Monday, December 30, 2002

2:12 PM

The good thing about having whiplash is that you have every excuse in the world to sit around the house and read. The bad thing about having whiplash is that you really can't rally your mental forces enough to make reading possible.

My head feels okay, actually, no pain at all, but I'm still having a little difficulty coming up with words at the ends of my sentences. Luckily, there's no one around to talk to today. Mostly I just feel like I got hit...not too surprising, since I did. Well, the hit wasn't the problem, it was hitting the ice and bouncing that was the problem. My neck should loosen up in a couple days, though. No serious damage done, I could probably skate again tomorrow if I really wanted to do so.

Sunday, December 29, 2002

A sporting weekend.

Drove up to Indy yesterday to see the Tennessee v. Notre Dame game at the Fieldhouse. Fantastic seats, third row just off the head of Tennessee's bench. We could hear every word Pat Summitt and her coaching staff said (or yelled, as the case may be). I love to watch her coach, love to watch her work with her staff. Whiplash threatened as I tried to watch both the coach and the players on the court simultaneously.

Tennessee won pretty decisively, but they didn't look all that polished. Still early in the season, I guess. But man, they've got talent on the floor. They have a freshman out of Syracuse, Indiana that is going to be really, really good. I totally bought one of her pass fakes--I was on the train, waiting to leave, I so bought it--and then she puts it in the hoop.

At one point, I turned to Catherine and said, "I made eye contact with Pat Summitt!" (she was really looking back to talk to the people to the right of us), and Catherine responded, "Well, I made eye contact with Kara Lawson!"
Kara Lawson looks like a brick wall on television, but in person, she's really quite small, only 5'-8" and not at all stocky or solid.

So, that was cool.

Then we spent the afternoon in a sports bar, watching IU lose to Temple. Ah...the travesty. Why didn't Coverdale take that last shot? I think the whole team needs to go visit a sports psychologist.

After that, we drove to the Pepsi Coliseum to watch the Indianapolis Ice play the Shreveport Mudbugs (apparently mudbugs are crawdads). It was a pretty good game, but I had a pounding headache by the time it was over. It is beyond me why every pause in the game must be filled in with blaring music. This happens at every professional sporting event, why? Do the teams think the crowd is going to lose interest in the game and go home during timeouts, or what?

But...two live sporting events and one afternoon in a sports bar makes for a pretty good Saturday.

Slept in this morning, then went to a stick-and-puck session at the Frank, which turned out to be a pick-up hockey game instead. Ah. But this isn't the right journal for that entry.

Friday, December 27, 2002

The imprint from the book I finished yesterday:

I grabbed Henrietta Buckmaster's Deep River off a shelf in the Main Library in as random a manner as possible. I walked through the stacks, stuck my arm up, and pulled down the first book my fingertips dragged across. I do this a lot. Usually I end up reading a page or two of whatever book it is that I picked, then return it to the stacks w/out ever finishing it. This one, though, I checked out and carried around in my car for six months, reading it over lunch every day.

As is obvious from the imprint, Buckmaster published her book during WWII. It was pretty popular when it first arrived at IU--it circulated in Oct. 1945, twice in Dec. 1945, again in Dec. 1946, and then again in Oct. 1947. A faculty member checked it out then, and returned it on Sept. 11 of some unknown year. It had to be 1952 or earlier, though, because it circulated again Jul. 1953. It went out to faculty again, and was returned Feb. 1958. And there it sat, never to circulate again until I pulled it off the shelf.

And this is what I don't understand--how could such a book sit there, unnoticed for 40-something years? I don't understand exactly how Deep River didn't make it into the canon of American literature. Who has even heard of Henrietta Buckmaster? I never had. If you *have* heard of her, it's probably because of her biography of Harriet Tubman, or her book Let My People Go, about the Underground Railroad. It isn't because of Deep River, and that's a damn shame.

It took me awhile to really get into the book, Buckmaster is of the school of writing that believes in capturing actual language w/her writing, and it can be rough going, trying to stumble through her attempts at recording Georgia "mountain" speech. Actually, her entire writing style is different than anything I've read before, so I couldn't just drift off and let my eyes do the reading, I had to keep paying attention with my mind, too. I wasn't sure it was going to be worth the effort, but it was.

A basic summary: it's an abolitionist's novel, written almost a century after Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom's Cabin. The book is divided into the two parts, the first focusing on Savanna, the daughter of a plantation owner who marries an abolition-minded mountain man; and the second focusing on her husband, Simon, who leaves the mountains to study law so he can destroy the institution of slavery. The book is set right before the outbreak of the War Between the States. Simon and Savanna have recently married, and between them, they need to decide where their loyalties fall: to each other, to their families, to their neighbors, to the State of Georgia, and/or to the Union.

It is indeed a novel, even though it follows the lives of real people and events as well as any history book, and I think Buckmaster's particular talent shows in her ability to make it feel like a 19th. rather than 20th c. novel. It's obviously of this century, she couldn't write about the events the way she did if she was writing while they were current, but she manages to completely capture the turmoil and political terror of the times. It's too bad it couldn't have been written a hundred years earlier, I think it would have made a better abolitionist argument than Uncle Tom's Cabin.

I didn't even notice this was a "war book" until C. pointed it out the imprint a few days ago. One of my goals in the next few days is to see if I can find some book reviews from when Deep River first came out. Was it controversial? I don't know anything about Buckmaster--I deliberately didn't look her up after I started reading the book, because I wanted to judge it for myself, not let someone else tell me how to think. I have since discovered that she received an Ohioana fiction award and a Guggenheim Fellowship for it, but what did everyone else think? Because if this would have been an abolitionist novel in 1845, it was very plainly a Civil Rights novel in 1945. The threads of Enlightenment philosophy that run through the book are astounding, and although its couched in terms of the Civil War, the declarative statement is really: we are failures as humans as long as we continue to let oppression exist unopposed. It's a book intended to grab white people by the front of their shirts and make them see what they've been doing without thinking all their lives. It's an argument for the abolition of oppression not just of black men, but of women--all women--as well.

What impresses me most, I guess, is that the book was published at all. I understand why it was wartime book, it was unapologetically pro-Union and pro-North, but I'm guessing that the publication censors must have just skimmed the text before saying, "Yeah, pro-U.S., good." They must have missed the whole bit about that guy Marx, who had some good things to say about workers and how they should see the benefit of their labors and how the poor white men of the South would do good to take Marx's lessons to heart and think about what a revolution would get them. I can't imagine the U.S. government at any time taking kindly to teaching black men about Marx, and all I can guess is that they had no idea what the real intention of the book was--to call for a rising up in Buckmaster's own day and age. I also can't believe they missed the obvious oratory on breaking the law--we're morally and ethically obligated to go against the law of the United States if that law violates a larger law (which in this case, was styled as both Biblical law and a more Enlightenment-informed Natural Law).

I don't know, it's a very complex book. A lot of the abolitionist arguments made at the outset are made in relation to the lives of poor white trash: how plantation owners, through their use of slave labor, are manipulating the economic structure of the South to their favor at the expense of the poor Georgia crackers. A lot of the rallying cries in the first half of the book involve getting the poor white dirt farmer to recognize how slavery is ruining his life. Then half way through the book, the argument starts to change to one intent on humanizing black slaves. Simon the lawyer moves away from fighting against slavery to better the lives of his white constituents toward fighting it because he believes in the humanity of slaves and their right to live a safe and dignified and prosperous life.

There's a courtroom scene in the second half of the book, where Simon has to defend not only a slave who has been falsely accused of raping a white woman (who happens to be poor white trash), but also defend an abolitionist who passed Bible scriptures encouraging freedom to the same slave. It's not as accessible as what Harper Lee provides in To Kill A Mockingbird, but it's such a good part of the book. Simon finds he can defend the slave, Harry, more easily than the abolitionist, because the slave is property, and property is money, and no court will take away a plantation owner's property without evidence. So Simon is faced w/a dilemma--he can save Harry by arguing that he is valuable property, an argument he hates, but will spare the Harry's life. Or, he can argue for Harry's intrinsic value as a human being, and sentence him to death. Either way, he finds he has to deal with the institution of "sacred white womanhood," what he can and cannot say about a (white) woman, and more importantly, what he can and cannot say about a *poor* white woman.

As it turns out, he can't adequately defend the abolitionist, because he's of no value to anyone financially, no one cares about him except that he stop trying to steal slaves away.

What makes me angry in the end is I had to read a lot of stupid stuff in high school...oh...Faulkner springs to mind....Hemingway...writers that say *nothing* to me, and here is this great book rotting away on the library shelves. It's a fantastic look back at the all the chaos before the Civil War, but it's also an excellent distillation of this moment before the Civil Rights movement explodes in the United States. I really don't think I'm giving Buckmaster too much credit by saying she was encouraging a Civil Rights rebellion, I think she knew exactly what kind of statement she was making, and it's too bad it was ignored, forgotten and abandoned. Maybe it would have been too challenging for me in high school, but then again, maybe I wouldn't have hated 10th grade English so much if I would have gotten to read something outside the canon of the Great White Male Against the World.

10:54 PM

Feeling good about yourself? Go shopping for new clothes, and that will put an end to it.

Thursday, December 26, 2002


Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Oh my....the snow, the snow. We're supposed to get up to a foot, and although I'm usually skeptical about such predictions, this time I think I believe it.
3:27 PM

Three other notable photos (taken neither by Catherine nor by me):

This picture just cracks me up. On the back, Catherine has written "Catherine goes nuts! May 1987." She's freaking out over getting her M.A. thesis done, and well she should freak out, because it was about three times as long as mine, so it must have taken her forever. Notice the article in the foreground and the calendar on the wall--both Thomas Moran.

Catherine panicking over her thesis, May 1987

For some reason, this photo of me and my roommate Mary in Pavlosk was in the same box as Catherine's photos. This is the first summer I was in Russia (it was still the Soviet Union back then). The notable thing about this photo, though, isn't the location, but rather the absolute lack of flesh on my bones. I'm twenty years old, weigh probably 118, and feel fatter than I had ever felt in my life.

I only went to Leningrad that summer because I was kicked off a paleontology team for being too fat. I had spent the spring raising money and volunteering as part of a student group that was going to spend the summer in Montana on a dinosaur dig. I had taken the classes, earned my money, done my time, and was ready to go. But the professor in charge thought I couldn't hack it, I wasn't in good enough shape. I pointed out to him that I was on UW's Tae Kwon Do (competitive) team, and that I cycled 20 miles a day, more on weekends, but he said he would only let me go if I could prove my dedication by losing 10 pounds.

Well, I tried, and I failed. And looking at this picture, I think, "No freaking wonder I couldn't lose any weight. Where would I have lost it from?" Stepan used to just berate me about my efforts to lose weight, and now I see why.

(An interesting side note: this prof. was the first person who ever mistook me for a boy. I turned in some papers to him before class one day, and during class, he asked if the young man who had given him the papers would come back and see him because he had neglected to write down his name. Yeah, that was me, that young man.)

The ironic thing is: I probably lost the ten pounds while I was in Russia. This picture was taken shortly before I became deathly--and I mean deathly--ill with bronchitis. I probably lost a lot more than ten pounds by the time I was over it, and I didn't have that kind of weight to lose. But when I got home, everyone thought I looked great. Freaks!

Susan Roehr and Mary Lassiter, Pavlosk, Summer 1988

And finally, this photo was in the same box. Here I am with my brother at Long Bay in Skagway, Alaska. It's 1976, and the notable thing about this picture is that my brother's hair is a lot longer than mine!

Tim and Susan, Skagway, 1976

3:20 PM

We were looking for a video, but came across a box of miscellaneous photos, so we stopped and spent an hour or so with old pictures last night.

Before I met Catherine, she was a photographer. A really, really good photographer. As part of our move across the country, we sold off her enlarger, her developing trays, etc. We've talked about building her a darkroom, but it has never seemed very practical. But looking through some of her old photographs last night, I decided that the darkroom idea has to be realized. If I move my weight bench, I could put up a partition wall and she could have a little area under the stairs. Catherine points out a partition wall isn't necessary, a temporary wall of storage bins is good enough, and would protect her equipment from any errant hockey pucks. The washer and dryer used to be in the basement, so it wouldn't be very difficult to get her some running water.

So, this will be my project for the new year: putting together some place for Catherine to develop photos, and replacing all her equipment.

Here are a few photos that I found last night that I really liked. Unfortunately, I have a low-end scanner, so I'm not doing them justice.

Devil's Elbow, Oregon

Trees, San Francisco

Gummi Bears

Monday, December 23, 2002

Hmmm....Christmas. I should write about Christmas while I'm in a good mood. Christmas is a holiday that never stands on its own, it tends to drag past Christmases home with it. Thanksgiving runs a close second when it comes to holidays weighed down with emotional baggage, but I think Christmas always crosses the line first. We're almost forced to sit down and contemplate the "meaning" of Christmas in our lives, and that usually leads to a consideration of holidays past and their role in getting us to today's state of celebration and/or desperation.

I, unfortunately, have a very good memory. What this means is that before I can arrive at a place of contentment (which is where have been spending a large amount of my time the past few days), I have to remember and then deliberately forget everything that I usually associate with Christmas. Then I can move forward and get down to the business of enjoying myself.

It's a tedious ritual, and one day I'll figure out how to put an end to it. In the meantime, before I can reach a more peaceful spot, I have to drive around in my car and let myself remember how much it hurt to get a box of dirt (and cornstalks!) from my brother for Christmas one year. I have to consider that long, dark Christmas break when I was thirteen when I tried to kill myself (word--it actually hurts to slash your wrists, why didn't anyone tell me that before I tried? Geez.). And I get to relive the long December nights of my freshman year in college when all I did was stay awake all night long worrying about how much my parents seemed to hate each other, wondering if my dad really was going to divorce my mom or if that was just something you say when you're yelling at your spouse, and how much was I going to like having to decide which parent to visit over holidays if they lived in different houses?

Every year, I work my way through the past to my freshman year, which seems to be some sort of watershed. From that year on, Christmas seemed to get better instead of worse. I think at some point the concept of "personal agency" really took hold, and I started holding myself responsible for the way I spent the holidays. I could enjoy myself or not, and the choice my mine to make. And, of course, it goes without saying that choosing to spend the past ten Christmases with Catherine was an excellent decision.

Anyway, remembering my way forward from some of those bleak childhood Christmases takes less time and energy w/each passing year. Things that used to be painful are now mostly just stories I tell my friends to make them laugh. And that brings me to the real point of this entry. I think all (emotionally healthy) glbt persons at some point make a decision to surround themselves w/people who make them happy, who respect and care for them, and who help make life that much more pleasant. I'm lucky in that my biological family eventually came around to a more civilized way of behaving, but I'm even luckier that I managed to build my own family of good friends. It's an interesting process, learning to care about other people and letting other people care about you, and what I think most right now, is that I kind of like Christmas, because even if it come burdened with the past, it also gives me a chance to stop and look around in the present. That way I can recognize everyone I hold close to my heart, and just let myself enjoy their presence in the spirit of the holiday.

3:36 PM

Once again, I've conclusively proven that rollerblading and ice-skating are two completely different sports. You'd think the skill set would transfer between the two, but it doesn't. And ten seconds into today's activities, I remembered exactly how it was that I broke my elbow the first time. I am just not a good rollerblader. I totally do not get the stopping concept, I instinctively tried a hockey stop and almost broke my ankle. I know I should be using that little stopping thing behind my right heel, but it seems to me to be an invitation to the emergency room every time I consider it.

Well, the good news, I'm better than I was before I quit rollerblading (after said broken elbow three years ago), but I don't think I'll be playing inline hockey anytime soon. Maybe it would be easier if I got rockered skates. I think, though, Catherine would divorce me if I started buying inline hockey equipment along with ice hockey equipment. We'd be in the poorhouse by the end of next month.

I'd love to be that sporty chick who can play anything, do anything, but I think I may be smart enough to recognize my limitations on this one.

What I really wish is that someone would e-mail me and tell me what to write in Shawn's Christmas card. It's the first card I should have sent, yet it will be the last one that actually goes out. Everytime I pick up a pen, my mind goes blank. I want her to know I'm thinking about her, but my god, what am I supposed to say?

There's very little in the world I wouldn't talk to Shawn about--there's very little we haven't talked about at some point in the past--but I can hardly think of a word to write to her these days. I can't bring myself to call because I just hang on the line in silence, trying not to make my grief her problem.

So, even if you're a complete stranger, have a heart and drop me a line and tell me what to write, because I am absolutely without words at this point.

9:56 PM

Never in my life did I think I would hear Dorothy Allison quoted in a church sermon, much less hear her identified as "an author and lesbian feminist" in front of a religious congregation.

I feel like I've been taking a crash course in theology. Religion--our new hobby! We went to church *twice* today, once for Sunday services and once for a winter solstice concert. It may be that hell is freezing over somewhere.

We actually hung out for a few minutes after church and talked with some people. It completely stressed me out, talking to strangers. We met an older couple, Gerta and Edward, they are new to Bloomington (but longtime Unitarians), and we talked with them for awhile. Catherine pointed out to me last week that if nothing else, the whole church experience is good for us because where else would we interact with people of such different ages? We're never around kids, and never around old people, and now we've spent four Sundays with both.

The Rev. Breeden's sermon was excellent, actually. I teared up twice at church today, once during the children's story, and then at the end of the sermon, an unheard of event. I never cry in public. I never even cry in front of Catherine if I can help it. Anyway, I felt like sitting there listening improved my life a little bit today, even if I didn't agree with the entire text of the service. Gerta had some strong opinions on it as well, especially on the part about loving people who seem unlovable, or at least not letting unlovable people take away our option to love. She was pretty old, and she was wearing a pin that was a combination pink triangle and Star of David (we think her son is gay), and she said, "When you get to be a certain age, you just want to talk back during the sermon. There are people in the world who can't be loved, who are truly evil. There is nothing to love about them, and I shouldn't be asked to love them." And I guess I have to agree. You can't really stand there talking to a person of a certain age w/some sort of European accent wearing a Star of David and expect them to concede to the idea that everyone in the world should be loved.

Anyway, I don't believe love can be de-personalized to such an extent that you can apply it to the entire world. Love to me is pretty much a one-on-one emotion, and grows out of personal interaction. I can respect humanity in general, have compassion, empathy, sympathy, and a variety of other emotions toward the world at large, but I can't love you unless I've established a direct, personal relationship with you. The things I feel for all humankind--that everyone should be entitled to live a life free of fear, hunger and (preventable) disease, for instance--don't really fall under the heading "love," in my mind.

Anyway, I'm too tired to write a dissertation on love at the moment. Today I: slept in, went to church, went out for coffee, did some grading, went to a concert, went to the gym, drove around and looked at Christmas lights, went out to dinner, and addressed at least three Christmas cards. No wonder my head hurts.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

What do I miss about graduate school? Nothing! Okay, that's not true. The one thing I really miss from the old days is the graduate reading group Todd and I sort of organized. All the participants were history grad students, but all from different fields: I was 19th c. British imperialism/colonialism, Todd was 20th c. American intellectual, Pat was Tokugawa period, Loyd Tokugawa? I can't remember. Something Japanese. Kristen was medieval Italy. Jeff was 20th c. Environmental/Native American. Every other week, someone would recommend an article, and we'd get together and discuss it over beer and pizza. It was great, because we got to read across several disciplines--anthropology, philosophy, gender studies--and different subsets of history.

That's the only thing I miss: A cohort interested in reading and talking about what we read. I undervalued it when I had it, I bitched and moaned about all the work involved in making it happen, but as it turns out, it was the only memorable part of the whole never-ending academic experience.

Since quitting grad school, I've slowly been weeding my bookshelves of books associated with my discipline(s). About once a year I dig a little deeper and add a few more into the stack to take to the used bookstore. I have almost no British history books left at this point. I've gotten rid of a large chunk of my art history books, and even some architecture books. I'm still holding on to a few philosophy books--Foucault, Kierkegaard, Said, Sartre--even though the longer I'm out of school the less ability I have to comprehend any of them. I don't know, maybe they're just there to remind that once upon a time my brain actually functioned on a reasonably high level, unlike now.

Anyway, tonight I very firmly closed the door on going back to grad school. I decided to get rid of not only The Return of Martin Guerre, but also The Epic of Gilgamesh. Two classics of world history, and I'm finally ditching them. That's a pretty good signal to myself that I never expect to teach History 101 ever again.

8:58 PM

Before anyone else sends me an article suggesting I'm not the best husband in the world, I would like everyone to know that instead of settling into my recliner to watch the NCAA volleyball championships today, as a husband should on a Saturday afternoon, I took myself into the bathroom and gave it a good cleaning. I scrubbed the tub, the sink, the toilet, the floor, everything. I missed two volleyball games in the process, but hey, at least I'm pulling my weight. Happy now, tocaya? :)

Blah...Stanford lost, anyway. And then we got to watch our men's basketball ball coach totally melt down on national television, taking what might have turned out to be a tied game going into over time and turning it into a definite loss by 7 points. I hope his mother calls him tonight and chews his butt good.

Our women won, though, beating South Florida. Not a snappy win, but a win just the same, so I'll take it. Cyndi Valentin is going to be a fantastic player, if she ever learns how to stop messing with her shorts while she's on the floor.

I'm going to rest and relax for the next few days and see if it helps me feel any better. I know I haven't been getting enough sleep or eating enough protein. I almost hit the floor tiles again today when I was at the used book store, and all I can think is maybe it's a low blood sugar thing, or maybe I'm anemic and just need to pump up my blood. I'll just say, the floor at Caveat Emptor isn't all that clean, and I don't want to have to sit down on it to keep from fainting again anytime soon.

Friday, December 20, 2002

Feeling a little steadier today. I almost fainted twice yesterday afternoon. Add that to the two times I had to put my head on my desk on Wednesday to keep from fainting and/or vomiting, and that makes for a very annoying couple of days.

My goal today: plot the final drawings for 934 W. 6th St., and plot the draft set for 902 W. 7th St. That should take a few hours. I told my students yesterday that I plan for three hours for every set of working drawings I plot, and they told me I was nuts, but then they tried to plot out their drawings in an hour yesterday and discovere it wasn't possible.

I've got a ton of correcting to do, but I'm not even going to think about it until Sunday. Grades aren't due until Dec. 26, so I can slack for a couple of days.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Just got a Christmas card from my cousins Sean, Meaghan and Torin. Enclosed was a list of "three of life's lessons learned this year that [they] would like to share with those we love":

Torin: "Baseball doesn't hurt nearly as badly when you try to catch with your eyes open."

Sean: "The walls may appear solid, but people can still hear what you say about them when they're outside of your cubicle."

Meaghan: "Grandma REALLY DOES have a good reason for telling us not to play on the stairs."

Lessons to live by.

7:08 PM

Well, that totally sucked. I really hate instructors who write up these finals that are ten times harder than the stuff you've been doing as homework. I worked up to the last second, and I still didn't get it done, and let's face it, I'm the best student in the class by far.
11:06 AM

The thing that gets me about Trent Lott is that he doesn't even understand how facile the remark "I am not a racist" is.

You can't magically become "not a racist" just by saying it is so, or by wishing it is so. To become even *sort of* not a racist takes a lot of work. You have to think, read, listen, talk, ask, work and work hard. You have to be willing to educate yourself and others, but also to let other people educate you. You have to be willing to listen to yourself and catch yourself and find out that you're far from perfect even though you've been working hard. You have to be willing to change. No matter how much progress you make, there's a lot more that needs to happen to make you a little closer to being "not a racist." It takes constant vigilance, and even then, you'll find yourself thinking or saying something you just wish you hadn't. Every day you have to start over, and start over willingly, or it doesn't get you anywhere.

Every single one of us lives within a social framework riven through with racism, and every day we need to reassess it and see what can be done about it. Who influences what we think? How do we pass on that influence? What's the television telling us, the radio, the magazine at the doctor's office? What kind of jokes do we tell our friends? Do we laugh even though we know we really shouldn't ought to? Do we notice who makes us nervous in an elevator and why? Do we notice who we make eye contact with on the street and who we pretend not to see?

That Trent Lott even expects me to believe that he isn't a racist shows me what an idiot he is even more clearly than his remarks in praise of Dixiecrat politics. He obviously slept through all the courses requiring any sort of critical thinking in college, and he should probably lose his position in Congress just because he's an intellectual embarrassment.

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Dave's e-mail totally cracked me up. Flamadiddle!
After church this morning, I got my hair cut. Came home, corrected papers, went for a run. Came home, took a shower, got dressed. Glanced in the mirror while I was brushing my teeth.

And there, looking back at me, was some boy named Jimmy. I tried to photograph him, but he disappeared every time I picked up my digital camera.

Friday, December 06, 2002

I really hate to disagree with Aaron McGruder about anything. His voice is so important, and he's usually so right on that I wonder if I'm not the one having the brain freeze on those rare occasions when I think he's on the wrong tack.

A couple of weeks ago he ran a series that started off with harshing on Winona Ryder, suggesting that the reason she got off with a slap on the wrist was because she was white. I wish I could find a copy of it online, but anyway, I'm down with that one. The whole week was funny. But in one of the later strips in the series McGruder suggested--I'm paraphrasing--that Eminem was more popular than other rappers because he was white, and I found myself thinking, " Eminem is popular *despite* the fact that he's white."

To begin with, I think any white rapper is damned from the outset thanks to Vanilla Ice. I wonder how many times Eminem heard, "Ah, he's just another Ice, Ice Baby." White rappers aren't cool, they're dorky. White people don't want to hear other white people rap.

What I really think, however, is that when you say Eminem is palatable because he's white, you really leave out a lot of the story. Over the past couple months I've been doing a lot of thinking about white privilege because it's not actually all that visible in the lives of my students. I know if one of my students was up against a student of color for a job here in southern Indiana, and they had equal education and qualifications, the white kid would get the job. That seems clear. But the thing is, I don't think these kids will ever be in the position to experience the privileges of their race. They're never even going to be offered an interview, much less a job. Watching them, I have to wonder which plays a larger role in their lives: race or class?

I am teaching a large group of young men, essentially disenfranchised, essentially powerless. They all live with their parents, they have jobs stocking grocery shelves, they all have payments they can't afford to make for their pickup trucks. One of my students missed class the other day because he was home watching his sister's baby--he still lives at home, his sister lives at home. I'm sure none of my students have ever voted or will ever vote. I'm not even certain they registered for the selective service, although surely someone chased them down and made them do it.

I guess the point is, I often wonder if they will ever have the chance to be "rewarded" for their race, if they will ever pull themselves out of their present circumstances far enough to even have the possibility for profiting from their white male-ness. I have a student who can't read. Or, if he can read, it's at a very low level. Unless some miracle happens, he is going to live out the rest of his days out in the county, sitting in front of the television, feeling angry and ripped off and not even know why. He probably doesn't even know he's supposed to be privileged, he just know life sucks and he can't get a job.

Okay, back to the point about Eminem--all of my young, male students like him, they were completely psyched to go see Eight-Mile when it opened, and they're always trying to watch his videos and stuff online. And I've been listening to them talk about the movie and the music, and it just strikes me that they identify with the image that Eminem projects--an angry, disillusioned, white boy who grew up in a single-wide trailer in the wrong part of town, whose family sucked and always will suck, and who only managed to save himself from repeating his family history because he rapped his way out of Detroit.

It's all an act, I think, but Eminem has a fantastic talent for expressing anger. In his "Cleaning out My Closet" single, there are a couple of lines addressed to his mother, ("Wasn't it the reason you made that CD for me, Ma? So you could try to justify the way you treated me, Ma?"), and it is absolutely stunning how much bitterness he manages to squeeze into the one-syllable word, "Ma." And I'm watching my students watch him, and I compare the way I listen to an Eminem song and the way they listen to the same song, and I suddenly wish our school had metal detectors at the front gate.

West coast/East coast rappers say nothing to a poor boy from out in the county who is being promised everything via DirectTV but can't seem to actually get his hands on it in real life. Eminem, on the other hand, knows all about it. So, I guess I think that, yes, Eminem's success is because he's white, but not in the way that Aaron McGruder was suggesting.

Okay, it sounds like I want my student to all grow up and realize that they can live the good life because they're one step ahead because they're white and they should take advantage of it. But I'm not. I'm just a little confused as to how great a role class plays in the formulation of a power hierarchy. When does race overtake class and offer power? When does class erode race and disintegrate power?

What I really think, though, is just that I want my students to start doing their homework so I can quit worrying about them being unable to get a job so they can feed their kids and put a decent roof over their heads.