Monday, October 31, 2005


So I wake up from the anesthesia, always my least favorite part of this whole deal, the waking up from the anesthesia part (my favorite bit is when the anesthesia doc says, Now I'm going to give you this shot in your IV, it'll make you feel really nice, boy do I love that bit), and the nurse comes over and does the whole, breathe for me, honey bit, I hate that bit, and as soon as I'm done coughing and swearing at her I ask, "Is everything all right?"

And she says, "The doctor will be along to talk to you soon."

Fuck, I think. Because, usually? It's never good when the nurses won't tell you things.

But this time it was (I won't torment you further). This time, the doctor comes buzzing by, talks to me for all of six point three seconds, but says the words I always, always want to hear, specifically, "No tumor," adds, "Big old kidney stone, we'll need to deal with that, and an inflamed valve, see you in a week or so," and buzzes away.

So I get to live. At least for awhile longer.


Sunday, October 30, 2005

Not That I Believe This, but...

I had a fine prodromic dream last night, in which I was moving out of my house, and the whole thing was empty, and I was sweeping the last bit of trash from the floors and thinking I needed to get the boxes of books I had packed up to give to the Other Liberal Professor over to her place before I Moved On...

Not the sort of dream that's all that comforting right before you go in for your CT to see if there's a "little tumor hanging around up there," in other words.

But I did finish the first draft of the last book of my SF trilogy, just this morning -- so that's done.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Supporting Our Troops

Here's how we're supporting our troops -- we're sticking stupid magnets on our stupid SUVs (right next to the Christian fishes and the OSAMA WANTS KERRY ELECTED bumper stickers) and we're ignoring the actual returning vets; we're giving them little or no help, little or no support, and then when something like this occurs?

Shucks are we surprised:

Medic in rescue photo arrested

Friends say soldier suffers from PTSD
By Daniel Borunda

El Paso Times

A Fort Bliss soldier who gained national attention two years ago when he was photographed carrying a wounded Iraqi boy to safety is under arrest following a shooting incident in El Paso, Texas.

Spc. Joseph Dwyer, 29, repeatedly fired a 9mm handgun inside his second-floor apartment starting around 9:15 p.m. Oct. 13 in a more-than-three-hour standoff friends described as a violent episode brought on by drug abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder.

No one was injured and Dwyer surrendered just before 1 o?clock the next morning.

He was jailed in lieu of a $10,000 bond on a Class-A misdemeanor charge of discharging a firearm inside the city limits, police said.

"All this could have been prevented," said friend Dionne Knapp, a former Army medic who once served with Dwyer. "I'm angry because Joseph, when he came back from Iraq, he was a hero, and now when he needs help, nobody is helping him," she said. "We gave [military and mental-health authorities] warning after warning after warning."

"Joseph is the sweetest, most good-hearted man I've ever met in my life," said Angela Barraza, who worked with Knapp and Dwyer.

But friends said Dwyer returned from the war a changed man. He came back very religious, but problems slowly emerged -- nightmares, drinking and sniffing inhalants, they said.

Dwyer crashed his car earlier this year. "He [said he] saw a box on the street and thought it was a bomb and he swerved," Barraza said.

A Fort Bliss spokeswoman said Dwyer had no disciplinary issues but confirmed he had seen mental-health experts.


The day before the shooting, Barraza, Knapp and other friends met with Dwyer, whose condition they say had worsened. They said they tried but failed to take away three handguns Dwyer had in the home.

He joined the Army as a medic two days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

When the now-famous image of Dwyer was taken, his unit, the 3rd Squadron of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, had been ambushed repeatedly the night before as they worked their way north along the Euphrates River. Just as the sun was rising, they were ambushed again by Iraqi troops firing from tree lines along the road. The Americans fired back with everything they had and called in airstrikes.

An Iraqi family was caught in the crossfire. When the fighting stopped, a man ran out, screaming that his family needed help.

"It came over that there was a family that had some injuries," Dwyer told Army Times not long after his picture was taken. "We went on down there. It was kind of hectic at first. We didn't know what was going on. Who was friendly and who wasn't."

Then he and some other soldiers, weapons at the ready, bolted from cover to help. Dwyer reached the father and grabbed his son, cradling the young boy as he raced to safer ground.

That's when Army Times photographer Warren Zinn snapped the picture.

The boy, about 4 years old, "grabbed right onto me, that was the weird thing," Dwyer said. "The kid was doing all right. I could feel him breathing real hard, and I was just carrying him and he didn't cry one bit, and you know he was a cute little kid."

That day was the first time Dwyer treated any wounded.

"He basically saw the ugliest part of the war," Barraza said.

Dwyer's friends hope the incident will prompt the military to provide improved mental-health treatment for Dwyer and other combat veterans.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Me? A humanist? Go figure.

According to this quiz:
I'm a humanist:
You fit in with:
Your ideals mostly resemble that of a Humanist.
Although you do not have a lot of faith, you are devoted to making this world better, in the short time that you have to live. Humanists do not generally believe in an afterlife, and therefore, are committed to making the world a better place for themselves and future generations.
20% scientific.
60% reason-oriented.
Who would have thought?

Poetry from the delagar household

(Headnote: Spike is the little dog; Big Dog is the big dog. She learned what a eunuch is from watching Black Adder on dvd.)

The kid comes in to the kitchen last night and says to me, "Do you want to hear an appalling poem I have just written?"

"I'm always up for appalling poetry," I say. "Shoot."

She stands straight and puts on her poetry face, which is poised and very cute. Then she recites: "Spikey is a eunuch / A one-eyed eunuch. / Big Dog is a eunuch too."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Birth Control

This post

over at Pandagon reminded me of an exchange that came up in my class the other day.

We're doing Major Barbara: as you know, a main character in that is a foundling, and has to adopt another foundling. My students want to know what a foundling is.

Ah, well, I say. It's a baby that's found on the street.

Found on the street? They say. What do you mean? Like lost?

Oh, well, no. I say. Like left there. Abandoned.

Oh -- like dumpster babies?

Well. Kind of. I look around at these innocent children. What do you know about the history of birth control? I ask them?

They look puzzled. What can I mean? History of birth control?

How long have we had reliable birth control? I ask them. When did it appear?

They look at each other. Surely reliable birth control has always existed?

One older student knew. (Thank God for older students.) She says, 1962. Which is close enough.

Right, I say. And before that, what did people do?

The students are mystified. One guy says, They didn't have sex.

I laugh. The students laugh with me.

Not hardly, I say. They had sex. No birth control, no abortion. So they had lots of babies. Twelve, fifteen, twenty per family. What did they do with all these babies they could not feed?

Didn't lots of them die? One student asked.

Yes! I agreed with enthusiam. Luckily lots of them died. Or, well, not luckily, in fact. Many parents farmed their kids out to wet nurses, where the kids would just happen to die, by accident, you understand. Sheer luck, that. Other kids, whose parents were too poor to afford wet nurses, kids belonging to the working poor, they were drugged all day long to keep them quiet while their parents were at work, or so malnourished, lots of them died that way, don't know if it's sheer luck -- what about others, though?

They're staring at me like they've been jack-hammered.

Foundlings? I say.

They left them on the street? one kid said.

Right, I said. So when you go home tonight, what do you want to do?

They kept staring at me.

Get down on your knees and thank science for Birth Control, I said.

They laughed. But they were convinced, too.

Not that I preach in the classroom or anything, mind you.

Light Posting

Sorry for the light posting lately -- we're in what we call around the delagar household an astrological cold spot, where one bad thing after the next keeps slamming into us. It's wearing me out.

The most recent string of events, just this week, include the Chancellor of our University dying, which has the entire Faculty edgy and uncertain, one of my dogs attacking the other and biting his eye out, so that I have to not only deal with the trauma of handling the little dog's injury, but think about what to do about the big dog -- is it safe to keep him around? I do have a seven year old, after all; on the one hand, we love the big dog; on the othe, what if he bites the child next time -- and being told, yesterday, that I need to undergo tests on Monday to find out whether I might have a "little tumor" hanging around up in my kidney. (I quote, I quote.)

Which, since I did, once, have a little tumor hanging around my thyroid, I can't meet with quite the cheeriness the surgeon presented it to me with. Though I'm doing my best.

You can imagine the effect all this is having on the kid. Well, we haven't told her about the possible tumor. And she doesn't care about the Chancellor. But all the other disasters that are dropping on our heads ( -- disasters: Bad stars. Heh.) they're not helping her deal.

Monday, October 24, 2005

More Billy Bragg

When we were in Little Rock last weekend, mr. delagar very sweetly bought me Man in the Sand, a Billy Bragg & Wilco dvd, about the making of Mermaid Avenue, but also a tribute to Woody Guthrie -- very sweetly, because I'm afraid mr. delagar has about had his bait of Billy Bragg and is deeply regretting ever saying to me, "Hey, listen to this guy, you'll like this guy, I bet."

Boy, do I like this guy. I can't ever remember liking a guy this much.

I also highly recommend Man in the Sand. Both because Billy Bragg is so passionate about his subject, Woody Guthrie and Guthrie's work, and because the music itself is so perfect. Even the kid, who as you know is seven and who as you know is having some, ah, issues, at the moment, even the kid hung, spell-bound, in the room, for the entire hour and a half while the dvd was playing.

Only trouble is, now I need more Billy Bragg.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Education, Obviously, is Mind Control

John Leo's column over at TownHall

is another of the lectures about how the liberals are imposing their groupthink yap yap yap and that's why our school system yawn.

If you read the thing carefully, it's all slant and implication, no actual fact, and it's got the obligatory slam at the ACLU, and most of it just makes me want to go to sleep. But I did like this bit:

Another battle over dispositions theory has been unfolding at Washington State University's college of education. The college threatened to terminate a student, Edward Swan, 42, for failing four "professional disposition evaluations." Swan, a religious man of working-class background, has expressed conservative opinions in class. He opposes affirmative action and doesn't believe gays should adopt children. His grades are good, and even his critics say he is highly intelligent. One teacher gave Swan a failing PDE after spotting the statement "diversity is perversity" in Swan's copy of a textbook.

See, this is where their true colors show. This isn't rational thought. We aren't protecting the rights of people to be on the alternate side of the spectrum -- this has nothing to do with conservative as opposed to leftist. This guy thinks if you're not like him, you're a pervert.

Think about what that means for a moment. It means if you aren't a white Christian male, from America, holding to the exact sorts of values he holds to, marrying in the same ways he married, raising your kids the exact ways he has raised his kids, running your household exactly as he runs his household, then you're perverse. You're evil.

Do you want that guy teaching in your public school?

I've been teaching in universities for nearly 20 years now. I know that guy. I'd fail his ass too. Why? Not because he's a conservative, not because he's a Christian or a Jew or a Buddhist. Because's he's a nutbar. We don't need nutbars in the public schools. They have enough problems.

Why folks who write at TownHall seem to think that the only qualification one needs to have to teach in the public schools is the willingness to say that one believes in Jesus and one hates gays, well. I suppose that's because that's what passes for civilization over there.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Teaching the Margins

I started teaching the gay lit section of my diverse cultures class today. It went surprisingly well -- surprisingly, since I have been having tiny rumbles of rebellion since I put out the syllabus and the students found out that, along with Asian and Jewish cultures, they would have to read the literatures of Gay and Feminist cultures. (Ack! Not that!)

So I went in today with a fiery lecture about why, exactly, one needed to study and read gay literature: what exactly was interesting and important about gay literature/queer theory: why queer matters. Including side forays into the junctures of how porn is politics and putting sex on the page is a political act.

Forgot this was the day my chair was observing my class, incidentally.

I talked to them, I kid you not, about margins: I held up the page and I showed them how the print was in the center of the page. I asked them who was in the center of the page. Then I asked them who was in the margin. This metaphor -- no, I am not joking -- knocked them out.

I said, WASPs will let the gay guys live in the margins, they'll let the Hispanics live in the margins, they'll let the black folk live in the margins, so long as what?

"So long as they don't hold hands in public," said one of my black students. "So long as they act like white guys."

I told them the story one of my colleagues told me, about a woman in her class who complained about having to read a feminist essay: I'm so sick of this feminazi crap, the student said. "In a college classroom, she said this," I said. "Sitting in a college classroom, she said this. Why is that deeply ironic?"

The young woman in the front row got it: "Because feminists got her in that classroom," she said.

"Why would she say that, then?" I asked. "Why would she claim to hate feminists?"

"So everyone will think she's a good woman," said the bad woman in my class, with wicked grin.

"So she can be safe in the center," I agreed. "Because otherwise she's out there on the margin, in't she?"

I told them that's what queer theory is about: the world on the margin, and sex on the margins, and gender on the margins, and identity on the margin. I told them that's what gay literature was talking about -- and in fact, what all literature of diverse culture was talking about, and that's why we were reading gay lit in this class.

This idea seemed to interest them.

Then I talked about why the margins were important -- why they had to exist, why what happened out in them was important, why the literature that was written about them was important, all that. Got into ethics and the creation of the self and choice and all that.

It was a lively class, and the students seemed to be taking right to it. Hope for the Fort yet, I tell you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Those Godless Leftists

This is funny

only totally not, because I'm too sick of this particular brand of ignorance to find it funny anymore.

Our Red State Rant boy thinks Leftists have never met any Christians -- he compares them to the mythic Christians who thinks Jews have horns, that's how little contact most Leftist have with any actual Christians, he seems to think.

That Leftists could, well, *be* Christians is an idea that doesn't cross his mind.

That Leftists can come from a Christian community (yes, indeed, I have an uncle who speaks in tongues, I do, I do, and another who was a Pentecostal preacher til the day he died) -- well, that can't be so.

That Leftists can live among Christians? Teach them? Have them for friends? Respect them? Nah.

Not all Christians, mind you. Not ones like Red State Rant Boy. I do not respect him. But Christians with moral integrity and intellectual honor -- like my man Fred over there at Slacktivist (, well, sure.

No, son. It's only folks like you, who read a great mind who says things like Love your enemy, do good to him who does evil to you, and decides that what that *really* means is persecute your enemies, hate the alien among you, and bomb the living shit out of anyone who isn't exactly like you, that we despise.

(Look up the meaning of despise. Got nothing to do with hate.)

Back from Little Rock

I'm back from the writer's conference in Little Rock. It was both nourishing and numbing. It's always good to talk to other writers, other folks who take seriously this business of using words to change the world. (My students like to ask me that, after I've shown them something very cool on the page, they say, how do you know so much, how did you learn how to do this, how do you know this stuff? I say to them, hey, words are my bidness.) Finding other people who take words as their craft, and talking to them -- instead of people for whom the business of the world is, well, business -- selling more plastic spoons, or building more double-wides, or finding some new way to talk more freshmen into coming here, to UAFS, instead of going down the road to UCA, not, mind you that there's anything wrong with that -- but talking to people who care about writing novels like I care about writing novels, well. Yay, that's all.

Also, an actual audience showed up for the reading, which was a bit surprising. We read at 4.30 in the afternoon on the second day of the conference. My experience with that time slot is that you will be lucky if the parents and spouses of the writers show up to hear the reading. (I brought mr. delagar and my father along.) But no -- about thirty-five people came. It was at the main branch of the public library, and open to the public; also the Arkansas Arts Council people came; and people from the writing conference itself; so that might explain the relatively large turn out. Anyway, it was nice. And they all listened, and laughed in the right places, and came up afterwards to tell us how they liked it.

On the other hand: all of the writers reading are having the same problems getting published. We've all written novels that have won awards, some of us a number of awards, some of us major awards, and none of us can get published. Two of us have gotten big name agents who have taken our novels on (one of us has had two agents do this, with two different novels) and shopped the novels around to all the big publishing houses in NYC, and every place it is the same thing: Great novel, great writing, love this book, but.

It's that but. You don't have a name. We've never heard of you. This book doesn't fit some category we can market it under (that is, it's not chick lit, it's not incest/southern gothic, it's not about the mafia, it's not a murder mystery, it's not about S. Africa), so we don't think we can easily sell it. Sorry. Good luck placing it elsewhere.

That bit's discouraging. Especially since I don't see what the solution is. (Write chick lit? Heh. Would if I could, believe me.)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Wincing Now

Here, from Buddha Stew, is a student's eye view of a class session --

Here's a timeline of events for our regular class session:
8:02 am- Professor enters classroom, offers up some awkward statements on our homework assignment, hands it back.
8:07 - Anthologies are opened to the piece under discussion, oddly phrased and intentionally confusing question is asked of class regarding the general form/location of main themes/importance of c# to romantic endeavors/best way to pick nose.
8:08 - I retrieve my planner from my backpack and beginning entering in useless information in order to keep myself awake.
8:10- Boredom continues unabated. Same two people attempt to answer vague questions and are repeatedly shot down with polite (yet somehow strangely harsh) German manner.
8:13- I begin to compose a rough draft of an analysis graph only to realize I have no idea what is going on because we've never heard the piece of music in question.
8:15- Back to planner. Draw amusing picture of ghost holding a mug of beer on the date of our proposed Halloween party.
8:20- Watch surreptitiously glanced at.
8:21- Contemplate death and the sharpness of pencil lead.
8:24- After realizing that the class is completely clueless, Professor attempts to further engage our attention by scribbling something illegible on the chalkboard.
8:25- I fall asleep for 30 seconds only to be awakened by an explosive "JAH! And vat do you think about the in-tervel in messure nigh-n?"
8:30- Draw amusing picture of pumpkin imbibing in mixed drink.
8:31- Mentally compose blog entry.
8:35- Begin to be slightly nervous about impending trombone lesson with Jan.
8:36- Mentally practice Martin Ballade, get distracted by poor piano playing emanating from professor's attempt to give us a real aural idea of what the hell Haydn was thinking.
8:40- Time stops.

This is why being a professor occasionally makes me want to hang myself -- the dread that I am, possibly, inflicting this on my students.


On the other hand -- death and the sharpness of pencil lead: what a great line. Surely that line is worth any number of dreadfully boring class sessions?


I have to go down to Little Rock this weekend, to read from my novel on Monday. Which I am not looking forward to doing. This is the novel I won the grant for last year. That's all good, I liked getting the grant, I don't mind having to do the reading itself, it'll make a nice bit on the cv, all that is all right.

I just (a) hate to travel (b) hate to go places I have never been (c) feel entirely depressed at the moment, what the kid being whack and all, and so really don't feel like going anywhere, and certainly don't feel like I deserve to be put on display, as an exhibit of anything anyone ought to emulate, and (d) only want to sleep, which if I have to drive to Little Rock and perform at a Writer's Conference I can't fucking do.

I'm still writing, at least. It's been rough, lately, and certainly I haven't been pouring out the pages the way I was this summer, but the third novel in the trilogy is still ticking along. And I revised the first and second -- I'm reading the second to my writing group, which they are bravely putting up with. (They don't like SF, and they don't, my heavens, like gay SF, so you can imagine.) Being able to write helps make almost everything better.

Still. I really wish I was staying home this weekend. And no one was coming to visit. And I had a week off.

I mean, while I'm wishing.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

There We Go

Using facts again...

This is from a story in the Minnesota Daily shooting down Michael Behe, a leading proponent of that Intelligent Design Theory (notable for being neither intelligent nor a theory, in any scientific sense):

While you’re at PubMed, try searching for “bacterial flagella secretion.” One of the resulting papers, by SI Aizawa (2001), reports that some nasty bacteria possess a molecular pump, called a type III secretion system, or TTSS, that injects toxins across cell membranes.

Much to Dr. Behe’s distress, the TTSS is a subset of the bacterial flagellum. That’s right, a part of the supposedly irreducible bacterial “outboard motor” has a biological function!

When I asked Dr. Behe about this at lunch he got a bit testy, but acknowledged that the claim is correct (I have witnesses). He added that the bacterial flagellum is still irreducibly complex in the sense that the subset does not function as a flagellum.

His response might seem like a minor concession, but is very significant. The old meaning of irreducible complexity was, “It doesn’t have any function when a part is removed.” Evidently, the new meaning of irreducible complexity is “It doesn’t have the same function when a part is removed.”

The new definition renders irreducible complexity irrelevant to evolution, because complex adaptations are widely thought to have evolved through natural selection co-opting existing structures for new functions, in opportunistic fashion.

The story is incomplete, but it is a perfectly reasonable hypothesis that the bacterial flagellum evolved first as a secretory system, and later was adapted by natural selection for locomotion.

(Via PZ over at

The whole story is funny and brilliant, but will make, of course, no difference to those who ascribe to creationism or ID, since they have no interest in reality, in facts, in logical argument, or in listening to those of us who live and move in the real world. So who cares, from their point of view, whether we have evidence that evolution is real, that Behe is an idiot and a liar, that ID is a scam? All that matters is whether they can get school boards across the country to accept their lies. All that matters, from their point of view, is whether they can get America to sign onto their shared delusion. Reality? Reality is what they say it is. Facts and empirical evidence have nothing to do with anything.

I miss the Enlightenment.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Cynthia Simpson Loses

And so do we.

Cynthia Simpson is the Wiccan who petitioned the governmental leaders in Virginia who were opening the governmental sessions with a prayer to Jesus -- she said if they were going to open with prayers to Jesus, they ought to give her a turn, and let her open the sessions with a prayer to her creator once in a while. They refused, of course. She sued, and won. They appealed. They won. She appealed, all the way to SCOTUS. And they have refused to hear the case.


Well, the county has changed its policy, now, for one thing: now it's taken Jesus out of the prayer, and just prays to God. And, now, it lets Jews and Muslims have a shot at the prayer. But still no nasty Wiccans. Or Buddhists. Or Hindus. Or whatnot.

The county "issues invitations to deliver prayers to all Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religious leaders in the country. It refuses to issue invitations to Native Americans, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Wiccans, or members of any other religion," justices were told in her appeal by American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Rebecca Glenberg.

The county's attorney, Steven Micas, said that the county's practice was in line with the Supreme Court's endorsement of legislative prayer as long as it did not proselytize, advance or disparage a particular religion.

I'm just puzzled about how anyone could believe that offering a prayer to any God or religion at a state function can be read in any other way than as the state advancing that religion.

Do these people really think we're that stupid?

Or are they that stupid?

The state has no business messing around in religion. Period. What's so tough about that one?

(Via Ded Space:

Monday, October 10, 2005

Wholly Non-Functional

Kid woke up at 12.20 a.m. this morning. Yes, one half hour after midnight. We had gotten to sleep at nine. She would not go back to sleep. Because it was dark. And, as I am certain you know, monsters live in the dark.

If we were willing to leave all the lights in the house on, and Billy Bragg playing full-volume on the CD player, and the TV on, she was willing to consider lying down in the bed. But those were her only terms, and she would not negotiate. We couldn't really get her to negotiate -- she was trembling with hysteria and terror. When I held her in my lap, I could feel her heart slamming in her chest.

I finally got up with her and let her lie in the white chair reading her Hank book while I worked on my SF novel, because why shouldn't someone in the house sleep?

She fell asleep again at five a.m. It's now 6.36. I have to leave for work in 20 minutes. I got, I think, about three and a half hours sleep last night. This is pretty much how our nights have been for the past month and a half.

If I don't get some sleep soon, I might die.

She's got her second therapist appointment this Tuesday. Christ, I hope something works soon.

I did get a lot of writing done, though. Hah. Silver lining.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Broken World

I know Zelda, and I know she is brilliant and funny and capable, despite this.

But I'm still angry about it.

If parents have a purpose, it's to protect. To keep monsters away from children. Not to move them in with their children.

I suppose I'm as angry as I am because of what I went through in my own childhood -- nothing like this. But I also wasn't protected. My mother also let shit happen and pretended it was my fault. Our fault, since it happened to my brothers too. And now insists none of it did. Despite the fact that it's fucked up all of our lives. Nah, we just imagined it. Our childhoods were perfect.

I got tired of fighting about it about six years ago, and now I just don't go home anymore than I have to, or take phone calls very often. I'm sure she wonders why.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Keeping the Brand Clean

An intriguing essay on the admissions process at Harvard in the New Yorker. Here's just one bit:

I once had a conversation with someone who worked for an advertising agency that represented one of the big luxury automobile brands. He said that he was worried that his client’s new lower-priced line was being bought disproportionately by black women. He insisted that he did not mean this in a racist way. It was just a fact, he said. Black women would destroy the brand’s cachet. It was his job to protect his client from the attentions of the socially undesirable.

This is, in no small part, what Ivy League admissions directors do. They are in the luxury-brand-management business, and “The Chosen,” in the end, is a testament to just how well the brand managers in Cambridge, New Haven, and Princeton have done their job in the past seventy-five years. In the nineteentwenties, when Harvard tried to figure out how many Jews they had on campus, the admissions office scoured student records and assigned each suspected Jew the designation j1 (for someone who was “conclusively Jewish”), j2 (where the “preponderance of evidence” pointed to Jewishness), or j3 (where Jewishness was a “possibility”). In the branding world, this is called customer segmentation. In the Second World War, as Yale faced plummeting enrollment and revenues, it continued to turn down qualified Jewish applicants.

Reading Major Barbara

We're reading Major Barbara in my Vic Lit class (which I know is slightly out of period, but I'm doing it anyway, since it's one of my favorite texts, and it almost qualifies, and really, you know, it ought to be a Victorian text, and okay, I don't have a legitimate reason, I just wanted to) and the students did not blink an eye at Shaw's suggestion that poverty was a crime, or his advice that we execute the poor -- those seemed, to my students, interesting ideas, interesting, ah, solutions to the problem of poverty.

No, what upset them was Shaw's other bit of advice, the one where he suggested giving everyone a stipend -- guarenteeing them this income for life. Even though I pointed out that he also said folk would have to then work for this stipend, they were upset by this. Why? Because it was communism, that's why.

And this is after Shaw's lengthy argument in which he points out all the effects of poverty, how poverty does not, in fact, simply harm the poor -- how it destroys all of society, how it corrupts the world, and how it can be prevented, if we want to prevent it, by (yes, in fact) simply giving poor people money.

Same way George Bush's daddy, for instance, gave him money. (Shaw doesn't use that example, obviously, but he uses examples like that one.)

But no. That's evil.

Shoot the poor? That's fine.

Pay the poor enough to live on, even if we make them work for it? That's evil.

Better to leave, what is it, a fifth of American children in poverty, and what percentage is it of us now without health insurance or adequate medical care, and how many of us without a decent education and what was our literacy rate again, and somebody remind me, what's our alcoholism and drug abuse rate, and that homicide rate, wasn't it fairly high, compared to other first world nations, and Jesus, don't get me started on how many of us are in prison, and where are we now in the standing of university degrees, and infant mortality rates and divorce rates and child abuse rates? Yes, yes, this is working so well. Let's not change this system.

Ah, America.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Racism as Class Warfare

Over at Pandagon, Amanda's riffing on Kathleen Parker's lame column about how it's silly for folk to take offense at a white guy using the n-word in his cartoon, because it was a joke, you know, and black folk use that word when they're joking, and it's the same thing, in't it?

Anyway, down in the comments, Left Wing Fox, who doesn't seem to have his own blog, or I'd link to it, gives the clearest explanation of just why this is wrong that I have ever read: so I'm reproducing it in full here:

Somewhat related story; Several years back, on a bus in Vancouver, a chinese lady and a white lady got into an argument. I really don't know what started it, but the white lady was very appologetic, and the chinese lady simply got angrier and angrier. Eventually, the chinese lady shouted out "Dumb Honky!" and stormed off the bus.

Everyone on the bus thought it was hilarious.

Honky and nigger might be equal in meaning, but there's no way they're equal in weight. These words are a form of class warfare, meant to remind others exactly where they stand in relation to you. For white men to use racist slang(and for that matter, sexist or homophobic), it throws the history of slavery, segregation, classism and oppression against the target. It says "You are my inferior".

When African Americans call each other nigger, it's closer to an expression of equality; Don't get a swelled head, you're still one of us.

White people simply do not have that history of opression and horror against them. "Honky" may be racist, but it isn't oppressive: white people simply haven't been the widescale victims of institutionalized racism. Even "Cracker" is intended more to guilt by association than oppress.
Even if the words are coming out of Condi's face on paper, it's still Andy Marlette trying to put a black man in his place for making a comment about a white man.

My Least Favorite Question on the Planet

"Do we need to cite our sources?"

Yes, indeed, papers are coming in this week. How did you guess?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Days of Awe

Yesterday was Rosh Hashanah. We had our feast -- butterflied chicken, noodle kugel, challah, and potatoes -- and took the bread down to teh Arkansas River to cast it into the running water, naming the things we had done during the year that we were sorry we had done. I said I was sorry I had yelled so often at the kid and mr. delagar, which is true, and that I had not given more time to my students, also true. The kid said she was sorry she had teased the dogs and been rude to me and written on her father's scanner that time and bothered me when I was trying to work and a number of other things. She had an awful lot of sins for a seven year old. mr. delagar was only sorry he had not been nicer to me and the kid. Hmf. Next time I'm making out his list. (Joking! A joke!)

Anyway, then we scuffed around on the bank of the river a bit, a nice big flat mudstone bank, and watched the water ripple past and the sun on the water, and talked about what Rosh Hashanah meant and what the Days of Awe meant, and what Repenting meant.

And then we climbed the grassy bank back up to where the Fort used to be and the kid and I did the winter dance (another Rosh Hashanah tradition, one mr. delagar winces at, combining pagan magic with a Jewish high holiday that way, ai, how could I) in which we call for summer to leave and winter to come, it's always very hot on Rosh Hashanah in Fort Smith, so the kid and I always do the winter dance, women's magic, I explained to her, when she was four, and she believes me.

Now begin the Days of Awe. We are repenting all the wrong we've done.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Life In America

Read this.

If you ain't nervous yet, you should be.

My power bill -- that's electricity -- doubled this summer. I'm expecting about the same for heating oil this winter.

I'm paying close to three dollars a gallon for gas.

Our grocery bill is up.

What isn't up? Paychecks. They're staying the same.

We've stopped going anywhere or doing anything. We are going to see Serenity this weekend, because we've been waiting for it all winter, but we don't plan to buy popcornor soda -- we're going to smuggle jellybeans into the theater with us. The cheap sort.

We're reduced to becoming movie outlaws. It's appalling.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


We had a presentation on Intelligent Design at our institution of Higher Learning yesterday, which was not just well-attended -- it was packed. Students crammed themselves into the auditorium. Standing room only.

Professors came too.

A movement is afoot in the blessed state of Arkansas to require the teaching of ID in the high schools. Many if not most of our students here in the Fort think this is a fine idea. That's why they showed up to the presentation: to show their support for ID.

The professors, obviously, were there for Other reasons.

The professors, needless to say, wiped the floor with the ID guy. He stood no fucking chance. Our professors, and the guy who came down from Fayetteville, are, I don't need to tell you this, very smart, very well educated people. They actually know things about science, biology, and evolution. They not only shot this ID guy down, they shot his shot-down pieces into tiny little smoldering bits, and then they shot his bits to bits.

Did this make the slightest impression on our Faith-Based Students?

It did not.

Facts are Stupid Things. And so are Faith-Based Students.

God Said it. They Believe It. That Settles it.

So what are we even doing here?