Fanatics Will Try to Kill Her.

For Shamsia Alizada’s own safety, Harvard should offer her a massive scholarship to study here. Med school here too. Maybe by the time of her graduation, Afghanistan will have gotten to the point where they don’t try to kill intelligent, high-profile women.

‘Trump is an aspiring fascist who would burn democracy to the ground.’

It’s time. Violence-fomenting aspiring fascists who refuse peaceful transfer of power: We’re back in the Second World War; and it’s time to dust off its songs, alter them a bit, and SING.

When the lights go on again all over this land

And we have our victory all over this land

Then we will work together to rebuild the polity we almost killed

The sadist’s going home —  we couldn’t be more thrilled

When the lights go on again all over this land

And we ship our fascist pols far far from this land

Then our democracy will find its wings and free hearts will sing

When the lights go on again all over this land

‘At my university, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion offered three workshops… : one “for faculty of color,” another “for women of color” and a third “for white allies.” … [C]riticism forced them to back down.’

LOLOLOL. And the university is San Diego State! Feast your eyes! For years, it has consistently been one of the shittiest, drugs-guns-frats-and-jocks-choked scandals in America.

One of the more notorious drug raids in this country took place at SDSU’s well-armed Theta Chi fraternity. One of UD‘s colleagues left her university to last barely six years as SDSU’s president, his unflagging personal greed an insult to students, faculty, alumni, and of course the state legislature.

It’s such a bad school. UD‘s so not surprised it hired people to add segregation to its stupidities and misdeeds.

Our very own Ceaușescu gets it right in the kisser. Sadder but wiser Nicolae could have told him not to attend.

The original Genius of the Carpathians came to know that crowds can turn against you.

Now it’s the turn of America’s Genius of the Carpathians.

Stick to NASCAR rallies in Alabam’, lad. Washington DC + the halls of justice is not a good look for you. Though you might have some work to do in Alabam’ too — what’s with that unmanly mask?


“[F]ar more people hate him than love him.”

UD has for years tracked the decline and fall of Ocean City Maryland …

… a place where her family has roots starting in 1911. Like Myrtle Beach, OC has allowed itself (for stupid short-sighted commercial reasons) to be taken over by anarchic and/or criminal elements; and now that it’s a guns/booze/street fights/muscle car wasteland, there’s not much it can do about it. It’s hard to walk back the destruction of civic life.

The mayor, for instance, outlawed a major car rally for this year, after it spent last year trashing the city and “terrorizing” residents. But the rally guys said fuck you we’re coming anyway. They’re in OC right now, and will stay for a few more days.

In the language of a desperate, last-minute law the city got through the General Assembly, these are the actions that can trigger a $1,000 fine and/or sixty days in jail.

  • Excessive or abrupt acceleration or deceleration.
  • Skidding, squealing, burning or smoking tires.
  • Swerving or swaying a vehicle.
  • Producing an unreasonably loud engine noise.
  • Grinding gears.
  • Wheels losing contact with the ground.
  • Transporting a passenger on the hood or roof.

Weren’t you smart to buy a condo in Ocean City?

‘End the Erasure of Women’ is…

… one of this blog’s categories, and it’s always easy to find oodles of news stories about our nihilation (def.: “to encase in a shell of nonbeing“). Israel’s ultraorthodox always provide comic relief on this front (though their significant responsibility for spreading catastrophic coronavirus throughout Israel is no joke – maybe the Israeli government should force a little education on the germ theory of disease onto this appalling population): Their latest is the refusal to allow women’s names on streets named after women… But when the streets are not entirely haredi-owned, some compromise is unavoidable… So okay they’ll let the women’s last names appear…

More significantly, hard-line Muslims in Malaysia are harassing social reformers who want to make veiling truly optional (the law says it is, but…) for women. Predictably, the powerful shariah courts are going after dissenters because – like the writers at Charlie Hebdo – they “insult Islam.”

“Malaysian Muslims are unfortunately subjected to arbitrary rules like this due to our dual legal system,” [the author of a book critical of veiling] said, adding that Muslims should be allowed to opt-out of the Shariah legal system.

Yeah duh. Why does Malaysia have two legal systems? Why do some idiots want England to have shariah courts?

The Spazz Age

The history of the twenty-first century American university will be told by the lummox children of billionaires.

La Kid Turns Thirty.
‘Without having seen a roster, I daresay [Ruth Bader Ginsburg] is the most influential, and most important, person [Vladimir Nabokov] ever taught.’

Maybe. But on that roster you’d have to put Thomas Pynchon.

A Poem with the Word “Chrysalis” in it

UD returned to her Garrett Park garden from a week at the beach to discover, on a long curved strand of one of her grasses, the white husk left by a dethroned monarch. A facsimile is on the far right of this image; and

though UD missed the moment when the butterfly twisted out of it and flew off, she felt privileged anyway to have seen in the first season of her garden the beginnings of this metamorphosis, the eggs and caterpillars and pupa, and then to have collected yesterday and held up to the light the thin discarded shell.

She found a very good poem with the word chrysalis in it; in the first line! It’s by John Unterecker. Title: …Within, Into, Inside, Under, Within…

UD will interrupt each of its five parts (each word of its five-word title corresponds to a form of movement in each part) to comment in brackets.


Beginnings: a chrysalis improvisation
in the wings, roles
taking on flesh before a role begins…

as light begins in the elm,
pushing the long elm branches into night,
a ghost light pressing sky…

or actors, swollen with strange selves,
distended to the edges of tight skin,
a brightness under moth-wing fingertips.

White arms stretch out toward truth.
The stage is full of light.
Your brightness gloves my skin.

[Soooo – Here you have a poet considering the mysterious elasticity of identity — in particular, the way an actor can become, can embody, an entirely other identity from her own. A bizarre human metamorphosis, getting inside another skin, goes on, and no one, including the actor, has much of an idea how it’s accomplished. She waits in the wing (wonderful pun!), improvising this new role before she even steps on the stage to perform it. And it’s like – how does the tree become rooted and become a tree and grow into a full-bodied elm under the influence of the sun? How does that start, that ghost light casting existence on something that’s still nothing? … Grappling here, in other words, with nothing less than the mystery of creation as well as the mystery of multiple identities — the question of why and how there’s something rather than nothing, how a ghost takes from the light in some way and stops being a ghost and assumes not merely existence, but several forms and attributes of existence.

How? Haven’t a ghost of an idea. As in a more famous formulation of this problem —

O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?

(Unterecker wrote a guide to Yeats.)

But – yes – we do have a ghost of an idea, which somehow in Unterecker’s poem successfully becomes a fully formed idea. This poem has an idea. An idea which, as the poem proceeds, branches out like an enormous elm.

In embodying that new role, that new identity, the actor conveys to the audience the mystery and excitement and illumination of being and becoming: Your brightness gloves my skin.]


Alice, grown huge, swollen to fit of the tunnels,
tiny, unable to reach a gold key,
knew what gardens were for—

yet never knelt in tunnels of rough sunlight
to will flamboyance from green buds.
The swollen poppy twists within its cap,

a pink invention wrestling light.
How often I think of tunneling roots,
curtains of roots, white ropes

that stroked our hair when we entered tunnels.
Here, we are rubbed on gold.
This wedge of pink beginnings troubles gardens.

[Well, he would think of Alice, wouldn’t he? Her surreal metamorphoses in wonderland amplify in vivid dream the dreams of all of us — to be human is to sleep and watch oneself in dream contort to the dimensions of various spectral tunnels and rooms and lakes and caves and bridges. A reassuring exercise, perhaps, in the business of possibility, enterprise, strategy, reincarnation, foxiness. Alice understands that gardens stage the impossible overabundance of being, and she floats around in them throughout the adventures; the poet, however, is a material, sublunary sort who gets his knees dirty as he plants pink poppy seeds in a mood of desperate hope that these lowly tiny dark nothings will somehow morph into flamboyant color, insanely infused being. Let’s make this happen, people!

And now a tendril of Roethke appears as the poet goes deeper, recalling the creepy/delightful feel of dangling roots against your skin in the dark, in tunnels (UD, a snorkeler, thinks of the skin-crawling/fantastic feel of seagrass) — all that dark life suddenly welling up out of the dark and fingering you.]


A robin listens to darkness.
I think of worms, grubs, moles,
the slow ballet of rootlets twisting down,

of cave fish, blacksnakes,
and, asleep at Nieux, the great black bulls
that thunder on dark walls.

When we wear another self,
do our souls darken? On a bright stage,
do we enter darkest places?

[Robins feed by listening for worms underground; UD watches them do this every day. So an expansion of the poet’s theme – life lurks, crawls, twists, unaccountably begins, in darkness, and we listen for it. A beautiful line occurs in this part of the poem:

the slow ballet of rootlets twisting down

All those L‘s – their gentle insinuating liquidity – somehow enact the strange grace (ballet) of organic processes… Yet the poet is after not merely passive, natural, coming to life; the reference to ballet reminds us that he’s keeping going at the same time a meditation on art as the active, deliberate, human instance of this earthy alchemy. Think of the palaeolithic caves at Niaux (the poet has incorrectly rendered the town Nieux). You can burrow down there and think you’re simply getting deeper into the earth; but we’ve taken our animating and transformative energies even there, and made of dead walls immortal, thundering art.

So is the actor who assumes new being in fact consorting with – listening like the robin to – these deeply rooted, mysterious, even insidious places? The question, for those who think about the incomparable, enigmatic, transformative power of art, welling up from our depths, answers itself.]


There is darkness clinging to the undersides of leaves.

For we are entering darkness. It skuffs along cave walls,
stumbling and skuffing fingertips.
At Mycenae, it is a heavy must,
a musty heavy breath in the hundred-step cistern.

They wait, dark passageways in old houses, their worn
silence frayed under a blur
of footsteps. Our stretched-out hands
manipulate evasive cellar shadows.

Within the garden, silence darkens windblown leaves.

[The eggs of the butterfly cling to the undersides of leaves. We can’t see them, they rest in darkness, but they live a vivid life in that shade. So too the long-resting-in-darkness ruins at Mycenae, whose deep cistern the poet visits, thinking as he moves along its walls of all the life – the generations of human breath – hidden in it. See here, also, this poem; and this one.]


Oh I think of Alice gone down, down
under groundcover dreams,
a man’s tunneled night.

Who are these actors? On dream stages, I forget
lines. My tongue-tied
silence foundering…     Stage props
mumble rigidities.        The audience…

I think of silences at Nieux,
at Mycenae, the tourists
gone, guides returned
to wives, houses….

And those silences of capricious light.
The calex splits, an abrupt pink flame.
Orpheus’ torch descends and still descends through
    arias of reddest blossom.

[And how does the poet conclude? He brings all his images and allusions together (Alice, dream, theater, ancient caves with paintings of bulls in them, the Mycenae cistern, the poppy) and gets personal, takes us into his own not at all Carrollian dreamlife, where his all-too-human, pre-aesthetic reality is just a blurry mess: Who are these people I’m seeing in this dream? What was I supposed to say in this dream? Why are the objects around me silent and dead rather than expressive and figurative?

Hopeless. Niaux and Mycenae, left to themselves alone, are also silent…

Yet even abandoned by tourists and guides, they breathe the bright aura of all those artists and audiences along the walls; the dark poppy’s calyx suddenly falls off and out flashes bright pink… And yes, art is the torch that takes us down there, Orpheus in the underworld scoping out amid the dreadful chaos high-builded arias.]

Jerzy Soltan’s Benches Featured in the Polish Press

Here’s an article about his design work; and here’s a picture of a Soltan relative sitting on one of the benches in Warsaw.

Update: UD thanks a reader for this link to an English-language article about Jerzy Soltan’s benches.

Fantastic Morning Sky with Fighter Kite.
Dershcam: The Latest

UD‘s developing a crush on Elizabeth Dye, a writer for Above the Law. You should read her full piece on Dersh’s latest lawsuit; here are some highlights.

Alan Dershowitz is suing CNN for $300 million because the network defamatorily failed to quote a full paragraph of his arglebargling about Donald Trump’s impeachment, giving viewers the entirely false impression that the famed lawyer has lost his damn mind…

Were you under the impression that Dersh might have ruined his own reputation by going on Laura Ingraham’s show to shout about his “perfect, perfect sex life” …?

Or maybe your esteem started flagging at the quixotic attempt to quiet doubters by proving that he never not ever had sex with underage girls when he was hanging out with Jeffrey Epstein, an effort Dersh has bolstered by protracted litigation and public efforts to Zapruder the flight logs to show that he only went to Epstein’s sex island in the company of his wife.

… Might Americans have decided the famed constitutional scholar had lost a step when he took to the airways to assure Americans that he only got one massage at Jeffrey Epstein’s house, from an “old Russian woman,” and he kept his underwear on the whole time? Or when he threatened to sue CBS because a fictional character made a joke about it?


Und so so so so so so weiter. Put DERSHOWITZ in my search engine for much more madness.

UD‘s explanation for the 82 year old Dershowitz’s behavior? It is part of his personal longevity routine. Not Blue Zone, but Sue Zone: As long as he’s bitterly embroiled in litigation with everyone in the world, his heart pumps lustily; he lives to sue another day. It’s the Jarndyce v. Jarndyce anti-jaundice treatment. And you gotta admit: It’s working.

‘The Surprising Dangers of Cooking and Cleaning”

Oh good.

‘Jessica Krug was taking advantage of the rules set up by an identitarian economy that exists both inside, and now increasingly outside, the university: an economy that bestows status and access to financial benefits and prestige … based solely on the color of your skin.’

Terry L. Newman, Medium.

It is now accepted as fact in many academic fields that you cannot teach issues about specific groups if you are not a member of those groups. In my first article for Quillette, I wrote about a professor in my Master program who proclaimed to our seminar that white sociology professors were incapable of teaching courses on race. Of course this is not true. You do not have to be non-white to teach the subject of race respectfully and knowledgably. The same understanding has permeated qualitative research methods in the social sciences, the idea that only a member of an insider group can understand and research that group…

Campuses constantly hold talks about white supremacy and white privilege, as if lurking behind every corner. Speakers are brought in on pedagogical days to sensitize staff in already overwhelmingly progressive faculties in the humanities. Guilt has become something associated not with one’s actions, but one’s demographic. Is it any wonder why someone might choose to abandon the burden of their whiteness, and embrace, instead, the pristine, blameless identity of the marginalized?[W]e should recoil at the thought of our individual worlds becoming so small and so narrow that the only research we can participate in is research about ourselves. This is the insider doctrine…

[U]ntil we overcome the divisive insider doctrine which plagues us both inside and outside the academy, the idea that only members of groups can understand one another, [we will have more Jessica Krugs.]

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Dr. Bernard Carroll, known as the "conscience of psychiatry," contributed to various blogs, including Margaret Soltan's University Diaries, for which he sometimes wrote limericks under the name Adam.
New York Times

George Washington University English professor Margaret Soltan writes a blog called University Diaries, in which she decries the Twilight Zone-ish state our holy land’s institutes of higher ed find themselves in these days.
The Electron Pencil

It’s [UD's] intellectual honesty that makes her blog required reading.
Professor Mondo

There's always something delightful and thought intriguing to be found at Margaret Soltan's no-holds-barred, firebrand tinged blog about university life.

You can get your RDA of academic liars, cheats, and greedy frauds at University Diaries. All disciplines, plus athletics.
truffula, commenting at Historiann

Margaret Soltan at University Diaries blogs superbly and tirelessly about [university sports] corruption.

University Diaries. Hosted by Margaret Soltan, professor of English at George Washington University. Boy is she pissed — mostly about athletics and funding, the usual scandals — but also about distance learning and diploma mills. She likes poems too. And she sings.
Dissent: The Blog

[UD belittles] Mrs. Palin's degree in communications from the University of Idaho...
The Wall Street Journal

Professor Margaret Soltan, blogging at University Diaries... provide[s] an important voice that challenges the status quo.
Lee Skallerup Bessette, Inside Higher Education

[University Diaries offers] the kind of attention to detail in the use of language that makes reading worthwhile.
Sean Dorrance Kelly, Harvard University

Margaret Soltan's ire is a national treasure.
Roland Greene, Stanford University

The irrepressibly to-the-point Margaret Soltan...
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Margaret Soltan, whose blog lords it over the rest of ours like a benevolent tyrant...
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Margaret Soltan is no fan of college sports and her diatribes on the subject can be condescending and annoying. But she makes a good point here...
Outside the Beltway

From Margaret Soltan's excellent coverage of the Bernard Madoff scandal comes this tip...
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University Diaries offers a long-running, focused, and extremely effective critique of the university as we know it.
Anthony Grafton, American Historical Association

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

I awake this morning to find that the excellent Margaret Soltan has linked here and thereby singlehandedly given [this blog] its heaviest traffic...
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As Margaret Soltan, one of the best academic bloggers, points out, pressure is mounting ...
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Many of us bloggers worry that we don’t post enough to keep people’s interest: Margaret Soltan posts every day, and I more or less thought she was the gold standard.
Tenured Radical

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

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

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