Thursday, June 29, 2006

On the marquee

I like to think of myself as an adult, but for some reason, stupid quotes on church marquees drive me to childish reactionary anger. I just want to go up to the church door, knock, and yell out, "How fucking stupid are you?" Yes, I know, it's an overreaction. But here are the ones that bug me:
  • "Coincidences happen when God chooses to remain anonymous."
Really? Do you want to go ahead and admit that you're so frightened of math you choose to believe in coincidences? Really? You know, coincidences are mathematically likely. Please put down your study Bible and go read this book.
  • "Nothing you can see has any real value."
So the church, the Bible, my family, my own body, Christ (assuming one were alive around 33 A.D. or, if you're expecting him to come back soon, you see the Second Coming), priests, saints, preachers, these have no real value? And what do you mean by value?
  • Thankfully, I can't think of an example, but the ones that use letters in "clever" ways bother me, like, "You can't spell church without u." (I made that up, but I'm sure it exists somewhere.
But to show I'm not a completely bad guy, I'll share one that I like, as it applies to fiction writing (though it's a mite disturbing in some ways).
  • "Character is who you are in the dark."

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Friday, June 23, 2006

Cover your ears!

Know why they call The New York Times the "Gray Lady"? Because it has the sensibility of an old woman:

"[Chicago White Sox Manager] Guillen went into a profanity-laced tirade against Jay Mariotti, a Chicago Sun-Times columnist, and called him a number of names, including a derogatory term that is often used to describe someone's sexual orientation."

Now, since I'm not a scaredy-cat, I've been on the interwebnets and seen that Guillen called Mariotti a "fag." Guillen later apologized for using the word, but refused to apologize for calling Mariotti a name. But if I hadn't seen on the interwebnets that Guillen had used the word "fag," imagine my racing thoughts after reading the Times obscurantist phrasing. Was the word:
(Those last two come from the good people at The Dugout.) Also see Deadspin for their helpful list of names Guillen can use in the future. And I think the good people at Jay the Joke, a blog devoted to Mariotti's myriad failures, get it right.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Go read a literary magazine

The July/August issue of Poetry is their humor issue, and I'm happy to tell you to go buy it. Not only do I know two of the contributors, but unlike the last humor issue, this one is actually really funny. I haven't read the whole issue, but it includes some real gems, including:
  • X.J. Kennedy's brilliant parodies.
  • Dean Young beginning poems with laugh-out-loud funny lines, then veering into nearly incomprehensible synaptic leaps.
  • Joan Murray rewriting "We Real Cool" to hilarious effect.
  • Peter Kane Dufault's painful, and intentionally so, poem about Guantanamo.
The prose is less entertaining, though it has its moments. I'm hoping they keep the humor issue as a tradition; it's nice to see a mix of comic poems that seem both light and lasting. Plus, they nailed the cover. Moral: go get the humor issue.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Slouching Towards Comprehensive Exams

Now that I'm done with coursework, I'm starting to read for my comprehensive exams. So far, this means tweaking the lists with advisors, color-coding the lists (what I have read, what I haven't, what I know well, what I don't--it looks like my lists are celebrating gay pride right now), making schedules for reading, and even a little bit of actual reading. For those of you keeping score at home, here are my areas:
  1. Primary: Twentieth-Century American Fiction
  2. Secondary: Twentieth-Century British Fiction
  3. Other secondary/tertiary: Literary Theory, emphasizing the History and Theory of the Novel
For my reading schedule, I've divided the first two lists into three time periods each. The plan is to read two books from the first time period of each list, then two books from the next time period, and so on and so forth. (The theory list, by the way, is very much in flux at the moment, so it's less clear right now how I'm scheduling that.) For example, here's what I've got set up so far:

1900-1940: Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio (I've got 80 pages left); Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier (I'm twenty pages in). Once I finish the Anderson, I read Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome; once I finish Ford, I read Rebecca West's The Return of the Soldier. Plato's Ion and Phaedrus dialogues and two books of The Republic fit in there somewhere. Then, it's onto

1941-1970: Gertrude Stein, Ida (I'm looking forward to having Stein behind me, behind me, behind me); Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory; Mary McCarthy, The Company She Keeps; Samuel Beckett, Molloy.

1971-present: Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow; Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber; Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street; Zadie Smith, On Beauty.

There's a logic to it all. Retyping this for the post, I feel simultaneously organized and anxious as hell. Organizing is useful, but I think I'm also using planning as a way to delay actual reading. We'll see how I do once my wife goes out of town tomorrow and I can only talk to the dog.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Breakfast, coffee, vandalism

My wife and I woke up to find that, during the night, vandals took two of the planters in our front yard and smashed them in our next-door neighbor's yard. What the hell? Why do this? As I was cleaning it up, my neighbor from across the street came over and told me that it happened around 1:30 am. The noise woke him up, and because his wife's car was parked on the street, he thought someone was fucking with the car. When he turned on his porch light, the kids ran.

So if you see two white teenaged males with short blond hair today, smack them upside the head for me.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Thank you

A big thanks to Deadspin for linking to my response to J. J. Redick's DWI. The first day, I had 1,488 hits. Yesterday, 930. My first thousand-hit day, and probably the only one I'll ever have. I feel all warm and fuzzy.

In other news, I'm preparing to start reading for comps (technically, I've started, but not in any systematic, real way) by color-coding my lists: what books I know very well (only a few), what books I know pretty well (a surprisingly high number), what books I read a long time ago and remember one meaningless detail from (a few), and the books I haven't read at all (the word "yikes" doesn't even begin to cover it). Am I just doing things to prevent getting started? My wife likes the idea, having been through comps herself. Plus, it's pretty cool to pull up a candy-coated Microsoft Word file. But I'm not sure if it's just one of another set of distractions I'm setting up for myself. Like, you know, blogging.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Required reading

Go give Michael Bérubé some love for his incredible defense of academic freedom.

One of the things he defends universities from is the American Council of Trustees and Alumni and its ridiculous report, "How Many Ward Churchills," in which it claims "many" university teachers think, for example, that those who died on 9/11 deserved it. It's the same old story about angry leftists in the university. And their evidence? Why, course descriptions, of course. Here's an example:
  • Animal rights activism has entered the undergraduate classroom in a strikingly open and undisguised way. The University of Colorado offers "Animals and Society," a sociology course that "investigates the social construction of the human/animal boundary," "[c]hallenges ideas that animals are neither thinking nor feeling," "[c]onsiders the link between animal cruelty and other violence," and "[e]xplores the moral status of animals."
The above paragraph is taken verbatim from the report. (I'm not linking to it, but MB does.) They provide no comment on what's wrong with that description. A class that "investigates," "challenges," "considers," and "explores"? Run for the hills, Ma Parker, as Homer Simpson says. What they quote from the description offers nothing that demonstrates animal rights activism in the slightest. In fact, it does what sociology does: explores why and how certain social distinctions exist, what functions they serve, what value(s) they may or may not have.

Two anecdotes, then I'll go. In a classroom discussion about the SAT, I raised the question about whether or not the SAT is a racist test. (In my opinion, it isn't, but only barely.) In the course of the discussion, affirmative action came up, and I asked my students what percentage of our university's population is black. The lowest number I heard was 25%. In fact, it's around 11%.

Two, an incredibly intelligent and thoughtful white student of mine last fall thought it was because of "political correctness" that white people aren't supposed to use the n-word. Not, obviously, his brightest moment.

J.J. Redick had a bad night

My favorite poet, J.J. Redick, got arrested last night for a DWI. After rolling on the floor and gnashing my teeth, I managed to pull it together long enough to write a poetry parody. In honor of Gerard Manley Hopkins' "God's Grandeur."

Duke’s Grandeur

J.J. is charged with driving while drunk;
   He did flame out, like bricking from jump shots;
   He gathers to a sadness, like the reek of shots
Breathed. Why will teams now draft this punk?

Coach Krzyzewski will cry, will cry, will cry—
   No, wait, that’s Redick, bleared, smeared with booze;
   He wears Zima’s smudge and shares the smell; the ruse
Is up now—Duke is not great, it is a lie.

And for all this, J.J. is never spent;
   His mug shot’s up but he will cry in verse,
And like lacrosse, no, he will not repent.
   At least he didn’t throw it in reverse.
His eyes were “very glassy,” and he went
   And u-turned from the cops—what could be worse?

Truth in advertising

My wife was flipping through a local coupon/sales publication when she came across an ad for Revolution Remodeling, a local company that does your home remodeling projects. But here's the brilliant part, blazoned across the top of the ad:

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act"
-George Orwell

Orwell's not rolling over in his grave so much as puzzling in it. But I bet the work Revolution Remodeling does is double plus good.

Monday, June 12, 2006

School's out for summer

Well, until I teach in July. But still. I turned in my grades today, then took a nap. I just ate lunch (more on that in a moment), and I'm keeping an internet eye on the U.S.-Czech Republic World Cup game (the U.S. is getting trounced already) while drinking an Ale81 and working on comps lists. I feel like I'm in the lamest Old Milwaukee commercial ever, except in a good way. "And then the crate of lobsters dropped from the sky."

About lunch. Make this for yourself. Trust me: I marinated half a slab of tofu in a mix of basalmic vinagrette, mustard, and basil (dry, not fresh, unfortunately) for 30 min. in the oven. Overnight marinating gets more flavor, but 30 min. on 300 degrees works. For two sandwiches, cut four slices of sourdough bread. Drizzle a little olive oil and a little of the marinade on the bread. Add whatever toppings you prefer; I just did lettuce, but lettuce, tomato, and onion works well. Cut the marinated tofu in half (yes, that's one quarter of the full slab). Enjoy your sandwich. And don't say I never did anything for you.

*******

By the way, an update from Gilead (if you've read The Handmaid's Tale, you get the reference. And feel free to take Updates from Gilead as a blog name): People are defending Ann Coulter's ridiculous attacks on 9/11 widows. Let me put it this way, Mary Matalin: when Don Imus has the moral high ground on you, it may be time to reassess your views. Media Matters is all over it.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Back to Ann Coulter's Sunday School

Once again, Ann Coulter asks us to seek the Bible for guidance. On Hannity & Colmes, claiming that Christ would condone her new book, which "belittles and ridicules a large segment of the American population" (Alan Colmes), she cites the money-changers passage in John 2:12-17. So why don't we look at that?

John 2: 12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.
13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there.
15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.
16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.”
17
His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Now, according to Raggedy Ann, that passage justifies her attacks on those who subscribe to "liberalism." But nowhere does she criticize liberalism for making the church into a place of commerce; she instead criticizes liberalism for being its own religion. Wouldn't that have more to do with false idols? And in the case of false idols, doesn't God do the smiting, or am I forgetting my Old Testament values?

But that's not the only passage on which we require Raggedy Ann's elucidation. Continuing to criticize the widows of 9/11 victims, she says, "do I have to kill my mother so I can be a victim, too?"

Let's ignore for a moment the major logical flaw--the widows of 9/11 did not kill their husbands, their husbands were brutally murdered by fundamentalist terrorists--and focus on her treatment of mourners. A few passages from the New Testament:

Matthew 5:4 (in the Sermon on the Mount): Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Raggedy Ann's gloss: Clearly Jesus was being sarcastic. Blessed, schmessed, I say.

Romans 12:14-16: Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Raggedy Ann's gloss: And hate with those who hate. It's my Bible bitches, I can misinterpret it if I want to.

And, finally, Raggedy Ann interpreting herself:

On Rivera Live, 6/7/2000: "Let's say I go out every night, I meet a guy and have sex with him. Good for me. I'm not married."

RaggedyAnn, on The Situation with Tucker Carlson, 6/6/2006: "We've had liberalizing rules on divorce. We've had the sexual revolution. We've had, you know, the pill and burning bras and rampant premarital sex and polymorphous perversity. "

In other words, we need to stop all that damn rampant premarital sex. Just not, you know, the rampant premarital sex she's apparently allowed to have.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Uh oh, Annie make boo-boo, fall down

And on national tv no less. On The Today Show. Yes, that's right, the Serena Joy of the real world attacks 9/11 widows in her new book, and she then defends her claim to Matt Lauer. Here's the important claim from her book: "I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' death so much."

Ye freaking gods. This is down there with Bill O'Reilly claiming American atrocities in WWII and getting his facts completely backwards.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Stupid globally, stupider locally

Yes, kids, the Douchebag Daily, your window to the world, our local newspaper, is at it again. I don't even subscribe to it, I just notice the ridiculous front page headlines on my way to the library. The top headline on today's front page:

Strict moms produce fat kids

Here's how the article begins:

"'Clean your plate or else!' and other authoritarian parenting methods can lead to overweight children, a new study finds."

In other news, beating your children might make them violent and distant from other people. Unfortunately, the article is not just a local article, it's an Associated Press piece. I won't get into the problems of the study (I won't link to it, but you can easily find it on your own, if you'd like to smack your forehead), but here's what bothers me about the study and the odd publicizing it's getting on the front page: it's the mother's fault. The study didn't take fathers into account, so all the blame--on the top of the front page, no less--goes to mothers. Geez, can't moms do anything right?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

I hate our local newspaper

The top headline on the front page of today's Douchebag Daily:

"Big Brother's watching your diet."

Why do I doubt the headline writer has read Orwell?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Enjoy your weekend

One essay down, one to go. (Written, that is; I've still got plenty to grade.)

In the meantime, go enjoy this video. Turn the sound up, and lower your IQ. Trust me.