Sunday, July 29, 2012

12th Night

glancing at my blog and saw i had something in 'draft', and this was it.  i must have planned to come back to it later in the week, and forgot it.  but '12th night' should never be forgotten....and this will do as it is;  i'm sure i'll have more to say about it in the future.....

april '12...tonight is my last Literary Foundations class of the term, and as always, the final work discussed is 'twelfth night.'  in my reckless youth, i beleived 'much ado' was shakespeare's best play, but after years of teaching 'twelfth night,'  nothing will ever convince me that it is possilbe for anything to be  better than this utterly exquisite play.  it's a heartache of a play, brilliant comedy though it is.  its very title is a giveaway:  though Pepys and others have grumbled that the plot has nothing to do with that  holiday, it totally mirrors it.  we've had our weeks of fun and joy, of romance and resurrection,  of seas that swallow souls up and then gently push them to shore unscathed. this is now ending.  so let's have this one more happy game, because tomorrow death and pain will be waiting for us,with no miracles but life itself, and that not guaranteed.  feste the clown--tragic by the very nature of his profession--jokes with maria about death: 'he that is well hanged in this world need fear no colors.' when maria asks why, feste replies that 'he shall see none to fear.'' 'a good lenten answer,' retorts maria. a good lenten play; fun is everywhere, but tomorrow reality takes over once more.

Being Stars

    posted on susan love's fb page--and scientifically true........

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Kitty Wells and the Honky Tonk Angels

as many of you know,  i spent much of the early summer creating a text for my women in media course. the most challenging chapter for me was the one on pop  music-- my own tastes are pretty much stuck in the 1940s and '50s.  but i did learn a lot researching the women in various genres from the 1950s on, and one of my favorite things was coming across kitty wells {that's just 2 t's in kitty--i don't know why this picture added a 3rd].  so it made me a little sad to read last week that wells died on july 16, at the age of 92.  i'm glad she lived a long life, and i hope it was a happy one.

in 1952, wells was a fairly successful country western singer who, at 33, was planning to retire from singing to be a fulltime wife and mother.  but a friend, a man named j.d. miller, asked her to record a song he'd just written. she agreed, thinking the $125 fee for the recording would be useful. she  liked the song, but didn't think it was anything special.  

  it was.  miller had written the lyrics in direct response to a hit song called 'wild side of life,' in which a man laments his infidelity to his wife, blaming not himself but the woman he picked up at a bar. such women are dangerous to men, he sang, and he dubbed them 'honky tonk angels,' wondering why god had created them.  miller wrote that the deity had done no such thing, and his response was called 'it wasn't god who made honky tonk angels.'  the blame for men's infidelity is placed squarely on the men themselves.  far from being victims of these women, men who pretend they aren't married have caused 'many a good girl to go wrong.'  the lyrics are composed in the voice of a wronged and angry woman, and wells sang them with almost painful intensity and passion.

the response song became at least as popular as the misogynist work that inspired it; for six weeks it was at the top of the country music chart, and even got into the top-ten chart for pop music in general.   wells became the biggest female country star of the '50s.  the song's  fame went beyond kitty wells herself.  nashville recording companies had until then never offered recording contracts to women, but the blazing success of wells and her song caused them to change their policy. 

kitty wells postponed her retirement for 27 years.  she ended up with 84 singles on the country western charts.  in 1968 she had a syndicated tv show.  her song, too, lived on.  even the iconic patsy cline sang it.  it gained new life in the women's music movement of the 1970s.

wells herself seems to have led a fairly contented life, with her longtime husband and frequent singing partner johnnie wright, who died last year.  They lived long enough to meet their 5 great-great grandchildren.  Not bad, for a singer who captured angry heartache so well.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Summer Readings

summer reading, because it's summer and you maybe read on the beach or in your backyard or in your living room because it's raining and you can't be at the beach or in your backyard.  and you're not in a Dostoevsky state of mind.....and because these are two books i like.  one is a first novel, by a former student and current friend, david bunzel, and since i taught him a totally unrelated class 1995 i will take all the credit for his writing talent.  under god is a somewhat poignant, often witty story of an average guy, mickey donovan, who is chosen by God to fix up the world, which isn't going the way He [or, as referred to in the book, the Entity] planned it.  the Entity zaps Mickey with virtually divine powers. mickey at first runs around like the proverbial kid in the candy store, and then comes to realize that godlike power is pretty scarey, and cleaning up humanity is a very complicated job.  the more mickey does, the more he learns, and, predictably, the more he learns the more he realizes how little he knows.  at points he makes big mistakes, at points he gets arrogant, and by the end he hasn't changed the world, but he's changed  something, part of which is himself.  Bunzel writes well and cleverly, in a matter-of-fact tone neither flippant nor ponderous.  though the premise is pure fantasy, the execution is crisply realistic, like the world we know only too well.

the other book is far from a first novel--Aunt Dimity Goes West is the thirteenth in a series by nancy atherton, about a delightful wife-and-mother who stumbles into dangerous situations and, with no police or detective help, has to solve the mystery.  she does, however, have some help, which is fairly special.  like bunzel, atherton uses the supernatural as a base for dealing with very natural problems. aunt dimity has long been dead, but she doesn't let that stop her from giving advice and comfort to lori, the grownup daughter of dimity's onetime earthly best friend.  having willed lori a strange empty blue notebook. dimity writes to her  whenever lori open the notebook. dimity's sophistication appears in her  elegant cursive script (depicted in the book by an elegant, cursive font]. dimity is not omniscient, only very sensible, so she ends up being a sort of older partner in lori's undertakings.  booklist describes the series  approvingly as 'cozier than cosy,' and based on this one, i'd agree.  the mystery itself is almost incidental to the charming characters and, especially to the chats between the odd couple whose mode of communication is as 'cosy' as the genre.  there's no murder here, just some nasty shenanigans that entail the merest soupcon of danger. you don't lie awake at night frightened by the events of the mystery; you drift into comfortable  sleep wishing you too had a ghostly aunt dimity to consult with.

Monday, July 16, 2012

5 word story/haiku

one of my former students is doing a project on face book using the 6-word story idea, which she has cut down to 5 got me thinking about the very real difference between this and a haiku, especially since haiku poets in english have largely abandoned the 5- 7-5 syllabic rule b/c of the huge difference in language and language portrayal [i.e., alphabet].  anyhow sometimes a 6-word [or 5-word] story can also be a haiku, and i think the one i gave her probably fills the definition, so here it is:

ghosts in every leaf.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Christian Country' s Queen

working on this semi-textbook for my women in media class, i've had to learn more than i ever wanted to know about current pop music.  it turned into a 30-page reading, which i hope my students will appreciate.  through the whole thing i kept wanting to delete it all and just  do one page with huge letters reading simply

as this seems a bit irrelevant, i have refrained, but grudgingly.   however, my research provided a few gems, which at times have made it fun.

so, in praise of Carrie Underwood. She is, the article tells me, the Queen of Christian Country Music, and i have no reason to doubt it.  i'm highly unlikely ever to hear her, although to be fair, country has produced Patsy Cline and k d lang, so it can't be all bad. and christianity has produced...well, jesus, for one, though many modern christians don't seem to listen to him.  but overall,  the combination of country and christian doesn't tend to excite me.

well, carrie underwood does.  in what seems to be a madly conservative genre, underwood has publicly stated her support for gay marriage.  what's more, she says that this support comes out of her christianity and her understanding of the message of love.  she is happily married to a man whom she deeply loves, and thought about the joy this has given her, and wondered how she'd feel if she had been forbidden to marry this man.  why should anyone who loves that much be kept from marriage, the ultimate expression of love?  so she and her husband have left their baptist church, whose minister attacks gay marriage, and they now go to a universalist church for their sunday worship.

among my friends and colleagues, such an attitude is hardly wildly radical. but the courage of someone in a very conservative community to follow her conscience in such a way is awfully impressive.  truly, may their god bless them. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Closer is Closing--bets?

any other fans there?  if so, here is my prediction.....

Commander Pope is the snitch.  I've thought this from the beginning, and looking who is staying and who is going in last week's TV guide confirms it in my mind.  he's one of the ones leaving.  there are of course other ways he could leave, but there have been hints  about his hostility to brenda since she applied for the job he wanted [they both lost anyway] and then when he came onto her again once.....

i also think i know how brenda is leaving.  she almost has to be killed off.  she's a logical target for the friends/gang members of the guy she in effect killed.  also, the fritz character is staying. if she was moving somewhere, he'd likely go with her.  but sticking around to help find his wife's killer would make sense.

wild card here is corey.  probably killed off with brenda, since he was with her when they left the gang guy to be killed by the other gang.  it's possible that HE'S the snitch, but i doubt it.  i'm sorry he's leaving; he's a cool character and a good actor.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Spinsters, Boys in Skirts, & Anderson Cooper

Three things in the news have grabbed my attention in the past two days, and though I have no time to post and blogspot has just erased the post I did write, I’ll try it this way, via Word.  Who knows what will happen?

Anyway, the first thing doesn’t require a lot of work—everyone knows about it and anyone reasonable is glad for it.  But I always do like my 2 cents…

Anderson cooper must have known when he allowed posting of his utterly dignified, moving and beautiful official coming out statement that he was offering his substantial voice to the gay community, including perhaps most  importantly those bullied high school kids.  He also must have known what awaits him from the right.  He will pay for his courage.  Mr. Limbaugh must be frenziedly composing and reworking his attack, and it will be a doozy.  God knows what crimes cooper will be accused of, but I expect it will be revealed that none of his reporting has ever been objective because it’s all part of his gay agenda, and that he wants to destroy all heterosexuals.

 The privacy cooper so clearly cherishes is shot.  I can only hope that his supporters will use his pronouncement in tasteful ways that can be helpful to the truth that cooper has chosen over his privacy.  And now that everybody knows what everybody probably already knew if they cared, I hope that soon he will be able to get back to his work without having to explain his private life any more.   It’s funny, I my writing class last term I started to use the wonderful ‘6 word story’—a great exercise.  Today in the midst of his piece, Anderson wrote his six-word story. “I love and I am loved.’’  That’s the story of his private life, and what a dear and honorable story it is!

The other two stories are not that well known. They are from a website that I get on facebook, ‘’care to causes.’ But they too matter.  The first is about the rise of ‘spinsters and middle-aged mothers’’ in our country, or at least in new york city.  As much as I loved the content, I really love the title.  When I was about 12, I first saw the word ‘spinster’ in Louisa may alcott’s Little Women.   Alcott used the word positively and proudly, and for the first time I realized that there actually was a word for women who were like I wanted to be.  I embraced it then, and have ever since.  Needless to say, the world has been less impressed than i.  according to the story, 42percent of nyc women have never married.  It’s clearly an inflated number, since the  age of the women surveyed is 15 and above.  I think you’d find a large population of unmarried 15 and 16 year olds in any place at any time. Still it’s a hearty and cheering figure, and along with the later-life mothers, suggests we’re beginning to understand there are numerous possibilities available to all of us.

The third story is really a compilation of small ones.  It starts with a teenage boy in Alabama who walked into his classroom happily sporting  brand-new earring. He was then told to take out the earring or leave; it was inappropriate for a boy to wear an earring.  His parent took the school to court and won.  The other stories were nearly identical, occurring in different schools and different states. Each involves a boy coming to class in shorts on a sweltering summer day.  Nope,  you can’t wear shorts to school.  But, argued the boy and his friends, girls wear short skirts when they want to; why can’t boys wear short pants? No way. So the kid and his male buddies discussed it and the next day a bunch of them showed up in skirts.  There was, after all, no rule on the books about not wearing skirts—the girls did it all the time.  In both cases, the boys won and got to wear their shorts.

What matters in the larger context about these stories is that, though it was boys suffering for their clothing choices, the underlying reason was sexism—and not against men, but against women.  Boys are expected to be ‘manly,’ girls ‘womanly.’  And all those rules are ultimately about male supremacy.  Masculinity is about learning to dominate women; femininity is about learning to submit to men.  That till holds true for all the real and the cosmetic changes over the years.  Look at the words ‘tomboy’ and ‘sissy.’  The tomboy, though she  must eventually change, is often lovable, cute, going through a phase. The sissy is dangerous and has to be stopped at all costs.  She is imitating her betters; he is imitating his inferiors. There are of course limits to the condescending tolerance the tomboy may get:  masculine seeming women can get beaten and killed for their appearance, as can gay, transvestite, or transsexual men.  Challenging roles, even the roles that presumably empower you, is always dangerous.  I doubt that any of the boys in skirts were thinking of this, but I hope some of it still got through to them.  With luck, this is the beginning of their challenging constricting gender rules and roles.