Cocking A Snook Too!

Independent, Irreverent Unschoolers – or at least one – Take On the Universe

O Calvin My Calvin April 30, 2007

Filed under: Calvin,Connections,Edumucation,Funnies — Meredith @ 2:18 am

I am a woman obsessed. I have just discovered Calvin and Hobbes.

I cannot even articulate how this comic strip has changed my life. As Kikki once said about our beloved singer Tori Amos, “It occurs to me that she has not been in my life that long. And yet I already have no idea how I ever managed to live without her.”

Calvin is a ridiculously gifted six-year old, and, like many gifted kids, he spends a lot of time being bored by those around him. Calvin’s best friend, and the only character able to keep up with him, is Hobbes the tiger, who, though appearing as a stuffed animal to everyone else, comes deliciously alive in Calvin’s eyes.

Calvin and Hobbes is the smartest comic to ever appear in print. Calvin uses bigger words – and has bigger ideas – than half my college classmates.

In several strips Calvin builds snowmen – but, as he explains to Hobbes, these are no ordinary snowmen. In one strip, Hobbes finds Calvin building a snowman who holds a snowball in his branch of a hand. “Why is this snowman looking at a snowball?” Hobbes asks. “He’s contemplating snowman evolution. Obviously, if he evolved from a snowball, it raises tough theological questions for him.” Calvin explains. “Like the morality of throwing one’s precursors at someone?” Hobbes responds. “Sure,” says Calvin, “And what about shoveling one’s genetic material off the walk?”

But let’s put Calvin and Hobbes aside for a moment so I can tie them back in later.

Apart from introducing people to comic strips they should know, one of the funnest things about blogging, I think, is thinking up aliases for your friends and family so you can tell stories about them. For example, my friends are referred to as Jules and Kikki, my mom calls me “Favorite Daughter” and variations thereof, and I call my mom – well, my mom. Unimaginative, I know.

But today, I wanted to say something about my charming significant other, and found myself in need of a nickname. Should I call him my BF? My SO? Nothing felt right. And then it came to me, bringing with it, mercifully, an idea for a blog.

My significant other, whom I’ve decided to call Calvin (explanation to follow, be patient) had a rather rocky start to his education. At least the public school part. Let me begin by explaining that Calvin is one of the smartest people I know. Like a lot of kids who are smart and know it, Calvin spent a lot of time in school being 1) bored and 2) kind of a jerk to everyone who was less intelligent, including the teachers. He was also a very excitable and active kid, and, as near as I can tell, spent much of his childhood being scraped off the ceiling. (more…)


A Brief Thought about the Honorable Mr. Obama April 24, 2007

Filed under: Literary Stuff,Politics — Meredith @ 1:12 pm

Today it is – yes – a double header of blogginess to make up for leaving all of you bereft for so long. I couldn’t resist this little tidbit that’s been rolling around in my head about the Honorable Mr. Obama (as I intend to refer to him as long as humanly possible).

I’d like to begin by saying that I probably will not vote for him, at least not at this juncture (actually, this is the first time I get to vote, so I’m just excited about saying things like that). We shall see if his rhetoric shapes up into something worthwhile. Eh.

Also, warning to the prudish: the following blog contains several words with aster***s concealing some of their letters in a vain effort to prevent you from discerning that they are socially unacceptable. All these bad words were originally said by the Honorable Mr. Obama in his book, but I am not as brave as he, and have starred them for my own protection. Just so you know.

Anyway, my Modern Lit class elected (har-har) to read his memoir Dreams from My Father, despite the fact that it is thick enough to fully function as a doorstop, and despite the fact that it is not actually literature at all. None of us got all the way through it (it is a small class, to be fair), but I, ending at chapter five, 91 pages, suspect I made it the farthest of anyone, including the professor.

On page 80, Obama relates one of the more jarring stories of race contained in the book (or at least in the first 91 pages):

Our assistant basketball coach, a young, wiry man from New York with a nice jumper, who, after a basketball game with some talkative black men, had muttered within earshot of me and three of my team-mates that we shouldn’t have lost to a bunch of n*****s; and who, when I told him – with a fury that surprised even me – to shut up, had calmly explained the apparently obvious fact that “there are black people, and there are n*****s. Those guys were n*****s.”

Obama, perhaps because of his background, goes on to explain what few people do: that the cookie crumbles both ways, and to use the term “white folks” as a code for “bigot” can be just as dangerous. But then he makes the most amazing proclamation in the entire book.

“There are white folks, and then there are ignorant mother*****s like you,” I had finally told the coach before walking off the court that day.

This whole post has, in fact, been a long set-up to a joke.

A huge preamble so that I could leave you with this thought: if this were the Honorable Mr. Obama’s campaign slogan, wouldn’t you vote for him? Because I think I’d be obligated to, just to give him creativity points.

It seems to me that it would fit on a bumper sticker almost perfectly:

“There are white folks,

and then there are ignorant mother*****s like you.

OBAMA ’08.”



Filed under: College Stuff,Literary Stuff,Random Moments of Poignancy — Meredith @ 1:02 pm

The sense of accomplishment is really quite draining.

I recently had a poem published in my school’s Literary/Art magazine (sadly, more art than literary these days). When I first saw the poster begging for submissions, I noticed the subheading- “Literary/Art” – and somehow missing the slash between the two words, assumed that they meant what they said: Literary art.

The acknowledgement that writing is an art form, that a picture may, in fact, be worth a thousand words in some cases, but that if those thousand words are written well, they’d outstrip the visual every time. As the overly sentimental romantic that I am, these words touched a chord in me.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was six years old, when I began penning and illustrating my own series of books entitled “Catty and Mousey”. They were, in retrospect, a Tom and Jerry rip-off, but, hey, I was six.

Almost as far back as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be published. I’d watch my mom on our comically large computer as she cranked out our local Mensa newsletter; I’d follow my dad to work – at the time he was a newspaper reporter – and play with his typewriter. Guys he worked with would wander in occasionally and tease him about his cute four year old on the typewriter, acting like a grownup. That is, until they realized that I could actually read, even if my spelling was nothing to brag about (I had a proclivity for the letter Y, and would often put it where it didn’t belong. Example: “Hayll Doyr” = “Hall Door”. Perhaps it’s because I’m Southern).

People would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I’d say Published. I still say this.

“But you are published,” my mother will say, “you’re published on the Internet.” “Well, that doesn’t count.” I invariably protest. (more…)


The Mane of an Adult Lion April 22, 2007

Filed under: Connections,Random Moments of Poignancy — Meredith @ 12:45 am

I purchased a wig.

I bought it for a roaring 20s dance, but I’ve become quite fond of it, and have been wearing it semi-constantly ever since. It’s an adorable brown bob, bangs and everything (I haven’t had bangs in a good six years).

I put it on, and examined the face in the mirror. The hair framing the face with the suddenly noticeable cheekbones, the cut accentuating the jawline. The bangs sweeping gently over one eyebrow. The face was experienced while still young, it was sophisticated, even striking. It was like there was a grown-up in the mirror. “Can I wear it out?” I asked.

I wore it not only out, but kept it on during the car ride. And into the grocery store. “I don’t have much cash on me,” my mom said, “here, let me give you what I’ve got, we just need some pizza for your brother and some Sprite and anything else you need.”

“No, it’s cool, I got it,” I said smoothly. “You can pay me back at the house. I got it.” “Well, if you’re sure – ” she still sounded doubtful, but I was out the door.

I walked into the store, briefly terrified that someone would notice that it was a wig. “Hey, that isn’t your hair!” They’d say. “You aren’t really an adult!” I was worried that I was that obvious, like a four-year-old walking around in her mother’s high heels. Buying groceries, in itself, does not an adult make. I thought of Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, stocking up on food and about knee-high to a grasshopper, obviously not an adult even though he was acting like one. I remembered the check-out girl grilling him. What if the cashier saw right through my guise as a competent adult? “Where’s your mom, hon?” She’d say, just like she said to Macaulay.

But I calmed myself and filled my basket with pizza, diet Sprite, and tampons (party at my house). But surely the content of my basket didn’t matter. Because I had awesome hair.

I walked to the register, and held up my keyring to display my preferred shopper card (hoping the the cashier wouldn’t notice the telling lack of car keys on the ring).

“That’s $19.97.” I smoothly pulled a $20 out of my wallet. Yeah, that’s right. That’s me, with the hair and the keys, pulling moderately large denominations of bills out of my own wallet to pay for groceries. And then I left. The wig hadn’t fallen off my head, no one had called me on my adolescence.

I kept the wig on, even at the house. There’s something oddly attractive about becoming someone else. Someone sophisticated. Someone who can walk into a grocery store, pull a $20 out of her wallet, and buy groceries without her wig falling off.


As the Philosopher Said: Great Metaphorical Presents April 12, 2007

Children love symmetry, adore things in pairs. Anything good can automatically be made (in a mathematical anomaly) ten to fifteen times better by adding a second. You can’t eat one M&M. One potato chip. Oreos are not eaten as a unit, but tops are separated from bottoms, savored, and eaten individually. You can’t be expected to listen to only one bedtime story any more than you can be expected to walk with one foot, or breathe with one lung. Two is where it’s at.

Children love symmetry, and this child was no exception.

In my (long past) youth, I adored the Olsen Twins with the idol worship that little girls normally reserve for Disney Princesses. Mary-Kate and Ashley’s Detective Agency. You’re Invited to Mary-Kate and Ashley’s Ballet Party. It Takes Two. How The West Was Fun. Billboard Dad. Passport to Paris. Whatever that movie was when they went to Australia. I could go on for days. If Mary-Kate and Ashley starred in it, I probably owned the VHS tape. Actually, I probably still own all of them at present, since I never throw anything away.

By the time I was about 12 or 13, it began to dawn on me that Mary-Kate and Ashley didn’t write their own movies. Hell, even the guys who wrote the movies didn’t write the movies, I think the plots were determined by a committee made up of the guys who ran the studio.

It even occurred to me to wonder who actually designed all those clothes with the Olsen brand across them. And, for that matter, why they even had a clothing line. I grew to the rather uncomfortable realization that they aren’t 11-year-old girls making fun movies for other kids their age, anymore: they are money-making machines who, in the long run, don’t stand for anything. Except, you know, money.

Around that same time, I became more and more certain that there was no God. Mary-Kate and Ashley had nothing to do with that, in case you were wondering, the two great awakenings just occurred along parallel timelines. I looked all around me and recognized religious hypocrisy, coupled with some biblical fairy tale that shared a surprising connection with the Olsen twin stories I’d bought into for so many years – just a little too convenient and implausible to be true.

I rebelled against my peers, society, anyone willing to listen to me disassociate myself from any -ism I could lay my hands on (Baptism, Catholicism, Presbyterianism, Communism, etc). To this day I think of it as a rebellion, against society, although not my equally jaded parents. So my dander gets up a little when it suddenly becomes “cool” or “rebellious” to dedicate your life to your imaginary friend. That’s less of a “rebellion” and more what I like to call “caving to pressure”.

The religious fascinated me for awhile after that, as schoolkids are fascinated by exotic beasts prowling behind the safe bars of zoos. “Mom, do they really eat zebras?” “Mom, do they really believe all that stuff?”

After awhile, I grew out of my childish fascination with both the religious and with those alluring twins, although I still watch their doings with bemusement.

When Mary-Kate was diagnosed anorexic, I was not surprised.

Nor was I surprised to hear the religious attempting to strip this woman of her dignity under my very nose in my own home state.

When one or the other of the twins moved out of their mutual apartment, I was the least shocked of my peers. Like socks in the dryer, pairs you think will always remain – if only based on mutual color and style – inevitably separate.

So, now, when my friends and family grow irate on my behalf, ranting about Big Religion and Unfairness and Vote Tampering and Contest Rigging, I just smile beatifically.

And I explain that I stopped caring about twins, religion, and even religious twins quite some time ago.


So. Vote for me. Now would be good. April 9, 2007

Filed under: News to Ponder,Politics — Meredith @ 12:25 pm

As I’m going to assume none of you knows, I have been nominated for a prize, although I am not Al Gore, so said prize is neither an Oscar nor a US Presidency (you can’t tell me they didn’t give him the former as compensation for losing the latter.) But like Al Gore, I fully intend to make my bitter, jaded supporters refer to me as President Gore for at least the next year, should I lose. I, PenguinDust – well, really the blog, not me – have been nominated for a Homeschool Blog Award in the category of “Best Teen Blog”.

This is rather a mixed blessing: on the one hand, I like winning things. On the other hand, I’ve striven to make this more than some angsty, high-output, “OMG”-heavy “teen” blog. Indeed, I’ve used the phrase OMG only twice, and that was just now as I was explaining how I’ve refrained from doing so. I’ve strived to make this little corner of the internet a (hopefully) insightful, if rarely updated blog that just happens to be written by a teen. Who just happens to be one of those homeschooled freaks you read about.

On the still third hand that I’ll borrow from a friend, I really like to win things.

So, vote for me. Like, NOW. Here is the link. Please click on it. You will see other nominees, some of whom are pretty good, including Chris, (who currently has more votes than anyone, grrr) and observes “In order for me to win I need to get the most votes.” Chris has an excellent point – so do not vote for these other nominees. I’ve been working on a series of attack ads clearly illustrating how they are all draft-dodgers and flip-floppers (especially Chris) but they aren’t finished, so you’ll just have to take my tenuous word for it.

If you need more convincing, just check out these awesome reviews that this blog has received over time.

“You’re not a typical homeschooler, you’re kind of a radical unschooler making your own way. You’re not one of those religious homeschoolers, you’re a new voice, very independent. And surely there must be some kids out there like you.” – My Mom

“OMG, amazing! freaking amazing, totally true!” – My friend Kikki

“Amazing.” – My Boyfriend

“Oh BTW, can I have your blog URL again?” – My best friend Jules

Unfortunately, the gentleman I’d counted on being my highest-ranking Republican supporter could not be pinned down in regards to his vote.
“I appreciate it, they’re all great people. I like ’em.” – Gov. Charlie Crist.