Monday, April 30, 2012

Strange Horizons News

So this is very cool -- Julia Rios, who host the Outer Alliance Podcast, and does other work with Outer Alliance, and is just cool in general, has been chosen as the other new fiction editor over at Strange Horizons.

Excellent choice, I have to say.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Times They Are A-Changing

Every year at the end of my HEL class I do a lecture on sexist language and on the English Only movement and on how English is changing and will continue to change -- this last bit, of course, is just the cap on the main theme of the class, the point I have been endlessly making all semester.

Generally I get the most push back on English Only: even students who I have marked as deeply liberal will argue with me that the United States "needs" to have one language, and (a sometimes directly stated corollary) that language needs to be English since it's our country and we speak English.

But I am used to also getting resistance on the part of the lecture which covers sexist language -- why it's not okay to use "his" and "he" as the generic pronoun; why "man" and "mankind" to mean "human" is not all right; why police officer and flight attendant and chair are all better than policeman and stewardess and chairman.

"But I want to know," one student did say this year. "Waitress is better than server. Because then I know whether the server is male or female. And that's important."

"You know," I said, "I never have understood that argument. William Buckley makes it too. He says he needs to know what gender someone is, that it's a valuable piece of information, and if we hide it by using gender neutral terms, we're hiding it from him. And I'm wondering why he needs to know that about someone. I mean, unless you're planning to date someone? Or have sex with them? I can't really understand why else you'd need to know their gender."

But! Aside from that student, I got almost no resistance this year, about the English Only section of the lecture, or the Feminist section of the lecture. Especially contrasted against eight years ago, when I first began teaching this class -- when I would say only about twenty percent of the class accepted my propositions at all -- this is interesting and encouraging news.

I'd also contrast what happened on our campus lately, with our transgender student being mistreated by the administration, and most of the campus objecting strongly, to this same campus in 2004, when Bush was running for re-election. Here in Arkansas, the GOP was pushing a very strong "The Democrats will make us all get GAY MARRIED!" agenda. I remember class after class in which my students -- not all of them, but many, even most of them -- were vocal and outspoken about homosexuality being evil, sinful, something that was going to destroy the world. When I would disagree with them, in as civil a manner as I could manage, they would tell me I was wrong. Sometimes they would shout.

I think some of these people are still around -- well, I know they are -- but the world is changing, and I think they realize they aren't in the majority. I think this keeps them, mostly, from taking the center stage in classrooms and the public forum.

Sadly, however, when the university administration allows a single voice to decide what can be said or taught in a classroom, that emboldens this tactic. It allows someone who thinks (for instance) that women shouldn't control their own lives, or that evolution isn't real science, or that liberalism isn't a valid political viewpoint, or that gay or bisexual or transgender people are not real human beings. Only heteronormative conservative white people's choices need to be respected and catered to -- only their voices need to be heard.

Well, that's not really the world anymore, first; and second, that is not the function of education, to re-enforce the worldview we already have.

Every year, every week, every day, I learn something new. I question what I think I know. I find out more, I reshape what I thought I knew. I rebuild and reform. That's how it's supposed to work.

Making students feel safe and comfortable? You're doing it wrong.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


I'ma maybe going to teach a workshop on how to write the novel next spring.

Anyone know any good texts on writing the novel?

Or, to put it less rigidly, if you were teaching a workshop on writing the novel, what books / texts might you require?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


So first down in Florida the flagship university dumps their computer science program -- because who needs that anymore? -- and over in Texas, the Lone Star College (which, while we're on it fellas, whoa, coolest "rebranding" move ever -- on MARS) has decided to charge students different tuition rates depending on what majors and classes they are enrolled in.

...this year, standard tuition at the system is $200 for a three-credit course, but students [for instance] pay $212 to study dental hygiene and $206 for computer science, according to a differential fee chart.

Lone Star is in the first of three years of steady ratcheting up of differential tuition, meaning that if a course costs 30 percent more than the baseline, students now pay 10 percent more for that course, with 10 percent hikes coming in each of the next two years.

My bet? They're counting on students being too confused by the rules to understand how deeply they're being screwed.

And here's just one of the many problems I see with this little plan: suppose a student changes majors halfway through her degree plan, from a high-cost major to a lower-cost major. Do you refund the difference in tuition?

Or suppose a major that was high cost -- one that is supposed to lead to a job that makes a lot of money, like computer science -- suddenly crashes. Now you can't get jobs in computer science, even though everyone promised, ten years ago, it was the job of the future? Do we refund the premium we charged all those students?

And, by the way, are we paying the professors who are teaching all these high-cost majors more? I have little doubt that we are paying the tenured professors more -- certainly business and engineering professors probably make more than English and anthropology professors. But are we paying (for example) adjunct professors more? I know we don't at my university; though the same may not be true at the Lone Star College.

But that may be a feature, of course, not a bug. No one in administration and no one at the state level (so far as I can tell) actually has any interest in helping students or professors, never mind improving education at any level.

Update: See this.

Monday, April 23, 2012

My University? Really?

So this is what I spent most of my Friday -- which you will remember was the National Day of Silence, right? -- writing emails and posts on FB about:

Jennifer Braly, a transgender UAFS student, was scheduled to give a guest lecture for Dr. Laura King’s General Psychology class on Friday, April 20th at 9AM. The lecture coincided with the class unit on gender and sexuality. Thursday afternoon, Ms. Braly received an email from Dr. Rita Barrett, Associate Professor of Psychology and Department Chair, which, according to Ms. Braly said,

“All of my faculty are now diligently preparing for the closure of the semester. They must be in compliance with their syllabi, grading, final exams, graduation exercises, etc. and it is impossible to afford more class time to accommodate an additional speaker at one week before finals.Therefore, your scheduled speaking engagements in any course in my department (PSYC, CJ, SOCI, ANTH) have been cancelled. This includes the two scheduled for tomorrow Friday April 20th in Dr. Laura King’s classes.”

Ms. Braly spoke with Dr. King after receiving the email and the two decided to go ahead with the lecture. Before class began, Dr. Henry Rinne, Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, requested to speak with Ms. Braly in his office. Despite a letter of recommendation from Dr. Nicha Otero, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, according to Ms. Braly, she was told by Dr. Rinne that she would not be allowed to speak in any classroom at this University from that day forward. Ms. Braly reports that Dr. Rinne cited a lack of qualification to lecture in a University setting as the reasoning behind this decision.

(From the LionsChronicle, story written by Melanie Stout and J. Barnhardt)

It's hardly the first time that we've had issues like this on our university, or with this administration. But it's the first time that the lines have been so bright, the violation of academic freedom and civil liberties so clear.

We're all kind of caught between shock and fury here.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Too Early?

It's probably way too early to start obsessing over the election.

And yet I am.

Here's the two sites everyone needs if they want to obsess with me!

Y'all have any other suggestions?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Smart TV, Smarter World...


So I've had this LOLCATS on my office door for I don't know, a gazillion years now, because it cracks me up, which is why most of the things on my office door are there, although some of the things on my door are there because Revolution!


This afternoon, as I came back to my office after our annual Undergraduate Research Day, our maintenance guy stops me in the hallway. "Hey. That cat in a box on your door. You know?"

"Right," I said.

"Is that what they were talking about on The Big Bang Theory last night?"


BBT being a show I do not follow.

We walked down the hallway together, him relating to me the bit of the show with the characters talking about the cat in the box, and sure enough it was the right cat.

"Yep," I said. "That's it."

"Right," he said. "Soon as I heard it, I said that's what that cat's about."

So now if we can just make some TV about revolutions...


Over here on Feministe:

An excellent essay on The Hunger Games, why it is not a love triangle. Yeah.

Y'all go read!

Monday, April 09, 2012

Ooo, Look!

I have a Bibliography page.

Though I am still not happy with the format. It is too bad I am so tech-ignorant. <.-.>

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Hunger Games

(Cross-Posted on FanSci)

The kid and I went to see Hunger Games, finally.

It's far from a flawless piece of work -- not exactly brilliantly shot, and with some skids in the pacing. Nevertheless! Boy, did it make my revolutionary heart pound!


And it had some nice moments, too. The character of Haymitch was one of my favorites in the book; Suzanne Collins did a great job developing the drunk ex-winner/survivor-now-mentor of new tributes, and Woody Harrelson plays him well. The minute at the dinner table when he glances from Peeta to Katniss and realizes that this year he might have a chance of bringing a kid home alive is just so nice.

And when Katniss volunteers to take Prim's place, and her district raises its hands in salute to her -- how that sets up, so perfectly, her raising her hand in salute to those in District 11, whom she can't even see. Wow.

And the scene at the end with the crystal bowl full of berries. Deliciously evil.

I took my kid to see it, and she loved it, too (probably even more than I did ), though she had to hide under my arm for the very violent bits (and there are some very violent bits).

On the way home, she asked me, and here is why I like the movie so much, "What if that happens? What if our country starts doing that?"

"Seriously?" I asked her. "You know science fiction is mythic, right? Do I need to give you that rant again?"

"No," she said. "No, no, no, no, please don't."

A brief pause, as we drove.

"But seriously," I said.


"Mythic means it's not about the real world."

[Despite what this guy and FOXX news think.]

"Mythic means it's a metaphor which will help us think about the real world."

By this time my kid is sighing and slumping against the car window. But she is listening, too, because she's that kind of kid.

"That means Suzanne Collins is already telling us about the real world," I explain. "No, it's not going to be like Theseus and the King of Crete*. We've already got the hunger games, going on right now. What else is it, when my students have to join the military to get health care, or pay for college, or feed their kids? Sure, it's not last-man-standing, but it's their lives on the line anyway. What do you call it when people have to sell their futures to have any hope of a decent life? While Cheney and his friends make billions off the deal?"

"Only it's not on TV," she said dubiously.

"Right," I agreed. "They keep that part off TV now, the death part. They've gotten a little smarter since Viet Nam. Winter's Bone," I said. "That's the other movie Jennifer Lawrence was in. It makes very nearly the same point, in an entirely different way. Ree, her character in that, she's planning to join the Army. That's how she's going to keep her brother and sister fed. How they're going to stay alive. That's the choice we give our citizens these days. If you weren't lucky enough to be born among the 1%, what are your options? Sell drugs, starve slowly, join the military, or hope you can win the lottery**."

"So we need a revolution," she said, knowing how all my rants end.

I sighed, and slowed down before we got to the first of the speed traps which is how, apparently, Fort Smith is funding its police force these days. "So we need something to change," I agreed. "Let's hope it doesn't come to straight up revolution. No one really wants that."

"Not even you?"

*Which, by the way? Everyone who says Collins is stealing from Running Man or Battle Royale? Shut up, because both of those stole it from Theseus and the Minotaur, who probably got it from some other guy, and look up archetypal time, will you?

**Sell a novel, sell a screenplay, invent an iPad, win Dancing with the Stars, whatever. How many people are going to do that, out of 400,000 Americans? 28?

Friday, April 06, 2012

Passover! Yay!

Though I always feel kind of bad for liking Passover so much. We're supposed to be afflicted, yo.

We're having Uncle Charger and his mom down from the Real University to be afflicted with us, and Dr. Skull has been cooking for days. Since you cannot get the bread of affliction in Pork Smith (as Dr. Skull says, all you can buy here is Pork and a Bible), we have ordered in KFP wine and KFP matzo and KFP cookies and brownies and some marshmallows for the kid, which, if experience is anything to go by, will taste like fish, but hey.

Also I have cleaned the house (that's affliction enough for me) and the weather is being lovely for once -- very spring-like.

Chicken, asparagus, a kind of onion and raisin compote, matzo ball soup, and the usual food of affliction (horrid wines, Hillel sandwiches, strange tasteless cakes) are on the menu.

We have set a place for Elijah. Won't we be surprised if he shows up.

Good Passover, y'all!