Friday, June 26, 2015

And This Happened

This is the White House tonight:

I just am loving this country and this President so much right now.

What Bliss! What Joy!

I literally woke my kid up by bouncing up and down on her bed.

"What?" she said grumpily, being seventeen and having gone to bed -- as usual -- at Regret O'Clock.

It was now barely 9:00 a.m., and I had just found out.

"Marriage Equality," I said, managing somehow not to shout it at her. "Gay marriage!"

Her eyes opened all the way.  "What?"

"The Supreme Court just handed down the decision," I said, bouncing around on her bed some more.  "It's legal, it's legal, gay marriage is legal everywhere in America now!"

"Not really," she said.  "Really?"

"It just came down!" I bounded from her room to celebrate all over my FB and Twitterfeed.  And watch other people celebrate all over FB and Twitter.

It's been one big party, all over America today.

(I mean, a few people are sullen.  But we don't have time for them.  Not today!)

Obama said, and it's worth quoting here, that this decision makes our union a "little more perfect."

To which I say, Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

And -- Photos!

(Image by Doc Science, here.)

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Thing I Actually Said to My Kid

So I mentioned in the previous post that my kid had cut her hair short.

Already she is fretting over her return to high school in the fall.  We live in Arkansas, y'all.

It is a Thing here, that young girls must perform their sexuality in certain expected ways.  They must, for instance, wear make-up in certain ways; and shave their legs; and they must have long hair.

This doesn't mean all young women do this, mind you.

But it means that the young women who don't perform their sexuality in this way get shit.

"Every single guy," the kid said, "every one of them, has made some comment about every girl with short hair.  I'ma get shit.  I will."

"First guy that says something about your short hair," I said, "you say something about his short dick."


"That's the last crack you'll get.  I promise."


Sometimes I think I'm a bad influence.

Insomnia and Other News

Our Little Lives 

Lately I'm not sleeping -- or, well, I'm sleeping oddly.

For instance, I go to bed at two a.m. and wake at six.  Or, last night, I went to bed at six and woke at one a.m.  I spoke to my (former) physician about this.  She said, "Try warm milk!" which is the sort of advice she did give. She did not believe in medical solutions for anything.  Exercise and a better diet would fix every evil there was.

Our insurance has recently changed, which necessitated a change in medical facilities, so I am back with the doctor I loved, who left our facility some six or eight years ago.  Maybe I'll ask her about this sleep weirdness.

The Right Haircut, the Right Tattoos

Thursday the kid and I went and cut off all of our hair.  This was not such an issue for me, since I cut off all of mine every six months or so; but she's been growing hers out for a few years now, and it was very long.

"A Pixie cut," she said firmly to the stylist, having looked up the words to say.

"Let me show you some cuts," the young woman said kindly.  "You show me what you want."  She pulled out her Smart Phone and scrolled through.

"Yes, that one," the kid said.  And she looks so adorable. A perfect haircut.

Mine is okay.  They never cut my bangs short enough.  I say, every time, "I want no bangs at all," but they never, ever believe me.

"How's that?" they say, and I say, "Can you make the bangs shorter? I really want no bangs at all."

"Hmm," they say.  "Well, let me make them shorter."

Finally I just give in.


Birds in the Chimney, Opossums in the Attic

The last bad storm here blew our chimney cap off, plus the landlord still hasn't fixed the hole the eaves. Thus, we have chimney swifts nesting in our chimney, and an opossum that is raising her young'uns in our attic.  It is charming. I am looking into options for trappers to come and trap them.

Every now and then one of the adult chimney swifts will fall down the chimney.  Then we must trap and release it outside.  What with the cats, this is SO EXCITING.

Life in the delagar household these days, y'all.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Still Thinking I Might Escape

We came to this job in Arkansas when the kid was four years old, and my hand to God*, our plan was to stay for a couple of years.

Four years maybe.  Five years tops!

I mean, sure, this was a decent job, and so much better than the job I had just left, plus I was getting to teach some great classes and helping to build a great program, but holy hell, right?  Arkansas?

Not even a particularly great town in Arkansas. Not the worst town in Arkansas, mind you, but far from the best. (For instance, over the past three years, my charming town has voted down a special tax to increase our library holdings, which are abysmal, and another special tax to put in bike and walking trails -- over 70 percent of our streets don't even having fucking sidewalks, I kid you not.)

We finally got an actual museum in the state, Crystal Bridges, a few years ago; and this past year the Waltons funded a kind of a mini branch museum of that museum here in our town -- very tiny, but with real art in it.  I mean, it's something, and better than what we had before in Arkansas, which was no art at all, except what the art program at our university produced -- excellent, mind you, but student art, and limited.

Our only theater is also the university theater, and one small community theater, and what comes through organized by the university -- usually six or seven shows that are more spectacle than serious theater.

Worse, my kid is very nearly the only Jew in her high school.  I think I've mentioned the heart-breaking little moment when she was six or seven when she looked up at me and said, wistfully, "Mama...are there any other Jews?"

Anyway.  Anyway.  My point, and I do have one, ever since I landed here, I've been hunting jobs elsewhere.

At first I did this with zeal and hope.  At first, you know, it seemed actually likely that one of these jobs might happen. There were jobs, is what I'm saying, dozens of them, all over the country, and I applied for them, and fairly often I made the short list.  I didn't get hired -- but I often came close.

Lately, though, wow.

Each year the possible jobs I can even apply for get fewer.  Last year there were only a couple, and most of them were jobs in places I did not even want to apply for -- South Carolina, for instance, or Mississippi, or Arizona.  Places where, if you came right down to it, I'd rather stay here in Arkansas, thanks, than take a job there.

But most of the jobs lately, well, they aren't even real jobs.  They're one-year positions, or they're half-time positions.  At the best they're three years "with possibility of renewal."  I mean, these are the *best* jobs.

Or they're jobs in Qatar.  In China.  Or two year jobs in Qatar (with "chance" of renewal!)

That's where we are now in the Academy, y'all.

I think I may have to reconcile myself to facts.  I'm doing ten to life in Northwest Arkansas.

I suppose there are worse fates, though.

(Me, my kid, and my mother at the Fayetteville Farmers Market, fifty miles up the mountain from home.  The other photos, in order: the view outside our front door, last winter; Crystal Bridges, from the top of the front stairwell entrance; Crytsal Bridges, the central lagoon, my kid, leaning over the railing. All photos by Dr. Skull.)

*That God I don't believe in, yeah, that one.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Teaching Summer School to Kids Today

I am teaching summer school -- just one class this year, down from three or four, which is my normal load, and Comp II, which is my second to least favorite class to teach.  (Comp I is my least favorite.)

This is not to say that I don't like teaching Comp II.  I love teaching, even Comp.  But given a choice, is what I am saying, in a perfect world, is what I am saying, I'd pick teaching -- say -- Working Class Literature, or Major Authors: Octavia Butler, over yet another section of Comp II (which I have taught teach every single semester, very nearly, in one form or another, since I began this job, back when I was a young pup of a graduate instructor, twenty-six years old, with no idea of what I was doing).

In any case!  With only one class, which has a relatively low enrollment -- 18 students -- the workload is not onerous.  And these students are lovely.  This has also been pleasant.

People keep asking me that, by the way.  "How are the students?" they ask.  "Are they terrible?"

Because this is the narrative in America today, that all of our students are getting worse and worse, that kids today can't write and won't read, and won't do the work, and are just losers.

I have not found this to be the case at all.  I do have the occasional difficult student, yes -- entitled in some way; or poisoned by some ideology which keeps them from learning; or just so overloaded by family or work responsibilities that they don't have time for school work.

But mainly this generation of students I am finding to be not just sufficiently educated (they can write well, in other words) but also determined to be educated. They want to do the work.

Now it's true that many of them are not well read -- they don't have the canon, in other words, that I was expected to have at their age.  Mention Sermon on the Mount to them, and you might as well be talking about Apuleius.  Catcher In the Rye is lost to the dust. None of them even know who Thomas More is.

But this is all at least in part because the canon is no longer the canon.  The world of literature is so wide now; and this is good.  This is excellent, in fact.  They're not reading Salinger because Salinger has so much competition that he has been left in the dust.  Why read Catcher in the Rye when you can watch Howl's Moving Castle, or read Always Coming Home?

Not to mention all the movies, animes and narrative games that are available today.  So yes, maybe are students aren't well-versed in the traditional canon.  But that doesn't mean they are culturally empty.  It only means they don't share a culture with their professors who were educated in the traditional Western Canon. (And maybe their professors need to broaden their own cultural shore.)

Kids today are all right, I guess is what I'm saying.  More than all right -- they give me hope.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Literally the Coolest Four and a Half Minutes I've Ever Seen

This has to do with the re-introduction of the wolves to Yellowstone Park, but you have to watch it to see why it's so cool.

Cool's probably not the right word.

Basically, it's why we shouldn't fuck with the ecosystem.

When I was teaching in Idaho, almost all my students were against the reintroduction of wolves into the park.  Because wolves would eat cattle, basically.  No arguments about cattle being on government land, and environmental protection cut any ice with them.

Did you see that the GOP is voting to repeal the Clean Water Act, by the way?  This sort of thing makes me want to take to the streets with pitchforks and tumbrils.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Why Can't I Just Eat My Hamburgers in Peace? Or, Bad Dog! No Biscuit!

I have not discussed the latest iteration of the Bad Puppies here at Chez delagar, because really what is there to say?

Also it is being said at length and better elsewhere.

(I recommend File770 and Making Light if you are interested.  Also Scalzi has written several good posts on the subject.  Here's Jim Hines, too.)

On the other hand, K. Tempest Bradford has a regular post, over at i09, where she reviews and recommends short fiction each week; and a puppy-like comment was posted there recently, when she did a post on Queer Fiction:

The Filthy Grifter:

I don’t quite understand the push for diversity. Are we telling artists how to craft their art? Or, are we saying there aren’t enough diverse voices easily available for people to read, if they want?

This touched off a wrangle in the comment section:

Straw Hat:
Largely it’s a push for more variation in what artists are coming out, as well as telling current artists what people want.

I mean, let’s say I live in a town where 9/10 restaurants are all pizza. Is it telling people how to do their job if I say that I’d welcome more diversity beyond pizza?

The Filthy Grifter
Maybe. But if they start making hamburgers for you using pizza dough for the crust, you really don’t get to be critical.

And pizza dough hamburgers might actually be amazing. But nobody would ever know that in a town where hamburgers are banned.

This was where I literally, in my own house, in my writing corner (where I should have been writing, but I had been taking a break, and had just read one of Tempest's recommended stories, John Chu's "Influence Isolated, Make Peace," which I recommend you do as well, and had gone down to the comment section to say how much I liked it -- hah! Good luck!) -- ANYWAY, this was where I literally began laughing out loud.

Because, no fooling, this does seem to be the way the Puppies believe it works. Publishing LGBT fiction, or fiction by women, is exactly the same as banning fiction by straight white Conservative men.

Reviewing and recommending fiction written by anyone except straight white Conservative men is exactly the same as banning fiction written by straight white Conservative men.

Giving awards to fiction to anyone except straight white Conservative men is exactly the same as stealing those awards from straight white Conservative men.

Either we have their sort of science fiction -- the sort written by white straight males, about white straight males, in which white straight males are all that exist (except one or two beautiful women exist as prizes) -- or we have nothing but fiction about LGBT people of color in Singapore.  And France.  Eating cheese.

They like to claim they are the logical ones in this world, but holy hell, can you spell false dilemma, Batman?

Can we have SF/F about heterosexuals and SF/F about queer people?  Can we have SF/F about white people and SF/F about people of color?  Can we have SF/F about men and SF/F about women?

Can both straight people and queer people get married?

Is equality possible?

Is it possible to have a town (a country!) in which there are not just pizzas but hamburgers -- not to mention every other sort of restaurant?

What a utopian dreamer I am.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

New Issue up at Crossed Genres: Success

The new issue of Crossed Genres is up.  This month's theme: Success.

Our first story, by Effie Seiberg, is RedChip BlueChip, a story of the near future, when Corporate marking has gotten a bit more direct.

Next, we have Justin Key with The Tear Collector. This story is a fantasy set during the Great Depression.

Finally, our Spotlight author this month is Clint Monette, whose story is a a post-apocalyptical tale of a couple trying to find a way to survive: The Plague Between Us.

Clint's interview is here.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Summer School

First day of Summer I here at Chez delagar.  I'm teaching Comp II -- you can follow along, if you like, however sporadically, on drdelagar teaches English.  (Fair Warning -- Comp II is not at all that fascinating.)

This is also Dr. Skull's last day of teaching in the public schools.  Yay for us, since that means we won't have to split our single car between us; but less good -- his paycheck stops.

And I was right in my surmise that I will only have one class this summer, which means much less summer pay this year.  Not so good. (In former years, I have taught three or four classes during the summer sessions.)  It does mean more time off; that part will be nice.  It also means a big hit to our budget.  Less nice.

Better news: it has finally stopped raining, at least for now, here in the Fort.  Everything has begun to bloom madly, in the brief sunshine: lilies and daffodils, Queen Anne's Lace, magnolias, catalpa trees, something lovely and purple by the roadside whose name I don't know, big fat white flowers in my yard -- you would think I would know the names of these at least, but sadly no.

This is one thing I do love about Arkansas in the spring: so gaudy.

Your catalpa tree in bloom (above).

Which always makes me think of April Inventory, by W. D. Snodgrass.