Read my book, TEACHING BEAUTY IN DeLILLO, WOOLF, AND MERRILL (Palgrave Macmillan; forthcoming), co-authored with Jennifer Green-Lewis. VISIT MY BRANCH CAMPUS AT INSIDE HIGHER ED





UD is...
"Salty." (Scott McLemee)
"Unvarnished." (Phi Beta Cons)
"Splendidly splenetic." (Culture Industry)
"Except for University Diaries, most academic blogs are tedious."
(Rate Your Students)
"I think of Soltan as the Maureen Dowd of the blogosphere,
except that Maureen Dowd is kind of a wrecking ball of a writer,
and Soltan isn't. For the life of me, I can't figure out her
politics, but she's pretty fabulous, so who gives a damn?"
(Tenured Radical)

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

SCROLL DOWN for latest posts


UD is using an evil alien computer here at the beach, and has yet to figure out its time and date feature. Please scroll down for latest posts.

Friday, July 23, 2004

BAD UNIVERSITY DAY


UD went to Bad Hair Day, a salon in Rehoboth Beach, for a cut and color yesterday afternoon. While a man with rainbow tatoos on his arms put streaks in UD's hair, she watched a seminar taking place at the same time in the salon.

A woman representing a beauty products company held up each of their offerings - sun lotion, aromatherapy ointment, wrinkle reducer, coconut conditioner - and, while student stylists took notes, she solemnly described the chemical and psychological properties of each item.

Each item was scientifically designed, in accordance with lofty and complicated empirical standards, to produce youth and tranquillity in its users.

The seminar leader's earnest pedantry was matched by the thoughtful, searching questions her students posed, and UD, witnessing all of this, wondered about universities.




UD, you know, is University Diaries, a blog interested in what ails American colleges and universities. And in the definitive matter of what legitimate universities ought to teach, what ails them is not the curricular unrest that people have in mind when they talk about "canon wars," so much as curricular anarchy. Aromatherapeutics - along with anything else you care to think of - is, or will soon be, a degree program at an American university.

Four-year research universities in America and abroad currently offer majors in scuba diving, spa management, catering, creative writing, and surfing. All sorts of upstanding accredited institutions allow you to major in dumb and dumber subjects. On your way to your degree in Spa Management at Arizona State University (known to its intimates as the Tempe Country Club, or the Spa on the Salt), you will need to satisfy the following requirements:

Leadership
Fitness
Holistic Health
Massage Therapy
Healthy Cuisine.

A college in Wales has a new surfing major. "Surfing is a hobby, not a subject," complains one politician: "I do believe these degrees are devaluing academia." A member of the Welsh nouvelle vague begs to differ: "We've nothing to be ashamed of here."

UD wishes to be clear: As in her post on Harleys [UD, 7/8/04], she has nothing against junior colleges without pretensions to anything beyond vocationalism seasoned with a pinch of cultural literacy offering a vocational curriculum. And of course she has nothing against graduate schools in business, law, medicine, and other vocations. Nor does she have anything against schools giving people MFAs. What gets her facial in a twist is the hypocrisy of vocational schools presenting themselves to the world as universities and liberal arts colleges. What wipes her out is the cynicism of institutions that claim intellectual seriousness but allow some of their students to graduate having read little beyond their own and their classmates' poetry.

The Welsh politician is right: This sort of thing devalues academia as much as the online degree mills, as much as the laughingstock leisure studies majors targeted at the school football team. In fact this new stuff is just the traditional leisure studies for athletes thing extended to the rest of the university.

The honest thing to do is to take a very close look at your university and if it's not a university to stop calling it that.

Of course the trend is entirely in the other direction. No university announces to the media that, having examined its vocational and/or vacuous undergraduate curriculum, it has decided that the decent thing to do is to rename itself the Arizona State Vocational Training Institute or the Welsh Surfmatics Certificate Center. On the contrary, every junior college eventually annoints itself a college, and a few years after that, a university. And as long as accreditation agencies don't give a shit what universities teach, universities will continue to look more and more like beauty salons.
FROM THE MOUTHS OF THE POD PEOPLE


Not even Janice Sidley [UD 4/29/04] saw mandatory freshman iPods coming.

Elements of the entitlement class, however, are in revolt.

Some merely whine that as upperclassmen at Duke they're not entitled to iPods; but others see what's what.

One Duke student calls them "trendy door prizes." Another: "Ridiculous...a waste of money...toys for freshmen."

Even as Duke spokespeople press the appropriate linguistic levers (iPods are "certainly not an entitlement." They are about "creativity," "effectiveness," "experimentation," and "boldness"), some of the pod people are pissed: "Completely extravagant," says a very steamed student, who points out that since most Duke freshmen are rich and already own iPods, "a lot of students will just be selling them on eBay to make money." Another notes the obvious: The giveaway is a "way for Apple to capture customers."

Yet another points to the cute Segways all over campus, on which university police lean this way and that: "They zoom around on campus. There seems to be a trend of unnecessary, expensive toys."




UD hopes her readers catch the inverted family dynamic here. For years, self-absorbed parents have been issuing the latest calming technology to restive little peas. Now beginning to crawl out of their shell, the pod people are becoming America's censorious elders.
ONCE AGAIN, TENNESSEE


Incredibly, the state of Tennessee has done it again. Regular readers will know that after a lot of research, UD last April named Tennessee the state with America's most corrupt and embarrassing university presidents [see UD, 4/10/04]. Now, yet another Tennessee University - Fisk - has produced one of these, with a new wrinkle: Hazel O'Leary, Fisk's president, has not yet taken the job. She is humiliating the university before having stepped through the door.

O'Leary, whose tenure as President Clinton's Energy Secretary was a scandal-ridden mess (she spent a lot of time before congressional committees explaining her excessive and lavish government travel -- it was not uncommon for her to go overseas with a retinue of sixty assistants), got upset the other day when the flight she was on diverted due to storms. After sitting on a tarmac for awhile, O'Leary apparently tried to storm the cockpit, demanding to be let off the plane. One supposes she had in mind to explain to the pilot how important she was, etc. [UPDATE: "I am your colleague," O'Leary yelled at the pilot by way of explaining why she, a board member of the airline in question, ought to be given special treatment.]

Fisk's incoming leader was reportedly abusive enough to have been at one point physically restrained. Her behavior also drew the attention of the FBI, which interviewed her when it was all over.

There may be a way to spin this story so that it's not about an arrogant, unstable person. We'll see.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

COSSETTED


Many little girls on Rehoboth Beach have had their entire torsos encased in thick flotation jackets by anxious parents. UD watches these little girls stagger about on the sand and she thinks of Houdini. She thinks of FBI men in bullet-proof vests. She thinks of Olivia de Havilland in The Snake Pit.

These girls will be cossetted by their parents for years. When they are allowed to go off to college, their college will hand them an iPod to go with their cell phone and palm pilot and laptop. And UD, their professor, will watch them straggle into her classroom dragging all of these wires and bells and screens, and lo, she will weep for them. She will weep for them as they sit restlessly for a few minutes while UD lectures, and then, prompted by a command from one of their devices, suddenly leave the room. When they come back in, they've lost the thread of the lecture or the discussion. They've never been able to concentrate on any one thing. There's so much going on.

Anyway, the world - a raging ocean footsteps away - is too terrifying to think clearly about for long. Lose yourself in the music.





UD admires Timothy Burke's ideas about college reform. Three elements of the contemporary college or university - an incoherent curriculum, over-specialized faculty, and nanny state conditions on campus - are killing it, Burke rightly notes. "This blueprint counsels abandoning the vast majority of services provided by most colleges and universities while also maintaining a scrupulous disinterest in the private lives of students, faculty and administrators," he writes.

But by the time Duke University ("No doubt people are going to use it mostly for personal use," says one incoming student of the iPods. "But if Duke wants to spend that much money on me, I got no problem with it." "It's the ultimate relaxation," says another, non-Duke enthusiast. , one of many devotees who, Newsweek reports, are "obsessive" about the device) gets the strait-jacketed girls of Rehoboth Beach, it is arguably too late. Burke's college would offer "no extensive counseling to students, or support for student groups... The college would take no official or administrative interest in the private lives of its students." Burke's college would be an icon of autonomous thought, a community organized around intellectuality, not somas.

Yet the products of hypersensitive parents cannot be expected to understand the principles of independence and realism upon which the true university is based. It is a kind of bait and switch to raise affluent American children on fear, dependency, and entitlement, and then suddenly, at the college gates, confront them with starkly opposing values.

Why, more and more people ask, are American parents willing to pay obscene fees for their childrens' college? Because they know that no price for long-distance cossetting is too high. There are never enough layers of insulation.
UD's SUN-BURNED CREED


Loving the truth, and fain online the truth to show
That the dear They might take some pleasure of my pain,
Pleasure might cause them read, reading might make them know,
Knowledge might insight win, and insight change obtain,--
I sought fit words to paint the status quo;
Studying conventions vile, their wits to entertain,
Oft turning others' leaves, to see if thence would flow
Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sun-burned brain.
But words came halting forth, wanting Invention's stay,
Invention, nature's child, fled Step-Dame study's blows,
And others' feet still seemed but strangers in my way.
Thus, great with child to speak, and helpless in my throes,
Biting my truant pen, myself about to flog,
'Fool!' said my muse to me. 'Look in thy heart and blog.'

Monday, July 19, 2004

UD, Currently at the Beach, Writes a Poem



Pale, pale, and radically displaced,
A vision of concavity among the convex,
The English professor approaches the plage.

The path of his pilgrimage is complex.
Where he sits must allow him to dodge
The human race.

At the end of his haj
To the edge of the place,
He takes from his satchel the text

(Death in Venice) on which his next essay will be based.
At the moment a hodgepodge
Of thoughts on repression and sex,

His mind will eventually lodge
In whatever it says in Zizek's
Last book. The English professor's face

Is pale, pale, with flecks
Of sand and spittle. Also the trace
Of Clarins Super Protectante Bronzeage

Borrowed from his girlfriend, a neurotic case.
She refuses to go to the beach, for nothing protects
Fully against the sun. She writes in the garage.

Friday, July 16, 2004


WE COME IN PEACE



From The Cincinnati Post, 7/15/04


The title of [Northern Kentucky University philosophy professor Dr. Robert Trundle's] forthcoming book is, in part at least, in response to what he calls "the cowardice and vanity of a sizeable percentage of American professors." Scheduled for release early next year, it's called Is ET Here? No Politically, but Yes Scientifically and Theologically (Ecce Nova Editions).

...So what does he mean by that title? Do beings from places other than this planet walk among us?

"Yes, I believe contact was made 50 years ago -- and I believe beings from other planets are here now, mainly to study us," Dr. Trundle said. ... "There are benign scenarios in which they might be seen as anthropologists coming here out of curiosity," he said.
SO NOTED.

 
Grudgingly, but in the interest of fairness, UD acknowledges that Mark Belnick [see "Teaching Today," UD, 3/1/04]  has been found innocent of all charges.  He still faces two civil suits.  
 
 
And there's still Martha.



Thursday, July 15, 2004

PICKIN' THE GUY WHO PICKS THE PICKERS

From the Southwest Florida Herald Tribune:

High Point University Sees Motivational Speaker as Next President

After weeks of negotiations and discussions, High Point University's board of trustees voted unanimously to recruit a local business consultant and inspirational speaker to run the school's day-to-day affairs.

..."There is a growing trend to recruit business people for academic leadership positions," [board chairman Richard] Budd said. "If you look at the challenges of private universities today, we need to recruit good students through our admissions department, and we need to educate them in more ways than we have in the past. We need a strong leader who will pick the academic dean or the chief financial offer...in business terms, I call it the guy who picks the pickers."
UPDATING UD'S POST TITLED "THE BOOK IMPERATIVE" [dated 1/4/04]:


The author of an account of the most recent MLA convention hears language there about the absurdity of the book imperative:


Everyone knows that it is utterly insane to require a book for tenure. But at the same time, these tenure committees are terrified that if they let their guard down, if they relax their own internal demands, their opponents will only amplify their snarls of frivolity and mismanagement. One professor calls the one-book-for-tenure custom "sheer mindlessness." In the United Kingdom, he says, tenure is ordinarily awarded after three or four years, on the basis of one or two meaty articles. "And they're neither better nor worse that the United States in their quality of humanistic scholarship."
UPDATE ON HAPPINESS:

HOPE FOR UD
AND OTHERS LIKE HER



UD has recently shared with her readers her happiness problem [see UD, 7/13/04, "The Question of Happiness"]. Strangely, no sooner had she mentioned it than scientists at Duke University discovered it's all genetic:

A single gene could be responsible for making some people naturally positive and happy while forcing others to be negative and gloomy. ... 'For the first time, we've identified a naturally occurring genetic difference that controls the production of serotonin in the brain."

UD greets this news with ambivalence. On the one hand, it means that she need no longer feel personally responsible for her high levels of well-being, which is a relief. On the other hand, plagued by thoughts of what she might have handed down to her daughter, UD has arranged to have her genetically screened.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

MONKISH


Every couple of months, UD goes to Berryville, Virginia, to watch a small group of monks perform mass at Holy Cross Abbey. UD, as you may recall (see UD, 2/13/04), is Jewish; but for reasons obscure (how analytical about it can she be? She’s happy [scroll down to yesterday’s post].) she enjoys these Benedictines.

Part of it is the setting. Hard by the Shenandoah River, at the end of a country road that runs past cows and corn, the chapel has the elegant cut of the monks themselves -- white lines, a soft flow.



Part of it is the intellectuality. When they’re not working in the bakery or on the farm, these guys are reading. “Iris Murdoch was a seeker,” Brother Whoever began up at the little wooden podium the Sunday after Murdoch’s death. He reviewed her life and writings with a meditative intensity. He never presumed - as some religious do - that Murdoch was an implicit or yearning Christian; he merely treated her fiction and philosophy as a kind of lectio divina.

Part of it is the chant. Led by a young British monk who manages Gregorian runs with ease, the brothers produce a calm lyrical music.

But perhaps the most important part of it is the relative indifference of the monks to the people who sit in the pews at the back of the chapel. The monks are a self-contained community, speaking, in their sermons, to one another. Of course they are aware that their tres cool late antiquity is popular and draws a packed house every Sunday. Sometimes one or two of the monks can be seen under an oak tree chatting with visitors after mass, and the monastery has a retreat house where you can spend a few days living the way they do. But when they rise to give their little sermons, they primarily address one another, and their subject is often the prosaic business of their work lives: “Our fruit trees are doing well this year…”







UD mentions this monastery because she wants to ease into a subject she’s raised before on this blog - the monastic nature of the university. Via John Holbo at Crooked Timber [click on its name on my blogroll], UD has just read a longish account - in the magazine The Believer - of the most recent meeting, in San Diego, of the Modern Language Association, the organization that represents most of the English professors in this country. [For an earlier UD account of this yearly convention, see 12/19/03.]

Both the author of the piece, and a number of conference presenters whose papers he describes, pose fundamental questions about what universities are for, and, more specifically, what English professors are for.

“The English professor occupies a place in the American imagination somewhere between a bumbling librarian and Vlad the Impaler,” the essay begins. Which is to say that the innocuous nerd we meet at the library or at Borders Books typically gains both an ideology and a certain professionalism when she becomes a university professor of English, and the mixture is at once ridiculous and unsettling [for more on this, see UD, 11/30/03].

In fact, the main point the essayist in The Believer wants to make involves what he considers the betrayal of the essentially withdrawn and self-contained nature of the American university:

I've spent most of my life not criticizing academics, but romanticizing them. The majesty of quiet contemplation, you know, an Athenian courtyard, the faint hum of transcendence pursued—I bought all of that stuff. Like being a professor meant being above the fray—on some higher plane where truth seeped downward into everyday life. I thought it was infinitely, unfathomably relevant, because it dealt with these essential concerns…. But [the MLA convention] punctured all kinds of mythologies I once had about academia as this sublime place. …The ultimate justification for the continued existence of the humanities, the big dramatic answer to what the humanities are for, is they aren't for anything, at least not in the usual senses. Their use lies in the reminder that there is a certain grandeur in speculative withdrawal, that there are still refuges—and this sounds terribly corny, but it's true, and it's important—where reflection trumps activity.

That last bit could be describing Holy Cross Abbey and its powerful appeal. The grandeur of the humanities as they traditionally presented themselves in the university was that they confidently defended the proposition that the noisy commercial world was not the only world; that within the ivory tower a student could, at least temporarily, suspend the outward, anxious, prosaic life she had always led and enter instead into an attentive silent concentration upon the poetry of “essential concerns.” [For more on this, see UD, 4/11/04.]

You do not get at these essentials by breaking into groups in class and sharing your feelings about death and dying. You do not get at them by reading sentimentalists who want to console you. You do not get at them by reciting your heartfelt poetry to your creative writing class. You get at them slowly, privately, and through careful attention to your professor as he or she slowly, publicly, interprets great works of literature, philosophy, and history. This is the lectio divina of the serious humanities classroom, and it is less interested in particular human beings in that classroom and more interested in language and ideas that transcend particular human beings. It is interested in hard truths, not soft consolations; but it does not demand truths. Unlike the rest of America, it is not goal-oriented; it is engaged in the peculiar process I propose we call “education.”

Dramatic self-righteousness is the great consolation of the modern academy as it politicizes itself in the ways the Believer’s essayist evokes, as he describes one MLA presenter, a foreign scholar:

[A] stuffy, supercilious poseur, [s]he speaks as though she has cultivated a robust head cold; exquisitely calibrated sinus pressure steamrolls her vowels, so she holds the middle syllable of "university" for a full two seconds. Her words sound extruded rather than spoken. She gives a fairly standard "tasks of the university" talk: to aid critical reflection, to add to global knowledge, to promote multicultural awareness and cross-pollination, and to be a "laboratory exploring the self and the Other in a humanist framework." Humanities professors should help "oppose imperialist hegemony" with a "dynamic strategy of bringing subalterns into alliance." Then, after twenty minutes of talk about what a university is for, she comes to a melodramatic crescendo. There's a very long pause. She looks out at the thinning crowd and says, "What we do not ask ourselves is: what for is a university?"

“Dynamic strategy,” “imperialist hegemony” -- this is language with which Leonid Brezhnev would be comfortable. These pompous cliches, which tell us right away that this woman has no sense of the complexity of the world, and, although a professor of English, no sense of verbal style, express the hyperworldly ambitions of a person, and an intellectual class, unsuited to them.

Unsuited to them, but long since past any possibility of embracing the selfless monastic seriousness of the authentic university. And thus one perceives the spectacle that this essayist perceived at the San Diego MLA, a spectacle which prompts him to note, at the end of his essay, that “more and more people are wondering what the hell English professors are doing and why they should be allowed to keep doing it.”





The Berryville monks have faith in what they are doing. You can reject every single doctrine upon which they have founded their lives and still intuit and admire the clarity, comprehensiveness, and humility of their effort. Their fundamental posture is a subordination of the self and its demands, a withdrawal from the world and its cheapness, for the sake of an opening out onto a larger and truer world, and onto a chastened, profounder, self. This same subordination - to great imaginative and philosophical writing - is the fundamental posture of the serious student and the serious professor of English.

Events like the MLA Convention are absurd, ultimately, because they are exemplifications of everything humanists shouldn’t be -- self-promoting, celebrity-worshipping, worldly, anxious, competitive, trivial. “It's no wonder,” the writer from The Believer concludes, “that the MLA atmosphere feels so gloomy.”
ONE MORE UPDATE

Readers may recall Christina Axson-Flynn (UD, 5/8/04), the University of Utah drama student whose lawsuit against the university for having "forced her out of the [drama] department for refusing to recite lines that contained the F-word or took the Lord's name in vain" or in any other way offended her was dismissed by a U.S. District judge in 2001. Axson-Flynn kept on suing, however, and in a settlement today the university "agreed to allow students to withdraw from certain academic activities because of their religious beliefs."

To get a sense of what it's done to itself, the University of Utah might want to take a look at contemporary French secondary and higher education. Demands - mainly from fundamentalist Muslim women students or their parents - that they be allowed to opt out of a whole array of courses and activities that offend them have created havoc in the school system. In America, we hear mainly about the veil controversy in French schools, but underlying that controversy is the larger one having to do with whether certain students should be allowed to forego any meaningful membership in an academic community.
A COUPLE OF UPDATES


I

A Bastille Day Hate Hoax


As Professor Dunn’s trial gets underway in California [see UD, 3/18/04], another staged hate crime, this one just as vile, has taken place in Paris:

Just days after claiming to be the victim of an attack that stunned France, a young mother confessed to making up the story, authorities said Tuesday. The woman claimed to have been robbed Friday by a knife-wielding gang that mistook her for a Jew and scrawled swastikas on her body. But police, finding no clues and no witnesses, brought the woman in for questioning Tuesday, police officials said on condition of anonymity. No details were immediately available to explain her motives for claiming to have been attacked. Reports of the attack in a suburban Paris train outraged France, drawing fierce condemnation from politicians and Jewish groups. The woman told police the men were of North African and African origin and that none of some twenty witnesses came to her rescue as the gang robbed her and overturned her stroller causing her infant to tumble out.



In the matter of hate crime hoaxes, here’s some of what to look for before the rush to righteous indignation and the elevation of a hoaxer to sainthood, as in the Claremont case:

1. Cutting-edge topicality: The act will be about anti-semitism in France; on American college campuses, it will be about hate speech.

2. Gruesomeness: Particularly hideous details will be offered, as in the Frenchwoman’s claim that her attackers inscribed swastikas on her belly.

3. A history of petty criminal activity: Dunn was a thief; the Frenchwoman had a long record of filing false claims that she’d been attacked.

4. A confused account of the attack: Neither hoaxer was able to maintain a consistent story.



II

Bad Presidents


Many American university presidents earn and spend too much money, and it’s particularly unpleasant to watch them take tax-payer money, or money from corporations with a business interest [see UD , 1/10/04; also, for a recent indication that some universities are getting the idea: "The University of North Carolina Board of Governors will likely make a statement this week opposing the use of private funds to boost salaries for leaders of the system's 16-campuses. 'Unlimited use of private funds creates an inherent conflict of interest,' Brad Wilson said Wednesday. 'It certainly creates the perception of who do you work for? Are you working for a private foundation, or are you working for the people of North Carolina?"].

Eastern Michigan’s president, who seems to have quit his job just as the shit’s hitting the fan (“EMU President Sam Kirkpatrick was missing in action as the audit was released Tuesday. Kirkpatrick recently announced his resignation…The regents are sending him away with a lovely parting gift - a severance deal worth more than half a million bucks of EMU money.”) presided over the construction of what a local paper calls the “presidential palace.” Budgeted at 3.5 million, it came in at 6 million, and though the university at first denied it, some of that money came from student tuition, fees, and taxpayer dollars: “Cash-strapped students and state taxpayers have footed a share of the costs that were charged off to accounts other than the house construction fund.”

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

THE QUESTION OF HAPPINESS:
AMERICA’S LARGEST SOURCE OF BOGUS SCIENCE



After careful review of the results of the latest multidisciplinary studies on the question of human happiness, UD can now announce that the individual optimally configured for personal happiness is a post-surgical inpatient looking at lobelias while humping.





What the ever-credulous New York Times Magazine [see UD, 1/27/04] calls the “burgeoning new science of happiness” has produced spectacular results, culminating most recently in the result voted most popular among psychiatrists: Happiness should be classified as a psychiatric disorder.

America already has just about the highest happiness ratings in the world, for all the obvious reasons, but, happily, there's still plenty of money around to fund studies aimed at making us happier.

As these studies are more and more widely disseminated, and as we become as a result more and more self-conscious about our levels of happiness, the helping professions bring up the rear, pathologizing happiness and thereby completing the profitability cycle: You make money by raising up happiness, and you make money by tearing it down.

Regular readers of UD know that university professors speet on happiness because only stupid people who don’t know anything are happy [see UD, 1/30/04]. But studies now reveal that happy people are evil as well as insipid. Burdened with an “everything is fine” attitude that “reduces the motivations for analytical thought,” happy people “fall back on stereotypes - including malicious ones.”




Let me be upfront: UD has struggled with her own happiness for decades. Having been born intelligent, sane, and loved in the richest country in the world, UD has been plagued from infancy with the bigotry, self-delusion [“There is consistent evidence” warns one psychologist, “that happy people overestimate their control over environmental events (often to the point of perceiving completely random events as subject to their will), give unrealistically positive evaluations of their own achievements, believe that others share their unrealistic opinions about themselves and show a general lack of evenhandedness when comparing themselves to others.”], and generalized sense of well-being that observers classify as “happiness.” In light of these newest studies, UD will include a disclaimer to this effect on future syllabi.

Monday, July 12, 2004

UD’s JERRY SPRINGER MOMENT



Today’s show: Haughty Inverts Who Love Books Too Much



Jerry: Please welcome University Diaries, a college professor in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area who teaches courses on … the novel…. Hi UD.

UD: Hi Jerry.

Jerry: …and by “novel” we don’t mean Carrie, do we, UD?

UD: Uh…no, Jerry. We mean challenging, serious, canonical novels like Middlemarch, Buddenbrooks, A La Recherche

Jerry: And - let me make sure I’m getting this right - you, UD, spend most of your time reading, teaching, and writing about long difficult novels of this sort. Yeah?

UD: Yeah.

Jerry: Can I ask what do you do with your time when you’re not involved with these books? … I mean, since you read so much you must also be volunteering in your community… ‘Cause in the recent NEA report about levels of serious literature reading among Americans, it says… well, first of all it says most Americans don’t read anything at all! And it says this is a horrible and frightening thing because a democracy is based on an educated and involved citizenry, and people who don’t read are withdrawn and stupid!

Audience: Huh? What the fuck…?

Jerry: But on the other hand - I’m quoting from a summary of the report now - there‘s “a strong correlation between those who read literature and those who help their community; 43 percent of readers do charity work, while only 17 percent of nonreaders do. … immersion in great literature can give you the perspective to reach out beyond yourself. But the dominance of electronic media…has meant a decline in social interaction, civic participation, and cultural attendance.” … A New York Times writer links “aliteracy” - that means the ability but not the desire to read - with depression and Alzheimer’s... He says we’re gonna lose the war on terrorism because Americans don’t read serious literature: “The retreat from civic to virtual life is a retreat from engaged democracy, from the principles that we say we want to share with the rest of the world. You are what you read. If you read nothing, then your mind withers, and your ideals lose their vitality and sway.” Another writer says that the report “portends a culturally and morally bankrupt future for America.” Pretty strong stuff.

UD: Yeah.

Jerry: So, uh, UD - I guess as a serious reader you’re out there reaching beyond yourself and doing charity work and helping your community… Can you tell us what exactly do you do?

UD: Well, uh… you know, Jerry. The usual things…

Jerry: Like? … I mean, what are we talking about here? While the rest of us are eating Doritos and watching reality shows and letting Islamofascists in the back door, you’re… what? Fighting forest fires? Visiting old ladies in nursing homes?

Audience: Yeah! What does she do? [chants] What does she do? What does she do? What does she do?

Jerry: Hold on people. Let UD answer…

UD: Well, uh, I… uh….

Jerry: Maybe it’d help if we brought in someone you know, UD. Please welcome -- your across the street neighbor, Faustia Wijesinghe!

UD: [eyes go wide] Faustia?…

Jerry: Hi Faustia.

Faustia: Hi Jerry.

Jerry: Tell us something about yourself.

Faustia: I live across the street from UD. My house is up on a hill overlooking hers, and she keeps her curtains open most of the time, so I can pretty much see everything she does.

Jerry: Faustia, do you read a lot of serious literature?

Faustia: Well, Jerry, growing up in Sri Lanka, where there’s been a violent civil war for decades, we were starving and being shot at a lot, so it was hard to find time to read Mrs. Dalloway. But even though I wasn’t able to read serious literature and had a pretty difficult life, I volunteered at my church every Sunday, I helped register voters in municipal elections, and I raised three cousins who’d been orphaned by the fighting.

When my family emigrated to the States, we all took late-night jobs at the 7/11, so there again I didn’t really have time for Don DeLillo’s Underworld. But I volunteer at the church we’ve joined in Bethesda, and I also teach English and life skills to recently arrived immigrants.

Jerry: Faustia, is there anything you’d like to say to UD?

Faustia: Well, UD, when I read that NEA report I was pretty steamed. Day after day I watch you get up, brew a Crème Brulee tea, slowly read through your New York Times, take a long bath with Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew lavishly poured into it, and then sit at your computer reading - I don’t know what you’re reading, but you’re giggling most of the time - maybe the Onion or something? Anyway it doesn’t look like serious literature. Just reading and smiling and sipping your tea for hours. At around eleven you walk your dog just far enough for him to do his business and then you come right back home and lie down on that deep beige couch in your living room and read and read and read. While you read, you listen to Ella Fitzgerald recordings - I know, because you put the volume up real loud…

UD: Uh… uh…

Faustia: Then at around three o’clock you get up off your couch and … and you go out to your front garden with this little teeny pair of silver scissors and you clip overgrowth! For hours!

Jerry: Is this true, UD?

UD: Uh… uh…

Jerry: Let’s hear from the audience.

Man: The only thing I read all of last year was my Harley warranty, but I give blood every fifty days at my local hospital, I organize a monthly park cleanup in my neighborhood, and I’m about to ship out to Afghanistan with the National Guard. Does that shit who writes for the New York Times pick up a gun and fight terrorism? No, he fights terrorism by reading Lolita! Give him the medal of honor!

Woman: Sure I sit on my ass watching tv all day -- but she sits on her ass reading all day! Neither one of us lifts a finger to help our fellow man!

Jerry: We’re almost out of time. UD, is there anything you’d like to say?

UD: Yeah…uh…look, Jerry. That guy in the New York Times quotes Franz Kafka on the wonderful moral effects of reading as if Kafka were the Oprah Winfrey of the early twentieth century… Do you know anything about Kafka’s life? Have you ever read what Kafka says about human beings? Kafka was a suicidal depressive totally withdrawn from emotional and social life. To read Kafka is to learn that human beings are hideous and cruel and that life is too meaningless to be worth the effort. That guy in the New York Times says reading’s all about empathic interaction with others and then he quotes Kafka, who was so into interaction that on his deathbed he ordered his best friend to destroy every word he wrote! We only have the stories of Franz Kafka because his friend refused to do what he asked! … Ladies and gentlemen, you don’t read the bloodbath at the end of Hamlet and decide that the response to this sort of tragedy is to set up a soup kitchen. Great literature appals and freezes us; motivational speeches get us going again.

And look - speaking of motivational speeches - today’s New York Times has an article about the Irish tenor and motivational speaker Ronan Tynan, who sang “Amazing Grace“ at Ronald Reagan‘s funeral. May I read a paragraph from it?

He was born in 1960 in County Kilkenny, with a congenital deformity of the legs. When he was 20, he damaged his legs further in a motorbike accident and underwent a double amputation below the knee. He wears prostheses, which account for his slightly lumbering gait. He nevertheless went on to earn a medical degree and to become a nationally rated equestrian and a gold-medal winning athlete in the Paralympics, for disabled athletes. He still holds records in the long jump, shot put and discus.


I’ll make a deal with you. If you promise not to beat the shit out of me, I promise to attend Ronan Tynan’s next motivational speech…

Saturday, July 10, 2004

"After the intermission, a panel discussion that Mr. Gioia led suggested some of the directions that public discussion of the report might take. One consequence may be that people already enamored of literature will want to proclaim that fact all the more clearly, in defiance of the prevailing trend."




I LOVE H.J.


Hate aliterates
They’re stupid and dumb
They play bang bang games
And they suck their thumb
Leave ‘em to their wide screens
That shit’s too pathetic
For you and me you bad boy

Rollin' down the Imperial Highway
With a hyperliterate next to me
Santa Ana winds blowin' hot from the north
And we was born to read

Roll down the window put down the top
Crank up books on tape baby
Don't let the fiction stop
We're gonna read till we just can't read no more

From the Spoils of Poynton to Washington Square
From the The Sacred Fount to The Story of a Year
Everybody's very happy
'Cause the sun is shining all the time
Looks like another perfect day

I love H.J. (We love him)
I love H.J. (We love him)

Thursday, July 08, 2004

HOT???


SIZZLING...

"Ironically, Mr Lay also lectured on government-business relations at George Washington University."
REDNECK WOMAN DIARIES: Ecole des Hautes Motos

[for earlier UD posts, see 6/18 and 6/22]


Below is the Program Director of the new Harley-Davidson degree program at Fort Scott Community College in Wichita. After intensive study of Harleys, students would be encouraged to go to a nearby four-year college for a BA in technology, focusing on motorcycles. The program already has a waiting list.





UD thinks this sort of vocational/management training (students will also take courses in English, science and public speaking) is a spectacularly good idea. As one commentator recently noted, for thousands of Americans, four-year academic colleges are a scam. In far too many cases,


marginal students take their generous aid and go to colleges that don't teach them. Eighty percent of universities aren't selective, e.g. more or less happy to accept anyone who shows up with a check. Only 37 percent of first-time freshmen graduate in four years, and only 60 percent graduate in six years. Universities are happy to take money from unprepared students and fail them right back out, or dumb down their standards to stay on the government-aid gravy train.


The Harley program, and programs like it, are, on the other hand, models of common sense. They expose students to some general culture ("The schools and Harley [which is supporting the program] hope the students will then pursue a bachelor's degree."), but are primarily vocational.




Is such a program too specialized? Does it produce people for whom Harley cycles are the beginning, the middle, and the end?

Well, if it does, so what?



Company Creates Harley-Davidson 'Hearse'

Wednesday June 30, 2004 7:01 PM
By The Associated Press

ALUM BANK, Pa. (AP) - Harley-Davidson fans can finally take their final ride in style.
Tombstone Hearse Co. two years ago began building hand-crafted Old West-style casket carriers that are pulled by a modified Harley-Davidson Road King.

``We take a regular bike and turn it into a motortrike with special gears to pull a heavier load,'' said company co-founder Dave Follmar. ``We can accommodate most caskets, including oversized units.''

Follmar, a retired cabinetmaker, came up with the idea 12 years ago. With the help of construction expert Jack Feather, Follmar has now franchised the idea and has a network of hearses in service stretching from Texas to Michigan and New Jersey.

Rental prices for the hearses range from $500 to $600. Traditional hearses range from $125 to $475.

Tombstone's hearse is designed with the traditional amenities but features a glass-enclosed carriage with curtains and tassels. Four gold lanterns adorn each corner and it's fitted with a black vinyl top.

Tombstone's drivers are dressed in white tuxedo shirts, string ties, black pants and cavalry-style knee-high boots with a single spur.

``For any guy or gal who has sat their butt in a Harley seat all their lives, it doesn't seem fitting to lay them in the back of a Caddy for a farewell ride,'' Feather said.










SPOTLIGHT ON: ONE OF UD’s COLLEAGUES


Regular readers of UD know that there used to be a little tag line up there [^], identifying UD’s university as “hot.” UD continues to believe that this designation (questioned by more than one reader) is justifiable, and when GW inspires national and international headlines, as it often does, she likes to cite such headlines as evidence of the university’s importance.

GW’s medical school professors, for instance, have traditionally tended to and certified the health of America’s highest-ranking government officials, and this brings the university a good deal of publicity.

For five years, one of these faculty members demonstrated that you can be the Vice-President’s physician and a drug addict at the same time, a new high in multi-tasking. “Was he taking just enough to take the edge off?” asks GW’s provost, also one of this professor’s patients. The provost never suspected that, as the New Zealand News put it in a headline, his doctor had “Sniffed Away $70,000 in Nasal Spray.”

For various complicated and well-meaning reasons, this professor was allowed to continue practicing, and prescribing narcotics to himself, even as various disciplinary bodies were aware that he was under treatment for addiction.




Although many newspapers (and the Vice President’s spokesman) have used words like “struggle” and “ordeal” to describe this faculty member’s experience of addiction and treatment, there’s nothing in the record to indicate that his five years of therapy - now officially declared a failure - involved any effort on his part to get better.

I don‘t want to sound like an ideologue, but when highly educated people are junkies and do the sorts of things this guy did -- like write prescriptions for himself using the names and DEA numbers of various doctor friends -- they‘re typically described as struggling valiantly with a complex disability. Junkies drawn from the lower orders who similarly lie and steal are dismissed as garden-variety scum.

As the provost’s comment suggests, this man seems to have maintained himself and his hot career rather nicely on a diet of drugs -- one of many high-functioning white-collar addicts in America. For the last two years, he's been listed by Washingtonian Magazine as one of the best doctors in the region.





"The vice president's health is monitored closely by a team of physicians from George Washington University Medical Center and the White House," Cheney’s spokesperson recently said. Yes, and his primary physician among that lot “bought 76 bottles of the synthetic narcotic nasal spray Stadol during a four-month period in 2000. During a 2 1/2-year period ending in December 2001, the doctor spent at least $46,238 on Internet purchases of Stadol, Xanax, Tylenol with codeine and Ambien,” reports CNN. The implication in the media is that the vice-president isn’t really fit to govern, but has only been certified as physically ok by an incompetent (and easily blackmailed?) doctor.

Which is silly. There’s no evidence of impaired skills on the part of this doctor. Like Rush Limbaugh, he just likes to take lots of drugs.



Tuesday, July 06, 2004

UD's A FEW DAYS AFTER JULY FOURTH POST


Okay, compare this country to ANY other country. Make it as difficult as you like... pick... Canada! In Canada, dogs have to learn English before they can sit in a college classroom:


Guide dog flunks language test
WebPosted Jul 6 2004 03:06 PM EDT



FREDERICTON — A guide dog is in the middle of a dispute between a man who wants to study English and the University of New Brunswick.

Yvon Tessier was turned away from an English immersion course because his guide dog only understands French.

Pavot is a black labrador retriever who has guided Tessier for two years. He responds to French commands, and doesn't understand any other spoken language.

Tessier came to Fredericton from Ottawa to study English in an intensive five-week course at the University of New Brunswick.

But university officials wouldn't let him, or his French dog, into the course. "I'm really disappointed and hurt," Tessier says.

The course features lots of out-of-class learning. Students visit restaurants and go into stores to get familiar with the English-speaking community.

The university says it rejected Tessier and Pavot because it needed more time to familiarize them with their surroundings.

Student Recruitment Director Susan Mesheau says that includes English lessons for the dog. "In the past the service has been provided that we do teach their guide dogs commands in English, so the dog learns English as well."

Tessier is disappointed and angry with the decision. He has committed time and money to come to Fredericton, and is threatening to file a complaint with the province's Human Rights Commission.

He says he could speak English to Pavot in everyday conversation, but the guiding commands are essential to his independence, and those need to be in French. "I can speak English [to] my dog [in] the times when I speak normally, but for the commands it was an impossible thing to do, to speak to my guide dog in English, to tell to him the commands to guide me," Tessier says.

Mesheau says Tessier is welcome to apply to the immersion course again, once his dog learns English commands.

Tessier says it would take eight months for his dog to learn English and he wants the university to let him take the course and continue to speak French to his dog and English to everyone else.




Now, compare that to the freedom we enjoy here:



Papers allegedly written for Buckeye

By Mike Wagner and Kyle Nagel
Dayton Daily News

One paper analyzes the works of famed artist Jackson Pollack.

Another reviews a community theater company's production of the musical "My Fair Lady."

Another argues for the United States to convert to year-round schools.

As college academic papers go, they are unremarkable. However, a Columbus nanny whose allegations are at the heart of an investigation of the Ohio State University men's basketball program said the papers weren't written by a college student.

She said they were written by her.

The Dayton Daily News obtained copies of five academic papers that Kathleen Salyers said she wrote for Slobodan "Boban" Savovic while he took classes and played basketball at Ohio State.

In all, four women told the Daily News or said in court depositions that they wrote, edited or typed academic papers for Savovic.

Salyers said she wrote dozens of papers for Savovic while she housed and cared for the former player from Serbia. She said the five papers were among those turned in by Savovic to OSU class professors.

A professor whose name appears on one of the papers said he remembers Savovic as a student in his class.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association is investigating a number of Salyers' claims, including one that she convinced two professors to change failing grades for Savovic.

At least two of the academic papers were turned over to NCAA investigators, according to sources close to the investigation.

NCAA and Ohio State rules generally prohibit athletes from claiming credit for work done by others on their behalf.

Wanda Dworkin, a Columbus schoolteacher and longtime friend of Salyers, said she typed and performed simple grammar editing on the five papers. Dworkin said she never wrote any academic papers, but at the request of Salyers assisted in producing several other papers for Savovic.

Another Columbus woman, who asked that she not be identified, also told the Daily News that she, too, wrote, edited and typed a few papers for Savovic.

A fourth woman, Kim Roslovic, who is being sued by Salyers, has also admitted in a sworn court deposition that she wrote "a couple papers" for the player.

"I would try to read the syllabus with him and see what the (professors) wanted," Salyers said. "There was no way you could start working with Boban at the college level. His English wasn't good, and he didn't even know some of the smallest words."

Yet the papers display a clean and graceful writing style. In one, which describes Web site photos of sculptures by the artist Richard Serra, the writer says: "The pieces viewed were all fashioned of weatherproof steel and, judging by the dimensions given, quite large. They were all freestanding and either had a round shape or smooth curves. It seems impossible that steel could be made to look so supple and continuous in form."
Efforts to reach Savovic were unsuccessful. In Russia, Ohio, where Savovic is staying, a family member of his fiancée said the couple left the area for a vacation.
• • •

Salyers said Paul Biancardi, the current Wright State University coach, knew she was writing papers for Savovic and even thanked her for her work. Biancardi recruited Savovic and other Serbian players when he was an OSU assistant coach.

"I told (Biancardi), 'Boban is not capable of this work. He's simply not capable. I'm doing my best to keep him eligible so he doesn't lose his scholarship,' " she said.
Savovic himself has acknowledged struggling with English. In a 2000 interview with the Daily News, he said, "When I came here I couldn't speak two sentences."

Biancardi has denied all of Salyers' accusations but has declined to answer questions from the media about his role in the recruitment and handling of Savovic and other Serbian athletes at Ohio State.

Heather Lyke Catalano, associate athletic director in charge of compliance for Ohio State, said she couldn't comment on the Daily News article because it pertains to the investigation.

Catalano said OSU is conducting a joint investigation with the NCAA.

"It is taking its natural course," she said. "We all want it to be as thorough as possible."
• • •

The allegations made against the OSU program and Biancardi stem from a lawsuit that does not directly involve the university. The suit was filed in August by Salyers against Kim and Dan Roslovic and alleges the couple agreed to pay her $1,000 a month plus expenses to house and care for Savovic, who lived with the Roslovics for about a month before he moved to Salyers' house.

The Roslovics, in separate sworn depositions, both said they had no agreement with Salyers, their former housekeeper and child-care provider.

The lawsuit came to light June 8, when Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger fired Jim O'Brien, the men's basketball coach. O'Brien told Geiger in April that he gave $6,000 to the family of 7-foot-3 Aleksandar Radojevic after the player signed a letter of intent to play for OSU in November 1998.

Radojevic was eventually ruled ineligible by the NCAA for playing professionally in Europe and never enrolled at the university.

Ohio State was still recruiting Radojevic, a friend of Savovic's from Serbia, when Salyers said she began writing papers for her new houseguest in the fall of 1998. Salyers said she also attended three or four classes with Savovic during his first quarter because he wasn't able to understand the class instructions on how to write an academic paper.

Salyers said she turned to her friend, Dworkin, to type the papers, check for spelling and edit the grammar because Salyers didn't have a computer capable of producing "quality-looking papers."

Kathy would bring them to me handwritten," said Dworkin, 50, an OSU graduate who also has a master's degree in education from Ashland University. "I would call her when I got it done, and she would come back to get it or send her daughter back to get them."
Dworkin said there were times when she got the paper the night before the assignment was due.

"Kathy would always say 'we' -- because I typed it and she wrote it -- that we got a good grade on something," she said.

Dworkin, who is married and has two children, said she assisted with the papers because Salyers asked for her help and she didn't believe typing and doing minor editing for grammar would violate any collegiate rules. Both Salyers and Dworkin also said they wanted to help Savovic so that he wouldn't lose his scholarship and have to return to a war-torn country.

"I really believe I was just helping a kid whose head was barely above water," Dworkin said. "I think it would be really interesting to see how much education he really got at OSU."

Dworkin was interviewed by NCAA investigators last week.

NCAA Bylaw 16.3.3 prohibits various academic assistance, including typing, if the service is an extra benefit not available to the general student body.

Despite helping prepare the papers for Savovic, Dworkin said she refused to accompany her friend when Salyers allegedly convinced two of Savovic's professors to change the former player's failing grades.

"I was disgusted that a professor would even consider doing that," she said. "I worked for my grades, my children worked for their grades. I was totally appalled."

One of the papers Salyers said she wrote was an essay, dated Oct. 30, 1998, on American college life. In the essay, Savovic's first name is spelled incorrectly.

Another describes arriving in America two years earlier without the ability of speaking or writing English. In the paper, the writer says: "I considered myself to be a strong reader in my native language of Yugoslavian."

Savovic speaks Serbian.





I rest my case.

Monday, July 05, 2004

THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY



Those of us who attend or teach at George Washington University are lucky. Our school has always had a high-profile, mature, and manly name.

I suspect I’m not the only one at GW who has looked with some pity over the years at Mary Washington College, in Virginia, and wondered how it got saddled not only with a girly name but with the childish designation “college.”

To add to its woes, Mary Washington College is named after the obscure mother of a famous politician (George Washington). In terms of the contemporary political lexicon, this would be as if, on one side of Petaluma, you had Arnold Schwarzenegger University, and, on the other, Frau Gjertrude Schwarzenegger College.





Mary Washington has lately done something about this. After a certain amount of controversy involving women students wanting to protect the gender-positive implications of the original name, the college has transmogrified itself. It is now the University of Mary Washington. "It simply has a more prestigious and distinctive tone," says one administrator there. The new logo with phallic pillars is also cool: "It looks like a Matisse cutout to me so it has a real look of class and style," in the words of a board member.




Class, prestige - you get the idea. Status anxiety has clearly dogged this campus for a long time. Now it looks as though they are home free.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

UNIVERSITY DIARIES' FOURTH OF JULY POST


In a wonderfully titled piece ("It May Take Hours, But You Too Can Earn a Degree"), an Oregonian columnist, after expressing pride in her state's particularly strong laws against fraudulent universities, quotes a letter she received from an indignant diploma mill student:



I am a student enrolled at Kennedy-Western University. I take offense. Where does the state of Oregon, or any other state, have the right to pass laws that dictate whether a degree is valid or not? This seems unconstitutional.



UD hastens to assure this student that Oregon is an anomaly. Montana, which has no laws pertaining to the legitimacy of educational institutions, is more representative. A few dissenting voices have lately complained that "The Montana legislature does not seem to care that their state has become [a] sinkhole for bogus degrees in the U.S.," but Montanans know states' rights when they see them.
UP FRONT


“Students usually prefer instructors who are up front about their beliefs,” writes Joanne Jacobs, in defense of James Tuttle, a now-retired philosophy professor at Lakeland Community College in Ohio.

Tuttle was forced out of his job by administrators who disliked his overt Christianity in class and on his syllabus, a syllabus which came to include a disclaimer that announced to his students right off the bat the specific religious convictions through which he read all philosophers. [UD wrote about Tuttle while he was still battling for his job - see post dated 2/8/04].

I suspect Jacobs is wrong. Students do not - and they should not - prefer instructors who are up front about their beliefs.



UD has complained a good deal about the emergence in American university classrooms of what she calls the syllabum omnium, on which (among many other unnecessary and distracting pieces of information) professors include all sorts of shit about who they are, what they believe, where they’re coming from, how important it is for them to be up front, blah blah blah.

What’s wrong with this pedagogical approach should be obvious. It’s a framing, predetermining sort of move; it says to students that whatever we read, whatever we discuss, the outcome of this inquiry is already known - Christ is King; or, Women Must Liberate Themselves in the Ways that Mean the Most to Me; or, We Are Living in the Latter Days of Capitalism; or, Utilitarianism is the Only Sane Morality. It’s not that professors should not have beliefs. It is that the sanctity of the classroom consists in large part in concealing them.



“A student once revealed to me the new cultic untruth,” writes Philip Rieff in Fellow Teachers,


from within which there will be dispensed an unprecedented flexible exteriority: “We are all going to be - we all have to be - ’up front,’“ she said. I gleaned from her the idea of a human who exposes himself completely and reveals nothing. …What every state can best use are empty people, without the gift of self-concealment.


The “true objectivity of the teacher,” Rieff goes on to say, emerges out of a “positionless understanding” which intuits “the proper distances of the feeling intellect.” Responsible professors “keep our ideas to ourselves ... for as long a time as the disciplined ego will allow…. Messages and positions are the death of teaching. As scholars, and teachers, we have a duty to fight against our own positions.”



Those sympathetic to Professor Tuttle argue that he was “merely stating [his] religious beliefs,” “routinely informing classes of [his] particular perspective.” But there should be nothing routine about loading the classroom dice in this way, whether you’re doing it from a secular or a religious point of view. It’s narcissistic and it's stifling.

I support the organization FIRE’s defense of Tuttle against an administration dumb enough to persecute rather than attempt to reason with the man. But I condemn Tuttle’s orthodoxies, which belong not up front but at the very back.

Friday, July 02, 2004

From Prose to Poetry: UD Makes A Poem
Out of Phrases Taken From
An Article in Today's New York Times



MOONLET NIGHT


A tripod in space
Makes a circuit of Saturn,
Its rings of water ice,
Its disks of interstellar matter.

Beyond the planet's cloud top,
Repeated passages of unseen moons,
And shepherd moonlets, and hints of smaller moonlets,
In rings of ice and rock.

Signature of ring chemistry:
Particle winds of interplanetary space.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Berkeley, Berklee, Berkley...



Too many Berkeley variants out there; it's hard to keep up.

The trustees of the Chicago public library system, for instance, assumed that the director of North Chicago's public library, Dr. Hubert "Herb" Hamilton, had a Ph.D. from "the University of California at Berkeley," reports the Chicago Tribune. But it was actually from the missing-the-median-E University of Berkley, a - you know.

(The missing-the-Y Berklee College of Music is entirely legitimate.)

Berkley, like most of its brethren, is a deeply religious and patriotic institution: affiliated with The Society of God and Pantheistic Philosophy ("non-sectarian, non-dogmatic, and non-judgmental"), it signs its letters to potential students "Yours in educational freedom, brotherhood, and peace." Although not at the moment accredited, it notes that "standards change with time. In fact, thankfully and partly because of our country's heritage and Constitution (re: "freedom of choice") there are no two Universities that have the same structure, philosophies, teaching modalities or evaluation criteria. ... With the rate at which our constantly evolving social consciousness is developing we feel that eventually this situation will change."

Chicago's social consciousness remains unevolved: After Berkley failed even to return the library's verification calls, they fired the guy.
THE MILLER OF PH.D.'s

There dwelt a miller, hale and bold,
Beside the river Dee;
He worked and sang from morn till night -
No lark more blithe than he;
And this the burden of his song
Forever used to be:
"I envy nobody - no, not I -
And nobody envies me!"

"Thou'rt wrong, my friend," said good King Hal,
"As wrong as wrong can be;
For could my heart be light as thine,
I'd gladly change with thee.
And tell me now, what makes thee sing,
With voice so loud and free,
While I am sad, though I am king,
Beside the river Dee?"

The miller smiled and doffed his cap,
"I earn my bread," quoth he;
"I mill M.A.‘s; I mill B.A.‘s;
I mill fine Ph.D.'s.
I owe no penny I can not pay,
I thank the river Dee,
That turns the mill that grinds the sheets
That feed my babes and me."

"Good friend," said Hal, and sighed the while,
"Farewell, and happy be;
But say no more, if thou'dst be true,
That no one envies thee;
Thy printing press is worth my crown,
Thy mill my kingdom's fee;
Such men as thou are England's boast,
O miller of Ph.D.'s!"