Monday, April 30, 2007

* Student Sentences

A few all-time hilarious sentences from my students' writing:

* [from a student's Intro to Lit journal entry (Fall 1992):] "This is a short poem with alot of unknown meaning."
(An extreme version of Freshman English students' great propensity to assume that all [good?] poetry has a "deep" or "hidden" meaning. . . . )

* [from a student's Rhetoric paper (November 1999):] "One morning they woke up to find out one of them was missing."
(Talk about your postmodern deconstruction of identity—my head is still spinning. . . . )

Sunday, April 29, 2007

* "DE-fense! DE-fense!"

It's fascinating how football as a prototypical American discourse has injected its machismo into the very language: thus the normal iambs of preVENT and deFENSE become the stronger trochees of PREvent DEfense. . . .

Saturday, April 28, 2007

* "This Ain't the Summer of Love"

I was a touch too young to remember Woodstock—that "Summer of Love"; what I did remember from that era—a few years later, in high school—was a radio report that heroin was being smuggled into the U.S. . . . in the bodies of dead American soldiers killed in 'Nam. I don't think the phrase "This ain't the Summer of Love" occurred to me then, but all the same, a deadly chill ran up my spine for the first time, of disillusionment regarding the whole human enterprise. And obviously, that glorious (or whatever) "season" has retreated further and further into the ideological distance [Quot. of the Day]:

This ain't the Garden of Eden—
There ain't no angels above—
And things ain't what they used to be—
And this ain't the Summer of Love—
    --The Blue Öyster Cult
Of course, the Rush Limbaughs and Jerry Falwells of the world would play the "Pat Tillman" card on me: "If you only believed, son!" Okay, we can get into the heavy theological argument about how an omnipotent "God" could allow all this murder and mayhem, about notions of privatio bono and all that. But I'm tired—and so I'll be as knee-jerk dismissive as they are: [mild expletive deleted] ME.

Friday, April 27, 2007

* "The Lord's Coming!"

[One of my favorite old jokes—best appreciated, perhaps, by those like me who are recovering-Catholic-but-still-guilty:]

I got some good news and some bad news.

{Okay, let me hear the good news first.}

The Lord's coming!

{Great. And the bad news?}

He's—pissed. . . .

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

* Playing in the "Worm Dirt"

The new controversy surrounding the death of soldier/former NFL player Pat Tillman in Afghanistan regards his & his family's purported (lack of) "faith." Thus an Army lieutenant colonel has attacked the Tillmans' subsequent vocal concerns about the military's handling of Pat's death as perhaps based on their lack of religious belief, and therefore lack of solace & closure: "Well, if you are an atheist and you don't believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt." [—ugh, punctuation & grammar—] In sum, the family can't get over his death, presumably, without the crutch of faith that he is now a good Christian soul in Heaven.

As for myself, I find great solace in the fact that I'll be "worm dirt" some day in the future, mingling my atoms with the rest of the planet & cosmos—first, dirt and "worm food"; then worm; now—robin? (And so, then, with more real wings than those of Christian angels?!) Plus, I'll be free of all this bogus human ideology that must deny its own DIRT-filled existence. Even the Good Gray Poet may have believed something very similar a good century and a half ago (Quot. of the Day):

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your bootsoles.
    --Walt Whitman
Ditto, Pat Tillman, and requiescat. . . . (Yes, Whitman always claimed to be both the poet of the "body" and the "soul," and his emphasis on the "soul" became greater, the older he got. But by far his best poetry was that of the "body" and of the "earth"—that is, of "worm dirt.")

* That "NATIVE AMERICAN" Angle . . .

[This is from an email of mine (August 2001) to the director of my Ph.D. committee, a light respite from slaving over my dissertation. (Written before I came across Alexie's poem "From the Unauthorized Biography of Me" [2000], which has a section similar in content and tone.)]


1) Most of the cities of publication in your bibliography are Tucson, Lincoln [NE], and other God-forsaken places "out West."

2) Most of the book titles in your bibliography have either "Sky," or "Earth," or both; or "Turtle," or "Bear"—or both. . . . But thank God that 99% of the editors' names are Anglo, so you can spell 'em. (But "Rothenberg, ed." and "Lowenfels, ed." still cause problems—and intermittent bemusement & laughter).

3) Most of these same books also have a "watermark" graphic of an eagle silhouette or an eagle feather. (But you kinda like it 'cuz your book's about "Birds & Ind'uns," anyway. . . .)

4) You had to reject half your potential sources because they were written for New Age bookstores by a white person with an adopted Indian name (usually with "Sky," "Earth," "Turtle," "Bear," or "Eagle [Feather]" in it somewhere). This person is also into astrology and crystals.

5) You can't find one good thing written about Native Americans before 1970—and not one bad thing since. (Who said A.I.M. was a failure?!)

6) You email Dennis Banks & Russell Means for interviews, but they're both busy doing voice-overs for Disney movies.

7) You take your daughter "home" to the Badlands & the Black Hills [in western South Dakota, home of the Lakota], and end up spendin' $500 on tourist traps & trinkets. The trinkets at Wall Drug all say "Made by Real Indians"; and all fall apart as soon as you get 'em to the car. ("Oh, I see, Emma, honey: the small print says, 'Made by Real Indians in Cherokee, North Carolina[!?].'")

8) Your dissertation's completion date is now sometime ten years hence since you've once again come to appreciate the notion of "Indian Time."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

* Turkey Vultures (cartoon)

My [much reduced in size] photo of Turkey Vultures at Canyon Lake, Rapid City, SD. (Cartoon "balloon" added w/ Comic Life 1.3.) . . .

My wife keeps telling me what ugly birds Turkey Vultures are. "The eye of the beholder," etc., and an anthropocentric projection of human valuations regarding baldness, and wrinkles, et al. Having watched this species all my life—in flight, and yes, even scavenging on the ground—I find these birds to be one of the most "beautiful" in the world. (The birds in the photo are performing the morning ritual of drying their wings out, under a sun that will also create the thermals upon which they will eventually take flight.)

Oh, of course the cartoon blurbs per se involve a satire on that warped ideal of female beauty perpetrated by the pop media. ("Don't hate me because I'm beautiful" is the fairly famous line uttered by a brunette "vixen" in a long-running shampoo commercial [late 1980's?].)

* RADIO RANT: Symptoms of Society

There is an unconscious Zeitgeist working among the young, a general intuition that not only is Western Civilization no longer "quite right," but the planet itself is in dire straits.Last night [4/23/07] Michael Savage brought up a news story about a fellow who lopped off his own penis in a London public venue—which Savage perceived as a literal manifestation of a larger "truth," that is, support for his own frequent harangue against contemporary Britain as emasculated, as a pathetic after-lingering of a once great (because macho-aggressive) Empire. Well, from a postcolonial point of view, I'd consider this a good thing!? But I have to admit that Savage does perform, at times, some intriguing figurative thinking of this sort.

But what does he see, then, in Columbine and VA Tech? What do these events "say" about us Americans? Cho's ethnicity aside (though Savage can never let that be), Savage's answer has been predictable: these slaughters are symptomatic, of course, of an over-liberal/indulgent society going to hell in a handcart, bereft of any solid religious and moral grounding. (But again, I even consider this current relativistic "plight" to be a good thing, by and large, at least in contrast to a monocultural theocracy.) And yet I'd still read the school-shootings phenomenon only slightly differently, in a more "ecological" fashion, if you will. (Think lemmings.) I believe that there is an unconscious Zeitgeist working among the young, a general intuition that not only is Western Civilization no longer "quite right," but the planet itself is in dire straits. What future, then? Ergo a pandemic turn to depressant drugs, suicide, school shootings—violence directed both inward and outward, towards a "thinning out" of a "botched" species? This despair may even be exemplified in our retreatist last-gasp immersion in the virtual realities of the web and video games. . . . Hmmm: at last, my reading may be even more pessimistic than Savage's.

The very thought of pessimism, by the way, always makes me think of Schopenhauer—who would put all this yap about British & American "character" in its proper perspective (Quot. of the Day):

National character is only another name for the particular form which the littleness, perversity and baseness of mankind take in every country.

Monday, April 23, 2007

* The Buck Stops . . . Uh, the Bush Balks Here

. . . in forgetting that he is a politician himself. George Bush this morning: "I believe strongly that politicians in Washington shouldn't be telling generals how to do their job." Geez, I hope someone is tellin' 'em; that is why they call you "Commander-in-Chief," isn't it? And if it weren't for certain "politicians in Washington," MacArthur would have invaded China; and more recently, the military bureaucracy would have been much more successful in throwing a blanket over such "pecadillos" as Abu Ghraib. . . .

Friday, April 20, 2007

* Nietzsche Be Damned

Quots. of the Day:

What does not destroy me makes me stronger.

What does not destroy me leaves me incredibly weak, hurt, bitter, and debilitated.

* A Cynic's Significant Other

Quot. of the Day:

A spouse is someone you are really nasty to so that you can be halfway nice to the rest of the world. . . .
       --TCG [from a November 1996 journal entry]
Maybe I'm a social eunuch, but I do love my significant bother—er, other!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

* "I Can't Imagine--"

This is a bête noire that has bugged me for years: the statement, "I can't imagine [blah-blah-blah]."{1} Huh? You just did—that is, IMAGINE it—didn't yu'?! (Go ahead and try this at home.)

{1} Example: "I can't IMAGINE the Minnesota Twins winning the World Series." (I had more graphic/creative examples, but given the current discursive climate .  . . .)

* Of Birthdays & House Cleaning

I didn't even remember that it was my birthday until I got an e-card from daughter Emma in Colorado. Before that, by "chance," I'd been performing the bi-annual chore of cleaning this filthy apartment (I omit the grisly details)—and I'm still cleaning. (There are two main downsides to a long-distance marriage: having to scrub a whole life-space by yourself is one of them.) But then I thought, how à propos, how almost cliché in the analogy—this supposed renouveau of my birth-year, and this cleansing "rebirth" of my wretched abode. (Well, it'll be "reborn" for a week or two, anyway.)

* RADIO RANT: Crazy English Majors

A new generation of students afraid to write anything but . . . haikus about trees?!Given that the VA Tech murderer was an English major who had previously "distinguished" himself with some highly suspect creative writing, I can imagine—indeed fear—a paranoid "tightening" of policies and procedures in higher education, particular in English/creative writing venues—and a new generation of students afraid to write anything but . . . haikus about trees?! I have read many student writings that walked a border between "sanity" (a problematic term itself) and sociopathy; for some, I recommended counseling (and fancied that, as someone with a background in psychology, too, I talked more than one out of suicide); with others, I trusted my gut instinct that a certain healthy ego strength still ruled the day, and I was generally reassured by these students' subsequent successes. But my main point here is that there is a fine line between the William Blakes and (young) Allen Ginsbergs of the world and the Unabomber. Indeed, I would suspect that these two classes of—uh—eccentrics are practically indistinguishable to the lay public (damned near all of us) until the inevitably retrospective "I told you he'd go off some day." And my concern here, again, is only that positive creative "eccentricity" doesn't become an object of censorship and self-censorship.

Michael Savage was little help in this regard last night [4/18/07], tossing out words like "insane" and "psycho" as if they were current scientific/psychiatric terms. "Mentally ill," the cable-news talking-shrinks' term, I can better stomach, but that catch-all phrase encompasses everything from minor neurotic obsessions to psychoses such as paranoid schizophrenia. In no way does "mental illness" necessarily = "psycho" or "insane." (I'm reminded of a student response from an old Intro to Lit class: "Coleridge must of [sic] been psychotic when he wrote 'Kubla Khan'"!)

However, and characteristically, Savage immediately contradicts his original diagnosis in leaping at one caller's speculations that the killer seemed actually quite "focused" and SANE, and indeed, behaved like a terrorist operative. . . . AH, Savage leads the caller on: Al Qaeda terrorism! YES! Savage then grasps at Cho's use of the name "Ishmael" as some "iconic" reference to Islam. I would more humbly (and more obviously) offer the hypothesis that he was an English major, after all, and was more likely to have learned the mythos of this wanderer/outcast from Herman Melville and other references to the Biblical name in Western literature than from the Koran and/or "Islamo-fascist" propaganda. Once again: every theory is "a species of involuntary and unconscious autobiography" (Nietzsche). And Michael Savage seems less able to get beyond that human-all-too-human limitation than most.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

* RADIO RANT: VA Tech/Savaged Again

Last night [4/17/07], Michael Savage—or, as I think I'll start calling him, Sergeant Slaughter—was excoriating the memorial convocation at Virginia Tech, especially the performance of a certain Nikki Giovanni. It turns out that Dr. Savage, self-proclaimed man of letters, didn't even know who Giovanni was, until one of his callers told him. (Indeed, this male college student helpfully informed him that "we had to read her" in one of those "feminist/womanist" courses!) Now aware that she might be a writer of some reputation, Savage still went on to call her a "clownish creature," an "idiot so-called poet," and "an intellectual dwarf." But Savage never did understand that her "speech," as he called it, was actually a poem. And what most dismayed him (and his ditto-head callers) was Giovanni's audacity to apparently speak of the plight of elephants as somehow on par with human life. (This in spite of the fact that Savage, in other moods, calls himself an "animal lover.")

As for "intellectual dwarfs," it seems that Savage, like some of the commentators on cable news, hasn't been on a university campus since his own salad days, when the campus was apparently the size of a bullhorn-manageable youth camp or a one-building high school with an intercom system. Thus our good Doctor also calls the President of Virginia Tech a "felonious moron" who should be behind bars for not alerting the entire student body sooner. How? Via "loudspeakers," or the like, Savage smugly assures his listeners.

Several of Savage's diatribes regarding the VA Tech massacre last night revealed a similar ignorance of facts that had been circulating on the news all day—facts that his callers often better knew than he (e.g., Savage's assumption that Cho would have had to drive to the post office). But the facts were hardly the point here: at bottom, the incident provided him fodder for yet another knee-jerk attack on a woman of color, and against the "liberal" academia that so deeply wronged him years ago (as he ceaselessly reminds his listeners) for being the superior white male that he is.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

* "I'm Not There Yet, Billy!"

Quots. of the Day:

If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
       --William Blake
I guess I've only reached the serfs' quarters that lie just this side of the castle. . . . [based on a September 1987 journal entry]

Sunday, April 15, 2007

* "Bumper" Tune

My wife has been nagging me for several years to try my hand at podcasting my own "radio show"—but I have neither the time or inclination. But I did find the time to create a "bumper" tune for any such eventuality, in GarageBand: it's the mp3 file in the right-hand column, just below my profile. (Yeh, I experimented w/ "auto-starting" the song, upon page loading, but I know from my own experience with others' pages that such a procedure can be irritating as hell to the web surfer.)

* White Shamans and Plastic Medicine Men

A Native American colleague of mine asked me to check into the bona fides of a certain Don Miguel Ruiz. . . . I began my email to her by saying that the fellow seemed harmless enough—very much in the vein of Castaneda's "Don Juan"—although Ruiz's apparently semi-famous "Four Agreements" didn't strike me as particularly Native, or original, or illuminating. (Well, at least there are four of them!) But other tenets of Ruiz set off alarms in my head, such as his (Native?!) belief in Atlantis and his (no doubt lucrative) classes in "Angel Teaching." Thus I wasn't too surprised to see him on a web-page list of "Books to Avoid about Native Spirituality"—in sum, he's a faker, a member of what Vine Deloria called the "New-Age/medicine man circuit."

Quot. of the Day:

"One who knows [the way] does not speak; one who speaks does not know [the way]."
    --Tao Te Ching

But all of the above means nothing to mainstream culture, apparently, a spiritually bankrupt society always more than ready to grasp in desperation at any new "way" to "salvation," "self-growth," and all that rot. Of course, any book that Oprah Winfrey mentions becomes solid gold: "This book by don Miguel Ruiz, simple yet so powerful, has made a tremendous difference in how I think and act in every encounter." For shame, Oprah (or, as some of my African-American colleagues have called yu'—"Okra"): maybe you know who's "real" on the African-American circuit, but don't let your New Age inclinations completely "color" your notion of who is really "red."

Finally, I'm reminded of a joke that pokes fun, good-naturedly, at Native "spirituality":
Three Indian women go down to Mexico one night to celebrate college graduation. They get drunk and wake up in jail, only to discover that they are to be executed in the morning, though none of them can remember what they did the night before.

The first one, a Lakota woman, is strapped into the electric chair and is asked if she has any last words. She says, "I just graduated from Oglala Lakota College and believe in the almighty power of Wakan Tanka to intervene on behalf of the innocent." They throw the switch and nothing happens. They all immediately fall to the floor on their knees, beg for forgiveness, and release her.

The second one, a Cherokee woman, is strapped in and utters her last words: "I just graduated from the Haskell Indian Nations University, and I believe that the spirits of my ancestors who died along the Trail of Tears will intervene on the part of the innocent." They throw the switch and again, nothing happens. Once more they all fall to their knees, beg for forgiveness, and release her.

The last woman, a Navajo, is strapped in and says, "Well, I'm from Diné College and just graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering, and I'll tell you right now—you ain't gonna electrocute nobody if you don't plug this thing in."  [anonymous email post; slightly revised by TCG, 2/07]

Saturday, April 14, 2007

* Iraqi Ditty

[Revised from a February 1991 journal entry; for the first Gulf War, but still applicable today (please sing it to your favorite show-tune melody):]

We've got a death wish for eternal night—
So let's go start a war to set things right—
    Let's do to the Iraqi
    What we did to Nagasaki—
George Bush don't wanna talk, he wanna fight—

[Added 4/27/07:] Suggested chords (for a schmaltz-country version):
    I    I    I    I
    I    I    V7    V7
    I    I7    IV    iv
    I    V7    I    I

* Stories from Strangers

[Based on a February 1991 journal entry:]

You're leaving a room or a store or a restaurant where some stranger is engaged in telling a lengthy humorous story to some other strangers, and you give the teller a look that says, "Yes, I wish I knew you better; I'd stay and hear the rest of such a charming tale"; and the stranger reciprocates—or so you imagine—with a knowing glance of total, however tacit, appreciation.

* "Objectivity" = Projection/Subjectivism

[Quot. of the Day:] I love Nietzsche's dictum that "every great philosophy up till now [is] . . . a species of involuntary and unconscious autobiography"—because, at last, it applies to all ideology and to all of us, really, not just to the grand metaphysicians. For instance, in my own field of literary criticism, it's amazing how inevitably Protestants have claimed Shakespeare as Protestant, and Catholics claimed him as a (closet) Catholic (and even 20th-century existentialists claimed him as, really, one of their own dark spawn!). Ditto the cooptive claims by heteros vs. gays, etc., etc.: in sum, "Shakespeare championed everything that I so dearly cherish!" [Shakespeare example culled from a July 1991 journal entry.]

Friday, April 13, 2007

* RADIO RANT—Literary Quibbles

Last night [7/12/07], Michael Savage attributed one of his self-serving, moralistic quotations to "John Dryden, English essayist." Sure, the greatest British playwright (& poet) of his day wrote essays, too, but this is like saying "James Joyce, English poet" or "John Milton, Puritan pamphleteer." Obviously, Savage isn't familiar with Dryden and got the attribution from a quotation dictionary or somewhere equally shallow. I only bring this quibble up because Savage also frequently brags about his literary knowledge, his former acquaintance with the Beat poets (whom he despises now, of course), and his polymathic erudition.

This reminds me of Rush Limbaugh's unfortunate foray into literary criticism, after Maya Angelou's reading at Bill Clinton's first inaugural: "You call that poetry?! It doesn't even rhyme!" Of course, this response had much more to do with his knee-jerk antagonism towards a Democratic president and a woman writer of color than it did with professing an obsolete (or 8th-grade) criterion for good poetry.

* RADIO RANT: Ward Churchill Redux

[Since the discourse of race and racism has come to the fore now with the Imus controversy—but as exclusively a black-vs.-white photograph of society, as it were—we Indians/mixed-bloods feel rather left out! So I offer here a revision of a few paragraphs from a 2005 panel talk on the Ward Churchill controversy:]

[. . .] I want to begin by putting Ward Churchill and his specific utterances in brackets, and consider ["Ward Churchill"] as an empty signifier, a mere placeholder in what has come to be called the Culture Wars. What I am interested in is the mainstream reaction to [Mr. Bracket], on the airwaves and Internet, for again, he has but served as an incidental spark, or even a Rorshach Test, if you will, through which some long-held misconceptions—even prejudices—still alive in American culture have been allowed to surface: attitudes, by the way, that are inimical to the values spelled out in most university mission statements on cultural diversity and inimical to the very raison d'être of Ethnic Studies.

Indeed, in the words of Emma Pérez, the attacks on Ward Churchill "are essentially targeting the scholarly legitimacy of the entire field" of Ethnic Studies. How can this be?—one might ask in all good sense. Well, in the immediate wake of the [bracketed!] controversy this February, I listened to popular talking heads like Bill O'Reilly and Michael Savage. The personal attacks weren't surprising, of course: [Mr. Bracket] was a "rat communist" who should be tried for "treason and sedition" for "aiding and abetting the enemy." Business as usual on the polemical talk show circuit, I thought, but then I was surprised to learn from Mr. Savage that I was a card-carrying fellow-traveller in this cabal, as an Ethnic Studies person myself. Savage wasn't alone in calling for—what?—the abolishment of Ethnic Studies programs throughout the country, as "fraudulent" enterprises that are mere outlets for "leftist propaganda." Worse yet, Ethnic Studies professors are mere "unqualified" lackeys of color, benefiting from a liberal academia that would turn "janitors into professors." (Where's my broom? . . .) In sum, the controversy has rekindled old (and obviously welcome) stereotypes. And the irony is this: if Ethnic Studies as an academic unit was established in good part to foster the tolerance of difference, then, in the light of such recent expressions of intolerance—er, misunderstanding—the importance of Ethnic Studies has never been so clear. [. . .]

Thursday, April 12, 2007

* Starlings and Shiny Things

Like many of us, this European Starling likes shiny things. (Or—he's thinking, "Dang, the USA Today costs three quarters now!")

[*--the full photo-story of starlings "stealing" from a car-wash coin machine--*]

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

* RADIO RANT: Imus/"Sports Talk Studs" II

I have nothing original to add regarding the whole Imus/"nappy headed ho's" controversy—except by noting how frequently Imus was actually defended, in backdoor fashion, on the call-in talk shows, by white callers who inevitably began, "What Imus said is reprehensible, BUT . . . ." (e.g., hey, it's a 1st-Amendment free speech issue; hey, black rappers use this language, too; etc.). It's just scary how it immediately became a black-and-white blame-game issue; furthermore, it's hard to imagine, in this context, that the timing of the announcement of the Duke soccer players' innocence was coincidental.

Predictably, the initial outrage against Imus was also widely sounded on national sports talk radio, including in the guise of none other than Jim Rome. But Rome should recall his own 1994 ESPN-talk-show escapade, in which he continually questioned NFL quarterback Jim Everett's bravery in the pocket by insisting on calling him "Chris" (as in Chris Evert, the female tennis player) to his face. (A physical melee ensued.) This is a much more subtle example of misogyny than Imus's, no doubt, but isn't teasing a fellow by calling him a woman's name an implicit demeaning of women, too, and homophobic besides? "Translation: "You're a woman! Effeminate! Weak! Cowardly! Not a real ['manly'] man!" Is it any wonder that Everett jumped him immediately? (Not to reinforce some macho attitude, but heck, I'm pretty sure Chrissy Evert coulda takin' Romie out, too.)

* RADIO RANT: Sports-Media Gripes

1) The slo-mo replay in football of a passing play, over which the play-by-play analyst is screaming, "Look, the quarterback's got all day to pass! All day!" (Uh, of course he does. It's slow motion, fellah.)

2) The inevitable tone of surprise and reverential awe in the baseball announcer's voice when he relates how much higher a certain player's batting average is with runners in scoring position. Uh—don't you think there's a reason there are base runners? Yes: the pitcher's already in trouble, doesn't have his best stuff; no wonder, then, that our mighty batter takes him to the wall for a stand-up double. . . .

3) How did, say, a count of two balls and two strikes ever become an "even count"? I know it's sportscasting tradition and all, but the hitter actually has only ONE more strike and he's out, but TWO more balls for the walk. Advantage to the pitcher. (This is really quibbling, I know, but it's bugged me all my obsessive-compulsive life.)

4) Finally, the diction errors (although these have become less common among local-yokel sportscasters with ESPN's "standardization of usage," as it were): a) pronouncing "asterisk" as "asterik," without the second s; 2) saying/writing "sure up"{1} (as in—"The Yankees need to sure up their bullpen pitching"); it's "shore up," as in a brace, buttress, or bulwark. [Added 4/30/07:] (I just did a Google search for "sure up" and "infield," and the # of results was staggering.)

{1} Believe it or not, I have (or had) an old baseball-yearly magazine that used "sure up" exclusively and throughout—indeed, dozens of embarrassing times, if I recall. And then there were all the comma splices and dangling modifiers; I swear, this hack writer must have been the editor's brother-in-law or somethin'.

* Scatological Humor

Quots. of the Day:

Diarrhea is just your unconscious telling you that you're full of shit.
    --TCG [from a July 1988 journal entry]

[Or:] Irritable Bowel Syndrome: your intestines sayin' (exasperated by the disease of consciousness), "I can't handle this shit anymore!"
    --TCG [from a July 1993 journal entry]

Monday, April 9, 2007

* Whence the Anger, Tom?

I have been asked in a comment (and asked for much of my adult life) where all this anger against organized religion comes from. I ask these people, in response, to attend a Catholic Indian boarding school and to suffer the mental and physical cruelty that I did, and then ask, where did this anger come from? I ask these same folks to read the century-old biographies of Natives like Luther Standing Bear and Zitkala-S[h]a, and to witness the Euro-American-Christian conscious erasure of other cultures and languages and worldviews that occurs there—and then ask, where did this anger come from? (In passing, I might ask these folks to read some of the more brilliant thinkers of their own Western Civilization—e.g., Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Derrida—and then ask, where did this anger come from?) I finally ask these people to examine our U.S. foreign policy (itself largely determined by an implicit Christian theocracy), with its assumption that it's "our way or the highway," and then ask, where did this anger come from? In conclusion, I'd LIKE to quote John Astin's nutsy old character on Night Court and say that "I'm feeling MUCH better now": but I can't; I'm not.

* Monotheism as Madness

The Judeo-Christian-Islamic complex has been the bane of the planet for an eon.In the ceaseless dialogue regarding diversity in higher education—and mainstream culture, for that matter—one issue is inevitably ignored: the fact that our mainstream intellectual discourse is still unconsciously directed by monotheism, or monism, or whatever monolithic -ism that best fits the context. For instance, monocultural intolerance might be seen as issuing primarily from monotheism—as a "one true god" serves as jealous centrism for an array of intolerances. And this is not just another Christianity-bashing escapade on my part: all this applies equally to Islamic fundamentalism; indeed, it is the Judeo-Christian-Islamic complex in toto that has been the bane of the planet for an eon.

Here I am reminded of the opposite ideal, of Native American cultures' (more usual) religious pluralism/acceptance: to be able to place that statuette of the Virgin Mary right next to the Corn Goddess kachina on one's shelf of household gods—without any cognitive dissonance; and to be unable to conceive that one's own culture-based & placed-based "religion" is also therefore the best one for that other culture/tribe on the other side of the mountain. . . . It is this truly "diverse"/multicultural attitude that I try to foster in my students.

Quots. of the Day:

"God is a thought that makes crooked all that is straight . . . ."
    --Friedrich Nietzsche

"Children of God feed upon children of earth."
    --John Trudell

"There is not enough religion in the world to destroy the world's religions."
    --Friedrich Nietzsche

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

* RADIO RANT: Francophobia

As an Irish-French-Indian, it pains me deeply every time some talking head on TV or radio plays the "French card," issuing some knee-jerk-thoughtless & stereotypical comment about the French—with the blithe self-assurance, obviously, that a vast majority of "Americans"{1} will laugh & scorn the "Frogs" (in just as knee-jerk & thoughtless sort of way). The immediate occasion for this blog entry is Glenn Beck's poo-poohing condescension of the French on his television show last night (4/3/07). The details of Beck's "satire" aren't worth rehearsing; but his smug tone?!—[bad pun alert:] oh, the "Gaul"! And again, it's the height of ethnocentrism that such commentators can assume a generally overwhelming positive regard from the masses for such inanity.

But the frequent francophobic utterances on ostensibly apolitical sports talk radio tells me that this is just not some specifically conservative attitude and audience at work. I'm sure that more people than Rush Limbaugh's ditto-heads laughed at the following joke that circulated a few years back: "Why don't they have fireworks at Disneyland Paris anymore? Because every time they shot them off, the French tried to surrender." In sum, besides women with hairy armpits, an untoward fascination with Jerry Lewis, and linguistic snobbery, the main francophobic stereotype is that the French are cowards. The valor of Napoleon's armies aside (and heck, the intellectual bravery of a Derrida or Foucault), I can't help but think that this is some projective/compensatory gesture on our part. We're macho, "land-of-the-brave" Americans, ready for any "righteous" fight. (And so we've become the world's "police" force, against some of our own better inclinations.) But all of "us" aren't just that, really; and so to reinforce our own militant identity, we may well have need of a shadow/scapegoat upon which we can project our more "pacifist" side. (And it's important in this geopolitical psychomachia that they be otherwise closely related to us, culturally and racially.) . . . On the most general geopolitical level, then, Western Civ. is "God's chosen," versus the "Satan" of Islamic fundamentalism. But it's interesting, too, that within "God's chosen," there is a subsidiary "us-versus-them" demonization going on.

{1} I'll try to refrain, henceforth and usually, from putting "Americans" (i.e., citizens of the U.S.) in quotation marks, however much I resent the ethnocentric/colonialist assumption implicit therein that the people of Central and South American countries are thus illogically but symptomatically excluded from the term.

Monday, April 2, 2007

* "Cowboy Song" (Meets BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN)

If you let your mind roam free—like the "buffalo"—you can hear Thin Lizzy's old 1976 tune "Cowboy Song" as a precursor to the movie Brokeback Mountain. Yes, it's ostensibly about yearning for a "certain female," but most of the lyrics have homoeroticism written all over them.

The "frisky" first chorus is as follows:

Roll me over and turn me around—
Let me keep spinnin' 'til I hit the ground—
Roll me over and let me go,
Running free with the buffalo—

The second verse begins—
I was took in Texas—I did not know her name—
Lord, all these southern girls seem the same—

Hmmm. "Pretty cold"?! Most telling are the closing stanzas (symptomatically[?] omitted on most of the web versions of the lyrics!):
[spoken:] Roll me over—
And I'll turn around—
And I'll move my fingers
Up and down—up and down—

It's okay, amigo—
Just let me go—
Ridin' in the rodeo.

[sung:] Roll me over and turn me around—
Let me keep spinnin' till I hit the ground—
Roll me over and let me go—
Ride me in the rodeo—

Roll me over and set me free—
The cowboy's life is the life for me.

A Word from One of My Sponsors (not "AdSense"; rather "MadSense" or "RadSense"):