Saturday, January 29, 2022

Station Eleven

 I'm teaching Station Eleven in my Comp II class this semester, which means I'm re-reading it assiduously.  It's really well done. It does concern a pandemic that wipes out 99.99% of the population, so if that's too much for you, then maybe skip it. But the writing and the characters are great.

The structure, which moves back and forth through time, is a little much for some of my students, who declare themselves confused. Others say it's "boring," since (I gather) there is very little violence, rape, or murder. "Nothing happens except people talking," one student declares. This reminds me of a criticism I saw recently of Jane Austen, which is that her books are boring because all people do is visit one another's houses.

Anyway: there is also a mini-series, now showing on HBO Max. I bought a trial subscription so I could watch it, and kind of wish I had not. Most reviewers seem to like the series, and it does have charming moments, but it also eviscerates everything that is powerful about the book. 

They take Hamlet as the ur-text for the series, rather than King Lear, which undercuts Arthur's role in the story; and they redeem the prophet, which is a terrible move. 

In the book, he is a religious leader who "marries" every young girl he comes across, and has as his end goal the destruction of the few humans who remain. In the series, he kidnaps children from their parents, building a child army, some of whom he convinces to be suicide bombers. And then the series redeems him, since he is, after all, just a misunderstood. traumatized boy.

In the book, he is also a traumatized boy -- Kirsten thinks that about him, after his death, how like she herself he grew up in the first years after the pandemic, and must have had terrible things happen to him, just as she did -- but this is not excused. He may be traumatized, but he is still doing evil, and that evil is acknowledged.

The series makes him Hamlet. No. Just no.

Anyway, I enjoyed watching the series, but it is like a C+ television show, whereas the book is a masterpiece. Read that, and only watch the series if you're really, really bored, or a completist like me.

Friday, January 28, 2022


 Colbert does satire:

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Building a Reading List

I'm teaching Introduction to Global Literature in the spring, and would like to move away from the anthology-based model. (I've used anthologies in the past, but I usually don't like the translations or the selection available.)

The way "global literature" is defined at my university is "any literature which is not American literature." This is because we also have a two-semester American Lit class, so students get that there.

Anyway, this is my tentative reading list at this point. I'm also going to add in some works that are available for free online -- Catullus, for example, and maybe Iphigenia at Aulis.

What I'm looking for is suggestions to add to the list, so if you see something I've missed, please comment!

Books for Global Lit 2013 Fall 2022



Trans. Steven Mitchell                                                             $11.00

ISBN 978-0743261692


The Symposium                                                                          $10


ISBN 978-0199540198


Beowulf                                                                                      $17

Trans. Maria Dahvana Headley

ISBN 978-0374110031


 Persopolis                                                                                  $15

Marjane Satrapi

ISBN: 978-0375714573


Night                                                                                           $12

Eli Weisel

ISBN 978-0374500016


Jo Walton,                                                                                  $19

My Real Children                          

ISBN 978-0765332684




Monday, January 24, 2022

Maybe I'll Live

I walked a mile without stopping today, ate some chicken and potatoes for dinner, and have not felt like passing out even once. Maybe I'ma live.

Also I read a book that wasn't Angela Thirkell -- A Marvelous Light, by Freya Marske. It's set in a fantasy Edwardian England, and has a secret cabal of magicians who run (I think?) the British government, also a M/M romance as the main characters.

There's a certain amount of graphic violence and abuse, not between the two main characters, but visited upon one of them by his sadistic and creepy family. Also some really (really, really) graphic sex. And I'm made a little uneasy by that secret cabal, since that always makes me think of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I'm probably too touchy on that point. 

A good read, though, and the first in a trilogy. Also I liked Robin's secretary a lot -- more about her please.

Franzen Reviews Colson Whitehead

I'll admit I only tried to read Jonathan Franzen once, and found his work boring and overwritten, but this does not make me want to give him another chance.

Colson Whitehead, on the other hand, is brilliant. Start with the Underground Railroad, or with Sag Harbor if you prefer more traditional fiction. Zone One if you like books about zombies.

Saturday, January 22, 2022


I am beginning to think I might recover from whatever that intestinal illness was. I'm still too weak to walk a mile comfortably -- I have to keep stopping to breathe and wonder if I'm going to faint -- but my mental acumen is better.

During the worst of the illness, I couldn't eat and I couldn't sleep. The combination of these two made me completely stupid. I couldn't do my word puzzles, I couldn't do French on Duolingo without making dozens of mistakes on every lesson (I got the "comfort owl," assuring me that he believed in me and that it was okay to make mistakes), I couldn't read anything except old Angela Thirkell novels. It was very unpleasant.

I am recovering though. Did Wordl in 4/6 today, and have been writing at least 500 words a day for the past three days. Also yesterday I ate almost a regular meal: a cheese sandwich, some canned pears, and half a banana.

Thursday, January 20, 2022



The best take I saw on this one was a tweet that read something like, "It's an average income, Michael, how much could it be? $800,000?"

(Average income in my town is currently around $25,000, for comparison. Median household income $41, 725.)

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Snow and Coffee

About an inch of snow left on the ground, steadily melting. I am having my first coffee in about four days (stop drinking during the whatever-it-was illness).

Coffee is bliss.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Snow and the Fox

It's snowing heavily here -- a "thick band of snow is funneling through the River Valley," to quote the weather guy. About two inches so far.

I was just out with the dog and the fox went trotting across the yard, paused to stand looking at me intently, and then trotted on again. Snow was caught in her thick winter coat. Very beautiful.

Meanwhile, our university has "pivoted" to remote for the next ten days. I hate remote delivery with a passion, but given how many of our students got/were exposed to Covid in the first few days of class, I can see why we're doing it.

I don't have Covid, but I do have something -- I think maybe a food allergy? Food intolerance? Lots of vomiting and gut pain, and a total lack of appetite. Anyway, I'm glad for the chance to work from home for a while.

Here's hoping it is only 10 days.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

An Interview with Me!

Gareth Jelley at Intermultiversal did an interview with me a little bit ago, and now it's been published.

You can read it here!

I really liked the questions that were asked in this one.

This is a bit I like a lot:

One main thread that runs through my work, I think, is the abuse of power, and the way in which those with power seek to force the powerless to not just accept, but to participate in this abuse. It’s not enough that we’re serfs to the hyper-wealthy—we have to celebrate our serfdom. We’re forced into this by not just physical abuse but emotional manipulation. We are compelled to love our oppressors.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022


 Perhaps you have seen these strange posts all over Twitter and FB:

Wordle 206 5/6






They are for an online game called Wordl, which I admit is a lot of fun.

If one wordl a day is insufficient, there is also Absurdle

Sunday, January 09, 2022

Conservative Playbook

We saw this during the 2016 election -- conservatives claiming everyone they don't like is a pedophile, and every idea they don't like is "pornography." During the past year, they switched up a little, defining everyone they don't like as a socialist/communist, and every idea they don't like as "critical race theory."

But as someone in the comment stream notes, the end game is to have only one "public culture," which is the white nationalist "Christian" culture, and to define every other way of living and thinking as evil -- pornography, as their current term of choice. 

This is why we can't tolerate their intolerance. 

Saturday, January 08, 2022

The Hell

 Duolingo is tripping balls:

You Can Lead a MAGA to Knowledge but You Can't Make Them Think

The deliberately ignorant crapsack from my earlier post has what sounds like Covid. "What can I learn from this?" she howls.

I'll give long odds she learns absolutely nothing. If she had been someone who could learn from facts and experience, she wouldn't be a MAGA crapsack.

(As usual, the comments are a treat. Her readers assure her it's flu, or allergies, or strep -- anything but Covid; or that it's a plot by China or Fauci or Biden to kill us all; or that she should just take Zinc and Vitamin D, and other quack "cures". Oh, and also there's the usual "joke" about throwing liberals out of helicopters, ha ha ha, that one never gets old.)

Friday, January 07, 2022

Well, that should solve the problem

 Re my previous post:

The Arkansas Department of Health announced that they will no longer conduct contact tracing for individuals aged 18 and older. 

Surging in Arkansas

There was some talk like we might do virtual for the first week or so, but nah.

At least we have a mask mandate, I guess.

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Update on the Kid

Today the kid and his boyfriend both tested negative for Covid.

The boyfriend had relatively mild symptoms throughout -- a cough and a sore throat -- and the kid never had any symptoms. So yay for vax + booster!

An Impossible Goal

I posted yesterday about the fella who believes that the teacher shortage (which is nationwide) is being caused by people getting shot in Chicago. Here, we have a post from a woman with hundreds if not thousands of followers who sincerely believes 

(1) that Christianity will soon be illegal in the USA 

(2) that the attack on the Capitol was "glorious" and that the rioters were attempting to resist an attack on "the Republic"

(3) that people who attacked the Capitol have been and are being tortured and murdered by the Biden administration

The comments are equally bizarre. The obsession with apple pie in particular is pretty strange. I mean, I like pie too, but honestly it's just pie. It's not holy communion, which is how it's apparently being treated by this lot.

But here's my question: when 25% (more or less) of our country believes such blatant nonsense, what are the chances that we can convince them to start listening to facts, and to base their decisions on those facts? I mean, clearly a huge part of their identity hinges on swallowing down this absolute bullshit.

I lay this at the feet of Reagan, as with so many other ills corroding our country. 

Meanwhile, Covid cases are surging here -- 7400 new cases yesterday, and 8 deaths -- but our locals are still insisting that not getting vaccinated is their "right," as is their refusal to isolate or wear masks. 

I'm currently reading Patient Zero, which is about historical epidemics and pandemics, and I'm here to tell you that this determined ignorance is nothing new. Polio was almost eradicated, but some religious zealots decided the vaccine was imperialism, and now 500,000 kids a year in Africa get the disease. AIDS did the damage it did because "only those people" died from it. And cholera killed millions because people insisted on the "freedom" to dump their sewage into their drinking water.

To quote Dorothy Sayers, Some consideration for others is necessary in the communal life. 

We're all on the boat together, after all.

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

This is your brain on Fox News


Sunday, January 02, 2022

Why, Look at This -- it's 2022

The kid's boyfriend has tested positive for Covid. Since he lives with the kid, there's no way for the kid not to be exposed. (The apartment is too small.) The other roommate moved out and is staying with friends.

The boyfriend has a mild case -- he was double-vaxxed. My kid is tripled vaxxed (both doses and a booster) so right now we're just hanging tight.


Happy New Year.