Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Few Words About Homophobia

Dude, chill out!

Mr. Sploosh has no clue how much he reveals about himself in this excited little tweet.  People who are confident about their own sexuality do not scream about it in public (or share explicit details of their marital hijinks in their blogs). Most of the straight guys I'm friends with are downright circumspect about their own sex lives, and appear to be fairly indifferent to the sex lives of others (I concede they may just be putting a lid on it when I'm around).*

As followers of the "manosphere" are well aware, misogyny goes hand in hand with bigotry of every stripe, including homophobia.  The New Misogynists loathe any behavior that violates traditional (heteronormative) gender roles.  Their reaction goes well beyond "disapproval" or mild distaste.  Gender variance in any form seems to incite their hatred.  Furthermore, they return to this subject again and again, the leit-motif that runs throughout the 'sphere. Why are they obsessed with tez gayz?

There have been several studies that suggest that men who are "homophobic" are more likely to be sexually aroused by gay porn. I'm not surprised. All my life, whenever I have run across a man who was vociferously homophobic or transphobic, I always suspected he was compensating for a sense of inadequacy, or telegraphing ambivalence regarding his own sexual orientation.  And it's always been a huge turn off, on a visceral level, because those men usually revealed themselves to be complete ass-holes with women as well. 

*Although I wish I had a nickel for every woman I know married to a cross-dresser who feels compelled to assure me, "I'm not a lesbian!"

Friday, May 30, 2014

A Blonde Moment

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I thought I'd seen it all when the manosphereans started spinning Elliot Rodger as a feminist.

Now Steve Sailer at VDare wants to persuade us that Elliot Rodger's intention to murder sorority girls was really a "race crime" against white folks, specifically against blonde white folks.

"UCSB is less than 40% white among undergrads, but that still makes it The Blond School by UC standards. For example, UC Irvine down in the Beach Boys’ Orange County is only 17.5% white. So, targeting for slaughter this sorority is an extremely intentional racial hate crime. But how much do you think we’re going to hear about that? As Sapir and Whorf might have said, if a term doesn't exist in our vocabulary, it’s hard to think about the concept."

Or, as Sapir and Whorf "might have said," Just because you invent "a concept" doesn't mean it has any bearing in objective reality, you moron.  (And also, fuck you for using that Beach Boys song, which up until now has only conjured in my head cheerful images of sun, surfing, sand, and bikinis.) 

I have to admit, while I don't necessarily believe "Blondes have more fun," neither have I worried about being targeted for violence because of my hair color.  And when it comes to Being Blonde in America, I speak with the authority of experience.  I am a natural blue eyed blonde, have been all my life, and my partner is a natural blue eyed blonde as well. (Well, at least we were until age stripped the melanin from our crowning glories, along with the last vestiges of our youthful beauty.)

Now we regret that our paths did not converge earlier in our life journeys, when we were still at our reproductive peaks, so that we could have fulfilled our duties to the Aryan race by creating more blondes, that precious subset of human diversity who are so perilously close to extinction!  (Although to be candid, it's me who's the race traitor; she has, in fact, produced a small army militia of tow-headed grandbabies.)

Apparently, saving the blonde gene demands organized political action, and we know what that means: $$$. Fortunately, it's not too late to make a tax-deductible contribution. Peter Bigelow (and his infant daughter) are in immediate need of $30,000 or else:

"Our advisers insist that the only way websites get donations is to block access to readers completely."

Now, while you're considering how generous you want to be, here's a fun fact: Did you know that all blue eyed people share a common ancestor?  The mutation occurred relatively recently in human history.  Maybe that is why my partner and I have always felt such a strong sense of, uhm, sorority. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Brilliant Piece by Caitlin Dewey

Matt Forney tries to smear another female journalist, and not only does hilarity fail to ensue*, only his fan boys are apt to notice.

I am heartened to see mainstream media is picking up on the story of how online misogyny not only reflects, but also generates, the toxic undercurrents of misogyny that persist in our culture.

Caitlin Dewey of The Washington Post has written an excellent report "inside the manosphere," with particular attention to some of its most odious and notorious players.  Their response has been to resurrect their favorite form of retaliation, a Google-able character assassination in which Forney has the gall to accuse Dewey of "libel" because she identifies Forney as a "professional Internet troll" and compares Roosh and Forney to Fred Phelps. (Actually, the WBC arguably had more integrity than the New Misogynists since they were at least willing to challenge their opponents face-to-face.  Forney or Roosh, on the other hand, would probably wet their pants if they ran into me in a hotel lobby.)

"This is despite the fact that neither Roosh nor I engage in illegal activity, encourage others to break the law, or write about anything other than masculine self-improvement."

Actually, I am pretty sure that soliciting speed on twitter or teaching men how to get away with rape might fall into the category of "illegal activity."  Oops, am I being libelous?  See you in court, baby! 

Anyway, trying to destroy a woman's reputation online only "works" if the woman you are attacking has no online presence or professional reputation to speak of... and even then, it doesn't really work, does it?  (After all, I'm still here, and the only thing it succeeded in doing was to triple my readership and (gasp!) increase my self-esteem.)

Meanwhile, I'm feeling in very good company...  Thanks, Caitlin! 

* Forney just loves this tagline, which he shamelessly stole from Tucker Max -- whom he then rags on about for being a "plagiarist."  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Students Weigh In On Elliot Rodger

I teach remedial English to students in a community college who are not native speakers.  They are mostly international students from Asia or Saudi Arabia, with a scattering of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Ethiopia/Eritrea, or Mexico.

Today, when I overheard some of the "residents" chatting about the Elliot Rodger's case before class began, I was inspired to throw out my lesson plan du jour and focus on the sad story that has been so much in the news.  I am always looking for those "teaching moments," always cognizant that people remember best that which is emotionally arousing, and... I was honestly interested in their opinions. 

Had they watched Elliot Rodger's "retribution" video?  A Russian woman confessed she had not, but her mother in Ukraine had e-mailed her about the story.  She squirmed uncomfortably at the prospect of watching the video.  (She is a young widow with an adolescent son.)

Ad hoc, I hastily scrawled three questions for students to discuss in groups after they'd watched the video:

1.  Why was Elliot Rodger angry?

2.  Was Elliot Rodger "sane" or "insane" (according to the legal definition of being responsible for his own actions)?

3.  What could have prevented this tragedy?

Then, courtesy of Youtube, I played the video.  The students watched with apparent interest.  Rodger spoke slowly and dramatically, so he wasn't hard to understand, although I quickly realized that "slaughter" and "slay" were probably not within my students' lexicon and had to stop the video to define these verbs.

When Rodger spoke about how his virginity at age 22 was "a crime," many of my Chinese male students began to giggle uncontrollably.  The notion that their own (probable) virginities constituted "crimes" that merited punishment of the female sex was thoroughly risible to them.  What was Rodger's problem?  He was good-looking, he was rich, his dad worked in Hollywood...  In short, his complaints were ludicrous.  Elliot Roger was living exactly the "student lifestyle" they could only dream of. 

The middle eastern students put the blame on Rodger's family.  Clearly, his parents had not exerted sufficient control over, or provided adequate nurturing of, this wayward son.  They also speculated that Rodger had been exploited by girls who were only after his money.  One Saudi student astutely pointed out that it wasn't "sex" Rodger yearned for; it was love. 

The North African refugees viewed the issue mostly in terms of gun control.  Why had Rodger been permitted to own a gun?  Would their own children ever be safe in a country that allowed anyone to obtain firearms?  

Some of the students thought Rodger was both "crazy" and "sane."  In other words, while only a mentally disturbed person would do what he had done, he should have been held accountable for his actions in a court of law (had he lived).  I let this slide because I myself cannot reconcile the inherent contradiction between the "intuitive" and "legal" definitions of "sanity." 

The student from Cameroon was very skeptical that Rodger had killed himself; he was certain that the police must have shot him on the spot.

Only one lone Korean girl ventured that Rodger had been motivated by a sense of masculine entitlement.  She didn't use that exact language, but her message was clear:  "He kill because he think all girl must love him."

Doubletree, MRAs, and Bedbugs

I have such a small readership (I like to think of it as very select of course) that when I get even a modest uptick in hits, I'm curious.  I noticed a couple of days ago that I was getting referrals from a blog called "Just4Guys," which I had until now never read (although I have to say, How cute is that name, "Just4Guys"?)  Of course I popped over for a look-see.

The referral was from a comment regarding the Elliot Rodger story; someone had posted a link to my own initial response two days ago.  Nothing scary or dramatic in the comment, just one of several "feminist" links that had brought a couple dozen viewers my way.

Today I note that Obsidian, the webmaster of "Just4Guys," was pretty unhappy about a petition that has been started to protest A Voice For Men's plan to hold its First International Conference at the downtown Detroit Doubletree Inn in June.  

How did this event escape my notice?  I briefly considered registering on the spot. This would be, after all, a rare chance to get up close and personal with the MRM Grand Pooh-bah (and MC of My Nightmares) Paul Elam himself.  Imagine the thrill of accidentally-on-purpose brushing bellies with Dean Esmay in the bar after a stirring workshop on grass-roots activism.  Would Karen be there? Cuz I'd love to buy Girl Writes What a drink!  What about John the Otter -- what would he look like after a couple of dry martinis, or three?  And don't these sorts of affairs always hold a Disco Night?  What fun that would be, boogying down into the wee hours with Atilla Vinczer and the young studs of CAFE!

I can't say that a weekend in Detroit is on my bucket list, but the price of admission certainly accommodates my modest budget.

The event is only a month away. Here's a link to the petition, which has of this moment gotten over 1000 signatures.  Here's the link to Doubletree / Hilton's contact page.

My partner and I often stay at Doubletree Inn when we're traveling because they're convenient and offer nice weekend packages.  I don't think I'd feel the same about Doubletree after it had hosted AVfM though, despite the paper band across the toilet seats reassuring me "has been sanitized for your protection."

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Forney Hits the Big Time

There's a certain irony that Taki's Magazine has elected Matt Forney to write a piece castigating liberal media reactions to the Santa Barbara shooting.  After all, this is a guy who feeds, literally and figuratively, on the outrage of normal decent people "liberals" and "feminists" by writing the same kind of vile, misogynistic and racist screeds that apparently helped warp Elliot Rodger's worldview. 

Forney predictably attempts to distance himself (and his manospherean cronies) from the site Rodger's is reported to have commented on:  It isn't us, it's them!  He even manages to insinuate that anti-misogynist sites such as David Futrelle's We Hunted the Mammoth and the Southern Poverty Law Center were somehow culpable for failing to warn the public of the real danger of PUAHate.  

I mean, just look how spiteful and scurrilous the PUAHate boys were, trying to dox and intimidate Matt's pals (never mind that is precisely what Matt has been doing for the past few months).

Of course, PUAHate may have been at odds with pickup artists, but they were very much part of the "manosphere" at large, that loose confederation of malcontents that are united in their shared hatred of women and minorities.  The distinctions between these factions and these individuals are virtually insignificant to anyone outside their 'sphere.  Whatever their purported aims, whether a return to patriarchy, or a pussy in every pot, the blame for the disappointing ways of the world is always to be placed squarely at one source: the autonomy of women. And they are willing to employ the most violent language and imagery to achieve dominance over those uppity western females (who really haven't understood their rightful place since either 1920 or 1420, depending on who's fantasizing talking).

How dare the SPLC name Matt Forney and his friend Roosh's blogs as "hate groups."  Didn't they see that PUAHate was just as bad?  (Waah, waah, it's so unfair!)

"Could it be that feminists ignored PUA Hate out of a fatuous “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic? If so, their negligence just cost at least six people their lives."

Not bloody likely.  Even for a paranoid manipulator of facts like Forney, this is a bit of a stretch.  If PUAHate was overlooked before the shootings, it is because it was a relatively unknown site that did little to grub for attention from the mainstream, unlike Forney himself -- an indefatigable and shameless self-promoter who basically lives and breathes on twitter, re-tweeting his admirers and his critics with equal relish -- or other, more organized or widely read hate sites like A Voice for Men, Vox Day, Heartiste, etc. ad nauseum.  PUAHate was just one of literally hundreds of misogynistic blogs, with the sole distinction that it hated the "game gurus" who had failed to deliver them the promised sex-on-demand they'd paid good cash money for, almost as much as it did the women whose favors they furiously insisted they were entitled to. 

Show me a comment left by Rodger on PUAHate that suggests he was ready to commit mass murder, and I can show you scores more on Return of Kings or The Spearhead that are even more ominous.  

All of these sites are the same, and they're all horrible.

Even a dedicated follower of the manosphere like Futrelle cannot possibly monitor them all.  (And it's hardly necessary to do so, since they are all croaking in unison in the same fetid bog.)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Roosh Helps Me Keep Up

Typically, I rely on the manosphere's tweets to keep me abreast of what feminists are saying.  Seriously, they do a phenomenal job of keeping track of the feminists, not only the big up-and-coming voices, but also the most obscure.  Back before they doxed me, I don't think I'd ever had more than twenty readers at a time -- but one of them was Mattie, who apparently read everything.

Suffice to say, they take their enemies opponents verrry seriously, which is a measure of both their thirst for recognition and their paradoxical fear of being exposed.  They're always "collecting names" and compiling dossiers in the form of accusatory tweets.  But the upside of their paranoia is that they are always a good place to start whenever you want to know who's-new-in-the-zoo of young female media presences.

I'd never even heard of Elizabeth Plank, for example, until Roosh twittered, "I would not have shed a single tear had misandrist & anti-white racist been one of Rodger's victims." 

It's hard for me to imagine even lachrymose Roosh shedding a genuine tear for anyone except Roosh (in which case, I expect he can shed a bucket).  But my imagination was piqued -- who was this radical feminist that had Roosh's blood up? -- so I moseyed over and took a look.

Nothing very inflammatory about her post, unless you think it is "misandry" or "racism" to point out -- and support statistically -- that mass murderers are overwhelmingly white males with huge reservoirs of entitlement.  (In other words, the very same demographic group that composes the "manosphere.")  And that we, as a society, need to start addressing misogyny as a systemic disorder.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Manosphere Back Pedals Furiously

This evening, in response to the Santa Barbara shootings, the sages of the manosphere are offering up their little turds of "wisdom" and "insight":

It would appear that men aren't entitled to sex; women aren't entitled to safety. One might be led to believe that fact brought us together.

No one, regardless of gender, is "entitled" to sex however much we may desire it; yet all people have the right to safety.  Now go back to nursing your whisky and mourning your childless, uncoupled state, sir...
If one positive thing comes of the unfolding tragedy in Santa Barbara, it may be that the manosphere is subjected to more public scrutiny and widespread social condemnation.  In the wake of the news that UCSB student Elliot Roger participated in the forum puahate, other New Misogynists have scurried to deflect negative attention onto that site.  One blogger has even pondered if puahate and manboobz are somehow in cahoots with one another to bring the manosphere down.  Or with the Southern Poverty Law Center. As if. 

He talks of keeping the "haters" out, as if their network of angry blogs were some sort of gated community.  In fact, while the accessibility and anonymity of the internet has allowed the "manosphere" to blossom, it also works against it, by effectively rendering the "movement" it claims to represent transparent and its "leaders" accountable for the ideas they promulgate. 

From my point of view, there is little difference between puahate and any number of other misogynistic watering holes.  All of these sites are social cesspools that are brewing the same poison, whether it is Roosh ("Women are lubricated holes for my pleasure") and Return of Kings, Paul Elam ("I want to fuck their shit up" or "Bash A Bitch Week"), Bill Price or Vox Day ("Rape is our marital right"), or Matt Forney, who famously wrote that women needed to be beaten because "it's the only way to make them behave better than chimps," and who posted a piece about how men could get away with rape by murdering their victims and dismembering their bodies (oops, that was "satire," wasn't it?).

The manosphere is an aggregator of isolated, angry, socially maladjusted and mentally disturbed men -- and the (handful of) women who love them.  It creates an echo chamber that allows these men to delude themselves into blaming women and minorities for their own inability to adapt to a changing world of greater diversity, social inclusion and economic competition.  It breeds real, physical violence by promoting violent language and violent fantasies of retribution. Their impotent dreams of achieving dominance will inevitably end in the deaths of others; the blood will be on their hands.  And the world will keep turning.

Rejected Incel Finally Has His Way

It seems like a parody: A good looking, articulate UCSB student sitting in his glossy black BMW, announcing plans to "slaughter" the popular blondes who have rejected him because they preferred to bestow their favors on the alpha "bad boy" losers instead of "a perfect guy... a supreme gentleman" like himself.  Except, unfortunately, it is real. Anyone who follows almost any part of the manosphere (he was allegedly an active participant on sites such as and will recognize the cold rage and the overweening sense of entitlement Elliot Rodgers displays as he justifies the murders he is about to commit. Yes, he will be "a god" and they will die "like animals" through this act of "restorative retribution." Too bad he didn't think of starting his own blog instead of buying a gun.  It would probably have been a big hit and then he could have had all the groupies he wanted.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Facebook Justice?

Facebook has banned Matt Forney's fan page and is preventing posting to his personal account.  It wasn't my doing, BTW.  They must have gotten tired of dealing with the avalanche of complaints from young women still outraged about his "self-esteem" post months ago. 

And he's promising to leave the country (at least temporarily).  Fortunately for those students with more money than brains, the Internet will allow him to plagiarize essays from anywhere in the world.

Bon voyage, Matty!  

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Have Trolls Overtaken Return of Kings?

One of my favorite past times has become to identify the trolls on Return of Kings.  The website is riddled with them, and the more blatant they are, the more fervent are the responses they elicit from the ROK's moronic simple-minded fan base.  Return of Kings is basically the equivalent of the World Wrestling Federation.  It doesn't matter if this stuff is real or not; it only has to deliver a predictable form of entertainment.

In his (?) post, "The Moment I Saw Women For What They Really Are," "Fry Koskenin" retreads the ground so familiar to Roosh and the other New Misogynists: the utter perfidy of the female sex.  In this particular story, our hero experiences his epiphany about the truly vile nature of women when a "fiery fit" former girlfriend coerces him into having (anal!) sex with her despite his suffering from a slipped disk: "My back, buttocks, and pelvis felt like they were filled with loose razor blades during every tentative thrust."* 

To top it off, this succubus proceeds to deride his unsatisfactory performance before storming off into the dark night:  "And then it occurred to me that I had brought a stealth predator into my sanctuary, and when I was most vulnerable to boot. She was not my ally and not my friend, and certainly not when my needs diverged from her most frivolous whims." 

Hey, when did the desire for sex become a "frivolous whim?" According to the "game" artists' version of evo-psych, we are all driven by the relentless messages emanating from our loins (because reproduction).

Fortunately, there were positive lessons to be learned:  "Now I laugh about all of this unnecessary strife, and take a certain sick joy in knowing that it’s unwise to ever fully relax in a woman’s presence.. It has liberated me from so many burdensome concerns, and for that I am grateful. You just can never fully trust what women are thinking or might do... And a bit of unease is always prudent when you know that a vampire is watching you sleep."

I would bet a significant amount of money (in my case, say, $100) that not only is "Fry Koskenin" not "a regular guy," but is not a guy at all, despite claims to be "a 41-year-old nuclear-engineer-turned-writer ... fond of intelligence, achievement, danger, and beauty, and not much else... [who] loves his motorcycle and despises communists."  The only part of Fry's post that is probably true is that he/she does have "an exemplary education."

This is not Matt Forney-level trolling.  This is far too carefully crafted.  And this particular troll has even gone to the trouble of creating a fake website
*Is it possible that she was just trying to play Marilyn Monroe to his Jack Kennedy?  MM was said to have mischievously remarked, "I think I made his back feel better" after one of their trysts in the early sixties.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Academic (Dis)honesty

Although we're only halfway through the quarter, one of my students has already failed another class because she plagiarized an essay, apparently in a very blatant and deliberate way.  She sat in my class last week, tears rolling down her face.  I felt sorry for her.  I was also disappointed.  I address plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty in every class, warning students of the consequences if they are caught.

I tell them the story of the late Edward Kennedy, who was suspended from Harvard for convincing a classmate to take his Spanish exam for him.  Of course, his father quickly bought his way back in, but for the rest of his life, despite a long and distinguished senatorial career, this incident remained a blemish on his character. In fact, in retrospect, it seems to have foreshadowed a personal and public life that was plagued with ethical lapses.

If my non-native speaking students are particularly vulnerable to accusations of plagiarism, it's not because they are more "dishonest"; it's because they don't have enough control over English to "dumb down" the language of their plagiarized sources so that they can be plausibly passed off as their own efforts.  And when they "google" their material, they somehow fail to consider that instructors can also "google" it.  Which is how the hapless student (above) was busted.

Part of the problem, from my angle, is that too many assignments practically "invite" students to plagiarize: the topics are too general, too over worked, and do not require students to do any more than synthesize other writers' ideas.  The failure of instructors' imaginations in designing writing assignments is a big part of the problem.

But here's an example of academic dishonesty that troubles me even more:  There is a tenured writing instructor who habitually teaches 20 credits a quarter.  That's a stunning load in terms of marking.  How does he manage it?

Easy!  He farms out his students' papers to an outfit that, for a modest fee, reads and grades the papers for him.  It's common knowledge that he does this.  Perhaps his dean does not consider his behavior unethical.  (His students complain it takes a long time to get their work back from him, but no wonder; he probably sends the stuff in batches to India.)

I find it infuriating.  I also wonder if I'm a bit of a chump.  What is keeping me from recruiting my own cadre of "assistants?"  Marking grammatical errors isn't difficult, nor does it require any qualifications beyond a command of English sentence structure; it's just tedious.  Being relieved of reading and marking student papers would free me up to focus on the parts of teaching I do enjoy (e.g., story telling, pontificating), allow me to moonlight, and probably double my income.  Furthermore, there are some (bored housewives looking to supplement the income from their monetized blogs, unemployed English majors) who might view this kind of piecework as "an incredible job opportunity."

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Way Girls Compete

First off, is there anything more mind-numbingly boring than listening to women excoriate themselves for their "sinful" and "addictive" behavior around food?

Second, I can't count the number of times I have been "the fat girl" in the group listening to the (relatively) "thin" girls compete for who has the most disordered eating.  I used to believe that these women were merely being insensitive when they nattered on about their shameful food-related confessions.  As I get older, I recognize that this is, in fact, how "mean girls" (of any age) put each other down. 

Twenty years ago, the massage school where I had been newly hired to teach sponsored a buffet brunch at one of Seattle's nicer seafood restaurants.  I loaded up my plate with a little of everything that looked good (and trust me, it all looked good).  I happily plopped myself down at a table with two other young women, both of whom had been my instructors, and for whom I still felt a certain measure of awe. I was thrilled to be acknowledged as their peer.

Neither gave me more than a cursory acknowledgment.  In fact, one immediately turned to the other and said, "Do you want to split a muffin with me?"

I looked down at my plate, heaped with crab, smoked salmon, cheese, eggs. A giant muffin, too large to perch on the plate, sat conspicuously off to the side with a pat of butter.  Taking advantage of the school's singular act of largesse, I hadn't thought I should offer to "share" my booty with anyone.  Not that the two ladies were inviting me to. 

"This food is positively sinful," one of the instructors declared, picking at her salad. 

"I know," the other commiserated.  "It's terrible."

Terrible?  It was delicious!  Plus it was free!  What's not to like here?

It suddenly occurred to me that I probably weighed about as much as the two of them together.  And suddenly I had lost my appetite.

The two instructors clucked on in this vein for the next thirty minutes, studiously avoiding eye contact with me.  I hadn't been snubbed like that since I had tried to crash the popular kids' lunch table in high school.  I tentatively tried to enter the conversation a couple of times, but they weren't having it. It slowly dawned on me that they weren't "overlooking" me; they were engaged in a subtle conspiracy to humiliate me.  Why?  Simply because they could.

Not surprising I lasted only two quarters as a massage school instructor, which was a shame in a way, because I was probably the most knowledgeable (certainly the most academically qualified) teacher there, and was well-liked enough by some students that I was invited to speak at their graduation ceremony. 

Now I'm a mouthy old broad who would call these ladies on their shit (in the nicest possible way, of course).

I'm so sick of women who use food and weight as an opportunity to put other women down.

Maybe if enough women see this Amy Schumer sketch, they will learn not to act like this.  Can women ever stop using food intake and weight as an arena in which to compete with one another?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Students Say The Funniest Things

When I'm not tearing my hair out, my students' papers sometimes make me laugh.  Last week I showed my class the "Blackfish" documentary, which examines the case of Tillikum, a captive orca known to have killed three people so far.  I also gave my students a couple of articles to read, and then asked them to "take a stand" on the question of whether orcas should be held in captivity.

One student, perhaps conflating "Blackfish" with "Moby Dick," concluded, "If we don't start taking whales seriously, they will kill us."  

This film marked Bo Derek's debut, BTW, but what the heck were Richard Harris and Charlotte Rampling doing in this ludicrous farce (besides looking fabulous)?

Another student, carried away by SeaWorld's PR, declared, "Orcas should be kept in captivity, where they are served restaurant-quality meals and much mental stimulation."  Come to think of it, why can't I live at SeaWorld?

And yet another student, also a hardcore SeaWorld fan, mused tenderly that "People and orcas need to be together... because of love."

Monday, May 12, 2014

It Would Be So Nice If You Weren't Here

A close friend, soon to turn 65, reported a kerfuffle he'd had with a neighbor.  The neighbor, a 30-something employee of a local high tech firm, had removed the stakes that marked the lines between their properties.  My friend complained; and furthermore, he complained that the young neighbor had been throwing his yard waste onto my friend's property.

During the course of their heated exchange, the younger neighbor told my friend, "Go home, old man!"

My friend was deeply wounded by this remark.  It was the first time that he had been called "an old man."  

I told him that the answer was to have a survey done, the legal property line re-established, and then to have a privacy fence constructed post-haste to prevent any further conflicts with this ass-hat neighbor.

The next day my friend reported that he'd heeded my advice, but that the local surveyor was already at work establishing the legal property line -- at the young neighbor's bequest.  "Fine!"  I said.  "You're already ahead of the game!  Let him pay to have the property line established!  Then all you need to do is erect a fence along that boundary."

"Good fences make good neighbors," at least according to Robert Frost.  So it would seem that the "problem" was soon to be solved.

I will say that the young neighbor was not only mean, but shockingly short-sighted.  I have always strived (despite provocation) to maintain a cordial relationship with my neighbors, if for no other reason than that we never know when we will need their help.  But he is young, after all, and probably has never lived anywhere for longer than a year or two.  What does he know of the reality of communities?

So today, I was entering the building where I work.  I had to walk around a couple of young people (late teens / early twenties) loitering on the steps, listening to music.  As I passed, I heard the young woman say, "What's with all the old people around here?"  I looked around: there was no one else in sight.  "Are you talking about me?"  I asked.  The girl hung her head in embarrassment and said nothing.  Perhaps she had assumed that I -- at the advanced age of 58 -- was so deaf with age that I wouldn't hear her.  

"I hear you," I sympathized.  "We're everywhere, aren't we?  And more of us, everyday!"  I laughed, and went on.  

But I was roiling with age and boiling with rage by the time I got to my class.  I know this because I immediately told the story to my students ("leaking" my anger, once again).  They responded with little outrage on my behalf, but some sympathy.  Their pity made me angrier yet.

But note to self:  This resentment is bound to grow as Baby Boomers -- arguably the most entitled generation ever -- consume ever more resources, and insist on being kept in the style to which they are accustomed at the expense of the Millennials.

"We need to look look into retiring in Ecuador," I told my friend.

You think I'm kidding?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Self Evident Truths

An Incredible Job Opportunity!

UPDATE:  I had to edit this, since it turned out I'd inflated my normal annual income quite a bit (I had a "temporary" raise this year.)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Matt Forney is now in the enviable position of supporting himself entirely through his own writing.  If you too are an aspiring writer, contact Matt immediately.  He'll show you how to throw off the shackles of working for the man nine to five.  If you've got a sample, go to the head of the line! 

300 words will net you up to $10.  That doesn't sound bad at all.  I write at least 300 words per day on my blog, just for fun!

Hmm, let me do the math here...  It will take a few minutes cuz remember, I'm a teacher...  OK, got it!  I currently support myself on $35,000 a year (sad, true, and easily verifiable since I am an employee of the state). To maintain this modest income, I would need to write nearly 3000 words per day -- three or four standard length college essays -- every day of the year, with little time off for holidays, church, or good behavior. 

And, yes, that does put my endless whinging about marking student essays in an entirely different perspective!  In other words, I'm pretty sure my head would explode after about one week.  I'm no Stephen King, that's for sure.  And although it's said that Hemingway dashed off three short stories in one particularly inspired morning + afternoon, he wasn't that productive every damn day.  (He had to squeeze in all that shooting, drinking, and womanizing after all.)

What kind of writing is Matt Forney doing, one wonders.  Could it be this or this? I'm dying to know, but if I send him an e-mail query, he's bound to claim I'm "stalking" him again, and thwarting an enterprising young chap like himself from making an honest living.

What's To Be Done?

If you are a teacher or work in education, kill yourself. It's the only way to save your fuckin' soul.

Hey, if I thought it would help, I'd seriously consider it. But then who would teach my classes?

Learning that I taught in community college, a smart-aleck I once dated snarked, "You mean 13th grade with ashtrays?"

Yeah, in retrospect, he was "negging," wasn't he?  But it worked in this case.  And he wasn't far off the mark, although the ashtrays are in danger of disappearing thanks to a push to ban all smoking on campus.

This morning I devoted to "professional development," attending a series of informal talks and workshops designed to share "best teaching practices" as well as to acquaint faculty members and administrative staff from disparate disciplines with one another.  After a luncheon sponsored by the Foundation (burgers consumed on bleachers) there will be a variety of engaging activities, including an opportunity to roll around the floor of the gymnasium in "human hamster balls" (and yeah, the metaphor is not lost on me either). 
So very much... not me.
Actually, I get a lot out of these affairs.  I have learned more about teaching from watching other teachers (especially in the role of a student) than I ever have from classes in pedagogy.  I often admire their creative techniques, their classroom innovations.  I am always impressed by their caring and commitment, by their boundless optimism that seems to feed on thin air.  (Whatever one says about teaching as a refuge of the mediocre, most instructors care a lot -- at least the ones who show up for "professional development" sessions on a Friday.)  And since I teach remedial classes, it's helpful to be reminded what it is (and for whom), I am preparing my students.

The most interesting workshop addressed the problem of "under-prepared students."  Since the majority of my students will freely admit that they have never read a single book in their lives, and my objective is to prepare them to be successful in their college-level English classes, this hour promised to be highly relevant.  Ah, the eternal question: How do we get these students from A to B?

The session was heavy on statistics and predictably short on answers, because when it comes to education, I think we're all flummoxed -- especially the instructors, who are like soldiers sent forth to vanquish the enemy (of ignorance) by generals and a public at large who, far removed from the front lines, lounge comfortably in their barcaloungers, endlessly carping about the crap job teachers do.
Metaphorically, of course.
OK, here's a fun fact: 58% of students who enroll in community colleges in my state do not place into college-level classes.  They spend their first quarter or possibly first year struggling with the basic skills that you and I probably mastered in eighth tenth grade.  Except this time around, they are paying for the privilege (usually in the form of financial aid) to study "Fundamentals of Algebra" or "Vocabulary Development."  Because they cannot place into core college level classes until they demonstrate proficiency in high-school level math and English, they must supplement their schedules with electives like physical education or Introduction to Ceramics -- for which many must also borrow the money to pay.*

Of these under-prepared students who enroll in remedial classes, only 25% go on to earn either a certificate or a degree.  Those under-prepared students who decide to enter college part time have virtually no chance of ever graduating at all.

What accounts for such a low success rate?  We can assume that whatever roadblocks stood in their way as children continue to impede learning:  poverty, alcohol/drug abuse, chaotic families, mental disorders, or just plain PPP.**

Looking at various factors (race, age, etc.), the most salient one appeared to be gender.  Male students are significantly less likely to overcome the hurdles and wind up graduating (with either a transferable A.S. or a vocational certificate).  In other words, a single mom has a better chance of graduating than a single man with no dependents. 

We were invited to discuss why this might be so.  It was hard for me to discount the anger of certain manosphereans who claim education has become "feminized" to the point of disenfranchising the boys, but no one else was suggesting this as a possible factor, not even the several male faculty members present -- although one male math instructor interpreted the relative (modest) strides of women in obtaining degrees as "a positive sign."  

And complaints of "under-prepared" students are by no means confined to teachers in the humanities (which may be dismissed by manospherean sages such as Captain Capitalism as "feminine" or "fluff" fields).  In fact, the Construction Management and Information Technology instructors are equally vexed by students who are unable to read a manual or write a set of coherent instructions.

I have observed in my classes that the "under-prepared" women do seem to be more compliant: more willing to do what they are told they must do in order to pass my class, for example.  They exhibit a certain dogged persistence in pursuing their goals in comparison to the men, who are more likely to express impatience or "give up" (or "blow up") when faced with frustration.  

Female students, regardless of their degree of preparedness, are more likely to seek support (to approach instructors for help, to identify and consult with advisers, to figure out how to navigate the byzantine system of higher education).  Being a student, especially one with academic deficits, is humbling.  Before we can learn something, we have to admit we don't know it.  Is this something that women are socially more conditioned to accept?  In other words, is it possible that their typically "feminine" behaviors serve them?

I don't know what the solution is.  I'm not even sure what the problem is.  I've been known to piously intone that "College isn't for everyone," or that "Students deserve the opportunity to fail," but such sentiments are not only sacrilege in my circles, they seem like terrible cop-outs.   

*For profit colleges and technical colleges often lure such students with the promise they will not have to meet these pesky prerequisites, and indeed will often push students through their programs, but their rate of success in subsequently placing graduates in jobs is abysmal.
** "piss poor protoplasm"

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Get A Load of Those Shoulders!

Whether perusing the manosphere or more, uhm, mainstream masculine spaces, a woman might conclude that men are just slaves to women's asses.  Or tits.  Or legs (which are always supposed to "go up to there," wherever "there" is). 

These standard criteria for judging feminine beauty have always troubled me.  In my winsome youth, I was the girl for whom the expression "Such a pretty face...!" was coined.  Seriously, from the neck up?  I was gorgeous.  But, sadly, full-length photos (or mirrors) were never my friends.

Although my face (even pushing sixty) is assessed as "attractive" by a few, and "pleasant" by most, my ass has always been mediocre at best.  My tits, though once bodacious, are well past their expiration date(s) -- although I can still summon formidable cleavage with adequate support.  And as for my legs?  Let's just say that there was a reason I was called "Stumpy" by a few of my crueler grade school peers.* 

What with my calcaneal bone spurs and ever-falling arches, I can no longer even flash what Victorian gents might have wistfully referred to as a "well-turned ankle."

So I hardly need tell you that I was downright thrilled to read on Julian O'Dea's website that there are men out there who are most enthralled by a pair of shapely feminine... shoulders.

Finally!  A category of Feminine Beauty Olympics I can compete in!

Because, folks, I don't mind telling you:  I have awesome shoulders.  First of all, they are rather narrow (which makes fitting clothes, at 200#+, a real bitch).  They are lightly muscled (yes, I can still bench press my own weight), but smooth and plump, with no discernible underlying bony structure.  My skin is flawless, thanks to a life-long scrupulous regime of Jack Daniels, minimal UV exposure & motel room soap.

My exceptionally attractive shoulders compelled me to seek "cold shoulder" fashions long before (and after) this style enjoyed its brief heyday.  My greatest frustration in life is that acceptable professional attire does not include strapless dresses or halter tops.
* The upside?  "Learning to fall" in ski bunny class was a lead pipe cinch, given my extraordinarily low center of gravity.

Listen Up Ladies!

Women who wear yoga pants in public disgust me. I don't care how good it makes your ass look, you still look like a lazy slob in them.

A pair of well fitted jeans, on the other hand...

Humor, Teaching, Therapy

My therapist suggests I "intellectualize" my emotions, and she's absolutely right. My question is, What's wrong with that?

My therapist also suggests I use humor as a shield, and she's right about that, too. What else have we got with which to defend ourselves against the casual cruelty and endless stupidity of others?  As Mel Brooks proved in "The Producers," nothing cuts an enemy down as effectively as biting mockery.

But I use humor in other ways, too.  My students consistently report on student evaluations that "Teacher is funny."  I like to make students laugh at least once an hour because I think there is something inherently rewarding about "getting a joke" in a second language, and because the physical mechanism of laughter at least brings a burst of oxygen to the brain. 

But sometimes I wonder if this is too much of a good thing.  Am I sacrificing clarity of purpose for cheap laughs?  In other words, do my attempts to keep students engaged through humor obscure the teaching points I have been entrusted to communicate?  Are my attempts to make others laugh a gift to them, or just a way to prove to myself how clever I am?

Argh, there I go over-analyzing again, a propensity that makes me a very good therapy patient but a chronically exhausted (and occasionally exhausting) human being. 

Friday, May 2, 2014


Seattle now has the highest minimum wage in the nation.  I can almost afford to quit teaching and get a "useful" job (as a bartender, perhaps?) and finally quit being such a social parasite.