The Art of the List

Scathing Online Schoolmarm says: When you’ve been saving up a lot of anger, and you want to spend it stylishly and well, listing is your best friend. Listing allows a writer to organize and compress her many grievances instead of spewing them about and making herself, like Sarah Palin, an object of satire.

Listing makes you look rational, and your grievances plausible. Inside you’re raging, but your calm and systematic prose suggests that your rage is not composed of inchoate superficial and personal stuff; rather, what’s bugging you amounts to a coherent indictment of something real, with large and shared implications.

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Consider some introductory paragraphs from David Remnick’s recent New Yorker piece on Trump. SOS will highlight each list.

It was all so funny once. For a long time, Trump, with his twenty-four-karat skyscrapers, his interesting hair, and his extra-classy airline, was a leading feature of the New York egoscape. The editors of the satirical monthly Spy covered him with the same obsessive attention that Field & Stream pays to the rainbow trout. Trump never failed to provide; he was everywhere, commandeering a corner at a professional wrestling match, buying the Miss Universe franchise and vowing smaller bathing suits and higher heels. You could watch him humiliate supplicants on “The Apprentice” and hear him on “The Howard Stern Show” gallantly describing the mystery of Melania’s bowel movements (“I’ve never seen anything — it’s amazing”) and announcing that, “without even hesitation,” he would have had sex with Princess Diana. As early as 1988, Trump hinted at a run for the White House, though this was understood to be part of his carny shtick, another form of self-branding in the celebrity-mad culture.

And now here we are. Trump is no longer hustling golf courses, fake “universities,” or reality TV. He means to command the United States armed forces and control its nuclear codes. He intends to propose legislation, conduct America’s global affairs, preside over its national-intelligence apparatus, and make the innumerable moral and political decisions required of a President. This is not a Seth Rogen movie; this is as real as mud. Having all but swept the early Republican primaries and caucuses, Trump — who re-tweets conspiracy theories and invites the affections of white-supremacist groups, and has established himself as the adept inheritor of a long tradition of nativism, discrimination, and authoritarianism — is getting ever closer to becoming the nominee of what Republicans like to call “the party of Abraham Lincoln.” No American demagogue –– not Huey Long, not Joseph McCarthy, not George Wallace –– has ever achieved such proximity to national power.

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List, list, O list!
Lists within lists (re-tweets conspiracy theories and invites the affections of white-supremacist groups, and has established himself as the adept inheritor of a long tradition of nativism, discrimination, and authoritarianism)!

And how does Remnick avoid turning this essay into the dreary recitation of one list after another? He varies the way he presents them. He breaks them up with humor (trout), anecdotes, quotations. He packs each of his paragraphs with all sorts of things – history, neologisms (egoscape), fresh similes (as real as mud), and fun alliteration (mystery, Melania, movements, amazing).

Indeed, if SOS could take Melania’s bowel movements out of that parenthesis and propose a simile of her own:

Good writing is like Melania’s feculence. It is the product of someone who has gone to the trouble of secreting herself in a private room and thoughtfully shaping what must be expressed into something solid and not off-putting.

The Romney Speech Today was, if you ask UD, a Win/Win.

But before we hear from UD, let’s hear from Scathing Online Schoolmarm.

SOS notes that Romney found a fine speechwriter. Here’s some of the good stuff.

[Trump is a] twisted example of evil trumping good.

Nice use of the last name. “Twisted” is a strong word, and gives the sentence a gently tripping alliteration. Twisted also helps make one of Romney’s larger points: Trump is nuts.

There is a dark irony in his boasts of his sexual exploits during the Vietnam War while at the same time John McCain, who he has mocked, was imprisoned and tortured.

Dark irony is pretty effing sophisticated for a political speech, in SOS‘s humble opinion. SOS expects to find dark irony in essays about Franz Kafka. Color SOS also pretty astonished that Romney’s willing to say Trump humped his way through the war. This is a point best made by Bill Maher (now that Robin Williams is no longer with us), but even without going for the easy laugh, Romney does more than respectably with it.

His imagination must not be married to real power.

The he’s nuts point again, made pithily and well. SOS thinks that Romney’s decision to stress Trump’s disordered grandiose mind was a wise one. If the point is to needle Trump in order to get him to act even more insanely than he’s been acting, nothing will work better than heading for the complex private terrain of his mind. It’s like that cruel game in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf when George finally has Martha madly shrieking that she’s NOT nuts, she’s NOT nuts! “You’re all flops,” screams Martha (losers, in Trumpspeech), and I’m the only sane one around here…

A later phrase along these lines – Trump’s “absurd third-grade theatrics” – adds infantile to grandiose and disordered. And look at the poetry of the phrase: absurd rhymes with third; grade is a nearish-rhyme with third, and theatrics wakes the phrase up by putting a long-voweled, tri-syllabic word at the end.

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Ok, and as for UD‘s response: She has two points to make.

1. As a university maven, UD was pleased to see Trump University rear its head.

His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.

2. For UD, who will vote for Hillary, the speech is also a winner because Romney’s intemperate remarks about Hillary will, UD thinks, inspire more people to vote for her:

Even as Romney condemned Trump as a fundamental threat to the nation, he gave credence to Republicans’ wide-ranging hysteria about Hillary Clinton. “A person so untrustworthy and dishonest as Hillary Clinton must not become president,” he declared, reflecting a variety of negative GOP tendencies — accepting distortions as plain truth, making it seem as though the fate of the Republic constantly hangs on Republicans winning the next election, arguing that their opponents are not just wrong but illegitimate.

Really well-written article about President Trump. And who knew that …

About half of Republicans favor higher taxes on the rich

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Many pithy sentences, such as this one:

Running for office as an exercise in ego gratification may not be as good a thing as running as a serious candidate with good ideas, but it’s much better than running as a serious candidate with bad ideas.

And plenty of low-key humor (read the whole thing). Scathing Online Schoolmarm loves writing like this.

“National Review is a failing publication that has lost it’s way.”

Scathing Online Schoolmarm knew there was something she didn’t like about this guy.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm Talks About …

… the art of argumentation.

Arguing in favor of increased taxpayer subsidy of the University of Hawaii’s pointless, corrupt, and wasteful football program is not going to be easy. Argumentation-wise, you’re going to have to lift your game as high as you possibly can. You’re going to have to stand on your tippy toes. You’re going to have to reach for reasons as you’ve never reached for reasons before.

It’s not surprising, then, that a local columnist fails to make the case that the governor was wrong when he recently denied the school three million additional athletics dollars. But the way he fails is instructive if you’re interested in how to write polemically.

The writer’s particular challenge is that he has absolutely no empirical evidence on his side. Almost no one goes to the games. Ever. The team is wretched. Consistently. The flagrant mismanagement of the program makes it a statewide embarrassment.

If he is going to get anywhere in making his case, he’s going to have to go straight and hard in the direction of total bullshit.

People disdain bs, but when you’ve got nowhere else to go, it can be very effective. If the subject is football, it means getting weepy and huffy and patriotic and mythic and misty-eyed as you recall past heroes on the field, the character-building power of teamwork, and the way your own university experience would have been hollow without crisp fall afternoons cheering on the lads. This approach will appeal to the typical reader’s sentimentality about football even as it allows you to sidestep the, uh, reality problem.

This particular writer opts against bs, which leaves him flailing. It leaves him to make the case against his argument. Let’s take a look.

Here’s his opening move:

[A]lmost every university athletics program in the country loses money. The debt is chronic, structural.

So … give your tax money to UH till it hurts? Because we won’t be on board with the national project of bankrupting schools via their big sports programs if we don’t? You wouldn’t want Hawaii to be left out of America’s ongoing chronic structural football indebtedness, would you?

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Next move: If you don’t stop refusing to attend UH football games, you’re going to force UH to shut down the program. Then where will you have not to go on Sunday afternoons? The writer describes this terrifying scenario in appropriately terrifying terms:

UH [might have] to disband all or parts of its intercollegiate sports, including of course, football. That is a university’s nuclear option. Whatever they think of football, no university administrators anywhere want to be the ones who drop this bomb.

University administrators everywhere dream nightly of shutting down their football programs, so this wasn’t a good place for the writer to go. Again, the principle here is do not try to make your argument reality-based if you don’t have any reality-based arguments.

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The writer’s next move reminds us that within the category bullshit, there is good bullshit and bad bullshit. By the middle of his essay the writer has commendably turned to bullshit, but he has chosen bad. Let us see if we can follow his serpentine reasoning here.

“It is a matter of setting priorities,” [the governor] told the newspaper, as if we are talking about Political Science Department office supplies. “If UH wants athletics to be a priority, then it needs to come up with the money.”

Very tough-lovish and totally misguided. [The governor] sees the problem as a budgetary issue — a cut here, a paste there, get off your okole and do your job.

Because athletics is completely different from anything else at UH, different rules should apply.

Solving the deficit should not be on UH’s priority list at all because the deficit is the community’s and by extension the Legislature’s problem, not UH’s.

Working her way through this extraordinary set of claims, SOS concludes that the writer is saying the following.

The University of Hawaii is a conduit, a vector, a vessel, through which the football-demanding citizens of the state are granted football. The citizens demand it and the state uses their tax dollar to provide it; UH just sits there fielding a team. Therefore money must come from the legislature, not from, say, UH ticket revenue ($0).

This argument combines the reality-based mistake (no one in the state demands football) with bad bullshit (football is a public good like the railroads – the writer compares university football to Amtrak).

SOS did find one good use of bs in this piece.

Is UH football one of these valuable endeavors worth subsidizing? If the politicians think so, then they should step up, allocate the money, and defend their choice.

Be accountable for your decisions and don’t make the university do the dirty work for you.

If the Legislature or the governor does not want to take the heat for bailing out athletics in this way, fine. But don’t pass the buck and blame UH for your lack of will.

This is great because it is both emotive (government pussies!) and totally madly insanely unreality-based (martyred UH is forced to take the fall for being a faithful public servant in the provision of football). Wow.

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In concluding his essay, the writer brings out the big guns.

[The governor is] putting a nail in the coffin of the university.

And why? Because he is allowing UH autonomy, the bastard.

On the surface, [the governor’s] comments support the university’s flexibility. But what he is actually doing is stressing its flexibility to do things it really does not want to do.

… “I think the university should take responsibility and make a decision about what is important,” [the governor] said to the Star-Advertiser. “If they are unable to do that, I’ll take back all the authority to line item the budget. I’d do it in a second … I’d love to do that.”

… Overall, the governor’s views have a patronizing, dismissive dad-to-teen quality.

He makes it appear that UH may not have the courage to make hard choices.

Anyone who has followed the story of the University of Hawaii for the last ten or so years (put University Hawaii in this blog’s search engine) knows that on every level it is among America’s most dysfunctional public university systems, with scandalous ever-shifting leadership, endless financial and athletic misdeeds, supine trustees, and put-upon students. The evidence is overwhelming that what the governor hints at is right: UH lacks the intelligence and the will to govern itself.

It is bad bullshit for this writer to complain that a university which deserves to patronized is being patronized. It is positively Orwellian for him to say that a university which lacks the capacity and the courage to make even easy choices has the courage and capacity to make hard choices. Where is the chorus of Hawaiians outraged by the governor’s actions and comments in regard to the state’s university? If you took Amtrak away, I think you’d hear about it from a lot of Americans.

Rather than struggle against his absence of all grounded argument, this writer would have done better to focus relentlessly upon the transcendent glory of football, adding here and there some abstract anti-government references.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm takes a badly written opening paragraph…

… to remind you that crazy all over the place figurative language makes for ugly and clotted prose.

Critics of the hit documentary The Hunting Ground – which illuminates in damning detail the prevalence of sexual violence at American universities – are ramping up their attacks just in time for The Hunting Ground‘s prime time debut on CNN this Sunday, November 22. And if they aren’t careful, their aspersions might dovetail with the massive audience CNN commands to result in a spectacular backfire: For the film’s central premise is that whistle blowers on campus sexual violence are demonized and delegitimized by the very same universities who are going on the offensive in advance of Sunday’s screening.

I’ve bolded the figurative words, which I’ll get to in a minute. But note also the wordiness of this paragraph, with its repetition, in the first sentence, of the film’s title (just write the film’s), and its strange coupling of demonized and delegitimized … If you’re demonizing, you’re certainly (but more weakly) delegitimizing… and delegitimized is an ugly mouthful. Just stick with “demonized,” which goes well with “damning.” I mean, if you’re going to start out with that very strong rhetoric, “delegitimized” takes all the air out of your argument, or at least makes it look as though you’re backing down from it. It would also be stronger to drop dovetail with the massive audience CNN commands to result in a spectacular backfire and simply write backfire. Backfire is your strongest word: go for it, and end the sentence with it.

Note also all the “to be” verbs in here: are ramping; aren’t careful; premise is that; are demonized; are going on the offensive. This feels plodding, when we want agile. Use stronger verbs and less repetition. And drop who are: Write universities going on the offensive. We’re trying for punchy concise language here, so that the reader grasps the argument quickly and can go from there through the piece.

And okay, look at all the metaphorical stuff she’s got going, all of these images fighting against one another and making comprehension difficult: Aspersions, for instance, dovetail and then backfire. When you add figurative words like whistle blowers to the weird scene this language has already called up in our minds, chaos ensues. Steady as she goes on the figurative language – use it, but use it sparingly, and make sure your metaphors make sense together.

Basic point here from SOS: SIMPLIFY. Speak directly.

MAJOR Coacha Inconsolata Initiative Begun!

It started with Coach Pitino himself, who said that in the aftermath of charges that his University of Louisville assistant basketball coach hired prostitutes over a number of years for some of his players (festivities took place in the athletes’ dorm), he felt

… heart broken… My heart is just taken out of my body and broken.

It continues with this remarkable essay, which argues that Pitino himself a few years ago had sex on a restaurant table (some reports say it happened on the restaurant floor, or in its bathroom) because of 9/11 (RICK PITINO AND THE SHADOWS THAT NEVER LEAVE):

[Pitino’s] descent into a dark place [so maybe it was the bathroom] happened no more than two years after 9-11. The idea that tragedy and loss [a close relative of Pitino’s died] did not have anything to do with a flawed man’s attempt to fill those voids with something adventurous (and highly inappropriate) seems unconvincing.

Plus even the Pope, man…

In keeping with the Golden Rule Pope Francis invoked when he spoke to Congress, none of us would ever want the past — something 12 years ago — to be held against us.

The whole essay’s really weird because few people so far have anything to say at all about whether Pitino knew his lads were double teaming (or so the exposé claims) in the dorm … It’s as if the writer – given Pitino’s own sex scandal background – assumes we’re going to go there and we’re going to assume Pitino must have known all about the McNasty…

I mean, he might have. Who knows? We’ll find out. But that’s not what most people are thinking about right now. Right now we’re thinking about whether the claims are true, what exactly happened… It’s early days. Yet here you’ve got this guy anticipating a general belief that the slimy Pitino (as the essay goes on to note, he’s paid an outrageous fortune, is a really unpleasant human being, is a hypocrite – all those motivational books about how you can be as great as he is – and is an inveterate breaker of rules, athletic and otherwise) must have known about the sex. So right there I’m not sure the writer is accomplishing his Coacha Inconsolata (put the term in my search engine if at this late date you need a definition) goals by going out of his way to remind us that Pitino’s a shit.

After a long detailed recounting of Pitino’s grubby past, the essay ends in this way:

[We need to] recognize the fragility of life behind (and beyond) the public persona of someone who has won multiple championships and earned a boatload of money.

You know, there’s one thing Scathing Online Schoolmarm will say for Donald Trump. Donald Trump doesn’t say I’m a shitty person because of 9/11. He doesn’t say under all my greed and cruelty I’m fragile and you have to be nice to me. Nor does he have admirers who say these things for him.

Ok, so I love the Barbie Jeep.

American ingenuity at its best.

Plus she’s way quotable.

“Most people don’t find the things my friends and I do very funny, just immature, so I didn’t expect to get this big of reaction.” [SOS did some light editing on this statement.]

Scathing Online Schoolmarm Says:

Now, this is how you write.

But before I get to that – Let me just say how much SOS likes it when she is brought, through idle online pecking, to a piece of writing that she loves. The last piece of writing she liked as much as Drew Jubera’s essay for GQ on southern-football junior colleges was about trailer parks, and she lighted on that piece in the same way.

The specific trail that took me to Jubera’s piece involved UD‘s interest in Zeke Pike. Zeke Pike is a superfuckup who plays really good football. Quarterback even. Plus Zeke has a great football name.

Zeke has now flushed out of three RDQ (Rapidly Descending Quality) schools onaccounta the fuckupery (do you really, at this point, need details?) — Auburn, Louisville, and Morgan State. UD was going to write a post speculating about the fourth school Zeke will attend (possible post titles: SNEAK PEAK, ZEKE. IS PIKE PAST PEAK?) (Pike’s Peak: Get it?), but she was having trouble coming up with the next RDQ school…

Then she read this comment on the article about him to which she linked up there.

They are desperate for a QB in East Mississippi.

So off she Googled to East Mississippi Community College, star of Jubera’s GQ piece. SOS offers some excerpts. Watch carefully. The guy knows how to write.

First paragraph – Setting the scene.

The landscape is drunk Faulkner: small and spooky and piss-poor. Piney woods run deep enough to hide whatever you don’t want found. What passes for the old downtown is one side of one block. Five brick buildings still stand; another four are gone, just disappeared, as if by cremation — nothing left but rubble and little piles of red dust. Drive by most days and the only open business is a working Coke machine on the sidewalk.

With the next excerpt, you note that one of the things Jubera’s got going is a wonderful back and forth between highfalutin (Faulkner) and lowfalutin (piss-poor). See how he continues the trick.

To local existentialists, it makes perfect sense. “There’s a lot to offer in Scooba, Mississippi. Want to know what it is?” Nick Clark, a white-haired former Lion who works in the school’s development office, asks me from across his desk.

I allow that I am totally stumped.

“There are no distractions!”

Existentialists. We’re going to keep this going, this glorious juxtaposition – not just because it’s funny and rich, suggesting at once the reality of the place, and the consciousness ol’ Jubera (and his readers) are bringing with them when they visit Scooba, but because many of the people Jubera talks to are self-conscious at quite a high level about their existence.

[The school’s] roster does tend to over-represent the discarded and dispossessed: lawbreakers, rule-benders, dropouts, dipshits, potheads, and assorted other screwups — almost all of whom can flat-out ball. Coaches recruit kids from houses without food, without parents, without floors. One coach sat across from a mother who stared back at him with four eyes. “She had a pair of eyeballs tattooed right over her titties,” he told me. “It gets surreal sometimes.”

Noticing some similarities to the article on trailer parks UD also loved? And notice too how the high/low thing keeps working: dipshits/surrealism.

Now to meet the coach:

The glassy eyes of an eight-point buck stare me down from a back wall as Buddy greets me from a big padded chair behind his big wooden desk. Buddy is big, too: A former center, he’s short and wide and rounded off at the edges. One of his chins sprouts a white goatee.

Buddy spits Red Man tobacco into a Diet Coke bottle. Originally from Alabama, he’s still Bama enough to name his yellow Lab Bama. Now 49, Buddy has said he got into coaching because he wasn’t smart enough to do anything else. He’d really like you to believe that. Tucked between the sports books on his shelves: Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.

A typical Buddy takeaway: “As a rule of thumb, big fish eat little fish.”

… “I try to be self-actualized enough,” [Buddy later] says, “to realize I’m an asshole.”

Can Jubera sketch a character in six sentences? Are you fucking kidding me? And another existentialist/surrealist! (Would have been even better if the book were Trout Fishing in America. Higher-level surrealism-consciousness.)

And again: Lyrical plus sordid:

Later that evening, in heavy air that feels more like bathwater, [the] players jog onto a practice field they share with the adjoining agricultural high school. The cornfield across the road and the little Baptist church beside it turn gold, then pink, then indigo in the sun’s lowering light.

It’s still football: Coaches bark insults, players run into one another, fights threaten to break out. A fat kid bends over after running gassers and pukes.

Gassers and pukes. The sun’s lowering light. Can you get enough of this stuff? SOS can’t get enough of this stuff.

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Update: The notorious woman-beater De’Andre Johnson has “made his way to East Mississippi Community College.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm Says: Here’s a great example of a …

non sequitur:

Police Chief Nate King says a fight at a nightclub at 100 East Downing Street attracted dozens of people and ended in gunshots and a stabbing. He says two people were shot and one was stabbed.

King says one of the shooting victims was an NSU football player.

The police chief said officers originally arrested two people, 30-year-old Damon Glass, AKA, Damon Shade, for accessory to assault with a deadly weapon, and 23-year-old Robbie Foreman for two counts of assault and battery with a deadly weapon, possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm while intoxicated.

Friday night, however, the chief said Foreman confessed to the stabbing and shooting. He also said Glass was no longer in custody.

There’s a quaintness about downtown Tahlequah, with its many storefronts offering unique shopping.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm Scathes Through…

… that classic mode of American letters, the apologia for the depraved university football program.

Local Minnesota booster/journalist Chip Scoggins shows you how it’s done for that state’s benighted school. Let us do a close reading.

Tone-wise, the big sustained thing, the ground tone, is a variant of Coacha Inconsolata (put the phrase in my search engine if you’re not yet familiar with it), in which shock, heartbreak, and an indomitable will to be shocked and heartbroken again rule. Have at me! says the bankrupt befouled and humiliated campus…

Oh my men I love them so
They’ll never know
All my life is just despair
But I don’t care
When they take me in their arms
The world is bright – all right!
What’s the difference if I say
I’ll go away
When I know I’ll come back on my knees someday…

Texas Tech is the nation’s sluttiest pain slut, hands down. Penn State assumes the crown if for any reason the current titleholder cannot fulfill her reign. The University of Minnesota is one of the five semi-finalists.

Why, just four days ago, before UM’s Athletic Director, via text, volunteered his muffdiving services to some random woman, Chip was burbling about how the program had finally begun to regain its respectability (church groups were mentioned). Now it’s back to the post-oral-sex-offer, pre-alcohol-rehab-stint status quo, and Chip’s got some familiar heavy lifting to do.

Headline: Teague Scandal Rocks Gophers Athletics Amid Recent Gains

Always give them some shred to hold onto – allude to vaguely defined gains.

Opinion piece summary: The accumulation of disappointment over the years — NCAA violations, misdeeds, awful hires, heartbreaking defeats — has created this perception that the U can’t get out of its own way.

A couple of points here. Note how the random expected fact of lost games gets included in this list of self-inflicted misfortunes. All teams lose games, but at masochistic schools it’s always one heartbreaking loss after another, and what’s a girl to do?

Note further: The “U can’t get out of its own way.” What does this particular formulation mean? It means that the stupid stubborn fact of a university, of all things, having to run a football program is once again the stumbling block. Where the hell does a university get off running a football program? You want to run a football program, be like Alabama and Clemson and get rid of the university!

The Gophers athletic department suffered another black eye that brought the kind of negative, unwanted attention that has become all too familiar.

No one felt surprised. That’s the sad part.

Again, always keep it more in sorrow than in anger. Sad. Sad.

Oh, we’re all shocked by the lewd details, the fact that a person in Norwood Teague’s position would act like such a Neanderthal. But not shocked that something like this happened to the Gophers, another deep dive into a pile of dung.

… Within hours of Teague’s resignation as athletic director, three people sent me text messages. A former university employee, a die-hard fan and a booster. All shared a similar theme in their words.

Here we go again.

It’s fair to guess that employees inside the department shared that same deflation of morale, which is too bad because a lot of earnest, hardworking, passionate folks work in the Bierman complex. They deserve better.

Shocked? Really? But as SOS points out above, it’s crucial for schools like Minnesota to keep an ever-refreshed stock of shock alongside heartbreak. A man coming on like that to a woman? What a shockingly lewd Neanderthal! In Minnesota, stuff like this is just so unfunny and shocking…

University President Eric Kaler tried hard to create a clear divide between Teague’s conduct and his school’s image, saying one man’s deplorable actions shouldn’t define an entire operation.

Please. UM doesn’t belong to its president any more than Joe Paterno’s Penn State belonged to whoever that dude was who made the public service announcements.

Instability at key positions in college sports — AD, football and basketball coaches — stunts momentum and forces athletic departments to continually hit the reset button. The Gophers know that too well. They need normalcy for once.

But constant administrative turnover, hugely expensive buyouts and lawsuits, relentlessly criminalized teams, and of course indifferent students who fail to fill up the brand new hugely expensive stadium is normalcy at jockshops like Minnesota. There are no earnest prudes in Bierman; there are only suckers. Everybody else is studying or whatever.

Teague ultimately proved to be a bad hire by Kaler, and the president can’t swing and miss on such an important position again. The Gophers carry a $105 million athletic budget. This is not a mom-and-pop operation.

See SOS‘s point above. You hire some goddamn academic to run a football program and this is the kind of dumbass hiring decision that gets made. Lose the president. Get Jim Tressel on the phone!

Those who cling to the idyllic perception of college athletics probably resent the fact that football and basketball are placed on a pedestal above every other sport, but that’s the reality now.

Sing it sister. But take it a teeny step further and tell the whole truth.

Those who cling to the idyllic perception of college athletics probably resent the fact that football and basketball are placed on a pedestal above every other activity on the UM campus, but that’s the reality now.

See? That was easy. That didn’t hurt.

Richard Cherwitz is not the first university specialist in communication who communicates poorly…

…and he won’t be the last. But he is certainly one of the first professors to complain that the “final straw” (one of his cascade of cliches) in the matter of American university big-time sports is the doubling of prices for faculty tickets. Not the crime, not the slime, not the one-and-done time, not the president-as-athletic-department-mime (gimme a break – trying to keep up the … rhyme…) — no, the ugly rot at the core of campus football and basketball turns out to be his university having “more than doubled the price of faculty and staff season … tickets.”

In setting out his critique of university sports at places like his school, the notorious University of Texas, Cherwitz offers the classic bad writer’s combination of pretentiousness and – as we already noted – cliche. Oh – plus pointless quotation marks.

I cannot speak to what may be the legitimate concerns and response of donors. However, I know that most of my faculty and staff colleagues with whom I have talked opted not to renew their season tickets. It now was clear to us that the Athletics Department no longer considers faculty and staff to be members of the “family” and “community” – the very people who educate and serve student athletes. Instead, we became another one of the institution’s many “corporate customers.”

Scathing Online Schoolmarm trusts that given his love of sports, Cherwitz’s boycott will be of short duration. She’s sure that will be true of other faculty members as well.

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UD thanks a reader for sending her the opinion piece.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm Says:

If you want to read an example of a really good essay, go here, to Jay Michaelson’s piece on the ongoing death of Israeli democracy. Let me tell you why it’s a terrific essay.

First of all, it’s very short, but within that concision Michaelson brilliantly, elegantly, and with dramatic – even poetic – flair, conveys his argument. An essay is “a short piece of writing on a particular subject,” says the first dictionary definition I get when I Google “meaning of the word ‘essay.'” The best essayists know how to pack their meaning into very few words, and this brevity often packs quite a punch… It is, if you like, a punch – a quick feint to the brain which suddenly distracts the mind from its customary thoughts and makes it pay attention. Think Joan Didion – that weird evocative minimalism which somehow by picking out only a few powerful words (and these are often repeated words) hooks onto you and holds you.

Second, Michaelson’s tone is neutral, controlled, calm, observant… And at the same time it manages to convey intense underlying emotions. Didion’s great at this too: On the surface, in her essays about her husband and her daughter, for instance, she’s so much about dry perceptive intellect directed to the world, careful precise language brought to the description of her experience, that you only gradually realize the almost unbearable melancholy that she’s really feeling, the bafflement and despair that’s in fact motivating the writing as a way of understanding and assimilating the tragic nature of life.

Third, Michaelson gives his essay a narrative frame. The obnoxious Hasid on Michaelson’s flight from Israel begins and ends the essay, giving the author’s abstractions about “a minority group … that pays those who are destroying it” (he has in mind Israeli and American Jewish subsidies of the most reactionary sects within the faith) a grounding in the immediacy of the real world… Or perhaps SOS should say a floating in the immediacy of the in-flight world, where women are angered by the Hasid’s refusal to sit next to them, and where women and men are made anxious by the man’s bizarre rule-flouting behavior throughout the flight.

Finally, Michaelson’s not got much space so he’s not going to fart around. He’s not going to mince words. He’s going to tell you – calmly, precisely – what’s in the mind of the Hasid, what has been put in the Hasid’s mind by the education that the larger Jewish community continues to subsidize.

Most likely, he has learned in religious schools – paid for mainly by government largesse, thanks to “faith-based initiatives” and the erosion of the garden wall between church and state – that goyim have no souls, or are like animals, or worse… . Taught that the customs of the goyim – that includes non-Orthodox Jews, of course – are filthy, stupid and nonbinding, Haredim are unruly passengers on airplanes. “Fasten seatbelts?” – goyishe toireh. “Don’t gather in the aisles?” – narishkeit.

But no – he can’t really know exactly what the Hasid is thinking.

Really, I have no idea what the Hasid is thinking, what the flight attendants are thinking or what my fellow passengers are thinking.

I can report only what I am thinking. And that is that this moment of obstinacy and disrespect is one that we Jews have created. Our cousins in Israel have given the Haredim everything they’ve asked for in exchange for their political support – just watch as the new government undoes all the progress of the previous one – at tremendous cost to society as a whole. And our institutions here in America continue to dole out benefits to fundamentalists opposed to the very institutions that are feeding them.

The last two sentences of Michaelson’s essay wonderfully meld the particular, the immediate narrative of the obnoxious Hasid, with the general:

An obstreperous man on an airplane is not so bad; after a few hours, we made it to JFK, safe and sound. Reversing course on Jewish fundamentalism will be a lot harder.

UD knows she shouldn’t laugh; but her evil twin, Scathing Online Schoolmarm, made her do it.

SOS likes the anti-climax of the final clause.

Khadar was charged with two counts each of second-degree reckless endangerment, third- and second-degree assault; breach of peace, assault of a public safety officer, four counts of interfering with an officer, drunken driving, evading responsibility, reckless driving and failure to wear a seat belt.

Incredulous/Incredible

From a letter to the editor of a South Carolina newspaper. The subject: Events at South Carolina State University.

[SCSU President Thomas] Elzey has made two incredulous declarations to all viewing from near and afar: “SCSU will not close, and I will not resign.” Though he emphatically states these, he has control of neither.

The writer means incredible. Elzey has made statements that we cannot believe. Things are incredible – experiences, statements.

Incredulous refers to the human condition or feeling of not being able to believe something. I am incredulous when I hear Elzey say incredible things.

Had Elzey said I cannot believe what is happening to me! Everyone thinks I should resign! – then he would have been declaring his incredulity.

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