Somewhere along the line "somebody dropped the ball" in their education.
the skill known as reading
oday was a five o'clock day, and from the temperature of the air, it could well have been November. A five o'clock day is one that is cool and overcast such that one never can tell what time it is. You don't have five o'clock days in the summer, so I'm taking this as an indication that the summer is officially over. On one occasion this afternoon as I sadly considered the matter, I looked over at the clock and it read "5:00."
In the Kappa Mutha Fucka living room this afternoon, Matthew Hart and I discussed literacy and the ability to read. Matthew passionately expressed his view that knowing how to read, reading all the time, and reading well, are all essential skills. Both he and I have a number of friends (both here and elsewhere) who are poor readers, not because they have learning disabilities, but because somewhere along the line "somebody dropped the ball" in their education (as Matthew put it). I asked Matthew if his parents read to him a lot as a child. "Oh yes!" he assured me. He would sit in their laps and follow along. I had the same experience in my childhood. That's the only way to really teach a child how to read.
But as I said, lots of people, many of them obviously intelligent, can barely read. For example, my old Oberlin girlfriend, Leslie, read so poorly that I used to read her college text books to her.
(Though she lived in Oberlin and associated with Oberlin students, she did not attend Oberlin College; she went to Cuyahoga Community College in the west suburbs of Cleveland.) It was very romantic, really, and in the process I learned a lot of Art History. But I felt so sorry for her as I watched her regarding endless paragraphs and stacks of books with despair. No one knew what her actual problem was, she just never learned to read. Her time spent in public school had mostly come to nothing.
I told of how empowering it felt when I was able to read my first book. I've felt empowered in a smiliar way on a few occasions since (like when I first felt I really knew 68000 assembly language or HTML). But there is no single threshold you cross quite like the moment you learn how to read.
My seventh grade reading teacher inspired me like few others with his quirky poise and intellectual demeanor.
I've had good teachers through the years, even at the back woods public school I attended near Greenville, Virginia. My favourite teachers in elementary school were always my reading teachers. They were usually the strangest teachers of the school. My seventh grade reading teacher inspired me like few others with his quirky poise and intellectual demeanor. Too bad he was caught in Staunton's Gypsy Hill Park sucking a teenager's dingaling. That was the end of his career.
At Farmer Jack, Matthew and I got a case of Budweiser in cans. Soon into our drinking, Angela came by and joined us. As usual, she found something to complain about. She said our house smelled like shit, not just regular shit, but "dirty shit." It was that infernal Venesian rudeness gene kicking in again.
what my father does
Then there are those, only a handful in number, who believe the world is being killed by a plague called humanity.
t's been my experience that most people are concerned about the environment, almost always for selfish personal reasons. They don't like toxic waste incinerators near the schools that their kids attend. They don't want to have to boil their water before drinking it. They hate to see litter as they drive to work. Many people go a little further, and are concerned about the place in which they live. They hate urban sprawl, they entertain doubts about the wisdom of adding lanes to congested highways, and they are dismayed to learn that the hummingbirds will be less numerous next summer. Then there are those, only a handful in number, who believe the world is being killed by a plague called humanity. They seek to preserve what little is left, and they call for draconian measures to reverse the destruction. These people are known as radical environmentalists. Everyone from Bill Clinton to Rush Limbaugh denounces them and says they're crazy, that the world is doing just fine and could maybe use a few more doctors, lawyers, anorexics and Bangladeshis.
My father is a radical environmentalist.
My father, Dr. Robert F. Mueller ("Bob") is a familiar name to anyone in the forest protection movement. He began his environmental career as a NASA scientist, studying river siltation from satelite photos in the late 60s. He went on to join Earth First! in the early 80s and to write many articles on forest protection and ecology. His major successes include stopping I-95 at the Beltway near Washington D.C., being the author of the only official government anti-nuclear-energy publication, and protecting several small tracts of wild lands. However, like all environmentalists, he's experienced far more failures than successes.
Some years ago, my father was heavily involved in critiquing and appealing timber sales, highway projects, and other forms of human geocide. Gradually his emphasis has shifted from harassment of officials to the study of ecosystems. My feeling is that this shift is the result of the repeated depressing experience of seeing his protests systematically, diabolically ignored. Since the Forest Service and others make careers out of devouring the planet without even knowing (and often covering up knowledge of) what is there, my father began to do surveys to catalogue the constituents of local ecosystems. This sort of work is very demanding of time, effort and knowledge and is only rarely undertaken. He knows of no other study so intensive and complete as his own.
Strategic sabotage, adopt-a-highway-defying littering, and a variety of fun prankish things had a way of happening whenever the vitriol against the machine grew uncontainable
In all my adult years prior to working at Comet, I was blissfully unemployed. My parents provided for my every need, and in exchange, I gave them my special talents. I served (and occasionally still serve) as my father's lackey, typing his papers, doing computer graphics, and helping out with biological surveys (I am a skilled botanical taxonomist). At other times I helped my father with doing more radical things. Strategic sabotage, adopt-a-highway-defying littering, and a variety of fun prankish things had a way of happening whenever the vitriol against the machine grew uncontainable. Not that we played a role in any of that mischief.
These days, the Shenandoah Ecosystems Defense Group (SEDG), a local radical environmental group consisting largely of UVA students, is in close co-ordination with my father and his Staunton-based group, Virginians for Wilderness. A few weeks ago SEDG expressed interest in having help with their web page, and my father relayed this information to me. After all, I maintain the Virginians for Wilderness website as a nook within my own site, and my father claims it has helped him spread his propaganda. To appease my father and repair my dented karma, I agreed to help SEDG.
I was invited to a SEDG meeting scheduled for 7:00 pm tonight over in Belmont, the nighborhood to the southeast of the Downtown Mall. There were promises of free food and socializing. I didn't want to miss out on such an adventure. I rode to the meeting on my bicycle, drinking a Budweiser most of the way.
They're naïvely sensual and effeminate in a way that none of the girls I associate with ever are.
Including me, 11 people attended the meeting. In Staunton, that would have been a big crowd. In the slightly more enlightened community of Charlottesville, such large assemblages of radical environmentalists are not terribly uncommon.
Naturally, most SEDG members are hippies more or less. I had the shortest hair there, even though I could badly use a haircut. There were a number of attractive flat-chested hippie chicks there. For me there's something particularly erotic about hippie chicks, especially idealistic hippie chicks. They're naïvely sensual and effeminate in a way that none of the girls I associate with ever are. But I digress.
I knew two of the SEDG people. One of them is Kirstin the überhippy (as I called her once before in these musings). She lives over in Abundance House with Cory the Coffee Cart Girl. The other is Jerry, one of Jenfariello's housemates in the Brick Mansion in the 'Hood.
Before the meeting there was a fair amount of socializing. I enjoyed special status because of the respect the SEDG members have for my father. It's never fun to be known for your relationship to someone else, and despite enjoying the attention, this was no exception. I'm always suspicious that relatives of a person I like are damaged versions of the real thing, and I hate the possibility that I might be regarded in a similar way. None of them know me as you, my readers, know me. To them I'm a curiosity, perhaps just a demonstration that the remote but selfless old man who is my father once actually had sex.
To them I'm a curiosity, perhaps just a demonstration that the remote but selfless old man who is my father once actually had sex.
I kept pretty quiet. I'm shy and reserved around new people, preferring to say only extremely witty things when I talk at all. For example, when the SEDG people started engaging in joking speculation about whether or not cum was vegan, I piped up, "You have to consider the suffering of the animal that produced it."
The pot-luck dinner (to which I made no contributions) was entirely vegan of course, as are all pot-lucks over at Kirstin's Abundance House. For the most part I found it rather bland, though I usually like vegan food. I usually like all food, as long as I can have lots of it.
The meeting started. And went on and on and on. It's been a long time since I've had to suffer through a meeting like this. It dawned on me that I've become accustomed to completely informal conversations. The rigid structure of a meeting that actually has an agenda and where people say things like "focus" in order to silence side-conversations grates on my sensibilites. It made me wish I was somewhere, anywhere, else. Another thing: I don't enjoy hearing people hash out the technical details of environmental battles. I've had entirely too much of that in my life already. I'm jaded. Environmental battles are often fought and almost never won. The last real gasp of my soldiership in the environmental wars was the extremely cynical sarcasm of my letters to the editor. Since then, I've essentially given up on the environment. The Earth is dead and my grieving is over. This is not to take anything away from the members of SEDG. I applaud them for having the stomach and the resolve to fight their doomed but noble battle. And I will provide them the assistance of my talents; I agreed to update their web page on a weekly basis. But I know now that I can't dwell in the environmentalist subculture any more. I can't speak that language they speak. No longer can I ponder the fate of the Earth. I'd rather just study the sociology of the people in the bar of this sinking Titanic, oblivious to the roar of ocean water pouring in the hull. I wanted the SEDG people to stop talking about the forests, the trees, "the Bobs" (my father and his botanist colleague) and "the freddies" (forest service personnel). Instead I wanted to hear about their love lives, their drug experiences, their enemies, and their car troubles. But I sat silently and said nothing.
I'd rather just study the sociology of the people in the bar of this sinking Titanic, oblivious to the roar of ocean water pouring in the hull.
When the meeting was over, there was a little more socializing, but even this was entirely focused on environmental things. There were to be no more debates about whether or not cum was vegan. I excused myself and rode my bike back home to Kappa Mutha Fucka.
s I sat in the living toom, there were weird clunking noises coming from Matthew Hart's room. Angela's Cadillac was still parked on Observatory. Hmmm...
I was envious, mostly about how quickly Matthew had managed to reverse his bleak situation. Luck had worked on his side; and he'd taken full advantage of the opportunities. I'm sure that if I'd been in his shoes, I would still be completely isolated. My night job has many benefits, among them being my ability to maintain contact with lots of people over the Internet. But those people are, for the most part, far away. There's still much to be said for the day job and the ability to interact in 3D with people on the job. It allows for the co-ordination of future plans and the creation and maintenance of expansive networks of local friends. It's sad for me to note that, over the past year, I've gradually lost many of my real world connections to people. I realized today that most of my real world friends are really just coming to me as part of Deya and Matthew Hart's scene. This doesn't say anything definite about Matthew or about me; indeed, there was a time, in the early days of Big Fun, when the situation was exactly opposite.
It's sad for me to note that, over the past year, I've gradually lost many of my real world connections to people.
I'm a little concerned that Matthew might be rushing into things. When you've been thoroughly stabbed in the back and left behind like so much garbage, it's a natural reaction to seek affirmation of your desireablity. I know I've done it, and it makes me feel cheap to this day.
After my pre-work nap, I came down the stairs to find my old housemate Elizabeth and her "friend" Franz hanging out with Monster Boy. What a pleasant surprise! When Elizabeth talked and joked and subtly mocked Monster Boy and me, I realized that I'd missed her. She's really very funny. I don't know about those bleached dread locks though.
Get a sense of what I was like exactly eight years ago today.