Life in Omaha (in Scottsdale)

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Excerpt from an email to a former student

I may or may not have answered the questions. So here's a quick brief about education. The best teaching methods are incompatible with the classroom. Good teaching is slow, inefficient, spontaneous, and with results very difficult to measure. Educational institutions rely on fast, efficient, planned teaching with simply defined and quantifiable results. The two will ever be at odds. We can only hope for a merciless compromise.

Target, the last respectable big box collapses

As you probably read, Target has refused to back down on its policy allowing pharmacists to refuse to dispense emergency contraception. I used to like Target, and shopped there, when I did shop, with less of a guilty conscience. But this just irks the hell out of me. I want to go on a long screed about companies being beholden to political/religious stupidity, but I have work to do. Let me just say, that I'm pissed that now I have to write Target and tell them what dicks they are. Worse, I have to find a decent place to buy cheap jeans and t-shirts that isn't wholly compromised by idiotic and prejudicial and sexist and economically unjust practices.

Christ, all I want is to buy a Michael Graves tea kettle. Is that so damn difficult?

My Favorite Namesake on the Outs?

Salon.com's Tim Grieve notes that 19 days have passed since Scott McClellan gave an on-the-record press briefing.

When pressed on this point, McClellan first insisted that he had talked with himself and given himself assurances that he had indeed provided press briefings and that the reporters should consult the record. When informed that there was no record over the last month, Scott refused to comment further on any ongoing anything that is still an ongoing going on.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Thanksgiving Feast


The Thanksgiving Feast
Originally uploaded by shermans.



The Menu for our First Scottsdale Thanksgiving

Baked Butternut Squash
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Stuffing
Corn (just corn)
and lots of lots of wine.

Ciela raved over the butternut squash (possibly because of the heavy accentuation of the "butter" by chef Scott). The pototoes had too much water, so were dubbed the garlic potatoe pudding. The stuffing was a bit dry for my taste, but the corn, dammit, the corn was excellent.

I am thankful for the grapes. Oh let us give thanks for the grapes.

And now....the tiramisu gelato.

Who needs family and friends when you have wine and gelato. As my good friend Greg Gumble says, a good diet defeats lonliness every time.

Wishing all of you and yours and theirs a merry, merry Thanksgiving.

The remains of the wine bottle


The remains of the wine bottle
Originally uploaded by shermans.

The Next Great US Keeper


The Next Great US Keeper
Originally uploaded by shermans.

You know, I don't think you are supposed to ride zebras


You know, I don't think you are supposed to ride zebras
Originally uploaded by shermans.

Move 'em out!


Move 'em out!
Originally uploaded by shermans.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Ciela's New Table


Ciela's New Table
Originally uploaded by shermans.



After three months, I finally finished decorating/painting Ciela's new table and chair set. I first painted the whole set with a faux finish similar to what a decorator might do on an interior wall. Then I cut out a bunch of maps and images of explorers and pasted them on. You can see the explorer routes traced over the main map. Then I added my own ruins and pseudo-petroglyphs all over the table. These you can see better in the detail photo that follows.

It came out pretty nice. Not quite what I had envisioned, but I'm never the artist in real life that I am in my mind's eye. I had expected it to be more elaborate, but I stopped sooner than I originally intended. The furniture looked good enough that I was afraid I would ruin it by overworking it.

This is what it looked like before I started.

So not too shabby, and Ciela can start learning early about the vicious colonization, genocide and imperialism fostered on indigenous people by the European world. By age two we can talk about Edward Said, Orientalism and the current Iraq war as the most recent manifestation of Western hubris. We are soooo beyond the Teletubbies.

Detail of Table Top


Detail of Table Top
Originally uploaded by shermans.

Ciela on Safari


Ciela on Safari
Originally uploaded by shermans.

Random Hiking Blog


Random Hiking Blog
Originally uploaded by shermans.

Random Photo Blog


Random Photo Blog
Originally uploaded by shermans.

Random Ciela Shot


Random Ciela Shot
Originally uploaded by shermans.

The Christmas Gift for Everyone on Your List

Currently ranked at #379,218 at Amazon, Rethinking Disney: Private Control, Public Dimensions makes a great gift for the holidays. These eleven wide-ranging essays on Gay Days at the Park, Sweatshops, Winnie the Pooh (I'm looking at you Ormand Beach), Celebration and probably the most penetrating, exciting and utterly gripping look at Animal Kingdom ever* will make you laugh, cry and run for your nearest travel agent.

If you buy only one gift this season, this is the one. Make it a Disney Christmas for you, the kids and countless generations to come. Feel happy again. You deserve it.

* See pp199-227

Monday, November 21, 2005

Tales from the Misplaced Modifier

"He leans against a wooden fence with sculpted abs and short styled hair."

There is No God

Penn Jillette had a nice little essay for NPR about believing There is No God. What I enjoyed about the essay is that it centered around a celebration of what results from giving up on the supernatural intervention. No god means no reason for blinding one's self to the reality we all share. More so, it takes away the safety net. I once told some students that a belief in god created a rental car universe. We treat each other, the world, ourselves and our lives as something temporary; something that we will return dented, unwashed and full of trash and then rightfully claim our polished, sanctified and true lives in a perfect world. It's true that what we have is temporary. But that's the only truth of which we can be certain. Living our lives as if existence will be repaid and redeemed in another world is only an excuse to not try harder in this world. It's an axiom that inevitably leads to very destructive behavior.

Here's a small selection from Jillette's essay. The full essay can be read via the link:

Believing there's no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith." That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up," or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, "How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do." So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that's always fun. It means I'm learning something.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Book-A-Minute Classics

I'm sure some of you have seen this, but if you can't spend a lot of time reading, check out Book-A-Minute Classics. Especially helpful for those preparing for graduate school in English.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Excerpt from an email to a student

But isn't saying that companies are merely trying to satisfy consumer demand simplifying the issue. Marketing has relied and always will rely on creating demand so that companies can then satisfy that demand. Hell, that's what fashion and style are primarily all about. If I eliminate style, then indeed there would be far fewer brands, far fewer purchases, and far fewer walk-in closets. I have a dream of all those racks and drawers and useless spaces being converted into art studios, darkrooms, music studios, and oh, dare I dream it, libraries. And malls converted to small liberal arts colleges, or continuing learning centers, the contemporary agora, depleted of Abercrombie and Fitch and Gap and Structure and Vault and Crap and Thread, storefronts replete with writing groups, book clubs, philosophical debates, whittling and song. And Wal-Marts refashioned as....well we should just destroy all the Wal-Marts. They really aren't good for anything.

Monday, November 14, 2005

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

An interesting observation of central AZ in November: just like everyplace else in the country, the stores begin preparing for Christmas the minute the last trick-or-treater has left the block. This is always an irritating moment in the calendar, but it becomes more unsettling and absurd when the daytime high is 86 and the pool feels a bit warmer than it ought to. From the ethics and aesthetics of a former midwesterner, one should simply not encounter silk balls and plastic garlands while still wearing sandals.

Ironically, the climate probably compares more favorably to Bethlehem than Terre Haute would. We're closer to god.

At Seven Sacred Pools, with Ciela


At Seven Sacred Pools, with Ciela
Originally uploaded by shermans.

Hiking on Friday with our niece from Chicago. We got rained out in the morning, getting wet but just missing getting soaked. We waited out the storm over lunch, and then hit the trail in the afternoon. We hiked up Soldier's Pass Trail, hitting Devil's Kitchen sinkhole, the 7 Sacred Pools and then a scrambling up hill to the arches--which Ciela and I didn't see because the last 30 yards or so were a bit too scary for us.



I carry Ciela most everywhere we hike, and she is an exhausting burden. At Sedona, I was worried about an ankle sprain from Wednesday's soccer practice*, and had to use Judy as my help-monkey to get down the steep parts of the path. We aren't taking her out into the wilderness for any particular noble, child-rearing philosophy. We want to hike, and we cannot afford a babysitter. So up and into the pack she goes. Yet, I do hope that she appreciates the experience on some level. I'm betting that seeing Cathedral Rock or Devil's arch after an hour long trek through woods does something to the formation of her neuron pathways that the Teletubbies just can't match.

* For those of you keeping track at home, I scored last night. Picked up the rebound from a free kick and beat the goalie to the far post. It would've been the go-ahead goal had we held them off for the last 15 minutes. But they equalized, and we settled for a draw. Sadly, this was the battle of the bottom, but the draw kept our slim lead--Team X, second to none? Hardly. Second to last.

A quirky byproduct of our ineptitude: I am our leading scorer with three goals.

A bit of freedom for the pack mule


A bit of freedom for the pack mule
Originally uploaded by shermans.

Sunset, Sedona


Sunset, Sedona
Originally uploaded by shermans.



Taken from Soldier's Pass Road after getting rained on, muddy, and exhausted.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Publisher to reissue I. Lewis Libby's novel

How come the party of moral values keeps writing books like this? The holier-than-thou authors put forth scense of bestiality, pedophilia and rape in one book and lesbian romances and more rapes in another. Maybe it's just Dick Cheney. He likes to surround himself with smutty authors.

I mean, I like a good bestiality scene, and I'm on record as liking books about pedophilia, but then again, I don't try to legislate based upon my close personal connection with god.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Evolution Slate Outpolls Rivals - New York Times

Let's hear it for PA! The flat-earthers in the Dover School Board that required an "intelligent" design statement to be included in ninth grade biology were wiped off the map yesterday. The leader of the "intelligent" design proposal received the lowest vote total of all candidates.

On to Kansas.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Fun Quotes from Dobson

For my godson.

Salon.com's daily sponsor was from the Campaign to Defend the Constitution. In the advertisement, this little quote caught my eye:

"My observation is that women are merely waiting for their husbands to assume leadership."

James Dobson

That's for your mother, Jack. God bless her and your fearless leader of a Daddy. I can't wait to see all of you in a couple of months. Now take off that costume, Halloween is over.

Kansas School Board OKs Evolution Language

In a related developments, the Kansas School Board also revised history standards to allow The Passion in as the sole World History text. Senior English will be a year-long study of the great fictional works of Scooter Libby, Lynn Cheney, and William Bennett's seminal work on the African-American experience. And in Trigonometry, students must be taught that ALL triangles possess RIGHT angles, and screw those European Greeks: we are changing "pi" to "pie" and it will equal three. Just three, goddammit.

One grieves for the intelligent people of Kansas, like my good friend $sh, that have to regularly put up with this shit that passes for leadership on the Kansas School Board.

Public education ought to be the backbone of our democracy, yet these ignorant religious jackasses that can't tell the difference between story and science have managed to once again steer their ship towards the rocks. I feel for those parents in Kansas who want to participate in the noble endeavour of public schools and avoid the elitest and/or sectarian realms of private schools. What safe passage exists between this Scylla and Charybdis?

Kansas University and Kansas State ought to gear up their remedial Biology courses before the next wave of uneducated grads hit their shores. In fact, this might be a way to fight back. All institutions of higher learning across the land (Bob Jones University excepted) should mandate that any applicant with a high school degree from the Kansas Public School system must take and additional three credit course in Biology 001--better known as "Welcome to the Civilized World You Poor Misguided Schmuck"--and be charged double the going rate per credit hour for having to clean up your educational mess of a mind. Next time, ask your parents to elect a board with a brain.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Ciela's favorite Song--Nov 7

Currently groovin' to
The Colorblind James Experience "She Took the Ring off a Dead Man's Finger"

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Good and the Bad of Tempe

The lovely liberal town of Tempe has passed a no smoking policy that prohibits smoking inside public establishments. Such ordinances are fabulous, in part because they keep my students from firing up during class, and spilled coffee is much more humorous than ash burns.

This morning, I am lounging in the Architecture building on its very nice second story veranda. I overlook a stylish courtyard with a very cool temporary art installation of colored burlap, canvas and other fabric stretched between buildings. I love the buildings that house the art and architecture faculty because they are visually interesting. Even the bland ones are covered with sketches, blueprints and models. I used to do most of my studying at the Design Art Architecture and Planning building at Cincinnati. At ASU, the building is one of the newer ones, with a Michael Graves-ish quality to it. The balcony is shaded by stretched canvas and lots of tropical plants, with a tile floor and columns along the outer rail. It's one of the nicer, quiter spots on campus. I'm sure you have followed me to my point: I'm surrounded by frickin' smokers! The ugly offshoot of no smoking ordinances--choking clouds of tar and nicotine at any outdoor cafe, courtyard, door entryway, and park picnic table.

Forget trying to regulate the smoking industry to minimize damage. Let's mandate that they ramp up any and all cancerous chemicals in their sticks to lethal levels--I mean, more lethal levels. Kill 'em off sooner so the rest of us that can read a warning label can get on with our lives in peace and fresh air.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Three Books that Changed My Life

My friend Scott Rettberg was asked to submit a short essay about the three books that changed his life. While he didn't present it as a meme, I sure took it that way.

Like Scott, I must put forth the disclaimer that these are not my top three favorite works, nor am I particularly certain that, except for the second one, they are the works that had the most profound effect on my life. Nevertheless, lets give it a go.

1) Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Freshman year. Northwestern University. Introduction to Fiction with Elizabeth Dipple. Harris Hall auditorium.
The classic university lecture, 200 odd students in an auditorium listening to a professor declaim about the great works of literature.

I remember a time in high school at Hawley-Cooke bookstore, aimlessly wandering the stacks wondering what to buy. Uninspired by the classics and authors we were reading at St. Xavier, I was desperate for something with an edge, something remarkable, and though I couldn't articulate it in so many words, desperate for something outside the lockstep of realism and/or blank verse. Lolita was that book. "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul." Is anything else so passionate and damning. I sat on a blanket in the courtyard of North Mid Quad, frantically flipping back to Alfred Appel's end note annotations, searching the book for clues to Q, embibing on words like favonian, phocine, nacreous, nictating and friable. Heart, head--everything. I was so excited when I recognized the Wurlitzer that I literally yelled out loud, disturbing the fellow sun worshiping beside me. When H.H. knocks of his mother with the brilliantly terse parenthetical "(picnic, lighting)," I knew this was a book I could love.

2) The Gold Bug Variations by Richard Powers.

When I was living in Champagne-Urbana, wallowing in slackerdom, I decided that graduate school was a viable career path and started researching schools. I spent a lot of time in a non-descript room somewhere off the main corridors of the University of Illinois, reading journals, looking for professors and departments that seemed a good fit, I found Tom LeClair at the University of Cincinnati. A few weeks (months? who can remember these things) I visited Tom at UC and we talked about what authors I liked, who I had been reading. He mentioned that I should look at The Gold Bug Variations written, coincidently, by an author also living in Urbana. I checked it out of the library when I returned home. That book, subsequently, determined my graduate career. Not since Ulysses had I seen a book with such an awe-inspiring structural conceit. Indeed, I think Powers betters Joyce. I immediately purchased (and money was pretty tight in those days) his other books and devoured them each in turn. This writer, then and now, defines me as a scholar. I am known (and proud to be so) by my work on Powers, and with each new work and each time I've talked with him, I thank Aubrey McFate for linking us together.

3) The Chicago Gangster Theory of Life by Andrew Ross

This last one's a bit of a cheat. While Ross's book was one of the first works that unveiled a marriage of literary theory and environmentalism, the text that really changed my life was an interview with Ross in the now-defunct magazine Lingua Franca. CGToL no longer captures me the way it did in my first year of graduate school. Some of it's ideas seem superficial, and while giving Ross a lot of credit, I moved past him to the theoroticians that influenced his ideas. Yet those few months in '94 when I was reading CGToL and Strange Weather and then using Foucault to explain the twisted environmental rhetoric of the right...these moments were my foundation as a critic. Seven years later my dissertation was finally christened on the cornerstones found in a puff piece for the People magazine of academia.

Books that easily could have made the list:

The Tempest by Shakespeare
Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
The Next American Metropolis: Ecology, Community, and the American Dream -- by Peter Calthorpe
A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
ad infinitum

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