This Blog is Stolen Property

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Right Next to the "Who's Who of British Dentistry"...

I spent the morning in the library today, which is a pretty nice way to spend a Saturday morning. I was wandering through the PN.56 section, (where all the cool kids hang), just sort of browsing.

And then I saw it: Literatur und Lust.

I haven't stopped laughing since. I mean, I'm sure that the Germans can be lusty--one just doesn't think about, say, the world's great German lovers.

Also, I keep picturing a German professor I had in college, who was stern and precise and bowtied, saying things like, "Und now vee vill discuss dee ayrotic nature of dee partiziple."

Friday, September 15, 2006

Taking the "Edu" Out of "Edu-Tainment"

I left work about five today, and I walked across campus to the busstop. I heard tinkly music and smelled something slightly sickening yet weirdly enticing.

There was a carnival going on. On campus.

A motherfucking carnival.

I actually rubbed my eyes. It was still there: bumper cars, a dunk tank, live music, cotton candy, a mechanical bull.

A motherfucking mechanical bull. To quote Simon Tam: "This must be what going mad feels like."

Now, it's not that I'm anti-carnival or anything. Some of my best friends are carnies.

I'm just stunned that classes haven't even started yet, and already, already there are university sponsored events what? to relieve the tension? the boredom?

I know I sound like crotchety old Mr. Buzzkill (my nickname in junior high, incidently) who doesn't want anyone to have any fun. That's not so, and I think that university sponsored events are great. But the students have some "activity" going on all the time. Like summer camp.

It's infantalizing. And they love it.

The students - whether they know it or not - deserve to be treated like adults. Instead we treat them as though we are worried that they can't handle free time. These are bright and motivated young adults, and we treat them like children. Then we're puzzled when they act down to our expectations.

But I think what concerns me most is how this signals the secondariness of academics. Extracurriculars, internships, community service, even leisure take precedence over academics. Now I am a big fan of all these things, but I think there's a really valuable lesson that we're not teaching the students: life is choices. If you want to be on the school paper, write a novel, be in a band, and serve soup at the homeless shelter, then you've made choices about how you want to spend your time.

But they don't see it that way. I have students frequently say to me something like: "I really want to take this class, but I have lacrosse practice at the same time. Can we set up another time? And you can tell me what I missed?"

Huh? Um, no. You need to make a choice.

But the even more damaging consequence of the perpetual carnival atmosphere is that it makes studying seem, well, boring. The slow and patient and silent work of scholarship can't compete with a carnival--with a constant carnival.

Yeats says it better than I ever could:

How can they know
Truth flourishes where the student's lamp has shone,
And there alone, that have no Solitude?
So the crowd come they care not what may come.
They have loud music, hope every day renewed
And heartier loves; that lamp is from the tomb.

p.s. I had so much fun posting sexy tree poems last week that I created a blog for sexy tree poems! If you think of a sexy tree poem, let me know.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

CFP of the Year

...or of the Apocalypse? I just don't know. Is this irony? Satire? I can't tell anymore.

Call for Papers: Jam
Edited by Lawrence English & Jo Tacchi

What is Jam? How can we understand this cultural and culinary condiment? How does it exist on its own right? Can it exist without attachment, without some form of boundary giving this amorphous blob some understood form and shape?

As a condiment, the notion of jam exists attached to a more solid form - wedged between two pieces of bread or contained within a jar. Its creation (via various processes and transformations from raw material into something consumable, even desirable), housing, marketing and consumption all shape our understanding of this widely used, yet somewhat 'formless' term. Is it through this series of conditions (and many more not noted above) that we understand the ideas of 'jam' - that is, by association? Equally, the term applies to a variety of artistic procedures and situations - from work with sound and visual arts to online applications and a broader 'cultural' application. These are the experiences and conditions of 'jam' and 'jamming' that this issue aims to uncover and explore. Is jamming always underprepared and underdefined in advance?

Ironically, if one 'preserves'
it, can it still be considered 'jam'?

Is there still a currency for this term? Have the popular uses of 'jam' in a cultural, musical and art setting rendered it less effective? How might it be reinvigorated and where does the future path of jam potentially lie? Submit your essays of 1000-1500 words in length to the editors at


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

We Are No Tyrant, But a Christian King

So sayeth King Henry the Fifth, lately Prince Hal.

Prince Hal was a wild youth, breaking laws and raising hell, and using his father's position as king to keep (mostly) out of trouble.

Remind you of anyone?

In order to continue their profiteering on the government nickel, his advisers encourage the anxious-to-prove-himself King to go to invade another country on some feeble pretext.

Remind you of anything?

The funny thing about Henry V is that if you look at it one way, it's a triumphalist account of military victory (the Olivier movie). If you look at it another way, it's the story of an immature and impulsive man playacting his way through a job that's somewhat beyond his capabilities (the Branaugh movie): the story of a man whose single greatest qualifications for the job are that: his dad had it before him and people like him because he seems like "one of the guys."

Either way you read it, though, the play is about the power of rhetoric. King Henry is adept at hitting all the hot buttons: God, country, manhood, brotherhood. Who wants to be against these things? But I don't think that anyone in the play, Henry and his advisors included, could really tell you what the justification for war is. For the weather or the battle of Agincourt.

Well, it's against the French - so maybe the reason speaks itself.

Cry God for England, Harry, and St. George.

We band of suckers.