Friday, September 26, 2008

So here it is, friends and neighbors, a Friday morning, the sun shining, birds singing, the rumble of the expressway providing a soothing cathartic to the daily grind of suburban life, the recent skunk expulsions down the street wafting gently through the air, and me, with a head that feels like it's stuffed with cotton, a rumbling chest demanding instant expectorations, and a voice that sounds like every baliff in Night Court combined into one.

That's right. I got me the illness.

I was out two days already this week, and hoo-boy, I feel like it's been a month. Spent most of the first day reading a book (not too taxing); the second day, I leafed through another book, wondering morbidly how things were going back at school while I was gone. I didn't have to wait long, as it turns out; I went back the following day, believing it would be less work in the long run to be my own sub (an erroneous assumption, as it turns out--how do you tell a kid to "Stop fighting!" and sound credible when you have to wheeze it out in between nose-blowing into a hanky?). For every day you're out in this biz, there's another pile of crap to read, grade, weep over, yell at them about not doing correctly, or cast into the fire. Normally this process is lubricated with beer, but beer and a chest infection seems to me like throwing water on a grease fire. So all I could do was seethe inwardly. Probably the very character trait that's destroying my immune system in the first place.

Then, this morning. Croak. Croak. No voice. Head spinning. Air painful against my skin. Chest burning. Eyes watering. And it took me at least two minutes to figure out what time it was, as I gazed stupidly at the clock on the bedside table. Ugh. This did not bode well.

So, instead of traveling to scenic Spring Grove, Wisconsin to partake of some quality outdoor theatre, I'll most likely be in bed, drinking hot mixtures laced with ginger and God knows what, trying to recuperate enough health so I can spend my Sunday trying (futilely) to catch up on all the grading I otherwise would have gotten done this week.

Forgive the whininess of this post. It's just that a steady diet of cold medicine and broth tends to produce exposition of the immediate, rather than the abstract, the intellectual, or the somewhat-remotely-interesting.

OK, how's this instead? Comic book art software makes for an interesting hobby!

What happens next? Tune in when...I come up with something.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sad day indeed, when the best political commentary comes from...
I’ve already heard that Obama and Palin are both fairly inexperienced. And I’ve heard that McCain doesn’t know how to use the internet. I’ve heard all the “pig in lipstick” and “I can see Russia from here” lines, because they’ve been repeatedly jammed down my throat over and over and over again. How could I miss them?

I don’t need to hear again about who was a Community Organizer, and who thinks that “Community Organizer” is a laughable position. I’m not concerned with how many houses someone has. I don’t need to be told that someone is a terrific speaker. I don’t care how anyone feels about hockey, and I don’t need to hear about what Priests a candidate may or may not have hung around at some point for some amount of time.

And if I hear “Hey, the bottom line is, she sold the plane” one more fucking time, I’m going to track down that plane, buy the shit out of it, and crash it directly into the White House, regardless of who’s living there. Test me on this.

I feel like all we’re getting are lies and lines, and no one’s talking about the issues and no one’s holding anyone accountable. Media, you’re supposed to be on our side. Stop repeating the same sound bites over and over again. In the history of forever, has a President’s ability to do his job been enhanced or impaired as a result of how they feel about moose-hunting? Then shut up about it.

I mean, is Adam McKay right? Is the media completely dead? Subquestion, why the shit am I getting the most honest and insightful political information from Adam McKay?
Oh yeah. I'm feeling the logic.

Sunday, September 14, 2008, the conservative's answer to what, I suppose, is a left-leaning Wikipedia.

Some routine searches:

William Shakespeare's life and works in about two pages' worth of text, with a whopping four sources cited (three of them web pages). Conservative academia?

Eric Alterman does not exist. Guess I saw that coming.

Barack Obama was "allegedly" born in Honolulu. Presumably, this means he might have been born in Kabul.

The war in Iraq had nothing to do with WMDs. (The only even tangential reference to that whole debacle: The site credits a Washington Post article pointing to a meeting between Bush and a Spanish prime minister who said Hussein was "open to exile" and such an exile might avoid war, but that "Bush made it clear in the meeting that he expected to "be in Baghdad at the end of March" (according to the former p.m.).

Helen Thomas is a "liberal anti-war biased journalist." And she wrote...what, exactly? Pamphlets? Protest songs? Or do we take you on conservaword alone?

In short, a conservative encyclopedia is a valuable reference long as you ignore some facts, truncate others, and shorten your entries to those meeting the attention span of a six-year-old. Color me unimpressed.

Friday, September 12, 2008

That damned left-wing media...

Pop quiz, sea monkeys! Who said the following quotes about the media?

1. "Don't believe the right-wing ideologues when they tell you the left still controls the media agenda. It does not any longer. It's a fact."
a) liberal comedian/pundit Al Franken
b) liberal fillamker Michael Moore
c) liberal Fox News commentator Alan Colmes
d) Fox News pundit Bill O'Reilly
2. [The] idea the media now tilt toward liberals is absurd."
a) CNN journalist Wolf Blitzer
b) MSNBC's Keith Olberman
c) Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas
d) conservative analyst Bruce Bartlett
3. "[There's] this cottage industry [in the media] in which it pays to be unobjective. It pays to be subjective as much as possible. It's a great way to have your cake and eat it, too. Criticize other people for not being objective. Be as subjective as you want. It's a great little racket."
a) political commentator Jay Marvin
b) White House reporter Helen Thomas
c) Hardball's Chris Matthews
d) Weekly Standard's Matt Labash
4. "We have the media now."
a) New York Times' publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.
b) Washington Post former editor Ben Bradlee
c) a secret cabal of pro-Israel newspaper owners
d) conservative pundit Ann Coulter
If you guessed "d" to all of the above, you win the grand prize: sight over ignorance! Truth over slander! And a date with me, at the NRA rally of your choice!


O'Reilly's comments: The No-Spin Zone, July 2005 (transcript currently unavailable on Fox's website)
Bartlett's comments:
Labash's comments: Interview on
Coulter's comment: Interview with Sean Hannity July, 2005 (soundbyte courtesy of Oliver Willis)
Research compiled by Eric Alterman. Sapere aude, indeed.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Lessons of the Masters by George Steiner


Mumblings of a Wannabe Pedant who Just Read Lessons of the Masters by George Steiner

I glommed onto this particular tome in a reference Alan Bennet made in an interview several years ago. A depressing amount of Steiner's arguments sailed harmlessly over my head; he uses allusions and casual references to Ovid, Schopenhauer, Nietzche et al with an ease I can only envy (at least, at this point).

Still, his monologue on the Teacher/Student relationship is worthy of consideration, especially in today's politically-charged pedagogical climate. In no particular order, going over this book in the only fashion I feel I could pull off worth a damn, I give you:

Ten Things I learned from this book

1. The transmission of knowledge is inherently erotic. I'm not sure how. Steiner argues that the student's intellectual submission before the Master is charged with eros, and to overlook this potential disaster/boon (witness Socrates and Alciabades, Abelard and Heloise, Plato and any boy with pecs...) is naive and limiting. I don't think current laws allow me to explore this matter any further. And Steiner, you'd better stay the hell away from my third hour.

2. A teacher can measure his success by his disciples' ultimate rejection of his tenets. "To teach greatly is to awaken doubts in the pupil, to train for dissent. It is to school the disciple for departure...A valid Master should, at the close, be alone." I buy that.

3. The study of the humanities is at odds with that of science and math. It's ridiculous to argue that we'd be bereft of radiation without Madame Curie, but we would not have the Sistine Chapel without Michaelangelo. I'd have to respectfully disagree here. Read Tom Stoppard: "What we lose to history will be picked up along the way...or rewritten in a completely different language. You should no more grieve the loss (of the books of Alexandria) than you should a shoelace lost on the sidewalk." (Paraphrased)

4. High school teachers suck. We have a "subconsciously vengeful mediocrity" and are "more or less amiable gravediggers" a la Yorrick. Hey, Steiner, no offense, but fuck off, all right? If you had any material on presentation besides lectures and q&a, I might be impressed.

5. We can thank Goethe for the eternal credo: "He who cannot, teaches." I'd cuss him out too, were he not already 176 years dead.

6. The charged relationship between Master and Disciple is dangerous (it can result in castration, like with Abelard and Heloise), a case of one-upmanship (Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler; Max Brod and Franz Kafka); it can seduce and destroy you (Mephistopholes and Faustus); it can kill you (Socrates); you can be good at it and still reviled (the strange, sad case of Georges Palante); yet all of these dizzying possibilities underscore the raw power, responsibility and rush (my new three R's of education) of the one profession without which there would be no other professions.

7. It is extremely difficult to figure a rate of exchange for sharing one's passions with students. At least, in the academic world.

8. Some teachers have had stringent requirements for their students, sometimes to their detriment (Pythagoras), sometimes beneficially so (Zen masters).

9. The fact that I need to reread this book (a third time, I might add) to even come close to absorbing it satisfactorally, is a testament to both my failures as a teacher, and my doggedness, which is one of my greatest assets as a teacher.

10. I have so got to read the following stories: "The Lesson of the Master," Henry James; "Of This Time, Of That Place" (author?); "The Lesson and the Secret" (author?); The Dying Animal, Philip Roth.

Friday, September 05, 2008

ALE HOUSE--Blogging from Dale's iphone. Beer and hypertext go suicidally well together. Kai is in town-rejoice! Tso is hiding at his parents'--loser.