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danger in the summer moon

There was a time when being a mid-August Leo wasn’t that bad a thing. School started always after Labor Day, and it was early Scorpios that got screwed. Alas! my birthday will now, forever, should I get my appointment in perpetuity, be associated with the beginning of labor.

School starts in a well, and I’m behind. I’d be perfectly on schedule, had my daughter not taken ill (nothing but a minor cold, but the mother of the girl with whom we nanny share is about to give birth and we did not want the new born to be around cold germs).

I’ve got 7,000 words of a 10K word article written, which promises to be 14K before I’m done, which is fine, because editing down will hopefully help me tighten my argument. And, courses to plan. I had hoped, and am still trying to get the paper done before school starts. The problem are the courses I have to plan… the problem is the summer moon which tempts me with reading things other than my narrow field of concentration, which lulls me into thinking that summer will never end and I will not have classes to plan. But, nobody, not even I, like to hear academics complain about how little time they have, especially when procrastination lies at the root of it all.

Instead, I will tell you of one of my courses. I haven’t read either essay, but know that I should. So, as a good life-long-learner, I’ve assigned them as the real content of my class… though, I must admit, I feel a little guilty, since I’ve assigned them in their English translation.

Miraculously, the professor who teaches the culture class and will let no one else teach it, will not be teaching it this year, as he is on sabbatical. Curiously, though, rather than culture, they read a lit survey text, granted it’s not the lit survey text that they read in their lit survey class… but 90% of the material is the same. (It’s a question of this poem or that poem… and nothing so radical as this author or that author). The key is that they approach it differently. They read it culturally, not literarily. I still don’t know what that means, but among other things it means that they don’t use nonsense words like plot, argument, round characters, flat characters, metaphor, metonym, tenor, vehicle. It also means that very good and very powerful terms like patriarchy, Other, violence, hegemony, Eurocentrism get thrown around a lot by students who don’t really know what they mean. But they do know that this or that author is a Eurocentric misogynist patriarch that violently imposes Western hegemony on the Other. They either know this is bad and feel a twinge of guilt, or write the professor off as an aging liberal commie who hasn’t yet headed to the mountains of Bush and smelled the fresh roasted coffee picked by the illegal Guatemalans.

Somehow, I get to teach this class. We will read a bland primer on Latin America in Spanish that will give us the history and all that. They will be quizzed over this because the history is important and essential for what will then do. They will also give presentations on things like Inca Quipus, The Panama Canal, Simon Bolivar, Casta Paintings, Chavez and Venezuela, Chile: from Pinochet to Bachelet, the Shining Path, and what not. But what I am most looking forward to is reading with them essays written by Latin Americans throughout the 20th century as they grapple with what Latin America is… is it even a coherent cultural space, ask many authors. At first they will be brief 5-10 page essays written in Spanish. But, halfway through the course we will transition to the two classic essays linked to in book section. They will read them in English, but I think that the content is much more important than whipping them into a frenzied frustration over their inability to comprehend the highly literate and poetic prose of the authors. I’m looking forward to it because one is lionized by the left, the other by the right. To walk around with these books in one’s hand is tantamount to walking around with either Leon Trotsky’s My Life or God and Man at Yale.



So you’re reading G&M@Y and Trotsky? Wow. David Horowitz is gonna a) say you’re what’s right with American college professors then b) spit on you after he’s kicked your teeth in.

yeah, i’m doing all sorts of illegal things in this class.

first and foremost, to the purist, i’m breaking the first law of language instruction and assigning 600 pages of reading in english.

then, the lefties in the department, of which there are many, will question my own leftism by assigning a book that the left generally refers to as a book written by a self-hater who believes the lies of the right-wing globalizer (gobble-izer?)

and the righties will look at me and say, that i’ve sold out by giving creedence to a left-wing-pinko screed. well, they would say that i was a sell-out were they to consider me as one of them… but we know that my left-leaning tendencies make me about as palatable as a stinging caterpillar.

OK, another question:

Nanny share?

well, my sister, the oldest of the adopted siblings, dropped out of college, was living at home in her own private hell and making minimum wage at some baptist day care.

we told her that she could move here, live with us till she found a place, watch evie and sofi, this other couple’s daughter, during the day and go to hair-styling school at night… thus, emancipating herself, acquiring a useful skill, and helping us out all the while.

writing that, though, would’ve pushed the parenthesis into a paragraph, and though we all know parsimony is not my suit, i thought i’d be less verbose than normal…

Oh! K & I were both perplexed. Now I understand.

it’s one of these things where t., working 4 days a week and making 20% less than she was before the birth of the daughter, makes more than i.

and our fair metropolis which is too busy to hate is too expensive to live on one income. i suppose we could should we move to alabama and i commute, but then she’d have to work part-time just to pay for gas (and the coterie of bookworms to do my research for me)

my self-doubt is now getting the better of me…

i mean part of me thinks… 20 years from now, when these kids at some bar and a really bad spanish but sexy singer is crooning or belting out a ballad of unsated desire, they are going to turn, half-drunk on cheap bear, or worse, bad margaritas, to the person next to them and say that they don’t remember a damn word, but they used to could read spanish rather well for someone who’d never left the country. and i dispair. thus my original decision to privilege content over language… especially since these authors write in a style that has not undergone the “purification” of hemingway’s and modernism’s parsimony.

but then, i think, no, i should assign the essays in spanish, or at least the one that they can easily get (yes, all you liberal hating, conspiracy mongers that believe academia and media have it out against the conservatives… the flaming marxist has remained in print in mulitple languages while the pro-capitalist conservative has only remained in print thanks to conservative state-side exiles… and it didn’t make it into translation until ten years after it was written.)

but, this would mean that we’d have to read the commie much more slowly and he would crowed out the neo-con… and then, they’d forget everything because they’d have to look up every 10 word and get lost in the laberynthine sentences and references to Adam Smith, Keynes, etc. not to mention the myriad spanish philosophers that they won’t know from Adam…

Frankly, I think the English/bilingual reading approach a good one. You’ve chosen to privilege understanding over language instruction, and because there’s a paucity of awareness about Equatorial/South American culture in these United States, that understanding is worthwhile. More importantly, there will be ample opportunity for yr students to speak/read Spanish if they want. Understanding could solidify that desire and pursuit.

Or you could be blowing smoke up their asses, to which I say, “Straight up, now tell me do you really wanna love me forever (Oh, oh, oh), or am I caught in a hit and run?”

in other news, this saturday, i lead a teacher training workshop at church. everybody said it went really well… (which is very much of a relief, since it was filled with very, very experienced teachers… in every since of the word. i was the youngest in that room by 20 years, for one. one is an elementary math teacher, another an ex-junior high teacher, and another a nationally renowned heart surgeon at emory who wrote the definitive textbook on cardiology, or at least, it was the definitive one my dad used in his residency. and those who weren’t professional teachers all had taught at church for 20+ years) except that took up all of friday and most of saturday (saturday morning was the training, friday my prep) and now i am hopelessly behind for tomorrow.