So I started doing this 750 words business. It’s a bit more strenuous, really, than the 200 WAD challenge, which might actually mean that I do it, or something.  I don’t know.  I’m not feeling particularly committed to it.  What I would really like is to wake up every morning wanting to write, feeling inspired to write, but I have my doubts, even in summer, as to whether this will pan out!  I guess we’ll see.  A student turned me on to the site, and I’m thinking it might be a great way to torture seniors next semester.  Hahahaha, 750 words a day.  Have fun, suckas.

This morning I am sitting in my room with nothing of consequence to do.  I’m done grading; my classes require no further planning.  No one’s stopping by to visit, which is boring and stupid.  I’ve already harassed the counseling department ladies and made small talk with the building secretaries in the front office.  I’ve chatted with the dean; I’ve disrupted the teacher next door’s class.  I’ve sent my dual-credit grades off to the university.  I’ve attempted to thwart the school’s webfilter to access my gmail account and repeatedly, unsurprisingly failed.  I finished a short story recommended to me by “Harry,” published in an SF magazine he lent me (I’ll write about that shortly).  Now I’m burning Rufus Does Judy for a colleague and attempting to write 750 words.  This is a really dull entry so far.  I feel a little dull.  A lot dull!

So the story I read is called “Echoes” and it’s by a guy named Alan Brennert who is apparently a screenwriter and such.  The premise was cool — this person is bioengineered by her parents to be the ideal musician; she starts her life as a designer baby.  As she grows, she begins to see alternate versions of her — other genetic/biological possibilities she might’ve been had the parents made different choices in the planning process — populating her world, and she becomes totally consumed by envy of them, as they are, naturally, better at different things than she is, and in a few cases, better at what she’s good at.  This is, according to the logic of the story, a common occurrence for genetically engineered individuals; they can physically witness all of their might-have-beens, whereas regular folk can only imagine.

The story eventually becomes a clunky treatise on free will, and I think the ending is boring and trite, but the idea fueling it and the handling of the story up to the protagonist’s revelation is pretty deft, I think.  I like the idea inherent in the protagonist’s actions that suggests we are more cowed and immobilized when we measure ourselves against our own unachieved potential than when we compare ourselves to others.  I’ve been whining a lot (in my mind and to others) about how I feel like nobody really told me what my potential was and so I progressed through life constantly doubting myself — I blame the patriarchy in particular — but I think it’s as much an internal problem as an external one.  I’ve always been sort of guardedly arrogant about my abilities in general, and I think I always knew that if I took a chance at something I could probably make a good go of it.  But I was still terrified of the risk, and that, unfortunately, has steered a lot of my professional course in life.

Get me wrong do not: I find myself to be a very adept teacher, and I do not think it is an easy job to be adept at.  I do not consider teaching to be settling, as I think it requires an entirely different skill set and artistry than any other paths that most suggest are related — writing, editing, that sort of thing.  I, however, do think that I felt like failure in this realm would be more acceptable than failure in more artistic or independent endeavors, because failing at teaching high school would probably only mean that I wasn’t particularly good at relating to teenagers, which, who’s going to judge me on that?  Failing at writing, on the other hand, means being branded as a talentless hack, and being a talentless hack who doesn’t already ADMIT they’re a talentless hack is a particularly horrifying fate.  Additionally, if one stinks at teaching, it’s plausible that one will nevertheless find SOMEWHERE to work if one looks long enough, whereas stinking at writing will generally mean not getting work doing said writing.  In fact, NOT stinking at writing STILL isn’t a guarantee of employment in writing-based fields.  Teaching is clearly the safer of the two choices, then.

I do unsafe things sometimes, but I wonder if I ever DON’T calculate risk before doing so.  I mean, I like rollercoasters just fine because there’s this facade of danger in a totally controlled environment, and I’d gladly skydive again provided I were strapped to a professional.  I’m probably going to last FOREVER, evolutionarily speaking.  But lord.  I feel like some freefall is in order.

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You guys, I am so wonko on daytime cold medicine right now.  I’m all vertigo and bad ideas.  Since that’s not a good condition in which to grade, I thought I’d maybe blog!

My head feels like it’s about to blow like the Death Star!

My kiddos are watching Star Wars: A New Hope right now.  It’s Science Fiction class!  Hooray for dorkdom.  May it reign supreme forever.

I had to miss a bunch of grad parties this weekend, which made me tremendously sad.  I feel like, since I can’t really afford to get them all something, going to the parties is the kind of nice thing I can do for them.  But I did not!  Because I felt like someone had put me in a bag and used me to beat someone.

Now I feel like an alien might pop out of the side of my head and tapdance across the counter.

Porkins!

Did I mention I’m eating a cookie?  I’m not sure sugar is the answer right now.

Almost there…It’s a hit!  Negative, negative, it didn’t go in.

There are four days of school left, suckas!  Four days!

I better nip this in the bud before it gets outta control.

It’ll be just like Beggar’s Canyon back home!


Taking Care: A Reflection on (and in! Imagine that!) Words

“It seems as if we don’t know how to speak;

it seems as if there are words which escape,

which are missing, which have gone away and left us

to ourselves, tangled up in snares and threads.”

Pablo Neruda

We’re reading this book that I half-like and half-hate in 9th English called Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, and in it there is the requisite kick-ass teacher whom everyone respects and who is, of course, smart as a whip and an inspiration to all.  (I find this stock character both annoying and inspiring whenever I encounter him/her in the myriad adolescent lit books he/she shows up in.)  Anyway, this teacher says something at one point about how people need to put thought and care back into words — that we need to remember them as weighty, as substantial, and use them accordingly.  I find this idea both infuriatingly, tyrannically modernistic and fundamentally true.  If words are our chief tool for both creating and representing our reality — and I feel very strongly that this is so—then words are Of Consequence.  This idea is one that I think gets entirely lost in our world of ever faster and more shiny communication, and while I’m no luddite, I can’t help but feel — as Orwell did, among many others — that something important is sacrificed in the name of this speed and finesse.

Words are what we use to think.  Words give weight and legitimacy to our feelings, our experiences, our varied understandings of the world.  This is as true of fiction as it is of expository or argumentative writing; it’s as true of poetry as it is of charts and figures.  We use words to construct not only our own mindscapes, but the physical landscape as well (and then, as Derrida would have it, we use them to deconstruct the binary between the two!).  Words are important.

I think this belief of mine is probably the fundamental tenet of this course, and probably of my entire teaching philosophy and resulting agenda.  Because words are so important, they’re worth looking at a little more closely.  They’re worth pondering at length.  It is worth our time to make sure we’re saying what we want to be saying, to examine what all is implied by what we say, to make sure we understand the full implications of what others say, to understand how language can and does work as a tool.  And it’s worth it, too, to take a little time to enjoy the possibilities of language — to recognize how it can become, on a structural level, an embodiment of some of the most profound and the most mundane possibilities of our collective and individual beings.  That’s why I love poetry; it seeks out that structural affinity with our lives, and where it can’t find it, it creates it.  That is, for me, what makes it possible to not just understand a poem, but to actually feel it in an almost tactile sense.  It’s delicious, the poetry — or deeply, morbidly bitter, or, or — whatever it is, it has reverberations on a physical level for me.  I mean, that’s not just cool; that’s just really, really important.  Worth looking at.

If language can do that, look out.  (If you think language can’t do that to you, look out!)  Like anything of power, language is most certainly dangerous.  It doesn’t just describe; it creates.  The most careless and the most careful use of language BOTH build our sense of the world.  The degree to which we examine and question the language that our world consists of determines, in some respects, our control over our world.  If we’re lazy about language — both our use of it and the way it’s used on us — we lose our power to navigate the world.   We instead drift.  We could end up anywhere, and while that metaphor is somehow incredibly relaxing and adventurous-sounding, I think I’d still like to have a hand in my own destinations, personally.

I think that’s about all I can cover in one Think Piece, as this is already sort of unbearably didactic.  I’d like to close, then, not with a question, but with thanks.  How lucky am I to be able to work with folks to whom I can write something like this?  How lucky am I to work with such brilliant and vibrant and funny and weird and quixotic and maddening and alive people every day?  How lucky am I to be able to say in truth that I work with you rather than teach you?  Thank you, because that’s your doing.  And as ungrateful as I’ve been, my thanks to you now could not be more sincere.


Here’s a poem I really like!

(Also, I’m about to write my fourth Think Piece of the year, and will be posting it here soon.  In the meantime, enjoy!)

The Two-Headed Calf

Tomorrow, when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.

But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass.
And as he stares into the sky, there
are twice as many stars as usual.

–Laura Gilpin


Really?  You did not?  Well, allow EVERY ONE OF MY STUDENTS to tell you so in separate (and ostensibly separately conceived) “think” pieces!  They are telling me, right now!  All night long!  Over and over!

Whoever taught kids that human beings are by nature power-hungry, lazy, selfish, murdering, thieving bastards — that it’s individual human frailty that causes injustice in the world — needs to fucking GET IT.  And by “it,” I mean MY IRE.  And by “get,” I mean BECOME INTENSELY AWARE OF. Also, it would be good for them to shut the fuck up.


…I’m not moving this blog after all?  The blogger one isn’t ugly enough.  Also: blogger.  Bleck.  I </3 blogger.   So you can stay RIGHT HERE, READERSHIP!

I promise I’ll start posting again soon…


It’s the file attached to the post just below this one!  DO IT.  I like my notes, too.  I like my writing!  Maybe I should just write poetry explications all summer long.  😛