Sunday, October 10, 2010

Amazon Gets it Very Right

[Edited to add the reason for the title. God, I'm out of practice!] After a gift-shopping spree on Amazon last year threw some wrenches into their profile of me, I have taken to ignoring their now very weird "suggestions for you" list when I log on to search for something. Recently however, I dared to peep at the list on the grounds that it might be funny to see what bizarre books they now think I want. And, lo and behold, I found language, history, theory and cooking books, and very few "Mummies' Guide to Dismantling Auto Engines" kind of books. It has reset itself. Calloo, Callay! In that list were many treasures, the greatest of which belong to the Patricia T. O'Conner and Stewart Kellerman oevre. (Yes, I was just that pretentious in public. Sue me.)

Though I am forced to be a partial Prescriptive Grammarian by trade (8th graders will start every daggone sentence with AND unless you insist they NEVER, EVER do that again, lest they anger the gods of language and get points taken off their work), I absolutely love The Origin of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language by Patricia T. O'Conner and Stewart Kellerman. It's got lots of stuff I revel in: language nerd facts, etymological arguments, and snark aimed at self-appointed grammar mavens who still seem to want to assign levels of moral authority to dialects. (!)

This particular fault is one that I meet up with every day at work. The school I teach in is predominantly African-American, and you would probably pass out if you heard some of the stuff even the (bourgeois) African-American teachers say about the class and regional dialect markers the kids use in their speech and writing. I'm not sure they realize they are thinking ill of the children for being working-class, southern, and black but that's prezactly what they are doing. And it's an ugly part of my personality, but I love doing the superiority dance right back at people who use false facts to make themselves feel superior to others. Especially when they're doing that at children. Of course, that doesn't help at all, because it just solidifies their belief in 'correct' and 'incorrect' language, and makes them more insecure and therefore more pernicious little language bullies, but a girl's got to have her fun.

Anyway, I'm thinking of giving a copy each to a pair of math teachers at my school who insist upon teaching my kids "proper English," despite having no idea what they're talking about. This seems like a less passive-aggressive approach than teaching erroneous Algebra and Geometry formulas in my class, or breaking out into Anglo-Saxon at the next faculty meeting during which "the children can't speak proper English!" comes up, which were my first and second plans, respectively. (At some point I want to write a lovely rant about Mathematicians and Scientists who can't seem to believe that they don't know better than everybody, even when speaking about their interlocutor's area of expertise, because, seriously, WTF is that?!)

[More additions, because I can't shut up.]
I was originally on Amazon looking for a book called Small Batch Baking by Debby Maugans Nakos, which was recommended by a dear friend and trench buddy from the Undergraduate German Class of Doom. God, I love this book! Even before my mom passed away, I was very reluctant to make a number of dishes that we both loved because I only knew how to cook for a small army, having learned the basics of cooking from my mother, who learned how to cook first for her father's restaurant, and then for a farm family and hired hands, and then off the farm for our extended family which included several exceptionally tall athletes. So, lots of food. Since my mother passed, I have been even more reluctant to make home-made baked goods, unless I could organize a dinner party to justify it, because cakes serve 8-10 people, and I do not wish to throw away a perfectly good cake or lasagna, nor to expand to the size of 8 regular people. Besides, even though my appetite can sometimes trip over into the rapacious, I can't demolish a lasagna or German chocolate cake alone. Unless I do like I did out of desperate need of cheesy goodness last week, and decide to eat lasagna for lunch and dinner every day, all week long.

So, now I have an information source which helps me to bake for self-soothing once in a while and have a reasonably-sized treat, rather than one single-sized treat followed by a week of gourmand-level excess that feels more like a chore than a joy. I mean, really, I dig gluttony, but only when there's some variety and discovery in it. The seven deadlies need to feel good in the moment, otherwise why bother, right?

[Tangential Blather]
Some of you may have noticed that I have stopped pretending I don't know how to boil an egg. My current social cohort is no less sexist overall than the graduate school weanies who kept trying to fob off all community work on the women in the program, while separating themselves out to argue feminist theory because they believed they understood that theory so much better than the women in the program (I'm not effing kidding), it's just that I have become much, much meaner in the intervening years. As Twisty typed, all those years ago, self-styled male feminists are greeted with the narrowed eye of suspicion for good reason. (That was a paraphrase because I'm too damned lazy to find the exact quote.) So, I don't need to pretend total incompetence in the kitchen anymore. Now I just tell people to fuck off when they try to nag 'womanly' behaviors out of me. Personal growth feels good. Plus, I get yummy food.

No comments: