Leverett Butts - Musings of a Bored English Teacher

Occasional web log from Southern writer Leverett Butts.

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Location: Temple, Georgia, United States

English Professor in Georgia. Writer of Southern lit

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

This google search came in this morning in from Rob Cole:

1) Go to www.Google.com.

2) Type in (but don't hit enter): "weapons of mass destruction"

3) Hit the "I'm feeling lucky" button instead of the normal "Google
search" button.

4) READ CAREFULLY what appears to be a normal ERROR message.
Make sure you read the whole error message.

Try this soon, before someone at Google fixes it!

Monday, March 29, 2004

Here's another reason I don't like web journals. I feel like I have to censor myself if I'm doing more than posting oddball stories or self-deprecating humor.

For instance, I'd love nothing more right now than to write about my frustration with teaching creative writing, but I can only do it in the most vague of terms (a practice I keep trying unsuccessfully to break my students of). Why? Because by now, many of my students know about this log and if I mention any of the idiotic, sappy, or horrible stories specifically, within hours of this posting, the author, along with everyone else in the class and quite a few other people outside the class including the administration, will hear about it. I could hurt someone's feelings and lose the trust of my students.

So what? one might ask. In the late 1920's Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner took to ruthlessly ridiculing each other's writing style and engendered a literary feud that even erupts from time to time in today's literary conferences and lit/comp classrooms all over the world. The two men never spoke to each other again, to my knowledge.

And these were mature adults.

Imagine if they had been in their late teens or early twenties.

It takes guts to open up and put yourself on paper. It takes blood and guts to actually allow another person to read it. If I were to ridicule some of these stories, the authors would believe, rightly to a certain extent, that I was ridiculing them. If this were an actual log instead of a virtual one, though, I could rant and rave and ridicule to my heart's content, and no one would be the wiser.

Of course, you could also make the case that these kids knowingly signed up for a course in creative writing, and they should expect to be critiqued harshly. Others could argue that at least a fourth of the class signed up because they thought it'd be an easy "A", and should therefore be stripped of that illusion with a good firm dose of reality tea.

No doubt both these arguments are valid, and I'd be the first one steeping the tea leaves if not for one thing.

I don't think I'm really frustrated with my students as much as I'm frustrated with myself.
I don't know how to give negative feedback positively to strangers. If they were my bosom pals, I could tell them their plots were about as twisted as a yardstick, their characters a s three-dimensional as a line and not quite as deep as bottle cap. Hell, as bosom friends, my students might even laugh and agree, but as post-adolescent young adults trying to appear suave and with-it in front of their fellow post-adolescent young adults, such brutal honesty cannot be swallowed smoothly.

My acerbic comments will be taken as condemnation of them, not their work, and writers with at least a glimpse of competency might shy away from ever writing again., and who knows where that will lead.

Before entering politics, Adolf Hitler fancied himself a passable painter (he wasn't half bad), and he tried to get into art school. They ridiculed his watercolors, turned him down, and he never put brush to canvas again. The rest is history.

My biggest problem, though, if I want to be truthful, is that I'm very good at pointing out crappy writing, but I suck at suggesting how it can be made better. Just because I'm a creative writer myself (and lately even that's debatable) doesn't mean I can teach others how to do it any more than I can teach a duck to roll its tongue.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

See? this is the kind of pro-active response we need more of.

It's good to see the young folks taking an interest.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

The Bugs (and Their Allies) Are Taking Over, and the Dogs of War Are Growling

When you go camping or hiking in the woods, you should be prepared for encounters with unfriendly animals.We are, after all uninvited guests in the homes of fierce creatures. We can't really expect to waltz blithely into the den of an uncivilized bear or mountain lion and not prove to be at least a minor irritant to said inhabitant. It is was with little surprise, then, that I read the recent news story about the hunt for the predatory mountain lion stalking and assaulting young bicycling women. While not excusing the lion's behavior, I felt that such an uncultured creature probably couldn't help itself when it happened upon the scantily clad lady on her bicycle. I mean I've known of some reasonably civilized wolves that would've been hard pressed not to do the same under similar circumstances.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am by no means suggesting that the woman "had it coming" for dressing so suggestively (after all, to a wide-eyed country mountain lion, those spandex biking shorts can appear awfully appealing). I'm just saying the attack didn't raise my eyebrows.

Similarly, when reading any of the hundreds of stories out there about Doberman, rotwieller, or poodle attacks, I'm not surprised.

When you take an animal whose natural instinct is naturally averse to being tied to a telephone pole and allowing small children to pull its whiskers, give it silly haircuts and stupid names like "Pooky" or "Mr. Buttons," you have to expect some residual resentment that will one day boil over.

The same thing goes for white tigers.

Taken individually, these stories did not raise any questions in my mind.

But should they have?

After reading a story yesterday about Asian carp flying out of the water and injuring fishermen in their own boats, I'm beginning to wonder.

Scientists are saying these carp are driven to attack because of their irritation by the vibration of the boat motors. However, I feel they are missing a key connection, here.

The fish are attacking fishermen.

Dogs and tigers are turning the tables on their perceived oppressors, mountain lions are taking back the night, and sea lions are trying to sport 100% authentic redneck-skin jackets.

Clearly there is a insidious conspiracy afoot in the animal kingdom, a conspiracy so subtle and far reaching even the Illuminati and the Priory of Sion should stand up and take notes. This conspiracy has no more nefarious purpose than stage a coup designed to knock mankind from his role as head of the animal kingdom.

Now I can already hear you neigh-sayers out there shaking your heads and chomping at the bit to label me a crackpot humanist, but hear me out.

I would be the last person to risk social chaos and anarchy that comes with panic-mongering if I didn't have more proof than a handful of mere newspaper filler articles.

When I lived alone in my cabin a few years ago, I heard the wild dogs howling blue murder in the long dark reaches of the night.

My landlord's dog barked, too.

More recently, though, I've seen the conspiracy at work in my own backyard.

I woke up this morning to the sound of tap-tap-tapping on my bedroom window. While I first thought it was the pitter pat of rain on the glass, I soon realized it was too regularly structured to be mere happenstance.

The more I listened the more the sound resembled that of a pointed object; it was simply too high pitched to be something as blunt as falling acorns or rain drops.

A beak, possibly?

When I left for work a mere hour later, I witnessed a murder of crows (an uncomfortably apt collective designation) gabbling in my backyard. At first they seemed unaware of
my presence, but presently one turned its head, and I could feel its beady little eyes meet mine.

We stood there for only an instant, but we knew each other then with a clarity bordering on religious revelation. He and his cohorts had been plotting the demise of my kind, and they knew I knew it.

I had stumbled upon a cabal in the course of its scheming.

The entire congregation of fowl turned toward me then as their squawking came to a stuttering silence.

We stared at each other.

Me and the birds.

Unsure who would make the first move.

Eventually they flew of en masse and I shakily climbed into my jeep and left for work.

Crows watched me from the power lines all the way to the highway.

Coincidence? Don't bet on it.

For years the lesser beasts have had to sleep at night in rapidly dwindling forests and eke out a living on the meager scraps we've left them, drinking from rivers and streams poisoned by guess who?

They've had enough and are taking natural law into their own hands.

They must be stopped before things get worse.

Before they manage to turn even our best friends and house pets (the Uncle Tom's, if you will, of the animal world) against us.

It's a dog eat dog world out there, so we need to get them before they get us.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

"I felt bad because I had no shoes; then I met a man with no feet."

I don't feel so old, today. Or rather I still feel old, I just realized this morning that my generation is far from alone.

This goes out to all you folks who were in high school in the mid to late nineties:

Welcome to adulthood and rapid aging!

I heard Green Day this morning on the adult contemporary station.

Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darrin, The Beatles, Elton John, The Police, and Green Day. They're all on the old fart station.

Apparently the only truly youthful and vibrant crowd are the under twelve set.

So, to the graduating classes of 1995, '96, '97, '98, and '99, I say "Welcome."

The shuffleboard courts are to your left and senior art class starts in thirty minutes.

In the meanwhile, I raise my cup of Metamucil and salute you.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Happy birthday Dr. Seuss!

Sorry you're dead.