Dog Cat Rat

Cousin Lucy sent an email in which she mentioned a UTube video making the rounds out of Santa Barbara.  Sure enough–there it was a dog, with a cat atop it, and a rat atop the cat.  The street scene in one video is clearly State Street.  SB’s main drag.

Click here for the video. 

For some reason, her email made me remember the person to whom Carol goes for what I believe is called a waxing.  Her name is Suzy and Carol reported that Suzy was the owner of an amazingly ugly dog, an aged Mexican hairless. I had heard much of this ugly dog when Suzi posted pictures of same on her web site and got about a million hits in a day.  Many at the time considered it the ugliest dog in the USA.  The dog is now deceased.


I think I can say without too great a fear of contradiction that this dog in its day was one very ugly dog. 

Pictoral Interlude

Carol and I have not been able to make our beach walk with any regularity lately.  But this afternoon we headed out.  The sun was shining.  By the time we got to the bluffs a fog was rolling in. 

 On the way back, this snowy egret decided, "Well, if you are going this way, I going that way."


And last week when we went out towards the bluff we found interesting pink clouds:



And some morning back I couple weeks I woke feeling extra morose; so Carol suggested we break the usual pattern and go out for breakfast (which we hardly ever do) and after that we went to the official Goleta Beach Park (which we hardly ever do) and walked out by the pier located there:



The little official park has picnic tables and official barbeque pits, and on weekends, especially holidays, Hispanic families gather for heaping big and wonderful smelling barbeque.  Sadly, though, according to the real estate agent I speak with where I work out, dozens of homes out where Carol and I live are being forcelosed.  Those being dispossessed tend to be large Hispanic families.  Lord knows where they are going to go especially since, while house values are dropping, rents are rising.

I share Brother Steve’s concern about the overall economic picture.  I see at this moment no reason to change the title of my entry of September 2007 that dealt with the economic outlook and was called "We are Doomed." 

Digital Students

Back in the good old days—hard even to remember—when you got students in the classroom they were pretty much prisoners.  For the hour and an half or so that you had them—as a teacher—they had no contact with the outside world.  Back then the rooms in which I taught had those old fashioned clocks on the wall.  I don’t know what happened.  They just disappeared at some point.

Now all the students have cell phones, so they can check the time on those accurate by satellite to the atomic minute, I guess.  They also have palm pilots and Ipods or other listening devices.  They also bring laptop computers.  They are hardly prisoners now; they can access the “outside world” at least in digital form pretty easily.  I, the teacher, am still analog. 

They hold those things in their hands.  I don’t know what they are doing with them.  The guy over there with his laptop open could be watching porn or the Simpsons over the internet for all I know.  Or who knows, they could be listening on their Ipods to a lecture they missed that morning because many professors are now posting their lectures to sites that can be downloaded with an Ipod. Most of the time, the students are pretty polite with these things.  The phones hardly ever go off anymore.

But my 3 o’clock class isn’t always so polite.  Over in the left hand corner of the room—way away from me—a group of students have collected in the back.  These pull out their devices—whatever the heck they are–quite a bit in class, sometimes while I am talking.  What am I supposed to do?  Well, I use common tactics.  If they are in groups and using their devices, I walk over to the group and usually they see me coming and stop using their devices.  Or I will call on a person using a device and ask them a question.  That usually leads also to the end of device usage for a while.

I have to say device usage while I am talking tends to irritate me.  But I have gotten sort of used to being ignored over the years.  I got over my issues with the sleeping student years ago, clear back in the 80’s.  One woman starting falling asleep; she was a pretty good student and also on the rowing team.  So she would be up at like 5 in the morning to go up to this big lake back behind the hills and row her ass off for like three hours. 

So one day when she was going off to sleep and even snorting a little bit in a sort of pre-snore way, I went over to her and said, without anger (somehow I managed that), that she needed rest that trying to sleep in a classroom would not really be restorative, and that she should go to her dorm room and take a nap.  She said she was fine, and that she didn’t live in the dorm. After that she never went to sleep in class.  Of course, she missed a few classes, maybe to take a nap in her overpriced apartment in IV.

In any case, one of the young women in the device using corner is quite egregiously using her device while I am talking, and I say, with amazing tranquility, “Rochelle.  What you are doing there; well that’s just fine.  But please don’t let me see you doing it, ok?  Because when I happen to notice it—and I notice about everything—it disturbs the flow of my consciousness and sometimes I forget what I am trying to say.”  And then she, with no sign of embarrassment, puts away her device, and what do you know pulls the Ipod plugs out of her ears—which I didn’t even know were there, because they were hidden by her hair.

And the rest of the time, I don’t remember seeing a single student using his or her device. 

Cartman’s Tooth

Funny to think South Park first hit the airways maybe 10 years ago, and at the time, it was oh so gross and completely alternative stuff for the kids.  Turns out, it has a bit of a humanistic heart to it, ca ore set of values, unlike such mainstream fare as Family Guy that aims simply to offend, within the limits of commercial TV, and in its assertion of post-modern “values” is mostly nihilistic.  The Simpsons started this post modern move, in fact advertising the show at one point as post-modernism for the masses.  But however much the show moves in that direction, the family unit—Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and that other kid—remains firmly in place and valued.  Bart for example would never try to kill his mother, as that insane little Stewie did in an episode of Family Guy.

I don’t know that I have ever watched an episode of South Park from beginning to end.  Maybe I did watch all of the one that was their take on how kids get eaten alive by video games like World of Warcraft.  This particular game is so damn popular that Toyota used it as the backdrop and context for a Tundra commercial.  Odd to think of the World of Warcraft appealing to a key demographic for the Toyota Tundra.  But I guess it must be so; otherwise they wouldn’t have done it.  Fat kids who want a truck, a fantasy truck.

I bought all of season four of South Park at Borders.  By accident I saw part of the episode about the Tooth Fairy from season 4 (2000), and just couldn’t resist.  I could have ordered over my Block Buster account but it wouldn’t have arrived by Monday.  That’s when I want to show it, on Monday, to my classes.  They need a break.  So do I.

Turns out Cartman loses a tooth and his mother gives him a whole two dollars for the tooth.  He sees this as a way to get the money necessary to buy a Sega system. So he starts stealing teeth from other kids and his mother keeps shelling out two bucks a tooth.  He steals like 117 teeth or something like that, driving his mother into financial ruin at two bucks a pop.  She says they will have to go without buying food for a month, and at the same time tells Cartman, look, there is no tooth fairy.  Whereupon, Cartman accuses his mother of being a damn liar, and goes out the door saying, well since I can’t trust anybody, I have to trust myself.


I am not of course saying the guys at South Park read Erik Erikson, but this has all the key elements of what Erikson would call a developmental crisis.  First, the crisis is stimulated by changes in the body.  So the baby learns to walk, to control its bowels, to speak, and so on, and each of these changes in the body produces for the child an altered relation to the environment (part of the environment being its own body).  We don’t think about it much, I guess.  But losing all your baby teeth is a sort of strange experience—certainly it is a change in the body.  And perhaps to assist the child in tolerating having pieces of its body fall out, society—at least this society—has dreamed up the tooth fairy business.

The eventual outcome: very Eriksonian.  Cartman bumps up against the reality principle—he is disillusioned with his mother (who appears to be insane in any case), experiences a crisis in trust that is eventually resolved, Erickson suggests, by the child learning to trust itself and its own sense.  Though poor Cartman should never trust himself.

New Phone

Well, the papers are gone.  I sent them off as email attachment to the students.  Now I await emails of complaint.  But mostly they are probably all gone and won’t check their email again till Monday.

Yesterday, my four year old cell that I was pretty fond of because I could repeatedly drop it and not break it finally gave out. The battery had no life left in it.  So I went to the AT and T store to get a new one, but the account was in Carol’s name and since I didn’t know the date her driver’s license expired they wouldn’t talk with me.  I wanted to poke the little wimp behind the counter straight into both eyes.  What the hell. 

Later came back with Carol who found out the date her driver’s license expires by looking at her driver’s license and got a new phone.  Pisses me off; they don’t carry any replacement batteries for old phones because they want to jack you up to a new phone.  And they want to do that because the new phones have all these other features on them that can cause you to increase your phone bill if you give into the temptation to use them.  My new one takes pictures for example.  I will waste no time trying to figure out how to do that.  It’s all sleek and cool looking but I bet it breaks when I drop it.  But it does have the time right there on the outside, so you don’t have to open the phone to get the time or the date.

 A while back I bought a bedside clock from Brookstone.  We had this little brown plastic job that for some reason wouldn’t keep the correct time anymore.  I don’t know how long we had it.  At least ten years.  It was a very faithful little clock.  With bits of chewing gum stuck on it from when I used to chew gum and I would stick the gum on the clock and then start rechewing it in the morning.

The new clock is pretty amazing.  I plugged it in and then when to the directions to figure out how to set it, and while I was doing that the damn clock set itself right before my eyes.  Like Magic!  Honestly I don’t know how it did that—by satellite maybe.  I mean the numbers started spinning past and stopped right at the correct time.  Hell, come to think of it, that must be what the phone does too.  Some sort of satellite thing up there in space—that keeps accurate time as based on the atomic clock….

Some students don’t know how to read the old clock—the one with hands on it that was shaped like a circle.

All together now:

Does your chewing gum lose its flavor
On the bedpost overnight
If your mother says don’t chew it
Do you swallow it in spite
Can you catch it on your tonsils
Can you heave it left and right
Does your chewing gum lose its flavor
On the bedpost overnight

Who the hell sang that song.  The “Bedposts.”  Damn, now that is going to torment till I remember.

Too Much ER

I am toast. Since Monday, when I haven’t been teaching or preparing to teach, or going to the bathroom or eating, I have been “responding” to student papers.  Maybe Erikson wasn’t such a failure.  Many students seem to be getting a little something out of it.  Every damn one of them is in the middle of an identity crisis.  Of course what else are they going to say, when for a blog entry, as prep for the paper, I had them write on the topic “My Identity Crisis.”  Now, to be fair to myself, I did say, if you don’t have an identity crisis, then say that; with the caveat that if they didn’t have one they should try to define what it is that they didn’t have.  

I mean just saying, “I am happy as a clam and have no Identity Crisis” wouldn’t quite cut the mustard.  They would have to give some details about being happy as a clam and show some understanding of Erikson by saying what he meant by the Identity crisis that they were not having.  Since this would require actually reading Erikson or having listened to me in class, I pretty much boxed them in, I suppose, since even the people who said they do have identity crisis didn’t seem really to understand what he meant by it.

But the basic dynamic of the ID crisis seems to have supplied some students at least with an analytic tool for filtering through their experience and also with a means for organizing the paper.  Something like:  development stage—leading to need for adjustments in present relative to new environment perhaps entailing reassessment of past (prior education and/or personal ideals): or the crisis as a moment increased of potential and with that increased vulnerability (possibility of wrong choice, misuse of potentials, failure, inability to know the future, etc).

Also quite a number—though far from all—followed my advice and tried to stick as much as possible to one example—the primary one being the step into college.  Writing at the sentence level improved for some students, and while those who didn’t improve at this level didn’t go backwards.

One student wrote about wanting in high school to be a cracker-jack top gun surgeon who would never snap under pressure.  Erikson says adolescence is a time when young people establish ideals or turn to idols as models for future behavior.  This kid though watched too much TV and seems to have based his ego-ideals (as Freud might call them) on ER.  So this kid comes to college and like washes out in pursuit of his ideal in the first quarter.  Not only is he not going to be a cracker-jack top gun surgeon he realizes, but also he “snaps” and starts to slide.

Half of them seem scared to death because they have not selected a major and the other half seems scared to death because they have.  No wonder—many seem to believe that the selection of a major will determine their fates for THE REST OF THEIR LIVES.

I gave a short lecture trying to disabuse them of this notion.  Though this may have only added to their fear since the gist of my little lecture was “nobody knows what is going to happen.”

The Imperative Mood

I have been responding to student papers.  Fifty of them.  I like to say responding rather than grading.  That’s what I am doing, grading, though I am respond to, and the two get all mixed up and confusing.  I don’t think the grading part helps a single student to learn a single thing.  Sure a bad grade might make a student put in more time on the paper; but there is such a thing as putting in bad time (trying to figure out what the teacher wants).  Students will also put in more time if they feel that somebody actually reads what they say and pays attention, not just to how they are saying it, but also to what they are saying.  I end up grading on the “how they say it” when I know damn well that the depth of response will in fact determine whether they will decide to work on how they say it because what they are saying is also valued.

I don’t know how to reconcile this.

Perhaps that’s why my brain turns to odd things when I get a batch of papers.  The other evening I was torturing myself trying to remember the grammatical name or the name in grammar for a certain sentence structure that does not contain a subject but is not, for that reason, a sentence fragment, but a complete sentence.  How can that be, since by definition, at least in most grammar books, a sentence is a fragment if it lacks either the subject or the verb.

But take this expression, “Fiat Lux,” translated in the Kings James Bible as “Let there be light.”  In Latin lux is the subject and fiat the verb and might be translated roughly “Light was made” or “Light was.”  So in Latin the sentence is complete and not a fragment because lux is the subject and fiat the verb.  But where is the subject in “Let there be light.”  The fact is—there is no subject, and yet this is not a fragment, but a complete and utterly whole sentence.

“Let there be light” is probably the most famous example of this particular and odd complete sentence structure.  “Fiat Lux” is the motto of the University of California; given the utter failure of this institution to meet its publicly mandated educational mission this should be changed to “Fiat Dim Bulb.”

I think the grammatical term for this particular sentence may be the “imperative mood.”  I understand “imperative” part because Let There Be Light sounds like a command or directive.  I don’t understand the “mood” part because I lack sufficient knowledge of grammar and also the patience and curiosity to acquire it.

Noodling over this issue I remembered a poem I liked to teach at one time, when poetry was still taught as part of the writing sequence:

 The Emperor of Ice-Cream

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month’s newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Excellent use I think of the “imperative mood.”

Does it help any to think this poem is probably a description of the funeral rituals occasioned by the death of a person of ill-repute?

How Do You Spell That?

I received an email from Brother Dave saying he had to take Sister-in-Law Teresa to the emergency room at Grossmont Hospital because every time she took a single step she felt intense pain in the lower quadrant of her abdomen.  She became voluntarily immobilized from the involuntary pain she felt when she tried to mobilize herself, i.e. walk.

I called and was very happy to get Sister-in-Law Teresa because this meant she was at home and not in the Grossmont Hospital.  She seemed in very good spirits and indicated—as Dave had suggested in his email—that she probably suffers from a bout of diverticulitis. The doctors did not want absolutely to assert this diagnosis and so left matters up in the air.  Still the symptoms seem clear and Sister- in-Law Teresa, who has worked in various medical institutions, seems to believe this is what she has, especially since her mother suffered from it on a previous occasion.

Apparently over time, depending on one’s diet, one’s age, and one’s genetic background, diverticula, or small pouches may develop on the walls of one’s colon.  If these pouches become somehow infected usually by bacteria, one develops diverticulitis.  Why the pouches develop does not seem clear, but infections arise if something organic gets stuck in a pouch.  Brother Steve reports Joan had diverticulitis and believed it occurred whenever she ate anything with many seeds in it.  She believed the seeds got stuck in the pouches.  And as I recollect, Teresa also said something about eating something with seeds in it, though she wondered too about popcorn which she eats frequently.

I believe, if Sister-in-Law Teresa’s good spirits are any indication, she will pull through this crisis posthaste.  Still I find her sudden hospital visit, along with medical reports I have recently heard from colleagues my age and older about all the things that seem to go along with the aging process, scary.  I feel as if I am entering a whole new territory, and when younger colleagues ask how I am doing and I actually telling them about what I am thinking and feeling, I can see they wish they had not asked me the question.  “Look,” I say to calm them down or to make them pity me less, “It’s not good, and it’s not bad.  What did Bob Dylan say, its life and life only.”

Bob Dylan says this in his song “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).”  Perhaps, not entirely coincidentally (for as Freud said, there are no accidents in the unconscious), this contains the line that I stole for the name of this blog.  I find in my Dylan song book, copyright 1974:

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the Silver spoon
The hand made-blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no use in Trying
Pointed threats they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words Proved to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying

Phew 2

I am bushed.  Got up round 7 and turned on my Dell and this weird noise started coming out of it.  Damn!  I decide just to ignore the damn whining noise, but then I see the damn thing is hung and won’t boot.  I kick the can a couple of times but no dice. Damn.  So I light a cigarette and get down on the floor under the desk with my coffee and start figuring out how to get the can open and the cat starts harassing me because she wants me to turn on the little heater in my closet office.  So I turn on the damn heater for her and she goes and lies in front of it.

No heat coming my way.  I get the can off but to do so I have to pull all the USB plugs out of the back, leaving in only the juice.  I get the can open and punch the on button and still with the noise—towards the back of the can.  So I hit the can a few times but it doesn’t stop, so I go staggering around in the dark cause Carol is still in bed till I find this can of Dust-Off which calls itself the The Original Compressed Gas Duster and spray it all over the fan and adjoining parts that are pretty polluted with all sorts of dust bunnies.

And what do you know but the noise stops.  So I put the can back on and try to boot up and it does till I get to the damn log in and find that I can’t type my password in so I can’t get beyond the login page.  And now the machine is making another nasty noise that I seem to remember having heard before and which leads me to unplug the keyboard from the back of the computer and that makes the noise stop…..And well to shorten an already too long story, after trying like three different keyboards, the one from Carol’s computer works.  So now I have her keyboard and she has my original keyboard which didn’t seem to work on my computer but which does work on hers.

So by nine in the morning I was completely worn out.  All things considered I was pretty calm.  I mean I didn’t swear even once and I didn’t throw anything either.  And I didn’t pick a fight with Carol like it was all her fault somehow.  Pretty amazing actually since having my computer—with all the stuff I have on it, especially school stuff—go bad gets me pretty damn anxious.

As part of my Identity Crisis I seem to be dropping WB as a role model in something broke down and I have got to fix it mode.  Probably a good thing because really all that swearing and throwing things was mostly a waste of time and energy for all concerned parties.

And yesterday I found the panel nut for the place where you plug in the cord to the amp had fallen off of my bass guitar.  So when I tried to plug in the cord there was nothing to plug it into.  And I didn’t swear or throw anything then either.  Although that turned out to be quite a pain since the nut was a metric 10 panel nut, not readily available, as I was to find out in the US though I had some fun looking at web sites with names like “Nuts,” and “NutsCo,”  not to mention “Accurate Screws” and “Channel Studs.”