“. . . and dangerous badgers like dignitaries stare. . . “ (*)

Dangerous dignitaries stare

Dangerous dignitaries stare

My writing is dangerous. No, silly. It’s mere “oily palaver” to you (I wish I could remember who said that phrase in my presence many years ago, said it in such a way that I have remembered it since).

I have been to the Providence Zoo to see the badgers. It’s officially the Roger Williams Park Zoo. Named after Roger Williams, contrary to popular belief the only one of the “founding fathers” who came to the New World to find religious freedom. Don’t believe it when Tea Baggers tell you this country was founded on religious freedom—it was founded, except for Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, on the desire of various groups to live in places they controlled under rules that reflected their personal beliefs, rules they forced everyone to live by.

If The Massachusetts Bay Colony had had anything like religious freedom, they would not have expelled Roger Williams, and he would not have founded Rhode Island with the understanding that  “. . . .it is the will and command of God that (since the coming of his Son the Lord Jesus) a permission of the most paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or antichristian consciences and worships, be granted to all men in all nations and countries. . . . [“Turkish,” of course, here meaning “Muslim] (1).

I’ve written about all of this many times, so that’s not what I’m up to this morning.

No, I’m simply admitting that my writing is dangerous to me—and, perhaps, to a few acquaintances whom I quote and mention. I’ve assumed ever since I wrote a blog posting about my friend Mufid Abdulqader in 2007 that what I post electronically in any format is (or used to be) of some mild passing interest to the NSA or the DHSS. I suppose that’s delusional thinking about my own importance, but I’m not sure. The younger half-brother of the head of Hamas is certainly a person of interest (he’s now in federal prison for something like 150 years, convicted of being a “terrorist,” which is a loose translation of “working on behalf of Palestinians attempting to live in freedom in their own homeland”).

So when I mention you in a post here, you can bet the NSA is watching you.

Make us some money, guys.

Make us some money, guys.

Of course, they are watching you anyway. I and my writing have nothing to do with it. You gave up your rights to “freedom of association” and “freedom of the press” and “freedom of speech” when you let your Congressmegalomaniac vote for the so-called “Patriot Act.” You let the Congressmegalomaniacs strip you of any right to privacy when you let them hoodwink you into being terrorized by your own shadow and let the Congressmegalomaniacs give the terrorism industry control over your lives—the same Congressmegalomaniacs who have now shut down the government and are about to destroy the world economy. How is it working out for you that you’ve let the Congressmegalomaniacs take over your life?

But I digress.

A student in one of my “Discovery & Discourse” classes (yes, “D&D”—and the university after two years of it still doesn’t see why that’s funny) wrote the following in his essay on the Flannery O’Connor short story “Parker’s Back.” (The specific topic of my course is “Writing About the Grotesque.”)

O’Connor shows in “Parkers Back” through the ideas of the grotesque that everyday experiences people live, they never notice their own reality. People ignore the truth and create what truth is giving everything in life a wide spectrum of truths, making life itself grotesque (2).

The student’s essay is, quite frankly, virtually unfathomable. His writing is confused and totally out of control. I’m pretty sure most of my colleagues would have struggled through reading it and put some kind of D or F grade on it and told him to get an appointment at the Writing Center before he submits his next essay.

But I think his writing is pure poetry, and any teacher who would not spend enough time to comprehend his writing does not deserve to be in the classroom.

He understands O’Connor’s theory of mystery and the grotesque.

Everyday people experience the ideas of the grotesque,
and, thus, they never notice their own reality.
People ignore the [real] truth and create the truth
that they believe is giving everything in their lives a wide spectrum of truths,
thereby making life itself grotesque

What “truth” are we creating that we firmly, and with every fiber of our being, believe is broadening out for us into a wide spectrum of truths? (The Patriot Act, government shutdown, the Second Amendment, Debt ceiling crisis, racism—shall I continue?) We’ve made this grotesquery, not our Congressmegalomaniacs. We’ve just asked them to do it for us.

A throwaway member of a university football team can see it better than you and I can. Taken all together we have less sense than a flamingo “eat[ing] upside-down, by dragging his tremendous head through streams.” Or two tortoises “one push[ing] the other over the grass, their hemispheres clicking, on seven legs in toto.” Or “vigilant lemurs, wrens and prestidigitating tamarins.”

The university uses the student to bring in TV money and this year One Billion Dollars from alumni (I kid you not). Far better the university should discover its own “wide spectrum of truths” and understand we are ignoring truth while our “dangerous dignitaries stare at one another like badgers.”

____________(1) Williams, Roger. The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience Discussed; and Mr. Cotton’s Letter Examined and Answered (1644). New York: Hard Press Editions, 2012. (2) I won’t cite the source because I don’t have the student’s permission to quote him.

Roger Williams. "Let the Muslims in."

Roger Williams. “Let the Muslims in.”

(*) At the Providence Zoo
      by Stephen Burt  (b. 1971)
Like the Beatles arriving from Britain,
the egret’s descent on the pond
takes the reeds and visitors by storm:
it is a reconstructed marsh
environment, the next
best thing to living out your wild life.
Footbridges love the past.
And like the Roman questioner who learned
“the whole of the Torah while standing on one leg,”
flamingos are pleased to ignore us. It is not known
whether that Roman could learn to eat upside-down,
by dragging his tremendous head through streams.
Comical, stately, the newly-watched tortoises
mate; one pushes the other over the grass,
their hemispheres clicking, on seven legs
in toto. Together they make
a Sydney opera house,
a concatenation of anapests, almost a waltz.
Confined if not preserved,
schoolteachers, their charges, vigilant lemurs, wrens
and prestidigitating tamarins,
and dangerous badgers like dignitaries stare
at one another, hot
and concave in their inappropriate coats.
Having watched a boa
eat a rat alive,
the shortest child does as she was told?
looks up, holds the right hand
of the buddy system, and stands,
as she explains it, “still as a piece of pie.”


O Joy! Fulfillment of the prophecies of Revelation before I die!

The sign of the beast -  but which one?

The sign of the beast –
but which one?

What effect does a “government shutdown” have on an individual citizen trying to get through one more day as if her life meant something?

I forbid students to open an essay with a question (I don’t forbid any writing—I simply take off points from grades for elements of a writing assignment I think do not adhere to “academic” standards, whatever that is).

Every writing, composition, rhetoric (what we used to call “English”) student has heard the rule that an essay should begin with the “general” and move to the “specific.” Asking a question necessarily begins with a specific statement rather than a verifiable general truth.

Let me simplify. Students are instructed to write inductive reasoning (without using the term in teaching them) rather than deductive.

You know the difference because your high school English (writing, composition, rhetoric—whatever obfuscatory, jargony name your school used trying to help you figure out how to use academic English) teacher told you. Deductive reasoning “links premises with conclusions. If all premises are true, the terms are clear, and the rules of deductive logic are followed, then the conclusion reached is necessarily true.” In inductive reasoning “the premises seek to supply strong evidence for (not absolute proof of) the truth of the conclusion.” (Sorry. These definitions are from Wikipedia. I know. I’m exposing myself as non-academic.)

“While the conclusion of a deductive argument is supposed to be certain, the truth of an inductive argument is supposed to be probable, based upon the evidence given.”

In other words, if you are being deductive, you can say, “All Tea Partiers think in slogans and misapprehensions. My friend ‘Billy’ thinks in slogans and misapprehensions. Therefore, my friend ‘Billy’ is a Tea Partier.”  This is deductive because the conclusion is true. The first premise is absolutely true. The second is also absolutely true. However, the conclusion is not. “Billy” could have all sorts of things wrong with him besides being a Tea Partier. (The fact is that he is a Tea Partier, but that has nothing to do with my faulty deductive reasoning.)

One of the strangest bits of “deductive” reasoning against the Affordable Care Act is that the government is going to implant a computer chip each of our foreheads—that is, ALL of us, everyone—to keep track of our medical needs and expenditures. Here’s the deductive reasoning:

     And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. (Revelation 13:16-17).

Barak Obama is the beast.

     Therefore, Barak Obama (that is, Obamacare) will cause each of us to receive a mark (that is, a computer chip) on our right hand or forehead (to buy or sell health services).

You think I’m making this up, don’t you? Apparently this came from a preliminary Affordable Care trial balloon (2009) that was never

The least good for the greatest number

The least good for the greatest number

passed which called for a registry of all implantable devices (titanium hips, pacemakers, etc.). This morphed to the requirement to implant a device in all of us in order to register us and was soon announced to be the fulfillment of the prophecies of Revelation (1).

I had heard of this bit of deduction, and last night “Real Time with Bill Maher” included a “person-on-the-street” segment asking random people on the streets of New York what they knew about Obamacare. Two of the randoms answered that we are all going to be implanted with chips. One of them said to the Maher interviewer, “I’m surprised you don’t know about this.” Of course, the entire sequence may have been staged. I doubt that.

Puts me in mind of the conversation (defeated-by-the-Tea-Party) Representative Bob Inglis (R-SC) had with a group of Tea Partiers (during the primary campaign in which they defeated him) who told him we each have a number on the back of our Social Security card that the government shares with our banks in order for our accounts to be collateral for loans they get from the Federal Reserve Bank, and they can take our money whenever they want. See the full story below at (2).  That may be a liberal Urban Legend, but I doubt it.

So this is the kind of inductive/deductive/nonsensical reasoning on which the Republicans base their assertion that a majority of Americans don’t like Obamacare?

Yesterday I had a conference with a student (a wealthy, white student from an affluent community in Texas) regarding her rough draft for her required essay on the short story “The Body Snatcher,” by Robert Louis Stevenson. Her ideas were confused to me at first, but through conversation I came to understand that she thought the grave-robbers in the story were engaged in some sort of “game.” Eventually, I got to the basis of her thinking. It came from a philosophy class she took as a first-year student in which the central “take-away” was the Utilitarian philosophy of John Stuart Mill.

All men are mortal.  Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is a Tea Partier.

All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore, Socrates is a Tea Partier.

And, of course, that is as it’s played out in the bizarre anti-social ideas of Ayn Rand. Grave-robbing (even murder) in the story is not grotesque because it results in “the greatest happiness of the greatest number” (providing cadavers for medical students to dissect). And this incomprehensible (to me) philosophy morphed in the student’s mind into Rand’s “objectivism.” Robbing graves to sell the bodies is neither grotesque nor immoral because it provides the grave-robber with income to care for her family.

A little philosophy is a dangerous thing. And a few bizarre and unrelated “facts” are dangerous things in the hands of those who are determined to thwart the objectives of “the Beast.” Is President Obama the First Beast, arising from the sea and demanding allegiance, or the Second Beast, arising from the earth and seducing humanity to worship the First Beast.

Stay tuned. I’m sure the Republicans will clarify anon.

(1) “Will Obamacare Require RFID Chips in Humans by March 23 2013?” wafflesatnoon.com. December 1, 2012. Web. 5 Oct. 2013. http://wafflesatnoon.com/2012/12/01/will-obamacare-require-rfid-chips-in-humans-by-march-23-2013/
(2) Corn, David. “Confessions of a Tea Party Casualty.” Mother Jones. Aug. 3, 2010. Web. 5 Oct. 2013. Inglis said, “I sat down, and they said on the back of your Social Security card, there’s a number. That number indicates the bank that bought you when you were born based on a projection of your life’s earnings, and you are collateral. We are all collateral for the banks. I have this look like, “What the heck are you talking about?” I’m trying to hide that look and look clueless. I figured clueless was better than argumentative. So they said, “You don’t know this?! You are a member of Congress, and you don’t know this?!”

Lita Roza and I—awake together at 4:30 AM—writing but sober

A singer who doesn’t shout  or pull out her hair?

A singer who doesn’t shout
or pull out her hair?

THIS IS PURE HYPERGRAPHIA. Oh, dear, what can the matter be? Republican government shut-down day.

(Note: That’s a performance of a real song by a real singer, that is, a tune with a steady but not overpowering rhythm performed by a singer who doesn’t shout or pull out her hair—there, does that date me? Too bad. I remember her and the song well.)

What can the matter be? I’m supposed to be grading student essays, went to bed last night with the absolute determination to do so. I’ve gotten a week behind. Fall break is fast approaching and the students must have their grades before that. Oh well, I’ll Git-R-Done! (There, see, I do know something about pop culture.)

But I have to write. I woke up knowing this was going to happen. Or the fact this had to happen is what woke me up. Alice Flaherty herself, in an email exchange I had with her, told me that’s likely what happened. When I have a question, I go right to the source. Well, not usually, but she “wrote the book” on hypergraphia. By the way, Bill Gates thinks “that’s” in the sentence above should be “that am” according to the green squiggles. I wish Microsoft had a hypergraphic working for them, so they would not bother me with such idiocy, especially when their “correction” is so obviously incorrect grammar.

So the impetus for my having to write (if you have OCD or ADHD or any of those other “designer diseases” and need to count the words I’ve written so far, this is for you—the rest of those people who might be reading this simply can’t understand) is an email praising Boy George I received overnight from one of my dearest friends. Boy George?

I had to respond.

Let’s see. Boy George’s first album was released in 1982.

I know the decade from 1976-1986 happened. I’ve read about it in history books. That is to say, I was enthralled (“enthrall, v. 2. to put or hold in slavery; subjugate: to be enthralled by illusions and superstitions”) by my addiction first to ________ and then to ______ from 1976-1988, who were, among other things, my best drinking buddies—I  could for the first time in my life drink exactly the way I wanted to, that is, day and night (I got sober November 15, 1986). Boy George had “a brief period of drug problems?” You mean he was so far gone on heroin he went to jail and then rehab. I never did either of those, but I should have.

_________ and friends (the organists of Boston) were/are musical snobs, and _________ was a hermit. So I was pretty much oblivious to the world around me. Besides, what I wanted was a big strong man to take care of me and let me be a drunk, not a pretty English boy tromping around in dresses. No, I’m afraid Boy George didn’t make much of an impression on me.

Of course, by the time I wrote all of that, I was off and running. The students’ essays can wait. Yesterday I was on the elevator going to

How much IS that doggie in the window?

How much IS that
doggie in the window?

the third floor of Dallas Hall (national register of historic buildings—it’s one of the few buildings in Dallas more than 100 years old that hasn’t been torn down to build a bigger, uglier one in its place) for my 9 AM class. Two guys in my class, members of the football team, got on at the first floor. I berated them for taking the elevator. There should be a sign over it, “Reserved for fat old men.” They said they were so tired. They practice football from 6 to 8 every morning. I told them that by the time they started I had finished a 1,000-word essay. They wouldn’t believe me. Well, I’m not quite going to make that this morning, but close.

So what I really want to be writing about is the self-absorption and traitorous idiocy of John Boehner and Ted Cruz and company. You know what Boehner’s real problem is? He wouldn’t compromise (that is, understand and do politics the way it has worked since the time of Aristotle) and help write the Affordable Care Act three years ago, so now he’s stuck. He said then that it was so flawed it wouldn’t work—rather than help make it better. So now he’d be unhinged to give any ground to it. It’s not Ted Cruz’s fault. He just jumped onto Boehner’s anti-democracy band wagon and is giving it the boost it needs to keep rolling.

I want to use a raunchy expletive here about the Publicans and Sinners, but I’ll let you supply it yourself.

But you see I have little choice about the topic of my writing at this point. I just have to do it. That’s all. You know, my old office was exactly 99 steps, door to door, from the men’s room. My new office (in a different building) is 86 steps. Yes, I checked 86 times. Well, I’m not sure about that. I lost count and have been resisting the urge to start the count over. I’ll just accept the likelihood that it really is 86 steps without counting 86 times.

If you were as mean as he is,  you'd have shifty eyes, too.

If you were as mean as he is,
you’d have shifty eyes, too.

I also want to put some more “hyper-links” (of course, anything that’s named “hyper” is for me when I get started writing) in here, but the advice of WordPress to bloggers is to keep the “hyper-links” to a minimum, that too many of them will scare people off and reduce readership.

So I’m almost at a thousand words here, and I can probably stop without driving myself crazy. Do you know what the best thing about working with a trainer is? You have to count all of the sets and all of the reps in the sets. An hour of counting, counting, counting.

Of course, my gut and my butt (that is, my abs and my glutes) are sore as hell this morning, but it’s a small enough price to pay. There. 1000+ words (if Microsoft word count can be trusted).

Bye now!