intertribal: (Default)
I'm back in DC.  Lugged my overweight (by two pounds! but that made it 52 pounds) suitcase through the metro system, including a mistaken early exit at the Archives station - always forget there's a station between L'Enfant Plaza and Gallery Place.  This is how my roommates greeted me:
  • Jordan: hug.
  • Aaron: hiding in my room and jumping out when I walked in, causing me to scream uncontrollably.
  • Byron: nod.
That pretty much sums up my roommates, right there.

My efforts to take a class at Georgetown to avoid taking a class with an unmentionably bad professor at my own university may have been foiled by an over-anxious Georgetown professor who wants to make sure his students (alas!) don't get shut out of their own school's class.  As I try to reconcile myself to taking the class at my home university, I get an email from Lincoln warning me, in all-caps, not to take unmentionably bad professor.  And then I think to myself, wow, this matters so little in the long run, so very very little.  Yet I spend an hour - after watching an episode of Real World: St. Thomas ("Wow, it's amazing how everyone paired up this season," I said, looking at Jordan, "it's so unusual."  And the result of everyone pairing up, incidentally?  Self-harm, alcoholism, and homophobia.) and an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia ("The Gang Gets A New Member," a guy who ends up being too awesome and self-confident for them, essentially, and gets kicked back out) - trying to find a new class, somewhere, anywhere, that has something to do with Asia.

When I went back to my room Idris left me a message on facebook: Dear Nadia, please pick up your phone.  Love, Idris.  So I called him back.  Halfway through our conversation, he says, "You sound absolutely nuts right now."

"Oh yeah?  Yeah, I've been sounding nuts for the past four months.  At least this time I'm not nuts in a bad way, you know, I'm not crying!"

It's dim in my room.  I need to get another lamp.
intertribal: (can we forget about the things i said)
My experiment with Mad Men is now over - it just got too depressing for me.  I have started devoting my couple hours of free time between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. (seriously) to Nip/Tuck, which so far I'm enjoying a lot more.  It's interesting, because they're ostensibly very similar shows - main characters are male professionals, there's a lot of emphasis on objectifying the female form and shallow facades (advertising, plastic surgery) - but whereas my reaction to Mad Men was "oh my God, I hate you all," my reaction to Nip/Tuck is "yeah, that's pretty much the way it is," and even though neither Troy and McNamara are anyone I want to know, I give them more leeway than I do anybody in Sterling Cooper.  I think it's a generational thing, though.  Like, which set of men and women are we taught to consider normal, or something like that.  Once again, I don't really like anyone (but ugh to McNamara's teenage son in particular), although I do have a strange fondness for Kimber and Julia.

I must say that I also enjoy the insanity and grotesqueness of Nip/Tuck.  And the music.  This is the full-length version of the opening theme - unsurprisingly, there's a ton of thinspo videos set to this song, but there's also a bunch of thinspo shit set to Radiohead's "Creep" and Fiona Apple's "Paper Bag," so whatever.  It makes me think of... well, grad school, but life in general if you're living in Go Getter World.  And I realize now that I am back in that world, and deeper in than I was as an undergrad because the emphasis now really is on becoming a full-grown yuppie, not just getting hot drunken pictures of yourself on Facebook (which is, I think, what it was in undergrad).  I kind of consider myself lucky that I fell into this job, even though I hate it and am fairly bad at it, because it hooks me up to the two professors who can connect me to anything/anyone in the very narrow field that I want to enter.  Hilariously I apparently decided to wed myself to this field in a matter of, oh, a month.  But I've sworn off government work as an option, so there you go.  I am left with think tanks.  I think I'm just kind of like, "okay, fuck it, Southeast Asia politics it is, fuckin' good enough."  My point is I don't necessarily feel like I have to struggle as hard as other people I know who are just starting to feel out a direction.  Of course, there is more to life in Go Getter World than having a well-connected job, as we all know, and I still feel pressure - "perfect soul, perfect mind, perfect face" - like whoa. 

Added: I think this pressure is also there for men in the grad program - obviously.  But it is different for women.  It's like we have to impress fucking everyone, all the time.

Also: It reminds me of whenever I'm asked "where else did you apply?" and I say that I chose AU over George Washington.  Even AU people don't get why I would, sometimes - why wouldn't you go for the better name, regardless of anything else?  And when I explain that GW didn't click with me, and AU did, I tend to get blank stares.  I usually have to add "well, AU is giving me way more money than GW would have..." before I get the "oh" of understanding.

intertribal: (fly girl)
I have been in DC for two weeks now.  So far I have:Oh shit.  The roof is leaking.  BRB.
intertribal: (book of black valentines)
1.  My mother and I are going through the basement.  She finds a manila envelope stuffed with old pictures from the 1940s-1960s of her nuclear family growing up.  The ones from the 1950s really do make them look like a "perfect American family" - tight-lipped but proud father, demure homemaker mother, and the older brother (my uncle) looks like he could be an athlete of some kind, tall with a crew cut and good-looking enough, and the younger sister (my mother) looks like a cute sunny little blonde girl with her hair in a ponytail.  It changes, though.  My uncle goes to college, becomes scrawny and awkward-looking in his journey toward becoming an English professor, and marries a homely blonde girl who looks too young to be pregnant in the late 1960s and he will eventually divorce when she gains too much weight.  My mother has an awkward period in middle school but she's really pretty around the time she's graduating high school, 1965.  She's got long dark hair that she's ironed straight and she's got this open, intelligent-looking face, like she's always thinking about something beyond the picture being taken.  Sort of a Colleen Corby type.  This is the time when she discovered atheism, tried to dismantle the pep club despite being its president, and decided to go to a hippie college (Antioch).  As I'm admiring one of the pictures, she points to the dress she's wearing and says, "That yellow dress.  That's what I wore when I did this pageant thing."  I'm all, "A pageant?" and she's like, "Yeah, I stood up there and sang a Bob Dylan song and played my guitar.  'The Times They Are A-Changin'', I think."

2.  After a dinner I spend quizzing her about my dad's political beliefs, my mother gives me a copy of my dad's political science dissertation.  She pulls out an entire magazine file.  The papers are wrapped in plastic, but this isn't a bound copy.  I'm like, "That whole thing?"  Yep.  It's 700 pages.  700 pages.  My mother's never read it, and she doesn't even know she's in the acknowledgments until I read it to her - "my friends at Cornell University, especially" (my mother).  It was submitted in 1983, so they were already in a relationship.  The dissertation is called State and Society: Indonesian Politics Under the New Order (1966-1978).  The theory among my dad's family and my mother is that he got the Fulbright to go to the U.S. because he was involved in student activism in the 1970s and dating a disapproving military leader's daughter, and "they" wanted to get rid of him.  God knows, though - that's how the mythology goes, anyway.  I'm reading the introduction and holy crap, it is dense.  It's an incredible contrast to the Educational Administration dissertations I edit in my job, which are mind-numbingly boring and obvious and simple - I can't help but think my dad's dissertation could stand to be a little more understandable, maybe written a little more naturally, because as it is I have difficulty keeping all the concepts straight, and this is the introduction.  But I will do my best.  I remember trying to read this in high school and just giving up because I didn't understand the words, pretty much.  Now I know the political science terminology, and I have at least heard of the people he's talking about, so I have a better shot.  The dedication page reads:
To those who suffer in
their struggle to reduce
human misery
3.  Back in the basement, my mother is going through a stack of books, some of which are ours, some of which came from God Knows Where.  She picks up a big red hardcover and says incredulously, "A hymnal?"  Incredulous because she's still an atheist.  I'm like, "Oh, I might want it," because I was just looking through online copies of The Lutheran Hymnal the other day for use in my novel, and my mother's all my-kid's-weird-but-whatever, and I say, "What religion?" and she says, "Lutheran."  So of course I start screaming "YES!" ecstatically, and my mother realizes it's for the novel and then we're both laughing in triumph.
intertribal: (baby got an alibi)
Jon Krakauer has produced an investigative expose of Greg Mortenson and his memoirs about building schools in Afghanistan, Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into Schools (available for free at byliner until April 20th).  Krakauer seems mostly pissed off because the dramatic story was used to solicit donations for the Central Asia Institute - Krakauer gave them $75,000, and Obama gave them $100,000 - and there are now questions about fraudulent financial statements and misuse of CAI funds by Mortenson, as well as falsehoods about how many schools have been built. 

Three Cups of Deceit is pretty short (89 pages).  The first chapter is about inaccuracies in the "creation myth," as Krakauer calls it, about how he found this village that he pledged to build a school in (let's call it dramatic embellishment - what's worse is that he backed out of a promise to build a school in the village he actually went to post-K2, and then accused them of greed in his book for trying to hold him to the promise).  What's most aggravating is that Mortenson apparently portrayed a friendly visit to a Pakistani village where Mortenson was treated like the guest of honor as a Taliban kidnapping.  I mean, if that's so, that's not mixing up dates or locations - it's slandering a whole village of people, mislabeling photos of them as being of their "sworn enemies," etc.  Krakauer writes:
A preponderance of evidence indicates that Mortenson manufactured his account of being kidnapped by the Taliban out of whole cloth, apparently for the same reason he’s invented so many other anecdotes of personal derring-do in his books and public appearances: to inflate the myth of Greg Mortenson, “the astonishing, uplifting story of a real-life Indiana Jones and his remarkable humanitarian campaign in the Taliban’s backyard,” as the back cover of Three Cups of Tea puts it. The likelihood that anyone in the United States would ever discover the truth about what happened in an exceedingly isolated Pakistani village must have seemed infinitesimal to Mortenson.
If that's true, that's gross.  One of the people he's portrayed as a Taliban kidnapper says: "“Years later,” says Naimat Gul, “when I scanned through the book Three Cups Of Tea and read that Greg had been abducted and threatened with guns, I was shocked. Instead of telling the world about our frustration, deprivation, illiteracy, and tradition of hospitality, he invented a false story about being abducted by savages. I do not understand why he did this.”"  Mortenson has implied in reply that those who have contradicted his story are those who "do not want our mission of educating girls to succeed." 

The second chapter is about a lack of communication between Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute's board, lying in the book about turning down raises when he actually got even bigger raises, more making up stories about real people, using CAI "as his personal ATM," and generally being an egomaniac.  Particularly hilarious:
According to one of Mortenson’s friends, when he learned that Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love had bumped Three Cups of Tea from number one down to number two on the New York Times paperback nonfiction list, “Greg was furious. He started buying books like crazy, with the CAI credit card, to try and put Three Cups back on top.”
Krakauer estimates CAI's actual budget to be 50% fundraising and administrative funds, as opposed to the 15% they claim goes to fundraising and administrative funds on their web site (because they count book advertising and charter jets as program funds, not fundraising and administrative funds). 

Then in chapter 3, more lying about places in Afghanistan ("The most troubling irony is that the focal region of Mortenson’s work—the Shia region of Baltistan with its Tibetan-Buddhist heritage—has nothing to do with the war on terror, yet is primarily viewed through this lens in [Three Cups of Tea]."), abandoning schools after the physical building has been built, short of supplies or teacher training ("The statement about students learning five languages is absolutely false, says a CAI staffer, “not even true for a single school.” Most teachers, this staffer also reports, have never received any training from CAI."), simply lying about the existence of some schools, CAI filling in the many holes in their expense accounting, not listening to what the needs of the area are ("Their rationale for ranking clinics above schools, Callahan explains, was the appalling infant mortality rate in the Pamir. As one Kyrgyz elder told him, “If 50 percent of the children die before age five, who is there to educate?”"), driving away talented people at CAI, more lying about actual people, and unforeseen consequences:
The Afghan government provides a teacher who holds classes inside a yurt right in his camp, he pointed out, “so why would our children want to walk all the way down there to go to school, and then have to walk back up at the end of the day? The school is pointless. It’s empty. The border police seem to use it sometimes.”
Defrauding people is one thing - and an important thing, because of the bad name it gives to altruism and the betrayal of people's trust, etc. - but for me, the worst part is the creation of villains and danger, essentially just to make the plot more exciting, and slandering various remote but real people and communities to do so.  And then there's the role Mortenson plays in the greater U.S. narrative. 

And, this is my other issue.  My personal opinion is that Krakauer is right to call Mortenson's central argument - that increasing secular education in places like Afghanistan will discourage and eliminate terrorism - "uncomplicated."  It's part of a package of basic liberal common sense, and goes along with the health clinics mentioned above.  Everybody agrees that education and healthcare are good antidotes to the "primitivity" of terrorism.  And hey, education and healthcare can't hurt, from a basic standard of living perspective.  Then some people add economic development and other people add democracy and suddenly what cures terrorism is for "them" to be more like "us."  Which... seems kind of circular.  Education doesn't stop the U.S. from bombing weddings, doesn't close Guantanamo Bay, doesn't cut small arms supplies from Militant A to help fight Militant B.  But those are things that Mortenson's argument allow us not to think about.  Although I don't agree with Mark Juergensmeyer that secularism has created terrorism, he does have a much more nuanced understanding of terrorism-in-society, and his book is a decent antidote to this line of thought.  This facet of liberalism doesn't seem to have changed since the Dutch were trying to justify colonizing Indonesia with the Ethical Policy.  And basically, I just don't think it's enough.  Saying off-handedly that "oh, education will solve it" basically implies that properly-educated people are above this foolish behavior and there's no need to look at the behavior any deeper, because it'll just die out on its own when we hit them over the head with our logic hard enough.  Again... I don't buy it. 

I think this is particularly important:
“The way I’ve always understood Greg,” Callahan reflects, “is that he’s a symptom of Afghanistan. Things are so bad that everybody’s desperate for even one good-news story. And Greg is it. Everything else might be completely fucked up over there, but here’s a guy who’s persuaded the world that he’s making a difference and doing things right,” Mortenson’s tale “functioned as a palliative,” Callahan suggests. It soothed the national conscience. Greg may have used smoke and mirrors to generate the hope he offered, but the illusion made people feel good about themselves, so nobody was in a hurry to look behind the curtain. Although it doesn’t excuse his dishonesty, Mortenson was merely selling what the public was eager to buy.
intertribal: (baby got an alibi)
It's budget cutting time at the university, and while majors, faculty positions, staff positions, departments, and structures are being eliminated, the coach of the men's basketball team - which hovers somewhere between "appalling" and "merely embarrassing" in league play - has received a $100,000 raise to a salary of $900,000 each year.  Nebraska actually does a little better than most universities in this regard, because the athletic department supposedly doesn't receive university subsidies and never ends up "in the red," because wealthy Nebraskans have their priorities straight.  But, substitute Nebraska for almost any other NCAA-member school and you've got essentially a money drain that's untouchable

My mother was complaining about this disparity and I said, "Well, you know what the athletic department is, right?  It's the Department of Defense."

The analogies are actually kind of fun.  We've got this department that supposedly generates enough revenue to make up that spending - tickets and merchandise, war - but maybe doesn't, and it's built on the backs of young men (and some young women) and fancy gear and armor, and fuck those young men and women when they leave the department.  If they're not strong enough, then they're on their own.  Oh, and the department's got a lot of cheering, waving fans. 
intertribal: (Default)
Leaving at 5 a.m. tomorrow to visit two grad schools in D.C.  Feel ridiculously nervous about it even though I've already been admitted, so I'm the one doing the deciding, not the schools.  More nervous about how I will like them than anything else, hoping that I don't find out anything horrible and don't have any more reason to second-guess my not-applying to other schools (but I know why!  bad curriculum fit!  don't want to be back in New York!), and I can happily accept an offer and send back the waitlist form I got from the school I didn't get into (which, even if I got in off the waitlist, I'd almost certainly have no funding, so that's not really an option).  Kind of can't believe that I have to get off the plane and go straight to the information session, tour, appointments, class observation, etc., but all that means is I can pretend to be a business traveler for two days with all the rest of the people on my plane.  But I'm going on a fact-finding mission!  Hope I remember my questions.  Hope they are nice.  Hope I'm pleasantly surprised and don't have to mourn too much.  Really, just a lot of hope. 

Coming back late late Thursday night.  Hope the "snow" doesn't cause any problems.  It'll be raining the entire time I'm there.  Haha.
intertribal: (sit down shut up)
Daniel Hemmens of FerretBrain on teaching history in British schools:
Simon Schama observed recently that British school students were missing out on “vast tracts” of our nation's past. Now this is the kind of thing that the mail loves. Nothing suits a British tabloid better than a WE ARE FAILING OUR CHILDREN story, particularly if it can be coupled with a LEFTIES DON'T LOVE OUR COUNTRY ENOUGH story.

What's ironic about this whole thing (and I confess here that I'm overgeneralising for comic effect) is that Schama's proposed changes to the syllabus – replacing an obsession with “Hitler and the Henries” with a syllabus that looks at less iconic, more significant elements of British History – are exactly the kind of thing which I would expect to get Mail readers up in arms.

History teaching in this country is by all accounts a mess, but how could it not be? Ask the average passer-by or Have-Your-Say commenter about History teaching, and you'll get a thousand different variants on the same answer: “I Am Outraged That Children Today Do Not Learn The Exact Same Subset Of History I Learned When I Was At School.”

History – and I confess I may be showing my science-student bias here – is not like mathematics or physics where the subject has a natural structure (it is, for example, clearly impossible to study calculus before one studies algebra, or to learn about accelerated motion before one learns about motion with a constant velocity). History is a vast interconnected mass and to some extent every part of it illuminates every other part. Obviously studying the First World War helps with the study of the Second World War, and studying the Age of Empire would help with the study of both, but unless you just study the whole of history in chronological order starting from the birth of Abraham you've got to just – well – pick stuff.

The problem with history teaching – indeed with our whole understanding of history – is that we take particular dates, events, and facts to be talismanic. Little Shibboleths of Britishness we can use to distinguish ourselves from dirty foreigners or poor people. Even I, though I fancy myself immune to these kinds of lazy thought-pattern, would be a little shocked if I met somebody who had been educated in this country and did not know what happened in 1066, although if pressed I would be hard put to explain why the Battle of Hastings (October 14th 1066) was more significant than the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944-January 1945), the Battle of Watling Street (AD 60 or 61), or the Battle of Thermopylae (480BC).

In fact thinking about it, the most damning thing about this attitude to history is that if you ask somebody “what happened in 1066?” the answer you expect is “the Battle of Hastings” and not, for example, “the Battle of Stamford Bridge” which happened the same year, was part of the same sequence of events, and is as much a part of understanding the fall of Harold Godwinson and the Norman Conquest as its more famous counterpart. But nobody cares about the Battle of Stamford Bridge, because it's not one of the tickboxes for “knowing about history”.

For reference, here are Schama's recommendations for the elements of British History that any fule should no:
  • The Murder of Thomas Beckett (1170)

  • The Black Death (1348-1350) and the Peasants' Revolt (1381)

  • The Execution of King Charles the First (1649)

  • The British in India (1700s to 1900s)

  • The Irish Wars (1850 to 1909)

  • The Opium Wars (1839-1860)
Now I have two things to say about this list of events. Check that, three things. Firstly, I don't remember learning about any of them at school (especially not the icky colonial ones) although I think the “History of the Troubles” might have been one of the options that nobody did for GCSE. Secondly, I'm still pretty woefully ignorant about most of these – my understanding of the murder of Thomas Beckett comes almost exclusively from that one episode of Blackadder, and my knowledge of the execution of King Charles the First comes entirely from the Monty Python Oliver Cromwell Song. Thirdly, this is clearly a history syllabus designed by an actual historian.

Looking at Schama's list, what you see is a mixture of topics, some very specific (like the Murder In The Cathedral) and some very extended (like our presence in India) all of which combine to show the history of Britain as it really was – vast and complicated and with quite a lot of parts we should be rather ashamed of. It's a History syllabus that focuses not on dates and names and endless lists of bloody monarchs but on what history is really all about: the causes and consequences of events in the real world.

Schama's proposed History syllabus tells a profoundly complex and subtle story, the story of Britain's evolution from absolutist monarchy to the modern day via revolution and Empire. It deals with the interaction of Church and State, popular revolts both successful and unsuccessful, and the role of the country in the wider context of global history. It also confronts some of the darkest moments in our history, instead of just teaching schoolchildren how Winston Churchill beat the Nazis more or less single handed. It's an excellent syllabus, there's no two ways about it.

But if we taught it, we'd have to stop teaching something else. We'd have to cut back on the more superficial, more iconic elements of History and if we did that, then I have a sneaking suspicion that ten years from now the Daily Mail would be expressing outrage at how few of our schoolchildren could name the six wives of Henry the Eighth.
intertribal: (scully; the x-files)
I was watching the Law & Order series finale.  It was a pretty intense episode, about a blog that posts threats of shooting up a school.  I thought the twist was pretty neat-o for Law & Order, and I was certainly tense at the end.  The NYTimes has a good write-up of it, and I agree that the Department of Ed. and teachers' unions probably won't be pleased by how they were presented - on the other hand, I also thought the episode was a little too soft on teachers as the totally innocent victims of crazy, lying, psychopathic teenagers.  I mean, in the context of things like this.  I know some children can be cruel, but...

Jesus Christ, all I talk about is educational administration.  I'm sorry.

Anyway, I thought the NYTimes dude had some good points to make about L&O: The Original Series:
The acting on “Law & Order” in recent seasons has been at a level far above that on “Lost” and “24,” shows often singled out for their performances. More mystifying — or galling — has been reading the weepy comments about how much the complex characters of “Lost” will be missed. Elaborate back stories don’t make characters any less two-dimensional. The police and prosecutors of “Law & Order” may have spent most of their time in dingy offices and had no personal lives to speak of, but we’ll likely miss them more in the long run than the hothouse heroes of those other shows. That’s what happens when you focus on the writing and the acting for, say, 20 years.
That's of course subject to taste.  I also liked this commentator ACW's comment:
What made L&O work was that for the most part it was NOT about the characters. With the notable exception of Lenny Briscoe, with his past drinking problem and his bitter and eventually doomed daughter, L&O episodes mostly kept out of the personal lives of the characters and concentrated on the cases and the issues they raised.

This is as it should be; when you are at work, do you spend all your time, as it often seems in other shows, swapping witty banter and/or intimate bodily fluids with your co-workers? (That is, between fist-fights and shoot-outs.)...  Which is not to say the characters were stick figures. The actors fleshed out the characters by inhabiting them, and their performances told us more, subtly, about the characters than any expository dialogue could - which made them real, and which also explored the issues by portraying plausible reactions by intelligent people.
Best scene of the episode though was definitely Jack McCoy putting the beatdown on the teachers' union rep.  Not because it was the teachers' union rep so much as because Jack ends up screaming in righteous rage, and Jack has always been my favorite character.  Totally not ashamed to say that Jack/Sam Waterston's politics MAY have played a role in influencing mine, at least in high school.  The courtroom scenes that stick with me the most are from "Gunshow" and "Vaya Con Dios," neither of which appear on the internet.  But have this one:

It's like a combined Fuck Yeah! and Fuck You! moment.  Anyway, Jack is awesome
intertribal: (i drink it up)
How cool is my alma mater high school, yo?
Several Lincoln East High School students were suspended Wednesday for making or distributing fake "green cards" thrown onto the field after the championship soccer game against Omaha South.

Sixty percent of Omaha South's students are Latino -- and the green cards were an apparent reference to immigration status.

East administrators have talked with administrators at Omaha South. They also have talked with students who accepted the cards, stressing they are just as culpable for condoning the actions of those distributing them, Cassata said. And, they talked to a couple of students who waved American flags because the flags hadn't been present at other soccer games.
I shouldn't have to note that East is the high school that has the second-lowest percentage of minority students, and the lowest percentage of students who qualify for Free/Reduced Lunch.  In other words, it's the old rich white high school.  Bonus from the assistant principal, who used to be my biology teacher who advocated creationism, and also got a veteran history teacher fired for showing Baghdad E.R. (HDU show injured soldiers!):
"We saw absolutely zero green cards during the game, and we were extremely proud of our students," Mann said.
Yes, the moral of the story is to be proud of the students who didn't display green cards under threat of ejection from the game.  Wow!
intertribal: (i'm a hustler baby)
The Harvard Hoaxer case is a pretty amazing incident, really.  He's my age, guys!  Well, graduated high school the same year, anyway.  The "powerpoint" version:
  • When Mr. Wheeler, now 23, applied as a transfer student in 2007, for example, he sent along fabricated transcripts from Phillips Andover Academy and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In fact, he had graduated from a public high school in Delaware and had attended Bowdoin College, in Maine.
  • One tipoff could have been that M.I.T. does not give letter grades in the fall semester of freshman year, like the straight A’s that appeared on the grade report that Mr. Wheeler submitted. And the names of the four M.I.T. professors who wrote his glowing recommendations? The letters were fakes. And while the professors were real, each teaches at Bowdoin.
  • (As Harvard would later learn, he had been suspended from Bowdoin for “academic dishonesty,” according to the indictment.)
  • In September, when Mr. Wheeler began his senior year at Harvard, an English professor read his Rhodes scholarship submission and saw similarities between it and the work of a colleague. When confronted by Harvard faculty members, Mr. Wheeler remarked, “I must have made a mistake, I didn’t really plagiarize it,” according to Mr. Verner.
  • Mr. Wheeler left Harvard, rather than face an academic hearing. He then applied as a transfer student yet again, this time to Yale and Brown.
  • In February, Mr. Wheeler applied for an internship at McLean Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, in which he “provided fraudulent information regarding his credentials and student status at Harvard,” the hospital said in a statement.  In applying to Yale and Brown, though, he not only suggested he was a McLean employee, but also submitted a false letter of recommendation from the McLean official who had refused to hire him.
  • Officials at Caesar Rodney High School in Camden, Del., from which Mr. Wheeler graduated in 2005, said they were contacted in April by Yale admissions officials. Yale wanted to confirm that he was the class valedictorian (he was not, though he was in the top 10 percent of the class) and that his SAT scores were perfect (they were several hundred points lower.)
  • “It seemed out of character that the young man we knew would would try to pull off this type of hoax,” said Kevin Fitzgerald, the district superintendent, who was principal of Caesar Rodney when Mr. Wheeler attended.
His redacted resume, posted by The New Republic when he applied for an internship there.  It is quite nuts.  But in all honesty, how dumb is Harvard?  They apparently did not check to see that they gave two "prestigious writing prizes" and thousands of dollars of prize money to plagiarized submissions.  Come on!

These are the books he's the sole author of:
  • Mappings, Unmappings, and Remappings (In Progress): Critical work that has attempted to explain the experience of geographical and textual space in modern writing has focused predominantly on the map as an analytical tool of orientation that makes formal writing structures legible. My dissertation, however, articulates a positive and generative potential in the experience of getting lost. Disorientation, then, allows us to come to terms with the difficulty of modernist literature from the ground level—to view these works not as an abstraction seen from the “God’s eye” perspective that is implicit in most maps, nor a teleological outcome of the Enlightenment seen from retrospect. By restoring the experience of disorientation, I argue that getting lost becomes a radical discourse that reflects back to us how we orient ourselves—what we pay attention to as we move through physical space and how we construe meaning as we move through a text from page to page.
  • The Mapping of an Ideological Demesne (Under Review at Harvard UP): The massive proliferation, from the fifteenth through the seventeenth century, of technologies for measuring, projecting, and organizing geographical and social space produced in the European cultural imaginary an intense and widespread interest in visualizing this world and alternative worlds. As the new century and the Stuart era developed, poets and dramatists mediated this transformation in the form of spatial tropes and models of the nation. I examine the geographical tropes by which Tudor and Stuart writers created poetic landscapes as a mode of engagement with the structures of power, kingship, property, and the market. Accordingly, each of the texts that I examine betrays an awareness of writing as a spatial activity and space as a scripted category. The critical topographies that these writers created are maps of ideology, figural territories within which social conflict and political antagonism are put into play.
Dude likes maps.
intertribal: (every night i call your name)
[The job being: I'm a Project Assistant for a university professor who gets contracts from the state department of education to do research on whatever the department wants to know about.  Last year it was the transition to a new testing program.  This year's project, failing schools, is one I've been involved with the whole way.] 

I don't have an education background at all, and all of this is of course based on a sampling of Nebraska schools that are classified as failing in some way, and not meant to be conclusive.  

1.  Failing schools have "difficult" demographics.  Either there's a lot of minorities or there's a lot of poverty or both.  Indian schools fail almost by default in this state.  There is a crazy superintendent man who jumps from Indian school to Indian school, misusing funds and planning new buildings.  Research says you can't fix most schools that chronically fail. 

2.  Principals harbor a lot of pent-up rage toward Hispanic students that move, because they don't want to have to implement an ELL program and the students bring down their scores and then move away.  As a result, people will either build new school districts away from urban centers to stay away from all the minorities, or will force the minorities to stay in their own school district outside of the urban center.  And by urban center, I mean like, 20,000 people.  Some principals will tell Hispanic students to go to a different school.  This is actually illegal.  

3.  It feels like there are a lot of kids being placed in special education, especially in small rural schools.  Whether that's a jump in awareness, a jump in diagnoses, or a jump in actual prevalence of cases, I don't know.

4.  Most parents don't get involved except to complain, or so teachers say.  Many parents seem scarred by negative experiences when they were in school, and in any case are too tired from working thousands of shifts at finger-chopping meatpacking plants to sign little worksheets saying they read to their kids or checked their kids' progress.  In "diverse" schools, schools invite white parents to be a part of parent committees. 

5.  Older teachers mock younger teachers for being panicky or "too creative."  Younger teachers mock older teachers for having been there "since the building was built."  Everyone will say that there is collaboration in their school, but I seriously wonder, considering all the passive-aggressive stuff that comes out in interviews. 

6.  A lot of times students need to be bribed to try to do well on tests with pizza parties and cupcakes.  High school students. 

7.  Schools seem to think that an inability to do story problems in math can be solved by upping reading comprehension skills.  I can say for one that this would not have helped me. 

8.  Some teachers want to be part of a unified curriculum, and some teachers want to be able to do whatever they want.  If you bring up changes or research or anything, these latter teachers will say, "I've been teaching for X-years, I would hope that I know what I'm doing!"  Few are comfortable being assessed, critiqued, criticized, or judged in any way.  Principals say they assess teachers more than teachers say they are assessed.  Schools are distrustful of outsiders, especially outsiders from "the government."  Outsiders want the state to intervene in failing schools, possibly by firing principals that are judged to be ineffective, but neither the state nor the schools want this. 

9.  Education is something that the general public goes absolutely crazy on.  It's getting close to the level of abortion et al.  There's basically 3 perspectives: 1) "Public school is a black hole and public schools should receive no money.  Why should I have to give them my hard-earned tax dollars when I don't have kids/my kids go to my super awesome ["exclusive"] private school?" 2) "Stop blaming the socio-economic environment.  Tell those kids/teachers to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.  Motivate them harder!" 3) "I'm a teacher and I think you're being really mean to teachers, because they would give up body parts for their students and they love these kids more than their own parents love 'em and they are really trying the best they can!"  Most of the people with the loudest opinions do not actually have kids in public school.  See #4.

10.  There is a minimum proficiency that all students, regardless of poverty, ethnicity, English-speaking status, or special education status, are expected to reach for the school to not "fail."  It is the same standard for all these groups. 
intertribal: (fuck it all)
Some thoughts about the guy who flew a plane into an IRS building, killing himself and an IRS worker.  On the one hand he's a "hero" to the Stormfront people (natch) and random people on Facebook who quote Thomas Jefferson and say he's a real American patriot, etc.  On the other hand, he finishes his "manifesto" not with the line that the newspapers are quoting, "Well Mr. Big Brother IRS man… take my pound of flesh and sleep well," but this, "The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.  The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed."  He also calls Bush a "presidential puppet" with "cronies."  So are Stormfront and the "anti-tax movement" now also Communist and Bush-hating?  Because that might make them more interesting.

But they probably just didn't read the manifesto.

Meanwhile Littleton, CO just barely avoided another school shooting incident (but this time by a 32-year-old!), and a killer whale dragged a Sea World trainer under and thrashed her around until she died.  And I know I missed psycho biology professor who, until it was revealed she'd already killed her younger brother, attracted a shocking number of comments on the New York Times sympathizing with her killing three of her colleagues because the tenure system really sucks, yo.  Yep, just another day on Planet USA.
intertribal: (Default)
I get really tired of the argument that it's all right for kids' books to be social-norm-enforcing, poorly-made crap because "at least it gets kids reading."  Reading what?  Grown-up crap?  Ah, but it doesn't matter what they read, right, cuz it's all just about a word exercise - there's nothing contained in the story itself.  Oh no.  No message, direct or indirect or subliminal.  No moral of the story.  No push-nod toward a particular course of action, a particular sort of person, a particular status quo.  Nope, books are empty.  In one ear, out the other.  It's just the act of picking up a bound bundle of paper and looking at words and stringing them together to form a sentence.  Just like addition and subtraction.  A skill, if you'd like.  Girl A only reads Sweet Valley High books and she's intellectually better off than Girl B who doesn't read at all, just watches movies.


I know you want your kid to read.  But just because your kid doesn't like to read doesn't mean you should give them shit to read.  How does that make any goddamn sense?  You're basically saying your precious little pudding has no ability to understand complexity (or other people, or difficult situations...) and shouldn't even try.  And sure, parents should not "monitor" what their kids read or scan their Barnes & Noble purchases.  But should they have conversations about the books their kids are reading?  Yes.  Should they encourage their kids to challenge themselves?  Big Fucking YES.  

Disclaimer: I'm sure it can and has worked, the "gateway drug" method.  And there's nothing wrong with reading SVH or what-have-you.  I was into Goosebumps myself.  (I'll credit Goosebumps for getting me knee-deep in horror, but not reading.)  The problem is that "at least it gets kids reading" is used as a justification-of-shit defense that also functions as a your-critique-is-inherently-invalid card.  Somebody says, "Wow, this book presents a really bad image of people from other countries."  And somebody replies, "At least it gets kids reading!"  And the conversation ends.  (I would love to see this argument applied to The Turner Diaries or The Anarchist Cookbook).  Kind of like "support the troops!" and "it's for charity." 

Double Disclaimer: I never had to be coaxed to read when I was in elementary school (I was given easy-reading versions of Victorian children's lit), and I rarely did out-of-school reading in high school, but I always had hard books to read for class (I absolutely did not know what all words meant as I read them, and I almost threw The Sound And The Fury, The Crossing, Dubliners, Billy Budd, Orlando, Zorba the Greek, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and the entire works of Shakespeare into the fires of hell after reading their opening segments.  But you don't have to understand what each word/stylistic trick means to read and enjoy the story.  I'd like the story, so I'd read it again, and understand more.  I probably understood only 60% of the words in Blood Meridian.  So I never understood the whole "circle the words you don't know" approach to English class either.  Makes a little more sense in foreign language class, but not much).  My cousin's kid was one of those non-readers who only played video games, so the family pushed Harry Potter onto him, guns blazing.  He was okay with Harry Potter, mostly because of the movies.  Never moved onto anything else.
intertribal: (yes and)
My college's alumnae association (alumn-AE, you guys, alumn-AE!) just sent mass email wondering if our New Year's Resolutions were to quit smoking or lose weight (or perhaps reconnect with old friends?).  And also to inform us that the Philadelphia, Boston, and San Diego alumnae clubs were holding a wine tasting, wine and cheese party, and art gallery docent tour, respectively.

How the hell I managed to graduate from this school, I don't know.  

Also fuckin' everything is not cutting my way today.  I even took the WRONG CELLPHONE to work.  I need a reset button.  Fuck this. 

Also, another Nazi reference was found last night.  This time comparing the Dome to Auschwitz.  Oh yes--we went there.

Title from a comment in Kissing Suzy Kolber, of course.
intertribal: (Default)
The GRE has slain me, my brain is now mush.  But I'm happy with the results - I seem to have gotten exactly what I should have for my "goal programs," so... so far, so good.

intertribal: (here comes trouble)
It's actually pretty easy.

What I think is really interesting about students refusing to read an assigned book and everybody getting over-excited is why they refuse to read it.  Example:  I was friends with a girl in high school who refused to read Lord of the Flies because her older sister read it and got nightmares (this was a pretty tight-lipped, religious family), i.e., my friend was scared of Lord of the Flies.  In the case of Mari Mercado and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle's graphic sex (who knows, I haven't read it), the why is:
"It's not fair that I have to read something that I'm totally against," she said. "If I have to drop out of IB, that's something I have to do. I'm not going to read the book."

Marí acknowledged that some people might consider her closed-minded. But that's not her problem.

She wants to be able to live with herself.

"I read a lot. I'm an avid reader and I have an active imagination," she said. And when it comes to the passages she saw in her school assignment, "I'd rather not try to imagine it."
I get that she's a high schooler, but "It's not fair that I have to read something that I'm totally against"?  To me this implies that she thinks books are screeds/manifestos, and she shouldn't have to read anything whose "message" she objects to.  Which has always struck me as pretty odd as a pro-censorship argument, since it's usually sex or violence that's being objected to.  That's not really a message, it's a content issue.  She objects to phone sex?  I really doubt the book is a big argument for phone sex either.  And then there's the hyperbolic statement about being "able to live with herself."  It's not like anybody's making her perform phone sex, right?  She's just looking at words on a page?   Does she read the news about war or animal torture, I wonder (I'd give the example of history textbooks, but mine was so ridiculously and literally white-washed that I won't).  Reading something doesn't mean you've taken part in it, ya know.

But I'll tell you what, Mari: I'm not a big fan of graphic sex in books either, and I was an avid reader at your age too (at your age!  I sound so old).  Catch-22 is full of that shit, all from the perspective of military men.  I pretty much just ignored it, and Joseph Heller turned out to have written a really awesome, important book that really won't be remembered for its sex.  That's clearly not what Heller was most concerned with, and it's not where his writing packs its punch.  That comes at the end.  That comes when Heller finally shows us Snowden dying in the plane, when Nately dies, and finally when Aarfy rapes and kills a maid, and the military arrests Yossarian instead, for going AWOL.  It's actually one of the more bluntly moral books I've read.  And I would have missed out on it, and all its paradigm shifts, if I had refused to read it.  It's one of my favorite books now. 

As for your fear of imagining "it"... come on.  If you're seriously vividly "imagining" every word you read I'm surprised you have the time or focus to be the ultra-good student that this article says you are.  So either you've got some issues to work out, or you need to learn to SKIM, child, and not take everything you read so seriously.


May. 21st, 2009 06:53 pm
intertribal: (Default)

So, I just officially moved home, diploma and four suitcases in hand. My diploma's all in Latin... but I understand at least one phrase, "summa cum laude."

Pretty sure I'm going to get sick soon. Screaming babies on plane, Northwest Airlines is an inefficient bureaucracy, I keep misspelling inefficient. Apparently the cat is getting arthritis and my cousin has narcolepsy, and Nebraska's new awfully-designed license plates are causing a big local tiff.

And the real purpose of this post is to mention that my good old "Intertropical Convergence Zone" is a finalist for storySouth's Million Writers Award. "Intertropical Convergence Zone" promises to uphold traditional values and keep our nation safe, so go read it and vote for it! For a better America!

intertribal: (gasp!)
Completed the first part of graduation today.  I don't really know what to think.  I feel like I'm not ready for it to be over, as much as I've been wanting it to be over for the first four years. 

I have: 
- secured three recommendation letters that I won't use for the next 2 years
- sent that new external monitor back to Dell
- compiled a list of most-preferred laptops
- introduced my mother to Professor Cooley and Nell (the former of whom I'm afraid I'll really miss)
- tried sake for the first time (good!)
- gotten a year's supply of birth control
- listened to Hillary Clinton live (and cheered too loudly for her)
- packed 1 box and 1.8 suitcases (1.2 suitcases left)
- thoroughly freaked myself out
intertribal: (Default)
Chef Ramsay: Ben, what you've done, and your ambitions, you do seriously surprise me.
Ben: Thank you chef, I was hoping you'd see that.  I mean I give it all I've got.  Give you 110.
Chef Ramsay: You surprise me to how shit you are.

Also, Gordon Ramsay wears skull shirts - therefore, he's awesome.
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