Friday, March 30, 2007

Three x Three Beautiful Things 3/28,29,30/07: Ed, Driving Idaho, Vandaltown, Lecture, Textiles, All Night, Doma, Lula's House,Blogger Paparazzi

1. Ed's career as a log truck driver has possibly come to an end. His boss, Buff, decided to call her quits in the logging business and Ed started a new job near Kellogg on Thursday.

2. Driving from Kellogg to Moscow, in and out of fog, from being in a blanket to breaking out into morning light, softly illuminating the mixture of farmland and timber, making it seem I had never seen it before.

3. Arriving at the University of Idaho, where I was never a student, but where I competed in music festivals, played high school basketball, visited my Aunt May, attended Vandal football games, enjoyed the early days of the jazz festival, stayed with my mother while she completed her Bachelor's degree in the mid-sixties; I have many, many wonderful memories and loved seeing the campus' physical beauty and feeling the affection I have for it again.

4. Professor Kenton Bird and I have been friends for forty-eight years and I was deeply honored that he invited me to speak to his American Studies students about my sense of place in Kellogg and the Silver Valley. I enjoyed Kenton's students and could barely believe as I walked around campus and admired the Administration building and the music building and Memorial Gymnasium, et. al., that I was actually lecturing or teaching for one day at the University of Idaho. I never dreamed I'd ever have the chance to do this!

I also met Tara Roberts, editor of the Argonaut, the U of I newspaper. She emailed me about her work on the Gault Hall fire; we've corresponded. It was wonderful to meet her.

5. I loved Gerri Sayler's textile art pieces at the Ridenbaugh Gallery. Gerri is Kenton's wife. I saw her four pieces before Kenton told me they were Gerri's and was immediately entranced and enchanted by her work.

6. When was the last time I was awake until after three in the morning talking with InlandEmpireGirl? Sober, no less. I got back to Kellogg from Moscow and the Cd'A Casino about 2 a.m., InlandEmpireGirl was awake with Snug in Mom's basement and we talked for the next hour or more. . . and then we were up at 8:30 ready to start our day of laughter and driving around with Silver Valley Girl.

7. My first coffee at Cafe Doma in Coeur d'Alene, a comfortable, modest shop owned and operated by Terry Patano and his wife, Rebecca. Terry and I knew each other as kids in Kellogg. He graduated two years after I did. He comes from a great family of good businessmen.

8. It wasn't pretty, but somehow heartwarming to go up to East Bridgeport and see Grandma Woolum's house, where she lived for a little over forty years until she died in 1991. A Jeep Wagoneer was parked in the yard where we used to eat outside; a big boat was in back; a new fence made it impossible to see the back of the house from the alley; the porch was rotting. Nonetheless, I loved seeing Grandma's house.

9. I got hassled twice by a manager at Huckleberries Gourmet Grocery in Spokane for taking pictures in the store. I told her I was taking them for my blog. I told her I teach English at Lane Community College. I told her I spoke yesterday at the University of Idaho. She looked at me blankly. I was trying to explain that I wasn't a gourmet grocery competitor. She seemed assured.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: The Kitchen

InlandEmpireGirl called my and Silver Valley Girl's attention to a blog called Sunday Scribblings.

Each week, around Friday or Saturday, the CEO's at Sunday Scribblings give a prompt for people around the world to write about. The writer then lets the CEO's know s/he has written a piece and the Bosses publish a link to the writer's blog.

I'm on spring break this week, lounging around in the SilverValleyGirl's palatial estate, currently occupying the guest room with my pal, Snug. It's a leisurely day. I'll give the latest prompt a go. It's kitchen.

The first thing I thought of when I saw the prompt, "kitchen", was this:

Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah

Someone's in the kitchen I know oh oh oh
Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah
Strummin' on the old banjo

Is there more to this harmless lyric embedded in "I've Been Working on the Railroad" than met the eye when I was a youngster first learning this song? I'm not thinking this was one of those code songs like "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" was for the Underground Railroad. I don't think it's a code song for LSD like "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds".

But, I do wonder if it's a sexy interlude, a moment of reprieve from all that hard work on the railroad. What, after all, is suggested by the in the "oh oh oh" that extends "know"? Isn't that a lyrical wink, nod, and elbow in the ribs that, "Hey, guess what (wink)? Someone's (nod) in the kitchen (rib jab) with Dinah. . . . and, what's more, guess what he's doin' in the kitchen with Dinah? He's strummin' on the old banjo. . . .

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes a banjo is just a banjo. But in the kitchen? With Dinah? I think "someone's" making more than music in that kitchen.

Now, why is my mind on sex in the kitchen? Rachael Ray. Before she dove into cooking up a lucious looking pork loin and couscous meal on yesterday's show, she had a sex therapist, Dennie Hughes, on.

One couple was videotaped in their kitchen. They like to make pizza together. All the kneading and rolling and carressing and pinching the dough and the putting of pizza slices into each other's mouths and the musky smells of pepperoni and garlic and shredded cheese combine to serve as an aphrodisiac for this couple. They bake pizza and they want to start strummin' on the old banjo.

They wondered if this was normal. Well, I never found out what Dennie Hughes said because I had one of those I'm-not-comfortable-watching-this-on-TV-with-Mom-in-the-room moments, so I went to the kitchen for a cold Diet Coke with Lime.

I've got to believe that that Dennie said what any red-blooded sex therapist would say: if pizza is the erotic zephyr that flies your kite, kids, you enjoy yourselves.

But this got me to thinking about the kitchen and sex a little more.

I think my favorite seduction scene in the movies is when Bill Murray seduces Sean Young with the spatualas, garlic presses, ice cream scoopers and other kitchen implements he pulls out of a kitchen drawer and pokes and carresses and pats her with.

And in my own experience, I know that when I've been in the kitchen with someone special drinking some wine and turning up the stove and getting oil hot in a pan ready to sautee onions, well, I have experienced the sharing of affection.

But when I think about the kitchen in the house our family moved into in 1962, when I was eight years old, I don't think about sex anymore.

A lot happened in that kitchen: we ate our meals there, not five feet from the very stove and oven that Mom used to prepare those meals. Our kitchen was hot (oops). We played endless games of Canasta in that kitchen. And Yahtzee. And Jeopardy. And Family Feud. I did homework there. Mom did her schoolwork in the kitchen. My father and I played cribbage in the kitchen and when I was old enough, we'd drink brandy or whiskey on ice while we played. When Dad got despondent about his work life after I'd left home to go to college, we went out and got drunk together and at 1 a.m. when he wanted to spill his guts, he did so in the kitchen. Our telephone was in the kitchen. I used the waste bin in the kitchen as a basket to shoot table scraps into and I dirtied the kitchen wall with T-bone bank shots.

In other words, a majority of our family's life as a family happened in the cramped kitchen of our home. The kitchen was our source of vitality: we ate, argued, laughed, sang, prayed, welcomed girlfriends and boyfriends, discussed, played, deliberated, studied, did everything in our kitchen.

Well, almost everything. I do not remember anyone bein' in the kitchen with anyone's Dinah, strummin' on an old banjo in our kitchen in Kellogg.

But, that's not true for Bridget and Conrad, the pizza lovers, and if you'd like to view their story, as told on the Rachael Ray show, just click here.

The Reckless Abandon I Lack (Especially at Best Buy!)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 03/27/07: Time, Hash, Rachael Ray

1. Time. Time to take care of arrangements to present to Kenton's class at the U of I; time to get some things straightened out at LCC; time to write in my blog.

2. Home hash home! How long has it been since I've eaten Mom's roast beef hash. Well, right now it's only been about seven hours!

3. I saw Rachel Ray's television program for the first time. I liked her kitchen segment. Pork loins with couscous looked very good. Her lovely open smile and her unpretentious manner make Rachael Ray appealing to me. (I didn't really like the sex therapist for two "courageous" couples much, but I found something else to do until the real cooking started.)

Snug on the Road to Kellogg

One of the things that so deeply endears my dog, Snug, to me is that he loves to ride for long distances with me in the car. You can tell, I think, in this picture:

If you'd like to see more pictures of Snug, go to his picture blog, here.

Silver King School: Undefeated! Assignment #15

The next assignment for my sisters and me to work on is something we remember happening at Silver King Elementary School, where our mother taught for many years. InlandEmpireGirl's essay is here. Silver Valley Girl's is still to come. For once, I'm not the last one done!!
Silver King Elementary school epitomizes either the heartlessness, naivete, obliviousness, or ignorance of the Industrial Revolution. The school sat about a quarter of a mile below the Zinc Plant. The creek running along the east side of the school, right by the playground, carried sulphuric acid and other zinc smelting waste to the Coeur d'Alene River. The Bunker Hill Lead Smelter was just over a small hill from Silver King school. It was as if the founding fathers of the Industrial Age gave no thought at all to whether the emissions from these plants might be harmful to children or to the teachers who taught at this school.

It's funny, though. I went to Silver King for two years. Those two years were like my Fern Hill, the eden of Dylan Thomas' poetic memory. I loved Silver King's long halls with fat round posts in the middle, the ramp that went down to the lunch room and how fun it was to slide down, the big window at the south end of the hall and the colored glass bottles that decorated it; I loved the tiny library where I sat one day while Mom worked in her school room reading "Horton Hears a Who" and where another day I found a 78 rpm recording of "Rhapsody in Blue" recorded at a much quicker tempo than our Bernstein conducted version at home and where another day I found leftover bags of the hard candy Santa Claus distributed at the Christmas pageant.

By far, however, my favorite place in Silver King school was the gymnasium. I might have this wrong, but memory tells me that Silver King was built in two stages and the gym was in the new part of the school.

The floor was beautifully maintained, shiny, tan, almost slick. My best times in that gym were when Mom had to work on her room and she secured the key to the equipment room and let me, by myself, or me with a friend, shoot baskets while she worked.

When I was in junior high, especially, I had high hopes of being a good basketball player. I was a kid who got tall pretty fast, so that by the ninth grade, I was almost six feet tall and well-coordinated.

I loved to shoot. I read stories about players like Bill Bradley who shot audacious numbers of jump shots each day. I didn't shoot these high numbers each day, but at the Silver King gym, whether I was was alone or with Roger or with Terry or anyone else, I'd shoot and shoot and shoot; I'd run from end to end of the floor, running one man fast breaks and pull up for uncontested seventeen foot jumpers. If with a friend, we'd play HORSE. We'd invent shots. We'd try stuff out.

I watched as much NBA basketball as was broadcast in the middle to late sixties. We saw a game a week and then the all-star game and pieces of the playoffs. I loved to imitate shooters: Oscar Robertson, Sam Jones, Earl Monroe, Walt Frazier, Rick Barry, even Bailey Howell. I'd pick up on little habits they had or how they cradled the ball at the free throw line or how they squared themselves to the basket and I'd be those players.

It was a great escape. I created endless scenarios of games tied and me hitting final shots and free throws and beating the clock with a steal at midcourt and scoring a cripple just before the buzzer sounded.

I went undefeated at Silver King gym.

No wonder I loved it so much!

Life in the Basement: Assignment # 14

My sisters and I continue giving one another writing assignments. Our latest is about books that had an impact on us.

Silver Valley Girl and InlandEmpireGirl wrote about books that had an impact on them here and here. And, coincidentally, Katrina at Notes on a Napkin, wrote a similarly focused post recently, here.

I don't know when I started going to the basement and reading all the Life and Look magazines we had piled on shelves and on the floor. Mom saved them all and it was quite a library, albeit a not very well organized one.

I must have been in the fourth or fifth grade. I was curious about the word "sexy". I didn't understand the word "sexy", but the magazines featured women who were described this way, in particular Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, and Sophia Loren. I found pictures of these three, often on covers, other times in the magazines, and stared at them, trying to understand why they were described with this word I didn't understand.

Nonetheless, they intrigued me. I knew Marilyn Monroe was dead, but pictures of her continued to appear. I knew that Elizabeth Taylor had been married often and found her eyes very pretty. Sophia Loren was unlike any woman I'd ever seen in person. I thought she was of another world. Such elegance registered to me as almost other worldly.

It was just a year or two earlier than this that Silver Valley Girl had been born, in 1963. I was starting to get some ideas from the playground and around the neighborhood that her conception had occurred by an act that involved my father and mother, but I couldn't accept those rumors.

I was flipped out crazy about my little sister. I thought she was the most beautiful baby on the face of the earth. I loved doting over her, playing with her, making her laugh, and teasing her. I had walked in on my parents at different times when they were dressing. I did not believe that anything as inelegant as their genitals could have had anything to do with my little sister being brought into being. (It was all right if I was created that way, I guess, but not her.)

Life Magazine changed my view. The astounding pictures in the issue whose cover is pictured above, which came out when I was in the fourth grade, gave me authoritative evidence that my mother's pregnancy had, if fact, been the result of fertilization, and that fertilization involved my father putting a seed inside my mother.

I was astonished. I stared and stared at the pictures that Life Magazine published of life before birth. I would look at Silver Valley Girl, all bouncy and funny and learning to talk, and I'd look at my father, asleep on the couch, his white T-shirt too small cover his growing belly; I'd look at my mom, working at the kitchen table, smoking Pall Malls, grading workbooks or making out report cards, and I'd marvel, silently, within myself, at how this passed out man and that overworked cigarette smoking woman had somehow, some time, come together some way in an act of fertilization that created this sister who was that little seedling I'd seen Life's pictures of.

I looked at that issue of Life while it was upstairs and then when it went to the basement, I'd pull it out and marvel more.

But, my marvelling did not end there.

At around the same time Silver Valley Girl was born, so was the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

Life magazine covered marches and camp-ins and demonstrations and lynchings and leaders and all phases of that movement. As a grade schooler, I was entranced by what was happening in the South. The March on Washington. Freedom City. The fire hoses and police dogs. The church bombings. I was secretly familiar with names like Ralph Abernathy, James Meredith, Julian Bond, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Andrew Young.

I educated myself with Life magazine's pictures and captions about poverty and segregation and I could tell by the faces I saw in these pictures that something in the United States was deeply wrong and that these marches and demonstrations were deeply right.

It meant that I was going against the grain of some of the sentiment in Kellogg, Idaho. I'd heard Dr. King called Martin Luther Coon. A few years later, when he was shot, a classmate reported that his law enforcement father had said that it was about time someone shot that nigger son of a bitch. I would come to hear all things black mocked: the words Afro-Americans, African-Americans, Black Panthers, Black Pride, Black is Beautiful and I would hear, and would myself use, racial epithets.

I don't know what was real. I don't know if my father used racial epithets out of sense of genuine hatred or because it was how he dealt with what he didn't know. I used such language, when I did, not out of any commitment to racial prejudice, but because the words were around me and in the air. Sometimes it was a way to get a laugh.

In the long run, it was the reading I did in the basement that stuck. Those pictures shaped me into a person eager to learn more. I read Martin Luther King's speeches and sermons as I grew older. I listened to ideas of theologians and sociologists and others that talked about evil and sin and racism as not merely an individual, but a corporate thing.

I began to realize that I was and always would be a participant in institutions whose practices were larger than my individual principles or deeds. The idea of institutional racism made sense to me as I got older.

It all came back to me when my father died and we had a get together after the funeral in Mom and Dad's backyard. One of Dad's oldest friends, a great friend of the family, and a friend who visited Dad all the time while Dad was dying and who has been a great help to my mother, was talking to me and some others about a basketball player from Kellogg who was leaving the area to play college ball. He said, "Once he starts getting banged around by those niggers down there, he'll be back up here playing ball at NIC."

It was a statement fraught with all kinds of ugliness and bad logic. It was made by a good man, one of the finest men I've known, head of one of the finest families.

When I read in the basement, I was trying to figure things out. How are babies made? Why are these black people oppressed?

As I grew older I asked more questions: Why do people in my town refer to blacks with so many nasty names? Why did I pick up those names? Why, when I tried to argue with my dad about things he said, did he argue back so hard? My dad was a good man. He was intelligent. The men in Kellogg were good men. Almost all of them were intelligent. They weren't ignorant.

And, yet. . . .

Eventually, I figured out what sexy means and my reading in the basement took on added dimensions.

But sex itself has remained a puzzle.

So has the question of race.

The book that affected me the most wasn't a book. It was a magazine: Life Magazine. It started me puzzling about questions I doubt I'll ever solve.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 03/26/07: Home, Sweet, Home

1. Home

2. Sweet

3. Home...and some roast beef with gravy and a lime diet coke and a salad with home made blue cheese dressing and two bowls of ice cream.

Three Beautiful Things 03/25/07: K-doe, Grades, Kellogg

1. K-Doe wrote a superb essay that combined the song "Driver" by Phish with her spiritual autobiography and the wilderness of Kim Barnes' experience with North Idaho remote, isolated Pentecostalim.

2. I submitted grades for all my courses. Im ready for spring break.

3. I leave for Kellogg in the morning. Snug and I.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 03/24/07: Lost, Late, Bruins

1. Russell, Dave, and I had plans to meet at the Steelhead, a local tavern. I sat at a table and waited for them. And waited. I had a Diet Pepsi. I had another. I waited. UCLA and Kansas were well into their contest when I decided to go ahead and eat. I wondered what happened. I ate a salad. I ate twelve delicious Buffalo wings. I looked up after I ate and there was Russell.
"Are you here?"
"Yeah. "
"You just get here?" Russell asked.
"No. I got here at 3:30."
"We did, too."
"We're over in that part."
Shit. I thought that part of the tavern open to the outdoors was a smoking area. I didn't think Russell and David could be there.

But they were.

We enjoyed the last five minutes of the game together.

2. Late papers keep flying in over the email. This is my favorite time of the school quarter to read papers. I can take my time and enjoy them because classes are done meeting. It's been a pleasure. Hey! I think another paper came in. I'll finish them all tomorrow.

3. Thirty, thirty-five, forty years ago I was a devoted UCLA fan. I can't feel the same way about UCLA now that I did in junior high, high school, and college, but I sure enjoyed watching the Bruins dismantle Kansas today. Aggressive defense, quick hands, double teams, steals, and just enough great perimeter offense to frustrate the Jayhawks and send them packing.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 03/23/07: Victory, Treats, Alert the Media

1. The Ducks hung on against UNLV and advance to the National Quarterfinals/Regional Finals.

2. Penny came by for some help with a research paper and brought me a Panama-sized Snicker bar and a barrel of Diet Pepsi.

3. Silver Valley Girl's tree picture is starting an international phenomenon. She'll be on Good Morning America by next week.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 03/22/07: Coffee, Office Visit, Working Class Lit

1. Coffee with Jeff, Margaret, and Michael. I am uninhibited with them, foul mouthed, inappropriate about some things, and free.

2. Sherry came to my office to see what she needed to do to finish the course. She's recently been evicted for complaining about mold in her apartment. Her ex husband stalked her outside her apartment. Her kids are confused. She's willful and determined. She'll finish.

3. Margaret and I made plans for our American Working Class Literature/Research Writing course. Really fun!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 03/21/07: Conservative Students, Paper Purge, Treats

1. I enjoyed very much enjoyed Katrina's email in which she discussed the difficulties of being a conservative student in a college classroom. I learned a lot from her.

2. My office at LCC needed a purging of paper, paper, and more paper. It's a much more relaxing place to work after I dumped into the recycling bin so many papers that overstayed their visit.

3. I went on a dog treat buying spree at Suds 'Em Yourself: rawhides, hoofs, cheese flavored treats, pork rolls. Snug, Maggie, and Charly will have many days of happiness.

Teaching English Composition and the Jessica Bryan Controversy

I've been giving a lot more thought to the Jessica Bryan controversy at North Idaho College. It's been on my mind because I have some reason to believe that D. F. Oliveria is going to rip Jessica in an upcoming column.

If I were writing an editorial about the situation, here is what would be on my mind, given my profession, what I know about the situation, and what I know about the work Jessica Bryan and I do.

Linda Cook, the student who was refunded her tuition, stated publicly that she thought Jessica Bryan was a good teacher. I think her words were "she has a gift". She also said that it was comments like the ones that have been attributed to Jessica Bryan that made her unhappy.

In this discussion, it seems to have been forgotten that before Linda Cook left Bryan's course, Bryan used one of Linda Cook's pieces of writing in class as a model of what good writing is. I don't know what Linda Cook wrote about in that piece of writing. I'd like to know. Whatever Linda Cook wrote about, Jessica Bryan was not suppressing it, but held it up as exemplary.

About teaching composition:
One of the most difficult challenges in teaching composition is that the course does not have a given subject matter to discuss or write about. The instructor generates subject matter. Some instructors have students read about current issues. The class discusses them and papers are generated by discussion. This can become political. As I've said before, as a teacher of composition for nearly thirty years now, I tend toward philosophical inquiry in my composition classes. I could imagine someone saying that I'm not teaching English, I'm teaching philosophy. I am teaching philosophy, but I think it generates the most thoughtful arguments and essays.

Next term, I will present my WR 123 course within the context of the American working class. We'll look at the history of unions, we'll read about work and its meaning in American society, I'll try to help students understand this subject matter from the perspective I gained as an employee at the Bunker Hill Company and the students will do research on work and economic/social class related questions.

I've taught research within this context for five or six years now. It's riveting. It's political. It's historical. It's sociological. It's psychological. It's literature. It's film studies. It's interdisciplinary. Compostition classes must be interdisciplinary.

In the class I just described and in my other classes, the floor is open for spouting off. But the work only begins with spouting off. Assumptions have to examined. Support for one's opinions, including mine and my team teacher in the research class must be examined.

If we discuss political liberalism, we have to examine and research what the world looks like from this point of view and what it means if someone subscribes to this point of view.

Likewise political conservatism.

An awful lot of us who teach critical thinking and composition do not present these political and social and philosophical questions as either/or matters. They are complicated and it's our job, when we are doing our job well, to complicate what our students say, what we read, and to encourage our students to complicate what we as teachers say.

I don't know from what's been written about Jessica Bryan whether she said, after spouting off that Republicans should be executed, something like, "Now does that assertion work?"

Did she ask the class something like, "What's wrong with what I just said?" Or did she ask, "What's your response to that?"

I'd like to know. The spouting off is not in context. We just know that Linda Cook didn't like things Bryan said. We do know that Bryan used Cook's writing in class as a good model of writing.

If Bryan's absurd assertions couldn't be challenged; if they went unexplored and unexamined; and if her absurd assertions in any way implicitly implied or explicity stated that someone researching and writing from a point of view contrary to these could not earn a high grade in the course, then I think a serious problem existed in this course.

If students were free to challenge these absurd assertions, free to develop and write researched essays that supported any perspective they wanted, and if this work was evaluated with Jessica Bryan's attention focused on the way the paper supported and structured its thesis and how well it met the standards of documentation in an introductory research writing class, then, for the life of me, I don't see why Jessica Bryan would be in trouble.

If students had to conform to Bryan's views, if they were not being taught how to integrate research into their own arguments, if they were not being taught the fundamentals of documentation, then the English department has a problem with Jessica Bryan.

I was the assistant director of composition at the University of Oregon for a year. I was chair of the English, Foreign Language, and Speech division at Lane Community College for a year. Had Linda Cook come to me, I would have asked her if she was learning how to read critically, think critically, compose arguments, research, substatiate and complicate her own arguments through her research and how to document her work.

I hope the answer would be yes.

Then I would have a talk with Jessica Bryan and advise her to lay off the funny stuff and keep the political discourse respectful, unless she was trying to help her students understand satire.

By the way, after a year of dealing with kind of stuff as interim department chair, I learned that I love teaching too much to ever be an adminstrator!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 03/20/07: Commas, Movie Maker, Conferences

1. I had a Cinammon Dolce Latte while talking with Daisy about how she can better punctuate her essays.

2. The Deke gave Windows Movie Maker a shot and is putting together a cool slide show.

3. I was able to affirm the writing of one WR 115 student after another as I held one conference after another with several students from that class.

Jessica Bryan: Classroom Satirist?

This post is a work in progress. Please read it as such. When I've settled on what I think, I'll remove this opening paragraph. Please feel free to comment.

I am trying to work out my insights and ideas about Jessica Bryan's situation. Here is one way I've thought about it.

A story has made the rounds about NIC English instructor, Jessica Bryan, who made polemical comments about Republicans and had a student demand her tuition be refunded (it was) and has been the recepient of strongly worded and threatening emails from those who take issue with her classroom comments.

Here's what Jessica Bryan is reported to have said: "Republicans should be executed. I believe in the death penalty. I love it. I think we should use it every day. First we line up everyone who can't think and right behind them, anyone who's ever voted Republican."

It's satire, in my opinion. It's not personal philosophy or opinion or words from a pulpit.

The outageous first sentence is hyperbole; the tradition of satire is built on exaggeration. She follows her hyperbole with an assertion "I believe in the death penalty" which could be taken at face value until she says, "I love the death penalty."

No one loves the death penalty, even those who support it. Only in satire does a person say they love it. Her expression of love is ironic, satirical, sarcastic, whatever you want to call it and the next two sentences further reinforce the exaggeration.

What's the purpose of satire? Well from Lysistrata to A Modest Proposal to Dr. Strangelove to Rush Limbaugh (does he really support machine gunning environmentalists? I don't think so...) to Michael Moore to Anne Coulter, the purpose of satire is to exaggerate a position, often the position of one's opponent, to provide social criticism, to shake us out of our typical ways of seeing things, and to make us think.

I watched the video tape of Anne Coulter when she used the word "faggot" recently.

I thought she was satirizing how Isiah Washington of Grey's Anatomy had gone to counseling for using the word "faggot" in a conflict with another actor.

Back to Jessica Bryan. Can the death penalty be satirized? Is what might seem to be too much social or political enthusiasm for capital punishment something an instructor can satirize in the classroom? And if she said this with a smile, isn't that an indication that she is being ironic or satirical? And if her comments were published out of context, isn't it possible that her ironic tone and satirical purpose, the rhetoric of her comments, was lost when reported in the newspaper and on blogs?

Likewise, Ann Coulter. When Ann Coulter says that she knows using the word "faggot" will land her in rehab (a paraphrase), isn't she satirizing a world of rehab or counseling or sensitivity training that has possibly gone out of control? I value therapy and I value knowing how words injure and I also see, and relish, how the culture of therapy and the policing of language is ripe for satire.

Ann Coulter is a smart alec. She pushed her satire pretty far, then, when she said she couldn't use the word "faggot" and so couldn't talk about John Edwards. Maybe there is a better way to satirize political policies that are not, in the world of Ann Coulter, manly.

As a Democrat and a fairly liberal one at that, I enjoy Ann Coulter's satire. With friends, I can be kind of an Ann Coulter myself and it gets tricky because it becomes double satire: I'll satirize something Coulter would satirize while, at the same time, satirzing Ann Coulter!!

If nothing else, Jessica Bryan has experienced, in a frightening way, something we English teachers often say when we teach satire: satire is flammable, unpredictable, prone to being read at face value, combustible.

Many times satire falls on tin ears. When it does, often the fit hits the shan.

I guess I'd have to say that I'm glad Mauer and Limbaugh and Coulter and Franken and Colbert and all the other satirists hang in there and keep our fooishness and follies before us, even as these satirists are attacked from every side as if everything they say should be taken at face value.

I have not been satirical in this post. Nor have I been ironic. Nor have I been sarcastic.

I want to defend the right of satire to be understood as the powerful rhetorical strategy it is and I wish we could all enjoy it more.

I know. When things are polarized, the first thing to go is a sense of humor.

Was it Freud who postulated that jokes and laughter usually mask unconscious hostility?

Damn him. It ruins all the fun. It greatly limits the field of what we can joke about.

Three Beautiful Things 03/19/07: Blackbird, Ducks, Strat Genius

1. WR 122 ended today with Laura presenting an inspiring essay of hope and triumph against difficult odds. She read her essay before playing the Beatles' song, "Blackbird". The whole class knows that Laura split with her meth/crack addicted husband this past summer and is as heroic as any of those she mentioned in her essay. Like the blackbird, she will "take these broken wings and learn to fly/All your life/. . .only waiting for this moment to arise." What a perfect way to close a great course together.

2. Linda and I sat down during her lunch break and talked about how proud we are of Ernie Kent and the Oregon Ducks and how we can hardly wait to see how the Ducks do Friday against UNLV.

3. At our short break during WR 122 today, I played Jeff Beck's version of "People Get Ready", accompanied by Rod Stewart singing and hoped that some of my younger students listened and could hear Beck's mystic and rousing breaking of boundaries on his Strat. Sublime.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 03/18/07: Progress, Beauty, Sisters

1. With the house to myself while the Deke is in Chicago, I made the best progress I've made all term long in getting caught up with reading and grading student essays. I've been dreadfully behind all quarter long and it really feels good getting caught up.

2. The papers have been very good. I've read some astonishingly beautiful essays today.

3. InlandEmpireGirl is making plans for when she and Silver Valley Girl and I get together in Kellogg next week. We should have a blast.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Irish Joke

My thanks to My 99 Cents for this joke. Maybe it's an old one, but I hadn't heard it and I laughed out loud:


- “Bless me Father, for I have sinned, I have been

with a loose woman.”

- The Priest asks: Is that you Timmy Shaughnessy?

- “Yes Father, it is.”

- And who is the woman you were with?

- “I can’t be telling you, Father. I don’t want to

ruin her reputation.”

- Was it Brenda O’Malley?

- “I cannot say”

- Patricia Kelly?

- “I’ll never tell”

- Was it Sheilagh O’Brien?

- “I’m sorry but I cannot name her”

- Was it Kathleen Morgan?

- “My lips are sealed”

The Priest sighs in frustation. “You're a steadfast lad

Timmy and I admire that. But you have sinned, and

therefore you cannot attend Church Mass for three

months. Be off with you now.”

Timmy walks back to his pew. His friend Sean slides

over and asks “What did you get”?

- “Three months vacation and four good leads.”

Three Beautiful Things 03/17/07: ACT-SO, piano aria, Grace Laughs

1. The NAACP has a youth Olympics of the Mind program called ACT-SO. I have served as a judge for poetry and essays for about ten years. Today Macque's reading of her silver medal winning poem stirred me, as did listening to her explain what she hoped her poem's impact was.

2. Siv became Portia tonight in her Merchant of Venice scene. It would have been better had her aria been a bit more forte rather than piano, but it was her first outing acting and first outings seem to always bring out the piano in new actors.

3. Grace attended tonight's Shakespeare Showcase. I hadn't seen her since the last time I noted running into her in a January 3BT's. She's really fun and we laughed and laughed before the Showcase began, especially as I made light of my need for anti-depressants.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 03/16/07: Aria, Fragrant, Eeeeek -- a Duck

1. Siv is playing Portia in the "Quality of mercy" scene of "The Merchant of Venice". I am the speechless Shylock. Siv is a singer. She had a breakthrough performing the speech when I suggested she perform it as Portia's aria.

2. Plum blossoms sweeten LCC's air.

3. The Oregon Ducks eke out a win in round one of the NCCAA men's basketball tournament.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Return to the Boy in a Chair with a Tree Growing Out the Top of His Head

My favorite site on Lane Community College's campus is a sculpture of a boy in a chair with a tree growing out of his head. Back in January, I took over eighty pictures of him, and posted five of those pictures here.

Today, I had to hurry off campus to meet an appointment for my annual eye check-up. I snapped one photo of the boy. The campus is coming alive with spring foliage and I like how these plum blossoms brighten the boy's immediate surroundings. He has endured a lot of gloomy, soggy days to reach a day like today. He endures it all.

And here's his reward. . .

Three Beautiful Things 03/15/07: Iron Butterfly, Jazz, Animation

1. Nearly forty years ago when Sally was fifteen years old, she skipped school and smoked weed and dropped acid with a boy named Eddie and out poured her story about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her predatory step-father and Eddie listened and held her and told her it didn't have to be that way and the two youngsters made love, and Sally learned that sexual union could touch her soul. Eddie and Sally played Iron Butterfly's "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida" during this turning point in her life. Sally read a paper about this experience to our class today with "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida" playing quietly at the same time. The class exploded in applause when she finished, especially when they learned that her young relationship with Eddie emboldened Sally to report her step-father to the police. He was prosecuted.

2. My student Priscilla gave me the book Blue Like Jazz, and wrote a note of gratitude about our writing class that reminded me how much students long for the opportunity to write honestly, without prefabricated structures, and free of pressure to resolve. I think she, like many students, longed to write jazz.

3. I met in conference today with Asuka. Asuka learned, from reading Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail", a new dimension of understanding English that took her beyond reading superficially and transported her into the world of how her second language, English, can express feelings, conviction, intelligence, and outrage. I was as happy for her as I've ever been for a student. As she watched me reading her paper describing this breakthrough, she smiled broadly, with animation.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 03/13/07: Gunman, Shakespeare Frisbee, Vivid Whitman

1. One of my students, Cheri, read to the class her paper about a gunman busting into a campus gathering at Brigham Young University and how, instead of freaking out, the students broke spontaneously into hymn and the gunman was apprehended, in part because of his confusion.

2. Barbie and George were on the grass of Bristow Square at LCC rehearsing their lines for Romeo and Juliet while chucking a frisbee back and forth.

3. After a slow start, I think my Intro to Poetry students will create vivid pictorial representations of the imagery and story telling at work in Walt Whitman's poetry. I hope so. There's no better poetry to have live in a person.

Pete Rose: Hit King

Pete Rose is a lot like Bob Knight to me.

He's pugnacious, complex, intelligent, exercises poor judgment, and is one of the very best at what he does.

Pete Rose is on my mind because he was interviewed today on ESPN Radio by Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann.

Pete Rose is sixty-six years old. He sounds simultaneously repentent and oblivious for having bet on baseball games, having bet on his own team while a manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

All Pete seems to think about is money. He doesn't seem to recognize the trust he broke by gambling on baseball games and by gambling on his own team as the Reds' manager. He argues that he should manage again because his fame would put fans in stadium seats.

The question that always dogs any discussion of Pete Rose is whether he should be in the baseball Hall of Fame. It's a moot question now, I guess. His time to be voted in by the sportswriters has run out. The Veterans' Committee would never vote him in.

If I were commissioner, here's what I would have done before his time ran out. I would have decreed that Pete Rose should be inducted into the Hall of Fame as the Hit King and as the model player he was: a hustler, leader, student of the game, and as a player of limited talent who squeezed every bit of performance he could out of the talent he had.

Now wait a minute: Commissioner Raymond Pert wouldn't let him be inducted like any other player.

First, he would not speak at his induction.

Second, his plaque would note his accomplishments and his violations. A fan would get the whole story.

Third, Pete Rose would remain banned from managing.

His induction would be a complicated one, honoring Pete Rose's accomplishments, which are legend, and owning up to his crimes against baseball, which are legendary.

At Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, the Reds are opening the ground floor of their team's Hall of Fame with an exhibition honoring Pete Rose. I have visited this Hall of Fame, loved it, and I would love to see this exhibition honoring Rose's accomplishments.

I do, however, think the exhibition should tell the whole story. After all, Rose's accomplishments on behalf of baseball are as legendary as his proclivities that besmirched the game's honor.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 01/13/07:Dresden, Raw, Duff

1. K-Doe introduced me to the dissonant, dissident, dark boogie woogie of the Dresden Dolls.

2. Daisy presented a searing paper today in WR 122 chronicling the violence imposed upon her by a past boyfriend in images and language so raw that the class needed a break to recover and a line formed at Daisy's desk as one student after another hugged her.

3. A group of students presented a pictorial representation of how it's all connected in Kim Barnes' memoir In the Wilderness and they included, to show young Kim's teenage life with drinking, an image of a beer can that stumped me. I had to ask what it was and was humiliated when it became apparent that I haven't watched a family sit com on TV since, oh, maybe Leave it to Beaver.(That's right. I'd never heard of Duff Beer. Sigh)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 03/12/07: Mary Idell, Midwifery, Stairway to Heaven

1. I talked to Mom on the phone tonight and she is looking forward to my upcoming visit to Kellogg and she shared with me more stories she's heard about the name Three Toots Tavern!

2. Annabelle, one of my writing students, wrote a beautiful piece about her days as a midwife in Alaska and how her passion for this work was born.

3. My students are presenting music projects in WR 122 and Jeff played his guitar as the core of his presentation and, in about fifteen minutes walked his fellow students through a short history of rock n roll and the blues, with short riffs from artists ranging from The Ventures to Nirvana. Following Brett's presentation on "Stairway to Heaven", Jeff played us a brief reggae version of "Stairway"'s opening, helping us see how, on a word tour, the boys had been to Carribean and had origninally conceived the song as having a reggae sound. Fascinating. The whole class was fascinating. Rap. Swing. Folk. Zep. Live Guitar. And each student wrote in a way that brought each of us listening to her or his paper into the world of their music. Very gratifying.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Ten Reasons I Enjoy Keeping a Blog

What do I enjoy most about keeping a blog?
  1. I have heard from people through comments or by email whom I never would have heard from otherwise. These people are from around the world: South Carolina, Hawaii, Iraq, Western Washington, the Inland Empire, England, Montreal, all over.
  2. People who write to me often add their stories to mine. I have so much enjoyed having had blanks filled in and hearing other stories that mine inspired. I've learned things about work in the mines and people around Kellogg and the history of the Valley that I would never have found out. What a pleasure.
  3. My sisters caught the blog bug. It's been a unsurpassed pleasure not only to read my sisters' writing and see their photos daily, but we email each other now almost every day and are in closer contact than ever before. Could it be that the family that blogs together.........?
  4. I get things straightened out. The best example of this was when I wrote about my experience playing American Legion baseball and remembered some things wrong and Johnny Bardelli wrote a corrective comment. It changed my memory and with a more accurate story, I remember the whole story with a sweeter memory. The truth does hav a way of setting a person free.
  5. New acquaintances. Huckleberries Online, in particular, has opened up new virtual acquaintanceships that sometimes feel like friendships and has given me contact with people from the very place I hope to return to one day to live.
  6. Picture taking. My blog has inspired me to try out new things with my camera, when I can find it. It's been fun to imagine blog posts that would be supported in serious as well as humorous ways by some pictures.
  7. Renewed energy for writing. I had been trying for years to find a way to get myself to write almost every day, especially about things Kellogg related. My blog has been the ticket. I am going to see what the body of work I have collected looks like when October rolls around again and see if I want to do anything more with it.
  8. I've discovered the joy of others' blogs. Every day I check to see what's happening in the blogs of the ones listed on my blogroll and I look at the ones mentioned in Huckleberries Online. I love reading how other people make their way in the world and read what they are thinking about.
  9. Increased my computer competence. This blog has given me all kinds of reasons to increase my exploration of the virtual world and of the possibilities of working with a computer. I'm just getting started with podcasts and digital photos and editing photos and using public bookmarks and other things. I'm reading computer magazines! I buy computer books! I never saw this coming.
  10. Renewed my love of sports in the Inland Empire. I love reading about the Zags and Cougs and Vandals and about high school sports in North Idaho through the Spokesman Review blogs. Likewise, InlandEmpireGirl is a Zags/Coug fanatic and so I get to feed off her enthusiasm. I love the Ducks here in Eugene, but my heart was with the Vandals, Zags, and in conflict with the Cougs long before I came to Oregon and those old loyalties remain the strongest.

Three Beautiful Things 03/10/07: Ducks, Warmth, Canon

1. The Oregon Ducks are going to Spokane to play in the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Oh how I hope they play like they did in the Pac-10 tournament. If they do, they will be tough to beat. (Play free and easy, guys...let it rip!)

2. I am lying here in bed and I'm perspiring a bit. It's warm. The air outside this evening was thicker than it has been and held the scent of early magnolias and lilies in its thin blanket.

3. I found my camera. It was on my bed, under some blankets....warmer weather, lighter bed, found camera. Spring is on its way!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 03/10/07: Casserole, Water, Naps

1. The Deke fixed a chicken casserole and a green salad that was so everyday, so common, so down home that the meal warmed by heart as well as satisfied my appetite.

2. I've been really thirsty for Talking Rain carbonated water and the Deke brought some home today. Hmmm.

3. I had one of those days when I just let myself fall asleep when ever I felt like it and took about three naps. It's one of my favorite ways to relax.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Kellogg's Stein Brother's IGA: Assignment #14

Silver Valley Girl and Inland Empire Girl and I continue to give each other writing assignments. Our fourteenth undertaking involves something memorable about our first job in the Silver Valley.
We wore clip on ties with white shirts or blue dress shirts. We helped ourselves to chocolate milk, soda pop, bread from the bakery, packs of lunchmeat, candy bars and other grocery items. Boys braver than I helped themselves to whole cases of beer or more and loaded them up into the trunks of their cars on the sly with clever strategies on a par with D. D. Eisenhower. We burned copious amounts of cardboard in the huge trash burner out back. We couldn't believe our good fortune when our dirty-minded store manager hired another beautiful young woman to be a checker.

More important, we bagged and carried out groceries for customers. We stocked and faced shelves. We mopped floors. We cleaned up messes.

We were the boxboys at Kellogg's Stein Brother's IGA.

I loved this job.

My most memorable day working at Stien's was one evening after the store had closed. It was stock day when the big Roundup semi-truck came very early in the morning from Spokane and brought the store its week of goods.

This was a particularly trying day, every week, at the store. It was the day displays were built for whatever sale we were running. Often the displays were canned vegetables or canned fruit juices or something like Hi-C so the hauling of these boxes of canned goods out of the truck into to store was hard work, primarily for our store managers.

During the school year, we box boys didn't arrive on stock day until about 4 in the afternoon and a lot of work remained for us to do. Unopened boxes of brown sugar, Post cereals, Kipper snacks, chopped olives, catsup and mustard, and scores of other items needed to be shelved.

Stock day stressed us all. We had to leave our shelving work often to go up front and bag and carry out groceries. It was frustrating to get momentum going with shelving a case of French cut green beans and have to leave it to help a customer.

We almost always had to work on stock day past the store's closing hour.

One night must have been especially stressful for our store manager. About seven or clock or so he began drinking beer out of the cooler. Kellogg was such an open container kind of town that no one tought much of him doing his work in the store while pouring Heidleberg beers down the hatch.

When we got done stocking the shelves around 9:30 or so one particular night, our store manager said he wanted to see us all before we left and told us to each grab a pop. Maybe some of the older boxboys grabbed a beer. I'm not sure.

Expecting our store manager to thank us for our hard work, instead he started talking to us about sex.

In particular, he began to tell us about his sexual conquests in his own house, how he would satisfy himself with his wife in the living room, the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom, dining room, against walls, on top of her, behind her, with her sitting on counters, in sinks. I waited for him to tell us they both stood on their heads. His wife was buxom and he told us about how wonderful her breasts felt in his hands.

I was in the 10th grade. I was shocked and uncomfortable. I did not want to hear the drunken sex stories of my store manager. I don't know what the other boxboys thought. I just wanted to get out of there, but we had to wait until he was finished.

It was as if my place of employment had become a high school boy's locker room. It was one thing to hear stories like this in the locker room. It didn't fit at work.

Finally, our store manager dismissed us. I walked home, about four or five blocks. I felt dizzy. I had been forced into a world of story telling I didn't really want to enter.

I got home. Mom asked me how things were at work. I told her that our store manager had told us stories about him and his wife having sex.

I've been grateful ever since that night that my mom said that was wrong of him. She didn't say anything about me quitting and she didn't say anything like she was going to complain on my behalf to one of the Stein Brothers. I am, to this day, grateful for that. But, Mom had outrage in her voice and that outrage communicated to me that the feelings of nausea I had were fitting for the situation.

I was never able to feel quite as trusting around the store manager again after that evening. I took my orders. I never wanted to be alone with him in the break room. I heard he made passes at some of those beautiful checkers he hired. I don't know if that was true.

But I do know that I didn't like having a man in his forties talk to me like he was in high school.

I also know that I always felt weird when his wife came in the store.

I had too much information.

Three Beautiful Things 03/09/07: Zags/Ducks: Yikes!, Indonesian Kindness, Perils of Heroin,

1. I wore my Gonzaga hoodie to LCC today and a student asked me about it and I proudly told her I lived in Spokane two different times...then suddenly I shuttered within myself: what happens if Gonazaga plays the U of Oregon in the NCAA tournament? Where is my rooting interest? Don't tell anyone in Eugene, but I was a Gonzaga guy long before an Oregon guy and an Idaho guy long before that. Go Zags!!

2. In my office today, I learned that my student Jeffrey is from Indonesia and started studying in Singapore when he was about nine years old. I had thought he was Japanese. I'm so out of it. Not only is he Indonesian, his ancestory is Chinese. As I stumbed around with his ancestory and country of origin, Jeffrey was the picture of graciousness and answered my questions most kindly.

3. Oh my! Delores is in her mid-twenties and has committed three drug-related felonies in two different states and is on probation in a state other than Oregon where she is going to school right now. She's working to get everything cleaned up and was very sweet this morning when she stayed after class and asked me if we could work out a way for her to finish the course even if she got called away to one of the states where she's been in trouble. She is learning: even if she cleans herself up personally and goes to twelve step meetings and gets clean, the past crimes against the State live on. I hope she gets this all straightened out soon. As a clean kid she's very sweet and extremely smart, but her sense of personal security is shaky. I think she can recover. I believe in her.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Apparell'd in Celestial Light

The opening lines of William Wordsworth's "Intimations of Early Recollections of Early Childhood":

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth and every common sight
To me did seem
Apparell'd in celestial light....

These lines of Wordsworth's give me pause.

As I wrote a couple of days ago, I grew up in a miasma. The stream, or river, that ran through Kellogg was not apparell'd in celestial light. It was grey with sewage and mineral waste. The apparell that hugged to the dwarfed trees and modest houses and struggling lawns and grassless fields of play in Kellogg was the apparell of lead smelter and zinc plant emissions.

As Silver Valley Girl wrote, this smelter smoke was unforgettable and many of the pleasures that came with being young, swimming in the city pool, playing ball, riding our bicycles, running from one place to another, playing tether ball on the Sunnyside elementary school playground, they were all accompanied by a burning in the chest and often with a sore throat.

But, Wordsworth's poem explores how the unconstrained mind of the child makes the world a wondrous place and that the world loses this magic as we grow older. Wordsworth suggests that childhood is a time of our lives that we might want to recapture in the sense that our imaginations were more alive and our perception of the world much less filtered.

I've been told that I have a romantic view of Kellogg. I think it's true. When I was a kid I'd see the sun trying to make its way through the thick Smelter Smoke and I experienced it as one of those pictures in the Bible when God is represented as sunlight breaking through clouds and the sun's rays become pronounced.

I saw the sun breaking through the Smelter Smoke as the smog apparall'd in celestial light.

My young mind was not constrained when it came to the rocky hill a block and a half behind our house. I didn't think about the fact that it could be vegetated with larger trees. I experienced it as a large hump to conquer. I experienced the large lava plugs that protruded from the hill as fun playfields on which to test my balance and my arm and hand strength as I climbed them, hoisting myself up one crack in the small volcano to another.

When the sun broke through the Smelter Smoke I experienced the rocky hill and the scrubby vegetation and volcanoes as apparell'd in celestial light.

Of course, I know now that the way the sun played upon the pollution, sometimes colorfully, sometimes with pronounced rays breaking through the smog was not celestial. I know now that that pollution was harmful. It was poison.

And yet, this knowledge has done little to diminish the experiences I had as a young boy in Kellogg. Indeed, every common sight to me did seem apparelled in celestial light and I haven't been willing as a man in his fifties to let much of that celestial light become dimmed.

Three Beautiful Things 03/08/07: Conferences, Momentum, Sperm

1. As I held individual conferences with my WR 115 students, I learned more and more: Randi's mother had her first child at age 12; Ortega holds a bachelor's degree from a Catholic University in Mexico; Eddie is a computer whiz and worships at a small money-strapped church in Springfield; I swear, the more my students tell me about themselves, the better they write. I don't suppose in the silly world of scholarship that can be verified.

2. Annabelle feels like she has gained momentum in her writing during the course of WR 122 and doesn't want to stop having a writing course. She wants to keep the momentum.

3. Daisy and K-Doe let me sit with them at lunch and they endured my profanity-laced rant about men who think they can get away with anything, especially in the world of fertilization: coincidentally, Student of Life posted about a similar subject, here, and I just read her reflections when I got home this afternoon.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Bringing Reality Into Being: Responsibility

I try to impress upon my students that writing is accompanied by great responsibility. The responsibility is grounded in the act of creation. It's grounded in bringing reality into being.

Writing should not be taken lightly. Anyone who reads a piece of writing, whatever its is, a blog post or anything else, must realize that each word, followed by each next word, builds a reality. These words bring reality into being.

Creation myths look at the creation of the world this way: words spoken, one by one,and with each word, aspects of the world come into being.

Writers are similarly creators of reality, of worlds, whether worlds of thought, worlds of story, worlds of insight, worlds of satire, worlds of facetiousness, etc.

Therefore, the writer has to ask this question: is this the reality I want to create? Is the tone the tone I want to create? Is the thinking detailed enough to be understood? Are the details plentiful enough so that the world I'm creating can be entered into and understood? Is this a partial world, difficult to understand? Or have I written or created a full world, understandable, a world that a person unfamiliar with me can enter into and know what's happening?

Does my creation tell the truth? Is it accurate?

Am I conversant with enough vocabulary to be accurate?

Am I awake?

I love the little story my sister told here. She called it paying attention. I call it being awake. She brought the reality of two swans swimming by Barnaby Island into being. She did the same with an eagle: likewise two deer.

Without her alertness and without her words, the swans and eagle and deer would not exist as far as we are concerned. My sister created them, brought them into being. She accepted the responsibility of making these moments of beauty known to us and convey them as truthfully and as accurately as language allows.

We tell stories. We tell stories about ourselves. We tell stories about others. These stories are our reality. Change the story and the reality changes.

My, what a profound responsibility we have when we tell stories, when we decide what stories we are going to live by.

These stories we create about others and about ourselves and the language we use to tell these stories to others have great power. They have the power of a created reality. If we want to significantly change things about ourselves or our regard for others, the first thing we have to change is the stories we live by regarding others and ourselves.

Inland Empire Girls' story is about much more than wildlife sightings. Hers is a story about a distracted mind, about a woman who tells herself a story that says she's distracted.

But, she changes that story and the new story says she is a woman who pays attention, who is awake and, miraculously, she tells us a story that brings an eagle, two swans, and two deer into being.

What a deeply moral exercise of her creative responsibility! What a profound story! What a generous use of language so that we can experience that moment!

Without my sister being awake, those inspiring animals would have gone unnoticed, and, as far as we are concerned, would have never existed. In our alertness to the world around us, we have the power to bring that world to life.

We are creators, not just recorders, not just reporters of our worlds. It's a deep responsibility.

Three Beautiful Things 03/07/07: More Grace, Crayons, Dang

1. I arrived at Lane Community College about 8:30 this morning. I set down my laptop in a chair at a study table across from my Intro to Poetry classroom. I unlocked the classroom's doors. I went to my office, without the laptop. I taught until ten. I scooted to my 10 o'clock class in another building. I finished class. I returned to my office. Eric came by. We talked. My office hour ended and I prepared to go to the Tutoring Center to meet Asuki for an appointment. I went to pick up my computer. It wasn't in my office. It was gone. I went to my poetry classroom. I went to my composition classroom. I called the Deke. I went to the parking lot, looked in my car. I remembered that I had unlocked the classroom. I went back to the classroom. I looked around at the study table. There on the chair was my laptop, where I had left it, four and a half hours earlier.


2. My composition students made pictorial representations of how "it's all connected" in Kim Barnes' book In the Wilderness and did beautiful work bringing the book alive in their imaginative projects.

3. DanG of HBO has me believing I can, once and for all, make elementary aspects of HTML work. I am very grateful for his lucid work and generous offer of it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 03/06/07: Snug, The Big Picture, Oil

1. How long has it been since Snug romped in the mud and piss ditches of the Wayne Morse Ranch dog park? Since October maybe? Well, he tore around up there for about an hour today. Bliss.

2. My WR 115 students are starting to see how each of our specific, particular experiences is always pointing toward experience that is shared, universal. I hope seeing this has them a little bit fired up.

3. Two things I love: getting a haircut and getting the car's oil changed. Got the oil changed today and the old 1993 Honda Civic got a clean bill of health. Terrific!

Bringing Reality Into Being: I Grew Up in a Miasma

I'm trying to persuade my writing students that language's power lies in the way words bring reality into being. Whether the reality is visible or invisible, we create reality with language.

It's an enormous responsibilty and a lot of fun. When we write, we are creators. We can say as we write a word, "Let there be miasma" and there is miasma. Like right there, behnd the word "like" back there at the beginning of this sentence. There's miasma. I brought miasma and all that that word implies, suggests, denotes, connotes into being. I brought your history with that word into being and I brought my history with into being and the word itself has a long history, so that history is brought into being.

What history? Well miasma's history looks, briefly, like this: Origin: 1655–65; <>míasma stain, pollution, akin to miaínein to pollute, stain.

When I say, "Growing up in Kellogg was to live in a miasma", not only am I bringing into being the reality of Kellogg's air being dangerous, noxious, I am also reaching back to the Greeks who used the word miasma to suggest pollution or stain. I know Greek tragedy well enough to know that for the Greeks, the words "pollution" and "stain" carry moral implications.

When I say, "Growing up in Kellogg was to live in a miasma" is to say, if we let the word "miasma" have its full meaning, that the pollution or the stain of the emissions in Kellogg were not only poisonous, they were immoral.

That's quite a statement. I need to weigh that one. Is that the reality that I want to bring into being? Do I want to create with the word "miasma" the reality that Kellogg's pollution was a miasma and let it carry both physical denotation and moral connotation?

Yes. For people to breathe the kind of air we breathed in Kellogg is wrong. It was immoral to put economic gain ahead of people's health and promiscuously dump toxic emissions into the air.

Was it a necessary immorality? To a degree, yes. If there was going to be such a thing as Kellogg, Idaho, its existence depended upon miasma, upon pollution, upon a stain, upon immorality.

My point is that the history of a word connects us with the history of the word and the history of the thing that that word is used to denote.

Language, words bring complex realities into being, far beyond their immediate meaning.

"I grew up in a miasma." I grew up in pollution. The pollution stained Kellogg. It stained our bodies. It was a moral stain.

We accepted the miasma. We argued for it. We needed it.

We were in a bind.

Three Beautiful Things 03/05/07: Ode, Titans, Bulldogs

1. William Wordsworth.

2. LCC women's basketball team wins the NW basketball championship.

3. Go Zags.

Monday, March 5, 2007

At the Tone, the Time Will Be.... Assignment #12

In the continuing series of essays that my sisters and I assign to each other, here is number 12. Siver Valley Girl assigned Inland Empire Girl and me to write about something in Grandma Woolum's house that evoked memory in us.
Grandma Woolum stood less that five feet tall, but her hands and feet and, the doctors told her, her internal organs, were the size of a woman fully grown. I say fully grown because Grandma had an accident when she was very young that broke her back. It healed poorly. She had a hump. It was as if the inches that could have gone to height, went to this hump.

I always think of Grandma Woolum's tiny frame when I remember her and think of her little house on East Bridgeport Avenue in Spokane and how we always arrived at her house by taking Trent to Mission to Hamilton and soon after Hamilton turned into Nevada we turned left and Grandma's house was just past Cincinnati.

Those Spokane street names introduced me to poetry, with their meter and rhythm and what they came to stand for as images and associations in my memory because of the A & W at the Hamilton/Nevada interchange and the brick Dry Cleaner at the corner of Nevada and Bridgeport and seeing the Washington Water Power offices on Mission not far, it seemed at the time, from the original Spokane Community College building, which didn't seem to look that different from the Water Power building.

Somehow, for me, coming from Kellogg, everything in Spokane seemed magical. J.J. Newberry's was downtown and carried the toys advertised my Miss Florence on Romper Room. I coudn't believe that I could actually lay eyes on the Do Bee and Don't Bee toys that were on television in the morning.

The Christmas display at the Crescent rivalled anthing on Fifth Avenue to me.

Spokane was so big you could park in a building with levels, with stories. It boggled my mind.

I thought the dry cleaner on Bridgeport and the gallon of root beer we bought had to be better than anything in Kellogg and thought the same about white bread from Rosauers and the cotton candy from this little shop in Northtown.

I bring up how magical all things Spokane seemed to me because the object in Grandma's house that had cast a spell on me, unbelievably, was her telephone. In Kellogg, our number prefix was Sunset...our phone number was SU 45093. Spokane had several prefixes: HU was Hudson, FA was Fairfax, RI was Riverside, CH was Chesnut, KE was Keystone, WH was Whitworth, MO was Moran, WA was Walnut. Were there were more? It was more poetry, another exotic thing about Spokane.

I could remember phone numbers from Spokane television so easily because of those prefixes. "When you need coal or oil, Call Boyle: Fairfax 81521. FA 81521.

I never ordered a drop of oil from Boyle, but thanks to Starlit Stairway and Boyle's sponsorship and thanks to that great prefix name, Fairfax, I'll probably remember that number when on my death bed, even if dementia keeps me from remembering my own wife's name.

I'd arrive at Grandma's and before long I'd start playing with the telephone. It had a long, long cord so I could carry it from her buffet, where the phone rested, to the nearby living room, and dial randomly. Grandma's rotary dial had a different friction than ours at home. It seemed to go from Zero back to the start position with leisure and with a sound I enjoyed.

I loved to read the Spokane Yellow pages and dial numbers. I was fascinated that Spokane had so many phone numbers.

Even more, I was fascinated that I could dial a number and a voice told me the time. It was a woman's voice and her voice seemed to come from another part of the USA. It was a lilting voice. She spoke time with the same grace I would later hear Eudora Welty read fiction.

She gave the time three times a minute: "At the tone, the time will be, seven twenty-seven and twenty seconds; at the tone the time will be seven twenty-seven and forty seconds; (then my favorite) at the tone, the time will be seven twenty-eight, EXACTLY. I loved her authority, her certainty, her enthusiasm when she said EXACTLY.

Even to this day, if one of the kids asks me if I know what time it is, I'll say "At the tone, the time will be, eight oh eight....EXACTLY!"

I laugh.

No one else gets it.

But it takes me back to those great street names in Spokane: Sharp, Euclid, Addison, Courtland, Wellsley, Boone and to the Listerine smell in Grandma's bathroom, which was located right off the kitchen, about three feet from her kitchen table, to the Presto Logs she burned in her kitchen trash burner and the other great memories of Grandma's house.

These memories are tied inexplicably to Grandma's big black rotary telephone and the thick Spokane phone book and those great prefixes. EXACTLY!

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 03/04/07: Sweet 21, Ah Youth!, Nostalgic Dreams

1. Molly turns 21 tomorrow and we had a party for her tonight. I marvelled at how poised and funny and grateful and free and generous Molly has grown to be; when the Deke and I began our road to marriage, Molly was 11 years old. A lot happens between 11 and 21.

2. Chris and Melissa, whom I haven't seen for months, attended Molly's party and it was delightful to be in the company of their fresh, young goodness and mirthful spirit.

3. I had vivid dreams last night about a great friend of mine whom I haven't seen for almost ten years since she married and has had two new children. The dream brought back memories of how much we used to enjoy each other and all the fun we had. I hope we'll see each other again one day.

The Coeur d'Alene Dancer: The Future of Caleb

Over at Notes on a Napkin, Katrina posted this eleven second video, albeit sideways, of her son Caleb doing the "Caleb Dance".

In the video below, I see the future of Caleb. He might consider Matt, of Wherethehellis, as his role model. Matt took his dance way beyond his living room. Go to his website and learn more about how this dance project took shape.

Three Beautiful Things 03/03/07: Bye Bye Senator, Emily, Heaven

1. Finally, I took the time today to go to Perfect Look and lose my anonymous Senator look. My hair and beard are shorter again. I enjoy getting my hair cut and beard trimmed as much as anything I regularly do. Sometime in the near future, the beard has got to come all the way off.

2. Much Ado About Nothing was the LCC Shakespeare production a year ago. I played Antonio. Our prop mistress, Emily, works at Rainbow Optics. I went there today to have the temples of my eyeglasses tightened. When I arrived, Emily came around the counter and we hugged and we had a fun conversation about Othello and future theatrical possibilities.

3. Marmite and crunchy peanut butter on an Orowheat Extra Crisp English muffin, toasted...well, Marmitetoasty is right: heaven.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Go Fug Yourself

Fug: "Fug" comes from "fugly," which is a contraction of "fantastically ugly"

When I'm not getting involved in a Shakespeare production, watching a Mongolian movie, reading up on Thich Nhat Hanh, getting ready to teach Intro to Poetry by reading poems from around the world, contemplating the Kingdom of God, taking pictures of Snug, writing about my temporary blindness, remembering old times in the Silver Valley, reading the hundreds of blogs I enjoy and trying to write my own stuff, listening to ESPN radio or XM Satellite's Real Jazz (channel 70), dreaming up new ways to eat Marmite, or trying to decide whether I should take my meds or not because of how much I enjoy my vivid dreams when I don't, I sometimes go the "Go Fug Yourself" blog and read the snarky comments about the different fashions celebrities and personalities wear to different functions.

It reminds of when I used to go to the University of Oregon library and take copies of the Illustrated London News off the shelf just to read Kingsley Amis' food reviews. He wrote about restaurants in London way more expensive than anywhere I could ever go and wrote about food/dishes I will never eat; but, the writing was so clever, so funny, the analogies between food and rivers, mountains, wet newspapers, liturgical worship, etc. so brilliant, that I would read his reviews just for the pleasure of the language.

I go to "Go Fug Yourself" every once in a while for the pleasure of the pictures and the comments. For example, about the dress (?) Suzanne Somers wears in the picture below, Jessica writes:
This is what happens when a bridesmaid's dress meets a craft store fanatic: tragedy, and enough rosettes to last any woman's lifetime. Also, dyed to match shoes. However, that enormous chestral-ruff does seem like it would come in handy if you ran out of places on which to set your drink.

Jonah Jackson: Jan. 27, 1978-Feb. 23, 2007

Around the Blo(g)ck with Marmite and Some FAQ's

* Might Marmite mend a broken sword?

* Hey, grow up!! Just cuz she's skinny doesn't mean she's goin' to the loo to stick her finger down her throat and toss her Marmite toast and Malibu and coke!

*Might Marmite bring out more angel in Little Sunshine?

*The leader of the free world just says no to South Dakota; remains mum on Marmite.

*I ate soft-boiled egg on Marmite slathered English muffin for breakfast this morning....thought I'd toss Snug in the Honda and play the slots in Florence...but then I read there's a healthier way to gamble.....bullocks!

*Marmite might help make cabin fever more savory!

* Is that Marmite in yer Poo Bucket?

*Got some questions about Marmite? Here's the Frequently Asked Ones; as you can see, Pippa's nipper Kyle loves Marmite!

Friday, March 2, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 03/02/07: Fatherless, LCC Reunion, Marmite

1. I helped Jason with his essay. The essay explored his emotional repression and how his emotional make-up was defined by growing up fatherless: his mother falsely accused Jason's father of abuse and Jason learned about the lies later in life. His emotional detachment left him unable to mourn the death of his brother and unable to openly express his love for a girlfriend he cherished.

2. How long has it been since I've seen Karrina? I ran into her at LCC today and she came to my office and told me about her new engagement and about her successes at the University of Oregon.

3. I loved my first Marmite on toast and enjoyed writing my live blog. I was not in the least discouraged that no one came to my blog while I was blogging live. My enjoyment of blogging is unrelated to ratings!

Live Blog: Marmite Tasting, The Finale

I have, with the care one usually associates with an animal doctor repairing the broken wing of a hummingbird, covered toasted English muffin halves with a) a thin layer of Marmite and b) a bit of butter and a thin layer of Marmite.

Snug has been pacing around the kitchen while I've done this. It's as if his instincts tell him something momentous, like an earthquake is about to occur.

I just reassured him: it's just the old man having his first Marmite.

7:35: Here goes.

Very salty. Rich. Biting. The tea tastes good going over my first bite.
When I opened the jar of Marmite, I thought I could use this stuff to blob over a hole in the roof, to tar it over.

Second bite: It's growing on me. I like the fact that this tastes different from anything I've ever tasted. But, I supposed I'd say the same thing if I just bit into a sweaty sock. But, I think Marmite is better.

Third bite. Mmmm. Makes me think a bit of sardines without the strong odor. I'm liking this. Last bite of the butter free side: makes me think cheese might be good.

7:39 I will now try the half with butter and Marmite.

First a sippa.

Bloody hell. I choked a bit on my tea. I'll cough it off.

Another sippa. Try to get my hatch settled down.

Well now. This is good. The butter adds sweetness to the salty Marmite. I must say, there is something a bit wild about the Marmite. The only parallel I can think of on the spot is like first eating game.

And the Marmite bites a little. I like that.

Yes. I could imagine eating this Marmite and muffin toasted with egg in the morning with a cup of tea. The Marmite would give me a similar sensation to having a salty meat, like bacon or sausage with my egg.

Yes, I think this Marmite is right up my alley. I think it must be eaten in moderation. I can imagine a second English muffin or a second toast with marmalade on it tasting good after this. The complement of sweet and salty would be good to me.

My final bite. I like that this Marmite tastes earthy. The taste lingers. I'm letting it linger and now I'm going to have another sippa...

Thank you Marmitetoasty and thank you my dear student Tamar for encouraging me, indirectly on Marmitetoasty's part and directly on the part of Tamar, to enter this new world of foodstuff.

Either you love it or hate it.

I think I love it!

7:47 Signing off

Live Blog: Marmite Tasting

7:20 Before I make my next move here in the kitchen to prepare my English muffin to spread the savory Marmite goo on it, I'd like to say that I once had aspirations of being a regular traveller to England. I studied in England in 1975, travelled there for three months in 1979, and returned in December of 1986, and left shortly after the New Year, 1987.

My life has taken a different direction.

Wait. The tea water is boiling hard. I'm going to make a cuppa.

7:25 I will be drinking Tetly British Blend tea with my Marmite toast. I drink my tea with 2% milk. I find cream or half and half to be too rich.

My life has taken a different direction. My work does not afford me sufficient salary to help two step kids go to college (or, at least, live pre career lives), support a wife who teaches private music lessons out of the home, was a church children's choir director, and is now a graduate student at Pacific University (doesn't make much money yet!), and take care of the other financial demands of our family and be a traveller to England.

Now I am a happy traveller to Kellogg.

This is to say that in my travels to England, I never tried, or really knew about, Marmite.

The bread is toasted. The tea is brewed. Stay tuned.

Marmite Tasting

Hello friends of Kelloggbloggin'

It's been a long week. Two memorial services for two people in my life who both died one week ago today.

All week long I have tried to juggle the rolling boulder of student essays and student expectations and of instruction with being supportive to my friend Jeff, who lost his stepson Jonah and with travelling to McMinnville and attending the memorial service of a life-long friend's mother, Jeni.

Right now the house is empty. Just Snug and I are here. I think it is time to open a new frontier in my life, to lose my innocence, to become a man of experience in ways of eating Marmite.

I've decided to have my first Marmite with a cup of tea. I have decided to spread the Marmite on an Orowheat English Muffin, Extra Crisp, toasted. My plan is to put butter and Marmite on one half of the muffin and Marmite itself on the other half and to enjoy the whole muffin.

I am going to put on the tea water to boil. I'll be back for the next stage in a minute or two.

Jeni Pearson's Memorial, Short Addition

In writing about Jeni Pearson's memorial service, I forgot to write that near the end of the service the floor was opened to individuals to tell stories or share thoughts about Jeni.

This part of the service was opened stirringly by Jeni's daughter, Trudi, who, with remarkable poise and eloquence, described the overflowing good spirit of her mother. Her mother loved puzzles, board games, golf, cooking, baking, volunteering at the hospital, playing with her grandchildren, and, above all, Jeni loved being an unpretentious servant of God. Trudi described her mother's service to God as straight forward, almost a reflex. It was how she was. She didn't need to motivate herself or push herself to serve God. She just did.

She was the Kingdom of God in our midst.

Those who spoke about Jeni praised her generosity. My favorite comment came from a man who quoted Lionel Ritchie: "Jeni was once, twice, three times a lady".


Roger, Jeni's son and my life-long friend, wrote his tribute and I will make his deeply moving tribute available to interested readers over the weekend.