Tuesday, July 19, 2011

      31 Days in Seuss, Day 12: My Scariest Moment

      Still trying to catch up on the 31 Days in Seuss Challenge, but I'm determined to get them all done before the end of the month! I posted the whole (non-rhymed) account of today's story on my blog before. It's here if you're interested, but here it is in verse:

      Here's a true story from 2 years ago
      The scariest of all the moments I know
      When I woke up one morning and went into work
      And everything, suddenly, went completely berserk.

      I was feeling quite strange when I rolled out of bed
      Nauseous and dizzy, with a pain in my head,
      But nothing too serious, or so I thought,
      No reason it seemed to get too overwrought.

      I made it to work, but things just got worse
      The stairs to my office seemed hard to traverse
      I couldn't quite get my bearings about me
      My hand was shaking as I turned the door-key.
      I took some deep breaths, drank some water and tried
      To ignore the symptoms that wouldn't subside,
      But I wasn't okay and I knew pretty fast
      That whatever this was could not be surpassed.

      I went down to my classroom. I couldn't teach.
      But when I tried to announce that-- Oh no!-- NO SPEECH!
      I stood there bewildered, a stammering mute
      I must've appeared to have wits subacute.
      My students just stared, waiting for direction
      While I was lost in a fog of confused introspection.

      Where were my words? Why wouldn't they come?
      I knew what I wanted to say, but was dumb.
      I could think in full sentences and intend with full will
      But the sound all around remained stubbornly still.
      Something was definitely wrong, I knew that.
      It was my turn, but I stood there, at-bat.

      To the ER I went in dystopic fantasia
      Where the doctors informed me that I had aphasia.
      The result of a stroke, my speech had been taken
      A little spasm in my brain was the cause for my achin'.

      After a whole lot of tests and a hospital stay,
      They finally said it would all be okay.
      Just like that, a second chance was transplanted
      For me to never take my own words for granted.

      31 Days in Seuss, Day 11: My Excellent Adventure

      It's hard to think of an adventure I've had
      That might count as "excellent," like, totally rad
      I mean, I once skydived (or is it "skydove"?).
      On a dare I once at a whole garlic clove.
      I ran away once. Out the window I flew!
      (But I was back in two hours, and nobody knew.)
      I drove from Memphis to Boston once, straight
      Without taking a rest, to meet up with a date.

      But "adventure" is a hard word to define
      And I'm not sure it applies to ventures of mine.
      The best I can think of is one night last summer
      In NOLA, with Kermit, a keyboardist and drummer,
      And four of my friends at a late night jazz show
      When I took a turn as la chanteur nouveau.

      I'm punting on this one, as will become clear
      When I direct you to read the whole story here.

      31 Days in Seuss, Day 10: My Hometown

      My apologies for dropping the ball on the 31 Days in Seuss Challenge over the last week or so. I got busy and then had some internet issues at home. Anyway, I'm going to try to catch back up, starting where I left off. Here's Day 10:

      My hometown sits on the Big Muddy bluff
      It's rough and its tough and it hides lots of stuff
      Some of it bad, like poverty and crime
      But most of it good, and all of it mine.

      It's the birthplaces of soul, home of the blues
      Where The King first flashed us those sweet blue suede shoes

      Where Johnny and Roy recorded at Sun

      Where the lights stay on till the drinkin' is done
      Where there's always been tension between whites and blacks
      But where all that's just noise when the DJ plays Stax.
      This city's a legend, and there ain't no mistaking
      That Soulsville has always been slowly remaking
      Itself into something more strange, more eclectic
      Like some bourbon-soaked, barbecued, Southern-culture dialectic.

      We've got the Arcade, the Lorraine, the Peabody
      We learned from our neighbors how to make hotty-toddy's.
      (And speaking of hot, we sure bring the heat
      From March to November, sweat-glands will secrete
      That sweet film of humid and oppressive heat
      About which our speech can be quite indiscreet.)
      We've also got Graceland and Gibson and Beale
      And Bellevue mega-church's surreal mega-zeal.
      In fact, we've got more churches than gas stations.
      The only thing MORE numerous: temptation locations!
      Like Wild Bill's, my personal favorite in town
      Where the renowned getting-down is the best all around.

      We're a city full of hustlers, no place for a wimp
      (Every Memphian knows it's hard out there for a pimp!)
      The Grizz, the Redbirds, the Tigers keep us cheering
      And all of those tourists make room for profiteering.
      We've got our fair share of loonies and quacks
      (Hell, we even ELECT some of those hacks!)
      But at the end of the day, there's no denying the facts
      This is still a helluva place to relax
      To kick back, to unpack, to talk a little smack
      To locate that one thing that your soul somehow lacks
      To relish in the unrefined and unclean,
      To feel the sweet release of your spirit's dopamine
      To know you're in a place where History was made
      Forbade, surveyed, underpaid, disobeyed,
      Weighed in the measure of a sweet serenade
      Pervading the air where music is played
      Night after night and day after day
      In a city where no one's stay is overstayed.

      I tried to leave Memphis, it wouldn't let me go.
      It brought me back home to the home that I know
      Where the good and the bad, in fact, do interwine.
      But most of it's good, and all of it's mine.

      Saturday, July 09, 2011

      31 Days in Seuss, Day 9: My Family

      This will be brief, for the story's quite plain.
      We're a common family with a common name.
      We were five in count for a whole lot of years
      Then my brother got married, and new kids appeared.
      So now we count nine, to each one's delight.
      And nine, for the time, feels just about right.

      My dad was a Preacher, and he's led the brood
      Though thick and through thin, with passions subdued.
      My mother's the firm (sometimes strict) regulator,
      The translator of what counts as upright behavior.

      My sister, the youngest, "quiet" as a rookie
      Grew up to be quite a tough little cookie.
      My brother, the handsome and lovable clown,
      Has a knack for picking you up when you're down.
      His wife, my new sister, is her own kind of force
      She's an addition I can fully endorse!

      And the kids! Oh, the kids! I do love them so!
      For being an aunt is the best job, you know.
      I don't ever scold them, I don't tell them "no"
      They can come to me whenever they're granted furlough.

      The little one, she likes sweet sweets topped with sprinkles,
      Her eyes always harbor mischievous twinkles.
      The older one's smart, and so talented, too.
      (But she's nearing her teens and might soon come unglued!)
      The middle, our boy, has the best little swagger
      He's sweet and eccentric, never a bragger.

      It just so happens that our hometown coincides
      With much more extended family besides,
      Which makes for impressive holiday gatherings
      With stories a-plenty and continuous blathering
      On and on about this and that and the other
      All of it code for "we love one another."

      We poke fun at each other, ride each one hard,
      Watch movies together, grill out in the yard,
      Tell jokes until everyone's faces contort,
      And exhort the reporting of feats of all sorts.
      We sometimes unfortunately hold our own grudges,
      Treat one another like each other's judges,
      But at the end of the day, with skill and aplomb
      We find our way back to the place we call home.
      Family is family, and family's permanent.
      It's the one unchosen, unbidden determinant
      We have in our lives. So I will take mine
      Without amendment or redesign,
      Without substituting any other
      Sister or brother, father or mother,
      Or anyone else we adopt for the day.
      You could join, too. You can't overstay
      Your welcome in a family like mine.
      (Believe me, I've tested it many a time!)

      Friday, July 08, 2011

      31 Days in Seuss, Day 7: My Best Idea

      There's a Facebook page for 31 Days in Seuss now. Click here to like it. And without further ado, here's Day 7:

      I've had a good idea or two in my day
      (And many more bad ones I won't redisplay)
      Grad school was a good one, confronting my fears,
      And bachelorette-ing for these past few years,
      And one time jumping right out of a plane,
      Choosing a life and a home that's urbane,
      Spending my twenties in a rock-n-roll band,
      Embarking on many adventures unplanned,
      Saying I'm sorry for an error or two,
      (And not apologizing for more than a few!),
      Moving back home when I was given the chance
      And keeping my sweet spot for sweethearts' romance.

      But my BEST idea, I think, when I think on it hard,
      Is the one that I'll never, no never, discard.
      My research underwent a major upheaval.
      A few years ago, I turned my attention to evils
      Like torture, the denial of key recognition,
      And not so very "extraordinary" rendition,
      The things that are done causing moral distaste,
      Exploitation resulting in persons debased
      Racism, sexism, the logic of Empire
      The harsh regulation of basic desire--
      In short, all our missteps that would go unchecked
      Without human rights and a will to protect.

      But laws just declare rights, they can't ever ground them
      (MLK said that, the disenfranchised gathered around him)
      It's philosophy's job to try and illumine
      Whatever it is that binds us as "human."
      So I made it my aim, my research obsession
      To contribute my best idea to that question.

      Here it is: we are, all of us, weak.
      What's "human" about us is that, no mystique.
      We're mortal, mutable, sometimes petty and mean.
      We're defined by our futures, which remain unforeseen.
      We can be a capricious, unpredictable lot.
      But defined by some essence? Well, we're just not.
      Despite all our difference, there's one thing we share:
      None of us, not one, lives a life solitaire.
      We may be rational, free, many other great strengths,
      We may build great machines and go to great lengths
      To distinguish ourselves from nature, the beast,
      The stranger, the alien, the unknown, unreleased,
      But at the end of the day, we need one another,
      Sister and sister, brother and brother
      To step in and defend and declare a loud "No!"
      To insist that not anything, not everything goes.

      For whatever else we may know of ourselves
      From the volumes of thinking we keep on our shelves,
      We're the only animal that can settle our quarrels
      Without force or fight, by discharging our morals.
      So my best idea, above all else, is just this:
      We ought not, cannot, ever be remiss
      In protecting human rights. We need to pursue
      The "them" that's a "we", the "I" that's a "you"
      For someday, you should know, they'll come for you, too
      And you'll need the ones who won't misconstrue
      The difference between you and them as innate
      And who won't, in reflex, underestimate
      The humanity that you share with the rest of us folk
      For that's a humanity that can't be revoked.

      Wednesday, July 06, 2011

      31 Days in Seuss, Day 6: My Biggest Hope

      I'm not exactly sure that "hopes" are things that can be quantified in categories like "biggest" or "smallest," but here's my go at it anyway for Day 6 of the 31 Days in Seuss challenge:

      Pageant contestants with their big empty smiles
      And big empty eyes and feminine wiles--
      All say the same when asked of their hopes.
      "World peace!" they exclaim, like big empty dopes.

      We ALL think, of course, that world peace would be nice,
      But REAL hopes are typically much more precise.
      They usually have something more specific to do
      With you, your purview, and the things you pursue.

      So, although I've lots of big hopes to convey
      The biggest of all, I can't help but say
      Is a very clear-cut and crystal clear pining
      For a "yes" that would be in great measure defining
      Of all of the work, and the stress, sleepless nights I've endured
      To procure the allure of a job well-secured.

      It may seem quite selfish to be so in thrall
      With the hope that I'm calling my "biggest" of all,
      But what I long for most is the official extension
      Of that sweet golden "yes" at my tenure contention.

      If my tenure bid fails, there will be no excuse.
      I shouldn't have spent all this time writing Seuss!

      Tuesday, July 05, 2011

      31 Days in Seuss, Day 5: My Hate

      Here's the next installment for 31 Days in Seuss. I'll just say that I sure would appreciate some commentary, if only to let me know whether or not I should keep soldiering through this very difficult challenge. Is anyone reading this? Hello?

      Also, again, if you're participating in this Challenge with me and Ideas Man, PhD, please let me know so I can be sure to read (and link to) your entries!

      MY HATE
      Hate is a word I don't use too often
      Preferring instead those words that can soften
      The things and people that make us perspire
      With vitriol, disgust, venom and ire.

      But since I've chosen to poetically rehearse
      Those things that prompt me to feel love's inverse
      I'll make an exception, just in this case
      And tell of the hates I usually efface

      Bigotry, prejudice, and postures sardonic
      (I know, hating "hate" is profoundly ironic!)
      But I simply cannot underestimate
      My hatred of those who don't tolerate
      The difference that makes this world so enriched.
      When I hear them, I become slightly unhitched
      And can't help but despise the haters that hate
      And longingly plead that they NOT procreate.

      Really, who needs more of that kind?
      Their wills undisciplined, their minds unrefined,
      They whine and they bind and they decline to sign
      That precious social contract keeping us all intertwined.

      I hate ignorance, too, thinking that is hazy
      Principles based on a relativism lazy
      And those who simply will not condescend
      To defend their positions, who can't comprehend
      That a concept, or any ethical schematic,
      Can never be totally idiosyncratic,
      Theocratic, static, or stupidly automatic
      And who can't see why that's so problematic.
      If there's one thing that stymies the spirit democratic
      It's a demos that's thoroughly, blindly fanatic.

      In smaller hates, I'll note that I also dislike
      The poetry of Beats, and Cognitive Psych,
      Celtic music, tomatoes, capitalist elites,
      Meetings where all that they serve is sweet sweets,
      Scary movies, standstill traffic, and all things suburban,
      People who look down their noses at bourbon,
      Commitments for which I did not volunteer,
      And bars that want to put fruit in my beer,
      The people who never get up and dance,
      Anything resembling those dumb capri pants,
      Undercooked chicken and overcooked steaks,
      Those who remind me of all my mistakes,
      The smell of vanilla, the taste of champagne,
      And any and every crime inhumane.

      On reflection, I've more hates than I imagined at first
      But at least they seem nicer when all rhymed and versed
      Seuss-like, as was the call of this test.
      Still, the list can't help but make me a little depressed.

      Monday, July 04, 2011

      31 Days in Seuss, Day 4: My Books

      My entry for Day 4 in the 31 Days in Seuss challenge is a little late, but I'm posting yesterday's and today's now. This one was the hardest to rhyme so far.

      MY BOOKS
      If you wanted an accurate glimpse of myself
      Stop by and survey the books on my shelf
      They're tattered and worn and filled with scribbles
      The many unsettled scholarly quibbles
      I've had with those writers over the years
      And which fashioned the borders of my thinking's frontiers

      There's the mundane, the mighty, the deep and the smart
      Derrida, Foucault, Fanon and Sartre
      Lots of philosophers from the region of France
      And Americans, too, who wear French Thinking Pants

      Alongside the Frenchies, and worth equal mention
      Are the great works of many illustrious menschen
      Nietzsche and Kant, Marx and Hegel
      Philosopher-poets, like Goethe and Schlegel
      They have their own space, as is their wont
      (Their Gegend is still la arrondissement)

      On separate shelves you'll find all my fiction
      Full of addiction, constriction, affliction, contradiction
      Dosteovsky, Kundera, Franzen and Roth,
      Foer and Faulkner (most are in cloth)
      Junot Diaz and his sad Oscar Wao
      And all of the tragedy that space will allow

      You won't find any sci-fi or Beat Generation
      But there's plenty besides for smart conversation
      The subjects that keep me ever transfixed
      With the ins and the outs of Realpolitiks

      No vampires, no volumes of young Harry Potters
      I much prefer Steinbeck-- his downtrodden squatters
      Stand in for the rest of us weak human beings
      Petty and proud, in search of some meaning
      To make our small lives seem less ordinary
      When recorded by artists of arts literary.

      My books, my friends, my confidantes too
      I cannot imagine my space without you
      There's just this one thing, which I cannot approve:
      You're such a pain in the ass when I move!

      Saturday, July 02, 2011

      31 Days in Seuss, Day 2: My Love

      This 31 Days in Seuss Challenge is already harder than I thought it would be. But the good news is that there's at least one other person who I know is doing it, so be sure to check out Ideas Man, PhD's blog. He's got mad Seuss skills.

      I'm hoping that the more one tries to write in Seuss, the easier it gets. We will see. Anyway, here is today's attempt:

      MY LOVEThe Prompter today: "I know what we'll do!
      I'll ask you your love, and you'll tell me your Who!"
      Poor Prompter, he could not have known what I knew
      That my love is a What and not really a Who.

      "Nonsense!" he said, an incredulous glance,
      The look that he gave me profoundly askance
      "Love is for Whos, real people and such
      No one loves Whats in that way, not as much."

      He passed me a tablet, a big shiny pen
      Demanded the names of my Who-loves, and then
      With a growl and a huff he slammed the door shut
      "You must write of Whos and nary a What!"

      I stared at the page, whatever to do?
      There are too many Whos whom I love (and too few)
      And my love for each is so different, too.
      And what of the ones I already outgrew?
      People might very well err, misconstrue
      Why THEY weren't the Who for My Love pas-de-deux.

      So I decided I'd make a list of the Whats
      That I knew that I loved with no ifs, ands or buts
      Love isn't as simple as that foul Prompter said
      I would make My Love list how I wanted instead.

      Music and books were on the top of my list
      Big Ideas about how Whos and Whats coexist
      There were warm summer nights and parties and sports
      And the laughter that sounds like a hundred loud snorts
      And classrooms with arguments, careful and sound
      The sweet smell of honeysuckle right out of the ground
      The rush of a roller coaster's exhilaration
      And the feel of a juke joint's dancing gyrations
      Sad songs and high-fives and pool tables too
      And the heavenly taste of pork barbecue.

      Those were my loves. That was my list.
      I knew that the Prompter would surely be pissed.
      He took it, was pleased, cried "How apropos!
      List the Whats that one loves. The Whos already know."

      Friday, July 01, 2011

      31 Days in Seuss: The Rules

      Some of you have already written me to ask "what in the world is 31 Days in Seuss?!" Well, it's like the 30 Day Song Challenge that I did last month (in June), only it's done in verse, like Dr. Seuss. Each day, I will have to answer the Seuss prompt with as much cleverness, wit and rhyme as I can muster, and with a healthy dose of neologisms.

      I'll just say at the outset that I'm no poet. I didn't even know what anapestic tetrameter or amphibrach tetrameter or trochaic tetrameter was until I looked up Dr. Suess on Wikipedia. But, then again, not many people of Theodor Geisel as a "great poet" either, so I'll just try to slip in like he did. I'm not as confident about making it all the way through this challenge as I was about the music challenge, but I'm certainly going to give it a shot.

      Oh the places we will go!

      Here's how the Seuss Challenge will proceed for July. Please let me know if you're playing along on your own blog. And extra points for comments in Seuss-ese!

      THE RULES:

      Day 1- My job
      Day 2- My love
      Day 3- My music
      Day 4- My books
      Day 5- My hate
      Day 6- My biggest hope
      Day 7- My best idea
      Day 8- My best friend
      Day 9- My family
      Day 10- My hometown
      Day 11- My excellent adventure
      Day 12- My scariest moment
      Day 13- My saddest day
      Day 14- My country
      Day 15- My politics
      Day 16- My religion
      Day 17- My lost cause
      Day 18- My embarrassment
      Day 19- My parents
      Day 20- My death
      Day 21- My baggage
      Day 22- My pet
      Day 23- My most random moment
      Day 24- My style
      Day 25- My home
      Day 26- My delusion
      Day 27- My talent
      Day 28- My principles
      Day 29- My philosophy
      Day 30- My worst moment
      Day 31- Why you should know me

      31 Days in Seuss, Day 1: My Job

      I'm beginning a new Challenge today, called 31 Days in Seuss. I'll be taking some element of my life each day and describing it in verse like the children's author Dr. Seuss. I have to admit that I'm not entirely confident I'm going to be able to do this for the whole month of July, but we'll give it a shot and see how it goes.

      For the first day, I'm supposed to describe "My Job." As readers of this blog already know, I'm a professor of Philosophy at a small liberal arts college in Memphis. I always find it difficult to explain what I do to other people, so perhaps trying it in Suess will be a bit of an advantage. I mean, as far as I can tell, when I talk about Philosophy to other people it sounds a lot like Seuss-ese anyway.

      So here it is, in Seuss:

      MY JOB
      One Who, two Who, three Who, four
      A Little Who for each year, every year, sometimes more
      The Big Whos leave them here, just an unprepared corps
      To meet Great Whos of Whomanity and settle the score

      I work at the Who-House. I meet Whos in great number
      Eager and restless, imaginations unencumbered
      I teach them Who thoughts and Who history and Who news
      And how to read, write and talk like smart Little Whos

      We struggle through annals of Who Life and such
      And I hear their Who drama a little too much

      In time, they are able to manage Who tussles
      They begin to develop impressive Who muscles
      They stumble, they falter, they beg and they plead
      But they pick themselves up, brush off their Who knees
      They learn the Who-House is a temporary stay
      For Whomanity awaits! They musn't delay!
      The Who-Doctors, like me, who have watered and fed them
      Must some day, regrettably, cut loose and shed them

      Eventually, the day comes when Little Whos have grown
      And we Who-Doctors confirm what was already known
      They had untapped Whomanity in them all along
      And they now know the difference between Who Right and Who Wrong
      So we send them off to the world of Whos great and small
      To find and to answer their special Who-call

      We return to the Who-House, more Little Whos in waiting
      For the training of Whos is a task unabating
      But each Little Who is a Future Who needed
      To tend the lawn of Whomanity, which must be constantly weeded.
      So the Who-Skills are taught and tested and graded
      Quite often with love (those Little Whos get jaded!)
      All the Big Whos in Who-Land depend on us dearly
      To make Little Whos who can think and speak clearly
      Of philosophy and life and the goods of Whomanity
      To save us all from the nonsense of Fox-Whos insanity.

      As a Who-Doctor, I confess, I love what I do
      Even when charged with corralling bad Little Whos
      So it takes no Who-effort to make this confession:
      Mine is the best of the best of the best Who-Professions.