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Archive for February, 2008

Following are two bits of advice Tony Soltis (writer of Saved By the Bell) received regarding writing.
“You already know the deepest truths to human stories, it’s in your heart. You just need a benign organizing presence to encourage it.”
-David Milch
“Writing is hard work. That’s why in school it’s given out as punishment.”
-Unknown
Then below are his own thoughts on writing and writers. I’m hoping some of this will provide inspiration for my own pursuits – writing or otherwise.
“How to tell if you’re a writer… If your normal state of mind is kind of a feeling of dread, a constant dull sadness, a haunting sense of inadequacy, and when you’re writing this goes away because you get this innate sense of understanding God, you’re probably one of us.” – Tony Soltis
In fact, I inhabit feelings of dread, constant dull sadness, and a haunting sense of inadequacy, oh at least hourly. There’s hope for me yet!

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Total Eclipse of The…

Moon.
Read about the lunar eclipse.

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New haircut
New glasses
AND
New and FREE yarn (two boxes, complete with Kool-Aid dyeing kit)
Too much new fun stuff to be bothered with the Dark Ages.

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From the Wire

Bush is pulling the funding for RIF. RIF is our country’s largest children’s literacy organization. From the website, “Unless Congress reinstates funding for this program, RIF would be unable to distribute 16 million books annually to the nation’s youngest and most at-risk children.”
Please read this.
AND
Do something!
I can not describe my disgust.
My first encounter with RIF was in first grade, I believe. My heart just ached that day because there was a massive table full of books and all the other kids filed to the back of the room in turns to make their selections. When my row was called I didn’t go and just stared at my desk trying to blink back tears. I didn’t want to see everyone else’s treasures and I certainly didn’t want them to know I couldn’t buy any. At some point, my teacher came over and said I should go back with my row and choose some books. I couldn’t hold back any longer; tears flooded my face and I whispered that I hadn’t brought any money. She hugged me and smiled and said that the books were gifts which meant that we didn’t have to give money for them. I was so relieved and grateful I cried again. She took my hand, walking me to the gleaming mountain of FREE books, and we picked two that became my treasures.
After that, all through elementary school, I lived for the RIF days. Who were these magical people that brought in folding tables, erected them in the back of the classroom, and then decorated them with more beautiful books than I could dream of owning? It didn’t matter to me then who they were; it only mattered that they were my vehicle through Imagination. Usually we were allowed to choose two books. It was almost too much for me to cope. Deliberation lasted ages while I methodically picked up each book, read its back cover and first few pages. Most of the time I’d select the fattest books that seemed appealing just to prolong the enjoyment of TWO new books.
In sixth grade I picked The Great Gilly Hopkins and Bridge to Terabithia, both by Katherine Paterson. Bridge to Terabithia is on my short list of most moving books and certainly at that point in my life, it was the top – perhaps it still is. That is the book I recognize as a threshold across my timeline; before Terabithia – babyhood, after Terabithia worlds opened and enlarged, pure enlightenment.
Indirectly, I’d say RIF helped establish the course for my life. I’ve always loved books, but books are expensive and I was poor. RIF bridged the chasm making my love available and attainable. As an adult, I’m formally studying literature and aspiring to become an expert. Ultimately, simply to inspire the same heart-poundings, giggles, and dry mouths that so many of my favorites evoked in me.
And now I cry for the kids who won’t share this memory.

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Because I am a Copy Cat


“Your time of day has a split personality — sometimes it’s sweat-streaked and loud, and you’re on the dance floor, getting your third wind, and shouting lyrics like you’ll never run out of energy. You are the time of night that carves itself into your memory forever, because you’ll never forget how much you love these people and this moment and this song. It’s not always about unforgettable parties, though. Sometimes your late night (err… early morning) burst of energy happens when you’re home alone. Those are the times when you say, “I flat out refuse to go to sleep until I finish reading this book, or typing this page, or reorganizing my entire closet.” In either case, you are the time of night when it feels sort of forbidden to be awake, but you love accomplishing something special long after everyone else went to bed. And hey — you can always catch up on sleep tomorrow, right?”
But this is something I’ve known all along. So I’m not an insomniac after all; I just shouldn’t have to be awake according to the collective internal clocks of the rest of the world (or, you know, the rotation of the earth).

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Note to Me

“You either change things or you don’t. Excuses rob you of power and induce apathy.” – Agnes Whistling Elk.

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And the A’s Have It

Scored my first A this week! Intro to Critical Reading scared me shitless within the first 12 minutes of class. In those 12 minutes we signed up for in-class groups, different groups for the following week, and groups for party-heads for exam days (On exam days, we have a party/pizza – not too shabby).
During our in-class group time that night, we had to read about the critical method New Historicism for roughly 45 minutes, figure out how to apply it to the assigned text of Gulliver’s Travels, then present all that to the class. Before the next class we had to read another critical method, choosing between Deconstruction, Feminist, Psychoanalytic, and Reader Response, and more Gulliver’s Travels then present it along with the other people who signed up for that method. The following week was exam day. Panic ensued.
I doubt anyone besides me is terribly interested in my exam, but here it is anyway.
Exam Question 1:
Do a close reading of chapter viii or chapter ix in Part Four of Gulliver’s Travels. We are given two images that in different ways are equally unbearable for Gulliver. On one hand the young female Yahoo “inflamed by desire” for Gulliver causes him to feel frightened and ashamed. On the other hand the rational horses that Gulliver admires are shown as lacking in compassion and tolerance as they meditate on genocide. As a reader how do you interpret the conflict between Gulliver’s physical shame at identification with the Yahoos versus Gulliver’s mental identification with the rational beings, whose side are you on and what interests you in these scenes?
My answer:
I think the conflict of Gulliver’s identification with both species can be interpreted as a treatment of mankind’s constant endeavor to reconcile himself as both divine and debased, created just a little lower than the angels, yet not so low as devils. We are somewhere in the middle with characteristics of each. Being in the middle often causes problems, and I think that’s where Gulliver is. He can’t fully claim reasonable identification with the Houyhnhms because in fact he is still quite attached to many of his ingrained Yahoo ways. However, recognizing his physical similarities with the Yahoos is not appealing nor entirely accurate. Gulliver is in constant limbo. He illustrates the polarization of the two worlds, and by default, his split identities all throughout chapter eight. I find it interesting that right in the middle of the descriptions of these two races is where he finally positions himself. He expresses on page 242 his identification in all physical appearances with the Yahoos, albeit reluctantly and, in my opinion, full of self-loathing: “I could no longer deny, that I was a real Yahoo in every limb and feature, since the females had a natural propensity to me as one of their own species.”
But the point is, he positioned himself directly after relating the specifics of the Yahoos and before describing the Houyhnhms. Precisely in the middle. And I don’t think that fencing-sitting is ever resolved. Ultimately, he is forced to leave because he can not fully be a Houyhnhm, for such would be a disgrace to them; neither can he align with the Yahoos for that would be disgraceful to him.
Then when he arrives home to live in a society of marginally civilized Yahoos, he still feels displaced. All this reminds me of the Biblical concept of being in the world without being of it. Representing the divine in a society of secularism. In a fallen world, that perfection will never be attained.
Exam Question 2:
Identify what you see as the principal argument by one of your chosen critics Felicity Nussbaum, Carol Barash, Michael Conlon, or Terry Castle. What part of Gulliver’s Travels does your chosen critic focus on, and do you agree or disagree with their reading?
My answer: Felicity Nussbaum – Feminist method
In order to make her essay work, Nussbaum necessarily redefines “misogyny.” On page 321 she explains the traditional treatment of the word with its implication of a personally motivated vendetta. I think everything else in her essay rests on this manipulation of a word. She redefines it as “a cluster of discourses circulating within the culture directed against all women everywhere.” So it takes on a more general application. She explains that moving away from that “individual animosity,” releases the reader from identifying the author’s intention, allowing readers to analyze gender on a more general cultural level.
This whole idea leaves me with a feeling that something is lacking or else it’s that the redefining of a word merely for the merit of argument is dissatisfying and perhaps a little too circumstantially convenient. I feel like her feminist argument is at times too contingent on this act of redefinition and otherwise the whole essay might disintegrate.
On the other hand, just as I was beginning to find fault with the entire essay, I was halted by her disclaimer on page 321: “Feminist criticism need not mean resorting to a reductive approach that would simply label Swift misogynist or not.” I like that she’s willing to concede a blurriness in the text of whether Gulliver, and thereby Swift, is misogynistic.
Finally, I appreciated that she carried that balanced perspective throughout her writing. I felt she offered a proper feminist critique by raising questions and offering suggestions, but never by railing against Swift as a woman-hater.
And for my efforts, I received an A.

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