maeve66: (me in sixth grade)
[personal profile] maeve66
Day 30: What nonfiction that you have read recently would you review/recommend?

I don't read a ton of nonfiction -- I used to; I used to read lots of marxist theory and commentary... Marx, Engels, a little Lenin though his prose is boring as shit, Luxemburg, Mandel, Norman Geras, Michael Löwy, etc. But now I tend to read biographies and memoirs and occasional pop sociology like Barbara Ehrenreich, as far as nonfiction. The last few things I read were biographies -- Steve Jobs (which I would only recommend if you want to stoke your fires further about what an asshole he was), Melissa Gilbert (kind of funny, but much less so and much less political than I was hoping for. She didn't get it ghost-written, that's for sure. It would have been better written), and... I think there was someone else... but I am coming up blank. I re-read Will in the World not too long ago. I highly recommend THAT, if you like Shakespeare. It's like a social history of a possible life he could have had, with interesting use of primary sources, and with the use of the plays themselves as primary sources. I really liked it.

Day 31: Why is the idea of "class" so nebulous in the United States -- as opposed to, say, Britain.

American exceptionalism, marxist style. Ugh. This is the worst inheritance of the American ethos. From DeTocqueville on, analysts have noted that Americans believe their own Big Lie, that anyone can rise in status if they work hard enough, and that individualism is not only good, but the best way to be. I think the best analysis of this I've ever read is Mike Davis' Prisoners of the American Dream. I highly recommend that too. And for the British end of the question, E. P. Thompson's brilliant Making of the English Working Class.

Day 32: Who is a teacher you recall fondly -- from middle school? (also, other blog topics, from high school, from college, from grad school)

For middle school, I guess it has to be Ms. Noznick. Pauline Noznick. I'm Facebook friended to her now (she writes a lot about this year's snowy Chicago winter, and posts pictures from the Botanical Gardens). All of which makes it seem like I must have been her teacher's pet and so on. Not so. I drove her fucking crazy and annoyed the shit out of her, and she pissed me off. For some reason she told us about how her great-grandfather (or grandfather?) had fought with the Czarist Whites in the 1920s Russian Civil War. That infuriated me, for a start. I mean, there's no reason for her to talk about this in 1978 except that I must have said something about the Russian Revolution (which it is certainly likely I would have done.) And we used to tussle all the time in class -- she was my Homeroom teacher and my Social Studies teacher, for 7th and 8th grade.

In 7th grade we did European history -- or at least, we did the French Revolution, as I recall, so maybe the great political ideas? Because 8th grade was American History, for sure. But I know we did topical units, like the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, Socialism, Fascism, and Totalitarianism (together! In one unit: Marx, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union!) There was this guy who worked for our school district, or was a consultant or something, who would dress up as various historical figures and visit schools and do a spiel in the theater or auditorium. I know he did a Civil War soldier and something else. And he did a Russian Commissar. He came to Nichols to present as a Russian Commissar, and did a speech in a heavy fake Russian accent on the topic "Freedom FROM versus Freedom TO". In 1978 or 1977, as the Cold War raged on. And I sat in the audience, getting angrier and angrier, with Ms. Noznick needling her laser stare down the row at me, warning me to sit tight. But I couldn't. As soon as he asked for questions, I shot up out of my seat and started denouncing his prejudices and bullshit. My whole row was laughing at the entertainment I provided with my politics. Ms. Noznick was mortified. Another time, I corrected her pronunciation of "bourgeois" in class. Her response was those little white patches that can appear, bracketing your nose, and a clipped "... I am the ADULT and YOU are the child..."

At least she taught about this stuff, though. I can't imagine anyone teaching anything like "The Five Main Points in Marxist Theory" now. I mean, they were simplistic and intended to be damning, like "Point #3 -- Violence is the way, THE ONLY WAY, to create social change." Or "Point #5: Economics is the force that moves history." I wrote essays on both of those, and it was thrilling to get to do so -- to write polemics at age 12. I appreciate her for that, and for being a rigorous teacher. She obviously recalled me fondly for my brain if nothing else, but she was also very pleased to find out I'd become a middle school Social Studies (and Language Arts, ugh) teacher.

Day 33: What's your current favorite sci-fi/sitcom/any genre TV show and why? What's so appealing about it?

I just finished watching Caprica with [profile] johnbcannon. That was enjoyable, as a prequel to Battlestar Galactica. I never got into Buffy, but I very, very much liked Firefly and the movie, Serenity. I was sad Firefly was cancelled. I even enjoyed Star Trek: Enterprise, but I guess I'd enjoy anything in that imaginary universe... Oh! ANY GENRE! I just read the sci-fi part and stopped there... I don't watch current TV on TV, because I don't have any cable. But on Netflix... I really liked the first season of Orange is the New Black -- it, like, gets an A+ on the Bechdel Test. Amazing ensemble acting with mostly women. It is so not exploitative of women-in-prison genres, but also somehow manages not to be a gross white-lady-capitalizes-on-her-prison-experience vehicle, even though it easily could be that. The other women are whole people. And I've never gotten to see so many different women of color with different aspects. One way the show manages this is by giving us parts of flashbacks for EVERYONE's back story. I haven't quite finished re-watching the first season, with my mother, and I should, soon, before the second season starts.

Day 34: What technology that exists now could you not really imagine as a child?

Hm. I don't think I had the slightest inkling of personal computers and the changes they would wreak. I couldn't have imagined email and not handwriting letters. I guess I could have imagined phones with images and small handheld portable phones -- they showed things like that on sci-fi TV shows. I don't know, though. I don't think I was much of a futurist as a kid. I didn't try to imagine what would exist in the future, except for flying cars and space travel.

Day 35: Pro baseball, or pro football?

Pro football -- and even then, really only a few teams interest me, and mostly the Green Bay Packers. But baseball... I just find it yawningly boring. People get very lyrical about baseball, but I cannot.

Day 36: What are the books from your childhood that stay with you?

This is a HUGE topic, depending on how you take it. It would be shorter if I thought of it in terms of picture books, not young adult fiction. I'll try to compromise. Picture books: I Have a Turtle, which was one of those cheap cardboard-backed books you could get in check-out lines. Something like that. It wasn't a Golden Book, though. Smaller format. I learned to read from that. I loved a quiet picture book called The Big Red Barn. And the Frances books -- with Frances the badger? By Russell and Lillian Hoban. I liked those. I loved anything written and/or illustrated by Robert McCloskey, from Make Way for Ducklings to Blueberries for Sal and One Morning in Maine... I always felt a kinship to those books when my family would hit the road for our August car vacation which usually ended up on the East Coast, with Boston and Maine places we went almost every summer. Good Night Moon was an entrancing, calming, soporific book, as it has been for generations at this point. I admired but was not a fan of Harold and the Purple Crayon and Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. My great-aunt was an editor at Scholastic, and she sent us a LOT of books, when we were little. She sent a great collection of poems, many by Robert Louis Stevenson, and I remember liking them. Oh, yeah, and The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, which I had to look up just now -- I had no idea it was written in 1939. That story was awesome.

Day 37: How do you feel about aging?

Gah. My stepmother always answers this question the same way: "It's better than the alternative." Ha. Yeah. Well, that's true. It is not much fun, though, and seeing what lies ahead of me as I hang out with my mother? Not fun at all. A lack of dexterity, losing control of my hands and small motor skills? UGH. Poor(er) vision and possible diabetic retinopathy, e.g. BLINDNESS? God, even worse. Aphasia? Boo. Worse than that, there's obviously a genetic predilection in at least part of my mother's family for dementia. Fuck me. I don't like aging.

Day 38: Do you think it's possible to maintain your privacy in this networked age?

I can't get worked up about this. Maybe I should, but it just seems like the NSA could, if it wanted to, get whatever info it wanted. Maybe I also don't really feel all that private? I mean, I guess I'd rather not have my employer know various things about me. But, if you know my name and Google it, you will see a pretty comprehensive record of my adult life, and I can't really care.

Day 39: Why cats?

BECAUSE. Cats are fantastic. I don't get people who say cats are aloof. I've never had a cat that was aloof... towards ME. Towards other people, maybe. Cats are the right size to have in your house. Cats are warm and soothing and a tactile pleasure to touch. Cats don't slobber. Cats don't need to go on walks -- they are perfectly happy to flip a switch in their brain and race around your apartment like a crazed whirlwind. Cats instinctively come sit on or by you if you are feeling sick or blue. Cats (my cats anyway) are basically quiet except for interrogatory meows in a variety of pleasing registers. Cats offer a positive role model for the pleasures of laziness. Cats have interesting personalities and you can see at least some rudimentary thought processes if you stare in their eyes.

Cozy Maya photo IMG_0938.jpg

Devlin owl ears photo IMG_1810.jpg

Devlin owns the ottoman photo IMG_2387.jpg

Maya perky photo IMG_1005.jpg

Date: 2014-01-19 01:46 am (UTC)
ironed_orchid: pin up girl reading kant (Default)
From: [personal profile] ironed_orchid
Lots of good stuff here, but I am struck by this line:

Cats offer a positive role model for the pleasures of laziness.

Because it is so true.



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