Sunday, December 31, 2006
Poem to End a Year By|
Saturday, December 30, 2006
How Did I Miss This?|
The Professor (a UD reader who teaches at Gilligan U.) provided me with a link to this recent piece in The Onion:
'SARASOTA, FL—Bowing to pressure from alumni, students, and a majority of teaching professors of Florida State University, athletic director Dave Hart Jr. announced yesterday that FSU would completely phase out all academic operations by the end of the 2010 school year in order to make athletics the school's No. 1 priority. "It's been clear for a while that Florida State's mission is to provide the young men and women enrolled here with a world-class football program, and this is the best way to cut the fat and really focus on making us No. 1 every year," Hart said. "While it's certainly possible for an academic subsidiary to bring a certain amount of prestige to an athletic program, the national polls have made it [clear] that our non-athletic operations have become a major distraction." FSU's restructuring program will begin with the elimination of the College of Arts and Sciences, effective October 15.'
I understand Auburn is watching developments closely.
And, now that we're home...|
...yet another literary association on the Cape, whose source I've just found. As we passed the sign for Nauset, a line of poetry came to me: "The waters off beautiful Nauset." A lovely line, the waters off beautiful Nauset... but where had I learned it?
From Ted Hughes, I realized a moment later; his last book of poems, Birthday Letters, which chronicles his life with Sylvia Plath. They'd gone to the Cape, where she was happy:
I still have it. I hold it -
'The waters off beautiful Nauset.'
Your intact childhood, your Paradise
With its pre-Adamite horse-shoe crab in the shallows
As a guarantee, God's own trademark.
I turn it, a prism, this way and that.
That way I see the filmy surf-wind flicker
Of your ecstasies, your visions in the crystal.
This way the irreparably-crushed lamp
In my crypt of dream, totally dark,
Under your gravestone.
Friday, December 29, 2006
Too Much Literary Information. Watched one of the famous P'town beach sunsets and thought of the gathering of the cars for the postmodern sunsets at the end of DeLillo's White Noise. Walked by Norman Mailer's big brick house on the water and remembered sitting alone in a little tent in the Pyrennees when I was sixteen years old, reading The Naked and the Dead. Saw what was left of the waterfront theater Eugene O'Neill had something to do with and thought of the first time I read Long Day's Journey into Night -- in the back of my parents' VW van, on our way to Expo 67 in Montreal....
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Absolutely clear bright skies...|
...over P'town, and we walked the windy beaches at Race Point and just tried to take in the spectacular setting. The most exciting part of the day was sitting in the back seat of the car while La Spawn got a (stick shift) driving lesson from Mr. UD in one of the enormous empty parking lots along the beaches.
Also discovered possibly the world's most beautiful shop -- WA -- and bought Asian stuff there. Told the owners that if they had a tea room we would never leave, and they said they're planning to open a garden patio when it gets warmer. "Bring your own tea and stay forever."
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Blogging from Wired Puppy...|
... Cafe in P'town. You walk in and sidle up to a lovely computer with free internet access. Random hail flurries, night views of lighthouses. We'll go back outside. It's a fine evening.
Berkeley Chancellor Sez:|
WITHOUT IT, SCHOOL SPIRIT WOULD COLLAPSE!
'In the 2004-05 fiscal year, [Berkeley] spent about $13.5 million more on athletics than it earned, its highest deficit ever. ... Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said he was shocked when he opened the financial books after taking over the campus in 2004.
---inside bay area---
Dumb Shit Universities Do|
'University to cut crosses from its coat of arms
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Your Tax Code At Work|
'Some academics and legislators, contending that college football's multibillion-dollar building boom detracts from schools' educational mission, are targeting tax laws that treat payments for luxury seating and naming rights as charitable gifts.
--wall street journal--
Boston University in the Rain...|
...was an odd melange of things. Our friend David said to think of it as like Chile: it's very long and narrow, and there's a body of water -- the Charles River -- alongside it. Cars on the Massachusetts Turnpike bomb along between the campus and the river. Cambridge is on the other side of the bridge.
Josep Lluis Sert, an old friend of Mr. UD's father at the Harvard School of Design, built many of the modernist buildings that mar the campus -- dark, withering, too-many-windowed hulks that speak of anything but modernity. The Neo-Gothic buildings, which reminded UD of the University of Chicago, were fine, as were the brick postmodern low-rises.
As David's son, Peter, described "broomball," a popular and amusing-sounding game on campus of which UD had never heard, our group watched an emaciated man vomit under a light pole. It's the big city.
Ah. That's More Like It.|
This is the Cambridge I know - overcast, wet.
We're meeting our old friend (from grad school at the University of Chicago) David Mayers today, who, along with his son Peter, will show les UD's and their daughter around the Boston University campus (David teaches there; Peter goes to school there).
We're still dithering over where to stay in Provincetown. We leave tomorrow.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Cambridge is, for a change...|
...attractive, weather-wise. Not too cold, and the skies are clear. We've done our last-minute run around Cambridge for gifts (where all of the stores are open late in the afternoon on December 24), and are now gathering for gift-giving. TTYL.
Friday, December 22, 2006
More HOT News from UD|
'Prosecutors dropped rape charges Friday against three Duke University lacrosse players accused of attacking a stripper at a team party, but the three still face kidnapping and sexual offense charges.
According to court papers filed Friday by District Attorney Mike Nifong, the accuser now says she does not know if she was penetrated during the alleged attack. Lacking any "scientific or other evidence independent of the victim's testimony" to corroborate that aspect of the case, Nifong wrote, "the State is unable to meet its burden of proof with respect to this offense."'
And A Sign that
Might Have Taken The
First Step on the Long Road
A local newspaper, and now a tv station, report that Thomas Petee, the department chair who from his position of power gave A's to athletes in pretend courses, has been suspended with pay from the university. He "will not be in the classroom when the new semester begins."
Yeah, you're right. I shouldn't get too excited. It's Auburn, after all. And maybe they're just doing it because Myles Brand is nervous about that congressional hearing thing and has decided to go after the worst of the worst so when he's asked about it he can say they got rid of that guy...
The University of Tennessee continues to boast of the plagiarist/diploma mill grad on its history faculty.
Stanley Fish Has Quite the Podium...|
...at the New York Times. He also teaches at one of the very worst universities in the country, Florida International. FIU is a national scandal in many instructive ways: it has a greedy and inept president, cares almost exclusively about sports, imposes ever-higher athletic fees on a struggling student population... And rather than educate that population, it's gonna build a big, big, BIG new stadium for it...
Despite free admission [to games] for students, many have yet to catch the buzz. Although the school said it sells nearly all 17,000 seats for home games, marching band member Leoncio Alvarez said he often looks up to a half-empty stadium.
Although the university's president so mismanaged a major donor to a proposed medical school that FIU lost $20 million when he decided to withdraw the funds, and although, as a recent article in the Miami Herald points out, "FIU football's most intense national exposure came this year as a result of an on-field brawl between its players and UM's. ESPN played clips of the fight repeatedly," the university continues to put most of its resources - its students' resources - into games. It pays enormous sums for coaches, and for coach severance when one coach after another fails to work out.
FIU's leaders are cynics; its students are saps. The place has become a national story.
Where is Fish? Hundreds of thousands of people read his high-profile Times column. He is not shy about speaking his mind. He could do massive good for the school. He should speak up.
I've added my blogpal A.G. Rud's blog, MOO 2 (the reference is to the hilarious novel about academia by Jane Smiley), to my bloglist. Should have done it a long time ago, but I still rather fear to tread very often in my template. I'm convinced I'll do something fatal in there.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Very Bad Outcome|
"I will either see the Provost resign and my hard-earned tenure granted at MIT, or I will die defiantly right outside his office."
When something this bizarre happens -- a professor who responds to the denial of tenure with a letter inviting colleagues to join him in a hunger strike outside the provost's office -- there's usually been a series of institutional failures. Failure to sense at the point of hiring that a person might be seriously unstable; failure to move quickly to correct a terrible hiring error once it's been made, or to neutralize the person hired so that he or she can't do too much damage... Not that the second guessing I'm doing here is all that helpful.
---boston business journal--
Adjuncts in Hell...|
...is a very new, very promising blog. It sizzles.
UD and the Holidays|
What with all the airport closures and bad weather, Mr UD's been having quite the time trying to get back from Norway.
One nice thing about his having been stuck in Copenhagen, where he waited for a connecting flight that never happened -- he got a chance to spend a day with Andrzej, his nephew who works in that city's Polish embassy.
Mr UD's now in Newark, hoping to get to DC by this evening. Tomorrow, the car gets tuned up, the dog gets dropped off, the kid gets surgically removed from her madcap 'thesdan whirl, and the drive up to Cambridge begins. We'll be there, and then in Provincetown, for a few days, before returning to DC just before New Year's Eve.
Where'er I go... whate'er I do... I shall blog.
"The Public Face of the|
University of Georgia"
The Athens Banner-Herald -- a newspaper UD admires more each day -- editorializes about the local school's latest problem.
A Dec. 15 Athens-Clarke County Police Department report says Gene Whitner Milner III is 6 feet 2 inches tall and that he weighs 163 pounds. What it doesn't say is that every single inch and every single ounce is nothing but pure, unadulterated punk. Nor does it say that Milner, for the time being anyway, is the public face of the University of Georgia.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
A Man After My Own Heart|
Randy Horick's my man.
From Nashville Scene:
See if you can connect these dots. The University of Alabama Geniuses will pay $4 million over the next several years for the privilege of never again seeing Mike Shula wearing a headset on a Crimson Tide sideline. They were willing to pay another $2 million to West Virginia University to buy out the contract of the Mountaineers’ football coach, Rich Rodriguez, and bring him to Tuscaloosa.
In Today's Inside Higher Ed...|
...my lunch pal (must make another date when he gets back from the MLA) Scott McLemee asks Lindsay Waters, who has written so well of the absurd book imperative in the humanities, what Waters thinks of the recent MLA report which calls for the recognition of its absurdity, and the adoption of a range of standards for promotion:
"My fear for the MLA report,” he wrote by e-mail, “ is that it will be shelved like the report of the Iraq Study Group. And there may be another similarity: The ISG made a mistake with Bush. They gave him 79 recommendations, not one. This report runs that risk, too. ...[T]he report offers up ideas that it will suit many to ignore.... Churchill said it so well — the Americans will do the right thing only after they have exhausted all the other possibilities. The problem is that this relatively frail creature, the university, has survived so well for so long in the US because for the most part it was located in a place where, like poetry (to cite the immortal Auden) executives would never want to tamper. But they are tampering now. And they are using the same management techniques on the university that they used on General Motors, and they may have the same deadly effect."
The latter part of this remark resonates strongly with me, as those who've been reading this blog for a long time know. Universities need to be left alone. To some extent they need to be ivory towers that, as Waters suggests, hold no attraction -- no reality, really -- for the managers among us.
Yet the Powerpoint brigade, to take one instance, has already stormed the tower, its pedagogical weapon deadly boredom... And more and more university presidents are justifying outrageous personal compensation by telling everyone they're managers, not... what's it called... intellectuals...
Managers, as Waters here suggests, understand widgets, and books are the widgets of what's left of the humanities in managerial universities.
If only, like corporate managers, university managers cared whether their widgets sold, or at least aroused a little interest. But, in the bizarre economy of the university, it doesn't matter whether the widgets exist in any actual sense. Most are inventoried and put away.
Auburn On New York Times |
The paper of record makes Auburn Exhibit A in the way-skeezy story of bigtime university sports in America. Excerpts:
The House Ways and Means Committee sent shock waves through college sports when it asked the National Collegiate Athletic Association to justify its federal tax exemption by explaining how cash-consuming, win-at-all-cost athletics departments serve educational purposes....[Auburn] is embroiled in a scandal involving athletes who are said to have padded their grades and remained eligible to play by taking courses that required no attendance and little if any work. This summer, James Gundlach, an Auburn sociology professor, laid out the problem in startling detail, telling reporters that corruption at the university was pervasive. An internal audit by the university, made public this month, has uncovered a new round of problems. It found that a grade for a scholarship athlete had been changed — from an incomplete to an A — without the professor’s knowledge. ...[U]nethical behavior often associated with big-time college sports doesn’t always end with athletes. It can easily seep outward, undermining academic standards and corrupting behavior in the university as a whole.
See various posts below for UD's ongoing commentary on Auburn.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
The Athens Banner-Herald would also like to know (see post below, Weekends At America's Worst...) why mild miscreants are barred from the University of Georgia's classrooms, and extreme miscreants aren't:
The University of Georgia red-flags students with outstanding library fees or bad behavior, but a student with a history of alcohol-related offenses - including ones that had him barred from Clarke County for a period - re-enrolled this fall.
Headline of the Day|
WOMAN STUNG BY SCORPION IN JEANS
It's All in the Details|
...100 and 125 windows had been smashed with bricks, rocks and chairs, and police had been pelted with bottles and pieces of concrete. ...[C]harges including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, failure to disperse in a riot, minor in possession of alcohol, possession of marijuana, breaking and entering, mistreatment of a police horse or dog and destruction of property.
A reporter from The Republican strolls the campus of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Two of the Earliest Academic Heroes...|
...to be honored here at University Diaries -- Susan Andrews and John Creed of the University of Alaska -- are back in the news. When this blog was kneehigh to a grasshopper, UD followed with admiration these two professors' successful efforts to keep a diploma mill graduate from running the UA faculty senate.
Now Andrews and Creed are back, with an opinion piece in Alaska Report deploring the cozy relationship between big oil and the university's leadership.
First, they note that the university's president and public relations office routinely refer to compulsory "indirect oil royalty payments" to the university, which were negotiated as part of a business agreement with the state, as charitable gifts from the oil companies involved.
Apparently it's not enough that BP [one of the oil companies] has a basketball tournament at the University of Alaska Fairbanks named after the company. In November 2005 in front of basketball fans, BP officials "produced two UAF jerseys bearing the number 2.28 to represent their gift of $2.28 million," the News-Miner reported. Can UA get much more tacky?
wittle boys |
make vewy bad choices
at the spearmint whino
UD wishes coaches and university presidents would stop using baby talk when they talk about recruits who get into heavy weaponry fights. Donna Shalala is the poster girl here, with her mommy-disappointed-bad-baby thing whenever her footballers go at it; but the rhetoric is in general use.
The University of New Mexico is the latest site of an "an isolated incident where players made some very bad choices," in the words of an athletic official there.
Let's see what the kids were up to.
[A] recruit [was] shot outside an Albuquerque strip club during an official visit....[P]olice sought help finding the shooting suspects... The players and Palomar College offensive lineman Ervin "Una" Smiley went to the Spearmint Rhino Gentleman's Club, 1645 University Blvd. The athletes got into an argument with two unidentified men, accompanied by two women, around 2 a.m. Dec. 9.
Weekends at America's|
An Incident Report, from Officer G. Davis [I've highlighted my favorite parts.]:
'From: 12/15/06, 12:05 a.m. to 1:15 a.m.
--THE ATHENS BANNER-HERALD--
Background here, if you have the stomach for it.
...oh, and I'm just making a wild guess, but maybe this is the reason the much-arrested Mr. Milner keeps getting readmitted to school. Daddy.
You can decide if there's a family resemblance.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
News of the Weird|
'Amsterdam's mayor is apologizing for plagiarizing a Pearl Harbor address President Bush made in 2001.
Gender Issues in Donkey Use|
From my friend Jon:
'CALL FOR PAPERS
The second biennial Hydra Donkey Conference:
THE ROLE OF THE DONKEY AND THE MULE IN
THE CULTURE OF THE MEDITERRANEAN
A Weekend Conference to be held on the Island of Hydra, near
Athens, Friday 13th October - Sunday 15th October 2007
In October 2007 the Free University of Hydra, in collaboration with
the School of Veterinary Medicine, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki,
and the Mayor and Municipality of Hydra, is organising an
international conference which will examine, document and celebrate the role of
donkey (and also the mule) in the culture of the countries bordering the
The island of Hydra has a special place in Europe as a developed
economy where a large percentage of personal transport and
transportation of goods is done by mule and donkey. There are no cars. We are proud
of our mule and donkey culture.
The conference will examine every aspect of donkey and mule culture,
ranging from the economics of rearing and maintaining livestock, to
the shaping of the Mediterranean landscape, and taking in literature and
philosophy en route. Issues such as the working conditions of
animals, gender issues in donkey use, donkeys in leisure activities etc will
The themes of our first conference in 2004 included: donkeys in
ancient history; the donkey in religious representation; a Charter for the
Working Donkey; the tales of Nasreddin Hoja; saddle-making,
ornamentation and harnesses of mules and donkeys; the languages of donkeys and
donkey-drivers; women and their donkeys; donkeys and song; culinary
considerations of donkeys; the donkey goes to war; and mules and
donkeys as an environmentally sustainable transport option.'
From the Bowels of Bama|
I often criticize professors at football-fucked schools for indifference or silence. I make a point, on this blog, of honoring those few who speak up. Here's one:
Several years ago, the largely powerless Faculty Senate of the University of Alabama voted overwhelmingly to recommend a modest “surcharge" (50 cents or so) for tickets to all athletic events. The purpose of the surcharge would have been to provide additional financial support to the university’s academic mission: books for the library, scholarships for the needy and even a few more teachers. The administration dismissed the recommendation without comment, and the Senate (like its ancient Roman counterpart) returned to its favorite pastime: passing vacuous resolutions and pretending to itself that someone was listening.
---From TUSCALOOSA NEWS---
T.J. Clark, an art critic...|
...sounded pretty damn sure about this twenty years ago:
The bourgeoisie has an... interest in preserving a certain myth of the aesthetic consciousness, one where a transcendental ego is given something appropriate to contemplate in a situation essentially detached from the pressures and deformities of history. The interest is considerable because the class in question has few other areas (since the decline of the sacred) in which its account of consciousness and freedom can be at all compellingly phrased.
Very elegant way of saying that regressive people like you and me, aching for the certainty and exultation that a now-absconded God gave us, turn aesthetic experience into a personal religion. Our interactions with paintings and novels are a narcissistic escape from reality, a depraved indulgence in a false and reactionary pleasuring of our own sense of freedom and awareness ...
Many humanities professors remain so frightened about the possibility that they're doing this awful thing that they make sure to assign agitprop in their classes, so that no one could possibly accuse them of not caring.
Yet having surveyed the results of this relentlessly historical approach to art, Clark now, decades later, admits to second thoughts, as Michael J. Lewis, in a great essay in The New Criterion, notes:
'When lamenting the current state of art history, Clark can sound almost conservative. He ridicules “much of the Left academy” for what he calls its “constant, cursory hauling of visual (and verbal) images before the court of political judgment—with the politics deployed by the prosecution usually as undernourished and instrumentalized as the account given of what the image in question might have to ‘say.’” Here Clark recognizes that something has gone badly wrong. Under the reign of formalism, the art object was a kind of cloistered virgin, its aesthetic integrity guarded against any kind of political or social agenda that might taint it. But in an age of agenda art, the object had lost its purity, as it were, to become a plaything of any political agenda that might claim it. In a startling passage he acknowledges as much:
My art history has always been reactive. Its enemies have been the various ways in which visual imagining of the world has been robbed of its true humanity, and conceived of as something less than human, non-human, brilliantly (or dully) mechanical. In the beginning that meant that the argument was with certain modes of formalism, and the main effort in my writing went into making the painting fully part of a world of transactions, interests, disputes, beliefs, “politics.” But who now thinks it is not? The enemy now is not the old picture of visual imaging as pursued in a state of trance-like removal from human concerns, but the parody notion we have come to live with of its belonging to the world, its incorporation into it, its being “fully part” of a certain image regime. “Being fully part” means, it turns out in practice, being at any tawdry ideology’s service.'
You could say the same of universities, you know, and what has happened to them now that their traditional belief in the relative "apartness" of their intellectual activity has turned into a belief that there's no distinction at all between the university and the world outside of it -- that anything remotely like an 'ivory tower' has been a politically despicable idea. As Clark suggests, once you decide that there are no relatively constant values, ideas, and texts for which universities stand, once universities lose their intellectual autonomy and find their only measure of worth and meaning in the degree to which they respond to a larger political world, then you are "at any tawdry ideology's service."
Daniel Green, at The Valve, says another thing that needs to be said:
What formalist ever believed a work of art or literature was literally “brilliantly (or dully) mechanical,” or, at least, that a proper response to art was one that regarded it as “something less than human, non-human”? Has anyone ever really confronted a work of art “in a state of trance-like removal from human concerns”? The very fact the a human being experiences a work created by another human being, both of whom presumably draw on very human attributes--creativity, attentiveness, for that matter even the ability to self-induce a “trance-like” state--would seem to make the transformation of the puerile metaphor of the “mechanical” response to art into something real, something to be contrasted with “human,” manifestly preposterous. Yet this association of formalist criticism of all kinds with merely “mechanical” aesthetic appreciation and “engaged” political criticism with the fully “human” world of “transactions, interests, disputes, beliefs” has been an operational assumption of academic criticism for almost three decades now, producing such an endless stream of ideologically sodden “scholarship” that apparently even Clark has had enough.
Wide World of Sports|
I can't pick on the NBA for tonight's Knicks/Nuggets melee: no universities involved.
I'll make due with the two thousand students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who rioted on Friday after their football team lost a game. They
poured out of buildings and began setting fires, smashing windows, and throwing rocks and cans of beer after the university’s football team lost the Division I-AA football championship to Appalachian State University Friday night. State police were called to help university officers quell the two-and-a-half-hour disturbance, according to a university statement, and two officers were treated for bruises after being hit. More than 60 officers in riot gear used pepper spray, smoke, and other tactics to break up the gathering.
Lots of people - police and students - were hurt.
Some rioters threw bicycles -- at the police, and at their horses.
In a shocking development, the university revealed the students were drunk.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
... the way things work sometimes. I read with delight a short essay in last Sunday's New York Times, found it charming, beautiful... Thought I'd cite it on my blog as an instance of great writing...
First I did a quick Google search of the author's name - standard operating procedure for our UD - and gradually realized that the author -- Dena Crosson -- was the daughter of an old friend of my aunt's here in 'thesda.
The essay demonstrates an important and somewhat depressing rule about writing: You can absorb all the rules and practice all the tricks, but if you don't have it, your writing will never be truly great. It'll be good, maybe, but never great.
It is personality, and you either have a personality that draws people to you in interest and affection, or you don't.
By "affection," I don't mean She's so sweet! I just love her! I mean you like the writer's personality because you recognize it as authentic, sharp, different, nervy. Evelyn Waugh, Robert Graves, George Orwell, Dorothy Parker, Gore Vidal, Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin, Ted Hughes, Christopher Hitchens, Camille Paglia -- none of these is a pleasant person. Pleasant isn't most people's default mode.
It's bracing to be in the presence, in the consciousness, of a real human being, with wit and complexity and unpleasantness and irritability and prejudice and self-deception and everything.
My recent one-night stand with Dr. Phil on TNT was a reminder I didn't need that the experience of dealing with a fully realized, smartly expressive human being, getting a sense of the truth of human nature and existence, is a rarity. "One almost never gets the real thing," writes Saul Bellow in Ravelstein. "What truly matters has to be revealed, never performed."
Great writing reveals. Over time, it displays the truth of what people are, along with what matters in human life.
Of course a short essay in the newspaper can't do this. But it can suggest the capacity for this; it can reveal the leading edge of an actual human being.
My husband of more than two decades bought a motorcycle, went on the Atkins diet, and began to lose his middle-age belly. He started taking martial arts classes and brought home books about Zen Buddhism, dharma and karma. He surfed the Web to find childhood classmates, looked up old girlfriends, and — well, you know the story. [Great goofy details, winding up in a place so cliched that the writer wisely leaves it up to you to finish the thought.]
'Less than a month after a harsh public rebuke from Rupert Murdoch, publishing provocateur Judith Regan has ankled HarperCollins.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Now why, UD wondered, as she moments ago headed up the Foggy Bottom Metro escalator to GW's campus, why are there white media vans with skyscraper-high antennae sticking out of them on the street in front of her?
Why, for that matter, is security at GW Hospital more stringent than usual (UD flashes her i.d. card here every morning she's on campus, in order to get breakfast at the well-located Starbucks on the hospital's first floor), with three guards instead of one?
Well, things are always hopping four blocks from the White House... Could be anything... The real question is whether UD wants a cookie or a scone with her latte...
Then, as she walked to her office, she realized it's about that Senator from South Dakota whose health crisis might tip the legislative balance of power... Which made the scene kind of icky... a wonk death-watch...
A Writer for The Nation...|
...tries, somewhat awkwardly, to put the totally creepy atmosphere of Columbus, Ohio a day before the Ohio State/Michigan game in a political context. Along the way, though, he evokes the setting nicely:
OSU-Michigan rivalry transcends vulgarity: This is sports as occupier; sports as the all-consuming Moloch bent on ingesting anyone trying to read a book on the quad or toss a frisbee. ... Fire is a real fear in the game's aftermath. I heard a local sports radio announcer joke uneasily Sunday about how people should make sure they burn their old couches, not new ones--a reference to the more than fifty fires that took place after Ohio State defeated Texas earlier this year. ... This is farce carrying the threat of tragedy. The game should be an invitation to have some fun. Instead it becomes a backdrop for a raging bouillabaisse of testosterone and alienation. To the people of Columbus, and a university with a proud tradition of student organizing and solidarity, cheer yourselves hoarse for the Buckeyes on Saturday. But save your anger for the people who deserve it: the administrators who hiked your tuition while spending hundreds of thousands on stadium upkeep ...
Thursday, December 14, 2006
...always has the coolest images over at Slaves of Academe. This one made me laugh; and I thought it'd be a good visual for my quick recap of our tv-watching last night.... Christmas in Washington, on TNT, began with images of snow falling gently over the city, even though it's been snowless and around sixty degrees around here for most of the month. The show was mainly about the bigtime singing acts (Il Divo, Taylor Hicks, Gretchen Wilson), but it did provide glimpses for us of La Spawn, wearing a long blue gown, an off-white scarf (which she got to keep), and one hell of an enthusiastic smile on her face as she belted out jazzed up carols.
Mr. UD will soon have all the winter weather he'd like; he's going to Norway in a couple of days, on business. Our friend who lives there tells Mr. UD it's either "dark, cold, and rainy" or "dark, cold, and snowy."
This Story's Moving Faster Than|
A Drunk Linebacker in a Hummer
First it said it wouldn't; now it says it will. For a few hours, Auburn tried to dismiss its latest athletic scandal as a purely academic, more of the same, nothing to see here sort of thing. It wasn't going to send to the NCAA results of its internal audit involving phantom courses and illegally entered grades. I mean, why bother? What else is new? It only involved a couple of athletes...
Now it's changed its mind and is busily sending off the results of the thing to the NCAA:
Auburn University reversed position Wednesday and said it would forward to the NCAA relevant information from an internal audit examining grade changes.
That last sentence is a beaut.
James Gundlach, the professor who broke the Auburn story, may testify in Washington:
"It's been indicated to me that Democrats really want to increase Pell grants but are facing an issue of pay as you go," Gundlach said. "So cutting the tax-exempt status on big-time athletics could put a whole lot of poor kids through college and would be very much the kind of things Democrats would like to point at by the time 2008 came around."
An Ancient Tale|
Longtime readers know of UD's special interest in diploma mills. I've followed enough tales about people who've bought their degree from bogus and illegal diploma-distributors that I've come to see how the plots of these stories are almost always identical.
Here's one, for instance, that's developing in New Hampshire. Absolutely every statement being made and event taking place is the same statement and event I've seen in most of the other cases.
One of the two remaining candidates for Windsor Southwest Supervisory Union superintendent lists on his resume a doctoral degree from a well-known diploma mill. [Bogus PhD's are popular among school administrators, since listing one on your resume can double your salary.]
If this story plays out the way such stories tend to do, community outrage will remove the guy from consideration.
"That one little unit there."|
More efforts on the part of Auburn to pretend that the now-unaccredited university's escalating academic whoredom scandal has nothing to do with athletics.
Why is Auburn so eager to claim this? I guess because they're tired -- after decades and decades of scandals -- of getting sanctioned. Sanction-burnout.
Of course it's true that what's going on there isn't only an athletic scandal. If it makes Auburn feel any better, lots of non-athletes also enjoyed the grade-changing, bogus course-offering ministrations of faculty whores.
There are broader efforts on Auburn's part to deny the school's engrained, systemic corruption. The president insists that the latest obscenities, in which someone seems to have gone online and added students and high grades to unsuspecting professors' gradesheets (Professor James Gundlach, who uncovered the bogus course scandal, correctly says that "if it is proven that someone changed grades without a professor's knowledge, it could represent a breach of academic integrity much greater than this summer's scandal. ...[The grade changes] represent something far more serious than [the chair of sociology] giving away grades in courses that he had students in.") are "strictly within that one little unit there," meaning the extensive sociology/criminology/whatever program that seems to be pimp-central.
But only an idiot would believe that stuff like this doesn't go on in other units at Auburn. In fact, it is UD's assumption that the prostitution of academic life there has merely shifted location. If there's another James Gundlach in another unit, he or she should be prepping for some media attention.
Says in the Huntsville Times that Petee (sociology chair) could lose his tenure and his job. Don't bet on it. And don't forget that he was chair of the sociology department. One of the most corrupt professors UD's ever heard of was chair of a department at Auburn. His activities would have gone undetected had a very determined colleague not stood up to derision and intimidation from the university to press his claims against him.
Auburn has resisted and denied every step of the way, and it'll continue to do so. That's why only the same idiot would believe the bullshit the Huntsville Times writer fell for -- the happy talk from Auburn with which the reporter decided to end his article:
...Painful though it may be, Richardson said the process of dealing with the controversy that started last summer has made Auburn better and stronger. "This is clearly something we take very seriously, and we will follow it to the end," he said. "It's like going to the doctor and taking shots. I don't like to take shots. We had a policy in place before, but it was not systematically administered as it should have been. It's an embarrassment to us."
I understand why locals would like to believe that a little unit of Auburn came down with a little condition for which it had to go to the doctor. No one wants to hear they've got tertiary syphilis.
One more thing: Just checked Petee's university webpage. It's much better than it used to be. It used to have a photo of him and a description of him as department chair. Now there's no photo and no mention of his being chair -- instead, there's a pair of handcuffs.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
One For the Record Books|
Auburn University's spokesman speaks:
"This is not an athletic issue,” said the spokesman, Brian Keeter. “The N.C.A.A. has not requested this report. We’ve provided a previous one to them. If they ask us to do for this, we would. But this is an academic issue.”
The blog Progressive Historians Asks...|
What do you get when you cross electronic grading with a varsity football team?
...Oliver Brown, William Hudson, and Justin Jordan, spectacularly brave Texas Southern University students, whose devotion to the truth brought down a corrupt president, and made a still-corrupt school significantly less corrupt.
Here's the whole remarkable story, told by an excellent writer at Diverse Issues in Higher Education.
For background, go here, here, here, and here.
Erin O'Connor does some more digging on John Streamas (see the post below), the sort of professor who can really do damage to a school, especially when he's part of a larger department - ethnic studies, in this case - packed with people who get their names in the papers for the wrong reasons (see the link below for details on a Streamas colleague, Professor Leonard).
Given adequate time and hiring opportunities, ethnic studies programs like WSU's will, UD predicts, become the academic-side equivalent of rogue university football teams. Their faculty will routinely hurl words and things at campus hegemonists and get reprimanded and arrested, etc.
Unlike football players, though, these guys are on teams that can vote them lifetime tenure.
Update: Warfare at Washington State|
John Streamas, a professor of ethnic studies at WSU, is a confused and sputtering sort of person, all high revolutionary dudgeon, a legend in his own mind.
His syllabi are meandering messes. Although he cannot write or think clearly, he teaches graduate students.
Streamas and his department represent part of the larger ethnic studies fiasco in America. (America's attention was drawn to the problem by the University of Colorado's Ward Churchill.)
Streamas gets really angry when he sees Republicans; he screamed at a WSU student who's a Republican and who was at a campus Republican anti-immigration rally that he was a "white shit-bag."
Here is an explanatory voice message that Streamas left for university investigators:
"This is a racist university. Many of our students say that WSU stands for White Supremacist University.
(The students put up a fence symbolizing the need to control the movement of people across the country's borders.)
The university investigation has concluded, and today officials announced what we already knew: Streamas is "immature, intellectually unsophisticated and thoughtless." They're reprimanding him, but not firing him.
Nor should he be fired for having the qualities listed. Ethnic studies at WSU seeks them out in its hires.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
... But when I say later...|
...I mean quite a bit later. I'm off to a Student-Faculty dinner for the university's honors program.
This and That|
1.) Andrew Ferguson, in an opinion piece in Bloomberg.com, summarizes Arthur Levine's scathing report on America's schools of education. An excerpt from Ferguson:
Educating School Teachers says education schools suffer from the same afflictions that have crippled primary and secondary schools until recently: low standards of performance and graduation.
2.) UD wrote a brief note to an official at Tennessee/Chattanooga, asking for an update on the history professor there who plagiarized his book (his university webpage still promotes the book), and who graduated from what appears to be a diploma mill. The opening lines of the response she got were so out of control that she deleted the email without reading further.
3.) Later on today, UD will post about the art historian T.J. Clark. She will also analyze some charming prose she found in last Sunday's New York Times.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Bigtime tenor Roberto Alagna was booed by some audience members the other night at La Scala, as he finished his opening aria in Aida.
In response to the boos, Alagna "stunned the audience and his colleagues by marching off the stage... An understudy wearing jeans took over immediately."
Having broken his contract, he won't be back for the rest of the scheduled performances.
Dumb Shit Artists Say
(A University Diaries Series)
"I left the stage because I was not well,” he said. “I am an artist. I am very sensitive.” He blamed La Scala for not halting the performance to give him a chance to recover, as normally happens when a singer is taken ill.
Target Practice at|
Oregon State University
Excerpts from an article by Gwyneth Gibby in today's Corvallis Gazette:
...After a Corvallis man, Dennis Sanderson, was shot Oct. 14, in the alley behind [an Oregon State University fraternity] house, police searched Alpha Gamma Rho and found more than two dozen weapons including .22-caliber rifles and 12- and 20-gauge shotguns.
When the shooter realized he'd hit a man, he and a friend who watched him do it went to get pizza. One school official describes the incident as "something of legitimate concern." Another says that students need to work on "finding appropriate ways to interact with transients."
UD likes the way the Washington Post, in this morning's account of her kid's activities last night, puts Dr. Phil's name in quotation marks, as if he's not only not a real 'Dr.,' but not a real human being. An excerpt:
President Bush enjoyed a lively set of Christmas music Sunday night, swaying and bobbing his head as music stars like Taylor Hicks and Gretchen Wilson belted out classic carols.
La Spawn was too exhausted for much detail on the event, but she did say that "Dr. Phil" was "sort of obnoxious," that his wife "can't read a teleprompter," and that President Bush "can't read a teleprompter."
29 Billion for |
Nice description, as congressional committees begin to circle, of the nonsensical non-profit status of many American universities. The writer is Holly K. Hacker, in the Dallas Morning News. Some excerpts:
...More than 100 presidents at four-year colleges and universities make at least $500,000, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Why is Auburn University Accredited?|
Excerpts from a New York Times article about Auburn University, with UD's commentary in brackets.
An internal audit at Auburn University found that a grade for a scholarship athlete was changed without the knowledge of the professor, raising the athlete’s average in the final semester just over the 2.0 minimum for graduation. [Prepare for the fun rhetoric from Auburn about how this internal audit proves how seriously they take the academic integrity of the institution. The audit was done, of course, only under massive pressure from the national media, and after Auburn tried in every way it could think of to intimidate and shut up the professor who revealed the activity.]
It'd do Auburn a world of good to lose its accreditation for awhile. It's a whorehouse.
Update: UD's blogpal Sherman Dorn sends her multiple links covering the sordid and more sordid tale of unaccredited Auburn University. (UD has removed its accreditation. She is confident that official accrediting agencies will also do so.) Although a sordid tale, it is not a complicated one. It's Hawaii's story, and Alaska's. Also Louisiana's. Corrupt states maintain corrupt campuses, fine green quads ruled by fuckwit cronies of the governor's.
It would never occur to the trustees of a place like Auburn that universities have something to do with intellect. The trustees are potentates, with a benign condescension toward the primitives in the stadium rafters. They smile fondly at the ritual of party-and-puke that makes their pupils glad, and they run their little one-party states -- steady-party states -- like the Big Daddies they are.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
UD Shared One Legal Form With You...|
...this morning (the one her kid, Mr UD, and UD, had to sign, promising not to demand a million dollars because their kid's face flashed on the tv screen during Wednesday's Christmas in Washington show); here's another one, also having to do with the stage.
A Brown University student production of Sartre's The Flies will entrap its audience, throughout each performance, in a theater full of real flies. "There's a sense of containment and quarantine and pestilence," when you're in a small space infested with forty thousand drosophila fruit flies, "which ties in with the play very well," the director explains to a reporter from the Boston Globe.
When you order tickets online, this disclosure appears on the screen:
"I am aware that there will be 30,000 live drosophila in the audience area at this production."
If you don't check a box confirming this, you can't buy a ticket.
(There were only 30,000 flies when they printed ticket information. The drosophila reproduced faster than the producers anticipated.)
Update: UD's been trying to figure out why she finds this story so sad.
She figures it has something to do with the assault on the imagination the gesture represents, the way the director considers the total literalizing of a metaphor clever or helpful or something. Is the imagination at this point so weak that we can't have an aesthetic experience without the theatrical equivalent of marital aids?
Prepare for productions of Ibsen's Ghosts in which audience members are injected with spirochetes so they can understand what syphilis feels like.
My Piece in Sunday's Washington Post...|
...is now available online.
One of my neighbors, Peggy Pratt, who has lived in Garrett Park as long as my family, said of this piece: "You make us sound so good. We're not as good as you make us sound."
So I idealize a bit...
"The first paragraph uses 'gratis' four times;|
the second paragraph says they won't pay her...
... What are they trying to tell us?" Mr UD asked UD this morning, as they both signed a form from New Liberty Productions. If they didn't sign it, La Spawn couldn't perform tonight with Dr. Phil and the President at Christmas in Washington.
Here's the form:
Name of Performer
Friday, December 08, 2006
A Report to Make |
Ivan Tribble Dribble
The MLA Task Force, reports Inside Higher Ed, insists on “the legitimacy of scholarship produced in new media,” and the need to "end the assumption that print is necessarily better. (And to the extent that some professors and departments don’t know how to evaluate quality in new media, 'the onus is on the department' to learn, not on the scholar using new media.)"
Other findings: "For books that get published, readers may be few. Press runs that used to range from 600-1,000 are now more likely to be 250." That's an appallingly low number; it really makes you wonder why The Book continues to carry such weight in department decisions. It's become an empty symbol.
You know UD hates Dr. Phil, but even he knows that you have to get real eventually.
The IHE account ends with some very sensible words from Clark Hulse, a dean, who
said he saw the MLA pushing departments to accept their responsibility for evaluating scholarship, instead of assuming that anything published by a university press is good and any scholarship that couldn’t find a traditional publisher must be bad.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
A Threshold Moment|
In a special report, the Chronicle of Higher Ed announces the release of the MLA's publication, Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion. Its conclusions and recommendations are sensible and unsurprising. Enough already of the "tyranny of the book manuscript." And in a related development, departments "need to rethink not only the conception of the dissertation as a larval monograph but also, and more broadly, the entire graduate curriculum."
They sure as hell do. Lots of grad students in the humanities seem tired of English departments that offer one has-been theory course after another -- the glories of Marxist thought, the glories of psychoanalytical thought, the personal identity politics that are so much more important than the common human values of great art -- as if these things weren't dead in the water, and as if they had much of anything to do with literature. Why, students want to know, is so much of what they read in these seminars -- essays as well as novels -- so shitty? Why is so much of it considered only politically, and unable to stand up to any aesthetic or more broadly philosophical prodding at all?
You'll never get a job if you don't do theory! their professors warn.
Really? Consider two young English professors a couple of decades ago who wrote a high-profile essay, "Against Theory," which infuriated everyone with its scornful dismissal of most of the theory with which PhDs in literature are still thrashed. What happened to these two contrarians? Did they destroy their careers?
For quite awhile, one taught at Berkeley, and the other at Hopkins. One of them is one of the highest paid English professors in the country. The other is the incoming president of George Washington University.
Instead of stomping out theories like a trained bear, write your convictions.
While things in the humanities haven't yet become a "crisis," the MLA report concludes, we're definitely at a "threshold moment."
UD Again in the |
This Sunday's Washington Post will carry an essay by UD about her town, Garrett Park, Maryland.
Find it in Close to Home, which is the last page of the Outlook section.
Fun thing: I've been asked to submit a photo of the town for the piece. Haven't told her yet, but my Technically Proficient Sister will be called upon for assistance in a matter of seconds.
...essay by Christopher Hitchens in Vanity Fair which correctly notes that women aren't funny. When it comes to funny stuff, women are "slower to get it, more pleased when they do, and swift to locate the unfunny."
He offers several reasons for this, which I will review. I will then add one of my own.
1.) Men need to be funny in order to attract women sexually, whereas women only have to be reasonably physically attractive to attract men sexually.
2.) Men are childish and stupid and therefore will laugh at anything. Women are mature and intelligent and therefore are less apt to laugh promiscuously.
3.) Hitchens quotes Fran Lebowitz: "Humor is largely aggressive and pre-emptive, and what's more male than that?"
4.) Childbirth. "For women, reproduction is, if not the only thing, certainly the main thing. Apart from giving them a very different attitude to filth and embarrassment, it also imbues them with the kind of seriousness and solemnity at which men can only goggle. ... Humor, if we are to be serious about it, arises from the ineluctable fact that we are all born into a losing struggle. Those who risk agony and death to bring children into this fiasco simply can't afford to be too frivolous."
Here's a nice excerpt from the essay:
[Nietzsche defined a] witticism as an epitaph on the death of a feeling. Male humor prefers the laugh to be at someone's expense, and understands that life is quite possibly a joke to begin with — and often a joke in extremely poor taste. Humor is part of the armor-plate with which to resist what is already farcical enough. (Perhaps not by coincidence, battered as they are by motherfucking nature, men tend to refer to life itself as a bitch.) Whereas women, bless their tender hearts, would prefer that life be fair, and even sweet, rather than the sordid mess it actually is. Jokes about calamitous visits to the doctor or the shrink or the bathroom, or the venting of sexual frustration on furry domestic animals, are a male province. It must have been a man who originated the phrase "funny like a heart attack." In all the millions of cartoons that feature a patient listening glum-faced to a physician ("There's no cure. There isn't even a race for a cure."), do you remember even one where the patient is a woman?
To all of this I'd add that women seem hardwired for propriety -- social, and even physical. Take UD. She's already mentioned several times on this blog that she's a slob. But in the teeny household economy of her teeny Garrett Park household, she notices that she and she alone exhibits some vestigial concern for upkeep. The other two inhabitants of Ferdinand House could give a shit (meaning La Spawn might grow up to be one of the world's rare funny women), whereas UD finds herself biannually stirred by deep-lying tides to vacuum doghair.
Francis Visits a Bordello|
Francis X. Rocca, intrepid reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education, walks into the Italian higher education system with a flashlight and describes what he sees.
Characterized by the country's minister of higher education himself as governed along the lines of a "big bordello," the Italian university system has gone from worse to worser by introducing quickie online options for schools, same thing as our own credits-for-experience bullshit...
Just how much credit students would receive for experience was supposed to be based on evaluations of individual résumés.
Competition has been introduced in the form of growing numbers of universities willing to waive more credits than the next guy ("We will not be underwaived!"), and in the form of spectacular facilities:
The southern region of Calabria, a largely rural area with a population of two million, now boasts no fewer than four universities, not including a small private institution whose accreditation the education ministry rescinded last May, following news reports that it was holding its rare classes in a seaside luxury hotel.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Snapshots from Home|
UD Is Conflicted.
La Spawn is part of the chorus that
will sing immense numbers of carols
and do backup for various singers
(including Gretchen Wilson, whose
"Redneck Woman" is one of the kid's
favorite songs) at this year's
Christmas in Washington concert
at the National Building Museum.
TNT will broadcast it next week.
The President and other biggies will be there.
During last night's rehearsal, the director of the chorus pointed at the little one and had her stand in front of the one-hundred member group and do some singing. "You see that face?" the director said to the singers. "You see that expression? I want all of you to have that face when you sing."
So... all of that is good, fine... But what the kid didn't tell me is that the host of the event is Dr. Phil.
UD has dealt rather well over the years with this man by pretending he does not exist.
How can she pretend he does not exist and watch her daughter on tv (That's right - UD doesn't have a tv in her house. But for special occasions she finds one and watches it.) with him at the same time?
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Note: "Writing: Love and Hate"...|
... is a new post, but you need to scroll down a bit for it.
The Damien Dempsey|
I Left Behind
With a Pipe
'Fights happen from time to time on all college campuses. NIU police responded to a fight around 11 am that was anything but typical. Lt. Matt Kiederlen has worked for the NIU Police Department for 14 years.
UD's Latest Attack on Creative Writing...|
...appears in one of GW's journals of creative writing, Le Culte du Moi.
A Sheep Farm North of Baltimore|
In one of my earliest posts at UD, I praised to the skies a book of essays that came out twenty years ago. Against Theory: Literary Studies and the New Pragmatism was edited by one of my Chicago professors, W.J.T. Mitchell, and featured a smart and nasty fight between two art critics - T.J. Clark and Michael Fried - that taught me a great deal about modernism.
Also in that volume -- the inspiration for it, really -- is the now-classic "Against Theory" by Walter Benn Michaels (whose recent book, The Trouble with Diversity, has been much-discussed) and Steven Knapp. Here's an excerpt from it.
Knapp seems to have gone into academic administration in a big way over the last couple of decades, because he's about to become the new president of UD's place of business, George Washington University.
He has a sheep farm north of Baltimore!
Monday, December 04, 2006
Writing: Love and Hate|
"As [Gore] Vidal heads towards what he calls, 'The door marked Exit', so too does the species he represents: the famous writer. Nowadays, writers simply aren't famous any more – or rather 'to speak of a famous writer is like speaking of a famous speedboat designer. The adjective is inappropriate to the noun.' The reasons for this are twofold, Vidal believes.
Do literature professors hate literature? People like Vidal, who think they do, think so for a number of reasons which have varying degrees of plausibility.
1.) Many literature professors theorize in ugly language about literature. The ugly language tells us that they are themselves incapable of recognizing beautiful language, which is what literature primarily is; and the theorizing suggests an incapacity to respond directly to literature, and a related compulsion to cover the delicate wash of art with mental smog.
2.) Literature professors are jealous. They wanted to be novelists and poets and dramatists themselves, but weren't good enough. They channeled their frustrated aesthetic impulses into lecturing and writing about aesthetic objects, but their undying resentment of the great writer means that their primary motive will be to destroy.
3.) Many literature professors secretly believe literature is an airy-fairy sort of thing that needs butching up, not only with scientific theory, but with a primary insistence on art's political utility. Hence, they are drawn to dull, didactic stuff, like Uncle Tom's Cabin.
4.) The influence of psychoanalysis remains pernicious. Professors think literature is mainly about making readers feel better about themselves -- empowered, liberated, whatever. The result is similar to #3 -- a decided preference for mediocre literature with a marvelous message just for you. None of the difficult, often unpleasant, often irresolvable, complexity of art; none of the dense linguistic challenges and delights of the greatest writers (Joyce, Woolf, Faulkner).
Not hating literature means, in large part, loving the particularity of a great writer's voice -- and this includes essayists, for the principles of great writing are pretty steady across fiction and non-fiction. Great writers share many of the same writerly tricks, but manage to use them with unique results.
For instance, this spectacular essay in last Sunday's New York Times magazine has all sorts of things in common with the sorts of essays George Orwell wrote, yet it finds its own powerful register.
The basic move of this essay, a move Orwell made again and again, is to seem at first to narrate an event with clinical distance, but in fact, gradually and rather horribly, to mark the writer's implication in the event and its meanings. James Agee did this all over his great long essay, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men -- described the poverty of Southern tenant farmers in an almost cold photographic way, only bit by bit to sense and own up to his own inner poverty. Gerard Manley Hopkins is after the same point in his poem "Spring and Fall," in which the poet watches a little girl grieve over fallen autumn leaves:
It is the blight man was born for.
It is Margaret you mourn for.
If you want a popular culture visual of what I have in mind here, think of the final scene of The Sixth Sense, when Bruce Willis, to his horror, realizes that he's dead too. That cornered look on his face.
Why are we so moved by this writerly move? I think we're fascinated generally by epiphany, by a moment of serious insight. More particularly, though, these epiphanic expressions represent non-insipid ways to convey our shared humanity; they actually narrate the way the truth of your embodied being can creep up on you.
Procuring organs was part of the job description during my transplant-surgery fellowship, and the operation was like any other. [Note the matter of fact tone here, and the way the writer just gets into it. No handshake, no introduction. Instant narration. You are there, and the operation at hand is a routine one.] There were patients who required more care, others who seemed made for a surgeon’s hands. And though brain-dead, they all seemed remarkably alive. They bled bright red, and their chests rose and fell regularly, albeit with the aid of medications and life-support machines. [Dead, bled, red -- she's a poet and don't she know it. Wonderful weird morbid shit on offer. Admit that you love it.]
Composing great writing is like composing great music. Calm, suspense, calm shattered -- you have to pace it.
Update: Columbia University|
Journalism School Ethics Course
A blogger at the New York Observer is observing the still rather mysterious cheating story at Columbia's Journalism school. She has a number of posts up about it.
I've already talked about the unimpressive nature of graduate programs in subjects that don't have much content, like journalism (scroll down to "They Pretend to Pay Us..."). I'd also suggest, in cases like this one, looking closely at the format of the exam in question. Doesn't take place in a room, with a professor sitting at a desk in front of you. You're alone, on-line, and there's nothing to keep you from cheating. It's just one more instance of the abdication of real-time classroom responsibility on the part of professors. I mean, what the fuck. Throw the whole thing on-line. I've got other stuff to do, and so do the students...
Why is anyone surprised that some students take a cynical attitude toward the exercise?
A Charitable Organization|
'With Sunday night's televised announcement of the BCS pairings, and the onset two weeks hence of the bowl season, college football's rich will get richer even as the NCAA's argument for keeping its tax-exempt status will get poorer. A staggering amount of money is about to be thrown around -- total payouts in excess of $100 million in the BCS events alone, $85 million of that coming from Fox TV -- just weeks after NCAA president Myles Brand's letter to Congress said, essentially, that his is a charitable organization.
Why Does Kansas State|
Call Itself Huggieville?
'Kansas State freshman basketball player Luis Colon spent time in two dressing rooms Wednesday night in Berkeley, Calif.
In today's Inside Higher Ed, UD's blogpal, Ralph Luker, notes that "this has been an unusually troubled year for endowed chairs in American higher education." From Enron to Stephen Ambrose, embarrassing organizations and people have endowed august positions at American universities, causing problems for the schools.
Yet one should put things in perspective. It's unlikely, writes Ralph, that "any American institution will ever have to decide whether to create the Adolph Hitler Chair in Holocaust Studies" (this example makes UD wonder whether Ralph has been reading Don DeLillo's novel, White Noise). Some endowed chairs honor slightly to extremely icky people and things, admittedly; but universities should accept most of the chairs anyway and "put the money to good work."
"The Fight Over Whether|
This is a Civil War or Not
Mr. UD, in today's Baltimore Sun.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
From an Advertisement in|
The Sunday New York Times
Real Estate Section
"Standing as the largest single family residence in South Beach, this home is a modern work of simplicity..."
Gehry at Storrs, cont'd|
In a comment, Bill R. says that the Frank Gehry building chosen for a new arts complex at the University of Connecticut -- a group of buildings attacked and then defended in the pages of the local paper by a couple of Storrs faculty members (for the defense, scroll down to Scathing Online Schoolmarm) -- looks like "a pile of wreckage." He agrees with the U Conn professor of geology who writes that the university's many plain red brick buildings nicely reflect generations of steady as she goes Yankees, and the place should stay simple and bricky rather than elaborate and steely.
The geologist even writes that if the weird and wacky Gehry thing goes up, he might leave the area. It could "perhaps even precipitat[e] my move out of the Storrs neighborhood where my wife and I raised our family."
This threat makes UD wonder about this man's Yankee credentials. He wishes to speak for the plain and simple New England aesthetic, and the morality that goes along with it, but put one project up that he doesn't like, and he moves? Cotton Mather would thunder against it in the pulpit, scrawl FOR SHAME on its curving walls, and damn Gehry to hell. He wouldn't move.
The morality part of this involves modesty and public spiritedness.
... I'm quite conservative when it comes to public architecture, especially when the building draws attention to itself at the expense of the human community. Phallic, fecal, Nazi or crucifix designs would clearly not be acceptable for an American public building.
Strange list, that, suggesting there's much to unpack in this pilgrim... I mean, okay, he's conservative in regard to public art; but consider what he thinks of as radical.
Phallic. If phallic's unacceptable, you lose most of our cities' skylines.
Fecal seems to me too underepresented in our architecture to worry about. I can't recall a case of an architect making a presentation by saying that the building proposed means to represent a pile of shit.
You don't see a lot of swastikas on American public buildings either. I suppose if Ralph Luker's Hitlerian chair endower (see below) were given free rein, the person might ask that the Nazi Studies building be constructed in the shape of a swastika. But the idea wouldn't fly.
Crucifixes, and crucifix shapes, are of course legion on the public buildings we call churches.
As I say, a list almost as bizarre as Gehry's design, suggesting that the writer has it in him to appreciate the sort of radical break with convention Gehry's construction intends.
Here's one view of a model of the thing:
Vintage Gehry, and very out of place
among the pilgrims. And yet why not?
The red brick uniformity of Storrs is
a bore. A jolt will do it good.
...psst: speaking of phallic, get a load of
gehry's japanese seafood restaurant...
Scathing Online Schoolmarm...|
...simmers down this morning and shows you what a fine piece of prose looks like. And it's from an English professor! Enjoy.
Robert Thorson calls the design of the University of Connecticut's new Fine Arts Building a "metal monstrosity" and agrees with U.S. News and World Report that its architect, Frank Gehry, is "showy, self-indulgent and egotistical," the right choice perhaps for Bilbao or Los Angeles but not Storrs. My colleague feels that Gehry's "cosmic design" would fatally compromise the university's "earthy visual aesthetic." He prefers the "red brick" of the Nafe Katter Theater and the Benton Museum addition to "phallic, fecal, Nazi or crucifix designs" that he free-associates with the Gehry building.
This Blog has Followed...|
...the University of Utah gun story closely over the last couple of years. Arguably the nation's gun-happiest state, Utah has municipalities that have tried to mandate the carrying and keeping of guns for all citizens.
Although its university system wishes to ban guns on campuses, the state is adamant that it may not. Here's the latest chapter in a probably endless story:
The University of Utah is hoping to strike a compromise with state lawmakers to ban guns from certain parts of campus.
Caravans of Cabs...|
...on Lexington last night, not one of them available, so UD and her sister walked to Rocky O'Sullivan's on a clear and bracing evening.
Tiny place. All seats taken. Irish accents everywhere.
I found strange the absence of cigarette smoke. I'm old enough to assume all pubs will be smoky.
Ordered a Guinness while considering what it was going to mean for me to stand in a sweltering packed room for the next two hours, listening to someone I'm not that excited about. Meanwhile, my sister quickly made friends with fellow Dempsey (and Morrissey) fans in the room.
With her taken care of, it occurred to old UD that she could donate her (untouched) Guinness to the guy at the bar who kept pointing out that she hadn't started swilling it yet. And then, having dispersed her worldly goods and seen to the welfare of her sister, she could leave.
Which she did. Outside the bar there sat a silent yellow cab with a chatty Pakistani in it who was happy to drive her back to her hotel.
A perfect night out on the town for UD, in other words, whose sister arrived many hours later, having done the long Lexington Avenue walk all over again, and having had a terrific time.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
The Madness of the Big City.|
We struggled through thick crowds to reach our midtown hotel. Giggling, though, because the madness of the streets invigorates. Spawn's only request is that we bring back some rice pudding from her favorite place, Rice to Riches. Off to an early dinner before the Damien Dempsey show.
A Borat Cluster|
A reader sends the following call for papers to UD. UD thanks the reader very much.
From Slavic Review: Call for Papers: Borat: Eurasia, American Culture, and Slavic Studies
UD's sister is taking her to New York City this weekend, to see some guy named Damien Dempsey (a Morrissey type, I gather) in some club.
Here is his photo, in which he glares at us.
I'll be blogging from there.
'Ohio University's Board of Trustees approved Friday changing the name of a building at a branch campus named for a former congressman who'd been convicted on federal corruption charges.
Friday, December 01, 2006
They Pretend To Pay Us,|
And We Pretend to Work...
...as employees under Communism used to say of their employers.
The current cheating scandal at Columbia's graduate school of journalism updates the saying from the American journalism students' point of view: "The administration pretends this is a serious academic field of study, and we pretend to believe them."
There's virtually no body of knowledge in this sort of degree program. At Columbia's, students don't get grades; everything's pretty much pass/fail, etc. Why are people surprised to find that students don't study, and that they cheat on their exams even when the exams are pass/fail, and even when the subject of the exams is ethics?
Cheating is not unheard of on university campuses. But cheating on an open-book, take-home exam in a pass-fail course seems odd, and all the more so in a course about ethics.
Here's guessing that the form of cheating was plagiarism, with a number of exams virtually identical to one another. This is a blow-off, required course. It's not, as Lemann suggests, that students are "concerned." It's that they don't give a shit. They don't take the program seriously. At best, they think the degree might help them get a job. This sort of thing happens when people don't respect your program.
Do Not Go Quoting Poems |
You Haven't Read
"'Do not go gently to that dark night' sang Dylan Thomas in a wonderful poem about death," writes James Lewis in an article about Israel at American Thinker.
From some reason, this is everyone's favorite poem to misquote. Here's the correct line:
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Am I the only person creeped out...|
... by the way the V in Vilsack's presidential
looks just like the V in 1984's