Sunday, February 25, 2024

Sunday Links

Watching all the reactionaries scramble to deal with the Alabama ruling has been, what's the word, a mix of depressing and hilarious, delarious? Clearly the leopard wasn't supposed to eat THEIR faces.

They're pro-life except what they mean is pro-what-they-think-is-life

Nazis are welcome, but trans people aren't. Pretty much all you need to know about conservatives in America.

When a culture is actually pro-life and pro-child 

Trans People Don't Exist, So It's Fine to Beat Them to Death in a Bathroom

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Blade Runner

I'm watching Blade Runner with the aim of maybe showing it to my screenwriting class, and at the start it tells us LOS ANGELES 2019.

Which is funny. What's NOT funny is that almost none of my students have even ever heard of this movie.

What Kind of Judges

In case you weren't alarmed enough about Alabama's Supreme Court ruling that frozen blastocysts are children, here's who made that ruling (Via PZ Myers).

During a recent interview on the program of self-proclaimed “prophet” and QAnon conspiracy theorist Johnny Enlow, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker indicated that he is a proponent of the “Seven Mountain Mandate,” a theological approach that calls on Christians to impose fundamentalist values on all aspects of American life.

This is what our "conservative" party has become. That's not actually conservative, obviously. It's reactionary, and it's radical. I would have hopes that this decision would be overturned by a higher court, but thanks to Trump voters, our higher courts are very nearly just as reactionary, radical, and bigoted.


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Perils of the Modern Age

Or, password blues.

So, not only does my university now require multi-multi factor authentication to let me access my university stuff, it is now changing the rules for passwords, making them longer, requiring them to have more weird characters and numbers, and not letting us reuse a password for 24 months.

Also, we're not supposed to write them down, ever.

Given that I have like SEVENTY passwords to various sites, how

Re-Reading Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Disturbances in the Field

This is a book I first read years ago, I think in the 1990s? I've re-read it every so often. (In fact there is a bookmark in it of one of the kid's early drawings, dated 2003.) Anyway, I wanted to share this passage:

I watched Victor Rowe. In his light eyes was the most critical expression I had ever seen. Anyone who scanned the world that way, I thought, must be the most clever, the most supercilious. And if he knew how striking he was, it would be so much the worse. He was tall and rangy and moved with the coordinated, weird grace of a giraffe. 

This is the man she will marry, but the book is not about romance or any sort of love affair -- though she and Victor do seem to love each other. She's a pianist and he's an artist and they have four children and live in Manhattan in the 1980s, and it's about their lives in college and their lives in the 1960s and 1970s, and their friends and families and one terrible event that smashes into that life. It's not about the terrible event, either, exactly, it's about the life that collides with that event. Oh, and Greek philosophy. It's also about Greek philosophy.

I was in graduate school when I read this book, and just after I finished it I saw it on the desk of a fellow grad student. "Oh, I love that book," I said (which parenthetically is the worst thing you can say about any book if you are a graduate student in English).

"Did you," she said. "I got a little bored with all the philosophy."

I was a young grad student and had no rebuttal. What I should have said was, but the philosophy is the most essential part of the book! I should have said, but what are you reading it for, then? The fucking daily life in Manhattan?

(To be clear: I love the daily life in Manhattan part. 1960 through 1980 in New York was such a different world, this might as well be science fiction.)

What I did say was, "That was my favorite part."

We stared at each other as though across an abyss. I don't know what became of her; I don't even remember her name. I think maybe she was a translator? Or a New Critic. Who knows.

Bored with all the philosophy indeed.

Anyway, you should definitely read Disturbances in the Field, though I haven't like any other of Schwartz's books nearly as much. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Random Stuff

I do not have Covid. I think it was just a cold, because I'm much better today.

We've hit summer already here in Arkansas. High near 80 tomorrow.

I read Laurie Frankel's new book, Family Family, between naps while I was waiting to see if I had Covid. It is just excellent. Highly recommend.

Half my time in online classes is spent reminding students that if they just read the directions and look at the example I have given, they would be able to answer their own questions. Only I'm way nicer than that when I say it. But UGH.

My students are much more receptive to the idea of Universal Basic Income than I expected them to be. Only a few students have sternly explained to me that we should be against UBI because it's immoral, or liberal. Honestly I was expecting that reaction out of most of them.

Even so I think next semester I will have them write about extinction events instead. Or maybe plastic, though oh my God researching plastic is so depressing.

My kid got into graduate school. He's waiting to hear about a (real) job, but if he doesn't get that, he'll almost certainly go to grad school. His ultimate goal is to be a scientific illustrator and also draw comics.

I am craving cookies like you wouldn't believe but all the cookies available at our local grocery stores are disgusting. Also I don't really want to bake my own but it may come to that. UGH.

There's another local Chinese takeout I might talk Dr. Skull into trying, since I am not happy with the one we're using now.

How's things with all y'all?

Sunday, February 18, 2024

True Love Has Its Limits, You Know

I've had a mild fever, a headache, a sore throat, and achy bones; plus yesterday I slept for about 20 hours.

Me: Ugh. I think I might have Covid again.

Dr. Skull: :(

Me: Come see if I have a fever.

Dr. Skull: I'm not touching you if you have Covid.

Me: Fine, just leave me here to die.

Dr. Skull: (retreats into his office.)

Me: At least bring me a Covid test!


(The test was negative, but the directions say I should test again in 48 hours. Ugh.)

Thursday, February 15, 2024

What I'm Reading Now

Jane Gardam, A Long Way from Verona, Old Filth, The Hollow Land, Faith Fox

To be honest, Jane Gardam is mostly what I am reading now. I discovered her via Dame Eleanor Hull's blog, and although my library only had two hard copies (my preferred method of reading) they have bunches of e-copies, and I am working my way through them. 

Gardam is a delight -- lucid, lively writing, and a huge backlist, so she can keep my reading appetite satisfied for awhile.  

A Long Way from Verona, which is about an adolescent girl, Jessica, in England during WWII, whose father has quit being a headmaster to become a curate in Yorkshire (the vilest part of England, according to Jessica's mother). It's Jessica's voice that carries this one -- she's tough, hilarious, and unstoppable. This is supposed to be a children's book, but as an adult, I loved it.

Old Filth is one of her adult novels, about a British judge (retired) whose wife has just died. The novel moves back and forth in time, from the death of Filth's mother at his birth (in Malaysia), after which his father neglects him entirely until he is five, and then sends him home to England to board with a woman who keeps "Raj orphans," which is to say children whose parents send them back to England while remaining in East Asia or India themselves. Apparently Gardam bases this part of the story on Rudyard Kipling's life, which honestly explains a lot about Kipling. Filth stands for Failed in London, Try Hong Kong, by the way. Apparently this is a trilogy, but I haven't gotten ahold of the others yet.

Hollow Land is a collection of what read almost like short stories, set in Cumbria, which is apparently part of the Lake District, tracking the lives of two families and their general community from the 1970s until 2015, which makes it technically science fiction, since it was originally published in 1981. Gardam's 2015 is a much more interesting and appealing one than the one we have, I'll add.

I've just started Faith Fox, and I love it to bits already.

Highly recommended.

Carolyn See, The Handyman

Carolyn See was also recommended on Dame Eleanor Hull's blog. This is the only one the library had in hard copy; I'll look for e-copies next, because See is also great. The Handyman is about a guy who wants to be an artist, but can't seem to find his material. It's kind of how he finds his material, but mostly about how he becomes a humane human and how he learns about community. I could not stop reading this one; I read it all in one day, finishing about two in the morning even though I had to be up at six the next day. I'm very much looking forward to reading all her other books.

J. G. Ballard, Empire of the Sun

Someone left this book on the leave-one-take-one shelf in the English department hallway, and since I'd wanted to read it since seeing the movie, I took it. I didn't leave one, but I took several of my excess books the next day, very penitently. 

This one, as you probably know, is about a British boy who gets separated from his parents in China during the early days of WWII, and spends the war interned in various camps, surviving by attaching himself to adults who both exploit and look after him. Ballard himself was interned in China during the war, though I am pretty sure he was with his parents the whole time.

This is an interesting but not great book. If you liked the movie, it's worth looking at; but I don't know that I'll seek out more Ballard. Apparently he wrote science fiction, but I've never read or even seen any SF books by him. Wikipedia tells me he wrote a SF book called Crash, which the movie of the same name is based on, but I haven't seen that movie either.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

God Never Makes Mistakes

PZ Myers discusses a Christian bigot making the claim that trans people shouldn't exist because it's wrong to change what God creates.

Myers rebuts her claims, but I'd just like to add that it's kind of telling how many of these bigots make that claim while, say, wearing makeup. Or eyeglasses. Never mind how many of them have had plastic surgery or gastric bypass surgery or fake tans, in the aim of gender-affirming care (so that they'll look more like they think a person of their gender should look). Or wear heels. Or dye their hair. Or pluck their eyebrows, shave their legs, put on perfume, hell, fucking bathe. God wants us to be smelly, after all, that's how he made us. 

And if God never makes mistakes, then I guess we should leave kids born with heart defects or cleft palates or club feet as God made them. We should let Type I diabetics die. People with high blood pressure, no help for them. If you get a cavity, why, God wants your teeth to rot, that's how he made them.

Oh, wait, it's only TRANS people we should keep from getting the medical help they need. I keep forgetting.

You can tell these people are creating God in their own image, because he always believes exactly the hateful bullshit they believe.

Spring Already in the Fort

We had a brief cold spell in January, which is apparently all the winter we will have this year. Next week, the highs are going to be near 80, heading into the last week of February.

Meanwhile, the GOP is pushing the notion that climate change is a hoax, so that they can give more money to their owners, the oil companies. Maybe the planet will become unlivable, but hey, at least a few rich men will get a tiny bit richer. And the GOP can maintain power. Win-win, am I right?

 ETA: This study shows that only 15% of Americans think Climate change is a myth. I would have thought a lot more than that. What's the odds that on a Venn diagram the overlap between this lot and the Magats is a circle?

Friday, February 09, 2024

Teaching Script Writing

I'm teaching a script writing workshop for the first time this semester. Since I have never written a screenplay or script of any sort in my life, it's an adventure.

I'm using Syd Field's Screenplay and Blake Snyder's Save the Cat as texts in the class, and I am also writing my own screenplay, for the experience more than anything else. Also watching a lot of movies and applying what I have learned from Field and Snyder to those. 

One category of assignment I've done so far is to watch movies with the class (Cast Away and Contagion) and have them "map" the movies to the model Field gives, the three act structure that is the classic screenplay form.

It goes like this:

Act I: Set up
        Plot Point One: propels the viewer into the story
Act II: The body of the story
        Plot Point Two: propels the viewer into Act III
Act III: Conclusion

Act I is about 20 pages of script; Act II is about 70 pages; Act III is about 20 pages.

I also had them read the Contagion script and compare it to the movie, which was probably the most useful assignment we've done so far.

Then there's the whole screenplay format, which frankly is turning out to be the hardest part of teaching the class so far. Only about half the students will follow the format. The rest are kind of making something up and using that. AARGH.

I think I know my mistake, though. I just told them where they could find the guide, I didn't build an assignment around it. I need to do that.

Anyway, teaching the class is turning out to be interesting. Plus, an excuse to watch movies!

Thursday, February 08, 2024




    [My kid looking over my shoulder while I sign an email]

        Kid: You're not a Dr!

        Me: YES I AM! What do you think I was studying for all the time when you were little?

        Kid: Oh, I thought you just liked reading books and crying.)

Sunday, February 04, 2024

New Recipe at Cooking with delagar

 If you've always wanted to make excellent French baguettes at home, now is your chance!

French Baguettes

Friday, February 02, 2024

Tom Cotton, Y'all

I assume Tom Cotton isn't this ignorant -- he was smart enough to get into Harvard, as well as Harvard Law -- so these questions probably signal something else. 

The Right is applauding him, for "unrelentingly grilling" the CEO of TikTok, but the rest of us are bemused and a little queasy.

He's also a little confused about the post hoc ergo facto hoc fallacy.

Bear in mind, these are supposed to be hearings over child safety.  He doesn't ask anything about that; instead, his aim seems to be to blame TikTok for teens who shoot themselves. It's not the easy availability of guns that lead to that, Tom wants us to believe, but TikTok videos.

Which is an argument I'm seeing a lot on the Right. Nothing the GOP is doing, or conservative parents are doing, or religious parents are doing, is leading to depressed or distressed children. Laws, no. It's them Chinese comnist and that libral media!

Tom Cotton is a real prize, by the way. He's one of our senators here in Arkansas. 

He -- of course -- rabidly opposes SNAP; he denies that systemic racism exists -- even though he has benefited from such racism -- and he supports putting even more people in prison. He rabidly opposes marriage equality and Obamacare. He opposes stem-cell research. He opposes closing Guantanamo Bay, and in fact thinks we should send more people there to be held indefinitely and tortured.

He's pro-religious liberty, so long as it's his religion people belong to, and so long as he can use the religious liberty argument to hurt LGBTQ people and liberals in general.

He thinks slavery was a necessary evil. (I don't need to point out that Cotton's ancestors held slaves, and that at least some of his generational wealth is derived from slavery.)

He wants journalists who write articles that support Palestinians over Israelis investigated by the Justice department, to see if they're committing "federal crimes." This is especially hilarious given his actions in 2015, writing a letter to people we were then at war with, telling them not to trust the President. 

He also supports waterboarding, claiming it is not torture; and -- here's something scary -- was considered by Trump as a potential nominee for the Supreme Court seat eventually given to Amy Coney Barrett.

It might be he's hoping for Trump's re-election, and a second shot at a Supreme Court seat. It might be he has bigger plan. He has ambitions to be president someday, I do know that. Since he's about as charismatic as a Q-tip, I cling to the hope that no matter how xenophobic he is, that won't ever happen.

Fingers crossed.