Students Across the Street

A couple of kids from across the street knocked on my door yesterday.

“We will be having a party on Saturday,” they say, “so we wanted to give you our phone number to call in case you are bothered by the music or the noise.”

“Are you students at our university?” I asked.

“Yes,” the kids said.

“I teach there,” I shared.

“Oh,” one of them said in a small voice. “Will it still be OK for us to have our party?”

“Oh yes,” I responded. “I work at the Department of Foreign Languages and we are a very fun bunch. We love partying. What foreign language are you taking?”

Then we had a small advising session right on my doorstep.

Let’s Reward Failure

My alma mater never ceases to amaze. Here is the most recent exercise in weirdness that has come out of it:

Yale Law School professors Akhil Amar ’80 LAW ’84 and Ian Ayres ’81 LAW ’86 are now pushing . . .  for law schools to offer to pay off part of their first-years’ loans should these students realize that their prospects of successful legal careers are slim. No law schools have policies like this one, and the law professors want Yale to be the first to adopt their proposal.

Yes, let’s reward failure instead of success because there is not enough of that going on at Yale.

I especially love the part that states “no law schools have policies like this one.” I bet they don’t. I also bet that in most graduate schools students don’t conceal their publications in prestigious peer-reviewed journals for fear of being dumped on. I’m sure that in most grad schools people don’t petition to abolish the grading system because those grad students who pass and fail undergrads on a regular basis are too traumatized by the idea that their work might be graded. I can pretty much guarantee that in most grad schools people don’t slink out of the library hoping that nobody sees them carrying scholarly volumes because reading is not prestigious.

If we are talking about Yale, then the last thing this school needs is to reward people for dropping out of grad school, failing, and messing up. It is done way too much as it is. Maybe it’s time to start rewarding success, for a change.

The article I quote above proceeds to get boggled down in really ridiculous philosophizing:

The argument hits a classic question: Should the responsibility of a student’s success in school fall on the school or the student?

This isn’t a classic question. It is a stupid question. Those who want to learn, learn. And those who don’t come up with a shitload of excuses about how they are huge victims of everything. If we attribute a student’s failure to his or her university and proceed to compensate students for that financially, then it stands to reason that if students have wildly successful careers after graduation, they should pay bonuses to the school for making this success possible. And how much success does that make?

This patronizing attitude that completely denies any chance of personal responsibility to human beings is really annoying.

Amazon Keeps Creeping Me Out

I never bought any music from Amazon or listened to any music on my Kindle. So I pressed a button called “Visit Music Store” on my Kindle Fire and was taken to my music recommendations. The only recommendation I got was “Violent Femmes” by Violent Femmes. I’ve never heard about this group and don’t know their music.

But isn’t “a violent femme” the best way to describe me? And, most importantly, how does Amazon know that about me?

I’m creeped out.

Captain Morgan’s

I feel completely exhausted, people. My sister’s baby is sick, so she doesn’t sleep. And when my sister doesn’t sleep in Montreal, I don’t sleep in Illinois because our bodies are finely attuned to each other. I feel like a herd of wild horses has trampled on me.

This has made me so completely out of it that I just approached the cashier at our university restaurant and instead of paying for my lunch, said:

“Can I have a big bottle of Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum?”

Now, the last thing I want right now is alcohol. The mere idea of it makes me nauseous. I just want to teach my last class and go home. So I have no idea why I tried buying rum on campus. A big bottle, too.

The cashier gave me a funny look when I did that.

“I’ve been meaning to ask,” she said, “what country are you from?”

I considered lying but I plan to work at this university for years to come which made lying impossible.

So I just confirmed a stereotype that Russians can’t get through the day without a liter of booze.

Foucault vs Chomsky

I’ve never seen this debate before, people, and I’m loving it. Whose brilliant idea was it to put in the same room one of the leading philosophers of the XXth century and a superficial populist? These guys exist on two planes of reality that do not intersect. It’s like a discussion between an old professor and a freshman who declaims the funny little slogans he learned in high school.

OK, the geek-out is over and we are back to our regular programming.

Masculinities and Femininities

A guy was trying to pick me up yesterday. He is an engineer who is a passionate political activist and whose hobby is XIXth-century history. He wasn’t, however, trying to get me to like him by discussing these topics. Instead, he did what I call “the Superman schtick” and offered me stories about how he was in the Marines and then later participated in covert operations hunting war criminals in Central Europe.

Men always do that a lot with me. I’ve had people drop on the floor and start bench-pressing (or whatever this strange activity is called) in the middle of a conversation in hopes of impressing me. I always somehow provoke the nerdiest guys into enumerating their high-school athletic achievements to me.

I know why this happens, of course. People see how I perform gender and immediately assume that I’m into men who are a collection of macho stereotypes.

In truth, however, I’m into the exact opposite. Nowadays, nobody has a chance of attracting me because, as we all know on this blog, I am passionately in love. However, in the times when I could be attracted, I was totally into the “I spent all day writing code today, after which I played Call of Duty for six hours and other players said my strategy was gay, so I went and wrote a poem about being lonely and misunderstood” guys rather than “I worked out at the gym, watched a football game with my buddies, and swapped memories of our times in the army after that” guys.

The point that I’m trying to make is that the way people choose to perform gender says nothing about their politics, their lifestyle choices, and their dating preferences. My dresses, makeup and shoes mean only one thing: I like wearing them. There is nothing else you can deduce about me or about anybody else on this basis. Gender is always a performance (want bibliography? I have it). And as such, it says nothing about the nature of the performers. An actor who plays Hitler is not an evil person. And a woman who wears heels and makeup is not . . . anything other than a woman who wears heels and makeup.