parenthood and class

My wife and I have started watching a new show called Parenthood, (very loosely) based on the <a href="1989 movie of the same name. The television version is set in Berkeley — though clearly some alternate reality Berkeley who’s had its progressive-liberal claws removed — and it looked like the pilot, at least, was actually filmed here in the Bay Area, so it’s local connection was an immediate hook. I find myself wanting to like the show more than I actually do. It’s leaning toward being good, but hasn’t quite gotten there yet.

Sarah Braverman, the Diane Wiest character, played here by former Gilmore Girls mom Lauren Graham, has an interesting story line. She’s clearly being written as the plucky, down on your luck, possibly working-class character in juxtaposition to her upper-middle class siblings and parents. Her sister is a high-powered attorney and one of her brothers seems to own his own business. Her other brother (the Tom Hulce character from the film) seems to be a screw-up, but he also lives on a houseboat, has a wealthy girlfriend, and works in a recording studio. Unlike his movie character, I don’t see him getting thrown out of a moving car in front of his parent’s house any time soon.

Sarah, on the other hand, never went to college. She’d been a bartender in Fresno before leaving her alcoholic husband and taking her two teenaged kids with her back to Berkeley where they have to live with her parents while she looks for a new job. In last week’s episode, she enrolls her kids in the local high school; but because of some transcript or bureaucratic mix-up, her daughter is being forced to repeat the 10th grade.

When the mom finds out, she goes to the principal’s office to plead her daughter’s case. Now, this show is a mellow-drama, so this scene is full of heavy-handed music and platitudes while the mom bravely holds back tears and the principal wear a stern yet compassionate expression. In one of the subsequent scenes, we see the principal taking the daughter out of her class, ostensibly escorting her to the 11th grade. Mom won.

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the economics of academia: an open question

This post is about language and about travel. And this is a post directed more toward my readers who have served time, as it were, in academia, either professionally or as a student. But, of course, it is certainly not limited to those folks. Whatever your background, feel free to chime in!

In the days of yore, when Buddhist Studies was just emerging as a distinct discipline in European and American higher education, it was more or less expected that if you wanted to do Buddhist studies work, you were going to have to learn the traditional Buddhist languages: Pali and Sanskrit. Probably some classical Chinese and maybe even Tibetan. Serious east-Asian scholars would need to learn Japanese as well and to the extent that 99.9% of academics back in the day were well-educated white men with a classical education, they were no doubt coming to their fields having learned Latin and French and/or German in secondary school or college. Polyglots ruled the school.

To this day, there remains a certain breed of scholar who believes that real Buddhist Studies work requires language study. Real Buddhism is to be found in the texts, in the words of the Buddha, and to read those texts you need to know the language. And these folks will be quick to tell you what a travesty it is that the number of mono-linguists seems to be outpacing the number of polyglots.

end of summer

We got some weird weather in these parts in September. September in the Bay Area is usually a late summer, dry and hot. Instead, we got thunder storms. A somewhat fitting end for a summer of contentious, Buddhist blogging about the politics of race and representation.

Over the last couple of days, I have tried to write a blog post about these issues, some sort of summary post, or some sort of recap of the issues, or even a response to some of the more slanderous things that been said out there. But I can’t seem to get the right tone, get my thoughts in order. I keep getting distracted.