Friday, November 30, 2012

News and Updates

1. I’ve been trying to find time to write an actual blog post for the last week, so far without much success.  It’s not like there’s a paucity of things to write about.  But it’s just that time of the semester when everything was due yesterday and I keep assigning more work to be graded because I am one of those idiot professors who actually wants my students to learn things and they won’t learn unless they do work.  Which has to be graded.  Oh well.

2. Why do holiday contests keep promising me that I can win “a flat-screen TV”?  Does anyone even make non-flat-screen TVs anymore?  It’s like advertising unleaded gasoline.

3. There are too many cats barging around my house at 4am and not enough cats sleeping quietly out of the way.  It is amazing how “too many” can be as few as “one.”

4. Thanksgiving is now over.  I can officially acknowledge the existence of Christmas.  That doesn’t mean I am going to get my Christmas cards out before New Years or that I have all (read: “any”) of my gift-shopping done.  It just means that I don’t cringe every time I hear a Christmas song on the radio.

5. It is a sad and stressful thing to be very far away from friends when they are sick.

6. There are very few figures in modern American history more fun to discuss with a class than Richard Nixon.  For a combination of high drama, low comedy, real political skills and achievements, and outright threats to law, order and constitutional government, you just can’t beat him.  He’s absolutely compelling, in a train-wreck sort of way.

7. I am almost three quarters of the way through my “Read All of the Discworld Books Again, In Order” project, and it has been so, so worth it.

8. I think I may have burned myself out on picture-taking for a while.  Vacations will do that.

9.The future of higher education in Wisconsin looks grimmer every time Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) opens his mouth.  It takes a genuine idiot to convert a university into a corporate apprenticeship program, and we’ve got just the guy in office to do it.

10. The “check engine” light lit up on my car the other day.  I opened the hood and checked.  The engine was still there.  I don’t know why they bother to put those lights on the dashboard.


John the Scientist said...

I, too, do not acknowledge Christmas before Thanksgiving, except in one way: I have all of my shopping done (which this year included The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy combined set).

Eric said...

It really is hard to resist Tricky Dick as a historical character. There's something popcorn-worthy of the guy's career even at its most appalling depths (and Watergate really wasn't even close to the worst of the worst; arguably the very worst was the point that cabinet officials were so worried about Nixon's mental health, they allegedly told the Joint Chiefs to ignore any major military commands from the CiC unless they were verified by the Secretary Of Defense--if true, a fundamental-level Constitutional crisis).

His predecessor, Johnson, has a lot of similar qualities: a shady politician who's legitimate achievements are drowned by everything that went wrong with his Presidency. And yet it isn't the same: Johnson just ends up seeming sad, defeated, smaller than he really was, permanently eclipsed by Kennedy (who gets credited for many of LBJ's achievements in civil rights and welfare) and the darkness of the Nixon era; Nixon, meanwhile, ends up being this seriocomic figure, larger than he really was, a walking caricature of himself, trembling and sweaty and defiantly lying about what a crook he was and saying he wouldn't get kicked around anymore (only to still be a reliable comic target decades after his death). Like I said, popcorn-worthy, somehow. Johnson just leads you to shake your head and Nixon ends up the train wreck you can't stop watching.

The icing on the Nixon cake maybe being that Hunter Thompson's obituary of the man remains one of the finest pieces of invective ever penned in the English language. I don't know if there's a way you can appropriately get that to your class--it's obvious very partisan--but it's a helluva read.

David said...

John - was that the combined set of books, radio dramas, or other? Any way you look at it, though, someone is going to get a primo gift. :)

Eric - thanks for that analysis of Johnson v Nixon - it really helped me put a finger on something that had been just beyond my reach for a while now. I'll probably end up using it in a class. And I will definitely look up that obituary.

My favorite anti-Nixon jibe came from the radio show "Whaddya Know?" which is broadcast on NPR from Madison. They have a feature called "Thanks for the Memos" where actual memos from actual businesses are read on air. Shortly after Nixon died they read one from the Washington DC branch of the ACLU which said, in its entirety, "To commemorate the passing of former presidend Richard M. Nixon, this office will be closed for exactly eighteen and one-half minutes."

Eric said...

"He Was A Crook"

Even the title is awesome.

David said...

Oh that was priceless. :)

Beatrice Desper said...

Here are the advertising commandments:
1. Back to school ads start, oh, about a week before Labor Day.
2. Halloween ads start around October 1st.
3. Thanksgiving ads can't start before Halloween.
4. Christmas ads start of black Friday

It's true, I'm stuck in the early seventies. I'm also officially middle-aged.