Friday, July 11, 2008

MAD in academia

The cultural-philosophical attitude known as nihilism vanished at about the time of the ascention of the Bolsheviks in Russia.
An important element had vanished from the scene. Was it because the Russian character was changing?
Or would the nihilism just change to burlesque, as new Communists, in the privacy of their minds, would now embrace burlesque or satire to counter, with a private laugh, a new tyranny.

But this, spoken out loud, would lead to the Gulag or the gallows.

Thus begins my thesis on nihilism, which, of course, was designed to keep my A status in graduate school.
I could not fail. I had to read like hell.
And sometimes offer entire phrases without attribution or footnotes.

I mean, if you're in a lab and the potassium permanganate doesn't turn blue as its supposed to in the experiment, what's wrong with a little ink or blue colouring to help the process along? Or purple, which is close enough. Got to maintain that A status.

Ah purple prose and plagiarism.

You gotta keep that A to stay in the course.

I think I had been too hard on myself with my careful attribution and footnoting.

I have since read a number of master's theses in social work, say, and I have found these candidates not only extraordnarily dim, but outright thieves when it came to their ideas.

Myself, I was riven with doubt over my sociology thesis."I'm going to fail. I stole it all. They will catch me."

Well, no. Most sociology profs aren't all that far ahead of their students, and in a discipline that is largely bankrupt, it's only the statistics that you present that can be challenged.

Like I had offered that all deviants live in corner houses on the block.
I knew this for sure, as I lived in a corner house.

So did my prof, I guess, and he didn't give me full marks.
"It's been said before, by C.W. Mills."

Well, at least he was awake. And probably a corner deviant too, for who else would be privy to that kind of arcane information? He did admit to me that his adopted eleven-year-old dauther, Hester, had been making advances to him, which were well past ordinary childlike innocence.
Or was he just a dirty old man, and worse, in a closet?
The social sciences stem from classical philosophy and visual art.

And how many times in the Symposium would Plato, heavily made up, would croon, "I'm going to make myself pretty for a pretty man?"

Of course, today, we would be held as bigots if we were to criticize such an attitude.
Boy-loving is elevated to religion. We must be politically correct.
And in the privacy of our minds, resort to a kind of satire or burlesque. We think of Kurt Vonegut Jr. "All Greek philosopy is one large bumfuck."
It does strike me that it is the artist and not the social scientist who really knows anything. Sociology is applied common sense and statistics. But as" Lone Grey Squirrel"sagaciously states in his blog, you can make up statistics on the spot just to prove your point.

So here is a quote by William S. Burroughs that would either fascinate or repel my poor sociology prof.

"In Timbuktu I once saw an Arab boy who could play a flute with his ass, and the fairies told me he was really an individual in bed."

Startling, but somehow romantic in our post-modernist, techno-gay future.

Certainly worth a hundred closely-reasoned theses.

And all it was was a genius farting around.

M.A. theses. Most of them bullshit and farting around. And worse, stolen, especially in a non-dissertation thesis, where you don't even have to prove your point to a commitee.
How Burroghs must have mystified his profs at Harvard.
Or intrigued them.

And how often is the truth supplied with humour.

Even in a jugular vein, as I had submitted, in my Master's thesis, on of all things, MAD Magazine.

I did not have to copy or improvise.

The MAD artists were happy to supply the information.

Said illustrator Willie Elder.

Man, you are one of us.

"But as Groucho Marx said, "I wouldn't want to be part of any club that would have me as a member.

Hoo Hah!


JR's Thumbprints said...

Did you test the null hypothesis? Or is it called the dull hypothesis? Such pursuits to find answers in numbers must surely lead to nihilism. Still, I think I'll buy a lottery ticket. If I win, I'm gonna buy me a corner house. said...

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Hoo Ha.

Charles Gramlich said...

I remember a quote, but can't remember who said it; "the average Ph.D. thesis is the moving of a set of decaying bones from one grave to another." said...

I'e always found the untenured professors more fun, but then I was untenured myself.
I guess better a fun guy then fungi?

Donnetta Lee said...

Oh, my God! Hubby and I live in a corner house in Punta Gorda. Well, that explains a lot about us, no doubt. Oh--and what's that! I think there's a little bit of fungi growing in the yard. Stuff the old fart's are made of.
Donnetta said...

Corner house, huh?

Hee hee. Me too.

the walking man said...

I live in the middle of the block but don't believe in the burlesque of the modern politic correct. While not mystified by the homosexuals f any gender i am still not going to dismiss platonic acquaintances.

At the same time I will behoove myself to continue on in the nihilistic approach to art which may yet be a self fulfilled realization of becoming nothing that matters.

I will become another nattering purveyor of words as soon as I become tenured. Of course this will be after I purloin enough work to get someone to notice and bestow on me an honorary doctorate. Heaven forbid I should go the easy route of working towards an A.A. and onward through the tried ranks of academia.

Larry, Moe and, Curly (not Joe) wait in the halls of university to eye pole and swing slap me back to reality. said...


Your head is screwed on right.
"I am still not going to dismiss platonic acquaintances."
Platonic love, yes, but the Platonic ideal is the underpinning of all our inquiries into philosophy--I don't mean something like a personal philosophy, I mean philosophy, which is the love of truth. It is the beginning of all our inquiries, all our science.
Anyone who actually spurns philosophy or culture might be called a philistine,and you cerainly are not one.
Any undergraduate can do riffs and jokes on the old holy (unholy?) trio of SPA, that is to say, Socrates Plato, Aristotle, but those greats took reality head on and for the first time in in our civilization, without previous models. They were the first to make inquiries into the ultimate reality (metaphysics) and into an examination of what was alreaduy known (epistemology).
For the first time in history, whey dared to ask the important questions, stripped of dogma or religion.
They also made incredibly shrewd guesses, like the universe being made of water (hydrogen)and this was about 700 B.C., long, long before our Einsteins or Bohrs.
Ah formal education. Most of the great writers were without it, and old Faulkner did say too much of it will just slow you down as a writer.
You have to supply the metaphysics, your own inquiry into the ultimate realiy, starting all over like Ed the Soc.
Othewise it's the Yellow Brick Road
along with Rusty Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the other optimists.
And that, I suppose, is the beginning of not an A.A., but the old Ba-Ma-PhD.
Can I make a suggesion? Pick up that wonderful old back number, The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant.
This will give you a B.A. right away.

It has to be exactly that book, not Bertrand Russell, not Alexander North Whitehead, but Durant. Some might say he was a populalizer and a rewrite man, but he comes he closest in synthesing all we know.
And then I will recommend you for your PhD. :)

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