Monday, August 31, 2009
My favorite paragraph:
I can't teach a student to be a brilliant writer in one semester any more than you can teach your best incoming tuba student everything s/he needs to learn about playing the tuba in one semester. A really promising high school student has probably learned a fair bit about writing by the time s/he gets to college, and I can (one hopes) help him/her improve. A less promising incoming student should also improve. It's worth noting that I'm teaching all of these students in a class of 20, so I don't have the one on one intensity of your trombone studio private lesson.
Although many other excellent points get made as well.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
"Happier than Prometheus," he said, "getting his liver torn out right about now."
An excellent point.
I just finished teaching my first HEL class (History of the English Language), where I explain to them that no, their way of speaking English (Arkansas speech) is not inferior or lazy or hill-talk, that "proper" English is not, in fact, some sort of morally superior dialect, that the only reason white guys at Princeton own the language is because they have the money and the power. "So why," I then ask, "do English teachers, like me, force you to learn to speak like white guys from Princeton?"
It's always an enlightening class.
But what I really wanted to talk about was my kid's fourth grade class last year. They were studying Spanish, and of course the 5th grade boys were obsessed with gayness. They had been obsessed with gayness all year. Everything was gay. The hamster was gay. The muffins were gay. Someone's backpack was gay. You know the drill.
So the Spanish teacher was teaching them this song about butterflies, and apparently the word for butterfly is close to the word for gay. Teach us the Spanish word for gay! Teach us! Teach us! She's young and cool, this Spanish teacher, so she did.
Back in the main classroom, their teacher sternly said to the class, but what does gay really mean?
My kid glances around, and then says, "Homosexual."
Everyone bursts out laughing.
"No," the teacher says. "What does it really mean?"
"That is what it really means," my kid says.
"It actually means," the teacher informs her, "happy and merry."
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
By far the most reliable way to be criminalized by poverty is to have the wrong-color skin. Indignation runs high when a celebrity professor encounters racial profiling, but for decades whole communities have been effectively “profiled” for the suspicious combination of being both dark-skinned and poor, thanks to the “broken windows” or “zero tolerance” theory of policing popularized by Rudy Giuliani, when he was mayor of New York City, and his police chief William Bratton.
Flick a cigarette in a heavily patrolled community of color and you’re littering; wear the wrong color T-shirt and you’re displaying gang allegiance. Just strolling around in a dodgy neighborhood can mark you as a potential suspect, according to “Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice,” an eye-opening new book by Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor in Washington. If you seem at all evasive, which I suppose is like looking “overly anxious” in an airport, Mr. Butler writes, the police “can force you to stop just to investigate why you don’t want to talk to them.” And don’t get grumpy about it or you could be “resisting arrest.”
There’s no minimum age for being sucked into what the Children’s Defense Fund calls “the cradle-to-prison pipeline.” In New York City, a teenager caught in public housing without an ID — say, while visiting a friend or relative — can be charged with criminal trespassing
Sunday, August 16, 2009
- The kid comes back tomorrow -- well, actually, we are driving up the hill to fetch her, so that takes care of tomorrow. (Yay! I have been missing the kid.)
- I am working -- more or less -- on my RaceFail09 paper, for which I have so far done about 1/4 of the research and come up with an extremely vague outline
- I am revising book six of the Great Big SF Trilogy (Hee -- yes. It is a 7 book Trilogy.)
- I am cleaning house, sporadically and room by room.
- I am working on the syllabus for the fiction workshop I am teaching, for the first time EVER, this semester. I have no idea how to teach a fiction workshop. What in shit am I going to tell these people? 11 of them in the class so far. What the shit do I know about writing fiction? I visualize sitting in class, gazing at them, and mumbling, "Well, um, write it better, y'all. You know. And..." Somehow I don't think that will get me stellar ratings.
- I am drinking way too much rum. What can I say? Life is hard and liquor is easy.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
7. No Free Lunch for Businesses
Currently, large employers that rely on low-skilled workforces usually offer little or no health coverage, and much of these workers' health care is already subsidized by taxpayers in the form of Medicaid and Medicare payments, other public programs and unpaid bills for emergency-room visits. Under the proposals in Congress, medium and large firms would face a simple choice: Offer their employees decent coverage or pay something into the system to offset the burden their employees' health needs impose on the American taxpayer.
Friday, August 14, 2009
- I finished mowing the lawn, which, monumental task
- I fixed the dryer, so very impressive, though actually it turned out to be not that difficult. As I said to mr. delagar (who has finished his dissertation, btw, and will be defending in 2 weeks and thus very soon must be called dr. delagar) as I said to him when I figured out what was wrong with it -- a clogged air hose -- all my problems should be as easily fixed as this dryer
- I revised 26 pages in the current novel
- I did six loads of laundry, now that I can
- I mopped the kitchen floor
- I spoke to the kid, twice. She is in Wyoming and will soon be home again. Come home, kid! She's been gone weeks & weeks, vacationing to San Francisco and Seattle and Yellowstone Park.
- I finished Richard Russo's new book, That Old Cape Magic, which was readable, but not nearly as good as Nobody's Fool. I'm afraid nothing he has written has pleased me as much as Nobody's Fool, which, frankly, is a perfect book. Well, I would give my back teeth to write one perfect book, so that's all right I guess.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Sunday, August 09, 2009
Friday, August 07, 2009
The whack descended on Laura Ingalls' daughter when Roosevelt was elected. Apparently having poor people get a Social Safety Network, back in the 30's, was as evil for Rose Wilder Lane, as having a President of Color give health care to poor folk is to the Wingwits now.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing Science Fiction!
Except, as plenty of people notice, of the 21 stories he puts in his anthology, which he claims contains the finest stories ever, all are by not just guys, but white straight guys.
And, as ABW explains, in insightful and hilarious detail, uproar ensues, with those who object to this patriarchial SOP pointing out that writers of mind-blowing SF who aren't white straight guys exist, and Mike Ashley making not-helpful comments such as he doesn't know any stories by women or black people (or I guess by gay people) and he thought about looking around for some, but, you know, he didn't want to included women as tokens (because, you know, that's the only way girls can ever get into anthologies, as tokens, it's not as though we're actually decent writers) and women just don't write the sort of SF he was interested in (um, mindblowing?), they write that squishy stuff about feelings, not about, you know, science.
Other pro-status quo SF leapt also into the fray. Nothing wrong with this picture! These writers are fine writers! What's yo problem, bitch! Go write something else if you don't like how we do SF! This is writing, not politics!
Well. That is something, in my libertarian youth (yes, all right, I admit the dark secret to you: in my youth I was a libertarian. I blame Heinlein, who, in my youth, I was mad enamoured with) I also believed: that literature had nothing to do with politics. Indeed, in graduate school, I remember struggling with notion that all literature was political. I remember sitting in the library, reading my Intro to Graduate Studies text, which introduced that odd idea, the one which told me that any text which claimed to be without politics was simply ignorant of its politics -- was relying on its unmarked state, its priviliged ability to ignore its dominant position*.
"Bullshit," I remember grumbling. "Nothing I'm writing has anything to do with politics..."
Literature is political.
I do not say it is only political; but political is one of its modes.
Further, nothing Mike Ashley nor any of us do is without consequences. He acts, results acrue. Maybe it's no deal to him whether women or PoC or gay people are people who matter; to me it is. He has a position of power in the world of publishing. (Yes, that's what an editor is: someone with a position of power.) It's his job to know something about people writing in the world of SF, and not just about some of the white straight guys who are writing.
Here's what I do, every time, these days: I pick up an anthology, and I turn to the table of contents. If at least four of the stories aren't written by women, if there's not at least one PoC, I put the book back on the shelf.
See also this.
*Thus, in the recent RaceFail09 debate, some speakers scolded others for using aliases online, ignoring that those using their real names could do so because they spoke from a position of privilige: they had nothing much to fear, since they spoke from positions of power, whereas those of us who use aliases online frequently do so because we have a great deal to fear, and much at risk.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
It's a text that gets used in Christian schools, though. I'm betting it's one that gets used around here. It would explain the odd resistance I get in my classes when I teach Frederick Douglass and the WPA Slave Narratives -- always, always two or three of my students will want to argue with me, insisting that "slavery wasn't really like that," or tell me how most slaves were actually well-treated by their masters.
Here's my favorite paragraph so far.
Some whippings were severe. In other instances, whipping was as mildly applied as the corporal punishment normally practiced within families today.21 Although some masters were brutal, even sadistic, most were not. The Slave Narratives are overwhelmingly favorable in the judgment of masters as "good men." In fact in the Narratives, out of 331 references to masters, 86% refer to their masters as "good" or "kind." Quite a few would not allow whipping at all, and many only allowed it in their presence.
The "Slave Narratives" being referred to here are the WPA Slave narratives, the same ones I use in my class, and I am here to tell you those numbers are bogus. First, far more than 331 slaves mention their masters -- there are over 2300 narratives in the collection, and as I recall nearly every one I read mentioned their master, usually multiple times; and I've read hundreds. Several of the ones I read did, in fact, claim to have kind masters but first, as both Charles Darwin and Frederick Douglas point out, that doesn't mean anything when a black person is talking to the man; and (b) it wasn't anywhere near 86% of the narratives I read claiming such a thing. Maybe 3%. If that.
But this paragraph is also adorable:
This points to the need for Christians to learn the biblical way of avoiding "problem texts." This is the way of a priori submission. Christians must recognize that they are under the authority of God, and they may not develop their ideas of what is "right" and "fair" apart from the Word of God. And when the Bible is our only standard of right and wrong, problem texts disappear. This entire issue of slavery is a wonderful issue upon which to practice. Our humanistic and democratic culture regards slavery in itself as a monstrous evil, and it acts as though this were self-evidently true. The Bible permits Christians to own slaves, provided they are treated well. You are a Christian. Whom do you believe?
As far as I can tell, the main arguements made by these tools is that they must argue the pro-slavery position because (a) slavery is in the Bible and the Bible is God's word; (b) if they admit slavery is bad then them evil librals can say homosexuality and feminism are okay too, since not everything in the Bible is true if even one thing isn't true; and (c) atheists are the real pro-slavery demons (what?) because no atheist has any real reason to oppose slavery -- after all, what true ethical reason can an atheist give for being opposed to slavery? He doesn't believe in a God to tell him slavery is wrong! (Did I say what already?)(No, seriously, that's what passes for logic on Planet I'm a Christian Reconstructionist.
Monday, August 03, 2009
So it's too bad, Queenan said, 50 million Americans don't have health insurance. The rest of us do. Do you really expect us to up our taxes to buy a system that will pay for those without? Please. What are we, altrustic? Bah.
This was when I started screaming tool at the screen.
Because, no, you fuckwit, that is not what we're doing with healthcare reform and not why we need it.
Yes, obviously, that so many citizens are without that basic need is an issue -- just not the biggest one.
The biggest one is that for most of us, the health care system is broken. (See Sarah Wildman, who, like Joe, has health insurance, and still ended up deeply in debt after childbirth. See Jesse Taylor, who has health insurance and still ended up deeply in debt after minor surgery. See me, who declared bankruptcy a few years ago, due to medical debts well in the hundred thousand dollar range, over half of which were incurred while I had health insurance.)
Nor does it have to be the scary major illness that shoves Americans into disaster -- for me, for my family? It's high blood pressure, it's a kid who has anxiety issues (the shrink is covered, but there's a $1500/year deductible), it's well child care that's not covered, vision care that's not covered, dental benefits that run out in July (only a thousand dollars a year per family, so, well, one root canal and you're fucked), prescription drug benefits that run out in October (I'm on five different meds, mr. delagar is on six, our insurance has a yearly cap for medications), it's how only 80% of the shoulder surgery is covered, and it's how this shit adds up, especially when at the same time the cost of fuel and everything else has doubled and wages?
Wages are flat.
So maybe Queenan, the tool, is doing fine. Maybe he's got his. But for the rest of us out here? It's a problem.
Well, it's not a ruckus. It's just a guy talking, up at the counter. But the counter women are sort of arguing with him.
Now I had seen this guy and his friend earlier, sort of hitting on a woman among the whiskey aisles, so I knew who they were: see, over at the fairgrounds, which is about three blocks from this liquor store, there's a roping contest in town. People from all over the four-state area, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, are here to show how well they rope, um, cows, I suppose. (I am at the limit of my knowledge here, even if I do teach cowboys on occasion.)
So I knew this guy and his buddy were cowboys. This guy was black and his buddy was Latino. I mention this because it's about to come up. Given that they're cowboys, not to mention from his accent, which was totally northern Louisiana, I doubt seriously either was from New Orleans. (Also going to come up in a moment.)
So mr. delagar and I have our mind-altering substances in hand, and head for the checkout. This is like a Wal-Mart superstore of booze, btw, huge, towering, because it's on the county line between Sebastion and Crawford County, and Crawford County is dry -- so if you live over there, you can whip right across the line and buy your booze here, see.
We get up there to find the big cowboy explaining to the checkers how no, in fact, bottles of booze where he lives don't have little plastic rings around their necks to stymie shoplifters, because in Louisiana there aren't any liquor stores. (Apparently the discussion started because he wondered why the bottles of whiskey had those tiny plastic anti-theft collars around their necks.)
They argue with him: of course there are liquor stores, everywhere has--
Naw, naw, he explains, you buy booze everywhere there, but you can't steal it--
Oh, people don't steal in Louisiana, sure! they exclaim.
You can't steal it, he's trying to explain, because it's not kept out in the open, it's behind the country, where you can't walk up to it, you have to ask for it. He gestures to the tiny nip-size bottles and packets of cigarettes kept on the shelves behind them. Like those there, he says.
People steal everywhere, his checker insists.
Not people I hang out with, he says, pays up and leaves.
Once he's gone, they start in: They don't steal in Louisiana, ha, they don't.
I saw that Katrina right here on this television, the other says. You tell me they don't steal?
Did you hear that? the first asks us. Did you hear what he said?
Things are different in Louisiana, mr delagar tried to explain, trying to explain how we don't, in fact, have liquor stores in much of the state, since it is legal to sell liquor anywhere, including in grocery stores, gas stations, and through drive-through windows. My wife, he said, gesturing at me, is from New Orleans --
This did not work. Now I was included in their circle of hostility.
What was that about? Another worker came up.
Apparently it's racial if we try to keep people from stealing, the first worker said.
At which point I walked out.
(a) I didn't hear the entire conversation, but I am willing to bet the guy said nothing about being black.
(b) I can't tell you how many times this Katrina meme has come up around here. "You saw what happened after Katrina," or "I had to deal with some of those people that came up here after Katrina once," or "I know someone who used to rent to some of those Katrina people, and she says--" or "You remember what those people from Katrina were like."
My favorite is when they say it to someone who actually is one of those people who came up here after Katrina, since they're still around. When they say it to me, I always look them in the eye and say, "I'm from New Orleans. My entire family live in New Orleans. They still live there. My brother was in the city during Katrina."
They're quick to say, "I didn't mean you!"
Which of course they didn't. They meant, well, you know. Those people.
See also this.