Sunday, June 27, 2010


Okay, so this is a review from Amazon for a deet-free bug repellent . . .

I started wearing this to keep the cockroaches from crawling on my face at night. It worked great! That is until my wife left me. It turns out she was actually a bug this whole time. Don't buy this if you can't handle losing your loved ones.

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Do Your Students Write about Green Dragons?


A dragon swoops out the sky and takes me to another land where the wee people live.

My husband is one of the green dragons, and I am safe because he keeps the evil ones at bay.

Tiny green men are rushing to my side, healing my wounds, the ones no one else can see.

Each of these lines are from stories and essays I have read while teaching creative writing to middle-aged writers at various conferences. In all three cases the writers insisted that this really happened. They weren’t writing sci-fi. Hadn’t I, too, seen dragons?

One man told me I would understand if I had a third eye. If I had any spiritual intuition. He was a shaman himself. He could heal people like me. Blind people like me. I asked him if he took mushrooms or acid, and he said no. Not all the time.


A few weeks ago I was reading a book about spiritual leaders who took acid. I was so disappointed to read that Huston Smith’s deep revelation of communion with God occurred on an acid trip. I told this to my friend who insisted that he might have had this experience even if he weren’t on acid. But he didn’t, I answered.


Steroids continue to be a topic for the sports news. Most recently the steroid sport in the news was biking. Does Lance take them? everyone asks. These days I assume all the great athletes are just one step ahead of the drug police. I wonder what new drug will produce what new world record? I sometimes wonder what it would be like to run as fast as Marion Jones or Carl Lewis, or to race the Tour de France with the power of someone like Lance Armstrong.

Maybe we could all run and bike like the wind and live like superheroes. So what if all our men had tiny penises and our women grew chest hairs and beards?


I remember learning in history class that we have two political parties in the U.S.. One is bought by the corporations and the rich and is designed to help the rich become richer. The other is half-bought by the corporations and the rich and tries to live with half a conscience.

But why, I would ask, why can’t we have a few politicians who aren’t bought?

They wouldn’t have the money to win, now would they? the teacher replied.


Okay, maybe we so need some green dragons to save the planet . . .

If only they came in a drug-free form . . . and cleaned up oil spills and yeah, okay. I think it's time to sign off . . .

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sometimes it's so hard to write

This whole BP event is so upsetting. I sometimes find it hard to write. I feel so helpless.

Of course this won't be the first or last horrible event in which an oil company destroys our environment as we sit back and watch.

Several summers ago, in 2004 I think, I visited Suzanne in Quito, Ecuador. She had been working with an NGO there that helps keep street boys off the streets. In the airport, we met a lawyer working on the case of Ecuador against Chevron.

It was the first I’d heard of the case in which Chevron is accused by the indigenous people of Ecuador of dumping 20 million gallons of toxic waste into their rainforest, polluting the rivers and land.

The indigenous have no running water, the lawyer explained, and they use the river for drinking and bathing still. As a result a lot of the people have cancer and other diseases.

She talked for a while about the details of the case. Could they actually win this case? I asked.

Chevron, she said, will probably keep this case in the courts for a long time, bleeding us of money as they continue to pollute other parts of the world. We won’t give up, she added with a smile. Of course, no one in the US will know or care. It’s not happening to their water.

But, she added, with the US in the hands of the oil companies, the US judges will probably rule in favor of Chevron.

But even that is not cause to give up.

I just looked up the case, and the lawyer was right. It's still not settled.

Suzanne's post below, I think, is a nice companion piece to this entry:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Suzanne's Blog!

Check it out! Be sure to click on each entry to the right or click on Older Posts. You can't just scroll down and get the entire thing.

Suzanne is working in Nicaragua right now and will be in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador (again) . . .

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Seminal Sexism

I read this letter in Jim's APS News in which one is being advised not to use the word "seminal," and the article really pricked my interest. I particularly like the cockiness of the author, his dictatorial manner and voice as he goes about informing all of us why we might not want to use the word, "seminal," again. I thought maybe this could be the opening for a seminal piece on the word, seminal.

"A listserv for college educators that I belong to recently had a post recommending a "seminal article." A response gently suggest that we try to avoid the sexist and sexual words such as "seminal" and use alternatives such as groundbreaking, cutting edge, leading edge, and foundational.

This aroused much controversy in this usually decorous forum, with levels of passion usually reached among academics only for the topic of grade inflation. One side argued that the word seminal was innocuous, the issue trivial, and the reaction a symptom of political correctness run amok. The other side said that since many did find the word distasteful and alternatives were available, why not retire it except for use in its narrow, technical sense?

Soon after that episode, I received my March 2010 issue of APS News with its list of prize and award winners and found the following words used to describe the achievement: seminal(6), pioneering (4), leadership (4), contribution (3), groundbreaking (2), elucidation (2), original (1), brilliant (1), revolutionary (1), insightful (1).

While seminal was the winner, it seems we have good alternatives. At the risk of provoking a fresh round of protests in this venue, perhaps we could suggest to prize committees that they use these alternatives whenever possible."

Okay, so who among us has the cajones to go around policing the use of the word, seminal? If it's you, if you are just dickish enough, well . . . It looks like there might be a job for you in academia after all.