Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Series of Ruminations to Defer Grading

Long time, no post. And I'm grading papers, so still not a long one here.

First, in general. Has anyone ever really heard or used the word "embolden" before? I can't seem to get away from it now, as it has become a watchword in republican talks about the Iraq war. Not that I follow the war, but there was an "embolden" montage on the Daily Show, and I watch clips of it online instead of doing work. And I just now saw a news post that claimed a recent 60 Minutes show about military people petitioning against the war would also "embolden the enemy." Well, I don't care what your politics are. "Embolden" is a damn stupid word. You sound like a moron if you say it. It sounds like a made up word, even though it might very well be an actual word. But it's still moronic, and I die a little inside each time I hear it.

Second, aside. In our lecture last week, the professor asked the class what a firecrotch was, as he was discussing Lindsey Lohan. He honestly didn't know. I laughed and laughed.

Third, to my New York people. You keep saying something crazy went down this past month, and that stories are forthcoming, yet I see no stories. In fact, I'm convinced that nothing happened. You're all probably just staying sober and watching tv. I refuse to believe your vague, unsubstantiated reports. Give us stories, or admit your falsehood.

Fourth, to my Madison people. Are students stupider this semester? Mine sure are. I'm giving almost all of them horrible grades because of the absolutely stupid things they say in their papers. Who knows, maybe it will embolden them to do better? (See, it still sounds stupid.)

Fifth, to everyone not living in Wisconsin. We had us a blizzard this weekend, and it was awesome. Snow, thunder, lightning, and a trek to the bar amidst the first waves. Good times. Now, when I am an old and venerable professor, I can refer back to my memories of "The Great Blizzard of Aught Seven." And then whack people with my cane for not paying attention.

Ok, must go grade more. Next post, I'll offer SpeakMemory and her cohorts her requested list of my favorite musicals, which will hopefully spark responses from my more theatrically-inclined friends.

And don't forget, New York people, I'll be out there come March 30. I expect to be feted like royalty.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

It's Like Living in a Cave

My Tuesday has been crippled up to this point by a lack of electricity. You know, that stuff that powers my alarm clock. And my heat. And my hot water heater. And my microwave. And my lights. And my computer.

So basically, I overslept (luckily nothing I had to do today required a specific time deadline), I couldn't shower, couldn't make a hot breakfast (and yes, I do actually have ingredients here for such an endeavor), couldn't respond to those student e-mails I planned to, nor write my own that I had also planned, and couldn't really leave the comfort of my bed for fear of frostbite.

Power just came back on, so my day can begin. My brief foray into the pre-electrical age has only taught me how quickly I would die should technology ever fail us. A few more hours, and I would have been forced to burn my books for fuel. And then I would have tried to rig up a book-burning-driven generator to power my Xbox and my computer. Which would have led to hilarity, or the incineration of me.

So huzzah for Ben Franklin and all his heirs. Even that dastardly Thomas Edison who, as The Prestige has taught us, was a mean old man whose goons brought down the work of Nikola Tesla in the manner befitting a mafia don.

Still damn cold in here, though, so back under the covers I go.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Random Thoughts as I Wait for the Simpsons to Come On.

Randomness first. Two phrases I uttered today that now strike me as somewhat ludicrous:

1. "He's the greatest rake ever." (Really only amusing because no one but an English grad student would ever put these words together in this order. Referring to Major Sanford from The Coquette.)

2. "Oh, it's only -6 below. That's not so bad." (When it's -16 with a -30 windchill as you leave in the morning, -6 seems like summertime. Until your eyes start to freeze. But hey, we got above 0 today! Take that, arctic wind!)

And the weirdness: In my apartment building, we have no mail drop box. We just leave mail on top of the row of boxes, and the mail-person takes it. I left a Netflix envelope there on Saturday, and I'm fairly certain one of my neighbors took it, ripped it open, watched the dvd, then resealed it and returned it this morning. The perfect crime! (It was The Descent, by the way, which is really awesome and worth seeing.)

And now, a brief post regarding economics. When my parents visited me last, while walking down State Street, we were accosted by men trying to sell the Socialist newspaper. My parents, being goodly God-fearing Republicans from the midwest, assumed these men were Communists, believed my entire city to be nothing but a hotbed of radical activism (partially true), and bemoaned that their innocent child shouldst be so corrupted by these influences. I didn't have the heart to mention to them that Marxism is one of the foundational ideologies of the field in which I study. I think my mother might have fainted.

But it occurred to me recently that the indoctrination against market capitalism began much earlier in my life. Indeed, one of the foundational texts of my youth presented perhaps the polar opposite of Marxist Socialism, while still inspiring children to imitate one of the greatest enemies of the Free Market. Ladies and gentlemen, how many of you are familiar with this figure?

You may know him as Scrooge McDuck, or Uncle Scrooge. But what few of us realized in our impressionable youths is that this Scottish feathered fiend, were he an actual person, would singlehandedly do more to cripple the economy of any nation-state than Marx or Lenin could dream of. Picture it: He lives in his palatial estate, hoarding riches away from the common man. This is all well and good, until you consider the fact that he does not, in turn, invest his vast wealth back into the market. Instead, he keeps it in a self-styled "money bin," a repository for his riches that serves as nothing more than a swimming pool. Those zillions of coins, rather than supporting new businesses, fostering loans and greater investment capital, or even earning basic interest, are instead stagnating atop a hill in the metropolis of Duckburg.

How dare you, Mr. McDuck. A successful free market hinges upon investment, the free exchange of capital, and so forth. And instead of allowing your money to circulate, you stash it away, withdrawing it from the market for your own private amusement, probably causing the economic collapse of several banks and perhaps even a small country or two. And we, as children, were asked to accept this economic criminality with a smile and a laugh, hoping and dreaming that some day we too could have enough money stashed away to swim in.

There you have it, folks. Indoctrination from youth. The Disney corporation teaching us to ignore the fundamental laws of Adam Smith Economics and help contribute to failing markets, depression, and economic chaos.

Next time, we shall turn to the much maligned adversaries of Mr. McDuck. Champions of the market and the redistribution of wealth.

You may know them as the Beagle Boys (and Mom). Criminals, yes. Inept, certainly. Proletariat economic warriors? Mayhaps.