Tag Archives: education

Yonis in Academia

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As Dolly Parton once said, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”

The original plan was to write this comic before I tackled Women and Other Animals. The progression went: SSML put out the call for submissions, I joked that I considered myself the world’s foremost expert on Bonnie Jo Campbell, Bonnie Jo encouraged me to submit a abstract for the conference, after which I got accepted, after which she asked me to create this comic book. So the symposium was always waiting at the other end, and this story was always dancing in the background, but it took forever to get the script down; I couldn’t seem to focus on it until I’d gone through the stories. It’s still my introduction to the comic.

Another reason I wanted to draw this comic was because yonis were the only part of the human anatomy I didn’t draw in the course of illustrating the complete short fiction of Bonnie Jo Campbell.

I dug out the original “Yoni” essay, and, unlike a lot of my older work, this one seems to have aged pretty well. It’s a tight piece, although I’m much more conscious of trans-exclusionary language these days, so there are definitely parts that I would have tackled differently, and some of the things I wrote about my body 20 years ago are no longer the case since I turned 40. However, it was fun to research and write, and still fun to read.

I’m not sure if I was a redhead at the time of this story, but my hair does look great. Also, I realized after I laid out panel 1 that I didn’t have a laptop at the time. I didn’t have my first laptop until more than a year after this story happened, and it wasn’t a sleek little MacBook, it was an enormous, clunky ThinkPad. I drew something closer to the ThinkPad anyway, so we can all remember how ridiculously large computers used to be. Because the desktop CRT wouldn’t have fit in this comic.

The illustrated euphemisms in panel 1, clockwise from top left: honey pot, a pearl on the steps of the temple of Venus, phoenix nest, little man in a a boat, and of course, whenever possible, I do like to include my filthy little pussy in comics. Her name is Lupin. The little man in the boat is Peter Dinklage, because the world needs more Peter Dinklage. Obviously. “Phoenix nest” is sort of archaic and out of favor. When I Googled it, I didn’t get pictures of genitals or fiery bird nests. I got mostly pictures of people in fur suits.

The images in panel 2 came out of my files. When I gave this presentation, I blew them up and mounted them for visual aids. There was a big poster at one time, but I just found these little ones. It’s so great that I’m a packrat so I could recreate these original images as well as the hard copy I read that day. I tried to locate the video of the reading, but I’ve never had a copy and I don’t remember who shot it, so that was a bust. Not even a still photo. But the people who were there in the audience that day definitely remember.

Fun with BJC Comics

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I’m glad to have accurately communicated the humor in these stories.

A high school English teacher sent me this photo of his students enjoying my work. He said he taught Bonnie Jo Campbell’s stories in his class, and I wonder which ones. I wonder if he teaches “Family Reunion.” I wonder how young readers respond to the accurate depiction of soon-to-be-destroyed male genitalia. I seriously hope that the teacher vetted these comics thoroughly. In some communities that picture would not fly.

If you want to traumatize children with my work, I do have copies to sell (and I expect I won’t have many left after the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature’s annual symposium, where I will be talking about Bonnie Jo Campbell, and Bonnie Jo Campbell will be releasing volume 3 of these comics, providing I finish 7 more pages in the next 4 1/2 weeks) and you can order them by emailing me at littledragonblue@gmail.com. It’s $5 for 1 (that includes postage) and $8 for both.

 

Back to School 2018: Lions Launching!

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“Launching” and “stellar” are probably big vocabulary words for a sizable portion of my intended audience, but they’re coming to learn, right?

I’m on a roll with these retro rocket ships!

When I first started doing bulletin boards I never wanted for inspiration; there was always some big idea that I couldn’t wait to try, but now that I’ve been at it 9 years (NINE YEARS!) (averaging 5 or 6 a year, so let’s say about 50 total) and I hate the idea of repeating myself, at least in the same forum, sometimes I have to reach a bit for new material.

The school where I volunteer starts up Thursday, so I had to cram this into my schedule (Tuesday night was the big back-to-school, sign-up-for-the-PTA, eat popcorn and wander around the campus open house, and I managed to get the bulk of the work finished before the school was deluged with parents and kids) not knowing what the plan was, but once I got there I remembered how much fun I had drawing the retro rocket for my “The Future is Non Binary and Intersectional” T-shirt, and once I had that idea, the rest of it fell into place. The rocket and the lion cubs and the paw print and the flames were easy to design: a lot of these elements were ones I had worked with before and the Girl helped me on the first day. She’s really good at peeling excess rubber cement off things.

Then I went back the next day and did the lettering. Something was clearly disconnected in my brain because I measured the space available, calculated how big each letter could be, and then completely disregarded my own calculations and made each letter about 5 centimeters too wide. Thus the bizarre/organic spacing. My original plan was to cut out some of the text that ended up in the word bubble, but the families were already there and it’s a lot of letters that wouldn’t have fit anyway and I decided to just hand ink it and slap it on as a word balloon, which took 5 minutes, versus the 2 hours sketching and cutting would have taken.

The principal loved it. All the teachers loved it. Someone called me “faithful.” As I was leaving the school, I saw a parent taking a photo of my bulletin board! Also a kid trying to read it out loud who clearly didn’t know the words “launching” or “stellar.” Success!

A Perfect Circle

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Of course, in 30 years, they’ll teach it in  completely different way than you learned, but at least you’ll be able to empathize with your child’s frustration.

There have seriously been moments in my marriage when the greatest stressor we faced as a couple was the elementary math curriculum. I never mastered anything beyond algebra myself, and of course mathematics education just looked a lot different in the ’80s. The Man is pretty good at math—he can do calculus—but he doesn’t know how to teach little kids like I do. So sometimes the only way for the Girl to get her homework done is for The Man to explain it to me so I can explain it to her. I wasn’t sure how funny this joke was, but I told it to one of the volunteer moms and the librarian at my library and they both laughed.

Presumably, knowing algebra is something of an achievement, because I still scored in the 66th percentile on the math section of the GRE despite being, of course, a liberal arts major. That means I’m better at math than 66% of all people who have, or are about to have, completed a bachelor’s degree and hope to attend graduate school. This tells me that most people must not know any math at all.

There’s also a little joke here about the kind of helicopter parents who would call the school to challenge the basic curriculum because their kid didn’t like it, because these people exist. They are not uncommon today, but that’s another thing you didn’t see too much of in the ’80s.

Facts

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I only believe ideas that conform to my previously held beliefs, and those are sufficient facts for me.

Nuances of style, voice, and tone in writing can be difficult to understand even for students interested in writing, which is a very small subset among college students taking freshman composition. Almost everyone who likes writing tests out of this course, so you don’t expect much more than average ability from your students to start. But some people defy your expectations, like this kid. I swear, this is a true story. He told me he was writing like a stereo manual on purpose, because that was the only good way to write, and he wouldn’t alter his written voice, even though revisions accounted for a huge percentage of the semester grade.

That’s the nature of reality. One person can spend five years studying the structure, detail, and elements of language that place Lolita among the pantheon of the most wonderfully written novels ever written and still feel that they have much to learn on the subject of verbal expression, and this freshman can proclaim with equal or greater certainty the stereo manuals are objectively the best, most effective use of English. This guy gave up an easy A because considering my perspective would mean compromising his own powerful belief.

And that is how we get to a place where people can proclaim that anything that isn’t personally a problem for them, isn’t a problem for anyone, anywhere, period. When you’ve already decided the truth about the world, you can’t hear further information on any subject.

So I repeat. It’s pointless to argue after you realize that the person you’re arguing with is choosing not to evaluate information that contradicts their predetermine notions. All the facts in the world won’t persuade someone who’s already made up their mind.

Superlative Abuse

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You’ve never seen torture like we’re going to torture your academic sensibilities. 

For 8 enlightened years, our president was a man of letters, an academic, a reader and a writer who engaged with books because he wanted to read and write them. He possessed a deft and detailed grasp of the English language, allowing him to communicate nuanced information at an advanced level. And yes, this alienated him from people who found education suspicious, and thinking heretical. But for those who admire intelligence, and especially after 8 years of Dubya, having a smart guy run the show was pretty reassuring. And maybe it made us forget that being eloquent and logical are not requirements for the office.

Critics keep saying that ridiculing the current administration isn’t the answer, that positive engagement is the only way to effect change, but how else are you supposed to respond to something like Thursday’s “press conference”? Like, at what point within the rambling, lies, evasion, lies, aggrandization, lies, self-congratulatory fantasy, and more lies do you interject a ray of enlightenment without touching on the inanity? It seems to me that it has to go the other way. When the majority of people finally understand they’ve been duped by word salad and ostentatious noise, then America will get off its butt and demand sanity. But obviously, I don’t know much about human beings because I couldn’t imagine that the reincarnation of P.T. Barnum could ever win a presidential election, and because I wrote this incredibly nerdy and somewhat esoteric comic that’s probably only funny to the sesquipedalian among us.

Words are important to me.

So, in between all of the rambling, lies, &c, it was the inappropriate use of superlatives that stood out for me in the text, this pattern of seeing everything not just in black and white, but also in extremity. It can’t be “good.” It has to be “the greatest.” And it can’t be “bad.” It has to be “the worst.” Unless you were actually born and raised in a neo-Nazi stronghold somewhere in the mountains of Montana and never left the compound, I guarantee you that the president is not the least anti-semitic person you’ll ever meet, not just because it’s crazy to claim the superlative on anything that hasn’t been measured by the Guiness Book, or someone with higher standards of accuracy, but also because I’ve heard audio clips of him making anti-semitic statements in the past. But he can’t say, “I don’t believe I harbor harmful stereotypes about Jewish people.” He has to claim to be the least anti-semitic person you’ll ever meet.

Man, I was raised in a traditionally Jewish family and I wouldn’t say that I’m the least anti-semitic person you’ll ever meet. I mean, I was on J-Date.

I rarely watch press conferences, and I didn’t watch this one. Even when Obama was president, I didn’t watch the State of the Union: I prefer to get my information textually. It allows for a more personal and thoughtful analysis of words. Also, I’m a terrible listener. So I always read transcripts. I read this one twice. I bet the guy who spewed those words out of his face hole didn’t read them once.

 

The Right Two Bear Arms

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You think Sarah Palin had to put up with this sort of thing as governor of Alaska?

Education is at the heart of this; when fully funded schools are considered luxuries reserved for certain classes, education becomes devalued. When education is no longer a priority, the most vulnerable populations suffer. And when people are miserable, they are easily led by liars and demagogues and charlatans with the agenda of using people’s own lack of understanding against them.

I cannot get past this woman and her refusal to answer basic yes/no questions, her utter lack of understanding of what students of all socioeconomic classes need to succeed. Or perhaps she does understand, and she’s deliberately advocating to leave huge swaths of American children behind, because that is the result of her love affair with charter and religious schools, which are not required to retain students who lower the curve. She wants to set up a tiered system wherein kids who aren’t at the top of their game receive fewer resources, where public schools become corrals for children marked for failure.

If bears are a huge threat to America’s schools, I hope the Department of Natural Resources will involve themselves in the crisis. Public schools already have enough on their hands without requiring faculty and staff to prepare themselves for bear hunts on campus. Think of how many pencils you could buy for the cost of a single bear-shooting weapon. Of course, I’m not a fan of shooting bears to begin with.

Bears are fun to draw, though.

Betsy DeVos should not be confirmed for anything except a plane ticket home.