Thursday, September 30, 2010

5 Thoughts on a Thursday

1) I missed my bus for work this morning. I walked out of the door just in time to see that 6:35 bus go by. Then I walked over to the university campus to catch the next bus that was going to the middle school at which I work. It took me exactly 16 minutes to walk there, and that bus leaves at 7:08. So, here's the question: Is it worth it to get to sleep in an extra 17 minutes if that means that I have to walk 16 minutes to catch my bus? Or should I wake up early in order to avoid taking that walk?

2) I voted for my union for the first time today! I'm excited about getting involved with my union; I am decidedly pro-union. Of course, that's kind of a moot point here because I am not actually knowledgeable about any of the pertinent issues that we're faced with right now. So I just voted for the guy who came up to me and said, "Hey Joel, vote for me!" And I did. After all, isn't that just the essence of politics?

3) I had the craziest dream last week. I was taking all of my middle school students on a field trip, but our bus got lost in the forest and crashed. We then got picked up by this guy, who then took us to his lodge in the woods and tried to poison us all. We managed to get away, and then ended up wandering the woods until we met another guy who had a campfire and let us sleep there. All of the students fell asleep, and just he and I were awake. He then turned into an eagle and, um, went "into" me, let's say he possessed me, and said that, "They dwell within us." I'm usually not very big on the meaning of dreams ... one of my favorite Wittgenstein anecdotes is about how queer he thought it was that Freud identified sexual desires as such a primal cause for our dreams, and yet Freud never actually discusses sex dreams, which are incredibly common... but this one seemed kind of important. I'm chalking it up to the copious amounts of Plato that I've been reading lately, but, nonetheless, I would feel amiss - and I would feel like I were risking the wrath of the gods - if I didn't pass on that "They dwell within us."

4) I just finished reading Revolutionary Road, the book that the movie starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio is based on. It's really good, and I think that it ought to replace The Catcher in the Rye in our public school curriculum.

5) Saw Built to Spill last week during the Pygmalion Festival. They were old and it was awesome.

Monday, September 13, 2010

All Good Things

From the desk of Robyn:

Remember when I used to write things here? Well, I don't! And I've had just about enough of Joel making me look lazy with all his treatises on sporting events.*

So, I've started another venue:

 If you like hearing about media archives, dance parties and apartment ghosts, stop on by.

*Just kidding, dear. When you're writing football posts it means you aren't shouting at me about Ducks, Beavers, and Oklahoma. Keep it up!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Leaves are Beginning to Change

I am very content right now, sitting and watching baseball at the end of a very pleasant and warm autumn day. Our friends K and D drove us to the Meijer grocery store at the outskirts of Urbana this morning, and we were able to buy all those heavy things - like cat litter and potatoes and five-pound bags of basmati rice - that are a trouble to purchase and then tote home either by bus or by bicycle. We also got the fixings for sausage and spinach lasagna, which is now baking in the oven, while we wait for the new episode of Mad Men to come on.

After we were finished grocery shopping, we returned to our apartment on Green Street for a lunch of turkey sandwiches and a siesta. Then the four of us drove over to the University of Illinois Arboretum, which K described a little bit like, "a golf course without any of the holes or anything." Which is quite accurate, although that doesn't mean that it's not also incredibly lovely. We saw what looked like an impromptu wedding, complete with a groom in a black t-shirt and blue jeans; a swarm of dragonflies and swallows were feasting on the gnats and mosquitos, looking a little like the battle of Midway; visited the Japan house* and its tea gardens; and saw not only the mating habits of undergrads, but also those of dragonflies**, yellow jackets, and a couple of turtles swimming around in a pond. All in all, it was a very enjoyable and a thoroughly entertaining afternoon.

There are lots of other things to share, although now only very briefly. Work is challenging yet rewarding; last week I taught a student how the universe works, and he called me a symbol. I didn't breathe during the Ducks game on Saturday until the second quarter; I still have some serious concerns about their defense, and now because they throttled a really mediocre Tennessee team, everyone suddenly has them at the top of their ballots. Also, I'm re-reading Plato's "Phaedo" right now. Philosophy is the study of death, and a philosopher is someone who is constantly rehearsing dying. Huh. Of course, this seems to me to perfectly coincide with the article in this week's New Yorker by Roland Barthes, "Notes on mourning." "Never again, never again! And yet there's a contradiction; 'never again' isn't eternal, since you yourself will die one day. 'Never again' is the expression of an immortal."

* Huh, I wonder if that explains the bizarre Midway reference.
** I feel like every time I see two or more dragonflies, they're always having sex.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Pardon me, but Are You Ready for Some Football?

It's a lovely, blustery Fall day, and Robyn and I have been taking it easy; sleeping in, eating breakfast burritos, watching Mad Men on iTunes because Comcast is "a bunch of stupid jerks from the jerk-a-tron," sayeth Robyn. We've been having a lovely Labor Day weekend. We went dancing at the fancy* discotheque on Friday. On Saturday we had our math friends over to our new apartment for the first time ever for playing the train game and eating jello cake. And last night we had library friends over for an epic Mad Men Fail (see above quote) and the viewing of Kicking and Screaming, which I had never seen before.**

Oh! And the raccoon! There was an adolescent raccoon in a tree in our backyard last night. Everyone got all excited, and tried to get closer to it. I told them to give it space, and maybe pick up a large stick or rock with which to hit it in case it decided to come at us like a spider monkey. They don't know what it's like to wake up in the middle of the night to find two raccoons rummaging through your laundry room.

But now it is Monday afternoon, and I am waiting for the Boise State - Virginia Tech game to start. Go Broncos. I watched the Oregon St.-TCU game, and, while I was disappointed in the loss, I was glad to see that the Beavers were competitive against a top-10 team on the road. Robyn has suggested that the game would have been more interesting if there had been actual beavers and horned frogs playing football. And, I guess, that you can't really say anything bad about Oregon's 72-0 drubbing of New Mexico, but the Lobos have been and continue to be just an epically bad team. I'll be on the UofO band wagon if the Ducks can dominate like that next week at Tennessee.

In the meantime, former Duck and all-around stud Dennis Dixon has been named the starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers in their season opener against the Atlanta Falcons. Dixon will be in for Ben Roethlisberger, who, you may have heard, was "involved in an incident that led to allegations of sexual assault." Ha! How's that for journalistic legalese, eh? In other words, earlier this year, Roethlisberger went to a couple of bars in Georgia, where he met a 20-year old sophomore girl, who, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, followed Roethlisberger into the back room of the bar, and then came quickly came back:

The young woman, who by all accounts was extremely drunk, told her friends, “We need to go. We need to go.” She told them she had just had sex with Roethlisberger. They asked if it was consensual. “No,” she said.

Lubatti said her friend said she was sitting on a bar stool in the hall when Roethlisberger exposed himself to her. She said she told him, “No, we can’t do this. No, this isn’t right.” She said she tried to leave but walked into the bathroom, where Roethlisberger followed.

That's rape. But when the girl's friends called the police to report it, Sgt. Jerry Blash arrived on the scene, promptly took a picture with Roethlisberger, advised the girl's friends that, “You can file a statement but this man has a lot of money and good attorneys," and said, "We have a problem, this drunken [expletive], drunk off her ass, is accusing Ben of rape." So, long story short, Blash's gross misconduct prevented anyone from being able to put together case against Roethlisberger, and all subsequent charges of sexual assault have been dropped.

But wait, there's more! In April, the NFL suspended Roethlisberger for six whole games for "violating the league's personal conduct policy." But on Saturday, the league reduced that suspension from six games to four for "good conduct."

So here is where we get to the meat of the subject. Remember Jeremiah Masoli, and how he got suspended for a year for theft, and then kicked off the team entirely after he got pulled over with pot in his car? I still believe that Chip Kelly and the University of Oregon did the right thing in reprimanding Masoli as they did, but we should still recognize that this chain of events has a high probability of ruining whatever (probably slim) chances that Masoli had of playing in the NFL and making a career of being a football player. Now consider Roethlisberger. Yes, he has been suspended for the league for four weeks, without pay. Yes, his popularity with fans has taken a hit, yet not one of any catastrophic or potentially reversible magnitude. And yes, he has lost his captainship of the Pittsburgh Steelers. And yet, barring some unlikely sequence of unforeseen events***, odds are that after a month Roethlisberger will be able to return to the starting QB job at the most prestigious franchise in the NFL.

"But wait a minute!" you say; I'm overlooking one important fact. "This is America," you say, "and in America, you're innocent until proven guilty! The EPD had a case against Masoli, and he had to enter into a plea bargain in order to avoid jail time. But no one was able to build a case against Roethlisberger. All charges were dropped!"

And I would think that you would have a valid point, if it were not for this stubborn fact: In the United States, an estimated 61% of all rapes and sexual assaults are never reported to the police.
On the face of it, it may seem like the amoral message of the Roethlisberger saga is that, with enough money and fame and Super Bowl rings, you can get away with the one thing morally worse than murder. But I think that the real message is something more banal and insidious: That our society generally accepts that rape is a lesser crime than burglary and marijuana use, that a poor 21-year old ought to be held to higher standards than a wealthy 28-year old, and that a laptop is worth more than an adult woman.

* Sorta fancy. It's not that fancy. It's fancy by Central Illinois standards.
** Remind me to share with you my thoughts on Noah Baumbach some day, when we both have the time. A lot of people whose opinions I hold in high esteem really like him, but he gets under my skin in a real visceral way.
*** Unforeseen events such as, Dixon going 4-0?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Not Dead Yet

I exist!

I went back to work, and now spend my days chasing children all over a badly underfunded public middle school.

Robyn is back at library school, and is telling me all about the excellence of annotated bibliographies and targeted database searches.

I went to the dentist.

We moved to a new, big apartment in Urbana. Coraline is extremely happy to have nice big hallways to race up and down at one in the morning.

Jane Austen won our Literary "March" Madness! Next up: Philosophy Bowl?

It's raining outside, but I don't believe it.