four-load in my sleep.

No, it's just that I've been writing. Nine hours a day I've been writing. The muse is riding me like a demon. I don't want to give it up. I wouldn't mind giving it up to teach, but Monday and Tuesday is something our university sweetly calls "pre-school conferencing," and one of my fellow English Professors calls "the monkey dance." Non-stop administrative tedium, in other words, from 8 in the morning to 4.30 at night: workshops, presentations by those traveling folk who spend four to eight hours giving us presentations on "learning styles" and "true assessments" and "values-based testing" or whatever, and always seem to want to start the sessions by asking us to get into groups and decide what sort of fruit we would be, if we were fruits, or what color we are, or if we could design the perfect cubicle, what it would have in it, and don't these lackwits know I have actual work to do?

Anyway. Enough venting.

Let me write, here on the last purely free writing day I have left:

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Rude One Visits New Orleans

And took photos.


He went places I never got; but this is the shock I felt.

Words, Words, Words

Took the kid to the library yesterday (have I mentioned that we live three blocks from the local branch library, so that we can walk to it whenever we like? This was a dream of mine when I was a child, to be within walking distance of a library) in search of more reading material. I found two books, one of them The Writing Life, by Ellen Gilchrist, which is really just making me nuts.

The other was useless, a novel about some shrink who had a twin brother who slept with all the women in his life, and his son had drowned, and he was having this sexual fantasies about the women who were seeing him, I read about half of it last night, with growing astonishment, the writing was nice enough, mind you, but great leaping Christ on a skateboard, who thinks this is what life is about?

And Gilchrist, she just gets on my nerves. Smug ain't begin to describe that bint. She got bored with watching tennis, Ellen did, so she skipped on over to UA and asked them to let her to teach the fiction workshop, because she thought she would be good at it -- of course they let her -- and now she's telling young writers who have the nerve to write about icky things like werewolves that they haven't got any business mucking up her workshops. "I have to preserve the integrity of my workshop," she recites to herself, and calls this student up and tells her she has to drop the class. I thought it was understood that a class in fiction in an English department would be writing literature, she explains to the student.

She also doesn't like the student's language. It's too harsh for our Ellen.

This might be a class issue, she muses.

No. You think?

Gilchrist would have kicked Octavia Butler out of her workshop, too, I point out to mr. delagar, who took Ellen's workshop last semester and scored an A from the bint, not to mention a glowing letter of recommendation. Ellen loved mr. delagar and his writing.

Of course, mr. delagar comes from the same class Ellen does. His family, too, owned the means of production.

See, when Ellen says it's a class issue, she doesn't mean, by that, it's a class issue, and so I should take into account that I have some blind spots and I should work to overcome them. She means, It's a class issue, and my class is superior, and it's too bad, isn't it, that this poor unfortunate child has been so crippled by her class that she can't recognize superior literature when I lay it before it. Let's send her down the hall to work with those of her (lower) class, where she really belongs, after all.

Then, two pages later, she's all bemused when the poor unfortunate child seems, well, angry, at how she has been treated. What's her problem? Doesn't she know Ellen just has her best interests in mind? Not like she really would have fit in, would she? Up there at the country club? Much happier down in the kitchen, where she belonged.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Are you MAC enough?

Aslan figures with "biting action"!


More Prager

I've changed my mind. Prager's just stupid.

In the past, I have thought, that like Rush and that Dr. Laure person, he was actively vicious and wrong-headed, but no. This latest column has convinced me he just lacks the brain-power to understand what he's arguing.

Here's a bit:

A number of years ago, I lectured — in front of cameras filming for a syndication pilot — to three groups of high school students in Cleveland. The students represented diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. I asked them to raise their hands if they would take something from a department store without paying for it — if they were absolutely assured they would not get caught.The vast majority raised their hands.

They did so knowing they were on camera! That fact is vital to understanding the contemporary problem.

In the past, many young people stole — cash from a parent's wallet, candy from a store, etc.

But they knew they were stealing, and they would not have proudly announced their thievery in public.

They recognized that they had — permit me to use the word — sinned.

Not today.

For example, vast numbers of young people download copyrighted music from the Internet and, more than ever before, cheat on tests.

And many would agree with the high school students in Cleveland — it's OK if they don't get caught.

Here's why:• Many young people are taught little or nothing about character development in secular schools, where nearly all spend most of their day. "Right" and "wrong" were replaced in the 1970s with "How do you feel about it?" • To the extent that schools deal with right and wrong, it is in the arena of social values, not personal behavior. Students are taught what the schools deem correct positions on matters of social concern — such as war, the environment, social justice — but little about personal integrity.

At the entrance of a highly regarded Los Angeles public school, there is a sign calling for world peace in four languages. Other signs on campus similarly exhort students to adopt various social positions. Not one sign addresses self — as opposed to social — amelioration.•

To the extent that demands are made on young people, they concern health, not integrity and character. Smoking, for instance, is villainized. Copying software, downloading music without paying for it, cheating on tests, lying on insurance claims are not.



Dennis finds a problem in ethics has opened up in the world. It's not, in fact, that more kids are stealing. It's that more kids are willing to admit that they steal.

Same number of kids actually steal and cheat. They just don't also lie about it too.

Dennis is appalled by this honesty.

(Myself, I'm appalled by the stealing and cheating, but okay, whatever.)

Dennis blames who for the lack of shame at this stealing and cheating? The schools.

Right. That makes sense.

Everyone knows school is where a child learns ethics and morality.

I bet that's who taught Dennis's kids right from wrong -- their school teachers.

And -- while we're here -- what is it with Dennis and the smoking?

Give it a rest, son.


File this one under coversations I never expected to have with my seven year old:

As we're driving to the Aikido lesson last night:

The kid: Darcy says she comes from a sexy family.

Me: Um. Does she? (Darcy's a fellow 7-year-old at the Montessori school.)

The kid: I don't think being sexy is all that important.

Me: Well, good. I don't either, actually.

The kid: Yeah. You're not all that sexy, for instance.

Me: (Blinking): Well, thanks.

The Kid: Or Daddy.

Me: Um. Well. I think Daddy's pretty sexy, actually.

The Kid: (Giggling): And he probably thinks you're sexy too.

Me: Uh-huh, yes, well. But I know what you mean. Other things are more important.

The Kid: Like being smart. And good. That's what I told Darcy.

Me: All right then. Good for you.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

More on Brokeback

This blogger hasn't even seen Brokeback Mountain, and he's still got it:


My New Year's Resolution

I'm only making one: one's all I can handle.

I'm going to try to be kinder to those who love me.

Which -- yikes -- is a tough one for me.

I'm not too good at being kind.

Or, as the kid told me not too long ago: "You can go from being a cotton ball to an spiked iron ball in one second flat."

Monday, January 02, 2006

A New Year

The kid has gone back to school today -- a good thing from my perspective, and from hers: mine, since now I have a whole week before I go back to school, to get some serious writing done, without kid-interruption; and hers, because whole days with nothing planned just don't mix well with the kid.

I've been getting by since we got back from New Orleans with a mixture of wheedling and bribes -- "Just let me write two more hours and I swear, we'll do whatever you want, just leave me alone two more hours, anything, anything is yours--"

But two hours for a seven year old, well. That's asking a lot.

Also it meant I had to spend many hours at Books-A-Million or the park, watching her bury dinosaurs in the sand. Not that I minded much. It's been interesting weather here -- sunny and about seventy. And thanks to all y'all who sent me reading suggestions, I have things to read again. (Send more! The stack is getting low!)

Now that she's back in school, though, I can work without bribes or threats. Seven straight hours. Paradise.

And book four is unfolding like a flower, by the way. How bizarre is that?