Thursday, January 30, 2014

Justified: You're Not Watching?

It's come to my attention that not all of y'all are watching Justified, which -- while in the first season it had kind of a slow start -- has over the past few years become one of the best shows on TV.

Last week's episode had just a great moment where Boyd Crowder (who arguably has become the show's main character) and Tim Gutterson (a favorite of mine) got left to wait in Boyd's bar while Raylan Givens went to check out a lead Boyd had given up.

When we come back, Tim and Boyd are playing Scrabble.

Which is -- it's just perfect.

It's moments like that which make me love this show so much.

Plus now I just can't stop wondering: who was winning?  Because Boyd has a vocabulary that won't quit, and he's a master of strategy.  But Tim reads endlessly, and also he's a sniper, so good at gaming a field.  Yeah.  I just don't know.

Cheerios Doubles Down

...and wins my heart.

Mind you, Cheerios is pretty much the only cold cereal we eat anyway, since all the others contain corn syrup, which the kid is allergic too.

But if we didn't, we would now.

I also like that this is a portrayal of a young girl negotiating with her parents and getting what she asks for.  Cool, tough girl child, in other words.  Very nice.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

More Poor Americans

Over at Mother Jones, Kevin Drum takes note of a recent Pew Research poll which finds that increasing numbers of Americans classify themselves as poor or lower-middle class.

As Drum notes, this news is even worse than it seems, since Americans have always been and continue to be reluctant to call themselves anything but middle-class. To find this many of us willing to call ourselves lower-class or even lower-middle-class speaks to the dismal State of the Union indeed.

Or maybe just -- finally? -- an awakening to reality?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Barley Soup, Broken Hearts

New post up at Cooking With Delagar for this cold weather.

Go here to read it: Barley Soup.

Also!  Ganstagrass has a new album out: Broken Hearts and Stolen Money.

O boy!

Update: a review of Broken Hearts.

I'm listening to the album right now, while editing for CG, & loving it.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Things I Am Ambivalent About

I've been nominated for an award.

This is a good thing.

But the stacks of paperwork required to support my nomination -- ai.

Also it's supposed to snow here tonight.

Also I got dogged by contentious commentators over at Grounded Parents yesterday.  Theoretically, this is a good thing, since contention brings the page views.  In fact, though -- ai.

Also I am teaching Jane Eyre this week.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

New Post Up at Grounded Parents!

My new post is up at Grounded Parents.

Go here to read it: Against Marriage.

(Spoilers: I'm not (exactly) coming out against marriage.)

My other Grounded Parent posts:

Wearing All The Colors

Why My Kid Had Purple Hair

Against Punishment

Monday, January 20, 2014

Martin Luther King Day

Here in Arkansas, we do (finally) at my university get Martin Luther King off as a paid holiday.

When I first arrived here, we did not.  I forget what excuse the university used -- that we got Veterans day off instead, I think, or that we got the Friday after Thanksgiving off instead, or who knew what.  But everyone knew the real reason, which was that this is the South, and we don't celebrate that man.

Well, now we do.  Statewide, not just at the universities.  But -- to keep the haters happy I assume -- this is not just Martin Luther King day, here in Arkansas: it is also Robert E. Lee Day.

Yeah.  We celebrate, here in Arkansas, on the same day, Martin Luther King, Jr, and the leader of the Confederate Army: the man who took up arms against his country in defense of slavery.  Boo-Yah.

So, to take the taste of that out of my mouth, I bring you this, from over at Daily Kos: an essay on the importance of what Martin Luther King did.

If you don't read anything else today, you should read this.

A taste:

"I'm guessing that most of you, especially those having come fresh from seeing "The Help," may not understand what this was all about.  But living in the south (and in parts of the mid west and in many ghettos of the north) was living under terrorism. 

"It wasn't that black people had to use a separate drinking fountain or couldn't sit at lunch counters, or had to sit in the back of the bus.  

"You really must disabuse yourself of this idea.  Lunch counters and buses were crucial symbolic planes of struggle that the civil rights movement decided to use to dramatize the issue, but the main suffering in the south did not come from our inability to drink from the same fountain, ride in the front of the bus or eat lunch at Woolworth's.

"It was that white people, mostly white men, occasionally went berserk, and grabbed random black people, usually men, and lynched them.  You all know about lynching.  But you may forget or not know that white people also randomly beat black people, and the black people could not fight back, for fear of even worse punishment.  

"This constant low level dread of atavistic violence is what kept the system running.  It made life miserable, stressful and terrifying for black people." 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Review: Alison Bechdel's Are You My Mother

Here is why I wish we were allowed to order books for classes at the last minute: I would love to use Alison Bechdel's Are You My Mother in the Women's World Lit class I am currently teaching.


Sadly, I did not get around to reading the novel until a few weeks ago, and our book orders (for this semester) had to be turned in last September.

Well, maybe I can use it in a future class.  It's just excellent.

Like Bechdel's other most famous work, Fun Home, which is the story of her father's suicide, Are You My Mother? is an autobiographical graphic novel.  I think it's much the better book, however.

It's complicated and complex, a very meta work (as the text itself admits), filled with both literary and psychological allusions; mainly, though, it deals with the erasure of women from our own history, from our own field of vision: the way, because our mothers don't see us, we cannot see ourselves (cannot allow ourselves to see ourselves) and how this blindness is passed on, generationally, mother to daughter, like an genetic illness, or a curse.

I've stated very clinically there what Bechdel transmit beautifully, through story and art.  I urge you to ignore my clinical description and read her novel, which I love to bits.

Order here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lose Your Phone?

Did y'all know about this site?

Where's My Cellphone?

If you lose your cell phone -- like in your house -- it calls your phone for you and makes it ring so you can find it.

I mean, not that this ever happens to anyone I know personally.

(One of my students told me about it.  Thanks, Solveig!)

New Post Up at Grounded Parents

Over at Grounded Parents, my new post is up, y'all.

Read it here: Wearing All The Colors.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunday Afternoon; or, My Wasted Youth

When I was a kid, Sunday afternoon was the saddest phrase in the phrasebook.

Because back to school on Monday was right there.

Unless you hated school quite as much as I did, you probably don't share the visceral dread of Sunday afternoon and evening I still (to this day) get.

It's a nice afternoon here, sunny and not too cold.  I opened the window for the cats and I've been working steadily away on my novel and on prepping for my SF workshop (I am finally teaching a SF workshop this semester).  Plus also the semester ahead looks almost pleasant: I am teaching only three classes, all of them excellent classes.  (1) Grammar  (2) Women's World Literature  (3) SF Workshop.  AND I have T/R off for writing purposes.

But still.

Partly school was so awful for me as a kid because I went to terrible schools.  Partly it was so awful because I was nearly blind as a child, and no one noticed until I was eleven or twelve -- I literally couldn't see more than a foot or so away; my memories of my teachers and classmates are of pale smears.  When my teachers wrote on the board, I saw nothing at all.  Partly it was because the work they gave me to do at the desk was so amazingly tedious.  I remember stapled together packets of worksheets that were 10 or fifteen pages thick.  I don't know if this memory is accurate, but I do remember just not doing them.

These were analogy worksheets, "Fish is pond to flower  is to ____"

Pages and pages of that.  Also pages and pages of math facts; and pages and pages of crossword "games" that were supposed to teach us history and spelling; and pages and pages of geography exercises; and pages and pages of who knows what else shit, I didn't do any of it.  I kid you not, from about third grade on through my sophomore year of high school I got Cs, Ds, and Fs in everything.  How I graduated I have no idea.  (I did better in college.)

Anyway.  My point.  Do I have one?

I think I am just attempting to examine why I feel so gloomy right now.

Though I might be thinking about the lifelong damage that a terrible education system can do to Your Tender Child.

Yeah.  That's the ticket.

(Oh: and my youth wasn't entirely wasted.  All that time I wasn't filling in worksheets, I spent writing novels in the fat notebooks where I ought to have been taking notes.  I didn't learn algebra, but I did learn story structure and dialogue.)

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

More On Tumbrels / Nice Work

Over at The Clutter Museum, a post that resonates with me: "Idaho Is Waiting."

In many ways, Clutter & her family are better off than the delagar family.  For one thing, they're not in Arkansas.  (Heh heh.) For another, her husband currently seems to have a job, whereas Dr. Skull has been unemployed for almost two years now.  Also, she has tenure, which I never will, since my university doesn't grant it.

But in other ways, they're worse off.  They're in Idaho, they've got more than one kid, they live in a place with a very high COL, and so on.

In essence, though, we've got the same problem, and it's the problem most people who used to be middle class have.  Pay has not kept up with the rising cost of living.  She speaks, for instance, of huge medical costs.  We've got those too.  And there are huge housing costs.  Huge fuel costs.  Student loan costs.  All these costs have doubled and tripled just in the past 30 years -- everything has, except our salaries, which have remained flat.

So here we are, trying to raise families, house families, and educate children, and (theoretically at least) save for retirement on a middle-class salary?

It can't be done.  We've been keeping afloat by taking extra work; or at least I have.  But now we're sick and exhausted and anyway the extra work is gone.

So now what?

Productivity is Falling

Over at Mike the Mad Biologist, Mike has this post, noting the productivity in America has been falling rapidly over the past years.

Mike speculates an unconscious but deliberate slowdown on the part of American workers, who have seen no increase in their pay since the early in 1980s, despite steady and unrelenting increasing productivity.

Maybe, eventually, finally, Mike speculates, the American worker has gotten the message that our hard work will not result in an increase to our paychecks or in job security, and (thus) we've stopped working so hard?

That's a possibility.

Another possibility is that, after so many years of working so hard (sixty hour work weeks, fifty-two weeks a year) just to stay even, just to keep these miserable jobs that let us pay the rent and feed the kids, never mind getting ahead, because we can't ever get ahead -- maybe we are just finally, finally broken? Too exhausted and sick and tired to keep the pace anymore?

I know I'm at that point.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

What's That Sound I Hear? Tumbrels Drawing Near?

One of my (ex)-friends posted this link on FB this morning, "Five Economic Reforms."  He was outraged to discover that Rolling Stones magazine was "calling for communism!"  (He followed it up with pledge to stock more ammo, in case you were confused about his solution.)

Meanwhile, a third of our working adults -- that's people who have jobs, people who are working -- make less than poverty level wages.  (People without jobs are, obviously, usually doing worse.)

Half of our population lives in poverty. They survive with the help of such programs as HUD and SNAP -- and the GOP's solution to this has been, as we all know, to cut food stamp funding.

Meanwhile, even when jobs exist, the wages they pay are not enough to lift workers out of poverty.

Meanwhile, the route that used to get people out of the minimum wage life and into middle-class pastures -- education -- is being made rapidly inaccessible to all but the very wealthy.

That is, I worked when I was young at a series of depressing and occasionally awful jobs, most of them paying minimum wage, ranging from leaflet distributing to painting houses to night shift at McDonalds; but I was able to climb up out of these jobs because the state university was available to me.  Tuition was cheap then, and books weren't much more.  And tuition was cheap because the state and the federal government paid most of the cost of educating me.

Now the cost has been shifted to the backs of the students and their families, with a stop along the way to enrich bankers (via student loans), not to mention leg-breaking debt collectors.

I am not seriously calling for a Revolution -- who would, who had any sense of history?  I doubt Jesse Myerson was, either, actually.

But when we look at this situation, with most Americans not able to find a job that will let them buy both food and medical care for their kids, while 1% of America is stockpiling obscene amounts of wealth -- well, something has to change.  And the suggestions Myerson puts forth, which frankly aren't that radical (guaranteed basic income, public banks, jobs for all)  -- they sound less and less radical with every hungry student who turns up crying in my office.

The situation as it exists now isn't tenable, that's a straight fact.

Being Delirious

Everyone here has been laid low by some vicious chest cold the past three days, though it might actually be the flu.

I googled "What's the difference between the flu and a cold?" and got answers that were not that useful.  Apparently with a flu you have a high fever and with a cold you have less of a fever or no fever at all.  Since we don't have a thermometer here in the delagar household, who knows?

Luckily, all the drugs are sold as cold and flu remedies, so I just bought one of each, and we've been doping up and sleeping fifteen or twenty hours a day.

Anyway I have.

I feel better now, except really light-headed and bizarre, probably due to not eating anything except tea and honey since Thursday.  I just made myself some soup, though, we'll see if that helps.

The kid and Dr. Skull are asleep and not coughing spectacularly for once -- it's six minutes to three in the morning -- and the cats are so pleased that someone, anyone is awake that they are running madly back and forth through the house, tackling one another.

How's your new year going?

Thursday, January 02, 2014

I'ma Pro

Two days ago I got the news that Daily Science Fiction was buying my story "Life on Mars."

(Insert happy dance.)

This is my third professional sale, which makes me officially (according to the rules of SFWA) a professional science fiction writer.

It's also a story I like a lot, so I'm happy for that reason too!