Monthly Archives: May 2008

Third World

Now it costs exactly twice as much to buy a tank of gas for my car than it did six years ago when I bought it – or more precisely, when I was given it. While filling it up I was approached by a respectable looking man who proceeded to sell me two bottles of Cuervo Black Medallion for $10 each, which is half price, and threw in a twelve pack of paper towels for good measure. He was doing this for gas money, as he had no cash or cards. Initially I wondered whether it were a scam – was this counterfeit tequila, or had it perhaps been poisoned? Then I thought of the countries where everyone is constantly selling something and decided no, it was just the informal economy at work as formal markets decline. As I have been saying since 1981 when I had my most important research insight ever (and should therefore have changed my major to ECON), I think the US is going to be a marginal economy and BRIC will be stronger.



Filed under News

Military Rape Awareness Day

May 30 is International Military Rape Awareness Day! Read the post from WoC PhD and its links! Also at WoC PhD, do not miss these important interviews of Jeremy Scahill. Finally, I have fallen off lately in my New Year’s Resolution to see more films, I would like to see Standard Operating Procedure.

Update: WoC PhD has gone private. Scahill’s eight important interviews are, however, available elsewhere, as is information on IMRAD. I will post links as I am able.



Filed under Movement, News

John McCain Fact Sheet

10 things you should know about John McCain (but probably don’t):

  1. John McCain voted against establishing a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Now he says his position has “evolved,” yet he’s continued to oppose key civil rights laws.1
  2. According to Bloomberg News, McCain is more hawkish than Bush on Iraq, Russia and China. Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan says McCain “will make Cheney look like Gandhi.”2
  3. His reputation is built on his opposition to torture, but McCain voted against a bill to ban waterboarding, and then applauded President Bush for vetoing that ban.3
  4. McCain opposes a woman’s right to choose. He said, “I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned.”4
  5. The Children’s Defense Fund rated McCain as the worst senator in Congress for children. He voted against the children’s health care bill last year, then defended Bush’s veto of the bill.5
  6. He’s one of the richest people in a Senate filled with millionaires. The Associated Press reports he and his wife own at least eight homes! Yet McCain says the solution to the housing crisis is for people facing foreclosure to get a “second job” and skip their vacations.6
  7. Many of McCain’s fellow Republican senators say he’s too reckless to be commander in chief. One Republican senator said: “The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He’s erratic. He’s hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.”7
  8. McCain talks a lot about taking on special interests, but his campaign manager and top advisers are actually lobbyists. The government watchdog group Public Citizen says McCain has 59 lobbyists raising money for his campaign, more than any of the other presidential candidates.8
  9. McCain has sought closer ties to the extreme religious right in recent years. The pastor McCain calls his “spiritual guide,” Rod Parsley, believes America’s founding mission is to destroy Islam, which he calls a “false religion.” McCain sought the political support of right-wing preacher John Hagee, who believes Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for gay rights and called the Catholic Church “the Antichrist” and a “false cult.”9
  10. He positions himself as pro-environment, but he scored a 0—yes, zero—from the League of Conservation Voters last year.10

For footnotes and information on sources, go to the original site.



Filed under Da Whiteman, News

On Shakespeare

Every professor of literature must eventually write a post on Shakespeare, so this is mine. A friend left teaching because he was tired of explaining things to people. I do not at all mind explaining things to students, but I am definitely tired of explaining things to faculty.

One of the things I routinely explain – I am tired of explaining it – is that García Márquez is far from the only modern Spanish American novelist, and that he did not learn everything he knows from Faulkner. No, he has read many other books, some of them in Spanish, and a serious graduate student would recognize that many of these books are in fact intertexts of García Márquez’ work. They might actually want to be aware of this, I intone, before venturing into the broad world as a García Márquez scholar.

There are those who believe me on this issue, but they are a minority. Now I have confused everyone by, Marxist anti-colonial feminist that I am, defending Shakespeare to the postmodernists, theorists, Cultural Studies experts, folklorists, and devotees of paraliterary genres by claiming that Shakespeare was theoretically agile, varied like a postmodern corpus (after all, it is unclear whether he was actually the author of his texts), and heavily engaged with the folk, popular and mass cultures of his time.

I further suggested that modern Shakespearean scholars are unlikely to feel threatened by “canon revision” and may in fact be quite interested in it. I also implied that Shakespeareans were not necessarily conservatives, although I would not have a problem with hiring one who was.

I disoriented everyone by not appearing to be in a camp on this issue, and especially, I think, by saying I would be open to hiring a conservative. I think I clearly am in a camp – the camp which believes in preserving a modicum of historical accuracy. Thus I am not postmodern, or at least, I am not a vulgar postmodern (now, had I said that, I would have actually made them mad).

I am behind the times, over thirty and not to be trusted, but I have a strong suspicion I am right on the nature of Shakespeare and Shakespeareans, although I barely read either of them, I am sorry to say. What do you think? Am I becoming a terrible pedant?



Filed under What Is A Scholar?

On Graduate School

I liked college and graduate school, and I like them even more in retrospect since the behavior of some faculty at places I have been since has been so poor. Yet I have friends from college and even graduate school who use words like “trauma” and “gulag” to refer to our alma mater. I would never have said that and I suppose it means I am tough – something I have been told before and not understood, but which I understand now.

When I was in graduate school, many people were up in arms because in their view, the program did not “professionalize” us enough. This was not my experience or my view, in terms of gaining knowledge, practical savvy, information, and skills. Except that we, or at least I, did not learn to expect to be a professor, or to think of ourselves as future professors.

It was a given that one’s academic career would end with the Ph.D., since there were no jobs. It was perhaps for this reason that some of my advisors did not deem it necessary that one think of oneself as a professional or develop a research program one could take seriously. That is why I have a penchant for these issues now in graduate education.

This is perhaps the random fault of random people in my subfield, because I did learn to publish in graduate school. Taking course after required course outside my field of interest and writing competent seminar papers, the professors would say work on this, ask me questions if you need to, and send it off. I learned how to get things ready and publish them, but at the same time I was learning to continue to write for others, as another, not as myself.

My dissertation director did not think it expedient to consider what one really wanted to do and how one really wanted to define oneself. One should simply pick a topic in which one had some background and write something internally consistent. It did not matter whether this was well researched or not, because the point was not that one had an academic future but that one was running out of T.A. time. One needed to produce something readable which would take up a ream of paper and thus at least get one’s degree before retiring to one’s next career … or so was “practicality” presented to me.

This was years ago, when the in state students were not considered as bright as the imports with Ivy League B.A.’s and women were not expected to go on the job market in a serious way. It was at a large institution where many people really did get bogged down at the dissertation level and really did need to make a decision and get something done, and where the professors were overloaded with hordes of students – even graduate students came in hordes. These things, I think, explain the phenomenon, at least to a large extent. What do you think?



Filed under What Is A Scholar?

Another Serious Question

When my dedicated colleague retires, which is sure to happen soon, what should I do about the honor society? I cannot stand it, I cannot tolerate organizations whose names are comprised of Greek letters, and the initiation ceremony is genuinely Fascist.

As it is the party must be held in my house, as my house is interesting and close to campus. This means I have to spend a day cleaning and shopping – the President is always unreliable – and so I lose both Research and Class Preparation, and I feel Resentment.

Then the initiates show up, perfumed, dressed, twice my height and full of estrogen and although normally I am the most youthful and energetic person in the room, I am no longer, and I feel overwhelmed.

Then the parents appear, waitresses, postmen, cab drivers, all dressed to the nines, they did not graduate from high school and now they are going to their child’s initiation into an honor society in college, and I relent.

Then we have the ceremony, and the hors-d’oeuvres, and then everyone but the coolest faculty and students leave, and we have dinner, and it is the best meeting of the year.

Every time this happens I go through the same spectrum of moods. And I am terrified: since my party is always so good, am I designated to be the next advisor of the honor society? I cannot face it alone.

What should I do? Should I force someone else to be the designated advisor, offering to still hold the party at my house, and promising to bite that bullet?



Filed under Banes, Da Whiteman, What Is A Scholar?

A Serious Question

In the last quarter my TIAA-CREF retirement fund sustained another net loss. I do not live in a state which pays into Social Security, so this is my only retirement fund. Since I am theoretically a young person I have the funds allocated to relatively, although not outrageously high risk enterprises. I have recently had these adjusted to my very best advantage by a very sophisticated computer. I was glad to discover that I could retire at age 75 with enough money to live on until age 93.

But I think the economy is tanking permanently and if I had a choice, I would not have money in stocks. I would have it in land, gold, gas wells, and most importantly, underground lakes full of fresh, unpolluted water and the purest of algae and fish. Because in practice, the weak stock market may just gnaw at it our retirement until it is gone – do you think?  The financial advisors will say to trust the market to rise again, but does this apply? Or in other words, is the economy tanking permanently?



Filed under Juegos, Questions

An Unusual Professor?

A friend tells me I am an unusual professor because, although I am research oriented and work at a research institution, I care about undergraduate education. I see his point but I wonder, is it really true?

1. I do not feel that I care about lower division instruction. It does matter to me, and I think it presents interesting problems and that it is very important, but I do not think I care about it. I wonder if he sees something I do not.

2. I know lots of institutions which do not care about undergraduate education, but I know lots of research oriented people with the best degrees, credentials and publications who do care about it.

What is true?



Filed under Questions, What Is A Scholar?

The Sanctuary

A friend writes that The Sanctuary is “a new community online that is pro-migrant, pro-humanity, pro-social justice, but mostly a safe space for those of us on the left who do not find the solidarity and priority of human rights (for all) in the mainstream blogosphere that we would like. The right—namely the extreme right—has hijacked the debate on immigration and rendered it hateful and ineffective. Even in many friendly spaces, we cannot count on others to maintain a sane and human environment in which to organize, share information, stories, and discuss this issue so crucial to us as a nation and a race (the human race). It has been sorely needed.

“We are not powerful or rich or important people, but we are very committed and we have taken matters into our own hands to do this, to create this environment. We have been working on this concept since last year, in one form or another, and finally we are just about ready. . . . Our strength will rely on our passion and numbers, and I want to pass along the invite to you. Please do not hesitate to sign up now, to add the feed, to post your own diaries. (Hey, you know a few of the editors well, I bet! Juice, vat@.)”
Please participate, it is important.



Filed under Movement

Merrily Going ‘Round

I am arguing endlessly with my youngest brother on the topic of race and I want to give up. I want to say:

Dear C., While I know you are a mixed Creole, and I know you want everyone to recognize you as such, I also know that where you are living, most people do not know about mixed Creoles and will just see you as African-American. I cannot really fault them for that, nor can I blame African-Americans from around the country who may feel that your identity as a mixed Creole is a mere affectation or an effort to flee from Blackness. There are historical reasons for their reaction. Let them be. Love, Z.

That is a very simple message but of course it is not so simple. I think we are arguing about race because really we are arguing about something else but we do not know its name.


He also thinks that a national education system, as they have in parts of Europe, would cure American ignorance. I say that NCLB is the tenor of any national education system we could get, that the use of metrics for assessment and the proliferation of high stakes exit examinations is already increasing, and that if we got more of one it probably would not be allowed to teach the theory of evolution. I further say that it is not the education system which is the root problem, there are many roots, as in a Deleuzian rhizome, and they include capitalism, slavery and post-slavery, xenophobia, and the corporate media. I cannot say these things to him because I can argue better than he can, and it will become oppressive. So I am talking back here.



Filed under Banes, News, Theories