Saturday, September 27, 2008


I haven't blogged in quite a while; teaching, dissertating, and job searching has pretty much taken up all my time. But I'm moved now to speak to those 2 or 3 people who may listen. Or at least, I'm moved to figure something out through blogging.

I'm a liberal. Here's what I think that means: I believe in a liberal viewpoint of the world, that is, weighing sides, thinking critically, slowing down my knee-jerk reaction and culturally coded responses to seek some kind of beneficial "truth" in the world. It means believing that there is not one kind of American that deserves the promise of America: ALL Americans deserve justice, equality, and equal rights guaranteed by the law. I believe in the separation of church and state, though only to the extent that one's religious beliefs should not be forced on another. Our morals are a key part of how we live our lives, so of course one's values should guide one's decision making. And in that vein, I support large social programs funded by the federal government: I value all people's health and prosperity, and so I value programs that help people gain these things in their own lives.

A famous and highly intelligent conservative, George Will, put it this way: conservatives value freedom to the detriment of equality; liberals value equality to the detriment of freedom. I agree. Though I'd also like to add that equality creates a state in which freedom is much more equally gained. In other words, I believe everyone should have equal access to the amazing resources of this nation.

But George Will has said something else, and it gives me pause; he argues that modern liberalism assumes that most Americans are duped into "false consciousness" due to their ability to be manipulated by political and corporate interests. Here, he defines what he sees as the agenda of modern liberalism:

"First, the consent of the governed, when their behavior is governed by their false consciousnesses, is unimportant. Second, the public requires the supervision of a progressive elite which, somehow emancipated from false consciousness, can engineer true consciousness. Third, because consciousness is a reflection of social conditions, true consciousness is engineered by progressive social reforms. Fourth, because people in the grip of false consciousness cannot be expected to demand or even consent to such reforms, those reforms usually must be imposed, for example, by judicial fiats."

I can't deny that there is some truth to this in the philosophy of liberals I know. Often, liberals assume that Republicans are such because they don't know any better. I must say, some of my experience doesn't refute this: when I canvassed for Barack Obama, most answers to "Who do you plan to vote for?" were something like, "Not your guy!" and were given with real hostility. When I asked what issues were for them most at stake in their vote for John McCain, most couldn't answer. Most answered that he was republican, and there you go. Now, much of my canvassing was in low-income neighborhoods where a liberal agenda would, in fact, benefit the constituents (higher wages, pro-union values, pro-head start and other early education programs for the poor).

But I also need to find some way to recognize that while it may be true that some of these "Not your guy" responses were based in a campaign of fear and prejudice, I need to also realize that there are many who choose a conservative agenda because it is their true outlook on the world: perhaps they feel that social programs denigrate the individual by offering hand-outs, not hand-ups; perhaps they feel that support for big business and corporations keep America's economy strong globally; perhaps they believe that there is a way to win the war on terror and thus send a clear message to all who may threaten the U.S.; and perhaps their values maintain that a fetus must always be given the chance to live.

In other words, it's time to refute, not dismiss. And I do refute all of that. The individual is honored through programs that support strong education and jobs. The real way to keep the economy strong is to keep people working, not businesses investing overseas. The war on terror is a diplomatic one more than a military one: it cannot be won militarily alone and we must involve all nations through an attitude of cooperation and openness, nit unilateralism and stubbornness. And the value for human life must extend into and beyond the uterus, to support womens health programs across the board.

So I write this because the charge of elitism might not always be an empty one: despite the fact that Obama was raised by a single mom, and went to Harvard on his own, and not his father's legacy, and despite the fact that he only recently paid his student loans off, it is the perception that George Will speaks of that gains him the charge of elitist: that progressive social programs must be enforced, because the people just don't know what's good for them. How do we fight this charge? How do we instill a progressive agenda that benefits everyone without this assumption that government knows better? For me, the very values of liberalism affirms the values of those conservatives as thoughtful and understandable. That's what it means to be a liberal. And the more each person is given a hand-up at an early age with early childhood education, the more everyone's values can be heard and honored.

Is this a contradiction? All I know is that it is the right thing to do to support an agenda that supports the health, prosperity, and safety of everyone. Even if that sacrifices the freedom of a few CEOs to make a billion dollars. I'm OK with that.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Matt did it again..

I thought we were going to First Watch for brunch. Instead, we went to Cleveland for some Radiohead. Oh, and we were in the pit. Yep, about 10 feet away from Thom York. Don't hate me cause my life rocks.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

Degrees of Closeness

So the Kevin Bacon Six Degrees theory has been bolstered by a recent study that shows that any one person's degree of separation from any one other person is on average 6.6.

Everyone you know is one degree away, everyone they know is 2 degrees, etc etc.

But because I have lots of social butterfly friends, I think my degree of separation may be smaller than average. Just think: I have 2 degrees of separation from people in California; Massachusetts; Uganda; Lexington, KY; Rome, NY; Erie, PA; St. Augustine, FL; Taiwan; Russia; Ireland; Toledo, OH; Indianapolis, IN; India; etc, etc.

In other words, thanks to all my friends having so many connections, I have so many connections! Awesome.

From the article I read on MSNBC: "To me, it was pretty shocking. What we're seeing suggests there may be a social connectivity constant for humanity," said Eric Horvitz, a Microsoft researcher who conducted the study with colleague Jure Leskovec. "People have had this suspicion that we are really close. But we are showing on a very large scale that this idea goes beyond folklore."

Yeah, a social connectivity constant for humanity. That's awesome. It's not an account of how we're separated; it's an account of how much we are connected. And always have been. Leading me to surmise that we need to be close in order to survive. Humanity depends on proximity. People need people. (Go ahead, sing it out loud.)

So I'm happy to be connected to all the people I know, but then I think of how awesome it is that I'm connected somehow to all the people they know, and the people they know, and the people they know. And maybe someday when I'm hiking in the mountains of Peru, I come across someone who knows someone who knows someone that I know. And then, what do you know, I'm invited in to someone's house for coffee and I've made a new friend and a new connection for all of you along the constant of connection.

Yay for us.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Weather Event

CNN tried to determine what the quake in LA was like: "So you'd say it was like a rolling jolt?" "No, not a jolt, just a rolling." "Did you feel any jolts?" "No, there weren't any jolts. Mostly rolling."

MSNBC couldn't decide what catchy name to call it: "Seismic event" was actually uttered at least twice. I'm looking forward to a "Shake n Bake" reference.

Many, many people were interviewed about it ("tell us what you experienced") and hours were filled with three minutes of film footage taken from a helicopter of a school and large buildings.

CNN urged people to send in their i-reports: their own, personal views of what happened: particularly prized are photos and videos of the seismic event.

This all just points to how weird the "news" is. Personalized, sensationalized, commercialized. It was an earthquake. Do you know what was never answered, in all my watching: anyone hurt? Weird.

Oh, and Ty and Jaymie: you were jealous of our earthquake; now you got your own!
Amy: How was it??? Did you and your dad feel it? Was it more of a rolling or a jolt? Do you have pictures or video?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Some Obama Love

I am so inspired for the first time in my life -- by a politician! I feel history. I'm in love with this idea of hope. Just look at these pictures. I know a narrative has been created that Barack is just words, but let me change that narrative a bit: Barack uses words to inspire, to uplift, and that is no small feat. I teach how words move, how words work, how they do something. So keep the narrative going: but remember how words change our lives. Remember how when great leaders have said great things they have changed the world.

"The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Omar Khadr

He is 21 now, was 15 when he was captured in Afghanistan and 16 when he was detained indefinitely in Guantanamo U.S. Military prison. He was detained for killing a U.S. soldier (Christopher J. Speer) and partially blinding another (Layne Morris). He is one of the few who have had hearings; people have come together, that is, to share information and try to decide what to do with him. A few things have come out:

From the Toronto Star in February of this year: "A document inadvertently released to reporters here Monday disclosed that after the grenade was thrown, a U.S. operative killed another suspect and then shot Khadr twice in the back. The revelation casts doubt on the Pentagon's assertion that Khadr threw the grenade that fatally wounded Delta Force soldier and medic Christopher Speer."

Just today, video was released showing Khadr's interrogation where he cries out for "mommy" and confirms their knowledge that his father brought him to fight with Afghani forces and left him there, taking advantage of the forces' promises to take the burden of feeding and clothing children from their parents.

Khadr was put through sleep deprivation and had bullet wounds that were not healing; some were upset that the interrogation was therefore rough. But not Army Sergeant Layne Morris (who was blinded in one eye by the grenade at the firefight):

"If my drill sergeant had spoken to me like that in basic training I'd probably still be sending him Christmas cards," said Morris, now out of the military and living in Salt Lake City. "He's not sniveling and whining because he's hurt or scared, he's just upset he's in U.S. custody for the foreseeable future."

Morris argues that Khadr was not a soldier but a terrorist and therefore deserves charges of murder. He has said of his detainment:

"I'm fine with this dragging on for another five years before there's a trial as long as they stay locked up."

To put an interesting twist to the story, Speers' widow is suing Khadr's father -- even though Kadhr's father is dead -- for $10 million for the death of her husband, clearly recognizing that the burden of guilt and responsibility lay with the father of the 15-year-old who forced him (what agency does a 15-year-old have in this situation?) into armed service with Afghani forces. (Go here for the story.)

This reminds me of Frank Wuterich, a U.S. Marine charged with the murder of 18 civilians in Haditha. What Wuterich did was disgusting (to see the whole story, click here), but I'm confused. We are at war right? Or police action? Conflict maybe? (Whatever we're calling it.) People fight each other in these things; with deadly weapons it seems. While Morris labels Khadr as a terrorist, I challenge you to define terrorism in such a way that any strategic military action meant to incite fear and to damage the ability of an "enemy" to fight back, including damaging their sense of selfhood and/or nationhood does not somehow fit under that definition. This is NOT to say that soldiers are terrorists. They are engaged with an enemy that recognizes their sovereignty -- this I guess is the difference: Khadr was with Afghanis when he threw a grenade. But how do we define murder during a time of war?

Here's a better list of people to court-martial besides Wuterich and Khadr:
Donald Rumsfeld;
Dick Cheney;
George Bush;
Every other person who sent young people into a violent area and told them that some of them are "enemies" and the rest are "trainable;"
Especially those in the above list who never, themselves, had to look through the target of a gun and decide if someone should be killed.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Making it Up

I'm an academic and I recognize and lament the futility academics sometimes serve. I think every day of how my time and energy could be used in so many more powerful and life-affirming ways than reading little-known texts on the visual economy of postmodern culture or considering the way in which Robert Coover's The Public Burning implicates the reader in a 1950s mindset via a lack of empathy with any character (even the unjustly executed Rosenbergs) and an overwhelming sense of "otherness." Let me be honest: everything I just wrote totally turns me on. I freaking love this shit. But I also know it's not very effective.

Not only is not effective, but it is in fact, made up. And I think this is what floats my boat so smoothly down the river of intellectual "bullshit" as some may call it. I love to make it up. It's rigorous, even, sometimes even more so than the research I do to make the stuff I make up sound somewhat reasonable.

And teaching, more than literary or cultural criticism, is about making it up. Now, I know some teachers who will read this and say, "What?!? Nuh-uh! I have to know a subject and impart it to my students in such a way that they too will KNOW the subject." But think about it: all the great stuff has started out by somebody being asked for a solution to a problem and that somebody, at a loss for one, makes one up. And sometimes that somebody is told, "Nope, didn't work. Try again." And so they make up some more stuff. And sometimes they're told, "Wow. That bullshit you just made up is really interesting." And then more stuff gets made up by more people and then there's something that resembles a solution to a problem. Or even something that shows that the problem wasn't what we thought it was.

Ok, that's a lot of crap written there to convince myself that while I sit at my computer writing sentences full of phrases like "dialectical relations" and "otherness" and "critical allusion" that maybe it's not all for nought. Maybe one of the 6 people who read my dissertation will go, hey that's interesting bullshit, kinda reminds me of this other bullshit; maybe I'll add my own bullshit, and then voila, you've got someone saying something that might do something.

We're all improvisers.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Oh. My. Gawd.

From the Washington Post:

McCain's Latest Iran Joke

By Michael D. Shear
Sen. John McCain hasn't had good luck joking about Iran. But he tried it again Tuesday.

Responding to a question about a survey that shows increased exports to Iran, mainly from cigarettes, McCain said, "Maybe that's a way of killing them."

He quickly caught himself, saying "I meant that as a joke" as his wife, Cindy, poked him in the back.

Last time, it was also Iran. His singing about bombing Iran to the theme of the Beach Boy's "Barbara Ann" drew derision from many quarters but a "lighten up" response from McCain.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More Proof of Knowing Nothin

My friend Greg has introduced me to aerogel. It's a gel filled with gas instead of liquid; it's solid but super-low density. It's what is holding up that giant stone there.

Holy Crap.

I'm gonna go work on my dissertation now, knowing that it doesn't really matter that it isn't very useful or important or significant because nothing else is any of those things either. Do other people have these reactions to the strange parts of our world? If the aerogel didn't get ya, try this:

It's a narwhal, or a unicorn dolphin. Yeah. Mind successfully blown. You're welcome.

Monday, July 7, 2008

I'm a hustler baby...

So I've been on fellowship for a year -- funded by Miami University and Mr. Matt to get my dissertation done.

But it's all going to be over soon, because I'm a retard. Or a hustler. You pick.

Starting July 17, I will be teaching ENG 150 at Thomas More College in KY. It's an 8-week course that meets only once a week, and I think it's a pretty small group (7 or 8 students!). These are business students who have to have a writing component in their associate's degree program. They're either going to love my class or hate it; they'll either find it refreshing and challenging or redundant and superfluous to their own career goals. We'll see which one! The theme of the class is Differing Voices in America and the readings are awesome: they include Melville's "Benito Cereno," E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime and Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar.

Then, beginning the third week of August, the retardation/ hustlin' really begins. I'll be teaching 2 Fiction Studies classes at Xavier University on Mon, Weds, Fri; Advanced Composition and American Lit after 1945 at Miami University on Tues/ Thurs. That will be about 100 students total.

I'll be going "on the market" in Oct/Nov, a full-time job of writing letters (not easy) and sending dossiers to universities in the hopes they will want to interview me and then bring me to campus for a job talk and then hire me.

Oh, and I'll also be finishing up the dissertation hopefully.

The upside of all this: I can finally afford to pay the interest that has been accruing on my unsubsidized loans! I know, right? Awesome!

So I'm a retarded hustler. Don't be offended if I don't talk to you after August. I'm just either a) teaching b) grading c) writing letters d) working on the diss or e) having a nervous breakdown.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


From BBC:

"They preach prosperity - that God can make you healthy and wealthy.

Every year some of America's best known TV evangelists bring in hundreds of millions of dollars from donors all over the world. But as Jonathan Beale reports, some of the TV evangelists' own lifestyles have begun to ring alarm bells and prompted a Senate investigation into their activities."

Go here to see the BBC news video:

I have always had trouble with this teaching from certain Christian and other religious groups: God rewards the good, punishes the bad.

And so the poor, or the not-so-well off -- why are they not blessed? They give more of their money away* than do the rich and perhaps they put more faith in prayer when not a lot else is available to believe in. (I'm speaking from experience of some of my own poor and zealously religious family growing up.) We all know the poor buy more lottery tickets and in many ways keep the economy going by spending all their money, not saving or investing overseas like the rich do. Probably the most ugly misconception in America is that the poor are lazy. (Just ask me and I'll tell you how many jobs my mom and her siblings each had just to keep their kids in a crappy apartment and school clothes.)

I'm sure the senate investigation will find corruption among these TV evangelists. It's nothing new; we've heard it before, we'll hear it again. It just makes me so damn mad, that's all. These people think that the injustices they themselves maintain are due to some force of God. I wish they could know how wrong they were. But their personal delusions about God will serve them well and allow them to think they're doing the right thing.

*"The 2000 Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey shows that households with incomes below $20,000 gave a higher percentage of their earnings to charity than did any other income group: 4.6 percent, on average. As income increased, the percentage given away declined: Households earning between $50,000 and $100,000 donated 2.5 percent or less." See

Monday, June 30, 2008


Yesterday morning, Matt and I went about our usual everyday stuff. I got out of bed late, stumbled to the kitchen, put on the kettle and sat down at my laptop to check out how many more advertisers have my email address. I heard Matt doing his usual morning rumblings, but was then quickly lost in the progressive blogosphere, wasting time until the tea kicked in.

Usual morning.

Then Matt walks out, showered, fully dressed, including shoes and a shit-eating grin. Now, if you know Matt -- and I know Matt -- you know that this is unusual. This is not usual morning activity for Matt.

So I asked politely, "What the hell are you up to?" He couldn't stop smiling and just said, "Let me show you something." He then takes me to the bedroom, where he has packed an overnight bag. He says, grab enough stuff for an overnight trip and don't forget your swimsuit. I had to admit, he really had me in a delightful tizzy. But, I had to play the part, so I said, "WHAT??!!" and remonstrated against his pleas to get moving. So I finally gave in and giggled the whole way out the door and into the car where I see Matt has prepared us for a road trip with recently burned CDs.

We head down 75 South, picking up a hitchhiker on the way. (OK, Darren actually.) They both enjoy holding out on me the ENTIRE road trip. We get a ways past Lexington and I start getting a little less tickled and just slightly more anxious. Where the hell are we going?

But they won't tell. They DO however agree to stop at a Cracker Barrel for some old-fashioned road-trip country cookin. I have the Country Morning Breakfast and the guys have the Country Dinner with the spicy grilled catfish. Good times all around with the whole peg game -- you know, the one where you have to jump the pegs till one's left. Turns out we're all "Just plain dumb!" Then back on the road. I start getting less anxious-excited, more what-the-bleeping-jesus-freaked out.

But Matt's road-trip CDs are good, so we enjoy the ride for a while.

Then we get to the Tennessee hills. OK, that's enough for me. So after a few rounds of the Oprah or strawberries game (if you don't know it, ask; it's pretty fun) I start to play the silent treatment. That'll show them! Turns out they don't care that I'm not talking. They find it cute. They think the whole "not telling Jamie what we're doing whilst transporting her over state lines" game is fun.

I'm starting to realize though: this must be good. No way they'll drive all the way down here for one night unless it's REAL good. (Not like those Yoplait commercials, "Not having to wait in line for the girls room" good, but like real life "holy fucking shit I love shooting this AK-47 machine gun here in the woods of Vietnam for only $10"* or "oh my god I'm about to jump off a bridge over the mighty zambezi river."** I mean, really good.)

Turns out, it was pretty damn good. We ended up at the civic auditorium in Knoxville to witness the ONE, the ONLY, Tom Waits.

That's right. You're jealous. I saw Tom Waits. It was incredible. Like, "I just saw Tom Waits in Knoxville" incredible. "Make it Rain" was one of my favorite sets of the night. The concert was amazing. More performance art than run o' the mill concert.

Now, you can find a lot of videos of his short 2008 tour on youtube. But I think they all suck. So I found this one from a while ago that is *kinda* close to the feel of the concert. It really was incredible.


Matt rocks. What a great surprise for a lazy summer Sunday afternoon.

*Matt, cu chi tunnels, Vietnam, 2000
** Jamie, on a bridge above the Zambezi, Zambia, 2004

Saturday, June 28, 2008


The ohm is the electric resistance between two points of a conductor....

Omega (Ω) baryons are baryons containing neither up nor down quarks of isospin I = 0.

In modern usage Om means the Word, the “parnava,” the eternal. Various accounts are given of its origin; one that it is the term of assent used by the gods, and probably an old contracted form of the Sanskirt word "evam" meaning "thus."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dark Matter

We know nothing. You think you know somethin? You don't know nuthin. Nobody does. Get over it.

P.S. I'm a vegetarian again. That makes me happy cause I have to admit much of the reason for eating meat was fried foods and condiments.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Political Discourse

This is the state of political discourse. Sexist, Racist, Ageist; jabs at patriotism for whether you are one or the other. I will admit, it was harder finding offensive buttons for McCain. One had him hobbling along like an elderly man (I couldn't save it to my disk). But the ones here about Obama and Clinton are just disgusting, outside the realm of positive discourse. I wonder if it's possible to have an election without this hatred?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


From the Ap or some other reputable news source:

"Bush told reporters in Meseberg he had no regrets about going to war to oust Saddam Hussein but admitted he could have been smarter in making the case for the U.S.-led invasion.

" "I could have used better rhetoric to indicate that one, we tried to exhaust diplomacy in Iraq, and two, that I don't like war," Bush said. "But, no, the decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision." "

So in the spirit of fancy rhetoric:

Dear George W. Bush,

Hi, how are you? I'm fine.

No matter what rhetoric you use, or how good or gooder it is, you are still lying.

Keep the cool side cool and the hot side hot,
Jamie -- OUT

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Ohio Senate Bill 9

"... applicants seeking certain state issued licenses, public employment or business contracts must fill out new forms indicating that they have not provided financial assistance or support to a terrorist organization. ... The Declaration ... was created to provide the state with an additional tool to deter and prosecute acts of terrorism within Ohio."

Yes, in fact, I do feel like a tool.

I haven't willingly given any money to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, the First of October Antifascist Resistance Group, or Global Relief Foundation (to name 3 of the 132 organizations listed). Now can I have my job please?

(Let's see how long it takes to get this blog shut down.)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Iraq Vets Get Screwed Over, part 35467

On March 20, 2008 a Veterans Administration program coordinator sent an e-mail to VA staff.

(I am unable to copy the jpeg of this e-mail so I'll type in the message here:)

"Given that we are having more and more compensation seeking veterans, I'd like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out. Consider a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder, R/O PTSD.

"Additionally, we really don't have time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD."

to see the whole story, go here:

I have nothing to say.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Count Me Out of the Idiocy

I just heard Florida Superdelegate John Ausman declare, "We have been in the jail house long enough. Let our people go."

Just to give some context:

When Israel was in Egypt's Land,
Let my people go,
Opressed so hard they could not stand,
Let my people go.

Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt's Land.
Tell ol' Pharoah,
Let my people go.

WOW. These people screaming "Count Every Vote" seem to not understand a few key things:
1) these are rules Clinton and Obama (and all other dems running) agreed to
2) the Clinton camp, when citing that they have more of the popular vote, are not counting any of the votes cast in caucus states
3) this is NOT a civil rights issue

But, you know what, let em count. They won't make a difference. Obama will still be ahead in the delegate count, which happens to be how we decide the nominee. This is making some democrats look really stupid. Just get it over with, let's move on. Let's remember the REAL issues:
over 4,000 U.S. men and women have died in Iraq; many more injured
over 42 million Americans do not have health insurance
more and more people slip into poverty every day in this country
more and more schools get left behind

Let my people go!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Imagine Peace -- but not too much

OK, I don't watch American Idol on TV. But as I surf the online news in the morning, I often see news of the latest show and check it out. Last night was the final sing-off between what looks to me to be a 14 year old boy and a 20-something who can actually play music. I'm just impressed that someone was playing an instrument. Go American Idol, with your whole respect of music thing!

But, unfortunately, I then actually listened to their songs. David A. sang John Lennon's "Imagine," a kind of peace anthem for the last 30 years or so. But he only sang one verse. Even though the song is only 2:20, and David A. sang for 2:14, he decided to sing one of the three verses and to repeat the chorus 2 or 3 times. Guess which verses he left out? Ok, you don't have to guess, I've put them here for you:

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

Perhaps you've heard this song before. If so, these are probably the lyrics you remember. Because they are the ones that matter. And yet on American Idol, to suggest that religion may be the cause of some of the most horrific acts of human history, including present day wars WE ourselves are involved in -- well, that's just too controversial.

It has come to this: TV producers are so afraid of Christians boycotting them that they won't allow the entire Lennon classic to be played. I think this proves Lennon's point.

When we have to sanitize John Lennon's Imagine, things have gotten retarded.

These are the key words to this song: "Nothing to kill or die for." THIS is what the song is about: no religion, no country, no possessions. It IS hard to imagine. Especially if we don't even hear it.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Junk Mail

I just got an ad for a free, no obligation issue of the National Review. I didn't remember that the National Review was a right-wing nut case free for all, so I read the pamphlet they sent. Here's a sampling of the idiocy:

"If you care enough about what's happening in America to learn the truth about how our school children are being relentlessly brainwashed about global warming, or why single women will be the most 'popular girls' in the 2008 election... We cordially invite you to enjoy our next illuminating issue..."

Ah yes, I'd love to be illuminated on how global warming is some left-wing conspiracy. But what I'd really like to see some light shed on is this onerous reference to single women and the troubling tone of disdain in the mocking and belittling reference to them as 'popular' and 'girls.' Why is this a cause for alarm among the right wing crazies? I mean, I know they are crazy, but fearing single women? That's... even more crazy than I gave them credit for.

They finish the 4-page long diatribe against people representing dolphins at the UN, against "Left Wing Grannies Who Just Won't Shut Up," and against European countries supporting their Muslim constituents as if they were human, with this little nugget in a bold, red-lettered "P.S.":

"Single Females constitute more than a quarter of the voting population, angry as hornets and overwhelmingly in favor of Hillary Clinton."

I'm trying to figure out why THIS, among the many exaggerated "issues" that disgust the writer of this letter, is the most important one.

Single women. What could be so frightening about them? Could it be that they are women who have learned to make a living on their own? Could it be that they are educated? Could the sheer audacity of a woman earning a degree to support herself be so disgusting that it becomes the selling point of a national magazine, clearly geared toward those who prefer their women married and without their own vote?

Angry as hornets they are, those single women. You know, single women have for centuries been stereotyped -- first as witches -- then as hysterics, neurasthenics, and now angry hysterical neurasthenics who make money and have an education. In fact, recent scholars have pointed out that the witch hunts in Europe and the colonies were overwhelmingly directed toward single women with property. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this stupid little ignorant letter is a witch hunt, but I am saying its fear and anger towards independent women is nothing new and has sometimes been rather deadly for some women.

Just yesterday I heard David Mamet in an interview say that 50% of the population can't be wrong all the time; in other words, to be Republican or Democrat often means cutting yourself off from some good ideas. But how does this 50% resign itself to the this hate-filled spew? It is not a minority view; the National Review is often cited as the voice of the right. Not to mention, I hear this crap every day from the likes of Joe Scarborough, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, and Pat Buchanan. This can't just be disowned as a minority voice drowning out all the otherwise able-thinking conservatives. Where are those able-thinking conservatives?

Let's face it. Conservative means staying the course, keeping things as people wished they used to be. And the way things were --and are -- aren't all that good for a lot of Americans. Apparently, single women are too progressive for many conservatives. And as we hear everyday, there's a new swing voter out there: the "working class white male" who typically sways for Clinton or McCain. The media asks, how can Obama win this important vote? Last week NPR did a special on working class whites in Indiana. One man said, "I really don't like Bush, so I can't vote for McCain. Now I have to decide between a woman and a black." The National Review ad said what it was able to; 40 years ago that letter could have easily been up in arms that blacks were going to the polls now that the liberal government has promised to protect them with their "Civil Rights Act."

I think I disagree with Mr. Mamet.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


Love being an aunt!

Monday, April 28, 2008

National amnesia

I'm not the only one who's gotten forgetful lately.

A cursory look at the headlines reveals a very obvious absence: Iraq & Afghanistan. Remember those? Yep, we're at war.

But take a look at the news: Miley Cyrus is embarrassed about some pictures. A sicko has been raping his own daughter for 20 years. There's this election going on, too.

But very little about the fact that we are at war. Unless you remember we are at war: the headline about gas? That's about war. That headline about stimulus packages? That's about war too. Even that whole presidential thing; that seems to have something to do with the war we've been waging for 5 years.

I know some people who served in this war, and they seem to remark on the same thing: when they come home, the war no longer really exists except when we hear of a local family tragedy. That is, we bitch about the price of gas and the price of food, we demand our politicians to promise that they won't raise taxes but that they will give us universal health care, we buy giant cars and think about road trips....

Once upon a time, a president asked his country to sacrifice. To buy bonds to help support soldiers. To go to work in the factories, especially if you're a woman! Now our administration asks us to forget.

I once saw a bumper sticker on the back of a truck that read: "Shut up and Support our Troops!" But shutting up is not how to support the men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, mainstream media seem to agree with that truck driver.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Late-Onset Retardation

I went to get gas today. Not a big deal, really except that it reminded me of a trend going on with me lately.

Two weeks ago, I had $20 and decided I would use it to buy groceries for egg salad and greek salad to make myself all week (oh, and a few amy's meals -- LOVE those). So I was very careful about my grocery list. I had twenty bucks, so I had to be sure I brought the list with me. Now, you may very well know that I have a tendency to be, well, absent-minded. So I made SURE to bring the list. I checked twice before leaving the house: "OK, keys, purse, list. Check."

Got to the store, got my groceries, got in line at the wondrous U-scan express lane, and beeped all my groceries through, very impressed not only with the wonders of technology, but also at my clerking skills. ("Go, Jamie!") But, I realized when I was finished speed-scanning (including knowing the plu codes for tomatoes on the vine. yep, I'm that good) that a sign was hanging on the screen -- clearly meant to be large enough to be seen, but I was really into the scanning. The sign read, "NO cash! Credit cards or check cards ONLY!" (Why do they feel the need to yell, I wondered?) So damn. I had my $20 and I was done scanning -- what to do? I approached the nice lady who stands there waiting for idiots like myself and told her my predicament. She said, "no problem, I'll just check you out here." "Oh, great," I said. "Let me get my cash."

I walked over to get my purse, where I had also left my shopping list (small moment of self-congratulation for not leaving the list in the car), and realized very quickly that I didn't have my money. Damn. My heart skipped. Now what?

So I tell the clerk my dilemma, and she says, "OK, no problem, let's just leave your bags over here and I'll print a receipt that you can take to the customer service desk...." She's so nice! So, cool. I'll just go get my money.

One hour later, after surfing the web, e-mailing, whatever, I remembered the groceries sitting at the store. Oh. my. god. So I jumped in the car, got to the store, went to the customer service desk, told them what happened. ... I forgot my money again. I kinda felt like crying. I eventually did get my damn groceries.

Last week, I went to the store for some Starbucks venti iced green tea no sweetener (daily ritual). It was a beautiful day. I came out of the store, drink in hand, Amy's meals swinging happily in the plastic bag. It wasn't until half-way home that I realized that I left my car at Kroger's.

So, today, all I wanted was to get some gas. Instead, I was on auto-pilot and went to Starbucks and picked up some Amy's meals and turkey bacon. I still haven't gotten any gas.

This is a dangerous disease.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I feel the earth - shake...

I woke up last night to a feeling of trembling. I could hear wind chimes ringing in an odd rhythm. I was flat on my back, hands at my side, and I felt as if someone was holding my arms and shaking me. I was scared -- everything was really quiet, except that wind chime that just sounded strange. I looked at the clock after I calmed down a bit and it was 5:40. I convinced myself I had been dreaming and went back to sleep. Matt got up a little before 7 am, and I heard him rummaging around. I told him about what happened: "I swear there was an earthquake or I had the most vivid dream." Matt gave his usual morning response: "Ugh." Then, about 20 minutes later, the phone rings. I jump to get it because I'm a worry wart. Matt is laughing when I answer the phone -- he couldn't believe it, there was actually an earthquake! Then he got mad that I didn't wake him up. Ha!

I feel oddly happy that I felt it. It was so odd, so earthy.

(Ty and Jaymie: this is my true story contribution to the celebration of Taurivus.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Letting go

One of my favorite stories is a stock Buddhist tale:

two monks are walking back to the monastery together. as they come to a corner, they see a woman in lavish dress who is unable to cross the street because of a large puddle. one of the monks, seeing her distress, picks her up and carries her to the other side, where she thanks him profusely. but the other monk is visibly upset. they continue walking, and once they reach the monastery the other monk, having grown more angry all the while, finally sputters out, "what you did back there was against our laws to never touch a woman. how dare you." but the monk who helped the woman across the street says, "Yes; but I left her on the corner. You've been carrying her the whole time."

I like this story because I need its lesson: to let go, to leave it there where it was, to quit carrying it around -- letting it weigh me down.

So I let go of the things that are back there, not here. Like the interview I had this week. I've been carrying it, going over its details, questioning my own perceptions. No more. I'm done. I did my duty and I'm leaving it there on the corner.

Um. Until I find something else to obsess about....

Friday, April 11, 2008

Walking & Wedding

I am really enjoying the walks Matt and I take 3-4 times a week. We've always been talky-talkersons, but I talk more than Matt most of the time. Well, this week, I've decided to practice listening (I read a horoscope on Monday that told me I would hear something important this week, if only I could stop talking and start listening -- usually I dismiss horoscopes, but this is good advice all the time). So I've been listening to Matt all week, and I've learned a lot. Mainly, I learned that I love him more now than the day we were married. He's so much more thoughtful than I give him credit for. I think we may often allow those stereotypes of men (and women) to get in the way of really getting to know our better halves. So, thanks to whoever wrote my fortune-cookie-like horoscope this week.

Speaking of weddings, I tried on my wedding gown last night. It's a summer ritual usually, to see if I can fit in it. Normally, I can't come close. But LOOK!

Ok, this was a hilarious scene. Matt had to zip me up in it and kept yelling, "Suck it in!" I kept yelling back, "I can't!" Finally, we realized the only way to get it on was for me to raise my arms. But then I couldn't put them back down. So I walked all over the house, saying, I can get in my wedding dress! With my arms flapping like I was trying to fly away. Finally, because I could no longer breathe, Matt had to peel it off. And as you can see, I'm literally spilling out of the top of it, but HEY! I got in the damn thing for the first time in 4 years! Yay! This really motivates me for my swimsuit challenge this summer.

So walking is doubly awesome. I get a little more fit, and I get a little more insight into this guy I've known for over 12 years.

Yep, 12 years. Our first kiss was on May 20, 1996. We first met a year before that. And like I said, it seems if I let my expectations of who I've determined he is to slip away a bit, I realize so much more about him. I guess that's probably true of everyone. In fact, I spoke to my mom yesterday (spoke to my mom usually means, kind of listened while she talked of random, vague things). But then, I remembered my horoscope, so I listened a bit more than usual this time. I learned a lot. Mainly I learned that we can never fully know another person's perspective. We may blame, question, criticize, but there's always something we don't know that could explain it all. So I'm revising my horoscope a bit:

Listen more. Blame less. Assume less. Expect surprises. Remember that breathing is less important than big, pretty dresses if only for a minute.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Yes I can?

I have a new way of getting out of bed in the morning: I yell, "I'll sleep when I die!" until I finally roll out of bed. It really works, mainly because the idea of death is so incredibly disgusting to me that associating sleep with death makes me want to sleep as little as possible.

Aside from that, I have my friend Amy's 8:30 am calls where she berates me on the answering machine to get my ass out of bed (and even that doesn't always work). In other words, it takes fear, belittlement, and angry voices to motivate me.

So... I'm not sure how I'm going to do this unless I hire someone to scream at me about it everyday, but I will get in better shape by August 8, 2008. This is when I am going to Las Vegas -- for the first time ever! -- with Matt, his sister & her bf, and some other friends. I WILL -- let me be very clear -- I WILL lose weight so that I can, for the first time in my adult life, get in a bathing suit and be happy about it.

But let me recap this weekend: An IHOP run for eggs, toast, hashbrowns and study at midnight; an Indian buffet for lunch; WAY too much pizza Saturday night, plus a few too many beers. Hmmm. So, losing weight involves eating less, right? And then on top of that, exercising. Less calories=less pounds. That's it. Very simple.

I am so bad at eating less. I LOVE food. I like lots of food. I especially like hot, cheesy, saucy food. So I'm trying to think of ways to motivate myself to eat less everytime I want to over-eat:

I'll eat when I die! doesn't work...

And while I'm sure Amy would love a chance to yell at me more, I don't think she has the time for another full-time job. So... what to do? I'm just going to try to eat less for the next week, and hopefully as I feel better and lighter from less stuffed full nights, I will be motivated to keep eating less. But right now, I'm thinking of the Indian buffet just 10 minutes away....

I'm also thinking of a nice long walk... It's a beautiful day in Cincy, so I'm going to go enjoy it!

The Voters and their Voting Votes

"There is no such thing as a pledged delegate," Clinton has said many times.

She has also said, "The popular vote in Florida and Michigan has already been counted. It was determined by election results, it was certified by election officials in each state, it's been officially tallied by the secretary of state in each state, and the question is whether those 2.3 million Democrats will be honored and their delegates seated by the Democratic party."

I like Hillary Clinton for all the wrong reasons: she's a strong, intelligent woman, a "fighter" for great things like universal health care. But I don't think she would make a good president. And in many ways, it's because those qualities I just listed. She fights. She imagines every day in the white house as a fight. And this is precisely why Republicans and some Dems in Congress will not work with her or for her, because she will see her work as fighting against them.

And it's this very quality that has caused her to say the above, very contradictory statements. On the one hand, just because the voters voted doesn't mean the delegates are pledged to those voters' votes. On the other, damnit, those voters voted, and they should be counted exactly as those voters voted their votes.

She will fight both sides all the way, and I think this is a very good indicator of how she would be as president. She will make a great Senator during Obama's administration, or even an excellent Secretary of State, cause she's good at fighting. But we don't need a fighter in the white house. We've been fighting everyone for too long. Let's start some healing now.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Coco may be the buddha

I have been thinking a lot about what is going on in Tibet. Not with any intelligent understanding of it, just a vague, khaki-colored kind of thought that troubles you without the anger that comes with tangible knowledge. Something like that.

Anyway, when I think of TIbet I think of a place known as "little Tibet" in Northern India, a place my Matt and I went to in 2000. Little Tibet is in and around the city of Leh in the area of Ladakh, smack in the middle of the Himalayas and just south and east of Tibet proper. It's called Little Tibet because the area is populated mostly with refugees from Tibet.

I was very naive about India when we went. I imagined women staining my hands with henna and I imagined small huts and elephants and temples that felt amazingly holy. The truth of India was crowded, polluted streets, busy markets, a smell that was sickly sweet everywhere you went -- a mix of sweat and curry -- cows in the middle of the street, auto-rickshaw drivers that took you to a shop where you were pressured to buy things, people following you for many many blocks trying to sell you a wooden flute or a box of colored powders or cigarettes, and quick, ridiculous down pours every afternoon.

But Little Tibet is very different. It is quiet, with very thin air that makes you hallucinate just enough, and makes climbing stairs incredibly difficult for the first few days. And the sky is a blue that you don't see here. A different, deeper, darker blue.

In the breeze you hear bells ringing from the prayers at the little temples everywhere. You get fresh mint tea every morning, like really fresh, just picked out of the freaking garden outside your all-three-walls-floor-to-ceiling window where you can see the Himalayas rise against the sky and, on your tiptoes, the women doing laundry on the rocks in a stream.

And there are these markets. Tibetan refugee markets. These are so different from the markets in Delhi or Agra or Varanassi. There is no pressure sell, and everything is labeled a fixed price. We were offered yak butter tea, which was unfortunately horrific, but we were (I hope) adequately humbled and appreciative. We were quite taken with some prayer beads, and had a delightful conversation about how they are used, blessed, and the politics of selling them to tourists. We also talked about the refugee status of the seller, and how he was there to avoid the political situation in Tibet, which we were painfully ignorant about. But the prayer beads we were considering were made of yak bone and were about 1500 rupees. We were deciding whether we could afford them when the seller who had been so hospitable told us that there were some at another booth for only 500 rupees.

"Oh, you have another booth?" "No, not my booth. Another booth." What? Someone else's booth? And we had more yak butter tea there.

Later, we were walking the long road to our hostel and a man walked by with a big, beautiful cow. It was just starting to get dark outside, and the cow was just breath-taking. I mean, big, dark eyes, with giant, thick lashes. A beautiful bell around her neck rang lazily. The driver of this cow saw me look, and stopped to gesture that I could pet her. We did. Then he offered us his cigarette and we stood, three of us, watching the sky grow darker, smoking a cigarette between us, nodding heads and smiling at each other.

We learned of a monastery not far away, but tucked into the mountains, where the monks kept dogs that they believed had reincarnated souls. (My mom's pup, Coco, is very likely one of these wayward monks, contemplating life and death, and laughing at it all.)

So when I hear of Tibet, I have little idea what is going on, but I think of a few Tibetans who would greet us with both hands clasped on top of ours with a sincere "Joolay!" I think of a stream where I washed clothes and mint tea and prayer flags and prayer wheels ringing throughout the day. I think of a market where booth owners offered more than we could pay for. And I feel that vague sense of having turned the wrong way and not knowing where to go. That the road we're all on is the wrong one, and there is a big sign, in offensive red, "WRONG WAY."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Closet perfectionist

Ugh, again, I need to have it out about my work habits, or lack thereof.

I decided to challenge myself and I applied to present a paper at a grad symposium at my school. The challenge isn't giving the paper, but rather that I chose to apply with a paper I had not written. I just thought it would force me to work harder than I might normally work and therefore get more done in less time.

So the symposium is Saturday, and though I've only broken down into tears once, I'm a total wreck. I am not prepared to talk intelligently about this text, and I will be nervous as I give it, as opposed to confident and smart. My nerves will get the better of me and when questions are asked, I will flush red and my ears will ring and I will have no idea what to say.

Fact is, I am a closet perfectionist. I want everyone to think I am brilliant, and if they don't then that means I have failed. Here's the kicker: I'm not brilliant. I may be smarter than the average bear, but the average bear will not be attending Saturday's symposium and therefore I will finally be exposed as the fake I am.

So there you go. The ruse is up! My attempt at being smart ends on Saturday. It's all over now! I hope to see you all at the nearby Starbucks where I will be happy to make your drinks to order.

Seriously this is the shit that goes through my head for a meaningless, 15 minute presentation at 9am on a Saturday in March. I know logically that I will do fine. I know that no one will decide to de-PhD me -- but this all goes through my head as I try to get a 9-page paper out of a few pages of notes and some writing in the margins of "Green Grass Running Water."

I'm sick. Will this all go away when they give me my degree?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Let's be honest...

I'm not going to say that Annie Liebowitz is racist. Or Vogue itself. Or Gisele Bundchen. Or Lebron James. But the fact is, the cover makes an obvious allusion to King Kong. I think anyone who has seen the movie or the multiple images would see this allusion, conscious or not. This isn't necessarily racist, however. While I do think the denials only make the matter worse -- "What, you mean there is a cultural discourse about brutish black men and wispy white ladies?" -- I think it is possibly true that the shoot was not trying to define James as a brute or Bundchen as a helpless victim. But it is hard to deny that they are working in a culture where this kind of relationship between a black man and a white woman has been exploited for racist purposes.

Perhaps James enjoyed displaying his aggression alongside Bundchen's whimsy. The contrast is beautiful. And, James is an aggressive ball player. And, Bundchen is a ... model. Who pliantly does what she is told. The poses are not strange; they suit these two figures.

The real question is, why are these two figures on a magazine cover together? Vogue made a big deal out of having the first black man on their cover. So why did they have to go get a waify little white girl to accompany him on his trailblazing?

I know it sucks that these decisions get scrutinized, but let's be honest about our racial environment. Let's not pretend that anyone is innocently making decisions, without a past looming over or a profit dangling ahead. The cover may not be racist, but it is certainly not innocent.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I juice

That's right, I'm a juicer. Get over it. Last week we had cabbage, celery, and pear. This week it's grapefruit and carrot or apple and carrot, with a few raspberries last night. Oh and then there was the papaya drink with lime juice. Damn that was good. And we feel so healthy. My skin is clearer. I have more energy. Just one week of juicing every night, and there you go. All is well with the world.

Then today Matt went to the dentist. Matt, my courageous love muffin, is scared to death of the dentist. So I went with him. He was the only one there, and as I read nearly all of Thomas King's "Green Grass Running Water," I listened to the terrible sounds of the spit sucker and a drill -- for nearly an hour and a half. As he walks out with our lovely dentist, I hear her say, "do you eat a lot of candy?" Matt said, "No, we hate candy. We're anti-candy." [I then had a brief moment of loving the fact that he used "we" to answer. Aw.] "Hmmm," she said, perplexed. "Do you drink a lot of juice?" "Um. Yeah. Fruit juice? Yep, all day." "That's it," she said, and then she told him that they had a lot of filling to do today because of decay from sugar.

Oh man! Dude. Juicing is supposed to save the world. Juicing is peaceful, it is true manna, in drinkable form. And then it goes and betrays our asses like it doesn't care. Oh well, we'll just cut the fruit portion of the drinks down, or add soda to the fruity drinks. See, the world is well once again.

Matt couldn't feel his face for most of the night. I would make him laugh and he would look like a stroke victim on crack.

So tonight, we decided to forego the juice and have us some fried rice instead. I mean all that juicing means we get to eat bad stuff every now and again, right? Tomorrow night, I'm thinking carrot, spinach, and a little apple. Mmmmmmm.....

Thursday, March 20, 2008


From the AP:

"Should Obama become the Democratic nominee, conservative activists are virtually certain to remind voters of Obama's ties to Wright, perhaps by using the videos in TV ads, several strategists said.

'He can give a speech a week, and it's not going to make the issue go away,' said Chris LaCivita, a Republican adviser who helped create the "Swift Boat" ads that severely damaged John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign.


If they do, LaCivita recommends a light touch and simple approach.

'From a visual perspective, don't make it political," he said. An announcer might say, "'Obama preaches unity, but his friends don't,' and boom, run the tape," he said. "Why do anything else? Let people make up their own minds.'"


From Obama's speech:

"For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle--as we did in the OJ trial--or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time."


Which choice will we make?

Coffee and Cat-Sitting

I'm cat-sitting this week, and let me just put this out there: I'm a dog person and I so don't get cats.

They rub up against my legs, all purry, and then I reach down to pet, and they're gone in two seconds! I need a scruffy pet I can pat on the head. And that's all I have to say about that.

About coffee: at my regular Starbucks ( a 3 minute walk from my front door) I keep confounding my friendly baristas. I get into a groove: First, tall americano, then, grande iced coffee no sweetener, then venti iced green tea no sweetner, and now a tall bold of the day. They get into my rhythm too, knowing what I want as soon as I walk up. But as soon as it gets so predictable they don't ask anymore, I change it. Then for a couple of weeks as I go through the various staff, I piss off the old-timers and confuse the newbies who were told, "she's the venti iced green tea lady." I can't tell if I do this on purpose. I don't think I do -- I just change my order every two months or so.

But then again, I consider how much I hate it when someone thinks they "know me." Drives me crazy. "Oh, I know you.... You want a grande iced coffee with no sweetener." Or, "Oh I know you, you're supporting Obama because you're a bleeding heart liberal." Or, "I know you, you are a Libra and so you like to weigh everything and can't make any decisions." Never mind that this is all true. I simply don't like people thinking they can make such simplistic statements. And I get so damn contrary about it too: "No. I CAN too make a decision. Just now, I was wondering whether to smack you upside your head and I have made a definite decision on that one." I think it's because my mom, in imagining that I got into the same trouble she did, but knowing she couldn't catch me at it,used to say, "I know you like the back of my hand." To this day, she knows me less than my baristas do.

So today, I got a tall Verone with a little room, and my barista said, "switching it up again?" I said, "Maybe. Maybe not." How dare he claim to know me. I'm going back to the iced venti green tea no sweetener tomorrow. We'll see who knows who then, won't we???

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Cynic much?

I became a supporter of Obama after he passionately invoked the audience as "You who have been taught to be cynical, who have been taught to believe change can't really happen -- come join me and let's make change together."

So the previous post is simply symptomatic of the disease of cynicism as a life-long struggle, akin I guess to alcoholism.

(I am off the wagon? On it? How does that work?)

My name is Jamie, and I am a recent cynic. I have lapses sometimes from my normally positive outlook. It is constant work, but I will remember that all is temporary and very possibly a big joke. That's a good thing, in case you are wondering if I just became cynical again. Jeesh.

I will try to be more chipper in the future in these bloggy things.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Race & Repetition

Barack Obama has said that his tours across this country as a presidential nominee have made it clear to him that Americans are ready to move beyond the old divisions of race. I think he has a point; that my mother voted for Obama in our state's primary is a small testament to this observation. But the media is not ready to give up on what is the most sensationalist, divisive material they can grasp onto: that of the confusions and misunderstandings between people based on race, gender, and class.

As a teacher, I'm not sure I can make the same observation Obama has made. My mostly white, affluent students continually complain about "reverse racism" proven through anecdotal stories of "my friend who didn't get in to his college of choice." In other words, my white students feel entitled to a college admissions process that does not force them to compete with people of a different color, ethnicity, or class than themselves.

They repeat the phrase "reverse racism" as if through their repetition this fallacious notion might become true. And eventually it does. But reverse racism is illogical: oppression is the yoke of the marginalized. For example, my students are often furious that in the desire to be "politically correct" their school has replaced the "Redskin" mascot and team name with "Redhawk." They assume the Native Americans after whom the school is in fact named should not be offended; after all, they insist, "we wouldn't be offended if a school had a 'Honkey' as mascot."

Well, no you wouldn't be offended would you? Because Honkey has never been used to dehumanize in order to enslave, lynch, or disenfranchise an entire group of people based on their racial classification. "Honkey" is humorous, in fact, because the power whites have in society is only emphasized by their ability to offer up their own skin color as the basis for a school mascot.

All of this is simply to say, the consistent definition and naming of race, and its necessarily subsequent product, racism, is not less common "now" than "back then." We simply have different effects of that racism: the political disenfranchisement of black Americans for instance. As I watch the CNN team ("the best political team on TV") go on and on and on about women voters, white women voters, old white women voters, black voters, educated voters, young voters, white male voters, etc etc etc, I see the divisions of race, gender, and class, not observed, but engendered -- these divisions must be repeated, over and over, to be maintained. And the media is so good at saying the same thing over and over again.

I hate to disagree with Barack. It seems we are working harder than ever to maintain these divisions. We may be ready to move beyond them, but first we have to recognize how they work: through daily maintenance of difference as a fixed, insurmountable category.

Let's begin to recognize the way these boundaries that "The Best Political Team on TV" name are in fact blurry, unclean, unkempt, messy and, well, fucked up. Obama himself represents this blurring: the son of a "white" woman from Kansas and a man from Africa, the child who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, and came to religion later, not as a blind follower, but a thoughtful devotee. Yet even Obama has to pick one: Black. Could he even run if he defined himself as multi-racial? Would the media be able to comprehend him? What would they do with him?

Categories make for clean, easy, and sensational news and they aren't going away anytime soon.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Workaholics make me mad

I am writing a dissertation for my PhD in English and I spend way more time wondering if I am doing any of this right, or doing any of it enough, than I do actually working on my diss.

Some days I work 2 hours.

But I still get it done. It gets done, and, honestly, it's usually pretty good. My committee members mostly agree that I'm doing something new, something important. They mostly agree that my biggest challenge is organization of ideas. That's because when I write, I just get it out and then send it off.

I think I'm being too hard on myself. The above sentence does not include the fact that I agonize over sentences sometimes. That I have actually printed out a chapter draft, cut it into pieces, surrounded myself with those pieces on the floor and tried to put it all together again. I'm apparently the worst perfectionist ever. I want everything to be perfect, but then I don't do all the work required. Or do I?

Am I making a blind assumption that this should be harder? Maybe it's OK that I can write a dissertation with 2-4 hours of work a day? (Sometimes 6. That's rare though, really.) See, it wouldn't help to ask anyone who's ever written a dissertation before because there's a secret contest all us grads and profs have: I work harder and sleep less than you. I don't believe any of it whenever someone tries to convince me that they are getting 4 hours of sleep and working 14 hours a day. Maybe those 14 hours are spent checking e-mail. If that's the case, then I work way harder than that.

I am trying to do one of these two things:
1. Work more.
2. Be OK with the fact that I don't work all day -- as long as it gets done it's all good.

I'm not sure which one I should choose.

Well, I'm off to do some work. Before dinner, and LOST of course, I may get 4 hours done today. And I bet it will be good.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Chaos Manifesto

I believe in utter randomness, that the universe swirls without a care of me, and I love it.

I believe in not knowing a damn thing. Agnostic to the core and excited about possibilities.

I believe in the not yet, the yet-to-be springing out of now.

I believe we are beautiful accidents, fatally rotten to the core and thoroughly charming in our flaws.

I believe that time is the only thing that's perfect, the one damn thing that will never falter.

I believe that resolutions are the silliest, greatest things and I resolve today to be more grateful for the utter brevity of life and for the utter beauty of its imperfection.

I resolve to laugh at chaos even as it wounds.