Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Octavia Butler Is Dead

This is just awful.


I don't know if you know Octavia Butler's work, but she was one of the best SF writers working. Maybe the best. No one was writing the way she wrote.

I'm broken-hearted here.

Update: here's a link to Dialogic, who has good links to Butler's work, including a link to one of her best stories:


Post Roe v. Wade

Anyone who thinks the Religious Right isn't coming for their Birth Control Pills AND their tubal ligations, after Roe v. Wade is overturned, needs to go here and read this


for a long, clear look at the mind of those who are "pro-life."

It's all abortions to these folk, and they're all after the same thing: which is not, no matter what they say and no matter how they're selling it to us at the moment, saving babies. It's about oppression.

You can see this most clearly in their popular culture. What myth do they love best, people? What stories are their favorite stories? They love telling tales of in which revolt is crushed-- look at their child-rearing books -- they are fascinated with violence, they get off on oppression. Cruise their blogs some time, look at the movies they watch, the TV shows they love. Look at their religious blogs. What part of Christ's myth do they obsess over? I'll give you a hint: it's not the part where he feeds the hungry, or forgives the woman at the well, or tells them the best way to live.

They are a sick culture. And they are taking control of this country.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Reading Against the Grain

Right, so I'm wholly behind the curve here, but mr. delagar and I got Battlestar G: Season One on DVD this weekend and started watching it Saturday night, having heard that it was something interesting.

It is, in fact.

We've only watched the first bit, the miniseries that opens the series, but I'm already intrigued. And already thinking about papers. Of course since the thing's been running for a year, probably they've already been written -- I need to start looking around.

And I can't help siding with the Cylons here, btw. I know I'm supposed to be on the side of poor humanity, attacked without warning by those vicious Cylons, nuked to the edge of extinction (it's the end of the world) and I get the 9/11 parallels, okay, not to mention, jeez, wha evil folk those Cylons must be, killing cute babies like that, but still: why should I side with the humans? Who -- did I get this wrong? -- did, in fact, enslave and oppress the Cylons, and who continue to insist, throughout this opening episode, at least, that the Cylons, who look to me, at least, like human beings -- they feel, they think, they suffer, they fear, they bleed -- are not human, have no rights, deserve to be killed, on sight, like bugs, with no mercy -- um, tell me again, why these are the good guys?

Oh, right. Because the Cylons are led by beautiful, independent women who like to have sex and kill babies. Right! I missed that point the first time around. They're liberals! Right! Sorry! My mistake!

Though I don't know how the Cylons being hyper-religious fits into all of this...the humans are religious too, of course, all of them, so it's not like religion is being cast as a bad thing. The only one to speak ill of religion is, of course, the scientist, who betrays humanity by boffing the Cylon.

More posts as things develop.

More Alito Anxieties

Something we might need some day:


Friday, February 24, 2006

Pro-Choice Anxieties

South Dakota, among other states, as we all know, is working on a bill to make abortion illegal within its borders -- of course, abortions might as well be illegal in most counties of the United States anyway, since no clinics exist within the economic reach of the women who need them.

But this is not good enough for the "Pro-Life" folk -- such a funny name, that, as Amanda over at Pandagon points out.


Anyway, I especially like the comment made by Dorothy as to how you can tell these Pro-Life folk are fucking liars (my paraphrase -- Dorothy's a lot more polite than I am):

Dorothy Feb 23rd, 2006 at 11:51 pm


Amanda’s point, judging from her other posts here, is that if concern for life or for “the innocent babies” were truly the emotion behind the movement, we should expect to see more actions consistent with this impetus. For example, I’d expect them to work for:

1) Broad sex education and easy access to barrier contraceptives. (I won’t get into the arguments over birth control pills and “Plan B” as aborticficants, but there is no doubt that barrier methods can’t possibly be “abortificants”.) These would reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, and hence the number of “dead babies”. Illogically, most abortion-restriction groups actively attack sex education or promote abstinence only types.

2) Better pre-natal and neo-natal health care and financial assistence for poor women and children (WIC immediately springs to mind), since studies show that over 50% of women who abort do so strictly out of financial hardship. However, most of the abortion restriction groups also promote cuts in Welfare, Medicaid, and other “waste of government money” programs.

3) Government funding for daycare up to middle-income levels, so single women and two-job families have some method of raising the child without losing necessary means of support.

4) Alternative high schools for pregnant teens and teenaged mothers that have medical and child care on site.

5) No restrictions on specific abortion procedures used on already-dead fetuses or fetuses whose continued development will seriously endager or kill the mother (ectopic pregnancy, encephalitis, etc.). The “partial birth abortion” ban is one such procedure: it is primarily used to drain the excess brain fluid from a brain-dead encephylitic fetus that would otherwise require a C-section for removal.
(Interestingly enough, every single one of these proposals is a “liberal” idea…but all liberals hate babies and want to abort them.)

6) A ban on all in-vitro fertilizations methods, since every procedure destroys 10 to 50 fertilized eggs for each pregnancy.

7) Serious government regulations on fertility drugs, and the potential on many of them which encourage the woman to ovulate more than one egg per cycle. Also, the medical procedure of “reduction”–where some of the fetuses in a multiple preganancy (that usually results from these drugs) are removed to increase the chances of the others surviving.

8) No exceptions that allow abortion in the case of rape and incest.
When I see the abortion-restriction groups adopt even half of these positions, I will certainly consider their argument that “it’s all about the babies” to have more validity.

*Disclaimer: I am a former president of a Youth For Life chapter. I left the movement when I discovered that it wasn’t really about the babies.

Scaring Students

I scared another student yesterday.

Which always surprises me -- when I scare a student, I mean, because I think I'm the least scary person on the planet. I mean, first of all, you know, a girl, and second, blonde, and third, while I do own a shotgun, hardly any of my students know about it, and fourth, a liberal, so they have to assume, even if it isn't exactly true, that I'm against most forms of violence, and fifth, I'm a mother, I'm always talking about the kid, and finally, you know, I just look peaceful (don't I?), and anyway, what's to be scared of?

But I do. This one started tearing up during his paper conference. And it was a good conference, too. "What?" I told him. "I'm telling you it's a good paper. This is good. This is good news."

"Sorry," he muttered. "I'm just, uh, I'm scared."

I sat looking at him. Then I looked away. I had started to say, astonished, of what? Of me?, but then I shut up in time.

I just finished the conference and sent him on his way.

Because I remembered when I had been nineteen, and so scared of my professors that I dropped a class once rather than go to a one-on-one conference with my history professor. It wasn't even because the professor was scary -- I barely remember the professor himself -- it was simply because he was a professor.

This is something I suppose we need to keep in mind. We're certain our students are brash and indomitable and perfectly capable of fighting back and standing up for themselves, and I reckon most of them are. But not all of them. Some of them aren't so tough. Some of them do see us as scary authority figures and we can oppress those students. Not quite to the extent that Horowitz fantasizes about, I'm sure, and not so much that I plan to change my reading list, but enough that we ought, maybe, to take some care.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I Can't Read That!

Dean Dad comments on a problem we all have run into --

We’ve moved aggressively to include more high school students in college-level classes with our regular students. In some ways, this is very much to the good: students who are bored to tears by a high-school curriculum or offended by high-school culture get a different option, our enrollments get a boost, and some kids who might not have thought college was for them find out it isn’t so bad. Some of the smaller high schools can’t afford to run sections of advanced classes, so it’s easier to send the students here. And some of the home-schooled kids outpace their parents’ expertise (or facilities!) in certain subjects before 18, and need someplace to go. (This is especially true in the lab sciences and foreign languages.)

I worry, though, that as the influx of younger students (and their parents!) increases, we’ll gradually come under increased pressure to make every corner of our curriculum inoffensive to the younger set.We’ve had issues before with younger students in ethics classes, when the discussion turned to premarital or extramarital sex, and we’ve also had issues in literature classes, where the full panoply of human experiences is fair game. In both cases, parents have asked for alternate assignments. Deleting every ‘adult theme’ from Western literature means deleting a hell of a lot of literature. Even seemingly-innocuous courses like Art History can raise issues -- do you really want to be on the phone with an angry father, assuring him that “The Rape of the Sabine Women” really is part of the Western art tradition? It’s not much fun.


As Dean Dad goes on to note that it's not just HS kids who want to -- or whose parents want them to -- opt out of some of these assignments: he's had, and I've had, and I've had colleagues who have had, adult students who demand to be allowed not to read/study texts assigned to them, on the grounds that those texts are politically or morally offensive to them.

For instance: at a previous university, I had a student refuse to read a poem by Carolyn Forche, because it had the "F-word" in it*.

For instance: at the same university, a different student refused to read "Sonny's Blues," by James Baldwin, because the main character had been a drug addict. (She didn't think she should have to soil her mind with reading about that sort of life style.)

For instance: at another university, one of my colleagues had a student who, in a class on literary criticism, refused to study psychological criticism, because the student "was a Christian." (Uh -- what?)

For instance: here in Arkansas, one of my fellow professors got complaints because, and I quote, "she made us read a book about Lesbians." (No, this wasn't me, even though I did.)

My students who don't want to read the work I'm assigning sometimes ask me for alternative assignments.

No, I always say.

This is the required work for this class. I didn't pick it on a whim. I picked it because it's what you need to read for this class. You can read it or not read it -- it's a free country, after all -- but, like any other act of civil disobedience, you'll then have to deal with the consequences.

That's why they call it education.

*Here's the poem, btw -- I can't resist including it b/c it's so brilliant:

The Colonel

WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD IS TRUE. I was in his house. His wife carried a tray of coffee and sugar. His daughter filed her nails, his son went out for the night. There were daily papers, pet dogs, a pistol on the cushion beside him. The moon swung bare on its black cord over the house. On the television was a cop show. It was in English. Broken bottles were embedded in the walls around the house to scoop the kneecaps from a man's legs or cut his hands to lace. On the windows there were gratings like those in liquor stores. We had dinner, rack of lamb, good wine, a gold bell was on the table for calling the maid. The maid brought green mangoes, salt, a type of bread. I was asked how I enjoyed the country. There was a brief commercial in Spanish. His wife took everything away. There was some talk of how difficult it had become to govern. The parrot said hello on the terrace. The colonel told it to shut up, and pushed himself from the table. My friend said to me with his eyes: say nothing. The colonel returned with a sack used to bring groceries home. He spilled many human ears on the table. They were like dried peach halves. There is no other way to say this. He took one of them in his hands, shook it in our faces, dropped it into a water glass. It came alive there. I am tired of fooling around he said. As for the rights of anyone, tell your people they can go fuck themselves. He swept the ears to the floor with his arm and held the last of his wine in the air. Something for your poetry, no? he said.
Some of the ears on the floor caught this scrap of his voice. Some of the ears on the floor were pressed to the ground.

The Coolest Assignment Ever

And maybe the coolest class ever.

green gabbro speaks:

I'm in one of those seminars whose focus has little, if anything, to do with the course title: Advanced Stratigraphy and Tectonics. It's actually about chance events that change everything, sometimes by going smashy-smashy (which I like), and finding other good excuses to put paleontologists and geophysicists in the same room, and what happens if you dry up the Mediterranean, and so on. This week's assignment is to think about, and make a list of, the greatest events in history.


(My bold.)

I so have class envy now.

Not only do I want to be taking that class, I want to be able to make that assignment, in, you know, whatever class. I swear I sat here for twenty minutes, trying to figure out how to justify making that assignment in everyone of my classes. Like, how could I justify making that assignment in Chaucer. Um, well, it's the sort of thing Chaucer would have...uh...written a poem about...if he had thought of it? (Which, you know, he WOULD have.) Or: how can I justify making the assignment in Mythology class? Um...what MYTHIC effect would these events have...no, shit, that won't fly...History of the English Language? Non-starter....

It was hopeless, unfortunately. So I'm just going to have to follow green gabbro's seminar, from way over here. Rats.

Monday, February 20, 2006

So Who Made That Tree?

Okay -- I know this is long -- but I've been mulling over it for some time.

Three semesters ago, I was working with a world literature student on her semester paper. She was doing a study of Milton – something about his theology, I forget exactly what, but she had been raised Pentecostal and Milton, obviously, had not, and it was a comparative paper, her theology against Milton’s theology, her theodicy as compared to his.

But she was an extremely bright student, and despite also being only nineteen years old, she had begun to notice the holes in the theology and the theodicy of her church’s worldview. Studying Milton (well, yes, studying Milton in my class) had only helped this process along.

We were reading over her paper, which focused, as of course it would, on the first chapters of Genesis, and the problems that exist in the text there, and how Milton attempts to resolve them, and how her church did, and suddenly she focused her eyes on me.

“What do you think?” she demanded.

“What?” I asked.

“What do you think? Do you think any of this is real?”

“Ah. Well.”

“No. Seriously. Do you think Adam and Eve existed and the Garden of Eden was there and all of this is actually true?”

“Well,” I said. “No. I don’t.”

She sat looking at me. Just past me, on the shelf by my shoulder, are all the books I use when I teach Bible as Literature: The New Oxford Annotated Bible, The Greek/English New Testament, my Torah with its Modern Commentary, my ancient King James version, very battered, my Chumash, my Tanakh, all the rest.

“What I think,” I told her, carefully, “is that the text is a parable. Think of Jesus. Think how he told true things in stories. It’s like that. I think,” I told her, “that the whole text of the Bible is like that. It’s all parable.”

I stopped there. She was watching me, sort of the way you might watch a leopard. Or, you know, a serpent on an apple tree.

She wandered out, a bit later. And wrote me a fine paper. I haven’t seen her since.

I used to, back when I was a young instructor, back when I was a graduate student, dodge these questions. I wouldn’t say I did believe in God, but I wouldn’t say I didn’t, either. I would act like thought the Sacred Texts of my students was actually Sacred Truth and Real and Valid. I would not say no when they assumed that I believed that Jesus was Our Lord. And blah blah blah.

But this, I came to see, was lying. And invalid. And dishonest. And anyway, why should I support their worldview? Why should I not support my own? Is it not part of my job to let them know that other (valid) worldviews exist?

So I began to say no, when they asked. Only when they asked. Because this was in Idaho, land of the Mormons. And then North Carolina, the edge of the Bible Belt. And now, of course, Arkansas. Yikes.

I remember the first time I flat out told a student – in North Carolina – that I was an atheist.

It was a pack of students, actually – it was after class, after a presentation by another student who had been talking about the Enlightenment – and they were outraged, and gathered around my desk, wanting me to assure them that this was stupid and sinful and no real grown-up would support it. “You believe in God, right?” they demanded.

“Well, no,” I said. “I’m an atheist, in fact.”

They stared at me, as blankly as though I had been speaking French.

“What’s an atheist?” one asked, finally.

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. Then I explained. They kept staring at me, in astonishment this time.

Finally, another one said, “You don’t believe in God? But that’s – that’s – how can you not believe in God? Where do you think that tree came from?” she demanded, waving to the tree outside the window.

This wasn’t a ten year old, mind you. This was a twenty year old woman. She might have been twenty-two, in fact.

I don’t tell students I’m an atheist unless they ask me, though, even now. I don’t bring it up, is what I’m saying. But I don’t pretend to believe in their God. I don’t pretend that the world is run by any sort of deity – and I can’t see, frankly, how they can believe it is. I mean, look around once, can’t they?

Lately, what with posts like these:

[I]mportantly, if you believe that morals are handed down by mystical superbeings rather than worked out among rational, compassionate adults, you will never really "get" morality.

It is impossible to be a moral being yourself, or a positive moral force in your society if you don’t understand the REASONS for moral acts. The young man I quoted at the beginning of this essay had no way to think about morality beyond "I have to do what my god says."

Worse, contained within the question he asked, a question suggested by everything he’d ever been taught by his religion, was the statement that the natural desire of human beings is to rob and rape others, and the only thing restraining them is their good Christian faith.

Freighted within that question is the clear implication that compassion, love, charity, tenderness and decency are unnatural, alien traits to humans, and become available ONLY after you start to believe in his god. For this guy, everyone outside his religion is automatically bad.

Knowing nothing of the nature of morality, he might live his entire life blindly following rules handed down to him by others (which might be anything from "Open doors for old people" to — I kid you not — "Cut your wife’s throat if she allows another man to see her bare face"), and he would neither be able to teach an adequate moral code to others nor be able to respond himself to some new situation requiring moral judgment.

He would never ask himself what’s good about being good. He would never be able to understand that people with different beliefs can be as good as he is.


and this idiot:

Friends, if you're going to be atheists, start thinking and acting like it. Get rid of your own irrational beliefs and embrace the world as you say it is: a purely physical and random place where goodness and evil don't really exist and where the rules set down by organized religion and thousands of years of human history are no more meaningful than two rocks colliding at the bottom of a mountain after an avalanche.

What I learned from my foray into disbelief was that most atheists have it all wrong. They've merely substituted their own irrational belief system for the one I was given from 2,000 years ago.

One of my friends told me the other night that he had stopped to help a stranded motorist.

"Why would you do that?" I asked.

"Because it was the right thing to do. She needed help."

"But," I protested, "that doesn't make any sense. You wasted your time and efforts on a complete stranger, and for what? You got nothing out of it. You should have kept right on driving."

He gave me a puzzled look.

What I meant to say is that God is the basis for good and evil, and once you reject him and his rules, you're left with nothing but self-serving and self-preservation. In short, you're left with being your own god.

It's funny. Calling my beliefs irrational hasn't kept virtually all of my non-believing friends from coming up with a set of beliefs on their own. They find them in tradition, in rational thought, in politics, in philosophy, in the moon and the stars, in Tarot cards and even in the cookies where they get their Chinese takeout.

They seem to need something, even if they don't know what it is, to guide their lives.

It seems to me, as a rational man as well as a Christian, that those thoughts are irrational and should be discarded immediately by any right-thinking atheist. I'm puzzled why they cling to something so silly. For them, life should be merely an exercise in seeking personal pleasure, procreating and then dying.

When I talk to my students about right and wrong - obeying the laws, for a start - some of them will quickly say, "It's only wrong if you get caught."

That's right! In a non-believer's world, self is all that matters. Don't stop to help others. Don't give anything to charity. Don't let your conscience be your guide.

If it feels good, do it, because it doesn't matter anyway. Nothing matters. To put ourselves above the animal kingdom without the existence and rules of a creator is just plain silly. Like dogs and cats and mosquitoes, atheists should embrace their freedom and act accordingly.

Some people already do that. We call them sociopaths, but maybe that's too harsh.


and what with the major changes in my own family, which I’m NOT getting into here, I’ve been thinking more deeply about just why I don’t believe: how I got to where I am.

Part II:

My father was raised Pentecostal. My mother came from a nice (if that’s not a contradiction, which it may well be) Indiana Christian Church of some sort. When I was little, neither went to church. My father had kicked loose from Jesus in his teens, gone to drinking that beer and smoking them cigarettes; my mother followed him as she always did.

When we moved to New Orleans, though, my mother wanted a church for her three kids, because, well, kids need Bible School and like that. So she took us to a nearby church, Disciples of Christ, because, I think, it was nearby. Those of you who know Disciples of Christ know how liberal it is. At least how liberal it can be. (Jim Jones was a Disciples of Christ guy.) Our church was liberal, mostly. The preacher when I was there had a beard and wore sandals and had a live-in sweetie.

Nevertheless: I never bought it.

It wasn’t terrible, when I was little, because my mother never took the whole church deal seriously. She figured kids needed Sunday school, and now and then she took us.

But when I was about ten, one of my father’s friends died of a heart attack, and bam, he panicked. He got Jesus again with a vengeance. And we were in church every time they cracked the door. And he wanted us to get Jesus too. Including, yikes, me.

Well, fucking shit. That was not going to work.

I was eleven at this point. I had, in fact, just discovered Darwin. And science fiction. It was no way I was giving up rational thought and Enlightenment values for mystical goofiness and accepting Jesus into my soul and the blood of the fucking Lamb.

But my father insisted.

He insisted I attend church. He insisted I attend Sunday school. He wouldn’t let me read anything in church, either, except the Bible—which actually turned out to be a good thing, in the long run, because, since the church service was endless, and since we attended every single service, and all the other meetings too, I read that sucker cover to cover, and more than once. I didn’t have a commentary, not back then, but I did have the spirit of scientific inquiry and I didn’t have one bit of trouble taking note of all the problems in that text. Didn’t help that I’d also spent a good part of my childhood reading Greek and Roman and Norse mythology. And I wasn’t shy about raising questions in Sunday school class, either. Not that it did me any good. My teachers either failed to understand the question I was asking, or simply ignored the question entirely. “Well, delagar,” they would say, sweetly, “we can pick apart anything if we try, can’t we?”

When I was sixteen, I refused to return to church. This was the first real fight I ever had with my father.

Why? he wanted to know. Why? What was so evil about Jesus?

Nothing, I told him. I just didn’t believe any of that and I was sick of having to sit there and pretend I did.

Maybe if you put something into it, he said, you would get something out of it.

I don’t believe it exists, I yelled at him. It isn’t real. Why should I put anything into a lie?

Now mind you: mind you: at this point I did not believe he believed it either. At this point, when I was sixteen, I was certain that he and every other adult on the planet, that they were all just pretending to believe this stupid lie. I knew this for a fact. I mean, how could anyone believe something so stupid as God? Obviously they were all lying.

I remember, though, now, in retrospect how he stared at me. Exactly the way my students in North Carolina stared at me. As though I had suddenly spoken in French.

It had never entered my father’s head that someone could not believe in God.

Defy God, yes. Break away from God, of course. But disbelieve in God? How?

Then he blinked and dismissed it. Didn’t hear it. I hadn’t said it.

“I’m not going to force you,” he began, “but--”

“Good,” I said, before he could go on: exploiting that tactical error. “Then I’m not going anymore.”

I slammed the door on my way out too.

Ha. And ho.

It was the first fight I won with my father. Not the last.

Part III.

Later, I met mr. delagar. Later, we had the kid. As long-time readers of this blog know, mr. delagar is Jewish – a deli Jew, he says. I never converted, because of the whole God thing, but I’ve become what I’ve come to think of as culturally Jewish, since I married him (under the chupah, married by Rabbi Mikki, a six-foot bone-skinny woman rabbi, whom my father approved of heartily, because, like him, she ran marathons), and since we had the kid. Ethically Jewish, in that I follow the Jewish ethos. And we teach the kid the Jewish life.

The Jewish ethos makes so much more sense to me than the Christian ethos ever did. I’m happier in this religion – although I don’t know that you can call what we do in the delagar household a religion, exactly, since we never go to temple – than I ever was in the Christian religion.

Jews live in this world. (Or at least our sort of Jews do.) Jews believe in mending this world, in helping those who live here, in being here now. The Jewish religion focuses on this life. And the Jewish religion is not about all about sin and hell and burning for all eternity if you don’t do what the Magic Daddy says (though, as mr. delagar points out, there is a lot about rules and rules and rules and getting every single thing right if you want to please God. It’s the perfect religion for the fellow with OCD, mr. delagar says. But since we’re not good Jews, we don’t get so nervous about every one of the rules – though recently mr. delagar has quit eating pork. Which does make me a bit nervous. On the other hand, you don’t burn in hell forever if you eat pork. You just annoy God. And that’s not polite.)

And then there’s Rabbi Hillel. You have to love a religion that has Rabbi Hillel in it. “Don’t do to someone else what you wouldn’t want that fella to do to you. That’s the whole Torah. The rest is commentary. Now get outta here, son.”

So what do I believe?

The tree is here because it evolved, like the rest of us.

And I’m with Hillel – we ought to treat each other right. That’s our job, as fellow humans.

Unlike Hillel, though, probably, I don’t believe we ought to do that because God said to do it*. I think we ought to do it for the reason Plato said we should: because when we treat one another well, we make the world a better place. (Hillel believed this part too, of course: it’s part of Tikkun Olem, the mending the world idea.) And when we make the world a better place, we have a better place to live in. It’s the Enlightenment worldview. It’s the rational worldview. That it’s also the Jewish worldview just tells me the Jews are a sane folk.

(Notice Jesus said the same thing – treat your neighbors nicely. I’m pretty sure he said it was one of the most important things to do, didn’t he? I think I remember reading that SOMEWHERE. I’m pretty sure he ranked it way above, say, hating the homos. And if the Christians would do it, I’d have no problem with Christianity. And I have no problem, BTW, with Christian who do do it. It’s the ones who believe that God wants them to bomb the bejesus out of other countries and rape the earth and beat their children and take birth control away from women that I have a problem with.)

I also believe what we do matters. Individual action matters. It’s not up to some magic sky-God to fix the world: if we want the world fixed, we better fix it. Conversely, if we make a mess, no one is going to step in and tidy it away for us. So frankly? We need to watch our steps, here. We can’t charge about driving Hummers and having nine babies per family and cutting down the rain forest and thinking we can pray a bit and Jesus will make it okay. We have to make it okay. And we better start.

Finally, I also can’t see why so many religious folk want to spend their entire lives – the only lives they know for a fact they are going to have – fretting about some mythical after-life, some world that doesn’t exist, instead of living here, in this life that does.

But hey. That’s their business.

*Hillel, btw, said once you didn't have to believe in God. Follow the Torah, he said. Do that first, he said: act right, he said, because that's what matters most, and belief in God will follow from that. (I'm paraphrasing.)

Conversation at the delagar household

(while we're folding laundry)

mr. delagar: Why do you always steal my good socks?

me: um...why would I want your bad socks?

Friday, February 17, 2006

Dreaming of the Patriarchy

So ever since Alito got confirmed, I'm having all these dreams about being oppressed. (Help, help, I'm being oppressed!) They've all been especially vivid since the pneumonia. No doubt something about the lack of oxygen to the brain. (Insert your own joke here.)

Last night's was splendid -- I was late to work, the house was appallingly filthy -- water on the floor, dust balls everywhere, dishes stacked around, and mr. delagar had decided to cut a record with some guys he knew. One of the guys had about fifteen children, all under the age of seven. (Many sets of infant twins were involved.) He had brought them all with him, because his wife was out volunteering somewhere. All these sets of twins were lying about on the filthy wet floor, or crawling about, or sitting blinking stupidly in their jamma sets. I've got 15 minutes to get to work before my first class starts. Some of these infants look, frankly, premature. As in, you know, five month old fetuses. Fused eyes and all.

"Shouldn't someone be dealing with these children?" I demand, of the guys who are, with mr. delagar, working on the record.

Their father smiles patronizingly at me and says they're fine. "They can handle themselves," he says.

Fine, I think. Fuck it. I have to work. They ain't my kids.

I start to pick my way through the crowded floor, covered with infants -- it looks like way more than fifteen by this point -- and clip one on the head with the side of my shoe. It starts to wail. Well, I have to stop and deal with it then, don't I? Even an arch feminist can't kick an infant in the head and not comfort it.

"I need some help," I say to mr. delagar. "I have to get to work."

"I'm cutting a record here," he says.

The meaning of this dream, I submit to everyone out there in the blogosphere, is perfectly obvious.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Up and Walking

Hey, y'all --

I'm up and at work again, sort of recovered. I'm still getting dizzy whenever I walk further than about fifteen feet.

Don't get pneumonia, that's my advice.

More blogging later.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Being a Disease

I have to tell you, this pneumonia is some interesting shit. The doctor gave me some of the good cough syrup, as I told you, but I don't even need it. Having the disease is like being tanked on morphine all on its own.

I'm so ill I just lie in bed staring at the window -- and it isn't that interesting of a view, either, mind you, just a bit of a maple tree, and now and then a squirrel will leap past, or sometimes one of the jets from the nearby air base shoots across the sky -- and I lie there watching the window and the next thing I know it's seven hours later.

That's how my days go, except for the bits where I hallucinate from the fever. Those are exciting. This really good hallucination on Tuesday, I think it was, though it might have been Wednesday, because of the whole shut my eyes and it's ten hours later part, involved the jets -- the jet flew past and I blinked and the jet turned into an X-Wing flyer and I'm like cool, so I blinked again and it was the Wright brothers' plane, and I blinked again and it was a pterodactyl and I did that for maybe fifteen seconds and then I fell asleep and it was five hours later.

You use up a week fast this way, may I add.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


It's not the flu...it's pneumonia. My doc has put me on what she says are "powerful" antibiotics (they're fat and yellow) and given me some of the good cough medicine (y'all know the kind I mean, heh heh) and told me to stay in bed all week, which as you know I cannot do.

I am taking tomorrow off, though.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Weekend With Flu

I've just had another weekend with the flu -- it was supposed to be gone, but it came back. I spent Saturday in bed with a racking high fever, trying, every few hours when I surfaced from the fever dreams (which were extreme, let me tell you), to get mr. delagar to feel sorry for me.

Which he wouldn't.

"Help," I would gasp, when I finally got him to come near me. "Help. I'm so sick."

"What do you want me to do?" he would say. "I'm trying to deal with the kid."

"Wheeze," I'd say. "Hack."

He'd wander away and not come back for two hours.

It was charming.

I think he reckons he dealt with me sick once already this year and that was his quota and so he's done.

Anyway, I was a little better yesterday and today I have foolishly come to work where I am wandering ghosty through the halls, not actually able to teach but coughing in a very impressive fashion (too bad I am not teaching Vic Lit this semester, I would be perfect at the sound effects) all through my classes. I'd go home, but there's a meeting I have to make this afternoon.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

ID indeed

From over there on Pharyngula:

God Design Workshop Audience: Ooh! Get you!

God: Get me indeed. Let me take you through the specs of this ultimate species. As you can see it's bipedal - we did toy with six legs but the economics of keeping the females in shoes was too horrific to contemplate. These things here at the ends of the arms are called "opposable thumbs". Boffins in the lab came up with them and, if they work out as we think they will, then we'll roll out upgrades to the other species, probably starting with the caterpillars.

Audience Member: Sorry, God, may I? These whatever-they-are thumbs; what are they for?

God: Opposable. They have many uses but one I'm particularly fond of is this ... hang on ... there, it's called a sock puppet and do you see how I can form the mouth?

Audience: Ahhh!

God: Okay, back to the human. Trichromatic vision, two eyes for depth perception, air breathing so it can fit in and manipulate the planet more easily. Notice the large skull; we've got the biggest and latest brain model to go in there. Here in the throat we've added the capability for speech to develop too. No more grunting and pointing and hitting! Any questions?

Audience Member: I can't see a carapace and the exposed flesh looks quite soft. I assume the bones are strengthened to prevent crushing or snapping and there's protection for the organs too.

God: No. Anything else?


Thursday, February 02, 2006


From the Rude One:

The only thing significant in the entire evening was the treatment of two mothers who lost children in the Iraq War. Bush recognized the parents and widow of Sergeant Dan Clay, killed in Fallujah last month (didn't we secure Fallujah by leveling it?), who stood to applause and cheers from the slavering politicians. Meanwhile, Cindy Sheehan was arrested and led out of the gallery for revealing a t-shirt that read, "2245 Dead. How many more?" She didn't even get to hear Bush promise to kill more soldiers like Dan and Casey, as well as more Iraqi civilians, in order to honor them. He may as well have dug up their corpses and made them dance, dance, grotesquely, horribly, in celebration.


More on Brokeback

Over on his blog, Lance Mannion wonders why he should see Brokeback Mountain, terming it "mush." He says he's open to persusion as to why it's worth seeing -- why it's not just mush.

Mouse sent me a link today that answers that question.

From the article:

The movie...jumps over the years, four or five at a stretch, as each fights against what turns out to be his true nature, and forces himself to genuflect before the stations of the cross of heterosexual culture: marriage, family, responsibility. Yet if the love doesn't speak its name, it certainly sings its tune. The two sneak away over the years for trysts, and eventually each spouse learns the bitter truth.

Finally, the inevitable tragedy and the realization by one man of what a misspent life he's had. How he should have to his own self been true; how happiness has evaded him forever. It's hard to argue that the movie constitutes any kind of threat, or pro-gay propaganda. For one thing, there's too much authentic pain in it, it's too bloody sad. The final image of the aloneness of the survivor is heartbreaking. He was never a crier, of course, but you know inside he's sobbing. The film shows, convincingly, that love comes from the heart, not the glands, and if the heart is engaged, the body follows.

It also shows a lot of conventional heterosexual romantic themes in full bloom: the idea of the special person or "fate" bringing two kindred souls together; the idea that the basis of love has to be trust and friendship, not just lust; the idea that over the long term, a loved one grows to accept the other's foibles; and finally the idea that certain things are meant to be, and without them, life seems somehow incomplete and miswired.

There's a lot more, and it's all good.


Barely Legal

I just like this blog...

....it is times like these that I wish that politics was more like pro wrestling.

Alito would have been one of Bush's goons, always helping Bush cheat to win matches, and running in and saving him from beatings by his opponents.

They would team up to take on challengers, culminating in a tag team match at Wrestlemania, Bush and Alito (aka The Conservative Connection) vs. John Kerry and Al Gore (aka The Blue Streaks).Bush and Alito would be winning handily, really rubbing it in.

The Conservative Connection's manager, Trent Lott (aka The Southern Dandy), would distract the ref so Bush could use some brass knuckles he was hiding in his tights on Kerry. Then Bush would pin Kerry, and the match is over.

Bush and Alito raise their arms in victory. But as soon as Bush turns to taunt the crowd, Alito picks up a folding chair and whacks Bush over the head. Alito then joins the Blue Streaks as they stomp on Bush, and Trent Lott for good measure.

Then the three of them join arms and raise their hands in unity, as the Blue Streaks music blasts through the arena and the crowd goes wild, with a dazed Bush laying in the middle of the ring, the victim of an elaborate set-up.



Here's a post my students -- and about 3/4 of the women I know -- need to read:

The violence embodied in the Western harem is less visible than in the Eastern harem because aging is not attacked directly, but rather masked as an aesthetic choice. Yes, I suddenly felt nor only very ugly but also quite useless in that store, where, if you had big hips, you were simply out of the picture. You drifted into the fringes of nothingness. By putting the spotlight on the prepubescent female, the Western man veils the older, more mature woman, wrapping her in shrouds of ugliness. This idea gives me the chills because it tattoos the invisible harem directly onto a woman's skin. Chinese footbinding worked the same way: Men declared beautiful only those women who had small, childlike feet. Chinese men did not force women to bandage their feet to keep them from developing normally—all they did was to define the beauty ideal. In feudal China, a beautiful woman was the one who voluntarily sacrificed her right to unhindered physical movement by mutilating her own feet, and thereby proving that her main goal in life was to please men. Similarly, in the Western world, I was expected to shrink my hips into a size 6 if I wanted to find a decent skirt tailored for a beautiful woman. We Muslim women have only one month of fasting, Ramadan, but the poor Western woman who diets has to fast twelve months out of the year...


My mother has lived her entire life focused, very nearly, entirely on what she eats: what she weighs: whether she is fat or not.

So have many of the woman I know.

So do many of my students -- to the extent that they will take dangerous drugs, that they will destroy their bodies and their minds (that comparison to footbinding up there is apt) and their futures in the attempt to become some ideal woman's shape: because only that shape will make them of value: because if they do not have that shape, they are worthless.

I've had women insist to me that they aren't doing this because they want to please men, or because they want that ideal shape, but because being thin is healthier: but this is proving, of course, to be untrue -- dieting is the killer, not weight -- and none of them are stopping in the face of that news.

And really. Really. No kidding. This is the only life you have. Surely you have something more important to do with it that worry about how many pounds your scale registers this week?

Come on. It's just a body. Fuck it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Best Post

I don't know if you read this one when it was posted, back when the story first broke. It's been nominated for the Koufax Award for best post, and for my money the story didn't get half enough play.


Go read it and send it around again, will you?

Conversation in the delagar household

(Scene: at the kitchen table, drinking coffee, reading, afternoon, after school, before picking up the kid)

me: I had one of those being oppressed by the patriarchy dreams last night.

mr. delagar: what sort of dreams?

me: you know. You're in a compound sort of thing. Deep woods, no refrigerators, bearded patriarchs oppressing you? Probably has something to do with the Alito confirmation.

mr. delagar: (blank stare)

me: maybe you don't get those dreams.

mr. delagar: I had a wild sex dream. You were in it.

me: so. You had a better night, then.

Read This

If you don't read anything else today:

We tend to think of heroes as men like Rambo, men with nothing to lose letting loose with guns and one-liners blazing, or of women like Norma Rae or Karen Silkwood who sacrifice themselves with bold stances and the desire to make the world a better place. We tend to overlook the heroes who quietly refuse to bend in the face of danger, who don't jump up and down, rabble-rousing and setting off sparks....


That flea has done it again.

You're Dr. Who?

Given that we're not living in the fourteenth century anymore, you wouldn't think this would be a problem, but yikes is it.


(Via green gabbro, my hero: http://greengabbro.net/index.php)

I got married to mr. delagar nine years ago.

(Or wait -- is it ten? I don't know. He keeps track of shit like that. Anyway.)

I did not take this last name. We had a minor, not very interested conversation about whether I would, some years before we ever even decided to marry, in which I said something like I'll flip you for it and if you lose you have to take my last name instead and he chortled and that was it.

When we had the kid, we have her both our last names, in a row, mine first and then his -- my one nod to the fucking patriarchy.

Ever since then? Endless shit, at airports, at checkouts, at banks, at the MONTESSORI SCHOOL, for heaven's sake, where I would EXPECT better, but no, I got a call from the MONTESSORI school not two months ago over this issue (though they at least were abject in their apologies about it).

My own parents give me shit about it, may I add? My father addresses letters to me under mr. delagar's name. Dr. Him, he calls me. I don't know if he thinks this is funny or if he thinks this is actually my name. Might be either, with my father.

But seriously.

Why is this even an issue anymore?

Some women don't take their husband's last names when they marry. (Some women do, of course: that's that whole choice thing. See how that works. Cool, huh?) That's been happening, folks, not for two years, or ten, or thirty, or fifty, but for a few hundred years.

Not like it's new, in other words. Or, you know, rocket science.

So what's the deal?