Amazon in Spain!

I just discovered the best piece of news ever from Jonathan’s blog: now there is Amazon in Spain.

And their address is very simple:

http://www.amazon.es/

This makes me more happy than words can tell. Of course, my bank account is weeping quietly in the background. But who cares if just today I spent two hours scouring our continent for a book I really wanted to get and now I bought it within exactly 20 seconds on Spanish Amazon! And it was their only copy, too. 🙂

I’m having heart palpitations right now because I’m so happy. I need to have some tea to calm down. This is just really huge for me.

P.S. And they offer gift certificates. Family members, are you there? Do you hear this? Gift certificates. Your problem of what to give me as a gift has been solved forever. Please remember that a girl can never have enough books in Spanish.

New Academic Year’s Resolution

Z, a fellow Hispanist, has been churning out great posts one after another. Her most recent post has inspired me to make a new academic year’s resolution.

When I was starting out my career in academia as an advanced undergrad and a beginning grad student, I believed that academia was amazing, research was the most fun thing you could ever imagine yourself doing, and publishing was easy. And it was. All those things were true for me at that time. Publications rolled in, research progressed, and I wanted to dance around in the library all day long.

Then, I gradually got convinced that life was hard and academic life was even harder, research was painful, and publishing was impossible. And when I started to believe it, it all came true. The research, the publications, and the enjoyment all dried up.

So today I have decided: no more of that. I don’t want to participate in any more “Our lives are so miserable” conversations. Just being around when they occur gradually infects you with this attitude. I remember when I was at the MLA, interviewing for jobs, I absolutely loved the experience. Both times. It was pure, unadulterated enjoyment for me. But everybody kept saying it was so horrible and stressful, so I started feeling like it should be horrible and stressful. I started pasting the miserable expression I observed on others onto my face to avoid standing out.

And what do you think the end result was? I became completely stressed out and fell very ill. Gradually, of course, the long-suffering, tortured expression stops being a mask and becomes your only true face.

Here is more brilliance from Z on this subject:

Must we talk about struggle and suffering every day? Did you not get involved in this because it was interesting? I did, and  I think I deserve to remember that as much as anyone. I know a lot of people admire the straining academic persona but is that who you gravitate toward? Why not be strong and confident and competent if you can?

So this is the state of mind I am planning to recover from now on:

In this liberation front writing is fun, publishing is easy, teaching is a pleasant social and artistic experience, and administration is creative. These things are said in a bad situation, that we recognize as such. I recognize your bad situation as well. I am not willing, however, to perform difficulty at this time. I am interested in performing ease.

I really really like this. The entire post this is taken from has been printed out and is now on the walls of my office at work and my home office.

Oh, this feels good.

And This Is the Kind of Political Commentary I Don’t Like

The House of Representatives’ GOP Caucus has one more member after Republican Bob Turner won the special election last night in New York’s 9th Congressional District, to fill the seat vacated by disgraced Democrat Anthony Weiner.

So now there’s a conservative vote where a progressive vote used to be, because Weiner couldn’t keep it in his pants.

No, it happened because voters are more interested in what happens in the politicians’ pants than in what their stand is on political and economic issues. For all I care, Weiner or anybody else could keep “it” wherever they like (consensually), as long as they do their job.

In an aside, something makes me suspect that the blogger who penned the above-mentioned comment would be up in arms if anybody discussed what a female politician should keep under her skirt.

What Are Entitlement Programs?

I’m reading a letter signed by several university presidents who are lobbying the Congress not to implement any further cuts to education. This is, of course, a noble goal.

However, what they propose to cut instead are “entitlement programs” which are named in this letter as the main source of the federal deficit. Unless by entitlement programs they mean the military budget, I think there is something fishy here.

I still find the vocabulary of the US economy confusing. Can anybody help? What are these “entitlement programs” that university leaders are proposing to cut to save our universities?

Be Very Careful About What You Say in Class

Because there might just be a student present who snoozed through the lecture, only managed to catch the quote you used in order to criticize it, and will rush off to complain:

A York student hears a professor say something anti-semitic, rushes out of the room in a rage, and informs on him all over the Jewish community. The professor is branded an anti-semite.

The professor, who is Jewish, was clearly using the anti-semitic statement in his lecture about prejudice as an example of a reprehensible opinion. The student failed to understand this.

[Senior Sarah] Grunfeld said Tuesday she may have misunderstood the context and intent of Johnston’s remarks, but that fact is insignificant.

“The words, ‘Jews should be sterilized’ still came out of his mouth, so regardless of the context I still think that’s pretty serious.”

Brainwashed by a culture where you are not complete unless you are a victim of something, the student in question was searching for a reason to be offended and found it by ripping a quote out of context. And is she apologizing after it has been explained to her that the fault lies with her for not listening properly? Not at all. She actually insists that the statement was still offensive.

So, as I say, be very very careful about what you say in class. There are potential victims in search of victimization everywhere.

York University has, indeed, gone completely to the dogs. They’ve had freedom of speech issues before, too.

Who’s Rich and Who’s Poor?

I think we use words like “rich”, “poor” and “well off” without defining what they mean to each of us and this often causes confusion.

So I thought we should all exchange our opinions on the issue. To simplify the whole thing, let’s take a single person living alone. What kind of yearly income (before taxes) should s/he have for you to consider her or him:

a) poor;

b) comfortable;

c) rich;

d) stinking rich.

We are talking about the US and Canada right now, of course. If anybody is interested, I can give you a similar breakdown for Ukraine and Russia (in USD, of course) later on.

More on Mail Order Brides

We all know how much I love people from other cultures pitying us, the Russian-speakers. The subject of mail-order brides is one of the topics that allows folks to feel profoundly sorry for poor, silly, victimized Russian-speaking women. Here is an example of how the image of Eastern-European mail-order brides is constructed for the enjoyment of the Western bleeding hearts:

I knew there was absolutely no way I could rationalize the “Win a Wife” contest. The whole event could easily be the premise for an episode of a popular crime show. And while this comparison is a superficial one, there are many more substantial issues I would like to address.

I am immediately disturbed by what women are referred to on the radio station’s website. The phrase “hot foreign chick” elicits a strong reaction from me because while it is utterly demeaning, it also plays off this awful notion of female exoticization. As though women who work with such “matchmaking” agencies are not human at all, but rather, a fantasy crafted strictly for the seeker’s pleasure. The phrase reflects attitudes towards women that are gravely misogynistic and ultimately, it is hyper-reductive.  However, the radio station is not the only source of such behavior. The agency that the radio station is working in conjunction with, Volga Girl, describes itself as “an integrity-based American company”. But upon closer examination, there seems to be little integrity on the website. While the radio station chooses to classify the Russian women on the Volga Girl website as “hot foreign chicks”, the agency’s website itself takes it one detail further. Visitors to the site have access to profiles of various women (who are each assigned a number for categorical purposes) which include a photo of the woman, her age, height, weight, religion and most importantly, her bust-waist-hip measurements.

What’s missing from this overly dramatic description is how the women in question imagine and approach the men they contact through the agency. Is there any evidence that they are not as driven by a silly fantasy fueled by a desire to see a future partner as an object that possesses a set of desirable characteristics? Why is there an immediate assumption that the women don’t treat men they contact through the agency in the same way those men treat them?

The author’s incapacity to imagine the women this article seemingly attempts to defend as valid human beings becomes glaringly obvious from the following sentence:

To be clear, this is not an attempt to criticize women who use agencies like Volga Girl for their services, but to simply make clear what the true aims for such matchmaking companies are and to also note that being in such a position presents many risks.

And why, may I ask, should we not criticize these women? Moreover, why not criticize them for the same reasons we criticize the men who use the agency? If these men are guilty of engaging in a baseless, uninformed fantasy that exoticizes people from other countries, how do the women who pay to be listed by the agency not guilty of the same attitude? Both men and women who use such agencies attempt to buy a spouse because they are, for whatever reason, incapable of finding one at home. And usually, the reasons for their unpopularity among their peers are exactly the same.

On both sides of the mail-order marriage business, there are people who pay for an unrealistic fantasy of a problem-free, perfect partner who has to be amazing by virtue of being foreign. To say that the victims in this game are always women while the men always win is a complete and utter distortion of the truth.

I have written some really good posts on mail order brides in the past, when my blog was less popular. If you haven’t read them and are looking for something interesting and less one-sided to read on the subject, I highly recommend. You can find them here and here. These old posts also contain information as to the social class from which the majority of mail brides come which is a factor that the pseudo-feminists who love to pity them always try to forget.