From Harper’s: Mark Slouka on the Humanities
From the September 2009 issue. Mark Slouka is a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine. His novel The Visible World is available in paperback from Houghton-Mifflin.
Many years ago, my fiancée attempted to lend me a bit of respectability by introducing me to my would-be mother-in-law as a future Ph.D. in literature. From Columbia, I added, polishing the apple of my prospects. She wasn’t buying it. “A doctor of philosophy,” she said. “What’re you going to do, open a philosophy store?”
A spear is a spear—it doesn’t have to be original. Unable to come up with a quick response and unwilling to petition for a change of venue, I ducked into low-grade irony. More like a stand, I said. I was thinking of stocking Kafka quotes for the holidays, lines from Yeats for a buck-fifty.
And that was that. I married the girl anyway. It’s only now, recalling our exchange, that I can appreciate the significance—the poetry, really—of our little pas de deux. What we unconsciously acted out, in compressed, almost haiku-like form (A philosophy store?/I will have a stand/sell pieces of Auden at two bits a beat), was the essential drama of American education today.
It’s a play I’ve been following for some time now. It’s about the increasing dominance—scratch that, the unqualified triumph—of a certain way of seeing, of reckoning value. It’s about the victory of whatever can be quantified over everything that can’t. It’s about the quiet retooling of American education into an adjunct of business, an instrument of production.
The play’s almost over. I don’t think it’s a comedy.
From the Web
Buster is feeling shy, as usual. Buster is so acutely shy that researchers at the Seattle Aquarium can’t tell whether this giant Pacific octopus is a boy or a girl. If Buster is a boy, he’ll have a special tentacle (the third to the right, going clockwise, from the front of its mantle) that is both an arm and a dick. And, since the suction cups on octopuses* also function as taste buds, his special tentacle will be an arm and a dick and a tongue—making all octopus sex fisting and intercourse and cunnilingus, relatively. The young blonde giving the “feeding demonstration” to a large pack of squirming schoolchildren explains these facts more delicately. —“Sexy Beast: The mysteries of the giant pacific octopus,” Brendan Kiley, The Stranger
Spaghetti sauce nightmare in Queens;
after a quadruple bypass, Ed Koch invites his 20 doctors to a steak house; describes hallucinations involving Japanese terrorists;
a Sunday in the life of Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker: church, Twitter
The imaginary pirate shows us what the new geography of the world is all about: its consistency, its material, the outline of its borders. Assuming, of course, it has any borders. Pirates take advantage of this “spatial revolution” brought about by globalization; that is why, instead of hounding them, we should follow their example. They have instinctively understood the new seas on which they carry out their looting. Indeed, the figures of the terrorist, the hacker and the global financier carve out and define this new geography, and force legal institutions to change their responses. —“The Imaginary Pirate of Globalization,” Antoine Garapon, Eurozine
So I gave up a career in Silicon Valley, where I had already been a founder of one firm, and worked in senior technical roles in several others. No doubt I would have started at least one firm in the Valley since then. I was a net win for the US in every single respect: I paid a lot of tax, I didn’t use very many services, and I created a lot of high-tech jobs. The U.S. lost me because certain Americans view my sexual orientation as, well, wrong. Recently, I’ve started a venture-backed technology startup in London. Even though we’ve only been incorporated one month, I’m already benefiting the local economy and tax base. I’m creating jobs, hiring service providers who employ local staff, and spending money that creates jobs out of work. I pay personal taxes, and pay corporate taxes that help raise the tax base of the country as a whole. From a purely economic perspective, it’s absurd to alienate someone like me from the U.S., but that’s precisely what’s happened. I don’t plan to move back anytime soon. —“The Founder Visa Ignores Immigration Reality,” Kirk Wylie, Kirk’s Rants (via)