Saturday, December 31, 2005


The kid and I watched Supernanny last night, one of our favorite Friday night treats -- we love to get appalled together by how bad the parenting is, and how Jo Frost makes the parents act right.

Last night was particularly appalling: a stay-at-home mom (I love how folks think that's a cure-all: so long as mom is at home full time, that's ALL she has to do! Be there! Nothing else is necessary!) with three boys; Dad was deployed in the Iraqi war.

Home was chaos. Why? Mom's solution -- to everything! -- was to hit the boys. Wallop them, for everything. Hit them, with her hand, with a belt, or threaten to hit them, for every transgression. And? Ignore them otherwise.

What did the boys do, when they weren't getting hit? Well, they beat on each other, of course, and they screamed and attacked their mother. What else were they going to do?

Mom didn't talk to them, or play with them, or read to them (no books in the house -- that's one thing I've noticed about every household Jo Frost gets called to: not a single bookshelf in any of them, not a single book: hmm!): the four year old watched TV all day, the school-age kids came home from school and started beating each other up right away, until Mom, literally, locked them out in the back yard.

Jo's solution? She established a no-hitting rule. Not only that the kids could not hit each other -- Mom could not hit the kids. No yelling either. What a concept!

She also established rewards -- a pie chart thing -- for following the rules, and got Mom to start talking to and hanging out with her kids. (Reading to them too, I noticed. Heh!)

Astounding transformation.

She also taught Mom to compromise with the kids -- not do this or else, but, okay, you don't want to do this: what about this?

In other words: not perfect obedience or I'll beat you, but let's see how we can work things out, why don't we? Let's treat our children like human beings.

That Jo. She's clever.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Prager's Divorce

Dennis Prager is getting a divorce. Apparently he announced it on his radio show. His beloved fans insist this doesn't make his advice on marriage any less valuable.


Cause, you know, that's who you want advising you about marriage -- someone who can't do it -- and that's who you want advising you about raising you kids -- someone like Dobson, who ain't got it right once -- and that's who you want teaching you to build bridges, an engineer whose bridges keep collapsing, and that's who you want running the country, someone who...uh....

Well, you know these conservatives. I guess they actually do prefer someone who doesn't know how to do the job.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


I suppose it's no shock that I'm dying to see Brokeback Mountain.

Which, BTW, according to Ted Baehr, who reviews films for the Christian Film & Television Commission, is "abhorrent" and a "twisted, laughable, frustrating" bit of "neo-Marxist homosexual propaganda" --- high praise indeed!

It's also been doing pretty well at the box office, out-selling that bit of neo-Christian propaganda, The Chronicles of Narnia, earning $13,599 per theater, while Narnia earned $8,225 per theater. Wondering how Ted feels about that?

But nevertheless I'm not going to get to see it, because I live in this rustiest piece of the buckle of the Bible Belt, and the Christian Coalition will make GOT-damn sure no homosexual movie evah shows its flickering ass he-ah.

More Stuff About New Orleans

The labor shortage: restaurants and shops and everything from theaters to offices can't hire sufficient employees. Signs are up all over town, wheedling for workers.

Outside the Krispy Kreme: "High Wages, Great Benefits, Flexible Hours, Free Donuts!" Outside the Steak N Ale: "We'll Start you at $15.00 an hour!" The Burger King promises a $6500.00 a year commitment bonus; McDonalds promises a bonus of $250.00 a week. Some other place (I forget which) offered a five hundred dollar signing bonus.

Even so, few restraurants and few stores or shops can run a regular schedule -- no restaurant is open more than five or six days a week, or later than nine o'clock at night; most fast food restaurants are only working their drive-through windows. You can't rely on any place to be open on a given day -- if they have the workers that day, they're open that day. If not, not.

And in stores, shelves often don't get stocked. Bare spots are common-- not because goods don't exist, but because workers don't exist to stock the shelves. And lines are often appallingly long -- like winding through the store long. Stores have marked out trails on the floors with tape, so that customers know where to stand when the line gets really long, that's how customary this is. It's like post-war England, these lines.

"I should tell my students about these jobs," I told mr. delagar, since all my students are working for six bucks an hour at the Wal, here in the Fort.

"Right," he said, "Except where would they live? Under a bridge?"

Which is a good point, because housing is a problem in the city. Many stores and restaurants and businesses have put trailers in their parking lots and are letting their employees live in those; and lots of people live with their relatives, as my youngest brother and sister-in-law are doing -- four months after Katrina, they're still refugees, moving from house to house, waiting for a FEMA trailer, staying right now with my oldest brother in Destrehan: we heard about lots of people like this, living with a brother, living with an aunt, whole extended families living in the apartment of an uncle -- but if you aren't that lucky, if no one in your family had a house that survived, then what do you do?

Whole vast areas of the city did not survive and are not going to be able to be rebuilt. They'll have to be razed. The 9th Ward. Much of Gentilly. Most of Lakeview and Araby. That's housing for hundreds of thousands of people. Where are they to live, if they return, while they work, while their houses are rebuilt?

FEMA has trailers for some of them-- but down in the city, apparently, lots of folks don't want those trailers around their neighborhoods. Trailers in their neighborhoods, they say, willl drop their property values.

Like a dead city wouldn't, I guess.

Other folks claim its who would live in those trailers (ahem, dark folks, from that wicked 9th Ward) that really are worrying those who object.

In any case, finding anywhere to live in New Orleans at the moment is next to impossible. But finding a job ought to be a snap. In case anyone is interested.


Go see what the ACLU has to say:

And pass it on!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Back From the Holidays

Which I spent visiting my parents in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans, as some of you may know.

Driving into the subdivision where my parents live was startling -- it's been four months since Katrina: piles of rubble stripped from the insides of houses are still heaped on every street corner and along all the gutters; downed trees are everywhere. Only about half the houses, my father says, in the neighborhood he lives in, are currently being lived in, and that's a pretty good average, a good neighborhood, one that didn't get hit very hard. People were working on the houses everywhere we went in that neighborhood. FEMA trailers were in many yards. Almost no houses there had simply been abandoned.

My mother took us, on the second day, driving through Lakeview and Gentilly -- these are areas that were hit bad. Lakeview is where the 17th Street Canal levee breach was, where the water came through so hard it pushed houses off their foundations. Gentilly is where my youngest brother's house is. In both of these neighborhoods, although some people are at work on the the houses, many more -- even most -- of the houses are still standing abandoned. Abandoned cars, whitened by flood waters, are everywhere. Boats, too, washed up on the neutral grounds and in empty lawns. Most of the trash left by the flood (my brother said the original piles were forty feet high in the neutral grounds) has been cleared away, but new piles are forming. Not many people are in these areas of the city.

The houses are empty and bleached gray or white by the flood. The windows are broken. Some have blue tarps on their roofs -- FEMA roofs, these are called, even if they're not really from FEMA -- and some have FEMA trailers in front of them. These are the houses being worked on. Not many of them, not in this part of town. My brother and his wife are up for a FEMA trailer. Once you get a trailer, you can start rebuilding the house. Plumbing and power and water are all available, but not, obviously, until you have pipes and wiring and walls and a roof. And the material all that calls for. Which is all in high demand in New Orleans at the moment. I'll get to all this later.

Down near the Quarter and in downtown itself, in the Garden District, and near River Road, where it never flooded, things are much better. We went down there -- took the kid to the zoo, walked around. Lots of people down there. People are back, down there. Lots of them. The zoo is open on weekends, the restaurants are open, when they can find workers (more on this later too), the shops are open, when they can get staff (ditto), some of the populations is back (100,000, my mother said, but I'm wondering if this is all real population, or does it count FEMA and insurance folk and people that have come to do construction?).

The roads are battered. The street lights don't work -- it's a charming and amusing experience, with the way folks in New Orleans drive anyway, coming up on a street with traffic approaching from all four directions and who knows who's supposed to go now? Obviously it ought to be treated like a four-way stop, but, hey, this is New Orleans! "It's like a roller coaster," I told mr. delagar, "only real."

Also, very few of the street signs survived, so often you don't really know where you are, driving about. Luckily it's very hard to get lost in New Orleans. Eventually you either hit the river or the lake, and then you know where you are.

And the city is keeping its sense of humor. At the zoo, one of the exhibits was the Louisiana Swamp: on the swamp was a houseboat, with a blue roof, and on the porch a taped-up refrigerator, and a box of MREs, and, spray-painted on its door, the symbol that marks most of the abandoned houses in the city: the big X, with the date of when the house had been checked, and the initials of who checked it, and other bits of code, and underneath it, information about whatever pets had been found inside (I saw, as we were driving around the city, things like: cat not found; dogs pawprints seen; kitten recovered; cat outside): this one said: GATORS FED. There's also a hot song in the city right now called "Temporarily Not There Anymore," which is basically a list of all the places in the city that are closed or don't exist at the moment.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Went out yesterday to the public library and to the other useless bookstore in this town, desperately hunting something, anything to read -- I'm out of things to read -- and could not find a thing.

I was always afraid this day would come. And here it is.

I'm a book junkie. I suppose y'all already know that. I need books. I have needed books since before I could actually read. One of my first memories is sitting on the floor with a book in my lap, staring down at the print, trying furiously to make the letters coalesce into meaning. I might have been three. I didn't learn to read until I was six. I remember my first word: TOY. I remember reading it, I remember how it looked, printed in yellow chalk on the blackboard. I remember suddenly being able to read everything.

I remember getting hit across the face with a math workbook by my first grade teacher, also, for reading in class. (I was reading Lassie and the Mystery of Blackberry Bog behind the workbook, and she took it amiss.)

I remember being banned from reading for six weeks by my 4th grade English teacher, if you can imagine such a thing. She thought I read too much. Yes, my English teacher. She thought all that reading I did interfered with my school work. Ah, the Jefferson Parish education system. How I loved it.

Anyway, I'm a print junkie. I need books. I've read them ALL.

No, not really. There are many, many books about football and hunting and Rush and many Western novels and many Romance novels and many books of Christian fiction and so on out there which I have never read and never will. Also many novels of Alternate history. And Men's Adventure. And shelves and shelves and shelves of the Left Behind novels.

So yes, there are, in fact, lots of books I haven't read.

But no books left I can find that I want to read.

Here's what I like to read:

Science fiction that's actually SF and not fantasy (I don't like fantasy because I can't seem to believe it, sorry, I know it's a failing, but there you are)

Mainstream fiction that isn't about some guy/woman trying to decide whether or not he/she is going to have an affair/baby/get married because? Really? who cares? I like fiction about people who actually do have lives and are actually living them.

Gay fiction/feminist fiction

Some mysteries, some westerns, but only if they're about really interesting characters and are really well written

Young adult & children's lit, same as above

So -- who has book recommendations for me?

I'm desperate. Seriously!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Say It Again

Over at Red State and on the other Rightist blogs, they're banging the drum and saying Bush has the right to do what he's doing, it's fine because it's the War on Terra and look at those silly Leftist Moonbats crying Impeach Impeach when all Bush is TRYING to do is DEFEND our country --

And mr. delagar reminds me that Lincoln also suspend habeas corpus and that we tortured prisoners plenty during the Philippine war, and DED Space notes that Nixon also spied on citizens (, so it's not like this is all new --

I know all this is true.

What Bush is doing is still a criminal act. What he is doing still violates his oath. What his administration is doing still is a disgrace to our nation. What he and his people and his party are doing is still destroying what America ought to be.

Here is Katherine at Obsidian Wings:

I was shocked by the brazen defense of the wiretapping thing like anyone else, but when I thought about it for a's not like this should be news to us.

Look. We have a President here who is making a claim of unlimited power, for the duration of a war that may never end. Oh, he says it's limited by the country's laws, but they've got a crack legal team that reliably interprets the laws to say that the President gets to do whatever he wants. It amounts to the same thing.

I am not exaggerating. I am really and truly not.

September 11 started the war. When will it end? Maybe never. Where is the battlefield? The entire world, including the United States. Who is an enemy combatant? Anyone the President says is an enemy combatant, including a U.S. citizen--no need for a charge, no need for a trial, no need for access to a lawyer. What if they're found not to be an enemy combatant? We can keep them in prison anyway, and we don't have to tell their families they're alive or their lawyers that they were cleared. What can you do to an enemy combatant? Anything you want. Detain him forever, for the rest of his life, because this is a war like any other and we have always been able to detain POWs for the duration of the war. But you don't need to follow the Geneva Conventions, because this is a war like no other in our history. And oh yes--if the President decides that we need to torture a prisoner for the war effort, it's unconstitutional for Congress to stop him. They took that position in an official memo, and they have not backed down from it. They have said it was "unnecessary" but they have never backed down from it.

They are not only entitled to do these things to people; they are entitled to do them in secret. When Congress asks for information about them, they can just ignore it. And they are entitled to actively deceive the public about all this.
That's the power they claim. At what point are we going to take that claim seriously?

At some level, I think we read these things and think: well, they can't really mean that. But by now we know that they mean it enough to have shattered a number of lives. Right now there are a limited number of people who have gotten to experience the absolute powerlessness that is the flip side of the president's assertion of absolute power. I would guess there are relatively few of them, compared to some other wars in our history. But they certainly exist; I can rattle a litany of the worst cases off the top of my head by now. Maher Arar, A'del Abdu al-Hakim, Saddiq Ahmad Turkestani, Sean Baker, Muhammad Saad Iqbal, Sami al-Laithi, Dilawar and Habibullah, Abed Hamed Mowhoush, Manadel al-Jamadi, Benyam Mohamed, the Salt Pit case....This is nowhere, nowhere close to exhaustive. Again, this is only a partial list of the cases that I could name off the top of my head. Read those links, and think of the stories I could tell after an extra half hour on Google, let alone a thorough look through the relevant news stories and government documents. And for every case we know about there are probably many more that have never been publicly reported.

Many of those men have been accused of horrible crimes. Some of them are probably guilty. But we know for a fact that some of them are not, so innocence is not any kind of protection. U.S. citizenship works a hell of a lot better, but it's not foolproof. You could ask Sean Baker about that; you could also ask James Yee, Jose Padilla, Yasser Hamdi, Omar Abu Ali.

This is wrong. It is wrong, wrong, wrong.

These are criminal acts and they should be stopped.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Kid's Poetry

Here is another poem from the kid (not appalling like the last one, sorry):

Black cat intuition
Nighttime and meadowlark .
White Cat
Medl Claws
Brown Cat
On A Mission
To Find night time paws

Isn't she brilliant?

(You must say yes now.)

War on Christmas

This is depressing -- last night we went to the Harp's, the employee-owned grocery store we like to go to, here in the Fort because it isn't Wal-Mart, and also because it sells free-range chicken and organic eggs organic vegetables and milk from cows raised on an actual dairy farm, cows that live in pastures and aren't given hormones, milk with "nothing in it but milk!" -- anyway, what do we find when we show up at our beloved Harp's last night but a GIANT sign boasting "Welcome to Harp's! Where Christmas is STILL Christmas!"

You know: as opposed to that evil Winterfair or whatever, where instead of celebrating the birth of Jesus we celebrate the sacrifice of Virgins. (Oh. Wait.)

Gays in America

So I just finished grading the exams for my Diverse Cultures class, and they were surprisingly good, in that several of them surprised me by showing actual insight and depth -- most of them were the usual undergraduate stuff -- and none of them, not a single one, said gay guys were evil and should burn in hell, which was nice, and not at all what I was expecting. (I guess they knew they better not, though.)

And I also got two or three essays from students saying things like, "After I read that story "Billy," it changed the way I thought about gay people, because it showed gay people weren't disgusting at all, just people wanting to have lives, so even though I'm not gay myself, I think gay people should be allowed to have rights like anyone else." I liked reading that, I admit. That was cool. Literature at work.

One student did tell me, privately, that her uncle had committed suicide recently, as in a few weeks before, because he had lived all his life in a nearby small town -- an Arkansas small town -- as a gay man, and couldn't take being treated the way gay guys get treated in small Arkansas towns anymore.

Which brings me to this:

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz., Dec. 19 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Private Kyle Lawson, a 19-year-old Tucson resident, was physically assaulted and threatened at Fort Huachuca Army Base after fellow soldiers learned he is gay, according to a report in Sunday's Arizona Daily Star. Fearful for his safety, Private Lawson is leaving the Army, while the soldier accused of his assault appears to remain unpunished. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) today called on Army officials to hold the responsible party accountable for the assault and called on the Pentagon to implement an Anti-Harassment Action Plan originally adopted in 2000. The plan, SLDN has reported each year since, has never been implemented.

"Pentagon leaders have consistently refused to take harassment seriously, and our men and women in uniform continue to pay the price," said Sharra E. Greer, SLDN's director of law and policy. "The Pentagon has found, in its own survey, rampant anti-gay harassment in the armed forces. Service members report harassment, violence and threats to SLDN on a regular basis. At least two service members have been murdered because of unchecked anti-gay harassment. Yet military leaders have utterly failed to send a strong, clear message that anti-gay harassment is unacceptable or that those who harass will be held accountable for their actions. The result is yet another anti-gay assault."

Sunday, December 18, 2005


I have finished grading EVERYTHING and have entered my grades into the school's e-system and so I am, at last, officially done for the semester. This means I have the next four days to do nothing but write. Yay!

I've finished revising the trilogy, essentially -- I'm still reading it to the writing group, and so I'm still messing about with fine-tuning it -- but something odd has happened over the past two days: I've started writing Book Four in the Trilogy. Which makes it Not A Trilogy anymore, I know. Book Four has an actual plot, as well. My books almost never have plots when I start them, though they always have plots when I'm done, so this is an odd an interesting development.

Anyway, given that the kid is in New Orleans, the next four days ought to be blissful.

Given that I don't develop a migraine. Knock wood.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

You Know What?

Enough is enough.

Here is the Rude Pundit's entire post, because I could not resist:

Shorter Bush Saturday Address:

Here's Bush's vicious radio talk today, where he mentioned 9/11 about nine times, in haiku form:

L'etat c'est moi, 'kay?
Once you accept that, you fucks,
We'll all get along.

And here's my question:

How long are we going to let this criminal -- because that's what he is, a self-confessed criminal, who has wiped his ass on the Constitution of the United States of America -- how long are we going to leave him in office?

Because Enough is, in fact, Enough.

We are become the Enemy.

He has turned us into the Evil Empire.

Do we just sit here and allow it?

Bits of Progress

Two bumper stickers I saw while I was driving around the Fort yesterday:

First one:


Second one:

You Keep Believing:
I'll Keep Evolving.

The second one was outside the Books-A-Million bookstore, which is, I regret to say, the best bookstore in the Fort. It had, yesterday, utterly no new fiction, and two huge tables full of Narnia displays and books on how to pray and how to teach your child to pray, and little cuddly bears that, when hugged, would recite prayers to your child, and this was right by the eleven rows of bibles and Christian fiction, and I have nothing against this, honest I do not, I would just like some actual books, as well, in the sole bookstore of any note in the city I live in.

(This is the bookstore, by the way, that regularly gets harassed by the local religious right because it has, back inthe way back, one tiny section of sex-ed books, and, in the same area, under "Social Sciences," about two dozen books of gay fiction.)

Friday, December 16, 2005


This makes me ill:

For her 17th wedding anniversay Jeanette Yarborough wanted to do something special for her husband. In addition to planning a hotel getaway for the weekend, Ms. Yarborough paid a surgeon $5,000 to reattach her hymen, making her appear to be a virgin again.
"It's the ultimate gift for the man who has everything," says Ms. Yarborough...

Via Pandagon:

What sort of sick culture are we running here?

I can recall, back in the day, when I was first teaching, getting in a brief discussion with one of my classes about why guys would want to marry virgins -- this was when I was teaching the Odyssey, and discussing why it was important, to the Greeks, that women be virgins when they marry --- and I remember one guy in the back row speaking up and admitting the truth: he was about nineteen and not afraid to speak it. "Cause if she's a virgin," he said, "she won't have nobody to compare me with."

So all right then. That's one thing.

But these are women in their thirties and forties, with kids, getting themselves made into fake virgins, with enormous attendant discomfort, apparently, so that their hubbies can have some sort of sick thrill over "deflowering" them.

And their hubbies like it?

(The women themselves don't like it, the article goes on to make clear: one woman admits it's two years before she can enjoy sex again. But hey: worth the price if hubby is going to have a good night, in't it?)

There are some sick relationships out there. That's all I say.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Our Boy Bush

The boy in the bubble accidently admits that 30,000 dead Iraqis, more or less, (not to mention over 2000 dead American soldiers), was nothing to him:

“Q: Since the inception of the Iraqi war, I’d like to know the approximate total of Iraqis who have been killed. And by Iraqis I include civilians, military, police, insurgents, translators.”

“Bush: How many Iraqi citizens have died in this war? I would say, 30,000, more or less, have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence against Iraqis. We’ve lost about 2,140 of our own troops.”


While it’s a relief, I suppose, to know that Bush understands that his war has killed at least 30,000 Iraqis, does even that figure mean anything to him?

He acted as though it was a totally acceptable number.

In fact, as David Sirota has noted, Bush in the very next breadth made a joke as he interrupted the next questioner to say, “I’ll repeat the question. If I don’t like it, I’ll make it up.” The White House transcript reads: “(Laughter and applause.)”

That is the definition of obscenity.

To segue from the deaths of 30,000 Iraqis and 2,140 U.S soldiers to a poor attempt at humor is to reveal a frightening callousness.

What will it take for Bush to grasp the meaning and the magnitude of 2,140 dead U.S. soldiers and 30,000 dead Iraqis or more?

He has said over and over again that he came to liberate the people of Iraq and deliver them the gift of freedom.

But he didn’t liberate those 30,000 or those 100,000. They didn’t get to unwrap their gift, or if they did, it blew up in their faces.

Each dead Iraqi has a name.

Each dead Iraqi leaves a family that will never be the same again.

At what point does the President acknowledge the horrific pain he has inflicted on the people of Iraq?

Mentioning a mere number and then blithely moving on does not cut it.

Such indifference permitted their mass killing in the first place.


I'm working on grades for the semester, figuring quiz grades at the moment. Quiz grades are also how I reckon attendance, since I give a daily reading quiz in all my classes.

So I'm working on the reading quiz grades in the Diverse Cultures Class. You'll recall that that's the class where I taught four cultures/Literatures -- Asian, Jewish, Gay, and Feminist Literatures.

Guess which segment had the highest number of absences? In other words, which quarter did the students stay away from in droves?

Not gay lit -- which was what I would have expected, here in the Bible belt. Heavens no.

Feminist lit. How they hated that feminism.

Far worse than gay guys, those evil feminists.

I admit, that was a surprise to me.

More on Tulane

Here's more on Tulane's "re-tooling," this from The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Last week university officials announced a sweeping restructuring that will slice $60-million from the annual budget and will result in the layoffs of 233 faculty members, the elimination of 14 doctoral programs and 5 undergraduate majors, and the suspension of 8 athletic teams.


The changes are wide-ranging:

The university will go from 45 doctoral programs to 18. Fourteen will be totally eliminated: economics, English, French, historical preservation, law, political science, sociology, water resources planning management, social work, and five in engineering. Other Ph.D. programs may be combined.

At the undergraduate level, the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering will be reorganized into two new schools — the School of Liberal Arts and the School of Science and Engineering. Five undergraduate majors will be eliminated — four in engineering, plus exercise-and-sports sciences.

Of the 233 faculty members laid off, 53 are from academic departments and 180 are from the medical school. The medical school took the biggest hit because the smaller population of New Orleans will result in fewer patients and less revenue, Mr. Cowen said.

Elsewhere in the article, it says that the programs that got cut are the weaker programs, and that the graduate students weren't just dumped -- they were mostly moved on to other programs: which is likely the case. I can't imagine a graduate student from Tulane finding it hard to be accepted into another program.

Still: how depressing. My lovely city.

The kid's grandmother is coming today to fetch her down to Metairie for the holidays. Then, on the 23rd, mr. delagar and I are traveling down there to spend a week or so, over the break. I'll see for myself how things are in the city, I guess.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Tulane Cuts Its Graduate School

mr. delagar was up the hill yesterday, where his dissertation director told him Tulane had cut its English graduate program in the wake of Katrina. "The whole thing?" I said. "It fired all the grad students?"

I couldn't believe it, so I went online to have a look.

It's worse than that -- Tulane has cut all its graduate programs:

Five undergraduate majors have been eliminated, all in science and engineering, and many other programs have been consolidated. The graduate school has been shut down.

The medical school faculty is being reduced by 180 positions, to 345, largely because only two hospitals are operating in New Orleans.

Over all, Tulane is reducing its full-time faculty and staff to 4,000, from 4,700. The cutbacks include job losses for 26 tenured professors whose programs are being dropped.

Other news is worse:

The facts on the ground are sobering. Power and other utilities have not been restored in many places. The city government has laid off much of its work force, and nearly all the public schools remain closed. On Thursday, Tulane University, the city's largest employer, announced major budget cuts.

It is unclear when the levees will be repaired, and it will probably take years and tens of billions of dollars to fortify them. Without assurances about the levees, many exiles do not want to move back. The longer the uncertainty lasts, the more likely it is that they will put down roots elsewhere.

More than 75 percent of the city's population of 460,000 is gone, by some estimates, and it would appear to make little sense to spend enormous sums revitalizing areas if they are to be sparsely populated.

I knew things were bad in the city -- I've been gathering that from the bits I hear from my family -- but this is really depressing.

Lackwits Try to Argue

Worldview Weekend, put out by American Family Online, sent me this little gem in my email -- not once, but six times -- it case I didn't get around to opening it the first five times, I reckon:

Recently Brandi Chambless was told by a Bartlett, Tennessee branch library staff member that she could not use a public shelf to display a Nativity scene along with an announcement about a Christmas concert at Broadmoor Baptist Church.

The shelf is open to the public for advertising upcoming community activities.

The library official told Brandi that a donkey, sheep and other farm animals, along with a Shepherd boy, could be displayed but the Wise men; Joseph, Mary and the Baby Jesus were inappropriate "religious figures" and must be removed. The library official sited a written policy that does not allow any display in the library that was religious. This policy of the Memphis-Shelby County Libraries deems "any item which promotes a particular religion or sectarian religious belief" to be unacceptable for display in the library.

If this is truly the policy of the Memphis-Shelby County Library then they need to remove every book and resource from every shelf and leave them completely and totally empty.


Because Webster's dictionary defines a religion as a collection of beliefs, therefore, every book in the Memphis Library system is promoting someone's religious belief.

We can thank the wise man that is the Mayor of Bartlett for over-ruling the Memphis-Shelby County library's ridiculous policy.

However, this incident brings to light the need for our local libraries to be influenced by the community and not the liberal American Library Association of which the Memphis libraries are members.

The American Library Association has a long history of being hostile to Christian values including suing to stop the enforcement of a federal law that would withhold federal funds from any library or school that does not filter internet pornography from children. Judith Krug, of the American Library Association, bemoaned internet filtering software for libraries saying, "blocking material leads to censorship. That goes for pornography and bestiality too. If you don't like it, don't look at it."

Well, two can play that game; if the Nativity scene at the library offends you then don't look at it.

Note that there is no huge freedom of speech crisis in Memphis -- some staff member wanted to advertise a religious service, some other staff member objected, a mayor settled the issue in an appropriate fashion. (Because this is, after all, a public space the staff member wanted to advertise in, not a state space, so it is, in fact, appropriate for her to advertise religious services there -- duh.)

So what we've got here is the American Family Online whipping up a hissy fit over nothing -- no shock there -- and attempting to demonize librarians while they're at it. How dare librarians be against censorship! Those evil librarians!

I really love this definition of religion, while we're on the subject. A collection of beliefs. Yes, right. You do realize that makes pornography and bestiality religion, American Family Online folks, don't you? And therefore, under your definition of the term, something that has to be protected by our Constitution? And given special rights and tax breaks?


Monday, December 12, 2005

How I wish

This were not the sad truth:

You cannot reason with people who could give a fuck about being wrong. Reason has been tried. And it has been tried. And it has been tried. And it has been found lacking. This country is not being run by so called “reasonable conservatives.” It is being run by that 43% of the population who actually sincerely believe that there is a fucking war on Christmas being perpetrated by secular liberals. Ponder that. All the nice little bon-mots and civil conversations with your David Brookses and your George Wills are merely self delusion. Pretending it is not so might feel good, but I don’t really think it’s solving anything, or moving your agenda. It’s nice. But it’s not changing minds. Does open mockery change minds? Is that any more effective? Maybe not.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Conservatives Miss the Point

Here's some charming posts from the Right for you: This one, at Pirate's Cove, is upset because the police in SF are being scolded for making "racist, sexist, and homophobic" videos -- all in good fun, mind you!

The videos were a bit rude, maybe insensitive, a little overboard. However, did they physically harm anyone? No. All they did was offend some people. Considering what police have to go through, I do not blame them for wanting to blow off some steam. But, the San Fran Thought Police are now out to get the real police.

Because, as we know, what people think. especially when those people are armed, and have the power to arrest, detain, and interrogate, has nothing to do with what those people actually do.

This is the same Infuriated Right, of course, that's All Outraged because the Universities are filled with Lefties. Have my lectures ever physically harmed anyone? (Never! Not even that time when I flung the chalk at the idiot in the back row! I swear!) Sure, I've been rude, from time to time -- once I did, in fact, shout at a devout Christian to shut up and listen when I was talking -- maybe that was a little insensitive. But no blood got spilled. So what's the harm, right?

And I ain't even pack a gun, for heaven's sake. All I have is a grade book.

Then, over here, Tammy Bruce, who claims she's seeking common ground with common sense, says,

I've noted a number of times how we owe Europeans, and especially the English, a deep apology for not intervening sooner in World War II. Until the strike on Pearl Harbor, we allowed so-called Pacifists and isolationists to determine this nation's (non)reaction to genocide and naked aggression. Some attitudes haven't changed. Thank goodness we as a nation have. So much for 'pacifism' and 'peace.' Because we waited and did nothing as the Axis powers raped the world, millions died. Of all the things we learned during World War II, from its beginnings in 1933 when Japan invaded China, it is to never mistake not being at war for peace.

While, as you can imagine, I wholly support the war that wiped out Hitler, finally, it's her attributions -- them evil pacifists -- and that last line really annoys me. Never a mistake to not be at war for peace?

So anytime some fuckwit comes along and claims we need to fight a war for peace, Tammy Bruce, you're going to sign up, are you?

What is it with these conservatives? Why are they so hung up on the code ethics? What is wrong, I ask you, I beg you, I beseech you, what is wrong with engaging your brain?

Yes, Tammy: there is a difference between WWII and Iraq.

No kidding. Really. Look and you will find it.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Okay, this isn't a new post -- it's a link to a post you have to read. Here's a bit, but read the whole thing, which is delicious:

It's from a post called The Unofficial Gay Test For Men:

The question is, succinctly, "Am I gay?" It is normally prefaced with some rather obtuse and, I assume, unintentionally insulting explanation about feeling odd and weird and wrong and so forth, which is not unusual given the cultural climate and the drive by certain forces to frame the homosexual as someone who made a "wrong decision," and is "succumbing to sinful ways," and other such nonsense.

...I have accepted the challenge that my high-profile on-line gaydom affords me and will attempt, in this article, to help satisfy those questions that may be haunting you in the dark of night as you lie sweating between your sheets thinking about why you're feeling particularly excited about that guy you saw standing in line at Starbuck's with the arms that, gee, do they really get that big?

First, a short series of questions to ask yourself.
Score one (1) for each Yes answer, and zero (0) for each No.

1. Have you ever wondered what Johnny Depp tastes like?
2. Have you ever actually read Playboy for the articles?
3. When buying underwear, do you consider "ass fit?"
4. When watching the bar scene in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, are you thinking to yourself, "I wonder what Luke Wilson looks like naked"?
5. Do you have more than three different hair grooming products, i.e. mousse, wax, paste and gel? (The same type of product by three different manufacturers doesn't count.)

If you scored 3 or more, start sweating.

Posting Deficit

Boy, have I got excuses for you for why I haven't been posting much -- where will I even start?

(1) Five day migraine. Don't know what's up with these migraines. I've had them since I was about six, but they've been getting steadily worse, and this last one lasted, as I say, five days, and was excruiciating for the last two, despite all the drugs I took trying to make it go away. My charming neurologist suggests it might be the drugs -- rebound headache, he says. Try not using the drugs, he says. Bite me, I say.

mr. delagar thinks it's the rum. I'm more willing to give up the rum than I am the Vicodin, so we're going there first. (I don't drink that much, but I do drink some, and the research I've been doing suggests that alcohol can cause migraines, so, well. I'm laying off for a bit. And can I add? Rats.)

(2) Kid is sick. This was yesterday. She wakes up saying her head is wobbly and her knees hurt. I swear great oaths of fury (remember I am suffering an excruciating migraine) and make her swear she is not faking. She swears an oath of blood that she is really sick. I call in sick to work (mr. delagar is already gone to work) and ten minutes later she projectile vomits all over me. And is cranky and feverish and bad-tempered the rest of the day.

(3) Did I mention our heat stopped working? Not that I care. I hate central heat anyway.

(4) It's the last week of the semester. Students keep wanting me to work with them on their papers. Pesky students!

(5) I'm behind in grading, due to the migraine. Urg! Grading!

(6) No one had done any laundry, cooking, or shopping at our house this week. We're out of food and clean clothing. Last night I fed us -- well, me and mr. delagar, the kid did not eat, too busy hurling -- Kraft Mac & Cheese for dinner. At 9:00 p.m. And we were glad to get it too.

It is, however, almost the end of the semester. Maybe I will have time to read and think again soon. One can hope.

Damn. I forgot (7) mr. delagar's birthday is tomorrow. Nor have I bought him a present. This is bad news. He gets all touchy about shit like that.

I better go shop.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

In case you needed one

Another reason to despise the Wall:

A Wal-Mart in Tampa thinks a black guy with a big check has to be a thief:

Pitts, local human resources manager for GAF Materials Corp., called the Wal-Mart Supercenter at 11110 Causeway Blvd. in the morning to order 520 holiday gift cards for employees. The white, female worker who normally did the task was on vacation. The company had spent about $50,000 a year on gift cards at the local Wal-Mart for several years.

Store employees assured him it wouldn't be a problem. The roofing system manufacturer gave Pitts a check for $13,600, and he left to pick up the gift cards.

Pitts, who wore khaki pants and a button-down dress shirt, arrived at the Wal-Mart customer service desk about 1:15 p.m. and found the cards ready.

But first, he was told, managers needed to verify the check.

Pitts gave them his GAF business card, driver's license and numbers to Citibank, GAF's bank. The company's accounting supervisor told Wal-Mart over the phone that the check was good. GAF, based in Wayne, N.J., is the nation's biggest roofing systems maker, with $1.6 billion in 2004 revenue.

At least two black clerks watching the situation told Pitts he was being subjected to such scrutiny because he is black. They told him other companies made similar purchases that day without such interrogations.

Wait! There's more!

Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies arrived, responding to a call from store managers about a possible forged check.

Pitts said one of the officers grabbed his arm, causing him to pull away.

Hey! Doesn't he know that's resisting arrest?

And this isn't the first time, either:

Last summer, Wal-Mart managers at an Eagan, Minn., store accused Gayle Bryant of using a bad check to buy $92.69 worth of bottled water and household goods, news reports said. Managers called police, who waited for her to leave the store and then stopped her for questioning.

Bryant said she was targeted because she is black.

To be fair, of course, this likely is not Wal-Mart policy. This is the racism of Wal-Mart employees -- which is to say, the racism of typical Americans. Nor can the caliber of the average Wal-Mart employee be much, considering what Wal-Mart pays -- anyone who can, moves on as soon as possible, I imagine. Anyone who stays is no doubt angry and looking for someone to take it out on.

Which doesn't excuse anything.

Wal-Mart ought to be educating its employees against racial profiling. For that matter, it ought to be paying its employees enough that they aren't taking their hate out on their customers.

The Kid Makes Me Nuts

Now y'all know me. I loves me some dialect. I love teaching the History of the English Language class, here at the Fort, mainly because in the second half of the class I get to teach dialects. So I have nothing, nothing, mind you, against dialects.

On the other hand: the kid has taken to saying "ain't," every chance she gets, in this utter hick accent, and it is driving me m-a-a-ad.

Which I made the parental error of letting her know, early on.

"I ain't going to," she said, about something. (Ain't pronounced like a'yunt, only all one syllable, it's appalling how low-rent it sound, well, I'm appalled, and you know me, I don't have class issues -- well, I thought I didn't--)

"You ayunt?" I said. "What are you, from Arkansas?"

This was a bad mistake. Since then she's been fitting ayunt into every sentence she can. Giggling madly when she does it. Today, I'm suffering from my fortnightly migraine -- "My head is killing me," I say.

"It ain't," the kid declares.

I glower at her.

"Well," she points out, beaming with delight, "you ain't dead."


Apparently, not only have we evil Secular Humanists declared a War on Christmas, but now we are launching a War on Thanksgiving (Why do I never get the Memos?). Go here for details:

While we're on the subject, I'd like to give Christian Conservatives a bit of homework: look up that word secularist, would you, please?

Here's what secularist means: "one who believes that religious considerations should be excluded from civil affairs or public education."

Not an atheist, not one who isn't religious, not evil Satan-worshipping demon: just someone who happens to believe that religion should be kept in one sphere, and civil matters in another. Someone like, oh, Thomas Jefferson. Ben Franklin.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

War on Christmas

Our university has just put up its holiday decorations -- immense they are, and very shiny, lots of lights and very festive.

So I'm leaving my office with the kid, who had a day off and spent it with me. She's trying to read the giant decorative light outside my building from the reverse. "S-E-A-- What does that say?" she demands.

"That one says Season's Greetings," I said.

She frowned. "Why does it say that?"

"Well," I explain, "if it said Merry Christmas, it would just be talking to the Christians, right? But if it says Season's Greetings, then it's talking to Christians, and Jews, and Muslims, and anyone who celebrates a holiday around this time."

I swear to you, her face absolutely lit with delight. "It's talking to me!" she said. "It's talking to us!"

Then yesterday? I pick her up from school and we're driving to Aikido and she's singing one of the two existing Hannukah songs (O Hannukah O Hannukah) and I say, "Did you sing that in music class today?"

"No," she says. "If we sang songs in music, they would be Christmas carols."

Like, duh, you idiot.

And? In Wal-Mart? We're looking at all the bake-your-own Christmas crap? She asks me why there aren't any Hannukah cookies or Hannukah candies (we can't even get Hannukah candles in the Fort). I tried to explain that if we lived in other parts of the country, there would be, but I don't think she believed me.

So do I have a lot of sympathy for Mr. O'Reilly and his faux-War? I fucking well do not. He can fucking well bite me, in fact.

Him and all his lying weasel friends.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Wal-Mart Fucks America

TBogg has a good post up on the details:

This has been irking me for about a decade now. All over Arkansas, everywhere here in the Fort, folks claim they "have" to shop at the Wall, because things are so much cheaper there. Yes, certainly. Cheaper because Wal-Mart is being subsidized by your tax dollars, you berk. Because you're paying Wal-Mart's health insurance bill. Because you're paying for food stamps for Wal-Mart's employees and the ER bill when the children of Wal-Mart employees get sick -- that's why your fucking underwear is so fucking cheap, you fucking bint.

Not that I'm the least bit hysterical about this or anything.

And then, because it's where all my students end up working, and they all end up "full-time" employees, working 33 hours a week for six dollars an hour and no benefits, because what other options are there in the Fort, and most of them cannot afford to move, not with three kids and a husband who hasn't paid child support in five years, well, it's a never-ending story, isn't it?

Monday, November 28, 2005

New Orleans

DED Space links to a Katrina story --

that makes me sad and angry, though not surprised.

New Orleans has sort of fallen off most people's screens these days. I hear about it, because of my family. Metairie, where most of my family lives, is partly up and running again, my mother tells me; but New Orleans itself is not.

My youngest brother lives in the city. His house still has no power, though he says power crews are "supposed" to be coming through soon. He and his wife are nearly the only ones living in their neighborhood at the moment. One house down the block is also occupied, and another house several streets over -- and this is typical, apparently. Only about 15% of the population of New Orleans has returned.

Shops aren't opened. Stores that do open, close by five, for the most part. Houses are decayed and fallen. My mother says the landscape is gray. Places burn down frequently. At night, the city is utterly dark, and utterly silent.

My brothers went to the French Quarter on Halloween evening. They said it was bizarre. (Halloween, you might know, was, or used to be, a huge deal in the Quarter.) They said it was like a J. Crew Halloween.

Oh, what's been done to my city.

Pride and Prejudice

We took the kid to see two movies over the TNX holiday, Zathura and Pride and Prejudice. She loved them both; so did I. (mr. delagar confessed to being a bit bored in Zathura, but then I suspect he did not find the astronaut as charmingly sexy as I did. A charmingly sexy astronaut will go a long way toward distracting me.)

Anyway, this P&P is the best yet, I think. It's got the best Mr. Collins ever, and while I don't think it handles Mr. Wickham very well, all the other characters are brilliantly done, including Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth. And it's done just excellent with the class issues -- it touches deftly on the real peril of the Bennett situation and lets the audience, at least, see that yes, Elizabeth does, in fact, have her head in the clouds just a touch, if she thinks she can afford to marry for love.

It also captures all the background detail wonderfully -- the scenery and the lighting and the clothing and the farmyards and the servants and the dogs -- those are all perfect. The ballroom scenes! The kid was bouncing in her chair with delight over the ballroom scenes.

Also, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy's sexual attraction -- repressed and violent, played with amazing beauty. The actors did an amazing job with this. As did the director.

(For an opposing view, see this guy,

who apparently thinks people should not desire one another sexually previous to marriage -- I guess that's what he thinks -- and that previous to 1960 no one ever looked at anyone else's butt. Yes, of course. That's why Victorians put out more porn than any other generation on the planet, son.)

Anyway, I highly recommend the new P&P. I loved that six hour BBC version, but this one is even better.

(mr. delagar, at Pride and Prejudice, looking around the packed theater about six minutes before the previews start: "I think I'm the only guy in here."

I look around too. "Nah. Look. There's one, with his mother.")

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Rude One Speaks

The Rude Pundit on Coulter:

"You can dismiss Coulter's mad brain as a belfry filled with those flying rats, but she is the seething evil id of the
right, daring others to cross her line."

Yep. And this is why -- much as many might like to dismiss her as harmless and a joke -- she, like her animus figure, Rush, is scary.

It's not so much that she says what they all want to say -- though she does -- as that, by saying the truly evil things she says, she moves the boundaries: and thus allows the Right to say, each day, things that are just a little bit more evil. It's the function of every trickster figure in every culture. She and Rush are the Right's own Loki puppets. It's not what they say that matters -- it's the changes they leave in their wake.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


We stopped visiting family for Thanksgiving about five years ago, here at the delagar household. It makes us much happier about the holiday, frankly.

So today, instead of waking up after having driven miles & miles to be somewhere we don't especially want to be, we woke in the chilly dusk of an Arkansas fall morning, and have been, since, idly preparing a feast for just the three of us -- a turkey (which we got free from our local Harps -- it's Employee Owned, the Harps, and sells free-range chicken, and organic vegetables, and milk from a local dairy that comes in glass bottles and has Nothing Added! and tastes wonderful, we love our Harps, they gave us the free turkey because we bought more than a hundred dollars worth of groceries last Friday) and rolls (I'll attach my recipe) and pumpkin pie (mr. delagar made that, so I don't know the recipe) and some of those sweet potatoes with marshmellows but not raisins because the kid does not believe in cooked raisins and grilled asparagus (you can have the recipe for that too if you like) -- and in between making all of this, I've been working on revising the third novel in my trilogy and mr. delagar has been composing and the kid, well, she's still working her way through Black Adder. "What's a leper?" she asks. "What's a dingle?" "What's typhoid?"

We've bought her a children's dictionary. It's infuriating what those things don't contain.

On the other hand: "What's a tosser?" she asks.

Now that one I'm relieved to find the children's dictionary won't define, I admit.

Here's the recipe for my rolls:

One cup ice-cold milk. Marshall's dairy makes the best milk, but if you don't live here, do what you can.
Two eggs. Free-range organic are the best.
One Tbs yeast
One tsp salt
One tsp sweetening -- any sort, honey, brown sugar, maple, whatever suits you
Two tbs butter, soft or melted

Mix. Add in some bread flour. King Arthur Bread flour is the best sort. But if you can't get that, just use any sort of bread flour. It MUST be bread flour, though. Keep adding bread flour and mixing (if you have an industrial mixer, mix one minute after every half cup of flour you add; if you're kneading by hand, you have my sympathy, and just knead as long as you can stand it) until you have a good stiff smooth dough, almost but not quite not sticky.

Set that sucker to rise about an hour. Punch down after an hour. Rise again, another hour. Punch down again. One more hour. Punch down, shape into rolls, put in a well-buttered pan -- I use a round pan, but that's only because my pan is round. I also make round rolls, but it's only because I always have. Rolls about the size of my fist. You should have started the oven heating to 400 somewhere in here.

Let them rise about 20 minutes. Bake about 20-25 minutes. Eat with real actual butter. Honey is also nice.

The Asparagus.

Get skinny aparagus. Little puppies. Wash'em. Snap off the tops, throw the bottoms away. Put them in a big shallow pan. Put about a tablespoon of good olive oil on them. Toss'em around. Sprinkle with Kosher salt. Put under the broiler for about six minutes. Eat like French fries. The kid loves these.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Why Do We Have Kids

Except to torment them?

So the kid is still studying her Black Adder text assidiously, and it contains a whole section on Medieval Medicine, with various ways leeches were used for this cure and that cure. She's munching Tater Skins while she reads.

I eat one. I eat another. She is reading me bits about leech cures. I eat another, and say, "You know, these are dried leeches."

She looks at the Tater Skin she is about to eat, and looks at me. "It isn't."

"Is too."

She considers it. "Leeches aren't this color," she declares.

"Well, sure. Not until you cook them."

She considers some more. "Leeches aren't flat."

"Right, the factory flattens them during the process."

She regards me with deep suspicion. "It says Tater Skins on the bag," she points out.

"Of course it does. Who would eat a chip called Dried Leeches?"

She didn't fall for it, though. She's gotten too clever. My brother Ben, on the other hand. He would have fallen for that one until he was ten or eleven, at least.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Kid Strikes Again

Two days ago the kid found a copy of the Black Adder scripts in our local public library -- all the scripts, in one volume -- and has since been reading them with a Talmudic intensity that is almost unbearably charming.

Or it would be if she didn't keep demanding that we supply historical annotations, definitions of obscure words, and disquisitions on just why certain puns are or are not funny. Which behavior, frankly? Gets old after the second or third hour.


Last night, she's kneeling by the ottoman, her favorite study position, reading intently, and abruptly she says, "Daddy."

"What, sweetness?" mr. delagar says.

"Does prick have two meanings?"

Monday, November 21, 2005

Here, Here, Here, Here

HERE you go.

Here is why being an atheist is the right and moral way to go:

My two favorite paragraphs:

Believing there's no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith." That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up," or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, "How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do." So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that's always fun. It means I'm learning something.

Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future.

(Hat tip to the Other Liberal Professor.)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Fat America

Every semester in my ENGL 1213 class, which requires a research paper, I have two or three students who write on dieting or on weight loss or on various weight loss methods -- one this semester is writing on bariatric surgery as the sure-fire way to reduce the rate of morbid obesity in this country. Usually the students who write are wan girls of around nineteen, who weigh in at about 122 and walk with their heads down, and who earnestly tell me, when I try to point them toward the articles that show that being a bit overweight really isn't bad for one's health, that "people" really just want to lose weight because "they" will "feel better about themselves." All the while never once looking me in the eye.

Here's an article looking over the whole obesity mess one more time.

It doesn't really say much that's new, but it says it clearly. I like this paragraph especially:

In spite of the fact that there are virtually no controlled clinical trials examining the effects of obesity in people, we can make some inferences from animal research. Investigations performed by Ernsberger and his colleagues have shown that, over time, weight cycling (temporary weight loss followed by a regain of that weight, otherwise known as yo-yoing) in obese laboratory animals increases blood pressure, enlarges the heart, damages the kidney, increases abdominal fat deposits, and promotes further weight gain (Ernsberger and Koletsky 1993; Ernsberger et al. 1996; Ernsberger and Koletsky 1999). This indicates that the yo-yo effect of crash dieting may be the cause of many of the problems we attribute to simply being fat.

That's the one you can't get people to hear -- people like my mother, who has been on diet after diet for the past fifty years, and who insists to me that if she "ever" stopped dieting she would weigh a thousand pounds, and yet keeps losing and regaining the same twenty pounds. And meanwhile along the way, like so many of my students, has done speed and diet pills and diuretics and Atkins and this lunatic diet and that insane regime and is currently, I believe, doing a mix of Weight Watchers and those no-fat/no-carb foods everyone thinks will work so well -- yikes.

I've got feminist issues about this (what else?) mainly because I had food issues as an adolescent: I remember trying to make myself thin enough to be acceptable to the world. I remember what it was like, trying to like on 1200 calories a day. I remember a life when all I could think about was food. This was high school, mind you. When I ought to have been thinking about algebra and physics and Latin: I was thinking about how much beef broth I could have for dinner and whether I could have four crackers or five with it. All afternoon I would think about that. And how many miles I would have to run, if I ate ten crackers instead.

Because I focused, from grades nine through eleven, on trying to make my body fit some magazine image, I did not focus on what I ought to have been focusing on (not, I admit, that it would have made much difference: I was, after all, attending what was likely the worst high school in Jefferson Parish, Riverdale High: but nonetheless.

My young women students, many of them, are in the same place. They are focusing, not on studying biology or algebra or work for my class, but on how much they weigh, how much they have eaten, how much they can eat, how much they ate yesterday, do their bellies stick out, did they run far enough last night -- if they're obsessing over their weight, as America tells them to do, they are not obsessing over my class.

Which is just wrong.

Some Housman for Today

Yonder see the morning break:
The sun is up, and up must I,
To wash and dress and eat and drink
And look at things and talk and think
And work, and God knows why.

Oh often have I washed and dressed
And what's to show for all my pain?
Let me lie abed and rest:
Ten thousand times I've done my best
And all's to do again.

Friday, November 18, 2005

A question

I’m teaching Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own in my Lit of Diverse Culture’s Class (we’ve gotten to the Feminist Lit part of the class) and we were discussing the bit where Woolf says women previous to the 20th century really couldn’t write well because they were too hampered by their cultures, unable to travel or have educations, and by the critics around them telling them constantly that women couldn’t say this and mustn’t think that, that they weren’t smart enough, and so that women were, as a result, too limited, too angry, too poor – I was delving into this idea with the students, seeing what they thought of this, with side excursions into Woolf’s classism (which gets really evil in that text, I’d forgotten how vicious she was about the working classes, all in the most polite manner possible, of course: that is, she is totally blind to her own prejudices), and one of my students asked about the anger issue, did I think that was true, that you couldn’t write well if you were writing out of anger, or other strong emotions?

“Ah,” I said. “Well,” I said.

They waited, expectant.

“See,” I said.

“Here’s the problem,” I said. “I don’t think that. But that’s because I write pretty much entirely out of anger myself. So you might want to reckon whether I’m able to give you a clear answer to that question.”

Now they’re staring at me, like hungry wolves. “What do you write?” they demand.

“Can we read it?” they demand.

“No, you can’t read it!” I said. “Hell, no, you can’t read it!”

And I got the class back onto Woolf, swiftly.

But here’s my question: what do I do about questions like that?

I’ve had students want my blog address before. Sometimes I give it to them, sometimes not. Depends on the student and how reliable I think that student is – students who want to read my short stories and novels, I have always demurred. (One or two are published, but I can count on students not being able to find them, as obscure as the publications are.)

My impulse is not to let students read anything I write, you know, EVER.

On the other hand, I make them let me read what they write: they have no choice about it. So it hardly seems fair, does it?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Over at Crooked Timber, there's a post on a speech recently given by Barack Obama, along with some excellent comments. This quotation is featured:

And so women still earn 76% of what men do. They receive less in health benefits, less in pensions, less in Social Security. They receive little help for the rising cost of child care. They make up 71% of all Medicaid beneficiaries, and a full two-thirds of all the Americans who lost their health care this year. When women go on maternity leave, America is the only country in the industrialized world to let them go unpaid. When their children become sick and are sent home from school, many mothers are forced to choose between caring for their child and keeping their job.

… In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society. But in our past there has been another term for it – Social Darwinism, every man and woman for him or herself. It allows us to say to those whose health care or tuition may rise faster than they can afford – tough luck. It allows us to say to the women who lose their jobs when they have to care for a sick child – life isn’t fair. It let’s us say to the child born into poverty – pull yourself up by your bootstraps

Whenever I mention any of this in any of my classes, throwing out the notion that maybe it might be useful if parents got some help with childcare, if the entire burden of providing for taking care of kids didn't devolve on the nuclear family -- whenever I mention that, here in the Fort, invariably I get some student snorting something about communism, or social engineering, or right, that's how they do things over there in France, maybe...

It's almost always some single male saying that, I've noticed. Oddly enough. It's never some single mother with kids. And it's never some guy with a wife and two kids at home, either.

Odd how we don't have any problem with the government providing families with help paying for care for their elderly in this country. But help paying for their young'uns? That's just crazy talk.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Dropping By

Just to say, that if it comes up in your life, and the guy says to you, we're going to put you in for out-patient surgery to break up that kidney stone (that big ol'kidney stone, but he'll likely only say that if he's from Arkansas) but don't you worry none, it won't be much discomfort--

Just for future reference?

Don't believe his lying ass.

Plus when I woke up in recovery and demanded my own morphine pump they ain't give it to me.

Just some Darvocet. Ai.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Habeas Corpus

If you want to know the scariest thing that has happened in America under the Bush Administration, here it is:

From Paul Craig Roberts' column:

On Thursday November 10, the Republican controlled US Senate voted 49 to 42 to overturn the US Supreme Court's 2004 ruling that permits Guantánamo detainees to challenge their detentions. How dare the US Supreme Court defend the US Constitution and the civil liberties of Americans when we have terrorists to fight, argued the Republican senators. What are civil liberties, the Republicans asked rhetorically, but legal tricks that allow criminals and terrorists to escape.

Habeas corpus prevents authorities from detaining a person indefinitely without charges; the guarantee of habeas corpus ensures that no one can imprison you without a trial.

The Bush administration wants the power to detain indefinitely anyone it declares to be an enemy combatant or a terrorist without presenting the detainee in court with charges.

(From Walcott's column:

Roberts is right: without habeas corpus, we haven't got a democracy.

Under the rules as this current administration is running them, any of us can be declared an enemy, or an agent of the enemy, or as being suspected of working with the enemy, and then held -- forever.

Without being allowed access to a lawyer.

Without the government which is holding us having to show cause -- that government just has to declare it has cause, not show what the cause is,to anyone.

And -- this is charming -- we can be tortured, apparently.

That sound you just heard? It was the death of America.

Friday, November 11, 2005

November 11

For my students who have been and who still are in uniform, and all our other vets as well:


I know it's not enough.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Where Teh Gay Originates

So I'm teaching this class, the Lit of Diverse Cultures class, and we've just read Churchill's Cloud 9, an interesting and bizarre text, and we had an interesting session on it.

Among other things, I pointed out to the class how much violence was in the text -- and found they had not even noticed that. "Huh," one student said. "You know, I saw all the sex. And now I can see all the violence. But until you mentioned it, I didn't even notice the violence." So then I got to spin out on that for a bit, about how violence in our culture is so normalized that we don't even see it, that it's fine for us to see people being beaten up and people's heads blown off and people being burned alive, but oh, show a tit on TV, and yikes, Western Civilization is going to Fall!

And I talked to them about the roots of the word obscene, how it's from the Greek for off-stage, how for the Greeks violence was the thing that was obscene: how the Greeks never allowed violence to take place on-stage. It was obscene: it always took place off-stage. But sex? That was fine. Sex could happen, and did happen, giant phallus, humping, naked men and women, that could be on-stage all you liked, and did. Sex was good. Violence was risky.

And what do we communicate to our children, with our different rules -- that sex is obscene, that violence is a fine thing to show?

But what I started out to post about is another thing. This is, after all, the Gay Lit part of the class. In one bit of the play, Harry, a guy who's meant to be gay, has sex with a little boy. One of my smartest students, who's also a conservative, put forth the theory that this event is what makes that little boy gay.

Teh gay, she says, is caused by little boys being molested by adult men.

I explained that no, it was not. I assured her that being sexually molested as a child will make a child more likely to have mental issues when the child grows up, but it is not what makes the kid a gay kid.

She gives me a cool, superior look. She didn't argue. But she knows better.

I didn't argue either. I moved on.

I'm not sure what I should have done. This is one of my smartest students. But she's also rigidly conservative -- I'm not sure I could have said anything that would have made her listen. She knows that being gay is a dysfunction. She's not about to listen to anything I say that says anything different.

I wish I could have thought of something, though.

More Total Anesthesia

Saw the guy yesterday and he showed me a picture of my big old kidney stone, which is indeed a big old stone -- about as big as the end joint of my thumb -- and he says they're going to bust it up for me (yes, this is how doctors in Arkansas talk, but trust me, it's charming) on Monday, while I'm under yet another session of total anesthesia. My brother says when he had this done they did not knock him out. Or for when they had a look up there to see what was wrong, a tumor or a stone -- he was awake for that one, too. Apparently in Louisiana they do not go giving total anesthesia for every little whip-stitch of a procedure.

Or maybe it's because I'm a girl and the doctors are afraid I might cry?

I don't know. Don't care, either. I love total anesthesia.

Anyway, this all reminded me of the conversation I overheard as I was waking up from the anesthesia last time, between one of the docs and all of the nurses in the recovery room. The doctor was insisting that one should neither cook nor make coffee with water from the hot water tap. One of the nurses was objecting to this rule most vehemently. Other nurses were chiming in on various sides.

The doctor's argument was that the hot water tank did not ever empty out all the way. And, it was hot. But not hot enough to kill bacteria. In fact, just hot enough to grow bacteria. So, therefore, if one cooks or makes coffee with water from that source, one is using bacteria-infested water.

The nurse argued it is water one cooks with, or runs through a coffee-maker, and that the heat would then kill the bacteria. But even I, half-woozy, could see the flaw there. Not enough time being heated, I argued in my head. One must boil water 20 minutes to kill bacteria -- or is it 25? But anyway, much longer than one usually boils things one is cooking, and certainly longer than it takes to make coffee...and so the doctor argued.

On the other hand: what sort of bacteria would likely be in a hot water tank? Assuming any bacteria at all are in there? I lay, muddled, loopy, trying to think. How would they get in the tank? What would they live on? Has this doctor any evidence that bacteria live in hot water tanks? Or is he talking out his hat?

I know my home ec teacher, back in Kansas, told us never to cook with water from the hot water tap. But I always figured that was more crap from Kansas.

What do y'all think?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Why Support Bush Part II

Here's more explanation from Fred over at Slacktivist:

How Scary?

I took this quiz

and apparently I am so scary I even scare scary people.

So all right then.

Wear a Shirt for Jesus

Over here from Dobson's site

comes a young woman with at sense of humor and wit, who seems bright enough and who can at least write, arguing that good Christian girls should, for God's sake (little pun there on my part), put a shirt on.

Jesus said that the two greatest commandments are to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37, NIV) and to "[l]ove your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39). Usually when I hear these verses, I think of being nice to my friends, or at least trying to avoid running bad drivers off the road... [But it] seems pretty obvious, but if you love your friend, you probably won't murder him. If you decide to love your classmate, you won't steal his new laptop. Simple, right?

Loving our neighbors relates to any kind of issue we come up against — including modesty. Notice that "love does no harm to its neighbor." If wearing a shirt that shows cleavage will cause some guys to sin, why should we purposely do it?

Her argument is more involved than this, and a bit too simple-minded -- she's assuming that the women she sees on television "choose" to be sex-objects (of course they must! Because all humans have free will! No one is ever exploited on this planet! And society is not complex! Nor is the psychology of psychosexual relationships! Heavens no!) -- and she also assumes, amusingly, that only men lust; but the main problem I have with her argument is, simply, her conclusion.

Put a shirt on for Jesus, she says, because we don't want our brothers to sin -- but, she hastily adds, "I'm not going to wrap myself in a burka."

Well, why not?

It's the logical conclusion of your argument, sister.

If our bodies are so lucious and tasty that the very sight of them leads men into the occasion of sin, and men are so swept away by their appetites that they cannot control these appetites, if that's what you believe, then yes, I think, for the good of your neighbor's soul, I think you ought to wrap yourself in a burka. Why haven't you done that? You evil whore?

Or better yet, I think you should remove yourself from society entirely. Because even in a burka, you know, men might catch a glimpse of your toe, or the wind might blow and reveal your foot -- or, well, even if it doesn't, just seeing you walking about might cause a man to think about what's under the burka. No, no. I think you should enter a convent. You and all the other right-minded woman in the world.

Here's the thing:

Women have bodies. Men have bodies. We have this thing we do with our bodies? It's called sex? About, oh, I don't know, seventy or eighty percent of our energy and our resources (I'm talking of normal folk here, now, not born-again Christian, who apparently have some sort of wiring problem, causing them to spend all their time thinking about whether they have sinned, and what exactly a sin is, and whether wearing jeans instead of culottes is a sin, and if they accidentally went two miles over the speed limit on their way home from church last Sunday, was that a sin?) is devoted toward sex -- getting sex, getting more sex, dealing with the consequences of having had sex, and then finding some more sex.

Dressing the way we do? It's one way we show that we're sexual beings. Looking at other folk, dressed the way they are? It's how we evaluate them as sexual beings. Even when we don't actually plan to have sex with the guy we evaluate as we're crossing the street on the way to the bookstore, which most of us don't, by the way, we are, in fact, usually noticing him as a sexual creature. And he's noticing us the same way.

That's not evil, or sinful, or perverted, or whatever words you're dredging up there from your home-schooled book of synonyms -- that's how we're made.

Some of us -- not all of us, but lots of us -- like to play with the energy this sexual wiring puts off: like to dress in ways that make those wires kick out sparks. This is also not evil, or sinful, or perverted. It's also just something humans do.

(The girl with the thong panties you were so scandalized by, btw? I would have been scandalized by her as well. But mostly because she was doing the sexy thing so badly. I also dislike the girls with the cleavage hanging everywhere, and the boys with the too-tight trousers and the vest over the bare chest look. We want some skill in teh sexy-dance, I say: we want some art here. But not everyone agrees with dr. delagar. Some folk really go for that low-rent thing, and who am I to disagree? I too went through my dress-like-a-slut years, years mr. delagar is forever bemoaning his missing of them.)(And no: I will not post pictures.)

Oh, where was I?

Ah, yes. Human like sex.

Humans really like sex. Even humans who have committed themselves to monogamy, such as dr. delagar, enjoy looking at other sexy humans. That's how we are. It does not make us evil or sinful, and -- really? -- it doesn't mean we want to have sex with the guy we see crossing the street on the way to the bookstore.

I mean not usually.

It's just how we're wired.

And unless you actually do plan to lock us up in separate enclaves, I don't see that there's much you can do about it.

That's how adult humans are.

Except for the ones wearing culottes, I guess.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Well, yes, THAT explains it...

I got this off the blog A Certain Point of View, who got it from SNL...

"According to most recent polls, 66% of Americans think President Bush is doing a poor job in Iraq. And the remaining 34% think Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs to Church."


I'd been driving around the Fort lately looking at all these fucktards still sporting their Bush/Cheney placards and their OSAMA WANTS YOU TO VOTE FOR KERRY posters, trying to understand what's in their heads, how anyone, anyone could still be supporting this administration at this point -- but yeah. That clears it right up.

Who Knew?

Over at Dobson's site? They've figured out what causes Teh Gay! And who knew? It's (a) liking music (b) liking to hanging out with (ick) girls and (c) not getting enough attention from Daddy.

Jeremy was a typical teenager with baggy jeans, an appetite like a horse and a "‘tude" the size of New Hampshire. Or at least that’s what his parents thought.

But more and more, they began to see how different he was from other teenage boys they knew. Ever since he started junior high school, Jeremy felt like he didn’t fit in. It seemed like most of the guys in his class were only interested in sports. Jeremy was interested in music. He was shorter and skinnier than many of the boys in his gym class—a glaring fact that caused him to feel self-conscious. Most of his friends were girls. For some reason, he felt he could relate to them more easily.

But he never realized how different he was until the first time someone called him “queer.” It was like a devastating gunshot wound to his heart. And when others joined in and added the title “fag” to the insults, Jeremy was humiliated beyond words. By the time he reached high school, he was basically considered an outcast. He couldn’t communicate his fears to his dad—in fact, Jeremy couldn’t relate to him at all. So, slowly, he found himself in a world with no male companions or acceptance from men.

Soon, Jeremy began to crave attention from guys and even fantasize what it could be like if a boy really liked him.

Well! Glad Mr. Dobson has that all cleared up for us!

(A bit further down on that same article, I came across this line, which I can't resist sharing with you: "Let’s face it: science is meant to be fact . . . not theory." )

I've been skulking about on their site for a few days now, and I'm just -- what is it with these people and their obsession with sin? It's pathological. Is this a sin? Is that a sin? Did you sin? If I say jeez but I secretly thought Jesus, did I sin? If I don't actually sin but I think rebellious thoughts in my heart, am I sinning? What about if my neighbor sins and I don't try to stop him, am I sinning then? I swear, it's like OCD.

Can't we get these people some Prozac or something?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

America the Prison State

Over at Crooked Timber this post

notes that the number of us in prison or on parole is now around seven million.

Yep, seven million Americans in the prison system.

Among other things, anyone want to reckon what that costs? How much we're spending to keep seven million of us in jail or under state control? And where that money is being drawn from? (As I say to my students when I go off on this rant in the classroom, as I sometimes do, if we're building prisons, folks, we're not building biology labs, we're not building libraries, we sure as shit ain't building new high schools or art museums or day care centers.)

And why, do you think, so many Americans are in prison these days?

Are we just wicked? Is that it? Too many bad, bad children? The sixties, was it? Not enough spanking going on? (Ha!)

War on drugs, folks. There's your answer. Go have a look at the stats. Over half the people in prison are there on drug charges. And? Mostly? Stupid drugs charges.

Look. I know some drugs are bad drugs. I live in Arkansas. I know meth, for instance, does really awful things to people's lives. But putting meth users in prison? Really isn't useful.

Rehab. That might help. (I admit it probably doesn't help much.)

Prison and jail -- they don't help at all.

What would help, you wonder? I tell you what would help: really good daycare, really good schools, really good jobs waiting for the sixteen year old who, because she has nothing else to do with her life and nothing to look forward to, gets in the car with Jim Bob and takes that hit of crank. If crank is all there is, crank is what she'll choose. Here in Arkansas, for these kids in the hills, it's crank or playing bingo and the slots over in Oklahoma, hoping to score big some day. Most of them aren't, in fact, stupid -- at least not until the meth has eaten out their brains. Why wouldn't they choose the meth?
Amanda over at Pandagon recommends this site

to all teens and post-teens who need to know things about sex and having sex and birth control and just anything like that, and boy, is she right. Boy, do I wish I had had access to a site like this before I started doing the sex thing. And yes, yow, she's right, it's got stuff to teach me even now.

Send it out to everyone you know. Teens or not. That's my advice.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Banning Knowledge

But let's keep ignorance readily available.

Over at Pharyngula, PZ has a post about Albertson's, out west, banning Seventeen magazine because an issue included, inside I assume, "a labeled gynecological illustration of the female pelvis."


Why ban this? To protect the innocence -- of the teenagers this magazine is aimed at. God forbid teenage girls know anything about their own anatomy.

This sort of thing happens here in the South with our buddy Wal-Mart all the time -- certain magazines get banned for having covers that some religious group or the other finds too naughty, or some book gets banned because it has some scene in it that's too shocking. Yet just last week, I'm in line trying to buy whatever it is I go to Wal-Mart to buy -- I don't go there much, but in the Fort there are, in fact, things you can only get at the Wall -- and the kid is with me and I look down and she's staring, horrified, at one of those stupid publications, the Globe or the Enquirer or whatever it was: ARMAGEDDON TWO YEARS AWAY!!! WORLD SCHEDULED TO END ON NOVEMBER 15 2008!!!

"Is that true?" she whispers to me. "Is the world really going to end?"

Now normally this would not be a problem, because normally the kid is smart and sensible and I can tell her no and explain how those stupid publications are stupid -- but she's been having issues lately, as you know.

So we have a three hour long thing over this stupid magazine.

They won't put sex ed on the shelves. But they will put that crap. Right at a seven-year-old's eye-level, too, I might add.

Watching TV

So Tuesday night at the delagar household is Girls Night Home -- this is what the kid has named it, because mr. delagar teaches on Tuesday nights, so she and I lie about on the sofa in the TV room and watch first Bones, which has the guy that used to be on Buffy, who's very tasty, plus a woman who plays a forensic anthropologist, so, you know, a smart woman, and then House.

Last night my mother was there as well -- she came up to Arkansas to stay in case I did, in fact, have a tumor, and is hanging around for a bit. Anyway, we're watching Bones and the guy who used to be on Buffy, I cannot remember his name, hold on, let me do some research, David Boreanaz, jeez, no wonder, who could remember that one? Anyway, he's coming out of a bar with the female lead, the really smart anthropologist woman, and he's putting on his jacket and just for a second his belly shows, and all three of us go, oooo!

Seven years old to sixty-eight years old, slain by a glimpse of hot belly.

I tell you what, biology is a killer.

Meanwhile, though, that's not what I started this post to talk about. Really! It isn't!

This post is about the anthropologist woman, who's brilliant (so the show writes her) and yet wholly inept socially. I like this show, because I like the bit about having smart women on TV, smart people on TV, but why must smart people be shown as socially inept?

I know, I know, we gotta get plot and character arc somewhere. Why, though, with smart characters, does it always have to be there? "Oh, I know! She's smart, but she -- has no common sense! She's smart, but she -- can't deal with people!"

See, because that doesn't necessarily follow, I have to tell you. Most smart people, they have common sense, in fact. (Lots more than your common ijits, actually.) Most smart people are, in fact, good at handling (you can read that manipulating, if you like) people. Goes with the big juicy brain. Tends to make smart people good at reading emotional cues and paying attention to details and collating data.

Now, smart folk may not think it worth their while to coddle every ijit around them -- that may be true. You could write that character -- as had been done with the show that follows Bones, House -- but notice that's not what is being done with the woman on Bones. It's not that she's smart enough to know how to handle people and just doesn't care to, as is clearly meant to be the case with House. No, it's that she's too inept to handle people.

She can figure everything else in the world out, just like that. But the human male? Beyond her capacity.

I mean, please.