Insanity Envy

I wanted to put down a few thoughts about writing. For me, writing is mostly about editing. Ideas are the easy part. There are about one billion ideas on that little hair growing in my left ear. So I guess it’s about making choices about where to herd these little motherfuckers. So choosing even a short-term destination for a narrative seems to be a good idea.

What turns me on when I read is when I come across a few paragraphs or pages or chapters where the author has seemingly abandoned any considerations for the greater narrative at all, where sentences sprout and bloom and multiply and seem to follow only the unseen paths of least resistance.

This is the clearest mirror into an author’s insanity; show me what you believe.

Insanity envy.

It’s still morning, so there’s still time

So WordPress has taken to reminding me to upgrade. It’s just a few more bucks, they remind me, which they claim will allow me to make money myself.

It just makes me so tired and so disappointed and hopeless that life has been reduced, once again, to venality, but grateful that ice-cream still exists and bad television, because really, I can’t imagine myself grading papers today after my tender sensibilities have suffered such an assault.

I think about disappointing all those students who are awaiting their first grade of the semester. I see myself shrugging in answer to their question: Did you grade our work? To which I offer my explanation: The dog ate 1.5 entire days. Sorry. I will get it to you Monday.

They will buy it. They always buy it. But they will be disappointed, which I tell myself is a valuable life lesson that every college student should learn at the outset of their academic careers: disappointment is part of the human condition, so get used to it, ladies and gentlemen; that and the gradual realization that their opinions don’t matter, to anyone.

Which begs the question: Am I a bad person?

A: Sometimes.

How The Guns of August has held me hostage.

One other thing. I’ve literally been consumed with Barbara Tuchman’s “The Guns of August.” Almost finished, and I’m yet again looking for some redeeming value in the human condition. There are brief flashes of brilliance and high-mindedness (King of Belgium), but mostly just stupidity. I’m amazed that so many readers of this book have characterized the causes and prolongation of WWI as being due to miscommunication, when it’s obvious that most of it was due to willful blindness. Generals and Supreme Commanders refused to consider reported facts that didn’t comport or endorse their own world view. Donald Trump should really take a month off and read it.

Modest Alternative to Affirmative Action

With the disappearance of Affirmative Action, it seems that the last nail has been driven into the coffin of higher education for disadvantaged students at virtually every inner-city school across the state. Even armed with the knowledge that behaving differently toward some for equality’s sake is effective, the powers that be have chosen racism over reason, leaving the best and most brilliant black and Latino students in the lurch, forced to accept attending community colleges even when the academic direction they’ve earned is clearly pointing toward Stanford or Berkeley or UCLA.

Although this is a lamentable and deplorable state of affairs, I believe there is a solution, one that will solve the problem at hand, ensuring that virtually all underprivileged students, gifted or otherwise, receive a back-to-basics college education, as well as maintaining an in-the-black ledger for the state’s budget. And most important of all, there are no quotas, race-based or otherwise.

My humble plan not only guarantees an education, but preserves these students’ rich cultural heritage, while, at the same time, exploiting many of the talents and traits they already possess, traits unique to their particular socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, and traits easily adaptable to any social structure in any institution of higher education. Think about it. What’s the hue and cry of the privileged and gifted students already entrenched at a Stanford or Berkeley when a poor, inner-city student arrives on campus? Welcome? Be who you are? Not really. It’s more like: be like us or die, an imperative that is unlikely or unable to be obeyed.

This is of particular importance because of the very real fear of socially traumatizing these deserving youngsters, who, from no fault of their own, would find themselves, when confronted with one arcane bit of Stanford-esque protocol/etiquette or another, at such high levels of stress that their psyches and emotional well-being would be at risk and therefore not open to learning, which is what this is all about anyway.

My plan is so all-encompassing that these concerns dissipate as if they were steam rising from the dean’s afternoon pot of tea.

The question becomes, among others, just what is this rich cultural heritage that will be preserved upon implementation of my plan? It’s nothing more and nothing less than the proud tradition of service to another human being, indeed an as yet untested tenet of Christianity itself, and a tradition with which the underprivileged people of color throughout history are intimate.

In order to explain how the underprivileged will actually land onto a college campus, it’s incumbent upon me to explain the fiscal aspects of my plan. The top universities in California are expensive, not the way say a Corvette automobile is expensive, but the way a Bentley is expensive. They’re really expensive. The students who have traditionally been attending these universities are, for the most part, being subsidized by their parents, whose pockets are so deep that another twenty-five or thirty grand over a few years to pay for a new “perk” for their kids on campus would hardly be noticed.

And this is where the spiritual value of service to one’s fellow man comes into play. It’s no secret that, in the inner city, women of color possess an innate and invaluable knowledge of, among other things, how to make a bed properly and also keep someone else’s abode orderly and clean.

The boys, on the other hand, while probably not having any real experience at service, but being the progeny of countless generations of porters, waiters, butlers and man servants, shoeshine boys and the like, will have a genetic propensity toward this skill that will probably be able to be assimilated and mastered within a few weeks or so.

My plan, in short, is to offer to underprivileged students of color the chance to serve their academic brethren already enrolled in universities by becoming their servants, cooks, dressers and butlers, all at minimal or no cost to the state and thereby at the same time offering them a college education.

Of course, the method of acquiring knowledge that I propose here will necessarily be different from what one usually defines as “learning,” not because of any deficiency in pedagogic dogma, but simply because it’s so superior to what “education” has been eroded into over the years. No more strict adherence to class schedules and taking notes furiously from lectures on subjects that are, at best, open to interpretation; no more wresting meaning from algorithms and formulas that will rarely if ever be used in day-to-day life; no more guessing at just what one professor or another thinks is important.

The method my plan utilizes is not only foolproof and superior, but two-pronged: just as the delicate spring flowers of the Desert Southwest draw sustenance from the arid sand, so will these underprivileged students, through mere proximity to higher learning, draw into their brains a profound understanding of the lofty disciplines college has to offer. It’s simply, in a word, osmosis. And the second prong would be repetition and more repetition. To illustrate this, I’d point to the great composers of the world who would not nor could not have written a single great or even not so great note had it not been for their method of learning, which was simply copying others’ work ad infinitum.

The privileged students served under my plan (we’ll call them “Masters”) will, of course, be well-educated about their new state of affairs well before the first shipment of servants arrives, and therefore aware of the fact that all their homework, notes, graded tests, etc., must be photocopied and left for their servants to help themselves to at the end of every day.

The naysayers among you will most likely scoff at this seemingly catch-as-catch-can method of stocking the learning shelves: “What if one or more of the Masters forgets?” “What then?” Well, I say, “What if it rains?” I’ve covered every possible contingency. Forgetting is certainly a valid concern, one of which we’re all guilty. Are the servants simply to go without the learning materials promised them for as long as their Masters forget? Absolutely not!

My plan has a built in fail-safe mechanism for just such an occurrence, and for an explanation, we’ll briefly revisit the servants’ rich cultural heritage being preserved so far away from home. All we really have to do is briefly browse the statistics regarding a minority’s behavior while in their previously unenlightened environment. When we superimpose this behavior to virtually anywhere else in the world, one radiant axiom outshines all others: that when left unsupervised and in close proximity to something of value, be it an electronic device, flashy jewelry, or in this case, learning materials, the student of color will simply steal it.

The last and probably most important part of my plan deals with the manner in which a servant of scholastic excellence is treated, while again, staying within guidelines that are not inconsistent with the cultural baggage brought along to, say Stanford. The most important part of this task was to come up with a “Job of Honor,” if you will, one that reflected the monumental struggle of overcoming terrific odds to excel scholastically, and one that, at the same time, enhanced the dignity of the institution.

This job also had to be created, again, in accordance with certain predispositions of minority students, not only in terms of social standing, but also in terms of appropriate garb that was not only immediately identifiable as signifying excellence, but also one universally accepted as a mark of unflinching dignity.

Knowing that students of color are already wont to wear clothes and ornaments, usually in bright, primary colors, reflecting allegiance to one group or another, it wasn’t too great a stretch to come up with the notion of wearing similarly identifying garments for this job of honor.

After much thought, the “uniform” I came up with consisted of a silken, boldly striped jersey in the school’s colors and a cap with the same color scheme. For pants I thought that maybe a traditional pair of jodhpurs, tucked neatly into a pair of shiny black boots, would be suitably distinctive for exemplifying such a place of honor.

And the job itself is nothing less than serving the school as an icon of staunch character while at the same time adorning the acres of graceful lawns upon which the school’s proud structures stand. While wearing this previously described uniform of honor, the student of color will stand stationary for hours on end (an act of quiet dignity in itself) while holding a lantern in his outstretched hands, a gesture that unequivocally says: come on in. Take your shoes off. Sit a spell.

If, for some reason, my simple plan is rejected, leaving these underprivileged students no hope whatsoever, one can almost hear their desolate cries rising from tenement buildings and skanky neighborhoods across the state: “What are we to do now?”

The only solution available to them is obvious and elegantly simple, although admittedly not easy.  Indeed, it involves solving one of the great universal mysteries. But being of gifted caliber and having no other choice really, these students should be able to tackle the problem with alacrity.

So when their forlorn cries of frustration rise as to what to do in order to obtain a college education, the simple answer is: go back and be reborn to parents in Beverly Hills, silly!

 

Sunday Morning

Sarah Huckabee-Sanders should:
1. Use bigger doses of Botox before Sunday talk shows (the ugliness of her soul completely supersedes the effects of the drug).
2. Wear simple black dresses more often (her usual Bo-Peep/Goose-Girl “looks” don’t serve her well).
3. Admit that the two words, “president” and “Trump” are a monumental moral transgression.