New Poll: Which Fantasy Writer Should I Read?

My readers have defended the fantasy genre so well from my unreasonable attacks that I decided to give it a try. Now I have to select a fantasy writer I should read. I can’t make this decision on my own, so I am going to conduct a poll. Please look at the poll located in the right-hand panel of the blog (just scroll down) and vote for the writer I should read.

Please don’t vote if you have no idea who any of these writers are. I want a real result. Then, I will read a novel by the author we choose collectively and report my impressions on this blog.

Thank you!

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And Now Let Me Bore You With My Research: Teresa Pla Meseguer, Part I

I never do this, folks, so I think I can be excused for discussing my research just this once. Especially because you will not find this information on English-language websites and I think it’s fascinating.

Florencio, 1960

Teresa Pla Meseguer was born in a small village of Vallibona in Spain in 1917. Today, we would call Teresa intersex because her gender could not be determined at birth. In her tiny village of shepherds and poor farmers, however, nobody knew this word. Teresa’s parents registered her as a woman because being female would have allowed her to avoid being drafted into the army.

Teresa never performed femininity very convincingly, though. People ridiculed her and taunted her for looking like a guy and her elder sisters beat her mercilessly. Teresa grew up to be very tall and strong, which made people afraid of laughing at her in her face. When the Civil War started in 1936, Teresa didn’t join either of the warring sides. She was considered a woman, which gave her the right to stay in Vallibona. She could do hard physical labor as well as a man and men were scarce. This allowed Teresa to make good money and even start saving.

As we all know, the progressive Republican forces lost the Civil War in Spain. The fascists, led by the General Francisco Franco (or, as I refer to him in my lectures, vile cockroach*), won. The defeated Republican forces withdrew to France. The Republicans** fought heroically against Hitler in Europe because they believed that once the Nazis were defeated, the Allies would proceed to remove Franco and his fascists from power.

This never happened. The Allies allowed the fascist dictatorship of Franco to remain in power until 1975.

The Republican fighters decided to take matters into their own hands. They organized guerrilla units, crossed the border between France and Spain, and started engaging in subversive activities against the regime. Teresa was one of the many people in the area who helped the guerrilla  fighters by providing them with food and helping them pass messages to their families.

One day, however, a really horrible thing happened to Teresa.

[To be continued. . .]

* And I always follow this with a disclaimer that the students should feel free to form a different opinion about Franco but that this is a subject where it makes me feel better to say that he is a vile cockroach.

** These, of course, are very different from the American Republicans. The Spanish Republicans were people who defended the democratically elected legitimate government of the 2nd Republic against the military uprising of fascists between 1936-9.

Just Wait Till You Have Kids!

I’m really getting annoyed with how often people address this statement to me as if it were some kind of a threat about a horrible eventuality awaiting me in the future.

“I just got an article accepted for publication and I’m super psyched about it.”

“Just wait till you have kids! That will put a damper on your research activities.”

“N. and I went out to this really cool new restaurant last night and we really loved it.”

“Just wait till you have kids! Then, you’ll have neither time nor money to go out.”

“I slept in this morning and it was just what I needed. I now have a lot of energy to finally attack that huge pile of ungraded assignments.”

“Just wait till you have kids! You’ll forget all about sleeping then.”

(These are all real conversations that I participated in recently.)

I’ve got to wonder why this sentence is never used in a more positive context. For instance:

“N. and I had an amazing time on our vacation to Florida last time and we can’t wait to go again.”

“Just wait till you have kids! Imagine how much fun you could have sharing that great experience with them.”

“I just read this amazing book and I can’t stop thinking about it.”

“Just wait till you have kids! Then, you will be able to read the book together and discuss it.”

“My back is killing me! I spent all day dicing vegetables for my favorite Russian salads.”

“Just wait till you have kids! Then, you could cook together and you’d be able to share with them stories about the Russian cultural traditions while they are helping you dice.”

I know that it is very possible to have fun with kids and see them as people who enrich your life, rather than people who make you perennially miserable. My father, for example, always insisted on taking my sister and me on vacation with him because he said it wasn’t possible for him to imagine having any fun at the beach without us. I’m seeing crowds of people whose lives were in no way destroyed by having children. Why, then, is this sentence always employed in such negative contexts?

Thinking About the Economy: Tax Reform, Anyone?

I’m no economist and I’m struggling right now to improve my knowledge of how the economy works. The following tax reform suggestions, however, are making a lot of sense to me:

Right-of-center, tax reform is inescapable. All households other than the truly poor will be required to pay more in federal taxes. The key issue is that of incentives and excess burdens. A flat tax devoid of all exemptions save for the very poor, is the best solution.  No personal exemptions, no child allowances, no mortgage relief, no charitable donations relief, no tax-subsidies to business enterprise of any kind. Almost every tub would be expected to stand on its own bottom.

The same  flat tax would apply to all dividends and capital gains. Only households would be taxed, at the point of receipt. The corporation tax and the payroll tax would be eliminated (as would the entirely fictitious Social Security Trust Fund).  The flat tax rate would have to be slightly above 20 percent across all income for all non-poor households to reach the tax revenue target. The flat tax ensures that all households – other than the poor – pay exactly the same proportion of their income to the federal government. Of course, the rich pay far more in absolute taxes than do their less rich compatriots.

I especially dig the part that I bold-typed. I don’t really know how the payroll tax works, so I can’t have an opinion about that part of the suggestion, but the rest of it seems eminently reasonable to me. My father, who is a small business owner, has been dreaming of just this kind of a tax system for decades. He says that this would do wonders for his capacity to manage his tiny company. When he comes back from Cuba (he’s on vacation there right now), I’m sure he will be happy to find out that this system is not a figment of his imagination.

Now some questions:

1) What do you, folks, think about this proposal?

2) The quote is from a blog by a Conservative economist who states from the outset that this is a right-of-center tax reform. But the tax reform seems very fair to me. Is this a generally accepted approach to taxes among Conservatives?

3) Can anybody suggest a website or a blog where I can see a Liberal alternative to this tax reform proposal? Or can anybody briefly tell me how it would differ? If I could at least figure out if I’m closer to the Conservative or the Liberal camp on this subject, that would already help me a lot in getting my bearings.

Yes, my questions might sound silly but I have already confessed my lack of knowledge in this area. I’m just trying to understand how things work.

Insight About Writing

Writing is only hard when you have to experience this nagging thought, “I need to be writing, I’m not doing any writing. I just need to sit down and write but when will I be able to?” all the time. It isn’t writing itself that is exhausting. Rather, worrying about having to do it and not doing it is.

The reason why I always thought that academic writing was hard is because I wasn’t doing enough of it.

I’m on Day 8 of my Seinfeld Chain, and I just looked at my document and discovered that it’s 9 pages long without the notes and the bibliography. Those nine pages just appeared there from pretty much nowhere. And all it took was just writing for 90-120 minutes every morning. Compared to worrying about not writing, actual writing is a piece of cake, people.