Archive for February, 2013

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

“If I had a penny for my thoughts, I’d be a millionaire.”

—The Beastie Boys

It is time for my regular Thursday posting on ye ole Turtle, and I have no idea what to write about. Yet, I offer that as evidence to support the following claim:

Writer’s Block does not exist.

My problem isn’t that I have no ideas to write about; it’s quite the opposite. The problem is that I have too many ideas.

Ain’t I special?

The answer is NO – I’m not special. We all have countless topics we can write about, which is why it always blows my mind when anyone says they have “writer’s block.” No – you don’t have writer’s block. You have “I-don’t-feel-like-writing” block. Big difference.

For anyone writing an essay, a story, a poem, a Flaneur’s Turtle post….you want an idea of what to write about? Here’s a hint:

Look. Around. You.

Our world is full of topics to discuss. Look at your personal life, social life, work life. Look at the news. Look anywhere in the world. There are topics, I promise.

Granted, not all topics are made equal, and some are more worthy of investing time in as a writer and reader, but there is never “nothing” to write about.

So, with that said, rather than write a full post on one topic this week, I thought I’d share the topics I considered writing about this week:

  • How too many Chicagoans overreact to snow like we’ve never seen it before.
    • What? Cold and snow in February? In Chicago? What perverse anomaly of nature has allowed this?
  • Why the common cold needs to be less common.
    • Additionally, how I believe the spread of germs is not stopped, or even slowed, by the Kleenex with the little blue dots on them.
  • About RMU’s Eagle newspaper winning multiple awards over the weekend.
    • Front Page Design & Comic Strip! Good job, Eagle!
  • How I received a nice Thank You letter from a student who graduated, and how small moments like that make teaching awesome.
  • How I talked with my Advanced Creative Writing class about generating ideas. And during that class, we discovered….
  • The neon green arrow pointing up from a dorm room at the University Center. (It can be seen from the CLA office in Chicago.)
    • What is it pointing to? Whose room is that? WHAT DOES IT MEAN!?
  • The eclectic nature of this blog’s topics.
    • How Michael Stelzer Jocks and I will likely never write about the same topic unknowingly, but then find out about it the next day in the office and say, “What? You wrote about that, too!” and then high five.
      • I’m not opposed to that happening. It would be pretty awesome.
        • And even better if it was a leaping high five.
    • How Trish Lunt gets more page views and reads than I do on the Turtle, because as she tells me, she has more friends than I do.
      • I’d get mad about this if she weren’t right.
        • She has more siblings than I do, too.
  • The wealth of procrastination people display in writing.
    • How I waited until the last minute to write this post.
      • Yes, students, I understand the hypocracy here.
  • What happens when professors dance?
    • It’s amazing, majestic, and graceful.
  • What happens when professors sing?
    • Deceptive appearances, angelic voices. We’re like Susan Boyle, y’all.
  • Differences in regional diction, including breezeway and burm. And y’all.
  • What happens when professors brainstorm together?
    • Bad ideas, mostly.
      • Example: Thanks to brainstorming, one RMU English professor may now become a rapper named McNasty. Guess who?
  • The addictive nature of lip balm.
  • Gym etiquette as it pertains to waving at your professor while he is winded and sweaty on the treadmill.
    • I’m not built to run, wave, and say hello at the same time. I’m just not.

So, the next time you hear someone say they have Writer’s Block, tell them it isn’t an option. And if you think you’re experiencing Writer’s Block, face it, the problem is that you just don’t want to write because you really want to go watch the latest episode of New Girl that you have on DVR.  Okay, that example was too specific to my life, but you get my point, right?

(Note to self: a potential topic for next week can be the importance of audience analysis in humor writing.)

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

Whenever I think of my brother Bobby, I think of him either outdoors, or in his truck. Of course, he’s had many trucks over the years, but I never think of a particular truck, I just think of him and a pick-up. When he’s not in his pick-up truck, he’s likely outside, or as close to outside as is feasible.

In the houses in which he’s lived as a man, he has carved out for himself (probably not even consciously) an indoor space as close to the outdoors as possible. In his house in Medina, Ohio, his office was the room directly through the back door, a room with windows covering two of the four walls, a pair of his muddy boots ever at the ready. In his current house, in Gahanna, Ohio, he spends his time not in a room at all, but in the “breezeway” (aka gangway) between the garage and the house. He has fitted this breezeway with an old chair, a preposterously small television, and a cooler for beer. Bobby is a man of simple tastes.

There are few pictures of Bobby online, but this is a fairly accurate depiction. He is seen here with our nephew, Billy (our nephew has the beard). Mental note: I need to take a picture of Bobby in his truck immediately. Of all my brothers and sisters, Bobby is the most unchanged since youth, at least he seems that way to me.

 Image

I heard somewhere that a man’s character can be defined by what he does when he thinks no one is looking, a sentiment that encapsulates what I know about Bobby. He drove me back home after my first year of college (in his truck), and I fell asleep. I was roused by the familiar feeling of the truck slowing down, so I thought we were pulling off the highway into our hometown. Before I could properly gather my senses, Bobby began repeatedly blasting the horn. At that point, I realized that we were pulling off onto the highway shoulder. I looked and saw a family of deer turning from their course toward the highway, bounding safely back into the bushes instead. I looked over at Bobby. Without being asked, he explained; “I had to frighten them off, or someone could have been hurt.”

I’ve learned a lot more about safety and security since then. I know that they are often illusions. Still, I like knowing that there are men in the world like my big brother, Bobby.

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

Jaw-dropping is a term ripe for overstatement. I mean, how often has your jaw literally dropped from awe or surprise?  Recently though, I stumbled upon a 40 year old story retold at Smithsonian.com that made my mouth physically gape open. The article’s title was amazing enough: “For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of WWII.”  “Well”, I said to myself, “this sounds intriguing.” Within three paragraphs, my jaw was touching my chest.

The Lykov Cabin

The Lykov Cabin

The Smithsonian.com piece retells the tale of the Lykov family. (For the full story, I highly recommend the whole article; but I will simply relay some the major details here.) The Lykovs  had been living in the Siberian steppe, totally isolated from other people for forty years when they were discovered by a Soviet geological team in the mid-1970s.  There were six family members living an amazingly hardscrabble existence in a small wood cabin deep within Russia’s expansive wilderness.  The family was composed of a husband, wife, and their four children, the youngest two having been born in the Siberian wild.  They literally had not seen another human since 1938.

The Lykovs were ‘Old Believers’, a conservative, traditional Eastern Orthodox Christian sect that had slowly been disappearing in Russia since the time of Peter the Great’s reign in the early 18th century.  By the beginning of the twentieth century, and with the Russian Revolution of 1917, there were hardly any ‘Old Believers’ left.  Joseph Stalin harshly persecuted the few remaining  ‘Old Believers’ during the 1930′s.  During 1937-38, Stalin was in the midst of one of his many ‘purges’ of state enemies, and the ‘Old Believers’ were not  copacetic with Stalinist ideology.  Like many other Russians, religious or secular, the ‘Old Believers’ were violently repressed. As one of the few professing Old Believers left, father Lykov moved farther and farther away from Stalinist ‘civilization’.  After his brother was killed by Soviet agents, daddy Lykov packed up his family and moved into the Siberian wilderness.  They would stay there for 40 years, ignorant of the horrors of the Twentieth Century.  The family knew nothing of WWII, oblivious to the death of 20 million of their fellow Russians.

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The Lykovs

The family was living the life of ultra-ascetics.  A primitive, asocial, and yet, devout lifestyle. My first thought was that these people were living like extreme monks.  But, for the two youngest children, monastic life does not even describe the extremes of their existence.  Whereas the parents and two older Lykov children had memories of the old world, of cities, communities, and a larger society, the two younger children had no knowledge of this lost world. Monks choose to live away from others after experiencing the social world.  These two youngest girls had no choice in their absolute life of solitude. Their only connection to the outside world  were stories of their parents; and the family Bible.  Evidently, when the Soviet geologists found the family, and walked into their ‘hut’, they found rags for clothes; homemade furniture; etc.  However, the Lykovs did have the prominent family Bible as one  remnant of the civilization they left behind   According to the article, “their only reading matter was prayer books and an ancient family Bible. Akulina (the mother) had used the gospels to teach her children to read and write, using sharpened birch sticks dipped into honeysuckle juice as pen and ink.”

So, how did these two youngest children, who never came into contact with strangers or the outside world, interpret the Bible?  Would the stories, the prophecies, the parables make sense?  Could these girls empathize with the tales of pain and glory.  There is no doubt that the book of Genesis’ descriptions of man’s relation with nature would be understandable.  But, what about the ethics espoused within the four gospels?  What did ethics mean to two girls who had never seen another person?  If you live completely asocially, do ethics even exist since you have no one to be ethical with?

Bloch-SermonOnTheMountImagine the challenges the girls faced when they read these words of Jesus?:

“He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

The Lykov girls must ask, “What is a treasury?  What is a crowd? What is money?”  These things would mean nothing to them.  More importantly though, these girls wouldn’t understand concepts such as inequality. They would not understand giving, poverty or social class.  They would not understand hypocrisy.  So, what would they get out of this story?  I really wonder.

I need to make it clear that this has nothing to do with Christian ethical priniciples per se. Without ever coming into contact with others and partaking in a larger society, I believe no ethical code would make sense.  Immanuel Kant’s ethics would be even harder to understand than usual. Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian ethics would be useless.

Perhaps this is why Aristotle stated:

“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human.  Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.”

BY Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

On Tuesday night, I had the pleasure to kick-off the new quarter with my BPS in Organizational Writing SUPERSTARS: Kayla, Myranda, Blake, and Heather. The class is Advanced Creative Writing.

(Timeout: I get to teach my favorite subject and with a group of students as amazing as them? And I get paid to do this stuff? I must be doing something right….)

During class, we did an activity – myself included – in which we all went up to the whiteboard and started writing our favorite movies, TV shows, books, stories, and poems. The ultimate goal was to identify what types of creative writing we enjoy watching/reading so that we can identify what types of creative writing we may enjoy creating.

During our brainstorming, Kayla asked me if we should write down songs as well. I said no. My thinking was that adding music would make the lists too big and cumbersome. Plus, we won’t be writing music in this class, so I wanted to stick to examples that directly relate to the types of writing we’ll be doing.

But now, two days later, I realize I made the wrong call. (Which means you were right, Kayla. Score one point for you.)

I realized how right Kayla was while driving to work this morning listening to a song I’ve been addicted to for days: “Happy” by C2C.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvY7Nw1i6Kw)

This song (along with the entire album Tetra by C2c) has been my go-to “happy” music for the past week. After all, as the song says, “You’ll never feel happy until you try,” and this song makes trying easy.

(Side note: How gutsy is it to call a song “Happy”? What if “Happy” didn’t make me happy? How often does a song succeed in having a title that is the reality the music is about to create for you? For example, I’ve never listened to Jay-Z and then instantly had a quantifiable 99 Problems, and even if I did, one of them would always be about a girl.)

When making my list on the whiteboard with the rest of class on Tuesday, I realized that almost all of my items are either A) happy and humorous or B) intellectual and emotional. And my absolute favorite movies and books combine all of those traits.

As I listened to “Happy” today, the obvious point dawned on me that my favorite music follows that same pattern. Music either puts me squarely inside my own head and heart, or it is my escape to fun and happiness.

Again, the whole point of this whiteboard exercise was to discover what type of creative writing we may want to do. For myself, having done plenty of creative writing, I already know that my whiteboard list reflects my own writing.

Since my tastes in music provide that same reflection, I really should have had the class listing their favorite music as well. It’s as much of a piece of the puzzle as any other item they were listing. Sure, we may not be writing music in class, but we were trying to discover what’s inside of us that we may want to express.

So, I was wrong. My writers were correct. Once again, they’ve proven to be smarter than me, but that’s a good thing.

* * * * * * *

PS: If you liked “Happy” then check out some more by C2C. Here are two more of my favorites:

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1uUIJPD0Nk)

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2juNu52zNY0)

So today is President’s Day.  I think we can all agree this is one America’s secondary holidays.  Whereas I personally have warm, nostalgia-laden feelings for Thanksgiving, or Independence Day,  President’s Day brings to mind cold February afternoons, watching television and seeing Electronic Store commercials utilizing George Washington crossing the Delaware to sell appliances and stereos. Sad, but true.

Of course, as a kid, President’s Day was also a welcome occurrence since it meant a day off of school.  As my oldest daughter began Kindergarten this year, she is now getting to enjoy a long holiday weekend in mid-February.  She goes to a great school that teaches kindergarten-ers the material I was learning in middle school (just a slight exaggeration).  For her teachers, holidays are chances to inform  the students about the history and meaning behind national celebrations. Thus, during the last week, my daughter has been jabbering about George Washington and Abe Lincoln. On Friday, she made a  ‘log cabin’ out of Popsicle sticks and a shiny penny.  It’s pretty darn cute.

8dccc66e1fFebruary is also African American History month, and her school has by no means ignored that.  The same day she showed us her ‘log cabin’, I overheard her singing a song.  It sounded like a familiar folk song, and when I asked her what it was, she confidently informed me it was a tune from ‘slavery times’.  This was a bit of a shock to me, because I had not told her about American slavery yet.  As far as I know, she doesn’t even know what slavery is, much less the crucial role in plays in the American past.

And so, here we have parental challenge #5324 and 5325 (in reality, there probably have been more).  How, and more centrally, when do you explain to a child about the dark aspects of American history?  My daughter is intelligent and inquisitive, and in the near future she will be asking more and more questions about what slavery actually was all about; I don’t want to be unprepared.  Of course, the irony of this situation is that I am a history instructor, and I am constantly discussing the horrors of history in my classes. I have absolutely no qualms about that.   But, when I think of explaining to my six year old that many of the children that she plays with on the playground could have been the property of others  150 years ago, I go mute.

That is the first problem; the second is similar.  When should she learn that those we celebrate with holidays were not untainted superheroes,  but human beings who often did horrible things?  George Washington did cross the Delaware, he was our first president, he was central to the formation of the Constitution, but he was also a plantation owner and a slave driver.  As American cwPT_1082c_AE81885_Apoth_cchildren, each new generation must grasp that this duality exists in the American story; but at what age?

I guess what it all comes down to is the fact that I just want to protect my child.  I don’t want her to know the complexity and ambiguity of history and humanity just yet.   That being said, I will NEVER teach her a mythologized version of the American past, with cherry trees, wooden teeth, and angels in the shape of men forming a perfect nation.  She doesn’t need lies; but maybe I will hold off on some of the ugly truth until she is ready. Or, until I am.

Chasing Natalie

Posted: February 14, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

She opened the cab door and looked back at me. I wanted to stop her, pull her away from the curb. I thought maybe I could jump in the cab – or in front of it. Anything to keep her from leaving. But I was frozen in place.

Her face was reassuring and playful, yet desperate and sad. She had to leave, but wanted to be found. I had to find her. It was clear: she was the one.

Just before she got inside and drove away, she told me her name:

Natalie Endfall.

And then I woke up.

I had this dream over 15 years ago. I was just a high schooler at the time, but in my dream, I was an adult, which made it seem to me like a vision or prophecy. After all of these years, ImageI’ve never forgotten that dream. Or, more importantly, that name.

At my high school, there were no girls with that exact name, but that wasn’t surprising. The odd part was that I couldn’t even think of anyone named Natalie.

In the years since, I’ve never dated a Natalie. I’ve never been friends with a Natalie. I can’t even readily identify anyone named Natalie in my personal world.

The dream hasn’t always been at the forefront of my mind. In fact, it rarely is. But whenever I think of it, I wonder what it meant.

I’ve Googled the name. It doesn’t exist. At least not according to Google. (And, as we all know, if Google doesn’t know something, it ain’t real.)

I’ve even tried to puzzle out the name in a variety of ways. Maybe it’s an anagram for some phrase or thought? Nope. Maybe it’s an anagram of the name of someone I’ve dated? Nuh uh.

Now, before you tell me I’m taking this all too far, let me tell you the following:

I know I am.

It’s all ridiculous and absurd. I’m trying to invent a heart-shaped reality out of nothing.

Or maybe Natalie is out there waiting for me right now.

Or maybe I have already met the person Natalie was meant to represent.

It’s probably all nonsense, but I want to believe in it.

Normally, I don’t want to believe in fate, and even though I believe in God, I don’t want to believe God is a puppeteer controlling our every action. But when it comes to love, I want to believe there is something more. I want to believe in forces and fate and serendipity and soul mates. I want to. I want love to be the most powerful thing we have in this world – so powerful that it’s not even entirely of this world.

Yet, I can hear the brutish, killjoy, logical side of my mind saying, “It was just a dream, dummy.”

Maybe so, but if I can navigate the grey area between logic and fantasy, perhaps I can approach that dream from a different perspective. Maybe Natalie Endfall was a symbol, a metaphor. Maybe the message from my youthful, lovesick heart was that I will know “the one” when I meet her, and there won’t be any doubt about it. (How is that for a hyper-romanticized oversimplification of the maddening complexities of love?)

At its most basic level, I at least believe the dream carries a message for us all:

To everyone who has found their “Natalie”: Be thankful. Hold that person close and cherish them.

To everyone who has lost their “Natalie”: Make it right. Go get them.

To everyone who is still searching for “Natalie”: Keep your eyes, ears, and heart open. And once Natalie arrives, don’t ever let her get in that cab.

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty. 

Just take three minutes, and watch this wonderful video.  Underneath will be the rest of this entry.

I absolutely love this song; catchy, warm, touching.  I bet many of you feel the same way.  But I see something else. This Mr. Rogers dub will be a teaching tool for me.  I am going to utilize this video for two disparate classes.  First, Intro to Communications and second, Western Civilization.  Now you may be saying, “What? I can see Communications, maybe, but Western Civ?  Surely you jest MSJ?”  Nope, I am completely serious.

This video is a wonderful example of the rhythm and musicality of speech.  Our society usually identifies a clear demarcation between speech and song, viewing the two as related but separate categories of communication.  Of course lyrics are a central part of song, but we usually don’t find much other commonality between song and our everyday speech, seeing an air-tight delineation between the two categories. Au contraire!  This video proves that this delineation is overstated.  The speech of Mr. Rogers turns to song when simply put to music. We can see that even in our everyday language usage we have a lyrical, rhythmic delivery that is unconscious and inherent.  Another example, and strangely the complete opposite of the Mr. Rogers video, proves this point just as well.  When language is arrhythmic  it sounds inhuman because it loses its evocative, emotional power.  See this video as example:

Now, onto Western Civilization.  In his ‘chorus’, Mr. Rogers informs us that “It’s good to be curious, about many things.  You can think about things, and make believe; all you have to do is think, and they’ll grow.”  This seems like an innocuous statement. But is it really?  The fact that Mr. Rogers is providing this message to children, and doing so with a vast majority of parental approval, provides an insight into our modern mentalities.  Today, his statement about curiosity is almost banal. Five hundred years ago, Mr. Rogers’ song would have been one of cultural revolution.  He could have found himself in trouble with authorities if he had been telling children that “it’s good to be curious”, since curiosity during much of Western history has been understood not as a virtue, but as a vice.

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Pascal

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St. Augustine

Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician and philosopher viewed curiosity antithetically from Fred Rogers.  During the mid-17th century, he wrote that “curiosity is only vanity. We usually only want to know something so that we can talk about it.”  Pascal was not some Negative Nelly, and though he was an original thinker in many ways, he was not saying anything new with this claim.  He was speaking for a long held belief in Christian Europe that curiosity led to nothing but pain, sin, and ultimately, death.  St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the fathers of Western European Christianity put the matter in a straightforward manner a millennium before Pascal. In his Confessions, the great Bishop of Hippo stated,  “From the same motive (curiosity) men proceed to investigate the workings of nature, which is beyond our ken—things which it does no good to know and which men only want to know for the sake of knowing.”

You would be hard pressed to find a more influential individual than Saint Augustine in Western Civilization between the years 500-1500, and like many of his notions, his take on curiosity became standard throughout the so-called “Middle Ages”.  For those influenced by Pascal and Augustine, curiosity was dangerous since it led to  the weakening of two major pillars of the Western heritage:  Tradition and authority.   Perhaps nothing seems as odd to us 21st century Americans than the belief that the authority of tradition should trump any sort of curiosity. The oddity can turn to disdain when we hear this belief travel down the road to absolute dogma.  In anti-Mr. Rogers-ian tone,  Saint Ignatius of Loyola zealously declared that “To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it.”  For Loyola, Mr. Rogers’ little song would have been heretical; dare we say a stake-burning offense?

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Mr Rogers: Enlightenment Philosopher

So, why are Loyola and Pascal outliers nowadays, and Mr. Rogers the accepted norm?  There is little doubt that the Enlightenment of the 18th century changed everything, and Mr. Rogers is a child of that intellectual movement. The Enlightenment was crucial in transforming our modern, Western mentalities in regards to curiosity. Curiosity slowly became a virtue, not a vice.  We could argue all day if this has been a positive or a negative outcome of modernity, but there is no doubt that Enlightenment thinkers have won the day.  Hence, we hear the forerunners of Fred Rogers in the beliefs of many Enlightenment thinkers and personages, such as Joseph Addison, the 18th century English ‘journalist’.  Using more complex language than Mr. Rogers, Addison relayed the same message when he stated that “Everything that is new or uncommon raises a pleasure in the imagination, because it fills the soul with an agreeable surprise, gratifies its curiosity, and gives it an idea of which it was not before possessed.”  Today, we expect teachers to live by this credo. In Addison’s time, it still had the ring of revolution.

Mr. Rogers’ chorus is the simplified embodiment of Enlightenment discourse.  By the time of my childhood, curiosity had become a virtue to be extolled and encouraged.  Of course, there are still many out there who believe that Augustine’s and Pascal’s argument is correct, but come on, how are you going to disagree with Mr. Rogers?

By Jenny Jocks Stelzer, English Faculty. 

“You’re a feminist; how could you be into Shakespeare, what with all of the ‘witches’ and the ‘shrews?’”

Um, I’m pretty sure I never heard that question in grad school or at any point in my academic experience. It’s pretty much understood that, despite the disinheritance of a less-Imagethan-compliant daughter, the taming of an obstinate wife, and the inevitable insanity of the power-hungry femme fatale, it’s cool for a feminist to be into Shakespeare, because he’s good. He’s THAT good.

However, I am continually posed with that question in my current intellectual pursuit:

“You’re a feminist; how could you be into rap, what with all of the ‘bitches’ and the ‘hos?’”

Because, I say, like any art, when rap is good, it’s THAT good.

Why is it totally acceptable to give Shakespeare props for his skills, despite his apparent misogyny, but not, say, Ice Cube? I think it has something to do with who gets to define art. While our cultural reverence for Shakespeare stems from the way that he kicks ass with English (Sound and fury? Damn right.), it is made unquestionable by our acceptance of his stories as universal and his skill as peerless. His cultural position is dominant, white, male. However, we, even feminists, let him speak for us, because he does it so good.

So, Ice Cube brings a perspective that is not just different from that of theImage accepted universal, it is downright unsettling, to understate the matter. It is unsettling in that it doesn’t fit nicely into the cultural definition of art. It can’t. It comes from an angry, black dude, and that angry, black dude could not possibly represent the universal, according to the dominant (white, male) definition.

So, we dis it. It is violent. It is misogynistic. It disturbs the shit that makes us comfortable.

Guess what? That’s art. And, guess what else? When it’s done by the likes of Cube, it’s peerless: the man can rap. Yes, he is THAT good.

Let’s take a look at some examples:

When Hamlet accosts his mother and mind-trips his girlfriend, it’s totally cool because Gertrude’s tumble into “incestuous sheets,” means that Ophelia is sure to be Hamlet’s 100th problem. Yeah, go ahead and mess with your girlfriend’s head to fulfill your revenge fantasy against your mother: “Frailty, thy name is woman.”

ImageWhen Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassidy blast through America and the “awfully dumb…sweet little girl[s],” we are quick to forgive their youthful indiscretions because they are rebelling against the stifling square-ness of the 1950′s, and because Kerouac does it with such frantic, insanely sexy lyricism: “…I knew there’d be girls, visions, everything…”

When Anna Karenina finally offs herself, the only thing she CAN do in Tolstoy’s Russia (she did cheat on her husband, after all, and he’s got a rep and a fortune to defend, yo), we praise the beauty of the tragic love story: “Sensual desire indulged for its own sake is the misuse of something sacred.” That is, if it’s a woman’s indulgence.

Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t go mad for these writers. They are amazing, and they tell stories of the human condition in ways that challenge and move us. My point is, though, that this power of (seemingly universal, but, almost always white and male) art is not found only within literature; it is found in a good rapper’s flow.

When Ice Cube claims that “Life ain’t nothin’ but bitches and money,” he is, as a matter of fact, speaking from the same misogynist universal as all the rest of these dudes, it just happens to arise from the culturally oppressed, rather than the culturally dominant. More importantly, his flow is so urgent, so angry, and so damn smooth against Dre’s hard-driving, irresistible beat, that his mastery is undeniable. So, I give him much respect: “Even saw the lights of the Goodyear blimp, and it read ‘Ice Cube’s a pimp.’”

As for my take on Norman Mailer and Eminem, I’d really like to claim that I represent as a feminist, but, like Jay-Z says, “Ladies is pimps, too.”

By Larry Larys, RMU student. 

Standards. Fresh. Quality. Every restaurant says they deliver these things, but do they really? We, as consumers, believe that fresh and quality carry the same meaning, but in actuality do they? We also believe that fresh is healthy. Subway is a great example. People always say, “Let’s go to Subway! It is healthy.” In reality, Subway is not much better than Imageany other fast casual restaurant. Americans have it in their mind that “Subway, Eat Fresh” means it’s healthy –especially after the addition of Jared, who actually lost the weight from his 3 mile walk there and back.

            While restaurants may have consumers confused that fresh is not only healthy but quality, it is our own fault because many of us don’t know what the word quality means. Quality is defined as “A degree of excellence,” something that is hard to find in a restaurant nowadays. Fresh is defined as “newly or just come or arrived,” and this may be part of the reason consumers are confused. Just because a product arrives that day in a restaurant does not mean the food is “fresh.” Personally, I would define fresh as never being frozen, quickly shipped to the location, and used within a few days. It is important that consumers make sure there is an understanding of what we want in a business and ensure it achieves that caliber of service.

            To compare the health benefits of restaurants let’s compare Subway, which people think of as healthy, to McDonald’s, thought to be the worst of fast food. Two favorites are Subway’s Chicken Bacon Ranch Melt and McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Subway’s “healthy choice” has 570 calories to the Quarter Pounder’s 520. And, personally, the second choice has more flavor. Also, realize the Chicken Melt isn’t figuring all the extra toppings and other dressings, such as oil, you may want to add—tacking on more calories. Everyone thinks fish is a healthy substitute for red meat but Subway’s Tuna sandwich packs 470 calories. McDonald’s Filet-o-fish comes in at a mere 390 calories.

            I am not saying eat at Subway over McDonalds, because the fries and other sandwiches can be much worse if you don’t shop smart; however, this proves very strongly that what most consumers deem as fresh doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. People need to do research on what they are eating and not put their fate into the stores that feed them confusing material, both at fast food restaurants and full service restaurants. It is okay to eat fast food in moderation as long as you are an informed shopper. The most important thing to remember is that fresh doesn’t always mean healthy. 

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

Thinking back to my college days, many of my memories aren’t about academics. I have countless stories about friends, family, dating, working. I’m not as quick to spring a story about a lecture that changed my life or a reading from a textbook that shook my world. This doesn’t make me different; if anything, I suspect this places me firmly in the norm. But, after all the time and energy invested in school, what about the academic moments? Do we remember them?

This was on my mind after what took place last week.

I had the pleasure….nay, the HONOR of doing a brief, improvised guest lecture in Dr. Peter Stern’s World Views class. My previous Flaneur’s Turtle post about Disney’s Paperman was just published, and Dr. Stern’s class was covering the topic of romance. The two subjects were a natural fit.

The class watched the short film and we discussed theme, metaphor, and symbolism. After my 15 minutes on stage, I headed for the door. As I was leaving, Dr. Stern transitioned back into the topic the class was writing about before my guest spot:

What effect does gender have on romance?

Jerry Springer

I said, “Oh, this is going to be good” and took a seat.

Within two minutes, the room looked like a classic episode of Jerry Springer: desks were overturned, chairs were broken over people’s backs, one person was in the corner sobbing, two people were bitten. And at the end of it all, Dr. Stern took a seat, looked directly into the camera, and gave his Final Thought.

anchorman trident

(Sidenote: It got so heated that I think the students organized into news teams after class and had it out Anchorman-style in the alley behind the Chicago campus. Thankfully, I’ve heard no reports of any trident injuries.)

I embellish (slightly) but the students really were riled up and arguing and trying to get their points across. Partially that is just what Dr. Stern does to all of us, students and faculty alike. Yet, therein lies his mad genius: the class was engaged and invested in the argument, even if they were getting frustrated and angry. And Dr. Stern said something quite quotable. As things got more heated, one student said, “I’m not having fun anymore,” to which Dr. Stern replied, “Who said discussions have to be fun?”

Brilliant.

I will probably never forget that class period and that comment. At least not until tequila steals a few more of my brain cells.

As a teacher, and when I was a student, I feel like 99% of the class periods run together in an indistinguishable blur. After a few weeks, and definitely after a few terms, I can’t tell you what we did, what was learned, who was there. Nothing.

But that class with Dr. Stern reminded me that there are those moments, as a student and now as a teacher, that have stayed with me. When I push past all of the “life” stories from my college years, what truly academic moments stick out? Here are a few:

  1. When I wrote jokes into a paper I had to read in front of a class and all of the jokes failed miserably. Ever since, I’ve known what it’s like to be Jay Leno.
  2. When I gave my speeches in Introduction to Communications, all of which went terribly. (And now I stand in front of classes for a living. Ironic. Though maybe I’m still doing terribly in front of class….)
  3. When my creative writing professor wrote on a paper that I was always “laconic” in class. I had to look up the word to figure out if I was being complimented or insulted.
  4. When I finally understood “The Dead” by James Joyce and talked to my professor after class about how the ending of the story affected me because I could (in ways) relate to it.
  5. When I first read “Notes from the Underground” by Fyodor Dostovesky and talked to that same professor about how I empathized with the protagonist.

The more I think, the more memories I could list.

I teach two classes today. The overwhelming odds are that they will be of the 99% variety. And, frankly, not every day, nor every moment, can be “special” and memorable. But, what if today is when one the 1% moments take place? That is something for all of us, students and teachers alike, to be excited about and hopeful for as we go to class.