Sunday, February 17, 2008

Morning Rage

This guy thinks he knows all about poverty because he left his home with $25 and not a lot else to see if he could make it. His goal was to have $2,500 in savings, a truck, and an apartment within a year. He did. Then he wrote a book about it. (via kottke)

He says, in that CSM interview linked above, that it's completely irrelevant that he has a college degree:

I didn't use my college education, credit history, or contacts [while in South Carolina]. But in real life, I had these lessons that I had learned. I don't think that played to my advantage. How much of a college education do you need to budget your money to a point that you're not spending frivolously, but you're instead putting your money in the bank?

Do you need a college education? I don't think so. To be honest with you, I think I was disadvantaged, because my thinking was inside of a box.

Damn skippy. But he should have stopped talking after admitting that he had those lessons he'd learned. And then gone on to acknowledge that he

  1. is healthy
  2. is white
  3. has all of his teeth (I'm not being facetious: have you ever tried to get a job with one of your front teeth missing? kind of limits your opportunities)
  4. is handsome (in the regular-features-on-a-pleasant-face kind of way)
  5. is young/strong
  6. is traditionally gendered
  7. speaks like a person who went to college
  8. wasn't actually "escaping my druggy mom and going to live with my alcoholic dad"
  9. was only doing it for a year (what would have happened if he'd gone on? what if he got sick or missed work? what if his building got sold and his landlord kicked him out? what if his truck broke down? what if his girlfriend got pregnant?)
All this experiment proves is that someone, under ideal circumstances, can raise themselves up. But there was never any doubt of that, was there? Those people are held up as demonstrations that the American Dream works, and as reasons to blame people for whom it doesn't. But it's bullshit. BULLSHIT, do you hear me? Very few people are operating under ideal circumstances, and every single thing that strays from the ideal makes it harder.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Home Today

To all of you who think you might want to have children (I'm talking to you, J), I have just one word to make you reconsider: LICE.

That is all.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sometimes You Surprise Yourself

I think I'm going to go to the Democratic Caucus today. I have been thinking about it for a while, all the time pretending that I'm not actually thinking about it by listing all of the reasons I can't go: I'm currently registered Green, I have no childcare, the frigging thing is scheduled to take four hours, there will be a snowstorm, the parking will suck, I don't like crowds.

All of those issues have since been resolved. Well, it will still be crowded and it will still take four hours, but the rest changed without any effort on my part. It turns out that Greens can change their registration at the caucus (which gives me a pinch of conscience, but looking at the Green candidates made me cringe), S is going to her best friend's house and I can walk downtown to it.

The crowd anxiety is somewhat alleviated by the fact that I will take my new digital recorder and might be able to use some of my experience in a piece for the radio or the paper. (Note to self: ask at the door about the rules for recording.) And I'll bring my knitting.

So, there. The radical becomes a democrat for the day. And why? Because I am in love with Obama. I secretly hate him too because he makes me have hope, and I know that I will be let down. But for now I do have it, and my internal optimist is making a showing, and I'm going to my first ever caucus.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Reading List

The National Book Critics Circle recently published their list of Good Reads of 2007, the result of an online survey of their members (800 of them) and writers (including John Updike, Cynthia Ozick, and others) and their member critics. The long list for fiction (alphabetically within the number of votes received--i.e. the first four received equal votes) follows.

Some of my favorite writers in here, and some new ones. If I had a million dollars... guess what I'd be buying? OK, first I'd be buying all of my debt. But then after that, I'd get these books and settle in until spring. And order in Thai food a lot. As it is I'll have to wait until our little library picks some of them up:

Michael Chabon, "The Yiddish Policeman's Union,"
Joshua Ferris, "Then We Came to the End,"
Per Petterson, "Out Stealing Horses,"
Philip Roth, "Exit Ghost,"
Alan Bennett, "The Uncommon Reader,"
Susan Choi, "A Person of Interest,"
Richard Price, "Lush Life," "
William Trevor, "Cheating at Canasta,"
Pat Barker, "Life Class,"
Brock Clarke, "An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England,"
Don Delillo, "Falling Man,"
Matthew Eck, "The Farther Shore,"
Anne Enright, "The Gathering,"
Molly Gloss, "The Hearts of Horses,"
A.L. Kennedy, "Day,"
Jhumpa Lahiri, "Unaccustomed Earth,"
Adam Langer, "Ellington Boulevard,"
William Maxwell, "Early Novels and Stories,"
Lydia Millett, "How the Dead Dream,"
Michael Ondaatje, "Divisadero,"
Manil Suri, "The Age of Shiva,"
Chris Abani, "Song for Night,"
Daniel Alarcon, "Lost City Radio,"
Sherman Alexie, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,"
Charles Baxter, "The Soul Thief,"
Amy Bloom, "Away,"
Charles Bock, "Beautiful Children,"
Robert Bolano, "Nazi Literature in the Americas,"
Roberto Bolano, "The Savage Detectives,"
Jon Clinch, "Finn,"
Jonathan Coe, "Rain Before it Falls,"
Annie Dillard, "The Maytrees,"
Stephen Dixon, "Meyer,"
Andrew Sean Greer, Khaled Hosseini, "A Thousand Splendid Suns," "The Story of a Marriage," Ha Jin, "The Free Life,"
Marina Lewcyka, "Strawberry Fields,"
James McBride, "Song Yet Unsung,"
Ian McEwan, "On Chesil Beach,"
Pascal Mercier, "Night Train to Lisbon,"
Ann Patchett, "Run,"
Meg Rosoff, "What I Was,"
Bernard Schlink, "Homecoming: A Novel,"
Matthew Sharpe, "Jamestown,"
Jim Shepard, "Like You'd Understand, Anyway,"
Michael Thomas, "Man Gone Down,"
Marianne Wiggins, "The Shadow Catcher."

Sunday, February 03, 2008

I Win

My daughter told me yesterday that something that I said casually was "kind of racist." I objected at first, and then thought about it a little. She was right.

When I was her age I didn't even know the word racist. I'm not proud of that, nor of the continuing reprogramming I have to do to be aware of the ways in which I benefit from my white privilege. Nor of the things like yesterday when I don't even know I'm doing it.

But I am proud that S knows the word, what it means, and how to recognize it even in subtle forms. And that she's calling me on my shit when I need to be called on it.

Despite my terminal un-hip-ness* I must be doing something right in the parenting department.

*According to S, "I just think I'm so cool but I don't have any idea what's really cool." I really don't, especially if it has to do with Hannah Montana. She's right about that too.


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