Who Has the Power to Refuse?

Margaret Soltan at University Diaries has published a great post about tenure and the power (or lack thereof) of tenured faculty. Make sure you read the post (and subscribe to the blog because it rocks) but, in the meanwhile, I wanted to call your attention to the story of Dr. Alexander McPherson who resisted the attempts of  the University of California Irvine to take the mandatory sexual harassment training:

“I have consistently refused to take such training on the grounds that the adoption of the requirement was a naked political act by the state that offended my sensibilities, violated my rights as a tenured professor, impugned my character and cast a shadow of suspicion on my reputation and career,” McPherson said.

“I consider my refusal an act of civil disobedience. I even offered to go to jail if the university persisted in persecuting me for my refusal. We Scots are very stubborn in matters of this sort.”

It’s so good to hear that such things still take place. Normally, at every campus I have visited or heard of, the most beaten down, brown-nosing, terrified folks who are ready to kiss ass of every minor administrator are not the tenure-track faculty, the adjuncts, the instructors, the grad students, or the secretarial staff. It’s the tenured profs. It’s as if the moment you got tenure, you somehow immediately learned to tremble in the presence of any minuscule administrative pseudo-authority. I have no idea why that is but I have gotten used to the fact that any resistance even to the greatest act of stupidity on campus will not come from tenured people.

Kudos to Dr. McPherson who resisted the silly and humiliating “training” the university wanted to inflict on him. And shame on all those tenured colleagues of his who did not join his protest.

Every year, I am forced to take the so-called “ethics training” that teaches me in the most condescending way you can imagine not to accept bribes, not to divert university funding to my relatives, and not to steal office supplies. So I know where McPherson’s outrage is coming from.

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Choosing a Movie

It’s very hard to find a movie I’d like to see that is showing in our area. The regular film selection at out local movie theater is crapola with a serving of total rubbish. I keep checking the listings from one month to another but there is nothing I would be able to sit through even if somebody paid me to do it.

This week, however, I am determined to go. The scheduled movie outing is tomorrow night. And here is an image of the local listings:

Sad, eh? I made my choice, though, and tomorrow I’m going to see one of these movies. Do tell me which one you would have chosen and why. There is still time for me to change my mind!

I will post a review of whatever it is I end up watching, of course.

What’s With the Tendency to Demonize People?

Look at the following search that brought somebody to my blog:

I have written posts that were critical of Shakesville. But, come on, folks, what’s with the drama? Shakesville isn’t perfect. Often, it posts really silly articles. But stalinist? Do you know how offensive it is to people who actually know what Stalinism is?

It’s the same kind of needless demonization of inoffensive little things that bug us that makes some people use “Nazi” or “fascist” in the sense of “mean, annoying person.”

I remember when an unhinged reader left a comment on my blog telling me that I was “the epitome of everything that is wrong in the world” and “an embarrassment to humanity.” There is a strong possibility it was the same weird person who is now looking for proof that Shakesville is Stalinist.

Let’s feel free to disagree with any blog out there or down here. But let’s try to keep Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot out of it. No matter how much you dislike a blogger, s/he is not a genocidal dictator.

Cannibalizing Motherhood

There are mothers who are not content with cannibalizing their child’s personal space, romantic life, thoughts and soul. They signal their intention to devour the kid’s existence by. . . eating the placenta.

Fellow blogger Nominatissima pointed me to a practice called “placenta encapsulation.” I Googled it and immediately found a website of a midwife (who else?), telling women “You take care of your baby – I’ll take care of the placenta.”

Placentophagy, or consumption of the placenta, has been reported for decades to help stop the baby blues and diminish postpartum fatigue.  Some women have cooked the placenta in a stew, mixed it into a smoothie, or even taken it raw to tap into its powerful effects.  For many who feel squeamish about this or want to reap the benefits of placenta for more than just a day or two, there is another option: encapsulation.  Powdered placenta has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries.

Eating the placenta is supposed to reduce post-partum depression. I guess there is some kind of a weird logic to the entire thing. As you eat the placenta, you can imagine all the ways in which you will consume the child. You can dress it like a little billboard for your political beliefs. You can show it off to friends and relatives and use it to compete with them. You can drag it to baby pageants. You can use it as an excuse for not working or not having a personal life of your own. You can go through its pockets, backpack, computer, etc. You can police its every thought and action. So what is there to be depressed about when there is still so much fun to be had out of the kid?

In Need of Translation-Related Help

So in the novel I’m translating, a future mother-in-law tells her daughter’s suitor (of whom she doesn’t approve) that his face looks like this:

This is an unpleasant gesture in our culture, and comparing one’s face to it is not flattering.

The problem is I don’t know how to translate it into English. If you wanted to compare a person’s face with something bad to put them down, how would you do that? In a way that would be easily understandable to English-speakers? It has to be unpleasant, but not extremely offensive.

I just translated a poem by a Russian poet Benediktov as part of this translation project, which was a feat in itself.  So now I need help with the ugly face comment because there is a limit even to my inventiveness.

Who Are the Bad Guys?

In my course on Hispanic Civlization, I was talking about the horrors of the Inquisition.

“Why do the Christians always come off like the bad guys?” one student asked giving me an accusatory stare.

I didn’t want to tell her that we still had the genocide of the indigenous peoples of the Americas in the name of the spread of Christianity ahead of us in the course.

And the ruin that religious fanaticism brought to the Spanish-speaking world during the years of the Empire.

And the way the Church constantly undermined the struggle for progress and the attempts to create a democratic society in Spain in the XIXth and early XXth centuries.

And the fascist Catholic dictatorship that existed in Spain between 1939 and 1975.

I have no desire to hurt the sensibilities of my Bible Belt students who have spent their lives in places where religion is the only form of entertainment and community organizing. But what can I do if history is the way it is?