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March 15th, 2008

phonological restructuring and distraction

During sabbatical week, I talked about experimenting with narrative, that a story doesn't have to be linear, or told by a reliable narrator, or even presented as a narrative. A story can be told through a shopping list, or a multiple-choice test, or a series of encrypted numbers. Experimentation is certainly nothing new, but I think a lot of them had a very standard definition of what "story" is, and it was fun to break them out of that a bit.

Behind the Wainscot no. 13 is now out, and it includes my own experiment-in-form "Phonological Restructuring and Broca's Aphasia as a Function of Cultural Assimilation: An Annotated Bibliography," as well as pieces by Ivan Faute, Samantha Henderson, and Louise Norlie. "Phonological Restructuring . . ." was originally written for an anthology of experimental spec-fic that [redacted] and [redacted] were trying to put together, but it wasn't clear whether the antho would see the light of day, so I withdrew my contribution and Paul Jessup was nice enough to take it for BtW. I'm unclear whether it succeeds as a story (I guess you'll have to make up your own mind about that), but I do hope you'll go take a peek at it. If you don't like it, there's three other stories in the issue, and you might have better luck with one of those.

***

Because teaching at a secondary school pretty much eats up all my free time, I haven't been keeping up with world events as much as I used to. This past week, the term break, was the first time I read a newspaper in months. I read the ol' friends list when I can, but find myself skimming and skimming and skimming, which is starting to make me feel that it's barely necessary to check. The entries that catch my eye, more often than not, are related to politics or civil liberties issues, but there's a lot to skim there too.

I'm trying to avoid getting sucked into the Obama/Hillary/McBush slapfights, because it seems to have devolved into the same old ugly mudslinging that is de rigeur for political elections in the States. My students, who didn't know much about their own political system until I taught the unit in class, have asked who I'd vote for, and most of them rightly assumed I support Barack Obama. We're not even at the general election yet, but teenagers on the other side of the planet know who are duking it out for the Democratic nomination.

And I think it's safe to say (though you may disagree) that if Obama doesn't win the candidacy, there will be no good options for the country. I probably won't even bother to trundle down to the US embassy to vote in that case.

Hillary Clinton, even more than before, has proved through her tactics and her rhetoric that she's no better than the Republicans. I don't think that she'll bomb Iran into dust like McCain wants to, but the feeling I get is that it'll be more of the same for the next four years. More time in Iraq, more domestic surveillance, more people dying because they can't afford to see a doctor, more of a gap between rich and poor, more crumbling infrastructure. Experience means nothing if it isn't coupled with wisdom, and so far, she has not shown herself to be wise in her decisions.

Dammit, I said I didn't want to get sucked in, yet there I go.

I've also been skipping over the news about NY Gov. Spitzer's sex scandal and subsequent resignation. The US media time and again reinforce the idea that illegally invading other countries or spying on your own citizens or kidnapping anyone you want and having them tortured elsewhere is no big thing, but going to a hooker or getting a hummer from your intern is worthy of the utmost condemnation.

The slapfights, the sex scandals, the inordinate focus on celebrities, it's all so much distraction, a grand circus, handwaving of the highest order. More people know the current exploits of Paris Hilton than know that their phone lines and internet traffic are being monitored by the NSA. The major imports that we get in Singapore from the States are TV shows, Hollywood films, and junk food. It's a disturbing trend.

And before the reactions of "why do you hate America?" come flooding into the comments, just think about what has been criticized here: the government, the media, and the political circus. Do these things define the US? Certainly not. There are a lot of things I love and miss about my home country (freedom of speech, a rich literary culture, and a profound optimism and enthusiam, not to mention that most of my family and friends live there), but all this distraction is taking away from what makes the country great.

The US, and the whole world, needs a big change. And I'm becoming increasingly cynical that we're not going to see it anytime soon.

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