Sunday, August 31, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
Paxton explains that looks can deceive, that he wasn't allowing this (much younger) woman to binge drink Coors Light from a mini-keg, even though the picture says it in spades. He says he was holding the spigot to keep the beer from draining into her baby-bird-like open mouth. Sort of hard to believe, like John Edwards.
But the damage got done once the Register printed the picture. Regardless of whether or not what actually went on is anywhere close to what appears to have gone on (the President's son, who is on the picture, was arrested for drunken driving the next morning, or so the story goes), Paxton is out of a job and at least mildly disgraced (nowhere near the level of hell to which John Edwards has fallen).
My two cents' worth? Looks to me as if he should be out of a job. Binge drinking is a major problem at all colleges these days, just as it has been for hundreds of years. There's also a thick sleaze factor in this old guy being surrounded by bikinied young ladies. As my students would likely say, "Eeeooouuuww."
And yet, there's something almost Victorian about it, too. What if Paxton's right? What if the ubiquitous digital camera simply caught him in a pose that looks frightful, but actually wasn't? Aren't we being a little, well, Puritanical?
It's an interesting story because it somehow it feels like a "fifties" judgment, like some old auntie in Dubuque has come back from the grave to draw clear moral lines in the sand, lines the rest of us shant cross, lines that most of us thought blew away years and years ago. There's some strong prudery here somehow, more so than I would have guessed was left in our culture.
Paxton will work again. He's not completely defamed, even if he must be more than a little humiliated. Besides, he's pocketed an extra $400 thou. Not bad.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
First, my wife and I read through Matthew 23, where Christ sounds more like Isaiah than Isaiah. I don't think of myself as one of the "scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites," and I certainly hope I'm not. I've got no desire to be a part of the brood of vipers, but then, who does? "How shall you escape the sentence of hell?" Jesus says.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Saturday morning catch
For the first time in months, I answered the call of the dawn. The color show was over just at the time I got myself and the camera out of the car, but the sun rose proudly and lit up a world that is, as it usually is in August, bright emerald. Spend some time elsewhere, then return to the rural Midwest and one realizes just exactly how gargantuan and green this world really is. There is just about as much color here now as there ever is, although once the beans turn to gold and the leaves start to turn, the camera will walk out of bag on its own. Until then, late August will do just fine.
Friday, August 22, 2008
The second part of that equation happens in spades when I read Scott Russell Sanders. He flat-out thrills me. He may well be the finest pure writer in America. I know that's an impossibly dumb thing to say, but his essays (he's mostly an essayist) are immensely thoughtful, caring, wise, and just plain beautiful. Okay, okay--he may not be the best writer in America, but I'll make this claim: he's the best American writer nobody knows.
And that claim touches on just one of my fears this year. Tomorrow, flocks of students migrate back to their winter quarters here in northwest Iowa. They fill the streets and empty the stores. I'm sure Wal-Mart is ready, and so are just about all the offices on campus. They're coming, and Wednesday I'll face a couple of dozen in the classroom again, just as I have for almost forty years. It's daunting and scary--always has been, always will be.
The night before I faced a class for the first time--in 1970--I was living in a hotel in downtown Monroe, Wisconsin, waiting for my apartment to open. I sat there on a hot August night, looking at the names on my class list, knowing none of them, and listening to the kids yakking down beneath me on the town square, wondering which of them would show up in the chairs in front of me. I was scared to death.
What scared me then was failure. What scares me today is likely the same darn thing. The odds of failure are greater these days because age carries a certain species of invisibility. Slowly on one notices it--the older one becomes the more one simply isn't noticed. My grandkids look up in church when they hear the voices of children, singing or speaking. Makes no difference--kids are, after all, what they be.
What scares me when I read Scott Russell Sanders is the notion that he may well be the best American writer that no one knows. What I've got to do again this year--just as I've tried to do for the last (almost) forty--is convince kids (and I'm an old man) that there's value, real value, in the grace and beauty and wisdom that rises from words in a sentence, from a genius they never heard of. And the older I get, the more invisible I am, and the less valuable I'm seen in their collective, youthful eyes; thus, or so it seems to me, my job gets tougher.
Cara De Haan said, yesterday, in response to the post about coaching, that she thought teaching was really coaching. She may well be right, and I'm comforted by the idea. But who gets the headlines today?--athletes. That makes coaching football or soccer a far simpler task than coaching sentence structure. Kids want the skills coaches teach. They don't really care about the skills some teachers coach.
What scares me now is irrelevance that comes concomitant with invisibility.
But I'm not dead yet, and I'm ready, once again, to fight the good fight. So bring 'em on. Last night, the football coach said he thought I should come in and yak at his team before a game some night. Maybe I've still got some steam.
Yesterday, a student told me he had to get in my class, even though it was full. He said someone told him he had to get me before I retired. I told him I couldn't let him in because he wasn't first on the waitlist, but, if it made him feel any better, I'd still be at it next year. Don't know what he thought.
Got to go. Work to do. Students are comin', like it or not.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
When it was over, they told me the story. The old woman who had called was furious, claimed the CIA was intercepting her mail, opening it, reading it all. She wanted the pastor to look into this outrage, to do something about the way her privacy was being invaded. She was also crazy, flat-out nuts. Poor old woman had grown immensely paranoid, they told me, shaking their heads.
They didn’t need to say that the CIA would have no interest in a retired teacher who had few friends and had never been in the least subversive. Her opened mail was a nightmare fantasy that was destroying her.
Then they told me a story I’ve not forgotten, how, in an effort to reopen her own old world, they’d asked her not that long before to speak to Sunday school kids—just to stand up in front of a few high school classes and talk about what school was like for their grandparents.
The minute she started speaking she grew lively, animate, loving, sweet, even comical, as every shred of that suicidal paranoia vanished. They said she moved back into the character she’d been as a teacher, started speaking in an old comfortable teaching voice drawn effortlessly from her repertoire, a voice she hadn’t lost even though that personae was a presence unheard for a decade or more. The old teacher was still there, in reserve, resuscitated by a couple dozen kids sitting before her.
She was a hit with the Sunday school, they said. She was who she’d been, her voice clear as a school bell.
In a moment the whacko became a teacher again, never missed a beat. Amazing. And yesterday I fell into a personna I had no idea was hung up in some costume closet in my soul.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Saturday, August 09, 2008
Friday, August 08, 2008
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Tuesday, August 05, 2008