Perceptions

Agnes Denes. Model for Teardrop—Monument to Being Earthbound. The Shed, New York, October 2019 – March 2020.

“The artist’s original Teardrop depicted a monumental teardrop-shaped sculpture “levitat[ing] above the center of the base afloat on an elastic cushion of magnetic flux.” Impossible then and now, a scale version magically floats on a table top in the middle of the gallery.

At the far end of the gallery is the only splash of color in the exhibition design by New Affiliates; a glowing blue-purple wall hints at something special out of sight.”

(Congratulations New Affiliates!)

More here, here, and here.

Searching for Exoplanets with Christopher Columbus

by Leanne Ogasawara

Imagine finding out that intelligent life had been discovered in our galaxy. To learn that across the endless ocean of intergalactic space there exists a planet filled with new forms of life –and riches unimagined: this was how it must have felt for the people of the Renaissance, when Christopher Columbus discovered the New World. After all, there was a reason why the people of the time called it the New World, instead of just the new continent. For this was a revelation; not just of new land, but of sought-after minerals, like gold and silver. It was a new world of tastes. From potatoes to tomatoes and chocolate to corn, the dinner tables of Europe would be transformed in the wake of Columbus’ trip. There were animals never seen in Europe, like the turkey and bison. And there were wondrous new plants and flowers. There was even a new shade of red. Made from the female cochineal insect, this new dye became– after gold– the second largest import from the New World.

Perhaps most astonishing were the people. At a time when Europe was itself organizing into nation-states, often under all-powerful monarchs, Columbus found in the Americas, what seemed to his eyes, to be free and egalitarian societies. Not only did the people not use money, but even more remarkable was their lack of private property. Private property was, after all, the bedrock of the new banking system back home.

And theologically, how were the Europeans to explain a population of people who could not be descended from Noah’s three sons; of human beings ignorant of the New Testament for over a thousand years? Read more »

On Joker (with Spoilers)

by Akim Reinhardt

I saw Joker last week. I think it’s an excellent film. But the two friends I was with, whose tastes often overlap with my own, really hated it, and we spent the ensuing 90 minutes examining and debating the film. Critics are likewise fiercely divided. Towards the end of our conversation, one friend admitted that, love it or hate it, the film evokes strong reactions; it’s difficult to ignore.

One reason Joker is so divisive and controversial is that several issues have dogged the film.

  • The film seriously confronts issues of nihilism. Because this is almost unheard in major Hollywood movies, it’s challenging even sophisticated viewers.
  • Director Todd Phillips has recently said some very stupid shit.
  • In this Trumpist moment, it is difficult to separate the film from current concerns about violence, toxic masculinity, misdirected raging populism, and possibly even oppressive whiteness.

Any serious discussion of the film must deal with these and other issues. Let’s start with the bookends of Phillips’ intentions and possible audience interpretations.

Director Todd Phillips, he of the massively popular and progressively redundant Hangover film franchise, has recently joined the chorus of spoiled Gen X comedians whining about “cancel culture,” and opined quite stupidly that “woke culture” has made it impossible to do comedy, and thus, feeling cornered, he has turned to drama.

Phillips’ sentiments are moronic, fragile, self-absorbed, and immature. In the real world, “cancel culture” is called “business decisions.” If Saturday Night Live fires a new writer because some of his prior comedy amounted to little more than tired old racism, they have done so because they’re worried about their bottom line, not your feelings. But if you really want to put the lie to “woke culture” ruining comedy, just watch the raunchy comedy of a talented, young, boundary-pushing comic like Nikki Glaser. In that context, Phillips just sounds like another middle-aged, straight white guy angrily bitching that no one laughs at his dumb locker room jokes anymore. Rat tail!

So is it fair then to ask about Phillips’ artistic and political intentions in making this film? Yes and no. Read more »

Reading China in a Sci-Fi Novel

by Robert Fay

Chinese writer Liu Cixin

In The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu, China has made contact with a technologically-advanced alien civilization called Trisolaris. The aliens plan to invade earth and are cultivating a cadre of earthling collaborators, most of whom are Chinese nationals. The Trisolarians accomplished this, not by using sex or blackmail to recruit agents a la the FSB or CIA, but by creating a seductive computer game designed to both introduce the nuances of Trisolarian civilization, as well as to weed out unworthy recruits. As recruits progress in the game, they proceed through evolutionary epochs of Trisolarian history, which curiously enough, includes historical personages from earth. In one early stage of Trisolarian development, the great Chinese Emperor Qin Shin Huang supervises the successful creation of a massive human computer, involving the recording of endless semaphore signals conducted by tens of thousands of Trisolarian soldiers raising up and down flags.

The emperor is filled with pride: “Each individual’s behavior is so simple, yet together, they can produce such a complex, great whole!” he says. “Europeans criticize me for my tyrannical rule, claiming that I suppress creativity. But in reality, a large number of men yoked by severe discipline can also produce great wisdom when bound together as one.”

It’s not impossible to imagine Chinese President Xi Jinping saying this in a moment of candor. If China continues to skillfully counterbalance all of its many contradictions, why wouldn’t Xi stand before the U.N. General Assembly and proclaim the singular superiority of his one-party, authoritarian model of capitalism? For the Chinese today are no longer content with praise, they believe the world should begin studying and imitating China. Read more »

The Cancer Questions Project, Part 11: David Steensma

Dr. David Steensma specializes in care and research for myelodysplastic syndromes and leukemia. He and colleagues were the first to identify and understand the clinical implications of the clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential (CHIP). He is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Clinical Oncology responsible for the “Art of Oncology” section and has more than 150 publications in peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Steensma currently serves as an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, consulting physician at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and a faculty member in the Adult Leukemia Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Azra Raza, author of the forthcoming book The First Cell: And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last, oncologist and professor of medicine at Columbia University, and 3QD editor, decided to speak to more than 20 leading cancer investigators and ask each of them the same five questions listed below. She videotaped the interviews and over the next months we will be posting them here one at a time each Monday. Please keep in mind that Azra and the rest of us at 3QD neither endorse nor oppose any of the answers given by the researchers as part of this project. Their views are their own. One can browse all previous interviews here.

1. We were treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML) with 7+3 (7 days of the drug cytosine arabinoside and 3 days of daunomycin) in 1977. We are still doing the same in 2019. What is the best way forward to change it by 2028?

2. There are 3.5 million papers on cancer, 135,000 in 2017 alone. There is a staggering disconnect between great scientific insights and translation to improved therapy. What are we doing wrong?

3. The fact that children respond to the same treatment better than adults seems to suggest that the cancer biology is different and also that the host is different. Since most cancers increase with age, even having good therapy may not matter as the host is decrepit. Solution?

4. You have great knowledge and experience in the field. If you were given limitless resources to plan a cure for cancer, what will you do?

5. Offering patients with advanced stage non-curable cancer, palliative but toxic treatments is a service or disservice in the current therapeutic landscape?

Thinking Dangerously: Henry Giroux’s The Terror Of The Unforeseen

by Eric J. Weiner

The terror of the unforeseen is what the science of history hides, turning a disaster into an epic. —Philip Roth, The Plot Against America

The only clue to what man can do is what man has done. The value of history, then, is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is. —R. G. Collingwood

When he was seventeen years-old, my late father-in-law, Mario Gartenkraut, escaped from Poland two days ahead of the Third Reich’s invasion of his town. His family did not believe him when he warned them of the terror that he saw coming. They sent him off to Bolivia in South America, but stayed behind. By the end of the war, all of his sisters and his parents had been exterminated by the Nazis in the death camps. A few of his brothers survived. Mario foresaw the terror of fascism and it saved his life. Most of his family did not and they were murdered. The memory of the kind of fascism that he survived is both a tool for resistance and, ironically, can blind us to things we must resist and overcome. As a tool for resistance, the mantra that we should “never forget” is a powerful way to keep the memories of those we lost alive as well as remember the conditions as they have been represented in official history that led to the systematic murder of millions. But the phrase also plants the seeds of our undoing. The representations of fascism that construct these memories become indelible and as such make it difficult to imagine what fascism might look like in our current times.

Peering at the horizon of our withering democracy for jack-booted soldiers, transport trains, and smoke rising from the ashes of crematoriums makes memory a liability. If we are looking out for one kind of threat based upon the science of historical memory, then we are sure to miss threats to our freedom from other forms of fascism that may be hiding in plain sight. As was true for Mario’s sisters and parents, what we don’t see, won’t see, can’t see, or refuse to see might be the most terrifying thing of all.

The Terror of the Unforeseen, Henry Giroux’s latest salvo against what he calls neoliberal fascism is, first and foremost, a history book. It is, of course, also a cogent critical analysis of current events, particularly as they unfold in the story of Donald Trump’s presidency. But at its core is a deep respect for History’s pedagogical power to teach us as Collingwood writes “what man has done and thus what man is.” Like Collingwood, Giroux sees in History shadows cast beyond the present that reveal in hazy and sometimes horrifying outline what humans might become by taking a complex account of what they have done. Hiding in these late afternoon shadows is the terror of unforeseen advances toward negative freedom, dehumanizing technologies, and state-sanctioned violence against those who have been classified as disposable. Read more »

“A way of shutting my eyes”: Reflections on the Photographic Turn in Recent Literary Memoirs

by Rafaël Newman

For Fred Weinstein

“What is hidden is for us Westerners more ‘true’ than what is visible,” Roland Barthes proposed, in Camera Lucida, his phenomenology of the photograph, almost forty years ago. In the decades since, the internet, nanotechnology, and viral marketing have challenged his privileging of the unseen over the seen by developing a culture of total exposure, heralding the death of interiority and celebrating the cult of instant celebrity. The icon of this movement, the selfie, is now produced and displayed, in endless daily iterations, in a ritual staging of eyewitness testimony to the festival of self-fashioning.

This same period has also seen a parallel, related but in some senses opposed development: the use of photographic documents – occasionally, indeed, self-portraits, though fragmentary or denatured, and/or amateur photographs of their subject taken by the authors themselves – to illuminate non-fictional works, primarily literary memoirs, (pseudo-)biographies, or historical reconstructions; beginning in 2001 with W.G. Sebald’s epochal Austerlitz and continuing in books overtly or implicitly inspired by the Anglo-German’s peripatetic, omnivorous, documentary style. Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul (2003), Daniel Mendelsohn’s The Lost (2006), Teju Cole’s Every Day Is For The Thief (2007), Aleksandar Hemon’s The Lazarus Project (2008), Gary Shteyngart’s Little Failure (2013), and Patti Smith’s Year of the Monkey (2019) all deploy photographic material obliquely, frequently quite bereft of deictic apparatus and often only remotely or tangentially associated with the adjacent narrative, as if to shadow the work’s textual body, to propose a secondary or paratextual level, or to serve as a form of punctuation (implicitly echoing Barthes’s polysemous term “punctum”, the ineffably affecting element in a photograph) in the rebus that is the written account of a life. These various, recent non-fictional works at once coopt a visual medium for the literary project and mount a subtle protest against the ongoing debasement of the (human, autoerotic) image in selfie culture by restoring to that image some of its Barthesian mystery, even as they borrow from the new idiom its demystification of the art of photography by placing it in the hands of non-professionals. Read more »

On the Road: In the Zambian Bush

by Bill Murray

Late morning heat rises in waves over tall grass. It’s an hour and a half drive, sand flies buzzing, to Luwi bush camp, a seasonal camp with just four huts of thatch and grass on a still lagoon, far out into Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, about 300 miles north of Lusaka.

Perched on a cliff above the Luwi River, today the little camp is empty, but for the permanent staff of six – permanent, that is, for the five months each year camp is open. When the rains come in November they tear down Luwi camp and in late April a work crew of twenty rebuilds it top to bottom in order to have it open by June first. We’re first in, a little early at the end of May.

No other guests, just the staff, our guide Aubrey and a European named Grete, who will manage Luwi camp this season. Six months a year Grete is a translator in Brussels (English, French, Dutch and Spanish) and she spends the other six in the bush. Aubrey has a literate streak himself, framing sentences conditionally, starting like “Whereas, with the puku….” Read more »

Ask a Hermit

by Holly A. Case (Interviewer) and Tom J. W. Case (Hermit) 

The following is part of a written interview with Tom, a pilot who has largely withdrawn to a small piece of land in rural South Dakota. 

Interviewer: So first of all, thanks for agreeing to this interview. I know a lot of readers are interested to learn more about hermit life, but are probably thinking: “How can I find a hermit?” or “Would a hermit even want to talk with me?” or “If I were a hermit, probably the last thing I’d want is to be pestered with questions. Isn’t that what hermits are trying to avoid?” As you can see, people (not me, of course, but other people) tend to make a lot of assumptions about hermits without really knowing what they’re about. So it’s especially great to have this opportunity. Thank you so much! [pause—awkward silence] Right, so my first question is: How did you become a hermit?

Hermit: I think the relevance is in the “becoming,” more so than the arrival at some particular state—the state of being a hermit in this case. The word hermit puts a bit of a full-stop at the end of what might otherwise be a transcendent experience. In my case, however, if indeed I have become a hermit, it goes something like this: I think we all have an inner hermit living in our minds, very much alone, and each person’s internal processes of hermit-thinking and rationalization are adapted and transmuted into the ways they ultimately interact with the outside world. To put into practice the being of a hermit, then, all I have done is allow the inner hermit to exist on its own terms outside of my mind and body. Subsequently I act a hermit in the outside world in much the same, solitary way as one might behave inside their own mind. The full release of said inner hermit, however, is ripe with responsibility. At least it seems so. In much the same way one cannot just decide one day that stop signs are not to their liking, disregard them without consequence, it only seems fair to fully act oneself in relative solitude so as to not conflict with crossing traffic.

Interviewer:  Do hermits brush their teeth?

Hermit: The short answer is yes. Certainly not for vanity, certainly not after every meal, but because teeth are critical and easy to reach. It is possible to tell when teeth need a good brushing, and that is when they get it. Perhaps once per week, sometimes more, sometimes less. In the meantime, chewing on things like twigs and coarse grass stems, consuming apple cider vinegar (followed by clean water), does an amazing job. I imagine every hermit has their own routine. Read more »

Potato in hand, I greet Crutbelg at the palace gate

by Dave Maier

South America

A while back, when I lived in Philly, my housemates and I got into a memorable discussion. It probably started off innocently enough, with someone wondering what it would be worth to you to lose a limb or something. But since I was involved, the conversation soon got weird, and soon we were thinking of more and more involved and downright bizarre contracts. I’ve forgotten most of them, but I’ve thought up a few more since then.

When someone came up with a good one, we’d each say how much money it would take for us to agree to the deal. It soon became clear that there were forces pulling in opposite directions. On the one hand, you didn’t want to look like a wuss. I shouldn’t need a billion dollars to spend my life in a wheelchair; plenty of people do that out of necessity, with no financial compensation, and they live perfectly fulfilling lives. Such people might be pretty offended to learn that you’d need vast sums of money to put up with the horror of living like they do. Keeping the number down would help to show that you regard such a thing as only a minor inconvenience.

On the other hand, you didn’t want to look like some guy on a Japanese game show, making a fool of himself seemingly for the sole purpose of appearing on TV (or earning a nominal sum). If I’m going to change my life in any real way, I’m not going to do it for a pittance. Some things, we often say, are priceless, and it’s easy to think of things I wouldn’t agree to for any amount of money. But what about things which aren’t quite so uniquely valuable? Everyone’s got his price. Make it high enough and I’m listening. If you really want me to give up nuts, berries and legumes, or agree never to visit South America, surely nine figures can get that done.

At the extremes, it seems that ethical considerations can come into play. Read more »

The future of knowledge

by Sarah Firisen

This morning I rode an Uber to JFK from my apartment in Queens. I do this regularly and normally don’t worry too much about it, but this morning, there was just something about the driver that concerned me, though I couldn’t put my finger on what. But every time his, very loud, GPS gave him a direction, in a language I couldn’t pin down, I just had this sense that he truly had no idea where he was going. And in case you’re not familiar with NYC, if you drive a car for a living, you’ve probably driven from the city to JFK more than a few times and do know where you’re going. Anyway, we arrived at JFK, I reminded him I wanted terminal 2 and I thought, “I guess my worries were for nothing”. And almost as soon as I thought that, he missed the sign for terminal 2. I mean, I guess it can happen, but it’s never happened to me before in all my many years of flying out of that airport. The signs don’t exactly creep up on you. I tell him he’s missed it; we start on a loop back around the airport and I say, “the green sign’s for terminal 2”, then he misses it again. And it turns out, the reason he kept missing it was because his GPS was telling him something contrary. I pointed out to him that I hadn’t put terminal 2 in Uber, so how would its GPS know that? The third time around the airport, I rather lost my temper and told him to stop listening to his phone and to listen to me. And third time lucky, we reached terminal 2.

On reflection, apart from thinking that maybe he couldn’t read and definitely didn’t speak great English, it occurred to me that a large part of the problem was his total and utter faith in his technology, over his own eyes and ears (as I kept yelling, “not that way!!!!”). Of course, he’s not alone. Read more »

Time travelers we are, each and all

by Bill Benzon

Early in the 20th century physicists restored us to time. That’s not how the story is generally told, but it is a good way to think about it. Having been restored to time, we must now realize that we are time travelers, not just Dr. Who, and his – but I believe it is now her, no? – assistant, but all of us.

Let me explain.

* * * * *

Let us begin by setting physics aside. Journey with me to a concert hall in Chicago in November of 1969. We are sitting next to Wayne Booth, a distinguished English professor at the University of Chicago who is an amateur cellist, and his wife, Phyllis. Though we do not know this, they are grieving the death of their son four months earlier as we are all listening to a performance of Beethoven’s string quartet in C-sharp minor. Here is how Booth described that performance in his book about his cello-playing, For the Love of It: Amateuring and Its Rivals:

Leaving the rest of the audience aside for a moment, there were three of us there: Beethoventhe quartet members counting as one….Phyllis and me, also counting only as one whenever we really listened …Now then: there that “one” was, but where was “there”? The C-sharp minor part of each of us was fusing in a mysterious way….[contrasting] so sharply with what many people think of as “reality.” A part of each of the “three” … becomes identical.

There is Beethoven, one hundred and forty-three years ago … writing away at the marvelous theme and variations in the fourth movement. … Here is the four-players doing the best it can to make the revolutionary welding possible. And here we am, doing the best we can to turn our “self” totally into it: all of us impersonally slogging away (these tears about my son’s death? ignore them, irrelevant) to turn ourselves into that deathless quartet.

How are we to think of this fusion Booth describes, himself with his wife, both with the four performers, and all of them, by implication, with Beethoven though the medium of his composition? What does that fusion, pushed to the limit, do with time? Is it possible, contra Heraclitus, to dip into the same stream time after time? Read more »

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Rubaiyat of Rumi translated by Zara Houshmand

Zara Houshmand writes, in the introduction of the book, at her own website:

“No ancient poet has a more modern sensibility than Molana Jalaluddin Rumi, but capturing this sensibility in modern English has proved to be a formidable challenge. The striking translations that have made Rumi the most popular poet in 21st century America have often succeeded by glossing over the inherent complexity of his thought. No such compromise is made by Zara Houshmand in her brilliant translations of Rumi’s ruba’iyat (quatrains). In Moon and Sun, she has found a flawless idiom that is completely modern, yet captures the timeless quality of Rumi’s poetry to perfection. By avoiding the strictures of rhyme and meter but retaining the poetic essence of the original, Houshmand’s translations take the reader to the very core Rumi’s mystical world – a journey made easier by her masterful selection and organization of the quatrains into chapters that virtually provide a map of the poet’s states of mind. Moon and Sun will, no doubt, immediately become an essential part of the Rumi canon for our time.” —Ali Minai

These rubaiyat, or quatrains, were composed by Jalal al-Din Mohammad Balkhi, known as Rumi, a thirteenth century Muslim theologian and Sufi mystic, and one of the greatest poets of the Persian language. They are a selection from almost two thousand such quatrains that, along with many longer ghazals, comprise the Divan-e Shams. These poems poured out during a period of Rumi’s life when he was intensely affected by his relationship with his spiritual mentor and soulmate, Shams al-Din Tabrizi.

Legend describes Shams—whose name means “sun”—as a wandering dervish, unschooled, an ugly man but charismatic. His own words, only recently made accessible in English, present a much subtler picture. He was an accomplished scholar who hid his learning, an iconoclast, and a fearsome enemy of all hypocrisy. He traveled widely in search of the great spiritual teachers of his time, but kept his distance from the dervish schools that would normally have accommodated such a traveler. He refused to beg, and instead earned a meager living at temporary jobs as he traveled.

His relationship with Rumi also defied categories, blurring the traditional roles of master and disciple. Rumi held the belief that at any one time, a single saint living in the world serves as an axis mundi, a center around which all spiritual energy revolves. He believed that in Shams he had found this saint. It is clear from Shams’s own teachings that he likewise saw Rumi as a saint, though one who had something to learn from him.

More here.  And you can pre-order the book here.

To Deceive a Trout: Towards an Expansion of the Category of the Aesthetic

Justin E. H. Smith in his own blog:

Vladimir Nabokov was not only being contrarian when he came out against the theory of evolution. He really meant it. “Natural selection in the Darwinian sense,” he wrote, “could not explain the miraculous coincidence of imitative aspect and imitative behavior, nor could one appeal to the theory of ‘the struggle for life’ when a protective device was carried to a point of mimetic subtlety, exuberance, and luxury far in excess of a predator’s power of appreciation.”[1]

Of course, few would mistake the stubborn Russian-American author for a typical representative of the creationist position, though the difference has to do mostly with emphasis. The creationist wants to say that nothing is nature, but all is art, or, more precisely, the artifice of a certain highly esteemed Artificer. Nabokov by contrast wants to say that art is natural, that our mimetic activity is not an exception to what nature is doing all the time, but rather an instance of it.

I will not help to lend legitimacy to creationism by agreeing with Nabokov here. Or at least I will not affirm his claim as a scientific claim. But as an opening to a general theory of art, he is surely onto something.

More here.

Microplastics: Seeking the ‘plastic score’ of the food on our plates

Helen Briggs in BBC:

Daniella Hodgson is digging a hole in the sand on a windswept beach as seabirds wheel overhead. “Found one,” she cries, flinging down her spade. She opens her hand to reveal a wriggling lugworm. Plucked from its underground burrow, this humble creature is not unlike the proverbial canary in a coal mine. A sentinel for plastic, the worm will ingest any particles of plastic it comes across while swallowing sand, which can then pass up the food chain to birds and fish. “We want to see how much plastic the island is potentially getting on its shores – so what is in the sediments there – and what the animals are eating,” says Ms Hodgson, a postgraduate researcher at Royal Holloway, University of London. “If you’re exposed to more plastics are you going to be eating more plastics? What types of plastics, what shapes, colours, sizes? And then we can use that kind of information to inform experiments to look at the impacts of ingesting those plastics on different animals.”

Microplastics are generally referred to as plastic smaller than 5mm, or about the size of a sesame seed. There are many unanswered questions about the impact of these tiny bits of plastic, which come from larger plastic debris, cosmetics and clothes. What’s not in dispute is just how far microplastics have travelled around the planet in a matter of decades. “They’re absolutely everywhere,” says Hodgson, who is investigating how plastic is making its way into marine ecosystems. “Microplastics can be found in the sea, in freshwater environments in rivers and lakes, in the atmosphere, in food.”

More here.

Congratulations, Nobel Committee, You Just Gave the Literature Prize to a Genocide Apologist

Peter Maass in The Intercept:

I honestly don’t know where to begin with this whole thing. But let me start by making clear what I am not saying. I am not saying that we should not read Handke’s literary work. My objection is not a version of the age-old question of whether we should listen to Richard Wagner. Go ahead and listen to Wagner. Go ahead and read Handke. My point is this: It is one thing to read him — it is quite another to bestow upon him a prize that delivers a great amount of legitimacy to his entire body of work, not just the novels and plays that are most impeccable and nonpolitical.

Handke’s most famous political offense was attending the funeral of Serbian strongman Slobodan Miloševic, who died in prison awaiting a trial for genocide and war crimes. Handke had visited Miloševic during his detention in The Hague and made a short eulogy during his funeral in Požarevac, Serbia, in 2006. This followed many years of Handke writing about how the Serbs were misunderstood and were unfairly given the lion’s share of blame for the bloodshed that occurred during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

More here.

Harvard Tenure Announcement

James Mickens at Harvard’s website:

I’ve received tenure at Harvard! I want to thank all of the enemies that I had to destroy to achieve this great honor. Roger Davis at Princeton’s department of nutrition—you questioned my research on the efficacy of an all-Pop-Tart diet, but I am living proof that the diet works. Yes, I have nose bleeds every day and my pancreas has the dysfunction of a failing Soviet client state, but I believe that having constant double vision makes me twice as optimistic about life. Lawrence Adler at Yale—you claimed that Yale, not Harvard, has the best paintings of dead white men doing questionable things in recent antiquity. Your foolishness was revealed when I personally oversaw the restoration of Harvard’s painting “Archibald Montgomery, Law School Dean, Gazes Upon His Eighth-favorite Mistress Whose Name He No Longer Remembers As He Wears A Pith Helmet And Asks A Colored Man Why He Isn’t Ten Feet Tall And Swaying To Savage Jungle Rhythms.” You are my eighth-favorite enemy, Lawrence of Yale; DON’T EVER CHALLENGE A HARVARD MAN. My seventh-favorite enemy is obviously Alan Fontaine of Iowa State University.

More here.