the e-coli
volume II, number 1
may 2001

Contents

Editorial
In the Beginning Was the Word
Pisanus Fraxi

Feature Articles
From Hemlock to Cosmetics: Philosophy Comes of Age in the 21 Century
Anne Leavitt

Confessions of a Grub Street Rhymester
Ian Johnston


Poetry
Poems
Richard Arnold


Miscellaneous
Malaspina People, Places, and What Not



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In the Beginning Was the Word
Proctalgia Fugax

Cut through all the official and officious attitudinizing of mission statements and ruminations of educational big wigs, and you recognize that the reason universities exist has, at bottom, to do with language.  We are the guardians of the language of the tribe, charged with initiating its young into the correct use of the language of their choice.  That makes every campus something of a battle ground, where rival proselytizers duke it out over the right use of words, the language most appropriate to the students' future happiness and utility and to our departmental enrolments.

Why should this be?  Well, it all goes back, in large part, to the origins of language and writing.  These origins, some people say, are complex and obscure.  Not so, as Nashe points out in his last word on the subject, The History of Writing, where Winter tells how the great god Hermes

Weary with graving in blind characters
And figures of familiar beasts and plants,
Invented letters to write lies withall.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
After each nation got these toys in use,
There grew up certain drunken parasites,
Termed poets, which, for a meal's meat or two,
Would promise monarchs immortality.
Next them, a company of ragged knaves,
Sun-bathing beggars, lazy hedge creepers,
Sleeping face upwards in the fields all night,
Dreamed strange devices of the sun and moon;
And they, like Gypsies, wandering up and down,
Told fortunes, juggled, nicknam'd all the stars,
And were of idiots termed philosophers.

Since then the poets and philosophers have been at it, contesting the authority of each other's language.  The first university of all, Plato's Academy, was founded mainly to attack poetic metaphor, in other words, to clean up the language totally corrupted by all those epic rhapsodists and competing tragedians.  The main method of instruction required bright young men to hurl spit balls loaded up with Socratic ironies at the enigmatic bust of Homer on a table in the front.  Wine dark sea, indeed!  Take that! 

Over time, for all their own reliance on metaphors, the philosophers drove the poets out of the universities, so they could debate serious matters in prose, focusing on relevant sober issues like the question "How many angels can dance on a pinhead?" or (the most staggering advance over medieval scholasticism in modern times) the question "In how many senses can an angel be said to dance upon the head of a pin?"  Philosophy engendered natural science and variously misnamed disciplines (like Social Science, Library Science, Computer Science, Health Science), and so for poetical souls, the university became a place where it was apparently difficult to kick against the philosophical pricks.

But the poetry never died on Parnassus.  It lingered on and in recent times thrived in the ambitious breasts of, among others, Humanities professors, who, faced with their growing irrelevance in the power structure of the research granting agencies, lay on the lower slopes diddling themselves in the moonlight, pouring over the stained pages of the ultimate wanker, Friedrich Nietzsche, who assured them all that everything was really metaphor and thus they were all cutting-edge Uebermenschen, fit to crank up Beethoven and invade Poland at the head of the postmodern hordes.

So while there may not be much poetry in the classroom, there's lots of it pouring out surreptitiously in obscure campus publications.  Wannabe deans channel their enthusiasm for James Dickey's Deliverance into cryptic poems about mountain men doing naughty things to strangers in the woods or motel rooms, composition teachers print off handsome numbered limited editions of justly forgotten verse duly autographed, magic realists muse in iambics about sand patterns on the beach or the ontological significance of fish heads, Laytonesque layabouts strut from bed to verse in a rhetorical celebration of their own members.  In their spare time between marking reams of inept student prose, tiny imagists, confessional sufferers, roaring polemicists, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all pour their imaginative energies into poetry.

You wonder why they bother.  The rewards, like their reading public, are miniscule.  Recognition comes, if at all, in the strangest mutual admiration event of all, the poetry reading, where, to polite applause, those who lack any training in public rhetoric stammer through a recitation of a work written to be read in silence.   Maybe it's all a reflex protest against the total dominance of language answering to Aristotelian logic.  As a common ritual, the poetry reading may small, warm, and friendly.  But it's odd, decidedly odd.  

Traditionally, poetry readings end with an exodus to a nearby watering hole, where the Muses' darlings trade stories and derogatory comments about absent comrades.  That's usually the most interesting part of the evening, as the alcohol takes over.  My initiation into these rituals came in Prince George, at the Inn of the North, in those days when the RCMP kept a constable stationed in the ceiling to spy out the dope dealers.  At some point everyone round the table was heatedly arguing about who had the largest testicles.  Then Al Purdy stood up, dropped his pants, and emphatically ended all debate.  Even the Muses gasped in admiration..

At any rate, perhaps because of such epiphanies, poetry is all over the colleges, in the heart of the philosophical enterprise.  And that's why, in this issue of E. Coli, we focus on that theme of poetry and philosophy, the ancient antagonists.  We offer here an article bringing us up to date with modern philosophy, some poems written by a resident English instructor, and some thoughts of a Grub Street academician who likes to walk his doggerel.  Enjoy.

Procalgia Fugax
Editor in Chief


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From Hemlock to Cosmetics:
Philosophy Comes of Age in the 21st Century

by
a philosophical lady
(who denies being from the Maritimes)

The first . . . to call himself a philosopher [lover of wisdom] was Pythagoras.  "For no one," he said, "is wise [sophos] except god."  (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, i. 12)

In 399 BCE, the philosopher Socrates was condemned to death by his fellow citizens.  His crime:    impiety and the corruption of the youth of Athens.  He wasn't the first philosopher to land himself in this kind of trouble, nor was he the last. 

But things have certainly changed.  Nowadays, everyone has her own philosophy and, judging by the number and variety of books found in the philosophy sections of all the half-decent bookstores, one might even conclude that philosophy is an extremely popular commodity.  Poor old Socrates.  If only he'd had the marketing skills, he could have capitalized on his wisdom, written a bestseller and introduced the talk show to Athens.  He could have enjoyed free meals in the town hall for life, lazily sipping his wine, and never touched so much as a drop of poison hemlock.

I must confess, however, to having had mixed feelings about the current state of philosophical affairs.  It's gratifying to know that the practice of my discipline no longer  brings with it the threat of exile, death or imprisonment but rather a salary, a fixed (if meager) professional development allowance and a pension.  But I have found it hard to explain what I do to earn all the perks of my position given the virtually universal practice of philosophy outside the academy. 

Until yesterday.  Yesterday I got a call from a colleague in the Geology Department.  Over the years, she has phoned periodically to ask me to justify the presence of paid philosophers on the campus.  I have tried my best without much success.  Little did I know that it would be my rock-hound friend herself who would provide the justification when she asked about the web site that had inspired her call.

www.philosophy.com <http://www.philosophy.com> is a site that requires no geological skills to access, no digging through sedimentary layers of links, no drilling into the depths of the World Wide Web.  Just type "philosophy" into the MSN search engine and there it is, ranked number one out of the ten most popular sites on philosophy.  And it's really something.

It covers all the bases:  metaphysics, aesthetics, ethics, epistemology and logic.  Graphically pleasing, easy to navigate, each page is introduced by a concise and clear formulation of  a central philosophical issue:  "What is real?  Does each event have a cause and effect?" (metaphysics); "What do we mean when we say something is beautiful?" (aesthetics); "How do we know what we know?" (epistemology).  The unique contribution of the site, however,  is best captured in its formulation of the central question of  logic: "What is reasonable and unreasonable when it comes to skin care?" 

Philosophy, you see, is no longer a practice that could get one in a great deal of trouble;  it is no longer an obscure discipline practiced by eccentrics in the hallowed halls of the academy.  Philosophy has arrived at the acme of historical progress.  It is now a registered trademark.  Philosophy® is the name of a line of  cosmetics, perfumes, skin-care products and books (exploring the connections between the seven colours of the rainbow and personal well-being)  answering to all the great questions posed by the philosophical tradition for the past 2600 years.  Not convinced?  All Philosophy® products come with a money-back guarantee.

I don't know why I was surprised.  I am, after all, what used to be called an historian of philosophy.  How I could have over-looked the history of Philosophy® after years of research, I don't know.  But this history is not only plain to see,  it offers an important lesson for the modern academy. 

It begins, of course, where one might expect it to begin, with a bunch of bare-footed guys in sheets who broke with traditional wisdom and insisted that, before you believed something that someone told you, it should be verifiable on the grounds of some publicly accessible experience and it should be non-contradictory.  They tried to account for the movements of the heavenly bodies, for why certain geometrical propositions were always true, and they had a few things to say about humans and how they might live in accordance with the way things are.  When their students used this stuff against the wisdom of their elders, the philosophers got in trouble.

The Christians (and later the Moslems) were kinder.  They found the bits of wisdom gleaned by the pagan philosophical tradition useful in buttressing their faith and in defending their beliefs to others.  The baptism of the likes of Plato and Aristotle did much to make the world safe for philosophy.  But not enough.  The philosophers of the 17th century,  feeling constrained by the terms of the baptismal sacrament, devised the New, earthly, Jerusalem setting up the framework of the modern scientific and technological enterprise.  They bought their way out of public recrimination for impiety with promises to deliver the goods for a better life here on earth.  Philosophy has always been at the forefront, the Queen of the Sciences.

Yet, even as the natural philosophers turned their backs on their origins by moving their offices into the Science and Tech area and disavowing all connection with the past, a remnant remained, desperately insisting that wisdom could not simply be equated with mathematical precision and statistical prediction.  The students of the academy waited with bated breath to see if the remnant would be consigned to the dust-bin of natural selection.  It was Nietzsche who, believing he'd blown the whistle on the limited perspective of the natural philosophers for once and for good, unwittingly gave the burgeoning capitalist world its most delightful gift - the shop of values and the choice of lifestyle.  Soon, everyone had his own philosophy.   And, by the last century (the one just past) Queen Philosophy was not only safe, as the tentacles of Derrida spread through the academy, she reigned through post-modern thought.  What Nietzsche had offered unwittingly, his epigones, with help from the Ford Foundation, promulgated with glee.

Philosophy®  marks the end of a long journey, the journey of the philosophical tradition in its quest to make the world safe for philosophy.  Before the tradition could reach its acme, however, its quarreling children - the useful, precise natural and social scientists, and the useless, imprecise dreamers - had to be reconciled lest they make the world unsafe for each other.  Philosophy® does just that.  Employing a marketing strategy grounded in the latest demographic research, it promises the best scientifically engineered products needed to satisfy the healthy multi-lifestyle choices of modern men and women whose needs have been cultivated by the tradition itself.

The full history and significance of Philosophy® will take awhile to comprehend.  Historians of philosophy, like myself, will certainly be calling upon the expertise of the Harvard Business School and MIT in order to further our professional development in this exciting new area of research, the importance of which should not be underestimated.  My own limited work in this area indicates that:  Philosophy® had its incipient beginnings in the trial and death of Socrates; its business plan began to take shape when it merged its assets with those of the religious institutions of Christian Rome;  its infrastructure and marketing strategy were put into place beginning in the 17th  century;  though it suffered the alienation of its creative department during this time, the infrastructure allowed later creative employees enough freedom to entice them back into the fold.  The result is that Philosophy® offers a level of security, consolation, edification, public service and profitability never dreamed of by its founders.

In a time when my colleagues in other areas are concerned about such things as the effects of corporate partnerships and sponsorships in the academy, this history should offer a salutary lesson.  Given that the primum mobile of the vast majority of the disciplines at the academy is the primum mobile of philosophy, the trajectory of all those disciplines spawned by philosophy could (with careful research into the Philosophy® model and careful strategic planning) be the same.  There is no need to worry about the corporatisation of the academy when, after all, the acme of the Queen of the Sciences herself is a registered trademark.  The message in this is simple.  Disciplines need not marry or prostitute themselves to corporate interests.  They need only become corporate interests themselves.  Granted, reaching the acme will cause some disruption for some.  I am, for instance, having to re-title my Philosophy 240 course outline "Philosophy® 240", but the inconvenience is not great and the advantages considerable.  For one thing, it no longer concerns me to hear people speak of their "personal philosophies".  I know they'll be checking out our product line.  Given the aid already provided by New Age thinking and post-modern relativism, it shouldn't be too long before "personal geologies" and "personal biologies" are common place.  The question is, will the disciplines be ready?  Carpe diem!

Anne Leavitt, Ph.® D.


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Poetry
Richard Arnold

[Richard Arnold, the English Department's candidate for the revival of the Renaissance man, has taken time off from his scholarly writing, hiking, and motor cycle mechanics to offer us the following lyrics]

Two Haiku

PROFESSOR

An oxfordmoron
plowing plants of poetry
is an old baby.

MIDNIGHT, ENGLISH COMPUTER LAB

Hunting on keyboards
Spiders smell, feel and flee from
Ghosts of ambition.

___________________

A WOLF IN THE CHOIR

Although essentially I hated school,
I had one brilliant outlaw for a teacher.
"When it comes to truth, I'm lazy" he used to say.
"I find it in close-by, ordinary things."

The Literature he showed us was thunderclouds
Swollen like dark cheeks with a prodigious message
In the fearful moments of silence before they open
With tongues of fire to teach the listening earth.

In Economics he taught us the constant debit
Of forests and rivers, the credit of concrete and greenhouse.

Religion we learned by standing in April rain,
Hats off, in silence, seeing it soak the ground.

Politics, he claimed, would quickly go extinct
If we all simply heard the steady song
Our reason sang, then tuned our living to it.

In Music, he'd talk about the genius of Bach—
But weep for joy when he heard the evening grosbeak.

Our Sociology was dropping to hands and knees
On beaches to watch the yellow sand-verbena
Fling its fragrance of sex to pollinators.

The years passed on At last we graduated.
We packed the hall, and our commencement speaker
Talked stagnantly about how noble Science
Was waiting for us to run its budgets of billions
And ride in rockets to learn the universe.

But afterward, shaking his head, our teacher took us
Aside and quietly gave us our last lesson.

                                                     "Science? The universe?
"Ride a fifty-cent bus to the creek and study the eyes
Of a wolf-spider preparing to launch on a cricket."

Then sidled away, hunch-shouldered, almost arachnoid,
Leaving us (our first moult finished) with fledgling fangs
To pierce and suck the truth in uncouth ways.

___________________

FIGHTING WITH WORDS

You learn in English class that in a poem
One thing is sometimes said to be another—
Let me quote an example: "Writing poetry
Is like being in a fight: most of us spend
More time imagining it than doing it."

Flipping the simile, it seems clear that many
Writers and fighters just act, but never think.

Let's blend the images: Some poets are also fighters.

Just yesterday I fought a local bully,
A filthy large man in a checked wool shirt
Smelling of chainsaw oil and weekend beer;
Mad, I guess, because it was Monday, and I
Was mad because my writing was going bad,
Wondering if I would ever get yesses from presses.

He was on his coffee break at the cedar mill,
Smoking stupidly atop a sawdust pile,
And as I pedaled past him from the store
(Where I'd just checked my mail for good replies
But finding none, was in a grizzly mood)
He called me a slacker, challenged me to fight--
I threw my bicycle down and climbed to meet him.

I glanced at the huge ring on his stubby finger
With which he planned to tattoo my left temple;
And when he pulled a greasy chain from his pocket
The air above my head hummed as he swung it.

But I was faster--and having no other weapon
Jabbed my pen hard in his jiggling belly
Then slapped him across his big head with my notebook
(Two pounds, two months of soaked-in ink and rain).

We were fighting on top of a hill, remember?
So he, being fat and full of cloudy hot air,
When I stuck him in the stomach quickly deflated,
Then condensed to tears when my notebook smacked his skull.
He lay in a vast lump moaning on the hilltop,
Sawdust clotted to his body in two places.

After that lightning strike I thundered at him
A parting curse or two, picked up my book,
And went back down, leaving a powerful impression
Of poetry—maybe not in, but on, his brain.


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Confessions of a Grub Street Rhymester
Ian Johnston

There are three main ways to get famous (at least momentarily) with poetry, but only one can bring riches, too.  The first (and most difficult) is to acquire an appropriately conventional lyric style (all bridle and bit with no bloody horse), negotiate the complex system of official competitions, committees of earnest, worthy judges, subsidized publishing houses, and internal politics of the cultural bureaucracy, and, with a bit of luck, walk off with some major prize (a Canada Council, for example).  This route brings, not pots of gold exactly, but a few column millimeters in the Globe and Mail, perhaps an interview on CBC radio, and a personal telegram from the Muses (no e-mail on Olympus).

The second route brings more fame and potentially much larger fortune: turning your lyrical gift to songwriting.  With a few chords, a good beat, and some catchy metaphors, LA beckons, where platinum records gleam and (pace Napster) royalties abound.  Canada's finest poet this century, Joni Mitchell, made this trip from Saskatchewan, so you can, too, if you're prepared to fail (but remember, she did it before MTV).  If you do fail, well, there's always advertising.

Lacking any lyrical gift in an age addicted to imagistic peeling of the psychic onion, I long ago turned my back on these options and chose the third route: public doggerel, especially that style of short thumping lines especially favoured by competitions in certain magazines.  Doggerel is not considered a high art form but it has its devotees, those whose vision of successful verse is crystallized in this seventeenth-century love poem (the author's name escapes me, but he is supposed to have invented cribbage--John Suckling, perhaps?):

Love is the fart
Of every heart.
It pains a man when 'tis kept close,
And pains the world when 'tis let loose.

Not the most subtly nuanced lyric, perhaps, but it has a certain charm all its own for those who like sophomoronic insights delivered with a regular iambic thump and some emphatic rhyme, served with a twist. Anyway, I needed fame, and I had something of a flair for this sort of stuff, I discovered.  So forgetting all the sneers of aesthetes, I eagerly picked up the latest monthly copy of Books in Canada (while it was still free) to check out what the most recent CanWit Contest required.

You see, the contests in this national magazine played to my strong suit, often demanding eccentric little rhymes with a naughty whiff.  Once, for example, they wanted a poetical letter of rejection to a budding artist's manuscript.  No problem.  I scored two entries, the prize-winning one going as follows:

Thank you for Caught in the Shrubbery
We're making good coin from cheap thuggery.
The heroine's charming, her sex life's alarming.
But our public's not ready for buggery.

You get the point.  In a similar vein, I scored again with an limerick entry to a contest requiring a poem in which in every line one word in the first part of the line combined with a word in the second part of the line, but in the reverse order, had to make a complete word (who dreams these up I have no idea):

Cried she, "My pants have gone under.
That buss on the boat was a blunder.
'Till some kind sailing man
Dried my tail on his fan.
Now I'm full of erogenous wonder."

Okay, this is not the cloth out of which one weaves slim Pulitzer Prize winning volumes.  But as a short cut to some momentary national attention, with a modest prize thrown in (usually a book of some sort) doggerel entries into competitions like this one bring their own rewards and, not infrequently, that momentary ego gratification all would-be artists crave.  And if Jonathan Swift can write thumping tetrameters about Sylvia's crapper and crapping habits, then who needs further artistic blessing?

The highlight of this endeavour came with another prize winner, in response to an invitation to submit a poem celebrating Canada's largest city.

There leafs decline, and blue jays slump unsought,
Where once the Argonauts that fateful day
With proud Ulysses (Curtis) ran and caught
The elusive glories of my Lord of Grey,
Now well-fried burghers, sleek with relish,
Spy fond Yonge delights, new oral pleasures weigh.
Eat or be Eatons.  Bawdy rubs roll by.
If all else fails a whirling Mirvish play.
Their gods' erection, with revolving knob
Loom o'er the Bay Street bondsman on his knee,
Through all the town the humid air waves throb
The pallid message of the CBC.
Horseman, ride by, descend not past Thornhill.
With all its vanities, it's Hogtown still. 

Something like that (I'm quoting from a failing memory).  At any rate, this effort made the all-star list on the tenth anniversary of the magazine.  So, hey, for a moment clearly I was a national celebrity.

This genre of verse, however, can be dangerous, probably the only style of poetry in this post-Romantic age which puts the writer at any risk.  In fact, a poem almost cost me my job at Malaspina.  In those days (in 1975), the final stage of a hiring process was an interview with the president.  At my interview, Dr. Opgaard candidly informed me that if the decision was his to make he wouldn't hire me.  I was, in his words, "counterproductive."  At the time I was somewhat mystified by what he meant, but it turned out that the Ministry of Education was in the process of organizing a legal suit against me for a satiric rhyme I'd published a few weeks before, holding up to ridicule various figures in that worthy outfit, notably the Minister (Eileen Dailly), the man in charge of post-secondary education (Henry Justeson, who went around the province with a speech entitled "Homo the Sap," a shallow call for more attention to technology in the colleges), and various officials and ex-flunkies (Knights, Bremer, Soules, Brothers).  The work, like so much second-rate satire, has dated badly, but here it is:

Heer bigynneth the Second Book of the Tales of Canterbury. . . .

Bifel that in spring seson on a day
In Beecee at the office as I lay
Of educacioun, and in my hotte hande
My budget newe, I saw a mighty bande
Of bureaucrattes wending on thir way,
Gyngling and synging in thir reed array.
A midwyf plain rode by a preestes two
And countlesse yemen making much ado.
The midwyf was ycom from Burnabie,
A dailly curse unto our compaigne
Of college folk.  She spak in high sentence
Of emptinesse, for all her eminence.
Gat brained she was, her minde blank as aire,
She trusted nat the wis man or scoler.
Hir lippes pursed as a wrinkled prune
Yshrivelled by the hotte sun in June.
And on hir breest ther heeng a crowned A,
and after Absurda vincit omnia.
With her ther was an abbot, war and wis,
A man of soles, he had a soverein pris.
And he was praying oft time all the daye
For worthy men who perissed in the fray,
For bremers, knights, and brothers, now long deed,
He wept full oft and bowed low his heed.
He puffed on a pipe, as I was war,
And with the stynkynge smoke filled the air.
But tho he noble semed and right fine,
Of freendes had he noon there at that time.
Behind ther rid a preest, a new man,
In alle the scoles faire is noon that can
So much fals historie as this limitour.
A justice son, he thought without labour,
Foll alle the time he layde plenty a pound
Of bulles shitte on all the peple round.
His lerning was not goode, soothe to saye,
Altho he prated of it everich day.
For whan "Homo the Sappe" he did crye,
Than hadde he spent all his philosophie.
Thes palmeres rid on past me as I stoode
Cleping about my budget, as I were wood.
They yaf me nought for all thir rich array,
And sadde at herte I went back on my way.

The quality of the verse might be good reason to deny someone a job, but that wasn't Dr. Opgaard's objection.  In any case, he refused to overrule the hiring committee, so I got the job, and the law suit was later dropped (lots of lawyers purchased copies of the magazine, much to our initial puzzlement).  But the incident is a reminder that just because a lot of what passes for poetry in the high culture is unread and unreadable, and what sells in the music industry markets appropriately safe rebellious attitudes, Grub Street rhyme can still make silly self-important people in official positions squeal.  That threatened law suit wasn't the last I had to deal with in the years which followed.  Maybe that's another reason why I do it, on the principle that any attention is better than neglect.


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Malaspina People, Places, and What Not

We were much puzzled to receive recently a complex evaluation form requesting an assessment of a dean.  The detailed questions seemed to miss the main point.  For effective administrators should, in general, be neither seen nor heard; like authors of nineteenth-century French novels, they should be comme Dieu dans l'univers, présent partout et visible nulle part That is (to change the metaphor), like an effective inner organ (say, the kidney), they should process the institutional poisons effectively, sending them through the various channels to the appropriate excretory orifices, without reminding us of their presence (such reminders in the body politic, as in the body physical, are invariably painful symptoms of something awry).  So I'd suggest some initial question asking the respondent to identify the name of her dean.  If she cannot answer, the administrator is clearly doing a magnificent job.  If she knows his name, but has not seen him for months, he's obviously superior.  Any detailed knowledge of the way a senior administrator works should be interpreted as a problematic omen.

Speaking of excretory organs, those in charge of campus parking seem to be attracting a lot of bad press recently.  What with many absent-minded faculty inadvertently allowing their permits to lapse, the tyrants now have many chances to slap tickets on windshields of cars in the half-empty lots.  I suppose sending out cautionary e-mails, automatically generated, or using preliminary warnings smacks far too much of intelligent public relations. A free rental video of Springtime for Hitler is perhaps in order

Springtime also brought the usual stern reminder that we are never to post grades on the door or provide any hint of comparative standing in the class, in case our students might suffer unduly from shame or pride (or whatever)  in seeing where they rank.  In any other enterprise where strenuous effort is required and excellence is the goal (e.g., sports, performing arts, the military, business), a public celebration of success has always been an essential part of the process (as has an exposure of mediocrity), but then who says we even care about such results in this place any more?  Yes, yes, it all goes back to that Homer of the Losers, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and his paranoia about psychological self-torment and his hypospastic penis, but the excessively silly rule has taken away one of the most pleasant ritual of springtime, wandering the halls inspecting instructors' lists of marks, seeing grade inflation at work at the source (might terminating this enlightening stroll be the real reason?).  Oh well, there's always the Dean's List, I suppose (wherever that is officially located).

Malaspina's Big Mac attack on Florence (the touring Liberal Studies class led by McGratten, McLean, and McColl) is adding to the night life of the city.  Our overseas correspondent informs us that one of the three was seen staggering out of a city night club at dawn, muttering something like "Sono porci questi Romani" before collapsing into a local fountain in a temporary Chianti-induced coma.  She was, however, clutching a copy of Vasari's Lives of the Artists, so she may have just been coming from a rough seminar session.

Funny how that energetic push to get rid of the English requirement just sort of, well, collapsed with a whimper.  Here I thought we were in for a battle royal.  Maybe at crunch time two facts ruled the day: most of our students write very badly, and most of our faculty (outside the English department) have no genuine interest in teaching them to write any better.  Chalk one up for the status quo ante.

Okay, I'm getting on in years, and life is leaching courage out of me faster than it's depleting my supply of testosterone, but still, spending 400 large on electronic keying for all buildings seems a bit much.  Security, after all, is mortal's chiefest enemy, at least if we can believe the queen of the witches.  The iron cage of the modern bureaucracy goes high tech, I suppose.  We'll not only be totally secure, but our locations will be centrally recorded, too. Hmmmm.  

I grow old, I grow old 
Now I've had my ID scrolled.
Have I left my pass behind?  Do I dare go in to teach?
Wherever the man sits I'm not beyond his reach.
I have heard the students laughing each to each.
I do not think that they will laugh with me.

A final post-election thought: Hunter Thompson has once more been proved correct: in a kingdom ruled by swine, all pigs are upwardly mobile.


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