Monday, December 11, 2006

Tutoring in the air

A student who is clearly in a hurry keeps popping into the writing center with questions about his writing. He’s working on his paper in the English computer lab just down the hall:

“Do you indent each paragraph in an executive summary for accounting?”

5 minutes later:

“Would it be ‘which were’ or ‘which was’?”

2 minutes later:

“How many ‘ands’ can you have in a sentence?”

Is this some kind of Alice in Wonderland dream? Could this really be happening? I mean how does one respond to "how many 'ands' can you have in a sentence?" After three one minute visits to the writing center, I ask the student if he might want to print out his paper and let me take a look at it to which he replies, “I’m kind of in a hurry, but I’m working just down the hall if you want to come down.”

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Partaking of Gloria

I caught a few scenes of Gloria (1980) while flipping through the channels. I kept flipping back (I was also reading and watching some college football) to the film because of a two performances: Gloria, the bad ass mama ex-gangster girlfriend, played by Gena Rowlands and Phil Dawn, a young kid who loses his parents to the mob, by John Adames. Rowlands, whom I remembered from The Mighty, is wonderful, a rare tough female role who isn’t merely a femme fatal nor a wacko—just tough. In only a few scenes the young (6 or 7?) kid blew me away: “I’m the man . . . you ain’t the man . . . I love you to death” he says with a high pitched voice to the bad ass mama. It was terrible acting but it cracked me up. Later, while traveling alone to Pittsburg after Gloria’s leaves him to settle the score with the mob, several hundred dollar bills rolled up in his sock, he approaches a ticket window: “Pictsburg” he says. Sadly, with Holden Caulfield like mourning for the ducks, it seems little John never acted again.

My wife will never understand why I enjoy checking in to a film already in progress, watching a few minutes here and there, maybe catching the closing scene. She does have a legitimate point. I still don't fully understand the plot of Gloria but I got the essence of it I think--a tough love kind of relationship between an older woman whose had a hard life and young kid who now has something to believe it. For me it’s like tasting different foods; now I’ve partook of Gloria and it was good, not good enough to slide it onto my Netflix Queue but a nice little bedtime snack, something I wouldn’t have experienced without a bit of flipping.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tempted Email "Forwarders" Be Warned!

Ok, that's it. I'm not putting up with it anymore. To anyone out there listening, if you send me a racist, homophobic, or intolerant forwarded email, I will respond to your entire list. Consider yourselves warned. Here are two of my victims so far:

This beaut was sent to me by a past student who I have repeatedly asked to take off his forward list:

[image of a traditional Christmas tree here]

This is a Christmas tree.
It is not a Hanukkah bush,
it is not an Allah plant,
it is not a Holidayhedge
nor a Holiday Tree!

It is a Christmas tree.

Say it...CHRISTmas, CHRISTmas, CHRISTmas

Yes. CHRISTmas - celebrating the Birth of Jesus Christ!!!

Take a stand and pass this on !!

Here's my response:

Nothing like dampening the spirit of Christmas with racism and prejudice towards other religions. For some, it seems it's not enough to have our calendar structured around Christianity (it's the longest holiday break by over a week). Do we really want to be like some of those fundamentalist Islamic states with a state religion? How do we expect to create a unified nation when we expect everyone in this country to be Christian? Not to mention the historical innacuracies: a "Christmas" tree isn't even a Christian symbol. In fact evergreen decorations were actually prohibited by the 3rd century Christian church.

The next one was sent to me by a good friend, a friend I respect but have no idea how he buys into this kind of rhetoric:


Let's say I break into your House

A lady wrote the best letter in the Editorials in ages!! It explains things better than all the baloney you hear on TV.

Recently large demonstrations have taken place across the country protesting the fact that congress is finally addressing the issue of illegal immigration. Certain people are angry that the U.S. might protect its own borders, might make it harder to sneak into this country and, once here, to stay indefinitely. Let me see if I correctly understand the thinking behind these protests.Let's say I break into your house. Let's say that when you discover me in your house, you insist that I leave. But I say, "I've made all the beds and washed the dishes and did the laundry and swept the floors; I've done all the things you don't like to do. I'm hard-working and honest (except for when I broke into your house).According to the protesters, not only must you let me stay, you must add me to your family's insurance plan, educate my kids, and provide other benefits to me and to my family. My husband will do your yard work because he too is hard-working and honest (except for that breaking in part).

If you try to call the police or force me out, I will call my friends who will picket your house carrying signs that proclaim my right to be there. It's only fair, after all, because you have a nicer house than I do, and I'm just trying to better myself. I'm hard-working and honest, except for, well, you know, the breaking in part.And what a deal it is for me!! I live in your house, contributing only a fraction of the cost of my keep, and there is nothing you can do about it without being accused of selfishness, prejudice, and being an anti-housebreaker.Oh yeah, and I want you to learn my language so you can communicate with me.”
Why can't people see how ridiculous this is?! Only in America ....if you agree, pass it on (in English). Share it if you see the value of it as a good simile. If not blow it off along with your future Social Security funds.


And my response:

That's one of the stupidest analogies concerning immigration I've heard in ahwile; worse yet than the "tidal wave of immigrants." It's racist and un-Christian. Lastly, it doesn't even work to prove its racist ideology: who wouldn't want someone to break into their home and do work? I'm all for it--my back door is open to anyone who wants to break in and do the less desirable jobs. I'm not saying illegal immigration isn't a problem; it certainly is but our concern about the issue should be much broader than our own pocketboooks (especially since it's highly doubtful that we lose any money when considering all the factors). What about the people who are exploited and even die trying to cross the border? These kinds of concerns should compel us instead of a few dollars. And then if we really want a solution we will have to look at the root cause: lack of good jobs and economic mobility in Mexico.


Any forwarded email horror stories you'd like to share?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

"Representing" those we love the most

Thanksgiving weekend turned into a bit of a bust. We were originally going to visit my wife’s parents in Rexburg, Idaho but our oldest son got sick and we didn’t want to pass on any germs to the in-laws, in-laws who are already paranoid about germs and mother-in-law who just had knee surgery. We had hoped to help them out—paint a hallway or two and provide, hopefully, some pleasant company. Next, we decided, though we’d already had a pre-Thanksgiving meal with them, to take ham and turkey to my parents. Again, we thought we could provide some company and help out a bit as my dad is basically immobile as he awaits an epidural for his back pain and sciatica. This also almost happened but then my mother got sick, quite sick I assume since she never calls off family engagements.

Instead we had what we believe was our first, after 13 of them, Thanksgiving meals at home. It was nice: a beautiful display of our rarely used china lighted by candles centered around a small bird (oldest son won it in a 2-mile race in Brigham City), a delicious spiral cut ham, funeral potatoes, yams AND some Jersey sweet potatoes that I picked out last minute (light brown skin, less sweet than yams and delicious); fennel apricot carrots; wife’s homemade rolls; cranberries and cranberry jello salad; and Marie Calendar coconut pie, our only non-homemade indulgence.

With all the unexpected extra time I read Life as we know it by Michael Berube (thanks MB for the recommendation). Berube explores issues of identity, representation, and reciprocal ethics through a discussion of his son, Jamie, who has Down Syndrome. It’s an engaging read, on one level very personal narrative and on another theoretical and political. He trounces the right’s rhetoric of limited goods and anti-theory/liberal/university stance but also aptly, and more interesting to me, demonstrates the limits of the left and its theory by critiquing Foucalt’s denunciation of institutional power:

We’ve learned that whatever we may believe about the history of madness, sexuality, incarceration, or mental retardation, we find it emotionally and intellectually impossible to be Foucauldians about the present. We have to act, for both theoretical and practical reasons, in the belief that these agencies can benefit our child, even as the sorry history of institutionalization weights on our brains like a nightmare (113).

Courageously, I think, he constructs a position between the left and right in order to maintain a sense of hope concerning his son’s future. To paraphrase, he points out it’s one thing to theorize about the inability of individuals to act as they are “discoursed” into existence and another to actually try negotiate the institutions where your real child, a child who doesn’t fit into our definition of normal, tries to survive. As Michelle Tepper of observes, utilizing Berube’s concluding metaphor, “Bérubé wants no part of any theory that he can't be sure will provide a place at the table for both of his sons.” Of course we have all known this, will know it, and will forget it: a theory is a theory and real life is quite another. Hence, what good is a theory if it doesn’t further our hope about those we love the most? Should we care about a theory at all which does not ultimately create possibilities for change and for discovering a better, even if infinitesimally better, path?

Clearly theory in the air, as it were, can still be useful by helping us imagine new ways of thinking and considering even if these new ways do not lead to hope or do not match up with our real-life experience. But simultaneously these theories are potentially dangerous if we do not allow them to bend, even break apart, when they do not serve to create options, paths, ways of proceeding towards something better.

All and all a good Thanksgiving read, both theoretical and immediatly pragmatic. A read which made me think more carefully about my own children, their limitations, and my ability to impact how schools should provide “free appropriate public education…[in the] least restrictive environment.” This is a federal law written for children with disabilities but it seems applicable to all children. As Berube argues our clear cut distinctions between retarded, delayed, and normal are problematic at best; therefore, kids on either end of the spectrum, labeled as “retarded” or “normal” should be given the best chance of succeeding. Berube’s unique contribution to this law and parental concern and right is to emphasize that Jamie’s well being relies on how well he and his wife can “represent” Jamie as a human being with talents. I hope too that I can best represent my children to the institutions they are asked to participate in. I owe this to my kids however tricky it may be to do my best to represent while not misrepresenting nor subverting their on need and desire to represent themselves.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Facing East with our gay brothers and sisters

An amazing week (angel of doubt—see last post and an engaging yet light book club discussion of Robert Kirby’s Angel of death) topped off with Carol Lynn Pearson’s Facing East at the Black Box at the Rose Theatre. Pearson's play begins with Alex and Ruth at their gay son’s (Andrew) funeral who had committed suicide:

ALEX. Ruth? I need to ask you. Ever since this happened, I’ve had the feeling—

(RUTH goes to the flower arrangement at the head of the grave and lifts out a rose)

RUTH. I should have taken one for Aunt Edna. A red one.

ALEX. -–that you’re relieved—

RUTH. They dry so nice if you hang them upside down. And spray them.

ALEX. ---Glad almost

RUTH. Ahh!

ALEX. Ruth? Are you relieved that our son is dead?

RUTH. Can I have your handkerchief, Alex? Used up all my Kleenex


ALEX. Ruth! Are you relieved?

RUTH. Every day of my life I will wake up wondering how I can live in a world that does not have Andrew in it.


ALEX. But are you relieved?

RUTH. He’s with his Heavenly Father now. Free from sin. Wouldn’t you rather?

Alex. No! No!

From this exchange on I vacillated between choking up, sniffling, and fighting back streams of tears. I’ve never cried so much in a public performance in my life, never been aware of so many people around my crying at a public performance. Luckily there were several humorous releases. Right after Alex’s refusal to buy into Ruth’s sick "relief," she says, “[Andrew] looked so peaceful. A look I had not seen for many years” to which Alex replies, “He looked dead, Ruth.” A bit morbid but it allowed us a brief respite from the anguish and tears.

And, for me I think, the play elicited the best kind of emotion: not mere pity, not only horror but overwhelming sadness and empathy for this family and for Andrew’s lover. Yes, Ruth seemed like a "messianic" bitch from hell at times but at other times, like when she recounts how she asked Andrew to help her break a prescription drug habit and when she describes her daily routines: “I make breakfast and then I pray for Andrew…I think through what we will have for dinner and then I pray,” Pearson brings out her humanity.

The experience was also a bit odd. I mean how many times have I been, especially with my wife, in a situation where being a heterosexual couple sticks out? There were lots of gay people there. A good experience for us, to get out of our comfort zone, to experience for the briefest of moments what it might be like to feel different, to be in community with all our brothers and sisters. Of course it’s also sad: these folks already have empathy for Andrew, already question the hypocritical LDS stand on homosexuality, preaching to the choir as it were. The woman next to me, probably in her late 50s or 60s, accompanied by her husband, sniffled during the entire play; she also cried out, generally when Ruth was particularly cruel, “God no.” It was clearly a painful experience for this woman but it only confirmed her own beliefs and passions.

I kept thinking about a comment Pearson made on RadioWest: “I’d like to get a special viewing of the play for LDS General Authorities.” I just can’t imagine how this woman has retained full activity in the LDS church; maybe it’s because she lives only miles away from San Francisco. I read once, in Sunstone, of a Mormon bishop who formed a weekly meeting with the gay members within his boundaries. What a Saint! Maintaining activity as a Mormon yet knowing and understanding the foibles and tragedy of certain policies might be the most valiant and courageous acts of all.

One of the most poignant moments came when Marcus, Andrew’s lover, is revealing the real Andrew to his parents. He tells how the night of Andrew’s excommunication the first counselor in the ward visits their home. He and his wife give the gay couple a talk on relationships, doing nice things for each other, etc. They end by the husband kneeling in prayer to bless each man and their home. There is a couple is takes their temple covenants seriously.

The play is full of trees: they speak to the trees (everyone else has gone off to the post-funeral lunch) as they re-do Andrew’s funeral; the backdrop is green filled with shadowy treelike branches; we, the audience, are the trees overhearing the truth; it's all brought together when Marcus uses a tree analogy in trying to help Ruth understand why Andrew acted on his sexual feelings:

RUTH. Having those feelings isn’t the problem. Only if you—

MARCUS. Act on them.


MARCUS. Ah! Hey, tree! I love you, tree! Just hate that blossoming thing you do every spring. Hate that blossoming. But you I love!

RUTH. Celibacy is an honorable option.

MARCUS. It is. Though most trees find springtime hard to resist.

Emotionally I wanted to laugh, but they were teary laughs of insight. Beautiful; it was raw honesty and true beauty.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Red Streaked Doubting Angel

I can't believe how busy I've felt over the last couple of months; it's really hurting my blogger-status if I ever had any and must come to some sort of conclusion: a set day or two a week to blog or a blogger-vacation. In other blogger news, we've (well really MB) set up a blog space for our Engl 1010 curriculum which I "unveiled" last night during our adjunct forum and my younger sister finally started a blog where she has a few photos of her wedding and honeymoon.

Wednesday was a great day. Jennifer Michael Hecht gave the Tanner Lecture at our main campus: it was, in my estimation, a perfect mixture of history, philosophy, analogy, and lightness. Several of my students attended and responded positively, though one said if she thought as much about those kinds of things (i.e. difficult, complex things) she wouldn't be able to enjoy the simple things in life. I want to say more about the details of what she said but want to quote her exactly from my notes, notes I left in my office.

I will however quickly recount a gem from a small group meeting with students after her presentation which, for me, epitomizes her style. Near the end of the session she tried to see if she could get some students to disagree with her, to share what they really thought. This led to a few students questioning Hecht about her complete denial of a God: a very young student (turns out he is part of the Kingston polygamous clan) asks, "What about all the miracles?" She replies, "Hon, there aren't any." It was a great moment, the word quickly and sweetly expressed "hon" diffusing any threat or tension. It seems representative of her balance between knowledge (she talked of Plato's Cave, nitty gritty philosophical movements, The New Testament etc. without looking at any notes that I could see) and gracious humility.

Very rarely do I have complete confidence while experiencing something that it will be forever important in my life-history--this was one of those times. Hecht is my doubting angel, red streaked and bespeckled.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Fall is in full swing

I have just a few minutes to post something as my laptop battery is just about to die.

First, I hate new shows which hook you (Studio 60) and then a month in disappear on their scheduled time. Luckily, there's a new Office tonight. I am embarrassingly excited about watching it. I was so desparate I tried to watch Lost last night but couldn't do it.

I have many blog ideas--one concerning deep philosophical ideas I'm reading about in Doubt: A History by Michelle Hecht. Clearly doubt has gotten a bad rap which I've personally witnessed several times while carrying around this book, "Why are you reading about doubt? Isn't it depressing?"

We have a sh*tload of candy in our house which is a major temptation for me: one I want to eat it and two I want to control my kids' intake of said candy. But, you know what, I'm ok with it. I'm cool with my kids fawning over their stashes. I've decided (in light of some parents buying their candy off their kids) that amassing candy empowers children. That's right, you heard it first here on Counterintuitive. Counting, sorting, and relishing the halloween take, builds self-esteem and confidence, negating any deleterious sugar highs and rotting teeth.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Lazy Sunday with Pride and Prejudice

I should be grading book reviews from my children’s lit class (Walk two moons by Sharon Creech—overall my students liked this book better than the first two historical novels, Crispin by Avi and The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman). It’s actually quite good: a young girl’s journey across the US to, of all places, Pocatello with her grandparents. On the journey she tells the story of her friend, Phoebe, whose mother has taken off without explanation to her grandparents all the while coming to terms with the loss of her own mother…

I should be reading the chapter on fairy tales and a couple of short sections on archetypal and structure theories and writing up a quiz…

I should be reading Angle of Repose, my wife’s book club pick for this Friday—I’m unbelievably only on page 60…

Instead we are finishing up Pride and Prejudice (the 2005 Joe Wright version); it’s my 9 year old daughter’s second viewing this weekend. I like it “well enough I suppose;” certainly better than the mini series version from the 80s I watched when I was taking British lit at BYU. I have a surreal memory of watching the film with a fellow student. He lived close by so we watched it at his house. He was quite odd, very formal in his manner and speech, strange pauses and gestures. I don’t think he had many friends and since we were in the same class and in the same student ward, he had gotten quite excited about us watching it at his home. I didn’t feel I could decline, an appropriate response given what we were viewing. It was the longest three hours imaginable, forever leaving a sad piteous feeling conflating the event and the movie. Maybe now I have an alternate memory when thinking of P and P.

Misc movie observations:

5 year old son keeps saying “Mister Darcy” in an English accent.

Are we sure Mr. Darcy is all that shit? (he is agonizingly reserved—surely great subtle acting, but I can’t fully embrace the reserved-working-behind-the-scenes-generous character Austen creates.)

“You have bewitched me body and soul” is a great line but why is her face so made-up in this scene? She looks positively silly. And, as my wife observes, “we get nothing after all that” i.e. no kiss, only noses touching as my daughter adds.

Why did they choose skin colored pants for Darcy in the last scene? He looks like he’s in a nightty of some sort with no bottoms. But I guess we at last get our kiss.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Students’ rights to their own language: “Peer review sucks!”

introduction for presentation at TYCA (a conference about teaching writing)

Wendy Bishop pointed out years ago that the method of peer workshops “has been presented in glowing terms, [but] it can prove problematic in practice” (32, qtd in Ransdell). I think the term “problematic” may be the understatement of the decade in composition, one we repeat ad finitum to justify our poor “results.” Let’s face it: most peer review groups are a waste of time if the goal is to immediately improve student writing. Students rarely discuss each other’s work in any detail and often merely write, “This is great!! :)” or, at the other extreme, begin to cross out and amend every sentence, especially if the group is lucky enough to contain an ESL student to work over. During the last decade composition classes have spent far too much time lacksidaisically going through the motions of peer review merely because it is mandated as some sort of Expressivist, liberatory, democratic practice.

First and only claim: Don’t do peer review unless you are willing to give it significant and sustainable time in your curriculum and unless you truly believe, yes I said believe, in its potential to alter what counts as knowledge in the composition class.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Seeking a Stick of RAM or? "I love the smell of technology in the morning"

So I found myself in a Best Buy store yesterday. Haven’t really been in a big box electronics store for a couple of years—I bought my latest computer online and my wireless router at RadioShack. I was immediately confronted with a curious countertop of I-pods, the pang of desire, the realization of insufficient funds:

After ogling around for several minutes, touching several plastic enstrapped I-pods, my son and I make it back to the computer section. Lots of computers displayed on every isle but no Kingston gigabyte-PC 2700-184 pin-DDR-DIMM-333 speed-RAM (terminology spoonfed to me by techy brother-in-law) to be found. An associate guides us to a locked case with large chicken wire where he unlocks and quickly finds the $160 tiny “stick” of RAM. The clerk walks the delicate and potentially stolen RAM up to the checkout.

I look around a bit without any specific objective while son checks out latest album from the All-American Rejects, "Move Along," and the myriad of computer games like "Halo: Combat Evolved" (which son has been trying to convince me really shouldn't be rated M) and "World of Warcraft"--both the raison d'etre for gigabytes of RAM.

As we were leaving a girl or woman (I was so stunned by her words I never saw her face) just entering the store announces, “I love the smell of electronics.” Had I heard her correctly? As we walk to the car, I suggest to my son that the girl may have been making an ironic reference to Colonel Kilgore’s famous line in Apocalypse Now.

Son quickly disabuses me of this notion: “I doubt it; she was a teenager dad.” If so then her words perfectly crystallized the gulf which had creeped up between me and technology, and me and the next generations. They race ahead leaving me, but not completely; I feed off and around the frenzy, I look in, I want to be part of the new wave, the Way. Not finding traction whilst also dependent, I build up courage for annual forages into the unknown.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Latest celeb children's book: Little T. learns to share

I couldn't resist sharing this tid bit which came across my children's lit listserv. It takes a lot to get me to chuckle at 7:20 am on a Saturday when I'm grading student essays.


Dear friends, children's literature by celebrities has risen to a new low. One Terrell Owens, Dallas Cowboys football player, has "written" a children's book to be released in November. It's called Little T. Learns to Share. Now, more interesting in my mind than the titles of subsequent books to be included in the purported series (Little T. ODs? Little T. Throws a Temper Tantrum? Little T. Gets Kicked Off ANOTHER Team?) is the question of who wrote this book for him... Well, turns out, this is a children's book with a CO-AUTHOR. Gee, why am I not surprised?

I think your fearless reporter of this interesting information is gonna go throw up...

June Harris


Actually the subtitles of his upcoming books in his "Timeout series," according to a news story I read, are "Little T Learns What Not to Say," and "Little T Learns To Say I'm Sorry." And I have to say these titles are certainly more unbelievable than the ones listed by June Harris.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Updated Queue or "I finally updated my queue" or "too busy to create proper blog post"

In the spirit of long Netflix queues and children's films, here' my updated list for anyone (read no one) who is interested. I now have many kid films atop the list. Snow will have to come before I have time to watch my stuff.

Into the West I'm going with this one as Mega's favrite--lots of pressure on Mega
PG Children & Family Now

Lemony Snicket: Unfortunate Events
PG Children & Family Now

Monty Python and the Holy Grail
PG Comedy Now

Big Fat Liar
PG Children & Family Now

Matilda: Special Edition Just had a student present on Roald Dahl; a Brittish student with a fabulous accent. She did an amazing reading from 6 or so of his books
PG Children & Family Now

The Adventures of Milo and Otis
G Children & Family Now

When Dinosaurs Roamed America
NR Documentary Now

Pride and Prejudice The supposedly inaappropriate for kids one
PG Romance Now

The World's Fastest Indian
PG-13 Drama Now

Open Range What can I say? I'm on a Robert Duvall kick.
R Action & Adventure Now

My Bodyguard This film really got to me as a kid but I'm afraid it won't live up to expectations now
PG Drama Now

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
R Drama Now

Born Into Brothels
R Documentary Now

Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein
UR Comedy Available on Sep 30, 2006

Unknown White Male
PG-13 Documentary Now

R Foreign Now

Carol's Journey
NR Foreign Now

El Bola
NR Foreign Now

Dead Man Walking Why is this on my list? I've thought about it, picked it up, put on list so many times; it just never seems appealing in the moment
R Drama Now

The Magdalene Sisters
R Drama Now

Iron Jawed Angels
NR Drama Now

The Great Santini
PG Classics Now

Three Times
NR Foreign Now

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
PG-13 Action & Adventure Short Wait

An Inconvenient Truth I know this film will depress me but must see it
PG Documentary Nov 2006

A Scanner Darkly

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Defending the Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

We read Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. It was a tough, actually painful, evening for me at times. Some of the book club members thought Dillard was just rambling, filling the pages with a bunch of stuff so she could publish a book. It's not that I'm a huge Dillard fan, but the book has so much to offer, so many pearls:

"the microscope at my forehead is a kind of phylacter, a constant reminder of the facts of creation that I would just as soon forget"

"We little blobs of soft tissue crawling around on this one planet's skin are right, and the whole universe is wrong"

*The interwoven themes of shadow, spirit, nature, creation, beauty

*The amazing descriptions of giant waterbugs (who eats a whole frog--and, no, I don't care if she saw it or not), coots (those "singularly stupid birds"), spiders, trees, horsehair worms (who eat its prey from inside out)...

Ultimately I'm glad our book club is a diverse group (i.e. not just a bunch of English majors) but it's hard not to fall into the defending-literature-English-teacher mode. I certainly don't mind criticisms of Dillard and have some of my own; I just have to realize it's unfair to expect complete engagement from everyone: to be familiar with the tradition she invokes (Emerson, Thoreau); to be in the mindset it requires to meditate over her rambling insights; to understand that Dillard's not trying to write a biology textbook on bugs and animals...

Often I go to book club full of criticism but then I wind up defending the book because it seems many are suggesting there's nothing redeeming. It's interesting that English folks get tagged as being too critical (and this may be true at times)yet often the "English major" or the person who has read quite a bit can be a very forgiving reader, a reader seeking meaning, a reader more able to access that meaning maybe. I'm still not sure if this is mostly about training or disposition. Probably some of both but training must factor in.

Ultimately this speaks to the gulf between teachers and students. It speaks to helping students see that the act of criticism can be a gift, a way of appreciating pop culture and that the enjoyment of "texts" can be increased through knowledge of traditions, genres, conventions, language, and history. These things are accessible; it's not just for the elite; it's not about brilliance but about attention. Many of my students can quote the texts we read much more easily than I can (and I've often read them several times) but often they are unaware of which lines or themes require their attention.

Playing Skip-Bo

Our 5-year old son has a fascination with card games, first the classic Uno and now Skip-Bo. Playing with him is an odd experience:

"I discarded already!" (every time out of his mouth it surprises--just not in the register of 5-year old speech)

"One, two, free..." he says as he clears his hand, allowing him to draw five new cards

"Play from your pile first" he says to his older sister who either isn't as astute on Skip-Bo tactics or just doesn't really care

The other night I stayed home from a concert (rest of family went to concert and called home to let us listen over the cell phone) with the 5-year old ostensibly to get some work done: instead I played two rounds of Skip-Bo and one of Uno. How can one refuse the pleading face of 5-year old?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Answering my own question about films for children

Since no one helped me find films for kids (I guess y'all never were nor have had or been around children!!), I will post these lists I ran across on my children's lit listserv. It seems my email limit has been exceeded so I'm rushedly trying to read through my two listserv folders, deleting as I go.

If you spot a "must see" below, I'd love to hear why. The last list is of those "questionable" (i.e. crappy films) made for kids. I'd add Disney's Brother Bear to that list. I couldn't sit through it. Also, I've added a few bolded comments on the movies below.


An American in Paris

Babe loved this movie but enjoyed the sequel, Babe: Pig in the city, even more

Bedknobs and Broomsticks

The Black Stallion


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang


Dr. Doolittle (original version)

Duma Great film loosely based off a children's picture book

Fly Away Home

The Hobbit

Howl’s Moving Castle

The Incredibles

The Iron Giant

James and the Giant Peach

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Laputa: Castle in the Sky kids have seen at least 20 times


Lost in the Woods

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy(YA)


Milo and Otis

The Music Man

My Neighbor Totoro

Narnia (2005 version)Just now starting The lion, witch... with 5-year old--I don't think he'd listen if he hadn't seen the movie. Who said movies and tv couldn't encourage reading!

National Velvet

The Neverending Story

Old Yeller

The Parent Trap

Peter Pan (most recent version)

The Railway Children (both BBC versions)

The Red Balloon

The Sand Fairy (based on Nesbit’s Five Children and It)

Singing in the Rain

The Sandy Bottom Orchestra

Sarah, Plain and Tall (Hallmark Hall of Fame Production)

The Secret of Roan Inish

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Shirley Temple Movies I can't imagine sitting through one of these even though I have a clear memory of watching them on Sundays as a kid, my mother trying to get me to shut it off and up to Sunday dinner

Spirited Away Children's lit class is going to read the first graphic novel and watch the film
Star Wars (IV, V, VI)

Stranger in the Woods

The Trouble with Angels

Whale Rider

Where the Red Fern Grows (2003)

Whistle Down the Wind

The Witches

The Wizard of Oz


List of Top Ten Movies Every Child Should See Before Age Fourteen Survey of Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) Listeners (2006)

1. My Neighbor Totoro

2. Fantasia Have never watched all the way through but can't figure out what all the fuss is about
3. The Princess Bride

4. Willow I'm going to add it to my already long Queue list on Netflix
5. The Dark Crystal

6. Peter Pan

7. The Adventures of Robin Hood

8. To Kill a Mockingbird

9. Cinema Paradiso

10. The Miracle Worker

Child_Lit List of Questionable Children’s Movies (with relevant listmember comments):

The Black Cauldron (good book though!)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (both versions—too corny)

Daddy Long Legs (book was utterly betrayed by movie)

Ella Enchanted (movie doesn’t compare to book)

I Heard the Owl Call My Name (boring, reductive)

James and the Giant Peach (too weird)

Pollyanna (execrable, but friend’s 9yo daughter likes it)

The Witches (freaked child out)

Wizard of Earth Sea (worst-kid-movies-ever list)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Movies for kids, protecting my time

I was looking at my Netflix list and I'm seeing lots of films for me. Normally that's a good thing but right now it's a bad thing--too much to do with Victor Villanueva SLCC visit, Annie Dillard's Pilgrim Creek for Sept book club, and Doubt: a history (very thick) by Jennifer Hecht for teacher book group (I almost put club but it sounds too chummy and not academic enough). Therefore, I must find good movies for the kids which I can place in the queue, displacing my films (note I watch films not movies) which if they come I will watch, using time I do not have. I will still watch the films for my kids, but I can double count this time as movie/relaxation and family/kid time. Watching a movie with the kids is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

We've already watched all of Miyazaki's anime films, most Pixar and Disney--actually a few I wish I hadn't seen, many documentaries (March of the P, Fast cheap and out of control, Winged migration, Rivers and Tides); also we've seen a few foreign films--Iranian: Color of Paradise and Children of Heaven, Japanese: Kikujuro, British: Bend it like Beckham, Tibetan: Cup. Old: The gold Rush, Three Stooges. There's got to be more good foreign films for kids; certainly a French film or two, right? And some success with films made for adults: Phantom of the Opera, Walk the line (My 9 year old daughter watched this about 25 times) and a few Hitchcock's.

Well collective mind, what you got for me? What else is out there?

In another vein, my 11 year old son is now able (i.e. we gave up trying to withhold) more adult films. This is a kick, something I hope we can enjoy for many years to come. This past week we watched Bourne Identity and Bourne Supremacy--I wouldn't have rented them again for myself but fun to re-experience the films with my son.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Why we fight doc

Just a quick note. Wife and I started this documentary last night. We've put it off as friends have warned it will depress us. So far I haven't learned a lot I didn't know from other sources but I do find the fleshed out historicl context beneficial. And the rhetoricl move to center the movie on Eisenhower's warning that "We must guard against military industrial complex" is brilliant. I also like the music but it seems a carbon copy of Errol Morris' style in Fog of War and Fast, Cheap and out of control. Favorite lines so far:

"I think numbers are almost distracting" Donald Rumsfield

"God bless the military contractors" some senator

Friends' warning was right on: it's quite depressing. AGAIN I wonder why I haven't more actively participated in the anti-war effort. A couple of years ago I met a Quaker war protestor; I've been on her email list for two years. She sends announcements to upcoming rallies every few weeks (she just sent some for the recent Bush visit to SLC). The answers to these simple questions tell it all: how many of her emails have I actually read? About 30% How many rallies have I attended? 0

I just do not understand myself; on the other hand I better understand why we are still in Iraq and why we We WE haven't done anything to put a stop to it.

Friday, September 01, 2006


Having spent much of my adulthood on college campuses, I’ve often been faced with the grassy moral imperative—to tread on or not to tread. At Methodist College in NC it wasn’t really a moral choice as the grass and trees were robust and never seemed to falter. At BYU the moral choice was quickly covered up and hidden away: If a path formed across the grass, the mighty facility crew would cover it up with a new sidewalk the next day, creating a crisscross of sidewalks alighting the most expeditious routes: “We have no sin, no alcohol, no sex and no grass-crossers.”

I looked askew at the grass-crossers at the Y. How could they ruin the unblemished grass, causing much work and chaos at our beautiful campus? How selfish to save a few minutes and ruin everyone else’s day. But that was years ago, a rough draft of beliefs revised thousands of times since. Recently I’ve taken it upon myself to cross as much grass as possible at SLCC. I like the soft impact and life of grass over concrete—whose natural self doesn’t? Certainly I realize our grass isn’t really natural as it requires gallons of water and is merely an adopted practice of the English, but it’s symbolic I suppose: a freshness, a mini-visceral experience as I cross the quad and put to rest for a moment my intellectual positions and pedagogies.

My grass-crossing does have rules. I do not cross where the grass has died out exposing dirt (though my rules do allow for jumping across said sections of dirt); if I’m already walking with someone, I suggest but do not pressure them into the forbidden crossing; when alone I always cross even if some big wig is coming down the sidewalk—it’s not a shifting moral context; I do not merely clip corners—my grass-crossing must be direct and bold.

I often imagine, maybe even hope, that someone, a fellow teacher or, even better, an administrator, will reprimand me for my grass crossing. I have a river of replies: “You know we live in a desert” or “I only walk where no one has ever walked before” or “I’m paying for this damn grass and water and I’m going to enjoy it” or “If the grass dies we can always xeriscape the whole of it and save millions.”

One might think grass-crossers do not respect life but this view accepts the topsy-turvy logic of the modern repressed world. To avoid is not to respect; to merely view with awe the nature, our nature, our animal selves from afar is to fear. Pre-packaged "foundational" selves offered at low prices from marketers, religions, and workplace institutions are held up on scaffoldings of rules, regulations, and prohibitions. To cross through the grass, to engage the sin and live, that IS our great moral imperative.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The magic bullet

I rejected my youngest son's requests to play a game--I'm furiously trying to revamp syllabi and update the 1010 website for the fall. It took several rejections before he gave up, but once he did give up I began to worry about what he was getting into. Turns out he was watching the magic bullet infomercial (the little blender). I asked him why he was watching this particular program.

"Because it's about food" he replied.
"Oh, so are you planning to make up some of that food?"
"Maybe when I'm 12 or 11 or 13. This is my two times [he meant "second"] watching the blender."

He's still soaking up cooking ideas and I'm...well, not really working on my syllabus. One knows your self-respect as a parent is shot to hell when you are blogging and your 5 year old is watching an infomercial.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The living dead

I sat down to read Persepolis 2, an autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Sartrapi, who grew up in Iran during the tempestuous 70s and 80s. As I often do before I start reading, I turned on the TV--for company? out of habit? fear of missing some great television event? For whatever reason, tonight I did catch a major television event: #6 on the list of Animal Planet's Extreme Animals--The living dead.

Number six is ostensibly about an ant which becomes the "living dead" after its brain is invaded by a parasite. The life cycle of the parasite, though, is even more compelling. The parasite somehow takes over the ant's brain without killing it which leads to the ant climbing a blade of grass to the very tip where it clamps down (something these ants never do for good reason). Here the ant sits for days if necessary until a rabbit (or a grasshopper) eats the ant. Incredibly the parasite escapes the rabbit's digestive system and then hangs out in the liver where layers of something or another cover it as it matures. From here it produces offspring which are peed out in some sort of droplets which, you guessed it, are saborosa tid bits eaten by the ant. Now that's one hell life cycle.

Obviously the parsite's perch of power questions our assumptions about size and strength. The microscopic parasite is running the show from the inside of those seemingly in charge of themselves. It's the physical manifestation of Gramsci's hegemony—no, serious. In one interpretation we humans are of course the brain-dead dangling ants waiting to be consumed; in another, the more Gramscian and the one I prefer, we might be lucky enough to be the rabbits--we unknowingly help the system along, we suffer some physical and mental energy loss, but there's hope that we can identify the potentially mind altering parasite and rid ourselves and our society of the beast. If we are the ants, we're screwed and nothing we "do" matters an iota.

Maybe I dig to deep and should finally, now, read a page of two of Satrapi before I’m too tired. I wonder if Satrapi will ultimately judge her acts of "rebellion" (western rock music and 501 jeans) as something meaningful. Or will she determine, as Fatima Mernissi does in Scheherazade Goes West, that western freedoms ain't what they are cracked up to be: while at a conference in the US she can't find a skirt that fits her beautifully big and appreacited (in her own country) hips without going to a special store.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

This could have been posted on the Osterblog

While getting my second massage of the summer from the LDS primary president in our ward (bet you wouldn't have guessed that), she mentioned that she was Greg Ostertag's message therapist for three years. Among other tidbits she told me that one of the first things Greg made clear was this, to paraphrase: "Look you may have heard a lot of criticism about me not living up to expectations and getting crap from Karl Malone, but the deal is basketball is like 4th or 5th on my list of priorities. Family, playing golf...are more important and enjoyable to me." I kind of respect his honesty--could be interpreted as an excuse but doesn't seem that way to me.

She also gave Antoine Carr a massage but only once--said he never took his shades off and was basically an ass. I supplied the word ass for her as she is, of course, our primary president.

Wow: three posts in a day. They've been building up over the last week.

Phrase of the week

My 11 yr old son to my 5 yr son after the younger one excused a punch to the arm by saying "my mind is controlling me" (he used to say his stomach was controlling him--lately he's kind of obsessed with what body parts control him: "I'm thinking in my mind and my mind says I want another treat").

The phrase is: "Sorry but I'm allergic to bullcrap."

Friggin word of the day

I've been trying to remember a particular word this last week, one that can come to me naturally in conversation or writing but one that I can't call up on demand: "I'd like to use that one word, the one that means 'earthy,' connected to the primitive." But it just won't come. I've even put up a little reminder in my home office--still couldn't remember that damn word this morning while laying in bed. Sometimes I think my brain is defective. Often I think of the word "ephemeral" instead of this word. This may be because I had the same issues with emphemeral for quite some time--just couldn't call up the word when I wanted to. Strange since "ephemeral" is, in some ways, the opposite of visceral though not really.

Well, the word is....visceral.

Friday, July 21, 2006

THE greatest comeback in sports

If you missed the Floyd Landis solo 80 mile attack (see image above) on Stage 17 of the Tour de France, you missed one of the greatest comebacks in sports history. After "cracking" (and I mean crack--even I could have beat him up the moutain) on stage 16 to La Toussuire Les Sybelles, Landis somehow mentally and physically recovered overnight, planning and then executing the ludicrous move of taking on the entire peloton all on his own with 80 miles of torturous climbs and dangerou descents ahead.

I'm in awe. Landis, in one day, gave us something Lance the invincible could not: the unexpected, the incomprehensible, from the dregs of defeat to the heights of winning. All of this and more was communicated in "the look"* he had on his face as he crossed the finish line and rose his fist in the air. It brought shivers down my spine: more than confident, more than jubilant, something special that only comes after facing head on despair and defeat only to defy all expectation the next day to conquer them both. His look wasn't about winning the stage but rather to say, "I'm back and I'm going to win this whole damn thing." This was confirmed in the post-race interview when asked if he was excited about today's stage win: "I don't care about that. I want to win the tour." Winning a single stage in the Tour de France is the highlight for many top cyclists; this was Landis' first stage win in the Tour but he did not even care.

Check out the last "real" stage, the time trial on Saturday. Landis must make up 30 seconds on the Yellow Jersey to win. Should be easy (he beat Peirero by 1:40 in the first time trial and he had a bike problem) but you never know in this post-Lance Tour era.

*inexplicably I can't find an image of him crossing the line--I was sure it would be front page.

Monday, July 17, 2006

An ode to Men

What an amazing three day weekend. I can barely walk down stairs, my eyes are but narrow slits because of the lack of sleep, and my every foible and weakness has been ridiculed; still it's all worth it, every pain and ache, every bit of tiredness, and every personal dig.

Saturday I left for Great Basin National Park with three friends from our book club. I can't think of three better guys--honest, spiritual, yet comfortable being Men. That is eager to engage in the not-so-secret arts of manhood--cutting sarcasm and one-ups-manship, good old junior high grossness, and frank discussion about life and sex. Doesn't get any better in my book.

Saturday morning we mountain biked in the desert; then we ascended to 10,000 ft to set up camp at Wheeler Peak campground. That evening we hiked to the glacier on the east side of Wheeler Peak. The anomaly of snow in the summer makes me giddy and “skiing” down was par excellance.

Sunday we hiked Wheeler Peak (13,063 ft)—from 10k to 13k in three miles, the last mile of rock nearly going straight up into the sky. On the way home we stopped for the second time at one of the three restaurants in Baker and the only one open on Sunday—T and D’s. You can only imagine the fun with had with that name.

I got home at about 9pm and immediately started preparing for my next manly activity (I know, females do it too but it's still different)6:15 am departure to Wasatch Blvd where I was to meet Aaron for a kick in the ass hill workout. I thought about bailing--so exhausted--but didn't want to be a wimp. Our plan was to climb two or three (I was always thinking two) SLC canyons. My plan after 10 minutes of riding on my sorry ass tired sore legs (Wheeler Peak was less than 24 hrs old) was to turn around and go back home to my bed. Fortunately the soreness dissipated.

First we climbed Little Cottonwood canyon, a full hour plus of climbing. What a beautiful canyon, what an exhilarating descent: 40-50+ mph all the way with few cars. Next we took on Big Cottonwood, another hour and half of climbing, much tougher of course, with lactic acid from LCC already in our legs and the temperature reaching into the 90s. My legs cracked at Solitude but I finished it out even though Aaron had become a small red dot ahead of me (Aaron once climbed these two plus Millcreek in 6 hrs). To put it mildly the descent sucked—I could barely manage to get into an aggressive downhill stance for a few minutes at a time. All I wanted was to survive. Thank God Aaron waited for me at the bottom and shepherded (i.e. I hugged his wheel and never let go) me back along Wasatch blvd over the last 5 or so miles.

All in all: 64.60 miles in 4:41, average speed: 13.8, max speed: 51.3, approx. elevation gain: 6'000 ft. I sure love being able to measure out, to the tenth, second and foot, the day’s activities—sometimes meaning can be fastidiously calculated and stamped into reality. Long live concrete tangible, male-like, goals.

If I can have a weekend like this every few years for the rest of my life, I think I can pull through to the End and maybe even do some of it with a smile on my face. It's a good day to be a Man.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Porcupine hill climb

As a recovering runner (in the tradition of a recovering alcoholic), I've taken up cycling this summer. I've always used cycling to cross train for running and one summer even did a century ride and one citizen's race, but this year I've decided to try out category racing. As with many new things, it's been tougher than I thought it would be. At the Porcupine hill climb up Big Cottonwood Canyon to Brighton, my first race, I hoped to get under 1 hr 10 min and place in the CAT 5 racers (the lowliest of the racing classes) but wasn't successful. Instead I finished in 1:13:49 (though I'm listed in 1:18 something--they got my number wrong which, even though I hate to admit it, bothers me). The journey has been fun as I've learned a lot about cycling just in time for the Tour de France. Still there have been a few rough spots too: my crash in the MS ride, being dropped from a training peloton of racers out west in Hooper, and making several riding etiquette faux pas (standing while in a tight slip stream, coming off the front on the right when the wind was coming from the left and certainly others I'm unaware of).

Well, none of this is probably particularly interesting to anyone but how about my Porcupine hillclimb photo? Nice tongue, eh? I guess it's my trademark. Early on in my life friends noticed (to my embarrassment) that I would stick my tongue out as I skied, moving it from side to side as I turned and, in general, whenever I had to accomplish a difficult physical task. I'm not sure why the tongue comes out. Good thing I've never bitten it off. Funny, though, how it really hurt me when someone made fun of me (I remember my good friend Corey mimicking me) and how now I can't imagine why I even cared. Too bad big MJ wasn't playing basketball at the time--I could have tied my tongue donning to greatness.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Testimony not borne

Many people today have used the phrase “I’m thankful for our freedoms.” I would also use this phrase to describe how I feel about my country but my definition of these “freedoms” would focus on what I believe is the most important freedom. I’m most thankful that I live in a country where, by and large, protest is protected, protest of war, protest of the government, protest and even hate for a president. In Mormon-speak we often refer to the US as the promised land. I believe the essence of a promised land is one that affords us the freedom to speak out without fear of death or violence from our government.

Even though the public may not know “everything” going on in a war or crisis situation, it’s clear that many times our government does get it wrong. Not so long ago our government supported the persecution, murder, and expulsion of members of our own faith. It’s too bad that more citizens didn’t take their patriotism—their commitment to freedom and justice—more seriously; if they had there would have been demonstrations in support of Mormons spread out from Nauvoo to Palmyra. I hope we remember our divine right to speak out against injustice and even immorality. Many of you, if I recall correctly, took up this right with much vigor, sometimes with more vigor than suited my tastes, in criticizing President Clinton. Even though I often didn’t agree with the rhetoric of impeachment and complete moral failure, I would defend your rights to protest what you saw as immoral and wrong.

I pray we would all defend this right, not only when we agree with the position taken, but even when we do not. If one has held onto to some sort of hope that what Bush did in Iraq was moral, I certainly expect this individual would not deny anyone the right to question, to protest, to disagree with our president. Being patriotic, which we often discuss as a religious duty, allows, even demands, that we give support to what we see as truth and justice, never yielding to blind support of a political party, our country, our president.

My father fought in Vietnam from 1966-68. While I’m grateful to the citizens who supported him personally in the short-term as a soldier, I wish more citizens, more Saints, had supported him in the long-term by protesting the war. If only Vietnam—a war started on false pretenses in the Gulf of Tonkin—had ended a few years earlier, then maybe I’d have that part of my father whhich is now gone and ruined: the emotional void I sometimes see in his face and the occasional tear he has shed after one too many. And maybe the emotional connection I yearned for as a child would have been realized. I too am thankful for our freedoms but let us not imagine that our freedoms are always, or even mostly, threatened from some outside enemy. When patriotism is not allowed to include dissension and critique, our promised land status is put into peril.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Bloggin in my mind

After a long hiatus I finally blogged a week or so ago, which turned on the blogger thought process. Many a blog I have composed in my head over the last week or so but not a one have I written down. I don't have time to compose them all so I will ask for you input in order to help me make the crucial decision of what to blog. Here are a few blog ideas floating around in my head:

#1 "Testimony not born": after listening to several flag waving testimonies last Sunday and my Bishop's admonishment to "not question our political leaders and the war because they know things we don't," I composed a point by point (in my head) rebuttal type testimony, a testimony of protest, on several levels, as it were.

#2 "Biting off more than I can chew (pedal in this case)": one more extreme athletic event--50 mile bike ride where I got dropped from the peleton--where I overestimate my ability. Will I ever be able to concede I'm not as athletic as I think I am or that I once was and that (let those terrible words be said) indeed I am aging?

#3 "I hugged my dad twice!": Overcoming fear and trepidation, I have successfully, after 20 years of uncomfortable goodbyes, hugged my dad after our last two get togethers--my sister's wedding and a trip to the cabin.

Each blog idea sounded better in my head than it does now in bald faced type. Interesting that my three ideas are each caught up in a major theme in my life: religious anxiety, extreme exercise obsession, and father-son relationships. If I could just figure out these few issues, I think I'd be happy as a clam.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sleepytime Summer

I'm so tired today; I just can't face the student papers I have to read so I've been blogging around. Since starting my Weber class (a TR at 7am!), I've been in constant tired mode. I leave for SLCC every MW by 6 or so in order to beat traffic. I don't teach till 9:45 but until yesterday I'd always made it to campus by 7am in order to prep and miss any traffic issues. Not sure I can keep up the early MWs with my 7am class--the last few MWs I've been zombie, nodding off while reading at 7:30 in the morning. Nodding off at this hour does not inspire confidence in oneself nor in one's ability to make it through to my last class which ends at 4.

Wonderful sleep entices yet hrs, weeks, months, a whole lifetime till we meet.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The MS 150 saga

I’d promised myself that during the ride I would try to keep in mind those with MS, their struggles and devastating physical impairments. Unfortunately this proved more difficult than expected. To my credit I did think of the MS cause twice during the almost 5 hr ride—once near the beginning when I was part of a huge peloton (close to 100 riders) realizing only a cause like MS could pull together such a diverse group of riders at such an early hour for such a punishing experience. My awe of the peloton was quickly shattered when some of the peloton turned left and some went straight leading to a slow down from 25 mph to 0 in a few seconds. I had to slam on my brakes and a rider from behind me clipped me tossing me into the barrow pit. Seems I faired better than another rider who had road rash all down one side of his body. I escaped with a sprained thumb. While I would not fall again, I’d have two more mishaps by mile 50 and I wouldn’t remember the MS cause until after mile 50.

Mishap #2: bee sting ¼ inch from belly button while going close to 30 mph.

Mishap #3: flat tire at mile 52. Luckily I detected it by an aid station and was able to fix the flat in comfort.

Best moment: about 15 miles (30-45) with 9 cyclists working together at the front to catch solo breakaways (no this isn’t an official race but…). We were averaging 23-25 mph—it was efficient, even though this pace was impossible for all of us to keep for another 60 miles except one rider who is normally a cat 2 racer. This was also when I again thought of MS; actually it was after the exuberance of the fast 15 miles as I fixed my flat. The absolute irony of riding 100 miles in order to raise money for those with MS hit me. I wondered if anyone with MS had ever participated. Probably, but if so they would have known their days of riding were numbered.

All in all a great ride. I’d thought about doing 75 miles each day but decided instead to do 100 on Saturday and call it good. Thanks to those who supported the cause and my ride.

The Mormon Contact Zone: From single fathers to gay marriage

**This is the text of a talk I gave in church today--it's quite long. And, no, if you are wondering, I did not use the above title in church**

As I thought about the idea of sacrifice, I was immediately flooded by the myriad ways one might make sacrifice within the gospel community in ways that might not be perceived as sacrifice.

The kind of sacrifice I speak of is often misheard, misunderstood, mistranslated. It is the sacrifice, generally put, of those committed members who do not quite fit in to the mainstream. As Christ says in Matthew, “I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it NOT to one of the least of these, ye did it NOT to me.” It is the sacrifices offered at the margins, in the fringes of our institution. In order to create a frame to discuss this type of sacrifice, I want to take a brief detour through the Spanish conquest of the Americas

Recently I taught an essay by Mary Louise Pratt to a class at Weber State. In her influential essay, “Arts of the Contact Zone,” she contends that all communities are caught up in what she refers to in her title as a contact zone, a place where community members grapple with meaning and being understood, but more importantly where the less “normal” community members struggle to even be heard at all. She gives a poignant example in Guaman Poma, a mestizo of Quechuan and Spanish ancestory. In 1908 a 1200 page letter was found. It was written by Poma in a “mixture of Quechua and ungrammatical, expressive Spanish” and multiple drawings which used the Spanish written language and Andean (indigenous) spatial symbolism.

The letter was dated 1613 and was written to King Phillip III of Spain. It’s not known for sure but it seems clear that the letter was never read by the King—Poma’s critiques of the Spanish (the killing, the Christian conversions by force, the brutality, the misunderstandings of his people, and the parodies of the gold thirsting Spaniards) instead sat collecting dust in a Copenhagen Royal Archive for almost 400 years. Surely the letter—written in a mixture of seemingly broken languages and drawings—was seen as a text written by an illiterate savage, an outsider, and ultimately a potential trouble-maker. I can’t imagine the sacrifice it would have taken for Poma in 1613 to produce this 1200 page multimodal text.

Returning to the theme of sacrifice within our own community, we often hear about the many members who have given their time and even lives defending the gospel from the center. I respect and love these saints, but I also wonder about the sacrifices and contributions of saints on the fringes. I offer what I see as examples of this sacrifice, as possibly modern day Guaman Pomas.

A man who has been a student ward bishop and who could easily qualify for “high” office, decides his best work in the gospel is to nurture his wife who has multiple health problems. Still, on the sideline he and his wife home teach nine widows. He did not go on to be a high councilman or serve in stake callings; he sacrifices on the fringes

A sister in her 40s who has never had the opportunity to marry comes to church each week, sometimes sensing that she is not part of the norm, certainly not representative of the ideal: the family group of husband/wife/son/daughter. Still she comes, even on Mother’s day. Not only does she come but she invests in other people’s children. She’s bothered, maybe even annoyed, by some of the talks and lessons that seem to erase her existence; still she is a true latter day saint.

A young man who finally admits to himself, after years of self-torture and doubt, that he has strong homosexual feelings that will always be part of who he is. He decides to keep working at his marriage and, after coming close to divorce, they manage to come to an agreement and stay married. He and his wife sacrifice “normal” married life together in order to raise their children and serve within the community.

A single parent and father. As many divorced single parents he knows he doesn’t represent the ideal, the intact family sitting on the pew with his arm around his wife. Even though he aches for a complete family it may not happen for years and even when it does it will still not be the ideal family with one set of parents living in the home. Still, he comes to church each week, sometimes with his children, sometimes without. He wonders what could be done to foster support for parents like him who find themselves, at times, utterly alone.

INTERLUDE: then I will finish with two more examples
Most of us probably do not have much difficulty accepting these examples sacrifice—they might be problematic but they pose no real threat. My last two examples are more problematic; nevertheless, I believe they equally stem from the gospel and its focus on agency, an agency which asks us to follow the spirit even if it may put in peril our standing in the community, our job, or cause us to be derided by family or friends. This last group may be the hardest to listen to—they may seem merely rebellious or selfish or at worst uncommitted. But remember I speak of those who are committed to the LDS community but who also take seriously their conscious, the individual workings of the spirit.

Recently I listened to President Spencer Kimball’s son, Edward Kimball, speak of a book he wrote about his father: Lengthen your stride: the Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball. Edward discussed at length the tension-filled times when his father worked for a number of years to prepare the Church for the proclamation which extended the priesthood to all worthy males. What an amazing sacrifice by Pres. Kimball to contradict earlier doctrine and encrusted societal views in order to reinstate the priesthood to all members. In addition, what an amazing sacrifice by his son Edward to now speak openly and honestly about this time period. On NPR’s RadioWest Edward said that he personally believes BY got it wrong—that JS had given the priesthood to black members but BY fell to the racist views of the time. But did this personal conviction lessen his testimony of Brigham Young or the church? No.

While a less conventional notion of sacrifice, I believe some can make an important sacrifice to the community when they openly share their beliefs in an act of faith and trust, even when these ideas may be unpopular or unsettling. It was clearly not easy for Edward Kimball to question BY, a man he respects and sees as a prophet of God, but it was necessary and important for him to be honest. It is a type of sacrifice which moves our community closer to truth and closer to God.

Next I focus on an example more caught up in present issues of the church. I know this last example will not fit as easily into our preconceived notions of sustaining and supporting, of sacrificing for God, country, and the church.

Recently a member in good standing, a gospel doctrine teacher, Jeffrey Nielsen spoke out against the political charge the church made to members to support the constitutional amendment concerning gay marriage. No matter what one feels about this particular issue, I hope each of us can see the courage and sacrifice it took for him to speak out. Mr. Nielsen immediately lost his job at BYU and reaped unwanted negative attention for his family. There are some who speak out in order to call attention to themselves or merely to criticize the church, but I believe this is not the case with Mr. Nielsen. In a recent interview he made clear his continuing doubts about his decision to speak out, his love for BYU and even the colleagues who fired him, and his insistence that he would never speak out about doctrinal issues but only political ones where his own views and the church’s are incongruent. Mr. Nielsen demonstrates how one can “sustain” the brethren and yet disagree on a political issue; he gives hope to many saints who have similar feelings but also want to maintain full membership.

My contention is that the gospel tent is wide and far reaching, inviting all to come to unto Christ. In this wideness there will always be numerous ways for us to make sacrifice for our community, for Christ and for our country. Just as I do not see contradiction in a man “sacrificing” for his country by fighting in Iraq while another man makes an equally important sacrifice by protesting and refusing to fight in what he sees as an unjust war, neither do I see contradiction in sacrifice for the gospel community which constructively and humbly questions current belief. As Jeffrey Nielsen stated in his controversial Op-ed piece, “Freedom of conscience is a divine blessing, and our privilege to express it is a moral imperative.”

Each of us is a unique child of our Heavenly father, each of us have different talents, intelligences, and sacrifices to offer up to the Lord. We are each prepared through our premortal experience, our genetic gifts, and life experiences to contribute to the gospel community in a variety of ways. It’s my prayer that we will recognize these strengths, recognize that there is no cookie cutter shaping and dispensing perfectly formed molly Mormons or white-shirt clad, short haired elders but a myriad of shapes and sizes of saints.

To some of us is given the gift of near perfect obedience and loyalty. I respect and love these members, I marvel at their undying faith, their consistency, their sacrifice;

To others is given the gift of perseverance in the gospel when all seems to have gone terribly wrong, when the reality of their life story does not fit the ideal image of the church. I’m in admiration of these saints who work against all odds to maintain activity and worthiness.

To others is given the gift to question, to see inconsistency, to wallow in ambiguity, and yet be faithful. I too respect and love these individuals; I respect their willingness to hold on to faith and intellectual endeavors even when contradiction and crises arise.

There may not be a 1200 page letter awaiting us like Guaman Poma’s, but there are people right here in our midst who feel they are functioning from the margins, who feel they are misunderstood and even perceived as tearing down the community, making things messy, complicating what others feel is simple. But just imagine what good could have come if Poma’s letter had been read and taken seriously by King Phillip III. Certainly he would never have agreed with everything, but just maybe there could have been more understanding of where Poma was coming from, less judgment, more love and more charity. As Christ reminds us, “the second” great commandment is to “love they neighbor as thyself.” I hear in this statement the admonition to appreciate and recognize the sacrifices of all.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

San Diego Vacation

Had a wonderful time with kids and wife in San Diego. I meant to blog from SA but didn't have free Internet access at the Marriot and days of walking and seeing tired me out. A quick highlight as swamp cooler, unpacking, and prepping for new semester await me:

**11 yr old son being picked out of the crowd to give Shamu (man, that whale/dophin is one old dude) commands, a fish, and, as my 5 yr old has named it, a "back rub."

**La Jolla Bay seals in the "wild"--I found out that the seals hand out in what once was a kiddie type ocean pool without waves. Too much nitrate and teeth now.

**Riding bike (4th child on the trip my wife says) to La Jolla Bay.

**Experiencing the Orangutans with my wife for about an hour in two different watchings at the SD Zoo. I'm not much for zoos but this exhibit was amazing as the glass barrier allowed one to be right next to the Orangutans as they ate and played.

**Seeing view from atop Grandma Snapp's home in Escondido--avocado orchards, tangelo and lemon trees, and an amazing view of the mountains and valleys surrounding the Wild Animal Park.

**Bike ride through the just mentioned valley; 43 mph without trying on the downhill into the valley

**Chocolate mole at a mexican restaurant in the Old Towne area.

**Observing kids' wonder and enjoyment; realising the memories would be revisted by them for decades to come.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Anxiously, slowly grading

I’m avoiding end of the semester grading for a moment, just a moment.

Evaluating final projects, papers, and portfolios creates a certain amount of anxiety in me. The anxiety arises from a series of contradictions and tensions:

1. It’s unnecessary: I’m confident I could assign final grades based on what I’ve already seen student drafts and presentation with 98% accuracy.

2. It’s a waste of time: few students care about the details of my evaluation beyond the grade.

3. I’m constantly seduced by the thought that when I’m done grading, I’m completely free for a few days: but no matter how hard I try (timing my readings, setting goals, etc.) I can’t ever seem to just check the damn things off.

4. Often I sense I’m dedicating more time and mental effort to student work than they have given it themselves but, on occasion, some student work demands I do much more than merely record its (its!) score on my little sheet; it demands I email them, point out their amazing improvement, encourage them to submit their work to our student journal, and ensure they will continue to write like this in other courses.

5. And finally: what the hell does this mean anyways? Who am I kidding? This is an authentic evaluation of student effort, intelligence, and skills? It’s all a farce and we all know it, yet if I don’t keep evaluating, everyone (students, administrators, colleagues, family) will question my sanity and competence.

Back to it. I judge each paper, each person, each 3 month’s worth of effort, boiling it down to 80 minute classes and my silly little construction of a "final" project.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

unbearable lightness of blogging

Flooded basement (the basement we just finished remodeling) sort of sucked the light hearted blogging spirit out of me. I'm recovering but probably only turned in the direction of, rather than actually moving towards, lightness.

I thought I'd catch up on my blog reading and in the process get inspired. But I read so much I'm now tired, a bit inspired but more tired than anything else.

One happy note: I successfully planned a family trip to San Diego during the break before summer school. I even used to bid on a hotel stay: $70 a night for 5 nights at a Marriot 2 miles from ocean. And no we are not, if you were wondering, going to Disneyland. I'm slugging the next person who asks and then looks disappointed when I say no.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Underground at the St. Louis Gatway Arch

While visiting the St. Louis Arch (which is quite impressive) I was taken in by the spatial/visual rhetoric of the underground museum on the Westward Expansion designed by Aram Mardirosian. A 2/3s circle exhibit where the visitor can theoretically (although most, including me, seem to first work around the outer edge which depicts the chronological events of Lewis and Clark) choose where to begin and end their exploration of the museum. At the center of the circle Jefferson stands with his back to the museum entrance, peering off into the tall columns which announce different issues (Explorers, Railroads, Miners, etc.) caught up in the westward expansion, each physically placed closer to the center or further away depending on the time period. As one explores the columns, pragmatically also holding up the ceiling, and hidden cases of "artifacts" in the cut out columns, the dates, all listed on the ceiling, increase as the exhibit extends to the edge of the circle (see the easily navigable virtual tour).

I wasn't all that interested in the subject matter of the museum but the design and rhetoric of the space caught my eye and lead to dozens of photos, discussions with rangers, and the purchase of the official museum book. It goes without saying that constructed space mediates how we experience ideas, particularly shaping how we create hierarchies. It's less clear to me how quickly we can reconstruct our notion of normal and useful. My guess is that most people experience this museum as they experience traditionally sequential museums as attested to by my sister and soon-to-be brother-in-law: "I'd never thought much about the design," i.e. "you are one strange guy to take to a museum."

I'm reminded of Amy Devitt's comments at CCCC, the conference which got me to Chicago and the St. Louis,(thanks Mega for help on this) about how students utilize the rheotrical moves of written genres, whether they are appropriate or not, they learned in high school when confronted with new writing situations. Templates, or genres, help us navigate and make sense of new genres or new spaces, like this less rigid, less chronological museum. But, of course, the old genre can also restrict our ability to fully engage with the new design: "So, where's the beginning?" Maybe it's only possible (and I'm stealing from Mega here) to fully experience new genres of texts and space through repeated experience and sustained effort. That is it's too much to ask someone to get it on the first or second or third try. The rewiring, reconnecting, and recombining takes time. Not out with the old as the mantra but reconfiguring and utilizing the old to contruct a new whole.

It's great to be wanna be rhetorician--life is all the more interesting.

Monday, March 13, 2006

"Son of a Whore" or Shogun revisited

I'm watching Shogun with my son. He's interested in all things Japan so I thought this might be an interesting film to see (any other film recommendations?), not to mention the nostalgia I hoped to experience as I had, as an eleven year-old, eagerly watched nightly installments of Shogun. Of course, as is to be expected, it’s difficult to watch—the special effects are terrible (the first death shows a head flying off before actually being struck by the sword), the Japanese inverted Mohawks look ridiculous, and the cultural authenticity is a stretch at best. Still, it’s kind of fun and I just realized that my son is also eleven.

I wonder how he will remember the film as he gets older. It fully engaged me as a youngster. The only TV series that had more impact on me was Roots. Both seemed, at the time, to be cinematic perfections to my young eyes. Somehow I wish for that simple idyllic day when I could get fully caught up and lost into a so-so film.

My “favorite” Shogun moments so far:

During a storm Chamberlain refers to his ship as a whore; later, in a jocular kind of way, he refers to a Japanese commander as a son of a whore after the commander saves Rodrigo.

Rodrigo, the Portuguese pilot, single handedly conquers all Japanese custom and language in one fell swoop.

A Japanese Samurai falls into the pit of English prisoners; he stays there until they prisoners are finally let out; he bows to his lord (for mercy, for honor?), the lord throws him a sword and the young Samurai commits hare-kare. I vividly remember seeing this scene as a kid—it had really disturbed me. Past met present: “Dad, what is he doing? Why is he killing himself?”

Terrible overbearing music which abruptly screams, “Feel tension NOW”

Unbelievably no foreign translations of the Japanese except when the Jesuits are translating which of course isn’t good for much because the Jesuits are at war with the Spaniards and English and intentionally mistranslate.

First day of spring break

Somehow it doesn't feel much like spring break. First, I just finished shoveling 6" on snow; second, I'm home on a Monday morning, as I am every Monday during the semester, grading papers, scoring a quiz, and reading student email. It might feel more like the break tomorrow except for then I must face my "To do list" which stands as the following so far:

*do taxes
*change over fridge door
*add electrical outlets downstairs and fix three-way in kitchen
*read/think about new YA lit course
*go to bike store: pedals for rd bik, shoes, new bike computer
*figure out new I-Pod (got it for 30 bucks at RC Willey after spending $600)
*read seeing and writing 3 as possible text for visual rhet class
*plan run and bike race schedule for spring and summer
*follow up on several odds and ends I've been putting off for months
*Read: Lance Armstrong's war by Coyle, Nigger by Kennedy, and Seeing voices by Oliver Sacks
*reformat home computer in order to get rid of viruses, slowing etc. Oh how I do not want to do this

May someone (God? the universal existentialist aura? THE force? whatever?) bless me to feel good about what I actually get done this spring break.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

All too yellow urinals

I frequent a restroom close to my office and without fail I flush three or four urinals after or while using my urinal--I can pee and flush. How do men in good conscience leave that yellow stuff for the next guy?

I mean come on guys! How hard is it? We don't even have to sit down; all we have to do is unzip and stand there. The damn flusher lever is right there staring at us—one fling of a hand and the movement toward the sink and it’s all done.

Maybe it’s because men wants to pee and run without washing his hands, but most men don’t strike me as germaphobes. Please help me understand. In the meantime I will continue to befuddle the gentleman washing his hands while I bop from side to side flushing every urinal in reach. The last thing I want to do is smell the urine of the last guy there; the only thing worse is when all the urinals are occupied but one and I must stand right next to some stranger urinating. Certainly women have it tough but at least they have the stall wall to provide some distance.

Women may envy the quick pee, especially at concerts and sporting events, but as you can see the urinal poses many a problem and I haven't even mentioned the dangers of the drip or the unintended splash.

p.s. I happened upon this image--maybe this would do the trick to ease my urinal discomfort.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Double NUTS: a 10k at 17 degrees

I was unable to stay away from the NUTS (Northern Utah Training Series--great acronym, eh?) 10k this past Saturday. It was more NUTS than most of these races as it was 17 degrees (instead of 24 degrees for the 5k) at the start of the race with a fair bit of wind. I can only remember one race which was colder: A national TAC race in Cincinnati—6 below zero. I wasn’t planning to run Saturday but then last week I accidentally ran 8 miles (6.2 of them about as hard as I could go) and the hip felt fine so I thought what the hell. My hip didn’t fair as well in the race even though I was only about 1:30 faster than my practice—granted it was a much tougher course with about 2 miles of hills and much much colder.

Even with the cold, it was psychologically an appealing race. Within the first block or two I dropped back to about 25th place. Throughout the first mile, which is all uphill, I slowly pasted 6 or 7 runners ending up with a 6:35 (not bad for an all uphill mile). Through mile two and three I pretty much stayed in about the same position with a group of 5 or 6 runners right in front of me. From mile three on (this is where the downhill starts) I slowly picked off the entire group and then focused on putting distance between me and them (the next runners ahead of me were a good half mile ahead). The downhill miles were faster (6:13, 6:16, 6:05). I snuck a peek behind me on the last corner: one guy remaining from the small group but he was about 15 seconds back. I refocused on my form for the last stretch, trying to hold it together as the pain increased. Just after the 6 mile mark a “fan” said, “Great job guys.” Oops, I immediately realized that the guy behind me had closed in. I tried to pick it up but to no avail—he passed me just a few yards from the finish. That was the only psychological downer but it didn’t dampen my spirits too much as I wound up first in my age division, 13th overall out of a several hundred runners, just under my goal time of 40 minutes, and first place in the series for the rugged 35-39 year olds.

Not the sub 35 I routinely and effortlessly ran as teenager and not the sub 38 I could have run last year but not bad for my higher age and low amount of training. We’ll see how the hip recovers—it’s mighty tight right now. And we’ll see if I can be a so-so runner and still enjoy it. I think I can learn to enjoy running for age division places instead of overall places, but unsure that I can avoid dumb decisions (e.g. ruining stomach with anti-inflammatories and prednisone, running injured, etc.) as all competition seems to make me a bit loony.

Friday, February 17, 2006

High Risk Teddy Bear Births

I had to pick up my daughter from a b-day party, not just any party but a teddy bear building b-day party at the mall. We came in on the wrong end—I don’t know the mall too well. Trying to find the stupid food court we passed a fancy jewelry—diamonds are forever kind of store, a kiosk selling some kind top for women where, for some reason, the manikins had real pointy breasts, a sporty shoe store with an athlete-on-steroids kind of ethos, and a zillion other stores one after another. The party had started off with some sort of teddy birthing experience (the teddy bear technicians wear nursing smocks, they weigh and measure the bears, and give them a name) and then finished up in the food court with cake and ice cream.

They were not hard to find (once I found the food court) as there were twelve giggly girls wearing b-day hats and holding teddy bears. Watching the party I felt a bit over-stimulated, very thankful I’d only be spending a few minutes. At one point I said to the mother, “So, you are really getting into the girl thing, going all out?” (she has two boys who are now adults; she had her 7-year old daughter with her second husband) and she replied, “Oh, this is the cheapest party we’ve done so far.” I mumbled something unintelligible while thinking about saying, “Wow, I think this one party probably equals the total amount of money we have spent on all parties for each of our three children.”

I was with my four-year old and it looked like the eating cake ritual was just getting started, so we went for a few escalator and elevator rides while we waited. Always a delight to see his pure joy at something so simple.

I finally pulled my daughter away—one more party favor to pass out as the girls finished up. Making it through the mall back to where I parked, we passed some sexy underwear store (probably Victoria Secrets but I’m not certain). An overpowering perfume smell emanated out the door which just about gagged me; as if they need additional sensorial grasps on the public. By the time I reached the car, I felt physically ill.

On the way home I asked my daughter about the party—she was so excited about the whole bear experience she could barely get all the info out. I was already nervous that she’d ask for a teddy bear building party, but I tried to empathize with her enthusiasm. Her only complaint was that the b-day girl had to do everything first: “Ok now the b-day girl gets her bear first…her teddy bear gets three outfits because she’s the b-day girl…isn’t the b-day girl’s bear so nifty with its little voice box” (my daughter thought every bear should have come with a voice box).

At this point, I couldn’t take it anymore; I felt mentally and emotionally smothered by the grinning freshly birthed bears, lingering Victoria Secret perfume, pointy manikin breasts, and spoiled children shoving in ice cream with one hand while hanging on to their new born bear with the other: ALL which, somehow, represented pure and simple joy for each of the girls, including my very own daughter.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Untranslatable words

I picked up Howard Rheingold’s They have a Word for it: A lighthearted lexicon of untranslatable words and phrases over x-mas break as I was preparing for my Language and Society course. It’s not so lighthearted, at least in premise: Rheingold subscribes to the Whorfian linguistic claim that language causes us to feel and think differently and therefore sees his book as a way of introducing foreign words into our vocabulary which will change the American worldview and offer up new possibilities as we negotiate relationships, love, spirituality, and technology. Here are a few words I think we ought to start using, and, as Rheingold asserts, let’s just start using them even if you aren’t quite sure how to use the word or pronounce it—native speakers will be grateful either way.

Ho’oponopono (Hawaiian) a social mechanism for healing wronged parties where the offended sit down until the issue is set right. It could come to symbolize a powerful covenant, going beyond mere “family discussion” or “therapy.”

Tingo (Pacuense, Easter Island—rhymes with bingo) to take all the objects one desires from the house of a friend. I like this because we do not have a word that means borrowing with a positive connotation. Personally, I like it when people borrow something from me: it’s kind of a social glue which tells me they trust me enough to ask and which then allows me to ask them for something later on. I hate it when I see everyone with their own snow blower, sander, miter saw, leaf blower, rototiller, etc. Why can’t we all buy one each and then share? We only use these items a few times a year—such a waste.

Gemutlich (German—gem-OOHT-lick with a hard “g”) cozy, snug familial situation usually in a living room. That just nails it for me. Although not too often, my family has a gemutlich ever now and again, sometimes when we do a family cheer (not sure how this tradition started), frequently when we all snuggle up to watch a good film, and when (quite infrequently) we have a group hug.

Aware (Japanese—ah-WAH-ray) ephemeral beauty. This would, of course, counter the western/US notion of beauty which seems so often tied to grandiose, stable, overpowering. Using this term we could, as Rheingold, argues cultivate a bittersweet aesthetic emotion for the transient. I think of the Art of Andy Goldsworthy, not necessarily the photographs of his work, but encountering his work al natural, in decay.

And, finally, just for fun:

Tartle (Scottish) This is when you are in the embarrassing situation of conversing with someone you have been introduced to but can’t remember their name. This is a good one since I often find myself in this situation and, more importantly, because it’s fun to say especially as a dig: “Don’t worry old boy, we all tartle at some point.”