Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Very Long-Winded Catching Up

Yes, CM, I read your comment and decided that I had to catch up tonight. I actually started a post yesterday morning on my pda, but I never uploaded it to my computer at work. I hate it when work gets in the way of play--being responsible is such a drag sometimes. ;-)

I will reproduce what I wrote and finish the post now. Hey, maybe before I'm finish, I will even upload a photo or two from the World Series. Too exciting!!!

From yesterday:
Last week was very stressful. I had procrastinated to the point where I could not possibly get all grading finished without at least one all-nighter, which I am no longer able to do--getting old sucks. However, I did the best I could and actually got close to finishing. I have decided that my procrastination is out of control. I think that I might need to seek professional help for this problem. Anyone know where I can find a good 12 step program for procrastinators?

Because of my work problems, I didn't have time to blog, read, or watch TV much last week, so this post is for catching up, and it will probably be too long for even my most faithful readers, all 3 of you.

Before I begin catching up, I have to say one thing about Houston weather of late--it's too HOT for November. I've been thinking a lot about moving some place that really has four seasons. That idea was reinforced on Saturday when I drove to my hometown in East Texas. I seldom say anything good about J'ville, but I will today. It is absolutely beautiful there this time of year. The trees are a cornucopia of colors. I was actually in awe of the beauty. I wished so much that I had a camera phone so I could take a picture. The beauty actually made me nostalgic for life there. (This is where I left off on Monday morning.)

The rest of this post will be a mix of things that I haven't had time to talk about yet. Things from the past two weeks or so.

Recent readings
The week that August Wilson died I decided to read Fences in his honor. Five of my six classes have 15 minutes of silent reading everyday, so I read Fences during that time for a few days. I have only seen one of his plays, Jitney, performed, and I had never read any of them. Fences is the story of Troy Maxson, a proud man who performs his familial duties purely out of a sense of responsibility rather than love. Unfortunately, for him and his family, a little more love and understanding might have made for a happier life together. I really found this drama interesting in light of the number of absentee fathers these days. Troy was physically present, but emotionally absent. This play shows that the mere presence of a father isn't enough. I figure some publisher will publish a book of Wilson's cycle of ten plays, each set in a different decade, depicting the comedy and tragedy of the African-American experience in the 20th century. I will have to put that on my to-buy list when it comes out. Hopefully, one of the theater companies here will do a series of his plays too. I would love to see them all.

Mutual Life & Casualty by Elizabeth Poliner was one of the nominees for the fall Read This! at The LitBlog Co-op. I was intrigued by The Happy Booker's recommendation of this novel in stories that I ordered it from Amazon. The stories come together to tell of the Kahn sisters and their mother as they make their way through the late 70s. I enjoyed the book in part because I could relate to the sisters since I grew up in the late 70s. The book is very much about the changing ideals and lives of women during that time. Of course, when you read a novel in stories, some characters are not fully developed, only appearing in one or two stories, and stories told from varying points of view, as these are, sometimes seem to miss their connections. Despite those flaws, I really enjoyed this book. I especially liked the story told from the point of view of the great elementary teacher who had no children of her own. It depicted perfectly the attitudes toward childless women then.

Reading Lolita in Tehran
by Azar Nafisi is one of the most disappointing books that I have ever read. (The most disappointing book? Don Delillo's Underworld) I was reading this book during my classes' silent reading time, and I thought I would never finish it. As a rule, I don't read memoirs. I just don't like them. I am a literary fiction snob for the most part. I do like a good mystery, British ones especially, now and then, but I love literary fiction. However, I decided to try Reading Lolita because I had heard some good things about it. Valerie warned me that her friend and her mother didn't like it (both of whom I trust as readers), but I thought I would like it because it was about the secretive study of literature. Well, very little was really about the secretive study, and I never felt that the author or her students were in real danger by reading the books she selected or by meeting at her home to discuss them. Nafisi did not make me sympathize with her plight or her students'. She did, however, make me worry about the Christian rights determination to shape the morals of our society. Each time she spoke of the morality squads, I pictured men like Rush Limbaugh and Jerry Falwell racing around accusing Americans of being immoral and arresting them. I do believe we live in dangerous times for us liberals. She also made me want to articulate some philosophy of why I read, why literature is so important to me. Maybe I will do that some time, but not now. The worst parts of the book were Prof. Nafisi's complaints about teaching. They were so similar to the complaints that I have and hear everyday that I just wanted to tell her to shut up. I'm tired of thinking my complaints, and I don't want to read some other teacher's complaints--that's not pleasurable reading. I do have to give her some credit for the part of the book that concerns The Great Gatsby--one of my favorites--and I have to admit that I have put Nabokov on my to-read-soon list.

Currently, I'm reading Ireland by Frank Delaney (at home), and The Color Purple by Alice Walker (at work). My students voted on my current silent reading book, and The Color Purple was the winner. My students were surprised that I had never read it and a bit concerned by the "inappropriate" content. I assured them that I was a mature reader and could handle the content. So far, I'm enjoying both of these books, but I need more time to read at home. Alas, I always do. :-(

Other news
Enough about books, let's talk about freedom of religion. I believe very strongly in the separation of church and state. As a result of my belief, I have started a controversy at my campus. We have a faculty breakfast at the end of each month. Each department is assigned a breakfast for which to provide food. Last year, we had a moment of silence at each breakfast. Except for the math department's, when a teacher who never attended any other breakfast decided that he needed to say a prayer. This year, I assumed we would continue the moment of silence. However, at the first breakfast, the principal made a speech about bad things that had happened to some of our faculty/staff and about Hurricane Katrina and Rita then he said we would have a prayer. I emailed him, voiced my opinion that a prayer was inappropriate and possibly illegal, and questioned whether this would be the norm for future breakfasts. After waiting 15 days to reply, he said that he had decided to continue with a prayer. I again emailed, asking him why a moment of silence wasn't good enough and informed him that I had been researching the legalities of the prayer. In the meantime, Valerie also emailed him her concerns about being forced to pray. Oh, at some point, he suggested that if the prayer made me feel uncomfortable that I should wait until it was over to come to breakfast. This option didn't set very well with me. Eventually, he consulted the school district's attorney who told him to stick with a moment of silence. So at the most recent breakfast, he started to do the moment of silence but was interrupted by a teacher who called all those who wanted to pray out into the main hall to pray--which because it's in the presence is still illegal, I think--I was rather shaken by the number of people who turned to look at me to see my reaction. I had only told a couple of people, and I knew that Valerie had not told anyone. Of course, very few of us didn't go out to pray. We still had our moment of silence, and later the principal told the faculty present that the lawyers had said we could not pray. The teacher who led the prayer voiced opposition, but the principal stood his ground. A new staff member spoke up for not having prayer, but no one else said anything. Wait, another English teacher did email the principal voicing her disapproval of the teacher leading the prayer. Another teacher sent me an email accusing me of excluding people who want to pray and demanding that I exclude myself if I don't want to pray--a bit ironic, huh. So, next week, we have another breakfast. I am anxious to see how things go. If the same thing happens, I will consider pursuing some kind of legal resolution if I have to with the help of organizations like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

Now for the most exciting thing that I have ever attended--the World Series!!!! I'm still a bit speechless, can't do it justice for some reason. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, despite the freezing the whole 14 innings of the game and despite the Astros coming out on the losing end. I have never been to a professional championship, and I LOVE sports. I couldn't believe the tension in the stadium from the very first pitch. It was just so damn exciting! I was really going to upload some photos, but it's late now. I want to get this post published and go to bed. I will post photos tomorrow--they aren't anything special anyway. I'm no photographer.

I have bored you long enough; now I must sleep--sleep, perchance to dream. :-) Good night.

ps: If you see typos, please ignore them. I'm too tired to fix them now.


SassyFemme said...

Whoa on the prayer! That is just not okay. I think I would have walked out. Have you thought about dropping an email to the ACLU to get their opinion on it? It sounds to me as if your campus prayer group organized and planned to do this at the breakfasts. This past summer I was writing curriculum with one of the more outspoken religious zealots, and he made the comment, "the more we can get our foot in the door with prayer, the better we are." Sounds like that's what's happening at your campus.

Hey, want me send you one of the bumper stickers I had made, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention. Democracy, not Theocracy." Surprisingly I've gotten nothing but positive comments on it from coworkers.

Valerie said...

Hey Sassy,

I'll answer a bit for Kim! I contacted Amercians United for the Separation of Church and State and they've been helping figure out the legalities and such.

I love your bumper sticker!

~ valerie

SassyFemme said...

Valerie, I'm serious, I've got extras and will send them to you guys if you want. :)

Valerie said...

Well, I would love to have a bumper sticker, but I could probably never put it on my car. You might get positive comments at your school, but at mine it would cause nothing but trouble. Seriously, I'd expect my car to get vandalized, or at the least for some very nasty things to be said. And I'm only a little paranoid, but not that much!

Kim said...

I'm less paranoid than Valerie. I don't think anyone would vandalize my car, but I do think someone would say something negative. Of course, they have and are already doing that because of my stance on the prayer, so that wouldn't be a surpise to me. However, I don't put things on my car, never have.

You know, one of our co-workers has the whole back of her truck & camper(?) cover loaded with right-wing bumper stickers. It's too bad that someone on the other side feels pressured not to do the same. I really hate the oppression of dissent that I see going on in this country now.

Penny said...

Hang in there with the NO Prayer! I'm proud of you--and you know I would be right there with you, and am in spirit anyway! I can just imagine who walked out and led a tribe to pray in the library mall--with everyone left in the library for their "heathen" moment of silence. Good Grief. I'm completely sick of this right wing Christian nazism. Silent Majority? When was it ever that??? Well, stick to your guns, and I know the difference between a truly moral person and a Pharisee, I should hope! (Perhaps a bumper sticker against Pharisees?? ; )