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 http://www.portfolio.com/news-markets/national-news/portfolio/2008/02/19/Poor-Give-More-to-Charity