Monthly Archives: January 2009

The Lower Middle-Class vs. Subalterns

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More from the trenches. In response to a comment about “making it” as the child of a single-teacher family and working as a medical student, I wrote:

“I’m not rich, didn’t come from money, and yet I am going to make it.”

It’s hereditary lower middle-class, though. My situation is just about dead-on, but while I’m working here — like you — to pay my way through my graduate degree, I am doing so in one hell of a rural stinkhole in Northern Florida. 

You . started off . well. 

The ones who need the financial aid are conditioned by a single-parent, multi-sibling household on income less than $14K. High-school dropouts fostering high-school dropouts. The occasional kid who shows potential can’t just work to get there, the cycle is endless – it just takes one mistake. Even if he or she gets a job, that money’s going back into the household. Because a community of parents are leeches and generationally adapted to a system of living wholly different from even the lowest middle-class, doesn’t mean that the kiddo shouldn’t be helped out of the quicksand if it looks like he or she’s worth it.

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An Argument for College Financial Aid [against] Idiots with Access to Laptops

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I was pretty taken-aback reading the discussion that followed an article on the college financial aid system in the USA Today. The argument from a surprising number was essentially that “the government doesn’t exist to pay for your education” and “gee, think of that, having to earn the money to pay for school before attending,” or – of course – “save by cutting corners.” One poster (MidAmerican) had one particular gem:

Find ways to cut costs by not getting spinners put on your car.

I couldn’t resist stepping in.

The average cost of a four-year degree is approx. $40K. That is a lot of corners; it’s cheaper to rob the rich, actually …. Education is among the better democratizers of our society, and refusing it — not based on ability, but wealth (when the industry itself requires of a student more than almost any uneducated worker makes in those very same four years) – is a sly snobbery masking classism. Ivy Leaguers with pappy’s fat-pockets and the rest of us.

Not to mention your — MidAmerican [Orignal Poster] – stereotypes are urban non-white generalizations, when the reality is that the only option for anyone uneducated is to work at, say, KFC — or invest their efforts in other, less legitimate industry. Those wheels come from your Lexus, big guy.

Think of it this way, sirrah: you’re going to end up paying in the end, your taxes might as well spare you the ire of all those you would designate subalterns.

Idiot.

Fav. Bookslut on the Inauguration

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I have been busy, but I wanted to point you to Colleen Mondor‘s thoughts on the inauguration which I thought well-spoken. Having moved just recently from Michigan to rural Florida (Starke in Bradford County), she has already learned what I am first encountering – that is, really, the disparity between theoretical and first-hand social knowledge. Okay, maybe that’s sorta highbrow, but that’s the best I can do. I just wanted to pull a resonant quote.

Even growing up in Florida, I didn’t realize how prevalent separation was between the races in this country and I had not idea – no idea at all – how distant this country’s young black citizens felt from the American dream. I didn’t know that most of them did not dream at all, or believed the dreams were never going to be for them.

I know that Barack Obama is not perfect and that he will likely make mistakes and that more than once in the future a lot of us will be frustrated with some of his decisions. I am not naive in that regard. However I also know that he is intelligent and thoughtful and acts with supreme care, something his campaign proved to us over and over and that we have been sorely lacking in the White House for a very long time. (Hello George W. and Bill Clinton.) I do not think he is perfect but I do think he is capable of brilliance and that is what makes me so hopeful right now, what makes the historian in me believe that perhaps this time we, as a country, will accomplish great things. 

I love that train of thought, and I am stunned by its blunt common-sense, which describes in me my general appreciation for both the President’s rhetoric and manner, and my sometimes unspeakable unease that I was never so carried away as, say, the many present in the national mall yesterday. I have hope in his thoughtful, empathetic demeanor, and his capability of brilliance – but I am also aware and halfheartedly presuming it to fail him on occasion. I am a little worried that his real, first stumble, will be millions tripping.

[It’s spelled F-L-Y] Lit.

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BUZZworthy

Kafkaesque

So. For one reason or another I just began drawing comparisons between flies in literature — you hear true — something-or-other sparked this engine (buzz-buzz-buzz), but what matters, honestly, is the horror that I’ve stored enough of this slag in readily available memory to even write this crock. I thought I’d share.

From the most recent [read: January 09] issue of Eclectica Online, Anne Germanaco’s “Autumn” — which is just wonderfully written, although I have to admit I’ve no lick of an idea to what’s going on; regardless – it’s beautiful — includes the following:

The Fly

The thing begins with a large, buzzing fly. The child, a boy, really just a crawling baby, goes after the fly with ambition and might.

The baby crawls after the fly and gets tangled in the older man’s feet. The feet, despite their age, are nimble and practiced, astonishingly swift.

The mother fears a kick; perhaps the feet do as well. But they stay nestled amongst the baby’s chubby limbs. A good catch.

The fly flies away, no buzz.

A while later, the fly returns. There’s no baby here now, no man, no mother, just a fly buzzing its life against the windowpane of a room.

I gather the point is something about impermanence, imagery of a baby (then the lack thereof, suddenly vacuous) juxtaposed with the all to familiar fly exhaustedly picking its way through the window (I am confident that given a century, he or she will have broken the glass). 

Then there’s Emily:

I heard a fly buzz when I died; 
The stillness round my form 
Was like the stillness in the air 
Between the heaves of storm.

The eyes beside had wrung them dry, 
And breaths were gathering sure 
For that last onset, when the king 
Be witnessed in his power.

I willed my keepsakes, signed away 
What portion of me I 
Could make assignable, and then 
There interposed a fly,

With blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz, 
Between the light and me; 
And then the windows failed, and then 
I could not see to see.

At her death, there’s no tunnel of light, there are no angels glowing, but just a fly – just a fly. I however prefer the following gem:

Well I’m a human fly
It’s spelt F-L-Y
I say buzz ,buzz, buzz, and it’s just because 
I’m a human fly and I don’t know why
I got ninety six tears in my ninety six eyes.

I got a garbage brain, it’s drivin’ me insane
And I don’t like your ride, so push that pesticide
And baby I won’t care, ’cause baby I don’t scare
‘Cause I’m a reborn maggot using germ warfare. 

I’m a human fly
It’s spelt F-L-Y
I say buzz, buzz, buzz, and it’s just because..
I’m a unzipped fly, and I don’t know why
And I don’t know, but I say 

Buzz…ride tonight
And I say buzz…rocket ride
And I say buzz…I don’t know why 
I don’t know – I just, don’t know why.

which of course is by The Cramps. I don’t give a damn what you might say against them [and this], but Human Fly, it’s rambling and lacks total coherence and accepts, frankly, that there is no explaining anything (ever) (so partay) – very Kafkaesque, or Omar Khayyamesque – but that’s a little different.

Yevgeny Zamyatin[-and-Mirra] / Evgenii Zamyatin[-and-Clarence]

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Mirra Ginsburg is just pure poetry.

I’ve wound-up brooding on my purchase of the Penguin Classics We, rather than the Mirra Ginsburg mass-paperback. The novel was pretty comfortable in obscurity until, I think, relatively recently, when it roiled-up in english departments when professors discovered it was first an inspiration to 1984 and, second, wonderful. However it was read in Russian, Mirra Ginsburg anglicized We into buttermilk. 

I am less certain about Clarence Brown. I suspect (with no solid evidence) his translation may be more literal, academic, and subsequently less substantial – but that isn’t fair.

The reality is that I have done my damnedest to avoid ordering paperbacks, simply because in a public library these books yellow and tatter and dust away with only a handful of reads. Unfortunately, Mirra Ginsburg’s edition is only available (if only through Ingrams) in paperback; my loyalty yellows and tatters because of aesthetics.

Anyway, so Scott Friesner — professor at Western Michigan University — taught me We twice, initially as part of my first course in Lit., and then again (and this is kind of nifty) years later as part of my last. He talked The Odyssey as Homer playing a stratocaster, and filled me all up with paranoia (and morbid interest in dystopian lit.) in an hour-long lecture easily summarized

Dostoevsky: 2+2=5, you can never account for the human spirit.
Zamyatin: 2+2=4, there is no human spirit to account for.
Orwell: 2+2=4, 2+2=5,  …, 2+2=whatever the hell they tell you it is.

which refers to Dostoevsky’s (Notes From Undergroundresponse to  utilitarianism, Zamyatin’s parodic ideal-future-thereof, and Orwell’s inevitable reality resulting of it. The greater good.

Poignant jargon, huh?

So here’s the skinny: I am preparing my library for YALSA‘s Teen Tech Week, making it – this time around – thematically dystopian. Reliance on and trust in technology is, I suppose, a more stimulating bent rather than hosting a few gaming events (which I’m doing, I love gaming), and I want to pair 1984, Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, and We in a month-long contemplation of dystopia.

Of course, the library hasn’t a copy of the latter, so I’ve gone an-ordering. Her translation is Awfully Good, though ….

Capital-“a” Artist, or so I think.

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Willow-Horse by James Jean

Willow-Horse by James Jean

The Jonathan LeVine exhbit of James Jean’s Kindling is all-up after the link. His Toy Maker and Swans are great; Les pointed out that it was all intestines and fallopian tubes. Oh, yeah, James Jean worked a little bit on the Fables comic, which is why I followed a string of links in his direction.

Take a close look at the Toy Maker

Take a close look at the Toy Maker

Some Idle Time with Old-SciFi Tabs & Benjamin Button

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Kage Baker launches the first in a series of looks-back at early SciF[l]icks with the Le Voyage dans la Lune. Fun and, really, pretty insightful, what with its iconic mutation from fairytale to sci-fi and whathaveyou. And I had a shameful LoL at the caption to the wounded-moonman picture.

Ouch ....

Ouch ....

the wounded Man in the Moon bleeding like a particularly runny Brie, grimacing in pain with a space capsule protruding from his right eye.

Better than Gatsby

Erika Nelson wrote about Benjamin Button that

But to what end is this aging in reverse? It infuses the whole movie with a sense of melancholy. Seeing Benjamin born old, visibly haunted by the specter of death from infancy, makes his life seem more fragile. Benjamin acts as a dark reminder that we are all dying.

and I wanted – while careful not to spoil – to bring-up a couple things in the limelight, and in no particular order, but as they occur to me. 1.) Benjamin’s association with the war as a relatively-young-man-in-an-old-body circles and circles the old maxim that boys go to war to become old men; that 2.) New Orleans and Tug-Boating and U.S. Navy is all inextricably tied to (with fates dependent on) water: traditionally cleansing, unstable, maternal, and not to mention the root of our descriptions of Time (which flows); 3.) his life begins with The Great War, includes the Second World war, and ends during the Iraq War (implicitly the beginning of a Third?); 4.) the happiest time of his life was during the late sixties, middle-aged, inbetween dawdling and doddering; and 5.) that the care required by children is the same for the elderly, capped by a mentally atrophied, disensitized orphan-teen in the nineties.