Having written for the past six or seven hours without interruption, I have neither the piss nor the vinegar right now. Will try Wednesday morning instead. Bear with me this week and the content will be back on schedule before you know it. Literally. Since you won't know it until you check back and realize that it's here.
I've lived in the same rental unit for over two years and I make the same walk to work and back every day, rain or shine. Thanks to that experience I can draw from memory the labels of every single brand of bumwine and bottom shelf hard liquor available for sale in this state. Ditto every fast food wrapper, quasi-generic brand of soda, and fried salt snack known to man. Oh, and for good measure, dozens of previously unheard of "state minimum" cigarette brands.
I lived in the Midwest for decades before I moved here, so very little surprised me about this place. The boiling summers, the arctic winters, the flatness, the omnipresence of ranch dressing and bland food – I'd seen it all before. One thing I wasn't prepared for is how dirty everything is. I've never seen so much litter in my life. On the rare occasions that anyone cleans any of it up – by which I mean "When I take a garbage bag and walk a few blocks picking up trash and hoping that you can't get herpes from touching a 40" – it's back again in a day or two. All of the fun stuff that accompanies urban decay – the abandoned buildings, the graffiti, the boarded windows – is here in the expected amount and doesn't really faze me. But I'm still not used to the "Everywhere is a trash can" thing.
Oddly enough the available research does not establish much of a correlation between poverty and littering. It doesn't help that the local government is short on funds and can't provide things like street cleaning as often as they might. What it boils down to, though, is not money but mentality. It's like being in the home of a really depressed person – when someone lacks motivation and has given up, the dishes in the kitchen tend to pile up. When a city is depressed, economically and otherwise, I guess everyone feels like it won't make any difference if they throw their empty Doritos bag on the ground. And even though it makes everything a little more depressing to look around and see trash everywhere you go, the idea of cleaning it up seems as overwhelming as a mountain of dishes with caked-on mac & cheese.
In short, I guess when people have pretty much given up (and not without reason) you get well acquainted with the design of Salem packs and Thunderbird bottles.
My Cardinals are off to a surprising 3-0 start, surprising not only because they aren't as talented as many other teams but also because they're down to their backup quarterback. Luckily they're one of the few teams in the NFL that has that valuable commodity known as a backup QB. And I mean the old school kind, the kind you don't see very often these days. The Professional Backup is a unique animal, far more rare than the backups most often seen around the league.
There are four types of backup QB. First and most common is the Failed Starter. Guys like Jason Campbell, Derek Anderson, and Jimmy Clausen are classic FS types. The problem is that they failed as starters because they're not very good, so if you have to play them it turns out that they're…well, not very good. Second is the Untested Rookie. You spent a high draft pick on him and he makes a decent salary so by default he's second on the depth chart. If he has to play, it's a total crapshoot. Third is the Aged Veteran. He was a good starter at some point but he's pushing 40 now. The team hopes that if he does have to play, it will be mercifully brief. Each hit could be his last, and the speed/arm strength are gone. Finally there is the Professional Backup – a guy who knows that he is not the starter, knows his place on the roster, and is competent to play without crippling the team's chances to win. The PB plays a quarter here or there when the starter is having an off day; he starts a game every year or two when the #1 guy sprains his ankle. After each performance he returns to the bench with zero complaints. There is never a "QB controversy" on account of his ego because he doesn't have one.
Arizona's Drew Stanton is a good modern example of the PB, but undoubtedly the greatest ever was Earl Morrall. Most casual fans have no idea who he is. But he backed up some of the greatest greats – Johnny Unitas, Bob Griese, etc – and was always ready to provide competent if unspectacular play in relief. Did any fans out there realize that during the legendary 1972 Dolphins undefeated season Morrall started and won more games than gimpy Griese? Or that in 1970 he took over for an aging Johnny Unitas on short notice and won a Super Bowl? And yet everyone including Morrall himself knew he was the caddy and not the starter. He never set the world on fire when he played; he did the same as Stanton is currently doing in the desert – not making mistakes and playing within his limited skill set. Like a professional.
The PB has disappeared for the same reason that the Long Reliever has disappeared from baseball: there is a shortage of quality quarterbacks so anyone remotely competent is anointed a starter. Josh McCown, for example, is a great backup but now he's starting on a woeful Tampa Bay team. Some other great PBs that come to mind are Zeke Bratkowski (Bart Starr's longtime caddy), Don Strock, Jeff Hostetler (who supported Phil Simms on those great Giants teams), and Jon Kitna. The latter two were eventually turned into starters – Hoss with the Raiders and Kitna with Cincinnati and Detroit – by desperate teams even though it was clear that they were destined to be excellent number twos. Green Bay's Matt Flynn is a recent example of a guy who clearly isn't a starter but who plays great in relief.
Scarcity is slowly driving the Professional Backup into extinction, but there are still a few out there. It's the kind of thing that you appreciate if you're a non-casual fan with an eye for the little things that make the game fun to watch. Viva Earl Morrall.
Perhaps riled up by Scotland's recent unsuccessful attempt to secede from the United Kingdom, a nationwide poll found that about one in four Americans currently favor their state's secession. In the southwest, including well-known havens for Teabaggers, militia types, and vindictive old bastards like Arizona and Texas, public support stands at a truly robust 34%.
I made an attempt on Tuesday to get students to talk about this in class, only to see it collapse under quick dismissals ("Nah, that will never happen") and the persistent lack of interest in giving serious consideration to hypothetical situations. It is easy to see the theoretical benefits of secession from a state's perspective. With some prodding, I got them thinking about the not as obvious downsides. By the time a state government replaced all of the functions currently handled at the national level – defense, monetary policy, immigration, etc. – it is reasonable to wonder if it would look much different than what we have in Washington today.
Older faculty tell me that the students' declining ability and willingness to think conceptually about theoretical or hypothetical scenarios is one of their biggest worries about The Kids These Days. I have not been at this long enough to notice a change. Yet I tried to emphasize in this discussion that it is my firm belief that we likely will be dealing with this situation during their lifetimes. Given the continuing lurch to the right of American conservatism, I don't consider it far-fetched at all to think that if I live forty more years I'll see a real secession vote in a place like Texas. Such a vote would be unlikely to succeed today, but who knows how close the decision might be in the future.
One thing I found curious was the unanimous response of the class on what the rest of the U.S. should do in response to a state's attempt at secession: nothing. Let them go. The enthusiasm for fighting another civil war to keep the most politically backward states in the union would likely be nonexistent if the situation presented itself. Haven't we had a good run? Not many nations last 230+ years under one Constitution. If Texas really wanted out, I can't picture many Californians and New Yorkers begging them to stay. We might even offer them some incentives to take the deep south with them. A Senate without the dozen assholes from Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina would be able to function. Hell, it might even work well.
Pro-union campaigners in the U.K. relied heavily on arguments about history and tradition – sentimental appeals involving lots of Union Jacks and patriotic songs. It's hard to see that strategy succeeding here if the current generation's right-wing wrecking crew succeeds in its constant efforts to make future generations even dumber. Give us another decade or two of homeschooled kids and Texas Board of Education mandates and half the country will enter adulthood believing that George Washington and Abe Lincoln and Elvis Presley and Jesus were all proponents of a free and independent Texas.
I'm not saying they'll win; only that it's inevitable at this point that some state is going to try it in the future.
Rough week at work so pardon another shorty.
The man pictured below was invited on national television to spread "intelligence reports" that he received, possibly from his imagination, of "Quran books" found on the border that indicate an imminent ISIS-Muslim-Mexican Immigrant attack on the United States. I just want to throw this out there – even if this was true, which it isn't, I am certain that the first rule in life is that if you want to be taken seriously by a nationwide audience you should never wear one of these hats.
The blood of hundreds of dead Americans will be on that hat if the good sheriff is right.
There is nothing quite as entertaining as watching libertarian-objectivist types try to leave the wicked world behind to establish a utopian community based on their sophomoric ideology. No comedy writer could draw up a better premise than a group of self-worshiping sociopaths who reject the idea of community…forming a community. An isolated one at that, completely devoid of effective regulation. After the enterprise (invariably named after some stupid Atlas Shrugged reference) fails spectacularly, the internet gets to feast on pictures of empty lots and half-built homes in Libertarian Paradise.
The latest such tale, of "Galt's Gulch" in Chile, takes it to the next level. It was your basic real estate scam, with one Heroic Individualist / developer organizing the effort and soliciting investors. These "extremely savvy investors" – actual words – handed over their nest eggs despite the contractual arrangements involved being essentially unenforceable.
Despite their rugged self-reliance and loathing of all government, the investors certainly were quick to run back to the U.S. to start filing lawsuits in Federal court. It's funny on so many levels.
So here's what is about to happen.
I am going to read (for the first time) and live-blog my reaction to a Batman-themed fan fiction / slash porn piece that one of my friends sent me for the expressed purpose of horrifying me. It is entitled "Go Your Own Way" and included in the "Jim Gordon/Bruce Wayne" section of a part of the internet that I can only assume includes every conceivable combination of fictional characters fucking and sucking one another in ways that normal people would not think about sitting down to write about using 43,000 words. I'm serious, it's 43,000 words long. I may not make it but I'm going to try.
Among the tags on this piece are "Daddy Issues," "Jim Gordon," and, helpfully, "porn".
The abstract, if that is the correct term, explains the author's motivation and concludes with the harrowing declaration / warning: "Again, not a lot of plot."
11:04 PM: Half way through chapter 1. The preface was accurate. The set-up here appears to be limited to "Gordon and Wayne are in the same place for a contrived reason of no real importance. They flirt in the manner that an author who has never spoken to another person in a social situation would imagine flirting sounds like. Wayne has a semi; Gordon is intrigued. Soon they will plow each other." Even by the lowered standards of what I was expecting this is not very good, and honestly I kinda just want them to ram it in already because this dialogue is painfully boring to read.
11:09 PM: "I didn't mean to pry," Wayne said. He had, but Gordon didn't bother disputing him. "You might as well come in, since you're here."
I hope I die soon.
11:10: "The bedroom, with its single bed, because that was all he needed, and the chest of drawers that was one half of what had been a set. "Cozy," Wayne said, looking at the bed."
Oh, I get it. Foreshadowing. Because they're gonna bone.
11:14: They've barely gotten into it and they're already calling one another "good boy" and "bad boy." This is gonna be rough. (Double entendre).
11:15: Yeah they're doing it now. Lots of cop allusions and talk about restraints and cuffs and everything else you might expect your average Batman / Fanfic / Chronic Masturbation enthusiast to include in a story like this. Just for reference there was about 8 seconds of foreplay. Maybe 10. It is basically "They kissed, and then grabbed each other's dicks."
11:18: The sex was over in like 11 seconds. This author may have a highly unsatisfying sex life. Also, when Bruce Wayne was blowing Gordon, Gordon was thinking about Batman. That's some deep shit right there.
11:20: 90 seconds of banal conversation, then Wayne blurts out "Ready for another fuck?" I…
11:21: "Wayne's jeans were still open. He'd never fastened them, and with one hand he was somehow able to open the lube, spread it on his hand, and finger himself, all while still kissing Gordon." Spoken like a man who has never had sex before, and possibly has never had hands.
11:23: Oh good, Gordon just called him "son." While banging him. Jackpot!
11:25: "Even the fact he'd thought of Batman when Wayne was sucking him off last night didn't bother Gordon. After all, it hadn't been Batman's pointy hat or swirly cape or man of mystery appeal, or even his bravery and all he stood for."
11:26: Wayne and Gordon are having a conversation about Pasta Roni, which is a code word for fucking each other. See, Gordon wants to go out to a "cheap, quick, and dirty" Italian place, "just like (Bruce) likes". Wayne would rather go straight to Gordon's apartment for what I assume will be another thrilling 18 seconds of old man sex.
11:29: 'Gordon's hand tightened. "Ask it nice."'
11:30: Gordon has an emotionally charged moment and reminisces about his ex-wife whilst kneeling on his kitchen floor. The trigger for this was the smell of Batman's ballsack. Rich people have the most fragrant nuts.
I mean, you know how it goes. One minute you're inhaling balls-aura and the next you're like, man, remember that time I was married to a woman?
11:32: Bruce Wayne is rock hard again approximately 30 seconds after completion of a sex act with Mr. Gordon. Bruce Wayne has some special powers indeed.
11:34: Gordon and Wayne exchange several lines of dialogue marveling at the snugness of the former's asshole. This is approximately as erotic as reading the phone book, albeit less interesting.
11:41: OK the fifth chapter makes it apparent that this has settled into a very mundane formula. Gordon is working and Wayne appears. They have lunch. They fuck. Gordon pretends he is Bruce's dad. Lube is sparingly applied and occasionally forgotten by the author. Phrases like "But he did see Wayne the next night. They had sex. They didn't have Pasta Roni." are used.
I'm done. I don't have seven more chapters of this in me. I suspected that I might be gripped by a range of feelings and emotions while reading this but I did not expect that overwhelming boredom would be one of them. For christ's sake, he at least could have worn the Batman costume or they could have double-teamed Bane or something. Maybe picked up some drifter. Broken out the toys. Anything, really. Anything other than having lunch, talking about noodles, and then pushing each other around like a wheelbarrow.
If anything happens in chapters six through twelve, let me know.
PS. You'll be pleased to know that Commissioner Gordon is a stickler for condoms.
The first time one teaches a college class comes with no meaningful preparation. In most graduate programs there is a one-semester lip service course on pedagogy that ostensibly exists to teach teaching; in reality it is the graduate version of a blow-off course and it mostly imparts crucial lessons like "Don't fuck the students" and "Make a syllabus." To say the least, teaching (as the instructor, not as a teaching assistant) for the first time is largely a "jump in an hopefully you'll figure out how to swim" affair. Accordingly the first year or two in the classroom ranges from awful to barely adequate depending on one's natural abilities. The learning curve is steep.
Among the most common mistakes we make at the beginning is creating a course that is far more difficult than the undergraduates expect. We start out naively assuming that undergrads are like we were as undergrads. They're not; we were nerds. We were the 1% of undergraduates who care about the material enough to consider graduate school and a life in academia. The other 99% are somewhere on the continuum between ambivalent and totally uninterested. We expect that the students read the assigned readings (They don't). We expect that they learned certain things in high school (They didn't). We expect that when we tell them something in a lecture, often multiple times, they will remember it (They won't). We expect that they will study for exams and spend more than a few hours on a research paper (Probably not). The preceding may not be true if you are lucky enough to teach at some elite institution. For the vast majority of us, though, the early teaching experiences shock us to accept the reality that many undergraduates had a woeful K-12 education and/or they have very little interest in excelling academically.
So we adjust. We reduce the amount of material we attempt to cover and vary what we do in the classroom until we find what appears to work for the students. We concoct ways to force the students to keep up with the reading. We account for the fact that some freshmen wander into an American government course without knowing that "legislative branch" refers to Congress and that Democrats are more liberal than Republicans. We analyze data on our own exams and assignments and make adjustments where the students haven't done well. We like to think that we improve as teachers and make the class better, and certainly most of us do continually improve. But let us not kid ourselves: compared to our initial teach experiences, we make the classes easier. This is both practical – We don't want to explain why our class of 40 had 33 F's – and necessary, as students deserve a class that is at the appropriate level, which varies greatly by type of school and student population.
Eventually we reach a point at which we can't make the class any easier. More accurately, we won't. As one of my colleagues is fond of saying, "The only way I could assign any less reading would be to assign none." Eventually you have to struggle with the question of what is the minimum necessary for something to be called a college course at an institution that attempts to maintain academic standards. You look at the topics covered and decide that nothing else can be pared away while still doing the intended scope of the course justice. You look at the exam questions and assignments and decide that you simply can't make them any easier, simpler, or less time consuming. You look at what you present in class and come to the conclusion that this is as basic as it's going to get.
It's an unpleasant moment when you reach that point and find that the students' performance is still not where you would like it to be. The remaining explanations are that the students simply cannot succeed in a true college-level course or that you are a very poor teacher. Personally, I never wanted to find myself rooting for either of those options. And the tendency of the system is to either make excuses for the students and blame everything on the teacher or vice-versa with little middle ground.
This post is not one where the story is resolved at the end. These are questions we never stop asking – what can I do to be better, and if I'm not the problem then what can I do to fix it?
The internet was afire on Monday with the baffling Urban Outfitters Kent State sweatshirt featuring the university name and logo with a splatter of blood. Get it? Because the school is best known for the National Guard shooting in 1970? Hi-larious.
As a fan of the non-pology, what the company released later in the day after the item went viral was nothing short of spectacular. This may be the crappiest excuse for an apology in the history of human language.
Urban Outfitters sincerely apologizes for any offense our Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt may have caused. It was never our intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State in 1970 and we are extremely saddened that this item was perceived as such. The one-of-a-kind item was purchased as part of our sun-faded vintage collection. There is no blood on this shirt nor has this item been altered in any way. The red stains are discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray. Again, we deeply regret that this item was perceived negatively and we have removed it immediately from our website to avoid further upset.
This is the Sistene Chapel of the "We are sorry that you got mad" genre. It may be imitated but never will it be equaled.
It's just a faded vintage sweatshirt. It happens to have a Kent State logo and it happens to have some stains that look exactly like blood. Also some holes. Totes coincidence.
Most of my friends live in cities. Real cities. Places where people read books and have hopes and dreams. Little bubbles that seal out most of the things urbanites know to be true about Real America, things from which they want to hide. I am intensely jealous of all of these people, because it has been my experience that most of the things people assume about the Bush Voter parts of America are true. I live among people who wear American flag hats and "These Colors Don't Run" t-shirts unironically. In 2014.
If you ever want to lose your will to live completely, go to the opinion section of the last remaining newspaper in some cow town that has been in decline since the Eisenhower years. The kind of place where the remaining population consists of anyone too old or too poor to leave. Then read the letters to the editor. You may want to have a few drinks first. You sure as hell will by the time you're done.
While FJM Treatment is usually reserved for professional writers – or at least people who have been paid to write things when "professional" seems like a stretch – but I found a fantastic specimen of what life is like out here in the provinces and I want those of you who live in not-horrible places to experience it with me. This is what it's like. This is why we're fucked.
The column is called "A thanks for subsidizing local government we don’t use?" which seems grammatically askew no matter how many times I read it. My first inclination was to file this under Too Stupid to Merit a Response, but I want you all to share my pain. This is what passes for thinking out here.
I recently paid my property tax for this year.
Nothing foreshadows a journey into Glenn Beck's fever dreams like an opening line about property taxes. And there's very little that benefits the public discourse more than white people pissing and moaning about them.
We knew when we moved from California to Illinois that politically, we would be just exchanging one bad state for another.
Leaving only the question of why you would move here, then. Why not move to some kind of low-tax paradise like Mississippi? Brownbackistan? Somalia? From what I hear Somalia has no property taxes at all. Largely on account of Somalis having no property. And the absence of functioning government.
We had been warned about the oppressive tax system in Illinois. It took my breath away as I wrote out that check, but it also got me to thinking about where our hard-earned money was going.
Well since you identified yourself as a "stay-home mom" in the tagline, technically you didn't earn any money. You know. If we're splitting hairs. Also, guys…I can't emphasize enough how pitiful the property taxes are in this burnt out husk of a city. It's the absolute middle of nowhere, every part of the local government is essentially broke, and the school districts are straight out of an NPR story about poverty.
This is what I found.
Under threat of losing our home and property, we were forced to give a ridiculous amount of money to the local government school system that we do not participate in.
Once again: Somalia! No threat of losing your home or property! No taxes! Paradise!
And this is the exciting part. Which way are we going to "do not participate in" – old person with no children or homeschool fanatic? Let this picture of the author guide you as you try to predict the next twist.
Yeah. I think you see where we're going here.
I would like a hearty thank you from those families that contribute little to the education of their own children. Your children are getting a sub-par education on the backs of the elderly and families who privately or home educate their children.
I love this shit. Love it. These doorknobs choose to brainwash their children at home rather than sending them to school and they expect the law to contort itself around their choice. Because that's what it is: a choice. You could send your kids to the schools your taxes pay for, or you can keep them home and teach them that the Earth is 4000 years old and a bunch of other made up crap. Wingnuts love to ask why they should have to pay for everyone else's choices. Well, why does the state have to change the law because of yours?
Oh, right. Because Jesus and freedom and you are an intensely stupid person.
I also found that I am paying a nice sum to the local junior college. Really? No one in our home is currently attending Illinois Central College.
I FOUND OUT THAT MY TAXES GO TO THE FIRE DEPARTMENT, AND NONE OF MY PROPERTY IS EVEN ON FIRE! CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT! HIGHWAY ROBBERY!
*picks corn from own feces*
We home educate our children and do not expect nor want the government to pay for our children’s education. It is my responsibility, not the community’s. Again, a thank you would be appreciated. Or better yet, how about some personal responsibility? Give me back my money!
Thank you for choosing to make sure your kids turn out just as stupid as you. They can do things like write idiotic letters to the editor and think they're making good arguments when suggesting that taxes should essentially be voluntary. Let me tell you, that's genius.
For the taxes we pay to keep the library open, I would like smiles on the faces of the librarians. I now feel obligated to go to the library since I’m paying so much to keep it open.
Not to rub it in, but once again, the author's annual income is $0. "You're" not paying jack to keep it open. And this statement might be the most explicit and best example of the incredibly inflated sense of self-importance of the teabagging crowd. They're like adult-sized infants. Me, me, me. My wants are the most important. My contributions to society are so important that people should literally kiss my ass in gratitude when I pass.
Hope the library has picture books.
Pleasure Driveway PKD? I had to look it up. Not only do I have to pay taxes to this fund, but I still have to pay to get into the zoo or the RiverPlex. I appreciate a good park, but it’s absurd to pay this amount. Maybe a plaque should be hung at each park stating that this is funded by taxpayers who pay at least one paycheck per year to keep this open.
The RiverPlex is free and I'm pretty goddamn sure that most sentient human adults do not need a plaque to tell them that public facilities are paid for by tax dollars.
Can't help but love the "I'm not unreasonable, I object to the absurdity of the size of the tax burden" statements. First, there is no level of taxes above zero that this dingbat would not spend the vast majority of her life bitching about. Second, what is a reasonable amount to pay in taxes? We should probably just send everyone a blank form and have them write in an amount they have determined to be appropriate based on the voices in their head and how much they hate black people.
I should get bus passes for the amount we are paying to mass transit.
The bus costs a fucking dollar. One dollar, with free transfers. Also if this garbage bag of meat has ever been on public transit in her life I'll donate $1000 to her favorite charity, which is probably something that provides legal defense to abortion clinic bombers.
I am sure that many homeowners never see their property tax bill, but I think that it would behoove them to take a moment and see where that large chunk of money is actually going.
What? They mail it to you. You don't have to answer three riddles to get it. It's not balanced atop a greased flagpole. It's not written in a dead language. It comes in the mail and you open it and there's words and numbers.
Peoria residents may have voted in some of these taxes, but did they understand that if they didn’t pay them, they could lose the very house that they have worked years to buy?
No, they voted for these taxes assuming that they would never have to pay them or they could pay however much they want, and that there would be no consequences to deciding not to follow the law. The author apparently does not understand what a law is and projects that assumption onto everyone else. This is classic right wing vitriol – "Everything I say suggests that I haven't the slightest goddamn idea how government works or what it does, but I know it's terrible and everything it does is wrong."
Heather Olsson is a stay-at-home mother of seven.
Congratulations, you can have unprotected sex. You might find that money is a little less tight if you don't reproduce like a cockroach. Then again we've already established that the rest of society is supposed to accommodate your choices, right?
If this is the real America then America is an embarrassment. As someone who teaches college undergraduates I thought I was immune to being shocked by how wildly full of themselves some people can be despite having no skills, motivation, or accomplishments whatsoever. I was wrong.