e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu



In English 112 today, my students wrote about and discussed William Stafford's "Traveling through the Dark."

Traveling Through the Dark
by William Stafford
Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason--
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all--my only swerving--,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

With all that's part of our national consciousness today, a poem about choices, dilemmas, existential moments. We deserve to agonize. We need to agonize. Our humanity resides in our agonizing over moments. All the consequences and implications, all the 'on the other hand's demand our reflection. Stafford's narrator *has* to push her over the edge but, just as sure, *has* to think of the fawn.


I thought maybe after Terry Schiavo's death the exploitation-of-tragedy-for-political-gain game might end. I was wrong. Bush, today, said:
I urge all those who honor Terri Schiavo to continue to work to build a culture of life where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected.
What does Bush know about a culture of life? What policy decisions has he made that uphold standards of dignity or any semblance of the notion that life is sacred?

Maybe when, as governor, he joked with the Texas press ("please don't kill me" with his lips trembling and his voice in a high, feminine tone) about the woman whose plea for clemency he ignored? Maybe when he urged Iraqi troops to "bring it on," meaning, I guess, that they ought to step up their efforts. Maybe when he wrote that executive order expanding the ability to use "interrogation methods" on detainees.

Inspirational to hear him advocate for a "culture of life."


couple o' quotes from the Times

From today's lunchbreak reading, two provocative quotations from NYTimes:

From Nicholas Kristof:
Mrs. Clinton has helped turn the debate around by emerging as both pro-choice and anti-abortion.

That is potentially a winning position for Democrats. Abortions fell steadily under Bill Clinton, who espoused that position, and have increased significantly during President Bush's presidency.
I've heard this factoid tossed around with some frequency. Not sure how accurate, but it's interesting and I'd like to hear the single-issue-voter contingent of the GOP (especially those who think Clinton made the country "less moral") contend with it.

From Maureen Dowd:
Wolfie's biggest qualification to run the World Bank? His prediction that Iraqi reconstruction would pay for itself with Iraqi oil revenues.

At least he's more qualified than Bono.


From The Guardian:

The woman who epitomised the 1979 Nicaraguan revolution that overthrew the dictator Anastasio Somoza has been denied entry to the US to take up her post as a Harvard professor on the grounds that she had been involved in "terrorism".

The decision to bar Dora Maria Tellez, one of the best-known figures in recent Latin American history, who has frequently visited the US in the past, has been attacked by academics and writers.

It comes at a time when President George Bush has appointed as his new intelligence chief a man associated with the "dirty war" against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

So Bush appoints a former contra, John Negroponte, as his chief of intelligence overseeing terrorism, and the U.S. subsequently blocks a former sandanista from obtaining a visa? Tellez was a student who got involved in the ousting of a fascist dictator...that's a terrorist act? What's more threatening to Bush, that she *was* a sandanista or that she *is now* an academic?

Ward Churchill. Tariq Ramadan. Now, Dora Maria Tellez.

I remember my Aunt Minnie claiming in the early-80s that she was being watched by shadowy figures, presumably as a result of the money she was sending to the sandanistas (who W's hero Ronald Reagan, of course, despised for their leftism, even though they revolted against a tyrannical fascist and installed a democratically elected government--a democratically elected government that the U.S. paid the contras to overthrow). I also remember developing an affinity at the beginning and end of same decade for two of the finest pieces of radicalism ever recorded: The Clash's Sandanista, and Kris Kristofferson's Third World Warrior--both inspired by the movement that Tellez helped to lead.

Here's to Dora Tellez, Aunt Minnie, The Clash, and Kris Kristofferson!


Go 'Cats

Arizona's still alive and kicking, and the match with Oklahoma State Thursday night looks to be the most exciting of this year's Sweet 16 games. So far in the tourney, the Wildcats put forth two team efforts in a row. Not one of those "Salim S. scores 35 points" games. Not one of those "Frye dominates the inside all night" games. But team efforts with balanced scoring and unselfishness. That bodes well.

Three (Arizona, Louisville, and North Carolina) of my Final 4 picks are still alive, and I stand by those three choices. First off, 'Cats all the way. Plus, I think Louisville is going to beat up on Washington on Thursday, then do the same thing to Texas Tech two days later. And NC's as sure a thing as we've got left standing (although their cross-state challenges from NC State looked good last week). That other region is tough...I'd have to pick Kentucky at this point.


mediocrity 101

Right-wing rag The Weekly Standard has a predictable Canada-bashing piece that rehashes lots of tired and under-substantiated claims about long waits for health care services and a couple FRESH, under-substantiated claims like how doggone greedy Canadians are. The accounts of Canadian health care continue to fascinate me. Here's an issue where the right and left in the U.S. find totally and utterly opposite findings. Not skewed a bit differently. Not spun in various directions. Opposite.

The Weekly Standard piece is unbelievably weak (it strives for a gonzo-renegade agit-prop style--"hey, I'll claim that Canadians are all greedy!"--and that's a style that conservatives don't know how to do). But I've read other conservative accounts that do garner both data and anecdote that suggests problems with health care services north of the border. And, of course, peruse any issue of The Progressive or Nation and you'll find loads of articles about just how accessible are prescription drugs and medical services. Issues like this make the teaching of rhetoric so interesting--helping students to see how opposing ideologues can come to radically different conclusions about the same question. Good reason to be in this business.

For my part, my wife's myriad relatives in Canada ALL give rave reviews to the Canadian health care system. Many of them are senior citizens and they all have access to various prescription drugs, timely procedures, etc. They react in horror to stories about uninsured Americans and think that we're pulling their legs about the situation here in the "land of the free."

Anyway, that was a big tangent for the interesting part of the Weekly Standard piece. Here's where they blow their credibility. The writer is analyzing the music industry and, without irony, makes reference to "Canadian rocker Bryan Adams." Err, "rocker"? Really friend? The quote from the man who wrote the lyric "Have you ever really, really, really, really, really, really loved a woman?" goes a little something like this: "[the regulatory policy] encourages mediocrity." I can picture the reporter running around the newsroom with his "Ditto Head" button and Matt Drudge fedora on yelling, "Somebody get me an expert on mediocrity," and the scrappy young employee, full of pluck, the ink still wet on his journalism degree from Bob Jones U, tapping him on the shoulder: "Boss, I got Bryan Adams on the line for you."

Arizona's year

Come on...this has got to be the year of the Arizona Wildcats. Salim Staudamire's the best shooter in the country. He tied his career-high 37 points over the weekend in Arizona's loss to Washington (more on them in a moment). When he and Channing Frye are both on, the Wildcats are the best team in the country. And, from the self-centered perspective, this is the last year where the Wildcats still have players (Frye and Staudamire, that is) from when I was at AZ. My last nostalgic/televised connection to grad school days, the last March Madness before I break out the geezer-talk ("wayyyy back when I was in Tucson, Gil Arenas was in my English 100 class and bla bla bla"..."I remember the championship game loss to Duke"). Go 'Cats. My prediction: Arizona's victory over Illinois in the elite eight match-up is the most talked-about game of the tourney.

Alright, the Washington Huskies. Let me join the choir and say that no way should they be seeded number one. Look for them to lose in the 3rd round to Louisville. Duke also was a prime contender for a number two or three seed...no surprise they were given a one-seed on a silver platter emblazoned with the words: "You may play your first two rounds in your home state, almighty Blue Devils" Look for Duke to also bow out in third round play (to Syracuse).

My picks for first-round upsets: UW-Milwaukee over Alabama (didya see UW-M beat up on the poor Detroit Titans? They're rough!). Creighton over West Virginia. Iowa State over Minnesota. NC-State over Charlotte. Miss State over Stanford (I'm down on non-Arizona Pac-10-ers this year). Iowa over Cinci (sorry my fellow southern Ohioans but Cinci is way inconsistent).

My final four: Arizona (3 seed), Louisville (4 seed), North Carolina (1 seed), Oklahoma (3 seed). The championship will see AZ triumph over Oklahoma in the battle of the seriously talented three seeds.


4C's session

Going to 4C's next week? Pencil in...

Session L.17: New Rhetorics of Working-Class Consciousness
Chair: Julie Lindquist
Participants: Bill DeGenaro ("Professing Class-Conscious Rhetorics"), Cathy
Chaput ("Reality TV and the Politics of Working-Class Identity"), Wendy
Ryden ("Bourgeois Realism, Working-Class Kitsch"), and Lew Caccia
("Workplace Risk Communication")

Four disparate critiques that argue for greater attention to issues of class in the study of the rhetorical tradition.


Go Titans

Not too often the undergrad. alma mater ends up on national tv, so join me sports fans in watching the Detroit Titans battle for the Horizon League championship tomorrow night, Tuesday March 8 @ 9:00 EST, on ESPN.


Lots of clutter in the old brain these days. Much to do in the next five or six weeks, including two trips out west, one for 4Cs and one for my pal Nate's wedding. Going home for Easter weekend. In the midst of four or five writing projects, as usual. Revisions of my article for Community College Journal of Research and Practice. Second draft of a paper I'm co-writing about Million Dollar Baby (more on that project later). Final changes to next week's 4Cs presentation in San Fran. Productive weekend--read and marked set of term paper prospectuses from grad. students, got some reading done, cleaned basement and ended up listing a bunch of old stuff on ebay, raked leaves in backyard, broke away from work long enough to see "Be Cool," which was painfully mediocre (can't believe Elmore Leonard really had a hand in the adaptation).

Today, feeling jittery from a morning/early afternoon of paper grading (critical responses to Eve Ensler's "Necessary Targets") and from a lousy night's sleep. Last night woke up at 2 a.m. and couldn't sleep (rare for me), so I read most of Mark Haddon's novel "The Curious Indident of the Dog in the Night-Time," which I love even though at times the narrative becomes a parlor trick. It's a murder mystery of sorts, narrated by an autistic teenager in suburban London. Powerful characterization, but, again, the authorial trick becomes hokey at times. Good read though. Went to YMCA at 5:30 and actually felt wide awake by 7:00. But I'm gonna crash soon...Better get through rest of the papers while I can.



(thanks to YellowDog for the link)

I've never been able to get into astrology. Nor have I ever gained much insight from knowing that I was born in the Chinese calendar's year of the ox. However, thanks to Popstrology, I've begun contemplating the significance of being born in the year of Roberta Flack, under the sign of Gladys Knight's "Midnight Train to Georgia."