The T-Virus: (p)Resident Evil Makes Sure It Doesn’t Miss You

1447738-1024x576-desktopnexus-comby Ed Anger, opportunistic occasional contributor

Trivia.  Americans can’t look away, like a car wreck.  Since when did a tweet–ANY tweet–become newsworthy?  This is an avenue specifically designed to carry information Too Trivial for Traditional media.  If you missed it the first time, by definition it wasn’t important!

Twitter, or as I like to refer to this bottom of the social media barrel, Twerper.  After all, who but a Twit or Twerp would exchange insults through a means that cannot possibly have repercussions other than a 140-character counter-insult?  You think anyone’s gonna stand toe-to-toe with Arnold Schwarzenegger and tell him he was a lousy governor, no matter how many secret service agents he’s got at his back?

Apparently TV and Taxpayer money (the two dominant consonants of “TriVia” uncoincidentally lurking there as well) aren’t hip enough anymore.  Just what we all needed, the Maury Povich show with semi-literate politicians!

The entire culture, having apparently run out of real topics–the trials and heroics of mere mortals don’t generate enough interest–has been inoculated (like that free flu-shot they give you at the supermarket that gives you the flu) and thus addicted to trivia.  Imagine yourself as the Texas Ranger who gets assigned to the case of Tom Brady’s missing Super Bowl jersey.  “Hell, it’s not bad enough this fella makes 300 times my salary for playing ball, now I get to track down his dirty laundry.  So this is what my career has come to. . .”  Let’s hope nobody robs a bank or kills somebody while he’s not at his post.

Newspapers have already become as thin as Target flyers. Once they start reprinting tweets, we’ll have hit the Trifecta of redundant, useless information that distracts us from the latest global warming evidence or how the debt-ceiling got hiked today.

So T-Rump (how does one type with hands like a T-Rex?) goes after Schwarzenegger, and the Governator shoots back a better one.  What a pair of Trumps.  Ad nauseum.  Then we tune in to the 6-o’clock news to witness how the leaders of our nation have devolved to antics that most of us outgrew as 11-year old children.  Quite a Trip.

I’ve had enough of this Twaddle.  I think I have a case of the D.T.s.  Need a drink. . .



Stick to the Routine: “Bad Niggers” versus “Good Niggers” in the Election Aftermath


By Google Shawn StJean

“Always do the right thing.”

Whether or not you recognize that line from 1989’s film of the same name, if the terms of the statement raise any kind of question in your mind, then you probably noticed the quotation marks around it, and in my title: as an eductor, I have about as much love for racial slurs as the author of 1885’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  But they do continue to exist.  Both Spike Lee and Mark Twain interrogated institutional racism, a century apart–and by extension sexism and classism–in America, by the risky means of inverting usual terms of right and wrong (among them, the n-word: “He was a mighty good nigger, Jim was,” Huck assures his readers, in a horrifyingly realistic moment of combined affection and condecension.)

We’d like to believe things evolve with time.  Will America be any further along in 2089?  How about 2019?  Evolution is a process of fits and starts.

Many feel the recent election results, installing Donald Trump in the White House, do not signal progress for the immediate future.

The white, male, and (racially, if not economically) privileged part of me agrees with the other whites out there, including those who wanted neither Clinton nor Trump for a leader: it’s a society, we have rules, the man won the election under those rules.  Get over it.  BUT the part of me that feels the threat by the undeserving wealthy, the corrupt system of campaign finance and two parties, and knows the rules were made and bent to serve some and not others, agrees with Wanda Sykes and the protesters, and even the rioters:  it’s not a time to be good, play the humble, obedient citizen, and smile.  It’s a time to resist and show anger and use bad words.

The girls smile

and people forget

the snow packs

a skier tracks

and people forget

forget they’re hiding

The Who’s 1982 song “Eminence Front” reminds us we are asked to, and demanded to, wear masks, of one type or another, all the time: that the face Bruce Wayne is in fact more false than Batman’s cowl.  We wear them so constantly in our waking hours, like eyeglasses, that we forget we do it; and life is one long costume ball.  Only when someone drops their mask, do we remember, and project our resentment.

Black comedian Wanda Sykes dropped her mask a few days ago during the Comics Come Home charity fundraiser for cancer care in Boston, abandoning any pretense of her usual routine and instead ranting about Trump, for which she was booed off the stage.  She shouted and gestured obscenities at the audience in response.  Not what they expected; totally inappropriate for the occasion, I imagine many said.  Denis Leary, who reportedly got big laughs for his jokes about Trump earlier in the evening, later said publicly that it is not the business of the event-runners to censor the performers.

One needn’t invoke Malcolm X here for a precedent for Sykes’ actions.  Dr. King himself, a minister by trade  and protester by necessity, in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” made it clear that change will not come from conforming to the rules others set, or from waiting for an appropriate time or behaving in conventionally acceptable ways to suit an occasion.  I have always believed this was why the Occupy Wall Street protests were culturally ineffective.  Those folks set up tents in a pen in Zuccotti Park and grazed there within its confines, using the portable toilets, policing their own trash, doing as they were told, behaving, essentially, and utterly failing to disrupt business as usual until they left less than two months later.   The intentions were politically and morally correct; but the tactics were about as threatening as a Boy Scout jamboree.

On the same night as the Sykes debacle, a few hundred miles south, another black comedian, Dave Chappelle, hosted Saturday Night Live, and received almost universal acclaim for his monologue on Trump and the racial divide in America.

Don’t mistake me: we all have our varied talents, and Chappelle killed it, as they say in show-biz–I have no quarrel with him, no iota of disrespect for anyone following their true conscience.  Sketches following the monologue, notably one in which Chappelle was joined by Chris Rock, assured us all that the white-liberal idea that racism is dead in America is laughable.  It’s creative protest.  I believe Dr. King would approve–with reservations.  We all need to remember that, in the final analysis, Chappelle’s being what Ralph Ellison characterized Invisible Man‘s (1950) protagonist as: a “good nigger.”  Not so much because of what he said, but what he did.  He’s helping, like President Obama himself, to defuse a potentially explosive situation, and diffuse the mass of energy that collected and creates the danger of blowing up the status quo: “we been here before.”  And while it might not be pretty, folks of the Wanda Sykes temper, white or black, whether ranting or rioting, are refusing to exit so quietly and quickly from the stage as Hillary Clinton and the rest of the so-called white liberals out there.  For them, the stakes are higher.

Chappelle uses the n-word freely, as so many black comics have done over the past decades, and we laugh.  The level of discomfort is lessened because he’s part of that “historically disenfranchised” group, and he’s earned custody of the word.  As he said, “If I could quit being black today, I’d be out’ the game.”  And we’re reminded subliminally by that one word, in the context of a comedy routine, of all the associations of it: slavery, lynchings, racial profiling and shootings, gentrification, poverty, institutional prejudices from schools to the military to the workplace to the neighborhoods.  And in the hermetically sealed, artificially constructed TV bubble of SNL, we’re authorized to laugh–and we do, because we know those things are all true.

By contrast, the image of the “bad nigger,” as epitomized for many by Malcolm X, by the time of the 1990s, had become so familiar that white filmmaker Kevin Smith parodied (thus depowering) it in Chasing Amy,*following Tarantino’s more tenuous effort in Pulp Fiction (for which, in a real-life travesty, Samuel L. Jackson was misclassified in the Oscars as “supporting actor” to John Travolta).  Both filmmakers capitalized on the ur-image of fear in America: a man of color with a gun.  MCG.  Not just a mouth–an equalizing weapon.

Inasmuch as some of us like to refer to “most people” as if we were above all the fear and hate, human beings are, at bottom, visceral creatures.  We are still a primitive species, as of the dawn of the 21st century.  It’s possible that all the pundits have over-sophisticated the explanations for Trump’s victory; that fundamentally, it all comes down to change, or more precisely: backlash.  Eight years with a black man as national leader, no matter how good or bad, there was no way a woman could win it, here and now.  People wanted the package of white patriarchal values back, they’re comfortable with it, and, in the great pendulum swing of the rise and fall of American civilization, they again have it.

I recently listened to a college radio station near Amherst, MA (supposedly one of our country’s many pockets of liberalism.)  Three white, male sophomores discussed, in the perfect comfort of privilege, which professional sports teams’ names and logos should be abolished, and which are okay.  Cleveland’s Indians, apparently, are fine with them, but Washington’s Redskins are offensive.  Being an inheritor of power, a “fortunate son,” usually entails such presumptions.  These are the spiritual grandsons of our president-elect.  They decide; the team owners decide; maybe the players get a vote; the people living on reservations are not consulted–or perhaps worse, their opinions are collated and presumed for them in one deft, hypothetical/hypocritical-hybrid gesture.

As a great man–though not an American– once said: “…they know not what they do.”   But that won’t stop them from passing judgment.

Chappelle’s act and his concluding promise to “give Trump a chance” followed by the script’s ritualistic “We got a great show tonight!” receives universal At-A-Boys from such white folks, while Sykes will suffer condemnation and consequence for her 15 minutes of infamy.  Some people will undoubtedly try to blacklist her (our very language reveals its lingering biases).  She left her place.  But did she do the right thing?  Did he?  Is staying within one’s designated sphere, keeping appropriate, saying please and thank you, using the servant’s entrance, waiting for approval, bowing, conceding, hoping for the best in the face of overwhelming evidence; are these actions the “right thing” when one perceives a clear and present danger?

I’m not certain throwing middle fingers or throwing rocks or looting are the most effective tactics; then again, I’m not entirely sure they’re not.  As opposed to the over 50% of all voting Americans who didn’t really want their candidate in office, but voted for them in order to keep the other candidate out, and who will now shrug and do nothing (“wait and see”), or those like myself who declined to vote at all, at least Sykes (and Chappelle) are doing something.  You want change?  Doing something, then, will always be more right than doing nothing.



*of course, there exist enough layers of irony in Smith’s film to cast doubt on exactly what he’s parodying.  The character I refer to turns out to be a gentle, gay (black) man who wears the public mask of “Hooper X,” the creator of  White-Hatin’ Coon, in order to profit off the cultural hero worship of the racial/rebel hero.  Is his tirade against white supremacy then rendered inauthentic?  Is he merely an opportunist?  Unfortunately, all this being a lot to sort out for a comedy, won’t the individual viewers take away whatever interpretation most supports their own perspective?

Holiday GoodReads Giveaway–win a bound copy of Clotho’s Loom


I am NOT contributing to pre-Holiday hype, Black-Friday-style.  There’s a reason for this post appearing so early: you want to enter early and often.  (Please note that you must be a member of the GoodReads website to do so–there are Login and Join buttons on the page.)

It’s been awhile since I plugged GoodReads, the massive online community of folks who share news and resources about all things literary.  This year I managed to get organized well-enough to have a giveaway end right on Christmas day.  The novel that gives this website its name will make a thoughtful gift for that literate person on your list–or even yourself. . .

And speaking of lists, Clotho’s Loom is on a dozen of them, including “Novels about Motherhood” and “Veteran Recommendations.” So please vote for it via this second link when you get a minute, and increase its visiblity!

Go, Thief! Writing as Collaborative Piracy


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“A thief who steals from a thief is pardoned for one hundred years”—Eli Wallach as Calvera (Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai remake soon in theaters near you)

As a grad student taking creative writing classes, I did a lot of workshopping, but received little practical advice.  Most everything learned is earned, not given.  However, the best counsel I got was as an undergraduate toiling away in my Intro to Fiction course: “If you see something you like, steal it” (the professor/novelist who uttered these words will obviously not mind my failing to attribute to him here.)

There’s not much stealing of money by novelists, short-fictioneers, playwrights, and poets going on (we leave that to the publishing houses).  On the other hand, the best and worst of us do steal material pretty liberally from each other.   Some of this is unconscionable laziness, but I think those who take their craft seriously do hold themselves to a few self-imposed rules, which I’d like to codify here by supplementing my old professor’s advice with what I call the “Rule of Three O’s”: “By all means, steal: but try not to steal too often; nor too obnoxiously; nor too obviously.  Penalties exist for each.

  • Too often. No one likes to be labeled an unoriginal hack.  I mean, if you do this daily, you might as well become a television journalist and get paid well.  None of them seems to have recognized that Donald Trump has lifted most of his campaign platform from Adolf Hitler (“Make _______ Great Again,”) but you know that if one did, they’d all be parroting it.  Because there is no honor among thieves: they turn on each other.   Genre writers are in greatest danger of returning to the well too often, killing the golden goose, choose your cliché (a word-level version of this crime).
  • Too obnoxiously. You wouldn’t carjack a Corvette and then drive it around the same county without at least a re-paint, would you?  That’s just not right.  A plot, for example, needs to be sufficiently re-dressed to make it palatable.  Some recognize that the story of Jason Bourne is a retelling of Frankenstein, just as Blade Runner was (and to some extent the Wolverine and Deadpool tales): Scientist manipulates human limitations; scientist gets re-visited over and over by the subject of his experiment (“Why would he come back now?”)  It’s a good story with much psychological depth and breadth, as well as moral/ethical implications, which is why it gets told every five years.  Another version of obnoxious theft is a too-clever playing with familiar phrases.  Some writers get so good at this, they’re dangerous:  “Code of Dishonor,” “Twice Bitten,” “Can’t Stand In Heat.”  Seriously, why would you even crack the cover of a book entitled “For a Few Zombies More?”  Do you expect the writing to improve after that?
  • Too obviously. If last week’s marquee title is The Terminator, and you rush-premiere a B-movie called The Decimator, The De-resonator, or The Decaffeinater, even the trolls on the forums will crucify you (now there’s a story worth retelling,) without even watching it. And you deserve it.

Which leaves us with the question of how to do stealing right.  There are perhaps a hundred ways, so let’s “borrow” a few from the greats:

Allusions. Usually at the word level, these nuggets are on full display for those in your audience who may have read more than three or four books.  When John Steinbeck cribbed his novel’s title, In Dubious Battle, from the proem of John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost, it was more than a pretty phrase he admired.  He wanted to signal, perhaps, that workers in contemporary America (the many and weak) were being warred upon by Satanic forces (the few and powerful).  Steinbeck, in fact, grifted several of his titles from Biblical or semi-biblical sources: The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, and other writers (Of Mice and Men).

Homages/parodies. In Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks wasn’t trying to get away with piracy, but instead to rely on the audience’s familiarity with both the story and previous remakes from Hollywood.  The result is wonderful: How I did It is the title of the Baron’s journal. The great danger I see, today, is that in a semi-literate culture, exposure to 2nd, 3rd, and farther-removed parodies takes the place of reading the originals, rather than supplementing it.  Children, of course, will claim they can survive on candy; and so it’s no surprise to hear twenty-somethings argue they can distill the important news from The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live.

Shakespeare, yes even he of the cranium enormous, raided the Plot and trappings of Hamlet, Julius Caesar, and probably Othello and Romeo and Juliet from earlier sources. Now, given what he accomplished with them, and the relative scarcity of masterplots, this is forgivable.  How many people recognize that The Terminator is a thematic retelling of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex (by attempting to avoid predestined events, one can actually bring them to pass)?  Cameron simply converted prophecy to time-travel (two sides of the same coin).

Update/Remake for a modern audience. Emerson said that every generation had to reinvent its stories (here I’m paraphrasing—at least I’m giving the guy credit!)  Especially the out-of-copyright ones (wink to the publishers and movie studios there.)     I suspect 2016’s Birth of a Nation will not much resemble the original.  You did know that was first made by D.W. Griffiths in 1915, adapted from Thomas Dixon’s novel The Clansmen (1905,) didn’t you?  Film and literary critics fascinate themselves with analyzing how remakes tell us much about the culture that produced them, by emphasizing and deemphasizing certain elements of the ur-story.

Recasting from a different perspective. Euripides is perhaps the most prolific of western writers here.  He recast much of Greek mythology from the point-of-view of “the other,” the marginalized characters: Medea, The Trojan Women, The Bacchae.  A very neat and risky trick.  How many Americans do you know that would enjoy a film about how the Russians sacrificed twenty million souls to defeat the Nazis in World War II?  And yeah, that did happen.

Which brings us to pseudo-history. Spielberg’s Amistad, Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans, Stone’s JFK, anything by Michael Moore in a more documentary mode, are all masterful narratives.  They are not history, by any serious definition.  BUT, they weren’t meant to be: they ARE meant to raise the spirit of inquiry in the audience, to challenge them to learn more and seek the truth themselves.  Poe did this with his unreliable narrators, but the solutions lay within his stories themselves.  Here, the facts lie outside the story, in other accounts one would have to research.  Sadly, this is all too infrequently done, and the pseudo-history stands as the somewhat-removed Truth.

So writers, don’t worry so much about books getting stolen, in either analog or digital form.  One way or another, it’s all in the public domain, there for the taking–isn’t it?  Put it this way–no one ever promised to pay you, anyway.  Given the choice, you’d rather give it away than keep it to yourself.




Ethics vs. Morals in A Game of Thrones


The binary pair of philosophical terms in my title has for twenty years served me in class lessons on Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but it seems an update is in order.  Though little has changed, philosophically speaking.  As I write, on my left hand I observe striking workers with signs decrying Verizon corporate greed, and on my left, a candidate who has never held public office, yet has occupied eerily similar positions to Verizon’s CEOs, has effectively secured the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

Both the terms “morals” and “ethics” denote codes of behavior with regard to right and wrong.  They don’t even differ most materially in the kind of behavior; the real distinction lies in the source of the code, and the extent of responsibility.  Imagine three concentric circles, each larger than the last.  Smallest, at the center, is the personal sphere of the individual.  Largest and farthest reaching is the moral sphere: this encompasses all one’s relations to other human beings, and covers behavior as diverse as killing and how to drive an automobile.  Between these two circles, much closer to the individual and covering far less area, lies the ethical sphere: here, the code is much more murky, because laws and rules simply don’t / can’t cover every nuance of all human relations.

The epitome of an ethical commitment is a promise (giving one’s “word.”)   With few exceptions, no police officer forces these upon the individual; no court passes sentences on the breaking of them.  If you promise your daughter to spend more time with her this weekend, and you break your word, there may indeed be a consequence, but it won’t come in the form of a fine or time served, and thus the violation can be easy to ignore/forget.

In my textual analysis and application, I’ll confine myself to just two pairs of parallel scenes in the recent season 6 debut episode of Game of Thrones. These issues are of course shot through the entire series.

The screenshot above shows Tyrion Lannister attempting to bestow a coin on a beggar with a child, yet unable to speak her language.  Varys must complete the act of charity for him.  Tyrion has a conscience and compassion, but he’s smart enough to know that the city’s unrest can’t be solved by treating the symptoms.  He’s probably identifying with the smallest and most helpless person he finds on the steps of the beggars, epitomizing Hobbes’ principle that nothing is done without some shade of self-interest.  Moreover, his detachment as Varys must translate for him accurately models the cold distance of government welfare programs.  The morality of his act is understandable; we sympathize; but ultimately empty.

A direct analogue to this scene is not far to seek, as we catch up with Arya Stark, recently blind, reduced to destitution, rags, and a money-bowl.  Rather than a handout, she receives a beating with a quarterstaff from the Waif.  She has only words, at present, with which to defend herself: “I can’t see.”  Her antagonist isn’t buying: “That’s your problem, not mine.”  So much for handouts.  In fact, the Waif promises “See you tomorrow,” and leaves Arya the staff, presumably with which to practice for the next encounter.  What looks on the surface like an act of petty cruelty, I predict is actually an attempt to break Arya out of her cycle of dependence upon charity.  Clearly of mixed motive, Waif’s actions have no relation to the established moral level, and their good component belongs to the ethical realm only, serving a “greater good” than most people can see on the surface.  “Tough Love” is ethics in practice.

Second parallel.  Sansa Stark is rescued in the wilds by Brienne of Tarth, who formerly served her mother.  Brienne’s oath: “I will shield your back and keep your counsel and give my life for yours if need be.  I swear it by the old gods and the new.”  Sansa’s reply: “And I vow that you shall always have a place at my hearth, and meat and mead at my table, and I pledge to ask no service of you that might bring you dishonor.  I swear it by the old gods and the new.”  Vows and oaths, especially ones that can be learned by rote, are an artificial means of encouraging both moral and ethical commitments, and sometimes oathbreaking is punishable, as on the Wall.  So they occupy a sort of nether-ground between morals and ethics.  But my concern here is with the nature of this agreement.  First, notice it works both ways, as an exchange.  One might argue that Lady Stark has the better of the bargain, as her commitment involves no hazard to her life, as Brienne’s does.  Hers might even be claimed to be a token response; however, this is hardly true in the world of Westeros.  Aristocrats often demand immoral and dishonorable acts of their thanes, and maintain their very hearths and tables by those same acts.

As for the Maid of Tarth, it’s important to notice that her vows (accompanied by the laying of her sword at Sansa’s feet,) and her earlier commitment to her mother, are undertaken wholly voluntarily. We might, having witnessed the fate of Ned Stark in adhering to a standard of honor, worry about Brienne’s future in making such alliances.  There is one vital difference: Ned was essentially pressed into service as the Hand by King Robert, and forced to import a vulnerable code of behavior into a hostile environment at King’s Landing.  Brienne, by contrast, remains a free agent and bestows her service where and how she judges it is most needed and deserved.

If I can for a moment contrast their relationship to that of a modern day employer and employee, the analogy is not as tortured and uninstructive as it might first appear.  After all, Sansa offers sustenance in exchange for labor.  But what’s more useful is to notice what else is in this agreement that is absent today.  In offering to shield Sansa’s back, Brienne essentially promises not only competent service, but loyalty.  Ask any professional ball-player today what loyalty is, and you might be baffled by the response.  As for the average corporate or industrial employee, they might, not without legitimacy, reply that they don’t give any where they don’t receive any.  On the other side, Sansa’s pledge not to demand dishonorable acts might find little recognition in today’s competitive workplace.

So this reciprocity agreement, or quid pro quo, has a strong ethical component that many human relationships sorely lack.   If the reader doubts this, consider how other players engage in the Game of Thrones.  Jamie Lannister to his sister/lover Cersei: “Fuck prophecy, fuck Fate, fuck everyone who isn’t us. We’re the only ones who matter, the only ones in this world.  And everything they’ve taken from us we’re going to take back, everything and more.”

Our lives are infused with ethical problems, great and small, for which no “official” or actionable rules exist.  We receive guidelines and encouragements to “do the the right thing,” but no consequence exists for a multitude of transgressions. “Shall I take thirty seconds of my day to return the grocery cart to the corral, against the off chance that it will damage someone’s car and the certainty that someone else will have to collect it for me?”  As my common example suggests, the number of people out there operating in the world without any ethical sense, again demonstrating Thomas Hobbes’ claim that people only act out of selfish motivations, is high enough to cause concern.  Once the cart has served the shopper, she abandons it on the spot with no regard to the hazard it poses to others–there’s nothing in it for her, that she should bother with it any longer.

Because few people’s ethical commitment is as high as Brienne’s or Ned Stark’s (or Captain America’s,) a civilization must have a set of moral rules, in Westeros enforced by the Sparrows: “Sinners confess.”  Yet moral codes often reside in the custody of sadists, hypocrites, and people who believe they are personallyA  above the rules.  Hence the need for codes of honor, promises, and ethics.

Westeros, though clearly a land where moral codes function often to shield the actions of ambitious power-players and where ethics are rarely and cryptically rewarded, still may be offering us incentives to be more ethical in our own society.  On a visceral narrative level, we hate the bad (paradoxically “moral”) characters and, with as little love as some of the others may invoke, we are invited to explore how their motives might be put into better practice.

Students can especially benefit from training in how to distinguish the moral decisions and acts of fictional characters from ethical ones.  And these are visually observable as well as narratively.  In a late, brief moment absent from Steinbeck’s novel, for example, Tom Joad in John Ford’s screen adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath (1940) observes a water faucet that careless children have left running in the government camp.  He wordlessly shuts the tap and moves on.  An easily missed moment, and some audience members might puzzle at its inclusion.  Ford wants us to connect with how far Tom has come, ethically, from the man who bitterly smashed a whiskey bottle in the road in an early scene.  Who thinks of other people?  Conserving water, if only for a generation that might not appear on Earth a hundred years into the future, serves as a pertinent example of how ethical people may be far ahead of their time, spearheading good actions that only become moral imperatives, for the masses, at a late and convenient hour.


Why Teachers Should Never Be Paid Anything, Ever


by Ed Anger

If I only had a dollar for every dime an American educator rakes in. . .wait. . .ugh, let me start over.

Right, money. Teachers.  Money and teachers.  Seems almost criminal to put them together in a sentence.  Who ever authorized those yupsters to dip into their own pockets for classroom supplies like post-its, highlighters, Sharpies, pencils and crayons, staples, paper clips, notebooks, props and costume bits, not to mention treats for Halloween and Christmas, anyway?  Students ought to do without them–all those computers the school district provided aren’t there just to set your espresso on, you know.

And since time is money, likewise for any minutes whatsoever spent grading essays, exams, lesson preparation, professional development, parent meetings, tutoring, and all that, either after school or at night or on weekends.  That’s ridiculous.  Teachers should be out shopping the boutiques and mall stores for those luxuriant wardrobes they all seem to possess.

A young teacher, like a young artist, ought to live on the ragged edge of starvation.  When he can’t be offered hospitality, he’d best consider himself as “fasting,” cleansing both body and spirit, like a freshly mopped lavatory.

But (I can hear someone beginning a lecture,) “Teaching is a calling, like becoming a Jedi Knight–it takes the highest commitment.”  Bah.  It’s a gig.  They really ought to hold classes at night, so they can all work real day jobs and contribute to a responsible citizen’s tax bracket.

And what’s all this nonsense about irony, symbolism, lowest common denominator, long division, evolution, and debates about Pluto, anyway?  Computers, I say!  Fast ones.  Get on the train, people, or get off the tracks!  Not everybody gets summers–almost all of July and well into August, except for mandatory meetings, plus several Fall and Spring holidays like Veteran’s Day–off!  Who the heck, today, has the leisure minutes for long division?   And Pluto never fetched me my slippers!

Someone named Thoreau (Odin’s son in Norse mythology, as I recall.  Take that, Mrs. Spencer!) whined: money corrupts everything it touches.

He was right.  Benefit packages, retirement pensions, and that God-forsaken tenure should go, too.  Any CEO will tell you those are not normal.  Anyone who spends ten-twenty-five years in a job ought to grateful they still have it, not looking for more handouts.

Speaking of tenure, don’t even get me started on college professors.  What’s that?  Sure, most of them work part-time.  Right, adjuncts.  Those layabouts.

Grading countless dozens of essays, tutoring into the night, teaching semi-literate students in courses no one else wants, no office space, no benefits, little pay.  Every aspiring teacher should look at them and see the writing on the wall.  Change majors while you can, guys and dolls.  Meanwhile,  anyone with that level of masochism needs to jog down to the Psych Dept. and get herself a nice dose of free therapy.


[Contributor’s Note: Ed Anger freelances when and where he pleases, and can appear in any guise.]


Poem at Christmas, Inspired by a Reassimilated Astronomer


By Shawn Stjean

A Ray, high in the window of East, flashing on this single patch of desert

Arrives Here and Now, a missive from a thousand years ago, or two.

A Wanderer stands, or kneels, or sprawls alone, only as sand or stars are alone,

Hurled by the fist of Cosmos,

Not haphazardly or forgotten.

Near Moons and Mountains eclipse,

Snow blankets,

Time and Tide part,

Shadows lurk at one’s heels, wading from shore of the terrestrial Sea.

But to eyes raised for the next Word, we wait in the clear.

Read the Book of our Song.

Thrust your arms–push off, past the weeds, drink, and breathe in.

Swim with us:

We Stuff of energy and matter, gravity syncing us in swirl.