Saturday, June 30, 2007


So over on Unfogged it's a post up on whether all HS reading lists suck, and I'm thinking back to what I got made to read in HS, and, well, yes.

The Scarlet Letter, and Hawthorne's assorted short stories, I have no idea how many times. I don't believe I bothered to read any of them after the first time. Why would I? I hate Hawthorne. (That said, when I taught Am Lit I three semesters ago, I made my poor students read YGB. Suckers.)

Bartleby. Oh, did they adore to make us read Bartleby.

Faulkner's Rose for Emily. Every FUCKING semester. (Probably not. Probably I'm just remembering it that way.) We read nothing else by William F., but damn did we read the shit out of a Rose for Emily.

Great Expectations, three times.

Ransom of the Red Chief, I swear, every single English class I was in from fifth grade on. Eck.

To Kill a Mockingbird, once in Junior High, once in HIgh school.

Julius Caeser OR Romeo and Juliet. (Not both -- it depended on who you drew for English.

What's that you say? Modern fiction? Why, didn't you see To Kill A Mockingbird on that list? How modern do you want?

We did read the Great Gatsby when I was a senior, but I hated it as much as Hawthorne, frankly. I've never liked Fitzgerald and yes, I know I'm wrong, but there you are.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Lady of Shalit

Oh, look. Wendy Shalit's back.

You remember Shalit -- she's the one who discovered modesty back in 1999 and was amazed to realize that feminists had forced women to stop practicing it? And that this was why women were being raped and sexually harassed all the time? (Because, you know, previous to feminists, women, at least the good ones, who had practiced modesty, like Shalit, never got raped or harassed or called names on the street by those icky men, and if they did, well! Good brave men stepped in and dealt with it, like they were meant to, before feminism made them afraid to be men. Or something. The book where she explains it all is called A Return To Modesty and it was way too badly written for me to get entirely all the way through, but that was, apparently, its thesis. She has a website now with the same claim:

Anyway, now she's written another book! Yay!

This one is called Girls Gone Mild, and it's all about how young feminists are rejecting the aged old cranky feminists and their way of life. You know: sex, and drugs, and crankiness.

Young feminists want to dress modestly

(Go here for a charming picture of how young feminists want to dress:

I must tell you I have never, in all my years of dealing with young feminists, seen a young feminist dressed this way, not ever, but then Shalit and I do not run with the same crews, as someone told another woman recently.)

and young feminists want to control their own lives; but they do not want casual sex, and they are not interesting in the hating on men, which is, apparently, what we older feminists spend our time doing, hating on the fellas and researching inventive ways to do the sex (young feminists? Not so much interested in doing the sex. Hmm.)

Tellingly, the National Organization for Women invited the Pittsburgh girls to one of their conferences, to honor them for "taking action," but the girls themselves were put off by what they saw there. As one of them put it: "I support equality and would never like to be controlled by a man, but the NOW conference was more like a brainwashing feminist summit than anything else. They had this artistic performance that was so much about sex and how much all men suck; it made me feel sick."

Ms. Shalit has little patience for the thinking of the older generation of mainstream feminists. They are, she says, "so committed to the idea of casual sex as liberation that they can't appreciate or even quite understand these younger feminists." To them, modesty is a step back, even a betrayal of the liberationist spirit. "They don't understand," Ms. Shalit says, "that pursuing crudeness is the problem, not the solution."

Ms. Shalit is in a good position to speak on such matters. As an undergraduate at Williams College, she caused an uproar by objecting to the school's coed bathrooms.

Ai, yi, the co-ed bathroom again. Will they ever shut up about that one? Like the pantsuit and the "but she GLARED at me when I held the door open for her!" -- can't these folk find a new trope? Seriously.

So. What do young feminists want to do, according to Shalit?

At the end of every chapter are "how to" boxes, obviously aimed at young readers, on such subjects as taking back your college dorm room when your roommate, planning a tryst, wants to send you into exile. Another -- "Confronting Your Baby Boomer Parent" -- tells you how to explain yourself to parents who think that you're "weird for being a virgin." A box called "A Recipe for Pleasing With Integrity" asks: "Is there a way for a young woman to impress others, without having to be mean or compromise her value system?" Why, yes: Bake an apple pie!


Silly me. I thought we wanted justice, all this time.

Boys want liberty, justice, and equality.

Girls just want a pat on their pretty little heads.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Watching Movies

Spent this afternoon watching Grapes of Wrath, which I had never seen before, not the whole thing -- I'd seen bits of it.

And I've been reading my students' drafts on the movie True Grit vs. the text True Grit for the past three days.

Both of those novels are transgressive texts, the Steinbeck much more openly so than the Portis novel; but the Portis novel, also, works against narrative expectations.

In both cases, the movie does what it can to erase the transgression.

(I know, color you shocked.)

The ending of the movie True Grit is, for me, the worst offense -- John Wayne frozen on screen, in the act of leaping the fence, like the statue of a war hero, only, WOW! technicolor! As if to say, yippee-ay-yay! Shootin' bad guys is cool!

Which -- hey! -- that's what America believes, is it?

As opposed to what the text True Grit does with Rooster Cogburn's character -- and Mattie Ross's -- which is to make them both into doomed figures, as much banished Cain figures as Tom Chaney was, or Ned Pepper. Nothing goes right for Rooster; he ends up dying alone and lost. Mattie has a bank, sure, but everyone's against her, as she says, clearly, and she also is alone, and scarred by her vengeance quest, all of which the movie erases.

Grapes of Wrath, the movie, just scrubs the edges of Steinbeck's story -- makes it look like no one in particular is to blame for what is happening to the farmers; cuts a lot of the politics; cuts very nearly all the work (only one work scene is shown, I think, and none of the child labor scenes); and ends with Ma Joad claiming, optimistically, that they'll survive because they're "the people" and the people always do survive.

Um, yeah. So. No reason to fret then, I guess? We can relax? Good to know.

Semester Ends

Tomorrow is the last day of Summer I.

My students are all sledge-hammering away at their final portfolios. I've mentioned, haven't I, how good these students are? These are the TAA students. Returned to the University after having lost their jobs (forced quit, I think is the actual phrase Whirlpool is using), they are working to get some sort of degree or certificate that will let them earn money for the last ten or twelve years of their working lives -- most of them are fifty or fifty-five or (some of them) sixty years old. Anyway, they are not scholars; but they are working very hard, all of them.

For instance, I encourage students to give me multiple drafts of papers; these students have brought me not just one or two drafts of each paper, but three, four, five drafts of each paper. They fix what I tell them to fix, they go past that and try other things, they read one another's drafts (they have formed study groups, can you imagine? On their own! I didn't require this!) and give one another suggestions -- and, because of all this, their final portfolios have all been coming in early.

This makes me so happy. This is how education ought to work. Well, except for the whole having to get students back in school through economic collapse part, certainly.

I'm still worn out, though. Knowing that Summer II starts next Thursday, July 5, isn't helping.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ah, Patriarchy

So you've remember all those conservative panic columns and reports about how women are taking over the universities? I first started reading about it in 2002, I think. Oh! Oh! Women outnumber men in the college classroom. Oh! If this goes on, by 2007, 80% of our university class will be women! (The horror!)

Didn't happen. Do you wonder why?

This might be it:

Many colleges are rejecting women at rates
drastically higher than those for men

These days, the student body is 49 percent male and 51 percent female-a ratio that the college insists is determined by the availability of on-campus housing. Maintaining that equilibrium, however, has in the past few years meant rejecting many more female applicants than male ones. In practical terms, in the past decade, female applicants have faced an admissions rate that is an average 13 percentage points lower than that of their male peers just for the sake of keeping that girl-boy balance.


Better students. The schools that are most competitive-Harvard, Duke, and Rice, for example-have so many applicants and so many high achievers that they naturally maintain balanced student bodies by skimming the cream of the crop. But in the tier of selective colleges just below them, maintaining gender equity on some campuses appears to require a thumb on the scale in favor of boys. It's at these schools, including Pomona, Boston College, Wesleyan University, Tufts, and the College of William and Mary, that the gap in admit rates is particularly acute.

The reason for these lower admissions rates for female students is simple, if bitterly ironic: From the early grades on up, girls tend to be better students. By the time college admissions come into the picture, many watchers of the "boy gap" agree, it's too late for the lads to catch up on their own. Indeed, beginning in those formative K-12 years, girls watch less television, spend less time playing sports, and are far less likely to find themselves in detention. They are more likely to participate in drama, art, and music classes-extracurriculars that are catnip for admissions officers. Across the board, girls study more, score better, and are less likely to be placed in special education classes.

You won't hear the rich white males like Mr. Iggulden complaining about this one, I bet. No, in fact, as I recall, what we hear is the fellas suing the school districts, complaining that if their boys aren't doing as well as the girls in school (which they aren't, hmm, how odd) then it's not because the girls work harder, study more, watch less TV, nothing like that -- no, it's because the system is rigged and boys are being cheated.

And it surely can't be Mr. Iggulden's fault, can it? Because -- oh, maybe?-- because he taught his sons that group work was for girls and girls were losers? Because he taught his sons that only wimps and sissies did what girls did, so, you know, if the girls were studying, well, that must be a stupid thing to do? Because he taught his sons that competition was everything, so they couldn't ask for help?

Nah. Because that would mean the fault lay at Mr. Iggulden's door, and at the door of, well, men. Which that can't possibly be right. We all know it's the feminists and the girls to blame. They wrecked the world. Because back before them, (white) men had everything, which is how it's supposed to be, and Q.E.D.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Dangerous Games For Iraqis

But at least they won't be wimps!

Today, toy weapons are among the best-selling items in local markets, and kids play among armored vehicles on streets where pickup trucks filled with masked gunmen are a common sight. On a recent day, a group of children was playing near a camouflage-colored Iraqi Humvee parked in Baghdad's upscale Karrada neighborhood. One boy clutched a thick stick and placed it on his right shoulder, as if he were handling a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. He aimed it at cars passing by, pretending to blow them up. Two soldiers pointed at the children and laughed.

(Via Tbogg:


This is totally fun:

And, if you read the information that comes with, intriguing as well. (You have to click on the flashy red bits and the tiny books. But it's very cool and worth the time!)

(Via Redneck Mother

Monday, June 25, 2007

Making Me Sad

I have an nine-year-old child.

She wants to be a wildlife biologist. Or perhaps an English professor. Some days, she wants to raise dragons off in the mountains -- a hankering I can certainly understand. When our friend the biology professor took her to his freshman biology lab and let her study single-celled pond scum, she was certain, for an entire month, that she would be a biologist, like him, and teach biology.

Why do I mention this? Because, at eight and nine, she has encountered the patriarchy. And where? At her Montessori school, of all places. The progressive nest of safety I thought to leave her in! Ha!

The boys in the first grade tell her she's a girl, and girls can't run fast, and girls are stupid, and girls don't know anything, and girls can't and girls don't. Mind you, she tells them they are patriarchy oppressed and they're wrong, but I know saying that and not hearing what they are saying, those are two different things.

Also, it's not just the students, I'm afraid.

What are we surrounded by, here in this world?

Why, people like this fellow: Mr. Iggulden, and his Dangerous Book For Boys.

You have heard of him by now, I am certain. You can hardly have escaped hearing of him. He is the darling of Rush Limbaugh and Rush's Dittos and their ilk. The Conservative Crowd is sucking up to him as fast as they can.

Let me say up front I have nothing against Mr. Iggulden's book. It looks like a fine book. It has nice pictures and there are plenty of fun things in it and as a ten year old I too would have liked to have known how to do those things, even though I must admit I did not, as a ten year old, or even now, have a penis.

What makes me sad is Mr. Iggulden's hatred for women. It is hatred, too. Read this paragraph from his essay in the Washington Post:

I thought I was the only one sick of non-competitive sports days and playgrounds where it's practically impossible to hurt yourself. It turned out that the pendulum is swinging back at last. Boys are different from girls. Teaching them as though they are girls who don't wash as much leads to their failure in school, causing trouble all the way. Boys don't like group work. They do better on exams than they do in coursework, and they don't like class discussion. In history lessons, they prefer stories of Rome and of courage to projects on the suffragettes.

Boys are different than girls: because, see, girls can't compete (the wimps!) and because girls only work well in groups when they can hide what losers they are, and because, as we all know, suffragettes were a bunch of cowards. (The fuck?) (And, of course, not true. Boys, some boys, might do better on standardized tests like the SAT; but girls as a whole do better on exams in the classroom, oddly enough. And not all boys do better on the SAT -- only boys from certain social classes: that would be, of course, Mr. Iggulden's class, the rich white guy class, which I imagine is the only class he thinks is real.)

And this:

When I was a teacher, I asked my head of department why every textbook seemed to have a girl achieving her dream of being a carpenter while the boys were morons. She replied that boys had had it their own way for too long, and now it was the girls' turn. Ouch. The problem with fighting adult gender battles in the classroom is that the children always lose.

(A) I have my doubts about the veracity of this here conversation, Mr. Iggulden (2) Show me these texts, will you please, where the boys are morons? Because I have read many a schoolbook and children's book to my child and that is a story I do not recall seeing and (3) do you think girls don't like to make things, too? Do you not know any girls? (4) the trouble with projecting your own gender battles into the world of children's books is you're not just fucking with your life, Mr. Iggulden, you're fucking with my child's life.

I expected a backlash. If you put the word "boys" on something, someone will always complain. One blog even promoted the idea of removing the words "For Boys" from the cover with an Exacto knife so that people's sons wouldn't be introduced to any unpleasantly masculine notions such as duty, honor, courage and competence.

Mr. Igg has missed the point -- intentionally, I reckon. It's not because we don't want people's sons to be introduced to those notions. It's because we don't believe that those notions are the purview solely of the masculine half of humanity. Why Mr. Iggulden does is a question he might raise with himself.

Here's the link to the rest of his essay. It's full of other little charming tidbits about how his father beat him and how he set fire to a crow and other manly pursuits which no doubt the Christian Right will swoon over:

Friday, June 22, 2007

Oh Look!

We are a Christian Nation!

And you doubted it!

After much discussion and prayer, Drew Heiss and I are announcing an event to honor Paul Hill on the 13th anniversary of his actions in defense of preborn babies in Pensacola. Memorial events will be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to honor him as God’s man and our hero.

Paul Hill is the terrorist that murdered both a physician, John Britton, and his escort, James Barrett, and seriously wounded Britton's wife -- slaughtered two men and gunned down a woman, outside a woman's clinic, because Hill doesn't think women should be let to have abortions. Hill's anti-choice, so he kills people.

This, to this portion of the Christian Nation, is heroic.

Here's some other links you might be able to stomach. I can't:

(Via PZ:

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Teaching Christians

I've got excellent students this summer, I do, and I'm not just saying that -- these are TAA students, and don't ask me what that stands for, because I don't know and they don't either. What it means is that Whirlpool shipped jobs to Mexico and so half of Pork Smith got laid off, and under some deal with the Federal Govt has come back to school on grant money. So long as they stay in school full-time every single semester, including both summer semesters, and don't fail more than one class -- they can only fail one class, their entire university career, and they have to maintain a C average -- then they get to keep getting the TAA grant.

But they can't lay out a semester, and that includes summers.

These are people who have worked the line since they were sixteen, seventeen years old -- many of them are now fifty, sixty years old. Few of them are stupid and all of them are working hard. They have formed study groups and they coach each other and they do all the work and they do not quit. I love these students.

But do they have a background in what they need to know to read novels and literature? Do they know zip about Western Culture?

Oh, my.

I'm using True Grit as the novel in my Freshman Comp class. (You'll recollect I gave up on Major Barbara, b/c no one would read it, and the ones who would read it couldn't read it.)

Well, they're reading True Grit. And they like True Grit. None of them had ever heard of it, mind you, which was a bit of a shock to me -- I almost didn't teach it because I figured everyone would have read it already. I mean, we're living in Fort Smith, and, hell, the movie plays every six minutes on TMC. How could they not have read it already?

But no. They had no idea the book or the movie existed.

Anyway, about half the class read it before we got to it, and the rest like it well enough, though one was surprised when I said it was fiction. "But these places are all real!" she exclaimed.

Apparently only books about places like Oz and Hogwarts are fiction? Don't ask me.

But they're liking the book, we're doing fine, I'm talking to them about why we read literature, what it's for, how it isn't escape, how their mamas lied to them, how it's important business, the most important business, how it's the work of culture, my usual lecture on that, then I start to talk about why we write about literature, and how we do it, and I start on the example I had picked out, which I picked out because I figured it would be easy.

"Consider the cluster of images in the opening sections of the book," I said. "When Mattie says that her father is his brother's keeper, and says that Tom Cheney has a mark on his face like banished Cain, and that no one knows why Cheney shot the Senator, or the birddog, for that matter, or why he shot her father. What is up with that?"

They gazed at me blankly.

"Any ideas?"

Not a one, apparently.

"What's the mark of Cain?" I asked. "Why's Cain got that mark?"

"Yeah," one student said. "I was wondering. What's that mean?"

I had meant it as a rhetorical question, but they were all gazing at me in frank puzzlement. I stared back, astounded. "Cain and Abel?" I said. "You know, the story of Cain and..."

They waited, interested.

"Who knows the story of Cain and Abel?" I asked. No one spoke. "Why did Cain kill Abel?" I asked. No one answered.

Then, in the third row, hesitantly, "Wasn't it because his father was going to sacrifice him? Or...send him away? Right?"

"No," I said. "No." I did not stomp up and down and yell Good Shit a Christian Nation My ASS!

Even though I wanted to.

No, I just told them the story of Cain and Abel.

About halfway through, one of them interrupted me: "I never heard this story before!" she marveled.

Another said, "This is a really good story!"

"Yeah," I said, wryly. "That Bible, it's got some cool stuff in it."

When I was done, I said, "Portis expects you to know this and pick up on it. It's an image cluster he--" (The poor schmuck, I did not add) "--expects his audience to have in their heads. So. What's this add to our text?"

And what's this mean, about teaching literature in this Christian Nation, when they do not, in fact, have the King James Bible -- or any Bible -- in their heads? When they have NEVER heard of Cain and Abel? At all?

Hell, most of them haven't even heard of Buffy anymore.

They're blank slates indeed, these folk.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Especially if you are a fan of this site

go read this

b/c liberals are really wicked, and have too much time on their hands.

Monday, June 18, 2007


I was hunting something in my old blogposts and came across this.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

War Crimes

You must go here and read this:
A Report on Abu Ghraib at the New Yorker.

Some excerpts:

When Taguba urged one lieutenant general to look at the photographs, he rebuffed him, saying, “I don’t want to get involved by looking, because what do you do with that information, once you know what they show?”


Several of these images, including one of an Iraqi woman detainee baring her breasts, have since surfaced; others have not. (Taguba’s report noted that photographs and videos were being held by the C.I.D. because of ongoing criminal investigations and their “extremely sensitive nature.”) Taguba said that he saw “a video of a male American soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee.” The video was not made public in any of the subsequent court proceedings, nor has there been any public government mention of it


The team spent much of February, 2004, in Iraq. Taguba was overwhelmed by the scale of the wrongdoing. “These were people who were taken off the streets and put in jail—teen-agers and old men and women,” he said. “I kept on asking these questions of the officers I interviewed: ‘You knew what was going on. Why didn’t you do something to stop it?’ ”


If they had spoken, Taguba said, he would have reminded Miller that at Abu Ghraib, unlike at Guantánamo, very few prisoners were affiliated with any terrorist group. Taguba had seen classified documents revealing that there were only “one or two” suspected Al Qaeda prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Most of the detainees had nothing to do with the insurgency. A few of them were common criminals.


The official inquiries consistently provided the public with less information about abuses than outside studies conducted by human-rights groups. In one case, in November, 2004, an Army investigation, by Brigadier General Richard Formica, into the treatment of detainees at Camp Nama, a Special Forces detention center at Baghdad International Airport, concluded that detainees who reported being sodomized or beaten were seeking sympathy and better treatment, and thus were not credible.


(At the hearings)...And, as a result, somebody just sent a secret report to the press, and there they are,” Rumsfeld said.

Taguba, watching the hearings, was appalled. He believed that Rumsfeld’s testimony was simply not true. “The photographs were available to him—if he wanted to see them,” Taguba said. Rumsfeld’s lack of knowledge was hard to credit. Taguba later wondered if perhaps Cambone had the photographs and kept them from Rumsfeld because he was reluctant to give his notoriously difficult boss bad news. But Taguba also recalled thinking, “Rumsfeld is very perceptive and has a mind like a steel trap. There’s no way he’s suffering from C.R.S.—Can’t Remember Shit. He’s trying to acquit himself, and a lot of people are lying to protect themselves.” It distressed Taguba that Rumsfeld was accompanied in his Senate and House appearances by senior military officers who concurred with his denials.

“The whole idea that Rumsfeld projects—‘We’re here to protect the nation from terrorism’—is an oxymoron,” Taguba said. “He and his aides have abused their offices and have no idea of the values and high standards that are expected of them. And they’ve dragged a lot of officers with them.”

The whole thing is very long, but it's worth the trip. Sickening, but worth it.

Friday, June 15, 2007


This "It Takes A Village" moment

Is brought to you by OverheardinNY:

Mom to screaming child: Shut the fuck up!

Man: Yeah, keep telling your kid 'Shut the fuck up' so he can grow up and steal my car someday.

--6 train
Overheard by: ChickyWang

Marriage in the Patriarchy

Over here at Twisty's Place

And here at Feministe:

We're talking about marriage.

Marriage in the Patriarchy, which there isn't any other kind, is there?

I've been ruminating over this issue myself for, oh, what is it, nine years now? Might be more. Because mine didn't really get rough until the kid showed up. Before that I was married, sure, but mr. delagar was still working out of the marriage -- traveling a great deal, gone more than he was home -- and it was very like not being married at all.

Once the kid arrived, and he quit that job and became a stay-at-home-dad, that's when the actual marriage started.

And when we moved to Pork Smith, when the kid was three, and he stopped being a stay-at-home-dad, and started working at teaching and going to graduate school, hmm. Now we hit the patriarchy full-bore: because now we both work full-time.

See, mr. delagar, he's a good guy. A liberal guy (mostly). He loves me. Honest. I love him. But has he been raised in the patriarchy? Oh, has he indeed. Does he think he has a right to enter the kitchen and say to me, "Make me a sandwich"?

Do you need to ask?

And whose job do you think he thinks the laundry is? The vaccuuming? The cleaning of the bathroom? Childcare? Dishes? Fixing dinner? Arranging medical care and transportation to same?

He says he will "help" me with these, that all I have to do is ask, and he'll do what I say.

Notice the phrasing there.

Notice the position this puts me in.

Notice, also, that when I do ask, he (very often) ignores me, or says, "Not now, I'm working on (whatever it is -- his dissertation, his music, his writing)." Or he's watching some movie. Or something, you know, important. Not like me. My time is not of value.

This continues until, once every three or four months, we have a fight -- instigated by me -- in which I holler at him about how it isn't fair for him to force me to do all the work in the house, he admits it's not, swears he'll stop, and does stop -- for about two weeks -- and then slips back into his old habits.

So I have a choice: become a shrieking harpy, make our lives -- mine and the kid's, as well as his -- a fucking misery; do all the work myself, like a good oppressed member of the patriarchy; live in an utter sty(which, actually, I've tried that one); or continue this fucked pattern.

There's marriage with a good liberal man for you. Want to sign up?


I have this coffee cup -- well, I have several, but one of them has W-W-B-D on it in bold black letters. One of my students asked, the other day in class, smirking, "Does that mean What Would Buddha Do?"

"Why, yes," I said. "It does. Now sit down and shut up."

Which ain't what Buddha would do, of course.

Those of you who read this here blog might have noticed that I have tiny anger issues. As in I brood and sulk and hold grudges for, well, decades. And get so furious at people who tailgate me that I daydream about developing rear-action bazooka launchers (no, seriously: don't you think we could make MILLIONS marketing those? Or, okay, not bazookas, maybe that's harsh, but what about a device that launches, say, a bucket of semi-liquid tar in a parabola that intersected with the grill and hood of the offending vehicle? Or -- ooo! -- artificial skunk juice! Deer stank! Can we? Can we? Pleeeeze?)

Well, clearly this is not healthy.

So I've been working, Buddha-like, on a thought experiment. When someone does something that riles me, like tailgating, or cutting me off in traffic, or driving while having offensive car decoration, or in an offensive vehicle (giant bright yellow Hummers with Where Will YOU Spend Eternity? on their fucking bumpers, for instance, right next to the I Support The Troops and W-2004 and Condi 2008 stickers), or when I read some vicious ignorant patronizing comment on some blog I like, instead of getting my hate on, I breathe carefully, and I make myself picture, behind the wheel of that vehicle, or writing that comment, not, as I used to picture, some squat white-haired small-eyed rich Rethug, but someone I love.

Like: my best student.

Like: my brother.

Like: my favorite nephew.

Now granted this is difficult to do, on occasion, as my nephew would not be caught dead driving a bright yellow Hummer of any sort, much less one with a Condi 2008 bumper sticker on it, but I pretend to myself that perhaps he knows a guy who knows a guy and maybe he has borrowed it just to run out for some white wine and that is why he cut me off, it was an accident, he doesn't know how to control such a hideous vehicle very well, I need to cut him a break: wouldn't I want someone to cut me a break in that situation? Wouldn't I want the other drivers to cut my nephew a break if he were driving in such perilous need?

Or, with the blog post, I know my student means well. Why does it sound like she doesn't? What's happening here, why is it coming off so angry? Hmm, let me read again and try to understand...

At the very least, I'm having fun with the game. And it does seem like something Buddha might do.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Was on OverheardinNY today:


Wednesday One-Liners Support the Repeal of the Estate Tax

Filthy rich lady: Darling, you must get a private jet. We just don't fly commercial anymore.--

Saleswoman: Well, you can't really compare a 16-hundred-dollar haircut to a 15-dollar one.--C.O. Bigelow, 9th & 6th
Overheard by: Joey Gillis

Yuppie teen in wheel: Dude, we should totally start hanging out with public school kids. Not the ghetto ones, but, like -- you know, the cool ones.--
Central Park
Overheard by: Eri

Little brat: But Mo-ooom, seven hundred dollars is not that much for a pair of shoes!
--89th & Broadway
Overheard by: Maddi

Old suit: You should really make at least a hundred grand a year to live in Manhattan. You know, la crème de la crème . And if you can't deal with that you should move to Jersey City with the Indians and the Asians.
--Theatre lobby

Sorority girl: No, it's not like that. It's just, like, he's from Greece... And there's, like, not a lot of rich people there...
--13th & 1st
Overheard by: Heather

Old lady employee : Oh, I want to be adopted by a nice rich family!
--F.A.O. Schwartz
Overheard by: fao

So. Someone remind me. When's the Revolution again?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


This is the coolest thing ever.

Go here:

and put in the name of some favorite writer.

Try Connie Willis or Lois McMaster Bujold or John Barnes if you can't think of one.

Watch what happens!

I love it!

And if

you're still not depressed?

Go here:

One of the niftiest tricks the right has pulled in the past few decades has been to recast wealth redistribution as something that can only happen downwards, as if piddly welfare checks and Medicaid are the redistribution of anything that deserves the moniker “wealth”, when “sustenance” would be a better term. The fact of the matter is the entire issue of labor in a capitalist society is wealth redistribution—you as a laborer by definition have to make less than your work is worth or the owners won’t make a profit off it. With that in mind, the quotes from Roger Lowenstein in this article are particularly infuriating—basically, that you shouldn’t begrudge people the right to light Cuban cigars with $100 bills so long as your credit card debt isn’t immediately threatening to overwhelm you.

In Lowenstein’s view: “…whether Roger Clemens, who will get something like $10,000 for every pitch he throws, earns 100 times or 200 times what I earn is kind of irrelevant. My kids still have health care, and they go to decent schools. It’s not the rich people who are pulling away at the top who are the problem…”

As Ehrenreich notes, the invocation of an athlete is no mistake, but a deliberate distraction from the fact that the vast majority of the wealthy make their money off the labor of the working class. So, yes, you have a right to begrudge the rich that $7,000 check you’re writing them every year with your labor. Lowenstein might not think he needs that money, but most of us do.

Right now Americans have to borrow to get by, after all.

Heckova Job, George (Part 2)

Good thing we painted all those schools, huh?

This is from Baghdad, and is a phenomena that has emerged since we invaded, in case anyone was wondering about that:

"We found that child labour [in Iraq] has increased by nearly 15 percent, with many children working in unsafe environments,” said Saleh Muhammad, spokesperson for the Baghdad-based Children Saving Association...

In April 2005, a survey conducted by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs found that children between the ages of two and five years (some 7 percent of the total) were engaged in child labour, usually in the form of street-begging. “We’ve begun to see more children on the streets of the capital compared to last year,” said senior ministry official Haydar Ahmed. “And many of them are begging rather than working.”

The report further indicated that 16 percent of boys and 43 percent of girls were illiterate. Only 50 percent of the children surveyed reported that both their parents were still alive.

(Via Sabotabby, over at

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Not Depressed?

Read this, then.

I was over at Twisty's, reading I don't remember what, and somehow ended up reading about Rapex, which is an interesting invention by a woman in South Africa. It's a condom-like device, meant to fit inside a woman. Has little vicious barbs on its inside, something like those snags you encounter in parking garages, so you can't take your pickup out of the entrance ramp without blowing the tires? The idea is that women who are at risk to be raped would wear the Rapex device, and then if attacked by a rapist, well, he jams it in, you see, and as he's yanking it out, yikes! Ow!

Apparently debilitating pain. She can run away while he's writhing and screaming.

And he can't get it off without surgical intervention, so he has to go to a hospital, she can give evidence, he can go to prison.

I'm thinking, hmm, and also I bet fellas would be just a bit reluctant to rape women if these little surprise packets might be inside us, for all they knew.

So I go over to Wikipedia (as I do) to see what my homes over there say.

The article itself says okay things:

But the talk page? Good crap.

(1) Apparently at one point someone equated this device with tree-spiking. WTF?

(2) A number of commentors (male, I assumed, but who knows) seem to believe "vengeful" women are going to wear this during sex to "get" their poor menfolk (b/c you know how we women are, we love to attack those dicks).

(3) Others claim to be against it b/c it wouldn't stop STDs. (Please!)

(4) Mainly, though? The main body of the criticism is that this device would be unfair -- yes, unfair -- to the rapist.

The fact of the matter is that no one, not even rapists, deserves to be injured the way that this device would injure people. There are plenty of ways of preventing and stopping rapes without resorting to the mindset of the dark ages.... as this article outlines, the device offers no visual deterrents, which means that the rapist would not know that the woman was wearing the device (which would itself be a deterrent to rape), and furthermore, the device causes excessive harm for what it tries to accomplish. I do not think that rapists should be subjected to excessive and cruel treatment. They are people too, and however deplorable their acts against their victims are, they still deserve humane treatment...

This device carries a significant risk of causing severe and permanent damage. Government policy changes, better policing, better education, stronger economies, better health care, pepper spray, tasers, martial arts training, etc. do not. Should potential victims try to stop their attackers? Of course. Should devices be marketed that seek to cause excessive pain and damage? Absolutely not.
I find that your claims that a woman using the device maliciously would face repercussions are highly dubious. Consider this: the device is marketed to stop rapes. Imagine that a man goes to the hospital with this device gouging holes in his penis. He tells the doctors that his girlfriend asked him to have sex with her, but was wearing the device, and that as soon as his penis was caught, she laughed at him and told him that it served him right for being a man. Meanwhile, his girlfriend has called the police and complained that the man attempted to rape her. Who will the court believe? --
HarmonicFeather 03:24, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

I think it's a very dangerous device because it encourages women to not defend themselves, maybe even not saying "no" and rely on this easily avoided trap. Also it really is a 100% revenge tool, like "you rape me, i take you with me" which is a very babaric mindset to me indeed. (No signature)

Right. How dare a woman do something so barbaric as stop herself from being raped? Evil bitch.

And here's Dave the concern troll:

I have to wonder if it's effective because in order for it to work, the woman has to be raped first... Seems counter productive to me. Why not work on education, outreach and support? Dave8904 19:49, 15 May 2007 (UTC)

Education, outreach, and support: you know, those things that have been working so well so far.

The real concern is that women should be kept rapeable. Otherwise no one would care what they had in their cooters, would they? B/c whose business is it, after all, what I do with my body, if you're not planning to interfere with it?

Here's the link to the talk page:

Republican Roundup

In case you were wondering what's wrong with Huckabee, those of you who haven't spent anytime in Arkansas lately, well, Digby's got it covered right here:

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Guest Post From mr. delagar

He wants me to tell anyone who did not like the ending of the Sopranos that they are


(Not that he feels strongly about it, y'all.)

Don't you get that the go-to-black is a PERFECT ending? he inquires.

And the family, eating? The same way the first season ended? PERFECT?

And the implication being NOT that everyone dies, but that everything goes on -- threats go on, but the family goes on, and our ideas about the family go on as well.

Brilliant, he says. Brilliant!

Gilligan's Islands never had an ending, he points out. Hogan is still in his prison camp. NYPD Blue just signed in new detectives and kept on going.

Stop being closure junkies, he orders. Right fucking now.

Friday, June 08, 2007


I love that Joe.My.God.

And here he is doing it again:

I'm not worried what the outside world thinks about the drag queens, the topless bulldaggers or the nearly naked leatherfolk. It's OUR party, bitches. If you think that straight America would finally pull its homokinder to its star-spangled busom, once we put down that glitter gun, then you are seriously deluding yourself. Next year, if one of the Christian camera crews that show up to film our debauched celebrations happen to train their cameras on you, stop dancing. And start PRANCING.

All you suburban, lawn mowing, corpo-droid homos out there, hiding behind your picket fences, the ones wringing your hands and worrying that Pride ruins YOUR personal rep, listen up. Do you think that straight Americans worry that Mardi Gras damages international perception of American culture? America, land of the free, home of "Show Us Your Tits!"? They don't, and neither should we. Our Pride celebrations are just our own unique version of Mardi Gras, only instead of throwing beads, we throw shade. No one has to ask US to show our tits. We've already got 'em out there, baby. And some of them are real.

A co-worker of mine heard me discussing my Pride plans last weekend and said, "I really don't understand what it is you are proud about. I mean, you all say that you are born that way, so it's not like you accomplished anything." She wasn't being mean, just genuinely curious, and I think that a lot of gay people probably feel the same way, quite frankly. On this subject, I can only speak for myself.I'm proud because I'm a middle-aged gay man who has more dead friends than living ones, and yet I'm not completely insane. I've lived through a personal Holocaust (here we go again) in which my friends and lovers have been mowed down as thoroughly and randomly as the S.S guards moved down the line of Jews. You, dead. You, to the factory. And you, you, you, and you, dead. I am inexplicably alive and I am proud that I keep the memories of my friends alive. I am proud of my people, the ACT-UPers, the Quilt makers, the Larry Kramers. I'm proud that I'm not constantly curled up into a ball on my bed, clutching photo albums and sobbing. And that happens sometimes, believe it.

There's more. Go see.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


Teaching summer session, even with the kid at her grandparents, is kicking my ass. I've got two classes, back to back, one at ten and one at noon -- 25 students in the comp class, fourteen in the WLIT I class -- five days a week, two hours a day per class, and I absolutely can do nothing else but the classes. I mean, I start at seven in the morning: get up then, drive in to campus, make coffee, start the prep work, *barely* finish in time for the 10.00 class to start, teach straight through to the 2:00 class (my office hour is from 9:00-10:00 and I always have students coming in for it), go home, eat something while I read the WLIT assignment (mr. delagar brooding moodily across the table from me), prep on afterwards, maybe get some dinner later, *maybe* if I finished early have an hour or two to spend with him, but usually not, usually it's nine or ten o'clock at night and I'm huddled up in bed scuffling through the books on my nightstand, trying to stay awake long enough to read something that's not for my classes -- I'm reading Brideshead Revisited right now, because I never did, an Perdido Street Station, a very odd mix, I must say, also Sheri Tepper's new book -- but I generally can't get more than a page down before I fall asleep.

Writing? What's that?

Well, the weekend is almost here.

And maybe Summer II will be easier.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Knocked Up

Yesterday, Pan's Labyrinth came from Netflix -- yep, I finally got to see it. That's how I usually get to see movies, via the 'Flix. Anyway, I like that movie, and am thinking about showing it in my mythology class in the spring, but I was wondering (because I evilly do wonder such things) how the far Right Xtians had reacted to all the mythic elements in it, so I hopped over to the Christian movie review site (We Do The Thinking So You Don't Have To) for a look.

While I was there, I thought I'd see what they thought of Knocked Up too.

I'm curious about this, of course, because of the mixed readings on that movie I'm getting, both on the Right and the Left. mr. delagar and I went out on a date last Friday night to see it (we had a date! how sweet! because the kid is gone we can do that) and I had heard nothing about the movie, never even heard of it, because I'm a cultural idiot, apparently, but mr. delagar, who isn't, said the NYTimes said it rocked, so we went, and we liked it, ANYWAY, where was I?

Mixed readings. Right. And on the RIGHT, we have YAY! Pro-Life. But why is it so mean to men? Must be the war on boys!

And on the LEFT we have why is it so UNREALISTIC and ANTI-CHOICE? (No, not everyone. Because it's obviously not anti-choice to show a woman making a choice, which is what the movie does, duh. And, as someone, I think it was Amanda over at Pandagon, pointed out, the movie clearly shows that she can only make this choice, to keep the child, because she is in an environment where she can keep the child: she lives with her sister and her sister's husband who can help her raise the child, she has a job, she had health insurance, she's got resources.)

Anyway, so: I go over here

to see what the Xtians have to say.

(1) They are shocked, shocked at a. LANGUAGE! all the F words and even the C word, not to mention other "moderate" language and appalling "jokes" and "talk" and "discussions" of S-e-X! and then! then! (b) pictures and POSTERS! of nudie people! and also! (c) drug use! Lots of drug use! Onscreen drug use! and no one repents! and (d) drinking and drunken behavior and (e) hookers -- well, okay, this one bothered me, too. WHICH!!

(2) Is a shame because the movie had at its core a good message, and promoted strong morals. The woman decides to have the baby! The man takes responsibility and is there for her! He straightens out his life, gets a job, gets his own place! They do the right thing! BUT!!

(3) No one goes to church or prays or calls on Jesus! (The Xtians seems to have missed the fact that Ben Stone is a Jew. Well.) How can this be? How can people be acting right withou a God standing over them with a stick making them act right? What a fucking puzzler. Jeez.

Here's a quotation from the site:
"As for direct spiritually related content, this film is devoid of any—surprising considering the previously mentioned themes present throughout."

Yes, because, you know, without God there is no Good.

All we atheists, we can't figure out on our own that we should do what's useful and not do what isn't.

Takes some invisible sky-bunny to point that out.

Here's what I liked about Knocked up, BTW: The people in it acted like people do. Not like political action figures do. Not like positions in a debate do. In my experience, people will do what they want to do if they can do it. That's what's going on here.


mr. delgar is writing is dissertation this summer, while the kid is off with her grandparents.

Anyway, he's meant to be.

So far he had reorganized his CD collection and cleaned up his office and watched a deal of TCM.

It is, he tells me, deeply irresponsible of universities not to have some sort of seminar on how to write your dissertation. What, do they just expect people to know how to write one?

Yes, I told him. Yes, they do.

He brooded.

No, I told him: no, they do not care whether you ever write it at all.

I don't know how to write this this thing, he said.

One page at a time, I said, like anything else. Start at the beginning. Go on until you're done. There isn't any trick. I swear to you. That's how it works.

He gave me a mean scowl.

You know what a good dissertation is? I asked him. A finished dissertation.

I think I should move my lamp over behind my desk, he said. It won't blow out my computer screen then. What do you think?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

More on Rapine

You probably remember that story about the 12-year-old who died because his mother didn't have dental insurance -- his tooth abcess infected his brain and that?

(And, at the time, as I recall, the blogs over on the right were full of tender comments about how his mama should have just sold some of her bling her plasma TV maybe and got off her wide ass and taken her son to the dentist, because that's how compassionae those conservatives are, you know.)

Here's more on his story:

Deamonte had never had routine dental care.* The problem wasn't that he was among America's 47 million uninsured. He was covered by Medicaid, the federal health-insurance program for the poor, which includes dental care for kids. But Medicaid reimbursement rates for dentists in Maryland—as in many states—are set at such low rates that few dentists accept Medicaid patients.


I have students like this kid: children of the working poor, or the working poor themselves. Not all of them get Medicaid; not all qualify for it, or have applied for it. But I can't tell you the number of students I have who do without dentists -- people joke about Arkansas folk being without teeth. Ha ha fucking ha. It ain't a joke. My students are missing teeth, many of them, and it isn't funny. They don't have teeth because they couldn't afford dentists -- and, when they can afford a dentist, they can't afford fillings, or caps, or crowns. They can only afford to get the bad teeth pulled.

I can't tell you the number of students I have who, when I write something on the blackboard, get up and move to the front rows of the classroom. Why? Because they can't see the board -- and they can't afford to see a optometrist. Not even the $64 dollar one at Wal-Mart. Sell some bling? Pawn the plasma TV? That's very funny. Don't pay the water bill or the rent this month, more likely. Don't fill up the pick-up. And how would they get to my class? It's 30 miles from their door to the university, and gas ain't getting cheaper.


Go on over to Unfogged

and read their post on that new book everyone is so hot over, You Don't Have to Shop At Wal-Mart.

The post is called

Heterodox Orthodoxy: Economic Beach Reading Edition

and you might have to scroll down a bit. (I'd link to it, bu my &#!^! links are down again.)

Read the comments, because the comments are the important part.

What's being talked about in the comments, along with the usual messing about you find at Unfogged, is the game theory/prisoner's dilemma that controls economic theory and much of intellectual discourse. It's a paradigm, a model; it's a way to see the world.

It's not reality, but as a frame for reality, as Sapir-Whorf theorized, it controls how we see reality. As someone points out, far down in the thread, Adam Smith used an image, long ago: an economic image: the butcher doesn't cut meat out of altruism; that, in other words, everyone acts, always (and implying, only) from self-interest) and (implying) that this is correct civilized behavior and how our society should be run.

Frame the world that way: a world of non-altruistic butchers, cutting meat for money. Everyone running their own businesses, with no interest in helping others in the community, with no care for the commons or aiding the community --no idea that there should be a community, because that's not my business. Make that your model. What do you end up?

Pirates, that's what. Sacking the world, raping the resources, enriching my own, sneering at the idea of ethics as something for suckers. And the poor? The broken? Those who don't have as much booty as me? Losers who couldn't pirate as well as I could, obviously. That's how the game works. Some win, some lose. Go blame Darwin if you ain't like it.

No wonder Johnny Depp's our new hero.

Except the real thing is George Bush, whose neither cute nor clever. And if you want to see what his world looks like, have a glance at Bahgdad. Or, you know, certain neighborhoods in Pork Smith these day, where things are getting just a bit tight, what with gas and power and groceries so tight.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Sad Truth

I've been cruising around the right side of the 'sphere since I got back in the saddle, and plenty of them are all smug about Sheehan dropping out of public life.

You know why, of course, the Right was so vehement in their opposition to Sheehan. It wasn't that she spoke up in opposition to Mr. Bush's useless and evil war: it was that she was a woman who spoke up in opposition to Mr. Bush's useless and evil war. Indeed, yes, once again: the Patriarchy.

In any case, I thought I would bring you some of Sheehan's words, because she's so good at speaking up. You can find the citation linked below:

"Casey did indeed die for nothing....died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives...It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance."

Every night when I watch the first ten or twenty minutes of the news, or when I pause on CNN or on FOX for a few minutes -- which is all I can take before I shut it off in disgust -- that's what I am thinking too. We are in a war which has been going on for how long? We have people in this country who have lost and are losing jobs? We have a health care crisis which is now hitting a fairly serious pitch? And this is what our media is spending its shit on? What this dude Simon thinks?

You want to talk bread and circuses, son? You want to talk opiate of the masses? You want to talk 1984?

And up in Washington they just voted away how many of your tax dollars for this stupid fucking war again? While you watched some idiot sing?