Random Tuesday Morning Thoughts

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It’s still morning out here, so deal with it you all of you East Coast losers.

1. More people need to know about The Teaching Company. For a decent price you can listen to some very good lectures on just about anything you want. Check ’em out.

2. First Lady Laura Bush is speaking at Pepperdine’s Graduation and I’m not going. Not out of protest or anything (I’d actually like to hear her), but because I forgot to RSVP reserving my seat at graduation. I’m not all that upset. Because I’m not a good American.

3. Yesterday’s LA Times had a cover story on families living on Skid Row and holy cow was it depressing. Anyone ever seen Skid Row? Imagine hell with prostitutes and that’ll give you a good idea. And there are kids who live there. There’s a controversial new plan to remove the kids from Skid Row, even if that means taking them away from the parents — who aren’t necessarily bad people — they just can’t provide for their families.

4. Men’s Volleyball may be the most exciting sport you never seen. It helps that Pepperdine is #1 in the nation, but it was exciting last year when we weren’t #1.

5. My roommate from my days in Syracuse, Phil Lamarche, called last night. He’s doing a book tour right now. His first book, American Youth, came out last week. The guy is a great writer. Buy his book. I’ll try to do a review of it, you know, whenever I do my next review (sometime in August, I suspect). He used to get up at 4 in the a.m. and write until 10 or 11 in the a.m. And then he’d go kayaking or hiking or skiing. He couldn’t stand being inside all day. But he loved to write. So he sacrificed sleep. So I’m pulling for his book to do well. And it really is good, even if I am biased and would say that regardless of it’s readability.

6. Not to get all political and whatnot — but a his speach yesterday, President Bush once again linked Iraq to the September 11th attacks. How many commissions do we need to say there was no connection before he’ll quit making the connection?

7. I’m on the final leg of Pynchon’s Against the Day. I hit a wall somewhere around page 600, but it’s picked back up.

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20 Responses to “Random Tuesday Morning Thoughts”

  1. juvenal_urbino Says:

    1. Yes. IME, though, the quality of their material can be pretty uneven. Have you found that?

    3. Never seen the actual Skid Row, but saw similar things in NYC. It seems to be one of those problems there just isn’t a good answer for. That said, I’m not sure LA’s approach even sounds all that reasonable.

    5. I see your ex-roomie got, overall, solid reviews from PW and BookList — the former a starred review. That’s gotta make a 1st-time author a bit giddy. The book sounds interesting. The reviews made me think of Vernon God Little. And both make me think of Virginia Tech. I wonder how your friend feels about the timing.

    6. No number of non-findings of a connection will make those who believe in a connection stop claiming there was a connection. That’s because they Believe In It. Since their belief in it isn’t founded on empirical evidence in the first place, the absence of said evidence (or even the presence of countervailing evidence) doesn’t shake their belief. We’re stuck with it, and will be from now on.

    7. How long is Pynchon’s “final leg,” the wordy sumbuck?

  2. Michael Lasley Says:

    1. The ones I’ve listened to have been pretty solid.

    5. He gets really nervous about the reviews, but he’s really happy about them right now, since they’ve mostly been good. LA Times had a very good one Sunday. And we didn’t talk about VT, but it does have some similarities, what with a kid getting involved with a gang of gunslingers and violence in general.

    7. The final leg is 200 pages. I figure 4/5ths of the way through a book is close enough to call it the final leg.

    And I didn’t mean to ignore VT this morning. Like everyone, I feel for them and am thinking a lot about it. I think it’s more “real” to me this afternoon since they’ve released names and faces of the people who were killed.

  3. Unicorn Says:

    5. Reviews

    I read the LA Times review. Guess I better buy the book tomorrow, although it sounds like it will be painful to read.

  4. Michael Lasley Says:

    Unicorn — it’s worth reading. It is a really good story, and Phil has a great way with dialogue, I think. But again, I’m biased.

  5. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Am I going to miss Laura when I come to the lectures?

    (I missed her when she ate lunch a couple hundred yards from my office, so I guess I’ll live if so…) ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Michael Lasley Says:

    I assume so. Graduation is the Saturday before the lectureships. When are you going to be here? Look forward to seeing you.

  7. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I figure 4/5ths of the way through a book is close enough to call it the final leg.

    Yes, I’d say 4/5ths qualifies.

    I wonder if people who’ve survived school shootings have flashbacks, etc., whenever a new one is in the news.

  8. Al Sturgeon Says:

    I’ll be there Tuesday thru Saturday.

  9. Michael Lasley Says:

    JU — that’s a great question. I’ve not thought about it before. Maybe Whitney would have some insight on it?

    Al — you’ll miss Laura. But you get to see me. That should be some consolation.

  10. Whitney Says:

    Hi guys.

    I’ve been trying to post, but wasn’t able to log in w/ my old blogger sign in.

    Mikey/JU–I would think for anyone w/ severe PTSD this might trigger some flashbacks. For those who have had a mentally healthy adjustment (read: realistic view of the world and understanding of the rarity of this type of thing) I don’t think it would trigger panic so much as extreme sadness.

    I saw a quote from a girl who was actually a student at Columbine during the shootings there and is currently a student at VT (odds of that?). She said that it was really strange because she didn’t connect the two incidents until much, much later, but that right away she didn’t think about her experience at Columbine (where she escaped the cafeteria shootings).

    Teenagers are so resilient. I don’t know if there’s much difference in these types of experiences in adolescence and adulthood, that’s what developmental psychologists do, but I would guess there are some differences based on levels of moral understanding and experience.

    I am going to try to pick up a copy of your friend’s book. It looks really interesting. Also, I’d be sorry to miss Laura, too, but I HATE sitting through graduations, so you’re probably better off! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Mikey, I tried to post this question earlier, but I couldn’t. How did your students handle Monday’s shootings? Mine were, surprisingly enough, pretty wound up about it. Many of them had somewhat profound reactions and wanted to discuss it in class, stating they were feeling less secure and more anxious. I was surprised because these kids have such strong feelings of invincibility, along with media presentations of death that leave them less sensitive, etc, I didn’t expect them to be moved by it. I was totally freaked out once I got to class because I developed this mental image of someone entering my classroom and killing my ENTIRE class. My stomach just turned.

    Anyway, I hope this posts, because if not, I’m going to scream.

  11. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Wow. Terrific comment, Whitney. Thanks.

    Teenagers are so resilient. I don’t know if there’s much difference in these types of experiences in adolescence and adulthood, that’s what developmental psychologists do

    “Resilient” strikes me as the perfect word for teenagers. They “bounce back” well. But there seems to be a time factor. Short, sharp shocks simply bounce off them. But that same rubberiness works against them if they’re bent into an odd shape and held there over a longer period. They don’t bounce back. They take that shape and keep it. They get deformed.

    As for early adulthood (i.e., the college years), isn’t that when a person’s notion of who s/he is is set — usually for the rest of his/her life? I wonder if college students still have enough of that teenage ability to recover from sharp shocks to prevent their permanent sense of who they are and how they fit into the world from being deformed by something like this. And I wonder how that community’s response to the shootings — which will be a longer-term phenomenon — will affect those students’ permanent sense of who they are and how they fit into the world.

  12. Whitney Says:

    As for early adulthood (i.e., the college years), isn’t that when a person’s notion of who s/he is is set — usually for the rest of his/her life? I wonder if college students still have enough of that teenage ability to recover from sharp shocks to prevent their permanent sense of who they are and how they fit into the world from being deformed by something like this.

    Good question…and one that opens up a Pandora’s box of sorts. You get into the questions of self-esteem and then into selfishness. I think those students who have the entitled “the world is as my disposal” attitude tend to be more likely to be negatively affected by these sorts of events. They take them personally and perhaps, repeat perhaps, more profoundly. Those that understand that they are NOT the center of the world and that bad things can happen to anyone, anytime may adjust more appropriately. It’s a locus of control thing. Of course, it all also depends on the level of exposure to the trauma and the way it is dealt with in the immediate and the long-term. I’m sure there is no regression equation that would explain even a majority of the variation in their responses.

    And, you talk about the rubber being held in a position for so long as to skew the mental health, I think you described exactly what happened to the VT shooter. I am NOT saying he wasn’t personally to blame and that his actions were the long-term fault of anyone else. I don’t even believe that for a second. It just seems like his psyche was bent and no one saw it in time to heat and reshape.

    Am I just rambling? Do I even make sense. I have a lot of thoughts and not time enought to voice them adequately…but you can count on scores of psych articles to do so in the next few months. Ought to be an interesting time.

  13. Al Sturgeon Says:

    You make LOTS of sense, Whitney. I just posted something on my “Minutes to Memories” blog at alsturgeon.blogspot.com along these very lines. I hope what I wrote doesn’t come across as insensitive to Lisa who has been commenting there (she is there in Blacksburg).

    I tried to invite Lisa into this conversation, but she understandably has lots of blogs/emails going on right now already. I hope she makes it over anyway…

  14. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I am NOT saying he wasn’t personally to blame and that his actions were the long-term fault of anyone else.

    I tend not to think of that as an either/or situation. He’s to blame for the shootings. Others may be to blame, in varying degrees, for warping his mind.

    It just seems like his psyche was bent and no one saw it in time to heat and reshape.

    I haven’t really paid much attention to the news about the shooter himself. I heard he was a loner (which I’m not at all sure is true, because I’m a loner and he was never at the meetings) and that he’d written some pretty disturbing stuff for his English classes, which caused somebody at some point to send him for counseling. (I gather that didn’t take.) That’s all I’ve heard, though.

    Are they saying he had some difficulties as a child or teenager that might have left him mentally damaged?

    And Mikey — have you ever gotten a student essay that caused you to suggest they get counseling?

  15. juvenal_urbino Says:

    A link from Al:

    Va. Tech shooter was picked on in school

    The headline above is as the article appeared when Al sent me the link. The current headline is “Va. Tech shooter a ‘textbook killer’.” An interesting example of newsroom editorial [re-]decisionmaking.

  16. Whitney Says:

    “Textbook” is the word I used to describe him, too, after reading the same article (and before they changed the headline).

    I was just discussing this with Joe. This is, unfortunately, going to call for all sorts of monitoring and profiling, but one thing people really need to understand is this: The profile that fits this kid fits a whole lot of other people who have never nor will ever want or try to kill a massive number of people. Any attempt at profiling and preselecting these types of people is just going to wind up giving us a whole lot of false positives.

    I think kids are mean, really mean. I was picked on occasionally in school and had a friend who was really picked on. I knew some real loners. There were even a few people who made me uneasy. But I really believe that no matter how hard we try we will never be able to pick these people out without adding pain and confusion to the lives of those who don’t deserve it. It’s a truly tough problem.

    However, I do think there should be some sort of mental health eval/screening before people can buy guns. I’m not a huge gun control freak, nor am I a member of the NRA. I roll (hee hee, I said roll) somewhere in the middle. But people such as Cho, who have been labeled by mental health professionals as a “danger to self or others” should be prevented from purchasing firearms. I understand he could still wield an ax or a knive or even make a bomb, but it seems like a logical start. Joe made the point that privacy advocates will never go for that and will say the government doesn’t have a right to know the mental health status of everyone, and he’s probably right. I’m very middle of the road on this, so I don’t want to start a political debate. Just my 2c.

  17. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Great thoughts, Whitney, but I think your dilemma points to the ultimate impotence of all of these types of solutions (i.e. gun control, profiling, etc.).

    Everyone get out your cigarette lighters and sing along, “What. The. World. Needs. Now. Is Love. Sweet Love.”

    Seriously.

    I don’t preach on love repeatedly just because Jesus made it the center point of his message. I preach on it repeatedly because I think he was on to something.

    And I think Cho is providing a dramatic example, but I’m afraid most will prefer dehumanizing him so that he becomes a monster from another planet. Then, this whole tragedy will just devolve into a special interest group orgy.

  18. juvenal_urbino Says:

    privacy advocates will never go for that and will say the government doesn’t have a right to know the mental health status of everyone, and he’s probably right

    I think he is. But 2 points.

    One, if somebody has a serious mental health problem, there’s a good chance the government already knows about it — if that person has gotten medical treatment, at least. The gov’t keeps a database of every prescription for a scheduled prescription drug. So if you’ve taken any mental health medication that falls in that category, they already know, generally, your mental health status.

    Two (and talking as if #1 weren’t the case), a mental health check before a gun purchase doesn’t equate to the government having a right to know the mental health status of everybody. It wouldn’t apply to everybody; only those who want to buy a gun. And it doesn’t grant the government a “right,” in the sense that we usually use that term — i.e., it’s statutory rather than innate, and revokable rather than inalienable.

    Things would get pretty messy in a hurry, though, when it came to deciding which mental health problems disqualify a person for which weapons. If you’re a paranoid schizophrenic with violent delusions, it’s probably safe to say you couldn’t buy a water gun. What if you’re just manic-depressive, though? Does it matter what form your mania takes? What if your illness makes you suicidal, but not homicidal? What about a mother who was treated for post-partum depression after the births of each of her children, but doesn’t plan on having any more?

    Immanuel Kant had a word for this kind of thing: icky-poo.

    Then, this whole tragedy will just devolve into a special interest group orgy.

    Well, you did say you wanted to see more love.

  19. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Any attempt at profiling and preselecting these types of people is just going to wind up giving us a whole lot of false positives.

    Agreed. This is a problem with profiling in general.

    I think kids are mean, really mean.

    And agreed.

  20. Michael Lasley Says:

    Thanks for the insight, Whitney. Really great stuff. And my students were upset, as well. We talked about it a bit, but we didn’t talk about it too much. There was just an eery feel to the classes on Monday.

    I think the gut reactions against guns and video games and violence in tv are not good responses. I may be for some sort of gun control, but this incident has less to do with guns than it does with someone who obviously had problems. Or was just mean. Or both.

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