Monday, July 22, 2013

More On Reading Intensively

Karen Swallow Prior is an English professor at Liberty.

Harvard University Course on Reading Intensively

I am currently reading Anna Karenina and find myself reading to get through rather than reading to soak in, learn, interrogate.  We have developed bad habits from reading on the Internet.  Literature does not allow itself to be read this way.

British Royalty

Today I am supposed to be excited because Kate Middleton (what is her married name anyway?) is in labor.  I wish her well.  But it really matters little to me, extremely little.

Royalty is only interesting to me because it is a part of history, and I love history.  Last night on PBS a documentary on George V was shown.  It explained a lot to me.  The royalty of England for 200 years was German, spoke German, married German, used German titles.  But George V, who was cousin to Kaiser Wilhelm and Czar Nicholas, changed all that.  He adapted the monarchy to the changing times so it could survive, and it's the only one people really know about today.  He eliminated all German accoutrements, changed the name to the house of Windsor (after the old castle), became the people's king, and encouraged his son Bertie to marry a "commoner" (whatever the heck that means--royalty usually acted very common).  He also took his role seriously as the emperor, as did his wife, and they jumped into charity work and dealing with the people. 

Unfortunately, he did not give asylum to his cousin the Czar, which might have changed history markedly (a week later the Romanovs were assassinated), and he fathered a child who almost wrote a different history because he was favorable to the Nazis and addicted to "love."  Thank heavens he abdicated, little prick, and England fought Germany tooth and nail. 

I always wondered how they went from German Victoria, who had ten children and married them off all over Europe, to Elizabeth.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Class and Race

I heard a liberal commentator say that the real division in this country is class, not race.  I agree.  He pointed out that the three women who were imprisoned in Cleveland for ten years were not looked for because they were working class, not wealthy or famous.  Two were white and one Latina. 

Of course, there is intersection of the two, class and race.  Whites are more likely to be of an upper class, but not all are.  Poor whites (often uneducated) can get poor treatment, too.  Rich blacks (a la OJ) can get better treatment.  

This was the lesson of Gatsby--wealth made him respectable even when he wasn't.  I was talking about this to my husband and he mentioned the Kennedys.  Joe Kennedy was a bootlegger, but he made a lot of money at it, got to be an ambassador, put his sons in politics, and had affairs with Hollywood stars (Gloria Swanson, for one).  And they were considered royalty, God help us. 

Middle Eastern Policy

I have to say I was happy to hear the Muhammed Morsi was deposed, although my emotions were mixed. 

The ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has been a concern for those who follow the persecuted church in the world.  Christians have been targeted in Egypt, and I would imagine secular Egyptians had their own fears about sharia-type laws. So if the love of the MB was put out of power, I am not going to weep.

However, the alternative, a military dictatorship, hardly sounds good, and Morsi was elected democratically, at least in their system of democracy.  A lot of Americans don't get that there are different forms of democracy. 

Syria is another issue.  Assad is no saint; one can find little to defend.  But trusting the rebels, and arming them to boot, is a frightening prospect.  I have to part ways with Senator McCain on this; I am not sure where he is coming from. 

The deprivation in Syria and the massive numbers of refugees, however, is equally frightening.

The days of the U.S. as the police may be over.

Worst Movies Ever

I do not go to movies unless I read the reviews on it.  It's two hours of my life; I want to know what I am getting into.  So I don't see a lot of movies I would consider really bad.

One I did see recently was Identity Thief.  I cannot begin to describe how awful it was, neither funny nor with characters I cared about.

I do not watch horror or slashers, so those don't get a nod here.

Many Adam Sandler movies are bad, but actually not all of them.  If you just want low-brow comedy, that's what you'll get.  You'll laugh but get absolutely nothing else from it.

I have heard The Lone Ranger is bad also. Which is the point--I'm only going to go see ones that are good.

Ebert, a critic I followed even though I didn't agree with his world view (he wrote soft-core pornography, for one thing) would criticize a movie based on what it intended to be.  I suppose that's all right, but if it tries to be bad and it is, is the movie there good? 

Recent good movies I have seen were 42, The Great Gatsby, and Devotion (old one about Bronte sisters which was not true but still a good story).  Daybreak, a French film from 1939, also good.  Dragonwyck is a very good old Vincent Price film, the best of his, I think. 

I would love for others to post here about the truly bad movies they have seen.

Future Glory

We use the word "glory" and "glorify" a great deal without really delving into its meaning.  Its root means "weight," or "weighty."  We talk about giving God glory (He already has it, but it's still our duty to do so).  Recently I heard a radio speaker talk about how we uphold God's reputation, which got under my skin.  God doesn't need puny us to uphold His reputation.  Our giving glory to God is right because we are commanded to, He deserves it, and it keeps us in the right place spiritually.  But how it will affect the world's view of Him is another matter.

In reading Isaiah I was struck by the contrast between our desire for that perfect world and yet our lack of understanding that it will mean the loss of what we so grasp for in this one.

"Shalom" we say we want.  But we define this shalom as a "leave me alone" peace, not a peace of community.

I heard this song today and was moved by it.  It's "Glory" by Selah.

One day eyes that are blind will see you clearly
And one day all who deny will finally believe
One day hearts made of stone will break in pieces
And one day chains once unbroken will fall down at your feet
So we wait for that one day come quickly

We want to see your Glory
Every knee falls down before thee
Every tongue offers you praise
With every hand raised
Singing Glory
To you and unto you only
We'll sing Glory to Your name

One day voices that lie will all be silent
One day all that's divided will be whole again
One day death will retreat and wave it's white flag
One day love will defeat the strongest enemy
So we wait for that one day come quickly


We know not the day or the hour
Or the moments in between
But we know the end of the story
When we'll see


Today I was talking with a friend whom I have known about eight years.  She and I go to the same church and are now in the same Bible class.  She is from the Netherlands and recently returned from a four-year stay there; I am glad she is back.  She casually mentioned that she used to teach an aerobics class at a specific YMCA.  A light went off in my head.

One day in the late '90s I went to that Y for an exercise class and had an instructor with a (I thought) German accent.  She was thin and direct (blunt) and made a comment about how Americans call the bathrooms "restrooms" and that when she came to the US she thought there would be beds in the restrooms.  That stuck with me for years.

I realized that that instructor was my friend standing in front of me.  However, she was not a Christian at the time.  Interestingly, she is one of the warmest and most attractive (in the personality sense as well as looks ways) people I know; that instructor was not so much.  I can see how her conversion changed her.

The church, we Christians who care about the church and the ONE WHO LOVES IT, should step out of the way and let the power make us warm and attractive.

Facebook Browsing

One woman, a missionary wife, wrote of how she saw a person who needed hope, a friend, or encouragement and walked by him.  A friend wrote, " I wish more people would say..."I yelled at my kids today....or, I chose not to forgive my husband and gave into my flesh instead." Then facebook would resemble real life more and offer authentic connection instead of superficial cyber-reality."  

That's the good one for the day.

A friend who works in Hollywood wrote the Disney (which he adores) has stopped development of a remake of 20,000 Leagues under the sea "in light of The Lone Ranger" (I assume he means how bad it is).  One of his friends wrote, "No more Captain Rahab," to which my friend responded that he meant Captain Nemo, that Captain Ahab was looking for Moby Dick, and Rahab was the prostitute in Jericho.

Another friend wrote that she had a spiritual orgasm in church this morning.  Oh, my.

Another colleague posted a photo that I can't get to show here, but it was of those little stickers on the back windows of cars.  One was Darth Vader, one was Princess Leia as slave girl, and one was a little Leia with a Jedi sword.  I think they are confused either about the stickers or the Star Wars lineage.

Lots of stuff still about Martin-Zimmerman case.  Again, as if we know something, everyone has an opinion.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Great Gatsby, 2013 style

I went to see The Great Gatsby last night at I guess what is called the "second run" theatre.  It now costs $3.75 to see a film there. It used to be one dollar.  Sigh.  But that's better than $8.00. 

This was a hip-hop, CGI-enhanced, visually stunning version of the story.  Except for a few additions, it was faithful to the book.  Let me say first that while I think Gatsby is a great American novel, it's not in my opinion (and I have an M.A. in English) THE great American novel.  I put it in the top ten, definitely, but not top one.  I give that honor to Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men, which bears a lot of similarity to Gatsby--narrative structure, for one, with a self-loathing narrator who orbits around the main character who is very powerful and ruthless.  Maybe because I live in the South, and maybe because I think politics is the life-blood of this country, I put Men first.  Then Huckleberry Finn, then MockingbirdScarlet Letter, Moby Dick, and Grapes of Wrath have to go in there. Maybe Gatsby in top five.  There are lots of them I haven't read, too, so I am not the expert on this.

Secondly, in terms of the book, like all books written by men, the women are, to use my husband's words "about stupid."  Could there be a more worthless character than Daisy?  Definitely she is unworthy of whatever obsessive love Gatsby has for her.  Jordan is a blank and Mrs. Wilson a whore.

First, the positives:  It was faithful to the book.  DiCaprio was spot on, except he overdid it at the tea party where Daisy shows up.  It looked great.  I didn't have a problem with the way the story was framed, with Nick being in rehab and writing about his life with Gatsby.

The negatives:  Way too much CGI; it almost made me nauseous in places, and I don't think it added anything.    I am indifferent to the hip-hop.  I would have rather heard jazz; it was the jazz age, after all.  Why go to such lengths to get the '20s look when you use 2013 music?  That seemed like either a way to kiss up to the young people or to just provide an energy that the story doesn't have in itself, since it's a rather slow-moving story. 

My conclusion:  Interesting.  Definitely worth seeing, at least for $3.75.

Zimmerman-Martin Case Reflections, Part 2

I sometimes wish I didn't even watch the news or read it on the Internet.  We know we are being lied to and yet we keep sucking at the teet of CNN, Fox, MSNBC, AP, CBS, and ABC.  Or worse, we get our news from Facebook or Jon Stewart.  That is a really harsh comment but I see no other alternative to that opinion.

President Obama spent 17 minutes yesterday at a press briefing talking about the case.  I have mixed feelings about this.  First, I do not doubt, at all, what he said about his own experience.  I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that young black men get treated like that.  I even wrote a novel about it, actually three.  When I chose to have a young biracial man in my books, I knew I had to address him being "profiled" although I didn't use those words because in the time when I set the books, that word was not used.  I have him thinking about how he is watched and followed, and I have a scene where he is hassled and arrested by a white policeman (although he had run a stop sign he didn't see, so there was a reason).  So when the president said that 35 years ago he could have been Trayvon Martin, I actually appreciated that he was so honest.  Regardless of the fact that he was raised in a multicultural place (Hawaii) by white grandparents, his skin color and facial features would have marked him as someone to be "watched out for."    I am sure he felt that keenly.  I know it meant a lot to black people that he said it.

On the other hand, the argument is that his comments were racially divisive.  I don't think so.  I rarely agree with anything President Obama does or says--at all, really, we are polar opposites ideologically and politically--but I don't think they were divisive.  They were just honest, for a change. What they were, however, is enough.  He should now butt out of the matter.  He should call off Holder and this witch hunt.  There is no evidence that Zimmerman was had racial animus.  The idea that the federal government should insert itself into a state and local matter is frightening.  What next?  The disregard for the constitution in this administration is stupefying.

The other big argument that one hears is why doesn't he, or the Sharptons, etc. talk about black violence toward other blacks and black violence toward whites.   The case of the little boy in Brunswick, GA, is invoked--terribly sad story.  And this is, I think, valid.  If he's going to interject into this situation, why not others?  And why not others where a white person may have killed another black person, or a black another black?  Why this one?  Because it's media-driven.  He is the president elected by the media, so he has to kiss up to it.

The end result:  The facts are being hidden from us.  We cannot know the whole picture, so we get the limited framing the media chooses to give us.  So let's stop talking like we know something.  Let's stop talking about racism as a national problem.  Instead, let's think about how we view and treat and interact with that individual black or white or Latino or Asian person we know.  I can't change what someone in Florida or California does.  I can change how I treat my black and Latino students, how I view them.  Do I expect less from them (a reverse racism) or more from them (because they should be the token on their ethnic group).  I can change how I treat the black people who come to my church--by befriending them honestly.  I can be open, direct, real.  It's only when we change at an individual level that we can affect the whole, even if the whole is just my little part of the world.

I know, I know, we should all march for more civil rights.  But what laws are not justly administered?  If a cop profiles intentionally or unintentionally, what can I do about it?  And if a white person dies from a stand your ground law, do the protesters care?  Part of the problem with activism about civil rights is that most people only care about their own group.  Do gays march for Latinos?  Not so much. 

Be the change you want to see in the world.  Think globally and act locally.  Bloom where you are planted.  Nice cliches, but I am taking them seriously where I live, not where I don't live.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Updates on my life

I will be moving permanently into a new office tomorrow because the Communication Faculty are being culled out from the Humanities Faculty.  When the computer is moved, I'm officially moved.  Last week I just dumped all my crap into the new place; tomorrow I start to make sense of it.  I'm ambivalent about it.  What I am not ambivalent about is all my crap.  It's shameful.  I could get rid of half of everything I own and still have far too much.  Books, old files, art work, books, crafts, gifts to regift, gifts I store for future giving.  More books.  Lots of clothes that I still wear even thought they are well over ten, even fifteen years old.

I did something today that shocked a few people.  I got on the back of my husband's motorcyle and we went about ten miles around the area.  I will not get on the interstate (I did back in the '80s, but not now--too many trucks).  It was fun once I got past the initial panic attack. 

I do not like feeling that I exist in a church to further the pastor's career.  I really, really don't.  Nor do I like feeling that the church doesn't care if I'm there or not as long as it gets my "dues."

Recent quote I heard from Pope Francis:  "Faith is not a spotlight that dispels all darkness and doubt but a lamp through the darkness and doubt."  However, truth is a spotlight that dispel darkness and doubt.  Heard an interesting lesson on trust and truth this morning from Beth Moore (old tape series).  More on that later.

I heard a good sermon this morning on temptation.  Nothing flashy, just the truth.  I wrote down the sins I fight with.  Interesting, not food so much anymore.  I have not had deserts in 3.5 months.  Mine were
intellectual pride, dependence on man's (and women's) approval, lack of courage, easy annoyance and defensiveness, giving into fatigue too easily, wasting time on TV, lack of prayer, doubt, avoiding people, succumbing to discouragement too easily, desiring recognition too much, and the big one that cannot be named but which is the deepest of my life.  We had a spiritual confrontation over it.  It was why I got on the motorcycle--to put a person, rather than my agenda, first.  My husband really wanted me to ride with him. 

Yesterday in doctoral class we had to tell the new professor something about us that the others didn't know.  I told them about David and that I paid off my house. Rick said, "And she's an author."  I like to say I am a novelist.  It's more precise. 

I hope to use my time off to send my recent novel to a publisher.  At least I will have tried.  It's the best thing I have written.

The sooner I get this degree done, the sooner I can live my life.  And I have no idea what I will do after I get it.  Right now, working 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, sounds awful.  But no longer teaching freshman sounds good, too.  I really want to write more than anything, and not have to spend my time on things I don't want to, like grading grammar tests. 

Weather: Wet and wet

We have had heavy rainfall for the last two weeks.  Everything is a deep emerald green; grass is thick, gardens should be happy (but mine is soggy still), and the temperatures are really rather moderate.  So I'm sharing my houseplants.

The Immigrants and the Walking Lady

Sometimes you just see things and they are so juxtaposed that they are unmistakable.  I had one of those moments this week.

I drive down a shaded road to get to my job at the college.  There is a sidewalk on one side and lots of apartment complexes on both sides.  An attractive older woman in short shorts and a stylish cap was taking her morning exercise to my left.  To my right two stocky, fully clothed immigrant laborers were putting down pine needles as mulch for the landscaping at one of the apartment complexes.  They were getting their exercise by hard work. 

In the same community we have such a range of socioeconomic and cultural diversity.  On one side, people who will do anything honest and honorably to stay here and make a living and enjoy the freedoms of this country (despite the occasional blip, and despite my feelings about our current government, we do have awesome freedoms).  On the other, a woman who may never even given a second thought to question her place in society and her status, wealth, opportunity, and privilege. 

The Inevitability of History

I recently heard a talk on the Breakpoint radio program about how the advocates of same-sex marriage keep saying they are on the right side of history, as if history had sides.  What they mean is that same-sex marriage legalization is inevitable, so people like me should just give up and stop expending energy on the fight (not that I am, other than an occasional blog). 

The Franky planner quote for the day is this one, equally stupid, even if JFK said it (I’m sure he said a number of stupid things):  “History is a relentless master.  It has no present, only the past rushing into the future.  To try to hold fast is to be swept aside.” 

Is history inevitable?  What in the world do people mean by history?  History is neither a force, nor a person.  What are inevitable are ideas and their consequences, and also inevitable is the gullibility of people who think they have to change because the talking head on television says they should, or must.

The Women, 1939

I said I wasn’t going to, but last night I watched, for the umpteenth time, the 1939 film The Women.  

One has to watch it at least three times to get all the lines.  It’s hilarious and witty, and the performances are great.  And I love the clothes (although the Technicolor fashion show is bizarre). 

That is not to say I agree with its basic message, which comes down to this:

“Men are stupid, and women are conniving.”

Or more precisely:  Men are incapable of fidelity, so women must either (a) put up with it or (b) fight for their man, to keep him out of the clutches of the other woman.  Women cannot trust other women, who only want another man and will take yours if it means more money or social position. 

I say:  Men are capable of fidelity; it’s just that they can get away with it because of (a) immoral woman (it takes two to tango) and (b) women let them.  If a man gets away with it once, why wouldn’t he try again?  A woman who puts up with infidelity encourages it.  Forgiveness is granted but trust is earned.  I do not believe I would be forgiving.  Period.  But that will never be an issue in my life. 

As a Christian, whose most basic relationships are primarily with other Christians, I have a different take on it all.  Women have never been “chattel” in the New Testament world view; we were freed from that by this new counter-cultural faith.  

The Zimmerman case--not that it's any of my business

Or is it?  Dr. King said injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.  No man is an island, unto himself.  So whether we like it or not, we are affected by this at some level.  And of course the media would not let us forget it, although I strongly doubt they are that interested in truth, just drama and ratings.

I have two conflicting views on this story.  A young man is dead.  Sure, one side calls him names and says he was a thug and attacked Zimmerman and was beating him up.  We don’t know; we will never know everything.  Zimmerman by his own admission killed him.  If Zimmerman had not been following him, Trayvon Martin wouldn’t have attacked him, etc.  Did Zimmerman have any business following him around the neighborhood,with a gun?  My husband seems to think it was ok for him to do so.  I don’t think so.  That’s what cops are for, and the 911 operator told Zimmerman to leave him alone.  Zimmerman is guilty of stupidity in the first degree.  He should have to pay for killing someone when he started it himself.  Of course, he’s a marked man for the rest of his life, and now there is talk that the NAACP wants federal charges brought against him. 

Which brings me to the second conflicting view.  The state of Florida clearly did not pursue this correctly.  It should have been negligent homicide, not murder 2.  They should have known they couldn’t get a real conviction on that (it would have been appealed).  They didn’t even convene a grand jury.  The state intervened in a local matter, taking over because of political pressure.  And the jury said the state did not present a strong enough case, not guilty (not “innocent,” though, because Zimmerman wasn’t innocent in this affair).  Was the jury right?  I can only say I was amazed that women and mothers were so dispassionate.  I would have felt too much for the parents.  I have to wonder if they thought the government had overstepped its bounds in the whle thing.

Now the NAACP wants the feds involved.  That is just wrong.  If the Martin family wants to bring a civil case, go for it; but this is not a federal issue.  This would be one more example of the Obama administration sticking its nose into something for media coverage, not because it is right or needed. 

This is a tragedy all the way around, but the process worked even when the government bent the rules.

Text of my presentation at Southern States Communication Conference on Open Educational Resources

On April 8 I spoke at SSCA on the subject of Open Educational Resources.  Here is the text of my remarks. The University System of Geo...