Instructions for a Takeover

A Soviet defector explains how to engineer a takeover of a country:

If this resonates with you, here’s a full video.

Book Notes: The Dead by James Joyce

Yes, that James Joyce, I know. I hate the modernists, too. But this short novel (or a long short story) doesn’t have any of the linguistic experimentation and confusing, long sentences we normally associate with Joyce. Everything is very realist, very understated, and very clear.

The story is – to me, that is. To other people it’s about something else entirely – about marriages between people of very different levels of emotional development. If you’ve never had to live with a person who’s kind of emotionally stunted compared to you, you won’t feel the story. You know, the people who can never notice what anybody around them is feeling, who are all “me, me, me,” who kill the mood for everybody without realizing it, and act as a dead weight on everybody else’s emotional state.

Gabriel, the main character of The Dead is a reader, a book reviewer, and a person who feels things intensely. His wife Gretta, whom he loves dearly, is none of these things. Gabriel never wanted to accept that Gretta’s lower social class meant anything but it does. She’s incapable of existing in a more complex emotional universe that is Gabriel’s. She’s one of those people who are going to crap all over your excitement, happiness, and joy not out of spite but because she’s not equipped to notice that you are feeling them. The only emotion accessible to them is feeling sorry for themselves.

None of this is spelled out in those words in the short novel. As I said, it’s very understated, which is the only modernist thing about it. Make of it what you will but it’s a great book. And the subject of emotional compatibility is fascinating. Forget marriages. Imagine being a more emotionally complex child with an emotionally stunted mother. There are some people who feel things more intensely, who are touched deeply by art, who feel nature, etc. And there are those with the emotional range of a piece of wood. Like N and his mother. She just doesn’t understand what the big deal is in saying the insensitive, horrid things she says. Emotionally, she’s a primitive organism. Joyce’s Gretta isn’t as bad as that but she’s definitely one of those less complicated human beings, so to speak.

Free College, Semester 1

Today I will be writing to several people, telling them I will not be able to hire them next semester. In reality, I won’t be able to hire them the next academic year either. They’ve been with us for 15-20 years, and now they are unemployed.

Yesterday, a new round of budget cuts was announced. We are losing our travel money. Our entire winter course revenue is being taken away. More sections are cut, which means not only no jobs for lecturers but also delayed graduation for students who can’t get into the already overcrowded classes.

This is the result of the Democratic governor of Illinois promising “free college” and removing tuition for families with incomes of under $65,000. Obviously, the colleges aren’t getting a crooked dime from the governor to compensate for losing the tuition money. As I’ve been saying since the moment I heard the words “free college.” We have record enrollments but less money than ever.

For families this means longer times towards graduation, added difficulties for students who work and can’t find courses that fit into their schedules, fewer services, fewer opportunities, a lot less individual attention from professors, etc. For academic programs, this means less research, fewer (on none) books, no new equipment, and a crowd of fired colleagues.

When I write to the lecturers who were counting on this income and who find themselves fired right before Christmas, should I mention that free (or very cheap) college worked in 1962, so I’m sure it’s going to start working any day now, so just sit tight?

I honestly respect more the hard-nosed neoliberals who openly want to destroy public higher education than the good-intentioned folks whose brains are stuck on the mantras of the 1970s.

I feel very heavy-hearted today because these are good people, and I have to deliver terrible news. Oh, and did I mention that I will never vote for another Democrat for any office under any pretext ever EVER again? Screw these neoliberal bastards. The other bastards are also neoliberal but at least they don’t dupe the naive folks into self-destruction.

Zero and Zero

Professors were asked to speak about their experience teaching this semester. 100% of people who spoke reported an extraordinary high rate of dropouts, extremely low engagement, apathy, and a sky-high of failures and incompletes.

My experience has been the exact opposite. For the first time in my whole career, I will have no Fs or unauthorized withdrawals (which is a grade we assign when a student stops showing up.) My teaching hasn’t changed. The workload in my courses hasn’t changed.

You know what is the difference between me and the people who reported all this? I’m teaching in person. I’ve had the best 3 semesters of my career since we came back from the COVID lockdown. Attendance, participation, and progress are sensational. I’m so energized by the student enthusiasm, I’m not even feeling the usual end of semester burnout. I was kind of stunned to hear everybody’s dropout numbers because mine are zero and zero.

Pushing Match

OK, remember that very woke acquaintance who stunned me in the summer by putting her kid into a Christian school? We were all afraid she was going to try to push the school to the left.

Well, guess what? In the pushing match, the school is winning. The woke acquaintance is sending out group messages, telling people to vote Republican in 2022 because “it’s time for us to get rid of that bastard Pritzker [the Dem governor].”

This is a pretty big switch from the BLM messages she used to send all through the year. You go, Evangelicals!