Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Empire Building in the South Seas

I've been reading "Narrative of the Voyages Round the World by Captain James Cook," because, um, I don't know, it was a free Kindle book?  And I'm teaching the long 19th century this semester, the textbook of which includes, early on, a painting by the on-board painter for one of Cook's early trips.

I am finding the absolute arrogance of Cook and the British (and the narrator) simply *breathtaking*.  The casual racism and sexism I was expecting.  Offensive,  but I knew what I'd be getting into.  What's really taking my breath away is the casual environmental colonization/invasion of the South Seas islands by these guys who really seem to think they're doing the natives a favor.  How?  By introducing non-native species of plants and animals.  Sometimes they do it by gift, but occasionally they just sneak into the woods, plant a garden full of turnips and carrots and stuff, and sneak away.  Or they'll drop off a pair of goats on a non-inhabited section of an island.  Or, ye gods, this one island?  They gave 'em rabbits.  RABBITS.  On an island.  I remember hearing that Australia still has a feral rabbit problem, they keep eating all the grass and crowding out native grass-eaters.  Thanks, Captain Cook! 

My favorite (as in, the most egregious example) is this one: a chief took a fancy to the cats on board.  So they left him twenty cats.  On an island.  Full of tropical birds without any feline predators for centuries, eons, or possibly ever. What?  They were HELPING!  Really!  I mean, these poor savages, they had never eaten chicken in their lives, or mutton, or turnips.  Oh, the humanity.  Such noblesse,  Such consideration.  "Here, have some invasive European species for your lovely little island eco-system."

Oh, and have I mentioned the syphilis?  Yeah, it's not alluded to explicitly but it's clear enough that he's talking about "accidentally" "introducing" syphilis to various island communities.

I can hear it now: "Oh, Britannia, thank you!  Thank you for the rabbits, and turnips, and the syphilis!"

Naturally, as I approach the end of the book (Spoiler Alert!) I am cheering on the natives of one of the Hawaiian islands as they take out the sorry SOB.   Unfortunately, the damage was done.  The mischief managed.  All in the name of science, exploration, and in the belief that Europeans were a vastly, unquestionably superior race. 

I have a whole other rant about the discourse regarding cannibalism in said account, but that's for another day. 

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Oh, reality TV....

I've said it before and I'm saying it again: I'd rather hang out with Honey Boo Boo's family than those awful Kardashians or, actually, pretty much any other reality TV families, except maybe the Torres family on Pitbulls and Parolees. Well, mostly I want to hang out with all those dogs at Villalobos.

Why is everybody all up in their grill? So they're rednecks with a pageant habit and a pregnant teenager. Big whoop. At least they're having a good time, instead of staging nasty weave-snatching girlfights like those awful people on "Big Rich Assholes" and all the "Housewives" shows. Here's my theory: people can't stand them because they are fat and happy and have deep redneck accents that they are not ashamed of. They could not give a good goddamn whether you approve of anything about them. The Judgy McJudgersons of America cannot tolerate a bunch of people who do not appear to be filled with self-loathing. They are not spending a ton of money on looking "better" or monetizing their reality show fame. They seem to be enjoying their time in front of the camera while knowing full well it's a fluke and it won't last forever.

 Now, I admit to not being able to stomach "Toddlers and Tiaras" because child pageants are so much pornified pedophilic nastiness... but the Thompson/Shannon family (yeah, I totally had to wikipedia that one), well their show doesn't involve a lot of pageant stuff.

 I'm not sitting down religiously watching it, but I'll sooner watch five minutes of that than just about any other reality show that doesn't involve pit bull rescues.

 And let us not pretend like anybody but maybe Sugar Bear really needs those subtitles. He doesn't need them because of his accent, anybody with a mouth full of chew would be hard as hell to understand, even an Oxford don with a perfect British accent. Anyhow, if you can't understand a Southern accent, it's not the Southerner's fault. You're just not trying very hard because you think you're better than anybody with a drawl. I tell you what: you ain't.

Friday, January 25, 2013

new role model

I have taken NCIS' Agent Gibbs as my new teaching role model. Except for the times when he's obsessive, mean, and irrational about a case, he's a good teacher. Firm, fair, clear expectations, high expectations, no bullshit. He's not ideal but I certainly don't want to be their mama or big sister or even their Auntie Mame. I'm going to give this a try for a while and see how it works out. So far I have four rules. Naturally, Rule Number One? "It's on the syllabus." I figure it's easier to drill them on Rule Number One than have it tattooed across my forehead, which was my other option.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

wait, what?

I have a blog? I totally forgot. Or, actually, I started teaching full-time and suddenly I had no time for nattering on my blog. Instead, I natter on Facebook and at my students, bless their hearts. That's pretty much all the news from Buttcrack. I'm commuting 30+ miles to new teaching job, because the housing market here is slooooow aaaaaaas molaaaaaasseeeeeesssss. One of these days I will sell my house and get out of this incredibly boring, red-state, christian-family-values, heteronormative hole of a town. What's sad is that this is actually one of the BETTER small towns in Mississippi, on account of there are jobs here. ANYhoo, hello bloggy readers, if there are any left. Come on by periodically and I shall do my best to natter blogularly on a more regular basis.

Friday, March 02, 2012

the pollen

I have a cold, I've got my period, and the entire town of Buttcrack is covered in a layer of yellow pollen. Oak? Pine? Who the hell knows? All I know is that it's trying to kill me. I've missed 4 of the 7 classes I teach this week and slept approximately 16 hours per day. Today, Friday, I have spent the afternoon in my bed watching TV on my laptop. Caught up with Project Runway All-Stars (I'm sorry, but Jerrell's tacky India costume should've sent him home before Mila last week). And I hate to admit it, but Kenley should've won the technology/lights challenge. I think the pink wig made it too Nicki Minaj but the outfit was better than Austin's, at least from what I could see.

Caught up with Downton Abbey - really, the noble English family is going to go testify for a valet at his murder trial? Doubtful. And give them Christmas presents AND a servants' ball? It's all too much. Yes, of course, Matthew and Mary, ever after, blah de blah... but Mary's been such an asshole, I'm not sure she deserves to be happy ever after. I suppose that's a bit harsh, but all of the Crawleys and Granthams were assholes over the last few episodes, especially the one where everybody has the flu. Which is not to say I won't be eagerly watching Season Three just as soon as it comes back.

Last but not least, I am watching Once Upon a Time, which has this feminist subtext in addition to ALL of the interesting and complex characters being female. The male characters are eye-candy or two-dimensional, except for Rumplestiltskin, I suppose, but he's still pretty pathetic all in all.

And now, it being past 7 pm, I believe I will take a shot of Nyquil and go to bed.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

really? the weather?

No, even better: a post about the weather and *my cat*. No shit.

Steven Alexander Fluffytail demanded to be let out the front door this evening. He looked at the rain, felt the cold, turned up his nose, and sauntered back in, as one might expect. He then demanded to be let out the BACK door. The look of disgust on his face, when he realized that the weather was *exactly the same* out back, was priceless.

And then he gave me a shitty look that clearly said, "Fix this stupid weather, already, human. Don't pretend you can't." He just refuses to believe I have no control over what goes on outside the door.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Saturday adventure in backwoods Mississippi

I spent yesterday afternoon helping a neighbor and her two kids move from here in Buttcrack, MS, to an even tinier community about 90 minutes away. It was a brief but intimate glimpse into how freakin exhausting it is to be a single mother living in poverty. I hope she's going to be okay in her new digs and can get back on her feet.

The minute I laid eyes on her trailer, the single saddest one-bedroom trailer I have ever laid eyes on in my entire life, I almost said: "Look, come live with me. This will not do." But truthfully, I don't have room for three more people, and she wanted more than anything to be in her own space, no matter how run down. I don't think she would have accepted the offer, even if I had been able to make it.

So today I am very, very aware of the bedrock of privilege that gives me the life I am living.