23 Meteors in One Hour.

So last night wasn’t the peak of the peak; but Les UDs left their Big Meadows Lodge room at 3:18 AM anyway, figuring they’d for sure be the only people at the Big Meadow down the road, which has enormous dark skies. They dressed warmly – mid-August evenings turn out to be cold here, especially when you’re sitting (beach chairs) in the middle of a vast wildflower field.

The short drive over there put UD in mind of the night the lights went out over much of the United States, and Les UDs drove back from Cooperstown to their houselet in Summit in Total Rural Darkness. And Total Rural Silence, something about the gorgeous witchy world having hushed them.

So here’s a family lying in sleeping bags at the entrance to the meadow – quiet father, mother noting each meteor, and small daughter entirely into the experience. A kid, thrilled to be lying on the cold hard ground in the middle of nowhere … Three other cars stood in the parking lot, meaning people had walked through the meadow to distant viewing points.

“Thought we’d be the only people here,” said UD to the sleeping baggers.

“Oh, we set the alarm for 2:30,” said the father.

Les UDs carried their chairs far enough into the meadow to avoid the lights of passing cars, and let their eyes adjust to … yikes… the starriest vastest dome ever…


Mars, the Milky Way. And meteors diving out of the black lagoon – some mere flakes, which we didn’t count, some white missiles with fireballs, missiles so bright they left stellar contrails. With each big one we whooped and clapped and considered again the bizarre good fortune that first hoisted us up onto Skyline Drive and then settled us down into beach chairs under galactic suns.

Barred owls hooted as the heavens rained.

Latest Big Ten Stats!

“[M]ore than half of the Big Ten has now been the subject of a major scandal within the last decade.”

This writer worries about “a cultural problem.”

As UD has been suggesting for oh so long, it ain’t a cultural problem. It’s a cult problem. Many Big Ten programs are classic cults: Small secretive organizations fixated on arcane and violent behaviors, and led by extremely powerful charismatic authoritarians (aka cult leaders). They frighten everyone, starting with the university’s president, and they generate scandal after scandal because, like all cults, they’re fucking nuts.

Today’s faux shock is directed at the University of Maryland’s homicidal football program. And so it goes.

A lovely, lovely walk…

… down Memory Lane.

Islands in the Stream

I’m too excited by my location
to sleep much. The advantage
of this: Not only did I finally,
last night, see a big-ass meteor;
I’m up early enough to see the
valley covered in clouds.

Wow. Pow.

So here’s me.
Sitting under a tree
At three.

And through the tree’s branches came the entire firmament as it is spectacularly to be seen at three AM mid-August in front of Big Meadows Lodge, Shenandoah National Park.

I sat in a chair and watched and in only a few minutes several silver glints swan-dived, and this was fine, this was the whole point of being cold and alone out there in my James Joyce sweatshirt…

Oh but then. Then the sky blazed up with a big meteor! I saw its fireball and was amazed.

As it blazed out I raised my arms and let rip a victory whoop because this after all was the moment of triumph for ol’ UD, who has been trying for years, every August, to see the sky blaze big just like that.

Shenandoah National Park…

… Big Meadows Lodge, has spotty internet, so UD can’t at the moment share the long-view-in-cloud-and-sun picture she just took on her first hike. The mixed weather means thick smoky hills out to the edge of the earth.

The climb up Skyline Drive featured fairy tale woods: Green-gray barks and shaggy canopies visible through gray mist. Sometimes sunlight broke the mist.


I.e., it will be a miracle if any perseids are to be seen tonight. But the world from the Big Meadows balcony rolls out beautifully, and UD is more than happy to make do with that. The air is cool, nature madly green from all the summer rain, and my immediate view of parents piecing animal puzzles together with their children as they wait for the dining room to open extremely pleasant.

UD – a charter member of the Hell is Other People club – finds the subdued company of damp weary hikers more than tolerable.

V.S. Naipaul – one of the few writers whose sentences echo in the mind – has died.

“Todos me acosan sexualmente,” she once said with irritation, in her actress days. “Everybody makes a pass at me.” She was the macho’s ideal victim-woman —- don’t those red lips still speak to the Argentine macho of her reputed skill in fellatio? But very soon she was beyond sex, and pure again. At twenty-nine she was dying from cancer of the uterus, and hemorrhaging through the vagina; and her plumpish body began to waste away. Toward the end she weighed 80 pounds. One day she looked at some old official photographs of herself and began to cry. Another day she saw herself in a long mirror and said, “When I think of the trouble I went to to keep my legs slim! Ahora que me veo estas piernitas me asusto. Now it frightens me to look at these matchsticks.”

The Corpse at the Iron Gate, 1972.


In Britain we want bad boy Boris
To wash his mouth out with Lavoris.
His latest mazurka,
“Hommage a la Burqa,”
Has given the whole country tsuris.

Mr UD, a professor at the University of Maryland, once watched the university’s president blow off a student who asked a challenging question about the school’s athletic program.

This was a couple of years ago. The student’s question went to the immense disparity in the president’s salary and various coaches’ salaries. Annoyed that the president blew off the student, Mr UD pressed the president on problems in the athletics program.

The president of the University of Maryland responded to Mr UD along these lines: There’s little I can do about the program, and the program can blow up at any time.

UD has always been rather astonished by the president’s honesty; because this of course is the fundamental truth of all big-time university sports programs. The jock school president – in the favorite words of the second-highest paid employee in the entire state of Maryland – is a pussy bitch and a bitch pussy and a pussy pussy and a bitch bitch pussy pussy pussy.

And the jock school’s big-time sports program can indeed blow up at any time. If you know even a little about how they’re run – and the people who run them – you know why these programs keep blowing up.


Real men die for the University of Maryland football team, like 19-year-old Jordan McNair, who didn’t get much of a life, but at least lived it taunted as a pussy and tortured to death by a first-rate football power.

[S]ome number of Maryland football staff members probably belong in prison.

Which is to say that just as the university’s president anticipated, the program, having killed a player, has now blown up.

You need to go back to Rutgers’ celebrated basketball coach Mike Rice to get a sense of the sick sadism characteristic of the man we Maryland taxpayers each year pay $2.5 million. I mean, try reading through all of this without puking (puking by the way is something the UMD coach makes his players do … part of the school’s force-feed ’em til they’re monsters regime… ).


A Deadspin report concludes:

One perfectly reasonable question is why Durkin, Court, and Robinson, at the very least, haven’t already been fired. Former Maryland football staff members say the current coaching environment of the program is intimidation-based; current and former players say these men routinely use intimidation and humiliation as motivational tactics; current and former players say they have a pattern of pushing teenagers past the point of complete physical exhaustion, in some cases to weed out and punish players they’ve targeted as unwanted. A pattern has been described that makes what happened to Jordan McNair a likelihood, if not an inevitability, but it says deeply troubling things about what Maryland’s athletic department deems as acceptable coaching behavior that Durkin’s tactics weren’t rejected long before now.

But we know why they weren’t rejected. It’s really not about “what Maryland’s athletic department deems as acceptable coaching behavior,” because Durkin and Court were after all hired at great expense to torture teenagers to the point where they can win football games. It’s about Maryland’s administration.

So look at what the president of the university said to Mr UD. He has no control over the program. His job is to resolutely look the other way, and to irritably say nothing to people who insist on questioning him about a program over which, officially at least, he has authority.


It’s a mad mad mad mad world. Over in the shabby humanities buildings they’re committing seppuku if they fail even for a moment to use scrupulously sensitive, politically correct, language; in the sports palaces, they’re getting in front of 19-year-olds’ faces and spitting pussy and faggot and fucker and shit and bitch at them while making them run on a hot field until one of them actually dies from the abuse.

Far out.

But routine reality at many of America’s big-time sports universities.


UPDATE: In response to another coach (Will Muschamp, South Carolina) passionately defending Durkin, since much of the reporting about his program is based on anonymous sources:

A player is dead, but Muschamp is more worried about attacking ESPN’s article and the staffer giving them information.

Glorious University of South Carolina.


As usual, Deadspin has the most trenchant response to Muschamp.

“[H]is words are getting far more attention than they deserve.”

A British/Iranian woman writes the most sensible of the millions of words already written about Boris Johnson having compared women in burqas to letter boxes and bank robbers. UD made the same point she’s making – about the greater wisdom of ignoring his words – in this post.

Shappi Khorsandi writes:

Every part of the burqa/letterbox furore is about political warfare. Johnson knew exactly how to rattle the left and it’s working. Now we are calling Rowan Atkinson a “racist”…

The comedian is now denounced as racist because he pointed out that Johnson was attempting to be funny. And, yes, attempting to be offensive. Atkinson: “All jokes about religion cause offence, so it’s pointless apologising for them.” And remember: All of this was in the context of Johnson agreeing with people on the left that there should be no burqa ban.

As the denunciations and investigations and apology-demands escalate, sensible and humane people, like Khorsandi, will direct us to what we should be thinking about:

Today, in Iran, women are risking their liberty by publicly taking off their hijabs in protests against the forced covering. Shaparak Shajarizadeh was handed a two-year sentence for protesting in Iran against the hijab. She was released on bail in April and has now apparently left the country as exile is preferable to living in a country where speaking your mind leads to arrest.

I wish those who are now calling Rowan Atkinson a “racist” left and right on social media would show more solidarity and generate more publicity for women like Shaparak.

Let the ridiculous Boris Johnson dustup have the effect of directing our attention where it belongs: To the millions of women in countries all over the world suffocating under the veil.


In other words: These are the words that deserve our attention — written by the late great Christopher Hitchens.

[W]e have no assurance that Muslim women put on the burqa or don the veil as a matter of their own choice. A huge amount of evidence goes the other way. Mothers, wives, and daughters have been threatened with acid in the face, or honor-killing, or vicious beating, if they do not adopt the humiliating outer clothing that is mandated by their menfolk. This is why, in many Muslim societies, such as Tunisia and Turkey, the shrouded look is illegal in government buildings, schools, and universities. Why should Europeans and Americans, seeking perhaps to accommodate Muslim immigrants, adopt the standard only of the most backward and primitive Muslim states? The burqa and the veil, surely, are the most aggressive sign of a refusal to integrate or accommodate.

It’s extremely unnerving when your very precise wishes very precisely come true.

At least it’s unnerving to me.

Faithful readers know I have long loved Oreo – also known as Galloway – cows.

UD loves them so much she has elaborate plans to visit places around Maryland that feature them. She loves them so much she has priced houses in places like this.


And now it turns out that a herd of Galloways has moved in right next door to her house in upstate New York.


Yes. That precise breed, just around
the corner from her country house.

UD‘s sister-in-law, Joanna,
is staying there now, and sends this
picture of her and the cows.

Let me just say again how unnerving I
find it that those particular cows of
all cows materialized on that particular
patch of earth…

Boris’s No Apologies Tour

As UD always says, when it comes to the burqa, don’t go there.

If you’re one of the few remaining countries in Europe that don’t ban it – if you’re England – and you don’t want it to be banned (“you” here is your political establishment), do not make an issue of it. Because making an issue of the burqa will immediately uncover the fact that significant majorities in your country would like it banned.

Making an issue of it will encourage citizens to look at neighboring countries, where orderly and effective bans have been implemented.

If you keep it quiet, if you don’t talk about it, the burqa will be an irritant; it will be intimidating; it will be an upsetting sign of the erasure of women within a culture that thinks of itself as liberal and egalitarian… it will be many things, but it will not be front and center, because there are other things to think about.

If on the other hand you allow the provocative language of Boris Johnson, who wrote a recent opinion piece saying juvenile things about burqas, to provoke you, then you’ve fallen into a very bad trap. Your loud and insistent offense-taking will accomplish one thing: It will move efforts to ban the burqa in your country forward.


The irony of course is that along with his juvenile remarks Johnson came out against a burqa ban; but rather than quietly count him among their (childish) allies, the anti-banners have reviled him as an enemy of all right-thinking people and demanded an apology, a shunning, a banishment, blah blah.

And see what happens when you do that? When you make a big deal of the burqa? When you hurl ridicule of it out of polite society?

The Burka Looks Ridiculous,
and Those Who Defend it Do
Muslim Women Like Me No Favours

headlines a Telegraph article in which Suad Farah responds to Johnson not with rage and condemnation, but with gratitude for his having brought the burqa to commentary-central:

[T]he growth of young women wearing it in the UK is concerning, and it’s something we all need to talk about.

Oh right – even though all anti-banners begin all of their articles by noting the absurdly, vanishingly, small number of women who wear the burqa, their numbers are actually growing, aren’t they… I forgot about that…

This naive notion that, if we just leave the burqa alone, a natural evolution toward democratic values will occur among burqa-wearers, reminds UD of poor David Ben-Gurion’s confident prediction “that the ultra-Orthodox community of Israel would slowly disappear…, melding into the assertively modern Zionist project. The opposite … has happened.”


The burqa is an obvious symbolic and real burden on free societies, and if you let the burden sit quietly and simply bother you occasionally, you can ignore it for a long time. If, on the other hand, you let provocateurs like Boris Johnson force you into language that suggests you’re fine with erased women on your streets, I promise you all hell’s gonna break loose, and you’re going to find yourself with a ban before you know it.

The more honest route, since burqa bans, UD believes, are the wave of the future all over Europe (and all over Canada), the route that doesn’t exhibit bad faith, is simply to state what you quite legitimately believe and act on it: The woman-erasing burqa is a bridge too far for any self-respecting democracy. Ban it.

Two comments about the pathetic goings-on at The Nation magazine.

When the poetry editors of The Nation virtuously publish an amateurish but super-woke poem, only to discover that the poem stumbled across several trip wires of political correctness; when these editors… then jointly write a letter oozing bathos and career anxiety and begging forgiveness from their critics; when the poet himself publishes a statement of his own — a missive falling somewhere [among] an apology, a Hail Mary pass, and a suicide note; and when all of this is accepted in the houses of the holy as one of the regrettable but minor incidents that take place along the path toward greater justice, something is dying.

From an essay about how you make the world safe for Jordan Peterson.


The second comment is from Grace Schulman, a terrific poet, and poetry editor of The Nation for thirty-five years.

Last month, the magazine published a poem by Anders Carlson-Wee. The poet is white. His poem, “How-To,” draws on black vernacular.

Following a vicious backlash against the poem on social media, the poetry editors, Stephanie Burt and Carmen Giménez Smith, apologized for publishing it in the first place: “We made a serious mistake by choosing to publish the poem ‘How-To.’ We are sorry for the pain we have caused to the many communities affected by this poem,” they wrote in an apology longer than the actual poem. The poet apologized, too, saying, “I am sorry for the pain I caused.”

I was deeply disturbed by this episode, which touches on a value that is precious to me and to a free society: the freedom to write and to publish views that may be offensive to some readers.

… As Katha Pollitt, a columnist for The Nation, put it, the magazine’s apology for Mr. Carlson-Wee’s work was “craven” and “looks like a letter from re-education camp.”

Eating People is Wrong.

So is walking around town seeking to insert your cock in randomly encountered women. There are even legal problems with these behaviors.

Three years ago, a member of the Stanford University swimming team sauntered about campus seeking said insertion, and was well on his way (“he was caught by two Swedish graduate students making thrusting motions on top of a half-naked, intoxicated, unconscious woman”) when things went awry and he went before a judge.

The judge, Aaron “Boys Will Be Boys” Persky — er, make that former Judge Persky — gave him three months in jail (well, six; but he only served three), but the swimmer wants the sentence overturned since he din mean nothin by it and only after all wanted “outercourse,” not intercourse.

The appellate court was unconvinced. UD can’t wait to listen to the Supreme Court tussle over outer v. intercourse…

After gazing at yet another box turtle attracted to her town’s pachysandra…

UD glanced up – during a recent
morning walk through Garrett Park – at
a tree with some bean-like tendrils, and
then at the town tennis courts, and
then at the post office/restaurant.



Better image from today’s walk:
Definitely a catalpa tree.

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George Washington University English professor Margaret Soltan writes a blog called University Diaries, in which she decries the Twilight Zone-ish state our holy land’s institutes of higher ed find themselves in these days.
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It’s [UD's] intellectual honesty that makes her blog required reading.
Professor Mondo

There's always something delightful and thought intriguing to be found at Margaret Soltan's no-holds-barred, firebrand tinged blog about university life.

You can get your RDA of academic liars, cheats, and greedy frauds at University Diaries. All disciplines, plus athletics.
truffula, commenting at Historiann

Margaret Soltan at University Diaries blogs superbly and tirelessly about [university sports] corruption.

University Diaries. Hosted by Margaret Soltan, professor of English at George Washington University. Boy is she pissed — mostly about athletics and funding, the usual scandals — but also about distance learning and diploma mills. She likes poems too. And she sings.
Dissent: The Blog

[UD belittles] Mrs. Palin's degree in communications from the University of Idaho...
The Wall Street Journal

Professor Margaret Soltan, blogging at University Diaries... provide[s] an important voice that challenges the status quo.
Lee Skallerup Bessette, Inside Higher Education

[University Diaries offers] the kind of attention to detail in the use of language that makes reading worthwhile.
Sean Dorrance Kelly, Harvard University

Margaret Soltan's ire is a national treasure.
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The irrepressibly to-the-point Margaret Soltan...
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Margaret Soltan is no fan of college sports and her diatribes on the subject can be condescending and annoying. But she makes a good point here...
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From Margaret Soltan's excellent coverage of the Bernard Madoff scandal comes this tip...
Money Law

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I awake this morning to find that the excellent Margaret Soltan has linked here and thereby singlehandedly given [this blog] its heaviest traffic...
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As Margaret Soltan, one of the best academic bloggers, points out, pressure is mounting ...
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Many of us bloggers worry that we don’t post enough to keep people’s interest: Margaret Soltan posts every day, and I more or less thought she was the gold standard.
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University Diaries by Margaret Soltan is one of the best windows onto US university life that I know.
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Notes of a Neophyte