IMHO really meaning In my NOT SO humble opinion ***
The main flaw in the way HS English classes approach lit crit lies not in the nature of textual analysis, but in the way schools measure mastery of subjective topics. If tests & grade metrics choose A Right Answer ™, interpretative reading dies.
The question of metaphor & theme has no one answer in the real world. What I’m saying is, IMHO the following meme sucks.
This unfortunately now-classic joke Venn diagram about English teachers & blue curtains has only two circles. Reality has a hundred. A thousand. There are as many intersecting circles as there are people with different interpretations.
I found this gem on tumblr and loved it so much I’m putting it here so I will never lose it. The link in the meme-takedown image takes you to the full analysis on setonhill.edu.
I found similar takedown on tumblr, although I can’t find the original to link to (I AM SO SORRY) from user kendallroy:
idk who needs to hear this but when your english teacher asks you to explain why an author chose to use a specific metaphor or literary device, it’s not because you won’t be able to function in real-world society without the essential knowledge of gatsby’s green light or whatever, it’s because that process develops your abilities to parse a text for meaning and fill in gaps in information by yourself, and if you’re wondering what happens when you DON’T develop an adult level of reading comprehension, look no further than the dizzying array of examples right here on tumblr dot com.
this post went from 600 to 2400 notes in the time it took me to write 3 emails. i’m already terrified for what’s going to happen in there
k but also, as an addendum, the reason we study literary analysis is because everything an author writes has meaning, whether it was intentional or not, and their biases and agendas are often reflected in their choice of language and literary devices and so forth! and that ties directly into being able to identify, for example, the racist and antisemitic dogwhistles often employed by the right wing, or the subconscious word choices that can unintentionally illustrate someone’s bias or blind spot. LANGUAGE HAS WEIGHT AND MEANING!
the way we communicate is a reflection of our inner selves, and that’s true regardless of whether it’s a short story or a novel or a blog post or a tweet. instead of taking a piece of writing at face value and stopping there, assuming that there is no deeper meaning or thought behind the words on the page, ask yourself these two questions instead:
what is the author trying to say?
what does the author maybe not realize they’re saying?
because the most interesting reading of any piece of literature, imho, usually occupies the space in between those questions.
IMHO, the author referenced in the original blue curtain meme may have just written blue curtains to match the wallpaper, but that doesn’t invalidate anyone else’s interpretation of a deeper meaning. The whole point of analysing writing is to discuss, share ideas and look at things from other perspectives. NOT TO FIND A RIGHT ANSWER AND FORCE EVERYONE TO ACCEPT IT.
***TLDR: this post is really a very longwinded way of reminding myself that people who see VERY different things in my writing than what I think I put into it are fully, entirely justified in their interpretations.
And I am fully, entirely justified in disagreeing with them, too. (I love posting rants on holiday weekends when I know no one’s really reading blogs.)
And now for a book some people think is great and others think has characters who are too flawed & “aren’t given enough agency at the start,” as if a) agency is a gift & not a hard-fought right and b) that wasn’t a real problem women have to solve in the real world too. Harumph. Anyway.
The Sharp Edge of Yesterday
A mother on the run from her criminal past can’t escape the dangerous superpower developing inside her own body.
Grace Reed just wants to be left alone with her daughters, her small business and her quiet suburban life.
Fate has something bigger planned for all of them.
A contemporary fantasy novel about coming of age in middle age, The Sharp Edge Of Yesterday is in bookstores & libraries now.
Feral isn’t a trendy word anymore, but I don’t care. The truth is, it suits me, so I’m keeping it. When we entered Pandemic Times, lo, these 3+ years ago, I sowed my fucks in a barren field where they have gone to compost.
I have always been “too” intense. Too forceful. Too prone to spouting off massive amounts of knowledge no one asked to receive. It bugs people, it distresses people, it makes people uncomfortable. So I always did the emotional work to tame myself in the company of others.
Not saying I succeeded, only that I tried.
These days I’ve not only stopped working so hard to throttle back to socially acceptable levels of muchness, I am getting assertive about Not Caring if the resulting Too Muchness bothers other people.
Even friends. Because if I can’t be myself around people, are those people really friends?
Feral is fine. I’ve always been feral.
I dislike parties for many reasons. Instant regrets and days of kicking myself for opening my mouth an speaking up about anything top the list. Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria means often feeling like I’ve done wrong even when the hypothetical “objective observer” wouldn’t agree.
Do I go off on the regular? Hell, yes, of course my slips show if I feel I am among friends. But I always used to regret cutting loose in group environments. I always heavily moderated myself around others. Even friends.
So it’s quite likely that even if you know me “well,” you don’t know me at my full-on feral mostness.
The only people who know the full me are the ones who grew up with me, are married to me, or worked a bookstore opening with me & spent an overnight lying on the carpet in the kid’s section wondering how the FUCK we were ever going to get done in time.
That’s what I used to say, anyway.
Since 2021, I’ve added another category: folk who shared hotel room meals at cons with me despite being required to demonstrate proof of vaccination and a clean rapid test before I would share unmasked airspace.
Anyway, if you think I am Rather a Lot already, if you have ever thought I am Too Much, you may want to shift your interaction parameters to limit exposure from now on.
I’m only going to get wilder.
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Sipping tea and sitting in sunshine with the cat on my office couch was a fabulous way to spend a Sunday morning. I spent a lot more time there than I originally intended.
My one brief peek at the internet was a mistake because along with the wildly irresponsible fear-mongering, scientifically-dubious, hand-wringing over the Omicron surge, I learned there are folks claiming that vaccinated people who minimize human contact and wear masks are doing it because we’re scared of getting sick. That we’re pathologically anxious. That we’re frightened out of our wits and suffering from a mass delusion, even.
OH FFS. That’ll teach me to open up my browser on the weekend. I MEAN. Beyond the WTAF aspect, there’s the projection part (accusing someone of having a trait you actually have.) It really torques me off that the assholes who spread disinformation to undermine public confidence in all information sources do so much better a job than the have reached a new record in Awfulness.
Keeping other people’s germs out of my face when infection rates of anything are skyrocketing is a sensible way to avoid getting sick. Always has been. I hope wearing masks during seasonal virus peaks becomes normalized tbh. And with a novel disease the reality is that eventually I will get sick, but the longer I stay uninfected and the more I can train my immune system beforehand, the better.
That isn’t delusional. That’s common sense — unless you also believe the disease itself is essentially harmless. And to believe that, you have to dismiss hundreds of sources in dozens of countries who have nothing invested in lying about its badness.
Liars who spread disinformation to erode public trust in all existing sources of information? REALLY TORQUE ME OFF. HARUMPH.
ANYway. End mini rant. That’s a big grump, but it’s my only one from today, so…yay? And it ties into the books I’m starting the new year with. One’s on reserve at the library and I’ve recommended purchase of the other. Cultish by Amanda Montell, about the language of extremism, and Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention by Johann Hari, an examination of the many ways the modern environment demolishes our ability to concentrate and learn.
In other cheerful moments today, there was snow-shoveling in the sunshine. Spouseman and I even made a tiny little maze in the snow on the patio because, hey, we have a patio! We also took Pippin out for his first walk in snow. I wasn’t sure how he would react to the cold and wet.
He loved it. I shoud’ve known.
That adventure was followed by returning some movies to the library, then coming home for a victorious supper of soup, crusty garlic bread and baked apples.
Tonight’s viewing of Howl’s Moving Castle went very well. I’d seen it before and love it. Spouseman loved it. He also looked at me afterwards and said, “I am proud of myself for being very good about not asking questions.” It isn’t typical Chekov’s gun plotting with every surprise foreshadowed and every character perfectly pigeonholed in a type. It skips merrily along and
Which is a thing I love about Mizaki storytelling.
Then I made more cookies and watched Hawkeye. Good fun. The banter, the complications, THE BROADWAY SONGS AND POSTERS ZOMG. And the scenes with Yelena Belova/Black Widow were extra super fun.
Now I am caught up on the MCU except for the new Spiderman, which I will eventually see. And The Eternals. Is that MCU? I’m not sure. But I have its release noted so I can watch when it hits streaming.
We have one more day of “winter break.” On tap: more Studio Ghibli and a movie called Encanto, which is a Disney thing. And Boba Fett. That should be interesting.
And that is that. Have a sleepy cat photo. Until later.
PS: Pssssst. I almost forgot. Books! I write ’em. You can read em. There are links. I’m not putting one in here because no one ever clicks them anyway.
1. Overheard: “That isn’t an isolation bubble. That is foam. Foam is full of holes.” Evocative. Except for the part where it’s true for most people and thus an underestimated source of risk.
2. There is a difference between rationalizing denial and accepting mitigated risks. I’m having a hard time articulating that difference, but I’m certain it exists.
3. OMFG enough of accusing people who get covid of “letting down their guard.” Stop with the judgy moral superiority nonsense. JUST STOP. Look. Precautions are not magic. Exposure happens. All of us will eventually face down this virus armed only with our immune systems. It’s inevitable. No one likes to think about that, but it’s been true since the moment this virus escaped Wuhan. You can be careful and cautious and still catch Covid. Illness isn’t a mark of moral deficiency or personal failure. It can’t be overcome by having a pure heart or warded off by Doing All The Right Things. Sitting up on a high horse and sneering at the sick is pride headed for a fall.
4. BUT WAIT. I’m equally annoyed with the other type of magical thinking, the kind that makes people think they somehow earn a free pass from environmental dangers as a reward for good behavior. I’m really tired of actively risky behavior being excused because people are “tired of taking precautions.”
FFS, does no one ever engage in analysis by analogy anymore? Every winter I get hella tired of putting on a heavy fucking coat and other extra layers of outer protection to keep from freezing. But I rarely say, “I am so tired of wearing a coat, I’ll go without.” Rarely, but not never. I weigh the risk of freezing against the potential for frostbite or death and act accordingly. Short trip to the trashcan when the temp’s in the teens? I might run barefoot w/o a jacket. Hour walk outside when it’s -10 degrees? NOPE.
This is called risk evaluation and mitigation.
Here’s another one. Every time I drive a car and come to a red light, it’s an annoyance and an aggravation and I get VERY tired of the delays to my travel. BUT I NEVER GET TO SAY, “I’M TIRED OF STOPPING AT RED LIGHTS, I’LL JUST BUZZ THROUGH THIS ONE INTERSECTION.”
Four years spent in science labs working with various poisons and caustics left its mark on me. I cannot imagine saying, “I’ve worn goggles, aprons, and gloves every time all semester and it’s a hassle, so Imma go without today.” And despite diligently taking precautions every time I was in the lab, I went home more than once with acid-eaten holes in my sleeves or a yellow dot of nitric acid on my skin. And others had worse accidents. BECAUSE SHIT HAPPENS.
So I can have both annoyances at once without cognitive dissonance. If someone’s doing all they can, weighing risks, taking the ones they deem worthwhile, being responsible about accepting and mitigating the consequences of mistakes? I’m all over empathy and ready to support in any possible way.
5. Um. But my opinion of people who thoughtfully, deliberately refuse to take precautions against infection because they are misguided, distrust all expertise except their own, and are breathtakingly selfish? Yeah, don’t come at me with the sympathy pleas. I’ll save my energy for others.
6. Didn’t get much done today because I was here ranting (and elsewhere researching) but hey. At least I’m wordsing, not mutely doom-scrolling through Facebook & Twitter, right?
7. We’re watching Shang Chi at home tonight instead of Spiderman in a reserved theater because multiple people got exposed to Covid over the holiday weekend and that news boosted the risk of 3 hours in a public place w/people outside my bubble over my comfort threshold. I mean. I could’ve stayed double-masked through the movie and felt comfortable, but that would’ve diminished the experience below my enjoyment threshold. Risk evaluation. Risk mitigation. Choices.
So. It’s Christmas cookies and comfy jammy pants ftw tonight. And this second viewing of Shang Chi affirms my memory that I LOVED this movie bunches. Top 5 in the whole MCU for me.
This isn’t the post I planned to write this week, but it’s On My Mind, so it’s the post that happened.
I could also title it, “An Open Letter to the nice veterinarian I won’t ever visit again.” But it’s mostly a rant dressed up in extra-ness, so if that’s not your thing, best skip to the cat pics at the end.
Hello, there! You seem like a good veterinarian. You have good credentials, you have years of experience, and you appear to be a knowledgeable, personable, and perfectly nice human being who loves animals. This is a great vet practice. I’ve worked with another vet & several techs here and had a phenomenally good experiences with all of them. That’s why I came back.
And yet after the one visit with you, I’ve asked the wonderful front desk staff to put a note in my cat’s file: make sure I am never scheduled with you again. Never. Ever.
Why not? (I imagine you wondering) Why would a brand new patient–patient’s owner, to be precise–so intensely reject you after so little time? Welp, a lot of reasons.
The TL;DR edition: Hi there! Maybe ask a few important questions BEFORE launching into the Clueless Pet Owner” lectures and making one-size-fits-none recommendations? Oh, and while you’re at it, save the nutritional guilt-tripping for someone it won’t emotionally demolish. KTHXBAI 4EVAH
Long-form version follows. (btw, I’m not going to name anyone. It’s an excellent vet practice, and like I said, you seem like good people who love animals, & I don’t want anger directed at ANYone.)
It starts the moment I walk into the practice. Your tech “greets” me with a folder full of vendor promotional materials touting products All Good Pet Parents Must Have, along with a vaccinations & wellness schedule for treatments your records should have shown you were already done.
Flustered & bewildered, I anxiously point out that Pips had already had everything on the vaccinations list, that he’s only there for a wellness check so we can schedule his neutering. The tech’s pivot is NOT to ask any clarifying questions like, “Oh, has he been here, we thought he was a new patient?” or “Were you taking him to a different vet?” Nope. They immediately take out the vaccination schedule and begins going through it as if I hadn’t spoken. When I repeat myself, they move on to asking whether I have any specific concerns about Pip’s health.
Beginning with a simple “Hi, is this your first visit here?” before handing over a mass of “buy this stuff or you’re a Bad Pet Parent” propaganda might have cleared up a lot of confusion. A few active listening questions about my pet’s life so far and/or my history of pet ownership seem like obvious basics to get a conversation going. But no. I was handed a folder, and the tech began explaining the schedule at me.
(Pro tip digression: if you must give out pamphlets, let the reciptient read the material in peace for a few moments in silence. Otherwise it sparks information overwhelm/brain shutdown for many of us.)
At this point in the visit, less than five minutes, the tech taking Pip’s history is neither taking me seriously nor listening carefully. This establishes that my pet is being stuffed into the category of A Case, aka A Bundle Of Symptoms. Mistakes are more likely to happen when that’s true. This is scary.
(Spoiler alert: my fears prove real; either the tech doesn’t accurately repeat what I say about Pips, or you, the vet receiving the report, don’t accurately interpret it. Either way, it’s another red flag. More on that later.)
ANYway. Your associate has eroded my trust before we can begin to build a relationship. I’m now feeling increasingly nervous about how Pips will be handled in the Mysterious Back Room where pets are taken for the real exams these days. But you don’t know any of this because you don’t meet me yourself before examining my pet.
Now, Pandemic times means you need to limit your contact. I get that, and I respect it.
But if you are NOT going to meet your patients’ owners even once before handling their animals behind closed door, you need to recognize that pet lovers will be sick with worry and defensive about the wellbeing of their animals by the time you do meet them. Also, a presentation of “brisk professionalism” will only feed the fear that my animal was getting “Interesting Medical Specimen” treatment rather than empathetic, caring, careful treatment.
The way you went from the barest of hellos into “everything looks good, he’s healthy” (‘m paraphrasing) and then straight into an explanation of how you listened for heart issues since he’s a Maine Coon and might have Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy–well. That really grated on me, especially when you added the trivia nugget that most cases of HCM are silent so there’s no way of ruling out later development.
I mean, congratulations, you’ve shown me how knowledgeable you are about the breed. Great job. Pat on the back. But SHEESH. If I wasn’t already knowledgeable about HCM, that would’ve been terrifying.
As it happens, I know Pip’s lineage is clear of HCM, so he’s got as good a chance as possible of avoiding it, AND I’m not breeding him, so there’s no “be responsible about genetics” aspect–but it still jangled my already hyperactive nerves to have it be your main, obvious focus.
It was one more indication that you see him as An Interesting Case more than a furchild.
Next up, you demonstrated you and your tech aren’t communicating by telling me the tech told you I was concerned about my cat’s meow being strange. WTAF. What I said was, Pips makes a weird noise inside his nose when he sniffs at things, something I’ve never had any other cat do, and I was worried it might be a sinus issue.
(I’m still wondering, since you did not address it. Did you even examine his nose or mouth? Are his teeth healthy? He’s teething. It wasn’t on my concern list, but given all the other trust issues, WHO KNOWS IF YOU EVEN LOOKED? I DON’T.)
At this point, I now doubt you’re hearing anything I say, and my anxiety level? Reaching low Earth orbit, propelled there by the way you indulgently brushed off my actual concern as ‘cats make funny noises, it’s pollen & dust season. It sure looks from where I’m standing like you’ve categorized me as Clueless New Cat Mom worrying over nothing. You don’t know me, do you? This is an ASSUMPTION.
Your body language indicates you consider our interaction is wrapping up satisfactorily, with all my concerns allayed by your confidence. Not that you ASKED me if there was anything I might have forgotten earlier. Not that I was in any fit state to remember anything by then.
So to finish up, you ask what I’m feeding him, like it’s a social question rather than the interrogation trap it turned out to be. Once you hear I’m feeding him KITTEN KIBBLE (O, the HORROR) you damn the brand with faint praise and deliver a trainload of unsolicited feeding advice in an “I know better than you because I’m an Expert” tone.
That’s where our possible relationship went full crash-and-burn. When you told me (again, paraphrasing) “You need to be putting him on part or all canned food as soon as possible, and here’s why, according to All The latest Recommendations,” I snapped.
Was it diplomatic of me to flatly turn you down by saying, “that’s not going to happen?” No. Was it confrontational? Sure. Put someone on the defensive for several straight interactions and then gut-punch them with a massive guilt trip, they’re likely to lash out in desperation.
It hasn’t even been 2 months since my beloved Pip’s littermate had to be euthanized due to an incurable, degenerative, congenital condition. I do not have the emotional endurance to deal with owner-shaming.
Did you query why I was so adamant in my disagreement? NOPE. You trotted out All The Usual Phrases in your attempts to bludgeon me into compliance. “Cats are obligate carnivores, dry food has too many carbs,” “cats evolved from desert animals and have a low thirst drive, they need moisture from their food,” and “cats don’t like change, gotta start changes early,” blah, blah, fuckity-blah.
Here’s the thing. You might as well have told me, “I will now use all my Expert Words to overcome your ignorant, I do My oWn rESaRch objections.”
And I understand that impulse. IDMOR objectors are legion. But challenging you doesn’t make me wrong. It means I disagree. You could have asked why. We could have had a discussion. But no. You simply kept listing dire health consequences until I insist I understand and I’ll see how things go, and you begin to realize Things Aren’t Going To End Well.
Maybe free-feeding my kitten dry kibble is sentencing Him To disastrous UTIs, Diabetes, Obesity and Early Death, but was it a necessary part of the evaluation for a 6-month-old kitten who has a great body condition score? I don’t know. I do know it left me reeling from emotional overload.
Look. I am not a veterinarian. That’s why I GO to a veterinarian. But I am neither stupid nor ignorant. I have a degree in biology & 30+ years experience working with kittens & cats in a variety of settings. I research scientific topics as a professional necessity and also for FUNSIES. Yes, I track down primary, peer-reviewed material, check methodology, and investigate citations & related works (among other things) on numerous topics of interest. It’s what I DO.
You bet I’ve done a damned lot of primary journal dives on cat biology and behavior in general, Maine Coons in specific, and medical issues in particular. Expert catchphrases don’t soothe me. They’re like fresh wallpaper. The walls beneath might be great or moldy. It looks the same, and that makes me instantly wary.
I need a professional partner in my cat’s care. Someone who will treat me like the well-read, intelligent, committed caregiver that I am. Part of that is recognizing that questions about diagnostic conclusions and objections to recommendationsare learning gaps to be filled or legitimate differences of informed opinion to be discussed, not ego challenges.
Treating disagreement as an obstacle to be bludgeoned down is not a partnership behavior. It’s bullying.
FFS, I just wanted to confirm Pippin was healthy before getting him snipped & chipped. I was not expecting to get run over by the “You Bad Pet Parent, iF yOu dO NoT Do AS I SAY, YOUR PET IS DOOOOOOOOMED” freight train.
But that’s what happened.
It isn’t my job to teach you how to not accidentally humiliate and emotionally bruise your patients’ owners. It isn’t my job to convince you I’m justified in making educated, needs-based choices that don’t mesh with your “latest research indicates” talking points. I am too old and cranky to deal with this shit, and I will not subject myself or my pet to it again.
But I do wish you well in your work with your other clients now and into the future.
–Sincerely no love, KM
Hello, reader friends! Still with me? Wow, you are dedicated. <blows kisses>. As a reward, have some new pictures of cutie-pie Mister Pippin. Now that I have this vet issue off my chest, maybe I can focus on the WIP or at least a decent post-con roundup. (Gen Con was phenomenal. It deserves a post.)