What’s Your Address?

You know what I really don’t enjoy? In many stores, when you are trying to pay, they start asking you for your phone number and address. I’m autistic, so when I’m put on the spot this way, I immediately forget my address and phone number utterly and completely.

So then I start getting nervous, especially when the cashier looks at me expectantly.

And, of course, I start inventing weird phone numbers and addresses just to get the cashier to leave me in peace.

And then the cashier starts telling me that they don’t sound right and if am I sure this is, indeed, my address.

And, of course, I get even more flustered and start cursing the moment when I had the silly idea to go into that store at all.

And the cashier picks up on my nervousness and starts examining my card very closely.

And this makes me feel like I’m some kind of a suspicious individual which always leads me to lose my speaking faculties altogether.

All this, just because I decided to buy a new hair-brush. Seriously, people, I don’t know what I would do if I online shopping didn’t exist.

There had also been a few occasions when I was asked unexpectedly for my first and last name and I blanked completely. I just stood there, staring at the person who was asking me, at a loss as to what my name could possibly be. It usually helps to fake a fit of coughing in these situations.

Is “Muslim” a Dirty Word Nowadays?

This is the kind of news that can make one lose all faith in humanity:

 A western Pennsylvania school district has decided not to stage a Tony Award-winning musical about a Muslim street poet after members of the community complained about the play on the heels of the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

The Tribune Democrat of Johnstown reports Richland School District had planned to stage “Kismet” in February but Superintendent Thomas Fleming says it was scrapped to avoid controversy.

Fleming tells the newspaper that sensitivity is understandable in part because one of the hijacked planes crashed in nearby Shanksville.

I’m all for sensitivity but what, in the name of all that’s holy, does a musical about a Muslim street poet have to do with the tragedy of 9/11?

On Thursday, I will be giving a talk at the local community center about the significance of the Muslim presence on the Iberian Peninsula starting from the year 711. The following words will open the talk: “At the beginning of the 8th century, Europe was truly a place of intellectual and spiritual darkness. Its ancient knowledge, art and philosophy had been lost. Only a distant memory of the former glory persisted in the minds of Europe’s very few remaining intellectuals. And then, in 711, an event of truly earth-shattering proportions took place. I am talking, of course, about the arrival of the Muslim people who conquered the Iberian Peninsula and restored the culture, the civilization, the science, the arts, in short, everything that makes life worth living, to the Europeans.”

Does this text sound sensitive enough to everybody? Because I don’t really even know any more.

Let’s Reunite a Blogger With Her Computer

Dear Readers!

I’m sure you all know and like Leah Jane who writes under the nickname Nominatissima and is a frequent commenter on this blog. Leah Jane is a truly remarkable young woman. She is talented, politically active, engaged, and a brilliant writer and blogger. She is also autistic and dedicated to autism activism. At her age, all I did was read Cosmo, Elle and Marie Claire. I also believed that studying was useless and stooooopid and that the only worthy pursuit was to make lots of money to help one become a true Cosmo girl. This is why it makes me very happy to see that there are young people out there who are so much more aware and advanced in their personal growth than I could have hoped  to be at their age.

For an autistic blogger, it’s very sad to be left without a computer. Our computers are our way of connecting to the world, reaching out to people, and getting ourselves heard. Recently, Nominatissima’s computer died on her and she now doesn’t have a computer of her own. This is a 21-year-old kid, folks, who is trying to make ends meet as a full-time student as it is. So I’m afraid it will take her a while to save for a new computer.

If we all pitch in, even for tiny little amounts, we will be able to help Nominatissima to get her new computer sooner. I’m going to be donating the income I got from blogging in the last two months for the cause of Leah Jane’s new computer. I think it makes a lot of sense since her contribution to the success of my blog has been quite significant.

Just think about it, OK?

You can go here to make a donation.

I made this post sticky, so scroll down for new posts.

Let’s Talk About India

Rimi, one of the favorite commenters of everybody who reads my blog, has agreed to engage in a cross-posting exercise where I list all the myths about India that I have accumulated based on my own culture’s current fascination with India and on an equally strong and just as limiting  vision of India here in North America. Rimi will be so kind as to address these beliefs one by one on her own blog.

Then, if she is so kind, she will make a similar list of Bengali stereotypes about Russian speakers, and I will get a chance to address them here.

As Rimi says:

 We know so little about countries east of England and west of Pakistan, and Bengalis in particular have such a rosy vision of Soviet Russia, that we could all do with a little first-hand education .

So it feels like a little mutual education is in order.

Here are, then, the stereotypes I have recently heard about India:

  • It’s a country where many people live in the streets but only because they choose to. The government offers them apartments of their own but they refuse because they enjoy living in the streets.
  • Every homeless person in India receives coupons for foods that are enough to cover everybody’s minimal needs.
  •  Before marriage, an Indian woman can wear anything she likes. After she gets married, she can do it, too, but all Indian women choose to wear saris instead.
  • Sexual enjoyment is a value promoted by Hinduism.
  • The Indian government does all it can to break down caste barriers but the dalits resist these efforts.
  • People in India have no use for Western medicine because they have Ayurveda medicine.
  • People in India are always happy and content with everything because that’s in the nature of Hinduism.
  • Of course, not everybody in India practices Hinduism. There are also Sikhs who are very feminist. And also Muslims who keep causing trouble and organizing terrorist attacks. There might be a Christian here and there but they are not a significant community.
  • All Indians are very patriotic and proud of their country. Here is Rimi’s response to this idea.
  • When people in India decide to get married, it is often more important to consult their astrological horoscopes than to meet the future spouse.
  • From early childhood, Indian women are taught the kind of dancing that makes their chest look bigger and helps them find sexual fulfillment.
  • Drivers in India are really reckless and never even stop to think about safety.

True or Not?

Just as I posted the most recent post, I read the following:

The top 10 percent of earners pay nearly 70 percent of all income taxes, according to the I.R.S. People in the richest 1 percent pay 31 percent of their income to the federal government while the average worker pays less than 14 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

This comes from an article by David Brooks, and I don’t think anybody here is likely to believe everything he says. I’d like to know, however, whether the claims he makes here are in any way true. Do people in the richest 1% pay 31% of their income in taxes? And if so, then why do we keep hearing about the need to raise taxes on the rich who somehow manage to wiggle out of their tax obligations?

I’m trying as hard as I can to understand how this works but such disparate claims come from the opposing political camps that nothing makes sense any more.

Thinking About the Economy: Let’s Stop Simplifying

Within the last few days, I have seen one journalist after another recycle the following idea:

Both parties agree that we need to reduce the deficit by the same amount — by $4 trillion. So what choices are we going to make to reach that goal? Either we ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share in taxes, or we’re going to have to ask seniors to pay more for Medicare. We can’t afford to do both.

I know it’s fun to condescend to the President and the Congress, but seriously, people, it’s so much more complicated than this. Just think about it. When in your field of knowledge or your professional specialization, somebody comes up with a gross simplification of this kind, how does that make you feel?

In the novel Heart of a Dog by a great Russian writer of the Stalinist era Mikhail Bulgakov (and, incidentally, Stalin’s favorite writer), the main character, Sharikov, is transformed from a dog into a human being. He shocks his highly intellectual creators with his simplistic view of history. After reading the correspondence between Engels and Kautsky, the former dog announces that he knows how to fix the economy of the world: “We need to take everything from everybody and share it equally”, Sharikov announces.

Please, let’s stop imitating Sharikov already in his inane views of how the economy actually works.

And a Little More on Teaching

One of the answers to the query at College Misery that I discussed in my previous post was:

Teaching was the only thing my degree is good for. I never had illusions about it being wonderful.

Nothing annoys me more than this attitude of fake martyrdom. If your never thought your degree was going to lead you to anything wonderful, then why, for Pete’s sake, did you get it? And how do you manage to come into the classroom, look into the faces of your students, many of whom probably do think their degree will result in something wonderful, and not feel like a total, absolute fake? Why don’t you just resign and look for something that will be wonderful for you?

Granted, teaching is not for everybody. Just like every other profession. But there are people who were born to teach and it is so sad to see all these malcontents occupying the spots that really good teachers could be given instead.

When I find myself in front of a classroom, speaking to my students, I get this incredible feeling which is akin to flying. I never tried drugs (I’m a very boring, conventional person), but I think that this is what a high must be like. You feel like you can do anything, your body becomes weightless, and you have this almost mystical experience of connecting with an audience on a profound level that words cannot describe. This doesn’t happen every single time, of course. But when it does, it is an absolutely priceless experience.

The reason why my students love me so much in spite of me being a very tough grader who routinely fails many of them and an autistic with a very distant personal manner is that I know how to create this environment of learning-worship (I just can’t find any other word for it) for them.

It is so annoying to imagine that there are so many of these miserable creatures who are sitting there, getting a salary they don’t deserve for doing a half-assed job of what other people could turn into a sublime experience both for themselves and for the students.

When Did You Discover Your Dream Career?

The following question came up on College Misery:

When did you realize you wanted to teach for a career? Before you entered grad school or after your first TAship? Or, at another time?

It was obvious that I was going to be a) a teacher and b) a scholar of literature before I reached the age of ten. Everybody is a teacher and a voracious reader in my family, so all I wanted to do as a kid was to read and play school. When I was five, I would create notebooks for all of my dolls and write their homework in them. Some dolls were smart and did great but some made mistakes and got bad grades. I can’t really even remember a time when I didn’t have a red pen on me to mark students’ assignments.

At the age of nine, I read Aleksey Tolstoy’s play The Death of Ivan the Terrible and then Pushkin’s Boris Godunov. Both works deal with the same time period but in very different ways.

I was very shocked to discover that two works of literature approached the same events in such different ways. It was even more surprising to me that Pushkin, the most important Russian writer ever, was, in my opinion both then and now, vastly inferior to Aleksey Tolstoy (not to be confused with Leo Tolstoy), a fairly minor author. Of course, I immediately started to bug my father about this discovery.

“Daaaaaad,” I would whine. “But why does Pushkin say here on page 128. . .”

Eventually, my father got fed up and said to me, “Why don’t you just go ahead and write down everything you think about these two works of literature?”

So I did, and that was my very first work of literary criticism. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been preserved for posterity. 🙂


A Great Post on DSK

Here is a quote from a really great post on DSK:

So, if the sexual relationship was consensual, and without a price, what on earth happened? A corpulent, ugly, squat,  62-year-old white male appears unclothed and half-shaved, with a bulging belly,  from a bathroom in the suite. A young, slim,  black  Moslem woman  becomes so aroused by this sight that she jumps him, and within nine minutes sodomizes him before leaving the apartment. No time to enjoy the afterglow of this momentous encounter. Both of them are out the door within seconds of his ejaculation.

If French voters are prepared to swallow this sorry tale, I have good news for them. I have a few very nice New York bridges for sale at heavily discounted prices. An offer no one should refuse! In a moment of weakness, DSK himself might even buy one. Or perhaps, in a moment of moral failure, he would expect to seduce one from me for  free?

This is the time to leave your ideological position on DSK aside and admire how well this is written. A review of a book by the author of this post is coming soon on Clarissa’s Blog. And if you are about to scream, “This was written by one of those out-of-control feminists!”, go to the blog I got this from and just accept that some things are so obvious that no reasonable person will dispute them.