Thursday, January 31, 2008
1. I've been diving into my musical past, all the way back to the after school syndicated sound studio live mayhem of the Lloyd Thaxton Show. Lloyd Thaxton introduced me to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Lloyd sometimes played goofy air trumpet to "Tijuana Taxi" and other Brass hits and before long I was a part of this music being played in junior high and high school band. I've been listening to Herb Alpert albums on Napster, including Rise, Whipped Cream and Other Delights, Going Places, and South of the Border.
Did you ever used to dance in the living room in front of the telly to Lloyd and his guests? Would you like to keep in touch with Lloyd Thaxton?
His blog is here. Lloyd Thaxton was interviewed on Florence Henderson's talk show here. The interview opens with a fun video recap of Thaxton's career.
2. The long editor drought at Denali has ended. Mark January 30th as the day the Lane Community College Media Commission (including yours truly) selected a 2007-08 editor, Lindsay Stalone. I'm the magazine's literary advisor and look forward to working with Lindsay.
3. Last night I loaded up my low capacity MP3 player with Bob Dylan albums, put on the headphones, and went to sleep listening to Bob Dylan croon on his gravelly album, "Modern Times".
Monday, January 28, 2008
WASHINGTON—"Is this who you want running your country?” asks the damaging spot. "Someone who can't even run a simple microwave without crying?"
According to MSNBC chief political analyst Barbara Schleisser, Romney's self-directed smear campaign is likely to hurt the Republican candidate's chances.
"In today's well-informed society, attack ads rarely work and often do more damage to the person running them than his or her target," Schleisser said. "Then again, you can only hear someone call himself a worthless sack of shit so many times before you start believing it."
Click here for the whole story.
2. Snow? In Eugene? Five inches in some parts of the town. It came down in snowballs for some of the day, big wet sloppy snow wads that piled fairly fast.
3. My World Literature students' latest writings on The Odyssey helped deepen my thinking.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
By the way, I stopped doing this over fifty-two years ago.
For other important photos, go here. For other old-fashioned pictures go here.
2. Every Saturday evening I actually wonder if I want to go out and do anything. Why? XM Radio's Deep Tracks channel plays In a Gadda da Vida every Saturday night at 8:00 PST and it's become a source of odd reassuring pleasure and joy for me to listen, each Saturday evening, to this masterpiece in its entirety.
3. I loved reading this interview with Bob Dylan published just prior to the release of his album "Modern Times".
"Many say what is lacking with families today is that time sitting together at the dinner table discussing the events of the day. Here is your topic: Think of a memorable time when our whole family was gathered at a dinner table and your reflections on that memory."
InlandEmpireGirl's beautifully crafted and detailed evocation is here and Silver Valley Girl's in on the way.
"So, Raymond Pert, have you developed an opinion of President Nixon's proposed freeze on prices and wages as a way to slow down inflation."
"Father, I have been disappointed in President Nixon. He has demonstrated a penchant for big government that I didn't see coming when I voted for him against McGovern. I knew McGovern held next to no libertarian principles, but I thought President Nixon might do more to relieve society of government interference, but that's turned out not to be true. What do you think, Mother?"
"Son, when I recommended that you read Ayn Rand, I didn't know that you would become so hostile toward at least some of our government's actions to improve the lot of our society. I recommend that you read some Kenneth Galbraith as a way to balance your perspective. May I pass you some more chicken? Sissy, you did such a good job balancing the garlic and bleu cheese in this dish. Where again did you get this recipe? I've never seen your father so happy at dinner!"
"Thank you, Mother. The recipe was one I liked when we studied chicken in my culinary class. I so love how Kellogg High School helps me not just earn a diploma, but develop me as a whole person."
In May of 1975 I traveled with a small group of students to England with Dr. Fenton Duvall, Professor of History.
He loved to use times our group had dinner together to lecture on the history of Britain and to ask us questions about our reading whether over mixed grill and red wine at Ye Old Cheshire House or over lemonade or a pint of ale at The Marlborough Arms on Tottenham Court Road.
Dr. Duvall also shared stories about how he similarly encouraged inquiry and debate at his dinner table at home.
I marveled at that idea. It had never occurred to me that the dinner table might be a place to discuss national economic policy or to discuss books or where my parents might recommend reading or where the preparation of food might be regarded as an art.
In fact, my most vivid memories of our family's dinner table center around emotions, not conversation, per se.
No, we didn't discuss the last policies of the Nixon Administration or Randian objectivism nor did was our chicken ever enriched with garlic or bleu cheese.
Mostly we ate pork chops, pork roast, beef roast, fried chicken, minute steaks, canned vegetables, potatoes, and gravy and all the milk we could drink.
I loved our meals.
Mostly I remember the emotions we expressed.
Dad often sat down to dinner under stress, mostly from working two jobs, one at the Zinc Plant and another as a bartender at the Sunshine Inn. He demanded but did not always command our family's respect and wanted all the food passed to him first.
A few times, if it wasn't, he slammed his silverware down, barked, "I'm goin' to Dick's" and left for Dick and Floyd's and stewed over Heidelberg beers at the bar.
Sometimes one of us kids cried at the dinner table. It's hard to remember how these moments developed, but I know I cried over dinner.
One time I cried for the oddest reason, as I look back.
We must have been talking about school over dinner. I was either in the seventh or eighth grade.
My dad's drinking really bothered me. His intoxication at the bowling alley or at Dick and Floyd's or at get togethers at others' houses or at home when friends were over or when he tried to talk with me alone embarrassed, frightened, confused, angered, and embittered me.
In junior high, I swore I'd never follow in his footsteps.
So, we got to talking at the dinner table about a dance that had happened on a Friday night and some of my junior high basketball teammates came to the dance drunk and I told everyone at the table about it.
I suddenly burst into tears. I sobbed.
No one knew what to do. I didn't either. I just cried.
Another time, in high school, during the summer, the band Chicago was coming to Spokane. It didn't look like I'd get to go and I burst into tears. Dad yelled at me that time for crying. He told me to stop being a baby.
He didn't understand how much I loved Chicago.
I was angry and bitter.
Eventually, I got to go. I think InlandEmpireGirl did, too.
I think Mom drove.
Most dinners, however, weren't melodramatic.
Mostly we were happy eating good solid food, drinking cold milk, and acting as if the world of politics, art, economics, and the Vietnam War were not even out there to be talked about.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Two nights ago "Jungleland" live at Madison Square Garden came down from the sky on XM radio and my Whitworth pal Cutch was in my living room on Moss and 19th in Eugene on September 26, 1981 with his suspender straps wrapped around a thick piece of forked firewood wailing Clarence Clemons' "Jungleland" solo on his air firewood tenor saxaphone.
Cutch and Rog and Terry and Peter and Lannie and I crawled our way back home that evening after the Huskies trounced the Ducks at Autzen Stadium and my wife Eileen had invited Peggy to drive from Yakima to give her protection and help her fix us chili and corn bread to help sop up the beer and peppermint schnapps and Oregon Chablis we'd been drinking all day out of boda bags, pitchers, and redeemable aluminum cans.
Lannie was in tough shape. He'd knelt on both knees and puked down a toilet bowl at Rennie's Landing and staggered out of the bar alone and headed for 19th and Moss, a stranger to Eugene. After veering across dark streets and winding around rainy east Eugene blocks, he asked a couple for directions to 19th and Moss.
"You're standing at 19th and Moss."
Lannie joined Peggy and Eileen and waited for the rest of us to arrive.
I've often wondered if this was the night Eileen decided she had to pursue life on her own and on her own terms, that she couldn't take being married to me any more.
I'd promised that if we put "Jungleland" on the turntable that I'd dance in my boxers and as Cutch played the firewood and we hoarsely cried out, "Tonight. in. Jungleland", I stripped to my skivvies and danced and laughed and cheered and nakedly laid all my joy and love for The Boss and for my football buddies on the line.
At that moment, dancing in my boxers and screaming with Bruce and riding the high of a day of drinking that ended at two a.m. the night before and began again at seven a.m. when I got out the potatoes and the eggs and the Lone Star beer and tomato juice and fixed my friends breakfast and started getting juiced for the game, at that moment I was as fully alive to what it meant to me to be a man and a man from Kellogg as I'd ever been. I was as fully alive in the intoxication of brotherly love and cheap alcohol as I've ever felt.
I could feel it all: the vats of Wapatuli, the nights closing down the Kopper Keg and taking more beer to go and drinking until three in the morning and being right on time for day shift in the cell room at seven, the slow pitch softball tournaments in Missoula and Lewiston and riding with Keith and Don with a case of iced Lucky Lager, sacks of sunflower seeds, buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the Beach Boys on the casette player, Keith and Don and I screaming at the top of our lungs while driving down I-90 or up the grade outside of Kendrick after getting kicked out of a bar in Julietta that we wished they all could be California Girls.
Yesterday I was trying to help my Survey of World Literature students understand how Homer has characters in The Odyssey tell short digressive stories that are always stories that stand in parallel, either by comparison or contrast, to the larger story of Odysseus and Penelope. For example, Telemachus, Odysseus' son goes on a short odyssey in search of news of his father and he hears from Nestor about the infidelity of Clytemnestra which contrasts the faithfulness of his mother, Penelope. Homer shows us the big story in an inverted small story.
I wonder about that night after the Duck/Huskie game. I often wonder if the big story of my failed first marriage was played out in the small story of that night. What was it like for Eileen, not a Kellogg girl, not raised on alcohol and vulgarity, more frightened, perhaps, than invigorated by vulgarity, to see her husband drunk, in his boxers, singing "Jungleland", dancing, yelling how fucking awesome it all was, reveling in the vulgarity of the moment? Did she realize that night that it was this, not church, not graduate studies, not traveling to England, not Masterpiece Theater, not movies at the Bijou, not Chuck Mangione, not even Harry Chapin, that it was this unapologetic vulgarity that made me feel alive and happy?
Did it come clear to her that night that despite my eclectic tastes in the fine arts and despite my often engaging intelligence and that despite my desire to tone things down, to get my outbursts of temper and spasms of ecstasy under control, that at bottom I was really the happiest in the unbridled, uncensored, rock and roll, football and alcohol-fueled company of my male friends, especially those from Kellogg, or, when I could be, with my unrefined father, who didn't know The Boss, but who loved to drink fully and dance wildly, especially at the Sunshine Inn where he could stomp his foot in time with the great Tony Orlando and Dawn's "Knock Three Times"?
I don't know.
The last time I was at the dentist, Dr. Stephenson told me he thought he might have to do some work on the crown from a root canal he could tell I'd had done many years ago.
Thirty-two years ago, to be exact. It's the Springsteen canal.
When I have this dental work done, Bruce Springsteen won't be belting out "Born to Run". So, I won't "sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American Dream".
Dr. Stephenson's office subscribes to Sirius.
It's always tuned to Cafe Jazz, the smooth jazz channel.
I'll get comfortably numb with George Benson or Joe Sample.
Certainly not The Boss.
For other Miscellaneous Sunday Scribblings, go here. I really like my sister's, InlandEmpireGirl's Sunday Scribbling post. You'll see gorgeous pictures. Just click here.
The next step will be landing a job.
The Deke will be one of the finest teachers in whatever district she teaches in and I look forward to the day when groups of children will enjoy her intelligence, imagination, love, and energy in the classroom and her fellow teachers can enjoy her good humor and insight on their staff.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
2. Maggie is on the mend after spending the night vomiting and running a high temperature and spending the day at the vet's. It was a tough night for the Deke.
3. Out of the blue, Daylene asked me if I'd ever seen a UFO. I enjoy questions like this, especially when they have no context and just pop out of a person for no apparent reason.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
2. I had a lot of fun making my class Moodle pages look better and posting more information on them. (Moodle is a site dedicated to posting information and assignments for my courses.)
3. The Deke went to Mary's to visit and while she was gone her Corgi, Maggie, came on my bed where I was working and pressed close to me in peaceful co-existence with Snug. It was sublime.
Monday, January 21, 2008
This was also the subject of Sibling Assignment #15 when I wrote about my undefeated basketball career in the Silver King gymnasium. You can go back and read it, here. For this assignment you can read InlandEmpireGirl's post, here and Silver Valley Girl's here. Their posts also have photographs of the snow crushed Silver King School building.
My mother taught the second grade, mostly, at Silver King Elementary school for about fifteen years. The school sat about a quarter mile north, downwind, from the Bunker Hill Zinc Plant. The air was foul. The creek that ran along the school's east side was too acidic to go near. It smelled like rotten eggs.
Mom has survived breast cancer. All but one of her fellow women teachers from that building died of cancer.
It was a lousy place to locate a school, but I was happily oblivious to its dangers when I attended Silver King in the first and second grades.
Each day after school, I waited for Mom. Sometimes I helped her move stuff in her rooms. Other times I ran down the linoleum halls and slid in my socks. I sometimes played on the typewriters in the stock room, my introduction to two different typefaces, Elite and Pica.
The Zinc Plant day shift ended at three o'clock for hourly laborers like strippers, the bull gang, cell repair, and many others.
Consequently, an intermittent line of cars came down Government Gulch and I enjoyed watching them.
One day, though, a car bothered me. It was a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air, turquoise over most of its body, with a white hood and rear end.
The Bel Air sped.
It was loud.
I rolled a large flat rock out in front of the 1955 Bel Air.
The 1955 Bel Air screeched. Out leaped a guy with a duck tail haircut, skin tight jeans, and a white T-shirt with a pack of cigarettes rolled in his sleeve.
"What you doing?"
"You were goin' too fast."
"You coulda killed me!"
"No more. You hear? No more rollin' rocks in front of cars."
I probably went back to the stock room and typed.
I don't think I ever told anyone about the day I decided to be on emphasis patrol on Government Gulch road in front of Silver King Elementary School when I was in the first or second grade.
2. Kendramama and I have become pandora.com pals and listening to her station named "Kendra's Sublime Radio" immediately widened my musical experience.
3. I'm not what would be called a big Patriots' fan, but this team amazes me in the way I most enjoy being amazed in sports: I love the mentally tough, the mentally willful, and the mentally dominate athlete or team. That's what the Patriots are. A less willful team would have given up touchdowns after those turnovers and been in a deep hole. Not the Pats. The Chargers never scored a touchdown and the Pats prevailed. Very impressive.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
2. I took Snug for a nice walk and we played ball in the back yard. I needed to get my body moving and he always loves to get going.
3. Another way I fought this spell of depression was to finish my laundry. Every task completed helps fight the depression by fighting the procrastination that always comes when I start to slip into the black hole.
This past week I was walking up to the door to enter our house and I suddenly realized a very familiar companion was at my side.
It was the wish to escape and leave this world.
Please don't call a crisis line on my behalf or send me to the psychiatric ward. This wish to escape is never accompanied by the idea of me doing it to myself.
It's simply a wish to float away, to be free of the oppressive feelings of low self-regard and meaninglessness that start to blanket my thoughts and feelings when another round of depression breaks into my psyche and my heart.
The weird thing is, this feeling of depression and darkness is like an old friend.
As I walked to the door, I smiled and said, "Well, old friend, there you are again. You've been away for a while."
The depression never answers me, but just keeps weighing down.
Sometimes it's hard to know just who is occupying the person that others from the outside recognize as me. But, when a wave of depression hits, I always know who I am and I feel dark feelings and have dark thoughts that are familiar.
The challenge? What do I do with these thoughts and feelings and how do I best interact with my wife and my fellow instructors and my students when I know another invasion is under way?
First of all, stay medicated.
This familiar fellow traveler wants to undermine me in so many ways: it wants me to snap at friends and wax paranoid thoughts to the Deke; it wants me to go to bed, sleep, not exercise, and feel the isolation of sleep; it wants me to procrastinate, to put off grading papers, doing laundry, writing in my blog.
This fellow traveler is very selfish. It wants all my attention and wants to run my life.
It's very hard for me to get out from under its wishes. I have trouble saying "no" to this old familiar companion.
I've slept long hours this past week during the day instead of doing my work. I'm behind already. I was not at my best in the classroom, but managed to make things work.
I did snap at a couple of fellow teachers and had one fellow teacher wonder what had happened to the sweet and reasonable person he usually knows me as.
I just didn't feel like introducing him to my fellow traveler and explaining.
Today, I'm writing. I'll start grading those papers I avoided by sleeping. I'll go out with Snug and see the world, and maybe even photograph it. I'll post a writing assignment on line and other information I'm behind on getting to my students.
I'll call my mother and wish her happy birthday.
I'll start pushing my fellow traveler away, as comfortable as I find it, and travel again along my road less traveled, the road of good cheer and positive action.
I'll invite a new fellow traveler, one who is traveling to help me, not traveling to undermine me and whisper dreadful thoughts in my ear.
2. My students make me laugh. Laughter vs. depression makes me hurt because of how hard the depression fights against my laughter. It's Ali/Frazier: the playful, irreverent Ali vs. the brooding, soul-injured Frazier. Ali won some rounds this week, especially in the classroom and I'm more grateful than I can express to my students for sharing in some good and hearty laughs together.
3. Snug comforts me. He stays close, he presses himself against me, and we share a hug once in a while and, to be honest, it's beautiful and helps take me outside of this bedeviling feeling of weight pressing down and depression.
Monday, January 14, 2008
2. I'm very happy that the Oregon Ducks beat Stanford this afternoon.
3. I love pinto beans, scrambed eggs, grated cheese, salsa, and coffee for breakfast.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Except the fir trees, no green, no vegetation:
Mom's backyard was under piles of snow. It got much deeper than this photograph portrays:
But, here in Eugene, the January 13th winter sky is cobalt, warm, cloudless:
The early buds of leaves are already beginning to push their way out of the tree branches:
We haven't had any significant snowfall this winter in Eugene.
In fact, as I walked the neighborhood with Snug today, it suddenly occurred to me that instead of snow, it's as if we've had a moss fall:
2. I enjoyed getting caught up on my blog. I've missed writing and even if my entries are a little rusty, it's been good to get some thoughts down.
3. Snug and I took a very nice walk around the neighborhood and I thought, as I watched him enjoy his walk, how much he is growing up and settling into become the Snug I think he was created to be!
Saturday, January 12, 2008
My sisters' lists are inspiring; I hope you'll check them out. InlandEmpireGirl's is here and Silver Valley Girl's is not far away, here.
1. Pandora.com This is a create your own radio station website, here. It's radio from the Music Genome project. It's a wonderful approach: to create a radio station, enter a musician or composer's name and the website will play music for you by that artist and others similar to him or her. It is a wonderful way to listen to music you don't know (I have a Regina Spektor station, for example) and to broaden your musical horizon in relation to artists you are familiar with. You can see a list of my Pandora stations down the right rail.
2. Deep Tracks XM Radio Channel 40. This channel of XM Radio features deep classical rock music; in other words, rather than playing exclusively recognizable music, "Deep Tracks" goes deep into albums from the last forty years and delves broadly into a wide range of artists. The channel also plays contemporary releases by classic rock artists and, best of all, no set play lists. The music is completely in the hands of host. When I imagine what the best days of FM radio must have been like, I imagine Deep Tracks. OH! In addition, both Bob Dylan and Tom Petty have their own hour long shows that are broadcast several times during the week. My exposure has been broadened and my love deepened for classic rock music at Deep Tracks. This station alone makes the price of subscription worth it. Oh! One other thing: every Saturday evening at 11 Eastern and 8 Pacific, Deep Tracks plays the full version of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida".
3. Photo Hunt(er). I started participating in this photo meme during 2007 and have enjoyed trying to find and snap photographs that fit the weekly theme. Want to give it a try? Go here.
4. Netflix on Demand I enjoy my subscription to Netflix as much as anything else in my life and near the end of 2007, I started taking advantage of how Netflix has a limited number of movies and television series that a person can view immediately through software downloaded via Netflix. By far, my favorite on demand film has been the quirky documentary, "Helvetica", the story of one of the mid- to late 20th century's most ubiquitous typefaces.
5. Into the Wild I was nervous when I went to see this movie. I've been studying and teaching the book for eight years. A fellow teacher and I saw the movie with former students who studied the movie with us. How about if it's shitty? I didn't want anyone to be disappointed. I saw the movie three times. The first viewing rendered me immediately speechless. I couldn't stay and talk with the former students or anyone else. I had to fast-walk to my car and drive around and feel the movie's impact and think about it. It was one of the most satisfying and compelling movies I've seen in years.
6. Open the Vault In fidelity to my enjoyment of playing video slot machines, especially at the Coeur d'Alene Casino near Worley, Idaho, I will declare "Open the Vault" as my favorite of 2007. It is a cascading reel machine, adding a fun level of suspense, and its bonus is lucrative, from time to time. I enjoy the sounds, the graphics, and the story line of "Open the Vault" and had some pretty terrific luck on it once in a while in 2007. Of course, it also kicked my ass!
7. Breaking Blue Tim Eagan's book about a sheriff from Metaline Falls, WA who, in the late eighties, pursues a cold murder case from the thirties is a thrilling book about determination and persistence and a great insight into the corrupt culture of the Spokane, WA police department, not only during the Depression, but in the eighties as well. I might note that events in the last few years point to the likelihood that corruption is a long-standing tradition in Spokane's police force.
8. I'm Not There Todd Hayne's cinematic non-linear exploration of the idea of Bob Dylan and his times is an extraordinarily beautiful, confusing, and compelling motion picture. I have never enjoyed so much just letting a movie take me for a ride with no need on my part to figure things out or always understand what was going on. It had all the fluidity, non-sequitors, and surprise of the best of Bob Dylan's song lyrics. We might have been watching a film version of something like the mind of Bob Dylan at work!
9. Limbo:Blue Collar Roots, White Collar Dreams It's widely assumed in America that to move from the working class to the middle or the professional class is not only desirable, but is almost natural. Alfred Lubrano tells his story of making this transition, as well as the stories of many others in the professional world, and it's hardly a simple matter.
10. After Innocence Watching this documentary about wrongly convicted men freed from prison on the strength of DNA testing has made me think more about the defense side of our criminal justice system than at any other time in my life. It's a great story about the "Innocence Project" and the deep fissures between the truth and the manufacturing of truth in our justice system.
For years, I taught my course as if it were the only course my students were taking and tried to rigorously enforce paper due dates accordingly. I spent a lot of energy cajoling students, sometimes even punishing them with lower grades, all in the name of getting papers in on a certain date.
Other instructors do this, too. They say it helps prepare students for the demands and rigors of the real world.
The IRS extends my tax deadline. When our department needs more time to submit a proposal, almost every time, when we ask, we are given more time. The U.S. Congress extends its sessions beyond what was originally planned. Due dates, time tables, deadlines are, in the real world, negotiable and often have extensions and grace periods built in.
So, is the unbending enforcement of paper due dates really in line with the "real" world? I think not.
Moreover, when I look at my real world professional job, I think it's similar to what many people in different professions experience.
I have one primary "boss" or manager. I teach a schedule of classes and I determine, within objectives shared by our department, what I'll have my students read and when papers should be completed. When conflicts arise in my professional life, when I'm double scheduled with conferences to see students, or when two meetings overlap, I work it out with the parties involved.
This seems to me to be how the "real" world functions, by and large.
Students enrolled full time in college usually take three to four classes.
Therefore, they have three or four "bosses" telling them what to do and when to do it.
Those four "bosses" do not coordinate with each other. At all. I might decided to have an essay due on the same day that a student has a physics midterm.
My experience, in the "real" world is that if this happened to me, I could work out the conflict with the parties involved.
In the academic world, however, instructors often act as if it is a violation of rigor to give a student an extension or to help them work out these kinds of conflicts.
I tell my students to make my class their bottom priority if they need to and to get their work in as soon as is reasonably possible.
I try to work with due dates with my students in the same way I experience them applied in the world of taxes, business, teaching, credit card payments, and other parts of the world we call "real".
I just don't think they need any more pressure than what they are already under working full time or part time, trying to make ends meet, and trying to keep up with a full load of classes with three, four, or five instructors who don't have a clue as to what each other is asking the student to do and when.
It's hard to know where to begin in unpacking how patently false and wrong minded this statement is.
Equating the Pharisees and those who crucified Jesus with being religious is not only wrong, but bizarre.
Underlying this pernicious equation is the idea that if I submit my life to the teachings, traditions, rites, and other religious aspects of Christianity, I will become a hypocrite and a crucifier. If I see the history of Christianity and Judaism as a developing body of thought and practice as a means of bringing people into a community of traditions as well as worship with one another, which is what religion is, then I am corrupting my self and my soul and my ability to love my neighbor and be of service to others.
Religion is the very body of writings, insights, practices, traditions, history, and institutions that enhance our understanding of how to serve Jesus and to follow the way in our relationships with others. Without religion, no matter what the religion, a person of faith is on his or her own, without the clarification of all that has come before to help guide his or her spiritual life in the present.
Jesus wasn't relgious?
Jesus was deeply religious.
He was deeply committed to reforming the Judaic tradition he was born into.
He was deeply committed to helping those he taught revise their understanding of the Jewish religion. He was opposed to corruption, laxity, hypocrisy, dysfunction, and abuse, not out of his opposition to religion, but out of his love for religion.
Yes, I would agree, the purest connection with the divine is in direct and prayerful relationship with God. Religion helps guide and understand this relationship.
Simply because religious institutions abuse power and misdirect members of the institution doesn't mean that the religious aspect of these institutions is bad.
People of faith need religion.
Jesus understood this profoundly.
He worked to elevate and purify religion.
Not eliminate it.
The older I get and the more I reflect upon politics and elections, the less I believe that I should necessarily vote for a candidate because that candidate and I agree on positions on the questions of the day.
Here's why I have trouble with this approach: I don't know if my moral values and social desires are best for the United States of America as a country. Voting according to my values or according to my social vision assumes that how I see the world and dream about it would make a good nation or a good country.
I'm not sure that's true.
I oppose war. I'm not sure our country should.
I am in favor of gun control. But I don't want any more gun control than we already have for my any of my friends who carry legally concealed guns to our friendly poker game or on a drive to the casino.
I am in favor of the preservation of old growth forest land and, on principle, oppose clear cutting. But, I'm not sure that I understand the economics and silvaculture of forest lands well enough to say that the country's forest policies ought to reflect my individual point of view.
I suppose all of us would be more comfortable and happier, at some level if the world we live in mirrored our values and social vision.
But, I'm not sure, in my case, it would be best for our country.
More and more, as I look at presidential candidates, I ask myself if I have any sense of who can lead, who can inspire lawmakers to work more cooperatively and less divisively, who can inspire the citizens of the USA to look to their own and one another's better selves, rather than their uglier.
I'm not sure this ability to lead is really dependent on fine points of policy similarities and differences and I'm not sure it's connected to how many a times a person's been married, whether the candidate is Mormon or Baptist, or whether the person maintains a firmly held position on each of the issues before the voters.
I am trying to think of the country, not myself, as I try to determine who I'll vote for.
Oh. When I answered the questions abcnews.com posed, the candidate who most closely parallels my personal views and attitudes is Dennis Kucinich.
That doesn't surprise me a bit.
I'd never vote for Kucinich, though.
I might feel more affinity with him at the abstract level of ideas and attitudes, but I do not regard him as the leader our country would most benefit from.
But, I'm glad he's campaigning and gives voice to a world view I admire and often dream could work.
2. Is there anything I enjoy more than helping my students understand the fundamental qualities freedom of thought or of thinking freely, of developing a mind unconstrained by dogma and ideology? Unimpeded inquiry: what a deep pleasure to pass along!
3. It feels good every once in a while to be angry and I'm angry with the certain ways Lane Community college (dis)functions grossly interferes with students having a pleasurable experience at college. I don't think that's too much to ask: studies are difficult enough without the college's ill run systems and lousy policies adding more difficulty to student life. My response? I subvert the systems and disobey the policies as often as I can and try to make things as smooth and uncomplicated for my students as possible. That my colleagues don't all do the same makes me angry. I hate hearing their voices when I can hear them digging in and energetically enforcing some stupid policy about due dates or food and drink in the classroom.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
2. I enjoyed a one day, easily curable addiction to Miner Midas, found here. It would not satisfy the longing of my soul for completion, but it would be fun if I could find one puzzle game, slot machine, card game, word game, TV game show, or something along these lines that I was any good at. Good grief.
3. It was invigorating to look at the subversive nature of the parable of the Good Samaritan, to try to make that story strange and unfamiliar by looking at its rhetorical strategies and argumentative structure, not to mention its poetic/metaphorical features in ENG 107 today. I'm better at this sort of thing than I am at Miner Midas.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
The most difficult challenge teaching this course is working with biblical literature. The difficulty cuts two ways: for some students, their experience with the church has been so wretched that any mention of God or the Lord triggers such foul memories they want to run out of the room; for others, their love of God and the Lord is so deep and well-constructed, that it is nearly impossible to see the biblical texts in literary ways. I would say in fresh ways.
While preparing for class this morning, knowing I was going to work with Psalm 23 and the parable of the Good Samaritan, I realized that my job as a literature teacher exploring biblical texts, was to make the texts strange.
By strange, I don't mean weird. I mean unfamiliar. The problem with the student who viscerally recoils at the sight or sound of a biblical text and the student who is blindly in love with the text is the problem of familiarity.
I decided if somehow I could present "The Lord is my shepherd" and the rest of the Psalm in an an unfamiliar way, the Psalm might look like a poem my students had never seen before.
I needed to demystify Psalm 23.
I made Psalms 23 strange in two ways. First, I began class today by reading from the Tao de Ching. I'll do this every day. The Dao explores the Way. Seen through Lao Tzu's eyes, the Way has mysterious and contrary qualities. The contrary qualities do not oppose each other. They co-exist.
After reading from the Dao, I suggested to my students that in place of "the Lord" (who is, after all, the Way), we read "the Way".
"The Way is my shepherd".
Suddenly the grim holder of dominion was gone and suddenly a path or a direction or a mark was "my shepherd". As we look at the Psalm as an exploration of the "The Way", we began to see that the poem sees the way as a guide, a caretaker, a house, a protector, etc.
We saw this today because along with making the Psalm strange my seeing the Lord as the Way, we looked at the Psalm as poetry.
We explored its imagery: what does Psalm 23 invite us to see? (A shepherd, green pastures, still water, a valley, a shadowed valley, a cup, a house, etc.)
How do these images work as metaphors? How do these metaphors point to the qualities and the nature of the Way (the Lord) and to the nature of the soul?
In this particular portrayal of the Lord, or the Way, it cares to human beings. It stills the waters of the soul. It points us to the way of righteousness. Mercy and goodness follows. The Way or the Lord is a source of comfort, direction, nurture, sustenance, generosity.
It's all in the poetry.
It all comes to life when we look at this familiar Psalm as if it were strange and feel the astonishment and beauty of its poetry and vision as if we'd never read it before and as if no institution had ever appropriated this wondrous poem as its own.
2. The Deke had some chicken and wild rice soup, made by Progresso, and she didn't like it. She told me it tasted like dog food. My eyes lit up. When I returned home from teaching my night class, I ate a bowl of the soup and was grateful that, given my recent history at the dog food can, this soup was a lot better.
3. Many of my students in WR 122 sections are students I worked with in the fall in WR 121 and I'm looking forward to building on what we started last quarter.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
2. It was thrilling to talk with my students about the longing for completion of the soul expressed in so much ancient literature we'll be studying in our World Lit. course.
3. I watched excerpts from the Talking Heads concert movie, "Stop Making Sense" just before I went to sleep and marveled at the physical grace and stamina of David Byrnes, especially in his frantic, paranoid, satirical, aerobic performance of "Life During Wartime".
Monday, January 7, 2008
2. Back in the comfort of my own bed, I got caught up writing past Sibling Assignment posts on my blog and started to catch up reading blogs I've missed reading over the last two weeks.
3. Back in the comfort of my own bed, I began to give relaxed and serious thought to how I want to approach the two courses I'm teaching this winter.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
1. Write the correct year whenever I put a date on something. Every year this is my one hard and fast resolution for the new year. So far this year, I've only had to date a couple of things and I put 2008 on both of them.
2. Snug should walk at least a half an hour a day. I don't wear a watch and while I was driving yesterday from Kellogg to Eugene, I suddenly remembered (duh!) that I have a cell phone and I can set the alarm. When the phone goes off after 30 minutes, I'll know I've met my goal.
3. No more solo casino trips. I've cut way back on visiting casinos alone already, but I'd like to just eliminate solo trips completely and only go to a casino if I'm with a friend. This reminder is especially important to me in Eugene. I like to take Snug to the beach to play and plan to focus on our time outdoors and not mix in a casino stop in Florence.
4. Write poetry. I've never been very prolific writing poetry. I have several poems going in my head right now and I'd like to work them out. This means breaking a habit. The other poems I've written came spilling out in a single sitting and needed very little work once I wrote them out. I can't depend on this method for all poems and I'd like to start grinding out some poems rather than only recording the ones that gush out readily.
This list seems manageable and reasonable. If walking more helps me lose weight, terrific; if not going to the casino alone helps with our family finances, superb; if grinding out poetry is part of a daily writing habit, out of sight.
That's the way it is with making positive steps in one's life: they tend to connect to other facets of one's life and a general improvement results.
Silver Valley Girl assigned us Silver Valley Sibs the following task for our next sibling assignment:
One of my favorite Christmas carols is “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day”, based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Read or sing the words and write some reflections on the words of this poem/carol.
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), 1867)
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."
Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!
You can find Silver Valley Girl's post is here and InlandEmpireGirl's is here.
The words that catapult from this well-known song are "And wild and sweet the words repeat/Of peace on earth, good will to men."
I love the idea that peace on earth and good will to men are wild words.
Or, that it's a wild idea.
One of my deepest frustrations with the Christmas season and the general portrayal of Jesus Christ is that it's all so domesticated and tame.
Jesus was a wild man.
Sure, he had sweet moments, but at one juncture after another, he was offensive, pugnacious, confrontational, obstinate, free-wheeling, improvisational, pointed, and fierce.
His embodiment of peace was not what we call today "peaceful". Often flying by the seat of his pants (or whatever he wore), Jesus was unswervingly in the moment, responding to what the moment called for, making snap decisions and inventing stories and parables to illustrate what he stood for and what he wanted his listeners to understand about the wild and non-conformist nature of the Kingdom of God.
I once was visiting with the former Episcopalian Bishop of Idaho, John Thornton, and he growled his disgruntlement with the question: "What would Jesus do?"
He barked, "Jesus didn't even know what Jesus would do!"
It's what made Jesus a wild man, unpredictable to his disciples and to the officials of the Roman Empire and the Jewish establishment.
We should sing of peace on earth and good will to men with wildness in our throats. When our words become flesh we are at our best when we wildly, without fear of consequences, are energized by the non-conformist power of the Holy Spirit to stand boldly and fiercely against all that compromises peace and all that engenders bad will toward others.
We can't do this if Jesus makes us dreamy or if we swoon like lovers at the thought of Jesus or if we look to Jesus as a friend who only comforts us and makes us feel good.
We can do this if Jesus makes us wild for justice, the only earthly way to achieve peace and extend good will to men.
I gave me and my sisters this assignment:
"My WR 121 class has been studying reconciliation and reading all these papers about their struggles and successes with reconciliation makes me want to write about reconciliation.So, write a post about an experience you have had with reconciliation. It might be a successful reconciliation with a person you were in conflict with. It might be reconciliation with your self you were out of sorts about. It might be about a reconciliation that has never happened and maybe never will. It might be coming to reconcile yourself with an idea that had bugged you for a long time. I think these reconciliation posts would be enhanced by each of us writing, at some point in the post, about what we understand "reconciliation" to mean and where we look in our lives for examples of reconciliation that help us measure our successes and failures at reconciliation. Have fun!"
I hate writing this.
I'm a failure at reconciliation.
To reconcile requires being in the presence of someone I have hurt or someone who has hurt me.
I'm terrible at this.
I hate knowing I've hurt another person and can barely face the truth of hurting another when I've done it, and find being in that person's presence almost impossible.
Likewise, I hate to be in the company of someone who has hurt me.
Moreover, I'm awful when it comes to reconciling myself to things I don't want to be true.
Over the past few months, I began to take account of my failures at reconciliation as my students and I were studying the ideas of loss, survival, and reconciliation in WR 121.
My mind kept going back to the end of my first marriage, all the way back to 1982.
Irreconcilable differences. By signing a divorce agreement, I submitted to the idea that our marriage must end because of irreconcilable differences.
I didn't know what those irreconcilable differences were and did not reconcile myself to the fact that they existed.
I obsessed for several years, wanting to reconcile with Eileen. I obsessed about this in my head, picturing imaginary scenes of reconciliation over and over again. I obsessed in my chatter with others, talking about Eileen endlessly with anyone who would listen to me, and when I wore out that person, I looked for others.
As far as making contact with Eileen, I didn't do much. I had surrendered my sense of self-security and worth to her acceptance of me. Her rejection of me and facing more of it terrified me. Unable to reconcile myself to the fact of our divorce, I continued our marriage in my imagination and, of course, all I experienced in this imagined relationship was rejection and, in turn, deep self-hatred.
Maybe that's why I kept insisting within myself that Eileen and I could still be friends. Part of me foolishly held out hope that we could reconcile our broken marriage. To me, it wasn't broken. I couldn't reconcile myself to the fact that we were through.
In the fall of 1983, Eileen called me to say she planned to get married as a Roman Catholic and so our marriage would have to be annulled. Desperate for Eileen's approval, I numbly agreed to cooperate with the annulment.
I couldn't reconcile myself to what was happening. Emotionally, I had never divorced Eileen. Having our marriage annulled, annulled me. That our marriage could be treated as null, annulled my moral compass. I fell into despair. Annulled, nothing much mattered to me. I became emotionally, sexually, spiritually, and professionally cynical. The annulment hollowed me.
I recovered a sense of moral integrity, however, when I opposed the annulment. I felt a vigor for doing the right thing I hadn't felt for quite a while as I composed my self-righteous and what I knew would be my futile essay objecting to the annulment.
Even with our marriage annulled and Eileen's second (first?) marriage inevitable, I continued to pine for reconciliation. I pined for some kind of sit down with Eileen. I was delusional. I imagined we could still sit down have last words together. I thought we could express forgiveness. I thought such a meeting would help me let go of our marriage.
My delusions of reconciliation peaked in the spring of 1987. One weekend, I retreated in silence at Our Lady of Guadeloupe Trappist Monastery from Friday evening until Sunday at noon. On Saturday evening I listened to a tape about the story of Jesus directing his apostles, while failing at fishing, to cast their nets on the other side of the boat where the fish filled their nets.
I don't remember the equation, exactly, but somehow this tape and this biblical story "divinely inspired" me to write a long letter to Eileen: I wrote as if we were still close, as if my inward travails and my desire for reconciliation were as pressing to Eileen as they were to me; I wrote as if the fact that I felt God calling me to write this letter would move Eileen to want to see me and settle our relationship once and for all.
Eileen didn't want anything to do with any of this and replied with a brief note asking me never to contact her again.
I never have and never will.
I'm not sure I've ever really learned to live with how broken I was for so many years and with how my brokenness, desperation, and weakness made any kind of reconciliation between me and Eileen impossible.
I'm still haunted by this failure at reconciliation.
Saturday, January 5, 2008
2. My ten hour drive today was dry for nine hours and fifteen minutes, with clear roads and superb visibility. The rain started falling on I-5 at the Lebanon/Corvallis exit. I expected the drive to be much more difficult. I'm most grateful.
3. Nothing like a Papa Burger Combo meal at Zip's in Ritzville.