The story is here among other places … One more time, with feeling, a move of cultural pillage in the same broad vein as the story of the whole mess with the Girolamini Library… For some reflections on the latter situation, see Daryl Green’s post, on the St. Andrews Rare Books and Special Collections blog which also reviews the details and links to other articles.

=============================================

Susan G. Harris
Secretary to the Board
University of Virginia

Dear Ms. Harris,

I write to protest the dismissal of President Teresa Sullivan by the University of Virginia’s governing board. Surely the running of the university, a community of scholars across many fields and meant to provide broad and deep education across the disciplines, requires consideration of more than budget issues, and is best left to someone whose training and experience have led her to mastery of the skills and values necessary for faculty self-governance and for maintaining and extending the excellence of the University of Virginia as Jefferson and his intellectual heirs conceived it.

This action on the part of the Rector of the governing board and her group of like-minded board members is a high-handed abuse of power and due process, and a complete misprision of how universities work and what they are for. This is perilous, not only for the University of Virginia as a self-governing community of scholars, but for democracy as a whole, which depends, in every area, on due process and consensus. The faculty are capable of undertaking necessary planning to prudently maintain the University’s programs and integrity in this era of financial difficulty, and to do so with an integrity that has been little in evidence in parts of the country, like Michigan, where alleged “emergencies” have allowed for the complete disruption of our great collective institutions.

May I direct your attention to an essay by Gregory A. Petsko that appeared in Genome Biology in 2010 in protest of a similar approach to governance at SUNY-Albany, which has been read around the world and across the disciplines. In it he protests the short-sightedness and barbarity of presuming that only departments that bring in profit are worthy of continuing to exist in the new “trim” i.e. profit-driven university.

http://genomebiology.com/2010/11/10/138

These sorts of unilateral, arbitrary, and frankly tyrannical actions on the part of University administrations proceed without due process — the university is not a private company, and administrators and governing boards are not CEOs, nor should they act like condottieri or aristocratic oligarchies that can act with impunity or without consulting with their communities. They seem to think that rule of law is “I said so.” In my observation, this kind of autocratic approach to governance brings in its train no real institutional or even financial benefit in the long run, and a great deal of corruption and self-serving high-handedness in both the short and the long term. Certainly the university with which I have been associated, UIUC, has demonstrated this in the national news for the last few years.

Scandals of this sort — and do not mistake this for anything else — are in the public eye now. Abuse of trust does not go unnoticed, nor does it remain unprotested.

If we devalue due process, and if we make money our highest value, we have undermined democracy throughout our society. If we do not integrate democratic values into every arena of our lives, democracy fails at large. We cannot serve God and mammon, we cannot tolerate arrogant autocracy in our everyday lives, and at the same time form a democratic society. Perhaps the Rector of your governing board, like many corporate leaders, thinks that democracy is overrated, that everyday people and practitioners of their various crafts (including college professors) are lazy, stupid, and beneath her; perhaps she is eager to install a corporate oligarchy at the University of Virginia. If that is so, and if the state and the University of Virginia allow the University’s programs to be slashed on the basis of their income, then, with Petsko, I suggest that UVa won’t actually be a university, but a corporate-owned subsidiary trade school. Clearly your Rector didn’t take enough humanities courses, or take them seriously enough, because the unfortunate pattern of such actions is documented throughout history, and thought through in philosophy and literature; its outcomes are always unfortunate.

I am encouraged by the waves of protest from faculty, students, and staff at the University of Virginia, and I join them in protesting this high-handedness and short-sightedness on the part of someone who apparently doesn’t understand what she’s supposed to be serving.

Sincerely,
Dr. Linde M. Brocato

"We have socialized losses and privatized gains.  That's not capitalism."

From The Daily Share 30.v.12

I’m not sure capitalism as it is presently (or even historically) constituted can solve the mess it has made, but it is certainly good to tell its dirty secrets, lay bare the hypocrisy of the robber barons and their minions.

Finally…

April 6, 2012

Bless you, Gay Marriage USA!

This also suggests, however, that perhaps the model of straight marriage shouldn’t be the basis for evaluating relationships, long-term or otherwise. Or so it seems to me.

I’ll be Scroogled…

November 11, 2011

— OH NO! ALL GONE!!

I been sayin' . . .

Updated 24 February 2012

There was the best image, formerly at http://www.scroogle.org/, titled “Google Books Eats Your Library” with the address of http://www.scroogle.org/gifs/goobook5.gif.

You can still see it here.

My comment was “As if Google Books were a charity…”

Very sad to see scroogle go!

but there remains duckduckgo.com and there are other links on the page with the story linked above.

😦

So, I go looking for the particulars about a job at Baylor University. The link to the job descriptions for that department is broken, so I try another link to see if the problem is theirs or HR’s.

I hadn’t really focussed on it too closely, but the link I clicked was for a job in the Department of Family and Consumer Studies. As I hit the “back” button, I think, “Wait! Did I see that right?” So I went back to the page, and I did in fact see it right: Family and Consumer Studies.

Went to their web page (another bad link: really, how hard is it?), and, lo and behold, these are the divisions in that department (in alphabetical order, of course):

  • Apparel Design
  • Apparel Marketing
  • Child and Family Studies
  • General Family and Consumer Sciences
  • Interior Design
  • Nutrition Studies (the area in which they’re hiring)

Ahem…

Um…

Really? How much plainer can it be, in this era of collapsing all distinctions in a frenzied race to disemploy as many people as possible, that, for the Baptists of Texas, the family isn’t traditional, it’s economic, and it’s not souls but bucks that they make their priority. Capital is their god.

Here’s their mission statement:

The Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at Baylor University prepares students to become professionals in business, education, and service careers that use the family and consumer sciences knowledge base and to assume individual, family and community roles as Christians in an increasingly complex global society.

Here are the careers that Child & Family Studies prepares its students for:

  • Youth and Children’s Ministry
  • Pre-kindergarten or Head Start teacher
  • Child care teacher
  • Family support specialist
  • Special needs coordinator
  • Health-related agencies
  • Event Planning
  • Family advocate
  • Early childhood intervention
  • Child life specialist

One is, of course, a bit boggled by some of the trendy positions in which these Baptists might find employment — “Child Life Specialist”? Meaning … ?? “Child Care Teacher” without “Early Childhood Education” (to which you would think the Education Department is hanging on tenaciously — turns out not to be the case) sounds exceedingly odd to me.

Oh, okay: it’s in “General Family & Consumer Sciences” that you get the teaching certification:

Students in General Family and Consumer Sciences receive a broad education in all areas of family and consumer sciences. Upon graduation, students are prepared to teach in middle and high school programs or work with individuals and families in a variety of settings.

Certainly the Baptists aren’t alone in tossing wildly disparate programs into one administrative toybox. The institutions that rank departments for quality are a bit annoyed, as these jumbles of programs mean that it gets really hard to even rate the departments within such hodgepodges (which may limit the longevity of this bizarre notion).

Yet it is quite revealing in this case of an ideology that you’d think would be at odds with Christianity: families are consumers, and children must be shaped into good consumers. So whether you’re teaching toddlers or advocating for them, or marketing clothing or curtains or some kind of industrialized foodesque substance, you’re in essentially the same domain. And there’s no conflict among them: I can advocate for a child by marketing industrialized foodesque substances or making sure they get sweat-shop-produced clothing from Walmart, and just wash my hands of possible conflicts of interest, doubtless from a very shiny spigot in my very nice house.

I have often wondered at the pick-and-choose-which-scripture-to-heed attitudes of a lot of “Christians” (and, in my experience, particularly Baptists), but this conflation of consumer capitalism and “the family” is weird enough to be just plain Freudian, not to mention … unbiblical and unchristian.

So THANKS, BAYLOR! for making the evangelical “Christian” conflation of capitalism, conformism, and Christianity even clearer to me. And for saying out loud in front of God and everybody that you are of the world and in it, rendering all unto Caesar, and serving Mammon as your God.

Postdatum 31 August 2011
Reading * “Beyond Alarmism and Denial in the Dominionism Debate,” by Sarah Posner and Anthea Butler. (A journalist and a scholar of religion share notes on Rick Perry, the New Apostolic Reformation, and the recent brouhaha in the press about how much importance to accord to right-wing religion. AT: http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/atheologies/5026/beyond_alarmism_and_denial_in_the_dominionism_debate) on Religious Dispatches:

All of the groups are enmeshed in a symbiotic web. These evangelists’, apostles’, and leaders’ messages are the commodity, and you have to buy the books, conferences, and other materials in order to get the blessings. I know that will seem distasteful and a caricature to some, but these events are well-attended, and at a hundred bucks a person, revenues from book and DVD sales. Conferences and meetings like Lou Engles’ The Call are not just prayer meetings, they are Christian marketplaces, with all sorts of spiritual wares being sold.

Makes me want to read up on Calvinism and the new “Prosperity Gospel.”

Addendum 20.x.11:
This from Joan Walsh at Salon.com, “Buchanan admits defeat” —

And while he spends a lot of space lamenting the decline of Catholicism in the U.S. and globally — Islam has officially displaced it as the world’s largest religion – he has to acknowledge that the church continues to grow in Africa, Latin America and Asia. But somehow, they’re the wrong kind of Catholics: “With the number of bishops and cardinals from Latin America, Africa and Asian inevitably rising … [the] Church may be more orthodox on theological and moral issues, but it will be far less receptive to capitalism and Western concerns.” Clearly capitalism trumps theological and moral issues for Buchanan. That’s good to know.

Yes, much becomes clear . . .

July 28, 2011


Bin Laden, they say, is dead; we have slain our enemy, we have exacted an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Our sins came home to roost, and the shame of that had to be expunged.

As I, mesmerized with grief and horror, watched the footage of the Twin Towers tumbling down on 9/11/01, so much life turned into so much debris, one of my thoughts was “whoever did this did not watch enough B-budget westerns and WWII movies,” and thus had no idea what they had unleashed in their attempt at revenge for their own reasons and on their own terms.

And now, after 10 years of immersion in the expensive insanity of vengeful, self-righteous destruction unleashed by exactly the dynamic laid out for all the world to see in our most banal films, we think we have won by killing the “master-mind” of it all. Oh, and by the way, Qaddafi’s son is dead, but not Qaddafi.

Oh my country: how many more enemies, how many more masterminds have we created? How much of our own integrity have we destroyed?

We’ve seen it over and over again, throughout the millenia of history, and doubtless throughout the unwritten life of human beings before “history” (by definition written). Is this why “they” are doing their best to get rid of the humanities? So nobody knows this until long after, until way too late?

Violence, hatred, and vengeance are self-perpetuating and addictive: look at the Irish and English, at the Basques and “franquistas,” at the Palestinians and Israelis. At some point the purpose simply becomes the perpetuation of the adrenalin rush, of the high of violence, of the delusion of omnipotence-for-an-instant. Look at all the computer and video games of war, blasting some enemy to gory pixels, look at how we’ve converted the destruction of human beings into just that: entertainment.

A few days after we entered the conflict in Libya, some headline or other blared out its shock that women and children, civilians, innocents were being killed. WHAT THE F***K DID YOU THINK WOULD HAPPEN? Of course innocents are killed, lives are destroyed — lives, meaning every living thing within range of the weapons’ strike, meaning crops, meaning livelihoods, meaning homes — THAT’S WHAT WAR DOES.

To everybody. Just like 9/11.

War doesn’t happen in algorithms and densely printed pages of strategy, blips on screens, computer simulations. It happens to real people of flesh and blood, to their parents and their children, to their lovers, to their chickens and dogs, to the tomatoes in their gardens, to the very earth itself. But, as John Steinbeck writes of his outing in San Diego on the way to the Gulf of California, in Log from the Sea of Cortez, young pre-WWII Navy gunners were taught never to do that, think of particular lives, families, homes being obliterated.

And when you’ve destroyed somebody’s life, they’re not exactly disposed to be sweet to you. Paybacks truly are hell.

There is an astounding early 20th century text by (of all people) Mark Twain, that we should all read. I can’t imagine why no one (who’s interested in peace, that is) in the last 10 years hasn’t brought out a compelling new edition to make us all think about what our nation is doing (nation: hah. The Military Industrial Complex that owns our government only thinks in terms of its own immediate profit: “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees…”). I see that there was a 2007 film adaptation, but the Wikipedia link is broken.

You can find “The War Prayer” on various websites. I strongly recommend it. Here’s the Wikipedia article on it:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_War_Prayer

An etext:
http://www.textfiles.com/etext/AUTHORS/TWAIN/warpryer.txt

An audio version:
http://www.archive.org/details/MarkTwainsTheWarPrayer

And it’s on a site dedicated to Babylon 5, which had an episode with the same name:
http://www.ntua.gr/lurk/making/warprayer.html

And, you know, what Christ is reported to have said in the Christian Gospel of Mathew is not unique in the wisdom literature of the planet, and it’s simply a matter of practicality: violence begets violence, hate begets hate, and if we can’t identify with those we’ve harmed, or who’ve harmed us, to the point of harming them no further, we can’t stop the unending chain of violence (also Twain’s point).

Mathew 5 (KJV)
38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

Being a bit of a Jeremiah myself, I spent some time a while back reading the Hebrew prophets — try it: you might be surprised. What makes their God maddest is greed, exploitation, profiteering, taking advantage, violating others, ruthlessness — in short: God don’t like no bullies.

I’d bet Calvin’s hermeneutic gyrations incorporating the prophets and Job into a religion of “if you’re rich, it’s because you’re in good with God” would make your head spin.

I used to have this fantasy of Madeleine Albright sending both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to their rooms without supper until they could be nice to each other. Alas, no go.

We’re at an anti-Nike point in the fate of the world, truly:
JUST STOP IT.

For God’s sake, for our own sake, to be “perfect” — to fulfill our humanity, common and yet always particular — stop the destruction, the exploitation, the injustice, the rampant self-righteousness, the visiting of horror, whether minuscule and personal or of epic proportions. Just stop — YOU, personally, in all your affairs — stop taking advantage of others, thinking only of your own profit and gratification; stop lying, stealing, cheating, even if everybody else is doing it. The handbook is in every wisdom literature there is, summed up nicely in the Sermon on the Mount, and in the “golden rule”:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Do not unto others as you would not have them do unto you.

P.S. In an interesting essay in Religion Dispatches, Mark Juergensmeyer writes:

So although the hardened activists associated with al Qaeda will linger on, the fate of the global jihadi ideology—or rather the world view of cosmic war that the jihadi rhetoric promoted—is a different matter. This view of the world as a tangle of sacred warfare has been an exciting and alluring image among a large number of mostly young and largely male Muslims around the world for over a decade. It is an image that was brought to dramatic attention by the September 11, 2001 attacks, and stimulated by the perception that US military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq were wars against Islam.

This jihadi vision of sacred warfare was propagated by the internet, through postings on chat rooms and the dissemination of YouTube types of videos showing graphic acts of US military destruction in Islamic countries and calling on the faithful to respond. The jihadi idea of cosmic war provided a strategic legimitization of violence by the implicit promise—as a leader of Hamas once told me—that if one is fighting God’s war, one could never lose. God always wins.

For the moment, however, bin Laden is dead, and Tahrir Square has challenged both the strategic value and the moral legitimacy of the jihadi stance. The legion of young Muslim activists around the world have received a new standard for challenging the old order, and a new form of protest, one that discredits terrorism as the easy and ineffective path and chooses the tough and profitable road of nonviolence.

16.v.11 update:
This from Glenn Greenwald:
http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/05/15/afghanistan

It’s the perfect self-perpetuating cycle: (1) They hate us and want to attack us because we’re over there; therefore, (2) we have to stay and proliferate ourselves because they hate us and want to attack us; (3) our staying and proliferating ourselves makes them hate us and want to attack us more; therefore, (4) we can never leave, because of how much they hate us and want to attack us. The beauty of this War on Terror — and, as the last two weeks have demonstrated, War is the bipartisan consensus for what we are and should be doing to address Terrorism — is that it forever sustains its own ostensible cause.

26.xi.11
Once again, Glenn Greenwald in “The fruits of liberation” on Salon says what we all should be saying and seeing:

At some point, doesn’t a country’s ongoing willingness year after year to extinguish the lives of innocent human beings in multiple countries, for no good reason, seriously mar the character of the country and the political leaders responsible for it, to say nothing of the way it inexorably degrades the political culture of the nation and the minds of the citizens who acquiesce to it? That should be nothing more than a rhetorical question. The gap between how many Americans perceive of their nation’s role in the world and the reality is indescribably wide.

We would be wise to heed …

Sex, Lies, “Feminism”

February 13, 2011

(Note: dead links are rendered static strings of text!)

I read a piece today on Salon, How technology is really changing sex work: Prostitutes call foul on a recent report that Facebook is the “new Craigslist.” They give us the real scoop, and I followed a few links (here’s the Wired article: https://www.wired.com/2011/01/ff_sextrade/). I then wondered what Nightmare Brunette, who had a thought-provoking, beautifully-written, reflective post in Salon a while back, was thinking about this study, which apparently got seriously skewed in news reports (surprise, surprise).

So I went looking, and found Nightmare Brunette’s take on it [no longer there and not findable], which begins “What fresh hell is this?”

Reading her blog, I found that this isn’t the only brouhaha about sex and sex work going, and so I followed up on the recent swivet over an article in the Atlantic (supposedly) bashing pornography, particularly internet pornography. Nightmare Brunette’s comment is embedded in her take on another article by a guy who was using internet porn so much it was interfering with his ability to be sexually present with his girlfriend:

Another take on that article I mentioned, which has valid points amid its weirdly hypocritical (in the case of NVC, who just wrote a heavily criticized article in which she projected her own unpleasant personal sexual experience onto all men everywhere through all time) meanness. [The lost article linked to its sources/targets at nightmarebrunette.tumblr.com/post/3202462034/to-say-i-cant-keep-my-erection-when-my-penis-is. You can find an interview with her here]

Natasha Vargas-Cooper’s essay, “Hard Core” has apparently garnered widespread opprobrium, but the thing that’s really interesting in the Atlantic piece, to me, its central conceptual axis, is really this:

But the reactionary political correctness of the 1990s put forth a proposition even more disastrous to women than free love: sexual equality. With the rise of PC culture, the notion of men and women as sexual equals has found a home in the mainstream. Two generations of women, my own included, soared into the game with the justifiable expectations of not only earning the same wage as a guy, but also inhabiting the sexual arena the way a man does.
. . .
This is an intellectual swindle that leads women to misjudge male sexuality, which they do at their own emotional and physical peril.

A prof of mine, feminist and certainly not of the puritanical sex-hating variety, used to say that “free love” and “sexual liberation” meant that women didn’t get to say no anymore, without being called frigid or lesbian. Yet sexual equality, in terms of having one’s own desires and being able to act on them, doesn’t sound like a bad thing to me, nor does it sound like Vargas-Cooper lacks either desires or agency.

But a personal substratum of her critique of a kind of feminist utopianism comes a little later in the essay:

Never was this made plainer to me than during a one-night stand with a man I had actually known for quite a while. A polite, educated fellow with a beautiful Lower East Side apartment invited me to a perfunctory dinner right after his long-term girlfriend had left him. We quickly progressed to his bed, and things did not go well. He couldn’t stay aroused. Over the course of the tryst, I trotted out every parlor trick and sexual persona I knew. I was coquettish then submissive, vocal then silent, aggressive then downright commandeering; in a moment of exasperation, he asked if we could have anal sex. I asked why, seeing as how any straight man who has had experience with anal sex knows that it’s a big production and usually has a lot of false starts and abrupt stops. He answered, almost without thought, “Because that’s the only thing that will make you uncomfortable.” This was, perhaps, the greatest moment of sexual honesty I’ve ever experienced—and without hesitation, I complied. This encounter proves an unpleasant fact that does not fit the feminist script on sexuality: pleasure and displeasure wrap around each other like two snakes.

Throughout the essay one senses the often implicitly autobiographical in odd places, but the explicit paydirt is this: “men and women have conflicting sexual agendas.”

Surely this is not news to anybody (nor are men and women the only groups with “conflicting agendas”); as far as I can tell, from a lifetime of reading (and sex), most of the masterpieces (not to mention ordinary and awful pieces) of literature explore the fissure in and between desires, agendas, lovers, kin. That same prof of mine used to explain the carpe diem tradition,* generally voiced by a male poet to a woman who is the object of his lust/love, as “screw with me now while you’re young and beautiful, before you’re old and ugly and nobody wants you.” Garcilaso makes it sweet, with his “coged de vuestra alegre primavera / el dulce fruto, antes que el tiempo airado / cubra de nieve la hermosa cumbre” — “pluck of your happy spring / the sweet fruit, before raging time / covers with snow the beautiful peak,” but the underlying reality is brutally clear in Luis de Góngora’s sonnet CLXVI, which, after detailing the triumph of the woman’s body in competition with nature, ends

goza cuello, cabello, labio y frente,
antes que lo que fue en tu edad dorada
oro, lilio, clavel, cristal luciente,

no sólo en plata o vïola troncada
se vuelva, mas tú y ello juntamente
en tierra, en humo, en polvo, en sombra, en nada.
—-
take pleasure in your neck, hair, lips, and forehead
before what was in your golden youth
gold, lily, carnation, shining crystal,

turn not only into silver or violet cut short
but you and all that together turn
into earth, into smoke, into dust, into a shade, into nothing.

Vargas-Cooper isn’t all that condemnatory of internet porn, really, nor, apparently, a variety of sexual roles and acts, but of the disconnect between men and women, which she does blame on men, yes, but with the greatest bitterness, it seems to me, toward the “feminist” “intellectual swindle” that said that a “verbal contract” could fix the power disequilibrium and that men and women could be equal players in the game of sex/uality. Her piece is resolutely hetero, ’tis true, and I’m here to tell you that screwing other people, sexually and otherwise, isn’t confined to heterosexual pairs. Of course, there are multitudinous truths and positions and desires — and each of us can only speak from her own.

It’s not the physical act, nor the representation thereof on the internet or in film, nor even the intertwining of “pleasure and displeasure,” that are the problem for Vargas-Cooper, but a deeper emotional betrayal of the rest of life made worse by the feminist false hope of equality.

In fact, after declaring that men and women have different sexual agendas, she goes on to say that these conflicting agendas are made plain by internet porn, which is its real virtue:

Pornography, with its garish view of male sexual desire, bares an uncomfortable truth that the women’s-liberation movement has successfully suppressed: men and women have conflicting sexual agendas.

Pornography neatly resolves the contradictions—in favor of men. They fuck with impunity. Women never dream of staying. And if, God forbid, the women get pregnant, well, they can be used in pregnant pornos and then in an episode of Exploited Moms. What a marvelous means of delving into the heads of men. And for women peeping in on the Web, an important lesson—one that can’t be gleaned in a sex-ed class where condoms are placed over bananas, nor from poring over the umpteenth edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves—is that sex can be a bitter, crushing experience, no matter how much power you think you have.

That’s the navel of the dream, as Freud would say, or of the nightmare, the real hidden bedrock of this essay. It’s not sex, but its consequences for women and not men; it’s the fact that women want more or get pregnant, which, in the world of (internet) porn, just makes them a different kind of (pornographic) object. Which is not necessarily the experience of a woman in said situation. This isn’t just “weirdly hypocritical meanness” but out-and-out rage, perhaps deserved by some particular man, which is to say Vargas-Cooper does in fact wildly overgeneralize — though not from the date-gone-wrong that ended with the sexual honesty of wanting to make her uncomfortable. And I have to ask about that particular moment in the essay, reading beyond the frame, if the expressed seeking of discomfort was a superficial truth, standing for the desire to make Vargas-Cooper reveal herself, rather than running through (pornographic) roles trying to get her date off. In this, Nightmare Brunette’s words apropos of the article “He’s Just Not That Into It Any More,” resonate:

There will always be men and women who are resolutely themselves and demand a partner who is the same. I hope we all remember that when we are on the verge of succumbing to porn paranoia.

Though more or less direct and clear on the surface i.e. in its syntax, Vargas-Cooper’s article is baroque, in its way — indirect, ambivalent, overdetermined, deeply condensed (in the Freudian sense), intellectual(ized), allusive, disillusioned. I mean “baroque” as a stylistic and a historical concept: in 15th- through 17th-century Spanish literature, both a pornographic power struggle (in Carajicomedia) and an escalating series of male monologues of desire followed by a woman’s contestation (representative classic texts in the Renaissance and Baroque carpe diem tradition),** testify to analogous “conflicting sexual agendas.” Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz responds to Góngora’s sonnet (above) in a sonnet of her own demystifying her portrait and its implicit (sexual) praise:

Procura desmentir los elogios
que a un retrato de la Poetisa inscribió la verdad,
que llama pasión

Este, que ves, engaño colorido,
que del arte ostentando los primores,
con falsos silogismos de colores
es cauteloso engaño del sentido;

éste, en quien la lisonja ha pretendido
excusar de los años los horrores,
y venciendo del tiempo los rigores,
triunfar de la vejez y del olvido,

es un vano artificio del cuidado,
es una flor al viento delicada,
es un resguardo inútil para el hado;

es una necia diligencia errada,
es un afán caduco y, bien mirado,
es cadáver, es polvo, es sombra, es nada.

The Poet manages to demystify the praise that truth (called passion) inscribed on her portrait

This painted deceit, as you see,
that shows off its refined art,
with false syllogisms of colors
is a wily deception of the senses;

this, for whom praise has tried
to excuse the horrors of the years,
overcoming the rigors of time’s passing
to triumph over old age and oblivion,

is a vain artifice of caring,
is a delicate flower in the wind,
is a useless safeguard against fate,

is a foolish and erring caution,
is a failed effort, and, looked at rightly,
it is a corpse, is dust, a shade, is nothing.

Vargas-Cooper’s final sentences reinforce the non-physical as key in sexuality for women, at least for her, and show that her essay isn’t about internet porn, really, or even sexual acts per se, but about the sometime consequences in life-after-sex, and the illusions promulgated by “feminism” that love is free and that men and women can be the same sexually (clearly the first problematic supposedly-clear-cut dichotomy is that one: “men” and “women” in hetero “opposition”):

The most frightening truths about sex rarely exist in the physical, but instead live in the intangible yet indelible wounds created in the psyche. Go try to find that on the Internet.

You will, however, find those not-porn truths in literature, on the internet as well as in the vast majority of our cultural heritages — there’s a reason they’re “classics.” In fact, take a look at another of Sor Juana’s poems, “Stupid men, who accuse [women]” at http://oldpoetry.com/opoem/24888-Sor-Juana-Ines-de-la-Cruz-You-Men, to see her take on the hypocritical puritanism of (some) 17th century men.

Make fun of lit crit all you’d like, think of writing as somehow frivolous, call for more and more “education” meaning only math and science, but you’ll never find in all that math and science anything to tell you what it means to be human, where we’ve already been and how to avoid repeating those disasters or to cultivate the good, and, in the long run, why to bother — which you will find in literature. Natasha Vargas-Cooper, may I suggest Celestina, a late-15th-century tale of lust, betrayal, and death?*** There you’ll find some of the shared roots of your despair in the struggle over sex.

All the more reason to keep reading, and writing.
__________
* Garcilaso de la Vega, “En tanto que de rosa y de azucena;” Luis de Góngora, “Mientras que por competir con tu cabello;” and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, “Este que ves engaño colorido.” Translations are mine.
** 15th c. is Late Medieval, though there is a strongly baroque esthetic in poetry; 16th and 17th c. literature and culture are called “Golden Age” for their rich and flourishing cultural production. The Spanish Baroque era is generally considered to be primarily the 17th c.
***The wikipedia article links to a translation (incomplete) in the “External References;” there is also a bilingual edition of Celestina published by Aris & Philips, which includes the 17th-century translation of James Mabbe, edited by Dorothy Severin; there is also a new edition here.

1.vi.12
Just a Note on “Hating” Sex
Well, it turns out that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, when archbishop of Milwaukee’s diocese, paid priests accused of sexual predation so that they wouldn’t oppose the defrocking process, as the posts to which I refer below suggest. I’m not sure that he was really rewarding them, rather than trying to simplifying getting the accused out of the priesthood and away from a steady supply of young men (and making it someone else’s problem), but it does amount to the same thing, in some ways. The current extraordinarily reactionary public position of the Mother Church toward sexual expression, expression which many of its priests have never managed to deny, is historically consistent with missing the very same boat in the 15th century on the same issue (clerical celibacy) — which backfired magnificently, I might add (as the Reformation). All of which makes this comment on the Religion Dispatches posting blackly entertaining: “So it’s safe to say the only recreational, non-procreative sex which is officially sanctioned by the Catholic Church is between a priest and an underage boy.”

But aren’t we glad that the very same Church is with it enough to declare St. Isidore of Seville the patron saint of the internet, computers, computer users, and computer technicians!

7.xii.12
And now, the Pope is tweeting as @pontifex. wtf?

A New Tarot

December 27, 2010

and a reading this evening 26.xii.10:

“The Book of Lies
This is a complex spread used to explore your internal and external state, the lies preventing you from seeing the truth about yourself and your situation, and the reality of your situation.”

My Tentacle Monster Tarot Book of Lies Reading

In Louis A. Ruprecht’s Religion Dispatches essay “Can a Greek Monastery Be Ground Zero of Global Financial Meltdown?” he recounts the recent financial history of that country:

Virtually no Greeks had credit cards in the 1980s; precious few had access to the kind of credit that made businesses big and profitable.

Wait. Wait.

Credit means I owe somebody, because I’m using their money, i.e. it’s my debt to them. So I don’t really have that money — it’s illusory, i.e. I’m living beyond my means, whether I’m a business or just a plain old citizen… oops! I mean consumer.

And if I’m using their money, then it’s not my money.

Which means it has to be taken away from my profits.

And what they charge me for using their money is really their profit.

So, now, whose profit is that credit about?