Magazine Digest: The New Yorker

Of all the magazines I have explored, the one I will never again read is The New Yorker. It had so little substance that even Marie Claire magazine would be more profound.

For instance,  in the September issue,  there was a long article on the subversive collective Anonymous that has spread to many countries of the world (including Russia where the Russian Anonymouses have done some really cool stuff). One would think this is a subject even a very bad journalist can’t spoil. The New Yorker magazine,  however,  reduced the whole global movement to the boring story of some aging gentleman who is not even known to the movement’s activists worldwide. In fact, the global dimension of Anonymous hardly receives any attention in the article.

I did derive some value from the article on slavery in Mauritania that appeared in the same issue of The New Yorker but it has the same problem as the rest of the pieces: every phenomenon under discussion is reduced to the tear-jerking life story of an individual. There are never any conclusions. It’s all “here is a person with a story. Make what you will of it.”

Bye bye, New Yorker.

Saturday Link Encyclopedia

Even more proof that human beings value nothing as highly as stability and familiarity. Unfortunately, this is true even when the familiar is horrifying and tragic.

Key democrats, led by Hillary Clinton, leave no doubt that endless war is official U.S. doctrine,” wrote some very stupid journalist, sounding very proud of having said something so profoundly unintelligent. This strange person probably hasn’t noticed that “endless war” is the condition of every state since it came into existence.

In a very real sense, there is no teacher shortage in this country at all. What there is is an unwillingness to make teaching an appealing profession that people will actively pursue and stay with for a lifetime.” I agree completely that there is no “labor shortage” of teachers. The idea is preposterous.

I always buy these mushrooms at the store but the idea of picking them myself sounds dangerous. This is weird because I was an avid mushroom-picker back in Ukraine where mushrooms are, for obvious reasons, more dangerous than anywhere else.

Yet another obnoxious and preachy post from Professor Is In.

Sometimes, one can find little gems of brilliance even in the eminently stupid Inside Higher Ed: “But the most interesting and controversial case for the liberal arts came from Rob Goodman, a Ph.D. candidate in political theory at Columbia University. “At this cultural moment the idea of ‘uselessness’ is inspiring a lot of anger in a lot of people, and it’s important to explore why,” he said.” This is very interesting to me.

The wonder and the beauty of selective breeding.

And another hilarious quote from a very weird person who keeps dispensing strange advice on sexuality: “And loving what’s true might be even harder for many people, since what’s true about your body is almost certainly NOT what you’ve been taught is “supposed” to be true. You’re SUPPOSED to have spontaneous desire and genitals that respond to the slightest touch and interest in sex that isn’t damped by stress or exhaustion and a body that is a particular shape and size… in short: we’ve all been lied to, consistently and repeatedly, for decades, about how very unlovable our bodies are.” Just imagine what this sex counselor can teach her poor, deluded clients. They will leave her convinced that dysfunction is healthy and sexual health is wrong.

It’s like some people live in a completely different world. And I like my world so much better than theirs.

Good news: “A Florida judge Friday sentenced Michael Dunn to life in prison without parole for the 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. The sentence, imposed nearly two years after Dunn shot and killed Davis during an argument over loud music, also carries an additional 90 years for three convictions of attempted murder and firing a weapon into a vehicle.” Finally, Florida managed to squeeze out a verdict that would actually punish a murderer.

Tallinn through the eyes of a Kharkovite blogger. In Russian but it’s mostly just photos anyway.

Insanity continues in Canada: “Seniors and the disabled are taking on Canada Post over their unilateral decision to remove door to door delivery. The scam was introduced based on the lie that the company is struggling financially. They have consistently made a profit year after year and pay dividends to the Canadian government which has considerably added to the tax revenue.

In case you missed the priceless story of the green butt plug in Paris, I’m bringing you a link to the newest developments in the story.

Russians are screaming and yelling that protests in Hong Kong somehow prove that the Ukrainian Maidan was organized and paid for by the CIA.

Leskov, Etnographer of the Jews.”

People wouldn’t need to waste so much energy and time on discussing whether the borders should or shouldn’t be closed to stop the spread of ebola if they read Clarissa’s Blog and informed themselves about the erosion of the nation-state and the meaning of this process.

There is at least the ghost of a strategy still available to the West: make Putin pay an ongoing price so that it will be clear that he has overstepped. That strategy doesn’t require Ukraine to be transformed into a well-functioning paradise; as we’ve noted over and over in these pages, that is the worst kind of wishful thinking and is just not likely to happen any time soon. But it would involve getting Ukraine through a couple of winters while Putin twists in the wind as the sanctions slowly do their thing.” This is obviously not going to happen. I’m starting to suspect that Obama has the same secret crush on Putin as every Liberal on the planet. And please don’t annoy me by asking where I have seen such Liberals. I see them every day on my blog, defending Snowden and his passionate ass-kissing of Putin.

Really inventive wedding invites.

Why bicycling is not thriving in the US.

Everybody knows that David Brooks is an idiot but the linked article demonstrates that well-known truth beautifully and exhaustively.

Why do preachy, self-righteous idiots who understand nothing about politics are so dedicated to chirping about it?

“When I last visited Bombay, I explained to my then four-year-old about that we couldn’t buy too many things because of weight restrictions in the flight, etc. My relatives were genuinely wondering why I didn’t just stop at “no.”” The answer is: for the exact same reason why this person can’t just say “no” to nosy and condescending relatives.

A group of St. Louis Cardinals fans is selling shirts with “Darren Wilson” on the back, in support of the police officer who killed Michael Brown on 9 August in Ferguson, Missouri.” I’m glad I never joined the cultish support of this local team.

A new book by Francis Fukuyama: “In some ways Political Order and Political Decay may be Fukuyama’s most impressive work to date. The upshot of his argument is that functioning democracy is impossible wherever an effective modern state is lacking. Since fractured and failed states are embedded in many parts of the world, the unavoidable implication is that hundreds of millions or billions of people will live without democracy for the foreseeable future. It’s a conclusion that anyone who thinks realistically is bound to accept. It’s also a view that runs counter to nearly all currents of prevailing opinion.” Of course, I will be reading it.

There are also many great links here.


Now that I’ve seen Jewish jokes in my favorite new magazine Commentary, I know for a fact it’s a Jewish magazine. Trust me to grab a random magazine from a newsstand in Southern Illinois (not known for huge Jewish communities) and have that magazine be Jewish. 

It’s a really fun publication,  people,  I highly recommend. But only in case you don’t expect your reading matter to serve as an echo to your inner voice. Or, alternatively,  if you are reader el. :-)


A while aho, reader Stringer Bell suggested we discuss corruption here on the blog. What are the origins of corruption?  Why do immigrants from extremely corrupt societies sometimes bring or try to bring their corruption  with them to their new country (Russian – speaking immigrants are a great example) while immigrants from other,  equally corrupt countries become extraordinarily law – abiding upon emigration (immigrants from India,  for instance)?

I’ve been thinking about this fascinating question,  and here is what I’ve got for now.

What is corruption?  When do people resort to bribery, nepotism, and dishonesty?  When do you personally feel the need to lie?

Aside from the rare cases of actual sociopathy, people don’t lie just for the hell of it. I don’t believe that the absolute majority of people enjoys unmotivated lying. Those of us who lie (rarely or all the time) only do this when we don’t believe we can achieve our goals in any other way.

Widespread corruption in any given society is a sign that its members don’t believe that this society is working.  They cheat, bribe and prevaricate because they have no faith in the mechanisms of their society working in a way that is fundamentally fair and reliable.

Some people believe that the society which doesn’t work is only their own society. When they emigrate, they are open to the possibility of participating in a society that does work without corruption.

However,  there are also people who have lost faith in the possibility of any society ever being able to function. After they emigrate, they don’t give themselves a chance to see if their new home does work without corruption. Their view of any society, of society as a concept has become so cynical that they don’t even contemplate a possibility of something different.

Here is what I’ve got so far. Please share your insights on the subject.

Radio Voices

Today I got into my car, turned on the radio, and started listening to Fox News,  the only station I ever listen to.

This morning’s program really freaked me out,  though. Instead of the angry, pugnacious commentators,  I heard mellifluous,  apologetic tones that insistently brought to mind the word Liberal. Then I realized that my husband had been in the car  and changed the station.

I wish there were a station for fiery, self – assured liberals. A radio station you listen to while driving shouldn’t be making you sleepy.

A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned


Teachers, do read this post. It has been eye-opening explanation of why our freshman students get to us in such a completely zombified state.

Originally posted on Granted, and...:

The following account comes from a veteran HS teacher who just became a Coach in her building. Because her experience is so vivid and sobering I have kept her identity anonymous. But nothing she describes is any different than my own experience in sitting in HS classes for long periods of time. And this report of course accords fully with the results of our student surveys. 

I have made a terrible mistake.

I waited fourteen years to do something that I should have done my first year of teaching: shadow a student for a day. It was so eye-opening that I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of ten things – the layout, the lesson plan, the checks for understanding. Most of it!

This is the first year I am working in a school but not teaching…

View original 1,889 more words

How to Write an Essay on Literature

In a private email, I was asked about the steps one needs to take to write a research article or essay on a work of literature. I have decided to share my procedure here. Of course, everybody has their own procedure but I invented this one when I was an undergrad and, since then, I have published 13 articles (+ 2 submitted for publication) and a book using this method. So the method has been proven to work. If people want to share their own procedures in the comments, I will be very interested in reading them.

1. First, choose a work of literature that when you read it disturbed you in some way. When you read a book and it stays with you, making you think about it, wondering, needing to discuss it with people, when a book left you with unanswered questions, this means you have found the primary source for your project.
2. Then you go back to the book, reread it, and underline everything that bothers you. The parts you underline are the ones that you feel are important. You don’t need to be able to articulate just yet why they are important. These parts should be like itches that you scratch by underlining them.
3. After you finish your second reading, look at the parts you underlined. What do they have in common? Is there a single question that unites them? This will be the question that your essay will answer. Write it out on a cue card and place where you can see it the entire time you will be writing. Every sentence in your essay should lead to answering this specific question and none other.
4. Now keep going over the quotes you have gathered from your primary source, looking for an answer to your question in them. At this point, abstain from consulting any external sources of information (called secondary sources.) It is still too early for them. Everything you need right now is located inside your primary source.
5. After you have found your answer, write it down in one complete sentence. 
6. Now create a plan of how you will construct the argument leading from your question to your answer. Each point in the plan should be supported by some of the quotes you have found. Remember, every reading of a text has a right to exist if it fulfills the following requirements:
a) It is based on the totality of textual evidence (meaning that you cannot pretend not to notice inconvenient quotes);
b) It is logically consistent;
c) You can support it with specific textual evidence.
7. Now is the time to see what other people have been saying about this book. Consult the MLA bibliography, WorldCat and JSTOR databases. Look at the most recent scholarship on the subject first.
8. If what you were going to say about the book has been said already, don’t panic. This only means you need to take your analysis one step further. Try to take your idea and turn it around. If everybody has been saying, for instance, that this is a novel that discusses religious intolerance, try to argue that it is not about religious intolerance (this was what I did in my first article, and it has been wildly successful.)
9. Remember that quotes from secondary sources only exist to support your argument or for you to argue with them.
10. Adjust your essay plan to include the secondary sources.
11. And now you are ready to write.

A Language of Its Own

My new phone sometimes makes mysterious squeaking sounds that I haven’t yet been able to decipher. Sometimes there is just one squeak. Sometimes there are several in rapid succession. I feel like it’s trying to communicate with me in a language I don’t speak.

I named the phone Marcy,  by the way.

Midterm Time

It’s midterm time, and that means I’m completely exhausted. I work a lot harder during the administration of tests than I do during regular classes. Since I don’t believe in the punitive form of testing, I have to make sure that every test serves the goal for which the students gather in my classroom. Assigning grades cannot be that goal, of course. Sure enough, everybody’s teaching philosophy is different but people who use tests to catch students out in the greatest number of mistakes possible puzzle me.

So during tests (midterms, quizzes, final exams, etc.) I work with each student individually, pointing out mistakes and problematic areas, suggesting vocabulary or stylistic improvements. If a student forgets a term, I help her to remember it. If a student doesn’t know the Spanish translation for a word, I give it to him. Contrary to the training that the language teachers always get (“Just tell the students that you are not a dictionary!”), I always say, “I’m your dictionary, so feel free to ask me for translations.” My slogan that everybody knows me for is “Don’t suffer in silence.” The best test, in my opinion, is a dialogue between the student and the teacher.

Of course, all this means that I’m running around the classroom like a headless chicken during every exam, making sure that I approach every student at least half a dozen times during each test.

I also wanted to share a really nice moment that happened to me yesterday. My TA who is helping me run my Advanced Grammar course is a native speaker of Spanish (which I am obviously not). During class, she got confused on a grammar point and asked me to explain. And I did. This was a quiet exchange but the students noticed. And I felt very good about myself.