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June 21, 2008


I'm going to pretend that this is an open thread because, really, wtf can anyone say about stuff this bizarre?

So, my wife is moving from VA in the next few weeks and I plan on doing my last major trip there for two weeks starting June 25th. Do any OW-folk who live in the metro-DC area want to get together? I asked OCSteve and he's traveling and so probably wouldn't be able to come. I'd be up for beer or coffee or food in the city or I'd be happy to host a BBQ at my wife's place (15 minute walk from the subway). If you're interested, drop me a line at laminarturbulence at gmail dot com.

Oh, what's worse about Freshwater is that there have been reports of students being bullied for not being sufficiently...supportive...of him.

Uh, the 11 years part was also pretty wtf. Way to go, an entire generation! With a name like John Freshwater, it reminds me of an alien from Buckaroo Bonzai.

Branded with an electrostatic device? Are we talking burns here, or a rather strange classroom demonstration of the principles behind photocopying? This being a science teacher, I gotta at least suspect the latter.

That's the problem with media reporting; You're never sure whether it's the "branded" or "electrostatic" that's mistaken.

Brett, if you click the "quote of the day" link, you can see a photograph of the brand, which is indeed a burn. On that page, you can follow another link for further information about device itself.

Of course, that would have robbed you of an opportunity for some content-free snark about "media reporting."

Brett would also learn that Freshwater is not competent to teach science, with his anti-science bigotry, silly teaching of creationism and ignorant claim that carbon dating is unreliable and that this supposedly has something to do with evolution.

Freshwater is the kind of guy who makes religious people look like fools.

Freshwater is also an arrogant fool as his response (pdf) to being forced to take the Decalogue out of a 'collage' he had in a classroom window shows.

I am very glad that the majority of self-identified Christians are not like this man.

OT, but it's Obama-bashing day on NPR. Scott Simon first talks with Daniel Schorr about Obama's "breaking his pledge" to take public financing and the horrible symbolism of being the first candidate to opt out, with zero mention of McCain's creative approach to following the rules he himself wrote.

Then Simon has a outraged editorial defending St. McCain from Obama's "playing the race card" against him by suggesting that his race might come up during the campaign:

They're going to try to make you afraid of me. He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he's black?

Apparently the fact that race already has come up ("Will We Still Call It the White House?" buttons, Curious George T-shirts, sock monkeys, "baby mama", "exotic", not a "full-blooded American", and on and on) is irrelevant.

I'm going to pretend that this is an open thread because, really, wtf can anyone say about stuff this bizarre?

Not much that isn't already dead obvious, I think. For me, this is just another manifestation of WTF-are-they-teaching-our-kids-these-days. ID isn't science; Creation Science isn't science, and telling your students that the Biblical account of creation trumps your lying eyes is unquestionably not science.

Keep religion out of the science class, already. It does not belong there, any more than flocks of cosmologists teaching current theory of how the universe came to be belong in our catechism classes.

Don't forget this one! linky linky

As summer vacation begins, 17 girls at Gloucester High School are expecting babies—more than four times the number of pregnancies the 1,200-student school had last year. Some adults dismissed the statistic as a blip. Others blamed hit movies like Juno and Knocked Up for glamorizing young unwed mothers. But principal Joseph Sullivan knows at least part of the reason there's been such a spike in teen pregnancies in this Massachusetts fishing town. School officials started looking into the matter as early as October after an unusual number of girls began filing into the school clinic to find out if they were pregnant. By May, several students had returned multiple times to get pregnancy tests, and on hearing the results, "some girls seemed more upset when they weren't pregnant than when they were," Sullivan says. All it took was a few simple questions before nearly half the expecting students, none older than 16, confessed to making a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together. Then the story got worse. "We found out one of the fathers is a 24-year-old homeless guy," the principal says, shaking his head.

hilzoy, do not be surprised by anything. The human capacity for weirdness knows no bounds.Just like the human capacity for, as Slarti says, ignoring the evidence of one's own eyes knows no limits.

I won't even begin to start on the sexual abuse story because I would be here all day.

What we have here with the Gloucester 17 and Professor Freshwater is a misallocation of student and teacher resources.

I propose a charter school (Our Lady of Peculiar Whackjobs Academy; a magnet school) is which Freshwater (don't mention sex) teaches a religiously-based science-free abstinence-only you-know-what-but-don't-say-it education class to the lovely, entrepreneurial girls of Gloucester (that's O.K., it's not about the sex).

On branding day, he would approach the love-starved teens with the Loving God Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry and Get Up For The 3:00 AM Feeding Double Bar Ranch branding iron [like John Wayne ("You was wrong, Mista Dunston"), imagine my Walter Brennan impersonation, in _Red River_ ] .....

...... but the girls would have other plans and begin presenting rearward like a pack of female chimps in estrus ...

I wonder who would win that contest.

Walker Percy had all of these people pegged.

I propose impermeable, double-walled prophylactics across the board for our public school students --- one wall for sex and another for religion.

Funny how some people don't need a condom to fend off common sense.

The homeless guy --- this gives new meaning to the phrase "shaking hands with the unemployed".

Who will play this stud in the made-for-TV movie?

What did he do, win the Kentucky Derby?

Walker Percy had all of these people pegged.

I've always considered "Love In The Ruins" to be a work of latter-day prophecy (or reportage, take your pick) disguised as a comic novel.

Whoever has the lapsometer now is having a field day.

Thanks -

woo-hoo! Walker Percy fans unite!

I have the lapsometer.

And the gin-fizzes.

I'm convinced Percy, not Updike, not Pynchon, maybe Nabokov, not Bellow (that's hard for me to say), not all of the others, will be the guy people are reading in Harvard's Survey of 20th Century American Literature in the year 2381.

They will also be reading him in Theology and Philosophy seminars and he ought to be read, like Chekhov, in medical schools.

Percy's novels are so lucid and strange, two traits you don't find often conjoined.

I have the lapsometer. And the gin-fizzes.

The party's at Thullen's!

I'm convinced Percy, not Updike, not Pynchon, maybe Nabokov, not Bellow

I'm with you on all of these except Bellow. To me, this opening:

I am an American, Chicago born – Chicago, that somber city – and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way

is as resonant as this one:

Sing in me, O Muse, and through me tell the story of that many-sided man

and the story of Augie is nothing if not the story of American metis. Humboldt and Henderson are, for me, more or less personal talismans.

Just MVHO.

Pynchon will also be read in 2381, but I think more as an example of abnormal psychology than as literature.


P.S. -- a quick poll.

Is there a woman on earth who likes Percy's "The Moviegoer"? Every woman I know who's read it, including my wife, finds Binx Bolling unbelievably annoying.

Conversely, is there a man on earth who doesn't read it and say, "I know that guy", "I was that guy", or "I am that guy"?

It's one of the few books I know of that seems to polarize its audience by gender so strongly.

Thanks -

OT, or at least it would be if there were a topic: check out this candidate for WY's at-large Congressional seat. (He probably won't get the Rep. nomination, which is a relief; this is just for spooky comedic value.) Check out his reasons for running for Congress. Preview: he thinks 9/11 was an inside job, and that a conspiracy headed by Rothschilds has us headed for " a tyranny far more horrible than Stalin's Russia."

Sure, sure, but what did he do for Hitler's birthday?

The Nigerian scammers have moved onto Iraq (this was news to me - has anyone else seen the same thing?). I have just had an e-mail from 'Captain Duke Scott, a US MARINE OFFICER presently working in Iraq.' He recounts:

'On 24Th Nov 2007 my troops and I were alerted on the need of some reconstruction works in Haifa Street, a long thoroughfare of high-rise buildings Built and occupied by Saddam Hussein when he was alive here in Baghdad. Immediately we proceeded to the site and as we commence work, we discovered an underground bunker in one of the buildings. On the process of our investigation to the links of the bunkers, we discovered one box safely hidden and sealed. I took the boxes to my camp and forced it open to find out the contents, when I opened the Box I was very astonished to see a full load of American Dollars. The same night I took my time to count the amount, the box contained $24 Million us dollars. Honestly, nobody knows about this till now.

Captain Scott sent this money out (with the help of an unsuspecting UN official), but there's good news for the US troops...

Since I am still on my duty here in Iraq, I can\'t leave my duty to travel at the moment, so I need your cooperation in other to receive the consignment boxes from the diplomat on my behalf. Please I want you to provide me with your postal address, telephone E-mail, full name in your reply. If you are going to be honest with me then we can split the total sum into two, 50% for both of us. You may be aware that Gen. David Petraeus, the four-star general who led our troops in Iraq for the past years, has be nominated by President Bush to be the next commander of U.S. Central Command for the purpose of troops cut here in Iraq, so we will soon be back home.'

Magistra, I've been getting those for years now, though I haven't read them often enough to know whether the more recent ones have had the Petraeus bit.

Mondo weirdness has always been with us, but the cross branding thing (on other people's kids, no less) in the Freshwater article is extra special freaky.

I'm laying 2 to 1 odds that his intent was to preempt the mark of the beast.

I'm also staying the hell away from the greater Columbus OH area. Every time that city pops up in the news, it's some kind of freak show. From my point of view, anyway.

Not saying folks there are all bad people, it just seems (from the outside) like a colony from some other planet.

Then again, I'm sure they all feel the same way about, frex, Cambridge MA. Or maybe even Gloucester.

Thanks -


I take back what I wrote about Bellow. I reread "Augie" a little while ago and ......
..... well, it kills me every time.

Same with Henderson. "I want, I want, I want." I want.

Interesting to think that while Bellow was giving birth to that big muscular American prosy baby, Augie, Percy was in or just out of the sanitorium (tuburculosis), reading Kierkagaard (talk about annoying), and composing his first obscure essays tweezing apart the utter strangeness of BEING human in the mid-20th Century.

I think Bellow will be read as the turning point in the 20th Century American novel, when prose lost its manners and found its outside voice and went for it.

Percy will be read as he hoped: his work palpated and diagnosed the human condition in the 20th Century, when one state of being gave way to the not yet defined new one (in Percy's words: the old coin, the currency, rubbed smooth and unrecognizable and the new currency not yet minted).

The patient never had a physician like Percy. It may have been a post-mortem.

Binx Bolling: I, Binx-like, sometimes stare at my pathetic wallet, and my change, and my keys on my dresser and drive around during the day considering the utter quotidian, ordinary everydayness of it, but how it (the little sum of me and the world) is so effing strange at the same time.

Yup, I understand how a woman might want to slap me upside the head (snap out of it) and hand me a couple of pills and send me on my way.

I have a friend who read "The Moviegoer" in the same college philosophy class but at a different time.

I'll find her again and ask her what she thinks about Binx.

I'll add that both Bellow and Percy shared a shortcoming: their female characters are fairly one dimensional,

full stop.

Yup, I understand how a woman might want to slap me upside the head (snap out of it) and hand me a couple of pills and send me on my way.

That seems to be the consensus among the novel-reading women of my acquaintance.

I, Binx-like, sometimes stare at my pathetic wallet, and my change, and my keys on my dresser and drive around during the day considering the utter quotidian, ordinary everydayness of it, but how it (the little sum of me and the world) is so effing strange at the same time.

Sounds about right to me.

I'll add that both Bellow and Percy shared a shortcoming: their female characters are fairly one dimensional

This hadn't occurred to me before, but I think this is right on the money.

I wasn't aware of Percy's essays until you mentioned them upthread, now I will go find and read them.

This has been a most enjoyable exchange. My thanks to the non-Walker-Percy-or-Saul-Bellow-fans on board here for your indulgence.

Another topic, briefly:

Gloucester MA is a small, tough, blue-collar fishing town, with some rich people and bohos thrown in for good measure. Insular to the point of clannishness.

Used to be kind of prosperous, but the bottom is more or less falling out as a result of the decline of the fishing industry. Fishing is the heart of Gloucester, and the trade there is plied by local owner-operators running small to medium sized boats, hands-on, with crews also made up of local men.

It's the kind of place where the range of opportunities available in the great big outside world just might not seem that realistic to a townie.

It's probably like lots of other, similar, places in that regard. Places where the industry that's kept the local economy afloat is either winding down or is gone, but also where it doesn't occur to a lot of folks to just bust a move and make a life elsewhere.

To an adult, with some experience of the world, having a kid at high school age, with no job, no place of your own, and no particular future in mind, is insane.

To a (frex) 16 year old girl, deciding to face a future that looks either bleak, or uncertain, or both by having a kid might just seem like a way to dictate some terms of your own to life.

It's only crazy if you understand what you're getting into. 16-year-olds don't.

Where are mom and dad in all of this? That's a great question. I have no idea.

Thanks -


Thank you for some background on Gloucester. What I also see in your account is that the town's economic base was *extremely* tilted toward employing men, not women. These girls have, I suspect, good reason to anticipate that the boys they know will never be providers, and that they are more likely to find emotional and even economic support from each other than from young men.

Where are mom and dad in all of this?

Trying to make ends meet and failing, is my guess.

On the essays, I'd recommend Message in a Bottle first, followed by Lost in the Cosmos rather than the other way around. Googling, I see there is a posthumous collection as well, but I haven't read that.

I've only read _The Thanatos Syndrome_ of Percy's novels, and found it mediocre science fiction with pretensions -- sufficiently annoying to make me wish I could fling poop at Mr. Percy.

On the other hand, "The Loss of the Creature" is a splendid essay and I still find myself ruminating on it years later.

LJ is right about the essays; also try _Signposts in a Strange Land_ , a later collection.

Thanks to Russell for this conversation and double down on Russell's thanks for forbearance.

Jake: yeah, "Thanatos Syndrome" is Percy repeating himself and a little bitter, as I think back.

He was a pilgrim, and I think life was very hard for him, even though it looks good from the outside.

You know, in Katherine Hepburn's posthumous statement to and about Spencer Tracy, a very accomplished and very unhappy human being, she asked him, and I paraphrase, "Spenca, what was it? What was the problem?"

He had no idea.

I think Percy came very close to getting a glimpse of what his problem was and may have recoiled at the last minute.

I don't know.

Dave Daubenmire, the "friend" that defends him, is actually a wingut with a blog. He heads a group called "Minutemen United" which goes around disrupting gay-friendly church services, among other things. Sadly, No! does a lot of stuff on him.

Recently, "Coach Dave"'s son got sentenced to 5 years probation after he pleaded nolo contendre to the charge of possessing child pornography. Daubenmire actually even wrote about it, but he acted as though it was just regular porn throughout the article.

You can't make this stuff up.


Possibly you know about this, but I didn't, when Katrina hit, I ended up reading a lot about the 1927 flood, which helped Hoover go to the White House, but then ended up having the black vote change as a bloc to support Democrat Roosevelt because of Hoover's broken promises to black leaders. Anyway, LeRoy Percy, Walker Percy's adoptive grandfather, was involved in the reconstruction efforts. Link and link

I meant to write something about the weight of family and that sensation of being tied to a place that must have weighed on Percy and might give some insight into his mind.

And just to be johnny-come-lately to this thread - yes you can brand with an electrostatic device (such as a Violet Wand), if you set the intensity high enough, and use a metal tip. You can also ignite 151.

Russell, when my friend referenced above
read _The Moviegoer_ several decades ago, she thought SHE was Binx.

She hasn't an annoying bone in her body.

Binx wins.

when my friend referenced above
read _The Moviegoer_ several decades ago, she thought SHE was Binx.

Too funny, and also splendid.

My wife and the other women in question on my end are pragmatic, hands-on, brook-no-nonsense types. They are, in fact, a formidable lot, and I spend no small amount of time in awe of them.

I just think they have a hard time seeing the positive possibilities hidden inside of fugue states and existential dislocation. Not while there's a lawn to mow, anyway. :)

Thanks again -

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