Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Five Not So Easy Pieces

Okay, I spoke too soon. No sooner did I post this yesterday, but Nedra Weinreich tagged me. So here goes. My five things that readers probably don’t know about me:

1) I literally owe my existence to the Republican Party. My parents met through the Sunset Young Republicans, where my father was President, and my mother was Secretary. Thus, all of my early formative political experiences were at Republican events. Of course, it was still a time when Republicans were actually talking about women’s rights and national health care, so it was a very different world. One of my fondest memories as a kid was helping cantankerous old Clara Link slap pro-ERA stickers on the backs of unwitting right-wing politicians. (ERA stands for Equal Rights Amendment for the Gen-Xers who might not know that there was once a proposed Constitutional amendment on the subject.)

2) I’ve pretty much always been a big nerd, although I tried to hide it as a teen, when I figured out that my ability to program Space Invaders rip-offs in BASIC on a Radio Shack TRS-80 wasn’t going to get me any dates. Growing up in Pasadena, where one could just as easily dream of being a JPL engineer as a Rose princess, I was encouraged to learn about computers very early on. My father taught me a little FORTRAN, I remember going to Cal Tech and feeding punch cards into their giant machines, and – as this incriminating photo shows – I owned one a Xerox 820 with giant dual 8-inch drives back when it was really just a curiosity. (Since there was an indoor pool in my college dorm, the bikini I am wearing was considered much less of an oddity than the strange machine on my desk.)

3) The lowest grade I received in college – by far – was in Expository Writing, in which I got a “C.” Given that I now direct a nationally-recognized college writing program, this is probably the most embarrassing story about me. (Well, the fact that I was once hypnotized to want to grade papers may be almost as damaging to my reputation, but I only have to reveal five things, so I can leave that one for a future blog post.) In my defense regarding my low grade, I’d point out: 1) None of my other grades were anywhere near that range, 2) My admirable colleague Nancy Sommers was not directing the program then, 3) It was a course deceptively entitled “Writing about Literature,” but the readings included fluff like Nora Ephron, 4) I had just won a national writing contest and so slacked off and didn’t do any drafting.

4) At one time, I was a relatively active member of the local Code Pink group and dressed up in goofy attention-getting ways for marches with other feminist pacifists, as yet another incriminating photo shows. Alas, part of my skepticism about the coverage of activist events by the mainstream media was shaped by the experience. Large, peaceful demonstration: no coverage. Small, quirky demonstration where things got either weird or ugly because of counter demonstrators or uncontrollable sympathizing crackpots: lots of coverage because the local station had a few precious minutes of circus-like events on film

5) For the past few years I have been almost continuously enrolled in various language classes at my local community college, where I am methodically working through their course offerings in French, German, and Japanese. I have discovered that this involves taking real tests and doing real homework and that I am ridiculously invested in getting good grades. Being a student again, given my age and occupation is a little odd, and I will confess to almost always sitting in the front row with the other eager beavers. But I think it has improved my own teaching more than anything else, and I value the extra literacy in languages other than English. In skits, I confess that I usually chose the role of the class clown, lazy student, or other hammy part.

So I’ll tag five people that I would guess haven’t been tagged before: Jenny Cool, Mitsuharu Hadeishi, Julia Lupton, Lynn Mally, and Amy Bruckman.

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Blogger Nedra Weinreich said...

Well, that was fun! You really did bare all (love that bikini!). Thanks for sharing!

9:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you're feeling that nostalgic about the good old ERA days, but think the issue is dead, better hop over to Looks like Arkansas is about to ratify the ERA.

9:23 PM  

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