Monthly Archives: September 2013

Quick Hit: Monday Madness

Mr. Chili came home from visiting his parents after work tonight to announce that his 91+-year-old father is going to undergo a 6-HOUR, full-body chemotherapy treatment sometime early next week.

I don’t expect him to survive it, and I’m wondering why the HELL the doctors aren’t advocating more strongly for hospice.

I am sad.


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Quick Hit: I Will Not Shut Up


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by | September 29, 2013 · 5:52 am

Six Word Saturday

Punk’s marching band kicks righteous ass!

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Friday “Fuck, Yeah!”

Actually, this happened late Wednesday night, but whatever.

The North Carolina’s Randolph County school board – you know, the one that banned Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man after a single parent complained that it was “inappropriate” for 11th graders? – held an emergency meeting on Wednesday night.  It seems that there was so much protest over the move to ban the book – which is nearly universally accepted by English teachers as a cornerstone of American literature – that the school board had to bow to the pressure.

Rightly so, I think; I got my hands on the 12-page complaint this mother filed, and I was not impressed.  Instead of making a case for her accusation that the novel was inappropriate, she simply cut and pasted passages from the book that she felt were explicit.  She took the passages completely out of context, and she made no effort at all to offer up a critical analysis that justified her objections.  Basically, she picked out a bunch of “dirty” parts, pointed to them, and said, “LOOK!  LOOK at that!  That is inappropriate!”  I would have had much more respect for her if she’d at least tried to make a case (I would still have disagreed that banning the book was a good idea, but I’d have given her props for the effort.  As it was, she seemed barely literate herself; the spelling and word choice errors in the document were pretty significant, but that’s another matter entirely).


The school board held the meeting, and the 5-2 vote to ban the book was overturned 6-1.

I cannot say that I’m surprised by this (though I will cop to being surprised that the board voted to ban the book in the first place.  I think a prerequisite for serving on a school board is that one pledges to NEVER allow a book to be banned in their district, but that’s just me).  I heard that a local bookstore offered free copies of Ellison’s novel to anyone in the county who wanted one, and they ran out of copies in ridiculously short order; they were in the process of soliciting donations so they could resupply, so the ban was pointless on its face.  Really; the fastest way to get most teenagers to do something is to tell them they can’t do it.

It is my dearest wish that every junior English teacher drop whatever she or he is doing right this minute and start the unit on Invisible Man.  I also hope that they devote an inordinate amount of time and attention to deconstructing what just happened in their school district, and to teach their students how to think critically about it.  Some righteous outrage is in order; no one should be making decisions for you about what you can and cannot read.


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Quick Hit: Prognosis

So, Father Chili was diagnosed with bladder cancer in June.

The intervening time has been spent running tests and having surgeries to try to get him ready for treatment.  It seems, though, that this plan may not be feasible.  The surgery this morning (to try to remove tumors from his bladder and install a stent to drain a blocked kidney) was unsuccessful.

The prognosis (filtered through Mother; I wasn’t able to get there in time to see the doctor) is not good.  I don’t know whether that means it’s not good for treatment, or not good in general.  When I pointed out to her that, when the doctors aren’t harassing him, Dad feels pretty well, she agreed; I used that as an opening to suggest that perhaps they should consider forgoing radiation and chemo (which, if they won’t extend his QUANTITY of life, will CERTAINLY diminish the QUALITY).  She agreed, and said they’d talk to the doctor about it tomorrow.

I think that Dad might be preparing for his final decent.  I’m keeping a close eye on him for the far-away siblings, and I don’t feel like he’s ready to land just yet, but he’s certainly on approach.  His big concern right now is that everyone is “taken care of” after he’s gone; next week, Mr. Chili is going to go over there when Mother is out so he can go over everything Dad wants.

In the words of a dear friend, “if it can’t be good, let it be quick.”  He’s not quite ready to go yet, but I hope that, when he does, he gets right down to business.  Until then, we’ll love him while we’ve got him.


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Nearly Wordless Wednesday

I can’t help it; the camel cracks me up.



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Ten Things Tuesday

It’s Banned Book Week.

I did this last year, too, but it’s worth doing it again.  Here are ten banned books that I’ve read and/or taught:

1.  The Great Gatsby.  I finally got around to reading this a few weeks ago.  I have NO IDEA how I managed to escape American high school AND two degrees in English without ever being assigned to read this, but I did.  I pulled it off my shelf about a month or so ago and read it in an afternoon.

2.  To Kill a Mockingbird.  I read this book about once a year, whether I’m teaching or not.  It truly is a classic.

3.  Beloved.  It’s a difficult book to read (most of the ones that get banned are), but it’s so worth it.  The questions it asks us to consider about choice and regret and expectations and redemption are just glorious.

4.  Invisible Man.  I’m currently tearing through my classroom storage boxes looking for my well-loved copy of Invisible Man.  I haven’t found it yet, but I will!

5.  Native Son.  See yesterday’s rant.

6.  The Lord of the Rings.  I have never taught this novel (and, in truth, I’ve only read it once), but it’s become such a part of our popular culture since the Jackson movies that I feel like it informs a lot of my thinking.  I know for sure that I use it as a point of common reference when I talk to students about honor, duty, allegiances, and power.

7.  In Cold Blood.  I read this decades ago, and the experience sticks with me to this day.  I don’t think I’ll ever have occasion to teach the novel, but I wouldn’t object to such an occasion were it to present itself.

8.  1984.  This is another book I read as an adult (though how I escaped my education without having read it for a class, I’ll never know).  I find it interesting that Orwell’s work is back as a topic of popular conversation, given the recent NSA spying scandals.

9.  As I Lay Dying.  “My mother is a fish.”

10.  A Separate Peace.  I didn’t love this novel when I read it in high school, so I was very careful to make it relevant to my students when I eventually taught it to seniors.  If I were to judge from the final projects the students did on the book, I’d say they were pretty engaged, so I guess I did okay.


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