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“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” – Winston Churchill

Some of you, my professor included, may have noticed my lack of a blog post on a professional development book. truth time: I didn’t read one! My week was insane, and I kinda didn’t wanna read it because as much good stuff as I’m sure was in there, teaching strategies, at least right now, are not my bag. MOVING ON

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30 books. 30 books is what I’ve read between January and today, if you count some rather sizable graphic novels and some over-arching comic books story arcs (a.k.a spanning several issues). For some time now, I had been down on myself for not doing as much reading as one would expect from a literature major. The classics were wearing me out, the 5 page papers were driving me insane, and I had had it up to here -invisible line- with obscure poetry about a certain red-f’cking-wheelbarrow. And just then.. a light at the end of the tunnel – an excuse to read novel after novel, not necessarily as brooding and complex as any Scarlet Letter, but much more readable, and definitely more relatable. Hell, sign me up!

And sign up I did, sign up for an “A” contract in a class called “Adolescent Literature”. After getting a look at a reading list including the likes of The Outsiders, the Hunger Games, and some graphic novels I’d never heard of, another class of reading Walden could kiss my happy, anti-transcendentalism ass. Thanks to this class, I’ve done some things I would not have before – such as start a Twitter feed, and this blog page! No one wants to hear the dumb crap I have to spew, I thought to myself. What good is a blog past me just talking to myself?
Little did I know – these blogs and tweets and crazy technological wonders were to be used as part of a learning platform – to network with other human beings. Damn! What a concept! And here I was thinking the internet was around for little more than cat videos and obscure, brooding facebook statuses (SARCASM).

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This class is unlike any I’ve taken before, in the combined sense that I not only enjoyed what was required reading (most of the time), but doing my homework was a bit of a relief. Being forced to blog every week means having to regurgitate my thoughts about a book or a theme, and if I thought the author was a jackass or the book was pretentious, being able to say so for the world to see felt kinda good (still waiting on Sherman Alexie to explain to me how owning a kindle makes me a fucking elitist. Genius.) If I thought a book was awesome, being able to compare reasons why with someone else was also awesome. I wish in-class meetings had either been more frequent or had more people, but that kind of thing happens with an online medium. I still managed to get some good back-and-forths going with people, and this blog has forced me to pick back up a once-frequent medium of posting angry things on the internet. While it’s not fiction writing, it is something. I’ve decided that I’m going to start calling myself a writer. Not pretentiously, mind you, and not in the sense of “I hang around coffee shops and write” writer. But it’s something I do, and it’s something I do well. Why not take the title? I feel like I meet the qualifications.

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With such a comprehensive reading list, one is forced to gain some perspective outside of the (typical) middle-class, white American adolescence. I do not know what it’s like to be an indian on a reservation, to be a raped teenage girl, a (fabulously) gay man, or anything else of the sort… and being able to glance into that lifestyle, even for just a little bit, broadens an otherwise small horizon. I won’t lie, when I first heard “adolescent lit”, I thought of some rinse-and-repeat franchise like A Series of Unfortuante Events or Goosebumps, I hadn’t considered works like The Hunger Games. This kind of literature can provide an escape point or a point of identification for adolescents – I’m just wondering where the drop off is between “young adult” and “adolescent”. Plus, what exactly is “middle grade”? Problems are not  specific to a grade level. I come from Alliance where parents can’t buy their children toys off of infomercials because they aren’t old enough to call the hotline – I know a thing or two about early onset problems. Problems in adolescent literature aren’t problems exclusive to adolescents, they just come from different perspective. Plus, every parent in every adolescent novel or horror story for that matter is a total douche. If you had just believed your kid in the first place, maybe you wouldn’t have gotten abducted by aliens.

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Above: Somewhat related.

When it came to my independent reading for this class, I tried my best to convince my fellow readers and compatriots that Superman and Captain America had just as much literary complexity as lame-ass Arthur Dimmesdale or Charles Dickens’s Pip. A good 3/4ths of my independent reading had to do with graphic novels and comic books, and the accompanying blogs were me trying to convince a class of mostly women to pick up a comic book. Did I fail? Most likely. But luckily, Dr. Ellington included 2 graphic novels in the syllabus, so I can hop on the bandwagon of the success of that week. This all culminated in my inquiry project being my own syllabus for a graphic novels course. If I changed even one mind, I call that success. If I didn’t, well, you can’t win ’em all. In fact, you lose most of them it seems. Seriously though. Break the stereotype. Comics aren’t just for teenage boys, aren’t just for nerds, aren’t just for dorks. Yeah, shows like “Comic Book Men” don’t do us comic readers any favors, but come on. Dudes dig chicks who read comic books! Fact.

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So I guess the question that remains now is will I continue to spill my brain droppings all over this page, even recreationally? It’s hard to say. I guess that really depends on if anyone else does. I definitely plan on continuing to skulk my Twitter account. I dunno if I’ll continue to update it, but too many people share too much cool stuff for me to just ignore it all together.

Either way, if you’re reading this, thank you for joining me on this ride. I don’t suspect it’s over – but for right now, we need to head to a rest stop. My brain can’t handle much more responsbility.

Excelsior!

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“I had relationships with men as well as women. I wasn’t choosing; I didn’t think I had to.” – Jeanette Winterson

Political correctness, to me, has never made much sense. Are people really so uptight that they prefer you use African American over black? Continuing (roughly) down this road, I’ve always wondered something.. completely hypothetically speaking. If you, as a person, are an asshole to everyone around you.. except for “different” people (handicapped, mentally deficient, LGBT), does that make you prejudiced? Rather than treat the “different” people like you do everyone else, you differentiate them and the way you treat them. Even if your treatment isn’t negative.. isn’t this still discrimination? Isn’t it still a bad thing? We’re all just fuckin’ humans being. We’re not heroes, and we’re not bastards. We’re just people.

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The sheer wealth of information from “QueerYA” and “I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell do I read?” is a bit staggering. Books with LGBT characters, books by LGBT authors, poems, quotes, v-logs, links to other blogs.. it’s crazy. With blogs like this – and the internet in and of itself – how can people still be so ignorant of others? Any bit of information you would ever need is readily available. I think the problem is we don’t use the internet as an information source anymore. Instead, we use it for our hair-trigger temperaments and our empty-headed opinions. We get upset about something we really know nothing about, and the internet means we don’t have to formulate an actual argument or write a well thought-out letter to an editor. We spew it out on a Facebook wall and boom. Done. It’s out there forever. This is how discrimination and hatred breeds; it’s a fear of that which we don’t understand manifesting itself.

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I was particularly impressed with Lee Wind’s website that’s tied into his blog, where he talks about how focused we are as a culture on sex. Don’t get me wrong – it’s natural, it’s stupid to pretend we’re not interested, it happens. But like in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, I wonder why it is we give so much of a damn who has sex with whom. Mentally daft bible arguments aside, what is the problem with gay people? What is the problem people have with it? It’s unnatural? Are you happy with the fact that your arguments harken back to how we justified slavery a short 200 years ago?

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If I’ve offended you here, I’m not sorry. At all. I might be an angry keyboard jockey right now, but I would be happy to have this conversation with you face-to-face. Feel free to un-follow me. That’s where I flourish. To quote one Mr. Dick Rischling, “I love conflict! I WIN THEM ALL.”

“The worst guilt is to accept an unearned guilt.” – Ayn Rand

Only in the plains of Nebraska have I ever seen such a scene as this: in the middle of Winter, the sky is divided in two. About 1/4th of it is blue and sunny, but that part is far off in the distance. The part that hovers over me, of course, is gray and lifeless, and snow lightly drifts down to earth. Two completely contrasting behaviors coming from the same sky. What a sight. I thought of this as I read a part in Laurie Anderson’s novel “Speak”, where Mel is talking about Winter air being easier to breathe.

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The novel in its entirety feels gray. I don’t mean this in a negative sense, I mean Mel’s drifting through a painful day-to-day existence just feels.. gray. It isn’t purely dark, but there isn’t much light either. The whole novel is stuffed with some powerful and clever images: cracked, dry lips; a dead tree having its branches trimmed away; bare, white walls. There are very few moments of the sun peering through the clouds when it comes to this novel. In the past, I’ve talked about books being able to teach us to better empathize with people. The high school version of me would probably have read the synopsis to “Speak” and rolled his eyes, chalking this up with the likes of Twilight and other generic teen-girl books. Thankfully, the college-me has a little bit more sense, and despite the serious subject matter, actually enjoyed this book quite a bit (I’m talking in the third person still, what the what).

I’ll tell you one thing, this novel pretty much reaffirmed my hatred for middle school. And my hatred for parents in books. No parent in any novel ever has ever listened to what their child has to say, it seems, and it gets pretty tiresome at times. Apparently every parent ever is a self-absorbed asshole with the biological capability to have kids but the maturity of a whining 13 year old. Current parents and parents-to-be alike: if you ever saw scratches on your child’s wrist, and said “I don’t have time for this”, there are no words awful enough to describe what you deserve to have done to you. Principals and guidance counselors and parents are supposed to be helpers. Children are supposed to feel safe in a school, but the sad fact is that many don’t. In a school system that favors popular kids and that puts empty-headed coaches in teacher’s places, how are kids who aren’t like Nicole supposed to feel like they can get through to anyone? Plus, I’ve always questioned the humanity of In-School Suspension. In the novel, it’s a solid white room where you are forced to sit. In my school, it was a pink room, and I was only in there once.

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 *spoiler alert: vulgar language ahead*
I fucking hated middle school, because I was surrounded by idiotic, superficial, and moronic people not unlike the characters in “Speak”. People who are only concerned with their own interests, their own gains, who spit on anything remotely unfamiliar. One would think that if Mel’s friends were indeed such good friends, maybe they wouldn’t have invited her to a high school party in the first place. Or maybe they would not be all pissy over her calling the cops on a party that they didn’t even throw, and didn’t even get caught at. I want to crack all of these characters in their teeth. You would think at least one person in this damn world would have the common sense to notice that Mel’s introversion is not just teenage angst and that there is more there. I know it would have made for a much different novel, and it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do, but I found myself wondering how the book would have ended if she had killed Andy’s worthless ass with that glass shard.
I have never been one for shying away from gritty realism. Sherman Alexie’s book is often attacked for freely mentioning masturbation, and this book has faced the same thing because of a rape scene. News flash to these sheltered, yuppie fools: this is real life. This is the life we live. These things happen. You plugging your ears and stomping your feet doesn’t change the  fact that the world can be an ugly place. These scenes might make people uncomfortable or make them squirm, and I think that’s a great thing. People need to squirm. When you’re so sheltered that you try to change every instance of the word “nigger” in Huckleberry Finn to “slave”, we have a serious problem. Sweeping something under the rug doesn’t get rid of it. It only makes a bigger mess. This is why we must speak for those without the voice to do so. Rachel’s complete and total disbelief of Mel drew the line for me – I wanted nothing more than for Mel to deliever a tremendous middle finger to all of her former “friends”.
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