Friday, April 04, 2003

Noooooooooooo! (Pause, Deep Breath.) Noooooooooooooooo!

In an example that chaos theory is alive and well, the commencement speaker for NCSU will be (drumroll please) Phil Donahue.

Collective campus response: head-scratching, followed by "The Hell?"

NC State is best known for engineering and ag science. This has what to do with a Notre Dame alum and random sensitive yankee man? If your answer to that question is "nothing that I can think of," you win a prize.

I words. Too random.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

America. Bringing the Sexy Since 1776.

Via Andrew Sullivan:

What, the man was asked, did he hope to see now that the Baath Party had been driven from power in his town? What would the Americans bring? "Democracy," the man said, his voice rising to lift each word to greater prominence. "Whiskey. And sexy!"

Oh, Sorry Tina. Didn't See You There.

Though I can't imagine why not, since she's trying soooo very hard to remain relevant in the face of all sorts of proof to the contrary. This diminutive loud mouthed catty Ted Turner wannabe manages to stun the world again with her latest screed, which demonstrates both her amazingly tenacious self-absorption and her complete lack of understanding of anyone or anything who isn't Tina Brown.

First, the gratuitous "It's all about me, dahlings!" moment:

"No doubt the Bush White House has its own good reasons to feel cross with me, but scheduling Operation Shock and Awe to begin precisely at the moment of my new CNBC TV show seems a little excessive."

Yeah, Tina. Operative words here are "CNBC TV show", as if anyone anywhere would be watching it, or would know who the hell you were even if they did stumble across it. Oh, I see, it's supposed to be a joke--poking some humble fun at your inflated sense of self-worth. Hmm. Doesn't work, mainly because anyone who's ever read anything by you knows that you're not REALLY joking. Whatever.

More random ramblings designed to demonstrate that she understands the "little people"--what, she had a conversation about the weather with a doorman once in 2000? I'm sure you have your finger on the pulse of America, Tina. As this demonstrates:

“If only Tony Blair were President” is still the prevailing feeling among Americans, whatever they feel about the war. It’s only a matter of weeks before Bush starts to become seriously jealous of Saint Tony’s press. He is already put out by Blair’s insistence on the importance of the UN in postwar Iraq.

Umm, no. I love Tony Blair for standing by us, but I doubt he would have spearheaded the effort to get rid of Hussein, since he's more UN friendly than we. And although jealousy and image supercede all other factors in your little world, I doubt Bush is jealous of Blair. And he's "put out" with the UN, not Blair, because the UN has consistently demonstrated itself to be hypocritical, irrelevant, and self-interested. But like they say, it's difficult to see your own faults in others, so I'm not surprised you missed those salient points.

And finally, this foray into the bizarro world of Shakespearean tragedy viewed through the lens of current events:

Blair’s complex nobility makes us feel that he is on his way to being a tragic figure, which is something Bush could never be. When they appear side by side at press conferences the disparity in quality is almost painful. There is something dense and taciturn about Bush even when he’s being charming. He has the damped-down anger of the dry drunk. When he’s not scripted, his bald answers seem to be covering up ulterior motives. His true motives are private and his own and he will tell us only whatever it takes to mollify us. He is the embodiment of a crack Eleanor Roosevelt made when a friend pressed to know what FDR thought about an issue: “The President doesn’t think. He decides.”

Could someone please explain what the hell the "damped-down anger of the dry drunk" is supposed to mean, except to remind us that Bush was in rehab? Do you truly mean to suggest that W. would be happier if he were an alcoholic? That he just needs a Budweiser and suddenly all the messy world events that coincidentally pre-empted your TV show would vanish? Have you been hanging out with Mark Morford?

Additionally, I kind of like folks who make decisions, and seeing as that's a president's JOB, I can't get behind your smugness here, Teen. Nor do I think it's a bad thing for a president to be a little more emotionally reserved than say, Phil Donahue. I guess your complaint is that W. doesn't make good TV. So sorry. Maybe next time we'll elect a president who makes a point of emoting all over each national "event" to demonstrate that he "feels our pain"--oh, wait. Been there, done that. Didn't work out too well; ended up parsing the meaning of "is" on national TV and bombing an aspirin factory. Not exactly King Lear, but I guess you can't have everything.

The sad thing is that the size of this column in inches is probably 8 or 10 times greater than Tina Brown's emotional or intellectual depth. But TV is a two-dimensional medium, so I can see why she fits right in.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Can You Hear Me Now? You Can? Oh, Nuts.

So I've been thinking--a dangerous pastime, I know--about love and war and death and taxes and education and health insurance and politics and what I'm going to eat for lunch today because I've only got $2 in my pocket and I'm really tired of soup, and I have realized a few important things. The main thing is that all this thinking makes my head kind of hurt, but that should be obvious and in any case, isn't really my point.

I'm a ranter by nature. Little things build up, I vent, fume and spew, then I'm fine. My blood pressure routinely stays around 80/60, so either I HAD a heart attack years ago and died and my body hasn't figured it out yet, or the volcano approach to self-expression seems to work for me. And I really only get worked up about little non-personal things; I tend to be able to deal rationally with stuff like car accidents and medical emergencies while losing it completely over ill-worded signage at the local Wal-Mart.

I think it's a control issue. Car accidents and medical emergencies are out of my control, for the most part. They're things that just happen sometimes, regardless of how careful and prepared I am, and I'd better accept that reality and move the hell on. But the little things, like that sign--well, they piss me off because they ARE controllable, and folks should know better. Someone was sloppy and muddied communication was the result.

Words are controllable and controlling--this has been done to death, so just think "Orwell" here, and move on. There is no excuse for sloppy language, particularly when the sloppiness is intentional. I started this blog because I found humor in the ways professors routinely use 43 words where two will do, usually in the interest of making their ideas appear weightier. But now it's starting to lose some of its humor, mainly because in posting their words I've done what I never did in college--started paying attention to them. And a lot of times, the thinking behind these writings isn't merely wrongheaded, dated, obscure and muddled, it's dangerous and damaging.

The funny part is, these profs are so accustomed to either having their colleagues skim their work because everyone is so inundated with poor language that it's no longer worth the effort to fight through the copious prose in search of meaning, or being rubber stamped as "right-thinking" and reflexively praised, that when they are finally called on their opinions they freak out. Case in point: DeGenova, whose idiot blather and subsequent spin and disappearing act point to the fact that true academic inquiry and debate must be dead. If DeGenova honestly had a clue about the reception of his speech, I doubt he would have made it. At the very least (one would hope), he would have tempered or controlled his language. He is a pure product of the insulated, self-congratulatory professoriate, so involved in ginning up masses of words and catchphrases for the approbation of his peers that he no longer understands what those words mean to the unindoctrinated.

Further proof: the organizer's attempt to spin the whole thing as a wacko conspiracy. Well sure, if by conspiracy you mean a whole bunch of people who you regularly hang out with, talk to, and whose papers you read and sometimes edit for publication. The reality is everyone else up there was expressing similar ideas; DeGenova's problem was that for once in his life, his language was straightforward and his meaning was crystal clear.

Sloppy communication is annoying and sometimes amusing, sure, but it's also a tool whereby unacceptable opinions can fly below the radar of the public. Is it a conspiracy? No, it's just an academic culture thing. Me, I'm all for more teach-ins whereby this crap can come to light. Well, that and Wal-Mart employees who can spell. But that's a rant for another day.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

You Suck, Edward Said

Here's a fun quote (via Campus Watch):

Edward Said, university professor, calls the U.S. policy in Iraq a "grotesque show" perpetrated by a "small cabal" of unelected individuals who hijacked U.S. policy. He accuses "George Bush and his minions" of hiding their imperialist grab for "oil and hegemony" under a false intent to build democracy and human rights.

Said deems Operation Iraqi Freedom "an abuse of human tolerance and human values" waged by an "avenging Judeo-Christian god of war." This war, he says, fits into a larger pattern of America "reducing whole peoples, countries and even continents to ruin by nothing short of holocaust."

Look on the mindless parrotting of unproven tropes, ye mighty, and despair! Let's just count them up, shall we?

1. The amazing "unelected" myth. Yawn. Check out US History, as well as every paid and unpaid recount from 2000. This idea only survives among professional nutjob conspiracy theorists, race baiting rabble rousers, and those with no actual intellectual might. Which one might Mr. Said be? You can pick more than one, in case you were wondering.

2. Oil and hegemony together again! I'm thinking we need a corollary to Godwin's law just for the War on Terror--the Hegemony Corollary. It should hold that anyone using the word hegemony in reference to US Government has already lost their argument, just because they've demonstrated a complete lack of independent thought. The word is often overused in Post-Colonial studies, and its meaning runs the gamut from "evildoing white people" to "evildoing white people," no matter the context or the actual definition of hegemony. Same thing goes for "imperialism," as if only democratic societies can be imperialistic and there never was a Caliphate. Perhaps Mr. Said means that only successful cultures are capable of imperialism? Maybe we should ask him, just to watch his tiny head explode.

3. The Avenging Judeo-Christian god of war. Wow, he sure knows a lot about my religion, doesn't he? And history, too! Why, just this past century America was involved in a Holocaust. No, wait, that was Germany. Well, then we were being all imperial--no wait, that was Japan! Well, I'm sure we were involved somehow--oh, right. We fought AGAINST those things. Such an easy mistake to make, particularly if you're distracted by visions of hegemonic crusaders intent on feeding oil to babies before sacrificing them to Jesus...wait, something's not quite right there. Well, that would require thinking instead of knee-jerk hate spew, and we high minded intellectuals are simply too busy for piffle such as facts.

Edward, your sustained years of raging against the machine are taking their toll and you're finally coming completely unglued. While it's fun to watch, I'm thinking we should remove all sharp objects from your room for a while. Here's a nice crayon--why don't you go draw a diagram of hegemony on that soft, padded wall?
I am So Proud

To live in North Carolina, especially since our state motto has been changed to "You Want Fries With That?"

Yes, unfortunate denizens of the not-Carolina, tremble before the intestinal fortitude of our citizenry! And you, drive-thru workers of the world, realize that you cannot stand against the force of our redneck fry munching army! When we say curly fries we mean it, dammit! And don't quibble about the fact that we may have eaten some of the substandard potato product you first gave us. Just hand over the curly fries, and no one gets hurt. We are a strong people, and we require our carbohydrates. Do not thwart us. You will regret it.

Monday, March 31, 2003

Things That Make Me Laugh

If you ignore the fact that the laughter is a little unnaturally high pitched and kinda maniacal, when you get right down to it...

This online colloquy from the Chronicle on whether or not a professor should be terminated for lying about his credentials. As expected, discussion devolved into parsing the nuances of the unfairness of demanding qualifications from those esoteric artist types. Reality was inserted by, of all people, a grad student. See, we probably should determine different standards for folks in creative programs, but that's not the point here. He lied. It's wrong. Penalty paid, he'll move on. The "funny" part is that everyone's scratching their heads lately about rampant academic cheating, but no one seems to notice that when authority figures have to debate the merits of dismissing someone for falsifying their credentials (or cheating, not to put too fine a point on it) it might have an effect on campus culture generally. See? Funny! hahaha!

Or this little item (via Erin O'Connor) about how easy it is to purify a campus from all hate crimes--why, you just stifle speech and reprogram dissenters! Why hasn't anyone ever thought of that before? How very droll! Haahaaahaa!

And guess what! That new pneumonia? Why, turns out it's a lot deadlier and easier to spread than anyone thought! Know what else? China wasn't entirely honest about the extent of the epidemic! Those wacky commies! Guess the joke's on us! HAAAAAHAAAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAAAA!

Whoo! Nothing gets your heart racing and your head pounding like a good laugh. Or maybe that's an anxiety attack. Hard to tell the difference, lately.