LBJs

*Another month of summer gone... I try not to revel in my months of summer vacation, but what else do teachers have to revel about? Believe me, it's not the salary or the social cachet or the professional respect afforded you by politicians. We work like dogs for nine months of the year so that we can use the next three to recover; if we didn't, we probably wouldn't sign up for another nine.

*And speaking of teaching, if you didn't already know, I am returning to Seven Hills School here in RVA, but now I'm on a full-time basis. This does mean giving up my free Wednesdays, which were awfully nice for running errands and occasionally writing, but the improvement in salary and benefits makes up for it. At last report, I was in line to teach 8th grade language arts and 6th grade US history, but that could all change very quickly...

*June was something of a creative struggle, but I'm happy to report that in July, I got back on track; the new draft of the novel is proceeding at an acceptably crisp pace. I didn't quite reach my goal of having 50,000 words done by August 1st, but since I reached 59k by the 4th, I didn't feel all that bad about it. I'm done with the second section of the book and am now looking at the third, which (yay!) is a section where I'll be able to use a lot of what I wrote in earlier drafts. Here's hoping I can get this thing finished off by Labor Day.

*I didn't watch the conventions on TV, which isn't all that shocking considering we don't really have TV. We've got a TV set, but it's used for watching DVDs and VHS tapes (yes, we still have a dual-purpose player), and streaming video from Netflix and Hulu. I suspect we could have found a way to watch on my laptop, but honestly, it was in some ways more fun to follow people who were liveblogging or tweeting about the events, and then following up in detail later. That's how I saw Michelle O's speech, and the Rev. Dr. William Barber's, and of course Khizr Khan's, which may end up being the single biggest speech of the campaign. And of course I watched bits of the speeches by Presidents 42 and 44, Joe Biden, and Tim Kaine, as well as numerous bits from RNC speakers: the various Trumps, a smattering of Pence, and even a bit of Scott Baio just for the sheer improbability of it. But yes, Kelly and I sat down with my laptop to watch Hillary Clinton's speech. There was no question of whether we'll be voting for her--heck, Kelly's scheduled to volunteer for her this weekend--but we both wanted to be able to say we'd watched a speech that, while not as moving as Khan's, as powerful as Barber's, or as well-crafted as either of the Obamas', was truly historic: a woman, speaking for herself, declaring her readiness to take the highest office in the land. HRC's basic competence has been assumed for so long that I think we risk missing just how unprecedented her campaign really is. Sure, maybe she won't be the best president ever, but if she can crack that last glass ceiling, she will double America's chances of our electing the Best. President. Ever. sometime in the future.

*And on the subject of the election--briefly--can I just note that I find it ironic, and not a little irritating, to hear Trump supporters claiming their support is based on a belief that we have to take the government back from the Washington "insiders." Despite their desire to upset the applecart, they are doing nothing to upset the part that actually touches the ground: Congress. All 435 members of the House are up for re-election, and a grand total of 62 (approximately 15%) of those races are viewed as "competitive," meaning that experts do not consider those districts "safe" for either Republicans or Democrats. In other words, even with Trump (and Sanders, and Johnson, and Stein) supporters howling for change, the vast majority of the country is perfectly satisfied with maintaining the status quo in their own districts. The Senate is a bit less settled, with between 12 and 16 of this cycle's 34 races viewed as competitive in some regard--but again, the majority seems to be happy with their own state's representation in Washington. All in all, then, I feel comfortable arguing that if you're voting for Trump AND your sitting Congressperson, you aren't really interested in change; you're just eager to deliver a middle finger to somebody.

*Along with Dixon and Kelly, I've been enjoying Stranger Things on Netflix, and one enjoyable element of the show has unquestionably been its 1980s setting. Some would argue that Winona Rider and Matthew Modine are in the cast primarily as nods to nostalgia for the period; I'm not sure whether I agree yet. Modine certainly hasn't been given much to do, which is kind of a waste, as anyone who saw his astonishing performance in Birdy could tell you. I go back and forth on Rider, who is certainly giving a glimpse of the emotional wildness that a mother losing her child might demonstrate, but at times the emotional pitch seems intense, but not varied--a high plateau, so to speak. The child actors, however, are kicking ass, and as Dixon put it, it's refreshing to be watching a show where you say to yourself, "Man, I wish they'd get back to the kids' arc." We've still got one episode left to watch, so we'll see if they can tie it all together in a satisfying manner, but so far I'm content recommending it.

*Oh, I have noticed one anachronism: the show takes place in early November of 1983. One scene shows teen loner Jonathan Byers going through a flashback: at some unnamed earlier time, he's in his room, playing the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go" for his younger brother Will, who likes it, spurring Jonathan to promise an introduction to all the cool music he knows. Now, the Clash released that tune in 1982, so it's a totally legit thing for Jonathan to know and love. But among the litany of 80s bands Jonathan mentions in the flashback, one stood out to me as incorrect: The Smiths. 

I'll admit that I'm not a big fan of the band, almost entirely because of Morrissey's vocal stylings (though he's a terrific lyricist), but I can't deny they're worth mentioning in a list of 80s artists--just not in November of '83. I was living in Manchester that November, and I can say from personal experience that the Smiths weren't even especially popular in their home town--yet. To be fair, they'd only released two singles, one in May ("Hand in Glove," which did not chart) and one on October 28th ("This Charming Man," which hit #25). True, they were getting some love in indie record shops throughout the summer and fall, but they didn't really gather much notice until they won NME's year-end music poll and earned a cover shot in February of 1984. (I was a regular NME reader, and that was the first notice I ever gave the band, certainly.)

In other words, Jonathan is almost certainly sharing this flashback moment with Will at a time when the Smiths' entire discography consisted of one not-especially-well-known single that as best I can tell was never released in the USA. I would thus consider the scene extremely improbable. Oh, I can imagine a smalltown loner like Jonathan fixating on the Smiths once their first album came out in February of '84, sure, but before November of '83, where the hell would he even hear about them, let alone find a rural Indiana record store where he could buy their import single? Sorry, Duffer Brothers--not buying it.

*The dog is up to about 40 pounds--a little healthier for her, I think. She has also learned that if I change shorts or put on shoes, it means she's almost certainly getting a walk. Clever girl.

*Since I'm the one who recommended Watership Down as a summer reading book for 8th grade, I suppose I should start my re-reading now. Ouch. No. Please don't throw me in that briar patch.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on August 5, 2016 7:57 AM.

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