Category Archives: Questions

Desk fantasies

Not that I can afford it, and not that I know where to put the bed it would displace, but here is a desk 28″ high. What do you think of it?



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Si yo pudiera…

If I could run these language courses in a way that would work for me and the students, I would:

1/ Walk in with review and warm-up questions (5 minutes)

2/ Go over homework (5 minutes)

3/ Have a short quiz (5 minutes)

4/ Introduce a new reading / vocabulary theme / grammatical structure (depending on the day) (15 minutes, including showing audio, video, images)

5/ Explain #4 after having immersed students in it and engaged them with it (5 minutes)

6/ Do some easy exercises with this new material (10 minutes)

7/ Assign some more complex exercises as homework, make announcements, wrap up (5 minutes)

What do you think? And — why is it that I cannot do anything this rational? Can I find a way to do it, in the current situation?



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Manuela Picq

An important scholar keeps emailing this listserv I am on, questioning Manuela Picq’s statements that she was beaten by police during her arrest and detention last week. He says it is important not to distort facts and that researchers must be objective. I understand that, of course, but do not really understand him, and I am not sure I want to intervene in this debate. However, it appears to me that:

1. The professor suggests that Manuela Picq is not a credible witness, or not a reliable narrator.
2. He appears to imply that beatings are only beatings if they are really bad. (I wonder exactly how bad they would have to be to count. I note that this is a common reaction to police brutality. In the United States it is a current justification of torture, and the minimization of violence against women is of course common.)
3. He seems to believe that even journalists covering a situation should keep a very safe distance from any melée.
4. He seems to be opposed to the combination of research and advocacy and activism. I disagree, of course. (I am assuming he does realize that even non-activist researchers have an analysis, a point of view.)

Qu’est-ce qui arrive ici?


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Sobre los sentimientos

In Reeducation, it was considered “inappropriate” or evidence of “denial” not to feel fearful or not to be so. You were to “learn to actually feel your feelings” which meant to give any fears you did have free rein. I had a book contract that according to Reeducation it was inappropriate that a person like me should have been able to get, and a Fulbright grant Reeducation thought I should be afraid to take since it meant crossing the sea. I gave them up because to me, the worst thing is to be accused of having no feelings or not having the right feelings, and I will do anything, mutilate myself in just about any way that is required, to counter or evade such accusations.

I had not been afraid of traveling, but I had been of the book. Now one of the press’ readers for this book has written one on the same topic, that makes arguments similar to mine. He says it is an imperfect book because it is beyond him to do as good a job on the topic as should be done, but that he did it anyway. If Reeducation had not been destructive, it would have reminded me that this was the right attitude, and not kept on insisting I could not be worthy.

Reeducation misunderstood it, but there is something to the idea of being allowed, or allowing yourself, to feel your own feelings. When we were children, there were certain perceptions we were not to have, and feelings we were not to have or at the very least not to mention or show. Instead, then, any time it is appropriate that we should assert ourselves against a majority, or express pain, we feel instead a blinding rage we cannot identify, a sense of shame so heavy we can barely stand under it, and a desire for death or disappearance that makes it impossible to speak. We have similar reactions if we have to turn anyone down for anything, and are stuck speechless. I become slightly dissociative, as though my head were elsewhere, and hold my breath.

There are three or four people I need to face and say things to, and that I am avoiding because I am afraid. An editor, because I am missing a deadline, because I cannot work on Vallejo fast, because I feel so insane/am so incapacitated on days I am supposed to work on him that I can only get a lucid hour or so and I lose the rest of the day to self-hatred … such that I cannot often afford to take that hour, given what goes on in the rest of the 23 and thus, all that does not get done in that time.

My father and his mover, because something got broken that opened a vein of grief in me so wide that I just had to say something. I should have said it was all right or not mentioned it because then I could have avoided conflict or avoided the similarly painful possibility that people might not care, or might just isolate me until I got over it or learned not to mention it. I am terrified of their reactions or non reactions and very upset with myself for having said anything. I am hiding in Barcelona in another identity, the one who feels well and does research in a rational state, but I am going to have to face all of these things soon.

What will the method be? I suppose I will just have to remind myself that it is all right to be human, even if in my original upbringing some others only wanted me to be human insofar as it serveed them.

Then there is my department head because I require a more rational workplace than we have had. I don’t know that anyone else cares, or that anyone else things we deserve this, or that anyone else knows what a more rational workplace might look like. But other departments in our same university are far more rational.

What will the method be here? I am not sure, as I am not sure to what attitude I may be talking to, or what agenda. But something must be said, and then done.


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Des mots

When I was a child, I would read fairy tales in which most characters were either royalty or peasants. I did not know the word peasant and misread it as “pheasant.” So I would visualize these tales, in which many characters were pheasants that spoke and lived like people. I imagined the pheasants’ wives and children to be human, unless they were also specifically identified as p(h)easants. I did not understand why the fanciful convention of having pheasants, in particular, in such large roles was a feature of the genre, but I read fairy tales this way for years. I still find myself visualizing them in this manner.

What words have you misunderstood?


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Black post

See what you think of this.

These white folks, who call the other white folks “backwards,” “rednecks,” “racist,” and “trash,” hate to have their whiteness sullied by these other white folks. They wouldn’t want colored folks to think they were like those white folks. So, they latched onto the thing that they hate about backwards white southerners more than Honey Boo Boo, trucker hats, Toddlers and Tiaras, burning crosses, and Swamp People combined–the confederate flag.

So it can’t come down until those self-righteous Yankees unlearn their own racism, or what?

What about this?

If the confederate flag is one of the few properties whiteness has left, since the immigrants and blacks and lesbians and baby killers have repossessed everything else, how will white folks, even the ones who are advocating for it to come down and the others who will outwardly heave a sigh of relief when the thing comes down, react when nothing is left but the flesh of their terror?



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On southern pride

A local musician, one of my colleagues, and some other people have been going on about how — if I understand them — it is unfortunate that Dylann Roof associated himself with the Confederate battle flag, because that flag has nothing to do with racial violence. It does have everything to do with their families’ apparently cozy and/or heroic pasts, which of course have nothing to do with racial violence.

It is an interesting contradiction … or is it just a cover-up? Of course that flag means what it means, and its wavers know that, but they say it just means “heritage” — ancestors that died — so they can keep waving it and feel well. OR: is it that the pain of defeat and occupation, which one can still feel in some little towns here, is great and one needs a symbol of defiance?

But I am being too kind, I think — people are nostalgic for the bad old days but will not say so as it is unfashionable, so they say contradictory things. I idly watched The Butler and there are problems with the film but it does do a good job of reminding one of how, quite recently, people got away with treating black people and of how difficult it was for them to navigate the situation. I thought, “These allegedly kind Confederates should watch what the butler has to go through, and then they will understand.” Then I realized, “No. Actually, they want to be the ones who put him through it.”

Southern culture means black culture and creolization, actually, and it is quite distinct from Northern culture. It also means living in the aftermath of slavery and apartheid. In this panorama that battle flag is the badge of a certain group, not of everyone. It seems that that group is the one whose identity is bound up in the maintenance of white supremacy, which is disallowed, so it is without content as it were, and it is writhing in pain therefore.

The expression of this writhing is baroque — so many conceits, so much surface talk, around a center that is either empty or that has to hide its contents. Talking to these people is like talking to people who are hiding something and I guess it is because they are. These are my fragmentary thoughts so far on this matter. Have you any?



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