Saturday, February 28, 2009


Those of you who went to college with me might recall a particular sweatshirt that I wore with some regularity. It's green, hooded, has a zipper, and has three white Greek letters on the left breast. I purchased it from a vendor who came annually to our dormitory and attempted to foist high-price, low-quality merchandise off on unsuspecting Greeks. It cost a great deal of money for a shitty hoodie, but I figured that if I didn't buy any other frat merchandise, I could justify this purchase. So I bought it, and I wore it, and seven years later it hasn't fallen apart, so I guess it's less poorly made than I thought.

Tonight it served a purpose for which it never was intended.

The Mysterious X and I were on our way home earlier tonight from a delightful evening at Violesbian's apartment, playing Seafarers of Catan and eating things wrapped in Filo dough. We were on the #4 bus, eastbound along Santa Monica Boulevard, sitting on the special elevated seats that the extra-long buses have in front of the cool accordion part. Across from us sat an obnoxious couple with a stack of assorted magazines and a case of the giggles. In front of us sat an assortment of passengers including (but not limited to) a youngish white man in a very nice three-button gray suit, a young black woman with a short fro and rather more fashionable weekend attire, and a middle-aged, dyed-blond Russian woman talking animatedly on a cellphone with an earpiece.

Somewhere in Beverly Hills, a new passenger boarded the bus. He was Latino, late 30s, wearing an orange and white, horizontal-striped polo shirt that was just a shade too tight. Nothing about him stood out at all as unusual. Until he collapsed suddenly to the floor and started to have a seizure.

Suit guy got down on the floor and turned the man onto his side. Fro woman called 911. The man having the seizure began banging his head on the floor; that's where my sweatshirt came in. I took it off and put it under his head as padding, while suit guy held his head still and kept him on his side. Something reddish was leaking from somewhere in the man's face or head.

Within two minutes, if not sooner, the Beverly Hills Fire Department ambulance had arrived and the half dozen EMTs took over. The passengers toward the front of the bus, where this all happened, filed out onto the sidewalk to get out of the way. The Russian woman was still gabbing away on her cellphone, seeming moderately put out but otherwise unconcerned. Several other passengers peered into the windows of the bus, trying to catch a glimpse of the man who remained on the floor, surrounded by medical personnel. The rest of us were fairly shaken up and simply waited outside. My shirt stayed under the man's head.

Eventually, the man was hauled out on a Miller Board and put into the ambulance. He seemed to be awake and responsive, which he hadn't been while on the floor. One of the paramedics returned my sweatshirt, and we continued on. The Russian woman hadn't stopped talking on her phone once throughout the incident. Another man who was inexplicably carrying a white plastic bucket remained seemingly oblivious.

Things happen on buses.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


The She God of Shark Reef has given me this lovely meme: the Guardian's 100 sci-fi/fantasy/horror books that YOU MUST READ. I have marked the ones I have read--less than a quarter of the list! I am highly dubious about some of their selections; there is a complete lack of my two favorite authors in the genre, David Brin and the incomparable Ursula K. Le Guin! Obviously, the Guardian doesn't care for Americans. Snooty Brits.

Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979) X
Brian W Aldiss: Non-Stop (1958)
Isaac Asimov: Foundation (1951) X
Margaret Atwood: The Blind Assassin (2000) (started, but never finished)
Paul Auster: In the Country of Last Things (1987)
Iain Banks: The Wasp Factory (1984)
Iain M Banks: Consider Phlebas (1987)
Clive Barker: Weaveworld (1987)
Nicola Barker: Darkmans (2007)
Stephen Baxter: The Time Ships (1995)
Greg Bear: Darwin's Radio (1999)
Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination (1956)
Poppy Z Brite: Lost Souls (1992)
Algis Budrys: Rogue Moon (1960)
Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita (1966) X (read in English; started по-русский)
Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Coming Race (1871)
Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange (1960) X
Anthony Burgess: The End of the World News (1982)
Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Princess of Mars (1912)
William Burroughs: Naked Lunch (1959)
Octavia Butler: Kindred (1979)
Samuel Butler: Erewhon (1872)
Italo Calvino: The Baron in the Trees (1957)
Ramsey Campbell: The Influence (1988)
Lewis Carroll: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) X
Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871) X
Angela Carter: Nights at the Circus (1984)
Michael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000)
Arthur C Clarke: Childhood's End (1953)
GK Chesterton: The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)
Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (2004) X
Michael G Coney: Hello Summer, Goodbye (1975)
Douglas Coupland: Girlfriend in a Coma (1998)
Mark Danielewski: House of Leaves (2000)
Marie Darrieussecq: Pig Tales (1996)
Samuel R Delaney: The Einstein Intersection (1967)
Philip K Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) X
Philip K Dick: The Man in the High Castle (1962) X
Umberto Eco: Foucault's Pendulum (1988)
Michel Faber: Under the Skin (2000)
John Fowles: The Magus (1966)
Neil Gaiman: American Gods (2001) X
Alan Garner: Red Shift (1973)
William Gibson: Neuromancer (1984)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Herland (1915)
William Golding: Lord of the Flies (1954) X
Joe Haldeman: The Forever War (1974)
M John Harrison: Light (2002)
Robert A Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) X (Don't get me started...)
Frank Herbert: Dune (1965) X
Hermann Hesse: The Glass Bead Game (1943)
Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker (1980)
James Hogg: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824)
Michel Houellebecq: Atomised (1998)
Aldous Huxley: Brave New World (1932) X
Kazuo Ishiguro: The Unconsoled (1995)
Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
Henry James: The Turn of the Screw (1898) love the opera; does that count?
PD James: The Children of Men (1992)
Richard Jefferies: After London; Or, Wild England (1885)
Gwyneth Jones: Bold as Love (2001)
Franz Kafka: The Trial (1925)
Daniel Keyes: Flowers for Algernon (1966)
Stephen King: The Shining (1977)
Marghanita Laski: The Victorian Chaise-longue (1953)
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: Uncle Silas (1864)
Stanislaw Lem: Solaris (1961)
Doris Lessing: Memoirs of a Survivor (1974)
David Lindsay: A Voyage to Arcturus (1920)
Ken MacLeod: The Night Sessions (2008)
Hilary Mantel: Beyond Black (2005)
Michael Marshall Smith: Only Forward (1994)
Richard Matheson: I Am Legend (1954)
Charles Maturin: Melmoth the Wanderer (1820)
Patrick McCabe: The Butcher Boy (1992)
Cormac McCarthy: The Road (2006)
Jed Mercurio: Ascent (2007)
China Miéville: The Scar (2002)
Andrew Miller: Ingenious Pain (1997)
Walter M Miller Jr: A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960) X
David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas (2004)
Michael Moorcock: Mother London (1988)
William Morris: News From Nowhere (1890)
Toni Morrison: Beloved (1987)
Haruki Murakami: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (1995)
Vladimir Nabokov: Ada or Ardor (1969)
Audrey Niffenegger: The Time Traveler's Wife (2003)
Larry Niven: Ringworld (1970)
Jeff Noon: Vurt (1993)
Flann O'Brien: The Third Policeman (1967)
Ben Okri: The Famished Road (1991)
Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club (1996)
Thomas Love Peacock: Nightmare Abbey (1818)
Mervyn Peake: Titus Groan (1946)
John Cowper Powys: A Glastonbury Romance (1932)
Christopher Priest: The Prestige (1995)
François Rabelais: Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-34)
Ann Radcliffe: The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)
Alastair Reynolds: Revelation Space (2000)
Kim Stanley Robinson: The Years of Rice and Salt (2002)
JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997) X
Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses (1988) X
Antoine de Sainte-Exupéry: The Little Prince (1943) X
José Saramago: Blindness (1995)
Will Self: How the Dead Live (2000)
Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (1818) X
Dan Simmons: Hyperion (1989)
Olaf Stapledon: Star Maker (1937)
Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash (1992)
Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) X
Bram Stoker: Dracula (1897)
Rupert Thomson: The Insult (1996)
Mark Twain: A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court (1889) X
Kurt Vonnegut: Sirens of Titan (1959)
Robert Walser: Institute Benjamenta (1909)
Sylvia Townsend Warner: Lolly Willowes (1926)
Sarah Waters: Affinity (1999)
HG Wells: The Time Machine (1895) X
HG Wells: The War of the Worlds (1898) X
TH White: The Sword in the Stone (1938) X
Gene Wolfe: The Book of the New Sun (1980-83)
John Wyndham: Day of the Triffids (1951)
John Wyndham: The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)
Yevgeny Zamyatin: We (1924) X (read in English; started по-русский)

Who thought of this?

The “Spider-Man” musical would mark the Broadway debut for Bono and the Edge.

That's all I have to say about that.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A tidbit

I realize as I grade my students' papers that I'm asking more of them than most (any?) of my professors asked of me in college. And you know what? They're doing it. I think their brains are sort of like goldfish...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Clearing the air

Now that it is the middle of the afternoon and I am calm, I thought I'd post something fairly cheerful. Did you know that "Ob La Di, Ob La Da" was supposed to be ska? So says The Mysterious X, who is teaching the Beatles this quarter. Paul McCartney, you don't know from ska.

Also, a great big thank you to the special Easter flavored M&Ms. You are the only things that are allowing me to grade for so many hours in a row.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Still awake

Just a link and some brief tableaux of rage.

This article is depressing and infuriating.




"Hi, my name is Divisive Issue. My very existence is inherently a problem for your ill-considered moral code. I guess that means that we shouldn't discuss me or my right to basic human dignity; that might upset you. I hope your personal relationship with God is going well!"


It's been a long time since I've heard anyone use this phrase seriously; perhaps it's time to reacquaint ourselves with it:
We're here. We're queer. Get used to it. You fucker.


Apparently, contrary to popular opinion and empirical data, not all people get to live in New York. It's time we few, we happy few, we band of sisters realize that it's a lot harder to be one of us (gay, lesbian, bi, trans, or just a decent person) outside that tiny little group of islands-plus-the-Bronx and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Forget marriage fucking equality (don't tell anyone I said that) and put your agile brains to work figuring out how to help an eleven-year-old girl in West Virginia feel okay about starting to look at other girls instead of boys like she's supposed to. Tell a teenaged boy in Texas that he can wear a dress. I don't know what the hell to do in Orange County, but it clearly needs work. Get out there and just be gay in public. It's a start.

I should really be asleep

My alarm is set to go off in just a few hours, but I can't sleep so I think I'll meta-blog instead.

Blogs are weird. I just stumbled, totally by accident, across a huge, amazing shitstorm in the feminist blogosphere of which I was totally unaware. The shitstorm, that is, not the blogosphere. I can't even begin to comment on the substance of the storm, being both male and white and also not party to the apparently long and troubled history of shitstorms that led up to this one. I know a place that has absolutely no need of my oar when I see one.

However, it does make me think about blogs in general, especially considering the fact that I now operate two of them (and contributed once on a third). The controversy linked above is currently making gigantic waves in an ocean I had no idea existed. I say this as a feminist and a blogger, aware of the feminist blogosphere and a semi-regular reader of (and very occasional commenter on) two of the participating bloggers' blogs. Holy fuck there are a lot of people in the world. Secret (entirely public) communities are lurking everywhere, including behind the webpages I so blithely skim most evenings.

When I started this blog way back about 13 months ago, it was solely for my own emotional health. My way of not having to talk to a therapist. Self-absorption, pure and simple, ignoring the rest of the world, but a necessary move for me at the time. Once I was feeling good enough about things in general, I made it public and linked from Facebook. For a while that link went away, as I attempted to hide from my students, but it's back now, hopefully permanently. I have absolutely no idea how many people read this, though I imagine it's a few more than comment on it. I have noticed that direct questions to my readers go largely unanswered, and so I still think of it as mostly directed at me, with some friends amiably listening in. I'm not trying to change the shape of discourse on the intertubes. I'm not even creating political change. In the end, I'm still talking to myself. Witness the number of times I said I in this paragraph.

The new blog isn't really about that, of course. That's a purposeful redirection of what I say to myself toward other ears. It's an experiment, possibly one that will have an effect on people who are not me. I hope it will. But even with that goal, it's not anything like the blogs discussed in that wild flurry of invective linked above. They (everyone contributing there and in the many other sites that are participating in the intense blogobrawl) have a concept of blogging I just can't wrap my head around; I don't think my fragile self-esteem could support the weight of the kind of blogging they're talking about (and doing). I just can't imagine that many people reading and/or caring about what I write!

It's odd. I like to consider myself a staunch advocate for the public space over the private, but this blog is definitely on the private side and equally definitely staying there. The more public blogs scare me, to some degree, because I don't yet know how to successfully perform myself for others in blog-comment form. As evidence, this post, which is ending up as scattered musing about my own current emotions instead of any larger issues of general interest. Hey, look--it's my navel! Hi, navel!

Some day I'll be able to participate intelligently in some sort of debate on the hierarchies of oppression in the blogosphere, but that day isn't today. Today I will have tea with Van Helsing (in six hours; yikes!), teach twenty college students how to write about music, go to the gym with Z2, and then come home to enter some more data from the last VFE canvass. Then I'll probably play some Scrabble, get up another post or two on the new blog, write some of my independent study paper, and have dinner with Z2, Steely Dan, and anybody else who shows up at my house. That's enough for one Friday.

Maybe next week I'll dismantle the patriarchy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


One of the most successful—if not the most successful—spin-offs in entertainment history is the television show known as Frasier. Spun off from Cheers eleven years later, Frasier had nothing to do with its parent show, beyond the existence in both settings of Dr. Frasier Crane, and it lasted another eleven. Similarly, Empty Nest and Nurses had very little to do with The Golden Girls; The Golden Palace had somewhat more to do with it, but tenuously. Spin-offs are usually done in this manner, departing from the parent's premise entirely (Maude, anyone?) but retaining a popular character or feature of the original (usually the impetus behind the spin-off) to boost initial popularity.

This brief television history disquisition is by way of announcing that this blog is getting a spin-off. I have been mulling over too many posts that have gone unposted lately, and they are all very clearly thematically linked. Therefore, I have now created (though not yet posted in) On The Street, Where You Live: encounters with homelessness in Los Angeles. I'll be using it mostly as a venue for sharing stories, stories either of my experiences with homeless people or of their experiences in their own words. This has little to do, really, with my personal/professional/political life that I regularly give an accounting of in this forum, and that's the point.

The lives of homeless people far too often have absolutely nothing to do with the lives of the homed; these people are invisible to me (us), except when they impinge on my (our) personal space—olfactory and visual, as well as physical. Part of Los Angeles' obsession with privacy/privatization consists in that determined invisibility, in the concealment of social/societal difficulties that are, in Douglas Adams' rather pointed phrase, Somebody Else's Problem. The nationwide demise of the public sphere results directly in this kind of everyday callousness, the insensitivity to human suffering that is absolutely necessary to live any kind of normal life in the big city.

Will this new blog do anything for these human beings I so blatantly ignore? Not really, not concretely. But their stories deserve to be shared as much as mine, and they probably don't have blogs. It will do something for me, the author, to pass the stories on and imagine that they get heard. It will do something to me as well, and I hope that that something happens to anyone else who chooses to read it. Maybe there will be a few extra volunteers at the 2011 Homeless Count. Maybe a shelter will get one extra donation.

Maybe a homed person will see a homeless person as person first, and homeless second. That's all I ask.

Friday, February 13, 2009

And hilarity ensued

Did 'yall catch this little article? Usually, the New York State Senate makes me quiver with righteous fury. This time, though, I just can't help laughing. I mean, the Democratic State Senators have 30 parking spaces, while the Republicans have...? Take a guess. 60? 90? 120? Over 800. How big do they think the state senate is? Do they each drive 16 cars to work every day? Or do they each bring 15 aides to the senate sessions? 15 aides who all drive their own cars.

Even better: the Republicans had a secret television studio for recording commercials? Really!?

Okay, it is pretty upsetting that this is what the taxes go to, so I guess I can work up some righteous fury over that, but it's also just nuts enough to be completely hilarious. My parents are paying for the state senate to have a private printing press with a staff of over 200. This is the state senate that is famous for taking many, many years to do nothing.

Sigh. It's nice to find some humor in the grim state politics of today.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Light notes 2

As promised, the list of Music My Students Love. I am disappointed; I had hoped there would be some overlap between the lists.

1. "Sell Out" by Reel Big Fish
2. "Massive Wonder[s]" by Mizuki Nana
3. James Morrison's "Scream Machine"
4. Astrud Gilberto, particularly "Quiet Nights [of Quiet Stars]"
5. "Oh, Canada" by Five Iron Frenzy
6. The Beatles' three-song sequence "Mean Mr. Mustard," "Polythene Pam," and "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window"
7. Bon Iver
8. "Stuck Between Stations" by The Hold Steady
9. Elliott Smith's "Between the Bars"
10. "Siegfried[-]Idyll" by [Richard] Wagner
11. Radiohead, especially "15-step"
12. Kevin Volans, "White Man Sleeps, [Movement] II"
13. "Romanian Dance - first movement" by [Bela] Bartok. Which dance, I have no idea. This is a guess.
14. "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" by Vampire Weekend
15. Muczynski's "sonata for alto saxophone a[nd] piano"
16. Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 for piano
17. "Beggin" by Madcon
18. Of Montreal
19. Video game music, specifically that of Final Fantasy, Zelda, Super Metroid, Mario Bros.
20. Any guitar orientated genre most closely resembling rock.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Gary Younge has a very interesting column in next week's Nation (don't ask me to explain weekly magazine circulation--next week's came almost a week ago). A choice passage:

The transfer from protest to power is not an easy one, particularly for the left. We live in a state of dissidence, which makes the notion that we might one day take over the state apparatus--or indeed any apparatus--all the more difficult. That does not necessarily make us oppositional by nature--though some are--but we are antagonistic by temperament. Our work is never done. If it were, we would no longer need a left. Unaccustomed as we are to office and power, we are more likely to sign [a petition] than to receive [one].

So it is that even as Obama settles in to the Oval Office, with the full might of the wealthiest and most powerful state in the world at his disposal, many of his supporters still consider him the underdog. Having made this unlikely journey happen, they want to keep traveling in the style to which they have become accustomed even after they have reached the terminus. They wear buttons and display posters that demand that we "Hope" and "Believe," even as what they hoped for has happened and what once seemed incredible is now real.

But it's time to let that new reality sink in. The transition is over. We have moved from aspiration to destination. Obama has arrived. Tempting though it may be to savor the lingering aftertaste of a sweet, sweet victory, progressives need to take the posters down and the buttons off. These are no longer the emblems of resistance but of power.

A movement that does not champion the cause of the powerless has no right to call itself progressive. And a movement that attaches itself unequivocally to power does not have the credibility or wherewithal to call itself progressive. That distinction is of course much easier in times when those in power attack us and our values with impunity. But it is no less necessary when they don't.

I think Younge has some excellent points to make, but I think he also mistakes his audience, to some degree. "Progressive" is an umbrella term that covers a wide range of political philosophies and methodologies, especially right now. The progressives Younge is addressing are the somewhat rare Americans who embrace "progressive values" as a guiding ideology; the progressives who make up a huge percentage of the Obama electorate are Americans who took that label on as an emblem of one-time change, temporarily slipping into a little black dress that probably only sort of fits because they've been on a starvation diet for eight years. Readers of The Nation would like to consider themselves members of the former group; perhaps that's why Younge so casually assumes that Obama progressives are lifelong leftists. I don't think those folks (us folks) are the ones who need convincing, however. It's the dreaded liberals who are threatening the new leftist label who need to be quashed.

To some, bearing the sign marks a form of premature nostalgia for the days when all they dared do was hope. There is a place for that. But as Shepard Fairey's iconic poster of Obama goes up in the National Portrait Gallery, that place is rightfully in a museum. Along with the buttons calling to Free Angela Davis or Nelson Mandela, posters for the Poor People's March or placards to defend the Rosenbergs, they are important pieces of the nation's liberal history because they illustrate an important moment. But that moment has passed.

Move on, lefties, says Gary Younge. Most of us have, Gary. The ones who haven't? They still have those Mandela buttons and Rosenberg placards. That somehow reactionary radical nostalgia is an entirely different problem.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Light notes

I was going to just say "So Long, Dearie", but I figured I already posted an obituary for a wonderful musician this week, so instead I give you this:

My students were assigned (not by me) to write brief in-class essays on music they absolutely cannot stand, as an exercise in musical description. The music that pisses them off the most is:

1. Miles Davis with Marcus Miller in the '80s
2. emo/punk bands, particularly New Found Glory
3. John Cage's 4'33"
4. Bruce Springsteen in general, but especially "Queen of the Supermarket"
5. Koda Kumi's most recent album
6. Lamb of God
7. A piece he doesn't remember the name of, but the guitar solo is just one triad arpeggiated over and over
8. "Dark Blue" by Jack's Mannequin
9. "Beat of my Heart" by Hillary Duff
10. "heavy metal" (those are his own scare quotes around the genre), especially Meshuggah
11. heavy metal in general
12. Blink-182, "What's my age again"
13. Kings of Leon, "On Call"
14. "Monkey and Bear" by Joanna Newsom
15. NWA's "Straight Outta Compton"
16. Country music. All of it, apparently.
17. Phantom of the Opera
18. technical metal, particularly Look What I Did. Don't ask me what technical metal is.
19. "Soulja Boy"
20. Pachelbel's Canon

I didn't plan that order. The last paper in my stack was really and truly about hating Pachelbel's Canon.

Of the twenty songs/artists/genres listed, I can safely say I like at least four. Stay tuned for the next list: music my students love.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

An email from my father

Hi [redacted],

If you want your tax report to be absolutely accurate you should each report 12 cents of interest from the Nassau Educators Federal Credit Union. I think you could be in Obama's cabinet even if you didn't.

Hope all is well.

Love, Dad

Monday, February 2, 2009