Friday, December 25, 2009

Let us scratch: Cameron's missed opportunity in Avatar

In response to a reporter James Cameron agreed that Avatar was based on Dances with Wolves amongst other moves and then added, "It's almost comfortable for the audience – 'I know what kind of tale this is.' They're not just sitting there scratching their heads, they're enjoying it and being taken along." If only he had allowed more scratching of heads and less taking along, this would have been one of the best movies of all time.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first two-thirds of the movie. An amazingly new world and context never written about or filmed before. I could say much about the imaginative beauty of these "alien" creatures--the flying is superb, the native's cosmogony intriguing. But then the movie gives into the inevitable story arch pressure to produce purely good and evil characters battling out to the bitter end. So pathetic given the amount of money, time, and talent spent on this film. I thought up five better endings while driving the 10 minutes home from the theater--and, yes, I shared each one to my children's chagrin.

I'm still glad I saw the film because I like the questions I've been wrestling with even as the film was winding down. And ultimately I'm more interested in these big questions, than with any final evaluation of the film. Why do smart, talented people insist that a movie end in a battle to the end between the arch enemy and hero? Are these archetypal surges coursing through our veins? Or is it just laziness? Or, as the liberal conspiracy theorist wants to believe, is it the false consciousness of the masses which demand such easily digested endings?

Whatever it is, I will--hope against hope--continue to demand better. Cameron could easily have done better and still connected with the deep psyche of his audience. What a lost opportunity to truly engage the complexities of our current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There were several allusions--shock and awe, pre-emptive war--but these are thin critiques of war because they are cast in an arena where our hero is pure goodness, our villain--the rampaging, hard-ass military commander--pure evil. It's impossible to compare the characters in Avatar to the characters playing out our own wars; real life always has an element of ambiguity, no one is pure evil.

I find it supremely ironic that those (many I think) who would disagree with my critiques of the movie would be the same who supported the war in Iraq. How can this be? I believe it is because the content--fighting native people's in their country or world--is not the real issue. The issue is seeing war as THE way to find peace. In this story arc war is the only possible option to defuse the tension and tip the scales back. Certainly there can't be any other options.

But wait. Maybe if we took a few minutes, slowed down the pace for a second, checked the escalating emotions. We have many good examples: Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke comes to mind. A similarly themed story in many ways--the native animals are under attack by the westernized and militarized industrial complex--yet the the conclusion is so different. Instead of two-dimensional evil doers we get Lady Eboshi, a woman who hires prostitutes and lepers to work in Irontown. She is not pure evil; she cares about her workers even as she works to denude the land. And our heroes are even more complex: Ashitaka, the boy-warrior, is infested with an evil curse; San, the supposed "princess mononoke," is a vicious, bloody faced girl. The traditional action ends as the "evil" men shoot the spirit of the forest--a huge elk--and take its head. Later, the head is returned in order to avoid total destruction. In the end there is both destruction and rebirth; there are no clear winners or losers, no one is demonized. And Ashitaka chooses to remain in Irontown to help rebuild it. The "answers" are complex, multilayered, human.

If only Cameron had enough confidence in his audience, enough confidence to lose a few viewers along the way. If only we, as an audience, were willing to reject simplified revisions of past injustices. I'm all for rewriting (rerighting) the past but it doesn't take much imagination to realize that a revitalized, re-envisioned, remetaphorized past requires new rules, not merely a reversal of the winners. The natives lost the battle in American history and in Cameron's world they win; yet both narrative arcs require extreme hatred, caricature, and violence in order to bring the story to a close. To steal a phrase from Donna Haraway's "Cyborg Manifesto," Avatar's ending (opposed to its compelling explorations of the embodied Avatar, the Cyborgian mix of human and alien) "generates antagonistic dualism without end (or until the world ends)," relying yet again on our Apocalyptic mythology which refuses partial/hybrid/faulty integration and paradox--all big words for the human condition.

Friday, December 18, 2009

To my students (or grading avoidance skill #123)

If only I could communicate this to more of my students. At least one student got it who wrote this line in his self-assessment essay:

"Unlike my other English classes I feel that what I’ve learned in this class will stick with me outside of college classes. Prior English classes had only taught me situational writing skills where a teacher told me what I had to do."

Yes, yes, yes!!! That's why I don't tell you exactly what to do. It's not to frustrate you, it's not because I don't know how to make detailed scripted assignments, it's not because I'm lazy: it's because I want you to learn something so we can engage in something real. That's all.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Getting to the skin

We end my SF course with presentations about how SF works to engage issues of diversity. One students did a most daring change of apparel, especially given he had never openly discussed his sexual orientation up to this point. See the video below (watch from 1:30; video taping not so hot). In the process the student makes a pointed criticism of diversity classes and seminars: they often create only skin-deep categories of human beings.

I have to say this is one of the best classes I've ever had. We had tough, open, dangerous conversations about gay rights, the LDS church, religion, and gender with a very mixed group of students. On the last day three students just stayed in the class even though we'd already gone over; I don't think they could quite pull themselves away from what they had created.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A better life?

I wrote this last week, then forgot about it. Since I'm still trying to figure out the holidays, I thought I'd throw it out there. Maybe there are others who have similar struggles or maybe I'm alone in both longing for and yet also hating my long xmas break. Also, it's high time for a long, depressing, trying to "say something deep" post on CI--that's what I'm known for and I wouldn't dream of disappointing.


What does it mean to live a better life? Often when this idea is invoked it seems to me people mean "to do more." Do more stuff, be better, give more, engage more. I have my doubts about this construction of a better life. Even beyond the level of the rationalization, "Well, I must take time for me so that I will be better engaged with my kids when I'm home." To me this still says more is better. The "stuff for you" is merely a means to being more, doing more. Why can't that stuff for you be an end in itself?

I'm probably thinking about these kinds of issues because yet again I am facing another christmas break. Generally I have not faired so well on these breaks. I give lip service, "Yeah, it's great being a teacher; lots of time to read, get together with my kids..." But in reality, and this is increasing with age, a part of me dreads the break, is afraid of the inescapable struggles I have.

I generally start off a break with a zillion little goals--more hiking, more reading, more studying, more creativity, much more of the most difficult of tasks (reading theory, catching up on academic journals, difficult novels). No surprise, then, that after a few days of NOT meeting these goals, I begin to feel heavy, lethargic, miserable.

How does one short circuit such a process? I've tried many things--pretend I have no goals, but this is lie to myself; be more active; wake up early each morning maintaining a schedule; healthy winter projects like hiking and photographing the local canyons; make goals about reaching out to others.....All of these have offered some semblance of hope but have often been short-lived.

I've noticed that I often do not feel at ease with a break until I've been on break for a couple of weeks. Then I finally can settle in and enjoy it. But this is after depression, frustration, and erratic desire.

Should I do something different this break? It seems I must consider it but what and will I even follow through with it? I don't know. I've thought of the following:

*meditation each morning
*exercise daily
*at least a couple of one on one dates with each child
*retreat, maybe to the monastery in Huntsville
*do something different as a family for christmas, like a show in vegas (we are seriously considering the Fab 4 Beatles tribute vegas show for a family trip the week before christmas)

But is this merely another reiteration of the "more" cycle? Maybe it is better to do nothing, to have zero goals, no expectations--live the break one day at a time and allow myself to do whatever it is I want to fill my day. One day I might read all day; another I might watch several films; another I might do absolutely nothing. But even this list can easily become a matter of more. More reading, more films checked off my list, more of nothing which is a goal in my mediation class. Freakin goals. Stupid goals. If only I could focus on doing "differently" instead of doing "more."

Yet...god I have no idea but I know that already I suffer in advance for the "wonderful" vacation I will start in a few weeks. I might be better off working at the local maverick or the mall selling something in one of those kiosks--maybe some lotion or beanies. Wait, I hate malls. But while I might hate it, at least I'd keep busy and have some extra money in the end. Reasoning: I will probably get down no matter what I do so why not do something that I can measure with dollars? Oh hell, I'm back to more.

Friday, November 27, 2009

One day on the wagon

Yesterday I took a break from the Internet and learned the following:

1. I got much more reading done--reading by the fire sans laptop was peaceful, even idyllic.

2. Much harder than I imagined: many times I caught myself, without explicitly thinking about it, wandering in my office to check email or the Netflix queue or....

3. How much I miss having 4 or 5 books out all at once, reading some from one, then another: intertextual connection equals paper-textual bliss.

4. How much I miss reading BOOKS with pages I feel and turn with my hand, books I write in, books I caress

5. Felt strangely disconnected from all my Internet friends--what if someone emailed me? what if someone posted a comment on my recent FB update? (which many people did, which I saw on my sister's laptop at Thanksgiving because she had posted a comment on my update, at which point I had to tear myself away so as to not check FB) what if someone made a nifty Thanksgiving post I should be paying attention to? what if my Netflix queque is out of order and they send me some movie I don't want? what about this thing I'm reading about (like the reference to Sir Gawain and the loathely lady in Kabat-Zinn's book on parenting) that I need to Google?

6. How my ideas for blog posts, FB updates soars, and ideas I want to email to others when I know I am forbidden from being online

7. That make-up online-connection is almost as good as make-up sex--I've had an orgasmic flow of online energy all morning.

8. That even with a day off and the euphoria of make-up connection this morning, I still feel a wee bit guilty about the two hours lost with my electronic mistress.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The happiest man in the world

In articulating his sense of what happiness Matthieu Ricard (a French scientist who become a monk), a renowned Buddhist monk, says:

"And also, [mere pleasure is] something that basically doesn't radiate to others, you can experience pleasure at the cost of other's suffering. So it's very vulnerable to the change of other circumstances. It doesn't help you to face the other circumstances better. Now, if we think of happiness as a way of being, a way of being that give (sic) you the resources to deal with the ups and downs of life, that pervades all the emotional state (sic), including sadness."

I was struck by his notion of happiness as a way of being and a resource, one that pervades all emotional states. From this perspective our traditional ideas of happiness are turned on their head. Instead it's the overriding emotion of well-being which supports and allows most other emotions and actions; it's not a fleeting state we strive for, a bliss we hope to keep a hold of as long as possible.

A further discussion of this can be found on NPR's Speaking of Faith, "The 'happiest' man in the world."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Coetzee Serrendipity

I'm reading a compelling novel, Slow Man, by J.M. Coetzee: how is it that I missed this genius of writer, who won the Nobel Prize for lit in 2003, until now? No idea.

Disturbingly enough, I had Elizabeth Costello, another one of his novels (side note: the character of Elizabeth plays a major role in his novel Slow Man) sitting on my shelf for several years until my father-in-law picked it off the shelf while passing through to Alpine, read it in two days, returned it, and proclaimed he was going to read all of Coetzee's stuff. How many times did I hunt for a good book and not even give a second glance to this novel? Further I do not have any recollection where I got the book from.

I'm also going to read everything he has. And, for those who are lucky enough to be English college teachers, his books are Penguins which means you can get them for free.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Hell House

Finally I'd gotten around to updating the many podcasts (TAL, Fresh, TBK, TOF) I have not been listening to over the last two months and amazingly enough I was actually listening to a recent episode of This American Life (TAL) when I heard this:

It's fun to make hell on earth...

A Columbine reenactment with real guns....

At the tryout: "I want to play the abortion girl." (turns out everyone wants to play the "bad" guys)...

In one scene:

"Do you believe in God?"
"Do you believe in God?"
"Yes," she says screaming for her life as he points a gun at her head.
"Why?" and then he shoots her...

At the awards ceremony for Hell House actors: "I want to thank my rapists."


As the documentary film makers ask, who are the good church going adults who sponsor this event?

To steal a phrase from HighTouch's recent blog post and put it in a much darker context, a little piece of me died hearing this story. I was stunned at the inanity of it all, stunned that people would create such "theater" for young teenagers in order to convert them, stunned they didn't see how they were inviting the very things they say they are against, stunned that humanity could stoop so very low.

Even now, writing/reflecting/re-listening to the episode, I'm incredulous--surely well-meaning adults did not subject their teens to this in the name of a God? Unfortunately it seems to they did.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Old man

Finally my oldest son and I met toe to toe in the only arena open to such a meeting: The unofficial Adam's Canyon sprint to the waterfall.

We warmed up, we stretched, we checked out the competition (that would be each other), and we were off. After the long stretch of steep switchbacks I had a slight lead because said son was too proud to speed walk the steepest hills instead of running them, "Efficiency the old man cried."

About half way up (it's about 2.5 miles) I remembered I hadn't stretch my back so I stopped briefly, son passed me a got a lead. When I caught back up to him, after much suffering given the stretching caused my back to seize up, he said:

"Old man you're killing me."

And that made all the pain worth it, even pleasurable.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cyclist on freeway: This really happened

As we were driving on I-15 into SLC last night to see Jim Gaffigan, we saw a cyclist riding on the side of the freeway. In of itself this is strange and crazy and, actually, illegal but not worthy of a CI blog post.

Thankfully there were other details which made this experience post-worthy: he was only riding on his back tire (doing a wheelie) AND, holy shit I still can't believe this, adjusting something on his front wheel while riding down said freeway, while riding a continuous wheelie, while riding about a foot away from cars passing at 85mph.

I did a triple take as we passed him. I'm still stunned, still wondering if we didn't enter some sort of carnavalesque imaginary world for a few seconds. Now I have a small inkling of what it must have felt like to look up in 1974 and see Phillipe Petit crossing that thin wire between the Twin Towers. Must have been magical, hilarious, incredible.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The written language

Attempting to help my son switch his new watch from military to regular time, I found these very clear and concise instructions concerning the 12/24 hour reversal option:

"You have the possibility to change from 12 to 24 hour system, when adjusting the hours of the normal time one after the other the hours are displayed in the 12 hour system, then in the 24 hour system and then again the 12 hour system, i.e., please push S2 so many times, that the hour is displayed in the required system."

Well, it is now absolutely crystal clear what I need to do.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Thing 1 and Thing 2

I have this Thing and this other Thing—Thing 1 and Thing 2. Thing 1 is absolutely necessary but Thing 2 merely costs lots of money.

What should I feel toward Thing 3? I’ve had it since I was 14; it was my grandfather’s but I never knew my grandfather and would gladly give up Thing 3 to speak with him for a few minutes. Thing 4 has passed from one office move to the other since my very first teaching job—that’s six moves—yet I’m unsure I’ve ever used Thing 4.

Fuck Thing 2; I don’t care how much it cost—to the garbage it goes.

All my Things are just Things. They don’t breathe or think but it seems I hope many of them will remind me of my own breathing and living. Thing 5 I got during our family trip to San Francisco; what a lousy reminder of that amazing trip.

Why so many goddamn Things? I can’t keep track of my Things. When I want to use Thing 6, it’s never around; instead I make do with Thing 23 but it’s not really my size. I start to fill suffocated by Things, things over here, in there, on the cabinet, in the garage—too too many Things!

But I do like Things; in fact I like my neighbors’ Things and Things in stores much more than my Things; unfortunately even when I adore a Thing someone else owns, its glimmer wanes as soon as it nestles amongst my Things.

I just got a new office and decided to fill it with a few Things as a commemoration of my window and my commitment to this office. I saw the Things colleagues had in their offices; many smart things. Andrea had pretty, rich matching Things but I’d never figure out such a complex layout of Things; another had intellectual old Things but he also has a degree from Yale. I want those Things, I said, so when I happened to be in Walmart (a very rare thing indeed) I decided to hunt for some Things. But before I made it through the front door I was tired and hot; I pushed on but once inside the King of Things, I was overwhelmed by Things. Why would people by such stupid freakin’ Things? I look at lamp Things but I think I want a lamp Thing from Ikea—not the king of Things but much better to say I bought an office Thing from Ikea than Walmart. But soon the new Things I buy will seem old a wary, Things I no longer want.

What is left when we have no Things? We are alone in a thing, yet alone without our things. Are we a thing or something more? I want Things to mean.

A Thing goes up, a Thing goes down. I pick a Thing up and save it; I throw another Thing away, yet that other Thing I caress and save never to revisit the Thing again. Things will haunt me till death and then my children will fight and scream over my Things. Sometimes I wish I owned no Things at all.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Guess who finally got into Cs?

That'd be ME with my two wonderful colleagues: Antistrophe and Signifying nothing. I have been part of a proposal for 4Cs (a major composition conference) every year for the last 6 years.

I tried many combinations: submitted with two new SLCC colleagues, Middlebrow and The cold cold north; submitted again with Middlebrow but brought in the experieinced 4C's ringer, Hightoughmegastore; submitted alone with little collegial feedback; several times had experienced colleagues read over and help rewrite proposal.

Finally this one stuck. And amazingly a fellow greeny (Antistrophe), as they say in the Mormon mission field, and I planned it out and I headed up the actual writing. Also thanks goes to Signifying nothing who, very last minute, allowed us to use his star-studded writing center presence to round out our panel and hooked me up with solid writing center research.

Somehow I feel like I've arrived. I know it's silly but indulge me. So many revisions of the proposal and it was our (Antistrophe's and mine) writing, not writing majorily tweaked by my more experienced, mentoring colleagues. Of course without said mentoring, I would never have arrived at such great heights. After the presentation I will be ready to die and go to heaven; my work will be done on earth.

p.s. if you have inside information that the committee accepted the proposal because they somehow found out Signifying nothing, the world leader of student writing centers, was on the proposal OR because our issue--student retention and writing--is a hot issue this year, keep it to yourself. I want to believe I've arrived.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Summer Vacations

We spent this week in Colorado Springs. Certainly satisfying to pull off this trip as the idea came to us in 2004 while in CS when I ran the Pikes Peak Ascent, a gruelling 13 mile jaunt up to 14k elevation. The surrounding area seemed a perfect spot for a family vacation.

Here are the highlights:
  • Thrilling drive on the highest highway in the US up over the Rockies and across the continental divide
  • Amazing rock formations at Garden of the Gods (and it's free!)
  • Amusement park-like experience of a waterfall at 7 Falls
  • Great variety of eating experiences: local mexican place in Craig where the whole family ate fajitas for 25 bucks; old-style Italian in CS where the decour had certainly not changed in 50 yrs; grass-fed beef at Conway's Redtop burger joint--a step back into the 70s; and finally a little Hunan Chinese place in Evanston.
  • A hike to Barr Camp--actually a mile past it--on the famous Barr Trail up Pike's Peak with oldest son: 16 miles round trip. The only negative is that running several miles downhill has totally trashed my legs.
  • Lots of talk time with the kids--I love how trips create close-quarter situations which switch up the normal family relationships. We laughed at all kinds of things and enjoyed each of child's unique personality, something that seems to come out more on a trip like this.
Near catastrophes:
  • Lost brakes just outside of Craig, CO but it worked out--no crash and a local guy in a tiny station fixed it the next morning (note: Craig is a rather ugly town, almost impossible to walk anywhere)
Vacations with older kids have several advantages (and some disadvantages I won't mention): less fighting, more willingness to try new foods, easier to do difficult hikes, and when tired of them you can send them to the pool for some alone time.

Next year's trip: Grand Canyon or Highway 101 to see coastal redwoods

Monday, August 03, 2009

Born to run

Thanks to Middlebrow and Dr. Write I started reading Born to run in earnest over the weekend. What an amazing book. So many things to like--exploration of the strangely exotic Tarahumara Indians, splendid little bios with juicy details on my ultramarathon heroes [a rush to hear details about events that I witnessed--the three Tarahumara Indians I saw racing the Wasatch 100 while helping at an aid station, Ann Trason who I saw while pacing someone at Wasatch) great writing, AND some kick ass passages, the kind you read and then kind of sit up, "Did he really just say that?"

For example McDougall describes the contrast between Scott Jurek (multi winner of the Western States 100--most popular/lucrative 100 in the states) and Mike Sweeney (a Badwater top runner--a 135 mile race in Death Valley) who are currently, in the story, running the Badwater race:

"Mike Sweeny was leading the field...Sweeney's crew was operating beautifully. As pacers, he had three elite ultrarunners, including a fellow H.U.R.T. 100 champion, Luis Escobar. As nutritionist, he had the perfectly named Sunny Blende, a beautiful endurance-sports specialist who not only monitored his calories, but hoisted her top and flashed her breasts whenever she felt Sweeney needed perking up."

I had to stop right there and share this passage with my wife. It's just too good to be true--Sunny Blende the nutritionist--and it's filled with the little details that make a story interesting. OR I merely liked it because the thought of a beautiful woman flashing her breasts at me at the end of a race sounded amazingly appealing.

Not to be beat, the next paragraph was another doozy:

"Team Jerker [they called Scott Jurek Jerker as a kid in part because he was so slow--he certainly got the last laugh] wasn't quite as well oiled. One of Scott's pacers was fanning him with a sweatshirt, unaware that Scott was too exhausted to complain that the zipper was slashing his back. Scott's wife and his best friend, meanwhile, were at each other's throats. Dusty was annoyed by the way Leah kept trying to motivate Scott by giving him fake pacing splits, while Leah wasn't too pleased with Dusty's habit of calling her husband a fucking pussy."

Shortly after this Scott starts to shake and vomit; he even takes time out to bathe in a giant cooler of ice. Still he winds up winning the race.

Lesson learned: A carrot, in this case breasts, is actually not nearly as effective motivation as a big stick in the form of crude playground taunting.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mission accomplished: HP I thru HP VII

Today we finished the entired HP series. I can't exactly remember when we started reading but it I believe it was either last summer or at the beginning of the school year 08-09. By the numbers:
  • 4224 pages
  • 7 books
  • 6 AR tests--Andrew passed them all and surpassed his AR goal every term (he already asked if he should take a test on book #7 next yr)
  • countless hours reading
  • 203 threats exactly: "if you don't hurry and get your teeth brushed, no Harry Potter" (How ever will I replace this threat?)
  • several reading marathons when we hit exciting sections
  • Many favorite memories: explaining snogging, various discussions attempting to figure out Snape's allegiance, talking about how much we loved the series

Reward for reading to the end: the much anticipated photo of my left ear (unfortunately it's not a great photo, but hey you get what you get). BTW I'm open to suggestions on what type of earring I should put in after my stud wearing time is over--stud! see I told everyone earrings were for men.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Going to Satan II: Responses to my earring

Youngest son: Why did you do that? You are a boy.
Me: You do know lots of men have earrings.
Youngest son: I know but that doesn't mean you had to get one.

Sister: Are you going through a midlife crisis?

Mom: Why would you go and do something like that? You fool!

Wife: Shit, he actually did it (after she saw the piercing solution and earrings on the counter I'd intentionally left out so she could work through any issues before I got home from work--she'd been out of town)

Oldest son: Reaching up to pull it out, "You didn't. Come on. That's not real."

Daughter: What's that in your ear?
Me: an earring
Daughter: Why did you do that?
Me: I like the look.
Daughter: No you didn't.

Just about everyboy else: silence and nervous eye twitches looking away from ear

Monday, July 20, 2009

Going to Satan

I stayed home from church yesterday so I could hit the grocery store and cook some lunch (ok, and so I could watch the Tour de France). As it is hard to prepare a mostly vegetarian meal, I was still preparing when the family got home. Immediately Andrew, our 8 year old, started in on me:

"Dad I'm worried about you. Didn't you used to teach that class in church?"


"Well, you don't go to church very much anymore."

"Nope I don't."

"We talked about it today. If you don't go to church you will go to Satan."

"Oh, really. Where did you learn that?"

"In primary."


"Yeah, you need to go to church so you don't go to Satan."

"Do you think I'm a good person?"

"Sure dad. I love you more than anything."

"Thanks. I think I will be all right then."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Biking the Legacy Parkway

This year I bought my then 7 year old a $250 bike, something many think crazy. But I knew I'd want him on a good bike this year. Why? Because I knew he was willing to do what he did yesterday: wake up at 6am and pound out near 20 miles on the Legacy bike trail.

Here's take off at the Frontrunner Lagoon station:

Here's our first little break after about 7 miles:

And here's my cool looking self:

And here's a strange sight--cowboys and cyclists chattin it up:

Andrew liked the tunnels:

All and all a great little Friday morning ride. Only one tiny struggle in the last mile or so when Andrew's butt started to hurt him a bit, but he pushed it to the very end.

Our next cycling challenge? I'm not sure. He's in that in-between stage where he needs quite a bit for a challenge (maybe we will come back here and do the entire trail which would be about 25 miles) but where he can't really do true mt biking quite yet. We did a few miles on Antelope island which was a bit frustrating for him (the sand and long hills); still a good experience.

Soon, maybe this summer, I will take him on a short slightly downhill single track by Snowbasin. Probably should wait till next yr as I always tend to overestimate skill level--just ask my oldest son.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Two bits for magpie heads

I love birds but I'm speedily going back to my childhood hatred of magpies. For whatever reason it seems our cul de sac has been invaded by these loud, ugly birds. I understand they are smart; I understand they are one of God's creature, but good hell could they shut up? And talk about agressiveness--I've seen them taking on our cats on several occasions. Magpies 3, Cats 0.

I find myself pining for the good ole days my dad has often described to me when the farmers would pay them two bits (that's a quarter for you unschooled in rural money talk) for every magpie shot.

Just for today, let me forget all that environmental, nature loving rhetoric--give me a gun and bless me with good aim.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Misc reviews

Smart People (Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Hayden Church, Ellen Page)

Wow, I stumbled upon this on the Netflix "watch now" online section. Just looking for a comedy the wife might enjoy, but got much more. I throroughly enjoyed this "romantic-comedy" which dared to show some real pain and confusion between the characters. Not only did we get authentic pain and confusion, making me feel physically uncomfortable for a brief moment, but many other qualities you rarely see in a comedy: the protagontist, Quaid's character, in full messy beard, is never completely likeable yet still I cheer for him; they paint Parker up to look less beautiful; Ellen Page gets drunk and kisses her 40 something adopted uncle which doesn't turn sexual; Church is brilliantly repugnant and cuddly.

Slumdog Millionaire

As always wishing I'd seen it earlier while everyone was discussing it but this will have to do. Luckily I waited for my teenage son to catch up to me and then we finished it together--we both will remember this one. Solid movie but I do understand some of the criticisms about the unrealistic nature of the film which was strangely highlighted with the singing and dancing in the streets and airport after it was over. Unimportant item I loved: the announcer's pronunciation of "Who wants to be a Millinare"--I smiled everytime.

Kent Haruf's Where we once belonged.

I love Haruf; his characterization of the Mcpheron brothers in Plainsong and Eventide was superb. And I quite enjoyed this book too, but the ending tore my fucking heart out. I generally do not bemoan depressing books or endings; still this one caught me off-guard. I get it intellectually--the book is about a town football hero who has always taken advantage of the townspeople and so it must end with him reeking havoc to illustrate the sins of the town. But, man oh man, it hurt. Maybe, in my somewhat depressed state I just couldn't face the reality Haruf left me with.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Why I hate graduations

Because they ask you to condense your experience (often years of experiences) into an hour and FEEL it: are you feeling it?

Because they are always caught up with flag waving and thanking our military for our peace—go tell the Iraqis about your fuckin peace. And, btw, what the hell does this have to do with a group of sixth graders moving onto junior high?

Because there is forced kitschy consensus

Because they bring the worst out in many people—a hyper uni-focus on their kid/grandkid, dads tripping over each other to get the right photos with video cams recording every precious moment, and that galling look of pride

Because they always seem to highlight the same kinds of kids: either the talented and extroverted who need no attention OR the sympathy cases like the girl with cancer asked last minute to sing in a trio even though she can’t sing

Because they package life into beginnings and endings, the big events where we pat ourselves and others on the back—of course life is actually a long day to day process with few endings and none we really choose

And lastly because they continue to multiply exponentially—kindergarten graduation, 6th grade graduation with pomp and circumstance and diplomas, one week music camp graduation with trophies, first level piano graduation with graduation photos…

Whew, I'm glad I got that off my chest--lots of downright nasty, pessimistic, cynical feelings on my part. Now I will be ready to face the next kid graduation when it comes. Thanks.

With my luck they will institute "Summer graduation" to start off the new year for all those children who successfully made it through the summer without their parents killing them. They can give awards to any child who did anything other than watch TV and play video games: like eat a veggie, make a bed, fold clothes, read a book, write a poem... And, if the budget allows, they can offer pins to any child who made it to Lagoon more than three times. And trophies, yes trophies, for children who made it up before 9am on 10 or more mornings.

The possibilities are limitless; our futures are so bright with glorious graduations on all the horizons.

Friday, May 15, 2009


A strange new set of duties has infiltrated my life. After spending a couple of weeks totally focused on work (grading papers, revising a journal article, writing a conference proposal) I now find myself making french toast for breakfast, running youngest to the dentist, calling the plumber, making up a sauce for barbecue ribs while helping my daughter finish her math.

It's an odd, whiplash kind of shift but it's good. It's good to slow down, fitting my life into the patterns of my children and wife; it's good to speed up, less time to think and analyze.

Well, off to take Hana to school--she put her foot down on attending gym for the last month (it's on Friday mornings) and we just couldn't care enough to fight her. She also won't walk: "Dad, there won't be a crossing guard!" she says in near hysteria.

Crossing guards seem like good idea, of course, but now my almost 12 year old daughter doesn't dare cross the road without one. Always costs and benefits.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A family home evening on sex

I think my last long post either was incomprehensible or was merely too long. Either way, I better move it down the line and post something new.

As a parent I've rarely nailed it but on Monday, during our unconventional Mormon family home evening, I think I did just that.

I'd been stewing (in a good way) about finding a way to open up more honest discussion about sex with our two oldest children, one teen and one soon-to-be teen. While listening to a great new podcast Middlebrow introduced me to (To the best of our knowledge), I heard a short piece on teens from David Bainbridge's A Natural History of Teens. It seemed the perfect little piece to break the ice on the sex discussion.

And it worked. Of course what made the discussion amazing were my two great kids. They were authentic, unembarrassed, forthright. The discussion was great. Our 11-year old daughter, often very quiet, had many specific questions tied to particular experiences with friends. If anyone has ever doubted this, my daughter's questions confirmed that kids are hearing all kinds of things and there is no way parents can hide them from the "evils" of sexuality.

It was one of the moments which represented to me what I always thought parenting could be, what I imagined it might be if I were lucky. Just thinking about it gives me hope in the next generation, in their ability to learn, think, and question.

p.s. my son came home tonight full of vigor since he had questioned his old-school health teacher repeatedly as the teacher tried to present strict gender stereotypes. He said he was shaking but would continue to express his views even if the teacher retaliated--gotta love that kid. He showed me the gender chart--more awful than I could have imagine. One of my favorites which reifies stereotypes I thought were nearly dead:

Males: Has the greater tendency to press the "pedal to the metal"

Females: Has the greater ability to stop the engine before it overheats

Good God almighty! We are still telling women they must be the ones to say no and that men can't control themselves.

And, according to his little chart, men focus on reproductive organs and women focus on the whole person. Please,

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Unwanted disgust

Awhile ago I was working with a student who seems to be transitioning from a man into a woman—I’m not certain. Others clearly have the same questions as I since many people kept staring. At one point another student blatantly continued to stare so I stared back even though “Faith” didn’t seem to notice either of us. It made me angry that the student was staring, even though I knew damn well I would have been sneaking peaks (though probably not staring) at Faith had I been seated where the student was.

After working with “Faith” I must admit that I had a strong desire to wash my hands; kind of perplexing since I’m not very germ wary. I tried to fight the feeling, recognizing it as irrational, but I couldn’t shake it. I gave in and washed my hands even as I was disgusted with myself. Biology or….something, at least, runs deep.

The experience reminds me of Ursula Le Guin’s Sci-Fi novel, Left hand of Darkness, where Genly Ai, an early explorer on Gethen, finds himself overwhelmed on many occasions as he tries to negotiate with the Gethenians who do not have gender as we know it. Instead they are, in some ways, sexless except for a couple of days a month which they call kemmer, where they move towards one gender or the other for mating. Not only does Genly struggle to communicate with the Gethenians because he does not know whether to use tactics for a male or female, but he also, even after a year or so, has a level of abhorrence. Twice he has an opportunity to see kemmer up close and personal and, even, to engage in sex with a Gethenian.

First, on a truck where they are prisoners and naked: a young “girl” is in kemmer and desperately needs to mate (as kemmer is similar to being in heat) but he can’t even look at her: “I saw the girl, a filth, pretty, stupid, weary girl looking up into my face as she talked, smiling timidly, looking for solace . . . The one time any one of them asked anything of me, and I couldn’t’ give it. I got up and went to the window slit as if for air and a look out, and did not come back to my place for a long time” (171).

Second, while crossing Dobrin ice with Estraven, the only true Gethenian friend he has made. They’ve been traveling on the ice for weeks when Estraven enters kemmer. Genly reflects: “We were both silent for a little, and then he looked at me with a direct, gentle gaze. His face in the reddish light was as soft, as vulnerable, as remote as the face of a woman who looks at your out of her thoughts and does not speak.

And I saw then again, and for good, what I had always been afraid to see, and had pretended not to see in him: that he was a woman as well as a man. Any need to explain the sources of that fear vanished with the fear; what I was left with was, at last, acceptance of him as he was. Until then I had rejected him, refused him his own reality. He had been quite right to say that he, the only person on Gethen who trusted me, was the only Gethenian I distrusted. For he was the only one who had entirely accepted me as a human being: who had liked me personally and given me entire personal loyalty, and who therefore had demanded of me an equal degree of recognition, of acceptance. I had not been willing to give it. I had been afraid to give it. I had not wanted to give my trust, my friendship to a man who was a woman, a woman who was a man.” Later Estraven warns Genly not to touch him during the kemmer phase.

I’m not suggesting that Genly should have had sex in either situation but maybe…maybe it could have transcended difference, or maybe, as Genly suggest, it would have merely reminded them of their difference, of their alien natures. More importantly Le Guin’s imaginative “What ifs” concerning gender creates situations where we can more fully explore our utter reliance on strict, clean definitions of gender. I guess this isn’t very surprising—gender is a powerful biological and social construct. But it is, even biologically, to a degree a construct. That is biological gender is not nearly as clear cut as we want it to be and doesn’t necessarily have to mean what we assume it must. Somehow we will need to move beyond this biological response of disgust. Without moving beyond, we will continue to have people, like the man in Lebanon I heard interviewed on NPR who said “I hate gay people; they are disgusting and evil. They will tear down the fabric of our society.”

Generally I don’t see any relation between myself and a someone speaking such vitriolic bullshit but somewhere, deep down in my biology, there is revulsion and disgust I can’t quite come to terms with.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"Seth is a sexy beast"

I've been working on a post about breasts, but it may be a rhetorical challenge too risky for even Counterintuitive. Instead, on a lighter note (breasts are a serious issue for me), I'm trying to figure out how it is that my I-Pod is named "Seth is a Sexy Beast." Here's how it went down:

1. My son, Seth, got a Nano I-pod from grandma before we really understood I-Pods

2. Said Nano, early on, got mysteriously bent which caused a few minor malfunctions at times

3. Said bent created a plethora of complaints and deep remorse from son

4. Said complaints drove me to distraction

5. A year or so later I purchased a Nano, the new ones which can play videos

6. Said new Nano made son jealous but I didn't care

7. A year later, trying to get some work done (ok maybe I was blogging) and get him to stop bothering me about how he couldn't play videos on his I-Pod, I finally relented: "Yeah, whatever, I will trad you as long as you put my music on yours and you make me an excercise playlist of rockin songs." (I'd yet to make a playlist because I suck and spend most my I-Pod time downloading podcasts)

8. And now I have an I-Pod which is called "Seth is a Sexy Beast"

9. Unforseen benefits of son taking advantage of me: I can see the screen on this I-Pod with my
cycling sun glasses and I can change songs with gloves (most of my I-Pod use occurs with my rear in a cycling seat), neither of which I could do with the newer, "improved" one.

10. I know I could change the name with a click, but I kind of like it, makes me chuckle everytime I see it and it reminds me of how much I really like my son.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Last Baptism

A year ago I got so stressed about how to handle my youngest son's baptism that I couldn't get to sleep multiple times.

I worked through it which is good since the baptism is tomorrow. I came to terms with the paradox and contradictions with one key insight: I love my son and know he will be comforted by me baptizing him. It's that simple.

Now if I could only find a priesthood manual to check on the wording of the baptismal prayer. Seems I got rid of all those manuals. Lucky I have the Internet.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Taxes done

By the numbers

1300 amount of federal refund (must decrease amount of money coming out)

267 amount owed to state

16 times I praised TurboTax

17 times I uttered "Fuck" under my breadth

1 stamp used

1 envelop used (I no longer understand how these work)

23 times I had to get up a look for some number or form

3 days to complete (not continuous of course)

10 days between completed taxes and actually printing payment coupon and sending in money to the state

26 times I reminded myself to send in state payment before I actually did it

1 utterance of joy--yipeee!!!!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Reading Life

I heard Andrew Solomon interviewed a couple of weeks ago on NPR. The honesty and accuracy by which he discussed depression took me aback. I got to thinking that strangely I have never read any book directly addressing depression. Strange because I use reading to understand myself and what I think. I've read books about just about everything which makes up me and my life. Yet, I've never read anything on depression even though at times I've suffered from depression. So, I ordered his "definitive" book on depression: "The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression." I could do without the "an atlas" in the title and I would rather not know he attended Jesus college (he also graduated from Yale) but I'm going to give it a go. Here's an early passage which draws an insightful connection between love and depression:

"Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair. When it comes, it degrades one's self and ultimately eclipses the capacity to give or receive affection. It is the aloneness within us made manifest, and it destroys not only connection to others but also the ability to be peacefully alone with oneself. Love, though it is no prophylactic against depression, is what cushions the mind and protects it from itself. Medications and psychotherapy can renew that protection, making it easier to love and be loved, and that is why they work. In good spirits, some love themselves and some love others and some love work and some love God: any of these passions can furnish that vital sense of purpose that is the opposite of depression. Love forsakes us from time to time, and we forsake love. In depression, the meaninglessness of every enterprise and every emotion, the meaninglessness of life itself, becomes self-evident. The only feeling left in this loveless state is insignificance."

I want to remember that love "cushions the mind and protects it from itself." I love the mind, the intellect, but the more living I do I'm convinced it needs to be protected against its extremes.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Do you know what girls look like down there?

One post in March? Pathetic! I have reasons but I won't whine here; well, at least not too much.

I meant to blog about this conversation with my youngest (just turned 8) son:

son: Dad, do you know what girls look like down there?

dad: Umm, yeah, umm, why do you ask?

son: (lots of laughing)

dad: umm, what got you thinking about that?

son: her friend (pointing to 11yr old sister) showed me a picture.

dad: oh, really. Umm, what kind of picture?

son: ya know in that one book, that one about girls.

dad: oh (sudden relief) the one about maturation.


son: Dad?

dad: yeah?

son: it was my bestest dream in the world to know what girls looked like down there.

dad: well, I can understand that....

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

An unwinnable argument

On homosexuality:

B: I think they are like sexual addicts. They just need to stop doing acts that are immoral.

A: Don't you think that's unfair to say homosexuals have to give up sex? Could you do that?

B: Absolutely. I mean I could do without all that down there (points to what most would define as an erogenous zone) anyways. I'd be perfectly happy to live celibate. I've already got my kids.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Grading to the Beatles

I'm grading papers (well I was) and can hear my 14 year old son playing the Beatles' "Let it be" on the piano and singing along. He's been working on it for a couple of days. Hearing him tears me up, somehow a symbolic representation of the hard work and sacrifice we've made over the years to raise him. And I don't mean some sort of reward for all the music lessons and money on drums sets etc. Instead that hearing him play confirms his individuality and separation from me: he is Seth, a budding adult, someone who will go off and do his thing out in the world. Beautiful.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Living Room Make-Over

The images below tell part of the story but leave out one crucial detail: Alison, home remodler extraordinaire. This was her idea; her vision; her planning; her kick to my butt; her sweat, toil, and many hours painting, caulking, and moving me along.

Are we sure we want to do this??

Shit, I hope we can put this back together again.

How to get down the rest of these cinder blocks...they all came at once and just about crashed into our basement.

Two truckloads later we are done; if I see another brick, I will puke.

Hey, this looks like something. Thanks to John our contractor: the man with the know-how and the patience to talk through each detail.

How do you like that?

A Mantel! Sweet relief.

A few early knick knacks

Saturday, February 14, 2009

For the love of story

Over the last couple of weeks and especially on weekends, I've renewed my love for story without worrying so much about big ideas and lofty style. Over the last year the youngest son and I have worked through Harry Potter 1-3--now we are on 4 and picking up the pace because the plotting is exquisite. On my own I've been reading Stephen King's The Stand. The plot is good here too but it's the characters I love. If you've read it, you know there are like 1,000 (ok 100) characters rapidly introduced chapter after chapter. I fall for just about each one: Larry Underwood the selfish recent rock star, Fran Goldsmith the pregnant girl who has to bury her father, Nick Andros the deaf-mute boy who becomes the default sheriff... Amazing.

After having worked through many important books, it's nice to get sucked into a book, plot, character and line. In other words, as Stephen King put it while praising JK Rowling in a review of the HP series,"if the field is left to a bunch of intellectual Muggles who believe the traditional novel is dead, they'll kill the damn thing."

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Counterintuitive note of the week

I always intended this to be part of my blog, but I've failed miserably. Today I make up for my inattention with a counterintuitive note that will leave males scratching their head and females shaken to the core. Are you ready?

In a recent study on sexual arousal they found that females were sexually aroused by every kind of porn imaginable (heterosexual, men w/ men, women w/ women, and even bonobo monkeys). And I thought women didn't like porn. But wait. The sexual arousal was tested in two ways--physiologically by way of the classic bonermeter and the "vaginal photoplethysmograph probe" (ouch!) AND psychologically by just asking. Interestingly, overall males' physiological and psychological responses agreed with one another, whereas females' did not. Damn, females still don't really like porn. For example, most heterosexual females report that same sex and bonobo action did not turn them on, but the probe said otherwise.

One theory to explain the counterintuitive response of women: women's bodies have adaptated to unwanted penetration (read rape) because sexual arousal lubricates and lessens the damage. That's sobbering. Of course the other not-so-counterituitive idea here is that males indeed think with their penis: what they said turned them on was indeed manifested in their shorts.

Of coure the myriad details of sexual research will matter little to men unless the science leads to some form of female viagra. What more can you expect from a penis?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Crowning Achievement (I couldn't help myself)

I'm tempted to blog about all the negative economic woes, especially the hatchet job of cuts being handed down from on high at my job. But that would be really depressing and make my already paranoid self worry that somehow somebody might Google my rantings and then fire me. So, instead I will focus on yesterday's victory:

My wife and I successfully installed crown molding. Above isn't our crown molding as it still needs painting and looks kind of amateurish, but you get the idea. Well, maybe you don't.

In my storied career of house remodeling, I've installed a lot of baseboard. This is, if you didn't know, the grunt work of remodeling (i.e. anyone with a tape measure can pull it off). Finally I ventured into the unknown to finish off our living room. After viewing this and this and this, pausing and staring like a porn addict from every angle, I finally made some cuts. It was nerve-wracking knowing that a misstep would mean another trip to Loewes and another 20 bucks.

As I'm sure you know from viewing the previous videos, crown molding must be cut at an angle in the miter box and upside down--very easy to screw up. Amazingly our first corner was perfect; unfortunately we had a hell of a time fitting the last piece in. But all and all a successful evening with the saw and nail gun.

At 40 I rarely pull off something I didn't think I could do. Hopefully the hatchet job at work won't take my summer school money away which will pay for all this amazing home remodeling.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama finally got to me

Obama's inauguration speech wasn't streaming too well in my class (I was teaching) so I didn't see it live, but I did hear most of the NPR rebroadcast on the way home. At one point my cynical body did something it rarely does anymore: I got a tingle from my head all the way down through my legs. I'm more trusting of that tingle as I like to think I'm a bit more immune to kitsch and overwrought patriotism (e.g. certainly Ronald Reagan, if he were alive, couldn't cause the kind of emotion he did when I heard him speak at BYU). Also, I was impressed by my friend's, in The Cold Cold North, proclamation of hope. Finally, what brought me to the brink of hope, I listened to a This American Life podcast on the upcoming (at that point) inauguration. Even several conservatives expressed how they had softened and had more hope in Obama than they thought they would. And so....I've turned the corner (Note: I was almost derailed when on the same TAL program they discussed how Bush is STILL freakin more popular with the marines even though the VA representatives say the Bush administration hasn't supported any of their policies to support veterans). Drum role please..... I'm now officially prepared to say that I'm hopefully pessimistic.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Scheduling the minutes

3:07 pick up oldest son a couple of minutes late for an orthodontist appointment

3:07-3:16 listen to son complain about new piano lessons

3:17 arrive at orthodontist

3:40 discuss progress of son's braces with orthodontist

3:50-4:20 get my 18 year old permanent retainer removed (drilling off 18yr old glue hurts like hell)

4:21-4:30 again listen to son complain about piano lessons and how he hasn't talked with his gf for 24hrs

4:30-4:55 arrive home; help frantic wife prepare dinner while explaining multiple times to youngest son why right now is not a good time to read the last chapter in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

5:05 help wife and two boys out the door for music lessons

5:05-5:10 finish eating dinner

5:10-5:30 rush daughter to orthodontist to fix a "pokey wire" (turned out all we needed to do was rotate the little spring thingy on her appliance--love that word, "would you like an appliance in your mouth?" Discuss her science project, realizing that she hasn't followed up on what we talked about two days ago; measure out an uphill mile to walk later for science project.

5:30-5:50 clean up kitchen

5:50-6 consult with contractor remodeling our living room

6-7 work with daughter on science project--How long would it take to walk around the earth on the equator? (at first we figured about 2yrs until we realized we were not allowing the walker anytime to sleep, eat or rest--any ideas on making this look cool would be much appreciated). Try multiple times to help daughter understand that you must divide the smaller number into the larger number to convert minutes to days and days to years.

7 chase away anxiety from being so busy with a mixture of mint ice-cream, broken up symphony bar, and crushed cookies (damn, just remember I forgot the caramel sauce)

7:15 wife and I sequester ourselves in my office (now piled high with crap from living room being remodeled) which requires various threats to children, particularly youngest who wants me read the last chapter of the HP book RIGHT NOW; I get an update on her mother's failing health and we try to decide if she should go up to Rexburg for the weekend

7:40-8:00 try desperately to finish up HP but son has many questions; very enjoyable to see him so excited about reading but by damn I will watch the Office

8:00-8:30 to my son's utter disbelief that we still haven't finished HP, I laugh ass off watching The Office--not sure if it was an amazing episode or if I just needed a release. Listening to Michael's convoluted explanation to the district manager in NY about what he does right, sends me over the edge.

8:07, 8:18, and 8:29: read a bit of HP to son during the commercial

8:30 deal with freaked out son who can't believe we are also going to watch 30 Rock

8:30-9 watch 30 Rock, finish HP during the commercials--we did it! HP out loud in about two months.

9-9:20 get youngest into bed, start....HP and the prisoner of Azkaban

9:20-27 clean up kitch again

9:27-9:40 check email since I left early from work, while scrapping tongue raw newly discovered surface, then fiddle with two teeth that are hella sensitive since retainer removal

9:45-9:55 think about reading French theory book but instead finish Irving Stone's Lust for life for bk club on Friday--godalmighty Van Gogh had it tough

9:55-10:05 blank out for a bit thinking about Van Gogh's depression, his inability to live a mediocre "happy" life, his legacy of great art; wonder about my own ability to stay sane for the next 30 yrs.

10:05 hear Seinfeld re-run from other room--talk to wife while she is painting in living room while realizing I have not seen this very early Seinfeld.

10:15-10:30 sit down and watch rest of Seinfeld with wife; realize I have seen some of the scenes in the last half: Russian cable guys, pregnant bitchy woman who knows the Kennedy's and George's chocolate cake shirt; on the commercials we revisit her mother's health and trip to Rexburg and I help oldest son with spanish homework

10:35 take cats out in the garage and lock up; consider reading for a bit but realize I'm exhausted

10:45 in bed

11 amazingly I actualy fall asleep without getting up to read

Monday, January 12, 2009


I feel like I have been plucked up and dropped into a different job. Instead of driving to work, I will be doing the train thing to our campus in the hood on M and W. I road Frontrunner, then Tracks, and then walked a mile. The walking was particularly strange as I'm just not used to walking much of anywhere, certainly not in the big city. On my return walk I went off the beaten path of State and 13th South--many boarded up stores, a few alleys, a big restaurant fan spewing crap onto the sidewalk, muchas palabras en espanol. A world out of sight but just blocks away from roads I've driven many times.

How easy it is to be absolutely isolated from anyone and anywhere Other. I'm quite confident that I did indeed go to work today, but I'm really not quite sure.