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Go Ask Alice!
A Voracious Vocabulary
gainsay (verb) to declare false.
Fancy fair isle sweater for myself.
Tuesday, May. 16, 2006 - 10:29 p.m.
Mom, guess what! I'm pre-pregnant!
Friday, May. 12, 2006 - 2:03 p.m.
My first year in graduate school is finally over. I don't feel gratified or excited or even relief. All I feel is a huge exhaustion that seems out of proportion to the work I have been doing. Of course, this year has taken an emotional toll that up till now I have been in denial about. Now that it is finally over I can begin to recover, to regroup and get my legs back under me. I cannot say I am completely happy with my experiences here, in school at least, thus far. If anything, I am confused and not sure whether MFA creative writing programs are worth it. But, I guess that is good. Right? The whole idea is to continuously question and tear down and build back up again. Right? Right. Okay.
Three movies I've seen and now want to comment on:
The Family Stone: Some odd dialogue, not all the interactions make sense, but oddly enjoyable nonetheless.
The Weatherman: Most people pan this movie, but my sense of humor is just dry enough to have enjoyed it. That it is one large metaphor helps it be okay in my book. Plus, I like Michael Caine.
The Squid and the Whale: Everyone's favorite indie underdog that didn't get enough attention. Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney play a couple who is in the throws of divorce, and they are both writers. This hit a little too close to home for me, my being a writer and all. Plus, for all the applause the screenplay recieved, I found the dialogue strange. Jeff Daniel's character is terribly shallow and shows no complications. He's an archetype of the worst kind. I feel bad trashing this movie, because it is an indie flick, it stars great actors, and I can't really speak about the realities of divorce or being a child whose parents are divorced. I wonder if I lack an understanding of the whole situation and maybe that is why I don't find the whole thing believable.
Regardless, I found the movie to be, for the most part, more drama than comedy. At the points of humor I was too disgusted with the characters to find much humor with them. This movie has a larger metaphor too, but by the end I was too bored and sick to care.
Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney, though, still rock.
Monday, May. 01, 2006 - 9:57 p.m.
Random Piece of Advice that I have Found to be True:
Never trust a Geoffrey who spells his name with a g.
I have known several Jeffrey's, with a j, all good guys as far as I can tell. One Jeffrey told me to never trust the g Geoffrey's. Trust me; it's true.
The end of the semester struggle continues. I have dealt with my first student to blame me for not being a good teacher. Said student does not have a case and actually implied I was a poor teacher only very vaguely. He was embarrassed, I believe, about his own performance. I am disappointed because he is a good writer.
But, triumph of triumphs! Today a student told me she is considering going into English! I was so proud. I had been planning on talking to her about becoming an English major, so hearing her talk about it was completely thrilling! I hope she will keep in touch. I have a couple students of whom I am very proud. They have made every hard day this year worth it.
Saturday, Apr. 22, 2006 - 12:46 p.m.
I am in what is known as an unmitigated state of panic. What I have to do in the following couple of weeks:
1)Grade 24 seven to ten page research papers, then grade the revisions of said papers, then grade 24 autobiographical narratives
2)Teach how to write an autobiographical narrative
3)finish reading for my nonfiction workshop
4)write one more poem, read Gilbert's The Great Fires, and revise two of my poems so I don't feel like a complete idiot when I stand up to read them in front of my MFA program, all so the director of said program doesn't suggest I am a primadonna, again
5)write fifteen to twenty pages defending a syllabus of my own making for my pedagogy class
6)find a job
7)do all those little things people tell me help keep me alive, also known as eating, sleeping, and keeping a roof over my head
The liddle bruder has recently posted on his blog, and he makes me laugh, so things are looking up. Last time I saw him he commented on this article which is in direct reaction to the Duke lacrosse team scandal. I am going to add to what my brother is arguing.
First, that Mr. Jamieson takes serious issues, such as race and gender conditioning in our culture and their tragic results, and boils them down to a sport is shallow and, well, odd. What was Slate thinking? Really, I expect to read this kind of thing as a joke, as sarcasm, but Mr. Jamieson seems fairly, if not completely, sincere in his accusations. If he was going for some sort of tongue-in-cheek commentary, he failed. And I am giving him the benefit of a reading as a current MFA student, and that is worth a lot I tell you.
For the most part, I agree with what the liddle bruder says. I also suspect that lacrosse holds a different place in the western United States, where all boys private high schools are not part of the culture, at least not to the same extent as in the eastern US. I too know a lacrosse player from the east, and he sounds much like what is described in the article, with a few differences. I don't like him much. The lacrosse players I have known from my alma mater and elsewhere in the area, though, could not be further from Mr. Jamieson's description.
In the end, Mr. Jamieson has taken column inches and written about how to avoid talking about racism and sexism. All in a hard day's work for the patriarchy.
Thursday, Apr. 13, 2006 - 1:19 p.m.
Okay all, let's talk about this great little news story (By the way, the New York Times remodel of its site makes it so that if you use Mozilla internet browser, everything looks fucked up. Internet Explorer is the best option.) First off, I studied in depth The Hypostasis of the Archons, a gnostic creation text that appears in the Nag Hammadi, a collection of texts which all suffered a fate similar to that of the "newly" discovered Gospel of Judas. This is to say, I have some insight into the situation (and no problems admitting to my enlightened state, appearantly; grad school is making me elitist).
With that in mind, I am surprised that at this time, that Judas is causing such a stir about antiques and rare manuscript dealers. Much of the Nag Hammadi was bought and sold and changed hands at a constant rate. The manuscripts were separated, some poorly kept, some better cared for. This is not an unusual state of things. Egyptian farmers would find these pieces of writing and sell them for their own benefit, which makes me smile because, knowing Jesus' subversive teachings, I think he would be delighted that writings about his life would benefit those who need help. Of course, that the knowledge of those texts would be in the hands of the rich and powerful probably wouldn't thrill him too much.
Regardless, the questions the spotlight on these practices is illuminating have everything with to with who owns a god, a religion. Who has the power to shape our vision? This is especially important at a time when the likes of Dan Brown (in my opinion, probably not the most sincere man of religious mystery, especially when he makes millions upon millions off of it) and his The Da Vinci Code are drawing public attention to the complexities of religion and faith. This, I doubt not, is largely influenced by our access to lighting speed media updates. We're the information age, and that we hear about Judas or The Gospel of Thomas is new and unique. It makes our religious traditions a wrinkle more complex.
I don't have any answers to my "Who owns or creates our vision of god" question. After all, the ideas presented in Judas (as far as I have read about it) are nothing new. Any one who has seen The Last Temptation of Christ has heard the idea that Judas Iscariot was asked to hand over Jesus, and those, like me, who have also studied the scholarhsip of scripture, know that those kinds of possibilities that run against the prevailing beliefs run everywhere in the bible.
So, the real question uncovered by this discovery does not involve the ideas presented within Judas, but rather how to begin to understand the real worth of these texts and stories, how our reverence for them might be misplaced or, perhaps, in our world's consumer driven societies, how we have no real reverence for them at all.
Wednesday, Apr. 05, 2006 - 12:27 p.m.
Learning: to be patient, in all things, as usual.
Reading: about feminist composition pedagogy. Fun, yes?
Writing: nothing. My most current essay is being workshopped (torn to bits) tomorrow. Fun, yes?
Feeling: the need for sunshine. Weather is rainy and foggy.
Thinking: depression sucks and naps are devils disguised as angels.
Sunday, Apr. 02, 2006 - 12:09 a.m.
I hate to think what you all who visit here regularly think about my displine at atcually adding post here on my blog. Really, how many times can I say that I am busy? Enough with the excuses.
Coming soon...when I further gather my thoughts: resurrecting my at random movie reviews. The movie I will be review: Capote.
In short, I didn't like it, but for good reason. Okay, I might as well review it now. First, I adore Catherine Keener and Chris Cooper. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is without a question an excellent actor, though his real life quirkiness makes the fact that he play Truman Capote, a man supremely quirky, makes me uneasy. Regardless, he's good. Then, the screenwriter, Dan Futterman seems to have done a decent enough job his first time as a screenwriter. (Of course, he will always be the younger brother of Amy in the CBS show that has finally met its demise, Judging Amy or the the son of Robin Williams and Nathan Lane in The Birdcage.) And, perhaps, Futterman was in fact perfectly aware of what he was doing in Capote in revealing Truman Capote as a writer so self-involved that he saw himself as removed from the moral judgments of his own actions.
Friends told me that the movie was explicity violent, dealing with Capote's writing In Cold Blood, a book he called a "non-fiction novel" (a genre he felt he was inventing) about the horrendous murder of a whole family in Kansas. First, the movie shows the murders and the execution of one of the criminals, the one with whom Capote conversed with the most. I closed my eyes for sections of these scenes but overall was surprised. I had seen movies plenty more violent than this movie (and it has been these other movies that prompt me now to avoid seeing as little violence as possible in movies). I also expected seeing the criminals who commited the murders as disturbing. I cannot stand psychological thrillers with psychotics and sociopaths. But, in this too, I was remiss.
It was Capote himself, in fact, who was most disturbing of all. His relentless pursuit of the story of what happened during the murders was frightening. He found (and I presume paid for)new lawyers for the appeals of the two murderers after they were sentenced to death. He nursed one who was on suidical watch back to health and visited him regularly. These, though, were no good deeds. Capote did this for the sake of knowing the story, so he could be the one through which this story would be known. It was for his own gratification. Capote, was the one who appeared to be the amoral agent in this movie. He had no regard for anyone when it came to his own career.
The more I think about it, the more I have to admit that Futterman had to have known what he was doing, that he revealed this disturbing part of Capote's character. I wonder, though, how much the audience catches on. Most of all, though, Capote is the antithesis of the kind of writer I want to be.
Writer Cynthia Ozick in her essay "Reconsidering Truman Capote" states that Capote left himself decidedly absent from his writing. He dedicated himself solely to the Art of writing, as something pure and separate from life. In this way, he was never accountable for what he wrote. The prose was excellent, and that was all that mattered. (I am severely simplifying Ozick here. I highly recommend her essay.) She argues this is what makes his books empty, no longer read in such numbers as they were before. In In Cold Blood he isn't present. He cannot be judged. Just the words are judged.
But is this fair? Is the writer so absent from his or her writing? I argue no. I believe words carry social meaning and accountability. To argue the beauty of a story exist unto itself, for itself, is suspect in my mind. This opens a political can of worms, but I return to Ozick, who says that that writing that does not live in life, in deed, but exists solely unto itself, cannot live beyond its own popularity. She says that Capote's work was always flat, lifeless, though the writing may have been amazing. Thus, it is not the political I am speaking of when I argue that as a writer my work canont exist outside of its social context, outside of the life I lead. What good is beautiful prose if it has no life imbued in it, if the writer who wrote it has chosen to separate the life from the words?
We may say that in the beginning there was the Word, but there Word is both singular and capitalized. It is a metaphor for something that cannot be named, and, in fact, that metaphor is Gnostic in origin, and Gnosticism believes the material world is a prison. Ozick makes this connection in her essay, the belief that beautiful prose for the sake of beautiful prose is a rejection of what life in the material gives us, that we ourselves as physical beings in some way taint prose. Capote, by writing beautiful prose for the sake of beautiful prose not only removed his writing from moral judgment, but himself as well, if only in his own mind.
In my nonfiction writing workshop (in which we haven't talked about Capote, thank god), my teacher has talked much of moral criticism. She wants us to think about how moral responsibility comes into our writing. She hasn't ever really expressed her own opinion. Is it okay for me as a reader to as the writer to be morally culpable? Yes. If a writer believes him or herself above this, they, at best, come off as naive. At worst, they are narcissist elitists.
Can a writer be separated from her or his work? This is not a question of self esteem, but a question of how the reader believes him or herself and his or her writing to exist in relation to his or her world and his or her society. I agree with Ozick. Writing with the writer absent (or art for the sake of art) may be beautiful, but it can't live because it's a voice that belongs somewhere else. And what good is a voice you cannot hear or understand?
* * *
That's it. See what happens when I try to write a good post? I write stuff that barely makes sense. See why you don't want me posting so much?
Saturday, Mar. 25, 2006 - 12:32 p.m.
Okay, I do NOT want to hear about how I rarely post anymore. Midterms have come and gone in the world of academia, but that only means life comes down to the wire. Papers need to be written, and now that I am a teacher, corrected. In the near future I have one more workshop to sit through, a presentation, and a rhetoric paper to write. I won't mention how much reading I will have to/should do in that time as well.
This essay was a little choppy to read at first, but it is interesting. If you had to eat any book, which would you eat? I think I would eat Wuthering Heights for no other reason than to ingest its mysticism and eeriness.
Monday, Mar. 06, 2006 - 7:59 p.m.
The next time someone rags on my home state of Montana, I am going to tell them they can their sorry asses to South Dakota where a woman is only worth anything if she's pregnant. FYI, the Dakota of the South has passed some law banning abortion with the only exception being if a woman's life is in danger. If her health is in danger, tough shit, she has no right to a happy life. Fuckin' morons.
Wednesday, Mar. 01, 2006 - 11:47 p.m.
In response to the liddle bruder's response:
You can't forget there is still a fight being fought, that women still get paid less than men, that women suffer the humiliation during rape trials, that the government is always trying to take away a woman's right to her own uterus. When there is a fight, a war even, you are going to have those who are radical. I think radical feminism is not a bad thing because radical feminism does not ask that men be eliminated or turned into sex slaves. It's still radical that women demand equality at all.
Perhaps, liddle bruder, you are forgetting that your own views are radical in a patriarchal society. You just don't realize they are radical because they are normal to you.
Also, you are addressing just one branch of feminism, one that doesn't neccessarily represent the whole but which speaks loudly usually just so they can be heard at all. I wouldn't waste my breath with them; they will mellow out.
But, dislike these extreme feminists all you want, just remember that feminazi is a word that is an extreme characterization of all feminists. It's demeaning and offensive and, I would argue, a rhetorical tool to further stigmatize women fighting for equality.
Wednesday, Mar. 01, 2006 - 9:47 p.m.
I am hoping for a bit of a redesign in the near future. Typically I change the colors and fonts of this blog every season or so. I need a new banner as well. Spring break is one week away, abouts. My students are excited, racing through this last paper before they can go sleep all day and drink all night. I don't blame them. I am going to see if I can't make it over to Helena for that first weekend of the break. I have promised M for too long that I would come see her abode, and it is time I finally acted like a decent friend and did so.
I still have a decent stack of papers to grade, but I warned my students it might not be until Monday that the papers were returned into their eager hands. I am also relieved that my students are on top of the most recent paper they are writing, on the classical argument. I do have some arguing about Reddick and Morrison as NCAA draft picks, which is about basketball and there is the extent of my knowledge on the topic. I plan to put these three guys together in a peer editing group and have them duke it out. That would be an entertaining Wednesday. Regardless, my students are sharp. Don't mess with 'em.
In other news, I have to give a presentation on rhetoric and feminism in a few weeks. I am very excited about this, more so than I thought I would be. It has been awhile since I really delved into aspects of feminism as a political issue. Now, my liddle bruder has his own ideas about feminism. I have warned him and pleaded with him not to use the term feminazi for the following reason: nazis systematically slaughtered millions of innocent people. Feminists have no intention of doing this, and comparing feminists to nazis is a kneejerk reaction that is unfair. Please do not be unfair, liddle bruder.
That said, I think the liddle bruder holds a point of view that many of my students do. They want equality but the zealous fight for women's rights frightens them, turns them off. This is understandable. So, I think I am going to use the liddle bruder's post in part of my presentation. It will be excellent.
Also, my partner in this presentation has a two year old daughter who is future female leader of the world in training. I think she would be ideal as an active member of our presentation, mostly because she speaks more coherently than most of the boys in our class. She's much cuter too.
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