Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Lego Wars Part II

Because I KNOW you were waiting for it, here's the link to mr. delagar's Lego Life of Idi Amin.

Not the whole thing, of course. Just the trailer.

(Updated to fix the link!)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Now What Now?

So you might have heard about the fuss, in the NYTimes, over Junie B. Jones, who doesn't use "proper" English.

The spunky kindergartener (first grader in more recent volumes) is prone to troublemaking, often calls people names and isn’t averse to talking back to her teachers. And though she is the narrator of the stories, she struggles with grammar. Her adverbs lack the suffix “ly”; subject and object pronouns give her problems, as do possessives; she usually isn’t able to conjugate irregular past tense verbs; and words like funnest and beautifuller are the mainstays of her vocabulary.

My kid loves Junie B. , not to mention Hank the Cowdog (he's from Texas and says ain't and fixin to). Amazingly, she loves these books because Junie B. and Hank get the grammar wrong: because she knows more than they do. (Hmm. Wonder why the parents in the NYT article can't imagine that possibility?) She likes snickering over the characters' mistakes.

She also likes the other mistakes Junie, and Hank, makes -- these are trickester tales for 8 and 9 year olds. Junie plagiarizes, in Junie B Cheater Pants. The appalling outcome, for my kid, went a lot further than all of my rants about the evils of plagiarism (and yes, there have indeed been many) could ever have gone. Hank thinks his barking makes the sun come up. Will I ever have to explain the post hoc ergo facto hoc fallacy to my kid now? Nope.

Nor do I have to tell her that "I'm fixing to take me a bath" is not standard English.

Because she ain't no idiot, that's why.


For more on this, read here.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lego Wars

So mr. delagar and the kid have been having "Lego days," all week -- he's been home with this kid this month while I taught Summer II -- which means, ai, Legos all over the front room. And I mean ALL OVER.

Anyway, Friday mr. delagar decided, having put together several large tanks and a dictator, to do a film production -- I jest not -- a biopic of Idi Amin's life, The Lego Version.

Since then he and the kid have been painting backdrops, building sets, doing research, setting up scenes...last night they shot the first scenes, which I admit are lovely (did I ever mention that mr. delagar does short films? Oh, yes).

You'll recall he's meant to be doing his dissertation this summer. Well. I'm sure a Lego biopic of Idi Amin fits in there somewhere.

He showed me the out-takes this morning. (It's digital, so, you know, no waiting!) They were nice. I giggled anyway.

"You're not taking this seriously!" he accused.


Friday, July 27, 2007

The Patriarchy Again

An interesting comment by Amanda over at Pandagon -- this is just part of it; it's in a discussion of this post here.

Our behavior makes more sense if you look as us as individuals trying to negotiate our survival and that of our children with the knowledge that we’re interdependent. With that in mind, it appears the patriarchy is a social system that developed when human males realized what female bonobos already know; if you band together you can dominate the other sex. Dominant females don’t have much reason to dominate too cruelly, though; they mostly seem interested in using their power to set up matrilineage and to keep males from harassing females. But dominate males want a lot more from females than just decent behavior; since females have wombs and males don’t, there’s a heightened interest in controlling females from cradle to grave. Thus, the patriarchy, which is a subtle alliance between men throughout history to keep women maintained as a sex-and-breeding class, utterly dependent on men for their economic survival.

Chimpanzees would like to dominate females this way, but they don’t control the females’ economic resources, so they’re sort of stuck.

The patriarchy is crumbling, by the way, because women have learned what our bonobo sisters already know; you band together and you have more power.

It occurs to me that this is why the Wingers hate women who work, and women who won't marry, and women who don't want kids, and women who "act like men," as they put it, meaning women who talk back and don't submit, and any woman who they see as escaping their spiky iron fists -- because it's not just a choice, for them, as it is for us.

For me, that's what it always was, and for me, therefore, their anger was a bit bewildering. Why would they get so bent about women who wore pants, and wanted a college degree, and didn't want kids, or didn't want to get married, or didn't want to take her husband's name? What was that to them? Surely this didn't have anything to do with their lives, did it? Why should they care if I said fuck, or I prefered the study of Greek to having six kids? That's my choice, isn't it? I don't care if they choose to go to church and have twins, do I?

But this makes their temper clearer: because they do care what I do, because to them it isn't just choice. What they see is that feminism lets women be free. And that means that that some women have escaped the cage. (The love of a good man, James over there on WorldNut put it, but it does start to look oddly like cage, when you examine their premises: women who have jobs leave it more often, women with educations leave it more often, women with access to birth control reject it in droves...hmmm...why does this not sound like something women are choosing because they feel loved and cherished? Why does it sound like oppression?)

Who will stay a slave when the door is open? Not too many.

[Now to be clear, I do not believe all relationships are oppressed relationships: people can partner up and work out decent relationships. It can be done. (At least, I'm hoping it can.) It can't be done, though, on the basis of one of those people exploiting the other.]

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bias In The Schools!

So I was over there at World Views Again (I know, I know, but I can't help it) and they were on about Churchill, who, you might have heard, has been stripped of his tenure for plagiarism.

The Far Right is as obsessed by this Churchill fella as they are by the Clintons; no one else much cares about him. Still, apparently someone ferreted out academic misdeeds, including plagiarism and falsify data, and his university board fired him for academic misconduct, which, if they had evidence that those things were so, was pretty much what they had to do.

Is the Right happy? Silly you! This is not the university policing its own! This is those Evil Leftists firing Churchill for His Speech! (See Althouse, see the Worldnuts.) Those Evil Leftists, who are always SAYING they want free speech, firing a man for speaking! See? See? We told you the Left was a Police State!

Oh -- and BTW? -- those College Campuses (the Right can't tell a university from a college if you give them a week to try, so don't even go there) are filled with nothing but Churchills and other assorted liberal idiots, so those things Churchill was saying? That's the climate on our campuses today!

I argued with them a little, before I had to go teach. It's like arguing with someone who speaks a different language, though, and lives on a different planet -- because they do, you know. It is a different planet, over there in Winger World.

I was thinking of this during my class. It's a 1213 class, so we're working on doing research, setting up a research question, a research notebook (these aren't actual notebooks anymore, they're virtual, but whatever), figuring out what you actually know (I always explain Plato's definition of True Knowledge here, so I can point out to them how little they actually do know -- well, they think they know there isn't enough parking on campus, but actually they only have a true opinion about that: so how can they turn that into actual knowledge?) -- anyway, someone raised the question, when we got to doing research, of what they ought to do if their research proves their thesis wrong?

"Ah," I said. "Excellent question."

This is what I always say: because someone always asks this question.

"Let me tell you a story," I say, and then I tell them the story about my student in Idaho, furious because she was working long hours to pay for her degree, while "those prisoners" were getting their degrees handed to them in prison, which was not justice! So she wanted to argue that prisoners should not be provided with free college classes while in prison. All right, I told her: go research that.

"Couple weeks later," I said, "she came back to me and said --" I always pause dramatically here. "Well, you tell me. What did she say?"

Someone always knows: "Her research was showing that prisoners should be educated."

"So it was," I agree. "How come?"

"Educating prisoners makes them less likely to commit crimes once they get out."

"Yep. So she says to me, all my research goes against my thesis. What should I do? And I said, hmm. What should you do? And she says, um. Change my thesis? And I said, ding-ding-ding."

They all laugh at this point.

"But this is a key point," I tell them. "We are not doing research simply to shore up our convictions. We are doing research to find out what reality is -- what the truth is. If our research does not support our thesis, then, yes, change the thesis. Now she does not have to change all the way to Educate The Prisoner! She could change to, oh, Educate the Prisoner And the University Student. Why *are* we building prisons and not funding higher education? Because I tell you what, that's an interesting question. She could go that way and have some fun.

"What you cannot do," I say, and I get all grim here: "What you can't do, is ignore the evidence. Because then what are you doing?"

They look puzzled.

"You're writing lies," I said. "This is a serious business, what we're doing here. We're shaping the world. If you shape it on lies, that's going to make problems."

"You said we could make up stuff," one always objects at this point.

"I said you could make up illustrations," I said. "That's different. And you have to make it clear they're illustrations. Like fables. Like parables. You don't think Jesus's parables were true stories, do you?"

Since they have never read the Bible, most of them, they have no idea what I'm talking about now. I repress a sigh.

"You're using little fables to make a point, sometimes," I say patiently. "Which is different from ignoring evidence to support a false thesis."

This might be too much for them, I decide, studying the faces, half of which are confused.

One kid raises another objection: "What if most of your evidence says one thing, and then just a few pieces say something else."

I brighten. "Outliers! Well! Those are always fun." I talk about the dinosausers and the impact crater and the K/T boundary and how for a long time no one believed that theory and now how most people do; I talk about global warming and how it was contraversial for a time but now it's mostly not; I talk about Mike Males, and the work he's doing with violence and children. "Most of us, for a long time," I explain, "we bought the kids-are-violent-because-of-violent-media, which really, when you think about it, makes no sense at all. Mike Males, about twelve, fifteen years ago, started putting out papers and books arguing that kids are violent because adults act violently toward them."

The whole room stiffened up.

"Yep," I said. "Everyone reacted just that way. He was an outlier. This can't be true! No! It's not because their parents beat the hell out of them, because police officers assault them, because teachers whale on them. Nah. It's got to be the movies and that nasty rap music."

"Spanking doesn't hurt kids," one of my students said, furiously. "It teaches them a lesson. If more kids today got whipped, we'd be in a better world!"

I smiled at her. "Yep. That's what we want to believe. Consider it a minute. What's more like to make a kid violent -- something he sees on a TV screen, or something he sees in his own house? Something he hears in a song, or something that gets done to him?"

"My daddy licked me," she said, angrily, "I'm not violent."

"Good point," I lied. "People didn't believe Mike Males at first. He was an outlier -- but he kept compiling evidence, and other people start compiling evidence, and it starts to look pretty compelling. I mean, everyone watches violent TV and movies. Almost no one is actually violent. Who's actually the most violent in our society? Well, it turns out to be those who are treated most violently when they're young. Which societies are most violent? It turns out to be those who treat their children with the most violence. Once you look--"

"Spanking kids isn't treating them with violence!"

I paused, because part of me wants to attack her -- having had my own violent childhood, after all -- and because, good shit, whipping a kid isn't treating it with violence? On what planet?

Oh, yeah. Planet Winger. I draw a breath.

"Well," I say. "Define spanking for me."

She stares at me.

"Studies on spanking -- and there have been hundreds in the past dozen years -- say spanking a kid won't do much harm. But these studies define spanking as one or two slaps on the hand or bottom, and they restrict the act to a child under four or five." I stand looking at her. "Is that how your daddy defined the act?"

The woman behind her snorted. "It's not how my mama defined it," she said.

The rest of the class laughed. My Winger sat glowering at me. I moved on. But it occured to me, as I continued to talk about Outliers and what to do about them, that this was indeed the sort of act that those folk over at World News were talking about when they said the universities were full of Liberal nutcases who were undermining the country.

That's what they would say I was doing, there in that classroom.

Because what did I do? I challenged that woman's worldview. I told her her daddy's way of rearing children -- and her church's, no doubt -- was wrong. I told her not to rely on Received Wisdom, but to examine the evidence, and rely on that. I said sometimes things that Authority said were wrong things, even if we had been doing them for generations.

Huh, I thought. Look at that. Wingers are right. I am undermining them. It's because they're fucking wrong, because their worldview is destructive and broken, but they're right about what I'm doing.

Oh, well, though. It's my job, isn't it?

Meanwhile? In Texas? They're undermining my worldview. The pigs.

Last week, Texas Governor Rick Perry appointed Don McLeroy to head the State Board of Education. Unfortunately for Texas schoolchildren, McLeroy has, for years, fought against the teaching of fact-based science in public schools, instead casting vote after vote in favor of his religious ideology. According to a recent Austin American-Statesman editorial:

In 2001, McLeroy and a majority of the board rejected the only Advanced Placement textbook for high school environmental science because its views on global warming and other events didn’t comport with the beliefs of the board majority. The book wasn’t factual and was anti-American and anti-Christian, the majority claimed. Meanwhile, dozens of colleges and universities were using the textbook, including Baylor University, the nation’s largest Baptist college.

(Via PZ)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Money For Nothing

If you haven't heard the fuss over that Brooks column in the NYT, ho.

And ho, ho, ho.

Brooks claimed that our ecomony is doing splendid! Honest! (Apparently some Rethug hack told him it was, probably with numbers written on a cocktail napkin, and you know Dave, he believes anything with numbers, especially if it's written down by a Rethug.)

Well, anyone who actually has been living in America over the past seven years, watching her paycheck, or his paycheck, buy less and less each month, seeing his or her life get more restricted each quarter (so much for a vacation...all right, so we won't go out to eat this week...no, I guess I won't get new glasses this year...nah, we don't really need a new jacket, do we? The old one is still good enough...) knows what crap this is, but Dave? He bought it and swallowed it and printed it up.

Ezra Klein spent all day yesteday tearing Brooks a new one. Amanda has it all collected here.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Why Take Chances?

Why not be afraid?

Why not lock up the innocent?

Because, you know, it is much safer -- the police state is -- so long as you're not the subset being policed against against, of course, the Jew or the Muslim or the working class or the socialist or the fruit picker or whoever, and really, come now, what are the odds of that?

We're never the ones the storm troopers come for, are we? It's never our door the sheriff comes banging on in the middle of the night.

Theodore Dalrymple argues here that it only makes sense to distrust the Muslims among us -- to be intolerent.

(This is a growing meme among the Right, by the way, who have been seeking, since well before 9/11, sane reasons to justify their distrust of the Other. The War on Terror has only given them some bigger stick to point with.)

...despite [my] friendly and long-lasting relations with many Muslims, my first reaction on seeing Muslims in the street is mistrust; my prejudice, far from having been inherited or inculcated early in life, developed late in response to events.

The fundamental problem is this: There is an asymmetry between the good that many moderate Muslims can do for Britain and the harm that a few fanatics can do to it. The 1-in-1,000 chance that a man is a murderous fanatic is more important to me than the 999-in-1,000 chance that he is not a murderous fanatic: If, that is, he is not especially valuable or indispensable to me in some way.

And the plain fact of the matter is that British society could get by perfectly well without the contribution even of moderate Muslims.

Dalrymple's arguement here is clear and logical: sure, the Muslim you see might be a hard-working, useful member of society. Odds are (he says -- where he draws this number I don't know -- out of his ass, I suspect) a thousand to one that he is. But one Muslim in a thousand is an Evil Terrorist! (Um, really? One in a thousand? Yikes.) So -- we should lock all Muslims up! Because who wants to take that chance? Really?

And he's not prejudiced! He's just Experienced!

(I heard exactly this argument about black folk, back in the day, in a bar in Fayetteville, Arkansas, from a drunken sorority girl. It did not impress me then either.)

Here's more from Theodore:

A friend who met me at the airport said something that must by now be true of many ordinary British people. Just as we used to wonder, on meeting Germans of a certain age, what they had done during World War II, so she wondered, when she found herself next to a young Muslim on a bus or a train, what he thought of the various bombings perpetrated by his co-religionists and whether he might be a bomber. She found herself looking for the nearest exit, as we are all enjoined to do by flight attendants before the plane takes off, in case of the need for swift exit.

There are reasonable grounds for suspicion, of course. Surveys — for whatever they are worth — show a surprising, and horrifying, degree of sympathy, if not outright support, for the bombers on the part of the young Muslim population of Britain. They show that a large number of Muslims in Britain want the implementation of Sharia law and think that murdering British Jews is justified simply because they are Jews.

"Surveys show" and Theodore's "friend" is a racist and so, therefore, we should -- well, Theodore carefully won't say the words "imprison" or "round up" or "deport" or "progrom." But what does he think he's asking for, with this little essay? He's calling for us to classify people based on their ethnicity, to condemn them for crimes no one has yet committed. He's encouraging his society to pander to its basest instincts. People will rise to the mark you set them. What outcome, exactly, does Theordore expect?

Oh Noes! Not the Books!

Over on Whirled News, they don't want the brown people using their libraries. For reasons of, from what I can tell, national security.

Leave it to New Haven, home of the bleeding heart since 1969. The famously liberal Connecticut city is offering to validate illegal immigrants under a controversial, first-in-the-nation ID card program. Reuters reports:

Starting Tuesday, New Haven will offer illegal immigrants municipal identification cards that allow access to city services such as libraries and a chance to open bank accounts.

Give a lawnboy a book, he'll build a bomb, you know.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Animal Farm II

The kid is reading Animal Farm.

I was talking about it in re our surreal political situation, and she said she wanted to read it, was it scary. Not scary, I hedged. Depressing.

I dug out our copy and browsed through it, making sure it wasn't scary (we're still about nine hundred dollars in debt for therapy over the War of the Worlds fiasco), chewed my lip over the Great Pig Purge, and then decided to let her go ahead.

Now she's reading it. I can't remember how old I was when I read Animal Farm. Not nine, I'm certain. mr. delagar claims he was eight when he read Marx for the first time, which may well be true. (His family had a set of those Harvard Classics, and he read straight through them.) He says he went to school and told his third grade principal that her pencil should belong to the state -- which, given that it likely did belong to the state, is kind of funny, in retrospect.

Anyway, she's been reading away all afternoon. Asking me questions. Making comments. "Are animals really this oppressed?" "I'm not eating bacon ANYMORE!" "Where are all the female pigs?"

I explained to her about metaphor. Can't wait until she gets to the end. I forsee a giant storm at house delagar tonight.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Sex Ed

You might have heard the fuss: Obama had the nerve, when he was asked about sex ed for kids, not to weasel and snivel. Yep, he said, kids ought to have sex ed classes. Yep, as early as kindergarten. It ought to be age-appropriate, clearly, but it ought to start then, and it ought to continue on up through high school.


As you can imagine, the Wingers and the idiots are frothing and exploding in outrage.

If you want to be deeply depessed, go to Google and put Obama kindergarten sex ed into the search string. Don't just read the stories or the blogs, most of which are Winger blogs: read the comments. The level of ignorance, idiocy, and racism has to be read to be believed.

Well, the ignorance and idiocy makes more sense when you remember this is a Winger meme that Rush and his ilk have been passing around for years -- that public schools are teaching five years old about anal sex, that they're teaching three years old how to give blow-jobs, that they're teaching six year olds the logistics of golden showers and bondage; and once you know that none of these tools has ever been near a public school, much less a kindergarten sex ed class.

I have -- the kid did kindergarten at the public school six blocks away, before we moved her into Montessori (which, sadly, does no sex ed). She had sex education from the first month. What did they learn? They learned which parts of their bodies were private places, and what they ought to do if someone touched them in those places without their permission. They learned that no one was allowed to touch them in those places, and that if anyone did, no matter who it was, that was a bad thing; and what to do if that bad thing happened.

They also learned the proper names for their various body parts.

Call me a whacky liberal, but I had no issue with these classes. Five seemed a bit late to be starting them, in fact, if you want my opinion.

Further, if these folk would look around at kindergarten curricula, I'd be willing to bet that's what going on in most sex-ed classes at that level -- radical shit like that.

More fun, though, I suppose, to declare those evil public school teachers are out to destroy America by teaching five-year-olds how dildos work and that butt-fucking is fun!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Animal Farm

This brings to mind the last few pages of Animal Farm.

That's meant to insult not the pigs on the cruise, btw, but us: we're the ones who gave the farm away, after all. We let them decide that some pigs are more equal than others, after all, didn't we? We're still letting it happen.

You're Reading What?

You might have noticed the minor contretemps, out in the blogosphere, started by this smug column, by Ron Charles, where he congratulates himself for being too grown-up and clever to read Harry Potter.

I'd feel better about the reactions to this column, which are nearly all scathing (see Lauren, who has collected some for us), if the commentors then didn't go on to make it clear they, more or less, agreed, in principal, with Charles.

That is, they too see reading as a Serious Goddamn Big Deal, something you do, like taking your vitamins, or, well, going to temple. Or, I don't know, the Gym? As if their library card ought to have No Pain No Gain stamped on the back of it.

As an English professor, this makes me edgy.

What's with this "good" book/"fun" book dichotomy? Texts are texts. If you don't like the puppy, don't read it. As Ben Franklin pointed out, all knowledge which is acquired under compulsion has no hold upon the mind.

So leave Moby Dick alone if you're not interested. And Faulkner, for heaven's sake. (Me, I liked Faulkner, when I was 24. Now I find him a windy old class apologist. Things change.)

What is wrong with reading books written for children, or SF, or mystery novels, or, to choose a specific example, Charles Portis's True Grit? Nothing. I read a great deal of children's fiction, as a matter of fact, and not only because I have a nine year old. Some of the books written for children are fine books. Try Hilary McKay some time. Cynthia Voigt is also very good. Some of the best writing out there is being done in SF right now --China Mieville springs to mind, and Richard Morgan, and Octavia Butler, who, sadly, died a few years ago, at the height of her career.

Read widely, that's my advice. Some of the books being pushed, today, as literature are nice enough. Most, though, eh.

Oh! And you know what's not getting enough attention right now? Graphic novels. I read an excellent graphic novel about nine months ago, The Rabbi's Cat, by Joann Sfar.

Also, it doesn't have to be reading. Reading is my vehicle. If DVDs or music or art (or graphic art or cartooning or something I haven't thought of) is someone else's vehicle, then it is. It's all our culture. We make these boxes, we make these rules. We need to get over that. Human expression. Nothing human ought to be alien to us, and as elevated as it makes us feel to sneer at someone else because their form of expression looks inferior to ours, well, keep in mind you're either doing yours because you like to do yours or because you don't. In the former case, it's no sacrifice, is it? And in the latter, you're a fool. Grow up and move on.

Edit: Also, this, via Three-Toed Sloth.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Read Here!

Not Likely, but...

Don't I only wish the rich and young could be enlightened by being shown poverty's face?

In real life, the Young Turk From Yale would shrug and say, about the poor, "Hey, they shoulda stayed in school and studied something useful, then, shouldn't they?"

Now What Now?

Y'all know I like to lurk about on the Winger blogs, just to keep my eye on what the other side is doing these days. Well, a few days ago I had the notion I might start bringing home some pelts for you, as it were. Why not share? That's what I thought. (Or: why I should suffer? Why not y'all, too?)

So I've been collecting! Here's some snippets, just for you!

These two are comments, off that blog run by the Christian Magazine, World Magazine. Not everyone over there is a rabid loon, but yikes, enough are. This is the lot that got all fretful b/c one of their crew posted an ancient essay by R.A. Heinlein (a sappy one) all about how Americans!were!GREAT!because we're so true and good by nature, always willing to help a fella out. Why did this upset them? Why, it was blaspheme, of course! Americans, like every other human in God's creation, are not good by nature: we're evil. Original sin, duh.

Anyway, here are two comments I collected for you:

This first is from a discussion about whether a H. Clinton/Obama ticket would succeed:

That ticket would have all the gravitas of a carnival side show.
Step right up and see the amazing "Tatooed Woman" and her perfoming midget, "Obama Man."
There are many who love to see such shows. We had an eight year run of one in the 90's. It also turned out to be an X-rated "peep show" in the Oval Office with the "Tatooed Lady" looking on. What gravitas the libs brought to us with that act!
Would Hillabama be a sequal? They are usually never as good as the original, but it is not for lack of trying. If the American public gives this freak show a second chance, we will deserve whatever is behind the curtain.

Posted by: Michael Martin at July 17, 2007 01:49 PM

And this second is from a discussion of that report that showed that teens today were both having less sex and tending to use birth control when they did have sex:

This is the whole program of radical feminism: hate men, use them, and of course, BE like the worst of them.

Radical feminism's design is to get girls to disdain men, all the while trying to turn into men themselves. Be promiscuous! Marriage is a chattel contract! A baby is like an alien taking over your body! Abort it! Abort it again! A women should never face a consequence for promiscuous sex! It's totally insane, but hey - that ideology has infiltrated every university campus for the last 30 years - and swept millions of young women (I mean womYN) into it.
Of course, the ultimate in radical feminism is to become a lesbian! Don't shave your legs or your armpits; dress like an Arkansas hunter; grow facial hair, and only have sex with other womYN and plastic devices.

Or, a young woman could opt for becoming a lady, and finding a man to truly love her for all her life.

So many choices...


Lots of these comments are going to be about feminism -- this is not because I'm self-selecting the ones about feminists; it's because, no matter what the topic is, wingers keep bringing it back to feminism. Re James above -- that topic had nothing to do with feminism. And yet! Why do you suppose the Right is so obsessed with those evil, hairy-legged feminists? Why do you suppose the hair on our legs obsesses them so? Why do you think they're so worried about us escaping the control of some "good" man?

Hmm. Could that answer start with a P?

Here's our third example. It's from the Althouse's site:

A comment on, you guessed it, the Clinton question (the only thing the Right is more obsessed about than feminists is Clinton).

PatCA said...
One reason I'm glad Hillary is running is precisely because it will bring out all these inconsistencies and incoherence in gender politics and identity politics in general. And I predict the one who panders to women the most will lose the biggest.

Someone once told me I write like a man. I took it as a compliment.

Commentors at that post are of the opinion that Clinton should not run because (a) she's a woman (b) she's ugly (c) ugly women are bad women (d) she's only running because she's a woman -- that's identity politics! which is bad! (e) she's only running because she was married to Bill (f) she's a cunning evil politician and they don't trust her, and her recent crafty campaign moves just go to show this (h) she's a woman (i) and ugly too.

Obama, on the other hand, should not run because his middle name is Hussein.

Over here, on Dr. Helen's site, Rusty explains to us about marriage:

Marriage is a social and legal construct, and in my opinion it is intended for the protection of children. I believe it was created because of the high likelihood that a heterosexual couple will naturally produce offspring, whether they plan to or not. So given that gay relationships do not naturally produce offspring, I see no need to extend marital legal rights to gays. Further, I would find it frightening to say that if a gay couple became parents, they could marry, because there will be some that will seek parenthood just to justify this arrangement.

So I don't see any reason to extend the definition of marriage to include anything other than one man and one woman. There are other means of creating a legal bond between any two people, something I realized when my wife and I bought our first house, because we closed on the house and became homeowners one month prior to our wedding.I view the gay marriage thing as just another push by gay rights activists to be in my face and force their lifestyle into the accepted main stream.

However, I do not regard gay marriage as the biggest threat to marriage. Far and away the biggest threat to marriage is the radical feminist initiatives that have invaded our legal system and gone so far as to make marriage unbearable for men in that they risk the loss of everything just by saying "I do."

Included in this is the notion of reproductive choice. Men have no choice. Even if they use birth control themselves, their wives can go out and get themselves pregnant and stick the husband with the economic burden. This imbalance is a gross contradiction to the notion of gender equality.

But then equality isn't what the feminists have in mind.


Here, Neocon explains why we invaded Iraq. Something to do with seatbelts, apparently. Who knew!

One of the things he mentioned was that the cars he rode in invariably lacked seat belts. No, it wasn’t because the automobiles were old. According to Totten, it’s because the Iraqis had purposely ripped out the seat belts. Why?

Apparently it’s a point of honor (as in honor/shame culture; see this and this) in many Arab countries to do away with the protection afforded by seat belts. In their eyes, this shows bravery.

According to Totten, some taxis still sport seat belts. But they are somewhat like vestigial organs; the drivers take it as a personal insult if you put them on or even indicate a desire to wear them. “What’s the matter,” they say, “don’t you trust my driving?”

And finally this, which I submit without commentary:

Good Guy Death Star. No Girls Allowed.

I tell The Boy two stories each night. The content varies with my level of inspiration and alertness, but occasionally I will hit upon a subject that The Boy will insist on revisiting and embellishing.

And that's how The Boy's Good Guy Death Star Adventure Series began.

The Boy, or Master of the Galaxy, as he prefers to be known in his adventures, asked me to tell him a story wherein he saves the day. So I invented a story about The Emperor and Darth Vader bringing the Death Star to earth, and The Boy being the only thing that could stop them.

This proved a popular tale. So on subsequent evenings The Boy ended up defeating the bad guys and taking over their Death Star.

"Only, pretend that it's a Good Guy Death Star now," said The Boy.


"And, I live there with all my buddies and star wars good guys," he added.


"And pretend that it's only for boys, except you can live there too, mommy."


Then he thought for a minute.

"But everyone needs to know that it's a good guy death star, so we'll put a sign on it."

"What will it say?"

"Good Guy Death Star. Oh, and Boys Only. No Girls Allowed."

"So you're orbiting earth in a death star with a sign on it?"

"Yeah. And it's just a plain gray death star."

"How about some red racing stripes?"

"Okay. And on the back, a picture of me beating up the Emperor with my light saber, so everyone knows it's okay because it's just me."

"Sounds good, son."

Later versions of the tale had The Boy's death star being pursued by a sparkly pink death star full of girls who wanted to play with The Boy's transformer toys. Fortunately a detente was reached before the galaxy was destroyed.

It's times like these that I wish I had some artistic ability - the mental image of The Boy's Death Star--with sign, poster and racing stripes--being pursued by another, pink and sparkly death star - is too good not to share.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

No! No! No More!

I saw my first Thompson 2008 bumper sticker on the way to work today, driven by, yeah, you guessed it, some idiot in a big silver Hummer.

Tailgating in the right-hand lane: what else?

Go read this.

(Via the Bitch.)


AWB has a poetry bleg going on that is making me very happy.

I like to tell my students I hate poetry, and you know, in one sense I do. I hate to write poetry, and I hate to write about poetry, and on many days I hate to mess about with poetry and when someone in our writing group brings in a poem I get this tiny sinking feeling, because, well, most poems suck. And me, myself, I am no poet. I don't know how to write it, I don't know what to do with it, I don't know very much about how to fix it. (I suspect this is because I was brought up in a house with no music -- we didn't even own a radio when I was growing up, didn't get a stereo until I was maybe nineteen, the only music I ever heard was music on the bus driving back and forth to school, so I know nothing about rhythm or sound except what I've picked up on the street, as it were.) I did like poems as a kid, but it was all the bang-bang-bang sort of poems: Kipling, Noyes, Lewis Carroll.

But on the other hand: a good poem.

There's nothing like it.

Here's some of my favorites off that bleg so far:

Cut Grass

Cut grass lies frail:
Brief is the breath
Mown stalks exhale.
Long, long the death

It dies in the white hours
Of young-leafed June
With chestnut flowers,
With hedges snowlike strewn,

White lilac bowed,
Lost lanes of Queen Anne's lace,
And that high-builded cloud
Moving at summer's pace.

Philip Larkin

(Linked by Ben Wolfson)

And this, which is too long to copy here.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Fairy Tales

So over at Shady Glade, Alyssa is holding a contest: rewrite a fairy tale! Any fairy tale! Since the kid is so into fairy tales right now she is about to pop, and since the conservative/patriarchal nature of most of these tales has been about to make me pop, yay, we say!

We're entering the contest together.

(Here are the rules here, in case any of y'all want to join us.)

So all weekend we have been researching fairy tales (because you know that is what English professors do first, research) -- or rather, I assigned my tiny research assistant to do the research, while I worked on the current short story. I told her to find the top five she thought we should revise, and get back to me. So she scoured her texts -- she owns about fifteen collections, and we had gone to the downtown Fort Smith library and taken out ten or eleven more, ones she had already long since read, to refer back to -- and then, Saturday evening, while we took our walk, we discussed our options.

She told me there were a few tales she liked but did not understand, and some she liked but wasn't sure we could use.

"Fr'instance," she said, "The Happy Prince."

This is the story of a thrush who is flying with his friends to the coast for a vacation. He stops to rest in the town square in a famous city, on a famous statue, of a famous prince, known as the Happy Prince. It is a beautiful statue, made of lead covered thickly with gold, with sapphire eyes and pearl teeth, a ruby study in the sword at his hip, amythest buttons, etc, etc. The thrush sits admiring the statue in the sunlight, thinking how lovely it is, how happy the prince looks. Then he hears the statue weeping.

"Why, what is wrong?" the thrush asks. "You look so happy. You're so beautiful. You can't be sad."

"I am sad," the Happy Prince says. "I wasn't at first, when the people stood me up. They cheered and they sang and there was music, and little children came to picnic at my feet. Men made speeches. Everyone said I represented brotherhood and goodness, and I was happy then. But I stand in this Square all day and see nothing but grief around me. How can I help but be sad?"

The thrush fluttered his wings, looking around the square. Things didn't look so bad to him. Markets, tradesmen, children, a few soldiers. What was the Happy Prince on about?

"Please," said the Happy Prince. "Would you -- could you perhaps help me?"

"Help you?"

"Please. I'm only a statue. I can't do anything. They said I meant something. But I don't. If you would help..."

"I'm only a thrush," the thrush pointed out.

"But you can act. Please!"

"And I'm on my way to the coast. See? The flock is leaving."

Which was true. They were.

"You can catch up," the Happy Prince said. "Please. This won't take long. There's a little girl. Do you see here? By the church steps. Crying."

The thrush looked. She was small, and dark-haired, and dirty, huddled by the steps, watching those browsing the market stalls with hopelessness on her small face.

"Her father needs money," the Happy Prince said, "or he will be conscripted into the army. He has sent her out to get some. He doesn't care how, he told her. Just get it. She's afraid to steal. He beat her last night when she didn't bring any home. I'm afraid for her. Please. If you will only take her the ruby off my sword."

Well, clearly that would not take long.

"And go with her?" the Happy Prince wheedled. "Follow her? To be certain she has no trouble getting it home?"

"All right, all right!"

The thrush pried the ruby loose and flew off toward the girl.

When he got back, he had the story for the Prince -- how happy the father had been, how wretched the room they lived in, how the father had pawned the ruby and packed and taken passage on a ship and he and the girl had set out for the mountains, where the girl's grandmother lived. The joy on the girl's face, the bare hope on the father's.

The Happy Prince sighed. "This is -- could you? One more thing?"

The thrush fluttered, annoyed. "You said one thing. You said --"

"Just one more! In that room, above the inn? See the window? It's a poet. He's been working on a play. I suppose it's an opera, really. He comes out here, early mornings, and sits under me, singing bits of it. It's so nice. Well, I think it's nice. About a prince, who wants to save his kingdom, and loves this girl down at the end of the valley...she's a farmer's daughter...well, he can't finish the play, he's been out of money for a month, he's had to take work at the docks, it makes him too tired to write or even think, and it doesn't pay him enough to get enough to eat, even. He sat here on his afternoon off, trying to write, but he was so tired he couldn't stay awake. Take a sapphire from my eye, put it on his table, by his candle."

"Your eye?"


"Your eye? How will you see?"

"I'll still have one."

Well, you see how this tale goes. The thrush stays, he dismantles the Prince bit by bit, taking pieces of him to this needy case and that one, until finally the Happy Prince is left blind, shoeless, indeed skinless, nothing but a lump of lead in the town square, and along come the town council and say, hey, what is this thing, what's it doing here? And melt it down to make bullets for it for an up-coming war. As they are doing so, they kick aside the thrush, worn out from flying through the town, mending the world.

"I don't know if I like that story," the kid told me.

"Ha," I said. "I do. I think I do."

"But the Prince dies. The Thrush dies."

"But look how they die," I point out. "When the Prince was alive, what was he?"

She considered.

"A big lie," I said. "He was a symbol of happiness, but was he happy? Only by dying did he become happy -- by acting, by giving himself to mend the world. And the thrush -- what was he intent on before?"

"Going on vacation."

"And once he leagues up with the Happy Prince, he's got something real to do. He has a purpose."

"But at the end..."

I agreed. The end. "They didn't mend the world," I said. "Did they? What's that mean, do you suppose?"

We're not doing the Happy Prince, because we don't think that one need revision.

There's the Boy and the Pearl, where the boy is working in a rice field and finds a pearl, and takes it home to give to his mama, and she hides it in a basket with a little rice at the bottom , and the next morning the basket is full of rice; so she hides it, the next day, in a jar with a few coins, and the next morning...

Or there's the tale of the girl with the wicked stepmother, who says come over here so I can comb your long blond hair, only the wicked stepmother actually combs her hair with an AXE...

"Why are all the stepmothers in fairytakes evil?" the kid asks.

"I've got one word for you," I say. "Which it starts with a P."

She rolls her eyes.

"Here's a better question for you," I say. "Why do none of the fathers in fairytales ever protect the children?"

She frowned.

"And why didn't it occur to you to ask that question?" I added.

"And the answer to both of those questions," I added, after a few seconds, "also starts with a P."

"You blame everything on the patriarchy," she said, annoyed.

"Not everything," I said sweetly. "The patriarchy is absolutely not to blame for the second law of thermodynamics, for instance."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Fat Americans!

Here's one everyone should read.

...when I was about 11 years old, and Mom went to see her doctor because of some problem she was having, and he scathingly told her that her problem was she was fat, and not to come back to him until she’d lost 50 pounds...

This one makes me seethe for several reasons -- one is that mr. delagar is a fat guy, which I don't know whether I've mentioned that here; and this is what he gets whenever he goes to see his doctor, and I mean no matter what his issue is -- he could have a damn pimple on his ass, his doctor would say, well, what do you expect, of course you get zits, you need to lose ninety pounds.

This is the same doctor who told him that being overweight was a moral issue.

Right. People are fat because they have poor moral fiber.

Why mr. delagar keeps going to this guy, hey, good question.

Nor is this attitude unique in our fine country -- I cannot count the number of sweet friends and family who have pointed out to me that mr. delagar has a weight problem ("No! Really?") , or who have informed me that he really "should" do something about it ("Magic unicorn dust, maybe?"), or who dismiss every other feature of his life and character as irrelevant: he's nothing else to them. Just fat.

It is, of course, a prejudice like any other: "He's nothing else to them: just black." "She's nothing else to them: just a Jew." "He's nothing else to them: just queer."

People feel freer to indulge in this one, same as they do in the one against gay folk, some of them, because they reckon fat is something people choose. Just put down the ice cream if you don't want to be 90 pounds overweight! Get up off the couch one time!

Because that's all there is to it, right?

Don't we wish. As the NIH tells us, diets have a failure rate of 98%. Tell me some other "cure" with a failure rate of 98% that anyone would endorse. Not to mention that this cure, in fact, often causes harm: many diets increase the risk of stroke, raise the blood pressure, cause organ damage -- you name it.

Exercise? It helps fitness. It doesn't help much with weight loss, in and of itself.

Do doctors know these things?

Ha! Wouldn't that be nice. I've known these things for about 15 years. In that time, I've found, I guess, about 2 doctors who did.

Do doctors need to know these things?

Do you need to ask? A doctor that sees a fat patient and says, oh, it's your weight causing the problem -- and looks no further? Is that an issue?

And will fat patients push the issue?

Most won't. I used to have to go with mr. delagar most of the time, because he had been smacked too hard and too long by our fat-hating soctiety. He'd been taught he was a second-class citizen and he deserved what he got. He fights back now -- well, except he won't quit this doctor and his whole "moral issue" crap -- but I think he's hoping to educate the dude.

Mostly fat patients believe it when their doctors say it's their own fault. Everyone else has always told them the same thing -- why wouldn't they believe it?

I'm Quitting Humanity

Okay, having read the AWB post, I hopped over to Ezra Klein's space and saw this, which was bad enough, you know, given that many of my students live on eight or nine thousand dollars a year, but then, fucking shit, I had to go and read the comments, on the article itself, here, (you have to go off to the side: it's a cute little question,"What's the biggest luxury you allow yourself?" and some of them are very sweet, like "Time with my children," but most of them make me want to eat my gun).

This is just such a rotten country.

The People, Yes!

So some of you might have noticed I'm trying to raise a little feminist/socialist.

It's not an easy thing to do in Pork Smith.

There is also the issue of her daddy, who comes from the bourgeois, and is proud of it. "Yep," he likes to announce proudly, "we owned the means of production. That's right. And I wish we still did. I'd love to exploit the masses some more!"

The kid gives him a tragic look. Then she gives me a tragic look. "He doesn't mean it. Does he?"

"He doesn't," I swear to her.

"You think I don't?" mr. delagar says. "Line'm up!"

This was when we were watching The Age of Innocence last night, and I was brooding moodily on (a) how nothing was happening and (b) how these people spent their lives whining instead of acting -- "What's this fella's issue?" I demanded about Archer. "Why ain't he just light out for the territory? Dump this bint if he doesn't want to marry her, pack a bag, pocket some cash, and go. Good shit. Where's the issue, again?" -- and (c) how, exactly, they were managing to afford this appallingly extravagent life. Which led to the previous conversation, because you just know how. Sweatshop and slave money, that's how. Suffering of others, that's how. Exploiting the masses.

"Can I just watch my movie?" mr. delagar said, plaintively.

Then I read AWB's post, here, this morning, which sort of hooks into my point:

When I was there this week, a young guy who teaches history at a private academy was joining us. We talked a bit about the differences between teaching college and high school, private and public, and he said, “Well, I went to public school, so of course I feel weird about teaching these kids. They all have the ideological foundation for a really engaged political life, but they’re too wealthy to understand their own positions. They think having a McDonald’s hamburger is as big a crime against liberalism as voting Republican.”

“Oh my God!” I said. “I know! This is my outrage at the bourgeoisie! They can’t tell the difference between symbolic problems and real problems, like genocide and torture are somehow beside the point, because, look, some people wear tacky T-shirts and eat Velveeta!”

Elite Lady was enraged. “Believe you me! Those private school children you’re mocking have far more of a chance to do great things in this world than all the middle class people put together. Do you think the middle class knows anything at all or cares at all about the right things?”

Here in Pork Smith, which is less than an hour from the Fayetteville-Bentonville-Rogers triangle, where all the Wal-Money in Arkansas now lives, we have mostly the really poor, and a layer of middle class, then, in thin layers, like crumbling bits of shale, some Wal-Money and some Real Money.

None of which matters to anyone *not* from here, of course -- all anyone from out of Arkansas hears (mr. delagar swears one day he's going to write a book called Out of Arkansas) is that you're from Arkansas, and that's all they need to hear -- but in-state, oh, these tiny differences matter.

Anyway, what do they care about, up the hill, when it comes to our folk in Pork Smith? The lost jobs? How Whirlpool has outsourced its lines to Mexico? What the rising gasoline prices ($3.22 a gallon now) are doing to our students' ability to get to class? (Kind of rough when you're driving 30-40 miles each way each day -- and they can't move to town, either, not with what happened to rent with the housing bubble.)

Nah. They care about how grubby we are and our missing teeth and the piercings and the low-scale nature of our restaurants. That's your library? You might put some books in it! Har. Har. Call that a bookstore? Do you have any books that aren't coloring books? Yukkity yuk! You know, here's an idea, just a suggestion: once you have one Burger King, you don't need another one, right down the block. Might try some other form of food. Maybe a McDonalds! Chortle! Wheeze!

But the other point, and the one AWB also makes, about these enlightened folk up the hill I've noticed is how enlightened they often ain't. They drink shade-grown coffee, yes, or, you know, maybe they do, if it's cool that week to do so, but have they lit out for the territory and, as Bardiac notes here, done anything to help make it possible for the farmers and coffee-growers keep on growing that sort of coffee?

Talk is fucking cheap, after all, which was, I believe, the actual point mr. delagar was making in the middle of Age of Innocence last night.

That and could I save the political yap for after the movie one time please?

Thursday, July 12, 2007


This map (which I got off PZ) shows you just how seriously rusted into the belt we are, here in the Pork.

I tried to enlarge, to see how red we are. Can't do it. Grr.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Thinking About Religion

This post here, which I found through the Carnival of the Humanists, linked over at PZ, has me thinking again about the whole god-thing.

Y'all know I'm one of those evil atheists. I haven't kept that from you.

Our household, though, is Jewish, and so I'm culturally Jewish, more or less -- mr. delagar is Jewish, we're raising the kid Jewish, we keep the Jewish holidays, all that.

mr. delagar seems to believe in god, about 78% of the time. For instance, he won't eat pork, because the Torah says not to. When I point out that no god exists, so what does this non-existant god care about whether he has bacon, he refuses to argue. (It's not the bacon I care about, obviously. It's the idea of the bacon! It's the patriarchy that is attached to the idea of the bacon!)

The kid, somehow, is a theist -- a sort of theist. A half-theist. She used to be a whole theist. I remember when she realized I was an atheist. "You believe in God, right, Mama?" she asked me.

"Well," I said. "No."

She was four, maybe. She frowned at me.

"It's all right if you do, though," I promised her.

"But where did the trees come from, if there isn't a god?"

(Interestingly, this is the same argument one of my university freshmen made to me once.)

I explained to her, briefly (she's four, remember) about evolution. Later, we got a child's book on it from the library. Later still, I told her that I believed in knowledge -- in books -- that these could save us.

(This led to the very funny exchange at her school.

Her teacher: "And what religion is your mommy?"

The kid: "She belongs to the church of books.

Her teacher: "...she's a Mormon?")

Now the kid says she only part-believes in God. She part-doesn't know. She writes down in the forms at school that she is "Presently Jewish," which makes mr. delagar insane.

I tell my upper-level classes I'm an atheist, if it comes up. My lower-level classes, the freshmen, I don't tell, partly because it doesn't come up -- or hasn't yet -- and partly because I know most of them could not handle it. This is, after all, the part of the country where the polls show they'd vote for a child molester before they would vote for an atheist. And, yesterday, when I sent them off to research the Flying Spaghetti Monster for extra credit, I had six of them whining in my office about how ungodly an assignment it was. And no, they weren't kidding.

Wouldn't this just be a better country if we could shake off the tentacles of religion? This is what I keep asking mr. delagar. It's not just the fucking bacon, I say to him. I do not care whether you ever eat bacon again. It's the idea of the bacon. It's everything the bacon represents. It's the fucking juggernaut behind the bacon, rolling down over our child. Our child.

Our country.

Can't we just kick it off like the bad fucking idea it is?


(See also this)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Things My Students Don't know About:




Urban Dictionary

Okay -- some of them knew about the last one.

But good shit, I'm living at the edge of the WORLD, apparently.
Un Lun Dun

I spent the weekend reading China Mieville's Un Lun Dun.

(Hey! Cool! Look at that! I figured out LINKS!)

I've been wrangling with Mieville's work for half a year now -- started with Iron Council, circled back to Perdido Street Station, made a valient rally on The Scar. He's some writer. I'm planning another attack in the fall, when the days are cooler. I might get through a whole book of his then. (I keep staggering to a halt in the forests of language and characters and lying in bed around ten some vastly hot evening saying now what now? Now who is this again? I mean, I like these books. And I like the worlds he's built here. But shit would I like an index or maybe some hot links to go with.)

But this one is his first book for YA readers, so I thought I might could handle it.

I wasn't wrong, either. (Though, yes, here too hot links would have helped!)

This is a fine book (nice pictures too -- I kept snortling over them in delight, so that the kid kept saying, what? what? and I would have to say, well, it won't be funny, because you're not reading it, but look! The evil giraffe! The black window! Snrf! Snrf!) that makes me happy on so many levels.


First, it's a fine story.

I was a bit taken aback when what appeared to be the main character drops out halfway through -- but that turns out to be the central point, as is soon made clear.

I love how the distrust of the text becomes central to the text, and how casual Mieville is about this. (Heh! The text itself doubts itself. It's lovely! A book with a crisis of faith!)

And all the un-puns! Which work! Which become part of the point!

And then (this is a major spoiler, sorry!) how, over and over, it is not being chosen that gets our band through; it is their wits, their loyalty to one another, their own courage: their humanity. In other words, not the finger of fate or god or predistination laid on them, but their own decision to do the right thing. Human behavior wins it, not received valor. It's not because of the sword in the stone; it's because Deeba decided to make the journey, and because she uses her sense. (I love how she tosses the epic conventions out the window -- too dangerous, too stupid, will kill off too many of my friends. Screw that, she says. Screw the text! Let's do it this way. Heh! You won't catch the Hobbits doing that.)

The Kid is a little wary of reading it -- she thinks the giraffes look too scary. But all y'all folk who aren't scared of fierce giraffes should feel free. It's a fine book.

Friday, July 06, 2007

That Waitress I Had!

Janice Shaw Crouse, the Concerned Woman of America, over there at CWA, is Very Concerned about what is happening to Marriage in America Today.

Because of the Children, mind you.

Nothing to do with the women getting all out of their place. It's what it's doing to the little kiddies that concerns Crouse, Concerned Woman Of America.

See, once...

The old song rhapsodized, “love and marriage… go together like a horse and carriage…you can’t have one without the other.” Likewise, for the vast majority of couples in the past, marriage came before children, and children were an integral part of marriage. Couples sang: “we could raise a family, a boy for you and a girl for me.” Today, though, the Pew study revealed that by a 3-to-1 ratio, adults viewed marriage in terms of their own “happiness and fulfillment” instead of including the “bearing and raising children.”

Nasty feminists. Encouraging women to care about their own lives and that.

Result? Now Crouse has a waitress like this!

We caught a brief glimpse of how these trends played out in one young woman’s life last weekend at a restaurant. Our waitress was an almost-surly teen who at first appeared to have a speech impediment, which turned out to be simply the challenge of trying to talk with a large metal stud in her tongue. Toward the end of the meal, after establishing rapport, I asked her why she had the stud. She replied, surprisingly with a smile, that she got it when she was 15 to make a statement to the effect that she was a “semi-bad” girl –– I didn’t press for an explanation of what constituted semi-bad. I didn’t have the heart to hear about it.
When I asked what her mother had to say about the stud, her reply was, “Oh, she’s cool with it.” And her dad? He’s “irrelevant.” But then, curiously, she interjected rather fiercely, “Oh, he is around.” Clearly she wanted it understood that, even though her parents were divorced, she did indeed have a father and that they did make contact from time to time.

But then as she amplified the details a bit, it became clear that for the most part the contact –– when it occurred –– was because she initiated it. “I call him sometimes,” but, “he doesn’t matter, my mom is the one that counts.” She is not a statistic; she is a lovely young woman who, sadly, can be described as emotionally malnourished.


Emotionally malnourished. Um, why? This kid smiles. She speaks, apparently to the point and with supporting evidence. She, I might well point out, has a job, and not a slacker's job, either. What evidence does Crouse have that this is a "bad" woman?

Oh. Right. I forgot. Tongue stud. Sorry. Must be an evil woman after all.

Elsewhere in the essay Crouse claims that growing up with a single mother is "disastrous" for children, something the students from single-parent households in my classes might like to know, I suppose. She cites as her source The Urban Institute, so I went to their page and scouted around. They do have some studies on single mothers, mostly on the effects of the welfare cuts and what those did to mothers trying to raise kids. Mixed results, according to UI -- more single mothers finding work, but are less secure. Also, fathers don't provide child support on any regular basis, which increases child poverty. Since poor children are most at risk, this is an issue, obviously. But it's poverty, not the singleness of the mama, that's the issue here, a point Crouse takes care to obscure*.

I would say it's pointless to rail against women like Crouse, thinkers like Crouse -- let them smile smugly at one another and die out -- except they aren't dying out, are they? They're not even diminishing. That movie, Ratatouille. Which I liked. I did like it. But think about that movie one minute.

Here's the conversation I had with mr. delagar about it.

"Oh, come on," I said to him. "Think about the rats. One minute. Tell me what was wrong with the rats."

"What?" he said. He was cooking. A very nice meal, too. Ratatouille brought out the chef in him. We've had all sorts of interesting things since we saw the movie. Chicken Kiev last night.

"One minute. Think one minute."

"I don't...what?"

"Girl rats!" I yelled at him. "Where were the girl rats?"

He rolled his eyes.

"Where were the girl waiters!" I yelled. "Why didn't any girl customers have any major lines? Are there no women in PARIS?"

He pointed out the main character, the cook, who--

"ONE! ONE! The fucking Smurfette principle! Cut me a break!"

And on from there.

The patriarchy, he does not die. He grows like kudzu, he swarms and swarms. I wish we could ignore items like Crouse. I wish they would just go away.

(*Here, in fact, is what the Urban Institute suggests as a solution:

(1) enabling parents to meet their family’s needs while working in lower-wage jobs,
(2) helping families weather gaps in parental employment,
(3) supporting parents’ job advancement,
(4) helping parents combine work and child-rearing, and
(5) improving children’s well-being and development.

They add: Helping low-income working families also requires paying attention to the adults’ lives as both parents and workers. Because low-income families are less likely than better-off families to have flexibility at work, are more likely to be raising children with physical or emotional health problems, and are more dependent on each week’s paycheck without significant private resources, they face even more wrenching conflicts between family and work than other Americans.


Yes, UI is talking about parents here; not single moms; but notice the focus is on helping; on paying attention to the lives of the adults as human beings; on recognizing that the parents are, in fact, human beings, that the mother and father aren't just tools to be exploited in Crouse's idealogical war. What a concept, huh? Trying to actually solve a problem?)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Invigorating -- But, well...

I assume you've seen Keith Olbermann's message to Bush from last night, asking both Bush and Cheney to resign -- if not, go do that, now. I'd link, but you know my rotten links. It's everywhere, you won't have trouble finding it. Put Olbermann, Libby, Bush, into for your search terms, you'll get a gazillion hits.

Most of them, I'm interested and pleased to see, favorable to Olbermann. I went through the top six pages of Google Blog Search and found only two blogs that didn't say something like Olbermann ROXS!!1! and one (from Montana), a fella who admitted he was more of an O'Reilly fan, who said Olbermann was just too leftist for him, that had a tepid response. He said he just didn't think Bush or Cheney would resign.

Yeah, me either. To do that, either of them would have to have the least awareness of what they're doing to the country -- what they've done at all. Bush wouldn't look the mother of a dead soldier in the eye. He won't face up to any of it. Cheney won't look at the pictures of the torture victims, pictures that wouldn't exist if he hadn't helped get us into a useless, evil war. And, mostly? Neither cares. If they did look? If someone could make them understand the harm their actions have caused? Fuck it, I imgaine their response would be. Because they aren't who got hurt, after all, or any one they know about. They take care of their own, and the rest of us? Well, we can just do the same, and if we can't, it's because we're losers and we deserve what we get.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


From Overheard Everywhere:

Pretty lady: You say a lot of bad words. Some people say that happens when you don't have the intelligence to express your self otherwise.

College kid: That ain't the case with me. I got a fuckin' vocabulary, man. I just use words everyone understands, like 'shit' and 'fuck' and what-not, so I don't obfuscate my meaning.


"...For my part, I have stated on numerous occasions (following the materialization in my personal sphere of a pair of nieces), children are an oppressed class. Their universal and legitimately reviled unruliness is not natural. It is a product of neurosis generated by patriarchy’s two main replicatory units: the nuclear family, which directly supports male dominance, and the single mother household, which indirectly supports male dominance a) by acting as an underclass dependent for its survival on paternalism and b) by incubating a ready supply of disadvantaged candidates for membership in the all-important working and military classes.

Of course kids are obstreperous hellions. They dislike oppression as much as the next guy.

It is my firm belief that although children are not born with an innate sense of propriety and obeisance to the bizarro social order currently imposed, neither is there inherent in the human species a biological imperative to behave neurotically, except when neurosis is imposed by crippling external forces. Which it is.

In other words, we may blame the patriarchy for obnoxious kids. Just as we blame it for rape, marriage, FGM, and God."

Shit, yes, is all I have to add.

For the rest of this brilliant post, go here:


Monday, July 02, 2007

The Beginning of Time? Really?

The argument of Frank Furedi's here puzzles me.

"Since the beginning of time, [No, I ain't messing, it's how his essay starts!] one of the clearest markers of an enlightened society has been the moral status it attaches to human life."

[Stop laughing! If we postulate that creationism is real, then I reckon time can begin when human life does -- why NOT?]

Furedi goes on:

"The humanist impulse that once drove the development of the modern world has been replaced by a tendency to view humanity with suspicion, or even outright hostility. The vocabulary of our times – ‘human impact on the environment’; ‘ecological footprint’; ‘human consumption’ – invokes a sense of dread over the active exercise of human life. Apparently, there are too many of us doing too much living and breathing."

"Today, many green-leaning writers and activists argue that population control is the best solution to the problems we face. This belief that there are ‘too many people’ inhabiting the globe has reared its ugly head numerous times over the past 200 years. Since the times of Thomas Malthus (1766-1834), a catastrophic vision of population growth causing the collapse of society has formed an important part of the culturally pessimistic outlook."

"As one Malthusian crusader notes: ‘A non-existent person has no environmental footprint; the emission “saving” is instant and total.’ (1) This preference for the non-existent over the existent speaks to a powerful anti-humanist sensibility. And it is not only eccentric and isolated misanthropes who value ‘non-existence’ as being somehow morally superior to existence – rather, this outlook is symptomatic of a wider trend for devaluing the status of human life."


Since I've taught Victorian Literature every Spring for the past four, I can, sort of, guess what he's saying about Malthus -- that is, it wasn't overbreeding so much that Malthus found icky, as it was who was overbreeding (that is, those nasty inferior poor folk with the inferior genetic stock): sort of the same argument being made by a certain segment of our population today. (Oh noes! Soon in America WHITE PEOPLE will be a MINORITY! You white girls must BREED! Make babies! Lotz! Now! Because those bad immigrants! Look! They brreeeeed!)

So he's arguing that the root to population control shares a root with racism...because back when we discovered that we might be able to outbreed our planet (ie the Victorian era) some scientists had some racist notions.

But it's not clear why we should conflate arguing that it might be a good plan not to have eight or nine kids, in today's biosphere and economy, with murdering children -- as he's kind of suggesting here:

"The catastrophic imagination in contemporary Western culture has encouraged the Malthusian lobby to target the very aspiration for procreation. Controlling fertility is now described as a duty rather than a matter of choice. ‘Couples making decisions about family size do so in the belief that it is a matter for them and their personal preferences alone’, says the OPT, with incredulity (6). The idea that people should have the right to make choices about their family size is dismissed as an indefensible outrage against common sense.

"This assault on the right to procreate is often intrusive, even coercive. Take the example of Rwanda. The world was horrified by the mass slaughter in Rwanda in 1994, during which an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed. Yet it appears that, so far as the population-control lobby is concerned, there are still too many people living in Rwanda. As one headline earlier this year put it: ‘After so many deaths, too many births.’ Apparently, ‘After the 1994 genocide, in which more than 800,000 Rwandans were slaughtered, it seemed difficult to believe that overpopulation would ever be a problem. Yet Rwanda has long had more people than its meagre resources and small area can support.’ Now, with the guidance of Western non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the Rwandan government is planning a sweeping population-control programme. "

Birth control is not in itself the moral equivalent of genocide -- although I will agree that the choice about birth control should be left to the woman herself. If she wants one kid, fine. If she wants ten, whatever. (That's why that joke about the Duggers always bothers me. Yeah, it's not a clown car; on the other hand, it's their business if they want 17 kids. On the other hand, I know, they aren't keeping it their business, are they -- they're using their 17 kids to try to convince all of us we should all have 17, it's KIDS AS A SERMON! YAY! but whatever.)

Furedi does have a point. It's just not the one he's making. If you want to see the point to be made on this issue, head over to Pandagon, where Amanda is doing her fine job laying it all out for us, here:


(ARG! Broken links again. Rats.)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Why do I feel like this is my fault...

We've made Overheard Everywhere!

The Kids Will Eat Me Alive!

Chick looking into her palm, then at thug nearby: Man, I'm a preschool teacher! Don't sell me the wrong drugs!

Ft. Smith, Arkansas

Overheard by: her best friend