Birthday Cake

I can’t eat the cake because I’m so ancient I have health problems. But I can blow out the candles, at least.

And this is one of the new outfits.

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It’s Working

A very young white man at the restaurant where I’m having lunch just called me “sweetheart.” The Korean beauty procedure is really working because a month ago he’d have called me “ma’am.”

Good Clothes

People who say it’s hard to buy good, fashionable, beautiful and comfortable clothing at a moderate price in large sizes don’t know what they are talking about. Even in our tiny town, we have a store that carries such clothes in sizes up to 30. If you are unfamiliar with American sizes, I’m between sizes 14 and 16. And I’m 193 lbs (and stuck there for months, but whatever.) So you can imagine how large 30 is.

All you need to do to find such clothes is to go to stores that are owned and / or patronized by African American women. At this store I’m talking about, I literally want everything. I can’t have everything because it’s a lot and also because I’m too small for many of the things. Which is quite a pleasant feeling.

I’m still traumatized by living in Quebec where store assistants laugh in your face if you ask for anything over size 10. So it’s gratifying to be in a more welcoming environment.

All this is to say that I just went to this store to buy one little item as a birthday gift to myself and ended up leaving with nine great items at $178 total. Two 👗, one skirt, 3 pants, and three shirts.

Our Censorship

In a way, the censorship in US academia is worse than the Soviet kind. The Soviet censors were mostly dumb, uneducated people, and it wasn’t all that hard to pull wool over their eyes and make them think you are saying the opposite of what you were. Writer Vera Ketlinskaya, for instance, created a very realistic and poignant depiction of the horrors experienced by young people in Stalin’s industrialization projects. It was investigative reporting of the highest caliber. And she got Stalin’s Award in literature for it because she was smart about how she framed the story.

We don’t have any dumb bureaucrats censoring our work. We censor each other during the peer-review process. This means that the people keeping you in tune with the party line are very smart. If you hide your ideas so well that even they can’t find them, then nobody else will find them either.

Professional Purpose

“Transnationalism” is currently in vogue in my field. The word is everywhere in conference proceedings, titles of edited volumes, CFPs. Of course, we are all supposed to be very much in favor, even though nobody knows what it really is. But the term seems to point to “open borders,” and we are all supposed to be very much pro-that.

The more lucid among us have begun to realize that the concept of a national literature was invented to support the nation-state. And people who specialize in national literatures only exist for as long as there is a need to keep alive the myths of the nation-state order. Of course, they still can’t go against the sacred cow of transnationalism but it’s cute to see them wriggle.

The answer that they have found is that well, we should all just specialize in literature as a transnational phenomenon. What will happen when the corporate university cancels their positions and hires one, single, and only specialist in “transnational literature” is not discussed.

I’m not usually possessed by a sense of a higher professional purpose. The whole point of me being a scholar is for me to live a comfortable life that offers as few distractions as possible from my enjoyments.

Recently, however, I have felt that a purpose has been forming itself almost against my will. I want people to stop reciting polite mantras and start thinking at least about this single issue. You know how we are. Censorship is fierce. Anything on a subject like this that departs from the party line by half a millimeter is simply banned.

I understand that one can’t stop liquid capital. But can’t we at least be a little bit critical of it? Can we at least not dismantle our own disciplines so eagerly in order to help it flow?