Tag: not really a rant


“[The officer who shot Tamir Rice] had no information to suggest the weapon was anything but a real handgun, and the speed with which the confrontation progressed would not give the officer time to focus on the weapon.”

—retired FBI agent Kimberly A. Crawford

No fucking shit, Sherlock! We all saw the speed at which the confrontation progressed. It progressed really fucking fast because the police officers, in their wisdom, chose to drive up to the boy really fucking fast and shoot him really fucking fast. As a matter of fact, there was no confrontation until the police drove up. The kid doesn’t even seem to notice them until they’re on top of him.

In the comments on the NPR article, I saw someone make a joke about how, if you want to take out a hit on someone, you can just call 911 and say, “I saw this old lady pointing a gun at people!” And then they have no information to suggest that her umbrella is anything but a disguised rifle, etc. But the fact is that Tamir Rice got shot because he was black. If he had been a white guy, the police would have tried to get more information and the confrontation would not have progressed quite so fast. That’s true regardless of whether some piece of shit ex-FBI agent thinks she can defend her cronies’ behavior, and regardless of how depraved the legal use of force has become in this country.


On the sacrifice of personality

“The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality.”

—T. S. Eliot (x)

“We ‘surrender’ ourselves to our art, T. S. Eliot wrote. I hate to argue with the Master, but I’m not sold on the metaphor of war that’s implied. Instead, I think of my dynamic with writing as the most equal relationship I’ve ever been in. There is a give and take. Sacrifice, yes, but not ‘a continual extinction of personality.’ If writing means an increase of empathy, then it cannot mean the killing or erasure of the empathizer. With any luck, and hard work, and self-care, writing induces the broadening of personality, revealed, between the lines, for its potential.”

—Carmiel Banasky (x)

I have the idea that when Eliot says “personality” here, he is talking about the most superficial, contingent aspects of a person. I love chocolate and despise salad and consider myself too sophisticated to stoop to correcting other people’s grammar, and those things make up my personality, but they do not make up the person I am, the empathizer. What Banasky calls broadening seems to me just a gentler-sounding version of Eliot’s extinction. Personality is specific by definition, and to broaden it is to make it less specific, more all-embracing.

If I may paraphrase Borges: To empathize is to forget differences.

Singular “they”

I’m a big fan, but every time I’m tempted to use it, I hesitate. I think, “Some reader is going to spot that ‘they,’ curl their lip in disgust, and never come back to this site.” Never mind that that reader will be an ignorant prig. I don’t enjoy alienating them—I mean him or her. Maybe I should just link to this every single time.

The value of reading

Apparently, “Read a book!” continues to be a popular cliché piece of advice. It means something like “Improve your mind!” and possibly “Improve your life situation!” This is the kind of advice that makes me roll my eyes every time I hear it.

Why this cargo-cultish preoccupation with books? Nobody ever uses that preaching tone to say, “Watch a movie!” “Play a video game!” “Consume media of some kind!” It’s even become routine to defend bad books by saying, “At least people are reading,”—as though reading a bad book were better than reading a good Facebook status. Maybe in previous generations, reading a book was, in itself, a shortcut to social mobility. Today that seems laughable.

But it occurred to me recently that I’m probably approaching the issue from the wrong end. For me, reading is nearly effortless. The skill involved is something I take for granted. It’s possible that for somebody else, reading a book means altering their state of mind, focusing in an unaccustomed way, forging new mental connections. It’s possible that that experience actually does improve people’s lives in a way that other media don’t. It’s possible I am a cranky out-of-touch snob. These things happen.

A sad thing

People keep finding this blog by searching for [name of excellent short story] + theme.

I imagine all those people are taking English classes in which the main thing they are learning is that short stories are boring.

I remember spending a large part of elementary school being forced to read excellent books that I slowly, inevitably came to loathe. Our reading assignments were too short for me (and probably too long for others). The discussion topics were usually painfully boring or abstract.

The idea that some people continue to be forced to read excellent things when they’re old enough to write essays about “themes” is just hard for me to deal with.

On the plus side, I have an idea for eliminating children’s bad eating habits (credit due partly to Grace Llewellyn). The schools would go to every major junk food company and request sponsorship for special mandatory nutritional classes held twice a day. For each class, the students would be forced to consume a fixed amount of (for example) Pepsi, pizza, Big Macs, Twinkies, Sun Chips, Doritos, Oreos, chocolate chip cookies, nachos, hot dogs, Slurpees, Big Gulps, Snickers, Cheetos, milkshakes, onion rings, Lucky Charms, and Cheez-Its. They would be required to eat everything at a set time and in a set amount of time. Slow eaters would be sent to remedial eating classes and possibly prescribed appetite stimulants; fast eaters would be put in an advanced class where they would never see their friends. There would be quizzes, guided discussions, take-home snacks, tests, and oral reports. Results: predictable.