Clarissa's Blog

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

Archive for the day “May 2, 2011”

>Confused and Cautiously Optimistic


OK, I don’t know what’s going on here, but I’m grading final essays in my literature course, and five essays in a row are just brilliant. I was dreading this round of grading because I fully expected a fresh batch of “Cervantes would be an OK writer if only his characters were less weird” kind of statements. But these essays are phenomenal. At least, the five I have read so far are.
Is it possible that all my hard work paid off? I’m actually enjoying myself reading these essays. Wow.

P.S. As of now, I have graded 11 essays and loved all of them passionately. Am I a good teacher, or what?


>Lovely Colleagues and Paperwork


Oh, I love my colleagues. There is this bunch of paperwork that I need to do, which is so confusing that one practically needs to get another PhD to understand how it needs to be filled out. The idea that I have to do this paperwork has been poisoning my entire day. I’ve been sitting here in a vile mood, contemplating the sad need to do the stupid paperwork and feeling sorry for myself.
And then a kind colleague came by and suggested that we all gather on Wednesday and do the paperwork together. Oh, happiness! Oh, joy! All that bad stuff I said about communities? Forget it. I am now a joyful convert to the idea of a community that shields one from the sad necessity of doing this scary paperwork on one’s own.

>Gifts for Men


There are few things that are as painful to shop for as gifts and cards for men. I love buying gifts for people almost as much as I love buying gifts for myself. Unless the people in question are men. And it isn’t like I don’t like men. Believe me, I have always been surrounded by truly amazing men who deserve truly fantastic gifts. It’s just finding them that is problematic. Something’s got to be wrong with the world where it’s easier to find great men than great gifts for them, don’t you think?
For women, one can buy so many different and wonderful gifts that the only problem is choosing. Jewelry, clothes, cosmetics, bath stuff, makeup, chocolates, flowers, scented candles, cuddly toys – the list can go on forever. For men we have shaving gear (and how many shaving gadgets does a guy need even if he is extremely hairy?), cologne (again, nobody needs 15 bottles of it), and that’s pretty much it. People will suggest books, but if we are talking about a very well-read person (and I don’t really hang out with any other kind), that’s the trickiest gift of all. How do you know what this person has or hasn’t read? Nobody I know ever gives me books because they know it’s useless. 
If we look at cards, it’s the same thing. There are all kinds of fun, romantic, beautiful and cheesy cards for women. All cards for men revolve around beer, toilets and some jokes that are in very bad taste. (I just saw a birthday card “for him” that said, “Even though you are old, there is still one thing in your pants that I find incredibly attractive: your wallet.” Bleh.) 
I kind of feel sorry for men right now.

>A Sacrificial Ritual


A sacrificial ritual according to Walter Burkert:

Firstly, under the direction of the priest, father or king, or priestess, a basket containing the utensils and a bowl of water were placed around the altar. The participants then dipped their hands into the consecrated water, and sprinkled it on the altar, victim and offerer. Salted-barley corns from the basket were thrown on the animal’s head and into the altar fire. A lock of hair from the animal is then cut and burned, libation being poured on the altar with prayer. After silence is proclaimed, the music of flutes begins and the animal is slain. The larger animals were killed with a sacrificial axe. The head is turned toward the heavens, and the throat cut. The blood then spreads on the altar and is caught in a vessel. In The Odyssey, onlooking women raise a cry of worship at this point. After the animal was skinned and cut into pieces, the inner parts were disposed and a part burned on the altar with incense. The remainder was roasted and eaten. If the entrails were of normal shape and color, it was an omen that the sacrifice was acceptable to the gods. In The Odyssey, men wrapped the thigh pieces in fat and burned them on the altar. The tail and back, along with other bones and pieces with less meat left over were burned with a libation. After this procedure, it was then that the worshippers shared the roasted meal, while music and dance took place in the service of the gods. “

>Donald Trump as a Republican Candidate


Of course, he’s mildly creepy and he has weird hair, but if I had to choose among Republican candidates for president in case Obama loses (which today seems less probable than yesterday), I’d choose Trump. The reason why I think he’d be better than all the other candidates from that party is that he is not a religious fanatic. Better yet, after all the divorce proceedings, casinos and TV shows, he will not be able to sell himself as a religious fanatic. I believe that there is nothing scarier in the world today that religious fanatics of any persuasion.
Religious fanaticism today is a symptom of not being able to accept contemporary reality. The hysteria of religious fanatics betrays how confused and lost they are in the world they simply don’t get. Learning to live with the new and constantly changing realities is an impossible proposition for them, so they’d rather the whole planet went to hell in a basket.
Trump is obviously not one of these folks. He is the exact opposite. He has found a way to manipulate the existing realities to his own advantage and turn them into opportunities. This is a person who thrives and flourishes in today’s world. I don’t see him buying into the fundamentalist propaganda, not even to win an election.
This is a big country with a huge variety of opinion (I think I deserve the right to an occasional platitude, especially on a Monday). If there is a Progressive movement, there has to be a Conservative counterpart. “Audiatur et altera pars” is a principle that I hold near and dear. For the longest time, I’ve been hoping to hear what the Conservative discourse in this country is. However, the Conservative movement in the US has been hijacked by a minority of crazed fundamentalists. There must be intelligent, non-hysterical, educated Conservatives who don’t evoke Jesus, sin and evil every fifteen minutes and who are as comfortable with today’s realities as we are. A candidate like Trump could help such people take back the party. This would be the kind of a Republican party that I would still not support, but at least I’d be able to respect it. Difference of opinion is a great thing, and it’s precisely that which no religious fanaticism can allow to exist. I’m a lot more comfortable with (mind you, not happy about but comfortable with) an administrator who asks me to demonstrate how my existence is profitable to the university than the one who requires that I demonstrate how the teachings of Jesus will be integrated into my course on Spanish grammar (a true story).

“But he is a ruthless capitalist who will walk over everybody and everything in search for a profit margin,” people say. That he is. And for many people this is what this entire country is about: being able to do whatever is needed to become rich and assume the risk of failure. A Democrat in office is supposed to make sure that we have some protections in place in case we fail. A Republican’s job is to remove such protections based on a belief that this will make us try harder to win the competition. One can dislike this position but at least it’s based on reason and not on hysterical fanaticism. 

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>Television Journalists Suck

>I just remembered why I stopped watching news on television. A journalist is commenting on the death of Osama bin Laden: "Now we can see that people who died in Iraq didn't die in vain."

I'd much rather have kept watching Celebrity Apprentice than listen to this kind of tripe.

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>Obama Killed Osama

>A major victory for President Obama: it seems like Osama bin Laden has been killed in Pakistan by American forces.

I was watching Celebrity Apprentice when it was interrupted by this special announcement. It was very curious to see the current President interrupt a frivolous show of one of his main detractors and a possible future opponent in the presidential race with this kind of major news.

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