Tuesday, January 31, 2006
|Hoax Norwegian Style|
There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute|
Monday, January 30, 2006
Belated Mozart’s Birthday Post|
I’m an amateur singer, and an amateurish pianist. I play and sing for a couple of hours every day at the cheap Waldorf spinnet my father bought sixty years ago. I got it when he died.
I’ve been at this solitary routine for years, and have evolved some traditions. One of them is that when anyone I know and/or admire dies, I hold a private -- one person -- memorial service in their honor. This service always features the same piece of music: Mozart’s Requiem.
“The Requiem’s always in style,” has become a mantra of mine, because after all someone’s always dying, always in need of memorialization, and you can’t do better than the Requiem. The Anglican Prayer for the Dead is a drag. Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess is pretty but wordless. Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony Number Three, which enjoyed a short vogue about a decade ago, is in Polish. Purcell’s Thou Knowest, Lord is great but brief.
The Requiem’s got it all. When you’ve played and sung your way from Kyrie to Agnus Dei, you’ve gone the distance. You’ve made the gesture. You’ve done the deed.
The Requiem is written for four voice parts. I usually play the alto line and sing the soprano, though if I’m feeling ambitious I’ll sing soprano and play the bottom instrumental part. Often I jump from one voice to another. I like the ominous tenor solo, for instance, at the beginning of Tuba Mirum, so I sing that, and then, as it enters, I pick up the alto, which I then drop at the entrance of the soprano, my voice in this way taking a pleasant trip to higher and higher registers.
I’m drawn to another tuneful solo as well -- the happy, gentle alto introduction to Benedictus, which gives way nicely to a soprano solo, and then bursts into very intense four-part harmony to produce a sustained sound of great sweetness and beauty.
The two most recent honorees at my Mozart memorial service were a judge and a professor. For a few years, when my husband and I lived in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, Steffen Graae, a DC Superior Court judge, lived next door. Steffen’s the person who put the DC Housing Authority in receivership -- a brave thing to do -- and turned it around. He was a kind, smart, much-esteemed man who died in his sixties of heart failure.
Judge Graae’s official memorial service was big and formal, with many robed judges and political eminences. His small unofficial service, attended by my Chocolate Lab, was heavy on the Requiem’s Lachrymosa section, which is hard to sing because you have to creep slowly up to an A. As I sang this lamentation, images of Steffen on his deck in the early evening, smoking a cigar and looking at his little city garden, came back to me.
I barely knew my latest honoree, the political scientist Michael Wallerstein. He and my husband went to graduate school together at the University of Chicago, both of them interested in the field within political science known as rational choice. I was a grad student at Chicago at the same time, and my husband insists I must have met Wallerstein, but I don’t remember.
My Mozart memorial service in any case is for the known and the unknown. I never knew Washington Post writer Marjorie Williams, whose antic spirit prompted one of my best renditions of the deedledee deedledee Domine Jesu; nor did I know the essayist and AIDS activist Paul Monette, for whom the explosive and then meditative Confutatis seemed right. For whatever reason, the purely sad strains of Recordare marked the high point of Wallerstein’s ceremony the other day.
It was a weirdly windy day, a day of high gusts and the fast sky they made. The world’s vibrancy was at a peak. The wind sang.
The paradox of the Requiem -- the stupendous vitality it draws from its morbid subject -- came through strongly, as did the contrast between my continued existence in this realm and whatever quietness Wallerstein is in.
a funny playwright who often wrote against the grain, has died, age 55.
The New York Times obituary.
the Knight Commission
Summit at GWU
It all starts on the Metro, like so many of UD's ventures. This is the first time she's written on her new Averatec laptop while on a moving object (unless you count Earth). It's a weirdly beautiful Monday morning, very foggy, sunbeams angling down everywhere. Irish.
By the time she gets to GW and the Knight Commission meeting, the fog will have lifted, and the sun will be center stage. She'll walk quickly past Square 54, the still-empty block where the GW Hospital used to be. She'll feel awkwardly bureaucratic, clutching the black briefcase (UD doesn't do briefcases) in which her Averatec lurks. But she has decided to try live-blogging this conference on university athletics.
What does she expect? Franchement, she expects extremely well-groomed people speaking in platitudes. She believes virtually every aspect of current mid- to big-time university athletics to be indefensible, and she expects the well-meaning people in the room to dance around that possibility in a pleasant, concerned, vacuous way.
But for the moment she's on the Metro. Dupont Circle directly to your right.
Here we are. I've arrived a bit late, in the middle of a jargon-laden, simpleminded Powerpoint presentation: Student Athlete: Privilege, Burden, or Both? "A lot of people assume that athletes are only at the university because they can play the game. This is not based on reality." Um, yes, in many cases it is. She's a sociologist and has much to say about socialization and shit. Definitely a platitude person: "All of our leaders need to work together."
Next guy at least tells me about what sounds like an interesting site: badjocks.com. But then he Blames Society. See prior platitudes. I like some of his language: refers to some athletes' "rants and asinine behavior." Their favorite party games: CEO's and Office Ho's. Pro Athletes and Trophy Wives. But then he gets all weepy and dumb: "We expect these guys to be above reproach." No we don't. We expect much much less than that.
Next, a University of Florida player talks about how his coach has a very effective exercise he does with the football team. "He makes us close our eyes and imagine the most important woman in our lives." (Hint: It's Mom.) "Then he tells us to imagine she's being beaten in front of us. And imagine ourselves just standing there doing nothing." This does sound powerful, but to what end? So you beat the shit out of the guy...
Members of the Commission now respond: "It's about the university president. It starts from the top." (What happened to the "larger culture" argument?) Good ol' Hodding Carter's on the Commission, and UD is temporarily distracted by her effort to remember ... oh yeah, now she remembers... a smutty little Carter-era joke involving Hodding Carter and the wife of the president, both of whom blow a little dope in the White House... but onward: It's all just more platitudes: "We don't have enough dialogues...all universities should have mandatory life skills courses for all students, not just athletes... these guys need to learn what it means to be a man..."
After a ten minute break, we're on to the next panel. I'm now sitting on the edges of the event, plugged in to an outlet along the wall. I'm feeling forgiving, since after all the subject of the first panel was vague stuff -- values, morals, ethics, good, evil.
The President of SMU presides.
Everyone seems to be southern.
"Life," he intones, "has gotten more complex... websites follow high school recruiting... influence of coaches on decisions of young men and women... influence of shoe companies and others in the commercial world."
Some high school kid and his parents - he's about to go to Florida State University...recruitment began in his sophomore year... a very articulate confident guy, very smart... "My junior year started and I had about three or four coaches in my school every day...from all sorts of universities... summer of my senior year...overwhelming, the amount of phone calls I received. It's a lot of pressure. It got to a point where I couldn't take much more of it. I got a text message from Governor Jeb Bush."
UD found the next guy, a local high school student heavily recruited, very moving: "I wasn't very good at school. Sports was the only thing I ever wanted. Just wanted to be the best at everything. But I need to find something other than basketball that's going to make me happy and successful. These big summer camps: I'm a momma's boy. I'm alone at this basketball camp... These guys are big. But it's basketball and I just want to compete and play. I'm competitive... I've never seen so many coaches in my life... When you get exposure a lot of guys just come shooting at you. You don't know who's real and who's fake. There's three hundred colleges."
High school coach: "The influence of money has become tremendous... I've seen people offered ten, fifteen thousand dollars to play on high school - forget college - teams... Recruitment coaches are not responsible to anyone... Because of this unsanctioned thing, it allows all kinds of corruption... They take them to Las Vegas, give them prostitutes and drugs... I think it's easy for a kid to become corrupted... I know guys who've changed high school five, six times..."
A sports journalist: "Jerry Tarkanian said nine out of ten major college teams break the rules. The tenth one's in last place." He reviews statistics that make it sound as though virtually every school is corrupt. "The rules are not being followed... boosters, sports agents, corporate shoe guys... Summer basketball coach is the new point person for those three groups.. Heavy recruitment of eleven-year-old kids who can play happens because they are very valuable. It is extremely lucrative to run a summer basketball team... There is a ton of money in this. Fly by night storefront schools that can get you your transcript. They're a joke. This is what the system has created. I don't think the NCAA is interested in tackling this issue...The people who are breaking the rules are writing the rules; they're sitting on NCAA committees. The cheaters are running the show. The University of Georgia is an influential institution, for instance, that is corrupt to its very core."
All eyes swing around to the President of the University of Georgia, sitting with the Commission on the other side of the table. He blushes. Or does he just have a florid face?
One way you know this is an athletic gathering. No one gets out of their seat and sidles over to the aisle. They just jump.
Commission has definitely taken offense at this temporary eruption of the truth. "It does us no good," says one of them, "to be so accusatory... using older violations and making pretty stark statements without looking at balance... Look, you say there's been all these violations. Well, that's right! Somebody's catching these guys! [This guy - a college athlete himself back when - forgot to take intro logic.] You can attack Nike all you want but ... we've got a dialogue going... something positive came out of that...There are moves in place right now... Some of your writings [speaking directly to the sports journalist now] are about as balanced as Fox News..."
And now a word from the University of Georgia president. What the hell can he say? Sports at his school is - UD knows - she's followed it - rancid. "I want to take a couple of minutes to be defensive. This writer is welcome to his opinion. But I think we don't want to paint with too broad a brush. I've got the scars to show for changing some of the things we're talking about. When you've got 10,000 employees some of this stuff is going to happen... We're the ones in there pitching... We can either curse the darkness [I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP] or get involved in trying to make improvements..."
David Epstein at Inside Higher Ed covers the same event.
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Here’s the first serious effort I’ve seen to respond to Hawaii’s fourth-from-the-bottom finish in the recent study of how well public universities use public funds. It’s from the interim president of the UH system - though, among his many explanations for the university’s bad showing, he nowhere points to what his own interim status suggests -- that, among UH’s other problems, there’s what one correspondent of UD’s, who teaches in the system, calls a “horrific leadership turnover.”
The interim president first suggests that the study seriously underestimates the cost of living in Hawaii, which skews all the rest of its numbers. There’s probably some truth to this, but I’m not sure adjusting these numbers would have changed the outcome much. The writer also mentions “the high fixed costs of providing education at a number of small sites distributed around a state to serve a geographically dispersed population. Only three of our 10 campuses (Manoa, Leeward and Kapiolani) have more than the 5,000 students needed to fully realize the available economies of scale.” Again, even accounting for this in the study probably wouldn’t have brought UH up much higher on the list of states.
UD found this concluding comment disheartening:
It also might be that UH should have been more aggressive in eliminating programs and increasing support services to students to improve retention and ultimately, graduation rates. We were so committed to access to higher education and to providing a wide range of programs so that students wouldn't have to go to the mainland to pursue a specialty, that we neglected to pay enough attention to success in higher education. Clearly, while students need access to post-secondary education and training, they also need to succeed in attaining the credentials demanded in the workplace.
This seems a wordy way of saying that until now the UH system has just provided “access” to itself without worrying much about what’s taught and learned. Yikes.
Note to Readers|
A poem of UD's (well, its authorship is somewhat shared) will appear tomorrow at Inside Higher Education.
The thing itself.
The Mumford Letter|
Exciting events around here last night. Mr UD came home from a used bookstore with a 1956 hardback edition of Lewis Mumford’s The Transformations of Man. He came home with a bunch of other books too.
We already have the Mumford, in a later paperback edition. And our little house groans under the bulk of our books.
So UD was berating the man a bit for hauling more bound material into the house. Then, as Mr UD thumbed through the Mumford, a letter slipped out of its pages.
It was in longhand, on good stationery, with
LEWIS MUMFORD : AMENIA : NEW YORK
in stylish black print across the top.
…What a pleasure it was to get your letter, dear Alice ---
it began (click on the letter for a nice big readable image), and Mumford’s strong hand covered the front and back of the sheet. There was personal stuff, political stuff, a mention of his upcoming trip to Europe, a complaint that his publisher hadn’t published but “buried” the book, and this:
I think that it is my best book: or at least the best brief summation of all my books. If necessary it might stand as my last will and testament.
Mumford, who went on to live almost forty more years and write many more books, has long been one of UD’s heroes - a great prose stylist, self-educated, passionate about many things, intellectually ambitious. Politically and spiritually engaged. To find his own self in one of his books!
And in a book he sent to Alice Decker, an old lover… For a little sleuthing turned up the identity of the recipient, details of Mumford’s messy sex life, and more…
Universities have never had much use for Mumford, by the way:
"In light of his sins against pedantry and obscurity, it comes as no surprise that Mumford's name is almost never heard on American university campuses, except, perhaps, in the architecture and urban studies departments. The fact remains that Mumford was a greater sociologist than most of his contemporaries; who now reads Pitirim Sorokin or Talcott Parsons? And a page of history from Mumford is worth any number of tomes by today's Marxist, structuralist, post-structuralist, or race-and-gender theorists."
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Not the sort of thing|
that happens at GW.
'According to a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police report, a black steer escaped from UNL’s Animal Science Complex on East Campus around 7 a.m.
As of yesterday...|
they had one of his columns up, but you’ve got to figure that Fox News will want to do what the CATO Institute has apparently already done: make Steven Milloy a non-person. Go looking for him on CATO’s site and you’ll find a Page Not Found. He’s been dumped in the same dumpster Doug Bandow’s in.
UD hopes that as the mountains of discarded corporate shills pile up for these organizations, they dispose of them in an environmentally sound way.
Why American Philosophy|
Will Always Be Out in Front
[Saul] Kripke looks the way a philosopher ought to look: pink-faced, white-bearded, rumpled, squinty. He carries his books and papers in a plastic shopping bag from Filene's Basement.
[Bernard-Henri Lévy] and his glamorous wife, the indomitably pouty actress Arielle Dombasle, are the gossip columns' favourite couple. His clothes (open-necked white shirts and designer suits), his friends (Yves Saint Laurent, Alain Delon, Salman Rushdie), his homes (the flat in Saint Germain, a hideaway in the South of France, an eighteenth-century palace in Marrakech that used to belong to John Paul Getty) are endlessly commented on.
Friday, January 27, 2006
With Drunk People
From News Channel 9, Chattanooga:
12 female professors [at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga have] proposed [a] resolution to ban group sex. The initiator of this resolution say[s] the practice has corroded the culture to an epidemic status.
University of Chicago Professor|
Impoverished, Just Scraping By
By increasing references to religious concepts in scientific journals and by moving religion into public discussion at universities, [John] Templeton [of the wealthy Templeton Foundation] has made it easier for closeted believers within the elite halls of the Ivy League to form communities. Martin A. Nowak directs the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard University, where he spends his time trying to figure out why people have evolved to help each other if evolution simultaneously fosters competition. Nowak is also a practicing Roman Catholic, a fact he has kept quiet at Harvard until recently. He says the climate is changing on his campus. "As a scientist who believes, you feel you are completely in the minority and you should never talk about it," says Nowak, who recently became an adviser to the Templeton Foundation. "It's nice to meet people with whom you can talk about a more complete perspective of the world."
Excellent exchange about...|
the lack of viewpoint diversity in American law schools, in Legal Affairs.
--via butterflies and wheels--
Complacencies of the Memoir|
Charlotte Abbott covers the industry for Publishers Weekly: "The reaction I've been getting over the last few days is 'plus ça change,'" she says of her conversations with publishing insiders. "'There's a long list of memoirists that turn out to be fabulists, and that's the risk we take. It'll blow over.' I've heard that from old-timers who've been around for 25 years and over the long-term haven't seen things change."
"I don't think it's so terrible," says [Vivian] Gornick, referring to Frey. "After all, he has compelled all these people to come along with him."
' I recently finished a Masters in Fine Arts degree in Creative Nonfiction, and those of us who graduated in the class of 2005 remember our very own Oprah/James Frey moment, only the players happened to be Vivian Gornick and a bunch of MFA students, about half of whom were journalists, half memoirists. The story is detailed here in Salon, by Terry Greene Sterling, a classmate who just happened to have a connection with Salon and sold them a story the very next day. You can find the story recapped in yesterday's New York Newsday. The scene goes like this:
Non-Complacencies of the Memoir
'So the question arises: How did he get away with it? It is true, as was pointed out on "Oprah," that fact checking at book publishers is close to non-existent. But Frey devised one whopper after another and, for a long time, either escaped detection or was able to swat away those crying foul. Sitting in a TV studio and watching him slowly concede some of his lies under Oprah’s third degree -- I'm not convinced he has yet fessed up to all of them -- was alternately excruciating and satisfying but hardly fun. The issues raised by this episode, both in book publishing and the culture at large, are big ones and they are not going to go away.'
Frank Rich, NYTimes
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Oh Lord. Now that pretend Indian guy...|
is out in front of the hoaxers pack (scroll down to Frauds Perpetrated in Abundance).
There's a new entrant bringing up the rear, though - the Running With Scissors guy. UD remembers that when it was first published a lot of people said it was full of crap. The Book Standard, in an article about the Scissors guy, refers to the "Frey-Leroy-Nasdijj minefield." Which the Scissors guy is currently racing along too, in other words.
It’s still all about emoting…|
for Ms. Winfrey. It makes her just as implausible and manipulative a character as Frey, against whom she has now turned. But why not repudiate him coldly, given the self-control we know she has? Instead she draws upon her acting skills and does all women a disservice with her pseudo-sobbing: “[A]lternately fighting back tears and displaying vivid anger, [Winfrey] berated Mr. Frey for duping her and her audience.” Balls.
On the other hand, UD understands Frey playing the psychobabble card. “Mr. Frey said he had made up many of the details of his life and had created a bad-guy portrayal of himself as a ‘coping mechanism.’” It’s the only card he’s got left.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
A student writes in the Washington University newspaper:|
[D]espite the vast interest in, passion for, and intelligence about sports that so many of us possess, "Sports, Media, and Society" is one of the sole sports-related courses offered at Wash. U.
What UD finds intriguing about this woman’s argument is her belief that because she spends so much time thinking about it and doing it, sport should be a featured academic topic. When university faculty ponder the content of their curriculum, they do not ask “What do most of our students spend most of their time doing?” If they did, their courses would be Sex, Movies, Alcohol, Instant Messaging, and what The Onion calls “Television Viewing Skills.”
As to sports being “educational,” well… Everything’s educational, you know. I spent part of today learning how to sing South Park’s Christmas Poo Song with my daughter. I used my memorization skills, my singing skills (we worked out a harmony, so I used my harmonization as well as vocalization skills), my parenting skills (our fun togetherness bonded us as pals, not just Mother and Daughter), my computer skills (I found the lyrics, printed them out) and lots of other skills I don’t have time to list…
The 18th varsity sport added at Baylor University recently jumped a major hurdle. Richard (BU '81, '82) and Karen (BU '85) Willis of Colleyville, Texas, have provided the lead gift for the Willis Family Equestrian Center.
UD's trying to be even-handed...|
...as she prepares to live-blog the Knight Commission meeting at GW next Monday, but she keeps reading opinion pieces like this, in yesterday's USA Today:
A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu|
'The latest thump on the controversial best-seller "A Million Little Pieces" is a Seattle federal court lawsuit seeking damages on behalf of consumers for the "lost time" they spent reading the book.
Edward Tufte, |
distinguished analytical designer, spills the beans on honorary degrees.
Wonderful bit of extended irony about where American universities are headed, written by Michael Margolis back in 1998. Worth reading in full, especially his bit about sports:
When implementing these reforms, however, local universities still must use creative marketing to retain nearby customers who might otherwise shop for their courses over the Internet. Local universities have the comparative advantage of offering personal consultation at a lesser price than their competitors. They also have a comparative advantage in offering laboratory facilities and meeting rooms locally for courses that need them or for occasions when customers demand them.
Thanks to PN/NJ.
UD received the following|
textbook description from an
old friend/old student of hers.
“The book is aimed at composition teachers -- that's me next year. It's published by Bedford St. Martins, and called Open Questions. The book is composed of essay groups, each gathered under a particular 'big question,' which the essays then attempt to answer from different points of view. In any case, here is a link to the book's table of contents.
When you scroll down, you find this subject heading and essay listing:
5. Is Honesty the Best Policy?
Charming essay on plagiarism…|
…along with news of a new journal dedicated to it (is there a journal dedicated to hoax?), from Scott McLemee at Inside Higher Ed.
Frauds Perpetrated in Abundance|
Thanks, Ralph, for linking UD to the country’s latest - and most nauseating - literary scam.
If big bad bogus writer hoaxes haven’t yet totally exhausted you (UD herself looks forward to putting them aside for awhile as she live blogs the upcoming Knight Commission meeting at George Washington University -- the hoax of university sports being a far bigger story than a literary one could ever be), take a look at this long article in the LA Weekly about a pretend Native American who writes wretched prose about wrenching torments on reservations and gets awards and movie deals until he turns out to be a white nutter.
Probably. No one will ever physically find the guy. But I think you’ll agree that what we’re dealing with here is a white nutter.
He uses these impoverished characters, including his own persona, as a springboard to attack the dominant white culture, which has, apparently, spurned him. In the pantheon of self-appointed Native spokesmen, this puts him more in the company of contemporary gadfly Ward Churchill, who uses his dubious heritage as a soapbox for an airing of his political ideology and personal grievances.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Faithful readers know that among all the descriptive course material issued to university students that UD has seen, this assignment was for a long time her favorite:
Do a deviant act or engage in some form of deviant behavior. The act or behavior must not violate the law (criminal or civil law, municipal ordinance, or vehicle code) and it must not violate University regulations. Failure to heed this warning will result in a F for the assignment and referral to the Deans Office and if warranted to the office of the prosecutor.
But it has now been overtaken in her affections by this course description:
Based on the work of Brazilian director, teacher and theorist Augusto Boal, this course will examine the place of the actor in effecting social change and the role of integrity in creating a vital contemporary theater. For our investigation we will focus on the treatment of female faculty members by the administration of Dartmouth College . Students will conduct research, keep research journals, write reports and create written skits and scenes theatricalizing their findings. Readings will include articles and chapters featuring historical examples of theater for social change, as well as current and on-going practices of Dartmouth College. Emphasis will be on class participation. This course is dependent on the outcome of current litigation.
It’s from a theater professor at Dartmouth who’s suing the college for the usual list of transgressions. I think a careful reader can detect a hint of discontent.
Ah Yes! I Remember It Well |
' Among the episodes she and the other former counselors have called into question are Mr. Frey's claims of being physically abused by other residents of the treatment center, of being left to sleep on the floor of a common room overnight after an altercation, of regularly vomiting blood and of having his nose rebroken and set by a doctor. "He describes a level of medical care that would not occur at Hazelden," Ms. Jay said. "He would have been taken to an emergency room, and any violent behavior would have been met with a discharge." '
“They broke my nose.”
“They rubbed your toes.”
“Ah yes. I remember it well.”
“I vomited blood.”
“You made pies out of mud.”
“Ah yes. I remember it well.”
“I suffered abuse.”
“You played Duck Duck Goose.”
“Ah yes. I remember it well.”
“I slept on the floor.”
“What a bore.”
“Ah yes. I remember it well.”
Monday, January 23, 2006
Why, UD often wonders, |
do Americans always have to go through the process of doing the stupid thing and then correcting the stupid thing, when they could avoid the stupid thing in the first place?
Headline in today's Chicago Trib:
MORE UNDERGRADS PLAYING HOOKY
WHEN CLASS NOTES GO ONLINE.
SOME PROFS PULLING MATERIALS
FROM THE WEB.
'"Too much online instruction is a bad thing," said Terre Allen, a communication studies scholar and director of a center that provides teaching advice to professors at California State University Long Beach.
THIS WEEK ON JERRY:|
They've got all the money you've ever dreamed of! But they're still semi-literate! Join us as we ask why!
Sunday, January 22, 2006
A Clever Lad|
At UD's Alma Mater
The Daily Northwestern
(Sure, his writing ain't perfect. I forgive him.)
'According to a recent Newsweek article, professors at several prominent Universities have implemented the technology called “course-casting.” Similar to Apple Podcasting, professors at Duke, Stanford, Drexel and American University have begun recording their lectures in mp3 format and making them available for students to download over the Internet and potentially listen to on their iPods. At long last, you can now listen to a lecture on the Cuban missile crisis in between “My Humps” and Ashlee Simpson’s latest faux-introspective crapfest.
I am yours, you are mine, you are what you are|
And you make it hard- And you make it hard -
Whenever, as a teenager, UD sang these lyrics from Crosby Stills Nash and Young’s song Judy Blue Eyes, her father looked at her kind of funny and grinned. She didn’t know about the double entendre until a few years later.
Far as UD can tell, the nation’s latest naughty professor story involves some fool at the Naval Academy - a lecturer in oceanography, excessively keen on watergoing craft - who, while gazing at battleships with a bunch of other people, said something like big boats give me a hard-on. Then he turned to some women in uniform and said something like do they give you a hard-on?
Depending on the kind of guy who said it, and the way he said it, UD could see laughing at this remark. But then she thought Anchorman was a way funny movie. Not to mention Dr. Strangelove.
In any case, the legal stuff that’s now happening to the guy is ridiculous and depressing.
Enormous Bullshit at the Last Minute|
UD has always liked the title of a collection of Grace Paley short stories, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute.
She thought of it - slightly altered - when she read Susan Estrich’s opinion piece about the Bruin Alumni Association, a rapidly dwindling group that proposed paying UCLA students to record naughty radical lecture content.
The proposal was idiotic and the group will soon disappear, but into these its last days rushes Estrich, all rage and rhetoric:
It is one of the worst ideas to hit academia: paying students to tape their professors, in the hopes of discouraging their expression of views that one side considers to be “radical.” Most alumni associations aim to improve their alma maters. But the Bruin Alumni Association -- an unofficial group, not to be confused with the official UCLA Alumni Association -- seems determined to do just the opposite. If it has its way, the classroom will no longer be a place where students and faculty can discuss ideas freely. Shame on them.
Shame on them. Have they no decency?
If they have their way, intellectual freedom as we know it will be at an end.
It is one of the worst ideas…
...hm, yes, it is by all accounts, including those of much of its membership, which has now resigned, one of the worst ideas. So how hard is it hitting academia? About as hard as my goose down featherbed hits my head when I lie on it.
UD found a detail about how Estrich teaches intriguing. She seems to see the classroom as the functional equivalent of the psychoanalytical couch. One of her rules, she tells us, is that “Nothing said in the classroom leaves the classroom.”
What can this in fact mean? What sort of defender of academic freedom has a rule like this?
…in Alaska, which scored a dismal last among states in effective use of public funds for state universities. Virtually no one at the university system has responded to the much-cited study.
What administrators have done instead is quickly announce the results of what sounds like a pretty dinky phone survey done last year that reveals profound contentment with the university system among Alaskans.
The State Senate has decided to look into things, as a retired professor notes:
Recently the Alaska State Senate announced that it would appoint a special panel to examine policies and directions of the University of Alaska. It apparently wants to know how the University spends its money and how this benefits the citizens of Alaska. I believe that such a committee has been needed for decades. Hopefully it will have enough clout to make recommendations independent of pressure and lobbying from University administrators and Board of Regents.
UD suspects that Alaska is too parochial and corrupt for anything to come of this oversight activity, however. She fears that the educational system is Alaska's real bridge to nowhere.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
it was my assistant
'[The] University of Tokyo plans to make public this week a report indicating that Kazunari Taira, a professor of biochemistry engineering, fabricated a scientific paper on human enzyme experiments, sources said Saturday.
A Providential Turn,|
February is vagina month on campuses all over the United States, as Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues is performed in front of chanting undergraduate women.
The new president of Providence College, a Catholic and Dominican school, has forbidden its performance (an earlier president allowed it) because the play “is not appropriate for a school with our mission.”
In a letter to the campus community, the president says that although the play aims to be “a celebration of female sexuality in all its complexity and mystery” it actually “simplifies and demystifies it by reducing it to the vagina.”
Hostile as she is to censorship, UD admits to a twinge of pleasure on aesthetic grounds.
Restraint of Trade|
Rip-off for-profit colleges which take state aid money for aggressively recruited students, many of whom will almost certainly drop out, are getting serious scrutiny from at least one state. New York has just imposed a moratorium on approving any new “proprietary” schools.
'Commercial schools, which often advertise heavily, promising quick career training to poorly educated students, are booming around the country. Increasingly, they are drawing the attention of federal and state law enforcement officials.
'A University of Prince Edward Island lecturer makes no excuses for offering students a 70 to not show up for his course. But the administration gives his deal a failing grade.
See How Far You Can Get|
With a Degree from a
'In his time Robert Hyams has posed as one of the world's top microbiologists, claiming breakthroughs in the field of Aids and cancer. He has tricked banks, property agents and car companies out of fortunes.
Friday, January 20, 2006
Are You There God? |
It’s Me, Margaret
has got to be the most cringe-inducing book title UD has ever encountered. To add insult to injury, it takes UD’s name in vain.
UD’s narcissism and mental retentiveness mean that she has never quite been able to brush this title out of her mind. It comes back to her, unbidden…
She thought of it today as she compared her amply-attended-to self to poor is-anyone-there Margaret. Not only, for instance, does UD’s blog have readers; it has responsive readers who send her well-chosen and wonderful things.
One of those things UD had already come across herself, and she'd been going back and forth on whether to post about it. As longtime readers know, UD avoids naughty professor stories. Professor A downloads child porn. Prof B steals from the department till. C sells cocaine down the lane. UD takes note of these things as they flash out over Google News, but unless there’s some weird twist to them she lets them go.
The professor prostitute story did detain her for awhile, however, as it did one of her readers, who rightly assumed she’d find it of interest. The Washington Post picked it up today from the Baltimore papers, and, given its titillating nature, other newspapers will almost certainly do the same. UD wouldn’t have mentioned it without nudging from her reader, because, again, when you take in the details of the case you end up with a sad human tale that has little to do with universities, really…
Still, it is curious, provocative, whatever, that a former professor of sociology at one of the University of Maryland campuses would end up fired from that job and self-employed as a prostitute in her suburban home. The woman was a strong feminist -- her research, which sounds legitimate enough, involved at-risk women and girls. Yet she falsified data, filed frivolous suits, got divorced, went bankrupt, and got canned.
The Post account includes some nice detail: “Most of Britton's neighbors declined to talk about her yesterday, saying only that she was a nice woman whose daughter visited from college occasionally. They also said she had two pet pigs.”
But really, there’s little here to distinguish the story from any number of other stories involving people whose lives spiral down and who get desperate… Her having been a professor, and the enormous perceived gap between being a professor and being a prostitute, has appealed to the media.
A second reader sent me a tale of another disgraced former professor, this story sufficiently complex to warrant a few paragraphs of quotation. It's from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (with, certes, occasional parenthetical comments from UD):
In the late 1980s, a history professor from Marquette University named John William Rooney walked into the French National Archives in Paris [Ah, I remember it well! Many moons ago, UD had a fellowship that sent her to Paris and that library.] and walked out with a copy of the 1814 Treaty of Fontainebleau, a woven paper with red wax seals and a green silk cord through which Napoleon Bonaparte agreed to give up the French empire and accept exile.
Tiens. UD thanks both readers.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
What's At Stake|
"Once more the future of the American people is at stake."
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at Charlottesville, 1940.
"Patience and perseverance must never be grudged when the peace of the world is at stake."
Winston Churchill, Speech, House of Commons, 1954.
"Our competitive success in athletics is at stake."
David Schmidly, Oklahoma State University, January 2006
Wonderful Title to a Post|
Which Agrees with UD that
The Jacques Pluss Thing has
Become Hopelessly Boring
From the blog Grad Student Madness:
NEO-NON-NAZI OR NOT?
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Getting College Students|
To Give Blood
As a gallon donor and more, UD read with interest a negative review in today’s Slate of a Red Cross public service ad. I watched the ad online and I don’t think the Slate writer’s being fair.
The ad seems to me remarkably good. It’s hip and amusing and makes a reasonable point: While deciding on your political activities and commitments takes a good deal of thought, compromise, patience, etc. (given how complex and intractable world problems tend to be), donating blood is a public-spirited activity whose simplicity -- logistical as well as intellectual -- is a strong mark in its favor.
You know you’re doing something good for society when you give blood. Of course it’s a much more modest sort of activity than joining the Peace Corps or militating against child labor, but it’s nonetheless valuable.
The Slate writer thinks that by drawing a contrast between giving blood and being politically active the Red Cross is “bash[ing] the competition,” but it doesn't read like that to me. The ad is merely making a plausible distinction among various moral activities that might appeal to idealistic young people (it’s distinctly targeted to young people, who as a group don’t give blood very often). Mentioning the competition in this ad doesn’t come across to me as bashing it. It comes across as taking it seriously.
As to the Slate writer’s argument that “Blood donation is just a maintenance measure. It may save lives, but it won't make the world a better place …” -- not so. It’s routine for some of the blood you donate to be used in scientific studies. And the life your blood saves may go on to do spectacular things for the world.
One of the reasons I give blood at the National Institutes of Health in ‘thesda is that you’re in the same building - the Clinical Center - where sick people are being treated, and your blood goes directly to them and to the scientists at NIH carrying out research.
The University Entrepreneurs Club, a UCLA student group, has earned an astonishing $20,000 so far this semester through an ingenious scheme that many other such student groups at colleges around the country are watching.
“We noticed that a new alumni group is paying UCLA students one hundred dollars per class session to record professors’ comments, as long as the comments are politically ‘abusive, one-sided, or off topic,’ " explains Gustave Mercador, vice-president of the group. “Most students don’t want to be bothered with the technical side of this, or aren’t sure what content the group is going for, or whatever. We set ourselves up as a sort of management and consulting firm for the identification, collection, and distribution of the material. We’re in touch not only with students, but with professors, and everyone gets a cut.”
Mercador said that the UEC has gotten tremendous response to its general distribution email to students and faculty advertising its services. “The entire adjunct faculty is on board. The average salary among grad students and adjuncts has gone up, according to our study, by 33% each semester, as they add more and more incendiary commentary to their courses. It’s tricky,” he added, “because you can’t just keep repeating the same boilerplate. You’ve got to add more. There’s been a marked incentive toward not only the intensification of radical content, but toward the creation of new courses structured in such a way as to be sensitive to the alumni group’s parameters.”
Part of what the UEC does, Mercador explains, is counsel professors on how to meet the ‘abusive, one-sided, or off topic’ requirement of the organization. “We had one rather shy intro comp professor suddenly start screaming at his students, drill-sergeant style, you know, What’s that? I CAN’T HEAR YOU. Say it with me I LOVE LE-NIN I LOVE LE-NIN… This is the wrong approach because it’s too obvious, and the alumni group won’t pay for it. What we’ve told faculty is that it’s more effective simply to repeat at regular -- say five- to ten-minute -- intervals certain anti-capitalist phrases and words. As for students, our advice to them is to help professors as much as possible to sustain and create the ‘cash conflict’ classroom. Leading questions, a faux-naïve heartland conservatism, and of course any reference to religion, will almost always get the ball rolling.”
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
UD's First Day of the Spring Semester|
I gave a lecture on the amazing literary
achievement of the Irish in the twentieth century.
Then I took my Ellmann book on Yeats
and went to Teaism for lunch.
(Note Ellmann book in foreground.)
It was a pleasantly overcast day,
and Teaism was dark and cozy.
Here's the Yeats book again, next
to my chai.
When I got home to Garrett Park,
I stopped to photograph the town
maintenance man sawing through
the tree that fell on the train tracks
near my house. It happened during a
big wind storm the other night.
Whew! There. If Ann Althouse
can do it, so can I.
UD's Crash Course in College Sports...|
[more in comments]
Kennedy Cuts Club Cold|
' U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy — who ripped Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito for ties to a group that discriminates against women — says he’s going to quit a club notorious for discriminating against women “as fast as I can.”
You continue to pay $100 for...?
'[A] commission led by medical professor Magne Nylenna of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim submitted its findings to the state Ministry of Health in December 2004. Commission proposals included a call for jail terms of up to one year for anyone caught forging medical research.
Monday, January 16, 2006
Sucking Money from the Campus|
'Sports teams at Oregon State and Portland State universities didn't pay for themselves last year, requiring more than $7 million in subsidies from money that the colleges could have spent on academics, a new state report shows.
And the affluent beggars hoax goes on…|
…with well-founded skepticism from the most knowledgeable source of all: their fellow panhandlers:
The panhandlers who work the streets of Ashland are finding donations a bit lacking lately — and they are pinning the blame squarely on a homeless couple whose claim that they make $40,000 per year from street donations was highlighted recently in a Medford newspaper.
Via Betsy’s Page (she doesn’t provide a link, but here’s his website), some commentary from Michael Barone, with UD’s commentary on his commentary in parenthesis.
"The late 1960s and early 1970s were a time of cultural conflict, a battle between what I have called the beautiful people and the dutiful people [or as Andrew Sullivan might put it, the palatial people and the fellatial people]. While Manhattan glitterati thronged Leonard Bernstein's apartment to celebrate the murderous Black Panthers, ordinary people in the outer boroughs and the far-flung suburbs of New Jersey like Hamilton Township were going to work, raising their families, and teaching their children to obey lawful authority and work their way up in the world.
Boys Go to Jupiter|
To Get More Stupider
'Dan Short, now dean of the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University, [says that]...[e]ven if studies cast doubt on the positive effects of sports, he's not buying it.
There's a pleasant, modest eloquence to this editorial, in the Kentucky Courier-Journal:
ONCE AGAIN, SPORTS COME FIRST
This Morning's |
Tentative Assertion Award
Susan Simpson, of The Oklahoman, who writes:
"While few question the generosity of Boone Pickens' historic donation, some say it may be an indication sports trumps academics at the Stillwater campus."
OSU has the "lowest faculty salaries in the Big 12," as well as other striking deficits. But not to worry, says its president, because we all know that the stronger your athletic department, the better your university.
For a fantastic statement of this holistic educational philosophy, from another university president, go here.
The Pluss Case|
Takes a Boring
Follow this if you wish. UD's had enough. She records it merely out of scholarly punctiliousness.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Ground Zero, Pickens State|
By Berry Tramel
'OWNER' KEEPING OSU COMPETITIVE
UD sees a subterranean struggle in here between what Stendhal called "the red and the black." Army or church? Boone Pickens is "willing to give the Cowboys an engine in this arms race," but the enemy has built "football cathedrals." Is the college stadium a field of battle, or is it Chartres?
T. Boone Pickens, the famed oilman who recently gave $165 million, exclusively for athletics, to his alma mater, Oklahoma State University, reacted to the today's news that Wesleyan University has received a gift of $500,000, toward construction of an art museum, with two words: "Har har."
Asked what he thought of Wesleyan's announcement of the beginning of a campaign to raise $26 million for the museum, Pickens said, "Pansies."
When he learned that, according to the Hartford Courant, "The museum will be at the heart of the campus in an elegant brick building that once housed squash courts," Pickens was even more disdainful. "Ruining a perfectly good bunch of squash courts for ... for what? Some goddam art? What's it gonna have in it? You know it won't be LeRoy Nieman."
Pickens laughed again when his interviewer read this from the Courant article:
"Understanding and appreciating works of art is a very important part of a liberal education," said Kimerly Rorschach, director of Duke University's newly opened Nasher Museum of Art and an authority on college museums. "It seems quite natural to me that any university would want to address that."
You say it’s your birthday!|
It’s my birthday too now!
"A Norwegian cancer expert made up fictitious patients for an article about treatment of oral cancer published in a leading medical journal, the hospital said on Sunday.
Some Folks at OSU|
Have Renamed the University
Boone State in Honor of
T. Boone Pickens’
165 Million Donation,
All For Athletics and
A Vast Athletic Village.
Here’s Some Stuff
From Their Website,
Saturday, January 14, 2006
Inside Desks and Underneath Books and Office Machines|
As ever, the University of South Florida does not disappoint. Longtime readers of this blog know that UD finds more news of the weird at USF than at any other university or college. She knows not why. Here’s the latest:
University of South Florida officials fired three employees of the school's English Language Institute after finding $275,000 in misplaced checks and cash scattered throughout an office there.
(What do the University of South Florida and the Nursing Home of Prague have in common?
They’ve both got a lot of old checks.
The Culture of Impersonality|
From a thoughtful editorial in the University of Saskatchewan student newspaper, in which the editors argue that “impersonality” will be the keyword for 2006:
Think of the last time you had a question in class; did you raise your hand in front of the entire classroom, did you wait until the class had finished, or did you email your professor later that day? The numbers most certainly increase toward the latter with every passing day.
Another one bites the dust. Via James Woolcott, who got it via Editor and Publisher, the writer Michael Fumento has followed Doug Bandow into shill obscurity.
His news service has dropped him:
The Jan. 5 column by Michael Fumento about new biotechnology products from Monsanto should have included more information. We believe the column should have disclosed a $60,000 grant from Monsanto that Fumento received in 1999 for a book about biotechnology. Fumento's column will no longer be distributed by Scripps Howard News Service…
The ickiest aspect of this case is the language of Fumento’s Monsanto column itself. By nature a combative and not bad writer, Fumento here virtually reveals all by himself -- by his prose -- his money bondage to Monsanto. Just listen:
Currently, almost all biotech crops reduce the use of either insecticides or herbicides. Upcoming Monsanto products, however, more effectively kill pests and even combine the two traits. The Agriculture Department has just approved one that protects corn against both weeds and rootworms..…..[Monsanto’s] pipeline represents a fraction of what the biotech industry as a whole -- large companies and small, here and abroad -- will bring to your supper table. These are truly exciting times for producers, consumers, and those who care about the environment.
This corpse-prose could have been picked up word for word from a Monsanto ad in The Economist.
But How Reliable?
UD found another article about the affluent beggars [see posts below] that suggests they don’t have families that are distraught and willing to help them out. They both describe screwed up families that don’t care about them. This may or may not be true. Let us assume it’s true.
So they’re on their own. They’re both intelligent, adept in the language and ideas of therapeutic culture. They are young and employable. Why are they panhandling? In Ashland?
Well, like any affluent mother, Elizabeth Johnson wants the best schooling for her children. (The couple actually has five children, but they put the first two up for adoption.) “The family has stayed in Ashland since the summer in order for Seth to attend the Waldorf-inspired experimental classes at Willow Wind, part of the Ashland public school system.” So there are concerns about schooling.
But there’s also the drugs consideration:
Their difficult childhoods and interest in drug culture quickly solidified their bond, the couple say. One of their first experiences together was canoeing on the Withlacoochee River and taking LSD. "Both of us coming from broken homes," says Johnson, "and needing to develop ourselves." …"Well, I think we had no love," Pancoast quickly adds, "we had no clarity … we were both so disassociated for different reasons.…"
This article about the affluent beggars delicately side-steps the question of whether the couple is still interested in drug culture....
Can Pancoast's gruesome and moving memoir be far behind?
A reader writes:
"Perhaps the best thing to do is pass the story along to the IRS.
What do you think the odds are that he fully reports all of his income?
Also, I've always believed in taxing unearned income at a higher rate
than earned income. Generally, that means soaking stock dividends,
bond interest, and capital gains, but I think it should also apply in
Next Step: Analysis|
Like most hoaxes, this one (see post directly below) will turn out to have many authentic elements. Id est, these idiots do actually beg on the streets. They actually think that “We’re challenging the stereotype of being a beggar.” They actually think “Is this community theirs or is it ours?" is a clever question.
But let’s take a look at the numbers. They make “up to $300 a day and once made $800. …Pancoast… (by the way, UD came up with two Jason Pancoasts when she Googled the name: our beggar, and a computer engineer in Boston ) estimates he and his wife can make $30,000 to $40,000 a year panhandling.” Add food stamps and you get a comfortable living.
Distasteful as UD, a math illiterate, finds it to think even for a moment about numbers, allow her to doubt these (she’d say they are much too high), and allow her to suggest that whatever the numbers, they are not the result of panhandling as you and I know it. Let us take a closer look at Ashland.
Ashland is not a city; it’s a town, with around 19,000 residents. It’s hyper-liberal (here’s its Wikipedia entry), arguably the most liberal locality in the state. It’s got a university and a Shakespeare festival. Begging there is, an ex-mayor complains, “commonplace.” Indeed, some people think a recent drop in the number of people coming to the festival has to do with the unpleasantness of walking around the town:
[One townsperson] points to the drop in the number of tourist visits to Oregon Shakespeare Festival last year as evidence. He says the city has gotten letters from disgruntled tourists and fretting business owners, as has the festival and the Chamber of Commerce.
A homeless camp has been proposed.
The homeless camp, [one observer says], will do nothing but invite an explosion of all the aforementioned problems, which will in turn ensure a mass exodus of the tourists.
Okay, so the background to our affluent beggar story is a town where panhandling is basically normalized, a well-established part of the scene, and where, we may presume, the townspeople are sympathetic and generous to panhandlers.
Within this larger context, Pancoast stands out as an articulate ideologue, “outspoken in his beliefs” about rich and poor. UD’s guess, then, is that he makes his money not from random approaches to people, as in classic beggary, but from a small permanent roster of clients -- people who know him, like his ideas, and want to subsidize them.
This is not really a story about panhandling, in other words. It’s a story about a locally subsidized Oregon think tank named Jason Pancoast.
A final point about how much money the Pancoasts have. Are you satisfied that you’ve been told about all of their income sources? Why no information about their families? People like the Pancoasts who are living like idiots typically have distraught families with money in the background, helping them out in various ways.
In short, loathe as I am to undermine this terrific “affluent beggars” story, I want to use it as an example of the sort of half-told hoaxy tale we’re always falling for…
OKAY, KIDS, LET’S GO!|
Let’s go now! While the story’s still hot. Here’s a chance -- if we act fast enough -- for us to watch a hoax unravel in real time.
Of course UD could be wrong. She’s wrong a lot. But her hoax-nose (aka bullshit detector) sniffs out one in the early stages of preparation here.
So without further ado… Je presente… Les beggares affluentes!!!
"AFFLUENT BEGGARS" DRAW SCRUTINY FOR THEIR LIFESTYLE
Friday, January 13, 2006
The Trials of James Frey |
Where to start with Patti Davis’s defense of James Frey in Newsweek?
Start with her title: WRITER ON TRIAL. Writer on trial is Orhan Pamuk, brought up on charges for writing the truth about Turkish history. Writer on trial was Osip Mandelstam, arrested and imprisoned by the secret police for a poem. Writer on trial is not rich happy redeemed James Frey, script writer, Picasso collector, self-mythologizer.
And writer on trial is certainly not Patti Davis, though she characterizes herself in the essay as a kind of Nadezhda Mandelstam, Frey’s fellow writer and sufferer: “James Frey’s writing is under attack. I know how he feels.”
She knows how he feels not merely because people ridiculed her writing (she only got published because she was the President’s daughter, etc.) but also because she’s a recovered addict too, and you can’t write this stuff, or recognize true descriptions of this stuff, unless you’ve been there:
I was in awe of the book as a writer, and grateful for it as a recovered drug addict. He had the guts to tell you how dark it gets down there and how it’s like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride when your brain spins out on crazy hairpin turns and you can’t find the road back. Or any road at all. He didn’t sugarcoat the rage or the pain or the awful loneliness. The truths he told weren’t easy to read and they certainly weren’t pretty. But they were truths. No one could have made up what he wrote. You have to have taken that long dark fall. You have to have known the madness of trying to pull yourself out, but then maybe not wanting to because in a lot of ways you like it down there.
Davis here shows a remarkable lack of faith in fiction writing. Of course you don’t have to have been there, and of course having been there doesn’t automatically confer credibility and power upon what you say about what it was like. In fact sometimes a first-rate writer who hasn’t been there can do a better job than a less than first-rate writer who has. Note Davis’s own trite language - crazy hairpin turns, awful loneliness, long dark fall. She’s been there, but she can’t write convincingly about it.
(For another ex-addict's more plausible take on Frey, here's Seth Mnookin, in Slate.)
Davis’s therapeutic mentality only allows her to conceive of Frey’s writing as an emanation of the pain all of us share by virtue of being human. Because motives like literary ambition, attention getting, competitiveness, and the like, have no place in her mental world, she’s incapable of thinking clearly about what Frey and his book actually represent. All she can do is feel:
But the one moment that broke my heart was when he said he’s never going to write about himself again. I knew in that instant how wounded he is by all that’s happened. Don’t say that, I whispered to myself. Even though I understood. …I don’t care how many days Frey did or did not spend in jail. I care that he keeps writing with a heart that doesn’t hold back.
Soppy, self-aggrandizing emotivism of this sort gives women - whether they write or not - a bad name. As Maureen Dowd writes in this morning's New York Times, "[W]e no longer have a society especially consecrated to truth. The culture produces an infinity of TV shows and movies depicting the importance of honesty. But they're really talking only about the importance of being honest about your feelings. Sharing feelings is not the same thing as telling the truth. We've become a country of situationalists."
One of the many neurotic/linguistic things UD does is worry incessantly about non-native speakers and newspaper headlines. Newspaper headlines are notorious for slang and jargon and idiom. How can even an excellent foreign speaker of English make sense of them?
Look at this headline, for instance, from the Harvard Crimson:
ALUM'S OWL TIES DRAW IRE
What the hell does this string of three and four letter words mean? Even a native English speaker is going to have to transliterate. "Alum" is "alumnus," let's assume... or alumna. "Owl Ties" -- ties with owls on them? An appropriate look for a Harvard egghead, I suppose... but why would anyone get angry about a tie? It looks as though the headline writer dropped a letter, too. Draw Ire? Does she mean "draw fire"?
UD herself knew from the start what this was all about, because she's followed with amusement the mortifying news of Senator Kennedy's own sexist club memberships (the Owl is a private, all-male, once Harvard-affiliated club, to which Kennedy still belongs). “When Senator Kennedy joined the all male social club called Owl, there were no women at Harvard,” one of his staffers explains, forgetting to mention that the club continues to bar women from membership. “As with any finals club on campus we are a social organization established to create friendships among members,” the current president of the club remarks. “The Owl has a diverse membership, ranging from all political, social and economic areas.”
Another neurotic/linguistic thing UD does is notice that if you're going to say something ranges, you pretty much need to use the "from...to..." formulation. You can't range from everywhere. You have to range from somewhere to somewhere else. Anyway, the super-secret club's president perhaps reveals, in his use of language, one of the bonds among Owl members -- like Kennedy, they don't speak too good.
“What I'm finding in my own book-writing is how much the blog has helped inform the book, how it has become a treasure trove of information and comment and ideas from all over the place. When looking to buttress a particular point or hunt down a piece of evidence, I find myself searching my own blog for links and data.
'The project originally known as the ASU Scottsdale Center for New Technology and Innovation is still officially named the slightly shorter ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center.
'Jos Anshell, chief executive officer of the major Phoenix advertising firm, Moses Anshell, admitted that his initial reaction against "SkySong" went the other direction once the name started to grow on him.
'[O]ne of the best-kept secrets in college admissions today [is] the affirmative action campaign to recruit men. Most admissions directors sifting through stacks of applications from men and women can only sigh at the contrast. The average male applicant has far lower grades, writes a sloppy essay, and sports few impressive extracurriculars. Those admissions directors face a choice: Either admit less-qualified men or see the campus gender balance slip below 40 percent male, a point at which female applicants begin to look elsewhere.
via joanne jacobs
On this day, in 1941,
James Joyce died,
age 58, in Zurich.
Snapshots From Home:|
From this morning's
Chronicle of Higher Education:
The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that George Washington University is breaking the law in its refusal to recognize its adjunct professors' union, which won a labor-board-certified election held in October 2004.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Sensible commentary from Christine Hurt on women and blogging.
|Find another headline.|
Alito: Guilty of padding his resume with|
the name of some club he’d heard about.
'Earlier, Specter said staffers had examined records of a controversial Princeton University alumni group once cited by Alito in a job application, but had found no mention of Alito.
The Washington Post
|Charming, eclectic blog.|
SNAPSHOTS FROM HOME|
Somewhere in the background of Laura Bush lurks
UD’s spawn, who, along with her fellow Washington Children’s Chorus choristers, ushered in this event a couple of days ago with patriotic songs.
LIVING IN A DALI LANDSCAPE|
A Comment from an OSU Insider
About that Big Ol’ Gift from Boone
At Inside Higher Education
[D]emographic data from the U.S. Census suggest that enrollment will be dropping for the next 20 years. Investment in any kind of facility is risky now, when fewer students will be around to use it. Fewer students means fewer alumni, which means fewer pockets to pick to support an athletics village — never mind academics.
"A 70-year-old Italian law professor has discovered a new career writing erotic memoirs after losing his university job following accusations that he offered students high marks for sex.
The Daily Telegraph
(The Last Baron in a Campus of Tulips??)
First, here's Andrew Sullivan's take...|
...on the James Frey/Larry King interview last night that UD live blogged:
About the best television I've seen in forever.
This will do as a camp-loving description of events, and certainly UD remembers tolerating tv for years on the basis of this campy spectatorship: the so-bad-it's-good thing, the let's see how weird this can get thing... As her readers know, however, this approach eventually failed UD and she stopped watching.
But she'd like to offer, for what it's worth, a truth-loving description of events. "There are two sorts of people in the world," she said to her husband as she returned to her house last night. "Those who love the truth and those who do not."
Okay. Not earth-shattering, but, again, I said for what it's worth. I mean, take Albert Camus. He loved the clarified landscapes of North Africa because they showed him, beautifully, what was true in life.
We live with a few familiar ideas. Two or three. We polish and transform them according to the societies and the men we happen to meet. ...And, I don't know why, but faced with this ravined landscape, this solemn and lugubrious cry of stone, Djemila, inhuman at nightfall, faced with this death of colors and hope, I was certain that when they reach the end of their lives, men worthy of the name must rediscover this confrontation, deny the few ideas they had, and recover the innocence and truth that gleamed in the eyes of the Ancients face to face with destiny... I feel certain that the true, the only, progress of civilization, the one to which a man devotes himself from time to time, lies in creating conscious deaths.
The reason UD finds what people like Frey did so despicable is that in convincing people they are truth-lovers, in flaunting a truth-bearing "death of colors and hope" in their narrated physical and spiritual disintegration, they tell the worst lie of all. They corrupt our relationship to the truth by pretending successfully to be the truth, when in fact they represent sensationalistic and comforting lies. That's why it's sickening for UD when Deus ex Operahs descend and soothingly assure their desperate audience that as long as their books keep telling redemptive lies they must keep reading and believing them.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Will it never end?|
Mother: "It was very difficult for us to read it because we lived it. Then to go back and read what we had lived was very challenging. ...Our hearts would be hanging out there for people to peck at but we didn't care because we stand by him."
James: "I hope the emotional truth of the book resonates with them. It's a memoir and it's an imperfect animal. I don't think it should be scrutinized in the way a newspaper article would."
OPRAH's on the phone!
Oprah: "I'm watching James... Everyone's been asking me to release a statement... We support the book... hundreds of thousands of people have been helped by this book... I am disappointed by this controversy... because I rely on the publishers to define the category the book falls within... Although some of the facts have been questioned... the underlying message of redemption... still resonates with me... Whether or not the car rolled up on the sidewalk... is irrelevant to me... What is relevant is that he was a drug addict... and out of that...stepped out of that history... to allow other people to save themselves... What I think is this is going to open up the discussion for publishers... The bigger question is what does this mean for the larger publishing world and this new memoir category? This discussion will be furthered by the so-called controversy... Much ado about nothing... So much of the story ...is inside the clinic..."
Larry: Thank you, Oprah. Be well, dear.
Et encore une fois.|
Larry: "We're back... His mother was in the Oprah audience that afternoon. Watch."
[Mother in audience screams with joy: 'That's my son!']
James's mother: "The fraud story is very sad for us. So many people stand behind us, our friends, James's friends. I'm disappointed that it happened. I don't believe it. I believe in James. The book stands on its own. ... I believe in all those people it has made a difference for. ... If you've ever had a child who's been on drugs and you go to the airport to pick him up and his teeth are broken and he reeks of alcohol... We found where we were going to take him for rehab..."
Larry: Do you feel you've let your mother down a little?
James: I stand by the essential truth of my book... I've let my mother down many many many times in my life... Addiction destroys families... At least one family dealt with it together..."
This is a rather strange chapter in James's Larry martyrdom. His mother is hauled out to announce the news that she supports him one hundred percent.
Yet more Larry.|
A critic on an incident in the book: "These two girls ended up on a slab. But for him it's narrative gold to be used for personal purposes."
James: "Um, I don't want to get into commenting on what is said on other shows. I stand by the essential truth of my book. ... The essential truth of the book ... is there... The emotional truth is there... I have remained sober for thirteen years... When Jerzy Kozinski's Painted Bird came out and was a great success people said he never went through the holocaust... [Larry: "And Jerzy killed himself... I'm not suggesting...!"] [UD: The Kozinski example is a poor one. Painted Bird was indeed a fraud. A notorious one.]
James: "This is the true story of what I went through in treatment... A lot of what I said to the Smoking Gun was supposed to be off the record. [Larry: "Are you angry?"] Yes. [Smoking Gun has a different version of events.] But I take responsiblity for what I said. [Larry: "Are you afraid you'll go back to drugs and alcohol under all this pressure?" -- Or something to that effect.] I mean it's been a trying week, absolutely. I've been fine getting through the week. Of course there's temptation [to fall off the wagon]... but I'm getting through the week. And I'll be fine.... There are two hundred pages of re-created conversations in the book, but people haven't been questioning that because people understand it's my subjective re-creation of my life... I hoped the book would help people deal with similar situations in their lives... I hope it's helping people..."
Part Three, Larry and James|
James: "An incredibly minute portion of the book which doesn't really have anything to do with the central message of the book... is being picked apart... It's a selective recollection of my life...Changing names and identities to protect people...I mean Larry I've acknowledged I've changed things... You get into a very sticky situation... mug shots have appeared of at least two events where I've been arrested... I had a very very troubled past... It's a book about redemption and pain and family... I don't think I was a bad guy, I think I was a flawed person...I mean like I said I'm certainly never gonna write another book about myself...This has been a very difficult week for me... I've been shocked by the furor that has erupted...That's what comes of selling a lot of copies and being part of Oprah's Book Club...That's what comes of success... Yeah I mean it was a huge honor being chosen by Oprah... and you know there's a cost that comes with success... What's really important to me more than success is the impact I feel the book has had on the lives of readers... I hope that readers don't desert the book... In the memoir genre the writer typically takes liberties... Of course this is gonna affect me... I hope my readership remains focused on what's going on here... I don't know if I would change anything, Larry, you know... I would submit this manuscript... part of growing up and becoming a better person is learning from the mistakes you make... You can't change the past..."
Yikes. Calls for James Frey coming up next.
We're back with Larry.|
Larry's explaining that you can't after all get a refund from Random House.
Now here's James: "It was turned down by a number of publishers as a novel... We talked about what to publish it as and they thought the best thing was to publish it as a memoir... Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Bukowski... the genre of memoir didn't exist when they were publishing... [HUH???] Yeah, I mean, it has blown my mind... a very small part of the book has been disputed... I mean, I don't discuss being in a jail cell in this book. In this book - 420 of the 432 pages of it take place in a treatment facility... I mean, we talk a little about being in a jail cell...I mean certainly I have a long drug and alcohol history... my memory is very subjective...I mean again we're dealing with a very subjective memory..."
Now they go to an interview with the editor of Smoking Gun: "The account of the melee with the police is about two percent true. ... No crack, no melee..."
UPDATE: Mary Karr glosses my “HUH???”
In an interview last week, Larry King asked Mr. Frey why he shopped "A Million Little Pieces" around as a novel, but published it as a memoir. Instead of answering directly, Mr. Frey asserted that his book was in the American literary tradition of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Bukowski and Kerouac.
UD Live Blogs|
the Larry King/
James Frey Interview
I'm down the street at my mother's house -- that's where the tv is -- having convinced myself to inaugurate a bit of live-blogging here at UD by enduring a Larry King interview. He'll be talking to James Frey, who has become, at least for today, the bad boy he's dreamed of being all his life.
Frey had to embellish like hell in his memoir to make himself a big ol' Baudelaire bandit. Now he really is the degenerate du jour. Life - or rather, thesmokinggun.com - has handed him a beautiful opportunity to be ballsy and belligerent on national tv. Let us see what he can do with it.
"Worldwide attention ...best-selling book...update from Kelly Wallace... Good evening Larry...poking around not too long ago...firestorm of allegations...a few months ago ...highly coveted book club... days of addiction, crime, and rehab...no money, no job, no home, and is wanted in three states...'We could not find anything...' ... accuses Frey of fabricating significant parts of the book...Frey rejected those charges...melee with police... 'he was polite and cooperative...' local sheriff finds 'no record' of incarceration... "
"Thanks Kelly Wallace... what's your side, James?"
"My side is that I wrote a memoir...never expected the book to come under the kind of scrutiny it has...subjective retelling of events...yeah, a memoir is within the genre of non-fiction, um, I don't think it's necessarily appropriate to say I've conned anyone...disputed pages are eighteen...less than five percent of the book...um I mean I've acknowledged that there were embellishments in the book, that I've changed things...names were changed...you know there's a great debate about memoir and what should be most properly served, the story or some form of journalistic truth...I mean it's an individual's perception of what happened in their own life...this is my recollection of my life...a lot of the events took place while I was under the influence of drugs and alcohol...it's my story... a truthful retelling of the story... I am surprised...by the success of the book...by the reaction to the book...by the furor related to the book...at various points all along the course of the publication of the book I've acknowledged...things were altered, that I made changes to the book...absolutely... I mean the book is about drug and alcohol addiction...nobody's disputing I was a drug addict and an alcoholic..."
This Just In: |
Random House will refund readers who bought James Frey's drug and alcohol memoir "A Million Little Pieces" directly from the publisher, a move believed to be unprecedented, after the author was accused of exaggerating his story.
The blog A Bear in the City notes the similarities between the LeRoy hoax and the Tony Johnson hoax, which took in the great essayist Paul Monette. Monette’s heartbreaking defense of Tony’s actuality is still painful for UD to read.
Van Sant said he believes the person he dined with was indeed LeRoy but admits the possibility of being hoodwinked. He turned philosophical: "But is anyone who they say they are? Is Amy Pascal really Amy Pascal? Am I really me? How do you know you're talking to Gus Van Sant?"
A director weighs in on the LeRoy hoax.
UD's Lucky Readers|
Get an Advance Copy
of Tonight's Larry King/
James Frey Interview
King: I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time. That would be hypocrisy.
“A Million Little Pieces could well |
become the Enron of the memoir
'“The entire memoir genre is rife with this,” one editor said.'
How Could They Tell?|
MUMMIFIED BODY FOUND IN FRONT OF TV
...one of UD's most-beloved blogs, appears in caps to your right, second on my list of links. For too long, I've lazily linked to its mother ship, History News Network, rather than link directly to it. I've fixed that.
Can It Really Be Thirty Years…|
…since Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody appeared? Ever since she heard it in Wayne’s World, UD has loved it.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
James Frey, whose best-selling memoir about substance abuse, "A Million Little Pieces," has come under intense scrutiny for alleged fabrications, has agreed to give his first interview since the controversy broke a few days ago.
To get us in the mood for tomorrow's interview, here's part of a transcript of an interview King recently did with the author of another privilege-debauchery-salvation memoir (this one legit), Christopher Lawford Kennedy:
LAWFORD: Yes, I had such an amazing time doing this. I would recommend -- Emerson said that all of us have one great book in us and I'm not sure this is great but I -- it was a joy to do.
MORE READING MATERIAL|
FOR UD AS SHE PREPARES…
The ever-larger sums of money spent on college sports create "a looming crisis" that could threaten schools' integrity, a group of university presidents warns.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution
OSU Now Truly on |
Its Way Intellectually
Oklahoma State University officials announced today that legendary oilman Boone Pickens has donated $165 million to be used to fund one of the nation’s most comprehensive collegiate athletic complexes during the next five to 10 years.
OSU News Release
On His Way Toward
At the same time, Hamilton's ghost has returned in the form of a fixation on status and privilege. Although conspicuous consumption is not new in American life (we've long had our robber barons), it has spread to sectors of society that are supposed to embody an elevated public-spiritedness. Thus the Louis XIV—type behavior of American University's president Benjamin Ladner. At a New Year's dinner to celebrate the engagement of his son, paid for by the university, guests enjoyed truffles and caviar washed down by Cuvée Palmes d'Or champagne. The appalled trustees eventually ousted Ladner, but his actions speak to a larger phenomenon: as the late social critic Christopher Lasch wrote in the mid-1990s, a new and dandified aristocracy of talent has arisen in America. Its members are continuing to remove themselves from common life.
SNAPSHOTS FROM HOME|
Clever Little Buggers
'As far as Kyle Stoneman is concerned, the campus police were the ones who started the Facebook wars. "We were just being, well, college students, and they used it against us," says Mr. Stoneman, a senior at George Washington University in Washington. He is convinced that the campus security force got wind of a party he and some buddies were planning last year by monitoring Facebook.com, the phenomenally popular college networking site. The officers waited till the shindig was in full swing, Mr. Stoneman grouses, then shut it down on discovering under-age drinking.
Monday, January 09, 2006
I don’t need drugs.|
I’m high on hoax.
Hoax is UD’s amphetamine, her hyperstimulant of choice, her own personal rush machine. Others take note of hoaxes, tsk, and move on; UD hunkers down and gets happy.
UD gets more out of a hit of hoax than Hunter Thompson got from a hundred grams of heroin. Hoax:UD as Opium:Thomas DeQuincey. Hoax: UD as Hooch:Malcolm Lowry. Hoax: UD as Absinthe:Alfred Jarry.
And when the hoax is literary! Then Ossian’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world.
No doubt there are dark - very dark - Hostel dark - reasons why UD responds to the Million Little Pieces hoax (to take the more high-profile of two recent examples - here‘s the other one - make what you can of it) with irrational exuberance. But let’s not go there. Let's go to the tape.
The website Smoking Gun decided to establish the veracity of James Frey’s tell-all memoir of his “vomit-caked years as an alcoholic, drug addict, and criminal,” and couldn’t get anywhere. There was an odd absence of cooperation from the author, who eventually got a lawyer to write SG a threatening letter. Almost none of the jails, hospitals, and rehab joints listed in the text checked out, or checked out in any way resembling Frey‘s description of events there. The book’s French priest incident, in which, during a p’tit promenade to throw himself off the Eiffel Tower, Frey ducks into a church and encounters a penis-pinching prelate, began to look flaccid.
'When recalling criminal activities, looming prison sentences, and jailhouse rituals, Frey writes with a swaggering machismo and bravado that absolutely crackles. Which is truly impressive considering that, as TSG discovered, he made much of it up. The closest Frey has ever come to a jail cell was the few unshackled hours he once spent in a small Ohio police headquarters waiting for a buddy to post $733 cash bond.'
One familiar feature of literary hoaxes - the death of anyone the author ever knew - also appears in Frey: “[A]lmost every character in Frey's book that could address the remaining topics has either committed suicide, been murdered, died of AIDS, been sentenced to life in prison, gone missing, landed in an institution for the criminally insane, or fell off a fishing boat never to be seen again.” Still, a few witnesses to Frey’s lying survive, and their testimony is devastating.
The story of this latest trick played upon credulous people titillated by details of extreme degradation is now everywhere - the New York Times, the Washington Post. The only spectator sport that remains - for the true hoax enthusiast, like UD - is watching Frey, his editors, his publishers, and the screenwriters at work on a hagiographic film about him, squirm.
UPDATE: As with the play Frozen, good literary critics, in this hoaxy age, are more important to the culture than ever. Via Maud Newton, I note that the excellent Chris Lehmann of Slate saw Frey's bullshit well in advance of the Smoking Gun. This is from Lehmann's review in April 2003:
But there's nothing new or compelling (let alone heroic) about this pose: It is, in many ways, the classic arc of the genre Frey claims he's boldly renovated—the conversion memoir. From St. Augustine to Rousseau to Dave Eggers and Elizabeth Wurtzel, readers of memoirs are invited to marvel at the incorrigible badness of a narrator as a sort of trust-exercise: Surely someone who conceals so little of their unpleasant behavior can't be lying.
...Indeed, sentimentality is often the enchanted mirror into which the practiced nihilist preens. After all, the nihilist worldview holds that most things are beneath the self, and the sentimentalist concludes that most things are about the self—the point being in either case to keep the narrating ego at center stage. So, while Frey begins the vast majority of his flat, pain-ridden sentences with the word "I," many of them resolve into emotional set pieces reminiscent of Victorian melodrama.
Kudos also to James Browning of The Village Voice, who wrote this in April 2003:
His suffering is both incredible (using so much "bittersweet peppermint gasoline"–scented crack and meth and speed and PCP that he vomits and blacks out seven days a week for years) and simply not credible (undergoing a root canal without anesthesia because patients at his rehab clinic aren't allowed drugs of any kind).
Sunday, January 08, 2006
More Reading for UD...|
...in preparation for MAYBE going to the upcoming Knight Commission meeting at her university, GW:
From The Grand Rapids Press:
Even under the colleges' newly liberalized system for counting athlete graduations, the rates show averages of just 64 percent for football players and 58 percent for men's basketball. Dozens of teams, especially in men's basketball, have virtually no athletes reaching the academic finish line. And the top-25 ranks in football and men's basketball are middling at best. The current No. 1 and 2 in basketball, Duke and Connecticut, have 50 percent rates of basketball player graduations.
ADVICE FOR GARY HART|
parenthetically put, along his
New York Times interview
in today’s Sunday magazine
"As everyone knows, your second bid for the presidency ended virtually overnight, in 1987, with accusations of adultery, and I am wondering if you feel bitter.
It's not my nature to feel bitter. I've been away from Washington for 19 years. Mostly I talk to my neighbors in Kittredge, Colo., real Americans, not Jack Abramoff. [Need to watch the “real Americans” rhetoric here. Precisely in what way is Jack Abramoff not a real American?] I am an outdoorsman. I chop wood. I take hikes with my dog, Winston. [Gruff outdoorsman thing here is plainly imitative of Dubya, esp. the wood. Do you hunt? It would‘ve been better to describe yourself doing that.]
You can't really stay this calm about events in Washington.
I don't. I go out and kick trees. I don't just hug them, I kick them. And what I am going to do is accept a professorship. [Strange transition. Along with kicking trees you work out your rage about the world by accepting a professorship?]
At what school?
I can't tell you. It hasn't been announced.
So why not announce it now?
The University of Colorado will announce on the 15th of January that I have accepted an endowed professorship. …I have never believed in careerism. [Then why, in a casual interview, did you find time to put “endowed” in front of “professorship”?] The founders thought you ought to serve and move on. Otherwise, you become a captive of the system. You've got to raise millions and millions of dollars to stay in office, and you can get that from lobbyists, and what you trade is access. It's a corrupt system. It's massively corrupt. [Have you kept track of the University of Colorado system? It makes Washington look clean.]"
Okay, let’s say, for argument’s sake…|
…that UD does attend this sports thing at GW on the thirtieth. Maybe a little background reading wouldn’t be out of line… This is from Spiked, a British publication:
[T]he Jockocracy [is] a faction of immense power at most public and many private universities despite being utterly alien to education, scholarship or learning in any form. This consists of the administrators and chief functionaries of the athletic programme, most notably the coaches heading the school's football and basketball teams.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Sounds pretty welcoming, actually. |
Still can’t decide if I should go and blog it….
The Knight Commission Presents
A Few Last Details|
As We Lay
'A November 2002 internal balance sheet for University High showed $11,385 for office salaries and $64,205 for advertising - the largest expense - but no spending for instructors.
From the Pen of a Student |
at Ohio University
According to a Nov. 29, 2005, Post article, [OU football coach] Solich was found slumped over the steering wheel of his car, which was facing the wrong way on a one-way street.
Cloning Your Own Eggs in Korea|
Challenging bosses is uncommon and failing to bow to superiors invites reproach. With most men forced to serve a stint in the military, a culture of following orders prevails.
“The trouble even an established customer will take to obtain a newspaper continues to shrink, as well. Once, I would drive across town if necessary. Today, I open the front door and if the paper isn't within about 10 feet I retreat to my computer and read it online. Only six months ago, that figure was 20 feet. Extrapolating, they will have to bring it to me in bed by the end of the year and read it to me out loud by the second quarter of 2007.”
University of the Midwest|
You know me and television. But sometimes UD reads a tv review in the Times that makes her wonder if she made the right decision all those years ago:
The first time I saw "Absolutely Fabulous," when Comedy Central imported it from Britain in 1994, I wondered what all the fuss was about. But the show grew on me, and today I am an ardent fan of Patsy Stone and Edina Monsoon, the dissolute, middle-aged Londoners whose enthusiastic substance abuse, rampant superficiality and desperate clinging to the values of their mod youth made that series so great.
The blog Media Bistro writes: “Baltimore Sun columnist Michael Olesker has been let go by the paper for plagiarism (or the P.C. term: 'attribution issues').”
I’ve already blogged about Olesker. But until now I didn’t know the politically correct phrase for plagiarism, and I thank MB. From now on I will try to use this more sensitive formulation.
“These are the earliest findings of the Knight Commission's poll. More will be released at the Summit on the Collegiate Athlete Experience to be held at George Washington University on Jan. 30, 2006.”
Think they’ll let me in? It’s a Monday - I don’t teach that day. Maybe I’ll live-blog it! (If they let me in.)
Friday, January 06, 2006
MILLS AND TEACHERS|
(AND UNIONS) AGAIN
During Thursday's [labor] hearing, both [diploma mill graduate] teachers acknowledged they did no course work, did not correspond with any instructors, took no exams and wrote no thesis papers. They paid less than $3,000 for their [MA] degrees and were required only to compile transcripts from previous college courses and workshops and provide information on classroom practices.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
REALLY BAD NOVEL|
Via Betsy’s Page, this comment from John Podhoretz:
[Abramoff] is like a really bad novel. An Orthodox Jewish lobbyist stealing money from Indian tribes, funneling it through a yoga instructor at the beach, and being a possible accessory to a gangland hit in Florida?
Does sound like an impossible plot. But UD’s done some research and come up with actual, similar-sounding novels. First, a couple described by the Jewish Review:
The Longest Night by Gregg Keizer, C. P. Putnam's Sons, 2004, 366 pages, hardcover, $24.95
Three more plot summaries, from the New York Times book review:
In 1978, Tova Reich's novel Mara depicted an Orthodox rabbi who doubles as a shady nursing-home owner, married to an overweight dietitian so obsessed with food that she gorges herself with five-course meals, even on the fast day of Yom Kippur. The Hasidic hero of her 1988 novel, Master of the Return (praised by Publishers Weekly for its "devastating accuracy") abandons his semi-paralyzed pregnant wife in her wheelchair in order to spit on immodestly clad female strangers; at home, he helps his 2-year-old son get "high on the One Above" by giving him marijuana. Reich's 1995 novel, The Jewish War, told of a band of zealots whose leader takes three wives and encourages his followers to kill themselves.
UD also stumbled on a film:
It's a bit unusual that Sheldon, a young schlemiel accountant wants to join a Chevrah Kadisha (a traditional Jewish burial society that prepares bodies for interment), but the elders decide to give him a try. Then two million bucks go missing from Sheldon's former employer. Canadian director Nicholas Racz uses the little-seen world of the Jewish burial society as a backdrop for a quirky, darkly funny murder mystery complete with Jewish Mafia thugs, devious detectives, and nervous breakdowns.
THE BURIAL SOCIETY
' They've tried to scare the vultures away with rubber chickens, hung upside down and painted black.
...to the following statement on an Inside Higher Ed comment thread:
In my experience, most faculty members who don’t get a monograph completed in their probationary period did not deserve tenure in their PhD granting departments.
...from Michael Berube, who writes:
My stars! This would mean, among other things, that almost no philosophers deserve tenure in PhD-granting philosophy departments. Taken together with some of the other skeptical remarks in this thread, I’m inclined to believe that many people think philosophers have poor scholarly standards, as well — all because they don’t require monographs for tenure.
The Wired Economy|
OF THE MONOGRAPH
The strangest voice weighing in so far on the “fetishization of the monograph” debate currently raging among American academics is Jack Abramoff, the disgraced former lobbyist whose extensive corrupt dealings may bring down both Republican and Democratic members of Congress. Few thought Abramoff, whose career has been about deal-making in Hollywood and Washington, would care about university departments’ traditional insistence on a book manuscript for tenure, but one person isn’t surprised: his roommate at Brandeis University:
Jack Abramoff was my room-mate for two years at Brandeis University. We were both English majors, class of ‘81, we were both originally from southern New Jersey. Jack was not raised an Orthodox Jew. Jack, in my estimation, was one who adhered to his own particular forms of discipline. He was also, in high school, a weightlifter. Orthodoxy and weightlifting, among many more of Jack’s habits of the time, required this strange form of self-imposed discipline. Our tiny campus apartment, really three rooms, was strictly kosher. Jack disliked drugs, and never would drink much beyond wine for Shabbat. His head was always covered. Jack and I would often discuss politics, arts, history, the poetry of Wallace Stevens, and more.
[Note: This page has now been removed from the blog where UD found it. She therefore cannot vouch for its authenticity.]
Abramoff’s combination of interest in weights, strict adherence to orthodoxy in general, and engagement in the poetry of Stevens, led him, he tells an interviewer for the New York Times (the interview will appear soon in the Sunday magazine, and will feature, UD is told, a full-length photo of Abramoff in his Orthodox/mobster look), to consider studying Stevens in graduate school and writing "a big heavy hardback book" about him called Domination of Black. Now, though, "it's a blessing I didn't go into the field. They're desecrating the rule of the book. It's a disgusting concession to modernity."
Bottom of the Barrel|
Here’s a strong-minded editorial from the Review Journal in Nevada. Situations like this help explain the results of the recent college literacy study.
On Sunday, we lamented the fact that Nevada regents last week got cold feet over raising admission standards at the state's two major, four-year universities, UNLV and UNR.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
DOUG BANDOW |
WANTS MY SYMPATHY
And he’s got it, to some extent. Everyone says Bandow, who has lost his Cato Institute and syndicated column gigs because he took Abramoff money for writing pieces of interest to Abramoff’s clients, is a nice guy. He’s an excellent writer too.
And in a candid essay in the LA Times, he pleads guilty to having done a stupid thing. He also makes the perfectly credible point that he has always maintained the integrity of his viewpoints. He has never been false to what he believes. He has merely been willing to peddle his beliefs for money. Doesn’t much of Washington punditry, he asks, do something like this? Aren’t we in a very gray zone?
Many supposedly "objective" thinkers and "independent" scholar/experts these days have blogs or consulting gigs, or they are starting nonprofit Centers for the Study of …. Who funds their books, speeches or other endeavors? Often it's those with an interest in the outcome of a related debate. The number of folks underwriting the pursuit of pure knowledge can be counted on one hand, if not one finger….
Of course it’s one thing to be a staff writer - on a magazine, at a think tank - and another to represent yourself in a personal newspaper column as an independent voice, when in fact you‘ve got an undisclosed paying sponsor. I don’t think this sort of distinction is all that gray.
Another thing. I’d need to know a lot more about Bandow’s house to take this one lying down:
But I could never live on what [my freelance writing] paid alone. I affiliated with the Cato Institute, which always encouraged my work. But in the early years my wage there didn't cover my mortgage, let alone anything else.
When people who live in UD’s neck of the woods -- insanely affluent Bethesda/Northern Virginia/Northwest DC -- suggest that poverty made them do it, UD gets a little irritated. If Bandow turns out to live in the sort of modest dwelling a writer of his sort typically lives in, fine. But if Bandow’s holed up in a mcmansion, he’s lost my sympathy. Nobody says you get to be rich and a committed political writer at the same time.
One final thing - Bandow pretty much represents himself as having lost everything because of his small part in the big Abramoff story. Yet the tagline of his essay tells us that “Doug Bandow’s commentaries and essays will be published in two collections by Town Forum Press in 2006.”
A Fresh Plagiarism Story|
To Ring in the New
Only it’s not that fresh, since, like most of his breed, this one, a columnist at the Baltimore Sun, has been at it awhile. A lot of these veteran paper boys (Bob Greene, that Irish guy in New York whose name I can’t remember) seem to be rascals, risk-takers, corner-cutters, whatever.
This one at least has good taste, preferring to pilfer paragraphs from his betters at the Washington Post and New York Times.
Plus he has x-ray vision.
Olesker's credibility was questioned more than a year ago by members of the [Maryland Governor Ehrlich’s] staff. They complained about a Nov. 16, 2004, column in which Olesker wrote that Ehrlich's communications director, Paul E. Schurick, was "struggling mightily to keep a straight face" when he said political gain was not a consideration in the governor's appearances in commercials promoting state tourism. Olesker acknowledged that he did not attend the hearing at which Schurick spoke and apologized, saying the reference to Schurick's expression was intended metaphorically, not literally.
THREE MORE LISTS|
From Derrick Jackson
The Boston Globe
College Graduation Rate Bowl Games
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
DID UD INTRODUCE THIS GUY|
TO SPENSER’S FAERIE QUEENE?
Adam Kidan, a GWU grad, was once a source of pride at the university. In 1998, he was the invited speaker in the high-profile Hoffman Lecture series at GW’s business school -- a successful entrepreneur, a model for students…
Yet even then, Kidan was not only a business failure, but possibly a mobster.
There seems to have been a breakdown in communication somewhere along the line at the business school, then, unless they considered a man long under investigation for involvement in a mafia hit job , and now a major player in the about-to-explode Jack Abramoff scandal, a model.
Did UD have this guy in one of her Intro Lit classes? Did they savor together the sweetness of Spenser’s lines? As he reflects upon his twisted life, does Kidan now (thanks to UD!) find himself reciting
Led with delight, they thus beguile the way,
Vntill the blustring storme is ouerblowne;
When weening to returne, whence they did stray,
They cannot finde that path, which first was showne,
But wander too and fro in wayes vnknowne,
Furthest from end then, when they neerest weene,
That makes them doubt, their wits be not their owne:
So many pathes, so many turnings seene,
That which of them to take, in diuerse doubt they been…
Nice Quotation for |
the Start of the Year
Amid a dispute at a Catholic university about whether unmarried partners among faculty may sleep in the same room when leading student trips, a theology professor on campus comments: "If sin and vice become disqualifying factors for university employees, then students might have to start teaching themselves."
Today’s plagiarism tale…|
…is a bit harder to follow than most, coming from far-off China and all. But let’s follow the Guardian’s account, with our own parenthetical comments added:
A Chinese professor adopted as the intellectual poster boy of the Communist party has come under fire for plagiarising the work of a dissident jailed by the government in the early 1990s.
Monday, January 02, 2006
BOWL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES: WOW!|
'Counting Saturday, of the 20 bowls that have been played this year, only four have been sellouts. Of the sellouts, only one — the Sun Bowl — was at a stadium with more than 43,000 seats.
'[C]ollege football's lucrative but ludicrous Bowl Championship Series …is still a Ponzi scheme masquerading as a legitimate substitute for a playoff system… Down here in warm and breezy Florida,…Penn State and Florida State are preparing for tomorrow's essentially meaningless Orange Bowl.
'[T]he BCS is a profit-taking scheme and not a legitimate competitive series…
A Pallid Brief|
Via Cliopatria, this opinion piece in the Boston Globe defending tenure isn’t very convincing. What jumps out right away is the absence of any reference to the actual reason tenure exists - the protection of intellectual freedom. Not a word about it.
Instead, this curious polemic spends a lot of time describing the non-controversial way in which tenure-track candidates are scrutinized for hire. It then says, rightly, that the trend toward replacing tenured and tenurable professors with non-tenurable adjuncts is a bad thing because adjuncts are ill-paid and have little incentive to be dedicated to their schools beyond the classroom.
But this point doesn’t defend tenure so much as the reformation of job conditions for contract faculty. It’s perfectly possible to have, for instance, longterm but not permanent professors who are paid well and have excellent work environments (sabbaticals, good salaries, reasonable course loads, etc.).
Nor, with the scandalous college literacy study fresh in everyone’s mind, does it do any good to state flatly that “Tenure, and the commitments it demands of faculty members who have earned it, remains the best system we have for ensuring the highest quality education for our college and university students.” I mean, I suppose you could say those rates wouldn’t have dropped if we hadn’t been dropping tenured faculty, but I doubt it. It’s not adjuncts’ fault that curricula are crappy, grades inflated, etc.
It’s also a curious statement to make given the biggest news out of this year’s MLA convention: the organization’s acknowledgement that precisely those commitments demanded of tenured faculty - most notoriously the insistence, in many departments, on the regular excretion of obscurity-bound monographs - are pointless and destructive and must end.
Sunday, January 01, 2006
Everyone else is doing lists.|
Here are two: American colleges and universities that had a good 2005, and those that had a bad one. UD came up with five goods and ten bads. For UD’s reasoning, read through the manifold pages of this blog. Or ask her.
St John’s College Annapolis/Santa Fe
University of Wyoming
University of Colorado
Florida State University
University of Georgia
Georgia Southern University
University Southern Mississippi
UD, faithful readers know, doesn’t watch tv. There’s no television in her house.
She doesn’t avoid tv because she’s better than it. She avoids tv because she’s worse. If a television were nearby, she’d piss her life away watching it.
So UD’s dependent upon print or the web for university-related tv news, as in the spate of college ads that’s been appearing during football season. Slate has an article describing a selection (you can watch some of them via Slate’s site).
Slate titles its piece “Those Weird College Ads,” but they’re not weird. They’re all pretty much the same merry music montage, in which scandal-ridden places like the University of Georgia and the University of Colorado pretend to be scandal-free, and places like Penn State tout their lack of intellectual challenge (“Everything‘s gonna be alright!” goes the pop refrain.).
Having followed President Shelby Thames’s despotic rule over the University of Southern Mississippi (Thames has finally been kicked out of office as of next year), UD was amused to read (there’s no link to the ad itself) this description of USM’s ad:
The University of Southern Mississippi … wins the Ayn Rand Memorial Self-Actualization Award. What do a pensive painter, a guy in a library, and a woman at a computer have in common? "The courage to think for themselves and a university that fosters it. Southern Miss: Freeing the power of the individual."
And they say irony’s dead.
…Then as ye sit about your embers,|
Call not to mind those fled Decembers;
But think on these, that are t'appear,
As daughters to the instant year;
Sit crown'd with rose-buds, and carouse,
Till LIBER PATER twirls the house
About your ears, and lay upon
The year, your cares, that's fled and gone:
And let the russet swains the plough
And harrow hang up resting now;
And to the bag-pipe all address,
Till sleep takes place of weariness…