Monday, February 11, 2008

Torrential Downpour

HBO shows currently on DVD at the PV household
We're halfway through season six of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and it may be the funniest season yet. The extra time off really gave Larry David ideas: his character is more obnoxious than ever.

I don't quite get Big Love yet. The other HBO dramas we've watched (The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Rome) were dripping with theme. Through four episodes, Cruelty-Free Mommy and I have ideas on what sorts of commentary could emerge from this show, but as of yet it's not quite reaching me.

Currently reading: The Adolescent, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
I'm finished with Parts One and Two. It's interesting how they parallel each other: they start with Arkady requesting money from a prince (in very different situations), they both involve incidents of eavesdropping at Tatyana Pavlovna's apartment (with the participants switching roles), and they both involve Arkady discovering that all along he was mistaken about a good many things and other things altogether are going on.

We'll see how Part Three finishes things up. Notes from the Underground, Demons, and The Brothers Karamozov were alive with ideas and people consumed with ideas. The Idiot and Crime and Punishment offered us fascinating explorations of the inner and outer lives of eccentric figures in our world. As of yet, I'm still unsure what The Adolescent is getting at, though it makes for good reading.

Teaching is fresh and lively
This semester I'm teaching three sections of English 200, a course I've taught only twice and that two years ago. It really excites me. I get to read material that isn't so stale to me (our current unit is on Fairy Tales and different variants of "Cinderella"), and class discussions have been lively and exciting.

Of course, teaching the same material repeatedly need not get stale, either. I'm also teaching a lit class, and so far we've covered material that I've taught every semester I've taught a lit class (The Metamorphosis, "Death of a Salesman," some Sharon Olds poetry). As always, students keep the material alive, sharing new perspectives, interpretations, and ideas on the works.

Roger Sandall in "Religion and Violence:"

"In the story Paul Stenhouse tells, the 463 years between the death of Muhammed in 632 AD, and the First Crusade in 1095, were extremely dangerous for Christian Europe. Instead of peace there were unrelenting Islamic wars and incursions; Muslim invasions of Spain, Italy, Sicily and Sardinia; raids, seizures, looting of treasure, military occupations that lasted until Saracen forces were forcibly dislodged, sackings of Christian cities including Rome, and desecrations of Christian shrines. And be it noted: all this went on for 463 years before any Christian Crusade in response to these murderous provocations took place."

(via Arts & Letters Daily)

William Grimes reviews Richard Thompson Ford's The Race Card in "Colorblind Conclusions on Racism:"

"Racism, Mr. Ford argues, has not disappeared, but the civil rights movement has made it contemptible in the eyes of most Americans. Changes in the law have introduced penalties for overt discrimination. Consequently, current racial conflicts tend to involve 'ambiguous facts and inscrutable motives.' They also encourage playing the race card to achieve emotional satisfaction or tactical advantage."

Let me note: I hate the phrase "the race card." Too often, people use "the race card" card to dismiss legitimate discussion about race--instead of thinking critically or responding, opponents just accuse a person of "playing the race card." Still I'm interested in Ford's discussion of "racism without racists:" with so much media focus on racist words of individual celebrities rather than institutional inequality, Ford's ideas may be useful.

Katrina Onstad in "Horror Auteur is Unfinished with the Undead:"

"Over five films and four decades the director George A. Romero’s slack-jawed undead have been our tour guides through a brainless, barbaric America that seems barely hospitable to the living. They lurch across a bigoted civil-rights-era countryside (“Night of the Living Dead,” 1968), claw at a suburban shopping mall (“Dawn of the Dead,” 1978) and wander dazed in an anxious post-9/11 world (“Land of the Dead,” 2005)."

Roger McGovern's "Waterboarding for God, With Decency and Compassion"

We need to see more Christian institutions and authorities firmly declaring that torture is utterly immoral. Christians worship Jesus, who was unjustly tortured and executed. This same Jesus preached non-violence and compassion for the suffering. If Christians cannot firmly denounce torture, we betrayed the moral meaning of Christianity. We must not have silence.

And finally
At my sports blog, I often use literature to make sense of sports. Most recently, I compared being a Viking fan to being a resident of Argos in Jean-Paul Sartre's "The Flies."


  1. The Wire, Man. The Wire.

  2. It's been in our queue forever. One of these days...