Friday, November 30, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • Ah, the last of the Bullet-Point Fridays!
  • I started this segment when I returned from Germany and began the fall semester just to ensure that throughout the long and difficult term I would sit down at least once a week and post something on my blog. And now it’s almost over.
  • Well, not quite: I still have to submit another essay Monday. My research on the Redon painting has been fairly interesting, but—ohmygod!—I have no energy to just sit down and pound it out. I wrote about half of it Thanksgiving Day. While most of my compatriots were stuffing turkey down their throats, I was fasting and writing—what I tend to do best on that holiday. And I spent more than three hours at the museum Wednesday, so I have plenty of information to write about. Just tired.
  • I exhausted myself with the first essay due before Thanksgiving. And thankfully that proved to be worth the effort. My professor wrote that I was “gifted.” (And I’ve hence decided to start a “Gifted & Talented” program for my Ph.D. curriculum! Too bad few of my colleagues will meet the requirements….) Of course, I started the research and reading on the flight to Germany last July, so it’s fairly accurate to say that I’ve done some serious thinking about my topic over the past 4½ months.
  • Perhaps I will start my Bullet-Point Fridays again come January. But I think I’ll change the name: no good ever came from bullets. And “bullet points” imply a reduction and a leveling that I hope to never be guilty of.
  • I submitted my translation portfolio for the term this morning. I feel like after the first draft I was no longer doing translation but merely leveling, making the text palatable to the pack of illiterate philistines who were in the class with me. After several classmates complained that one particular sentence was “hard to understand,” I declared, “Perhaps I should just translate it back into Polish, and then we’ll see how well you understand it!” If nature abhors a vacuum, then I’m certain she would indeed hate my classmates as much as I do.
  • So, it’s time to go to bed. I still have so much more work to do over the next couple of weeks: exams to write and grade, essays to grade, grades to submit. And my winter break is quickly filling up with things wanting to be done and read. (And I’ll try to write so much more consistently throughout the week that Bullet-Point Fridays will be unnecessary.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tu boda en mi boca Thursday

"A mixed tape for un-mixed people." AKA La música para coger.... I mean, let's just cut to the chase. I'm not getting any younger!

Well, kids: you witnessed the proposal as well as the acceptance here first. Now it's time to pick the wedding music. Here are some of the tunes that have come to mean various things to me over the years, including love, lust, sex, and other (useless) emotions. (By some of the titles, you'll see my idea of love is complex, to say the least. I mean, "Rotary Club"?!?!) My one wish: Miguel accepts my music collection as he has accepted me--unconditionally.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • Today is Labor Thanksgiving Day in Japan. After (only) two years in Japan I still have no idea what that means or what is celebrated. But I was always thankful to have the day off from teaching.
  • When did the day after the US Thanksgiving start being referred to as “Black Friday”? It seems like I’ve heard that phrase before, but it’s only been over the past couple of years. What a horrible thing this over consumption is: people feeling as if they have to buy gifts for one another, a nation’s entire economy based solely on over consumption and reckless spending for a so-called Christian holiday, and then the utterly useless news reports about over consumption and greed and then the interviews with poor people who can’t afford to buy what they want for their children and then the interviews with self-proclaimed shop-oholics or compulsive buyers! It’s enough to make me run screaming, especially when the soundtrack to this shopping season—tinny carols about some Jewish baby born in modern-day Palestine—comes over the PA!
  • In honor of the Japanese holiday, I declare myself thankful to be counted among those who labor to make this world a (little) better place.
  • I always enjoy teaching Marx in my classes. When I taught government, I would spend about a week on political ideologies, slowly introducing socialism in small doses until the majority of my students would insist on knowing why we in the gloriously free United States didn’t fully embrace Marx’s philosophy. I had a similar experience teaching Marx in my philosophy course a couple of weeks ago. One student exclaimed, “I’m poor, and I don’t see anything wrong with what he’s saying!” Another student questioned, “Why were we taught that he was the enemy?” My answer: “Why don’t you write your president and ask him?” I’m all about pushing the limits.
  • There is no free market economy. It’s a lie and a myth and a delusion all rolled into one. A free market economy in principle would not allow monopolies to exist, would not insure bank deposits, would not bail out corporate failures, etc. etc. The only good thing about the US economy is all of the Marxist-inspired policies we have implemented to protect consumers and workers and the public. And we have a long way still to go.
  • "The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Proletarians of all countries, unite!"
  • My favorite new story this evening: the First Baptist Church of Dallas was robbed last night (on Thanksgiving Day). The thieves got away with eight plasma televisions plus a lot of other crap. I think God’s message this holiday: stop watching your fucking TVs when you’re supposed to be worshipping me! (I wonder if Homeland inSecurity will come knocking on my door if I declare that any church that has eight plasma televisions deserves to burn.)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Thursday

A random selection of music to be thankful for:
Just thinking about the multitude of ghosts that haunt every Thanksgiving and the network of friends around the globe who have made this a special holiday: 44 years ago President Kennedy was killed just a couple of minutes drive from my home; 10 years ago Michael Hutchence was found dead; Sonia in Kumamoto and the apato I painted green with the windows closed--I don't think my brain cells have really fully recovered; Tak & family in Osaka with my first bottle of beaujolais; Jola & the girls in Warsaw with several other bottles...; Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade way back in 1986 and the crappy meal in the basement of the Empire State Bldg.; "In this fateful hour..." over and over; and now me alone with a stack of books and one painting by Redon to keep me company.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • Thumb drive? Check. I do, after all, need to record the grades of the precious students enrolled in the US history course I TA for.
  • Stack of history quizzes? Check. I finished grading them over breakfast this morning, but I told my professor I wanted to re-evaluate a couple of them just to ensure I’m being fair (and consistent), so I’ll return them Monday. I’m still a bit perplexed by one student’s response: “Truthfully, I have no idea of what I should write because I haven’t read the book just yet. Fortunately [sic], there isn’t a way for me to pass this class having failed two of the last tests.” It continues for a couple of pages. I don’t like this conflicting sympathy-annoyance I suffer from: I really am too sensitive at times to be a professor, but I also work ridiculously hard for my courses, even the ones that only annoy me and waste my time. (After my last presentation, there was a hush before the professor exclaimed, “That was a damned good protocol!” I felt like crying, relieved after putting myself under that much pressure for a two-page paper.) But, of course, I’m not a freshman too lazy to read the assignment. (If I skip a required text, I have some deep-seated reason … usually. And I always make sure it’s one I won’t be tested over.)
  • Sophie’s World? Check. I read it originally back in the fall of ’97 in Japan. When I moved into my apato, it was one of the few books left by a prior occupant. Because it was in English, I read it. I was annoyed because of its overly contrived narrative. I cringe when I feel like someone is trying to trick me into being educated. Now it’s a required text for my introduction to philosophy course I teach at the community college downtown. I had/have no say in the matter. But after drinks Tuesday evening with my brighter-than-average colleagues, I just may finally stop hating this book. Both of them swore that it was a more-than-suitable text for an introductory course. I’ll trust them (since they are so painfully freaking intelligent). Lesson learnt: stop fighting the flow and see what there is to learn instead of overly complicating things.
  • Knitted skullcap? Check. In the mornings here, the temperature has been quite a bit more tolerable: in the mid-40s. It’s almost as if things are starting to cool down like they’re supposed to this time of year. In Poland I would’ve already had several days of snow by now.
  • Crappy Apple laptop? Check. Thankfully it isn’t a problem connecting to the wireless here at this college campus (where I spend my “free days” writing, working, and doing research). I wonder how many other people here aren’t really supposed to be here? I spend more time at this school than I do at either the campus where I teach or the campus where I’m a student. But no one’s ever asked to see my identification or to justify my presence. At least I finally started bringing my own computer instead of using the one’s in the library.
  • Internal (and upcoming) deadlines? Check. One paper due Wednesday. Another portfolio/project due on the 30th. And a final paper/presentation on December 3rd. Final exams in history to grade; five-page essays and final exams in philosophy to grade; eternal and continual paperwork to endure for classes taught as well as taken. Yes, I’m almost done with this term. But now I have to buckle down in order to check these things off. One by one.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

New Music Thursday

A random selection of music to enjoy the new beaujolais with:
Drink a bottle for me.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Northern Latitude Dreaming

Instead of just sitting still long enough to grade 39 quizzes in US history over my break/office hour I've instead read through a couple of blog posts, did a search for Joris-Karl Huysmans' novel À rebours at my university's library (we have several copies), and ate a 280-calorie dark chocolate "energy" bar. I've holed up on the 5th floor of the library, sitting next to a window from where I can see--apart from a few office buildings in the distance and a handful of cars in the parking lot--a line of trees running alongside the western creek on campus. I seem to have caught fall fever: I don't want to be in love or run naked in nature. Instead, I'd really prefer to wrap up in some warm clothes in front of a fire somewhere and read a good book (perhaps Huysmans' novel) with a warm drink and even warmer cats. Considering this is Texas and today's high is in the mid-80s, it is unlikely I will get to have this experience any time soon. Even the promised thunderstorms don't seem to be on their way.

I have slightly more than a week to complete my term paper over Celan, about two weeks before submitting my final drafts for the translation workshop, and maybe three weeks before my project on Redon is due. Then there's final exams in US history to grade and then finally my final for philosophy is scheduled for December 11th. Now if only I can get through these damned 39 quizzes to set the rest of the term in motion. Ah, December! when life comes due.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • Homeless – More than 400 veterans from America’s most recent illegal and immoral wars have turned up homeless. Veterans have long accounted for a high share of the nation’s homeless. Although they make up 11% of the adult population, they make up 26% of the homeless on any given day. According to the V.A., some 196,000 veterans of all ages were homeless on any given night in 2006. Some 44,000 to 64,000 veterans fall into the chronically homeless category, those who live in the streets or shelters for more than a year.
  • Assaulted – Roughly 40% of the hundreds of homeless female veterans of recent illegal and immoral wars have said they were sexually assaulted by American soldiers while in the military. (More than 11% of the newly homeless veterans are women.)
  • Addicted – Meth and crack are widely available, both in the military as well as back at home. As is alcohol and other drugs.
  • PTSD – If only the P were true….
  • Depressed.
  • Mission not quite accomplished.
  • Biblical segue:
"Then he will say to those on [the ideological right], 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

[I fought your goddamnedmotherfucking wars for you and you didn’t even give me health insurance.]

"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

  • Veteran or victim? Patriot or patsy?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

New Music Thursday

A top-10 list of random significance:
I'm working on creating an iMix dedicated to this new feature on Crash Course for those of you who frequent iTunes, but it may take a while to perfect. In the meantime, visit these artists' sites and buy their music.

Update: Here's the link for the iMix:

Unfortunately iTunes does not sell many of my suggested songs. What can you expect?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • The first definition of "bullet" listed in the OED is "a small round ball." I think first of a child's ball: small, probably red, and rolling across a street in front of an oncoming car.
  • When I was living in Shimonoseki, I often traveled by Shinkansen, Japan's bullet-train. Speeding down to Fukuoka (sometimes purposely mispronounced "Fuck you, okay.") for a day of gaijin (that word still grates on my sensibilities) shopping was a luxury I grew accustomed to, especially during my last semester in Japan: time was running out; time was of the essence. And I could turn a 90-minute one-way trip into a 20-minute breeze just by paying more than three-times the cost of regular trainfare.
  • I made up for the cost and convenience by factoring in Shinkansen tickets when traveling home to the US or back to Japan to serve out my two-year contract: if I could get cheaper airfare from out of Kansai--even with the Shinkansen fare--I would go that route. Direct flights from Osaka were always more acceptable than stopovers on that half-assed Korean peninsula. Plus a trip to Osaka probably meant a trip to nearby Kyoto as well. If time wasn't an issue but money was, then I could take advantage of several other transportation alternatives: the overnight ferry or the long-distance bus service.
  • My preference was the overnight ferry: not only was the cost bizarrely low compared to just about everything else in Japan--$5.00 for a can of Coke!--but the ferry also included an onsen, or traditional Japanese public bath.
  • The time I've spent wet and naked in the company of foreign nationals cannot be measured. (I'm just saying....)
  • Over the 1998 Christmas vacation, I spent probably no less than four hours a day at the onsen where I was staying in balmy Okinawa.
  • Perhaps it's been a way of recovering from the years of Texas summers and droughts I've suffered through. Perhaps I'm more fish than human. Perhaps I didn't have a clue what else to write on a Bullet-Point Friday.