Archive for December, 2013

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

Anyone who knows Peter Stern, knows that he has a way with words.  As you can tell from many of his Turtle posts, and as many of his coworkers would readily admit, Peter can be quite loquacious.  But, that does not mean Peter is not wisely pithy when it suits him.  So, for your reading enjoyment, I give you some of the best Peter Stern-isms of the last year, as witnessed by myself and my fellow Turtle-ite Paul Gaszak.

Peter is the master of analogy:

 On the idea of Wrigley Field adding a jumbotron: “It’s like someone whipping out their genitals in Holy Name Cathedral.”

Peter does not view the world in simple dualistic catagories:

RMU Student: I’m a failure.

Dr. Stern: That’s not true. You’re just not a success.

Peter displaying his Socratic wisdom:

Gerry Dedera: Peter, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Peter Stern: I couldn’t be more wrong? Just wait a minute.

Peter contemplating his own photographic image:

I don’t believe that’s me at all; I think it looks much more like Marcel Proust after letting his hair grow out a bit and turn gray.

Peter using humor to illustrate society’s prejudices:

Carol Bivin: Why is it that a woman has never been elected President?
Peter: Well, let me tell ya, sweetie pie….

Peter as instructor:

Paul Gaszak: I told your students to move to the back row, because you educate with such force that there is a blast radius.
Peter: The force was so great that it actually pushed them out the door.

Peter as critic of our society’s obsession with physical beauty:

Paul Gaszak (A runner extraordinaire): Did you make a big deal of Cynthia’s birthday yet?

Peter: We are going to celebrate later when you’re out narcissistically jogging or whatever it is your selfishly do.

Peter being Peter:

Paul Gaszak: I thought we’d be the birthday strippers (for Cynthia’s party). You want to be the policeman or the fireman?

Peter: I can do both.

Happy Holidays, from the Turtle!

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By Peter Stern, Philosophy Faculty.

That’s right. Yes, you’ve read correctly, Turtle Doves–shop ’til you drop. Of course you didn’t hear it here first. True. But that’s not surprising for we–or at least some of the we–at The Flaneur’s Turtle don’t think of ourselves as cutting edge, think tank types. We know we’re not housed in one of the latest plush, rolling lawn cloistered meccas dedicated to the fine art of coming up with totally new ideas that will transform our world and our lives and our children’s lives for evermore.

Instead, we’re located at the corner of State and Congress in the deep centered vortex of a hum drum intersection surfeited with big city rush hour traffic jams where life couldn’t be more pedestrian and less creative. Indeed I dare say some at the Turtle eschew the cutting edge with almost the same focused energy ski bum addicts search out the perfect slope to best show off their dazzling pyrotechnics.

ImageThe small plaque by the front entrance of our 100 year old building tells our story. What it says is that our 12 story structure found itself on the cutting edge a century ago when it was the tallest building in the city of broad shouldered hog butchers known as Chicago. But that 12 story structure is no longer Chicago’s tallest building; Chicago’s tallest building today is called the Willis Tower and it’s a 102 stories in the air, or 90 stories taller than our old fashioned work life domicile.

So although we’re not at the forefront creating revolutionary new ideas, we Turtle Correspondents still feel we live worthwhile lives, and regularly have interesting thoughts to share with you, our readers, even when our thoughts aren’t brand new. After all, old ideas often contain nuggets of pure gold which time has tarnished and tawdry abuse rendered ridiculous. Brushed off, these old ideas can prove amazingly useful.

Now, with the above prolegomena safely behind us, let us turn our attention to the well known adage about buying which, in my view, is anchored in the very deepest layers of cultural wisdom. Yes, I really do believe the much maligned statement– shop ’til you drop–does contain good advice reasonable people would do well to follow, especially during the holiday season.

For what this well known statement is really telling us is simply this: to fulfill ourselves, we human beings should celebrate love and life. So if you’re genuinely committed to celebrating love and life, then my Dear Hard Carapaced Turtle Readers, my advice is to go out and shop, shop, shop.

Liven up your life by buying a new toaster oven, or pair of shoes, or box of chocolates, or stationary set, or magazine, or calendar, or Imagebook. Buy yourself a pint of your favorite ice cream or, better still, buy a quart. Just buy something and start the ball rolling. And with the holidays upon us, don’t simply shop for yourself, think of buying things for other people. Think about these other people–your spouse or significant other, or friend, or colleague, or sibling, or aunt and uncle and imagine a present they would like to receive; then go out and buy it. The more you buy the better you’ll feel, this I guarantee you or your money back.

Please remember shopping doesn’t require you to spend huge amounts of money. The magic phrase doesn’t demand you buy a diamond ring for your wife, or a pair of Bears season tickets for you and your offspring, or pluck down a bundle for a brand new husky, heavy weight, muscle bulging Dodge Durango. Au contraire. Small or if you prefer modest gifts fully satisfy the spirit of the slogan.

If you’re female rather than male, you needn’t feel compelled to buy a gazillion dollar fur coat, or a pair of $800, six inch Jimmy Choo satin red spiked heels. Going to Target or Walgreens to buy a couple pair of flip flops will work just fine. Shopping ’til you drop doesn’t mean you need to amass an Oprah sized net worth to enjoy the blessings buying confers. Don’t ask me how I know all this, just trust me that I do. Better still, buy those flip flops and see if they don’t make you feel bedda.

Actually one of the joys our slogan reminds us of is that you don’t have to be rich to get a kick out of shopping. You can be living from paycheck to paycheck and still enjoy the pleasure that buying affords those with tons of dough in the bank. And if you sit down and think about it, you’ll realize that most of the high toned folk who rail against the sleaziness of buying are people who are fairly well off and already have enjoyed buying lots of things they like. Indeed I can’t remember a single time I’ve run across poor people who preach heartfelt sermons about the immorality of buying “stuff,” especially at Christmas.

And don’t take this shop ’til you drop idea too literally. It doesn’t mean you must shop ’til you’re starving, worn out, and completely exhausted. Interpret it instead as a simple, well meaning, suggestion for you to avoid acting miserly, and/or resentful, particularly of those people who are out at the mall spurred by the holiday spirit. Let no one suggest for even a nanosecond that they see a resemblance between you and Mr. Dickens’ gorgon like ogre, Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge.

I think you’ll find and be surprised finding that buying is one of the human conditions most liberating experiences. Buying frees you up. When you’re buying, you don’t have to agree to the disagreeable, or obey people who think that they’re your master. Assuming your shopper’s mindset, you become as free as a bird, with the sky your only limit. Shopping is an equal opportunity endeavor.

Sure it can be abused and done to excess. But the same can be said of eating, sleeping, working, studying, exercising, and even praying. To put shopping in a clearer perspective, remember that animals don’t shop; they simply hunt and gather. Why don’t they shop? Because they don’t produce–they can reproduce, but they can’t produce a new way to wash clothes, or do yoga, or watch a movie, or listen to birds chirping. Neither can they brain storm, go to the library or laboratory or think tank to discover new ways to live their lives. So they don’t shop.

Only humans shop. To better appreciate this extraordinary fact, let’s do a final thought experiment: think what life would be like if we couldn’t shop. How awful our lives then would be! It would be as if we were suddenly behind bars, condemned to live our life in a jail cell. In prison, the terrible thing is that nothing’s really new; inmates are condemned to a world where everything’s basically the same.

Thus don’t rail against shopping and shoppers even as you review in your journal shopping’s obvious shortcomings. Also, don’t stay up nights worrying inordinately about the horrors of living in a consumer’s society. Instead, remind yourself that shopping’s one of mankind’s deepest and most attractive hobbies which has its roots in the innermost Heideggerian core of our primordial existence. As we need to eat, sleep, breathe, reproduce, and laugh, and cry, so we human beings need to shop, and shop and shop–both for ourselves, and for others. So count your blessings. Rejoice and be grateful that you can shop even when your dog, or cat, or hamster can’t.

 

By Jenny Jocks Stelzer, English Faculty.

Beyoncé is a feminist. No matter what you think. No matter what I think.

Beyoncé is a feminist. Because she decides.

She creates this crazy-dope album that is, in effect, a whole new pop sub-genre that not only demands the “album” experience (we’ve seen the rebirth of the “album” over singles with artists like Nas and Kendrick), it forges a new inextricability between song, beyonce-visual-albumalbum, AND video. No singles, please. You gotta experience the whole damn thing. You listen according to Bey’s direction. And, you watch. And, by the way, you’re happy about that (trust me). She then forgoes the beaten path toward sales (much time, energy, money on hype, little time, energy, money on art) to drop “Beyoncé” as a straight-up surprise. No matter what you cynics say about marketing ploys, “Surprise! Here’s my amazing new album! Enjoy it!” is way better than the uber-strategic beat-us-over-the-head-with-hype-on-your-upcoming-album-so-much-that-we’re-kinda-over-it-before-it-even-drops thing (think: Eminem and Lady Gaga).

Beyoncé is a feminist. Because she controls “the gaze”.

So much is said in feminist theory and cultural criticism about the male gaze, which objectifies and sexualizes women according to masculine desires. The camera, and his eye, is on her. He watches, she moves, for him. Beyoncé shifted the power of the gaze way back with “Video Phone,” when she took control and directed HIM on how to watch her. She does this often on her new album, repeatedly directing his gaze (“Don’t take your eyes off it/Watch it babe”) and in thoughtful and sometimes ironic ruminations on beauty and social distortion (“Pretty hurts/We shine the light on whatever’s worse”) as well as, yes, feminism (by taking the male gaze straight on with the self-celebratory: “I look so good tonight/God damn!/I woke up like this/Flawless”).

Beyonce is a feminist. Because she brags about her sexual prowess.

SO damn hip-hop. She appropriates the common trope of sexual ability from the fellas. Sure, other female artists have done this before (Eve, MC Lyte), but Bey does it bigger. First, she owns what he’s gazing at (like a stone-cold fox): “my fatty, daddy, “, then she makes her demands (like a man): “You rock hard/I rock steady,” and then she declares him worthy of her (like a BOSS!): “Ooh, my sh*t’s so good that it ain’t even right…/…you’re my equivalent/So sexy”.

(Run, don’t walk, now, and listen to “Rocket”. Seriously. Stop reading this, download this album, and listen to that song RIGHT NOW. Uh, huh. You’re welcome.)

Beyonce is a feminist. Because she’s powerful enough to break the rules and to have fun doing it.

Much ado has already been made about the  questionable rhymes her husband, Jay Z, lays on “Drunk in Love,” which reference Ike and Tina Turner’s forcible-cake-eating moment in their abusive marriage. Rightfully so, black feminist bloggers like Black Girl1369078467_beyonce-jay-z-lg Dangerous’s Mia McKenzie and Crunk Feminist Collective (“5 Reason’s I’m Here for Beyonce the feminist“) take on the lyrics, Jay Z, and Bey, for this. Sure, in the pre-“Beyoncé” pop culture space (read: male-dominated), the fact that Jay raps almost jovially about spousal abuse in his wife’s song seems an affront to her, to marriage and to women. However, this is Bey’s world now, y’all; Jay’s just rapping in it. First of all, as McKenzie repeatedly notes, Beyoncé “allows” Jay to spit these lyrics on her album. Secondly, as far as we (the public, audience, fans, even haters) can possibly know, Bey’s and Jay’s is a mutually respectful relationship between equals. They allow us glimpses into their intimacy (Lucky us!), so we must approach their relationship on their terms, and take at face value the fact that this is the (pretended or genuine – no matter) sex life of two equally powerful adults. By the look on her face (in the oh-my-god-I-might-just-die-its-so-sexy video for “Drunk in Love”), and the fact that she mouths the words along with him (while turning her own gaze on him AND on the camera itself, I might add), suggest that this just might be sexual play that SHE demands; he’s just living up to her expectations. Lucky him. Plus, just watch her dance. The woman is running sh*t and she’s having so much fun doing it.

(By the way, no fair judging fantasies. People be kinky, and you know it. Enjoy the show. Whether it’s right or wrong AIN’T your business.)

Beyoncé is a feminist. Because she says so, b*tches.

No matter how earnest, self-righteous, educated, or angry we are, we don’t get to define Beyoncé’s feminism. SHE DOES. This weak-ass defense I offer is no different than some rant about her sexiness or her very public relationship. This gets to the (really important) discussion of the problem with white feminists. We want to decide, to explain, to define, and we have a hard time just listening. Because white women have always been in a (slightly, to be sure) higher position of power than black women, we’ve been able to voice what does or does not constitute feminism, and this definition has often neglected, even degraded the black female experience and the black feminist perspective. Beyoncé’s declaration of feminism is, on the one hand, none of our damn business, and, on the other hand, an opportunity to take a closer look at our own deeply held convictions about beauty, marriage, feminism, sex, and fun.

Nonetheless, this is Bey’s feminism, not yours, so shut up and listen.

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

On Tuesday, I watched a few minutes of The Biggest Loser before the finale of The Voice.

A few years back, I was hooked on The Biggest Loser. It’s a fun and inspiring show. However, like all of the reality shows I have been addicted to, its charm and novelty wore off. I didn’t start disliking the show, it’s just that reality TV like American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, and The Biggest Loser become ultra-repetitive after a few seasons because as Bon Jovi said, “It’s all the same / only the names will change.”

During the final weigh-in on Tuesday, I wondered about the host Alison Sweeney and trainers Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper, who are the longest tenured personalities on the show. I wondered if, after all these seasons, they are getting tired of the show. It must be like the movie Groundhog’s Day in which Bill Murray’s character constantly relives the same day. Every season, the trainers start with new contestants, go through all the same lessons and struggles, get the finale, and then it’s over. Then, they start from scratch, again and again.

Alison, Bob, and Jillian of NBC's The Biggest Loser.

Alison, Bob, and Jillian of NBC’s The Biggest Loser.

That has to get boring and maybe even frustrating. How do they do it? Why do they do it?

Then I realized I do the same thing as a teacher.

Every term, we teachers start with new students, go through all of the same lessons and struggles, get to the finale, and then it’s over. Then, we start from scratch, again and again.

I can’t speak for Bob and Jillian, but for me, it hasn’t gotten boring.

Just like on a reality TV show, the basic structure of a class doesn’t change, but there are so many variables that make every class and every group of students a brand new adventure. Who are my students as individuals? How will they mesh as a group? How will they mesh with my personality? How will they react to the lessons and activities? The answers to these questions and countless others make every class different.

Perhaps the formula of reality TV wears off on me because I don’t actually get to know the people on the show. Typically, contestants on reality TV just fill a role through the lens of the show’s editing and storytelling; there’s the sweetheart, the villain, the comedian, and so on, all of which strips real people down to the level of stock characters. However, behind the cameras, each season might be a new adventure for the trainers and judges on these shows.

Or they’re just getting paid lots and lots of money.

Whichever.

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty.

Of the many charming Lunt Family Holiday traditions, “The Cookie Exchange” is among the best. The cookie room is the cookie exchange’s attendant miracle: it manifests itself and disappears in a matter of minutes, just like Santa!

ImageMy mother is an excellent baker, and she taught all five of her daughters most of her secrets. My mom always liked to be friendly with the neighbors, too, and from that serendipitous combination of baking and friendly-neighborliness emerged the tradition known and the Lunt Family Cookie Exchange.

Lots of families coordinate cookie exchanges. The special ingredient in our exchange is my mom’s attention to detail and unwavering commitment to quality. Mary Ellen treats the cookie exchange with the utmost importance.

Thus, there are rules of the cookie exchange. Each participant (my mom, my four sisters, my sister-in-law, I and etc.) must bring at least two varieties of cookies. There must also be three dozen cookies of each variety (no skimping!). These aren’t the guidelines; these are the rules.

Clearly, we’re talking about a lot of cookies; six bakers contribute no less than six dozen individual cookies, quite often more as someImage of the sisters will make three varieties. The result: approximately 500 homemade cookies that converge inside my mother’s house on one day in December, transforming the family room for a few hours into “The Cookie Room.”

For at least the past 25 years, recipients of the cookie platters have delighted in the signature delights of The Lunt Ladies cookie skill set. My mom makes the difficult varieties because she is by far the best baker, and is the queen of sugar-coated self-sacrifice. Her cookies are the most beautiful, and most delicious. Mary Ellen makes the delicate lady locks, tiny fruit-filled kolatche, and miniature pecan tarts. My oldest sister, Betsy, has perfected the Hershey kiss cookie. They look absolutely flawless. Her other favorite to make (and eat, I believe) is the seven-layer cookie: a variety that includes chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut, and four more equally sweet layers. Barbara bakes pecan puffs and oatmeal scotchies and buckeyes. Margo makes snicker doodles and brownies. Theresa contributes candy cane kisses and Oreos dipped in white chocolate and sprinkles. Sherry (a Lunt by marriage) is more adventurous and artistic, and creates new cookies every year, often intricately decorated. Someone makes pocketbooks. I bring my two signature holiday delights: fudge, which is the same recipe I learned to make with Jenny Couch when we were 16, and gingerbread a tradition I borrowed from my friend Ingrid’s family.

Constructing the cookie trays involves guidelines. The required amount of cookie trays is 24 (more precision!). Holiday music ought to be playing in the kitchen, but is not required. The lights and ornaments on the Christmas tree should be shining in the window. Ample plates and platters and clear plastic wrap and colorful bows must be gathered and distributed. Any person present in the Lunt house on cookie exchange day will be handed a platter and instructed to pile cookies on top of it, circling the room clockwise, selecting four cookies of each kind during the initial pass to ensure equal dispersal. Heavier, larger cookies are plated first; the prized lady locks always perch on top. According to my sister-in-law, all this exactitude results in a stressful evening, but I can’t imagine what she means.

Hand delivered to neighbors, friends, colleagues, and family, the spoils of “The Cookie Exchange” are an exquisite array of holiday temptation, lightly dusted with powdered sugar.

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

My wife and I were leaving Robert Morris the other day, and a man came up to us to ask for directions.  “Is Dearborn Street nearby”, he wondered.  We kindly replied that Dearborn was only a few yards away, pointing him in the correct direction. As he took leave of us, he smiled pleasantly, waved, and shouted “Merry Christmas”! I wondered, ‘what did he mean by that?’

This is now the world in which we live. The ‘War on Christmas’ narrative is running amok. Thanks largely to Fox News, radio talking heads, and screeching bloggers, the month between Thanksgiving and New Years Day has become ground zero for the culture wars.

Great-Christmas-War-eWhen this seemingly kind man stated “Merry Christmas” to me and my wife, I wondered if he had ulterior motives.  Was he, in fact, proclaiming an aggressive political statement with his apparent jolliness?  Was this ‘Merry Christmas’ a shouted proclamation of his religious and political views on the street corner in order to be seen by others. Had he received his hypocritical reward in full? Even more disturbingly, was he making sure we shared the same views as him?  Did he hope to discover that my wife and I were on his team?

Or, was he just a friendly man who appreciated the little help we provided him? Was his ‘Merry Christmas’ simply intended as a straightforward hope for my wife and I to have a wonderful holiday season?

About 10 to 15 years ago, this conflicted set of thoughts would have never entered my head. Back then, I would have smiled nicely at the guy, and responded in kind, wishing him a full-throated “Merry Christmas”!  If he had said ‘Happy Holidays’, I would have replied in a similar fashion. “Happy Hanukah”, “Happy Kwanzaa”, “Happy Boxing Day”?  None of these fare-the-wells would have struck me ill. I would have smiled, and happily replied, ‘the same to you my friend!’

Today though, how one greets their fellow man during this six weeks often has little to do with friendship and warmth.  For some, the method one uses to wish a stranger good tidings during the holiday seasonraisingthetree has deep political, tribal meanings. As such, the idea that a ‘War on Christmas’ exists, and must be fought, is quickly eroding the very holiday the Noel freedom fighters purport to protect.  The irony would be delicious if it was not so tragic.

I think for a great number of people, the holiday season, and Christmas in particular, is not relegated to churches, sermons, or hymns. To put this more bluntly, Christmas is not only about Christianity or Christians. As a lover of Christmas myself, and as one of the secular humanist boogeymen that Fox News fears, the day holds little religious meaning to me. But, that does not mean I don’t find the day and season to be spiritual, or spiritually fulfilling. For 21st century Americans, Christmas’ encapsulation of brotherhood, peace and goodwill is a heartwarming necessity in an increasing cold, individualistic society. The discursive, and completely imagined, “War on Christmas” weakens, if not completely annihilates, that most wonderful aura of happiness each December produces.  Though the idea of a ‘War’ on any holiday is ludicrous in itself, it is especially unfortunate when utilized to create Christmas identity ideologies.

If nothing else, the creation of this supposed struggle and escalation of the tribal rhetoric provides a sobering example of the power of words.  One of the reasons humans throughout history have ‘loved’ war is because it produces a strong, aggressive sense of community. Of course, this community is most often steeled by identifying and vilifying an enemy who is different.  War produces a sense of moral righteousness that pulls members of a group together, but does so with a sense of paranoia, hatred and distrust of those seemingly on the other side.

But, how to identify such people?  Do they dress different? Think different? Feel different?  Or, do they simply talk different?  Can they say ‘Shibboleth’?  Do they say Happy Holidays? Or, are they on ‘our’ side and say the correct greeting of ‘Merry Christmas’?

By Peter Stern, Philosophy Faculty. 

My life in sports! Where to begin? “Begin at the beginning,” you marvelously faithful Turtles intone to yourselves in unison, despite all manner of post and even pre modern distractions. OK, sure. But not so fast. Don’t you see: there’s a rub here. For where exactly is the beginning? Who can say with absolute 100 % Cartesian certainty where the beginning is? And who would be willing to settle for less than 100% certainty ?

Where’s the beginning? That’s the question. Out of the great flow of life that constitutes my early existence on this great green globe I’d have to arbitrarily pluck out a moment and magically announce with hale and brimstone, sound and fury, joy and sorrow: here’s the beginning, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s start.

You see a question like where did my life in sports begin isn’tlike well, gosh I’ve got to turn the light off before I can fall asleep, or turn on the ignition so the car will run, or get a glass of water before I can drink it. No, the question concerning the beginning of my sports life is far more difficult to answer requiring probably hundreds and hundreds of hours to examine a million trillion neurological events which preceded a decision I must have made to involve myself in sports–or more likely a single sport, back in time’s unfathomable mists. And these thoughts about neurology, and my sports beginnings aren’t some arcane, mad, hare brained assertion of a confused person gone off the deep end of an extraordinarily deep cliff–say like those steep ten story stone cliffsyou see in pictures of the southern portion of the Arizona Grand Canyon.

Au contraire. This my dearest of Turtles is cutting edge, cusp of the wave, up to the minute PhD science. Hard. Straight. True. And your expectations–well, in fact, they’re examples ofsubjective, naive, vague, helter skelter, fantasy, goo goo type thinking. Pure infantile wish fulfillment with no more reality than a unicorn or a wish to pick up the phone and say a few words to Ulysses S. Grant, or Charles Dickens, or Marcel Proust.

Where was I? Oh yes: so I assume you’ll agree with me that deciding where exactly my life in sports began is a very real challenge for me and for you, too, who have far less data than do I.Moreover, in all candoor, I must confess that my difficulty in identifying the beginning of my sports life is truly formidable because in fact I have absolutely no memory at all of a first momentplaying sports or even of my first exposure watching sports being played either live or on the tube. Nothing vivid leaps into consciousness of my sitting on a couch, maybe chatting with Dad, and seeing the outlines of Wrigley Field with the Cubs battling the Reds, or the Giants, or the Cardinals, etc. Zilch. Zip. Zero.

I think I do have a vague memory–and I might well be making this up–of playing soccer in a school play ground when I was about 6 or Image7 years old. But it’s all very vague. What I remember more vividly is joining the South Chicago YMCA and deciding soon thereafter I should learn how to swim. By the way, that Y still stands on the same corner in did years ago in my youth, well before cell phones, smart phones, and computers could take pictures so they could instantly be yours without having to go to Walgreens or send them to the folks at Kodak.

Fairly quickly I did learn to swim and even joined the swimming team, but never became much of a swimmer. Water would get in my eyes, ears, nose, and throat, an experience I never could convince myself was of little consequence and that I should simply choose to ignore. Eventually–meaning I was about 10 or 11, I think–I tried out for little league and made the team, deciding I should become a catcher since not many kids wanted to play that position. For a while that worked out but, like with swimming, I became increasingly disenchanted with the unpleasantries that went along with playing catcher and decided playing little league ballwasn’t for me.

ImageOh!–and I also quit because for some reason I was lousy at the plate. Great arm but just couldn’t hit a baseball. Later I played 16 inch softball, especially during the summers at an overnight camp in Wisconsin, and discovered I couldn’t hit that huge thing either. I mean I could hit it, but very far it seldom traveled. Is I said, I did have a good arm, and did a creditable job playing third base and right field, yet my baseball career never took hold.

But at that same camp, Camp Interlocken, the great piece of sporting news for me consisted in discovering tennis and, truly with not the smallest, tiniest ounce of exaggeration, I must report it was love at first sight and, moreover, that love remains undiminished up to this very day. Exactly why this love should form and take flight I can’t explain. I’m simply glad that it did. I played fairly good tennis, but never got really good at it partly because of a few athletic deficiencies I was born with, and partly because I didn’t take the next step which was to involve myself in a reasonably serious program of tennis instruction. Tennis is a tough sport and to get to a really solid level of play taking lots of lessons is essential.

So, dear Turtles, I’ve provided here a very brief account of my life in sports–and actually I just realized I failed to tell you about my days and nights playing basketball, a topic I’ll have to take up on another occasion. Instead of talking about basketball, I’ll conclude on an entirely different note and state very simply that my life in sports didn’t end when, save for tennis, I stopped playing sports. For what I discovered about sports is that the main reason to take up sports isn’t to play it, but to talk about it. Like the famous tree in the forest which makes no sound when it falls if no one is there to notice it, so the existence of sports depends entirely on having anaudience which chooses to watch whatever game is being played and, when the game is over, get to the really serious business of discussing it endlessly, whether on line, or in a sports bar, or in your TV room, or your kitchen, or car, or at work by the proverbial water cooler.

Indeed I’m certain–absolutely certain with 100% Cartesian certitude—that without an audience to watch and discuss our sporting life, sports would lose its sponsors, and see itself slowly stop attracting people to play its games, and little by little atrophy, and finally die. For as Aristotle told us 2,500 years ago by the wine dark sea, we human beings are endowed with reason and like nothing better talking and discussing and debating and learningabout all the things they do as well as the workings of the wider world of which they’re a part.

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

For the holiday season, we at the Flaneur’s Turtle have increased our efforts to promote the site:

Michael Stelzer Jocks has infiltrated the Salvation Army. With each donation, he sings, “All I Want for Christmas is Youuuuuu….to ‘LIKE’ and ‘SHARE’ the Turtle.”

MSJ Salvation Army

Dr. Peter Stern has been dressing like Baby New Year, wearing a sash with the Turtle’s web address.

New-Year-Baby Peter

Tricia Lunt is making the rounds at Chicago bars singing a sultry “Santa Baby” alternative: “Turtle baby, slip some insight under my tree….”

Trish Christmas

I am working as Santa at Macy’s and giving the children boxes full of Turtle posts.

…that are also wrapped in Turtle posts.

…with a card that says “Don’t be naughty – read the Turtle.”

…“PS: I was totally kissing your mommy underneath the mistletoe last night.”

Paul Santa

We plug the Turtle via social media, in classrooms, and on the side of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Tower in Chicago, but it’s not done out of vanity. (Ok, it is for me. Like Lady Gaga, I live for the applause.) The Flaneur’s Turtle and all other print and digital publications must self-promote. A publication has no value if it has no audience.

It’s like that old saying: If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to see it, it won’t get on Instagram.

On social media, where I shamelessly plug myself, I saw a quote from a 1992 Paris Review interview with poet Yehuda Amichai: “When you’re a poet you have to forget you’re a poet—a real poet doesn’t draw attention to the fact he’s a poet. The reason a poet is a poet is to write poems, not to advertise himself as a poet.”

One aspect of the quote is agreeable: all artists should create their art because they love to create it – not because they hope to label themselves as poets, musicians, painters, actors.

However, artists should not forget they are artists, and they damn sure need to advertise themselves.

We live in a world of endless distractions that….

Hold on. Blake Shelton is dressed like an elf on Kelly Clarkson’s NBC Christmas Special. Hilarious. And she’s such a cutie pie.

Blake and Kelly

Ok. Like I was saying, we live in a world of distractions. We have to fight for people’s attention in the classroom, at the dinner table, on social media. It’s even more pressing for artists and little ole publications like the Flaneur’s Turtle, who need to figure out how to be ever-present and influential without being annoying and intrusive.

Growing up, I wanted to be a writer. Part of the appeal was my misconception that it was a perfect fit for a shy, antisocial kid like me. I could hide away and write in a log cabin in some anonymous woodland area, speaking only to myself and the forest creatures until I went insane like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

I eventually learned that art has a business side full of professional connections and branding and marketing. It is a separate art form unto itself, and it can be exhausting. But it’s all necessary.

So, thanks to everyone who reads the Turtle and joins us in conversing about our topics, both online and in person.

Now go give the gift of the Turtle to your loved ones this holiday season. I’m sure they’ll love it way more than jewelry or a new smartphone.

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty.

The other day, my wonderfully acerbic colleague, Ellen, happened to pick up a document at the shared office printer. Realizing her error, she brought it to my desk. She looked at the poem, a lovely one. It is an excerpt from Rumi, the Sufi mystic, which reads:

 

I died from minerality and became vegetable;

And From vegetativeness I died and became animal.

 I died from animality and became man.

 Then why fear disappearance through death?

 Next time I shall die

 Bringing forth wings and feathers like angels;

 After that, soaring higher than angels –

 What you cannot imagine,

 I shall be that.poeTRY

Ellen read it and said, “Wow, this is really marvelous.”

She continued, “Too bad it’s not marketable.”

We laughed at the absurdity, and I agreed with her.

Poetry isn’t a marketable skill, nor should it pretend to be.

The encounter reminded me of Robert Graves’ famous observation, “There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either.”graves

Work is work. Money is money. Poetry is something else entirely.

I am teaching Creative Writing this term, a seriously wonderful class for a literature-lover like me. I get to teach poetry! Poetry! This is a gem of a class.

Alas, teaching a ten-week course in Creative Writing requires me to face a rather formidable problem: covering poetry in three weeks, meaning six class periods, equally approximately twelve hours. How can I even begin to acquaint my students with the overwhelming splendors and stark despairs that populate the poetic landscape?

I’ve settled into a reliable strategy; the optimum way to learn how to write poetry is to read poetry.

Thus, I have shared a small sampling of my favorite poems with my students.

For our discussion of imagery, I gave them Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese.”

To help them experience metaphor and simile, I offered James Wright’s “A Blessing.”

And “Famous” by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Another sentimental favorite is Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Fish.”

Poetry is an extraordinary gift, so I send poems along in birthday cards and on the central celebrations that accompany life: wedding and births, even the unrelenting deaths.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Poetry encompasses all. As Whitman says, “I contain multitudes”.

In “Poetry,” Marianne Moore explains that poetry must contain “Imaginary gardens with real toads in them.” Poetry is the art that feeds on life.

Poetry reveals life, too, often in words and ways that are incomparably beautiful.

Writing poetry means summoning the courage to express human experience creatively. To put words on a frail, white page. To imagine a new thing into being, with the hope that it can, one day, aspire to be art.

It doesn’t matter how good my students’ poems are. It matters that when invited to write poetry, they feel inspired enough to undertake the task.

It is beneath poetry to be marketable.

Poetry is better than that.

 

Blake Whitmore, RMU Student

Four years ago I went to the premiere of James Cameron’s Avatar with my boyfriend, his brother, and their friends. They were all older than me. When we shuffled into the crowded theater with our arms full of oversized colas and popcorns, a girl from the middle of the theater called out to my boyfriend and his brother. I immediately recognized her, Gabriella from my Algebra II class the year before.

We scooted past Gabriella to the empty seats she saved us while trying not to brush our butts against her. It turns out she was there to meet up with the group. Apparently they had known each other for quite sometime. It shouldn’t have surprised me. High schools are a complicated web of intertwined awkward social circles.

When my boyfriend introduced Gabriella and me, I started to say we already met, but she extended her hand with a smile and said, “Nice to meet you.”

I sat next to this girl for an entire year and she did not even vaguely remember my face. I smiled, shook her hand, and simply replied, “Algebra II. Second period.” She squinted at me and tilted her head. It was coming back to her. Her eyes widened and the light bulb was flickering.

“Oh my god, you’re that super smart girl!” The smile dropped off my face. Gabriella went on and on about how I was amazing at math and that I was the only sophomore in that upperclassman course. My boyfriend laughed knowing it all sounded just like me, but I was not so delighted. I had so much more to offer, but my one defining trait to Gabriella, was that I was good at math.

In a high school of 2,557 students it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. Everyone quickly rushed to their niche and tried to leave their mark. The theater kids all wanted a leading role. The athletes wanted scholarships and trophies. The band kids all wanted that rare solo. If my mark had been that I was good at math, what was I to do with the D I just earned in Honors Trigonometry that quarter.

This moment in the theater started me down a dangerous path. I wanted to be perfect in every way and I wanted to be remembered for my successes, not my shortcomings. I would do anything to be the best, no matter perfectionistwhat it cost me. My physical health began to deteriorate and I just kept pushing forward. I had all A’s, was working on the yearbook, taking 4 AP classes, had a solo in the marching band show, and was nominated for homecoming queen only to land in the hospital a few weeks later, but I still thought I could be perfect.

My perfectionistic ways were hazardous. I never thought I was good enough. I didn’t think anyone would remember me or think highly of me. Perfectionism was my shield. I had it in my mind that if I was perfect in every single way I could avoid all shame and avoid being forgotten. I was living for others.

There is no such thing as perfect. For a long time I thought I had failed, but there are so many more outcomes than perfect and failure. That black and white thinking never leads anywhere enjoyable.

I was doing everything to please everyone else, but nothing to please myself. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, and my head was pounding. Once again my health has caught up to me. My body is yelling at me to slow down, to take a break, and just relax, but this time I am listening.