Oh, right, I have a blog.

Ave, People of the Blogosphere!

I realize I haven’t posted since October, and that it’s been even longer since I posted on a regular basis. But in a world where sweatpants are “in”, and you can't smoke in downtown Walnut Creek, things can get crazy, yes? I've been busy, you see. For instance, I...

 +  Reanimated Latin! Jo!
 +  Got the Pope drunk.
  -  Got so drunk with him that I forgot all my Latin. Forever.
 +  Founded a synchronized swimming league for canines and narwhals.
 +  Climbed Everest. Twice!
 +  Reinvented the wheel.
 +  Decided that reinventing the wheel was a terrible idea and took it all back during pre-production.
  -  Was sued for this.
 +  Discovered the hard way that dried knobs of ketchup are very hard to scrape off of plates.*
 +  Found Narnia.

I’d love to end on a promise to update this blog on at least a semi-regular basis, but New Year’s resolutions have a way of being total b.s., and there will never be a shortage of clergy people needing booze, and dogs and narwhals needing to practice their synchronized swimming skills, so... if things slow down anytime soon it’ll only be because I ran out of amphetamines.**

What have YOU been up to?

With caffeine deprivation and squalor,

<3 Kathryn

* Okay, this actually happened.


An Unsolicited Name-Change and its Unexpected Familiarity

It just happened one day.

It was last year, in the backroom of the English lab. Hero was leaning against the counter. I was probably sitting on the linoleum. And she said it, “What’s up, Kat?” like someone fired Adam and made her name-r of all creatures (or at least me).

I was a little surprised. I certainly couldn’t remember her doing it before. But the sound and the act of Hero saying it had a strangely familiar quality, as if some invisible, parallel world where she’d always said it had been looming around the mid-section of the room for the whole semester, leaving its mark only in the slow, silent normalization of this sound to my ears. So that by the time it came out of her mouth, my brain had acclimated to its cadence, one-syllable count, and, most uniquely, its association to me.

Maybe that’s why I let her do it.

If anyone else called me Kat, it wouldn’t feel right. If the Anarchist did it, it would sound odd, partially because he has a close friend by the same name. If my parents started calling me Kat, I’d ask them why, and to please stop.

Maybe a clergy-person could get away with it, although I can think of a few who definitely couldn’t.

I tried calling my brother “Enrique” a few times back in high school, and it made him furious – not because there’s anything wrong with the name, but because it’s simply not his name. For whatever reason, where I failed, Hero succeeded – and succeeds – brilliantly.

To be able to give someone or something a name can imply that the name-r has a sort of intimate authority in the life of the object. Pet-owners name their pets. Parents name their children. Friends give nicknames to their friends. Car-owners assign names to their automobiles. Bullies abuse the privilege and give people names for the wrong reasons.

Hero was not – and is not – a bully, nor is she a significant other, close friend, or parent. At the time, she sat two seats down from me in tutor-training class, and had done nothing to earn such a place of authority in my life.

She just took it.

And for whatever reason, that was okay.

What would truly be disconcerting is if one day, she walked into the backroom of the English lab and called me Kathryn.

What’s your experience with nicknames? Giving? Getting?


God Sex and Religious Weirdoes: a lengthy endorsement of Margery Kempe

WARNING: spoilers, dirty words, suggestions of God having a sex drive, and excessive use of the impersonal “you”

Wednesday before last, when I entered the back room of the English lab, someone’s Norton Unwieldy Doorstop was sitting open on a desk, color-coded Post-Its pasted here and there on the page. Its owner sat in a swivel chair, facing away from the tome, but not far enough away that she wouldn’t notice if I tucked the Doorstop under my arm and fled from the premises.

She (we’ll call her “Hero”, because that requires less explanation than “Stripper”) was chatting with Anita on the subject of God sex. God sex and exploding, cannibalistic babies, to be precise, but the latter is from a separate work, and for the purposes of this post, I’ll be focusing on the God sex.

The story goes that, on the one day she hadn’t done the reading for Early English Lit class, Hero found herself sitting in on a conversation about God and Jesus having sex with some woman.

God first, then Jesus.

This woman, “banging” Jesus in her spiritual autobiography.

Hero flipped a few pages and handed the open Doorstop to Anita. “See? Do you see this?”

Anita began reading aloud, “I take you, Margery, for my wedded wife, for fairer, for fouler, for richer, for poorer…so long as you be buxom…” Then, “Sometimes she heard with her bodily ears such sounds and melodies that she might not hear well what a man said to her in that time unless he spoke the louder”, to which Anita commented, “It sounds like she’s having temporal lobe hallucinations.”

Being English majors all reading from the same canon, I naturally had access to the same passages of The Book of Margery Kempe in my own, albeit emasculated – seeing as its been broken down in three parts – copy of the Norton Doorstop. So, for fun and avoidance of my history paper, I read it.

Maybe I’ve been exposed to too many smutty romance novels at Girl Scout Camp*, because the God sex did not measure up to the tittering in the tutoring lab. Mind you, the Norton can only provide excerpts of Margery Kempe, so maybe they craftily sidestepped the more sultry scenes, but what was there fell short of my expectations. I wasn’t expecting long passages of solid, hardcore pornography, however I was expecting to be shocked with something explicitly erotic – as much, if not more, explicit than the details how of her husband, after he “turned childish again” in his old age, “voided his natural digestion in his linen clothes where he sat by the fire or the table, wherever it might be, he would spare no place”.

God telling Margery, “Therefore I needs[sic] be homely with you and lie in your bed with you” and that “you love me, daughter, as a good wife ought to love her husband” is different than the narrator showing us… la di da, you get it (thinking about it now, I’m glad I was spared).

The most detailed description of physical contact we get is when, in one of Margery’s visions, Jesus kissed the Virgin Mary “full sweetly”, but that was different, and not just because it wasn’t Margery. I’m not convinced that particular kiss is meant to be taken in a romantic/sexual manner, nor, therefore, an incestuous/Oedipal one. Sometimes in the Christian tradition, people kiss other people. It doesn’t necessarily happen in the nice, Calvinist venue I pop into once in a while (like most other contemporary church-goers, we shake hands when we pass the peace)… but, for instance, in the film Vision, nuns be kissin priests and other nuns all the time. It’s not sexual. They’re not getting fresh with each other. That’s just how it is.

Mind you, Vision was set several hundred years before The Book of Margery Kempe. I realize that, without the research that I slothfully resolved NOT to do, there is a potential anachronism there. Said realization domino-effected me into another, this time unflattering realization that I may have been recklessly grouping old-timey Christian mystics together into a fascinating, exotic group, potentially condescendingly otherizing them for my personal enjoyment, harkening to mind, in trajectory, crap like Orientalism. If you’re not following, it may or may not make more sense after you read...


First, a sort-of digression, because there haven’t been enough already: remember when Jesus was at a dinner party and some woman busts in (depending on which gospel account you read, it’s one of the Marys) and pours all this expensive nard (perfume) on Jesus’ feet and starts crying and wiping it off with her hair?

If you’re anything like my mom, that passage probably annoys you, because, well, what self-respecting gentleman would want some crazy woman crashing a dinner party so she could be a big weirdo and put on such a display? On the other hand, every time I’ve heard it at my church**, the Calvinists have thought it’s a courageous act of love.

Margery experienced a farther reaching gamut of reactions,

For some said it was a wicked spirit vexed her; some said it was a sickness; some said she had drunk too much wine; some banned her; some wished she had been in the harbor; some would she had been in the sea in a bottomless boat; and so each man as he thought. Other ghostly men loved her and favored her more.

Because Margery would go into these INSANE crying fits every time she had a vision of and/or was reminded of the Passion (both happened a lot!). It probably doesn’t help that she sees Jesus in the face of every handsome man and young boy. Margery is so overcome with sorrow and compassion that she balls her eyes out to a point where it’s described as “roaring”.

Mind you, the woman in the gospels probably deliberately tracked down Jesus and poured nard all over his feet, while Margery “knew never time nor hour when they [the visions and corresponding crying fits] would come” and couldn’t handle herself. Zero say in the matter. BUT THE POINT IS, Margery cries with sorrow and compassion and ultimately LOVE for Jesus --> Margery is a big weirdo for Jesus, just like Nard Woman is.

And, yeah, if I were walking around with Margery in public for a prolonged period of time, maybe my wretched colors would come out bleeding out of me and I would find her utterly irritating and humiliating, too, however, I’m not walking around with her, I’m reading about her, and from where I’m sitting – safely, here, behind my Norton Doorstop, hella years after the fact – I think it’s beautiful. Hyperbolic and beautiful and weird and strangely appropriate given the “ghostly”, antiquated state of the text.

Frankly, I think it’s touching how much she loves Jesus, and given the anticlimax of the on-the-whole NOT sexual scenes, I don’t mean LOVE in an explicitly physical way. When Jesus is sitting next to Margery while God is asking Margery to marry her (yes, that happened – and, yes, that was weird), and she didn’t know what to say, partially because she was in love with the second Godhead of the Trinity, not the first*** - that was, oddly, fucking adorable.

I also liked how Margery was seeing angels everywhere like glorious dust motes. That was pretty cool. To which Anita might point out the possibility for temporal lobe hallucinations. Which makes it….no less cool.
So, would I recommend Margery Kempe? Yes. If you’re not a hater who’s gonna be like, damn religious people and their rap music. Because when people get weird and religious, it’s kind of easy to be a hater. If you’re like me, and not my mom, you’ll find religious weirdoes much more admirable and loveable in the antiquated sense than in, say, in Flannery O’Connor, where peeps be flat out insane. If you’re like my mom, you’ll hate both, and you should read something else.

I think religious kooks of the universe have their place. They can be wonderful, in their way. Yeah, once in a while there’s a dark-side of it; a money-embezzling, Jew-bashing, gay-hating, heathen-killing part that rears its ugly head from time and time again, but if that makes its way into Margery Kempe, I was certainly blind to it. And if I did see that in her, I wouldn’t be recommending her to others. Religious weirdoes – especially of antiquity – are adorable and worth their weight in nard.

Good on you, Margery Kempe.

* Men penetrating women with wine bottles while in the back of a horse-and-buggy, whoa!

** Mom and I don’t go to the same church.

*** Perhaps could be construed as a wee Marcion-esque depending on how much you’ve been drinking that day (what?), in retrospect, but The Book of Margery Kempe is unlike Marcion in that she neither hates the god of the Old Testament, nor does he write Him off as a tyrannical douche bag.


Reflections on Cringing Through "A Good Man is Hard to Find"

DISCLAIMER: spoilers, subjectively offensive language, and usage of the impersonal “you”

I can’t remember exactly where I was when I first read Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. Although, I remember that I was in art school – it was assigned for the required Narrative Storytelling class – so I was probably sitting in the Starbucks on New Montgomery Street. And although I probably didn’t, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear reports of me gripping my scalp with both hands as I sat there with my eyes on the text of the Xeroxed pages, involuntarily exclaiming, “OH MY GOSH PLEASE STOP TALKING WHY ARE YOU STILL TALKING STOP!!!”

From the beginning of the story, the “grandmother” (we’re given no other name for the character) says plenty of things that prompt eye rolls. She’s manipulative, childishly selfish, racist. But when she started repeatedly telling an outlaw holding her at gunpoint that he should pray – it was inconceivable to my tiny, art school mind. It was alarming behavior, even from this character who had filled up the previous pages with her own short-citedness and vanity.

Before she even gets into the prayer part, the grandmother tells this man, the Misfit, who’s got the gun, “you shouldn’t call yourself the Misfit because I know you’re a good man at heart.” If your car’s busted up, and you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, and this guy’s henchmen just took your son and grandson into the woods to kill them, you don’t start telling dude-with-a-gun what he should and should not do unless you’re suicidal (right?) – which I knew she wasn’t because she asked him several times, “You wouldn’t kill a lady, would you?”

Then the grandmother starts in with the Jesus talk. She tells the Misfit to pray. Pray and Jesus will help you. Oh, you were in juvie when you were a kid? That’s when you should have started praying. Which was especially grating to me, because at the time, what I knew about prayer was that it was what televangelists told you to do – the kind from infomercials with the blue sky and clouds going in the background – the kind that, to my nineteen-year-old mind, would logically be the first to die in such a situation. Because I assumed that everyone, including but not exclusive to people who have no trouble hurting other people, were easily annoyed with polluted, religious shittiness.

Furthermore, it only made sense to my nineteen-year-old, scalp-tearing self that IF YOU’RE BEING HELD AT GUNPOINT, you don’t tell the dude with the gun how he should have dealt with his childhood trauma. I mean, yeah, the Misfit eventually kills her, but I was surprised he took as long as he did, it only made sense to me that he would have blown her brains out by then.

Then I dropped out of art school, became a Christian (no correlation, that I’m aware of, with Flannery O’Connor), and have been made to read “Good Man” 3+ times since I enrolled in “regular college” (a term which here means, not art/vocational school). For those 3+ times, there’s been no cringing. Because, Jesus.

It’s not like I’ve seen all possible facets of church culture, but I have been exposed to both a group of Pentecostals that were conservative to, I’m told, South Park proportions, and also to a group of less “out there”, albeit basically still conservative Presbyterians. Thus, I have a better understanding of Christians and Christianity than televangelist infomercials with clouds scrolling in the background (which I never had firsthand experience with anyway), so when the grandmother, in this highly precarious situation, starts laying down the Jesus talk, it’s like, “Yep.”

Seemingly batshit people, with few-to-no redeeming qualities that my previous self could discern, talk Jesus in the face of imminent adversity. All the time.

People who appear to have absolutely no regard for established social constructs and what is and is not polite, nor what is commonly considered as wise, will use spiritual warfare terminology where they feel is applicable. You can carry all the weapons you want, it won’t stop them from asking you if you’ve prayed lately or how you feel about God. There are people who will ask more probing questions or make even more eschatologically provocative statements than the grandmother ever asked the Misfit.

The lion will lay down with the lamb and the wild animals will be like pets.

The end is near.

The Rapture is real.

Lies from the Enemy.

Abundant life, something something…

Praisealleuiah! Call me!

There’s an entire church-vernacular that makes the grandmother’s previously-conceived-as crazy talk look considerably tame. What she said was once weird enough to qualify my non-believing, nineteen-year-old veins to pulsate with an all-encompassing, unadulterated essence of WHAT THE FUCK. Not so much anymore.

I went to church and I gained fluency in Churchish. Has the grandmother gone from out-of-touch to totally out-to-sea when she starts telling the Misfit he should have prayed when he was in juvenile hall? No. She’s just speaking Chruchish – and being pretty sparing in her vocabulary, too.

Was the Jesus talk a BAD choice on the part of the grandmother?

Well. That’s another post.


The Norton Unwieldy Doorstop of English Literature

Carrying around the Norton Anthology of English Literature was (and is) an honor thing. I would hoist the unwieldy tome from the zippered mouth of my backpack, and all those who witnessed (minus the English majors) would gasp, “What the hell is that? You carry that thing around!?”

“Yes,” I’d say. “Yes, I do. I proudly schlep with this unwieldy tome, not because, in a pinch, it makes for a great doorstop, but because I am an English Major, CHAMPION of Anglophonic verse and prose! I gladly offer myself to the task of loading down upon my shoulders the precious, inscribed intonations of Wollstonecraft, Wordsworth, and Heaney!”

Mind you, that was several years ago, and I was merely carrying around one of the two volumes that comprises the anthology (I started with the second volume, because I took Late English Lit prior to taking Early English Lit). At the end of the semester, I shelved that sucka. I admired its copious 2 ½ inch wide spine from my bed at night, and wistfully pined for the day I would take Early English Lit so that I could be assigned the corresponding volume, and eventually have it join its other half on the shelf.

Thus, imagine my heartbreak when, the next semester, the prof decided to take ergonomics into account and assigned instead a few smaller textbooks by a different publisher. ...actually, “heartbreak” might not be the right word – not because it would be ridiculous to get heartbroken over such a thing, but because I was prescribed some strange drugs that semester, and at that time feeling something as significantly negative as heartbreak may have been a chemical impossibility.

Nevertheless, it was a disappointment; a disappointment that carried over long after the questionable psychotropic medication was a part of my life. The incompleteness of that one lonely volume on the shelf, sans its partner, niggled at me, but the real twist of the knife came from seeing others’ copies of the Norton Unwieldy Doorstop Volume 1 sitting around the backroom of the English lab. I guess, after I took Early English Lit, future professors resorted back to the Norton.

Don’t think it didn’t cross my mind to just take one of the unattended copies.

But I work there.

And I already gabbed this sob story to enough people, it would probably be no mystery that I was the one who took it.

Now I’m taking an upper-division survey course that requires the latest edition of the Norton Unwieldy Doorstop Volume 1. I did what any American would do, and purchased it with an unthinking point-and-click. What arrived on my porch was not an unwieldy doorstop. It was not like the proud, almost-three-inch thick beauty that currently resides on my bookshelf. Instead it was the emasculated version, which took the first volume and butchered it into three parts. Because… Ergonomics. I don’t know.

I could pour over the what-ifs and should-haves about how if I were thinking I could have gone for an earlier edition, therefore acquiring a doorstop of my very own, but such meanderings of the mind are stopped in their tracks when I am delivered to the tragic, however inevitable, realization that perhaps my English major bravado would be more easily appeased by just keeping up with the reading.

But spine-measuring pettiness is not easily removed in one fell swoop. So, in the meantime, I’ll sneer over the shoulder of one of the tutors taking Early English Lit this semester who has been blessed to end up with the doorstop.

UPDATE (June 9, 2014):  Then someone amazing read this post and gave me one!


The Light in my Room

Okay, imagine you’re entering a room in a house, church, place of business, wherever… anywhere in the first world, because what I’m going to describe to you could be categorized as a first world problem. The room is dark, so you flick the light-switch to the up position, causing the overhead light to illuminate the room. You do whatever, then, satisfied with the whatever you’ve done, you decide to leave the room, and flick the light-switch down on your way out, causing the room to darken again – because you’re responsible with your carbon footprint.

Easy peasy. So easy, you didn’t even need to think about it.

That’s how it used to be in my room, too.

Not so much anymore since some mechanism or other on my ceiling fan got stuck a few years ago, and the solution to this, somehow, was the addition of a remote control.

Now the scenario goes like this: flick the light-switch up, locate the remote control, press the light button on the remote control. That turns the light on.

But once the light is on, there’s no promise of it staying on. Leave it be for a few hours, and it might stay on for the whole time, but it might not. I don’t know how, when left to its own devices, it decides when it will or will not turn on or off. After turning it on via remote, it might stay on for an hour or two before turning off. Then it might turn back on after fifteen minutes, or two hours, or something. I don’t know. There’s no distinguishable pattern that I can discern.

It’s not just the light function either. The fan will turn off and on when it wants to, too. I might fall asleep one winter night having turned off the light via remote, to wake up several hours later with the light on and the fan on, full speed (there are three). Or, during a summer heat wave, I might fall asleep with the light off and the fan on, and wake up to the light on and the fan off, or the fan at some other speed.

Nothing has turned on or off by its own volition when the light-switch has been flicked in the “off” position, though. That’d be the day I’d thoroughly freak out.

I don’t know why it does this. It never used to before the remote control was added. No one has any definitive answers for me on the issue, and that’s okay. Even if I’m a big First World girl, I am a Big Girl, and I can deal with it. It doesn’t require an extreme exercise of patience.

The first half of the battle, when it comes to mediating this, is especially easy. I just have to know where the remote control is. That way, when the light goes out, it doesn’t have to stay off for long. It’s also not difficult to make and maintain the routine of returning it to the top of the dresser, which is by the door and therefore the switch.

The second half of the battle isn’t terrible either, but it is slightly more difficult, because it’s a matter of not taking it personally. When I say this, remember that I’m a Christian, and that this is real for me. Because when is say “not take it personally”, I mean, not jumping to conclusions that it’s some gesture of spiritual warfare every time the lights go out when I’m reading.

For example, earlier this evening, I was in the middle of a paragraph in which an author was talking about when ideas of communism and fascism are not seeds for revolution, when the lights went out. For the first few seconds in the dark, I sat with the vivid thought in mind, either God or Satan doesn’t want me thinking about revolution. Which one is it, and why? Which is fine to an extent, but I’m also the kind of person who might indulge in mulling over this question until I eventually, unintentionally tease a series of conspiracies out of it, which are more likely to be productions of my imagination than divine revelation, and I will treat them too, too much like the latter.

If I viewed my entire life from the lens of conspiracy, or even just the parts of my life the are relevant to my ceiling fan, I don’t think I would live very long before dying from a heart attack.

So I try not to take it personally when the lights go off when I’m reading, or get offended like my fan turning on in the dead of winter is God’s idea of a practical joke.


My Brother is in Afghanistan, Santa Claus is Still Dead, and Two Tutors Save me from Hating Everything: PART TWO, discovering the virtue of doing something when nothing's expected of you.

DISCLAIMER: This post contains uncensored, foul language – something I generally try to avoid on this blog.
...and I may have downed nearly a whole carafe of coffee while I was drafting this.
And please realize that there's a part one to this.

Jake’s dead battery had him stranded in the Humanities parking lot. The door of his VW Bug was ajar, and he stood between it and the car’s body while he waited for a tow truck. Or somebody with jumper cables (whichever came first).

He spotted me storming, propelled by my personal feelings of betrayal and general pissery, down the sidewalk that borders the lot. “Hey, Kathryn,” Jake said.

“Hey, Jake.” I stopped. “Have I asked you about the Constitution yet?”


“Do you remember signing something saying that you’d support and defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic?”

“Yeah. I remember all four times I signed it.” (Air Force + public middle school + some other thing + tutoring lab = 4) “What about it?”

SOMEONE REMEMBERS! “Can I quote you?” (I’ve since learned that you don’t initiate an interview with this question, but, ya know… live and learn.)

“Sure. Do you have jumper cables?”

Without acknowledging the inquiry, I plopped down on the concrete, whipping out my pink notebook with Strain Zero and Free Bradley Manning stickers on the front, because, you have to remember, for some people, after hella NOT sleeping for a while, common courtesy dissolves between two and three AM and never comes back.

Jake thinks the Oath is “vague” and “weird”, and surmises that it’s designed for anti-discrimination purposes. Given the McCarthy revelation, the forefathers of this FUCKING document intended the absolute, polar opposite, but at this point, I wanted to drop the facts and go with Jake’s theory. I really did. Because I liked believing in Santa Claus and ignoring the fact that puppies die. I thought this Oath would mean something good, too. But it’s hard to listen to the anti-discrimination lullaby over the thundering collapse of my almost-patriotism – FUCKING MCCARTHY! The truth sets no one free. What the truth does is RUIN CHRISTMAS FOR EVERYONE.

Jake also thinks some senators pose more of a threat to the Constitution than terrorists. “And Sarah Palin,” Jake said.
I paused my furious scribbling. “Sarah Palin?”

“Yeah, sometimes I think she’s anti-Constitution…” Before Jake could expound on this, someone with jumper cables came to the rescue. That’s okay. It’s like the conversation I had with the army recruiter outside the campus bookstore that ended before I could ask him exactly what he meant when he said supporting and defending the Constitution means fighting for my right to purchase a vanilla latte. I take sound bytes. I put them out of context. To amuse myself. Fishy and advantageous? Yes. Even a little morally corrupt? That, too.

Of course, I would be amiss if I didn’t keep in mind others who remember singing the Oath – like Anita. Anita not only remembers signing the Oath, but remembers stopping to think about whether or not she was willing to sign it before she put the pen to paper – I LOVE YOU ANITA. Ultimately, she decided that, since she would be fulfilling this obligation in the setting of the tutoring lab, it would be a matter of, if anything, defending Freedom of Speech. This was something Anita could get behind, although there may be other circumstances where she wouldn’t be willing to sign it.

I loved these beautiful optimists. I really did, and still do. But, at the time, despite the few, remaining embers of desire to find real meaning in this thing, disenchantment was winning. I was ready to go home, throw together a eulogy of sorts (in this vein) for my dead Constitution-blog project, post that sucker the way it was, and get on with my life. But with a whole bucket of NO SLEEP comes a weakened immune system, and I was promptly knocked out for about a week with a wretched cold that left me helpless to do, like, anything save for falling asleep on piles of clean, unfolded laundry, and watch hella Breaking Bad and illegally uploaded Rob Bell shit on YouTube.

That eventually abated enough for me to muster the energy to take the dog for a walk. I was still in the process of accepting the Oath’s, and therefore the almost-blog-project’s, perceived meaninglessness. I lamented my ideas and how they would never be realized in blogposts. Like, I had hoped to write about the Black Panthers being prime examples of what it means to support and defend the Constitution.

This is because the Panthers were responding to a very REAL violation of Constitutional rights in their neighborhood, where cops – who are made to swear their own version of the Oath, mind you – were all kinds of corrupt. Instead of lying down and taking it, the Black Panthers organized, and exercised their Second Amendment rights to police the police. They were a volunteer militia.

That’s when it dawned on me. Right there on the street, as I stood waiting while the dog shat in the bushes, shit started adding up.

Volunteer militia. Keyword: VOLUNTEER.

Everything – all the more preferable explanations I’d gotten – like Jake’s anti-discrimination fairy tale, and Anita, at one point, musing that defending the Constitution is more about protecting the people than protecting the government…

It all coalesced. Santa may be dead, but it gets better than overweight North Pole residents in red suits, because I realized my duty to support and defend the Constitution has ZERO to do with my status as a government employee (employees = hired = money = technically not a volunteer). It has NOTHING to do with the government or any kind of institution or third party, and everything to do with my preexisting status of being an American citizen. The choice of whether or not to participate, of how politically active or aware I will be is a choice I make independently.

Make no mistake, America: your
government is STILL on Team Edward.
And, the way things are, that’s not a radical statement. At all. Even if this were being read by a power-hoarding head of state, I think it’s more than safe to say that I wouldn’t get blacklisted, and my phone wouldn’t get tapped – which would be a profound waste of resources anyway, unless the CIA’s priorities are warped enough to find value in overhearing my fellow, twenty-something burnout friend and I organize Twilight marathons, or coordinating carpools with the Anarchist to the next Anti-Flag show. Until there is any expectation of action from a lowly English major / tutor like me, this reads conjures big, fat zero on the radical-o-meter. If we remember what was said in the previous post, the Oath could “literally apply to [me] never.”

Well, in that regard, to the Man, I lovingly say, FUCK YOU.

If you didn’t WANT or EXPECT it, you shouldn’t have ASKED FOR IT.

This dog walk realization, actually, is more in sync with the original hypothesis: the one I formulated before I went on an Easter Egg Hunt for subjectively novel sound bytes to add to my collection of things to laugh about later, which does little-to-nothing to cultivate comprehensive understanding. Revisiting the notion after the thundering collapse of my almost-patriotism only grounded it, revealed more dimension of meaning for an individual citizen like me to have REAL conversations with people, and knowing my history, and watching Democracy Now!, and actually reading the REAL LIVE Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California for myself, and writing letters and participating in political demonstrations where I discern that’s due, and having conversations with people and knowing my history and conversing with people conversing with people conversing with people. Doing it for real. Asking real questions. Exchanging real ideas. Getting real answers.

Furthermore, if I were to really start a blog that explores what it means to support and defend the Constitution in the context of being an English tutor, it couldn’t be kathrynsupportsanddefends.blogspot.com. Kathryn cannot do this alone. For such a project to really work, and really be awesome, it would have to be more than ONE English tutor observing and analyzing what all this means, and how the Constitution is and is applied around in the country, in education, in other places, whatever.

There you go. That’s what I've got say. Hopefully at least Sophia will appreciate the scattered outbursts of frenetic nonsense.

Ball’s in your park, Citizens of the World. Hit me up with comment love. It’s tax deductible in select states, and I like hearing what y’all have to say.


My Brother is in Afghanistan, Coffee and Mosh Pits are the Best Parts of Waking Up, and my Best Friend is an Anarchist: PART ONE, I fell on my face for the rhetoric of empire. And spit teeth.

Dear few and cherished readers of this blog (I love you more than coffee and mosh pits):

Remember back in February when I was like, I’m gonna start a blog exploring what it means to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California from all enemies, foreign and domestic” because I want to remain loyal to the oath I took when I became a government employee? It’s okay if you don’t remember. I’m a big girl. I realize I’m not The World. Even if America doesn’t.

Well, anyway.

Screw that.

To explain metaphoric, non-sexual screwing, I’ll take you back hella dayz, circa the start of April.

DISCLAIMER:  I use dirty words.

I was storming off campus because I was fucking pissed. I know some could successfully argue that the volume of pissery was disproportionate to the situation, but manic fixations are manic fixations. A firm grasp on reality is not among its symptoms listed in the DSM-IV.

In my journalistic pursuit for the meaning of the Oath of Allegiance, I lost much sleep. I neglected academic obligations. I missed buses. With all the time we spent together, I was practically BFF with the unconsummated ringing of the DHS Public Comment Line. I've been labeled a domestic terrorist, a dork, and I have good reason to believe that, to at least two of the women who work in Payroll, I’m That Girl.

I had conversations with a lot of people and got a lot of responses, running the gamut from intelligent to witty to hollow and useless. I’ve been told that it’s optional. It’s conditional. It’s incredibly important, and it’s utterly meaningless. It’s a state thing, a federal thing, a post-9/11 thing. Payroll insisted that it has absolutely nothing to do with education and everything to do with not giving government information to terrorists. Another source said it signifies a duty to “defend English grammar to the death.” Others surmised that it requires me, in the event of encountering an unpatriotic term paper, to immediately report to my supervisor, who will in turn notify the feds by way of the direct line installed behind her desk, so that they may come to the English Lab and whisk the dissenter to a secret location where ...things will happen to them. Things we’d prefer not to know about.

As entertaining as the witty ones were, the sheer volume of unhelpful responses was getting to me. I was tired of veterans shrugging and saying they hadn’t given the Oath of Enlistment a second thought. As much as I love my colleagues, I was growing weary with the increasing number of tutors I spoke with who plumb don’t remember signing it at all.

Lots of swearing going down here. Not a lot of it solemn.

It meant something to me. It meant a lot. How could it mean nothing to all these other people?

On that fateful day of pissery, I was already approaching empty as I sat in the corridor outside the Anarchist’s history class, waiting to spot his mohawk in the stream of exiting students.

“Are you ready for how out of control this’s gotten?” I said to him. “I was ready to ditch oceanography – and it’s a very important day in oceanography! – to visit a professor’s office hours to talk about the Oath.”

He didn’t even blink. “I’ll go for you.”

…this is why I practically, not definitely became BFF with the DHS Comment Line ringing.

The DHS Public Comment Line doesn't stage dive at Anti-Flag shows.

I debriefed him, had him read the copy of the Oath I had on my person at all times – he got a good laugh out of the “without mental reservation” part – and proceeded to class. I spent seventy-five minutes not taking notes on, let alone paying attention to, the very important oceanography lecture; instead, turning over in furious contemplation* all Oath-related information I’d gathered.

Then I met up with the Anarchist.

And broke.

As previously stated, I already knew that, of all the swearing going down at Payroll, not much of it was solemn. Despite its fancy wording and loaded language, the oath fails to stir enough patriotism in most people for it to be anchored in their memory. Furthermore, I believed Payroll when they told me multiple times that it was a post-9/11 thing. I was ready to stick that information in a blogpost after I got home that afternoon, because enough people had told me that I believed it to be fact. So, imagine my surprise when I found out that countless people have been signing and forgetting this since THE FUCKING MCCARTHY WITCHUNTS! That’s over HALF A FUCKING CENTURY!**


This professor guy. Who remembers signing it vividly, and whose friend was fired for not signing it back in the seventies.

That bloody terrorist...

The Anarchist continued to recap the visit, reporting that it doesn’t mean anything, and it can’t mean anything. The only people it could possibly, maybe apply to are our military, and even then, the only enemies there could be are suspected enemies – you know, like Dorothy Parker – or spies, and the Constitution is an American legal document, and despite all delusions, America is not The World. You can’t impose or defend the Constitution where it is not law. Even if it was a legal document in Canada, Afghanistan, Italy, wherever… it wouldn’t even be our place to defend it because it’s NOT OUR COUNTRY. Sovereignty. Look it up.

No one’s willing to get rid of the oath.

It doesn’t mean anything.

It could never mean anything.

“It could literally apply to you never,” the Anarchist told me. “Yes, you can quote me on that.”

“Puppies turn into dogs. Who grow old. And die.”

It wasn’t like someone had proven to me that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. It was like watching Santa Claus get shot in the fucking face.

I was in a one-sided relationship. America would never love me back, especially not to the unhealthy measures to which I had loved it. Nobody really seemed to care. Not enough to remember. And the unhealthy measures… yeah, you could point to that and roll your eyes and discredit.

You could be like, geez, Kathryn. Don’t take it so personally.

It’s just a piece of paper. A dead legal document.

Frankly, my disappointment, however exaggerated it appears to be, isn’t totally ungrounded. I started off on this project because I actually, really felt like I had a duty to fulfill. It’s not like the Oath is some sober, cut-and-dry business contract that lays out x, y and z: here are the stipulations, here’s what’s expected of you, here’s what you can expect from us, sign and date.

It’s abstract idealism and loaded language. Start talking about swearing oaths, and putting faith (it does use that word) in something or other… that’s fucking personal. It’s emotional manipulation.

Santa is dead. Puppies will die. You are not a unique and beautiful snowflake.

As I stormed off campus. I had half a mind to turn back and run through the faculty offices until I found a history / sociology / whatever teacher and ask, trying not to scream, although that’s all I could do in my head, “SINCE MCCARTHY! WHAT THE FUCK?!?!” And really, “Why would they do this to me?” Why would they lead me on?

But mostly the screaming.

Then I ran into Jake.

* Assuming one can contemplate with ferocity…

** As it turns out, a more careful Google search would have revealed this to me. But I’m not sorry I asked, like, everyone and their mother first, because I would have missed out on such gems as my hypothetical domestic terrorism, and a sergeant recruiting outside the bookstore telling me that it’s my constitutional right to purchase vanilla lattes. That guy was nice.


A New Novel, a Psychic Protagonist, and a Head Full of Writerly Aspirations: interview with Sophia Martin

Good news for paranormal mystery enthusiasts! Yesterday, self-published authoress Sophia Martin put the finishing touches on The Plane and the Parade, which will be available for electronic purchase EXTREMELY SOON!

In Plane, the third in the Veronica Barry series, the reader will find our psychic heroine right where we left her: same house by the train tracks; same loyal BFF; same dashing, detective boyfriend. And, of course, Veronica still has visions, this time featuring both plane crashes and bioterrorism. Additional dust is kicked up with the return of an old flame, known among the characters for his past mischief in the novella, Veronica in Paris.

Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Martin via email…

KB: What inspired Veronica Barry?

SM: I've always felt a little psychic (and that phrase always brings to mind Daphne Moon from Frazier: "I'm a little bit psychic."). And I love the show Medium, as well as Law & Order. Plus, I liked the chemistry between Melinda and her husband Jim in Ghost Whisperer, and have had a crush on Daniel Dae Kim since he was on Angel. (I watch too much TV.) Since I couldn't find novels to read that had all (or even most) of these elements, I wanted to write a novel that let me include them. It's actually pretty surprising to me that there aren't more psychic detective novels. There are a few, but not many. Of course, having your detective be psychic does make keeping her from unraveling the mystery too soon pretty challenging.

KB: How did Plane come about?

SM: I think the main inspiration was how angry I felt (and still feel) about the behavior of the Westboro Baptist Church's fanatical leaders and congregation. I realize Westboro disavows violence. I made sure that my pseudo-Westboro church's pastor clearly stated that as well. However, I think the actions of fanatics like Phelps and his followers embody another kind of violence, and I could see some member of the congregation deciding to take things a step or two further, as a result.

I also had decided a while ago that the next book would see the return of Eric.

KB: Okay, I gotta ask: bioterrorism... where in your milieu and imagination did that sprout from?

SM: That actually took some hammering out. At first, I just wanted a bomb, but I needed a reason to have one of the villains be in a plane. I did a lot of brainstorming and asked for help on AbsoluteWrite.com's forums, and eventually hit on bioterrorism instead.

KB: Veronica lives in Sacramento. Why the state capitol? In a future novel, will Veronica have visions about the government?

SM: I lived in Sac for six months and really loved it. It's a city but it's not as overwhelmingly large as say, San Diego. Veronica's duplex is pretty much exactly what my place looked like.

Veronica is probably going to stay out of politics, but really, you never know. If a politician manages to do something that gets under my skin, we might end up seeing Veronica go after a character loosely based on him or her.

KB: How do all these teenagers manage to crawl into your books?

SM: I'm a high school teacher, and the students my school serves often come from very disadvantaged backgrounds. They are frequently hard to work with, both on a day-to-day level in terms of cooperation, but also because I hear the most awful stories. Writing about them is a way to both attempt to get past my frustrations or distress over the interactions I'm having with them (Lola was very much inspired by a student like this) and to process those terrible true stories.

KB: Murder mysteries have a bit of a reputation of being mind candy. Am I right to surmise that it can be hard writing about murder? How difficult was Plane compared to the others?

SM: It's certainly hard for me. I can't speak for all authors, and my impression of some of the violence I read is that it's a game for the authors to write it. They don't see it as something real. But who am I to judge? Speaking for myself, violence always gets to me. So when a story calls for a scene that involves violence, I really have to push myself to get through it, and to reread it. I also think it's important not to sugarcoat it, although I may not get into minute details when I describe it. It's important not to downplay suffering. Even though it's a fictional story, these are situations that really happen to real people, and I want to recognize that. I think I have this compulsion to write violence despite the fact that it bothers me so much because I'm trying to honor victims of violence and hold perpetrators accountable. There's something I like to tell my history students: "Sometimes the only justice you can give someone is to remember them." Again, these are novels, so it's a little different. I just really want to say something real with the violent stories I tell.

Plane wasn't different than the rest of my novels in this respect. My writing often arises from outrage when I write about someone experiencing violence, and Plane definitely has that.

KB: What keeps you coming back to writing ghost stories?

SM: I don't know. I also recently realized that dreams figure in all of my stories. I don't know what that's all about.

KB: So, you've got the Veronica series, and you've started publishing a serial novel, The City Darkens, but only one stand-alone novel. Would you say you prefer the series/serial form? Why does that appeal to you?

SM: Yes, I do like the series form better. In fact, I'm starting to work on a sequel to The City Darkens, as well. I prefer to read books in a series, so I suppose it follows that that's how I think when I'm writing. Broken Ones, my only stand-alone, represents a moment when I broke through some serious writer's block and depression and started writing again after many years, so it's probably just a different kind of work than the rest. Nowadays I write to entertain myself and process things that are bothering me.

KB: When you've committed yourself to writing a series, at some point, is it hard to come up with new material? What are the pros and cons of working within the limitations of Veronica's world (if you would call them limitations)?

SM: So far, so good. I guess my take on it is to not expect to continue past the book I'm on. Then later, if an idea comes to me, fantastic. With the Veronica books, it helps that I'm still fascinated by law in general. In another life I went to law school and worked my way up to becoming a DA. Or maybe a Supreme Court Justice.

KB: The second in the series, The Fire and the Veil, does some exploration of religious subculture (...if one could call one of the world's largest religions subcultural). Louise, the protagonist of Broken Ones, is a professor and cultural anthropologist. Of the three majors you went through, was cultural anthropology among them?

SM: Actually, no. I did study a lot of cultural history, though, which is related.

KB: For those who dig the Veronica Barry novels (paranormal, mystery, etc.) and want to read something like them, what would you recommend?

SM: That's a tough question, because I haven't found a psychic detective series that I personally enjoy. I would recommend the Stephanie Plum mystery series, though, and for paranormal mysteries, Kim Harrison's The Hollows series.

KB: Self-publishing. How's that working for you? Are there any self-published indie writers you'd recommend?

SM: I wish I had a long list. Currently I'm reading Moonlight, Murder and Machinery by John Paul Catton, and it's well written, but I still feel like it needs a beta-reader to catch typos, the occasionally awkward phrase, and dialogue that is too modern for the setting. You should offer him your services, Kathryn! But all in all, it's one of the best indie published books I've come across. Too often people publish books that are not very well written for myriad reasons. I love and hate indie publishing for that reason. On the one hand, it levels the playing field in a very democratic way. I probably would not be published without it, and I've had my own share of typos turn up in works I thought were spotless, so I'm not judging on that level. It's more like there are authors who are publishing the first novel they ever wrote, and they aren't running it by beta readers or writing groups first. You kinda have to do that because when you're new to writing, you don't know what some of the common mistakes are.

I haven't read Joe Konrath or Amanda Hocking (because they don't write genres I read), though, and they must be doing something right because look at how wildly successful they are. There are also a lot of authors earning enough to live on, like Michael R. Hicks. It's more the latter that inspire me, because I really want to get to the point where I'm living off of my writing. At the moment, that's far from the case, but my sales did double this month already. So I'm hopeful!

UPDATE (April 16): The Plane and the Parade is now available on Kindle!

UPDATE (April 17): Also available on Nook! 


Alright, Sister Exodus, I made a mistake.

In some translations, Exodus 20.13 (the sixth of the Ten Commandments) says you shouldn’t murder, while other translations say you shouldn’t kill. It may be interpreted as a style issue, but however you figure the reason behind the schism in word choice, it is worth taking the time to clarify. Murdering and killing are not the same thing.

The original Hebrew for the word in question is רָצַח (ratsach), which means “to murder”, not “to kill.”

There may be someone reading this blogpost who would say, That's adorable, Kathryn, you know how to use the Internet. Would you like a gold star?

No. I would not like a gold star.

Thank you for asking.

I’m regurgitating this not-trivial piece of trivia, because I used “Thou shalt not kill” as an argument against the death penalty in my last post, “Faster, Sister Exodus! Kill! Kill!” After I played the Exodus 20.13 card (thinking, at the time, that I had it right), Sister Exodus answered it with Exodus 21.12, which says that anyone who takes the life of another should be put to death. In light of the Sixth Commandment translation discovery, Exodus 21.12 is more strongly supported by the sixth commandment than I previously realized.

This is me fessing up to my former ignorance. I may not have considered it worth blogging about if it weren’t for the fact that I previously used bad information to argue my point.

Thank you for reading. I feel better now. I mean, about the oversight. I don't feel any different about capital punishment.

How about you? Have you ever (knowingly or unknowingly) given people bad information to support an important point?


Faster, Sister Exodus! Kill! Kill!

There’s a 67% “recidivism” for murder in America. I know this. Sister Exodus told me so. “67% of murderers who are released from prison will kill again,” she insisted.

Just to clarify: Sister Exodus isn’t a nun. She’s my sister in Christ, and we’ve been emailing back and forth recently. Sister Exodus is all for the death penalty, which, she tells me, should be the sentence for every convicted murderer. And rapist. Every single one.

Kill ‘em all.

According to Sister Exodus, it wouldn’t be fair otherwise. They shouldn’t be “rewarded” for murder (or rape) with the privilege of living (...because once you’ve taken someone else’s life, you don’t have a right to your own?). Countless innocent lives would be spared if we’d please just kill these irrevocably sick convicts.

I could see the logic. But I couldn’t see the Judeo-Christian logic.

My decision to cite the Ten Commandments didn’t come without hesitation. As a general rule of thumb, when I make the choice to bring in the Word of the Lord for the purposes of arguing my point, I try to thump wisely.

I told her that it’s made very clear in those basic Ten - so basic to the faith that some say those very Ten are written on our hearts - among them: Thou shalt not kill.

Sister Exodus answered that God makes it very clear (couldn’t be any clearer, she said) that he wants murderers to die. She cited Exodus 21.12: “Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death.” (NIV) To that 33% who statistically won’t kill again, tough tittie. The Bible tells us so.

The Bible also has its fair share of dinner party scenes.

Allow me to tweak the general idea of inclusion at these dinner parties in order to illustrate what I understand to be the pillar of Sister Exodus's capital punishment theology:

Just like in the real Bible, Jesus broke bread with tax collectors, Pharisees, prostitutes, Gentiles... Jesus didn’t discriminate, except for, apparently murderers and rapists. Sure, those other people around the table sinned, but some transgressions are just plain too despicable.
This is a Warhol. He did a whole series of them.

Does that sound right to you?

Don’t get me wrong.

If one of my loved ones was murdered or raped, in my anger, I’d crave some significantly damaging comeuppance unto the head of the soul responsible (which is NOT the way of peace, by the way). The fulfillment of such a craving would be destructive and unsatisfying to say the least.

I made a suggestion to Sister Exodus, “What about life without parole?”

“That’s not how the American Judicial System works,” she corrected. “Prisoners can get out of jail on parole.”

In these fantasy solutions, Sister Exodus, as long as you’re entitled to your hypothetical death camps, may I please have my hypothetical life camps? Because if I lived in a country where the government not only had no trouble with killing off hella people, but also wove it into their law as The Right Thing To Do, I would be sickened and sad. I realize Sister Exodus desires protection over the lives of the potential victims on the outside. I do, too. But I also want protection for the criminals on the inside.

Those we judge to be hermetically despicable… in this case, to the point where it’s insisted that their bad choices have disqualified them from life itself... even they are God’s children. Irredeemable, hard-wired killing machines unable to change their ways ever? We don’t know that. That’s between them and God.

Far earlier in the same email thread, Sister Exodus expounded to me, with as much vehemence as mere text on a screen can convey, that I am made perfect in Christ Jesus. (In all-caps, too: PERFECT.) I’ll say now that I, every single fiber of me, is no more or less human than anyone who has ever murdered, ever raped, ever collected taxes, or cast lots with their purity. The sins remain unacceptable, but those people - those murderers, those rapists - are also made perfect in Christ Jesus.

What do you think?

UPDATE:  A relevant note on Ten Commandments translations can be read here.


My Brother is in Afghanistan, the Dog Poops in the Afternoon, and I am the Government: in which all your tax dollars go to Twilight marathons.

Prepare to feel deceived.

The title of my blog, “Musings of an Unemployed English Major,”* is a lie.

…okay, “inaccurate” might be a better word than “lie,” and as much as I loath to toot my own horn, I don’t think this inaccuracy injures my overall credibility. At the time of the blog’s inception, I was not telling a lie when I proclaimed myself to be unemployed (save for occasional, few-and-far-between house-sitting gigs, and getting paid under the table to escort the neighbor’s dog around the block for his midday bowel movement). It wasn't until last September, when I went into the payroll office at my school and filled out a bunch of paperwork, that the title officially became inaccurate. These days, not only do I work…

I work for the government.

I tutor English at a community college, which is financed partially by student fees, and a-lot-ly by those crazy kids in Sacramento doing their darnedest to run the state. If you were to do something highly illegal (which I wouldn’t encourage at all), and sneak into Payroll to rifle through their files and find the paperwork I filled out that day, my government employee status might be especially evident to you when you find the oath I signed to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

I want YOU to identify the independent clause.
My very best friend, the Anarchist, asked me if this meant I was to physically assault any unpatriotic nebbish I might encounter on the street. And, well… no. Just, no. All the violence stuff is more up my brother’s alley, who made a VERY SIMILAR PLEDGE when he joined the army about two years ago. But I'm an English tutor, and English tutors don’t suit up in fatigues and polish guns when they defend the Constitution.

Even though I can confidently assert how not to do my job, I can’t confidently assert how an English tutor properly fulfills the “Oath of Allegiance” required for employment at our fine a-lot-ly government-funded establishment. I’ve been helping students defend their papers from scrambled theses and run-on sentences, but when it comes to protecting the Constitution, I am amiss.

The oath is worded with such authority and idealism, I’ve often found myself in a tailspin of endless guilt for neglecting the duties it prescribes. This provokes the grandiosity gland (a close sister of the eject button for any rational conceptions of how the world works) in the tempestuous organ that is my brain, and the thinking mutates as such:

I work for the government. Therefore, I am the government. Or part of it. Well, this is a democracy, so, ideally, everyone’s participating in government affairs. The government belongs to the people. I think I’m mostly a person. I am the government. This calls for a Slurpee. (Can you follow that? My shrink couldn’t.)

Therefore, America, your government is not working for you.

Your government is not defending the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic.

Your government would prefer to watch the Twilight movies with her fellow, floundering, twenty-something chum to mock the poor quality of cinema and abysmal emotional intelligence of its characters so that they may feel superior and compensate for their shortcomings.

Your government is on Team Edward.

BUT NEVER FEAR, AMERICA! My priorities will shift! I will start exploring how an English tutor is to go about supporting and defending the Constitution in a new blog! Although I currently teem with ambition for departing on this odyssey of wholesome patriotism, I’m sure I will publish posts far less than I wish to if I have any modicum of a healthy desire to pass math.

UPDATE (May 30, 2013):  The proposed project has since been pronounced dead.
ANOTHER UPDATE (May 31, 2013):  The title of this blog has been changed to something more accurate.


I Stole God's TV (and a good time wasn't had by all)

The character Sarah Goldfarb, from Hurbert Selby Junior’s novel Requiem for a Dream (and Darren Aronofsky’s film adaptation), loves her son very much, even though he’s a junkie who keeps stealing her television set. Over and over again, the junkie son and his junkie friend take the TV and pawn it for money to buy heroin. Every time this happens, Sarah dutifully leaves her apartment and buys it back. But what’s more peculiar is that every time this happens, it doesn’t make Sarah love her son any less. Because of this, Sarah Goldfarb is like God.

She’s not 100% like God, of course. I don’t think God is addicted to diet pills or squanders much of the day watching a gratuitous amount of infomercials – although, I do believe he manifests in and works through all living beings, including but not exclusive to addicts of any variety. I also believe that God is love. This is something I have in common with the author of 1 John, a small but powerful book you can find toward the end of the New Testament. God cannot help but to love, because God is love. The fourth chapter (v.10) (NIV) says that:

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

I bring this up as a belated rebuttal to one of my beautiful buddies when he said, “Why do you see it as a problem when you purposefully and repeatedly ‘sin,’ Kathryn? If you enjoy it, and Jesus forgives you, why not? It’s not like God’s going to stop loving you.” He’s right about the God-forgiving-me/God-loving-me thing: God is love. God cannot help but to love. God pours out his love indiscriminately, recklessly, infinitely.

But I don’t like me when I steal God’s TV.

My conscience hurts when I am so consumed with the pursuit of experiencing a minor, fleeting feeling of exhilaration, comfort, or what have you by means that God has made clear in my heart he would strongly prefer that I not partake in. God doesn’t encourage me to indulge in anything I want whenever I want it – especially if it’s something as blatantly destructive as heroin. Consider the example C.S. Lewis gave of who God is not:

“We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven, as a grandfather in heaven – a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves’, and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all.’”*

Because if I tell God, “Thanks for the capacity to feel happiness, now I will exercise it by stealing your TV many times over,” and I claim to have any inkling of love for the Lord in return… Do you see the problem with this picture? It makes me inconsiderate. It makes me self-serving and advantageous. It makes me a lot of things. A lot of things I don’t want to be.

I would strongly prefer to not be the kind of person who has no trouble being overtly inconsiderate toward someone else. It doesn’t matter if “someone else” happens to be someone I’m head over heels for, or someone whose company I find very difficult to enjoy. From time to time my words and actions may contradict this, but when it comes down to the wire, I’d prefer not to be a jerk.

* The Problem Pain


Ayn Rand's Space Ship: in which the Tragic Gamer Kid's shameless audacity gets him what he thinks he needs.

This time last year, on Monday evenings, you could find me in a small classroom on the second floor of the Liberal Arts building at my school. My best friend, the Anarchist, had a class on the first floor – a class taught by one of those subversive professors who will start talking louder to compensate for the complacency of others. One of those professors who pulls back society’s curtains so that his students may catch a glimpse of its pretension, its pitfalls, its capitalist corruption… the whole, miserable, bureaucratic, human-rights-violating shebang. One of those professors who teaches classes from which students are sent home under a heavy black cloud, looking like they got the wind knocked out of them, and experiencing a touch of resentment that the blissful ignorance they enjoyed at the breakfast table that morning is lost. Or at least the students who cared.


On these Monday nights of yore, my history class on the second story would get out earlier than the Anarchist’s, so I would sit and wait on the concrete outside Professor Subversion’s room. Sometimes he walk outside after clicking “play” on a YouTube video or DVD to run to his office or something, see me sitting there, and invite me to go inside and watch it.

One night, I left history, turned on my family’s “emergency” cell phone, and stuck it in my sweatshirt pocket as I descended the stairs. I was starting across the LA building’s quad when I saw the Tragic Gamer Kid standing outside the closed door of Professor Subversion’s classroom. As much as I’ve waxed about lecture hall logistics and inconvenient truths, this story is really centered on the Tragic Gamer Kid (and the cell phone).

Sorry if you feel misled.

Being the Anarchist’s senior by not much, and my junior by a little more than not much, the Tragic Gamer Kid wasn’t a kid per se. But he did play a lot of video games, and shouted his life’s narratives as if they were as tragic, important, and ignored as the ones Professor Subversion would speak of with increasing volume.

The Tragic Gamer Kid… actually, we’ll call him Horatio, because “Tragic Gamer Kid” is cumbersome …was supposed to be in his Farsi class in the next building over, but, no. Horatio was here, the light from the door’s tiny window illuminating his face, and his fingers that twinkled and pointed to places he wasn’t supposed to be.

I knew exactly what Horatio was doing. He did the same to me last week.

“Horatio!” Although I wanted to get his attention, I also didn’t want to disrupt any classes, and he was all the way across the quad. My voice came out mangled and croaking, a confused stage whisper. I broke into a run, which prompted the family “emergency” phone – which I frequently carried because, to my small, self-serving mind, aimless texting with the Anarchist and the Fundamentalist Atheist were equivalent enough to emergencies – to bounce out of my pocket. Its major parts cleanly cracked away from each other when it hit the pavement.

I paused, torn. It’s not like the quad was teeming with collegiates like it was during the daytime, but there was still something uneasy about the notion of leaving cell phone innards on the ground in the dark. As I stooped to pick up the closest piece I could locate, I realized that rescuing the cell phone and stopping Horatio weren’t possible.

If it weren’t for that phone, I swear, I could have stopped him. Because in the modicum of time I spent in conflict over the splattered device, Horatio made his move. When I looked up again, his hand was on the doorknob, and me and my mangled croaks of, “HORATIO! HORATIO!” weren’t even close to half-way across the quad. He disappeared into the room.

From what I’ve been told, it transpired like this:

When Horatio initially entered, Professor Subversion offered, “Would you like to take a seat? We’re about to watch a video…”

Horatio stopped the professor, saying, “Excuse me, Mr. Subversion,” then pointed at my best friend when he addressed him: “Anarchist.”

“What do you want, Horatio?” It’s hard to tell if the Anarchist couldn’t help but to laugh at the absurdity at the time of the event, or it was just him laughing as he recounted to me later.

“We need to talk after class,” Horatio said, still pointing at the Anarchist.

“This couldn’t wait until later, Horatio?”

“No. See you then,” Horatio said, and left.

Although the Tragic Gamer Kid had never been a student of his, Professor Subversion knew Horatio well enough have an acceptance that, That’s Horatio. He’ll do what he wants… and resume where he left off.

Horatio was exiting the classroom when I finally caught up to him. “Horatio!”


“You’re helping me find the pieces of my cell phone!”

I’ll give Horatio this much – he didn’t bail on me while I groped around on the cement. After he returned to Farsi class, with the image of him exceeding the threshold replaying in my mind, it struck me how extraordinarily human Horatio was: a parable, an extreme illustration of what I either actually look like, or of what I am afraid I’ll look like when I ask for help.

Horatio needed a lot of help, to levels at which he would be obnoxious in seeking it. It was a battle to maintain boundaries while in his company. Once any desire to leave was expressed, Horatio would do his best to manipulate his guests into staying longer. Suckers like me (or the Anarchist, although he wasn’t a sucker for as long as I was) would get stuck in phone “conversations” that would last upwards to four or five hours, with nary a word in edgewise. The average call would begin with Horatio complaining about girl problems, which would turn into confident and searing statements that all girls in California were c-nts and whores, or how everyone and their mother were bottom-feeding “betas.” Then it might end with some long verbal dissertation of how Mexico has an “inefficient culture,” why the Germans should have won the war, or how all of Horatio's problems could be attributed to Ayn Rand.

Horatio the Tragic Gamer Kid, makes me not want to ask for help, because I don’t want be obnoxious and overstep my boundaries, blinded by a personal audacity I can’t even tell is there, and misjudging exactly how urgent my First World problems are not. I don’t want to do that if I can help it. I’m not saying all of Horatio’s problems were First World or trivial – I’m just saying that if I need to ask for help, I don’t want to be more of a bother than I can avoid.

At the same time, I have to admit that I also admire Horatio’s boldness in asking for help. At some point, life’s going to rip me a new one (or at least it’ll feel that way) in ways where I can’t deal it by myself, and I’m going to need to go to someone and say, “I need help.” You know, situations like...

Where did the “emergency” cell phone charger go?
What the hell is wrong with my car defroster?
All these people showed up at my house! Would you happen to have any bread I could feed them with?
My space ship crash-landed and got stuck in the mud!
My girlfriend just left me, and she was the only one who knew how to make the baby's diarrhea go away!
I have two broken arms / a bad case of vertigo / suicide ideation / a burst appendix, may I impose on you to give me a ride to the hospital?
I told my friend, who’s in the hospital because she broke both her arms / got a bad case of vertigo / told everyone she’d eat three bottles of sleeping pills and was serious / her appendix burst, that I’d bring her clean socks and underwear, but her parents aren’t home like we thought they’d be. Do you have a key to her house?

I guess it comes down to some things that are obvious, and simple enough: knowing what’s truly worth making a spectacle out of yourself and interrupting Professor Subversion’s lecture, realizing you may very well annoy someone when you ask for help but that shouldn’t be the reason why you decide against it, and empathizing when someone goes to very stupid lengths to get you to help dislodge their space ship from the mud.

What does it come down to for you? Do you know of any special trick to make diarrhea go away? What do you think of Ayn Rand? Would you ask Ayn Rand to help you fix your space ship? How about my ex-girlfriend?