Clarissa's Blog

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

Racism and Online Ed

Online education is an engine of racial inequality, argue Christopher Newfield and Cameron Sublett, and no good higher ed policy can be created ignoring that fact.

Hear, hear! It’s a great article and it’s based on good research. I have no doubt I will have many opportunities to use it in the future battles against our online-obsessed university president. When he says “our students don’t need professors in classrooms because our students are not like the kids at Harvard”, that’s a deeply racist and classist comment.


Generation C

We are now offered workshops on how to teach the representatives of “Generation C”. Have you, folks, heard about it? Because that’s the first time I hear this term. It means “constantly connected citizens.” Nobody explains what it is they are constantly connected to or how the constant connectedness is linked to citizenship.

Of course, the university doesn’t have trouble finding money for this sort of crap. But there’s no money to buy my books for the library, even though students are asking all the time. I guess books is not what we want them to connect to.

Yes, I’m very grumpy.

Unreasonable or Not?

The university is demanding that I provide my personal credit card statements in order to reimburse me for the trip to the MLA. Nobody else has to do this. Just me. I have provided all the paperwork we all normally do, but now all of a sudden it’s the credit card statement or no reimbursement.

Folks, am I being unreasonable in having a problem with turning over my private credit card statements to a state university? I feel it’s extremely intrusive and unfair because nobody else has been asked to do this ever, as far as I know.

I don’t consider myself to be a crazy libertarian chick but there’s got to be a limit to the state intrusion. Especially a selective state intrusion where some people get singled out for no discernible reason.

Book Notes: Looking for a Series

I’m looking for a new mystery  series to follow, and my searches have led me to two new writers.

One is William L. Myers who is a former lawyer and has started a new legal thriller series set in Philadelphia. I read his novel A Criminal Defense. The reading was not unenjoyable but I will not be picking up anything else by this author. The plotting is good but the writing is hideously bad, even for a genre that is not known for its great literary quality. The characters are tedious and have absolutely no depth, in spite of the author’s desperate attempts to make them look complex. The series is set in Philadelphia, which is an unfortunate choice for a series. I love Philadelphia, but it’s not the kind of a city that anybody wants to read about across 30 novels. Famous series are set in New Orleans, San Francisco, Baltimore, and LA because these are the kinds of places that give enough local color to make a series interesting.

Right after the Myers fiasco, I discovered a truly great series that I’m very happy to tell you about. Susie Steiner is a former Guardian journalist but she is not a bad writer. This week, I read both novels in her young series, and I liked them so much that I even postponed reading my new Elizabeth George for their sake. The first novel in the series is Missing, Presumed. The best thing about this novel is not the plot but the writing and the character development. Manon Bradshaw, the protagonist of this police procedural, is a much more interesting character than the ones that normally protagonize novels in this genre. For some reason, female sleuths are usually portrayed as collections of the worst stereotypes about men. They seem cognitively challenged in their utter incapacity to do anything outside of a burping, farting, emotionally undeveloped and physically gross stereotype.

Steiner is not afraid of showing a female character who is terrified of loneliness and who desperately tries to find a guy and construct a family, which at the age of 39 is not very easy to do. In the second novel in the series, Persons Unknown, we see the results of Manon’s efforts in this direction, and her painful efforts to mature. If you contrast the two novels, you can also observe the ways in which different social classes define the concept of a family. Steiner is one of those female authors who are terrified of their own literary talent, and write mysteries to mask it. As a result, the question of who killed whom and why fades in importance next to the fascinating characters and their experiences. If you are into that kind of thing, if you liked Barbara Vine when she was still alive, I highly recommend Steiner. Steiner is obviously from a very different generation, but the talent and the interest in people are there.

News About Feet

Turned on the TV and caught a segment in which a podiatrist is analyzing Trump’s son’s feet’s pictures from social media because they prove he slept with some scary looking broad.

It’s scary to realize that there are people in the world who are interested in this kind of news.


Becoming part of the leadership of my scholarly association was the best decision ever, folks. I have realized that I can’t do any direct self-promotion because it’s not in my nature. I can’t make myself send out mass emails informing people of my new book.

But I now have a much better method. As part of my duties, I send out personal emails to our members. And my signature contains links to my books.

“So you don’t like sales and prefer marketing instead,” said my sister. “Sales is about trying to foist on people something they don’t want. And marketing is giving them something they need while inadvertently slipping in what you want them to have.”

We Are the Product

Facebook’s product is me, you, and every user. That’s what FB sells, OK?

Facebook places you in a store window and sells you. If you manage to sneak in a few of your own products to sell and make some profit, too, good for you. But the main goal of Facebook is to make Zuckerberg rich by peddling us. Nobody asks the products on a shelf their opinion on the customer and on the uses the customer would put them to, do they?

Was It Rigged?

Another thing that bothers me in the press:

The former C.I.A. director John Brennan pulled no punches on Wednesday when he was asked why President Trump had congratulated his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, for his victory in a rigged election, even after Mr. Trump’s national security staff warned him not to.

OK, who said it was a rigged election and on what basis? I have read a mountain of posts and articles by anti-Putin activists who worked as independent observers at the polls. They all agree that, painful as this is to recognize, Russians massively voted for Putin because they like and support him. The attempt to lure people to the polls with food is pathetic but it’s about trying to overcome the citizens’ inertia and lack of interest in voting.

There was large-scale rigging in the elections to the Russian parliament back in 2011. There was massive violence and repression against protesters between December of 2011, when the Duma elections were held, and May of 2012, after the presidential election. Since then, everything changed, and there have been no protests, no rigging, no violence to speak of. The reason is that Putin has done a bunch of things since then to get voters to like and support him.

I want to remind everybody that back in 2011-12, the US did absolutely nothing whatsoever to address the very real rigging and state violence in Russia. Which is OK because it’s not their place to interfere and that would have made everything worse. But it’s quite bizarre to bleat about the lack of US reaction to the fact that today Russians support their Putin and want him to continue as their president.

And by the way, I remember that Obama had no problem with congratulating Putin back in 2012 when peaceful protesters were being brutalized in the streets and videos of shameless and open rigging of the elections were abundant.

In It Together

Hundreds of millions of

Facebook users are likely to have had their private information harvested by companies that exploited the same terms as the firm that collected data and passed it on to Cambridge Analytica, according to a new whistleblower.

What I don’t get is the insistent use of the words “private information” in relation to Facebook. What private information can FB possibly have? The only reason anybody posts anything on FB is because they want to make it public. That’s the whole point of Facebook’s existence.

I hate Facebook but I can’t understand the current scandal. How can FB be blamed for doing the only thing which it exists to do, namely, selling ads to people and selling people to ads?

The whole obsession with “Russians stole the elections”, “Facebook stole the elections”, “green aliens from another planet stole the elections” stems from an incapacity to comprehend that not everybody is equally happy about the advances of liquidity. And it’s funny how the anxieties about liquidity hover around the fantasies of the folks who are supposedly all rah-rah about it. “The Russians” and Facebook are evidence of uncontrollable global flows where nothing can protect one from the malevolent presence of those who move faster and take the only thing one still has, one’s possibly sellable quirk.

We are all in it together, and it’s best to discuss our anxieties over what is now clearly an unavoidable transformation together and directly.


My understanding of wild nature is pathetic. I mistakenly taught Klara to refer to the town’s famous geese as ducks, and now everybody on the playground and at the park gives me dirty looks.

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