The Random Ten

I'll admit I was tempted to do an "End of the Republic" edition or a "See you in the gulag" edition, but instead I think I'm going to sit back and be glad I live near the ocean. I'm not quite ready to see if that trip across the Florida Straits is as difficult going toward Cuba as it is coming this way, but I'll admit to taking a greater interest in sailboats of late.

Anyway, here's the random ten for this week. Not much time for ruminating--papers, papers, papers to grade. Here we go.

1. Under Your Skin--Luscious Jackson (what happened to them? They're awesome.)
2. Hey Hey What Can I Do--Led Zeppelin (I'm not ashamed to say I like Hootie's cover of this better. Maybe I should be.)
3. Say Yes--Elliot Smith
4. Born to Run--Bruce Springsteen (Seems oddly appropriate today.)
5. Stonehenge--Spinal Tap ('Undreds of years before the dawn of history.)
6. Angel from Montgomery--Susan Tedeschi
7. Prove My Love--Violent Femmes
8. Wouldn't it be Nice--Beach Boys (I can come up with some alternative lyrics, I'm sure.)
9. Little Bottles--Alejandro Escovedo
10. 32-20 Blues--Robert Johnson
And for my bonus track, I'll just go along with Michael.

I'm pissed.

And I wrote the following to Senator Bill Nelson after I learned of his yes vote on the torture bill.

Senator Nelson,
I can't begin to tell you how upset I am at your vote to allow torture and suspend habeas corpus rights for detainees and anyone this or a future President might consider an enemy combatant. This is an outrage to me, because you have no excuse for voting this way.

Make no mistake about it--this bill goes against one of the foundations of a justice system that predates the United States, the right to require a government to explain why you are being held--and if history has proven anything, it has proven that power that can be abused, will be abused, even if the abuser has the best of intentions.

And we have seen over the last six years that this President most certainly does not have the best of intentions.

There are those of your fellow Democratic Senators who are locked in difficult re-election races who might have tried to reason that a vote against this bill or a filibuster of it would damage their re-election chances, and that they can do more good by remaining in the Senate. That's a poor excuse, but at least it's an arguable one.

You have no such excuse. The only question in this race is whether you will defeat Catherine Harris by ten points or twenty. You could have stood up for the American system of justice, and you didn't, and I am ashamed.

I'll still put my mark next to your name on November 7. It's my birthday, and I wouldn't deny myself the chance to vote against Catherine Harris, who foisted this useless President upon us nearly six years ago. But it won't be a vote for you, not anymore.

And in six years, should you decide to run again, I'll be out there busting my ass to find someone to beat you in a primary. Of course, that's assuming I haven't been declared an enemy combatant for speaking out against the standing government.

Who knew?

Apparently I'm a grassroots Republican activist. From an email I received today from Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (who I do not heart, by the way):

If we fail to implement our aggressive Get-Out-The-Vote strategy of identifying,
contacting and turning out GOP voters to help elect more Republicans, we run the
risk of losing control of Congress to the Democrats -- who are poised to roll back
our accomplishments we've achieved over the past six years.

I am asking you -- a dedicated grassroots leader who knows what it takes to win
tough elections -- to please make an urgent online contribution of $35, $50 or $100
to the RNC to help ensure we have the resources to kick our Get-Out-The-Vote program
into high gear.

Apparently my name is Dick, too--that or the mook who signed me up for these emails had a particularly juvenile sense of humor.

It's funny, too, that the RNC email doesn't say anything about Republican accomplishments over the last six years--it just claims that the Democrats have no plan other than to bring "phony impeachment charges against President Bush." Hmmm.

The one thing you can count on--and Orcinus on the sidebar there talks about this all the time these days--is that if the right-wing is accusing people of something, you can bet the family silver that they're neck deep in it themselves.

They've got no plan for anything.

Send them home.

Whoever heard of Narratology?

I've got a couple of complaints about my graduate education, but I suppose that's normal. Still, you gotta wonder when you spend 4 years studying fiction, and you never once encounter the word narratology.

Since I've been teaching fiction, I've discovered that I seem to have an interest in aspects of the genre that other people take for granted (the plot for example); since most of my fellow instructors have advanced degrees in Literature rather than fiction or poetry or drama, this doesn't surprise me. The study of Literature is a wholly different thing from the study of creative writing. The word Literature sounds a bit like Scripture, and the treatment of the subject is similar, if sometimes with the antagonism that comes with reading someone else's scripture, instead of one's own. Works are treated as inevitable, and authors as either characters or stars, personages, not persons. Theme is held up over all else, because that's what you can write papers about. "Details" (like characterization or symbolism) are important only inasmuch as they help support an argument about the theme. This is the study of literature, and it's a worthy pursuit.

But the study of fiction, or any genre, has to be interested in other areas. After all, very few good plots have been built while the author obesessed over his theme. Very few convincing characters have been born from a theme's loins. (Best case, you'll get piggies ala Animal Farm.) There is the foremost question of choice: every story is a sequence of decisions made by someone, and his number of possibilities was more or less determined by him, based on the rules of the world he invented. There is the manipulation of interest: I once asked my class, if we know from the first sentence how this story will end, why do we keep reading? To which a helpful student replied, because you're making us. But his flippancy represents something real: how much of the study of literature is done under duress? And is that why we ignore enitrely that aspect of fiction which snares us so that we cannot put down the story or book until completion? I mean, why should a made-up story interest us at all?

I'd assumed that only creative writers consider these subjects, and that it was a vague and unarticulated field of thought. And then, rambling through some wikis, I came across the word "narratology," which sounds like one of those stone-age psuedo-sciences, like phrenology, or astrology, or psychology, but is actually the study of the structure of storytelling, and not just in fiction, either.

About 2/3 of what I've read in the field so far (online) is bullshit, but it's interesting bullshit. And it's clear and well-articulated bullshit, on a subject that interests me. So I'm hooked, and I feel like I may actually begin to make quicker progress in a field of thought that I'd been groping through on my own, reinventing the spoon and the loom if you will, now that I have some other people's ideas to bounce around, some terminology to consider.

But I still want to know why I'm knee-deep in debt after four years of graduate school that included courses (obstensibly) on "form and theory" (which were sort of group grope-in-the-dark experiments, I think), and I never once so much as heard the word "narratology"?


A note to the proprietors of Although your motto may say "it's not cheating it's collaborating," it's cheating. And if your clients were smart, they'd sue your asses for false advertising. Of course, if your clients were smart, they wouldn't be turning in your papers in my classes either, so you may be safe.

Getting a Jump on the Random Ten

I'm up late, but it's technically Friday, so here it is. Sorry for the lightish posting, by the way. This is paper grading week, and will be for the next week as well. I'll see what I can get in. Set the iTunes on Party shuffle and take it away.

1. Alison--Elvis Costello
2. Epistrophy--Thelonious Monk
3. Way Down--Boozoo Bajou
4. Company in My Back--Wilco
5. Sam Hall--Johnny Cash
6. It's a Raggy Waltz--Dave Brubeck
7. Feelin' Good Again--Robert Earl Keen
8. A Life Less Ordinary--Ash
9. Little Queen of Spades--Robert Johnson
10. Sometimes--Alejandro Escovedo

Special Bonus Track: Pass the Mic--Beastie Boys

I've been in a very hiphop mode lately, and it's been a while for that. Feels kinda cool. What's on your lists?

This seems like a bad idea to me

You know how sometimes you just know you shouldn't click on a story, but you do anyway? Yeah, that's what happened to me here.

Looks like Michael Jackson has taken a shine to the wee folk of Ireland.

The “Thriller” singer, who left the U.S. for the Mideast following his acquittal on sex charges, has been spending time on the Emerald Isle recently, and is looking into buying an estate there — possibly a castle — according to reports.

What’s more, he’s supposedly interested in opening up a leprechaun-inspired theme park.

“Michael is deadly serious about this idea,” a source told Ireland’s Daily Mirror. “He loves the whole idea of leprechauns and the magic and myths of Ireland. It would cost around 500 million Euros [about $635 million] to do. He’s always wanted to open his own theme park and he thinks Ireland is the perfect place and it will all be built around the leprechaun theme.”

I wonder who he'd get to play the leprechauns at his theme park? Hmmmm.

An American Madrassa

This is how it starts, and frankly, it scares the hell out of me.

The Random Ten

I'll be running to teach in a few minutes, so no little story to go along with the random ten today. The iTunes is on party shuffle, and here are the next ten songs up.

1. Just a Friend--Biz Markie
2. Backwater--Big Smith
3. Stardust--John Coltrane
4. Hungry Like the Wolf--Duran Duran
5. Pretty Mary K--Elliot Smith
6. Traveling Riverside Blues--Robert Johnson
7. Inside Game--Royal Trux
8. Bring the Noise--Anthrax and Public Enemy
9. Let It Be--The Beatles
10. Give My Love to Rose--Johnny Cash

No bonus track today because I'm already feeling vulnerable from a couple of songs up there. What are you listening to?

Sometimes, when you're suffering writer's block, you get a little desperate. When that happens, you probably shouldn't show anyone your work. But I'm going to do it anyway. Last night, I wrote this little homage to a poem written by this guy named John Donne. Hope you get a snicker out of it.

Batter my arteries, trans-fatty globules,
you lock, clog, make me cry and wheeze
my way up stairs. I stand on worn out knees
to work to pay to mend me, make me new.
Reason should command me, tell me “quit
eating those french fries, burgers, tater tots.”
But dearly I love you, cannot bring a stop
to turning whenever I see a drive-in.
You’ve captured me, hydrogenated oil,
even though cholesterol’s my enemy.
My body you have ravaged, looted, spoiled;
called prisoner my gastric cavity.
Should I despise my saviour, poor Olean?
Ah! Never! I’ll always relish thee.

I'll be here all week. Try the chicken. Remember to tip your servers--they're working hard for you.

Ah, Stephen

My friend and C-SPAN cohort Stephen Elliott has announced his most recent book release party, celebrating My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up. And where in all of the city of San Francisco is said party?

Good Vibrations of course. I don't even want to know what the hors d'ouevres table is going to look like.

Couldn't just leave it at thanks?

My first impression, when I saw the headline for this story was "wow, Syrian forces had our back. Cool." Because come on--it's not like we've done anything to endear ourselves to the Syrian government in the last five years or anything. It's been open secret number 1 that if Iraq had gone the way Cheney wanted it to, Syria was either next or second on the list of places we conquer next. (I'm sure we'd have done just as good a job as we did in Iraq.)

So the fact that the Syrian military beat back by four men armed with machine guns and hand grenades. losing oen of their own in the process, ought to qualify for an unqualified attaboy.

But that ain't the way Bush rolls.

The White House praised Syria’s security forces for their professional response to the attack, but then called on the country to play a constructive role in fighting terrorism.

“Stop harboring terrorist groups, stop being an agent in fomenting terror, and work with us to fight against terror, as Libya has done — that’s the next step for Syria,” the White House spokesman, Tony Snow, said today at a news briefing....

In response to the Syrian embassy statement, a State Department spokesman, Tom Casey, said that the United States had been in the “forefront of trying to bring peace to the Middle East, certainly to try and help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian situation.”

He added: “And if we’re looking for Syria to take actions, or looking for Syria to do an evaluation of its policies, I’d again ask them to consider changing their behavior before they start talking about having us do so.”

Hey guys--you know the old saying about catching more flies with sugar? That's called diplomacy. And when the security forces of a country you've been talking shit about for years actually defend your embassy instead of allowing it to be overrun and saying "oops--couldn't get to it," maybe you just say thanks and leave it at that, instead of opening your mouths and showing the entire middle east that you're exactly the bunch of ingrates they imagine you to be.

9/11 thoughts

Waving the bloody shirt has been a part of politics since the first clan chief boasted of the number of opponents he killed to his clan when challenged by a young upstart. But BushCo has taken it to a whole new level in the last five years, and it has gotten to the point where I just don't care anymore.

Yep. I've officially reached the "it's just another day" point.

I mean, it doesn't even bother me very much when I look in the email I recieve from GOPUSA (which I suspect some reader long ago signed me up for as a joke or in a misguided attempt to have me "see the light") and see that today's missive includes such columns as "The Dangers Of A Democrat Senate" by Doug Patton and "New Survey: Challenge for GOP Leaders is Motivating the Base" by Bobby Eberle. Sure, I'd like it if both sides took a day off from the usual campaign rhetoric for the anniversary of 9/11, but hey, it's not like you can waste a day when fear hangs in the balance.

Oh wait. Someone did take the day off. Here's the DNC email I got today. Notice what's missing:

Dear Brian,

Today we remember many things.

We remember where we were. We remember the scenes on television.

We remember the victims who were murdered. We remember the families and loved ones they left behind.

We remember the heroes who charged into danger to save lives.

We remember a moment of unity at home and around the world, where people rallied around a single mission and a common sense of justice that must be done.

Today we face many challenges at home and abroad. And too often it's too easy to be distracted by the politics, the pundits, and the posturing.

We must always remember that the dangers we face know no political party, and the solutions and leadership we need now go beyond ideology.

We must meet these challenges head-on -- remembering to stand together in action as we live together under threat. We are all Americans.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

We will not be silent.

Today we remember many things.

And tomorrow, back on the campaign trail, we will remember to take with us the plain truth and a commitment to true justice for all those whose lives were transformed on this day five years ago.

Thank you.

Governor Howard Dean, M.D.

Sure, it's no hit piece on the opposition, but then again, we're not running on fear. We don't need to.

When Brian and I lived in Arkansas, we had this naughty habit of picking up old books lying around by the grad student Gestetner, an older kind of copier based on disposable carbons - just a notch above those stinky electric-purple mimeograph copies we used to sniff in elementary school.

Well, in this room (just above the old mimeograph, come to think of it) were ancient English texts and some of them were interesting specimens of past pedagogy ie: wow, did they actually used to teach this shit? Some of the books are nothing but old, old essays in the public domain, like the Gettysburg Address. But every now and then you'd find a gem, like the graduation speech by Aldous Huxley on the power of words, or, This Generation (a favorite of mine), a book of essays that includes Churchill's speeches and a description of Hiroshima, after the bomb.

But some of them, though they looked interesting, we never even got around to looking at. Like The American Language in the 1970's, which yesterday I discovered among our books, and cracked (almost literally) open to read.

I'm not sure what I expected from a book of this title. Maybe something playfully examining the use of expressions like, "jive turkey," and "me generation." But instead, I found this:

Women have very little of their own slang. The new words applied to women's clothing, hair styles, homes, kitchen utensils and gadgets are usually created by men. Except when she accompanies her boy friend or husband to his recreation (baseball, hunting, etc.) a woman seldom mingles with other groups. When women do mingle outside of their own neighborhood and family circles, they do not often talk of the outside world of business, politics, or other fields of general interest where new feminine names for objects, concepts, and viewpoints could evolve.
Men also tend to avoid words that sound feminine or weak. Thus there are sexual differences in even the standard vocabularies of men and women. A woman may ask her husband to set the table for dinner, asking him to put out the silver, crystal, and china -- while the man will set the table with knives, forks, spoons, glasses, and dishes. His wife might think the table linen attractive, the husband might think the tablecloth and napkins pretty. A man will buy a pocketbook as a gift for his wife, who will receive a bag. The couple will live under the same roof, the wife in her home, the man in his house. Once outside of their domesticity the man will begin to use slang quicker than the woman. She'll get in the car while he'll get into the jalopy or Chevvie. And so they go: she will learn much of her general slang from him; for any word she associates with her home, her personal belongings, or any female concept, he will continue to use a less descriptive, less personal one.
This sent me running for the table of contents. What moldy hell had I stumbled into? The essay I'd been reading was called, "American Slang," but Section 7 promised to sort it all out for me: THE LANGUAGE OF WOMEN'S LIBERATION. A section with three essays, three authors, one of them a woman. Okay. Let's read 'em. Essay one, by a Mr., "Is It Possible for a Woman to Manhandle the King's English": this scornful work of sarcasm introduces the laughable concept of the word "Ms.," informing us parenthetically that it is "pronounced ms," and asks such important questions as, what would we do with a female governor? We certainly couldn't call her a governess!

Essay two by Mr. number two, "Sispeak: A Misguided Attempt to Change History," essentially compares feminists' language use to Big Brother (Sister) from 1984: the title "Ms." in particular is called "newspeak." Don't worry, the word "herstrionics" was substituted in his essay for "histrionics" thus negating any reference to the uterus.

Okay, so, essay number three? The woman in the batch? C'mon, lady: you're outnumbered, but give us a counter-argument with which we can go out with a bang! ... Essay three's title? "A Women's Lib Expose of Male Villainy" - a narrative in which she meets a characature of a "women's libber" for cocktails and barely suffers her "friend's" annoyance at being called a "dish" and a "tomato" by strange men on her way there. The author makes comments about how she WISHES she could be called more names by strange men, implying over and over again that there's something dreadfully wrong with this un-girlie who doesn't like to be objectified, and reveals that she was once called a "knockout" by some construction worker, "and never forgot it." When her friend assumes she was displeased with being assessed by strange workmen on the street, she says her rabid characature of a "friend" was "missing my point entirely."

I looked at the book's copyright: 1974. I thanked freaking God I was born too late for the world when this sort of crap would make it's way into a college textbook.

But curiousity got the best of me. There was a section on THE LANGUAGE OF BLACKS as well, and I thought I should see if they got the shaft as much as women did. Two essays, one by a woman (does it matter? -out of 40 essayists, only three women writers made the book) one by a man. Our lady writes, "New Peak for Newspeak": in short, Black English should be an accepted form of English, at least for teaching purposes, to facilitate teaching black students standard English. Our man? "The Language of White Racism": a helpful essay in which the author advises the reader to please not refer to black men as "nigger" and "boy," because they do not like it, and to please not refer to black women as "negresses," as they may take offense.

Well, at least he knew his audience.

Football season? and the Random Ten

I've been everything from a rabid, fantasy-league starting NFL fan to a casual observer of the game, but never has a prospective season given me such meh as this one has. I think I'm just done with it. Maybe it has something to do with the recent report on the report on the valuation of NFL teams, and the reiteration of the fact that NFL owners are getting richer on the backs of people-not-fans. It's tax money they're sucking up, in the form of new stadiums, and they're returning precious little in terms of economic growth or good jobs.

The real straw for me was last year when Tom Benson of my hometown Saints graciously allowed the state to defer their payment to him in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, in return for which he wouldn't move the team away right away. That was the point where I told them to go to LA or any other city who would have them, because Louisiana taxpayers have more important things to spend their money on than football.

So the season opener came and went last night and meh. Here's the random ten. Put the iTunes on party shuffle and let her rip.

1. Wordplay--Jason Mraz
2. Christmas Card form a Hooker in Minneapolis--Tom Waits
3. Cans and Brahms--Yes
4. Sympathy for the Devil--The Rolling Stones
5. Die, Dead, Die--Big Smith
6. Heated Pool and Bar--John Vanderslice
7. The River--Bruce Springsteen
8. When the Saints Go Marching In--Dr. John (ironic, no?)
9. The Authority Song--Jimmy Eat World
10. Jive at Five--Count Basie

Bonus Michael-inspired track: Allegro Con Brio, Symphony No. 3 in Eb, Op. 55, Eroica--Ludwig Van Beethoven

So who's your picks for the Corporate Bowl this year?

I really don't get

why this story hasn't garnered more outrage.

COLUMBUS - An Ohio legislative panel yesterday rubber-stamped an unprecedented process that would allow sex offenders to be publicly identified and tracked even if they've never been charged with a crime.

No one in attendance voiced opposition to rules submitted by Attorney General Jim Petro's office to the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, consisting of members of the Ohio House and Senate.

The committee's decision not to interfere with the rules puts Ohio in a position to become the first state to test a "civil registry."

The concept was offered by Roman Catholic bishops as an alternative to opening a one-time window for the filing of civil lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse that occurred as long as 35 years ago.

A recently enacted law allows county prosecutors, the state attorney general, or, as a last resort, alleged victims to ask judges to civilly declare someone to be a sex offender even when there has been no criminal verdict or successful lawsuit.

The rules spell out how the untried process would work. It would largely treat a person placed on the civil registry the same way a convicted sex offender is treated under Ohio's so-called Megan's Law.

The person's name, address, and photograph would be placed on a new Internet database and the person would be subjected to the same registration and community notification requirements and restrictions on where he could live.

A civilly declared offender, however, could petition the court to have the person's name removed from the new list after six years if there have been no new problems and the judge believes the person is unlikely to abuse again.

So you can beat charges in court, beat a lawsuit in civil court, and a DA or a judge with a hard-on for you can still screw you over by sticking your name on a sex offender registry? I know it's not popular to defend kiddy-diddlers, but jeez, we're talking about people who haven't been convicted or lost a civil suit where the guilty requirement is even lower.

I mean, I don't even like the fact that convicted child molesters can be held in hospitals after their prison term is up--if you've done your time, then you get a new start. That's the idea behind the system. If you think kiddy-diddlers are getting off light, then change the penalties to stick them in jail for life.

But this is outrageous. These are people who have not been convicted, and their lives can still be destroyed.

Put one in the win column

As expected, Katherine Harris won her primary tonight for the right to get shellacked by Senator Bill Nelson. The only question now is whether Harris will break 40% in the general election.

Crack is yummy

I've been jonesing for some Battlestar Galactica for months now, and they have obliged me with a small dose. Mmmmmm.

A Pretty Good Debate

We had breakfast this morning, as we usually do, with Amy's parents. Amy's dad records all the Sunday talking heads, so we generally go back and look at the highlights. Dean was terrific on Face the Nation, but the real fun came when we switched over to Press the Meat with Timmeh! and the first Senate debate between Bob Casey and Rick Santorum. (Sorry about the link. I can never resist.)

Now, I'm not a Pennsylvanian. In fact, I don't believe I've ever set foot in the state. But anyone who's a regular over at Daily Kos has heard all the worrying and handwringing over this race. "Oh, Casey's going to play it safe and lose. Oh, he's too centrist. Oh, the party fucked us by clearing the field for him." Et cetera, ad nauseam. And there's some cause for worry--Casey is a conservative Democrat, a anti-abortionist, and pretty centrist on economic issues.

But Santorum is insane, and scared, and that's a bad combination when you're running for re-election.

Americablog has the video highlights, but I don't think they tell the whole story. They don't show the most effective way Casey knifed Santorum.

Casey did what every Democrat needs to do, regardless of differences in opinion over policy matters. He showed disdain for his opponent, especially when Santorum remarked on his support for Bush or Bush's policies, or when Santorum tried a bullshit attack--which he did often. He did everything short of rolling his eyes at Santorum, and I think that's the perfect way to handle Republican incumbents.

Because there is one thing that is inarguable this time around. If you're a Republican incumbent, then the mess we're in is unquestionably your fault. Individual Democrats certainly shoulder some blame for not obstructing enough bad legislation, but Republicans, you have the power, and you made the calls, and this is your world we're living in, so if it sucks, it's on you. And if I were a Democrat trying to make my case to the voters, that's what I'd harp on, day and night.

It's an easy question: Why should we trust any Republican in Congress right now? What have they done to deserve that trust? And when the Republicans bleat some reply, we should snort at them, and laugh at whatever they have to say.

Che heads for Washington and the Random Ten

Tropical Storm Che (Ernesto) went ashore in North Carolina this morning and was headed north. I hope he sits over DC and expresses his displeasure all over the White House, maybe floods a Republican Senate office or two. That would be a fitting end to the storm that wasn't.

Here's the random ten--iTunes on Party shuffle, and the next ten to come up. Promise you won't laugh.

1. Le Souk--Dave Brubeck
2. You and I Both--Jason Mraz
3. I Believe--Stevie Wonder
4. If I Had a Million Dollars--Barenaked Ladies
5. Me and the Devil Blues--Robert Johnson
6. Nickel and Spoon--Alejandro Escovedo
7. Boogie Children--Blind Snooks Eaglin
8. Cherry Bomb--John Mellencamp
9. Lonesome Train Whistle--Reverend Horton Heat
10. Pacific Theme--Broken Social Scene

So what's on your lists this week?

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