Thursday, September 25, 2008

I would never postpone a chance to argue!

I have so much to say, but you wouldn't know it from my lack of bloggage. However, the silence of Linda Without Borders is only due to my incredibly busy, somewhat stressful, definitely over-scheduled, but entirely interesting semester.

So here's the thing. You may or may not know that Hofstra is hosting the third presidential debate, on October 15. At least, it's supposed to be the third debate, assuming this Friday's first debate actually happens.

I still like my boy McCain, but he needs to know that not going to the debate = bad idea. And the main reason is not (as Obama said) so the "American people" can hear from their future leader at this time (blah blah talking heads blah) but because the University of Mississippi has put a lot of effort, time, energy, and resources into organizing it. I know, because I am a volunteer on the presidential debate to be held here at Hofstra. (Part of that crazy busy semester I mentioned.)

This university has put a lot into this. So have the volunteers, the community, the county officials, the local police, and so on. I personally have gone to to e-mail him/the campaign telling them GO TO THE DEBATE, YOU FOOL! and I hope that you will do the same.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

He killed Himself

I can't remember ever being as startled by a headline scrolling across the bottom of the television screen: David Foster Wallace, 46, found dead of an apparent suicide.

The first thing I said aloud: I thought he was above it.

I sit here feeling speechless. I find the LA Times obituary, I scour the internet, I read hundreds of comments on fan sites, and I see that being rendered speechless seems to be the general consensus around the blogosphere. It is as if DFW left this world and took with him all the words worth saying.

And then I think, what kind of wise-beyond-wit comment would he have about a flood of hundreds and hundreds of comments from people who admit therein they have nothing to say?

I feel genuinely sad now. Lump-in-the-throat sad. Part of that comes from a cringing compassion for his wife, who returned home to find he had hanged himself. I think the suicide of someone who is married or in an intimate relationship is horrifying beyond measure. It's so hopeless, whether it says the relationship wasn't reason enough to keep living, or just that you couldn't tell your partner it wasn't.

Part of my lump in the throat comes from the fact that so much of what he wrote was about depression, madness, suicide -- those things are underlying themes as well as major plot points of Infinite Jest -- and he was so smart about them that I thought he would not fall prey to them. I thought he had stared them in the face and, if not conquered them, then rolled up his sleeves and flexed his literary muscles to show they couldn't mess with him, that he was better than any mere demons. I couldn't read his writing any other way.

I was struck by this comment from "seth" on Edward Champion's Reluctant Habits that David Foster Wallace "noticed and spoke of things that most of us need to ignore to keep going."

Part of the sadness comes from a general question often asked of the universe about why brilliant artists have to be crazy. I mean, really?

The first comment I read online, on the blog cosmopolis, noted that his work will now be "read retrospectively with knowledge of his end as if it were ordained." A la Sylvia Plath, John Kennedy Toole, et. al.

But besides authors there are all the crazed composers, and the Vincent Van Goghs, and so on. Why? What madness is this creation? (And what does that say about the very notion of "god" by the way?)

I know I've mentioned before that Amy Ray and Emily Saliers (who together are my favorite musical duo Indigo Girls) have commented on this phenomenon in multiple interviews. They are by all indications very healthy (although who knows, right?); they are careful to take time off between albums and tours, and go running, and plant tomatoes. They have talked cautiously about the myth of the crazy artist in a way that is almost suspicious of their own artistic success, like, wow, I'm creative, what must be wrong with me? I can't say I haven't thought the same thing about myself sometimes, in my more volatile moments. Is it just inevitable? Their song "Caramia" is running through my head: "Some say your genius/ is in your madness/ will you get better/ and then will you leave us?"

But the above paragraph is just musing, speculation, ramblings from someone who doesn't know what to say.

I feel (selfishly?) glad that I read Infinite Jest before he died. Sometime last spring I couldn't believe how much time -- law school time! that is in a whole other dimension than regular earth-time! -- I gave to that book. But it gave back. And of course now I can't imagine it any other way.

I wrote about him a bit on my Literary Supplement although I was often too preoccupied with law school to blog much. I also spent time grappling with whether or not I even liked the book. But his talent? His way with words? His, yes, genius? You've got to experience them.

I do encourage you to read him. After Infinite Jest I moved his essay collections closer to the top of my mental list of Things to Read Soon, although I didn't necessarily imagine getting around to them until after law school. But it's not like his book is something you read and then put away. Brian and I still talk about it, and tell other people about it, and contemplate it.

I feel obliged to end this entry with a DFW quote, but I won't, because that would imply that there's some way to sum up or make sense of such a thing as "Writer David Foster Wallace hanged himself Friday night. He was 46."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Inviting you to calm yourselves

OK, so I've been amused for -- how long now? two weeks? three? My, how the time flies when you're dealing with 17 credits, internships, and so forth -- by all the hysteria about McCain's selection of Sarah Palin. I've been content to smile as friend after friend on Facebook joins groups with names like "I have more foreign policy experience than Sarah Palin," and I have dutifully explained why try as they might the Democrats are unable to use Palin to turn the so-called "pro-life/pro-choice" dichotomy into my wedge issue. But now there is something I simply must say.

I find myself really annoyed by all the people who are calling her too right-wing, or evangelical because of all these (so far, false) rumors about her banning books and wanting to teach creationism in schools... all you who are in hysterics about her views on the womb (pun very much intended)... listen up!

I think I've figured out why I shrug off all of this. I was trying to explain to a friend the other day why it's hard to get me too freaked out by someone's religious beliefs. Here's the thing. Everyone is all "oh-my-god-she's-going-to-teach-creationism-abstinence-babies" but I have officially decided today that I'm done with all the faux-outrage about people who want to --gasp!-- impose their ideas on others.

It's crap. You know what? We all want to impose our ideas on others. At least those of us who blog do! Even those of you who pretend you don't want other people to agree with you, you want other people to agree with you that people shouldn't try to get other people to agree with them. Or so you say.

My point: I'm over the outrage about someone wanting to spread their views (in schools, or wherever). Where's the outrage about them holding the offensive views in the first place?

Who cares if crazy Christians and rabid religious right-wingers want people to think like them? That's old news: I grew up around Mormons. How about we call a spade a spade and get mad at what they think?

Why not try to convince her that she's wrong?

I've decided that everyone needs to stop pussyfooting around about the religious nonsense and just admit - like I'm admitting - that you think their religious views are a bunch of hooey. That they are -- gasp! -- wrong. Not, "oh-I'm-so-into-everyone-believe- what-you-want-accepting-tolerance-look-at- liberal-touchy-feely-me."

Here, I'll start:

The world was created in six days: wrong! Whether you're teaching it in public school, Sunday school, or around the damn campfire. Too bad if it's a "religious belief" -- it's wrong!
You are immoral if you wear tank tops. Wrong!
Not letting women drive? Wrong!

See how easy that is?

People can believe whatever they want. They will always be able to think whatever they want. That's the great thing about minds (until they're brainwashed, I guess). But I'm so tired of religion right now. And it's about more than just keeping your religious views out of the public school classroom, the government, and so on. (Which, hello - keep them out! Please! Thank you, U.S. Constitution.) It's about if you say something that is stupid, illogical, hypocritical, or nonsensical, why don't we just call you on it, instead of going out of our way to tell you how much right you have to think that but oh could you just kind of keep that crazy, b.s. to yourself instead of sharing it with any children you might come across?

How about, instead, not believing the crazy b.s. in the first place?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Trees, schmees

So, it's the beginning of another school year, and around this time here at Hofstra School of Law a lot of the student organizations announce their first meetings of the year. In order to publicize the meetings and recruit new members, the organizations usually make law school-wide announcements about their meetings. The most common ways of doing this are an announcement via the in-building network monitors that flash messages, a sign posted on the bulletin boards at the law school entrances, a posting sent to the students who have signed up on the organization's web site, or an announcement in the weekly e-mail sent to everybody by the president of the SBA (which is like a student government association).

Does anyone else find it strange that today I sit studying in the lounge and see that the Environmental Law Society has left 8 1/2 x 11-paper flyers on all the tables all around to announce their first meeting tomorrow?