How could I have missed Talk Like A Pirate Day? [smacks forehead] I am a scurvy bilge rat. Or, more accurately, I'm the Cabin Boy:

You are The Cabin Boy

You, me lad, are an activist! You will not only change the world, you will make a dyed-in-the-wool Pirate dream of you in a sheep costume. You are the embodiment of the love that dare not hoist its sail! Ahoy thar! You could make a two-patch Pirate turn his head - but then he would lose sleep over it and what good would that do anyone? An innovator, you are WAY ahead of your time - and everyone else's. You are sensitive and artsy-fartsy. You say things like, "artsy-fartsy" but there is always a slight giggle in your voice when you say it - like Paul Lynde on Hollywood Squares delivering a staggering punch line. Speaking of "punching" the only "punching" you would do is punching up that outfit with some accessories - say, a little bandana and some glass beads. You're not the Pirate we want in a fight, but we want you there for the crying game that follows! You go, girl.

What's Yer Inner Pirate?
brought to you by The Official Talk Like A Pirate Web Site. Arrrrr!

Hmm. That's kind of eerily accurate (sensitive, check; artsy-fartsy, check; "love that dare not hoist its sail," check). Now, where can I find a bandanna and some glass beads, and when does Pirates of the Caribbean come out on video?

(This post brought to you by Amanda's determination to take a holiday, however brief, from career-related brooding and similar angst. And also because pirates are funny.)



I was thinking of blogging the latest Chronicle first-person article, but Rana got to it first. She makes an interesting point about these articles being a kind of Disneyland "Main Street, USA" version of academic life, offering a not-quite-real appearance of reality. Having been in grad school in English for a while, I immediately thought of Jean Baudrillard, but my copy of Simulacra and Simulation sits on the bookshelf uncracked, and I would feel like a poser referring to it without having actually read it. (I found it for 50 cents at the Collegeville Kiwanis Club rummage sale. You know you live in a college town when French literary theory shows up at rummage sales. I also found a copy of Frank Lentricchia's Critical Terms for Literary Study there.) Anyhow, Baudrillard himself, as I discovered after searching around a bit, has written (perhaps inevitably) about Disneyland and the dissolution of "the world -- both the imaginary and the real -- in the spectral universe of virtual reality," to the point where "in a century or in a millennium, gladiator movies will be watched as if they were authentic Roman movies, dating back to the era of the Roman empire, as real documentaries on Ancient Rome." Baudrillard suggests that we have that now.

This American Life once did a show on simulated worlds, which I missed on the air but which I've listened to partially online. The segments ranged from a visit to one of those cheesy "Medieval Times" restaurants to stories about wax museums and Civil War reenactments. Whenever I think of simulated worlds, I always think of the faux-Victorian town streets in Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry: a self-contained area where the floors are done up to resemble cobblestones and there are little sham storefronts displaying nineteenth-century goods, and "gaslights" powered by electricity. It somehow appeals to a desire for fake reality even when we know it's fake. (Note to self, add Eco's Travels in Hyperreality to the "I'm done with the dissertation" reading list.)

Somewhere there's a paper in all this: "Simulacra and the Trauma of the Academic Real: Perspectives on Representations of the Academic Job Market." I'm only half kidding. I'd do it if I were in the mood to theorize. But if simulacra of reality replace and cancel out real reality, what's going to happen to higher education amid the Disneyesque fantasy versions of it? I don't think the airbrushed fantasies seen in college brochures are quite enough to trump our perception of the current (ongoing) job crisis, but what if those images are what people outside of academia see, and what if those are the images that people will remember as real? What if the appeal of the Chronicle-land version is such that we ignore the grimy streets of the real village?

[Edit: Not Victorian, early 1900s. I tracked down the Museum of Science and Industry's website, and the exhibit in question is Yesterday's Main Street, a "re-created 1910 street of yesteryear." And, thanks to Quicktime, you can take a virtual reality tour of an already virtual reality.]


Dorothy Parker takes on the Romantics 

Found in the commentary on Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind"* at the intriguing Wondering Minstrels poetry archive (you've got to love a poetry archive that includes both Thomas Hardy and Tom Lehrer):
Byron and Shelley and Keats
Were a trio of lyrical treats.
The forehead of Shelley was cluttered with curls,
And Keats never was a descendant of earls,
And Byron walked out with a number of girls,
But it didn't impair the poetical feats
Of Byron and Shelley,
Of Byron and Shelley,
Of Byron and Shelley and Keats.
-- Dorothy Parker, "A pig's eye view of literature"
I'd forgotten all about this poem until now. I'm quite fond of Keats, and not averse to Byron and Shelley either, but that doesn't stop me from snickering gleefully at Parker's summary of their careers. Plus the last three lines are just so much fun to say out loud at top speed.

You can find more Dorothy Parker at AmericanPoems.com. I must say, I'm a bit leery of this site, on account of its U.S. flag decor (flag-waving makes me nervous. It's a thing.) and the links to sites peddling Viagra and diet pills, but I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt on account of being able to read Parker's "Comment" and "Neither Bloody Nor Bowed" there.

*"Ode to the West Wind" is a somewhat embarrassing poem to admit to liking -- embarrassing in that the Romantic apostrophic mode of lines like "O lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud! / I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!" has gone out of fashion, and one would feel terribly silly declaiming such lines, but the poem nonetheless seems to demand that one stand on a table and declaim it. I have in mind to write something about poems that one is embarrassed to like, but it'll have to wait until I'm not knackered from meeting with students all day.


Subtract the dissertation and what do you get? 

I was at the library a little while ago looking up the list of books I've currently got checked out (the Midwestern University library's website lets you view a full list of your borrowings, complete with due dates -- handy, that). I've got just over a hundred books currently borrowed, most of them dissertation-related. And I had the sudden disquieting thought: "Hey, when I finish the last of the dissertation revisions, I can return most of these." Disquieting, because I can barely even remember what it feels like not to have that many books checked out. My library carrel is going to look empty -- not to mention the section of my living room floor that currently houses the overflow of library books.

On my way out of the library, I ran into my friend H., who's had her Ph.D. for several years, and I told her about the disquieting thought. She said, very sensibly, that I could always check out a hundred other books, and that I might as well clear the space for whatever other projects (and book-piles) come next. But the question still poses itself: what now? Take away the dissertation and what's left over?

At least I don't have to return them right away. Maybe I'll let go of them in stages.


Personal anthology: Wallace Stevens 

The Candle a Saint

Green is the night, green kindled and appareled.
It is she that walks among astronomers.

She strides above the rabbit and the cat,
Like a noble figure, out of the sky,

Moving among the sleepers, the men,
Those that lie chanting green is the night.

Green is the night and out of madness woven,
The self-same madness of the astronomers

And of him that sees, beyond the astronomers,
The topaz rabbit and the emerald cat,

That sees above them, that sees rise up above them,
The noble figure, the essential shadow,

Moving and being, the image at its source,
The abstract, the archaic queen. Green is the night.

-- from The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (New York: Knopf, 1954)
This is one of those poems that make me wonder if Stevens read Andrew Marvell. (Stevens' "Sunday Morning" reminds me of Marvell's "Bermudas." Someday I will write an article about this.) I keep hearing the famous lines from "The Garden" -- "Annihilating all that's made / To a green thought in a green shade" -- behind Stevens' near-refrain of "Green is the night." Also, perhaps, the recurring lines in Federico Garcia Lorca's "Sleepwalking Ballad": "Green, I love you, green" ("Verde, te quiero verde"). Stevens often strikes me as obsessed with colors, particularly green and blue: the man with the blue guitar, the green of the sea in "Sea Surface Full of Clouds," the "day of blank, blue wheels" in "Of Ideal Time and Choice," and the Marvellian phrase "green mind" in "A Rabbit as the King of Ghosts": "Fat cat, red tongue, green mind, white milk / And August the most peaceful month."

No conclusion to these thoughts, really. Just speculation.

Disturbing quotation of the day 

Quote next to today's Doonesbury@Slate:
"I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens." -- Britney Spears
No comment.

Adjuncts on the big screen 

Spotted in the latest American Federation of Teachers newsletter: an article about a new documentary, Teachers on Wheels, focusing on the plight of adjunct faculty at California community colleges. It doesn't look like it's going to get much exposure, though; you have to order the film over the web, so I doubt the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will notice. Maybe it should have one of those schlocky horror-movie posters with the exclamation points everywhere: "SEE...the miles of gridlock of the freeway! HEAR...the deafening silence of the full-time faculty! WATCH...as these dedicated teachers work their fingers to the bone grading hundreds of papers! WITNESS...the everyday horror of the life of TEACHERS ON WHEELS!"

Or maybe I'm still thinking of Jackie Chan, Ph.D. (And I was going to link back to my earlier post about Jackie Chan, Ph.D, but I think Blogger has eaten it. Grrr.)