Thursday, January 24, 2013

If the Earth Could Give Birth

Words and ideas impact our lives and one way this happens is via metaphors.  It's easy to slip something past the guards if it just sounds good.  In other words, if there is a little sizzle to the sound-bite, not many people question its veracity.  Sometimes the sizzle is all there is. Fascinating, I know.  But it gets better.

The metaphor is a type of comparison.  It does not use the words 'like', or 'as'.  If the comparison uses 'like,' or, 'as', then it's a simile.  As in the following (presume Marty is a human):
Marty eats like a horse.  ß This is a simile.  Similes tend to be a bit more specific.  This one focuses on how Marty eats.  It means he eats a lot and maybe sticks to a vegetarian diet.  I don't know if horses ever eat meat.  That would be bad, getting chased and eaten by a horse. 

Marty is a horse.  ß This is a metaphor.  This tells us the entirety of Marty will remind someone of a horse in some way.  The imagination is more free to roam.  He is large-framed and powerful.  Perhaps Marty is a good runner, or maybe he likes to stand around in fields.  So on, and so forth.
Ok - a metaphor is comprised of two parts.  There is a vehicle and there is a tenor.  The vehicle is the concrete image used to convey the tenor.  The tenor is the idea associated with the comparison.  Getting back to Marty; the horse is the vehicle.  We all know what a horse looks like, though your image might not match mine.  Right now I'm thinking of a rainbow pony.  Anyway, the image (vehicle) used in the comparison with Marty, brings certain ideas about the guy.  Those ideas are the tenor.

In order for a metaphor to work, there has to be literal truth connecting the vehicle and the tenor.  In other words, if there is nothing at all similar between Marty and the horse, the metaphor falls apart.  It's a bad metaphor and should be thrown into the scrap heap for recycling.  Stay with me, I'm about to get to the point.
I have a memory from second grade.  It's the first time I heard the idea of 'Mother Earth'.  We had these cool magazines called 'Weekly Readers'.  I remember this article about some people somewhere referring to mother earth.  It was all about picking up your trash.  It was along the lines of Woodsy the Owl (give a hoot, don't pollute) and an icon named Johnny Horizon who looked a whole lot like the Marlboro Man, minus the smokes.  And that's all well and good.  I try to pick up after myself and throw away the trash where it belongs.  This is usually behind the seat in the truck.

But getting back to Mother Earth…the comparison doesn't work.  There is no literal strength to the comparison.
The earth is not my mother.  My mother lives in Missouri.  If the earth was my mother I would grow up to become a planet.  I am not doing that.  I'm growing (mostly outward these days) to be an old human.  I am, however, picking up certain habits and mannerisms of both of my true biological parents.

The earth is a planet.  It does not reproduce.  If the earth could give birth it would birth baby earths (say that six times fast).  But now we're to think of the earth as our mother?  There's an entity that gives birth to completely unrelated multiple thousands of species?  Sorry, doesn't happen.  And what a mother it would be!  Think about how many millions of her own offspring she would be guilty of butchering on a yearly basis.  She has these children and doesn't bother to feed them or protect them or care for them, offering only an incredibly hostile home and allows her children to fend for themselves, brother eating brother?  Mother Earth puts Clytemnestra to shame (there's a Google Search for ya).
The idea of Mother Earth isn't good poetry.  It doesn't stand up to explication.  Know what I mean?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Rap Song Lyrics

I secretly write rap songs.  I have done this for years.  Here is one of my latest & greatest.  It displays how truly street I am.  My rapper name is MCJ.  It stands for something that you have to be really hip to figure out.  Anyway, I hope you like it:

A jibba jibba jabba and a cuss word slang
Mouth noise mouth noise cuss word slang
Sexual innuedo sexual innuendo
Metaphor for my genitals.

Mouth noise mouth noise
Cuss word slang
Jibba jibba jabba and a cuss word slang.

Talk about crime and a cuss word slang
Talk about jail and a cuss word slang
Use the word hood use the word hood
Jibba jibba jabba and a cuss word slang.

Mouth noise mouth noise
Cuss word slang
Jibba jibba jabbba and a cuss word slang.

Talk about the club and gettin' real druk
Talk about drugs and the police are bad
Cuss word cuss word - say yo yo yo
Buy my beats and make me rich.

Mouth noise mouth noise
Cuss word slang
Jibba jibba jabba and a cuss word slang.

Denigrate women denigrate women
Call 'em all kinds of filthy names
Jibba jibba jabba and a cuss word slang
Can't use the n-word white guys can't

Mouth noise mouth noise
Cuss word slang
Jibba jibba jabba and a cuss word slang.

Wear my pants down to my crack
Let people see my underwear
Cuss word cuss word here's my butt
Don't be hatin' you all out there.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Crystal Ball of Community College Success

Class begins Monday.  I'm reviewing the three rosters I have been granted:  Composition 1, Composition 2, and Introduction to Literature (they threw the adjunct a bone).  There are fifty-four unique names on the rosters.  I know from previous experience that one third of those students will not make it to midterm.  And no, it's not because I am a horrible, mean, hateful hater of a teacher.  My midterm rate is just slightly better than the college average.  So there.

Most of those eighteen students will not bother to formally drop.  They will just disappear.  No good-by, no fond farewell, no lingering stares as they turn and walk inevitably into the fogbanks of time.  Alas…  The small, mean, and terrible part of me wishes, since they are going anyway, they would leave as soon as possible.  It would save a lot of time and I could use that energy for the thirty-six students who will remain.
Speaking of which, of those who complete the courses, approximately twenty-seven percent will receive a grade of either an 'F' or a 'D'.  Math is hard, but I think that means nine or ten of them will have to retake the course.  This leaves the intrepid twenty-five students who pass.  Less than half of those currently enrolled in my courses are not going to make it.  I know that before day one.  This is slightly better than those who charged the Union line on the final day of Gettysburg, but not by much.

Being that I teach at a community college, I see all types.  There are those who have fallen from a 'real' university and find themselves in my classes.  There are those from the 'wrong' parts of the city who never, but for a state-initiative, thought to find themselves in college in the first place.  There are those with wise parents who send their progeny to save money on the first two years.  There are those returners, close to, or perhaps older than, my own age. And, about once every three semesters I have a student who doesn't appear to understand where he or she is at all.
And what I teach, it is not mind-bending.  We're not splicing cranial nerves or charting asymptotic relationships.  It's reading and writing and talking, with a little jargon and testing thrown in.  That's it.  And less than half will pass.

The predictive element in their lives (and mine) is whether or not a student will show up and do the work.  That's it.  There is no other secret.  <Yodavoice> You either do, or do not.  There is no try </Yodavoice>.
And that is what we all face.  I have goals for 2013.  They are not impossible.  Trust me.  If you knew me you would not doubt this.  But the question remains, will I show up and do the work?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Health We Cling to Like Faith

The hospital room is where life is measured
by tiny numbers and squiggle lines
and we're walking over a bridge
that might not be there tomorrow.

People cling to the blips and bleeps of the measuring
machines and air-filled cuffs wrapped onto feet and biceps
like new baloons given to childen
and promises that might not be kept.

With cancer or somesuch other thing
and palliative is the word they begin using
what in the world is going to occur
to the old hands and feet?

With extrapolations of vibrant memories
and all that is known here about to end,
a golden blare extends beyond,
and why do we fear it so?