Monday, February 28, 2011


Today boasted the Morning of Stink.

When I left the house this morning, the sidewalks were redolent of old, bad marijuana; this is not uncommon. Once I boarded the subway for my commute into Manhattan, I sat surrounded by a miasma of unbrushed teeth and too much garlic. After a transfer, I sat again, wreathed in the acrid stench of vomitus and the pungency of flatulence. As I arrived at the campus where I teach on Monday afternoons, I was assailed by the odor of either spoiled fish or a womens' restroom in dire need of attention.

The men's room, as always at the Monday afternoon campus, smells of Play-Doh.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Before long, my wife and I will go to church for the last Sunday celebration of this year's Black History Month. As is often the case at our church, there will be a "soul food" potluck after the service, to which we are making a small contribution.

I often feel awkward in such settings. It is not that church services themselves make me uneasy. Nor, certainly (especially!), is it the potluck that gives me pause. Instead, it is the tacit reinforcement of my own ethnic identity that comes across during discussions of race.

I am almost prototypically WASP, as may have been mentioned once or twice. Although I reject the notion that they ought to be imposed as normative upon others, I do more or less align with the "traditional" values of the Midwestern American working class. There are ways I behave for no better reason than that I have been taught that they are right for me to do, and a number of them are very much those which have been decried as destructive to impose as normative, as the unmarked. As a result, I very much feel myself to be the unmarked, the disconnected. I am removed from my upbringing in a number of ways, and any kind of celebration of solidarity and return to roots highlights that removal.

Also, particularly as regards issues of African-derived ethnic identities, I fumble for understanding. I do not wish to be inadvertently offensive--there are times I want to piss folks off, but I want them to be on purpose and under control, rather than the results of groping inadequately. But because I am white and grew up in the United States, I seemingly must fumble; for me to discuss race at all is a tricky thing, one which inevitably brings up questions of authority to speak and accusations of reactionary whining.

What right do I, a privileged middle-class white boy, have to wrestle with such questions as how race is constructed? I embody the system that has prevailingly done so in the United States for centuries, to the detriment of others. If I am awkward or uncomfortable, then I should thank my lucky stars; I could be beaten and downtrodden, instead.

I am aware of the truth of this, of course. How can I not be, living where I live, having grown up where I did, teaching the students I teach, and simply paying attention to what goes on around me? And therein lies another source of awkwardness: the perception that, as a member (though I did not choose it) of the unmarked, therefore oppressive, group, I have no right to complain...ever.

Perhaps I do not.

Perhaps there is no sense in any complaint about the issue, from any quarter.

Who among us can go and change that which has already happened? Who can go back and unwrite all the indignities and horrors and atrocities visited upon people through the millennia of human existence? Can the people who were themselves wronged be righted? In part, perhaps, and those who are being wronged now can be offered some attempt--necessarily inadequate--at recompense; those imprisoned wrongly can be released and something of what they had restored to them, those who look askance at others for things those others cannot help can be taught better--and those who will not learn treated as befits the deliberately ignorant. And the rest of us can do as all of us must do; work to do better henceforth.

What else is there?

Sunday, February 20, 2011


There has been much talk about the detrimental effects the unions have had on the economy of the United States, particularly with the shenanigans going on in Wisconsin. I have only questions:

When did organized labor in the United States really get going? When was the union movement strongest?

When did the United States have the strongest economic standing, relative to the world? And when was that prosperity in the hands of those who actually do the work, rather than solely those who sit back and push fake monies around?

Are the unions really the problem?

Thursday, February 17, 2011


The things I do for my students...

One of the things I have begun to do with this semester is provide samples of the kind of work that I want to see my students do. Several of them report that having the model to follow helps, which inclines me to provide more models. I also know that modeling is considered good pedagogy and that moving into multimedia applications is good form for engaging the students who are currently in my classroom.

That said, I am not sure how much of what I do gets across. I know that even in offering multimedia content, I tend to be very much text-based. The texts I produce are marked by my training, formal and otherwise, and I wonder if that ends up putting what I have to say outside the current grasp of my students.

I know that they can get it, but I am not sure they can get it now. Since I am teaching them now, it is a concern.

But then, is there any other teaching going on than what is done now?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I suppose I ought to comment about my grandmother's birthday, which is today. So, Happy Birthday, Grandma Bryant!

That is all.

Monday, February 14, 2011


I feel like a heel.

After (not immediately, but still...) my last post, an uncle, Boyd Elliott, passed away as a result of ALS, with which he was diagnosed at the end of October some years back. Funeral services were last Saturday, as attested by the various newspapers of central Iowa.

I will have more to say about this.

Edited to include the following:
Boyd Elliott passed away at 4:15 p.m., Central Standard Time, February 8, 2011. He was 49 years of age.

His visitation and funeral service attested to the regard in which he was held by the members of his family and the central Iowan community. He had served as a firefighter for a great many years, in addition to working in retail, and had been an active member of the congregation at St. Henry's Catholic Church in Marshalltown, Iowa. Several hundred people turned out to pay their last respects to him, including many from his and his wife Karen's families, members of the community, and representatives from the fire departments of Marshalltown and the surrounding area. A last call and firefighters' procession allowed the last to demonstrate their respect and affection for their departed comrade and aided Boyd's family in commending him to the long sleep from which it is promised that the faithful will wake in the fullness of time.

The world is lessened by his absence.

Friday, February 4, 2011


I am not dead. In any event, February is not the month that eats my people; October is the month that hates us.

It may have been noticed that I have not commented on a number of issues currently in the public consciousness, such as the winter weather and the shooting of Rep. Giffords. That I have done so is not because I have not been aware of what is happening--I have been dealing with the weather in person, and I try to keep abreast of the news even though I have no television service.

I have held my tongue largely because of a feeling that I have little to contribute. The weather is the weather, and has always been a topic of conversation. Even now, with people looking for Al Gore so that they may mock him to his face ("Awful cold for global warming, ain't it?"), what can be said? Those who will be convinced have been. The rest will continue to bray like the jackasses they so often resemble.

You know who you are.

With Rep. Giffords, while I wish her a speedy recovery and am aghast at what happened to her (and to the others, who were not so fortunate as Rep. Giffords, remember), I have little investment. I am not and have never been a resident of Arizona, after all, and while I have commented on issues regarding that state, my comments have been about things which reasonably affect me or those close to me--and SB 1070 would potentially cause problems for some of my people, October or no.

I am aware of the world outside the windows of my small room in the ivory tower. That does not mean that I feel obliged to always rattle on about it.

I feel obliged to rattle on about it only sometimes.