Wednesday, October 30, 2013

When the Legislature Needs a Spanking...

Slate had an article by Amanda Marcotte during the recent shutdown describing how the Democrats could deal with the Republicans that were throwing tantrums, a little parenting advice. The problem with that is the classic response when one equal chastises another. "You're not the boss of me!"

No, the Democrats cannot be the ones to handle the tantrums of the Republicans, nor can Republicans logically deal with a similar Democratic meltdown. We clearly can't have government policing themselves into playing nice. That's just more government, and we don't need any more of that.

We need mother-ment.

An elected high council of 7 mothers, chosen from around the country not to represent any particular faction or ideology, but to give the Legislature a spanking when they won't play nice.

Not a literal spanking, of course, but whatever punishment they deem proper for the misbehavior at hand. The legislators shut down the government, they get grounded. And not grounded to your own rooms, that's where your toys are. You have to go sit in Grandma's room, where there's nothing to play with and it smells like cheese. Also, no allowances for six months - even if you fix this mess sooner than that.

The Motherment would preside over meetings between parties in order to make them get along, for the good of the American people. If they don't play nice, then they get a time out and have to sit in the corner. Public shaming would ensue via Twitter #usgovtimeout.

They would not pass laws, exercise vetoes or rule on constitutionality, but the Motherment would achieve something, maybe not better than those exalted actions, but different. They would give a sense of satisfaction to the entire country, that while we may not always agree with the actions that our elected representatives take, we know that if they're acting like brats, they'll be punished like brats.

After all, a little revenge can go a long way. A nation weary of political infighting would have a chance then to say, "thanks, Mom, for making us feel a little better."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Overthinking Poetry

My English 275 class has moved on to poetry.

At first, I was like, ugh, poetry, spare me. Then we began to discuss poetry and what would be involved in explicating it, and I thought, hm, why was I getting all bent out of shape over poetry again?

Then I remembered.

I used to write poetry. In high school I got a few poems published in the school's literary journal, one into the school newspaper, and one into an anthology of young poets. I still have a worn out copy of that book, and the newspaper, and each of the journals. I used to look at them and be proud and exasperated in turns. I seemed to have a grasp on how to write these things once, but I lost it, and lost interest in it and turned to other expressions.

I wrote a poem for my husband, before we even really met almost, a poem that, to me, answered what I had read of what he had written. I crafted that poem with care and precision. I think it was a sonnet, but I can't find it now. My poetry tended to have some structure, whether a traditional form, or something that was at least an internal sort of symmetry. I resisted the idea of free verse in part because I didn't understand how a poem could be poetry without a structure, intrinsic or extrinsic. I included allusions to the Odyssey in that poem, and I think there was a rhyme scheme as well. Almost no one commented on it in the forum to which it was posted. It seemed to fade away, not noted, and I felt a little disillusioned.

But it wasn't until a typo-filled pathos-dripping piece of drivel was posted by another person that I really got sick of poetry. This person's "work" made me laugh. It was cliched, I thought, and trying too hard. Ridiculous.


Everyone else loved it. They heaped praise upon both the poem and the author, marveling at how touched they were to read it, and how lovely it was, and how wonderful a person this author was. Never had they before read such a beautiful, heartfelt, touching piece of writing in their very lives!

I think that's when I gave up on poetry, and began to scoff instead at its practitioners as flighty folks without the endurance to write long form. I convinced myself that I hated poetry, that my writing of it was just a phase in high school - an obligatory phase for the kind of teenager that I was, right? Trying to write it again in my twenties was just a mistake, proven by the reception my last poetry received. Clearly, I was not a poet, and should not even try.

But just as reading The Sound and the Fury closely and multiple times over the first weeks of the semester gradually brought me to a state of admiration, expressed through a sincere attempt at flattery, the study of poetry is tempting me to try again the road I chose not to travel.

The morning light playing over the foothills as dawn has become a lambent promise of day's arrival. The dark clouds preceding rain have become piles of wicked candy floss. A goalie's acrobatic save became a balletic kick to preserve the sanctity of the woven desire. Ways of describing images collide in my head, for better or worse, and I fear it won't be long before I try to put them together in some internally structured form that satisfies itself to my eyes.

If a poem needs not have form to be a poem, not even the form of versed lines, then what remains to define a poem other than themes and images and criteria subjective? The poet chooses the words, paints the images, strains to find the form, formless or constrained, that expresses their purpose. Is it the reader's response that defines poetry, or the author's intent?

My intentions with poetry have always been clear to me. An expression of what I felt, in some form, free but not free. For the fun of creation and the satisfaction of completion, not for others, but for me.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


On Sunday, I turned 31 years old.

I think I'm supposed to be saying that I'm 29 still, for at least another three years, but I don't.

I've always preferred to be precise in these matters.

When I was young, 8 years old, I believe, I was still trying to be friends with the girls on my block. We had moved to the street where my parents still live about six months before my 8th birthday. One of the girls down the block was younger than me, but close enough in age that we could run around together. Until I told her that I had turned 8.

She said she was also 8, but I knew that she had been 6 the last time I asked. I told her she was not 8, and she said that she was - she had skipped a year on her last birthday.

We weren't friends after that, although we did encounter each other in the neighborhood, including one time when another neighbor got a new dog, and the girl held the dog while another girl and I pet the dog. She held the dog so tight that it began to hurt, and it lashed out and bit me in the stomach. I'll admit that action did little to further endear her to me.

So I am 31. I have not skipped years, nor will I pretend that they haven't happened, rule-follower that I am.

My brother told me I'll stop remembering how old I am now that I'm in my 30's, that it isn't important anymore, or maybe that I'll start going a little senile. I'm not so sure about that, but I haven't had time yet to really test his hypothesis. I think it won't work because I'll be thinking about it, keeping my age hovering in the corner of my mind just to prove him wrong, just to be different than what everyone says I should be. But only inside, where no one can see.

Today I read an article in Slate, a condensed interview with Elizabeth Gilbert. I've heard of her, but never read any of her books. The only one I had even heard of is Eat, Pray, Love, a book that lives, as the article states, in the chick lit dungeon. Gilbert is quoted as saying, "[T]he lack of a perfected idea never stopped men from speaking out!"

It reminded me of college, and how I would be too scared of my imperfectly formed ideas and notions to speak of them when they might have contributed to the conversation. I didn't have exactly what I wanted to say ready in my mind before the window to speak closed. My ideas were no less valid than anyone else's, but I didn't feel that way. I have made progress. In the classes I take now (I'm a Johnnie, how could I not take classes when I work at a university?), I speak out more. I risk being wrong, or sounding foolish or bitchy or whatever. But I still get scared sometimes, before I speak. My pulse races, and my hands feel cold, and my stomach feels tight, and I begin to doubt the validity and relevance of what I want to say.

Sometimes I say it anyway, and it's not a bad thing. Sometimes I don't, because the conversation has progressed, and I am okay with letting it go. I don't resent not being able to air my thoughts, because I don't feel as if I've been shut down. Instead, I made a choice - a choice not to embarrass my group by bringing up the many drug allusions we found in the poem, even though adding the hallucinatory dog to the literal and metaphorical dogs already being discussed would have been funny. It wasn't necessary.

I think that some people, those louder than me, have an idea of entitlement about airing their opinions. I encountered many of those in my life, so many that I came to believe that I was the opposite - not worth the time when all these self-important people needed to express. I thought for a long time that I had to become them in order to be heard.

Am I finally old enough to know better?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fake Everything Girls

When I read Seanan Mcguire's livejournal entry on being cred checked at the San Diego Comic Con, I was reminded why I avoid places like cons where I might encounter such attitudes. Heck, I used to avoid wearing branded clothing of any kind, always fearing to be called out as the fake girl - geek or not. I was a proud anti-fan, a thin layer of disdain covering terror and anxiety.

I've made progress in recent years. I acquired and wore a Faye Valentine outfit for Halloween two years ago. I would have worn it again last year, but it no longer fit properly thanks to a change in diet and a lot of time at the gym (yay!). But I did not dare to wear it anywhere near the local anime convention, and no one I saw on Halloween actually knew who I was dressed up as - although one guy did recognize Cowboy Bebop as the origin of it. On a night full of drunken revelry, I was safe, but I was sure if I went to a place where "real" cosplayers and anime fans gathered, I would be called out as the dilettante fan that I am. (I like some anime, but I wouldn't pass a spot quiz on most canons.)

I began to watch sports with my husband soon after we started living together, and I began to express some fandom of the Chicago teams, since I grew up around there. I figured that geographical origin would allow me to claim some amount of credibility with my calling myself a fan, but I didn't stop there. I finally learned the basic rules of pro football. I read articles on football, though I did not delve into its history as much as keeping up with current events.

Now and then, my husband and I would go to a bar to watch a Monday or Thursday night Bears game, and I would be able to hold my own with the men watching the game. I knew coaches and players names, recent histories, basic stats and perceptions. As much as the average fan not involved in a fantasy league might know. I purchased some t-shirts to express my support for the team, and I began to wear them around.

Then, this past August, I got cred checked.

I was wearing my t-shirt, a nice navy blue with an aged banner of "BEARS" across the chest in white and orange. It's a nice soft shirt, very comfortable. I walked into the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, and then  the nice young man behind the counter sees my shirt. I notice him noticing and smile, because I like to have a little camaraderie with fellow fans, not so common out here in Boise, ID.

"Are you a real fan?" he says. "Or are you just wearing that..." He trailed off at the end there. I'm not sure what he was going to say, but I felt an immediate urge to prove myself beyond just answering in the affirmative.

Me: Yeah, I'm a fan. It'll be interesting to see how Trestman does this season replacing Lovie.

Him: They fired Lovie Smith? Uh, is Urlacher still with the team?

Me: No, he's retired now.

For those not following football, head coach Lovie Smith was fired at the end of the last regular season, having failed to take a 10 and 6 Bears team to the playoffs. Marc Trestman was brought in as his replacement. Brian Urlacher has been a backbone of the Bears defense for years. These developments are things that fans should know, right? That's why I know them.

He didn't.

But he felt perfectly justified in asking the girl if she was a real fan or not.

This isn't just comics, or anime, or geeky pursuits. Even something as girly as My Little Ponies has now become a boys club, as Kameron Hurley wrote recently.

And now I've met the fake Bears fan girl.

What's next? Barbie? Romance novels? Don't look now, there's the fake chemistry major girl - you know she's just in the STEM program to meet boys!