You should be dancing, yeah

30 01 2012

Okay, that title has nothing to do with this post, but I’m listening to a WNYC program’s discussion of the Bee Gees, and they played this song, so, y’know, why not.

Anyway.

Classes begin tomorrow, and while I’ve taught all of these courses before and my syllabi are set, I’m always a bit nervous before the curtain rises. Last semester my bioethics course kicked ass and my American government course sucked ass, so I’m hoping to maintain the performance of the former while raising that of the latter.

I’m also teaching a course I haven’t taught for a couple of years, and I’ve rejiggered it somewhat from my last pass. It’s an intro to political theory course (more or less), and the last time out the students never truly engaged the material. I don’t know if it was them or me, but I do know I was rather listless by the end. This time around, I cut back a wee on the reading and reconfigured the written work; we’ll see if it works.

<<Oh, shit, I haven’t yet updated my course website. Dammit. Maybe tomorrow morning.>>

Is this all a way of excuse-making in advance for not posting as much as I should? Why, why would you even think such a thing?

Actually, the busier I am, the more likely I am to write, so who know: maybe I’ll be a bloggin’-machine this semester.

~~~

I need to get some real writing done, too. The Unexpected Neighbor is already e-pubbed (link at right), but I stopped in the midst of editing Home Away Home. I really should get back to it, not least because it’s a better manuscript than Neighbor, but also because once I finish that, I’ll have no excuses for not working on my next project. If only I could settle on that next project.

Anyway, here are bits from Home, the first, in honor of the previous post:

Kurt had taken Jamie for a ‘walk-and-talk’ before his son left for Daytona. ‘I know we talked about this before, and I know you’ve been living away from home for awhile now, but I don’t want you to get in any trouble in Florida.’
Jamie tugged on his ponytail, trying to keep a smile off his face.
Kurt noticed. ‘I know, you think this is funny, and your old man is way behind, but James, seriously, a person does things on vacation that, that he wouldn’t do at home.’
‘Dad!’ Jamie looked at his father. ‘What do you think I’m going to do?’
Kurt took a deep breath. ‘Well, Rachel is going to Florida, too, isn’t she?’
Jamie laughed. ‘Jeez, dad. She’s staying in another hotel from us guys.’
‘She’s been staying on another floor from you in the dorm, but that hasn’t stopped you, has it?’ Kurt kicked aside a melting chunk of ice.
Jamie said nothing.
‘Look, Jamie, I know you’re not a stupid kid, and I assume you and Rachel have been. . . smart about. . . your relationship.’ Kurt shuffled around more ice pebbles. ‘But Florida, the beach, the booze, everything—your common sense can fly right out the window.’
Jamie scratched his still-unshaven face. ‘Dad, don’t worry. I can handle it.’
‘And no drugs. All right? No drugs.’ Kurt continued as if he hadn’t heard Jamie. ‘You don’t know what kids can do on those things.’
Jamie paused behind a large ice chunk, retreated a few steps, then ran and kicked it down the path. ‘I’m in college, dad, all right? None of this stuff is new.’ He tapped his boot free of slush. ‘Besides, you’ve met Rachel, right? She’s not exactly Janis Joplin.’
Kurt stopped. ‘Janis Joplin? Kids still listen to her?’
‘They listen to all that sixties crap.’ Jamie walked ahead of his dad. ‘Well, Rachel loves Janis, so I can’t call her crap, but, you know.’
Kurt double-stepped to catch up to Jamie. ‘She’s not, she’s not like Janis, is she?’
‘Dad! I just told you. Jeez.’ Jamie looked at Kurt, shaking his head. ‘She’s a chem major, for crying out loud. That’s super hard.’
Kurt nodded. They ambled along the gravel path in silence. ‘Have you picked a major?’
‘I was thinking math, but, I don’t know.’ Jamie hitched up his back pack. ‘I don’t think so. I got time. Maybe sociology. Journalism.’ He looked sideways at his dad. ‘Those aren’t very hard majors, are they? I mean, compared to chemistry. Or philosophy.’
Jamie was now staring ahead, his cheeks reddening. Kurt rested his hand on Jamie’s nearest shoulder, and leaned into his son. ‘Do what makes you happy, James, and do it well. That’s what matters.’ He moved his hand under Jamie’s ponytail. ‘The rest will take care of itself.’

And the second bit:

Summers in Madison alternated between the glorious and the brutal. There were days Maggie would borrow Laura’s bike and tool along Lakeshore path, cooled by the shade and the breeze from Lake Mendota, and other days when a dip in Lake Wingra felt like taking a warm bath. ‘I get cooler going under and standing up than staying in,’ Maggie said to Laura.
‘I know,’ Laura responded. ‘I’m in the water and I’m sweating. This is ridiculous.’
On those nights they’d set up cots on the back porch for sleep, the humidity making them careless if the neighbors saw them in their underwear. ‘I’d go naked if I thought it’d make a difference,’ Laura declared.
Maggie only smiled. ‘We used to sleep in the basement.’ She handed a beer to Laura, and flipped the tab of her can. ‘It was nice, though. Not like the dungeon here.’
Laura turned the can away from her as she opened it. ‘No shit. I don’t even like going down there in the day.’ She put her mouth over the fulminating beer. ‘Too bad we can’t turn it into a pool.’
‘That’d be nice,’ Maggie agreed. ‘Sleep on air mattresses.’
‘Pfft, those things leak.’ Laura pushed her cot against the wall then slouched against the boards. Her dyed black hair was piled on top of her head, and she held the cold can against her pale neck. ‘So you’d sleep in the basement, huh? You usually don’t talk about your life before here.’
Maggie was wedged in the opposite corner, her beer on the railing next to her. ‘Yeah, well.’
‘So what’s the deal?’
Maggie peered through the stiles at the backyard trees. ‘I don’t, uh, I don’t really have much contact with anyone.’
‘Bad?’
Maggie pulled her beer back to her belly, setting it on the exposed skin between her cut-off t-shirt and underwear. ‘Not really. It’s just, I left, you know, after graduation. Needed time to myself.’ She brushed the condensation into her belly button.
Laura looked over to her. ‘Does your family know you’re here?’
‘Not really. I mean, maybe they figured it out.’ Maggie yawned. ‘I was born here, and I wanted to come to school here, so maybe they know.’
‘But you haven’t called them or anything?’ Laura was staring at Maggie.
Maggie avoided her gaze. ‘Nope.’
‘Wow. You just left?’
‘Yep.’
Laura took a long drink, then let out a long belch. ‘Wake up, everybody!’ she laughed. Then she frowned. ‘I don’t know if I could do that. My dad and I fight all the time—you’ve heard me, on the phone—but, jeez, not talking to him? And it would kill my mom.’ Laura’s family lived about nearby, just on the other side of Sun Prairie; she was the second of three children. ‘Do you have brothers or sisters?’
Maggie continued to squeegee the water off the can. ‘Yeah.’
‘And they don’t know where you are, either?’
Maggie shrugged. ‘Well, my older brother, you know, he was at school last year, and he’s never around, so I bet he doesn’t really notice. And my younger brother and sister, they’re really young.’
‘So nobody knows you’re here?’ Laura was now sitting cross-legged on her cot, looking directly at Maggie.
Maggie sipped her beer. ‘Not really. I called my friend Colleen the other day—which reminds me, I gotta write down the number—but I didn’t tell her I was here.’ She peered up at Laura. ‘It’s just easier that way, you know?’
Laura was shaking her head. ‘I don’t know, Mags. I think they must be going a little crazy.’ She peered down into her can. ‘What if they think you’re dead or something?’
Maggie waved her off. ‘Oh, I left them a note. Told them I was leaving, I was fine. Had money saved, the whole thing.’ She paused, drinking her beer. ‘Just wanted to be on my own for awhile.’
‘I don’t know.’ Laura squinted at her. ‘That’s pretty rough.’
Maggie raised her eyebrows. ‘They’re fine. We weren’t getting along. They’re probably relieved I’m out of their hair.’
‘I don’t know,’ Laura repeated. ‘I think maybe you’re making a mistake.’ She swirled her beer. ‘But hey, it’s your life.’ She took a drink, and grimaced. ‘Shit. Even the beer can’t stay cold.’
Maggie raised her can and laughed. ‘Just gotta drink it faster.’ She chugged the rest of it down, paused, then burped. ‘Then you can taste it, twice.’
‘Gross.’ But Laura finished off her beer as well. She stood up, and held out her hand for Maggie’s can. ‘Want another?’
Maggie shook her head. ‘Nah. It just makes me sweat.’
Laura stood at the door. ‘You ever going to go back?’
‘I don’t know.’ Maggie turned and looked up at Laura. ‘Maybe. I don’t know.’
Laura held up her hands. ‘Like I said, it’s your life.’

I’m not giving anything away in these excerpts: You figure out very quickly that someone—Maggie—who was long gone has now been found, and then are sent back for the story leading up to that point; the narrative catches up to the first page by the middle of the book, and goes from there.

A friend who read the earlier draft wasn’t convinced that someone would just leave home and never look back, but oh, haven’t there been times when you wanted to keep going, just (to steal a line from Neighbor) to see how far you could go?





This is as much as your comment deserves

28 01 2012

Allen West, to President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and presumably any who support them:

“Take your message of equality of achievement, take your message of economic dependency, take your message of enslaving the entrepreneurial will and spirit of the American people somewhere else. You can take it to Europe, you can take it to the bottom of the sea, you can take it to the North Pole, but get the hell out of the United States of America.”

To which I can only say: Make me.





I’d like to sing a song of great social and political import

26 01 2012

I missed her birthday.

Not that she’d know, given that she’s been dead for over forty years, but I used to know and celebrate the day Janis Joplin squalled her way into the world.

I think I’ve written this before, but what the hell: My friend K. and I taught this to a half-busful of Forensic [speech, not mortuary] Society high schoolers on our way back from some tournament or another. It was dark, the bus was old, the trip long. And if our high-volumed rasping pissed off the faculty adviser, all the better.

Janis was like that: the big personality you could hide behind.

I fell for Janis in high school, aping her in drink (Southern Comfort, when I could afford it) if in nothing else: I couldn’t sing like her, had no appetite for heroin, and was never as outrageous as I would have liked to have been.

Janis was too much, in every way. She was too loud, too drunk, too high, and way too sexy for someone who in no way fitted any conventional notions of sexiness.

You could see that, too, in those old photos and reels of her performing. She knows she’s performing when she sticks out her tongue or her chest or when she struts across the stage. She’s covering.

She never thought she was enough, but man, when she snugged that mic up beneath her lip, her voice spilled out and over her and everyone who heard her and then all her too-muchness was just as it should be. No cover, then.

There she is, in all her feathers, a few months before her death.

Of course, that she died was part of the fascination for my teenaged self—she suffered for her art!—but it was the fight in her, even more so, even if back then I could only valorize the suffering-unto-death, not that she suffered in the fight to stay alive.

I was listening to her recently, and came across a line I used to write on notebooks and bathroom stalls: Tomorrow never happens, man, it’s all the same fucking day, man.

Janis Joplin, absurdist. She would have been 69.





Fuck tha police

25 01 2012

Literally.





Let it be

25 01 2012

Try to be less afraid.

That was one of my not-great-at-resolutions resolution, and so far, in 2012, it’s 20 percent working.

The trying part—one of the five words—that I’m, well, trying.

The fear is still there, the thrum and tightening and clench, and in some cases the attempt to release it has only resulted in more fear.

Still, I am remembering one of my old mantras—No way out but through—which, along with Breathe, might just, eventually, lead to a lessening, a loosening.

It can be a hard thing to hang on and let go at the same time.





Happy anniversary, kinda

22 01 2012

It’s the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. There may not be many more.

The decision has been politically attacked, and has been honeycombed by any number of succeeding Supreme Court decisions, but as of today, it still stands.

This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment‘s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment‘s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent. Specific and direct harm medically diagnosable even in early pregnancy may be involved. Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care. There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it. In other cases, as in this one, the additional difficulties and continuing stigma of unwed motherhood may be involved. All these are factors the woman and her responsible physician necessarily will consider in consultation. . . .

Although the results are divided, most of these courts have agreed that the right of privacy, however based, is broad enough to cover the abortion decision; that the right, nonetheless, is not absolute, and is subject to some limitations; and that, at some point, the state interests as to protection of health, medical standards, and prenatal life, become dominant. We agree with this approach.

–Justice Harry Blackmun, writing for the majority.

I am, as I’ve written numerous times previously, an abortion-rights militant, to the point of opposition to any state regulation of abortion beyond that regulating the safety of medical procedures generally.

Still, I consider Roe v. Wade a victory for the rights of women, and when it is overturned or so hollowed out that it effectively collapses—something which I think will happen, likely before its 50th anniversary—I will mourn its passing.

Today, however, I celebrate it.





Mayan Campaign Mashup 2012: Newt Wooderson?

20 01 2012

The second Mrs Gingrich recently gave an interview regarding her then-Congressman-hubby’s request to, ah, breathe some air into their stagnant marriage.

I don’t care one way or the other (although this man’s personal life really gives new meaning to the term “the audacity of hope” regarding his political ambitions) but I read the following tweetIf you think Marianne Gingrich is angry, just wait until you see Callista’s interview during Newt’s 2016 campaign—and couldn’t help but think of this:

 

Now, to be fair, Newt’s first wife, Jackie, was 7 years older than he was when they married (26 to his 19), Marianne was 28 or 29 when they married, and Callisto topped out at 34 when she met L. Newton at the altar.

Still, I’m sensing a pattern.

h/t for Tweet: MC, second comment at link





All things weird and wonderful, 15

17 01 2012

Physics and nerve:

This child of the Midwest never surfed.

If—if—the waves got big enough on Lake Michigan, one might have some fun body-surfing, and I have some hazy memory of someone sometime with a board somewhere on the beach, but as big a lake as Lake Michigan is, it ain’t the ocean.

Now, water skiing, that I could do, though usually on one of the smaller (and warmer) lakes in the area. And I’ve gone jet skiing, which (like snowmobiling) is stupid and polluting and a lot of fun.

Anyway, I always thought of surfing as tossing oneself into a tidal wave like this, and I wondered how the hell anyone could do that. It was as if the waves were magic and the surfers, magicians.

I never considered that most surfers are not sliding down forty-foot walls of water, but are happily dinking about in six or ten foot waves, working themselves up to 15 or maybe 20 foot waves. Maybe they get a chance to crouch through a tube, but most are probably just trying to let it ride.

I could do that. Hell, there are places to surf in parts of Queens and out on Long Island, with waves big enough to get up and small enough for an old newby like me to give ‘er a try.

I just might. Maybe. Y’know, someday.

Could be fun.

h/t  The Daily What, Chris Bryan film





Martin Luther King, Jr.: American political philosopher

16 01 2012

Every man must ultimately confront the question, “Who am I?” and seek to answer it honestly. One of the first principles of personal adjustment is the principle of self-acceptance. The Negro’s greatest dilemma is that in order to be healthy he must accept his ambivalence. The Negro is the child of two cultures—Africa and America. The problem is that in the search for wholeness all too many Negroes seek to embrace only one side of their natures. Some, seeking to reject their heritage, are ashamed of their color, ashamed of black arts and music, and determine what is beautiful and good by the standards of white society. They end up frustrated and without cultural roots. Others seek to reject everything American and to identify totally with Africa, even to the point of wearing African clothes. But this approach leads also to frustration because the American negro is not African. The old Hegelian synthesis still offers the best answer to many of life’s dilemmas. The American Negro is neither totally African nor totally Western. He is Afro-American, a true hybrid, a combination of two cultures.

Who are we? We are the descendants of slaves. We are teh offspring of noble men and women who wer kidnapped from thie native land and chained in ships like beasts. We are the heirs of a great and exploited continent known as Africa. We are the heirs of a past of rope, fire, and murder. I for one am not ashamed of this past. My shame is for those who became so inhuman that they could inflict this torture upon us.

But we are also Americans. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America. In spite of the psychological appeals of identification with Africa, the Negro must face the fact that America is now is home, a home that he helped to build through blood, sweat, and tears. Since we are Americans the solution to our problem will not come through seeking to build a separate black nation within a nation, but by finding that creative minority of the concerned from the ofttimes apathetic majority, and together moving toward that colorless power that we need for security and justice.

In the first century B.C., Cicero said: “Freedom is participation in power.” Negroes should never want all power because they would deprive others of their freedom. By the same token, Negroes can never be content without participation in power. America must be a nation in which its multiracial people are partners in power. This is the essence of democracy towards which all Negro struggles have been directed since the distant past when he was transplanted here in chains.

Martin Luther King, responding to the Black Power movement, in Where Do We Go From Here?





Mayan Campaign Mashup 2012: misc bits

15 01 2012

So unfair. So irresistible.

Greg Marmalard

Mitt Romney

I  should be better than this: comparing a presidential nominee to a fictional character from Animal House.

I really should. But like I said: irresistible.

~~~

On a more serious note, some conservatives in the Republican party are wondering if Mitt is really one of them, or whether he’d govern as a moderate if elected president.

To which I respond: not really, and probably not.

Not really: He’s an establishment guy, through and through, who smiles when he’s irritated and whose voice falls to a faux-whisper when denouncing the perfidy of the president. In the past, presenting as an even-keeled establishment type would have been more than enough to, well, establish oneself as a presentable conservative Republican, but today, among the excitables,  if you’re not constantly outraged, you’re suspect.

So he is, justly, suspect.

As to how he’d govern if elected, there’s a good chance, as others have pointed out, that he’ll try to do what he says he’ll do.

Yes, he governed Massachusetts as a moderate Republican—just as he said he’d do. Now he espouses conservative social policies, has surrounded himself with conservative advisers, and says he’ll govern as a conservative Republican.

Take him at his word. Really.

So to all of the excitables hyperventilating about the true shape of Romney’s malleable heart, settle down: he may not really be one of you, but he’ll govern as if he were—and isn’t that enough?

~~~

The former senator of Pennsylvania is shocked, shocked! that someone is lying in campaign politics:

The new ad by the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future hits [Rick] Santorum on supporting earmarks, backing the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere,” raising the debt ceiling five times and voting to “let convicted felons vote.” The ad will be broadcast in South Carolina and Florida. . . .

“That is an absolute lie,” Santorum said of the ad’s claim. “I voted for a provision that that said if a felon serves his term, serves his parole and probation, and then after that period time he can be restored his voting rights, which is exactly the law that’s here in South Carolina. But we had a federal law at the federal level. … Gov. Romney should be saying to his PAC say take that ad down, it’s false. It gives the impression that I want people to be voting from jail.” [emph added]

Yeah, like that’s gonna happen.

(Credits: still photo from Animal House footage; WBUR.org)