The Vector of Sadness

From an essay about Buddhism by Adam Gopnik:

Secularized or traditional, the central Buddhist epiphany remains essential: the fact of mortality makes loss certain. For all the ways in which science and its blessed godchild scientific medicine have reduced the overt suffering that a human life entails, the vector to sadness remains in place, as much as it did in the Buddha’s time. Gotama’s death, from what one doctor describes as mesenteric infarction, seems needlessly painful and gruesome by modern standards; this is the kind of suffering we can substantially alleviate. But the universal mortality of all beings—the fact that, if we’re lucky, we will die after seventy years or so—is not reformable. The larger problem we face is not suffering but sadness, and the sadness is caused by the fact of loss. To love less in order to lose less seems like no solution at all, but to see loss squarely sounds like wisdom. We may or may not be able to Americanize our Buddhism, but we can certainly ecumenicize our analgesics. Lots of different stuff from lots of different places which we drink and think and do can help us manage. Every faith practice has a different form of comfort to offer in the face of loss, and each is useful. Sometimes it helps to dwell on the immensity of the universe. Sometimes it helps to feel the presence of ongoing family and community. Sometimes it helps to light a candle and say a prayer. Sometimes it helps to sit and breathe.

‘Strauss’ behavior in the men’s locker room was particularly unusual and disturbing, the athlete said. He said Strauss was known for walking around the room naked, and that he also would read the newspaper naked nearby the drinking fountain. He would “linger and stare at your crotch,” the athlete said.’

There’s no surreal like big-time athletics surreal, but Ohio State University moves well past surreal all the way to dada. Its posthumously famous team doctor, Richard Strauss, has displaced the composer of Salome on Google’s search page now that there’s a big class-action suit from OSU wrestlers and others against the school that employed him for twenty years.

Despite plenty of evidence, apparently, that their players’ private parts provoked Strauss’s Merry Pranks, coaches and administrators at OSU took no action to stop the music. And because one of the people the players claim did nothing is now a congressman, the story’s getting a lot of play.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm Doffs her Hat to George F. Will.

It don’t get no more scathing than his instantly famous Washington Post column about you know who, post-Putin.

Let us consider why, amid two years of howling verbal shitstorms, it is Will and Will alone who has captured the attention of the world. What’s he got?

A strong, funny, opening sentence featuring an apt extended metaphor with alliteration and assonance (I’ve bolded the Ps and the long As):

America’s child president had a play date with a KGB alumnus, who surely enjoyed providing day care…

More put-down comedy:

Precision is not part of Trump’s repertoire. He speaks English as though it is a second language that he learned from someone who learned English last week.

You may recall this from the similar technique of Paul Krugman on the subject of Newt Gingrich:

A stupid man’s idea of what a smart person sounds like.

Merciless no-muss no-fuss direct statement:

Trump has a weak man’s banal fascination with strong men whose disdain for him is evidently unimaginable to him.

The winner-word here is banal – really cuts the dude down to size, as in Arendt’s unsparing banality of evil.

Even more — and bear with me here – when you couple a word dominated by the word anal with Uranus – a word NO ONE can read or speak without translating it into your anus – I think you also begin to… infer… Will having some real fun with the anomalous ass in the White House:

[J]ust as astronomers infer from anomalies in the orbit of the planet Uranus the existence of Neptune before actually seeing it, Mueller might infer and then find still hidden sources of the behavior of this sad embarrassing wreck of a man.

Even as[s]tronomers works for Will here as he uh bends over backwards NOT to say that the hidden source of Trump’s anxious Russophilia is long-rumored twisted sex play in a Moscow hotel, about which Putin knows…

Finally, Will knows how powerful iambic pentameter can be. As in:

this sad embarrassing wreck of a man.

The finely controlled language of his whole piece implicitly juxtaposes Will’s (and his assumed reader’s) calm Shakespearean maturity and Trump’s mad-hatter hauteur, and this final poetic line (still the well-deployed assonance: sad/embarrassing/man) is the quintessence of the basic move: crude content/elegant style. You recall how it works for Shakespeare:

Of this dead butcher and his fiend-like queen

In the rank sweat of an enseamèd bed

A poor, bare, forked animal as thou art

Like most really good writers, Will has learned from him.

As in all of the tragedies, the elevated language invokes a noble past and promises a noble future; but for now, words of contempt and hopeless pathos must in our phrases be enseamèd.

A Reader Sends UD this Wonderful Quote from the Head of a New Faculty Union at Financially Troubled University of Washington.

Pointing to a recent decision by the UW to hire a new vice provost and a dozen new business analysts to find ways to reduce costs, she said: “We seem to have more and more administrators, who are highly paid, whose job is to administer scarcity.”

Of course when it comes to the almost five million dollars a year UW’s football coach makes, it’s strictly hands-off.

‘The woman said she had put the gun on the baby changing table and went to use the restroom… When she got out, her child started running around and she forgot to retrieve the gun…’

Gun-mad Utah – there are municipalities there where you MUST keep guns – has done it again. Let’s see.

For those outside Utah’s batty-for-bullets culture, it’s not at all easy to get inside this special, universal-carry, littered-with-child-suicides, locale, but perhaps this will help: UD will take a few paragraphs from a local account of the baby changing table incident, and will autocorrect – Utahcorrect – the piece.

RUGER — The Salt and Ashes County District Attorney’s Office will review the case of a person who left a gun in a bathroom at the Dying Planet Automaticum.

A customer at the Automaticum left a revolver in the bathroom on Tuesday…

[The woman who brought the loaded gun into the no-weapons building] was very apologetic and embarrassed about leaving the gun in the bathroom… The woman said she had put the gun on the baby changing table and went to use the restroom… When she got out, her child started running around and she forgot to retrieve the gun…

Could happen to anyone! In Utah. Momma don’t go nowhere cepn she got her revolver nice and snug in her panties cuz you never know and folks is always trying to kill you specially in aquariums. But how do you drop em and do your business without your gun ploppin into the basin? Plus you got this kid runnin round!

Ah. Right across there in the stall – a nice soft white gun rest. Cradle it there real sweet while you pee and then… Lester? Lester what the hell are you doing? I can’t keep up with you …

And you know? I kinda remembered I dint have no gun as I was leaving the Automaticum but I was so busy with Lester and after all a nice bright loaded revolver is a kinda pay it forward thing… Like that new documentary is right you’re never too young to love a gun and it made me kinda happy thinking about the six-month old with a dirty nappy discovering the revolver and entering right then and there into the beautiful Utah way of life.

“It’s the most expedient and peaceful way of resolving the issue without getting into too much about why he was carrying (a gun) on campus,” [trustee Gary] Mendez said.”

Yes. Wouldn’t want to get into why the dean of Research and Planning at Rio Hondo College not only felt compelled to take a loaded gun to a campus bathroom with him, but why he left the gun in the bathroom, lying atop a magazine (“Meetings Today”) one assumes he was reading in there. We’ve made him resign; could we leave it at that?

But youth wants to know: Was he sticking it up the wazoo while exciting himself with “Meetings Today”? Did he put the gun and the magazine down in a post-orgasmic fog and forget them both?

“It’s been discouraging to see Biola be so unloving towards him and so judgemental of him without knowing his heart at all, without trying to know him at all more as a person and just trying to fit him into a mold or a statistic.”

Amen. Take a step back and ask yourself why you’re being so judgmental toward a Biola University student storing in his dorm room an unregistered AR-15 assault rifle and an unregistered 9mm handgun.

Assuming no concealed weapons on his body, go on up and give him a big hug.

And while we’re on the subject of …

mutilating infant genitals (see my back and forth with Dennis, a reader, in the comment thread to this post): In 2014, Israel’s Supreme Rabbinical Court mandated that a woman pay $140 a day until she agreed to circumcise her son.

She just, you know, didn’t want to. Turns out it ain’t a choice.


Except that Israel does have a higher court: The Israeli High Court. And they struck down the rabbis’ ruling.

The High Court decision to stop a mother from being forced into circumcising her son upholds the principle that no state body can force its citizens into keeping Jewish law. If Israel is to keep both parts of its Jewish and democratic character, it must never tip the scales into coercive religious law, whether judicial or otherwise.



La Vie …

… à ‘thesda.

Okay, Great Falls. Same diff.

Jerzy Soltan, Warsaw, 1995

During a citywide celebration
of his work.

Photo: Joanna Soltan


Er, I mean Ramsey. More terrific national publicity for America’s most deeply troubled (nice way of putting “corrupt”) university, the University of Louisville. See how the Great Man James Ramsey totally dominates all other university presidents in salary! No contest – he makes millions more!

Ramsey [$4.3 million] was the top earner in 2017 by a healthy margin. The second-highest-paid chief executive, Jay Gogue, president of Auburn University, received $1.8 million. Next on the list was William H. McRaven, chancellor of the University of Texas system, who earned $1.5 million. Gogue retired in 2017; McRaven stepped down this year.

Not sure a healthy margin is quite the way to put it, unless you consider Ramsey’s purchase of multiple Florida mcmansions healthy… Unless you consider appointing a president who transfers much of the wealth of the university to himself and his friends healthy…

Anyway. Jimbo’s down there in Florida, see, and he’s not getting any younger. Like his model, Bernie Madoff, he might be figuring he can out-die (opposite of out-live) his legal and criminal problems… And unlike Bernie, he’ll probably be right. Die snug in his mcbed, lawsuits swirling ’round his head…

She should definitely hire Alan Dershowitz if she chooses to appeal.

Switzerland has put in jail a woman who had the genitals of both of her very young children slashed.

The judgement was based on a relatively new article in Swiss law which aims to prevent Swiss-based families from having their daughters circumcised, whether in Switzerland or abroad.

Al’s enthusiasm for the practice makes him a perfect hire for this mass-mutilator.

If you can read through this without laughing out loud…

… I mean… If you’re having trouble knowing where to laugh (there are many laugh-locations), UD will insert parenthetical LOLs to help you.



Oh right. I need to remind you that … well, let UD‘s pal Mark Killingsworth remind you. Read this.

Ok? Now are you ready? Here goes.


It’s been another difficult week being a Rutgers football fan. Keith Sargeant of NJ Advance Media reported on Wednesday that starting safety K.J. Gray and reserve linebacker Brendan DeVera had been dismissed from the program. On Thursday night, Sargeant reported as many as eight players were currently under investigation for credit card fraud [LOL] by the Rutgers police department. Sargeant’s colleague, James Kratch, also reported that Gray was recently charged for an incident in June that included driving with an open container and possession of marijuana. Training camp is less than three weeks away from beginning and the Rutgers football team already has their backs against the wall this season. For fans, this Friday the 13th certainly feels like another horror film sequel.

This new scandal will test the patience of even the most ardent Rutgers football supporters. It’s only been three years [LOL] since multiple arrests and embarrassments took place, resulting in the end of the Kyle Flood era. On the face of it, this situation appears different in the sense that during the Flood scandals, players were literally fighting people in the streets multiple times, robbing people’s homes and the head coach himself was pressuring a professor to change the grade of a player. [LOL] I’m not absolving current head coach Chris Ash of responsibility for this current mess, but the allegations appear to be one related situation, versus a pattern of misconduct. Ultimately, they are his players and while you could debate how realistic it is for the coaches to be aware of cyber crimes potentially committed by players, his culture [LOL] has been jeopardized if these allegations ring true.

… The old saying for Boston Red Sox fans before their success of the 2000’s was “they killed my grandfather, my father, and now they are coming for me.” Professional and college sports are different for many reasons, but that sentiment may ring a little too true for Rutgers fans after the past decade of repeated scandals, on top of a lot of losing on the field and court. [At least the program has an almost fifty million dollar deficit.]

… I want Rutgers to win more than anyone, but I want to be proud watching the players on the field, not feel dirty about rooting for criminals. [My, aren’t we dainty. Be a man and root for criminals like everyone else.]

… Big Ten fan bases will be foaming at the mouth to crucify the school that has forever stained their beloved, holier than holy conference. [LOL? Dunno. Just a very weird sentence.]

Mr UD sends a photo of …

… his current view while hiking
in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Next Page »

Latest UD posts at IHE





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.
Roland Greene, Stanford University

The irrepressibly to-the-point Margaret Soltan...
Carlat Psychiatry Blog

Margaret Soltan, whose blog lords it over the rest of ours like a benevolent tyrant...
Perplexed with Narrow Passages

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...
Outside the Beltway

From Margaret Soltan's excellent coverage of the Bernard Madoff scandal comes this tip...
Money Law

University Diaries offers a long-running, focused, and extremely effective critique of the university as we know it.
Anthony Grafton, American Historical Association

The inimitable Margaret Soltan is, as usual, worth reading. ...
Medical Humanities Blog

I awake this morning to find that the excellent Margaret Soltan has linked here and thereby singlehandedly given [this blog] its heaviest traffic...
Ducks and Drakes

As Margaret Soltan, one of the best academic bloggers, points out, pressure is mounting ...
The Bitch Girls

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.
Tenured Radical

University Diaries by Margaret Soltan is one of the best windows onto US university life that I know.
Mary Beard, A Don's Life

[University Diaries offers] a broad sense of what's going on in education today, framed by a passionate and knowledgeable reporter.
More magazine, Canada

If deity were an elected office, I would quit my job to get her on the ballot.
Notes of a Neophyte