Friday, September 19, 2008

* On Favorite Authors

Teaching the ENGL capstone course for the first time, I'm also getting to teach some favorites I haven't taught in a long time--including William Wordsworth. As enthusiastic as I've been re Lyrical Ballads, however, I still have to interject my rather irreverent attitude/teaching style into my presentation of the Sage of Grasmere. And some students don't know how to handle this. Which led me to a new aphorism, a new "quot.-of-the-day" from yours truly:

If you can't laugh at your favorite authors . . . you haven't read them long enough.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

* Oh, This Postmodern Age

Perhaps the most symptomatic trope, the master metaphor, of the postmodern era was encapsulated by a Fox News talking head yesterday (8/2/08): describing yet another shocking act of violence in this "greatest country on God's green earth," the fellow added, "It's like something out of a movie." And I hear/read versions of this analogy all the time. But if movies are a simulation of, at least one remove from, "reality," then it's a problematic epistemology that must interpret said reality via a simulation thereof. The head spins. . . .

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

* RADIO RANT: Indians--"I Know Nothin'"

Last Sunday night (7/27/08), conservative talk-show cretin Bill Cunningham uttered his version of the conservative mantra that goes something like "Native American tribes fought other tribes; ergo Euro-colonialism/genocide was entirely justified." And of course this formulaic defense can be uttered without really knowing anything about indigenous history. Thus Cunningham's stupidity began: "The Sioux did worse [things] to the Arapaho and the Iroquois" than the U.S. did to the Indians, blah-blah-blah. I could give Cunningham ten years to find a historical battle between the "Sioux"–a Great Plains tribe–and the Northeast-woodlands Iroquois. It's the constant recitation of such half-baked non-truths by such pundits and their "dittohead" acolytes that makes the conservative discourse so infuriating.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

* RADIO RANT: Stoicism--(get it right!)

Well, the good ol' Mormons have offered another FYI "pro-family" radio segment, this time concerning "stoicism." The spot's narrator says that "stoicism" issues from the Greek & Roman times, and is characterized by a denial of both pleasure and pain. This is wrong, they ultimately conclude; one should express one's emotions. (Duh.) . . . I would offer some corrections. Stoicism as a philosophy per se didn't flourish until the Roman times. Moreover, it was much more than some glum sufferance of pleasure and pain; it was a brave acceptance of the knowledge that there is no afterlife, that this "veil of tears" is all we have. Hic labor, hoc opus est. In sum, it is a much more courageous (and truer) modus vivendi than some blithe belief in a heaven in which you'll meet your anointed spouse, etc. Thanks, Mormons, but from what I know of the natural world, give me Stoicism any day. . . .

Saturday, July 5, 2008

* RADIO RANT: Repub-POPulism

The Republican talk-show hosts are taking a certain brand of populism too far (e.g., Glenn Beck). The "damned government" can't do anything right, while "we the people" (whatever that inchoate conglomerate is) are inevitably right in our intuitions. (Then why'd we vote these fools into office in the first place? And is this, then, in contradiction to another conservative mantra, that democracy is the best of all government forms, especially as it manifests itself in the good ol' U.S.A.?). Frankly, I find the populist notion that "we" are smarter than the politicians to be an utterly foolish one. I wouldn't trust my next-door neighbor when it comes to determining foreign policy regarding, say, Afghanistan; would you? (Of course, I live in an apartment complex, but that's beside the point! . . .)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

* RADIO RANT: Glenn Beck, Francophobe

So there he was, a few days ago, slamming "LE CAR"--as an epitome of France, he claimed, and ergo his entry into the predictable stereotypes of hairy female armpits and effeminate men. (Yeh, Glenn's really got some cajones, I can tell, by his high-pitched squeal of a voice. I'm not claiming that said criterion is valid, but it's sure one that Glenn's conservative co-patriots like Michael Savage inveterately apply, when judging "man-ship.") First of all, no French person would pronounce le as "LAY"; second of all, no self-respecting French person would choose a name that combined a French article with a "vulgar" Germanic word: in sum, "Le Car" occurred on the AMC (American Motors Co.) side, and Beck is unwittingly railing against the very corporate-American-consumerist bastardization of anything non-U.S. that characterizes his own woe-begotten ignorance.

Friday, November 30, 2007

* My Blogger POLL(s)

----A "Sticky" Post [orig. 8/2/07]----
[--text hidden until next poll--]

* RADIO RANT: Indian Wars (Still Going On)

Billy Cunningham is the "new" conservative talkshow host in these parts, replacing Matt Drudge on two local radio stations. Last Sunday night (11/25/07), I tuned into a discussion (or rant) regarding the "Indian Wars." To one caller's allegations of land theft & immorality, Cunningham replied [not verbatim here, but close], "It was war. We won. Get over it!" (I'm reminded of Paiute poet AC Louis's anecdote about a white student who told him, "We shoulda killed you all when we had the chance"!) "If the Indians had won," Cunningham continued, "they'd have done worse to us." No. We especially wouldn't have forced you to follow another culture's jealous monotheistic deity. But this radio guy is adamant that the Natives were apparently in need of a little good ol' Western Civilizing: "Why do you think they call them savages?" (And the phrase "Stone Age" was also tossed around liberally—er, conservatively.)

Hell, if these "GET OVER IT!" people (including some of my own students) were JUST talking about a survival-of-the-fittest social Darwinism, then I wouldn't be so upset. But if this "might makes right" is what you folks ultimately meant, it also means that you have to surrender any lofty pretensions regarding your Western ethics & religion, and acknowledge Christianity as a hypocritical & bankrupt enterprise, as mere prop and rationalization for capitalism & colonialism [cf. Vine Deloria, Jr.].

Thursday, November 8, 2007

* RADIO RANT: Savage Ignorance Encore

An apparent true believer called Michael Savage and asked, seriously, for a history lesson from the good Doctor "for us" listeners, on how the Christian monks of the Middle Ages saved Western Civilization. Now, I haven't had time these last few months to ride herd on all of Savage's assertions of ignorance, but this one blew me away. His one lone example of an answer? Gregor Mendel!—a "monk" who was, he claimed, of "THAT PERIOD"!?!—who did some things with peas and thereby "discovered genetics." (Uh, Mendel lived from 1822-1884. The medieval period ended approx. half a millennium before the beginnings of genetic science.)

Friday, November 2, 2007

* Children & Animal Extinction

* SPEAKING of EXTINCTION (and morbid children's books)--here's an ad from the BITS & PIECES gifts catalogue (Holiday 2007). How casually the young are indoctrined into an "everything's-all-right" attitude regarding the extinction of other species. The phrase "don't exist in the wild anymore" even intimates that these animals are still safe, in zoos or in rich people's backyards, perhaps. The Dodo on the cover is especially ironic in this regard, as perhaps the most famous species driven to extinction by humankind's own handiwork. But, "whatever": it's "Hours of dot-to-dot fun," all the same!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

* Call Me Ishi. Or Buddy.

Ishi (the last Yana Indian) has been best memorialized by Native critic Gerald Vizenor, I think, in an essay called "Ishi Obscura." The marvelous first sentence is —"Ishi was never his real name." Ergo my serendipity here, dog-loving as my whole life has been:

Monday, October 15, 2007

* RADIO RANT: Cheap Labor Through the Centuries

One of my local talk radio stations now has a new conservative radio talking head, a certain Bill Cunningham (yes, one "great American"). He was trying to be clever and ironic last night (10/14) in wondering aloud how our American economy ever "managed," from 1776 on, before the heavy 1990's influx of illegal labor. (Conclusion: we don't need 'em!) Of course, for almost a hundred years, we had—uh—SLAVES to help out w/ all that lowly menial labor. After that, we had waves of legal immigrants poor enough to willingly be degraded themselves as cogs in the capitalist machine until labor unions alleviated their plight to some extent. And hey, I've taught (legal-immigrant) ESL students who've told me horror stories of meat-packing plants: no, it ain't worth $20/hr. an hour to be disabled (i.e., one's hands) by the age of 40.

* U.S. Pontificates on Genocide

So—the U.S. House of Representatives wants to "declare" the "slaughter" of Armenians by the Turks during WWI "genocide." Gee, that was less than a score of years after the Wounded Knee massacre. I don't care how many times "our government" has apologized for its own attempts at genocide; "we" shouldn't be allowed, even today, such a facile moral high ground.

Friday, September 28, 2007

* It's a Hormonic Imbalance

So George Bush fucks up again: "childrens do learn. . . ." There's plenty of Hopi, and Lakota, elders who say that a precise use of language = a healthy culture. I fear for "ours."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

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