Snapshots from Home

UD and her sister this afternoon in
Port Deposit, Maryland, in front of


their grandfather Joseph Rapoport’s
department store. The store is now
a wildly successful seafood restaurant.


UD thanks her sister Frances
for taking the picture.

“In each of the four years of data I was provided, student ticket purchases have declined. Not only did student ticket sales decline, but so did non-student season tickets as well as total ticket revenue. Simple economics would show that lowering prices instead of raising them would incentivize more students to partake in these athletic events. Instead, the athletic department has raised prices drastically which will more than likely lower the number of students purchasing the Big Ticket.”

It begins to dawn on a University of Texas student that the professional football team that uses his school’s field has nothing to do with his school.

Sports: The Front Punch of the ….

…. university.


UD thanks Dirk.

Front Porch Surreal

Professors are always the weirdos; egghead university culture is always the bizarre thing against which the wholesome normality of college sports stands in all-American relief. Here’s the google-eyed weirdo peacenik photo that typically runs with articles about university professors. How much finer and firmer, how much more real, the football players racing out of the arena’s mist amid battle songs to start the fight on the field…

Yet football – routinely touted by idiots as the front porch of the university – is so much freakier than anything the professoriate could come up with. Football makes the American university not merely academic fraud central; it makes it a kind of endlessly looping Chien Andalou, with the first school out of the gate at the beginning of a new (cough) academic year the already notoriously disgusting University of Southern California.

USC has mainly been about the obvious stuff – cheating, impermissable benefits, blah blah. But now it’s Front Porch Surreal:

USC is finding itself in the media for all the wrong reasons this week. First, there’s the saga of Josh Shaw, who broke both his ankles this weekend by jumping off a balcony for an unknown reason [and lied about it]. And now senior Anthony Brown is accusing the team’s coach, Steve Sarkisian, of being a racist.

Sarkisian “treated me like a slave,” complains the player, who abruptly left the team; and, well, given the prominent and pretty plausible description of the university football landscape as a “plantation,” one can’t be too surprised at this latest grotesquerie.

But I mean. It’s not just USC. Richie Incognito? Out there in the clean-living heartland of Nebraska? They’ve still got their beloved torturer’s bio up on their university website. No professor can compete with University of Nebraska Weird. The University of Nebraska should audition for

The University of Texas: We already make immense millions in profits from athletics…

But it’s always possible to be yet greedier.

“In a world where a 9-year-old girl can accidentally kill someone with an Uzi and the nation hardly bats an eye, even the most paranoid, antigovernment Rambo wannabe appears comfortably assured he’ll have access to all the legal high-powered weaponry he needs. And that’s bad news for the gun industry.”

America suffers a paranoia deficit, and the gun industry tanks.

Now that everyone knows about the emerging nine-year-old girl market, however, one industry solution is pretty obvious: Redesign fully automatic weapons for the pre-teen demographic.

“All in all, Mr. Elorza seems the best candidate to move Providence ahead — and to defeat Vincent Cianci, a two-time felon running for mayor, in the general election.”

It’s politics in Providence, Rhode Island, one of America’s more… ahem… how to put it… cities. Cianci might be a two-time felon, but Elorza stole the language he used in a letter apologizing to voters for having been arrested for theft.

The thing that tripped Elorza up is that so many Providence politicians have to write letters to their constituents apologizing for their theft records that the same professional political advisor simply recycled his last youthful indiscretion letter in producing one for Elorza. The advisor seems to have a template onto which he slots each new name.

On a spectacular summer evening, outdoors at the Marriott Hotel…

UD finds herself surrounded by the annual American Political Science convention. She was vaguely aware Mr UD was taking part in a panel or two somewhere downtown, but it all turns out to be here, where, in an hour, we’re meeting our old friend David Mayers (who is himself giving a paper).

My first week of classes is over.

Students move me. They always have. Try walking through a beautiful campus on a mild afternoon, beautiful and thoughtful young people drifting swanlike around you, without feeling joy. My heart is fiercely protective of the younger ones, the freshmen… I have dreadful imaginings about them… Do they have friends? Are their roommates cruel or kind? Are they walking around Foggy Bottom in a devastated haze, wondering why they left LaCrosse? The idea that they’re not adrift in a swanlike way but in helpless despair upsets ol’ UD badly, and she deals with it by reminding herself that the university knocks itself out to welcome new students and surround them with friends… They’re fine, you fool… They’re out clubbing and when they’re not clubbing they’re driving to New Orleans with friends to build a Habitat for Humanity house…

You want to think everybody’s okay.


When you teach romanticism, you see in their eyes the peculiar sort of reflection that is at once about an old poem on a page and their own immediacies. This is beautiful to see. They drift into your seminar room, they settle in to their seats, and they proceed to lock onto deep themes.

UD routinely witnesses good minds at work in real time. It’s a privilege.


And a truly classic example (don’t read it without a hankie) of what UD calls coacha inconsolata.


denied entry to the University of Minnesota! Google News is all lit up! Who knew that school gave a shit about whether incoming freshmen could speak the language??

I mean, he “passed the NCAA Clearinghouse,” and if you’re looking for academic rigor, go no further than the NCAA… So what’s Minnesota’s problem? Getting all pissy and selective lately, are we? Oh we’re very posh… terribly upper crust …

“[I]t just seems [like] an excuse to get really drunk.”

The best minds at our universities continue to study the question that hangs in the air like an augury of doom over higher education in America: Why aren’t students coming to football games?

Universities took on tens of millions in debt to build new stadiums; they fucked up their admissions standards but good and have as a result weathered countless academic fraud scandals; they pay the coach five million dollars a year. The starting assistant conditioning coach makes one hundred times more than the resident Nobel Prize winner. And what’s the profit? What, goddammit, is the point?

In desperation, most of these schools have become purveyors of alcohol, rushing about from row to row scraping and bowing to booze hounds because this… this, if nothing else, will guarantee attendance…

But if you concentrate all your alcoholics, you’ve got to spend money on more security people, which cuts into any alcohol profits… And actually – the unkindest cut of all – a lot of students (see the guy quoted in this post’s headline) are kind of grossed out by the spectacle in the stadium — a phalanx of armed guards to keep the drunks in order… It doesn’t really feel all game-day festive … Ah the sweet collegiate glory of amateur sports… Fond memories of obscene lolling drunks glared at by goons…

The best minds can kick it around all they want, but the reason is quite clear. AGS: Accumulated Gross-Out Syndrome. At some point, your venture is so disgusting that most people want no part of it. (There are too many disgusting elements to list here, but consider just these two. There’s what an article about Virginia Tech’s no-shows delicately calls an “overly commercialized… video board presentation,” and – speaking of commercialized – the total domination of the stadium experience by the television channel that’s broadcasting the game.) That’s where big-time university athletics is today. And I’m sorry, but there are no recorded instances of AGS-reversal. In your desperation, you just keep making it worse. Look for universities to offer heroin shooting galleries next.

You’re Never Too Young

A shooting range instructor in Arizona was accidentally shot and killed by a 9-year-old girl who was learning how to shoot an Uzi, authorities said on Tuesday.

Hot in Foggy Bottom, But…

… cool in UD‘s office (I’m a bit overdressed for the weather, so I’ve put the air conditioning down low), where, having finished with her traditional Jesus I Can’t Connect to the Internet Help Me Computer Guys Who Live in the Basement of My Building and Make Everything That’s Wrong Right ritual (she has to visit the guys every time she returns to campus after being away for more than a month), she has now turned her attention to syllabi, introductory lectures, and textbooks.

The city’s the warm late August city, with less humidity than usual, but with huge gobs of sunshine which – now that she’s gotten over her connectivity-related annoyance – makes UD very happy.

There’s a new cushioned bench down the hall from UD‘s office; on the wall behind it a large black-lettered sign says


which, when UD caught sight of it, occasioned histrionic giggling.

On her way to the bookstore just now, to buy a copy of a course text she’s supposed to get for free but she can never be bothered to fill out the desk copy form, UD – still chortling over the languishing bench – began to sing Randy Newman’s Guilty which considering her upbeat mood is a strange choice. She loves the line It takes a whole lot of medicine / For me to pretend that I’m somebody else, and singing it in the (suddenly relocated to the basement – is everything now in a basement?) bookstore, I thought of Robin Williams, and of these two, described as doomed by self-loathing. (“A self-loathing so intense it would devour them both.”) UD read this article – about the doomed self-loathers – while getting her hair cut yesterday in preparation for looking passably respectable at the beginning of the semester (her look steadily deteriorates week by week, but she starts out okay). But she had to stop reading this article; she had stopped reading an earlier VF article and had tried this one, but she had to stop reading both of them. The first one – Marella Agnelli’s astonishingly boring account of way high-style life – simply put UD to sleep. Her disappointment with Agnelli’s total inability to evoke cosmic luxury reminded UD of this passage from Paul Fussell’s Class:

At the very top, food is usually not very good, tending, like the conversation, to a terrible blandness, a sad lack of originality and cutting edge. Throughout his pitiable book, Live a Year With a Millionaire, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney records memorable meals, and they sound like this: “Crab bisque, then chicken with ham biscuits, Bibb lettuce salad, and finally… a huge ice cream cake.”

Reassess? What does the Boston Globe Editorial Board Mean?

[T]he special treatment for the top conferences raises important questions for state taxpayers and UMass Amherst. The Minutemen moved up two seasons ago to the Football Bowl Subdivision, the same level as Ohio State, Alabama, and Texas. But with the team still drawing only 15,000 fans a game to Gillette Stadium, the Globe reported last December that the university will have to cover $5.1 million of the team’s $7.8 million budget this season, much more than originally anticipated. Now that the sand has shifted once again under the foundation of college sports, with new incentives for top players to go elsewhere, it would be prudent for UMass to reassess. Without further changes by the NCAA, there is no chance UMass will be able to stand on an equal playing field with the Ohio States, Alabamas, and Texases of the college sports world.

Er, it seems to mean that U Mass should end its farcical, bankrupting football program. As at the University of Hawaii, there’s no there there, but the nothingness still costs a fortune, and that means soaking taxpayers, students, and students’ families.

But in both cases – U Mass and Hawaii – there’s no way they’re going to shut down the football programs. That would be prudent, and prudence is not what these two places are about. (Follow all their shenanigans on this blog by putting their names into my search engine.)

Nice writing on the Steven Salaita controversy.

Quoted in an Inside Higher Ed article.

John K. Wilson, author of numerous books and essays about academic freedom, wrote on the AAUP blog that he found [University of Illinois chancellor Phyllis] Wise’s statement troubling. “Respect is not a fundamental value of any university, and being ‘disrespectful’ is not an academic crime. But it’s notable that Salaita really didn’t say anything personal about anyone. So here Wise greatly expands the concept, declaring that not only persons but ‘viewpoints themselves’ must be protected from any disrespectful words,” Wilson writes.

“I am puzzled as to exactly how a free university could possibly operate when no one is allowed to be disrespectful toward any viewpoint. Presumably, Wise will quickly act to fire anyone who has ever disrespected or demeaned Nazism, terrorism, racism, sexism, and homophobia. Since all ‘viewpoints’ are protected, then biology professors must be fired for disrespecting creationism as false, along with any other professor who is found to believe or know anything.”

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