Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

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Sunday Link Encyclopedia

John McCain has a crush on Hillary and hates Fox News. I guess he’d do my brain exercise, no sweat.

Russians are destroying enormous quantities of food. . . to spite the West.

Mike Huckabee wants to deploy troops against. . . women who seek abortions.

Yet another disturbing story of an academic being hounded for posting something on Facebook.

Rape has become so. . . (I hate to say it but the only word that can describe it is) prestigious in some circles that people are now coming up with completely insane stories of how they too were victimized by rape in spite of never being raped. I’m shocked and horrified that people can get so pampered and spoiled that they’d feel the need to attract pity to themselves in such a way.

Small and Bland

The doctor told me to eat small, bland meals every 2,5 hours.

I managed the meals part and the “every 2,5 hours” part extremely well.

The “small, bland” part, however, is not happening.

Update on Spain

For the first time in years, Spanish newspapers and magazines started publishing articles titled,

– “How to Spend That Extra Bit of Money You’ve Saved?”

– “Men Prefer to Spend Their Savings on Cars, While Women Choose Travel”

– “What Is the Best Place to Go on a Beach Vacation?”

– “Why Vacations Matter”

– “Buying Luxury Products: How to Make the Right Choice”

This is a very good sign. A couple of years ago, a journalist who published this kind of an article risked having his house set on fire by enraged readers. And now people actually want to read this stuff.

Spain ‘ s economy is growing at the fastest rate since 2007 right now, consumer spending is starting to boom, and the tourism industry is doing very well.

I always knew Spain would kick the crisis ‘ s ass. Which doesnt, of course, cancel the need to face a much greater crisis of the nation-state that we all are anticipating.

Trainwreck: A Review

Yesterday we went to see Trainwreck. If the last 20 minutes were to be cut off, it would be quite a good movie.

In spite of the genre, I found the film to be quite realistic. The actors didn’t look like plastic cyborgs. To the contrary, they looked even uglier than real people. Nobody in the movie is a good actor but nobody is ever familiar with acting in Hollywood movies.

On the positive side, the way the characters comported themselves actually made sense. It’s very rare that I watch a movie and recognize the characters’ actions as those of actual people.

The jokes were funny, for the most part. The last 20 minutes were boring as hell but that’s to be expected given the genre. Altogether, I’m very surprised at how much I didn’t hate it.

Pathetic in Seattle

And the prize in the “Infantile Whiny Loser of the Month” competition goes to a customer in Seattle who left the following card for the waiter:


The card should be used to illustrate the word “pathetic” in Wikipedia. It’s like some people don’t even realize how silly they look sometimes.

Candidates, Continued

You know what will be totally great? If Trump chooses Palin as his running mate. And then they would both debate Hillary and whomever she chooses to run against. I’m sorry for Hillary because that will be degrading but the comedic factor will be priceless.

In the meantime, here is Bernie Sanders’ interview with Ezra Klein where Bernie defends the nation-state. He actually uses the word “nation-state” and makes a series of very reasonable, clam statements that deserve attention. But he’s talking from the past and trying to bring the past back which is a cute but quite a quixotic proposition. It doesn’t even occur to Bernie that there might be something a tad antiquated about “women should stay at home with babies.” Equally funny is “racism has existed from day one.” Day one of what, precisely? We’ve traveled a long way since the 1970s and have arrived at more sophisticated ways of discussing gender and race.

In terms of foreign policy, Bernie is about as well-informed as Sarah Palin. Just this one bit is priceless:

I happen to believe that when you talk about foreign policy, a the very top of the list is the need for the United States to lead the world, to work with China, work with Russia, work with India in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy.

Anybody who is marginally aware of Russia realizes that working WITH Russia to move AWAY from fossil fuels is as likely as working with me on moving away from reading books. The entire argument on China, India and Russia (whom it is absolutely ridiculous to lump together, by the way) is childish in the extreme.

In short, Sanders is obviously a decent, honest fellow who has some very important things to say but he’s not even remotely ready to be a president of such a big and complex country. He can preside over nostalgia of the past but not over an actual country of the present and the future.

Manufacturing Origins

Every nation-building process requires the origins of the nation to be pinpointed in a remote past (which, in reality, has fuck – all to do with the nation.) Russians fixate on a Kievan prince from 1,000 years ago. Americans celebrate the Pilgrims. A lily-white colleague of mine from Mexico with the last name of Weinstein talks proudly of “our Aztec ancestors.”

The creators of Spain ‘ s national identity had a choice. They could decide that Spain had originated with the Romans. Spanish language obviously descends from Latin. Roman aqueducts, roads, and olive groves are still visible on the Iberian Peninsula. And there’s the issue of prestige. Who doesn’t want to descend from a culture that is as intellectually prestigious as that of the Romans?

The Spaniards’ other choice were Visigoths. Like the Romans, they were invaders of the Peninsula. But they brought no civilization, built nothing but a couple of ugly little shacks, and made no contribution to the Spanish language outside of the word “guerra” (war).

So who do you think the Enlightened thinkers, the huge believers in progress and civilization, chose as the supposed creators of Spain?

Shockingly, in a fit of what an historian called “interpretative schizophrenia”, the Enlightened thinkers threw over the refined, civilized Romans and embraced the stupid, smelly Visigoths. Romans were labeled effeminate and degenerate, and the liberation from their oppressive rule by the “truly Spanish” Visigoths was celebrated.

Brain Exercise

As we all know, a great writer once said, “the true test of a first-rate mind is the ability to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time.” Let’s exercise our first-rate minds, shall we? I’ll go first.

Putin is a disgusting, vicious freak but the law against international adoptions that he passed over the strenuous objections of dissidents is good and necessary.

Reproductive rights are absolutely crucial but Planned Parenthood disgraced itself and fucked up royally this summer.

Stalin was a vicious, bloody dictator who didn’t lie when he said, “Life has become better, more joyful.”

Michael Moore is a brilliant film – maker but his movies are total garbage.

Cuba is horrible but it’s a good thing that diplomatic relations have been reestablished.

It’s wonderful that Spain now has a new party that is disturbing the two-party balance but I hope it gets massively trounced in the elections.

I donated money to Bernie Sanders ‘ s campaign but I can’t wait for him to lose to Hillary. To whom I’ll never donate any money, by the way.

I highly recommend this exercise on a regular basis to prevent brains from fossilizing. And I also want to remind you about the “what have I changed my mind about this month?” exercise. It’s up to us to combat our natural tendency to slip into drooling rigidity.

And to paraphrase the great writer we started with, a first-rate mind can be changed.

Politics or Herd Mentality

Bernie Sanders is a good, decent fellow. He says he won’t run as Independent if he loses the nomination. And this is the right thing to do even if some pouty contenders don’t get that.

I wish more people could say “Bernie Sanders is a decent fellow” or “Rick Perry kicked ass with his brilliant cancer speech” without planning to vote for either of them. Like in the old joke (“Sweetheart, bad news! That thing we thought was an orgasm turned out to be asthma”), what they confuse for politics is herd mentality. Everything is about choosing a group and then signaling one’s belonging to it at every opportunity.

I wish people got tired of their own orthodoxy every once in a while. I wish that instead of making a decision once and for all and then superimposing it on every situation, they made decisions anew based on actual evidence and not on their need to belong to an imaginary community. I wish people were capable of holding two contradictory thoughts at the same time and not fear an imaginary expulsion from an invented group.

Reading Woes


While the writing part of my sabbatical is going great, the reading side of it is not proceeding according to plan. I find it hard not to veer off in all kinds of directions because there are so many fascinating things to read. And then I find myself reading all kinds of things that don’t make a whole lot of sense for my research. Of course, I can explain how I got to the accounts of medieval Spanish historians from the literature of the economic crisis but that’s not very helpful.

It was so great to be a student with a reading list given to me by somebody else.

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