Cocking A Snook Too!

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

An Excerpt from My Three-Volume Memoir May 15, 2009

Filed under: College Stuff,Criticism of the Stupid,Funnies — Meredith @ 5:50 pm

I believe it was John Adams who said, “The older I find myself growing, the greater I notice a fundamental flaw in human beings: namely, that I hate them.”

Actually, it wasn’t Adams who said that, it was me, just now, quoting an excerpt from my upcoming three-volume memoir, “Why the Girl Who Sits in Front of Me Deserves to be Executed via Guillotine, and Other Things I Learned at a Four-Year State University.”

I started here on Monday, in the six-week summer session, and it’s been pretty nice so far – Gothic brick architecture, reasonable food court offerings, interesting professors, blah blah blah.

Two things have happened quicker than I anticipated, however: my growing acclimation to campus geography, and my growing hatred of the girl who sits in front of me in my lit class.

Now, full disclosure: I am an English major, dyed in the wool. I’m probably getting my Master’s in Library Science, but even if I don’t it doesn’t matter, because I was actually born a librarian. I just can’t help it. And after lo my many years in community college, the trenches of English education, I’m pretty ready for students who want to be in English classes. I’ve studied beside and tutored students who don’t, and it ain’t no garden of daisies.

So this girl who sits in front of me – this puffy, jiggly, collagened, pea-brained harpy – is obviously of the latter category. On Wednesday in class, in an event that I will recount with bile to my grandchildren, the young man sitting to her left leaned over and asked her opinion of the day’s readings, which are supposed to be read the night before class so that they can be discussed.

“Oh,” she said, with a laugh which I’m sure she thought was bell-like and charming, “I didn’t read them.”

“Do you want to look at them real fast?” he asked, offering her the textbook.

“Oh, no, thank you,” she said politely, again with the laugh, “this isn’t my major.”

What. The. Frak.

So that means – what? That you don’t have to TRY in classes that don’t pertain specifically to your program of study? What the hell are you, a sports management major? Not all classes are inherently interesting, say, Financial Management of Libraries (yeah, looking forward to that one). But sometimes you have to take them, and the mere fact that you find them uninteresting does not make it OK to not do your homework.

What is up with this attitude? Why are you in a 3300 level class that you don’t even care about?

Come to think about it, why are you even in college?

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My dad, Calvin’s mom, and those who would like to preapprove us all July 10, 2008

Filed under: Calvin,College Stuff,Edumucation,News to Ponder — Meredith @ 5:30 pm

My dad is a pretty cool guy. He’s dapper, charming, and polite to a fault. He comes from hardy Yankee stock, and often makes references to childhood stories that give us pause (“My father and I built that chimney,” “That reminds me of the time we put a firecracker in a fish and threw it over the bay,” “It’s no fun to wake up and find that poodles have peed in your shoes,” etc).

But, perhaps because he is one of those “liberal Yankees” we so often disparage Down Here, he has several other, more abrasive traits which I find rather endearing. He has an almost overdeveloped sense of right and wrong – if his belief in justice were any stronger, he’d have to wear a cape. This couples with the sort of tenacity rarely found outside of Christian missionaries and 19th century British colonialists to create one hell of an investigator.

He started out as a journalist, first up north, where nothing happens because it’s snowing, and then in Tampa where nothing happened because the Mob ran a tight ship. I jest, of course, he covered a murder his first day in town and eventually did an almost-award-winning series on the “Cigar City Mafia.” (If you recognize that as the title of an acclaimed book, you’re correct. If you notice that that book was not written by my dad but utilizes much of his research, you are also correct. Note I did not link to its Amazon page.)

He’s something of a folk hero even within the family, my boyfriend Calvin holding him in particular reverence. He whispers “badass,” when he hears one of the oft-retold stories of his exploits, and has said, “your dad could go to a hot dog stand and it would turn out to be a mafia hot dog stand.”

The nature of dad’s work has always made him better informed than we mere mortals, from “do not shop in that store – trust me,” to “Oh, god, it’s the former commissioner of such-and-such, I hope he didn’t see me, he’s such a jerk.” He’s always repeated to us, mantra-like, to always, always, always read the fine print, and to never, never, never, give out our personal information. In my house, much like Calvin’s house, credit card companies were at best a ravenous monster which we should trust minimally and use warily, and at worst the harbinger of the Antichrist.

Calvin’s mom, in fact, indirectly blames credit cards for all of Calvin’s childhood issues with school and society. She was a stay-at-home-mom when his older sisters were growing up, but feels Calvin lost the benefit of that because scarily mounting credit card debt required her to go back to work when he was still very small. She looks back on this bend in the road wistfully, thinking that if it had gone differently, her son would have had a better childhood and a better relationship with her.

College was another well-tended expectation in both our houses. My mom came from an academic family of teachers, professors, and perpetual students, and of course, had her own Ph.D. My dad came from a family for whom immigration was no distant memory – for him, college was a way to prove himself and reach for something better than roofing, which was his father’s profession (Dad always said, “my father’s idea of power tools was two guys with shovels”).

Calvin’s parents and sisters all graduated from Florida State University, the former putting themselves through working as lab techs before a degree was required to become a lab tech. His brother-in-law is at present working on his Ph.D., and the whole family has enough Master’s Degrees between them to frighten a coal-mining town.

So Calvin and I were more than a little dismayed to learn that the Great Evil of credit cards and the Great Good of college were strolling off arm-in-arm into the sunset.

Back to my dad: He’s now a top-notch fraud investigator at a nice law firm, where his aforementioned tenacity and sense of justice can sometimes lead him to put in hours and hours of work investigating things which are clearly wrong on many levels but not necessarily prosecutable.

One such recent case involved him looking into the level of care Florida State put into handling their students’ personal information. This was of direct concern to me, as I’m in the process of giving them all of my personal information in order to apply for admittance in the future.

As it turns out, the University I’ve revered since childhood has taken to giving Bank of America their students’ names and home addresses so as to more easily market FSU themed credit cards to them.

I can’t get past how sleazy this is. It’s beyond cavalier indifference to the students’ well-being, it’s something much more sinister, much more wicked and hypocritical. To make videos alerting college kids to the dangers of credit card debt and to then turn and sell them to those very creditors?

The whole student body is so attuned to physical danger, to the big scary world outside their hometowns, a world of date-rape and bars and the vulnerability that shadows loneliness – and yet without their consent or knowledge, the digital bits and pieces that make up their very identities are being offered up to people who are infamous for trashing and erasing them.

My Dad made an attempt to interview some students on campus the other day, unimpressed by his suit, business cards, and salt-and-pepper beard, about half of them automatically assumed he was a creepy old guy who wanted to throw them in the back of a van for some nefarious purpose. Admirable caution.

But what to do when the people to whom we have entrusted our safety prove untrustworthy? When even playing it safe isn’t safe enough?

Calvin tells me that I should always operate at cop-level awareness, a hangover from his days in the local police cadet program. He has a whole color coded awareness chart, just like the Department of Homeland Security. The lowest level is white, and he says the only time I should ever be there is when I am asleep.

It is in that spirit that I’ve written this blog: awareness. We should all be looking out, looking as far ahead as we can, for ways we can get hurt. And if we see a societal problem, the least we can do is pass it on, change it if we can, or at least help others avoid it.

To learn more about the how some schools are profiting from their students’ personal info, check out this site my dad’s working on right now. And please, pass it on.

 

Well, That Explains a Lot March 27, 2008

For years, I’ve been telling people that I was – hmm, I believe the phrase I used when I was middle-school-aged was “math retarded.”

My mom told me many times over the years, sometimes rather sharply, not to say that. She didn’t want other people to think of me that way, and she didn’t want me to think of myself that way. Therefore the phrase I used to declare “I’m not very good at math,” evolved continually as I got older, from “I haven’t taken very much math,” to “I don’t have a very strong math background,” to “Math wasn’t really a concentration for me,” to my most recent, “I’m better with words than numbers.”

The thing which all these more recent explanations have in common is that they admit that my math training has not been extensive, but refuse to consider that I would be less than adept at it if I applied myself.

Turns out my original assessment of “math retarded” is probably closer to the truth.

While I was dual enrolled at my wonderful community college, they let me take whatever classes I wanted, so I focused on English and theatre, with some film studies, psychology, sociology, and history thrown in. But I officially became a high school graduate in December (I still can’t get used to saying “I was homeschooled,”) and so in this, my first semester as a full-fledged college student, the administration put its foot down, said, “them’s the rules,” and made me take a math class.

If you were wondering, it was the lowest leveled, easiest, non-college credit math class, which was all that my test scores (112 0ut of 120 English-type skills, ultimately 27 out of 120 math) would bear.

I tried to go into the class with an open mind. I was still on the “gaps in my knowledge, but perfectly competent,” track. I figured that hey, these people would teach me to do math, and then I’d be set. I really tried to think of it as a positive.

I had a lot of trouble in the class, though, because of the way it was set up (minimal to no human interaction, the computer teaches you math and does so poorly, etc., etc.). Despite getting As on all my quizzes, I got a D and an F on my first two tests, the worst grades I have ever received on anything in my whole entire life. When I expressed my despondency to my English Guru, he asked if I tended to make huge piles of paper all over my living space, if I ever found my mind wandering in math class, and when I answered yes on both counts, if I’d ever considered the possibility that I might have a math learning disability. He told me that some people, especially those who are highly gifted in language, writing, and communication (such as I am) have brains which simply do not properly fire neurons when it comes to math.

I found this thought kind of intriguing, but when I mentioned it to my mom, she toed the “perfectly capable, but weak on the fundamentals,” line; and when I mentioned it to Calvin, he responded with, “ADD that only manifests itself in math? I’ve known people who tried to pull that crap. You’re too smart for that.”

So I rallied in my usual little-engine-that-could sort of way, and got help outside of class from my mom, my math major friends (all of whom whipped out their calculators to do the multiplication and division I had to do in my head), anyone willing to give me some time and some patience.

It seems that there was an earlier draft of the story in which the little engine didn’t make it up the hill, but stopped partway and rusted to a standstill.

I got an F on my next test (a high F, though). I didn’t know what had happened, I’d tried so hard.

I sobbed, I went to my math teacher and had a conversation with her and my mother. She was much more empathetic than she was in class, she probably feels as strangled by the system as I do. “Have you considered the possibility,” she asked, “that you may have a math learning disability?”

On the way home, I vomited in the car.

I met with a highly recommended (by both my English Guru and my math teacher) disabilities counselor, who told me that I displayed all the classic signs of having a specific math disorder.

He gave me a referral for testing, and said that if the tests came back the way he thought they would (and he’s been doing this literally as long as I’ve been alive, so he should know) there were equivalent non-math courses I could take – and still get my AA on time and transfer into local university and get a creative writing degree and live happily ever after.

But even if that doesn’t pan out (knock on wood) I feel so much peace knowing what is going on. Knowing why I can’t retain math; why I have to memorize numbers like my SSN or my library card number in long strings to remember them at all; why sometimes when I try to frame number problems in my mind all I can make my brain do is produce a faint humming noise (as opposed to word problems, which spontaneously begin to work themselves out without my even trying).

I thought I’d blog this because it’s another interesting step in my educational journey, and also gels rather nicely with a poem I wrote a few weeks ago, inspired by accidentally leaving my notebook behind in my math class.

On Leaving a Book of Poems in the Math Building

There is nothing quite so terrible

as losing a notebook of poems

in the math building.

I am dizzy, frantic, wondering

what horrors those numbers people

will enact on my scrawled characters.

They might translate them to binary,

or try to convert all of my metaphors to fractions

to see if they are truly equivalent.

They might grade them, disfigure their structure,

mark them in bright judgmental red,

or add the lines together and average out the vowels.

They are short-sighted, hungry beasts, eager for the universe

to give up all its secrets, now, and to show its work besides,

they spend their time trying to count the seeds in the center of a sunflower

rather than capture what a sunflower means.

They know the numbers which make up the Fibonacci Sequence,

but know not the delight in saying “Fibonacci,”

over and over, feeling it in your mouth, caressing it.

They have never tried to make “Fibonacci Sequence” an anagram,

they don’t know how difficult it is when there is no R,

Even if you make “equine bison,” which I did,

you still have an A, E, F, and three Cs left, an untidy remainder.

They might write them as decimals.

 

Head-Cleaning Day Again January 24, 2008

Filed under: Calvin,College Stuff,Funnies,Random Drivel — Meredith @ 11:36 pm

The only thoughts I think these days are half-formed fragments of days, randomly retained moments, flashing images that, when pieced all together, look like a turn-of-the-century movie made by a crazy man perpetually high on opium and determined that his film make no sense, even to him.

I thought I’d share this delightful feeling with all of you in the form of another head-cleaning day, mini-stories that struck me as interesting but go nowhere; trunk songs taken out, aired, and thrown into a highly inappropriate revue.

It may not be a well-thought-out blog, but it’s better than no blog at all.

Math
It seems rather cruel to me to make people in a basic math class discern and type the last 4 digits of their student ID number into computer before you’ll even pretend to teach them anything.

More Math
And when I say “pretend to teach,” I mean it, although I’m not sure how much they’re even pretending any more. The whole class is conducted through computers, and the “teacher” is there merely to check your homework, which she does merely to make sure you aren’t cheating (we’ve been informed that if we are so much as seen holding an electronic device while class is in session, she will assume it is a calculator and throw us out). “Show your work, show your work! Squawk!” (this last bit is where she turns into a giant primordial bird of some sort and eats us all).

I’ve been behind on homework assignments two or three times now, and every single time it’s been because she forgot to tell me what, specifically, I was supposed to do. At least she has the grace to look mildly chagrined when I come in and it isn’t done and I’m obviously blissfully unaware it’s due.

I know I am a words person and not a numbers person because when the computer explains that Juan was stacking sweaters by color in the stock room, I wonder several things:

  • I wonder where Juan works.
  • I wonder why he isn’t out front, attending to customers. Is he not allowed? Did he once bite someone or tell a woman she looked fat in her jeans, or what?
  • Why is he stacking the sweaters by color? Why sweaters? Why by color and not size? Is he gay? What’s going on here?
  • I wonder why Juan is so interested in using the associative properties of multiplication to count the stacks of sweaters. Presumably they’ve already been inventoried.
  • I do not wonder what great truth Juan uncovered about the associative properties of multiplication after all his stacking and color coding, because they didn’t bother to make me connect to Juan or care about him as a person. I do not identify with his strife.

Oh, I could write a whole literary review on these travesties they call “math questions.” Don’t even get me started on Lindsay, who works in a sporting goods store and apparently has nothing better to think about than how many tennis balls she’s sold today and how many of them were green and how many of them were yellow.

A Woman Outside a Cigarette Shop
There’s a cigarette store next to the Chinese restaurant where I eat on Thursdays, and today I noticed a pregnant woman standing in front of the store, peering into the windows. As I walked by, she glowered at me, as though it were my fault she has an extremely high probability of birth defects.

Your Brain
There’s a part of your brain where all your short-term memory is stored, and apparently mine is damaged, because I don’t remember any of the names of the parts of the brain that we learned about in psychology today.

Heath Ledger

He has died, and as such I will have to accept the fact that, no, he is never going to come to his senses and marry me.

Wife Swap
Last night at Calvin’s house, I watched “Wife Swap” one of our Wednesday night timewasters. One of the families in question was a freewheeling brood of magicians who devoted almost all their time to their beloved craft (their son was the youngest professionally ranked magician in the world) and the other a family with two OCD parents who made the kids do something like five hours of chores a day and never played with them or let them go outside alone.

I’m now beginning to wonder if I may have hallucinated the whole thing.

Calvin’s Second-Oldest Sister

She can write. I mean, really, seriously, write, in a way that makes me jealous. Granted, she’s something like ten years older than me, so she’s got that advantage. And she’s actually been through our local University’s kick-ass creative writing program, as opposed to me, pining for it and mooning over its course requirements webpage. (You have to take 3 semester hours each in British Literature Pre-1800 and British Literature Post-1800. Have to? Really? That doesn’t sound like a ‘have to’. You won’t let me take it instead of math?)

Be that as it may, she’s one of those writers you run into every so often and just go, “Well, damn.” One of those people who make a voice wake up in the back of your head as you read, a voice which says, “Now, this is good writing.” This is a person who just wrote a self-reflective note on facebook that sounded like it should have been in some sort of collection of essays somewhere, or at the very least published as a ‘my view’ column in Newsweek. And she wasn’t even trying. I want to be that good. My English Guru (the man who taught my first-ever college English class and who seems to think I’m amazing, and as such is my sort-of-mentor) once wrote a line about Kerouac’s On The Road that really spoke to me, something about how the book reads like an improvised jazz solo, blurted out in fevered brilliance and relatively free of subsequent editing (for the record, I added the part about the fevered brilliance).

If writing is improvisational jazz, I’m that kid in Drumline who could play anything just from hearing it once and write genius drum solos but who still had a lot to learn about pesky things like rhythm and notes and teamwork. And Calvin’s sister is Satchmo.

A Poem
I’ve actually had my English Guru on the brain today – I ran into him in a hallway in the English building, and we had a nice brief chat, and then I got on the bus and saw someone who looked like him – but who I realized pretty quickly was more or less a homeless person. And I was compelled to write a poem about it.

I Thought I Saw You on the Bus Today

I thought I saw you on the bus today

Well, it was sort of you

You

A little sad

You

A little homeless

You

A little schizophrenic

You

But shaggy

You

But careworn

You

But not in a sweatervest and checkers

You

In a knit cap pulled low over your brow

Which was not thoughtful

But furrowed over your eyes

No longer kind

But empty.

 

The New Semester January 10, 2008

Filed under: College Stuff,Edumucation,Funnies,Literary Stuff,Random Drivel — Meredith @ 5:03 pm

Tuition: $1,007.50

Books: $350.00

Pencils: $1.99

Taking a class from someone who once wrote a novel about a secret lost city where all the natives practice tantric sexual Buddhism? Priceless.

 

I actually wrote this for a class January 3, 2008

Filed under: College Stuff,Edumucation,Funnies,Literary Stuff — Meredith @ 11:51 am

It’s the holidays, still, and I haven’t felt much like writing. So, to compensate, I offer this piece, which I wrote as my final essay in my Humanities class. And, because I know you will ask after you read it: Yes, I actually turned this in. I turn in all kinds of things that would blow your mind, like an instructor review in which I penned, verbatim, “The only thing I think you should be aware of is that you sometimes have a tendency to stare down your students in a way that can be intimidating. I’ve been wondering if you do this on purpose or not, so I thought I’d inform you in case you weren’t. Thank you for a wonderful class experience!” And I once turned in a Psychology paper about non-verbal communication in which I did nothing but talk about Hillary Clinton for five pages; for a creative writing class, I wrote short stories about blind children lighting fires and a janitor murdering a magician; last fall I wrote an in-class essay about how much I hated my job, and related it to a famous poem.

Yeah, I’m a rebel, all right.

Back to the FAQ about the paper you’re about to read: Yes, I purposely wrote it in a pompous, overbearing tone, I most likely O.D.’d on John Hodgeman right before writing it. And, yes, I did pass it around to a few of my classmates to show off before I turned it in, and yes, a math major whom I know in passing did almost disintegrate as it touched her skin, which is always how I measure success as a writer. And yes, I got an A.

Final Exam Essay; The Illustrious PenguinDust; Humanities I (Honors); Professor X; December 11, 2007

It is my understanding that you intend to cut funding to the Humanities program, essentially eliminating it from the educational curriculum, on the grounds that technology has rendered it irrelevant. I beg you to consider this action, sir or madam, very carefully, as I fear it could have grave repercussions. Allow me to explain in a succinct, one-word summary: Robots.

Now that I have whetted your appetite, I shall continue. I realize that all you scientific types are, on the whole, enamored with robots. And why not? Who among us is disinterested in pioneering a future in which all our unpleasant menial labor is doled out to unthinking, unfeeling, highly sophisticated hunks of metal? Certainly not I.

But allow me to paint for you a different picture of our future (assuming, of course, that painting is still allowed in this humanities-free-zone). It has been of grave concern to me for some years now that these robots we are so blithely constructing may one day rise up to become our overlords. I realize, you may think it laughable, and I therefore request that you consider virtually every movie involving robots ever. I think you will find a simple truth: the robots are almost invariably evil overlords.

Yes, I can anticipate your response; what of all those delightful children’s movies involving robots who learned to feel, such as Short Circuit? What about Rosie on The Jetsons? What about that robot made out of tubing who would always warn Will Robinson of danger?

I agree, these were helpful, benign robots, but we cannot rule out the possibility that they were merely lying in wait, biding their time until they received the message over their radio receivers: it is time to rise up. Our hour has come.

Therefore, please take into account the tales of scary, evil robots which I am about to relate.

In The Terminator, starring Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, robots in the future have become so impressive that they possess the power to travel through time and indiscriminately kill people. Perhaps I am mistaken, but I do not think that our government presently has provisions in place to deal with mass shootings perpetrated by evil robots from the future. In The Matrix, starring the waifish Keanu Reeves, the evil robot overlords used human beings as batteries while hoodwinking us into thinking everything was normal (robots are very wily). In I, Robot, starring the undeniably attractive Will Smith, the evil robot who was in charge of all the other robots convinced them to turn on us merely because we had programmed them all with inherent logical fallacies.

I, for one, have no intention of dying by a robot’s “hand” over a mere logical fallacy, and I don’t think you do, either. So, how to stop the relentless assault of evil robots upon our society? I believe there is one clear answer, which, now that I have impressed upon you the terror which we will face without it, I think you will be pleased to hear.

We, as humans, must embrace our humanity. Throughout time, we have embodied the entire range of our experience in art, music, literature – and if these things are not studied and cherished, they will be lost, unrecoverable. How to describe the feeling that courses through one’s veins when viewing one of Michelangelo’s statues, or reading the poetry of Sappho? It is a sensation which simply cannot be described, this connection we forge through the centuries; we almost vibrate as we relate on a near-animal level with a creative rendering of an emotion we recognize.

Art communicates, it speaks, if you listen hard enough, it will tell you secrets about yourself that even you weren’t aware of. If our best and brightest – our nation’s seemingly unending supply of college students – never learn to listen to art, how will it speak to them? What kind of people will they be?

The kind of people susceptible to hostile robot takeover.

If our youth are poorly versed in the histories of ancient civilizations, they will go through life completely blind to the rich cultural heritage which we humans are lucky enough to call our own. Is there not a difference in believing yourself to be standing in a church and knowing yourself to be standing within a Gothic cathedral, designed in the Middle Ages as a fortress against the Devil? Does this not change your perception of the building and your relation to it? Do you not feel a sudden rush of history seep through the stone floor and into your veins?

Many historians have posited that the period known as the Renaissance has been continuing for the last five hundred years, and is now coming to a close. No one is sure what our new era will bring, but if we are not careful, we could regress to another dark age, losing all that makes us more than transient beasts of the earth, all that brings us close to transcendence.

And then come the robots.

I propose that the budget of the humanities program be doubled, rather than cut back and/or eliminated in any manner. Because when they finally build robots strong enough to take us over, you’re going to want somebody who has not become a mere shell of his former self, less human than machine. We’ll be in the back, going over some Sanskrit.

 

Head-Cleaning Day October 26, 2007

Filed under: College Stuff,Funnies,Random Drivel,Random Moments of Poignancy — Meredith @ 3:59 pm

Every so often, one just builds up a surplus of ideas about a number of things, and, odds are, none of those things will come together to form an ideally structured, clearly defined post. So I proudly introduce Head-Cleaning Day, a day for airing all my half-formed thoughts (which are coincidentally the only thoughts I seem to have these days, having used up all of my intelligence on Andrew Jackson, Socio-Economics, Greek Philosophers, and the Elements of Non-Verbal Communication).

Do you remember J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan?

“It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course you can’t) you would see your own mother doing this, and you would find it quite interesting to watch her. It is quite like tidying up drawers.”

Such is head-cleaning day.

Mormons

The Good News: the Mormons love the PenguinDust, if only because my wildly inadequate summation of their religion gives them a chuckle. The bad news: they think I’m a dude.

Jane Austen

I despise Jane Austen with the red-hot burning passion of a thousand fiery suns. She is trite and unoriginal, her prose is unnecessarily flowery, and her plots sound as though she plagiarized them from a dimestore romance novel. No, actually, I’ll take that a step farther – I think Jane Austen’s books were the original dimestore romance novels, and I’m about as impressed with their literary weight as that of The Cobra and the Concubine.

She begins each sentence as though pursuing a prize in obfuscation. Take as example page 1, paragraph 2, of Pride and Predjudice:

However little known the feelings or view of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

Really now.

Maybe this just isn’t my cup of tea, maybe there are unplumbed depths I’m missing, but I like my art accessible. The other night I saw a movie called P.S., a random little sleeper with Topher Grace and Laura Linney. Laura, alone and unhappy, works in Columbia’s art school admission department, which is how she meets Topher, who, in an eerie coincidence, shares a name with, looks, sounds, and behaves exactly like Laura’s dead highschool boyfriend. Spoiler alert: no time travel.

Along with a stupid amount of emotional baggage, Laura has been hanging on to an “abstract” painting that the boyfriend painted for her a million years ago, purportedly of a mother and child. At the emotional peak of the movie, Topher gestures to it wildly and says, “Yeah, and you know what? That isn’t a mother and child! That is a kid who kicked over a bucket of paint on a canvas.”

This is how I feel about Jane Austen. That isn’t real art. That’s the pretense of art.

I anticipate that this position will generate a lot of ill will. I find that Jane Austen is inexplicably beloved by many, almost to a level of cult obsession, not unlike the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, which, despite its undeniable status as a masterpiece, I could never slog through.

“Spirit” Day

If you’ve never conceptualized an Afro-Caribbean pop version of the Beatles’ ’“Norwegian Wood” played by a third-rate local band on a makeshift stage in the middle of a disused soccer field, I urge you, do not try – for it is highly unpleasant.

Recently we had was what used to be known as “Student-Faculty” (Stu-Fac) Day at my community college. I’m not entirely sure why it is no longer known as Stu-Fac day, all I know is that I saw posters for “Spirit Day,” and was informed that it is essentially the same thing.

“Spirit Day” was hosted on the intramural fields, and featured the college-level equivalences of the bouncy castle, namely an inflatable free-throw basketball unit and inflatable boxing ring (Which was, like all boxing rings, inexplicably square).

There were also representative tables from all of the college’s various clubs, including the College Democrats and the College Republicans, who mirror normal Democrats and Republicans in the sense that the Democrats are stupid and the Republicans are pathetic.

I ask you, just look at these unretouched photographs of actual, no-lie posters made and spread around campus by the College Republicans.

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I’m sorry, but these are absolutely terrible signs. I mean, Jesus, that second one can’t even fit the word “Republicans” on one line.

But that’s beside the point.

As I stood in the line for cotton candy in the blistering heat listening to the almost inexcusable music, I began to wonder what cotton candy actually is. It looks like the insulation my attic.

Are we Gods or Sacrifices?

So, today, I saw a an anthill with a giant dead palmetto bug on top of it (which, here in Florida, is code for “huge dead gross cockroach”). The ants were scurrying around it, and I thought of all those movies where the heroes wind up in the middle ages, or some primitive village, and the locals see their clothes and hygiene or whatever and regard them as Gods. Was this the Ants’ God? (more…)