Thursday, June 03, 2010

Last (Really) Day of Classes + BP's Gulf Cataclysm + Griffey Jr. Retires + RIPs + UN: Eat Less Meat

Today, finally, was my last day of classes! It's hard to believe that my quarter is nearly over, but it is. We discussed the final two novellas, all of which will be due, in their revised forms, next week. All of my former fiction students know how enjoyable and difficult--grueling, at times--a process this is, but I must say that even with prior experience and deep enthusiasm, nothing quite prepares you for closely reading, marking up and writing a critical letter (of at least 1-page length) for over 1,590 (or 15students x (2+2+2+5+10+20+20+45 pages each)) pages of fiction* in about 14 weeks. (Just for comparison, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volkonsky's 2007 translation of Tolstoy's War and Peace, sitting beside me on my desk here in Chicago, is a slender 1264 pages.) And I'll still need to read the final versions of all 15 novellas, some of which are approaching 60-80 pages. It nevertheless was an exciting experience, and I can say now that as with my other writing classes, I witnessed ostensible progress and improvement, transformation even, not just aesthetically and technically, but personally, among many of the students. This is one of the things that as a teacher you hope for. Then too there's the reality of their having a portfolio of work they can call their own. By this time two weeks from now, they will have written as much as some writers accomplish in several years: 3-4 complete short stories (during the first half of the sequence), and a novella. Congratulations to all of them!


I've been wanting to write about the horrific catastrophe BP, Transocean and Halliburton (of course their fingerprints all over this) have created in the Gulf of Mexico, but everytime I think about this cataclysm I start to feel such rage, at these environmental terrorists and criminals, who apparently and knowingly flouted all sorts of regulations to cut a few million dollars off their costs, with this inestimable disaster as the result, and such powerlessness at our impotent federal and state governments, who appear to be doing everything they can to coddle BP, to let them control the non-clean-up, set the agenda, and protect their multibillion-dollar Chernobylesque investment, which continues to spew massive quantities of oil and natural gas into the Gulf.

If we had anything but corporate lackeys running the country, we'd have seen BP's domestic operations nationalized, top scientists and engineers brought in immediately to neutralize the leak, and a strict clampdown on any current and future offshore drilling. Instead, we get a president talking out of both sides of his mouth, federal agencies operating like Keystone Cops to the benefit of the oil industry, and corporate liars, led by the Rowan Atkinsonian Tony Hawyward, so dense and incompetent that they actually believe anyone except the fools in the mainstream media Congress and their own lobbyists are gulled anything they're saying. It was clear when BP talked about putting that giant steel condom atop this gusher that they were on a steady track record of FAIL, and it's been nothing but that since. They are determined not to do anything that would radically block up that gusher, no matter how much damage it's causing, no matter how much dead flora, sea life, careers in the Gulf Region, other countries affected, it engenders. According to the administration, we're supposed to just sit by till August, September, who knows, while BP bumbles forward and drills relief wells (or someone does), whining and dissembling, and finagling Congress into limiting its liabilities.

Really it's as simple as this: US (BP) to Gulf Coast: Drop dead!


Ken Griffey Jr., 40, one of the best baseball players of his generation, has announced his retirement after 22 seasons. Never carrying the taint of roids, playing full out year after year, even starring alongside his father for a short time, this former Rookie of the Year was one of the on-field leaders during the 1990s. Though he had many amazing years, especially during his initial 10-year stint in Seattle, perhaps the two most remarkable came in 1997, when he hit .304 with 56 home runs, 147 runs batted in, 125 runs scored, a .646 slugging percentage, a 1.028 OPS, and 393 total bases. He won the League MVP, and Seattle finished first in the AL West, though it lost to Baltimore in the League Division Series. The next year, in 1998, he again hit 56 home runs, drove in 146 runs, scored 120, had a .611 slugging percentage, stole 20 bases, and scored 387 total bases. Alongside these outsized years, Junior Griffey had many very good ones, hitting 40 or more homers 7 times and driving in 100 runs 8 times, and was a stellar fielder for nearly his entire career, winning 10 Golden Gloves. His playing time had dwindled this season to benchwarming, and with a .184 average, no home runs, and just 7 RBIs, he decided to bow out. Seattle and baseball fans in general are indebted to all he brought to the game. He'll be sailing into the Hall of Fame.


Some real RIP goodbyes: Gary Coleman - Louise Bourgeois - Leslie Scalapino - Dennis Hopper - Peter Orlovsky - Ali Ollie Woodson - Tobias Wong - Andrei Voznesensky - Raymond Haysbert Sr. - Art Linkletter - Edoardo Sanguinetti


Finally, the UN urges, "Eat less meat," save the globe. I didn't pay them, I swear.


  1. Thank you, John, for all of this. I was just thinking about not asking for final portfolios from students, because of all the work, but this is the job, right? You inspire me to do more, not less. We've got enough of that!

    I'm also grateful for your words about BP, and that you called the spill ecoterrorism. You know I'm a conspiracy theorist at heart, so the Halliburton piece during this presidency seems suspect, though its sad and infuriating to see Obama so ineffectual.

  2. Hi Silver Downes, I think I know who you are need to reveal yourself. (You also are participating in the Printers' Ball event, right?)

    I was thinking, if most of us in the US actually had to raise and kill most of the meat we ate, would we eat so much? Just a thought.