Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spanish Civil War: A Lesson for the US Today

In the aftermath of the news about the fundamentalist Christian militia leaders who were arrested this week in Michigan, it is especially fitting that tomorrow I will be discussing with my students the lessons of the Spanish Civil War.

In 1936, Spanish society was deeply divided ideologically, culturally, and politically. These divisions ran pretty much along the same lines at the ideological split in the US today. Religious fanatics who did not want to accept the demands of the changing world opposed women's rights, the separation of Church and State, social programs aimed at alleviating the lot of the dispossessed members of society, gay rights, secular education, and parliamentary democracy.

Spanish religious fanatics were profoundly racist, xenophobic, sexist, and homophobic. They could not accept the democratically elected Republican government of their country and organized a military uprising to remove the legitimately elected leaders from power. This deep ideological division had been growing in Spain for a very long time, until the breach became irreparable and erupted in a bloody Civil War.

Doesn't all of this sound eerily familiar to you? It does to me. Unless we want to see a fascist dictatorship firmly established in this country, we need to look closely and attentively at the lessons of the Spanish Civil War. This dangerous trend of not taking the growing numbers of American fascists seriously can lead us all to a very dark place. We keep fearing fundamentalist terrorists from overseas and often forget about our homegrown variety of religious extremism that is just as dangerous.

Dentists

There is this joke that goes as follows:

-What are you afraid of the most?
-Dentists and darkness.
-I can understand why you'd be afraid of dentists, but why the darkness?
-'Cause I can't see how many dentists there are in the darkness!

So I'm going to the dentists and half and hour and I'm terrified. Not so much of the physical pain, as of the pain I will experience when I see the bill. :-)

Wish me luck!

P.S. It turned out that the exact same procedures cost 3 times less in Southern Illinois than they did in upstate New York. Now I feel really glad that I moved to the area.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Most Popular Posts from the 1st Year of Blogging

I am preparing to celebrate my one-year anniversary of blogging, so I have been looking at those of my posts that attracted the largest number of visitors. One of the most unexpected things about blogging is that you can never guess or predict which posts will interest people the most. You'd think that the number of comments to a post tells us how popular it is. Not so! Some of my most popular posts have no comments at all but, according to my Statcounter, people keep coming to read them. So here are my most popular posts in the reverse chronological order:

Quantifying

Asperger's Test

Hair (I so wish it weren't so popular!)

Why I Dislike Third-Wave Feminism

Living Oprah by Robyn Okrant: A Review (I only wrote the last part of this post. The rest was contributed by an anonymous guest blogger. I guess the name "Oprah" is the best way to attract people to your blog.)

Using Puzzles in Job Interviews

Zygmunt Bauman's Does Ethics Have a Chance in a World of Consumers?: A Review, Part I (No comments, but people keep coming to check it out all the time.)

Traditional Russian Clothes

If Your Romantic Partner Has Asperger's (I'm glad people are finding this to be helpful).

Myths about C-section

A Penile Extension for Lloyd Blankfein

Infantilizing Men

Feminism and Taking a Man's Name

Male Bodies (I guess, it's mostly the first picture that's attracting people to the post, and not my profound text.) :-)

Quebec against "Hypersexualization"

Asexuality (As crazy as this sounds, this is still the most popular post ever that keeps attracting visitors on a regular basis. I didn't even want to list it hear for fear that the crazies would descend on the blog again. But in the spirit of full disclosure I am listing it.)

The funny thing is that these are not my favorite posts (except the one on a penile extension for Blankfein That one I love profoundly. :-)) So in the next post I will share those of my posts that I like the most.

Healthcare Bill and Selling Out Women

Aimée Thorne-Thomsen, Executive Director of the Pro-Choice Public Education Project, says:
Many of us who believed in the ideals of hope and change thought that we could achieve universal health care, if not in policy, then certainly in practice. That didn't happen. Poor people, immigrants, and women, among others, were all used as bargaining tools from the very beginning. As often is the case, women's bodies and health, was the ultimate battleground. The Stupak Amendment and then the Nelson Amendment in the Senate banned the use of public funds for abortion. Both were unnecessary and redundant because the Hyde Amendment, which has been renewed every year since it was first introduced in 1977, remains in place. But that wasn't enough. Stupak and Nelson went further by also barring women who would use the exchanges from getting insurance that would cover abortion. When that still did not satisfy Stupak and his anti-choice cronies, the President agreed to sign an executive order barring public funding of abortion in return for their support for the overall bill. Women's health was traded away for a handful of votes.
I've heard it said that the Democrats love women, unlike the Republicans who obviously hate us, so that's why women should vote for the Democratic candidates. Well, of course, they love us. If it weren't for women, they wouldn't have anything to trade off for votes in case of need. Today, whenever you need some conservative support for your legislation, all you have to do is to humiliate women and deprive them of their rights even more.

I keep wondering what would have happened in this respect if Clinton had been elected instead of Obama.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hispanic Studies Journals

Dear fellow Hispanists:

I just discovered this fantastic blog that lists all the academic journals in our field, collects comments on their publishing practices, and provides links to their web-sites. Here is this great blog. I'm so happy that I found it that I'm almost jumping for joy. No more sitting there, trying to figure out where to send an article.

The same person has a blog listing all Hispanic Studies presses.

Enjoy!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Quantifying, Part II

Yesterday's faculty meeting where we wasted several hours trying to quantify things that by their nature cannot be quantified allowed me to think about the reasons why we are forced to participate in these frustrating quantification exercises.

The current system of higher education is, of course, heavily invested into destroying the erstwhile prestige of the so-called "impractical" disciplines. Departments that teach Humanities and theoretical ("pure") sciences are asked to demonstrate which practical skills they teach their students. There is a list of these practical skills that I was given, and now I will have to prove in writing how each of my courses fosters these skills in students. I wonder how I will be able to do that for the graduate seminar on Spanish Golden Age poetry that I will be teaching next semester.

This obssession with practicality stems from the administration's fear that instead of "fostering marketable skills" we will foster independent critical thinking in students. A teacher who is not dedicating 100% of class time to teaching these practical skills might actually take some time to guide students towards thinking for themselves. Oooh, scary.

For the last two semesters I have been teaching a course on Hispanic Civilization. We cover a lot of material, do many difficult readings, write several papers, and address some very complex issues. The most difficult thing for me as a teacher, however, has been explaining to the students the concept of an analytical essay. When the students hear the word "essay", their first impulse is to go online or to the library, find tons of data, and regurgitate this information in an essay format. Getting them to realize that all I want is to see their own opinions on the subject has been a losing battle. "So you mean all I have to do is write what I think?" a student asked me in utter disbelief. "No, that can't be right. Nobody ever asked me to do this before. Are you sure this is what you want?" She is in her junior year in college and she never had a chance to express her opinions before. Of course, now she hardly even knows how to go about expressing them. As for practical skills (finding tons of information online, classifying it, and passing it off as your own), my students possess them in excess.

The push for quantification made the emphasis on fostering practical skills as the main goal of education even more ridiculous than it is already. There is a certain number of skills each course has to foster in order to be successful. So during the midpoint review, we sit there counting the skills we fostered, trying desperately to hit the required number.

Apart from serving the system by destroying all independent thought, quantification also responds to some deep-seated psychological characteristics of our college administrations. These idiotic practices are promoted by the college administrators and their assistants. As everybody knows, people who go for administrative positions in academia are failed academics. When you realize that your research is not going very well, going into the administrative work is a way to avoid doing research while boosting your salary considerably at the same time. Of course, such people will be driven in their work by the need to remove any trace of prestige from the very pursuits that defeated them. Lately, certain colleges have taken to hiring people with MBAs to work as administrators. Once again, these administrators treat with dislike and suspicion anybody who does not conform to the profit-driven model they were taught as the only valid conception of the universe.

[To be continued...]

Friday, March 26, 2010

Video Making Fun of How the Russians Deny History

A reader sent me this very funny video:



Here is the explanation of what the video means for those who are unfamiliar with the historic and political reality behind it or those who - like me - do not have a sense of humor:

There indeed exists some committee in Russia whose official name contains something about "falcifications of history". The biggest falcifiers are, of course the Baltic States (who claim they were occupied and many of their people deported), Ukraine (with the Holodomor) and Poland.



The movie is the parody on the alledged views of this committee: it represents the "official Russian version of the events", which must be true if Baltic states, Ukraine, etc are indeed "falcifying history" - i.e. the deportations were not that bad at all, etc, etc. Saying it was financed by Russian Duma is part of the joke.


The video was released for the anniversary of one of the mass deportations...

Quantifying

One of the more annoying trends in academia (and there are many) is the growing obssession with the need to quantify everything. We have been forced to spend countless hours thinking of how we can quantify our performance in teaching, our research activities, and student evaluations. Is making a new syllabus equal to attending two teaching workshops? Or maybe three? Are two book reviews equal to one article? What if the article contains less words than each review? Does a book chapter count as one article? Or 80% of an article? If the student says that "Professor 'Clarissa' rocks," how much is that worth in percentage points? Does that count as more or as less than "Professor 'Clarissa' is the best teacher I have ever had"?

Of course, the academics themselves do not need these weird quantifications. We are trained to read and analyze texts, so reading a student evaluation and figuring out what it says about the teacher is not a difficult task at all. We are also intimately familiar with all aspects of our jobs and know very well that no exact equivalencies between research projects and/or teaching activities that would cover all possible cases can be worked out. We know that a value of an article does not reside in its length, or even in the perceived prestige of the journal where it appears. We prefer the students to express how they feel about our teaching with actual sentences rather than numbers. Seeing a student rate me as a 10 out of 10 impresses me a lot less than reading her own personal description of my teaching.

I just spent an entire week trying to figure out how many hours per week I spend on direct vs indirect teaching and departmental research vs individual research. And I'm still not sure how these strange categories differ from each other. Instead of dedicating my time to creating fun, engaging activities for the students or finishing an article that's due on April 15, I had to waste time on quantifying things that by their very nature cannot be quantified. I have a meeting today and another next Monday where, once again, we will spend hours quantifying like crazy.

So the silly push to quantify your every breathing moment does not come from the teachers and does not benefit either us or our students. It originates with the administration of our educational institutions. The efforts to destroy the Humanities have led to the emergence of this new breed of people who are incapable of seeing anything but numbers. Unless you can count it, they can't understand it or see any value in it. I am dreading the moment (which I'm afraid is coming) when I will have to quantify the efficiency of my class by the number of new words or new facts that we have learned during the class hour.

In Solzhenitsyn's great novel In the First Circle, the scientists who are imprisoned by Stalin are forced to record their thinking process in special ledgers. At the end of the day, they have to demonstrate "how much thinking they have done on this particular day." It is not surprising that people who have not done any thinking in their lifetime insist that we quanitfy our thinking process. What is surprising, though, is that we allow them to impose their quantification-driven value system on us.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Boss-boy

A job-seeking candidate sent his CV to a recruiter. Among his work experiences, he listed being a bus-boy for a restaurant. Only he spelled this profession as "boss-boy." :-)

Either this person has an amazing sense of humor, or he has a very high self-esteem, both of which are great characteristics to have.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Who Owns a Husband?

If anybody still has any doubts that the divorce laws in this country are seriously screwed up, should read about the case of this woman from North Carolina:
A humiliated wife successfully sued her cheating husband's mistress for $9 million because of the "severe emotional distress" triggered by their affair, according to media reports Monday. Cynthia Shackelford, 60, used a little-known law in her native state of North Carolina to bring a suit against Anne Lundquist, the lover whom she claims wrecked her 33-year marriage to husband Allan. Lundquist was charged with "alienation of affections" - or interfering in a marriage - in one of the few American states that allow someone to sue over such a clause. . . The spurned spouse, who gave up her teaching career to look after her former husband and their two children, said she hoped the ruling would deter other would-be mistresses of married men.
The way the article presents the story, one is left with the idea that the woman in question was humiliated by the affair and as a result decided to sue. It's hard, however, to imagine anything more humiliating than chasing after a woman your husband left you for asking to be given money in return. The reason why this rejected spuse is not humiliated by this outlandish court case is that for her the husband is not a real person. He was her cash cow who kept her for years. Now, the cash cow has moved to a greener pasture and the former owner of the animal she has gotten used to milking wants to be reimbursed for her loss of income.

A society that sees it as normal that one human being should work to support another able-bodied adult should be prepared to see cases where former spouses are treated not as human beings but as objects to be used and exploited. The husband in this case is nothing other than an income-generating piece of property. What is more normal than suing somebody over removing your property from your possession unlawfully?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Students and Sexism

I've been grading student reader responses to some Latin American poetry we have read in class and the degree of sexism - that the students don't even notice - is nothing short of shocking. The two poets of the early XXth century we were reading are called Alfonsina Storni and Gabriela Mistral. Got it? Alfonsina and Gabriela.

Their lyrical and feminist poetry is addressed to men. In one poem, Storni addresses "a little, little man" who has imprisoned her and wouldn't let her be free. In another poem, Mistral says that "to see him again" is all she wants because she is dreaming of "winding my hands around his bloody neck." And so on.

In their responses, the absolute majority of students refered to both poets as "he." As a result they produced things like: "In this poem, the poet talks about his lover and wants to kill him."

Apparently, it's easier for them to imagine that poets in the early 20th century Latin America wrote openly gay poetry than to realize that those poets - called Gabriela and Alfonsina, in case you have forgotten, - were women.

I have read about these tests where college students are asked to draw a human being and they end up drawing - almost exclusively - male figures. Encountering within my own class this incapacity to equate an artist and a woman in spite of the obvious evidence is truly shocking.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Healthcare Bill Has Finally Passed

And a good thing, too, because I couldn't take the suspense any more. The whole process of waiting for the news and seeing the struggle for the votes has been brutal. Of course, the bill has been watered down like crazy since its initial version but I guess at this point it's better than nothing. But finally one can think and read about something else than the bill.
The main reason why I'm happy about it is because I really wanted something to work out for President Obama. With Congress and Senate filled to the brim with corrupt politicians, he has not been able to make anything work. It will be good for the morale of his presidency to win something finally. We'll see how well this bill works. Of course, anything is better than the horrible system that was in place before.

Why the US cannot go the way of all developed countries (for example, Canada, which is close enough to be learned from and imitated) and institute a normal, nationalized healthcare system, is beyond me. But this is something.

Kudos to President Obama for not giving up. I have a newfound respect for the perseverance of this admirable man.

Masturbation Classes in Spain

You have got to love Spain, people. Some time ago, the government of Extremadura instituted classes that teach using your body for sexual pleasure (including masturbation) for schoolchildren 14 years of age and older. Before long, the government of Andalucia expressed its support for this program and vowed to introduce it as soon as possible in its schools. The campaign is called "The Pleasure Is in Your Hands."
As if that weren't funny enough, a conservative organization began an alternative campaign, fighting for the sexuality and masturbation classes to be abolished. This campaign is titled "Clean Hands." For now, all they have been able to cause is a lot of chuckles.

Spain's progressive attitude to sexuality is all the more surprising if we remember that until 35 years ago it was a Fascist Catholic dictatorship. It's truly striking how fast and how well the people of Spain have been able to overcome their heritage of repression and move on to a healthy attitude towards sexuality. In the US, where in most high schools you can't even show a condom to 17-year-olds without a bunch of old, repressed idiots having a conniption over it, Spain's example sounds like something out of this world.

Answers to the Readers' Questions

As I promised, to celebrate my blog's anniversary, I will answer the questions my readers sent in to me. To my surprise, I have received a lot more question that I expected to get. So I will start answering them little by little because if I leave them all until April 1st, that day will not be a day of celebration as much as a day of backbreaking labor.

There is still time to send in your questions. Of course, I will only answer those questions that are formulated in a respectful, reasonable manner. Feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post, or send them by e-mail to clarissasblog@hotmail.com.

I can subdivide the questions into several groups.

I. Asperger's. Before I proceed to answer, I have to reiterate that Im no specialist on the issue. Asperger's manifests differently in different people. All I can offer is my own opinion on what is more or less likely to work.

Question: How do you break up with a boyfriend/girlfriend who has Asperger's? The main thing I would recommend is being direct. Many autistics have trouble deciphering non-verbal clues. If you wait for your partner to "get the message" from hints, your body language, and some non-verbal clues, this might not work. Try telling them directly and honestly what you want. Beating around the bush with the goal of not hurting your partner's feelings will ultimately result in being a lot more hurtful.

Question: How did you feel when you discovered you had Asperger's? The answer is: happy. Now that I know what it is and how it works, I don't have to beat myself up for being "weird." I feel completely entitled to be who I am and enjoy it. The need to apologize for it has disappeared. Also, it has been great to find people who have similar traits. And now I know where to look for them. :-)

Question: Is Asperger's a disability? I don't like these labels and don't find them useful. This way of being enables me to do many things other people can't and prevents me from doing some things other people can. If that's a disability, then pretty much any way of existence is.

Question: I think that for all your laudable attempts to put a positive spin on Asperger's, you are just trying to put on a brave face. As an autistic myself, I will be honest enough to confess that it is a crippling condition and I would definitely want to be cured. Not a question, just an observation. With the reader's permission, I will still respond to this statement. As I said, everybody manifests differently and everybody experiences autism differently. Since no "cure" exists (and in opinion never will), it makes sense to explore all sides of your way of being. Your negative perception of your autism might be due to the fact that you cannot do things that other people perceive as normal. Are you really "crippled" in your own eyes? Or are you looking at yourself and your existence through the eyes of some normative neurotypicality?

II. Blogging.

Question: Which are your favorite blogs? I have quite a few blogs in my blogroll but for the most part I just scan through their post titles without visiting them all that often. Here are the blogs that I do visit, comment on and read faithfully:

http://www.ktravula.com/ - This is a very well-written and fun blog by my colleague from Nigeria. It also has some really cool photos on a regular basis.

http://izgad.blogspot.com/ - This blog always has fascinating discussion on individual rights, reason, history, and Jewish identity.

http://www.michaelalanmiller.com/ - This blog always offers a very original (and sarcastic, which I love) take on all kinds of issues.

Question: I have been trying to discover some pattern to your blogging (just to know when the posts were more likely to appear) but no luck so far. Is there a pattern and what is it if yes. Have you tried taking the Aspie quiz, my friend? :-) Looking for patterns in everything makes you likely to be one of us. :-) I'm not sure there is a pattern. On weekdays, I tend to write in the mornings because I have a couple of hours between arriving at work and the time when I teach.

Bullfighting

Spain has recently gone through yet another round of discussions on whether bullfighting should be outlawed in the country. For weeks, the most prominent writers and thinkers have been publishing articles expressing their agreement with or opposition to this measure. Spain has been criticized for a long time by other countries of the European Union that consider the practice of bullfighting "barbaric" and "uncivilized."

For those who are familiar with the term "the Black Legend of Spain", these attempts to marginalize Spain as "not truly European" are nothing new. Outlawing bullfighting will hardly help to destroy the Black Legend that has been in circulation for centuries. There will always be something else, some other sign that Spain's "Europeanness" isn't entirely "genuine." There is, of course, a lot of racism - as well as historical and cultural resentment - behind this attitude towards Spain.

I have seen bullfighting in Spain. And to tell you the truth I loved it. Unless you have seen this spectacle, try not to condemn it, because you have no idea what it is. The music, the costumes, the cheering, the choreography are mesmerizing. I did not enjoy seeing the bulls suffer, but since I eat meat (a lot) feeling appalled by the suffering of the animals would be very hypocritical. In my lifetime, I have eaten a lot more animals that were killed during that bullfight.

It's funny how people who condemn bullfighting watch boxing, wrestling, hockey, etc., the sports where actual human beings are knocked out into unconsciousness, have their faces and limbs broken into a bloody pulp, and often damaged for life. Many people enjoy the Olympics where athletes subject themselves to all kind of inhuman torture just to break the record, which pleases the public and serves the holy goals of nationalistic brainwashing. And when an athlete dies (as happened in the last Winter Olympics), well, that's sad but it's all part of the game.

One might argue that athletes choose to participate in life-threatening sports, while the bulls are incapable of consenting to being part of a bullfight. However, if you come from a country that has been dropping bombs on Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. - without seeking consent from the people on whom the bombs were thrown - your prissy disgust with bullfighting is once again hypocritical.

It's easy to be opposed to bullfighting and flatter one's self-righteousness and sense of moral superiority in this way. It is harder, however, to familiarize oneself with the reasons both behind this practice and behind its condemnation.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Quebec Against the Niqab: Finally

Finally, the authorities of Quebec show that they have some respect for the women of the province:
Quebec's human rights commission ruled that niqab-and burka-wearing women must uncover their faces to apply for a medicare card and cannot insist on being served by a woman.
For years, we have had to observe the degrading scenes of burqa-clad women being led down the streets of Montreal on a leash, listen to the endless discussion in the Supreme Court of whether shariah laws should be accepted in Canada, deal with students whose faces were completely covered in our classrooms, accept all the attempts by the fanatically religious to control how we live our lives. It is so great to see the authorities in Quebec finally realize that the most extreme sectors of the Muslim community are not the only people who deserve to have their rights respected.

Kudos to Quebec for finally listening to reason and for losing the pseudo-liberal fear of anybody who uses their claim to being religious in order to control everybody else.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Troubled Water: A Review

Last night, I watched this really great film Troubled Water by a Norwegian director Erik Poppe. As I mentioned before, I don't really like movies and I don't watch them a lot. And now I know why. The simple reason is that very few movies are as good as this one. This is definitely not one of those sad Hollywood monstrosities that aim to prevent you from having a single thought by any means possible. This film does not attempt to benumb the spectators by an endless assault of noises, colors, flashes, explosions, colorful images, etc. It actually leaves the viewers some space to think, analyze, and simply to exist. Troubled Water does not attempt to rob me of my humanity and my human agency, unlike the stupid Hollywood productions.

This is the kind of film that works through powerful acting and great directing. There are no cheap thrills in Troubled Water. No special effects, no monsters or vampires, no explosions, 3D effects, unrealistic car chases, etc. There is just life, human existence, normal people trying to figure out important stuff.

Instead of silicone-inflated cyborg-like individuals who pass for actors in Hollywood, this film has actors who actually look like real, normal people. We are so used to the assembly-line faces and bodies of Hollywood characters, that the actors in Troubled Water look refreshingly attractive. As attractive as only real human beings can be. And these actors even know how to act.

I'm not going to retell the plot of the movie here. Because great art is not about the plot. The story is never as important as the artistic means employed to transmit it. I will only say that Troubled Water is a film that makes you want to come back to it over and over.

Cheating Student

A couple of weeks ago, I shared with my readers a story about a student of mine who cheated on an exam. Some good advice was offered to me by the readers on how to deal with this situation. I thought about it over the spring break, however, and decided to try something different.

I failed the student for the exam because she reproduced - word by word - my analysis of the texts and paintings. The task, however, was to provide her own analysis of them, which she failed to do completely. The student came to my office to discuss why she failed. I never mentioned the cheating but in the course of the conversation she confessed.

Then we talked about why she felt she needed to cheat. We discovered that she believes her own opinions are worthless. She often feels that she is stupid and worse than everybody else. I took this opportunity to tell her that I will never find her own opinions and her own analysis worthless. That I want to hear them and help her formulate them. That she has a lot to offer and that the only thing she needed was to start believing in herself. The student cried, and I almost cried.

We decided that she will write the next exam in my office, and I will guide her through the entire process.
In short, I think this particular case of cheating led to some very productive things.

I'm a damn good teacher. :-)

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pseudo-Liberals' Hatred of Immigrants

Since this post disappeared, the discussion that initially inspired it has been continuing. As I said in the original post, in case you haven't been following, I wanted to share this debate because it demonstrates perfectly how terrified some people are that immigrants (with their linguistic, intellectual, feminist, philosophical, and cultural sophistication) will displace them with their imited, parochial values. Feel free to participate in the debate.

Here are some highlights of the discussion. (For the entire debate, see comments to the following post.)

This time, I will only give you the words of the hypocritical, immigrant-hating pseudo-liberal reader greenconsciousness. I believe they speak for themselves and demonstrate just how much such pseudo-liberals in reality mimic the hateful Conservative fundamentalists.
  • Do you think it is in the interest of US citizens to have this immigrant flooding doubling and tripling our population every five years? Or is it in your interest as opposed to my interests? Citizens especially the working class have a right to defend ourself, our culture and our jobs. You can say we blame the immigrants but it is not blame; it is identification. Immigrants, especially illegals and those who come with work visas are a tool of the corporate interests that are destroying us. But this is my last word on the subject because I like you and do not want to hurt you. We have different economic interests which will never be reconciled. I do want you to know that the other half of my position is for the US to uphold its belief in freedom and human rights by working with people in their own countries using foreign aid programs to improve their life instead of bringing everyone here to degrade our own for the sake of profits.
  • Immigrants are the tools the elites use to degrade us and immigrants are happy to be so used. They use guilt to silence us, call us racist for defending our rights. Tell us we are imagining and blaming. But we don't buy it anymore. We marched in Selma and suffered in the civil rights movement you were never a part of anywhere. We do not have to defend against charges of racism. We understand that we will fight or die. You should ask why you are so necessary to your bosses who are part of the US elites?
  • Stick to your class and kind who have always oppressed mine. Try to turn this country into a densely packed, unsustainable, overpopulated, desert of cement populated by those who feel superior to the people they walk over - kill everything green and beautiful. I won't be back.
  • Sorry for the drama. I really cannot keep up this conversation. Open your eyes. You never even saw the women in your own country who are not of your class; you don't know us here. But you do have an excellent mind and I believe if you start to try to understand you could.
  • You know "dislike" is not the root of my opposition, nor do I think all other cultures are devoid of anything of value. But they are mostly too reverent of class and males who have the narcissism to believe that their work is universal when it is only male. In Russia it is practically an oligarchy.
  • A wealthy family does not mean the majority of women are liberated. When Russian women were admitted to the professions they were called liberated but the wages in those professions plummeted. You know rape and DV are not addressed in any meaningful way for the women who are not wealthy enough to buy justice. When women try to organize they are told they are already liberated. Some day, gather all the stats which are lies but a start, and see if they match your experience.
Then this reader goes into a weird rant that I still have trouble understanding. For some reason, s/he chooses to believe that I am a Russian rape victim. I guess that makes it easier for him/her to dismiss my suggestion that only somebody who is 100% Native American can be justified in hating immigrants so much. So here is the rant, brace yourselves:
  • I assume you will after your graduate work return to that pinacle of civilization and eqality, mother Russia. Maybe you will do a few studies yourself. How much domestic violence - did you report - what happened - why didn't you report -- raped? what age - what happened -- similarly as to women politicians -- what did you accomplish - or were you a helper to others -- to the female judges -- well there are many questions. How was it for you at work - From your studies you may find the courage to do a documentary on Russian women where they, rather than the state or the party, talk about the reality of their lives.
    If you ever need inspiration -- call on me and I will tell you the questions that expose the big lie of liberation achieved. I have done that and been there. I also wish you well on your journey. We do not have to agree - being honest is more important -- most important.
This is it for now but I have no doubt that more is to come. Since I wrote about this discussion yesterday, I realized that not only does this reader hate all immigrants, s/he is also tortured by the idea that other cultures might have some important achievements that the US culture does not have. What's at play here is obviously a huge inferiority complex that makes even the mere presence of anybody or anything different painful to greenconsciousness. The reason for this weird reaction is that even a slight glimpse of a different reality makes such people realize that - oh, horror - the silly swill about their superiority they have been fed on TV since early childhood is just stupid propaganda.

Lacking any actual achievements of their own, people like greenconsciousness, Real American Woman (that some of my long-term readers surely remember) and the troll that has been bugging this blog for a while keep harping on about their American passports. For them, these silly pieces of paper signify their superiority over absolutely everybody else. They can't understand why some people have no interest whatsoever in acquiring it for themselves. When they realize that they are losing in a discussion (which their huge intellectual limitations make unavoidable), they bring out what they see as their strongest argument: "You are not even an American!" Like this statement is supposed to have some intellectual value.

I feel sorry for people who are so terrified of having to be an indvidual that they hide from this "terrible burden" in a set of nasty, angry, mean and venomous collective identifications.

Hatred of Sex as the Guiding Principle of Russian Literature

God, I'm happy I recovered this post. (The post on Norway will have to wait for now, since I need to go look for the pictures I used in it once again.)

I almost never read anything by the Russian authors any more. Russian literature has not been able to recover from the political, ideological, and artistic constraints imposed on it in 1934. When literature is not allowed to develop naturally, it withers away and dies. And this is exactly what happened to literature written in Russian. I have tried for years to find good Russian writers but they don't seemk to exist any more.


This is why I was happy when my favorite Times Literary Supplement published a long review of Kamennyi most by a writer named Terekhov. I immediately bought this huge 800+ volume and started reading it. Of course, as was to be expected, I discovereed some really bad writing, a complete incapacity of the author to use his own language correctly, and a boring attempt to imitate Western authors in a very clumsy manner.

However, buying and reading this book was not a total waste. It helped me realize that the guiding principle of the Russian prose writing by men is hatred of and disgust with sex. (Until well into the XXth century there were no well-known female prose writers in Russia, which has always been a profoundly patriarchal society. So there is no literary tradition to speak of in the case of Russian female novelists, and I don't know if my argument would apply).

The main character of Kamennyi most (in Russian) has a lot of sex with a lot of women. His descriptions of these sex acts are filled with so much hatred and disgust that they are impossible to translate. I tried to think of translations for them but in vain. I simply don't know any words in English that would transmit the same emotional charge.

For anybody who read the XIX century Russian novelists, however, this is not surprising. The same hatred of human sexuality informs Tolstoy's The Kreutzer Sonata, Chekhov's The Duel, pretty much all works by Dostoyevsky. The list can go on ad infinitum. There is no way anybody can understand why the protagonist of Terekhov's latest novel hates sex so much, unless one has read his literary precursors.

So if anybody is looking for a doctoral dissertation topic in Slavic Studies, feel free to use this one.

Back from Miami

Courtesy of reader J., the first recovered post:

So I'm back from my trip to Miami, Florida. This was my first visit ever to this city, and here is the list of things I did and didn't like.


What I liked:

Civilization: restaurants, stores, bars, and coffee-shops are open until forever. I have sorely missed this kind of civilization here in Southern Illinois. People are outside all night long, walking, shopping, having fun. The city doesn't go dead after dark, unlike so many US cities.

Spanish: I love hearing Spanish being used on a massive scale. For one, it tells me that my profession will always be relevant and needed. Also, I really enjoy hearing it.

Ocean: I love the ocean. I can spend hours just looking at it. People who live in Miami are very lucky because they can enjoy it any time.

Students: there were tons of students in Miami this week who came there for the spring break. They would spend the whole night partying, dancing, screaming, and drinking themselves into oblivion. And then they would read books on the beach the next day. I even saw several students reading books on gender studies. I simply love seeing students enjoy themselves, it makes me very happy to observe them.

What I didn't like:

Airport: Our entire flight to Miami was shorter than the insane amount of time it took us to get to the place you collect your luggage, obtain the luggage, find the shuttle to take us to the hotel, and have the shuttle come out of the endlss and depressing maze of the airport. I have been to way too many airports in my life and I can say that the one in Miami is the most depressing of them all.

I've been sitting here for a while trying to think of something else I didn't like about Miami but there is nothing else. A great place, people, I totally recommend visiting it.

News on the Lost Posts

Today is a very happening day for this blog. :-) I have this wonderful reader who signs her comments as 'J', and who saved my posts in her RSS feed. And now she sent them back to me!!!! I am soooo happy. Now I will be reposting them again.

Thank you, J., for doing this! I hated the idea of losing these particular posts.

Thank you everybody who expressed support on this issue. It's great to see that while I have only one troll, I have so many wonderful readers.

Normalcy as a Disorder

Thanks to Izgad, I discovered this funny satirical piece on neurotypicality as a disorder. (Neurotypical means non-autistic, or what many people see as "normal"):
Neurotypical syndrome is a neurobiological disorder characterized by preoccupation with social concerns, delusions of superiority, and obsession with conformity. Neurotypical individuals often assume that their experience of the world is either the only one, or the only correct one. NTs find it difficult to be alone. NTs are often intolerant of seemingly minor differences in others. When in groups NTs are socially and behaviorally rigid, and frequently insist upon the performance of dysfunctional, destructive, and even impossible rituals as a way of maintaining group identity. NTs find it difficult to communicate directly, and have a much higher incidence of lying as compared to persons on the autistic spectrum. NT is believed to be genetic in origin. Autopsies have shown the brain of the neurotypical is typically smaller than that of an autistic individual and may have overdeveloped areas related to social behavior.
Tragically, as many as 9625 out of every 10,000 individuals may be neurotypical
.

An Autistic Hedge Fund Manager

Here is an interesting article on an autistic hedge fund manager:
In early 2004 a 32-year-old stock-market investor and hedge-fund manager, Michael Burry, immersed himself for the first time in the bond market. He learned all he could about how money got borrowed and lent in America. He didn’t talk to anyone about what became his new obsession; he just sat alone in his office, in San Jose, California, and read books and articles and financial filings. He wanted to know, especially, how subprime-mortgage bonds worked. A giant number of individual loans got piled up into a tower. The top floors got their money back first and so got the highest ratings from Moody’s and S&P, and the lowest interest rate. The low floors got their money back last, suffered the first losses, and got the lowest ratings from Moody’s and S&P. Because they were taking on more risk, the investors in the bottom floors received a higher rate of interest than investors in the top floors. Investors who bought mortgage bonds had to decide in which floor of the tower they wanted to invest, but Michael Burry wasn’t thinking about buying mortgage bonds. He was wondering how he might short, or bet against, subprime-mortgage bonds. Every mortgage bond came with its own mind-numbingly tedious 130-page prospectus. If you read the fine print, you saw that each bond was its own little corporation. Burry spent the end of 2004 and early 2005 scanning hundreds and actually reading dozens of the prospectuses, certain he was the only one apart from the lawyers who drafted them to do so—even though you could get them all for $100 a year from 10kWizard.com.
The subprime-mortgage market had a special talent for obscuring what needed to be clarified. A bond backed entirely by subprime mortgages, for example, wasn’t called a subprime-mortgage bond. It was called an “A.B.S.,” or “asset-backed security.” If you asked Deutsche Bank exactly what assets secured an asset-backed security, you’d be handed lists of more acronyms—R.M.B.S., hels, helocs, Alt-A—along with categories of credit you did not know existed (“midprime”). R.M.B.S. stood for “residential-mortgage-backed security.” hel stood for “home-equity loan.” heloc stood for “home-equity line of credit.” Alt-A was just what they called crappy subprime-mortgage loans for which they hadn’t even bothered to acquire the proper documents—to, say, verify the borrower’s income. All of this could more clearly be called “subprime loans,” but the bond market wasn’t clear. “Midprime” was a kind of triumph of language over truth. Some crafty bond-market person had gazed upon the subprime-mortgage sprawl, as an ambitious real-estate developer might gaze upon Oakland, and found an opportunity to rebrand some of the turf. Inside Oakland there was a neighborhood, masquerading as an entirely separate town, called “Rockridge.” Simply by refusing to be called “Oakland,” “Rockridge” enjoyed higher property values. Inside the subprime-mortgage market there was now a similar neighborhood known as “midprime.”
But as early as 2004, if you looked at the numbers, you could clearly see the decline in lending standards. In Burry’s view, standards had not just fallen but hit bottom. The bottom even had a name: the interest-only negative-amortizing adjustable-rate subprime mortgage. You, the homebuyer, actually were given the option of paying nothing at all, and rolling whatever interest you owed the bank into a higher principal balance. It wasn’t hard to see what sort of person might like to have such a loan: one with no income. What Burry couldn’t understand was why a person who lent money would want to extend such a loan. “What you want to watch are the lenders, not the borrowers,” he said. “The borrowers will always be willing to take a great deal for themselves. It’s up to the lenders to show restraint, and when they lose it, watch out.” By 2003 he knew that the borrowers had already lost it. By early 2005 he saw that lenders had, too.


The rest of the article is here.

Weird Things on This Blog

The recent crash of the blog is not the first weird thing that happened to it. Right after I published angry posts about Blankfein (here and here), I received am e-mail from Google (which provides the platform for the blog) saying that they got complaints from their advertisers that some content on my blog was "detrimental to their business practices." As a result, they pulled Google Ads from the blog for good. I don't care about it in the least because I prefer having my Amazon ads that I control rather than Google Ads that kept advertising Russian brides on the blog anyways. I have no idea whether this had anything to do with posts on Blankfein and I don't want to be paranoid. Maybe it's just a coincidence.

Another weird moment was when my blog was tagged as pornographic and removed from several directories because of the post on Mochica art.

So as you can see, blogging brings many surprises, and not all of them are good.

Slavoj Žižek on Vegetarians

I'm feeling so upset about the posts that disappeared that I'm going to post this very short video of Slavoj Žižek expressing his (strong) feelings about vegetarians. It shows how eccentric the great philosopher is and always makes me laugh.

Enjoy! However, if you are touchy on the subject of vegetarianism, then maybe you don't need to watch it. I don't need even more angry people descending onto my blog for the moment.

Crash

Ok, so I just woke up and realized that 6 or 7 of my most recent posts disappeared from the blog. And these were really good, long posts. There was a fun discussion of immigrant-hating pseudo-liberals. And a lovely (in my opinion) post on Russian literature. A beautiful post on Norway. The most recent post on trolling, with a fun picture and interesing quotes.

This is so annoying! I have no idea why the blog crashed, people. One possibility is that in a fit of technological stupidity I did something to it, but for the life of me I can't say what it could have been. I don't recall doing anything unusual with it in any way.

Another possibility is that the troll who has been bugging us for a while is to blame. S/he has been away for a while but last night the vile creature resurfaced and tried posting nasty comments on the most recent post. I prevented the comments from being published through moderation. Could this be the troll's doing?

This is very upsetting to me. A lot of effort went into those posts. The hatred towards immigrants discussion is at least preserved in the comments section of the post where it initially started. But Russian literature and Norway are gone for good. And the silliest thing is that I've been forgetting to back up the posts (which I normally do) for a few weeks now.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Michael Moore Makes Fun of Democrats



Michael Moore on 'The Rachel Maddow Show' making fun of the whiny, perennially scared Democrats.

Alligators and Indians


In Miami, we were given this advertisement for a tour to the Everglades. In case the photo comes out blurry, here is what it says:
Take an Airboat Ride across the River of Grass and see all the Nature, Wildlife, Animals, Alligators, Exotic Birds and The Native Indians.

Besides the annoying capitalizations, the list of things to see is very shocking. Animals, alligators, birds, and Indians? Are the people who worte this for real? If this is supposed to be some kind of a joke, it definitely isn't funny.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Flowers for me

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Our Hotel and My Thoughts on Entitlement

This is our room at the Shelbourne Resort Hotel. We chose it because it was inexpensive and was located right on the beach. After we reserved the room, I read reviews of the hotels by recent guests and they were mostly negative. So much so that we fully expected to encounter some scary ruins upon our arrival. When we checked in, however, we discovered that the hotel was really great. Our room turned out to be not even a room but a suite, with a kitchenette, a living room, and a huge bedroom. It is shocking to me that so many people found something to complain about in this wonderful hotel.

Things like these make me very happy that I was born and spent the first 22 years of my life in a Third World country. I enjoy things a lot more than many people who were born to the First World affluence. Their gaze is first and foremost attracted to little imperfections and keeps dwelling on tiny details that are not absolutely perfect. It's sad to think how many people's vacations were spoiled because they don't know how to enjoy things.

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Ten Things to Say to a Naked Guy

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Cool Soaps

And they smell incredibly too.

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Jewelry Shopper's Paradise

'
Miami is a paradise for those who love flashy costume jewelry. And this particular store has fantastic and original headbands that I will use to shock my students. :-)

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

More Beach

See how empty the beach is on this very sunny day? And it's already 10 am. The city is filled to the brim with tourists but they must be getting over their spring break hangovers, hence the deserted beaches. :-)

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The Waves

There is nothing more beautiful than the ocean. . .

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Hat

This is me on the beach in my huge pink hat.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lincoln Road, Miami

This fun store is decorated by dozens of ancient sewing machines. This is so cool.

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I must have a really dirty mind

At first I thought this was porn and felt happy for the progressive Miami people who place it unashamedly for everybody to see in a store window on Lincoln Road.

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Slavoj Zizek on Freedom

I'm sorry, people, but I will continue bombarding you with quotes from Zizek. His writing is so beautiful and powerful, that I simply have to share it. This is Zizek on freedom and the true meaning of democracy:

"In the same way that (market) freedom is unfreedom for those who sell their labor-power, in the same way that the family is undermined by the bourgeouis family as legalized prostitution, democracy is undermined by the parliamentary form with its concomitant passivization of the large majority, as well as by the growing executive power implied by the increasingly influential logic of the emergency state."

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The Beach

The beach here in Miami is beautiful. And as you can see completely empty. Granted, it isn't very sunny today but yesterday it was, and there were few people as well.

This is what always surprised me about American people on every resort I have visited. They pay a lot of money to go to the ocean and they never actually approach the ocean. Sure enough, they care a lot whether they can see it from the hotel room windows. I can't count the number of hissy fits I have observed or read on Tripadvisor about not getting the ocean-view room. But as to spending time on the beach itself, that happens very rarely. Mostly, American tourists prefer to stay by the swimming pool.

I could never understand the joy of spending hours in the pool filled with chloride and dozens of other tourists. There is never any chance of swimming in the pool, or even walking around because it's filled with people. I don't see the fun standing there for hours in the small space you have carved out for yourself among the other bathers. But I guess that's cultural differences for you.

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Coconuts

I've been wondering, what happens if one of these coconuts falls on somebody's head?

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Zizek on Liberal Self-Flagellation

How is it that one only gets to read clear, engaging, powerful philosophical writings coming from a Marxist and a communist? I am neither but I cannot help but admire Slavoj Zizek, a leading contemporary philosopher, who is both. I'm reading his most recent book "First as Tragedy, Then as Farce" as my beach reading, and here is a fantastic quote addressing those so-called liberals who indulge in endless self-gratifying acts of "examining their privilege":

"We white Leftist men and women [should] leave behind the politically correct process of endless self-torturing guilt . . . [Western] politically correct self-flagellation is an inverted form of clinging to one's superiority. . . The positive form of the White Man's Burden (his responsibility for civilizing the colonized barbarians) is thus merely replaced by its negative form (the burden of the white man's guilt: if we can no longer be the benevolent masters of the Third World, we can at least be the privileged source of evil, patronizingly depriving others of responsibility for their fate (when a Third World country engages in terrible crimes, it is never fully its own responsibility, but always an after effect of colonization)."

I wish everybody with liberal pretensions had these words put up on their walls. This way, every time they feel like masturbating to the sound of their favorite word "privilege", they might remember that the very use of this word makes them sound like the condescending pricks they are.

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Miami, Espanola Way

So I'm in Miami, FL for spring break. This is my first time ever in this city. My very first impression of the city (after we got out of the depressing airport and were driving to our hotel) was "Oh my God, this is Cuba!" The architecture here in South Beach is incredibly similar to what you see in Cuba.

This is a city where you really need to speak Spanish. Everybody seems to be a Spanish speaker which makes me feel very happy.

Miami is, of course, tons of fun after Southern Illinois. All the stores and restaurants were still open at midnight last night. To my timid question "Do you still serve food?" the waiter replied "Of course" and seemed geninely puzzled by the query. He must not have realized that there are places where eating out after 9 pm is completely out of the question.

The weather has been fantastic, the water is warm, and the beach is beautiful. I feel very sorry for my colleagues who are stuck at home and keep exchanging work related emails.

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Happy Women's Day!!!


If you don't celebrate March 8th - the International Women's Day - think about taking up the great, time-honored traditon of celebrating womanhood and all the women in your life.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Books for Spring Break

I'm going to Miami, Florida on my spring break today. The most important thing to pack for a beach vacation (besides my huge pink straw hat, of course) is reading matter. There should be enough variety in it for all kinds of moods, weather conditions, and activities. On top of my regular subscriptions to newspapers and magazines that I get on my Kindle, here are the books I will be taking with me:

1. I got this book as a free gift from the New Left Review.  Zizek is one of the most important philosophers living today, and I absolutely adore his writings. In case you've missed these posts, I wrote about him here and here. Some conservative journalist (whose name I don't remember right now) referred to Zizek as "the most dangerous contemporary philosopher." So you can imagine how fantastic Zizek's writings must be.

I couldn't wait to start this new book and began reading it yesterday. Zizek's writing is clear and incisive, as always. For now, I'm loving First As Tragedy, Then As Farce. Of course, I will write a review of the book, as soon as I finish it.











2.                                      









Since Spanish mystery novels are my new research interest, I feel completely justified in reading as many of them as I can. So I'm bringing these three to the beach with me.

I love my profession. :-)











3. I just discovered that Louise Penny has a whole series of mystery novels set in Quebec. How amazing is that?? I miss Quebec dearly and will love reading about it during my vacations.

I can even kind of justify reading this novel from a scholarly point of view. I do need to familiarize myself with mystery writing in all languages in order  proceed with my research into Spanish detective fiction.

Hopefully, the university will pay for all these books when our money gets unfrozen.

Comment Moderation

Dear Readers:

we now have a nasty troll who is regularly visiting this blog and leaving disgusting, hateful comments.

As a result, I have enabled comment moderation. This means that from now on, there will be a short delay between the moment you send in your comment and the time when it appears under the relevant post. It's sad that one angry, vile individual who has nothing better to do with their sorry excuse for a life should force us to change the way in which we operate. When a blog's popularity grows, trolls start appearing. This is a reality of blogging, and we need to adapt to it.

Hopefully, the troll would soon get tired of sending in comments that never get published and will go away. Then, we will be able to return to our usual mode of operation.

I'm sorry for the inconvenience!

-Clarissa.

Blagojevich on "Celebrity Apprentice"

Maybe I'm the only person in the world who has snoozed on the weird news that former governor of Illinois will appear as a contestant on Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice." Maybe I should start watching television more often because this just seems way too weird to me.

As everyone remembers, Rod Blagojevich was scandalously removed from his position as governor and charged with trying to auction off President Obama's former U.S. Senate seat. And now he will be rewarded for all that by becoming a TV star.

I used to watch "The Apprentice" in the past but I will definitely be boycotting this season. Come on, people, we need to stop rewarding dirty politicians with fame and fortune. How else can we demand honesty and accountability from them?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Student Missionary

A student came to ask me if he can miss a week of classes because he is going to the beach. But not to have fun (which I would have totally understood and encouraged even in this very weak student). Rather, he is going to "approach people on the beach to talk to them about God." Of course, I let him go and allowed him to write a midterm we will have that week after he comes back from his missionary activities. Far be it from me to prevent students from doing whatever it is they feel they need to do at any given moment in their lives.

Still, I had to wonder, what makes young, energetic, fairly intelligent people want to participate in this kind of activity? Why would they go to the beach not to swim, play, flirt, sunbathe, dance, and drink, but to bother people with religious conversations? I'm going for my spring break to the same area where this student will be proselytizing and I cannot imagine how annoying it will be to be approached by somebody who wants to discuss God in such an inappropriate setting. What is it that these young missionaries are getting from bothering unsuspecting sunbathers and making themselves look ridiculous?

I hope nobody tries to convert me to any religion while I'm on the beach. I think I'll take my Star of David with me to protect myself from unwanted proselytization efforts.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Student Cheating: Any Suggestions?

Fellow educators and pedagogues: do you have any suggestions on how to deal with the following situation? My students were writing a mid-term yesterday. After the exam, one of my students (who is also my most brilliant student) told me that another student cheated. Apparently, she had notes on her Ipod and kept consulting them. I looked at the exam and I believe that the student in question was, in fact, cheating. She is a very weak student and her answers to the questions were way too perfect.

Of course, I felt angry and disgusted. I even had nightmares because cheating and plagiarism always traumatize me too much.

So the question is: what should I do about the cheating student? I haven't caught her in the process because I always trust students not to do these things. But I don't think it's right simply to let it go and give her 100% for an exam she wrote by cheating.

Any suggestions?

Kudos to Mexico City

Fantastic news from Mexico City: yesterday marriage equality won in this city. Lesbian and gay couples can now get married there.

Hopefully, we will soon see gay marriage legalized everywhere in the US as well.

Survey on Contraception

Another sex-related survey shows how little people know about birth control:
-Among people who are in sexually active relationships and want to prevent pregnancy, 19% use no contraception at all. 24% use contraception inconsistently.

-42% of men and 40% of women believe that your chances of getting pregnant within one year while on the birth control pill are 50% or greater (the pill is actually about 92% effective with typical use).
-18% of men believe you can reduce the risk of pregnancy if you have sex standing up.
-24% of American singles believe that using two condoms is more effective than using one.
-25% of young men believe that douching after sex can prevent pregnancy.
-29% of men and 32% of women reported knowing “little or nothing about condoms.” 78% of men and 45% of women said the same about birth control pills.
And 90% believe they have all the knowledge they need to prevent an unplanned pregnancy.
The survey doesn't mention all those really misguided people who believe that interrupting a sex act is a reliable method of birth control. I wonder how many people actually believe that silly myth.
 
Taken together, the previous survey that I published here and this one present a depressing picture of a culture woefully ignorant about sexuality in all of its aspects.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What Counts As Sex: Stupidity or Repression

There is this hilarious study that shows just how profoundly puritanical this society is:
The study, published in the February issue of the journal Sexual Health, randomly surveyed 486 adults, most of them heterosexual, between the ages of 18 and 96. They were asked the following question: "Would you say you 'had sex' with someone if the most intimate behavior you engaged in was [blank]," and then followed more than a dozen "behavior specific items." A press release reports that "two out of ten people did not concur that penile-anal intercourse was sex, and three out of ten said 'no' to oral-genital activity, as did half of the respondents about manual-genital contact." And, while 95 percent classified penile-vaginal penetration as sex (one has to wonder what does count for the remaining 5 percent), that number dropped to 89 percent in cases where the man doesn't ejaculate.
Some bloggers have expressed an opinion that people who were questioned for this study are simply stupid. I believe, however, that this survey reflects the sad reality of a society where people have been told that sex is bad and dirty so many times that now they pretend that many obviously sexual activites don't "count" as sex. I have witnessed many convoluted discussions where people would try to define what should "count" as sex without being able to explain why they have the need for "counting" anything in the first place.

Until there is no stigma attached to a happy and healthy sexuality, we will see these weird results on sex-related questionnaires.

Action to Defend Higher Education

It's nice to know that my former colleagues at Yale are not giving up on their important struggle to defend higher education. I just received this Solidarity Statement in honor of the March 4 National Day of Action to defend Higher Education, called for by faculty, students and academic workers in the University of California system:

Unlike most state Universities, Yale continues to prosper in the current economic recession. Yale's endowment is at $17 billion--up $5 billion from when I arrived on campus a few years ago?its $2 billion building projects are progressing, including the two new residential colleges, and it still enjoys extensive funds from the federal government and private companies. Yet over the past year, the Yale administration has decided to cut staff across the university, reduce graduate departments, and further shift the teaching to part-time adjuncts. Yale is not in an economic crisis, but its decisions--made by a handful of administrators--has serious consequences for graduate teachers, union members, and the New Haven community.
On March 4, GESO alongside its allies in the Yale unions will call on the administration to stop using the global economic crisis as justification for restructuring work at Yale in a corporate model, and instead to use its wealth and prestige to set an example for the rest of the academy and ensure good jobs for all. We are holding a panel with a diverse group of workers, faculty and students, to be followed by a march to President Levin's office to deliver the following Solidarity Statement:
*******
Across the country, university administrators are responding to the current recession by accelerating the adoption of a corporate model, including the centralization of governance in fewer hands and casualization of secure full-time jobs. Yale has invoked the current global economic crisis to justify multiple rounds of budget cuts, staffing reductions, and restructuring of teaching and graduate education. However, Yale is in a fundamentally different economic position than its public counterparts: it has a robust endowment, an influx of federal funding, and the ability to borrow large sums inexpensively. On this national day of action to defend higher education, we therefore call on the Yale administration to use its wealth and unique position to respond to the current crisis in a way that sets a better model. It should open up its decision-making process, expand the number of good jobs on campus, ensure high-quality education by reversing the casualization of teaching staff, and invest in the surrounding community.
The economic crisis has been a dream come true for administrations of many universities who now have a perfect excuse to cut-down on tenure-track positions and advance the casualization of higher education. This process had been going on long before the crisis, but now it has become even more agressive.
I wish I could be marching together with my colleagues at Yale right now.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Asperger's Test

A reader Triin whose blog on Asperger's is located here has been kind enough to leave a link to the Aspie quiz which is a lot better than the short and unreliable Baron-Cohen test. It takes into account the neurology of Asperger's without getting too hung up on the qualities that are often attributed to Asperger's out of simple lack of knowledge about it.

I score 179 out 200, which is really not surprising to me.