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Payback by Margaret Atwood (review)
May 30th, 2009 by Dr Karma

paybackI recently read Payback by Margaret Atwood.  It’s been hailed as another example of her amazing abilities of prediction.  Atwood is known for her keen observation of social trends.  Her predictive talent is so famed that she recently donated a prophecy for charity (the woman who bought it posted a blog about it–there was mention of the washing machine breaking).

Payback is a book about economic collapse and debt, written before our current crisis. 

It’s not about what to do or how things should be run, though there are some didactic parts at the end about environmental conservancy.  Instead, this is an amazing read about the socio-cultural of debt, from law to religion/mythology to literature.  She crosses time and geography, but manages to give close readings of both our stories and behaviors surrounding debt.

I especially like her reading of fairy tales (did you know why it was significant to be a Miller’s daughter?  I didn’t), Madame Bovary, and The Merchant of Venice.  She also tells us about the Victorian literary movement of a new form of revenge:  “not seeing your enemy’s red blood all over the floor but seeing red ink all over his balance sheet.”

Particularly astute is her discussion of words, in connotation and denotation.  Why does forgiving “trespasses” appear in some version of The Lord’s Prayer while other versions say “sin”–what’s the difference and how does it relate to forgiving debt?  Why is it “currency”?  If a Roman tax collector is a publican . . . well, she doesn’t say it, but it makes me wonder what a “re”publican is.

Read this book–it’s more approachable than you think and you’ll be surprised at what you learn.atwood

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The Good, The Bad, The Coolest
May 27th, 2009 by Dr Karma

The Good:

Alexander and I both wearing t-shirts given by friends today.

Medici Pinot Noir

Coming home in 95 degree heat to a cold beer

“Where The Wild Things Are” episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The Bad:

North Korea (well, its leader anyway)

Homophobia

The chiropractor saying, “Why can’t you be less flexible?”

The Coolest:

Kenwood Yulupa Chardonnay

Going to Powells and picking up the new book by your friend, Luis Alberto Urrea.  Then coming home and finding that you’ve unknowingly bought a signed copy.

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Cold Tongue Brain Freeze
May 26th, 2009 by Dr Karma

Am back from Portland. Sock dreams not so dreamy, but Powells is magical, mystical place. Would worship there daily if I lived there.

Speaking of, anybody know how I can get a job in Portland?

Feel the need to move especially now that the California Supreme Court has upheld voter-initiated inequality.

Voters shouldn’t be able to take away each others’ rights–that’s why Jefferson wouldn’t sign a constitution without a bill of rights.

Some good news today–was having lunch today and a former student came by to tell me that he enjoyed my class and that he’d read all these books since I’d introduced him to certain writers and essayists.

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White Trash Party
May 22nd, 2009 by Dr Karma

Well, Tiffany’s birthday was celebrated last night by a white trash party.  I was all decked out.  Panties and bras were on the clothes line in the car hole bar (complete with weeks worth of beer bottles on not-quite-patio furniture.

Some other touches:  had sports on the tv on mute.  Sports Illustrated on the table.  Tums out with the food.  A framed poster of young anakin in place of the monet.

Ken objected to the latter.  He said that since the poster could be a sign of geek-dom, it can’t be considered white trash.  Well, my outfit could have been a sign of me being a hooker, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t also connote white trash.

Methinks Ken protests too much.  (I acknowledge that many of my day-to-day decorations are signify white trash.  I can defend their kitsch value or their nerd value (in case of The Simpsons), but that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t signify trash to people who didn’t love me.)

We found out that we shouldn’t have the tv on, after we turned it to cops.

We also found out how strange it is to have this party (with us decked out as trash) was perhaps not the best time for the neighbor to come over to let us know that the sound machine used at night (to try to keep me from killing Ken since he’s in the bedroom playing video games while I’m trying to sleep) is too loud.

All in all, there was much cheese, beer, and chocolate.  Hooray!

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In the press today
May 20th, 2009 by Dr Karma

Some blogger believes I “forgot” things; not mentioning things in a non-comprehensive list is not to have forgotten them.  His title is also weird–I distinctly mention that there have been lawsuits, so his claim that they’ve not had them in 20 years is off.  The article is here:  http://reporter.blogs.com/thresq/2009/05/the-simpsons-20-years-of-lawsuitfree-funny.html

My touching tribute to Dom DeLuise (via my matchflick column) is here:  http://www.matchflick.com/column/1946

Was watching last night’s Daily Show whilst doing yoga this morning.  Newt Gingrich claimed that socialized medicine (aka universal healthcare) would be bad because bureaucrats would be making your healthcare decisions.  He said the responsibility for your healthcare (and he seemed to imply fiscal as well) should be on you (and your consultations with your doctor).

My doctor and I do make decisions.  But they all have to be approved by bureaucrats at the insurance company.  Those bureaucrats were forced to take me, but if I were a freelance writer, I wouldn’t be able to get health insurance at all.  Let’s not forget that other bureaucrats make my health care decisions at the law level–whether I can have medical marijuana, whether a doctor can use the word “abortion,” etc.

So there are three problems with Mr. Gingrich’s fear of bureaucrats.

1.  He’s fine with a lot of laws about what my doctor can say or do.  That’s government intervention in health care.

2.  Bureaucrats completely run my health care.  And the really bad thing is that they do so for profit, which means that they are not in any way motivated to make decisions based on what’s good for me or what’s medically better.  They are motivated to deny coverage because that’s what happens in a profit-based system.

3.  For all those without healthcare, they would love to have a bureaucrat deciding whether they can have their cancer treatment.  Right now, there is no “decision” available to them.  At least a bureaucrat might say yes.

Am sick of this “bureaucrat” scare tactic.  WTF do they think we have now, if not bureaucrats?  Who’s living in a place where all the decisions are made by you and your doctor?

Oh, wait, those people in countries with universal healthcare tend to have that freedom.

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The Last Witchfinder (Review)
May 19th, 2009 by Dr Karma

I wanted to read The Last Witchfinder by James Morrow because I know a lot about witch history. I did my Masters on Witch Literature (about, not by) and I taught a course on witch mythology last summer.

Thus, this book did not teach me a damn thing, except that I don’t like this book.

As it’s about the last witchfinder, it’s set in the 18th Century. Fine and dandy. It’s narrated by a book. Not fine and dandy.

This is a book about how science is powerful, but we’re supposed to believe that books are sentient and have the ability to possess people.

And books as objects aren’t sentient–books as ideas are sentient. So even if there are millions of copies, there is only one book. And our narrator would have you believe that “good” literature is smart literature and that other books are dim.

The narrator, aside from being a book, is a pretentious asshole. The narrator likes to say how great the heroine is. It does this so it doesn’t have to show us.

Yes–hundreds of pages, but no emotional connection to the characters. And there is a plot, but the arc of the story doesn’t work and thus it’s basically episodic with what should be a climax, but is decidedly not.

Now, maybe I’m not supposed to like the narrator or the plot or any of the characters. Maybe that’s because this is a book about obsession, and might have you see that obsession makes you boring.

But I don’t think it’s that clever, even if it really thinks it is.

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Karma’s Simpsons article on Mental Floss
May 18th, 2009 by Dr Karma

is here:
http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/25661

Yea! (Even if they did edit it down.) Yea!

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Karma’s Simpsons article on Mental Floss
May 18th, 2009 by Dr Karma

is here:
http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/25661

Yea! (Even if they did edit it down.) Yea!

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Atonement (book review)
May 17th, 2009 by Dr Karma

In the news today, I had insomnia last night, so am working on very little sleep, all of which was obtained after five-thirty this morning.

My advertising blitz for my HUM 18 class resulted in one whole student adding this week.  We have to do better, people.  Picture me as a really sexy uncle Sam–I want you (to advertise or sign up for this class).

I read Atonement by Ian McEwan.  I had seen the movie first, but this is not a comparison of the film (there are things they adapt well and things they don’t–not news).  The one thing that was unfortunate about seeing the movie first was that I knew that McEwan was going to have his heroine choose a certain green dress, so when he goes on for pages and pages and pages about her changing clothes, I got even more annoyed than I usually would have.

Margaret Atwood has said that there are few characters who feed and clothe their characters.  McEwan does so, but I didn’t appreciate the laboriousness of the effort.

And that’s my main complaint–he labors and then the reader labors.  McEwan has said that he stresses about constructing his sentences because he’s insecure about his lower class background.  I don’t see why I should have to suffer for that.  It’s fine to have three (plus one briefly forgotten interlude by someone else) points of view for a day, but it’s not fine to have that day go on for hundreds of pages.  And don’t mention Ulysses to me–people only read that as an exercise.  I eschew exercise in all of its forms (all its unpleasurable forms, anyway).

The book does get better after that blasted day, but I’m not blown away by his metafictional “surprise” (he’s a little too m.night shamawhatever).  The only thing I really like about this book is that the reader is never certain about what happened on a certain afternoon, which colors what happened on a certain night.  And so I’m left to tease it out–not that I’ll ever know.

It’s an interesting look at classism, but won’t hold too many surprises for those of this generation–we know better than to take candy from strangers.

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Three More Weeks
May 16th, 2009 by Dr Karma

Well, there are three more weeks of the quarter. Lots of grading, lots of teaching, lots of celebrating (of birthdays and weddings and memorial days) to go.

Somehow or another, I have to also prep my summer course(s?) and work on the book and do a lot of paperwork (bills, letters of rec, reviews, etc) that have built up.

Feel boring–I’m mainly just working. But I’ll give you my silliest moment of the week. When I heard a certain Leonard Nimoy give a certain speech about going where no one has ever gone before, I teared up. Am weird, nerdy girl.

So, I’m in the final stretch–where I have been before and where I will be again, but somehow it’s all new every time.

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