Bad News I Have My Eye On

The headline from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Utah State U. Press Is ‘Marked for Elimination’ Under Worst-Case Budget Scenario

The most chilling parts:

Mr. Spooner said that, except for the salary assistance, his press pays its own way. “We cover all costs of operations and publishing 20 books a year through sales income, permissions, donations, and our annual Swenson Poetry Award,” he said. “At the same time, without the salary support, we cannot go on.”


Money is one thing. How does one put a dollar value on the intellectual cachet a press brings to its home institution? Mr. Spooner speaks passionately about the nonmonetary value his press adds, and how its books and authors help make Utah State University part of a larger conversation.

Garrison Keillor read from a Utah State title last week on his “Writer’s Almanac” show, the director noted, and “scholars in folklore and composition and Mormon history often say explicitly that the only important contact they have with USU is through our books. These are not marginal fields, but they are also not overserved by publishers. Without USU Press, important research and theory will be lost.”

He fears that point may be hard to convey to the number crunchers. “The budget planners’ model defines us as a nonessential unit because we are a not a degree-granting unit. I understand,” Mr. Spooner said. “What they don’t understand is how it would cost our institution in terms of its reputation, image, and impact to close us.

“I have heard of closing university presses in trouble for long-term deficits or for lack of impact, but I have never seen a press closed that was operationally sound, financially stable, and overachieving its given mission.”

I’m not sure I can even talk about this, but I didn’t want to let it pass unnoticed.

Some Last First Impressions

–Argh.  I did love Aretha and her hat was fabulous!

–I loved Elizabeth Alexander’s poem.  I didn’t think it was a great poem by any stretch, but I thought it was a perfect poem–the kind of poem people who aren’t all that into poetry can hear and get something from on that initial hearing.  I don’t think it’s the kind of poem you want to mull over for five evenings straight, but it was a great poem for a public delivery like that and I love having public poets.

–I thought Obama’s speech was very good.  I liked the sense of a wide and deep history of the United States that we are a part of and can draw on.

–And my last point.  The difference between Rev. Warren and Rev. Lowery were so striking that I, who had previously been embarrassed by Warren am now embarrassed for him.  Just from a secular stand-point he ended up looking like a doofus because everyone who followed him projects a love of language and words and their richness and power, how they feel in mouths, how they carry, with ease, great weight, and how, if you let your Self out of the way and let them come to life through you, the energy between you and your audience is crackly and palitable.

But let’s just turn to the sacred problems he had.  An invocation should, by definition, invite people into a sacred space and, in turn, invite the presence of the Holy.  The Holy is always ready, but the people are not.  So, part of an invocation is shifting people’s perspectives.  That should be the initial purpose.  That’s why in any ceremony, the first movement is to address the people–“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…”  And then, you acknowledge God’s presense.  And then, as an effective preacher, you have only two choices.  You either act as the impetus for the congregation’s experience of the Holy or you act as the conduit for the congregation’s experience of the Holy.  You are either out of the flow or standing small at the center of it.

But the point of an invocation is to ready the people for the the palpable presense of God and to make room for Him.  Literally, you are preparing the people for the entrance of God.  You are not, as Warren’s style seems to suggest, standing on God’s front lawn with a list of demands you have taken from the crowd, shouting them out at him, so that all of the people in the crowd will marvel at the fact that you know where God’s house is.

And then, when Lowery was all “God’s people say ‘amen'” and the people they showed on MSNBC looked tickled and delighted to be able to participate–not in some rote recitation of the Lord’s Prayer–but in a dynamic end to the moment?  I wondered if Warren had sense enough to be embarrassed in his utter failure to connect the people with his God and Lowery’s effortless skill at it.

But still, the thing I keep coming back to is how obvious it is that Warren cannot project a love of words and/or Scripture and that, frankly, he failed at the one job he had today.

I wonder if he’s always that shitty a preacher and, if so, how’d he manage to grow his church so big?

The Thing on Watching With You

Driving in and listening to NPR and being excited about getting here and deciding which coverage I was going to tune into, I realized something.

Before today, I cannot remember a time in my life when the whole nation came together–hungry for news coverage, feeling that they had to be there or know someone who was going, watching and watching again–I cannot remember a moment in my life when the whole nation came together for good news.

The memories I have of hanging onto images and waiting for updates and not being able to look away, of wanting to get together with friends or family so that I wasn’t the lonely witness, have all been national tragedies.  Reagan getting shot, space shuttles blowing up, wars and more wars, Oklahoma City, Columbine, 9/11, Katrina, etc. etc. etc.

I have never, in my life, witnessed America coming together in celebration.

And yet, here we are.

I didn’t know what I was missing.


I’ll be watching from work.  And I am feeling kind of… I don’t know… frankly, still disbelieving.  I spent so much of the Bush years in disbelief, wondering if I was the only person who noticed that the government was being run by people who seemed either to believe that democracy and the opinion of Americans sucked (Cheney) or by people who seemed to think that being President and leading the country was like being in a movie–all swagger and tough-guy “bring-it-on-ness” and well-directed photo ops.

I understand people’s annoyance with how Obama is being situated in with Lincoln and Kennedy and Reagan, but my god, at least those are real people and if it means the end of political reasoning like “By god, if it worked for Jack Bauer in 24, it’ll work for us in Cuba!”, I say, with a big wink and a nod at history, “bring it on.”

Obama is going to fuck up.  He’s going to fuck up huge.  And he’s not going to be the world’s greatest president.

I don’t think anyway.

And yet, it’s going to happen.  I feel a little like I felt when I was watching the election and early on in the evening the pundits were all playing it like it was too close and McCain could win and so on and so on all this “America is deeply and equally divided” stuff and then all of a sudden, when they called California for Obama, it was like there was this moment–of disbelief–when it was still fairly early in the evening and Obama had just won handily.  When it was clear that the way we understood ourselves as Americans, the way America had been pitched to us by the media for 8 years, was just not true.

I love how catchy Obama’s “Yes We Can” slogan is (and apparently so does Pepsi), but when I watched the faces of the people around the nation, I thought more it was a cry of relief of “No, we’re not.”  A little bit like the whole country was Scrooge after a long Christmas Eve night, visited by ghosts we hope to never have to see again.

And I love that I will be able to sit alone in my office and watch it on my computer while getting emails and twitters and facebook updates from people who are there.  Has there ever been a time in the history of our country when we were in such constant communication with each other?  It tickles me so much, to know I’ll watch it live with my friends who are there.

And yet, I still can’t believe it’s happening.  Because, I, too, believed that George Bush was who America wanted, that a presidency of action hero posturing was what we thought we were and what we needed.

I was wrong.  I’m delighted that I was wrong.

But I still can’t quite believe this is actually happening.

Don’t Say I Never Gave You Nothing

Check here for some awesome music.

I’m really enjoying “Dead Flowers.”  I’m still not sure what I’m hearing on “This Little Light of Mine,” but I want the whole album.  (Didn’t see it at Amazon, though).  And I am falling over with delight at “Am I Demon,” though I realized sadly yesterday that I no longer know any Danzig fans I can make listen to it.

Which put me in mind again of that crappy VH1 top metal countdown.  Everyone, it seems, has become a born-again Christian, even fucking Dave Mustaine.  I swear, if the folks from Slayer start going to church, that’s it for me.