14.11.09

A Journal & Rant: "On the Uses and Misuses of Age"

"Age doesn't matter, but dammit I look old" is what my friend Suzy Q. said to me last night.
Evelyn Couch : I can't even look at my own vagina!
Evelyn Couch said it best: "I can't even look at my own vagina!" 

My grandmother looked in the mirror one morning on her 92nd birthday and shrieked, "Who is that woman? It's not me."

On the playground of life it is like Freaky Friday: Young kids want to be adults; adults prefer to act like kids. The age divide splits us from baby, to toddler, child, school kid, pre-adolescent, tween, teen, young adult, young person, 20-something, 30-something, "Over the Hill," old, octogenarian, centenarian, dead. In the middle ages you were rudely a child, a man or geriatric. 3 stages of life. Now, the stages grew to 9 thanks to Erikson, now up to 30 thanks to Super Mario Brothers.

By increasing the stages of age, the strictures are enforced. The subtlety in development is painstakingly tracked. By 30 you must have acquired maturity. If not, you lie.

Middle age women are smart: they don't reveal their age.

Gay men lie.

Straight men don't care. Unless were talking about controlled substances.

Kids lie to get alcohol or cigs. But they expect adults to uphold integrity.

An online buddy asked me if it was ethical to lie about age on a personal ad.

It is apparently a controversial topic.

If you're 25 on a personal ad, in real life your true age is probably anywhere in the range from 21 - 29.

But if you are 30 on an ad you are actually more likely to be 40. If you're really 17 you are most likely going to say you're 18. If you are telling the truth, you're either desperate, or taking what you can get.

A bouncer asked for my ID and after looking at it said, "Hey, you look 23 and still in college, but when you opened your mouth and started talking, I knew you were 30 and working"

The face (or body) says one thing while our words says another. Our age belies our wisdom while our wisdom never depends on age.

The youth Benjamin Button dies forgetting what he learned as an old man. Rip Van Winkle wakes up and literally times has flown by. If it is true that "every day a little death" then all of us should feel a lot more humble.
image credit: Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) © Universal Pictures

11.11.09

Mr. Roselli’s Rules according to Bon Qui Qui:





You can have it your way, but don’t get crazy!


In other words, have fun in class, but don’t cause chaos.


Complicated Order!


Don’t ask me questions that make NO Sense


Rude, don’t interrupt

Don’t interrupt me when I am speaking


You can have a coke

I say this when what you ask is REDONCULOUS


Do not get loud with me

There is no need to scream


Suh - Curity

To the Bench

That is what I had said

Do I have to repeat myself? Please


Uhhhhh ….. No …… Suh - curity

Major Violation

Needs to Go …. Needs to Go

Suspension

I will Cut You

Expulsion

9.11.09

Gilgamesh and the Search for Meaning in a, "I love you, man!" kind of way

My colleague and friend, Bonnie, asked me a rhetorical question once when I worked at the public library, “Who, Greig, would want on their epitaph, ‘He cleaned her dishes well'?"
My dishes are not clean. But, I want to be remembered for more than just washing my dinnerware well.

Unclean cups, dirty knives and forks, an unsealed peanut butter jar, torn packets of splenda and granules of instant coffee are splayed as objets d’art.

Waking up this morning thinking about Gilgamesh and that scene at the end of Superbad when Seth and Evan exclaim to each other, "I love you man!" I take solace in Bonnie's aphorism. 


I can explain the significance between the two. I really can.

At the end of Gilgamesh, the hero has his epiphany. He knows he cannot uncover the elixir of immortality even though he swam to the depths of the sea. Having stayed awake for an interminable amount of time our hero is consoled by the fact that he WILL live forever, not by a potion or a magical plant, but by his cultural deeds. Immortality is what you receive from society (if you are lucky). I take comfort in this epic anecdote.

Now, how do I relate all of this to pedagogy  and oh yeah, to Superbad?

Over the summer my ninth grade English class read the epic for their mandated summer reading project. When you are thirteen — as my students are — you probably seldom ponder death and you for damn sure are convinced that wisdom DOES not come from an ancient tome. Leave that to Lady Gadget  or is it Inspector GaGa?

I am not sure if they liked it or “got it,” but several of them, including parents, were quick to point out that the sexuality in the book was ripe, and “inappropriate reading material” for high school — at least I was not pulled into a disciplinary hearing for distributing inappropriate material to freshman.
Kids and adults miss the point. Do I need to teach the obvious truth that fiction is fueled by desire?

For me, it is a moot point.

Get over it.

Immortality gained by deeds is a fertile topic. Folks fail to catch the heart of Gilgamesh and instead focus on the lust (Shamhat, the prostitute being one example). People who complain to me are similar to those who get hot and bothered because The Catcher in the Rye has swear words. Controversy is everyone’s favorite past time anyway. Innuendo must be banned so it will be given a reason to be read. If it were not banned then people would say, "oh that is bland." Banning it gives us impetus to actually pick up the book and read it. It's some kind of whack reverse psychology that I have little patience for.

Gilgamesh could easily populate the world with greedy Calibans but he knows in of itself this is not the ticket to eternal life. The story is not about brute sex. The story is similar to Superbad: it is about friendship and the pain of loss. Seth has to give up Evan just as Gilgamesh has to give up Enkidu.

In the story, Gilgamesh — like Achilles mourning Patroclus — is unconsoled by the death of his best friend Enkidu. Mortality strikes him at the heel and pains him for the first time. Since Gilgamesh is a king and somewhat related to the divine, he has never brushed past death until his friend’s death opens a wound in his psyche and he ponders his transience for the first time. Gilgamesh is a king, half-god, civilized and blessed with superhuman powers — but the love of the wild man Enkidu forces him to reconsider his life. All of this — life on earth — cannot give him immortality. Enkidu’s death makes him stabbingly aware of his limitations. The death forces him to think beyond himself — and to not base decisions on his own prowess — immortality comes from accomplishment — not born out of pride but through cultural achievement.

Gilgamesh is like the privileged son of a wealthy entrepreneur who has never had to fight for anything in his life. One day he loses something. Something he cannot regain. It is in this loss that he realizes that there are values irretrievable. Most accomplishments are for naught. The only true lasting legacy is greatness. The question becomes not “Will I live forever?” but, “Who will remember me?”

My students groan at the repetition and seeming irrelevance of an ancient oral tale. Most think Gilgamesh and Enkidu are gay. In their homophobic worldview, two men can never really LOVE each other — GROSS! — but, that is a discussion for another post (which will be how loving the same sex is not necessarily the same as being gay) but, we have a good discussion about deeds and achieving immortality — that love, no matter the gender — we are not talking about who’s hot and who’s not, people — can embolden us, change us, scare us.

7.11.09

NOLA bookfair

"Under the starlit ersatz dome"



2.11.09

Earliest Philosophical Memory

My earliest philosophical memory is wondering about the meaning of the word “narrow.” I was like seven and I had heard the word spoken by an adult earlier in the day. Or, maybe I had heard spoken by an adult on television. The evening news. Or. One of the deliberate adults on Sesame Street. It was a new sound and I did not know the meaning. I said the word out loud, “Narrow.” Behind my house was a strip of woods and beyond that was a sugarcane field. I was an outdoors brat and I had had brought my bike through an entangled cobweb of thorn bushes in those woods behind my house. The passage was hard to navigate. I was brushing off thorny branches when I realized what the word “narrow” meant. I distinctly remember thinking about how I had to come to this realization — when I was relieved to come out of the woods amidst the rows and rows of sugarcane. I was startled that I had stumbled upon new knowledge and was desirous to know where this ability to realize originated. To this day I mark this moment as my earliest philosophical memory. Pretty cool, huh?

When was your first philosophical memory? Post a reply. I wanna know.

Software Review: Google Voice

Google has entered the telecommunications realm with its introduction of Google Voice, a service created by Google's addition last year of Grand Central, a nifty feature that transcribes voicemail messages and cloaks all your phones and telecommunication devices under the umbrella of one number: a Google number. 
     In effect, you can give out one number to all your buddies, colleagues, friends or whoever and all your phones can be connected seamlessly. Also, you can send free SMS and have voicemails transcribed for you (also, available by other services, such as Callwave).
     I had read about the service at least a year ago when Google first acquired Grand Central but was only giving the service to customers by invitation only. Alas, I was not one of the chosen few. Ugh.
    So, I was happy to discover one day, a message in my Gmail inbox that Google Voice was now available for me to sign-up.
    I would love to use the full functionality of Google Voice but, because of a move by Apple to pull the plug on Google Voice on the iPhone, I can only use the service through my computer. I am a loyal Apple fan, but here, Apple has sold itself to AT&T. Google had created a Google Voice app for the iPhone, but Apple deleted it from the Apple store.
    Personally, I think Apple's move was a bit draconian. It would be like if Microsoft did not allow you to download Firefox onto your computer and forced you to use Internet Explorer.
    But don't worry, in a recent blog post, David Pogue assures us that Google will eventually develop a web app to counteract Apple's icks-nay of its newest FREE gadget. Now, you can only use Google Voice on its android phone or on a blackberry, on your home computer, or on a web app compatible device. But the web app does not work yet on the iPhone. Just a matter of time.
    But, why is Google Voice so cool?
    Well, it is like having CallWave, Skype and Gmail all rolled up into one. I hate listening to voicemails and would just rather read them. Also, I am an addict when it comes to new digital features. Also, I am a proponent for Open Source. Apple should not decide how I access information and what platform I use to do so.
    In the meantime, you can call me through your computer until I get Google Voice, fully.*

*This functionality has been disabled.