Did the Statue Consent?

And this is the kind of quasi-feminist statement that you keep hoping against hope was made in jest:

 This gargantuan mockery of Marilyn Monroe, a real woman whose untimely death froze her as an icon of perpetual youth and sexuality in spite of, because of, her documented struggles with being objectified and exploited, is an invitation for “hilarious” displays of male sexual aggression. The link goes to a photo gallery in which men and boys are pictured standing between her legs giving the thumbs up, standing in a way to be photographed to appear to be grabbing her ass, turning their faces up and pretending to lick her, etc.

She is a a giant, silent avatar of non-consent, posed forever to be a sexual object for the pleasure of passers-by.


The statue did not consent, people. So probably those who lick her without consent should be brought to trial for rape.

When I heard the story of Russian millionaires renting halls in the Hermitage museum and filming themselves “grabbing the statue of Michelangelo’s David by the balls”, I knew they were jerks who were guilty of attempted vandalism. I just never realized they were engaging in a sex crime.

Could we also condemn Michelangelo for touching the statue all over without asking for the statue’s consent? He must have done some serious groping while he was creating it.

Don’t you love it when prudishness tries to mask itself as feminism?

Racist or Not?

A student keeps using the word “half-breeds” to refer to  people of mixed ancestry (indigenous and European) in Latin America. That’s racist, right? I know the term makes me feel very annoyed (it has been used to refer to me on various occasions) but does it sound racist to an English-speaking ear?

I’ll be crossing it out in the student’s responses anyways.


Questions Without Answers: “Afterward”

So my father’s book of short stories finally came out in English, and this makes me very proud.

In case people are curious, I want to offer you a link to one of the stories that is available online and that is part of the book. I am not the translator of this work, although I helped edit parts of the translation. The translation I am working on will be done by the end of November, and you have no idea how I will celebrate that. It is weary work, indeed, to translate a writer who can’t create a sentence without inserting some play on words in there.

To give a small example, I just spent a while trying to find an English-language writer whose last name would lend itself to a pun and whose characters’ names would be funny in order to substitute references to Nikolai Gogol in the original text.

Can anybody figure out what the name of the first-person narrator in this story is? 🙂

Here is the link to Michael Blekhman’s short story “Afterward”.



Spanish Garlic Soup (Sopa de Ajo): A Recipe

“What kind of a Hispanist am I if I never tried Spanish sopa de ajo(garlic soup)?” I asked myself recently. So I decided to make my first garlic soup ever. Even though it didn’t

Sopas de ajo

look, feel, or taste like what we call “soup” in my culture (no potatoes! no carrots! no cabbage!), it was still very good and hearty, which was especially appropriate for the first cold spell this Fall.

Here are the ingredients I used:

    • Half a loaf of stale bread (please don’t get that weird kind that never goes stale).
    • 10-12 cloves of garlic (I wimped out and only added 8, which was a mistake).
    • several strips of bacon and some bacon bits (this is what I used to substitute for Spanish amazing jamon serrano which I obviously don’t have here)
    • 6 eggs
    • some stock that I substituted with water
    • olive oil
    • a little paprika (substitute with cayenne paper if you don’t mind hotness.)

In some olive oil, fry bacon strips cut into pieces until they become golden. Cut garlic cloves into smallish pieces and add them to the pan. Make sure the garlic becomes golden but doesn’t burn.

Garlic and Bacon

Cut your stale loaf into crouton-sized cubes and add them to the frying-pan. When all ingredients are pleasantly golden, remove the pan from the fire and add 1/3 of a teaspoon of paprika. It is supposed to cover your ingredients with nice reddish color. Make sure paprika doesn’t burn, though!

In the meanwhile, heat up your stock (or water) in a pan. Add some more crouton-sized pieces of stale bread. Some people just add big slices of bread but that’s too exotic for me. When the ingredients in the frying pan are ready, add them to the stock. Now, let everything simmer for 20 minutes. I didn’t add any salt because my bacon was salty enough for my preferences. This is up to you, of course.

IMPORTANT: At no point should you allow your soup to boil. So keep an eye on it at all times. It boils, it’s ruined.

When the soup is almost done, beat the eggs into it. I also left two yolks out and added them to the plate after the soup was served. When you break up the yolk in the plate, it spreads around, and the soup becomes even more delicious.

Here is what the garlic soup ended up looking like:

Sopas de ajo

I obviously need to get a new camera soon because I don’t think that on this cell phone photo you can really see that the soup ended up looking like a flower in the plate. It was very tasty, too.

Teaching Styles

I found a description of a teaching style that is the exact opposite of mine:

 I’m actually pretty intolerant when it comes to what I expect a class of mine to run like.  What Koshary describes about students waltzing in 20 minutes late and then proceeding to text?  It doesn’t happen in my classes.  I don’t tolerate it.  I ask them to leave.  With a smile on my face, and with a spring in my step, so the rest of the class thinks it’s funny, but I don’t hesitate.  It happens, and they’re out.  Do that a few times, and it stops.  Late papers?  I don’t care about your reasons: you lose a full letter grade a day.  I don’t care if your grandmother died and you were in the hospital – deadlines are deadlines.  You show up unprepared, and you’re out.  You complain about the reading and I’ll tell you, again, with a smile on my face, that this is college and if you’re not prepared to do the work then you really should consider dropping out.  And then I giggle.  In front of the whole class.

Mind you, the goal of my post is not to criticize the educators who teach this way. Everybody has their own teaching style, and whatever works for each teacher is fine. I firmly believe that everybody should run their classroom the way that makes them happy, and nobody should have anything to say about it. I just want to share what my approach is. The blogger I quoted is an admirable educator and scholar, and I’m in no way trying to be critical of her personally.

My approach, however, is different. I believe that my duty to the students consists of arriving in class, delivering the material, grading their work, answering emails with course-related questions, and being available for office hours. And that is where my duty ends. I’m not their Mommy, their life coach, probation officer, boot camp trainer, or nursemaid. I don’t have time or energy to police them.

This is why I don’t care how late, early, or at all they show up for class. I don’t care if they are listening to the lecture or texting furiously to their friends. Students are adults, and it is up to them to decide whether texting is more important to them than the lecture. Who am I to impose my system of priorities on them?

I have a student who always sleeps in class. The moment I come in, he plops his head on the desk and falls asleep. Maybe the sight of me does it to him, I don’t know. Today, we had a mini-quiz in the last 15 minutes of class, so other students had to make significant efforts to wake him for that. I never tried waking him during my lectures, though. He is a grown-up who decided that sleeping is more important to him at this point in life, so good for him. Why do I need to waste time on discussing this with him or waking him?

I also don’t listen to excuses as to why students have to be absent. I just let them go. If this means they need to come to my office later and write the mini-quiz or the exam there, why should I mind? I will be in the office during the office hours anyways.

This beautiful tree is half yellow half green. Oh, I love Fall!

As for late assignments, I never lower grades for them. Why should I? I grade the quality of writing. I’m a scholar of literature and that’s the only thing I teach. Personality flaws should be addressed by therapists at a patient’s request. I have never refused to accept late assignments. It’s actually easier to have them all spaced out in time because, honestly, who wants to grade 42 essays in one sitting?

You’d think that as a result of this attitude my classes would be an out of control mess, right? Students arriving late, barely ever showing up for class, asking to rewrite exams weeks after they were given, handing in assignments egregiously late, etc. Actually, this is not nearly the case.

Students see that I respect them and respond with respect. I can’t remember the last time a student was late for class. Nobody interrupts me, nobody talks while I talk.  We have written 3 mini-quizzes and one midterm in one class this semester and 2 mini-quizzes in another class. Out of all these tests, only two students came by my office to do them outside of the class time. One of those students hopped in on crutches, too. Students love me for being so laid back. I love them, too, because I made a decision a long time ago never to be ruffled by other people’s decisions not to do homework, skip class, or snooze during my lectures.

This is why on campus I always walk around with a beatific smile on my lips. Since I don’t allow things that have nothing to do with me to upset or annoy me, I always have a fantastic, stress-free time teaching.

Online Dating Story #5

As I explained before, I never asked for the photos of people I met online. Photos don’t really transmit how people look. The facial expressions, the movements are absent from them. For the purposes of figuring out whether you’ll be attracted to a person, they are useless.

One of the people I met online, though, (let’s call him K.) really insisted that I visited his site and saw his photos. When I finally went to the site, I understood why he’d been so insistent. The guy was movie-star gorgeous. He was also an astronomer who made super impressive videos of his projects. And he had many cool hobbies. So, of course, I agreed to meet him as soon as possible.

When I got to the coffee-shop, however, the guy wasn’t there. Instead, the ugliest person I had ever seen stood up to greet me.

“Hi, you are here to meet me!” he told me.

“I don’t think so,” I said.

“Yes, you are. This wasn’t my website I sent you. It was my friend’s.”

“Why did you say it was yours?” I asked.

“Well, I’m very ugly, as you can see. I didn’t want to scare you off.”

I couldn’t really argue with these statements, so we sat down to have coffee.

K. turned out to be not only painfully unattractive but also extremely boring. I can chat up a marble statue if I really try, but every effort I made was hopeless. K. was mostly silent. Pretty much the only time he opened his mouth was to tell me he had made dinner reservations.

I grew desperate. All I wanted to do was leave but I didn’t know how to break that to K. Suddenly, I had a brilliant idea. I saw a man and a woman who were sitting a few tables away from us and who looked very much in love. Even though I’d never seen them before, I decided to use them for my purposes.

“Oh my God, I can’t believe this!” I exclaimed in a tragic voice while staring at the happy couple. “I can’t believe he is doing this to me!”

“What’s going on?” K. asked.

“See this man over there? He is my ex-boyfriend. And he is here with the woman he dumped me for. Oh, this is too painful!”

At that point, I kind of almost believed my own drama and managed to burst into very helpful tears.

“I’m sorry,” I wept into my napkin. “I can’t take this right now. Seeing them together is too painful. I need to go.”

Then I got up and ran away.

Lesson learned: if people insist on showing you their photos, something fishy is probably going on.

Online Dating Story #4

One of the men I met online worked for one of those places in New York that folks are protesting right now. Wall Street, Shmallstreet, at that time I had no idea what it even meant, let alone that men working there might end up being a little eccentric for my tastes.

I didn’t exchange photos with this guy before meeting him because everybody looks different on photos anyways. When I got to the coffee-shop where we were meeting, we talked for about 15 minutes when my date proudly announced,

“I’m taking you to a corporate event at my company after we are finished here.”

I’m not one of those people who like “being taken” anywhere, especially by complete strangers, so I was quite shocked.

“What makes you think I want to go to some corporate event?” I asked.

“No, you don’t understand,” my date said. “It’s a REAL corporate event. There will be many important people. Don’t worry, I have a limo waiting, and we still have time to drive by your place for you to change.”

“You do realize that I’m not going to any corporate event with you, right?” I responded.

My date looked peevish.

“You have to come,” he exclaimed. “I already told everybody that I will be bringing a beautiful Russian woman.”

“You’d never even seen my photo,” I reminded.

“But I know that all Russian women are beautiful!” the date shared.

“I’m going to go home now,” I said.

The date, however, was determined to be seen with “a beautiful Russian woman” at any cost.

“Could we at least take a walk around campus?” he asked desperately. Of course, I was already out of the door and have no idea what else he was saying.

P.S. “How come men always turn out to be horrible on these dates while you never are?” readers might start to ask. Don’t worry, my friends, next story will show both me and the date in quite a negative light. Then, you can decide who was the bigger jerk in the situation.

The Reasons People Are Romantically and Sexually Unsuccessful

I’m lonely, I can’t find a date no matter how hard I try. This must be because:

  • I’m too fat and everybody likes skinny women / men
  • I’m too short and everybody likes tall men (nobody likes tall women)
  • I’m not muscular enough
  • I don’t use make-up
  • I’m not conventionally attractive
  • I don’t have a job
  • I don’t have a prestigious education
  • I’m shy
  • I’m awkward
  • I’m unsociable
  • I don’t dress nicely
  • I’m poor
  • I’m too outspoken
  • I’m too smart
  • I don’t shave my armpits
  • I’m bald
  • my ears are too big
  • my thighs are ugly

Society is unfair, and unconventional people like myself don’t stand a chance romantically.

Whenever you are hearing (or saying) something like this, you need to know that you are hearing (or saying) a load of complete and utter horseshit. And believe me, this is the mildest term I can find for it.

Sexual desire has absolutely nothing to do with any of the above. These are simply excuses people use to blame their lack of romantic and sexual success on some vague entity they call “society.” I know nobody wants to hear this. As you know from my recent series of posts titled “My Romantic Journey”, I am very familiar with this neurotic game. Believe me, people, this is a road to nowhere. At least, nowhere nice.

The only thing that makes some people extremely popular and attracts crowds of admirers to them is their healthy, happy, exuberant sexuality. There are dozens of non-verbal clues such people offer to the world. They move differently, look at you differently, they smell of sex. Our subconscious reads all of these signs way before we even begin to notice their weight, height, ears, and armpits. And when we do notice these things, it’s too late for them to matter.

Now, this doesn’t mean that a person who doesn’t happen to have a happy, healthy, exuberant sexuality at the moment is doomed to loneliness. It is still possible to meet somebody who will be chemically attracted to you and whose romantic scenario will fit you perfectly. People who are wildly sexually popular simply maximize their chances of meeting a partner who would be perfect for them because they manage to attract so many people.

I think I mentioned before this man I knew, let’s call him P. P. was short, skinny, wrinkly, ugly like hell. He had started losing his hair at the age of 19. He was permanently broke. He never had anything interesting to say. And women slaughtered each other for him.

I also think I blogged before about this woman I used to know, let’s call her L. L. was obese, and not in a pretty, plump way. She had buck teeth and a nasty streak from here to the moon. However, L. was a true femme fatale. The number of beautiful, smart, kind men who adored her was shocking.

Of course, I’m only talking about sexual attraction right now. If we are to discuss relationships and what ingredients make successful long-term relationships possible, intense sexual attraction is not nearly enough. But this is a completely different topic that I will address in separate post if people are interested. (And believe me, what I have to say has nothing to do with the ordinary platitudes about the importance of listening, communicating your needs, and other inane things like that.)