Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Germany? 1930s?

It is sinister. Dark skies and a stormy ocean. An announcer warning against a nation in hard times turning to (or is that overtaken by) an unknown leader who has experienced a "quick rise to power." "Rise to power" -- what a frightening and evocative phrase. It makes one think of dictators and kings. What are you thinking about? Germany? 1930s?

Wrong, it is the latest McCain ad. "Rise to Power" must be in honor of Halloween. It reminds me of the TV ad for I do not know what product that has the baby who made enough money to hire his own clown. He says he had underestimated the creepiness. I have always regarded clowns as creepy. On the other hand, I did not realize that a political ad could be creepy. Not, at least since the hydrogen bomb was shown just behind fair-haired Sue in 1964.

To me, Rise to Power goes right to the top or bottom along with both the anti Goldwater ad of the sixties and Willie Horton.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Support for the Sarah Voters

Today I voted in Florida. The act of voting here increases the probability that your vote will count

But to the topic of this post:

No I do not support her. I have already stated that to me Sarah Palin is like 10,000 finger nails scraping along a black board or 1000 cars with mega basses tuned up to brain damage level surrounding me at a stop light. And, I still think her selection is one of the all time most cynical political acts I have witnessed. Really, it is like John "I am so Mad" McCain has told the American voters what he thinks of them and it isn't a good thing and they have taken it as a compliment. (But is it cynical if he is right?)

But the Sarah voters have earned your respect if they vote for her just because they like her. Does that put personal comfort ahead of the welfare of the country? Yes but who cares? Or more specifically don't complain if it is what you do. I have witnessed many many faculty votes and discussions about hiring, tenure, promotion, and salary in which the likability factor dominated. Questionable teaching, borderline scholarship, and concerns about law school stakeholders are ignored or explained away if the candidate is likable enough.

If this were a Budweiser radio commercial I can hear the "real men of genius" theme playing and the salute to those who vote for friends beginning. Right there along with "rolling cooler roller man" and "scoreboard marriage proposal man."

And now the best news of all. Many law professors have something else in common not just with the Sarah voters but with Sarah herself. Yes, it appears her family vacations are timed when she is on "state business" and, guess what, the whole family goes on the state's tab. Does this reflect a sharing of principles that could finally convince some law professors to move over to the Sarah column?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Is the Dachshund a Working Class Dog?

I always thought so. I mean how could any self respecting elitist own a dachshund when he or she could have a golden retriever. Or maybe the working class dog is really a tiny poodle.

Now I have to rethink the dachshund after reading this Don Burness Poem from Brutal as All Olympics Are.

The Meaning of Life

The painter Bonnard knew
Picasso and Andy Warhol knew
Henry James knew
Dorothy Parker knew
P.G. Wodehouse knew
E.B. White knew
Queen Victoria surely knew
And I know
and I taught my students
that the meaning of life
the dachshund!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Bitter Hearts: Stephen Crane and Donald Burness

One of my favorite poems is by Stephen Crane:

The Heart by Stephen Crane

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.

I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter - bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.

Somehow when a friend who always prefers not to be mentioned by name referred me to this poem about academics, I thought of the Crane poem. This one is by Donald Burness and can be found in his collection, Brutal Like All Olympics Are.


gnathonic toads infesting fleas
this is the tribe of my enemies
joyless drones self-righteous frauds
they honor each other with false applause
jealous knaves consumed by hate
ever eager to extirpate
dull lifeless they cannot soar
on winds of dancing metaphors
what a paltry pathetic thing
to honor Mediocrity as your king
and when the king lets out a fart
they love the smell with all their heart
I wish them scrofulous days ahead
and may they rightly be remembered
as zeros when they're dead

Burness is angry about the people he dealt with in academia. I do not feel nearly as strongly in part because to be that bitter you have to take them seriously. And, for my taste his brush is too broad. Still, for anyone in the college teaching business, things like "false applause," "joyless drones," "Self-righteous frauds," and "mediocrity as your king," must ring some bells.