Bear with me, I needs must tidy up. My Feb. 11 Wespeak (Open Brief to Richard Ohmann) contained this wording: “World-beater Roth, who humbly took upon himself the onerous task of perfecting the world and relieving himself of the far more onerous task of perfecting himself.” The phrase “and relieving himself…” is messy. Let’s clean up the mess with “that task relieving him…” There! I feel sooooo relieved.
Alas, my relief is short-lived: I’m married to the mob, a “family” which takes a dim view of divorce (“fuggedaboutit!”). Every weekend a couple of heavy capos lay upon me a friendly, fresh reminder: “Faw PM on Monday is the deadline faw yaw galleys. Miss it, and you’ll be dead for a ducat. We know a Dane aw two.” I tell them I know a bahd aw two. They call me a wise guy and leave me securely chained to my bench, my striped old back bent over my oar. And what is more, I’m watched by a hundred eyes on the argosy’s prow, all focused on stoking their merely insatiable lust for the sweat of my brow.
So, while, behind closed doors, dear Michael, you curse this old salt’s (ancient mariner’s) brine, don’t wish you could pull his polished oar; you know not what you’re wishing for. Lighter by far is the cross you bear to that iridescent Oz you envision, heaven’s mirror made, come hell or high water, here on earth.
Michael Roth’s vision, dear readers, is clearly foreshadowed both here and now: Just follow your nose (or clothespin your nose and follow the hype) to the Evan Roth exhibit’s towering compost heap. Would that be too rank a metaphor? most likely one that fair-haired Evan’s oeuvre had never met afore. Would “Feted Babel” be a fitter pun? Or should his crop be simply numbered “landfill no. 1” and “landfill no. 2” and so on? Whatever the nomenclature you choose, dear reader, if down-in-the-dumps is your humor’s yummy, now you know where to plump it.
Waste not, want not, let us move on.
Michael, last spring you blogged imperatively: “Student Loans: Congress Must Act!” Enter Stage Left, the State getting into the act. MY alma mater (Auld Lang Syne), steered clear of Leviathan, Alma Mater’s academic freedom meaning more to her than a fistful of dollars. The theory (a term you embrace), supported by human experience (a term you arm wrestle out the door), was homiletic: he who pays the piper calls the tune. You happen to like the tune the piper is calling (“The Taxpayer is a Chump”), but that will change when not one unpicked pocket remains.
Yours truly’s apocalyptic prophecy presumes that those who’ve overrun the groves of academe – I speak of you power-hungry wolves in sheepskins’ clothing – continue to pack the Media Academic Complex. (The mediacrity lost in the West Wing is its wholly-owned subsidiary.) Of course, as leader of the pack on High, you need to be the first to tear into the social fabric with something for every pursuing wolf and jackal to chew upon. And being the first is not enough; your howling jowl must be the best. But how? With what? How WOULD a hack indoctrinator (miked, a shlock jock) distinguish his barren runes from the ruck of his ruins-building bloc?
By tearing up the “out”-field? (I speak of Western Civilization.) That hapless field is already in tatters, compliments of the cut-ups comprising the Sheepskinned Players Association.
By playing the crowded “in”-field? Yes! It’s been your M.O. since your Wesleyan undergraduate days – the days when the couchings of Freud, the half-forgotten bisector of couch potatoes, were back in highbrow fashion, thanks to Classics Professor Norman O. “Nobby” Brown’s discovery of Freud the Hegelian. Capitalizing on Nobby’s find, an enterprising Marxist came up with the phrase whose time had come, the term on the tip of everyone’s tongue: “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.” Or was it “Phylogeny recapitulates ontology”? Whatever, quicker than the Lord of Lowbrow Manor can blog his weekly ritual “Awesome student body!” the phrase was in the grasp of the cognoscenti (the students “in the know”), who made it their secret handshake.
You had to get in on the action. Your senior thesis could have been entitled “the Cliff’s Notes Freud” and been required reading for students taking Resume-Padding 101. (Is it true that the faculty member you’d chosen to bless your waste of paper was an untenured also-ran on his way out the door when he managed to catch the Affirmative Action Bandwagon and ride it all the way up to Senior Professorship-on-High?) Your thesis without a thesis was fine for there and then, but the dunkel-minded author of “Moses and Monotheism” in hot, new, diversity-minded Wes, with its pantheon of divine distractions? Freud, that old coot, would soon be all but forgotten.
Mike be nimble, Mike be quick, Mike jumped over the skinny, unrelished Wiener to Princeton, there to do back-flips over a puckish candle’s shtick. What candle? The pride of the Princeton in-field, the chirpy nihilist and self-confessed corrupter of student minds, your hand-picked mentor Richard Rorty. For darkened marquees in this movie-starved land we need that worthy’s blockbuster: DECONSTRUCTIONISM: THE IN-WORD.
Your current hottie is bath house philosophe Michel Foucault, the foulest Gaul in the park, would be this umpire’s flattering call. The gauche banker’s punishing French is a masochist’s “Pain et Chocolat” (pardon my Gallic flavor) and Paglia (Camille la douce) declared him “slick” (for plagiarizing, I believe).
However, no apercu of your bathhouse Bo Peep whose crook the neck of no transatlantic dilettante appears to be beyond the reach of, would be complete without bemusing: How can you, who claim to be a postmodernist, climb demurely into bed with that hoary Saussurian brontosaurus? Honestly, Michael.
Benjamin is a member of the class of 1957.