Monday, November 20, 2006
Happy Birthday Don DeLillo!
It's the birthday of the novelist Don DeLillo, (books by this author) born in New York City (1936). He lived in Europe for a while in the early 1980s, and when he got back to the United States he was overwhelmed by how strange America suddenly seemed. He decided to write a novel to try to capture that strangeness and the result was White Noise (1984), which became his first big success. It's the story of Jack Gladney, a college professor who spends much of his free time thinking about TV commercials, tabloid magazines, and supermarkets.
DeLillo wrote, "This is where we wait together, regardless of age, our carts stocked with brightly colored goods. A slowly moving line, satisfying, giving us time to glance at the tabloids in the racks. Everything we need that is not food or love is here in the tabloid racks. The tales of the supernatural and the extraterrestrial. The miracle vitamins, the cures for cancer, the remedies for obesity. The cults of the famous and the dead."
Don DeLillo said, "I've never thought about myself in terms of a career. ... I don't have a career, I have a typewriter."
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Helicopter Parents Ramp It Up
Tucson, AZ (2050): The last "helicopter parent" of New Canaan CT died today in the Elmdale Nursing Home on Mountain Avenue. Joan Courtland, 95, asked to be kept on her artificial lung long enough to help her son, Donald Courtland, MD, file for Social Security benefits. "Don needs me," she gasped, before shutting her eyes.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
The Feline in Critical Pedagogy
That is because I have the following image of McLaren, along with Wendy, in my Flickr account. The picture of McLaren "Five Fists" comes from a right wing site that lists him as the most "dangerous" professor in America. I just love this pic!
Wendy may not have a Che tattoo, but she can be edgy and dangerous to be around for our other cats, especially if she is hungry!
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Redden Me Up!
- Lived during Tricky Dick's reign: Check
- To get blood pumping with annoyance, fave trick is to listen to Hannity, who never met a liberal guest he couldn't repeatedly interrupt: Check
- See Toby Keith's "Ford Tough!" ads for ass kickin' F150s (these aren't bad; I prefer the spots where Keith makes fun of dopey omega males who drive Silveradoes and Rams): Check
- Eat Beef Jerky: Here I draw the line. I prefer blue state salmon jerky from Trader Joe's: Uncheck
Friday, November 10, 2006
Growth of the Web
1992: 50 websites
1994: 3,000 websites (approximate)
May 2000: over 15,000,000 websites
May 2006: over 85,000,000 websites
Monday, November 06, 2006
Plentiful for Some: The 1950s
I CAN’T IMAGINE there has ever been a more gratifying time or place to be alive than America in the 1950s. No country had ever known such prosperity. When the war ended the United States had $26 billion worth of factories that hadn’t existed before the war, $140 billion in savings and war bonds just waiting to be spent, no bomb damage, and practically no competition. All that American companies had to do was stop making tanks and battleships and start making Buicks and Frigidaires—and boy did they. By 1951, when I came sliding down the chute, almost 90 percent of American families had refrigerators, and nearly three-quarters had washing machines, telephones, vacuum cleaners, and gas or electric stoves—things that most of the rest of the world could still only fantasize about. Americans owned 80 percent of the world’s electrical goods, controlled two-thirds of the world’s productive capacity, produced more than 40 percent of its electricity, 60 percent of its oil, and 66 percent of its steel. The 5 percent of people on Earth who were Americans had more wealth than the other 95 percent combined. Remarkably, almost all this wealth was American made. Of the 7.5 million new cars sold in America in 1954, for instance, 99.93 percent were made in America by Americans. We became the richest country in the world without needing the rest of the world.
Reverse Fall Colors: Scarlet Becomes Green
For Football at Rutgers U., Paths of Glory Lead Not to the Brave
Rutgers University’s football team boasts a sparkling 8-0 record and rankings in the top 15 of the national polls, but this sudden rise to prominence, for the first time in nearly 30 years, has come at a price, according to a long article in Sunday’s Record, a newspaper in northern New Jersey. And the price seems largely to be paid by other parts of Rutgers that are seen as less central to the university’s overall success. Or, as Richard L. McCormick, its president, puts it, “the extreme visibility of the football program” is central in “importance to the image and reputation of the university.”
That explains why the football team’s budget is $13-million a year, yet is still in the red, and why Rutgers’s answer to an $80-million cut in state support was to eliminate six other sports, some 600 non-football jobs, and about 800 course sections, and to raise tuition so that it’s among the highest of any public university.
Meanwhile, the football coach is the top-paid public employee in New Jersey, and the university helped him further by swinging a sweet deal for his new home. The football players get to stay at a posh hotel for home games. And Rutgers blew its entire payout from its appearance in a bowl game last year — and then spent some more — to fly a huge entourage to the game, to award bonuses, and to hand out bowl-related rings to state lawmakers and other key supporters, The Record said.
The Rutgers athletics director, Robert E. Mulcahy III, says catching up to the competition isn’t cheap, and you won’t recruit top players without gold-plated amenities. He told The Record that the team would be making money in five years.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Simple Simon Says...
Simon Blackburn on Harry Frankfurt's new book On Truth, perfect for the wait for connecting flight delay, as was On Bullshit for me when heading back from AERA and Montreal a few years ago. My eyes gave out on reading all of Blackburn here, as I heard my major professor, long dead, remark about his friend Erich Heller that his books on some authors were longer and more interesting than the authors' books. So Blackburn, clever fellow, has written what might be a longer review than the book he is examining.
But the opening 'graphs are delightful:
In his prime, and without benefit of a keyboard, Samuel Johnson could write twelve thousand words a day. I doubt that there are many more than half that number in Harry Frankfurt's diminutive book On Bullshit, which was an unexpected best-seller for Princeton University Press last year, shyly peeking out next to the cash registers in bookshops everywhere. Evidently the commercial giant Knopf wanted to get in on the act, and the result is this almost equally tiny book, nicely positioned for a similar success this Christmas, since there is an announced first printing of 200,000 copies. Its appearance and its design make it almost identical to its hot little predecessor: at 101 baby pages, On Truth appears to be fractionally longer, but On Bullshit buttressed itself with as many as nine footnotes and this book contains none.
One can see why publishers love the miniature, especially when such mouth-watering sales are in their sights. Production and editorial costs must be almost invisible. Even the tardiest author can be expected to produce this amount of copy to a deadline, since one would need a thick skin to trot out the standard excuses of illness, family, competing duties, and the rest to explain delays in what could scarcely be more than a week's work. And there are some subjects well-suited to treatment in a short essay, subjects on which a brief meditation is all we require. We enjoy a few carefully chosen reflections, an aphorism or an insight we might not have managed for ourselves, perhaps a dusting of academic icing in the shape of a quotation or two, and so to bed. The tone of such writing is fairly uniform: confidential, humane, amused, civilized, and leisured. The Oxford Book of Essays, which I have open in front of me, includes such titles as "Thoughts in Westminster Abbey" (Addison), "The Plumber" (Trollope), "The Departure of a Guest" (Belloc), and "Well Informed Circles and How to Move in Them" (Waugh). It also contains Swift's acidic take on the meditations of Robert Boyle: "A Meditation Upon a Broom-Stick." But it reminds us that the great essayists include philosophers too, such as Montaigne and Hume, as well as the various masters of satire and whimsy.