Friday’s Goal – Read!

One of the clever sayings I pass on to others frequently is: “People who don’t read are dummies.” Sadly, I find myself in the dummy category for at least six months out of the year. When I am teaching, all intelligence and intellectual curiosity gets squeezed out of me like an adolescent pizza-face’s tube of Clearasil. I become beaten down by stupidity, laziness, incompetence, and tedium, and then after I have dealt with all that from the BSISD administration, I still have to deal with my students. When I come home from work, I am forced to lay around on the couch not thinking in order to replenish the brain matter that has been lost during the day. Sometimes I have to have a medicinal merlot or malbec. Or Nyquil. Sadly, this doesn’t leave much time for reading.

When one doesn’t read often, one loses the ability to focus and concentrate for a sustained period of time. The best thing about a good book is the way the reader can lose herself in it, but if one can’t focus, this doesn’t happen, and reading gets to be a chore. Every year I have to retrain myself to read. I think I have a touch of the Attention Deficit, so sometimes it’s hard for me to sit still and do one thing, and I also feel like if I don’t have proof of productivity (the laundry is done, I printed these pictures, I wrote this), I fret that I have wasted the day. It’s hard for me to actually set aside time to pick up a book and get into it.

But the thing is, I love to read! I ain’t no dummy! So Friday’s goal (which I actually did on a Tuesday and started writing about on a Wednesday, and am actually going to put out thereon a Friday, but almost a week later – I look time in the face and I laugh! Ha ha time! You’re not the boss of me!) is to read all day long, which I pretty much did. Yay, me! Aren’t I the anything-worth-doing-is-worth-doing-well-quitters-never-win-keep-on-truckin’ -really-smart-reading-girl type?! Yes, I am!

I started out by reading some stuff on the interweb. The first thing that caught my eye was an article about this:

WARNING! Rant Ahoy! Turn back now, because it’s going to get ugly!

It seems that the British tabloid, News of the World has long adhered to the practice of hacking into peoples’ voicemail in order to get ‘scoop’. They have been busted for this repeatedly; for example, actress Sienna Miller successfully sued the paper’s parent company, News Corporation, for 100,000 pounds, plus court fees, over hackings that took place in 2005. Businessweek says that she is one of more than 20 celebrities and politicians that are suing the paper, and several journalists have been arrested. The latest brouhaha (great word!) is that News of the World got caught hacking into a missing 13 year old girl’s phone. ( Later, when I watched the CBS News, they showed me exactly how to do this. Turns out it’s super easy. I don’t know if this information is on the nightly news because it’s the public’s right to know, but now there sure is a lot of the public that knows how to do it right!) When her mailbox became filled with the frantic and desperate messages of her friends and family, the paper just deleted earlier messages to make room for more. The parents found out that someone was deleting messages, and so they assumed their daughter was deleting the messages, but by then, she was already dead. That was in 2002. Today the New York Times reports that News of the World also broke into the cellphones of several victims of the 2005 London subway bombings. This is appalling to me. I am just disgusted by the lack of integrity, ethics and respect for people that this brings to light. Sure, we all suspect that things like this happen, but it’s just so dirty, and I don’t mean that in a good way! I don’t care what Sienna Miller and other celebrities say in private; often I don’t care what they say in public. Still, just because they feed on media attention doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to some privacy. And the victims of horrible crimes are victimized again, even in death, when their private messages and conversation are turned into tabloid fodder. Sometimes it’s just not worth it to get the story. It’s just not right. Of course, this leads to speculation about where we get our news and information, and how we can be sure that it is fair, accurate and unbiased. I don’t think we can be sure. It’s hard to know who to trust.

It’s easy to know who not to trust, though. Rupert Murdoch and his giant corpocracy, which includes The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and 20th Century Fox Studios, is repeatedly accused of ethical lapses, biased media, and sometimes criminal activities. He is launching an internal investigation into the hacking thing… almost a decade after allegations have arisen. Of course this is no solution; the company will just find a scapegoat, cut him loose from the flock, and tell everyone that all is peaceful and right in the meadow. The last time this happened in Britain, the guy who was fired went on to be the communications director for the prime minister. And that’s another thing. Murdoch & Co.’s serpentine fingers, like those of other huge, multi-faceted conglomorates like Halliburton, have snaked their way so deeply into the fabric of society that they are able to control the shots in their own best interests and act with impunity.  We are all bought and sold (or we buy and sell others) for the acquisition and retention of power and wealth, regardless of the consequences or recklessness of our actions.

Sigh. It’s all so Orwellian. Or Shteyngartian.

For Rupert Murdoch to deny any knowledge and culpability is ludicrous. What an a-hole. You can read a blog post by someone who says that Murdoch is Satan here:

Of course, News of the World or Fox News aren’t forced on people. Even when we know big business is overstepping, infringing  or deceiving, we don’t care. We just accept it and keep buying whatever is being sold, keep tuning in for more. Why? I don’t know. Because we are lazy? Apathetic? Used to it? More interested in satisfying our urges, no matter how base, than thinking in terms of right and wrong? All of us -J’ACCUSE!!!!

END OF RANT (pretty much)

I also read that in Atlanta there was a widespread case of cheating on the state’s educational standardized tests by 178 teachers and principals at 80% of the schools in the district. This does not surprise me at all. Just like I blame Murdoch for creating an atmosphere of non-negotiable ‘do whatever it takes, or else’ mentality, I blame No Child Left Behind for the actions of educators that are told that the schools will be shut down if they fail to make certain goals, regardless of extenuating factors or the feasibility of the objective. I’m not saying that anyone was right to cheat or that people aren’t accountable for their own actions, but I understand why people try to conform to set standard and expectations, even if they know that what they are doing is wrong.

I had to look at some pretty pictures to cheer myself up. I do love me some real fine photojournalism, y’all.

I decided perhaps it was best that I left the Internet for awhile and read books instead. Not that books don’t possess the power to piss me off – what doesn’t? – but I still like to turn pages and smell paper. It’s soothing. Since I just finished a great novel (Shteyngart? Super Sad True Love Story? Have I mentioned it? Here’s a review not by me: ),  I thought maybe I’d peruse a little nonfiction. I have a huge stack of books by my bed, and I picked out three of them and read the first chapter. The lovely and attractive David Eagleman has a new book out, Incognito.It’s about how our subconscious controls most of our cognitive reality. This book explores “the vastness of inner space.” Chapter One just kind of nutshelled the study of the subconscious from St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century to Freud and Darwin. I’ll let you know when this gets interesting.

Next I looked at Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test – A Journey Through the Madness Industry. I am familiar with his work from This American Life, and I like him a lot. His voice is honest and unassuming, and I like his dry wit. So far the book reads like a novel and I’m looking forward to reading more. And finding out if I am a psychopath.

The last book I first-chaptered is the most dense and academic, but I think I may end up liking it the most.  It’s about how the rise of alphabetic literacy- read “reading”- replaced the image as a method of communication, which led to all kinds of major changes in perception, and in fact, fundamentally rewired the human brain. This, of course, caused major cultural, historical and religious changes, including a colossal shift from societies that worshiped the feminine to those that revere the masculine. It’s a book that talks less about what we read than how we read, and the effect of modes of communication. Here’s a little teaser from page 7:

“Goddess worship, feminine values, and women’s power depend on the ubiquity of  the image. God worship, masculine values and men’s domination of women are bound to the written word. Word and image, like masculine and feminine, are complementary opposites. Whenever a culture elevates the written word at the expense of the image, patriarchy dominates. When the importance of the image supersedes the written word, feminine values and egalitarianism flourish.”

I don’t know if I agree with this, but it’s an interesting premise. If Shlain ends up making me a believer, I won’t have to read anymore; I’ll just look at the pictures.

I read some more stuff that day, but by now I’m sure you are bored of reading what I read and I am bored writing it. Saturday’s goal is going to be a lot less wordy, I assure you.

Here is a video of hoola hoops, from the perspective of the hoop. Enjoy.

Lost and Found

It’s been almost a month since I have written. It’s not that I have lost the will; lately, I haven’t found the time. Thanks to Becky for noticing I was gone! Anyway, here are some other things I have lost or found since I last checked in.

Found: First robin’s eggs, in various shades of Tiffany’s box, officially marking the most glorious season of all, Spring! I think finding one unexpectedly means good luck, and I pick them up and cradle them carefully all the way home, where I put them in a small square vase. Every time I look at them, I’m struck. They are so delicate and thin, but are colored so lushly and extravagantly. Admiring them, I feel like surely the good and the wondrous are everywhere, and that possibility is bursting forth all the time.

Found: A story by Robert Coover in an old NewYorker. I love me some Coover. He is a professor at Brown University who has been described as a “metafiction fabulist”. I don’t know what that means, but it’s a pretty cool way to be described, right? I first read him in a college anthology in the post-modernists section, which again, means-nothing-but-fun-to-say. The story, which was written in 1969, the year I joined the good folks of the Daisy Mae Yahoo Ranch for the Progressively Evolving and Hopelessly Deconstructed*,  was called “The Babysitter”, and I have already written about it in this blog, so if you want to read it or readmore of what I have to say about it, find it in that weird word cloud or the tag list. Anyway, I found this new story, “Going For A Beer”, and yes, ladies and germs, even when not tripping balls with the hipsters of my youth, I still love me some Coover! He does a lot of strange things with temporal perception; his stories always remind me of that Super Elastic Bubble Plastic stuff I used to play with as a kid, but which was so much fun, but which I guess was actually toxic, as I haven’t seen it in at least twenty years.Must See TV presents “Coover Town”, starring your friend, Courtney Cox! It’s an angst-ridden, hilarious pre-natal, post-partum, pre-pubescent, frustrated adolescent, shamefully narcissistic, fleetingly satisfied, achingly longing, grindingly monotonous, dutifully perormed,  pseudo-psycho-sexual, post-modern-fabulist romp through the fads and foibles of middle aged depressive light hearted tragicomedy! RAWR!!!!

* None of that meant anything either, but there is something so satisfying about spewing ridiculous misinformation as if it was the truth, for no reason except to just do it! Good times!

Then, when I was looking for the link above for you lucky lamb chops, I found this article on my boyfriend, David Eagleman, from another old New Yorker, and it’s all about time, which you know I love to obsess on, and I know you love to read me obsess about! Man-O-Man! O ye gods of serendipitous synchronicity, receive my huzzahs and exultations as I fall on bended knee to praise your bad-assedness! It doesn’t get much better than this!

*BtDubs: the article is long, but it really is fascinating. The Coover story is short, but is a perfect companion for the article, as it looks at time like the dilation and constriction of an eye, expanding between past and present, or narrowing sharply to focus on a moment. Outstanding!

Found: Lots of plants in my garden that I did NOT plant, but that are growing magnificently on their own intrinsic motivation! The technical gardener word for plants like this are “volunteers”, but I like to call them “Palinesque”, because they just go rogue and pop up whether you want them or not. Fortunately, my tomatoes, cantaloupes, peppers and basil aren’t assholes from Alaska, so it’s all very exciting. I also have beans, radishes, Japanese eggplants, turnips, onions, roses, cosmos, daisies, asparagus, carnations, carrots (oh boy!), and herbs galore!

Found: Music to look forward to! My friend has a band who put out a cd and I like it, which is kind of rare. I mean, I love my friends, and some of them are really talented, but lots of times their stuff is …well, you know, to each her own, right? I can’t help it; even though I don’t know anything about music and have no right to judge, I’m picky. But, I can honestly say I love this cd. It’s called “Dirty”, and the band is the Electro-Magnetics. Go here to listen to some of  it:!__songs. For still more titillation, (Grrr! Now there’s a word that means business!) here’s a photo:

Watching the band from under the tableAlways leave ’em wanting more, that’s what I say! No, seriously folks, here’s a better picture:

Oh, snap, suckah! I played you again! Guess you’ll just have to check them out for yourselves!

Also, that band I told you about from Austin, Okkerville River, are putting out a new cd on May 10. I realize that they are not for everybody, but I am a fan, and I can’t wait! Listen to that cd here:

Lost: My ability to sleep through the night. It’s been touch and go for awhile, but it’s all over now. Thank goodness for the BBC. And Nyquil, or as I like to call it, “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” I am growing fond of the mild hallucinations I succumb to during the day, so the sleep deprivation really isn’t all that bad.

Lost: My patience. I am so glad the school year is almost over, because I am really finding it difficult to be tactful or polite to those I work with every day. A boy told me he didn’t know why he couldn’t remember to bring paper to school with him, and it was all I could do not to tell him that the obvious reason that he had these lapses was because he was very, very stupid, and that I have known that ever since I met him last year, when he was a freshman for the first time. I told my principal that I had to break protocol by calling an ambulance for a student that couldn’t breathe and was having chest pains instead of taking her to the clinic because the nurse is incompetent and doesn’t have the authority to hand out aspirin, and that she could stick her protocol in her protocolon. OK, I didn’t actually say that, but I thought it really loudly. And finally, I told these kids who have been shyly flirting with each other for the entire year to go ahead and get a room and get it over with, because their pent-up hormonal desire was becoming tiresome and quasi-distasteful to me. Oh, all right! Again, I guess the word ‘told’ is a little strong here, as no actual words escaped my throat. Still and all, I really feel like I’m gonna blow soon, fo’ reals!

Found: I found a field full of fireflies. If you haven’t seen one lately, it is every bit as wondrous and delightful as you remember it to be.

Found: Under my bed, a shirt I have never laid eyes upon. That’s odd. It’s a little big and definitely not mine, but I do LOVE gifties, so I will accept it with pleasure.

Dear Universe,

Thank you for the shirt! It was very thoughtful of you, and I frequently find myself in situations in which it behooves me to not be naked, so I will be able to use it often. You always know just what I like! Love ya like a sis, and stay sweet,                                                                                                                                   AVR

Found: In TIME magazine, it was reported that Americans purchased approximately 330 million cases of wine in 2010, making us for the first time the world’s largest wine-consuming nation. USA! USA! I really had to step up my own personal boozing to help us kick some French wino ass, but I’m a patriot, and I do what I can, selflessly, so here’s to me! Of course, I didn’t do it alone, and so I’d like to thank a few of those that helped me achieve this honor:
Please note that most of these lushes are three fisted drinkers, and only one of them is still able to stand. Everyone meant to show how much fun they were having for the photo, but their mouth muscles were too drunk to smile. It happens.

I think someone slipped a tiny oil slick into this glass. That’s all right. A little BP additive just lubes the throat and helps everything slide down real quicklike.

When I drank this glass, I saw drunk people! Creepy, right?

Anyhow, I know I am forgetting someone or something, but that’s the beauty of being hammered.

So, all things considered, many gains to few losses; it’s been a terrific month! I did miss you, though…

Oh yeah! I almost forgot! I also found a dog! I found him at the pound, where, coincidentally, I was looking for him.

Congratulations to Bonnie and Matthew on their wedding, and to Big Salty on her upcoming birthday! Also, Happy-So-Close-To-Being-A-Full-On-Mom to JR and to all you Big, Bad Muthas out there, Happy, happy day to you!


Xenophobia – (n.) An unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers, or of that which is foreign or strange.
Xenafabiophobia -(n.) An unreasonable fear or hatred of Xena, warrior princess, and Fabio, romance novel model, author, and “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” spokesman, both of whom are foreign and strange.

1. I was thinking about the concept of seeing one’s life flash before the eyes, right at the point of death. It seems a shame that one’s last moments would be spent watching a re-run. I’d hope for one last new ep, even if it was a cliffhanger.
2. Speaking of xenophobia, the New York Times ran a story about the graphic art used in modern propaganda. If you click on the link, check out the slide show to the left. The graphics are cool, but the content is disturbing. Anyhoo, fascinating and timely as the article is, the observant reader will notice that this blog brought you news and commentary of said propaganda on November 29, 2009, ALMOST A FULL TWO MONTHS before the NYT! Finger on the pulse, baby, finger on the pulse!
This poster is from the British Neo-Nazi Party, which just won two seats on the European Parliament.
3. Another real fine book: Sum, by David Eagleman. Eagleman is a neuroscientist by day, fiction writer by night. I love Sum; it’s forty different versions of the afterlife. Some are funny, some scary, some poignant – all of them made me think. It’s especially great to read on the terlit (pronounce that like Archie Bunker would), because each story is about a page and a half. Perfect timing! He also co-authored another book I am really interested in reading. It’s called Wednesday is Indigo Blue, and it’s about synesthesia, which is a weird – and kind of wicked cool – cognitive disorder in which separate senses join together. Here’s how the medical journal’s product description describes it: “A person with synesthesia might feel the flavor of food on her fingertips, sense the letter J as shimmering magenta or the number 5 as emerald green, hear and taste her husband’s voice as buttery golden brown. Synesthetes rarely talk about their peculiar sensory gift—believing either that everyone else senses the world exactly as they do, or that no one else does. Yet synesthesia occurs in one in twenty people, and is even more common among artists.” Vladimir Nabakov was a synesthete, and so is his son, Dmitri. My friend Reed, a physicist, has read the book, and he loved it. Usually, if the book is science-y and Reed loves it, I don’t even consider reading it, but this one just might please us both.

Also, Eagleman is kind of cute. I’m just sayin’!

I’m actually finished talking about this, but I can’t figure out how to get my pictures to all line up horizontally, and I figure I owe you a little sumpin’ – sumpin’ if you’re still scrolling…

…Ayup. That’s about all I have for now. Keep those cards and letters comin’!