Hope For Humanity

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on November 19, 2014 by JE Cornett

Gratuitous picture of Jackie Coogan

Something beautiful blew up the internet this week. Canadian teacher Miss Night’s open blog post letter to parents who complain about “that kid” who’s hitting, spitting and disrupting their kids’ classroom is destined for greatness. “Dear Parent: About THAT Kid…” is a plea for compassion and understanding that should be sent home to parents of school children every year.

Here’s an excerpt:

I want to talk about THAT child, too, but there are so many things I can’t tell you.

I can’t tell you that she was adopted from an orphanage at 18 months.

I can’t tell you that he is on an elimination diet for possible food allergies, and that he is therefore hungry ALL. THE. TIME.

I can’t tell you that her parents are in the middle of a horrendous divorce, and she has been staying with her grandma.

I can’t tell you that I’m starting to worry that grandma drinks…

I can’t tell you that his asthma medication makes him agitated.

I can’t tell you that her mom is a single parent, and so she (the child) is at school from the moment before-care opens, until the moment after-care closes, and then the drive between home and school takes 40 minutes, and so she (the child) is getting less sleep than most adults.

I can’ tell you that he has been a witness to domestic violence.

That’s okay, you say. You understand I can’t share personal or family information. You just want to know what I am DOING about That Child’s behaviour.

I would love to tell you. But I can’t.

I would love to live in a world where teachers do not have to remind parents that while yes, their child’s failure to grip a pencil correctly is a problem, it’s a minor one, in the grand scheme of things. I would also love to live in a world where the parents who don’t hit their children or leave them with their drunk grandparents don’t need a letter like this to realize how blessed their children are.

But that’s not the world we’re living in, of course. For every four people who stopped by the comments to thank this teacher for giving voice to the children who so often have no voice, there were two who came by to complain.

You can probably guess the nature of most of the complaints in the comments, but Commenter LostInTheShuffle, who responded with an open letter of her own, seemed to sum up the angst best, writing (in part):

I have to supplement my child’s education at home, because there isn’t enough learning happening in the classroom for my child’s needs.

I’m the one that has to try to offer reasons why these kids behave the way to do, so my child can make sense of it all, and hopefully, not turn into a complete cynic.

I’m the one that has to explain how to work on group projects with a child that can’t or won’t cooperate, or do their fair share, because the teacher is busy.

I get to explain everyday to my child, why another child would say or do, mean and hurtful things to them daily.

I’m the one wiping tears away from my child’s face when they come home, each time another child is disruptive or hurtful at school.

To say that parents like LostInTheShuffle missed the point is too obvious, but there is hope for mankind, at least wherever commenter Amy lives.

I totally was not expecting Commenter Amy’s response to LostInTheShuffle’s post (bolding is mine):

As a kid, I was in precisely the same position that your kids seem to be in. I was frustrated, unchallenged, held back by THOSE kids. I felt overlooked, sad, and angry.

In hindsight, those feelings were encouraged by my parents. They cared more about me than any of the other children (as, perhaps, they should), and fought for me. They complained about my school experiences, but did nothing to improve the situation. They did not feel for THOSE kids, and they did not encourage me to, either. They only cared about me.

Now, I wish that they had set a better example. That they had used my experiences with THOSE kids to teach me compassion and empathy rather than elitism and self-importance. Perhaps, in another environment, I would have learned more, thrived intellectually. But the environment I was in had a lot to offer too, in terms of patience and understanding, which I now believe to be far more valuable than higher levels of math and science.

I know that having a more advanced, privileged child has its own trials. Those are real and valid struggles. But it’s what you make of that negative situation that will demonstrate to your children how to cope with similar frustrations and instances of social inequity as they grow up.

There’s still time to treat that disadvantage as an opportunity for fundamental growth of character.

Amy’s my darling.

This Is News: Expensive Disaster in Space

Posted in Internet, Media, Really, This Is News? with tags , , , , , , on January 29, 2014 by JE Cornett

Can you file bankruptcy in space?

While you were lying awake in bed late Sunday night worried about the plight of the homeless during this bitterly cold Arctic Freeze, James Carl’s empire was crumbling.

Turns out his space fleet was under siege. The surge began when a member of Carl’s coalition failed to make a payment to protect a key staging ground in the ongoing war between Carl’s Pandemic and N3 coalition and CFC and Russian forces.

The bill should have been settled via auto-pay, but something went wrong, resulting in tragic consequences.

“Everything just escalated out of control from there,” says Carl, via Associated Press. “The dust is still settling on that issue. Everyone is just focused right now on fighting to try to regain control of the system.”

Carl’s coalition faces steep odds to retake lost ground. Mineral rights and disruption of valuable trade notwithstanding, more than 100 of the $3000 vessels were destroyed in the attack before Carl was notified by alliance members in the early hours of Monday morning via phone that system B-R5RB was under fire. He spent the remainder of Monday marshaling his troops, and says that dozens of alliance members, volunteers all, took leave from their jobs to help put an end to the takeover.

Right now, Carl’s hope is that with the help of other alliance members, total destruction of B-R5RB can be prevented. While it appears the CFC currently has the upper hand, there is still time for U.S. alliance members to retake the advantage, says Carl.

Regardless, Carl is not giving up.

“It’s a universe full of grudges and constantly changing politics. If we were to lose, we’ll rebuild. Then, we’ll go back and start another war.”

The cost of this war, however, may make rebuilding difficult. Though the war is being waged in the ether, as part of the online game EVE, the real world value of the losses Carl’s coalition has weathered tallies $500,000. Whether Carl and others can afford to re-outfit this completely fictional alliance remains to be seen.

All Thinking Is Relevant, Says Thought Catalog

Posted in Internet, Media, No, Where You Find It with tags , , on January 28, 2014 by JE Cornett

Card Catalog in O'Shaughnessy Library, later to become part of the O'Shaughnessy-Frey Library Center, University of St. Thomas [1960]

No, not that kind of catalog, unfortunately.

The whole wide world’s all up in somebody named Amy Glass’s face for having the nerve to write something titled “I Look Down On Young Women With Husbands And Kids And I’m Not Sorry” over at a place called the Thought Catalog.

Yes, it’s just about what you’d expect with that title, and ends on this cheery note:

Women will be equal with men when we stop demanding that it be considered equally important to do housework and real work. They are not equal. Doing laundry will never be as important as being a doctor or an engineer or building a business. This word play is holding us back. 

This is hardly Amy’s first cataloged thought, either. My personal favorite is the one called “Here’s How to Cheat Proof Your Relationship: Stay Attractive.” Read on:

Honestly, why wouldn’t you cheat when your marriage devolves into living in a house with someone and raising kids with them, primarily, and a love relationships secondarily. Hell, not even secondarily, just like the status quo…

I feel like [cheating is] the consequence these women deserve. They didn’t want a love relationship, they wanted a wedding and a status symbol. If they wanted a love relationship they’d be putting work into it, thereby removing any reason a man had to cheat and they wouldn’t cheat. It’s simple.

She also cataloged “Is the Point of Having Kids Just Not to Be Lonely?” and “When It Comes to Women There’s No Equality Gap, Just an Ambition Gap,” but I didn’t bother reading those. By that point I had concluded that this was all farce. All of it. From these half-cocked ideas to the high school essay-quality writing to the liberal sprinkling of “blow-jobs.” I was convinced that none of this was real, because if it were real, Amy Glass would have developed some of these intriguing thoughts past the reductive, sophomorish (I crack me up) rants-stage.

Then I made the mistake of exploring this Thought Catalog further. Here are a few of the gems I found:

If Your College Relationship Isn’t Working, Don’t Feel Guilty:

Many people lack to recognize the importance of timing in relationships when really, timing should be attributed to at least fifty percent of every relationship. Think about it, there are two separate human beings, wandering around in this world, and somehow they meet, at a specific place, in a specific time in their lives. From that moment forward, those two people will have to put scheduled time aside for that person to be apart of their life.

I’m in college now, and frankly, I struggle to find time to even shower. College is full of late nights, early mornings, afternoon naps, overscheduled classes, short lived study time, an overload of cramming to finish homework time, and an unhealthy amount of Netflix. The combination of the lazy and stressful schedule leaves us all with limited one-on-one human interaction.

Personally, I lack to recognize how, if you’ve got time to watch Netflix, you haven’t got time to shower. If you’ve got time to nap, you’ve got time to shower.

22 Important Differences Between Southerners and Rednecks:

  • Southern: Food with a lot of butter
  • Redneck: Food with a lot of mayonnaise
  • Southern: Common family nicknames include “Junior” and “Sissy”
  • Redneck: Common family nicknames include “Bubba” and “Buzz”
  • Southern: Cracker Barrel
  • Redneck: Golden Corral
  • Southern: Elvis, Johnny Cash, The Allman Brothers, Lynard Skynard
  • Redneck: David Allan Coe, Toby Keith, Trace Adkins
  • Southern: Having pecan pie crumbs on your mouth
  • Redneck: Missing teeth from your mouth

As a Kentuckian, I could by rights go either way, but I can’t parse this. Love butter, also love mayonnaise. Have the nickname “Sissy” but prefer David Allan Coe to Lynard Skynard (sic). So confusing.

Believe the Lies You Tell Yourself to Fall Asleep at Night:”

Be kind to yourself. Believe it’s all going to work out the way you wildly and shamelessly entertain in the crevices of your imagination. She could learn to forgive you and become your friend again. One day, you could make that team, get your dream job. He could come back to you.

Stranger things have happened. Life is unpredictable. Hope is never lost.

That’s sweet.

By the time I’d finished with that Thought, I’d come to the conclusion that the entire Thought Catalog was farce, or something like the bathroom wall of the Internet.

So I went to the “About” page to find out how such a thing worked. Here’s what the “About” page says about this Thought Catalog:

  1. Thought Catalog content should be fun, smart, and creative, i.e., entertaining, journalistic, and literary.
  2. The site should be beautiful and clutter-free.
  3. We believe all thinking is relevant and strive for a value-neutral editorial policy governed by openness. The more worldviews and rhetorical styles on the site, the better. We want to tell all sides of the story.
  4. We’re about today. But our mission is also archival. We want to catalog the times for tomorrow.
  5. We want to help shape culture by empowering you to share your ideas and stories with the world.

What a beautiful, if not exactly clutter-free, concept. Not just an Internet bathroom wall, but a repository, where anyone who comes up with “25 Hoarding Photos That Will Make You Feel Better About Your Life” can leave those photos for future generations. No matter how fleeting my thought, no matter how unformed or ill-informed or deformed my thought, it can come here to live.

I felt empowered until I followed that link (dead here) to a Submissions page. This is an excerpt:

If you’d like your writing featured on Thought Catalog, fill out the form below and we’ll review it. While we strive to read all submissions, our resources are limited, and we can’t guarantee a response. If you don’t hear back after two weeks, assume it wasn’t possible for us to publish your article and feel free to submit again.

Shocking. I had assumed that the inclusion of something like “22 Important Differences Between David Allan Coe and Lynard Skynard” was proof that there is indeed a value-neutral editorial policy here. I thought that meant that all thinking is relevant, but now I learn that someone, somewhere is only striving to read all the submissions, and that it may not be possible for my thoughts to appear in the Thought Catalog.

Thank God.

 

Where You Find It: So Dear

Posted in Uncategorized, Where You Find It with tags , , on January 6, 2014 by JE Cornett

Image

The weather outside is frightful, but Weather Underground‘s teeny little teaser for their new site is so delightful.

“”Dear Person,”” hmm?

Was there not enough room on that tiny, adorable teaser for “To Whom It May Concern?” If WU was persnickety enough to include a comma after “person,” why is there no punctuation after WU?

Who cares. I don’t think of “Dear Person” as a salutation. I like to think it’s more that I am dear to WU. A Dear Person. Someone WU cares about.

In a Rut?

Posted in Uncategorized on October 22, 2012 by JE Cornett

Text I received from youngest Griswold brother, the student:

“Wild as a buck in a rut. Woogie boogie.” This at 11:47 on a Friday night. Sent to his sister, who hasn’t been college-aged since Bush was in office.

Teaser Tuesdays — “Dunaway’s Crossing”

Posted in Teaser Tuesday with tags , , , on September 26, 2012 by JE Cornett

 

“Bea Dot stood on the back of the wagon while Will was doing something to the hem of her skirt. What on earth could they be doing?”

Hmm. What indeed is Will doing to Bea Dot’s skirt. For that matter, who’s Will and who’s Bea Dot?

That, my dears is a random teaser from Nancy Brandon’s Dunaway’s Crossing.

Here’s a synopsis, courtesy of Amazon:

It’s 1918 when newlywed Bea Dot Ferguson leaves her posh Savannah lifestyle to visit her cousin in rural Pineview, Georgia. Her purpose: to escape an abusive husband, who knows her shameful secret. Immediately, she learns she’s traded one perilous situation for another, for Pineview has been infected with deadly Spanish influenza. With the help of Great War veteran Will Dunaway, Bea Dot finds herself fighting for survival, not only against her husband’s brutality, but also against the deadliest virus the world has ever known.

So Dunaway’s Crossing is the kind of fluffy Southern historical fiction that I like to read from time to time — think Ann Rivers Siddons or something of the like. The post-WWI setting is one that’s pretty rare in historical fiction, so I found that interesting, along with the setting. If historical “women’s fiction” as it’s called it your thing, check Dunaway’s Crossing out. I just discovered when I linked to it that it’s only .99 at Amazon right now. So buy it, even!

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just open your current read to a random page and share a few sentences. Be careful not to include spoilers!

Now In E-book: The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton

Posted in Browse on By, Literature, Now in E-Book with tags , , on September 12, 2012 by JE Cornett

One of the best things about e-books is one of the worst things about e-books — they make it so easy to find books that have long been out of print or hard to find. Bad news for used booksellers and bookstores. Bad news for me, who loves to browse through shelves of raggedy paperbacks and warped hardbacks. Good news for those readers who do not necessarily like that used book smell, and good news for books whose reputations have suffered for the fact that they’ve only sporadically been in print since their initial publication — books like Jetta Carelton’s nearly-forgotten masterpieces, The Moonflower Vine.

The Moonflower Vine  has experienced a renaissance in the past few years, all of a sudden the darling of critics and authors alike, but when I read about the book on The Neglected Books Page, it had been out of print for years. Despite being a Literary Guild selection and chosen for inclusion in that most American of institutions, the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books series, The Moonflower Vine and author Jetta Carleton were all but forgotten within several years of the book’s 1962 publication.  It took me months to track down a copy of the book on Amazon, and when I did, it looked almost as pitiful as the copy in the picture above. It was well worth the wait and the fear that the book would fall apart in my hands; The Moonflower Vine is one of my favorite books, and one that deserves the bigger audience it’s likely to find now that it’s back in print, a critical success (for a second time) and available in e-book.

Here’s a synopsis, courtesy of Goodreads:

On a farm in western Missouri during the first half of the twentieth century, Matthew and Callie Soames create a life for themselves and raise four headstrong daughters. Jessica will break their hearts. Leonie will fall in love with the wrong man. Mary Jo will escape to New York. And wild child Mathy’s fate will be the family’s greatest tragedy. Over the decades they will love, deceive, comfort, forgive—and, ultimately, they will come to cherish all the more fiercely the bonds of love that hold the family together.

This is a pitiful synopsis, really, making the book sound like Edna Ferber meets Danielle Steele. Carelton’s prose style is timeless, descriptive yet uncluttered, and the book is more about how our perceptions of our family breed and create family secrets than the secrets themselves.

To really get a feel for the book, here’s an excerpt:

My sisters and I used to visit them [parents] on the farm. We came each summer… these visits were like income tax, an annual inconvenience… But old as we were, our parents were still the government. They levied the tribute, and we paid it… It was a time of placid unreality. The lives we lived outside were suspended, the affairs of the world forgotten and our common blood remembered…

The sun trickled down through the oak leaves. Away off in the woods a cardinal told us what a handsome bird he was. “Pretty-bird, pretty-bird!” he said over and over. Jessica sat on a blue towel, hugging her knees… She looked like Boucher’s Diana or a bather by Renoir. But she would have laughed if I’d told her, and said Boo-shay didn’t know boo-cat, or something to that effect. Jessica was not about to pretend she was anything but what showed up in clothes–a plain, middle-aged woman, rather dowdy and in need of a girdle.

I looked at my other sister, sitting in the sunlight, brown and glossy as a warm brown egg. She was the one with enviable pigment, a dark-skinned blonde whom sunlight loved… No woman who looked like that, I thought, deserved the nature of Carry Nation. But Leonie’s was something like that. More than the rest of us, Leonie bore the vestigial burning passed down from our forebears, a hellfire breed that preached a trail through Indiana and Kentucky… She had this burning, this ax of God. But hers was a hard way, like theirs, and her defeats were many.

It’s not gilding the lily to say that The Moonflower Vine deserves as special a place in American literature as similar books by John Steinbeck, Thomas Wolfe, Sinclair Lewis or William Faulker (I’d be willing to make the argument that The Moonflower Vine is better than almost anything by Faulkner). The unfortunate timing of the book’s publication, when family dramas were falling out of fashion in the literary world, plus the fact that Carleton wrote only one more book, the less-inspired Claire de Lune, made the The Moonflower Vine the stepchild of mid-century American literature.

That e-books have given books like The Moonflower Vine a second chance at finding a wider audience is one of the best aspects of the format. And it’s beautiful, when you think of it, that a book that includes the following would have a revival in an electronic format:

“I wish Mama and Dad would put in some plumbing,” said Leonie. “Wouldn’t you think they’d want it?”

“Well I don’t know,” said Jessica. “They’ve been without it seventy years, I guess they don’t miss it.”

“They could get used to it.”

Go on, now, and buy a copy of The Moonflower Vine in whatever form you prefer.