Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sex in the US: an Observation
   I call it an observation, because I could say a lot more (and don’t feel like it) and of course endless volumes have dealt with the subject—which I have not consulted. But start by opening this NYTimes article.  The picture is of the owner of a New York art gallery. Now tell me, what is her leg doing there? Read the article again; maybe you can find a reason that I failed to find. And that leg is in the NYTimes, not in the Daily News!
   I mostly don’t read any paper other than the Times and certainly no German or French ones, so I wonder whether stories similar to those I read are to be found in the European press or whether what I note is actually an American phenomenon.
   I am talking about sex. Are European adolescents and young adults different from German or British ones? Not likely. Surely they share all the same drives. But I read endlessly of sex on US college and university campuses and not analogous ones about Heidelberg and Göttingen or Paris and Lyon. Are our mores so different from English or Scottish ones that they give rise to the much-discussed scenes on American campuses and not the equivalent where there are actually campuses, such as in Oxford or Edinburg? There are deep questions here; the role of the press is surely a partial answer.
   Take another example. The papers—for me, as I said, that’s the Times—are full of stories about complaints and law suits by women in various roles and professions that they have been sexually molested by co-workers or bosses—from having to put up with unwanted touches to being raped. A lawyer who takes only such cases could, it would seem, make a good living.
    I don’t read about such incidents in connection with European companies and organizations. Are European men less demanding of sexual relations of their female employees and coworkers or are those women more uncomplainingly compliant? I’m doubtful about both of these alternatives, though perhaps there are some differences in degree.
   It will certainly take more knowledge or interest to sort out all these interconnected issues, but one of them is surely the role of the American press. I don’t claim that these goings-on are prompted by the fact that they will be covered in the papers. They do, however, “teach” protagonists on how to behave and how not to behave.
   Perhaps most in important, the almost daily appearance of such accounts about sex in American society fosters the belief that such activities are a normal part of American life, to be regretted, to be sure. But that attempts to eliminate them have to be regarded as futile. If true, sad.
Perhaps I will later have more to say on this subject; perhaps not.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

A Corny Intermezzo: an Old Jewish Mother Joke
   For his birthday, the Jewish Mother brings has son two ties. One is red in its dominant color, the other one is blue. The next morning the son comes down to breakfast wearing the new blue tie.
   Mother: "What’s the matter, you don’t like the other one?" 

Friday, September 15, 2017

In and Out

Warning: the blog post to follow talks about quite indelicate matters

      While I’ve been blessed with a pretty healthy life, when I did have problems, they mostly pertained to intake, with ulcers the main candidate, putting constraints on what I could eat and drink. My problems in old age are of the opposite kind: outtake, to use a polite word. There are two loci here: liquids come out in front and solids come out in the rear. I have problems with both and I don’t know how much they are a function of my advanced age. I leave research to a younger generation.
  The front I turn to first, which it also did temporally. A few years ago, my bladder went on strike and stopped functioning. Not good! The first remedial action was to have me insert you know where— with considerable frequency—a tube that would facilitate things to flow in a more or less normal fashion. It worked for a while, but not for all that long.
   The next move was more drastic, but it has been most successful—at least so far, he said cautiously. I hole was “drilled”—with appropriate local anesthesia—just above the pubic bone straight to the bladder, bypassing the long route via the penis. That has worked well so far and, I hope, will for the short number of years, if any, that may be left to me. The system requires me to strap a bag onto my leg that I need to empty about five times in a 24 hour period, requiring me to get up twice a night, on the average. I also need to visit the urologist every three weeks to check on things and renew all the equipment. The sole virtue of this malarkey is that it works.
   The problem in the rear that started only very recently affects my behavior much more seriously and remains unsolved. Its dual characteristics are seriously annoying and are ongoing. I have very frequent urges to defecate that cannot be controlled by my muscles. At this point the unhappy but  effective but sole solution is an adult diaper. The second symptom consists of frequent jabs of a sharp pain, resembling the stabbing of a knife. So far the recommendations of the proctologist I have consulted a couple of days ago have not solved either problem. I remain hopeful—do I have a choice?—but I am confined to the house for however long these symptoms last; they are both active as I now sit at my desk to type this blog post.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Met and Me

   Reading about the change of leadership at New York’s Metropolitan Museum reminded me of my own brief encounter with the head of that institution. I had resigned from my Northwestern deanship—that’s another story—and had some thoughts of moving into the world of art museums. And then there was an ad in the Chronicle of Higher Education for persons interested to be vice president (the title as I recall it) for education of the Met. To say that the ad in that paper, not being for a job in an institution of higher education, was unusual is an understatement.
   But it offered a position in the world of art that very much fit with my post NU-dean ambitions. I thought that I was a relevant candidate, given that I had spent years building up two art departments, a standard “theoretical” one and an art practice group doing their thing.
  So I was asked to come to be interviewed by the Met’s big boss, Philippe de Montebello. A free trip to New York: I had nothing to lose. Our conversation took place late in the afternoon, just de Montebello plus a mostly silent lawyer side-kick and I. It became clear very soon that I was in the wrong place.
   The questions were about my ideas about educating elementary students visiting the museum, while my thoughts were about involving young adults. We did not hit it off: their one-time desire to recruit from a higher education population did not mean that they were interested in the expertise of that class. I got nowhere with my talk about internships and aids to publication. What were my ideas about sixth graders visiting the Met, for which I had a bumbling few responses.
   The interview ended in a friendly way and de Montebello soon afterwards appointed the education vice president at the Art Institute, ending the experiment to go outside their normal category of candidates.
   I have no idea about what the Met has done in the intervening years about its education mission. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since 1987 when our conversation took place.   

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Comments on Times Articles

   I’m surprised how literate most of the comments are that are to be found in response to articles in the New York Times. Sometimes there are more than a thousand of them, occasionally even far more. Mind you I only read a small sample of them and have wondered how many readers go beyond taking in just a few. No doubt the practice would not exist if the Times could not rely on the fact that a portion of its readers desire to be heard.
   Yes, the comments are edited before they are published, a necessity when you think about it for a minute, but I don’t think that the editing converts dumb remarks into clever ones. And on the whole, what is published is, if not strictly speaking clever comments, mostly intelligent and relevant.

   I am encouraged by that entire phenomenon. No, I don’t think that these commentators are average Americans, although that is as much because I don’t know just what average Americans are like.  But they are representative of my fellow citizens, as much or, rather, more than those who make it into the marriage columns of your local paper.

Monday, August 28, 2017


   I want to talk briefly about itching in what will be a lowfalutin blog post. Itching has been a problem of mine, it seems forever, and has anything but abated in my old age. I’ve always had skin problems of which itching is the one that never gets talked about. So now I’ll break into that silence, though I’ll keep down the volume.
   I’ll start out by saying that it’s annoying to be itching. It’s not on the level of sharp pain, but it competes with the sort of dull pain one tends to call “nagging.” It certainly doesn’t get credit for that; it is even on occasion thought to be a source of humor. Well, that may be true for the little doves I watch on a ledge outside my window, with beaks constantly busy as if they were dealing itching under their feathers.
   Of the itching to which I am subjected, there seem to be too varieties. One is a gentle itch spread over an area of perhaps several inches where you can neither feel or see something on the skin. The other is focused on a quite small area and sports either a low bump or has the skin roughed up to some degree. These are not medical descriptions (I ain’t no doctor no-ways); call the differences (and their labels) phenomenal, for want of a less fancy label.
   Both kinds are annoying or worse, though in my case the latter are by far the greater evil. What makes a lesser or greater evil is a combination of the degrees to which the phenomena are bothersome, a matter that is closely tied to the relative ease or difficulty to which they are relieved, not to mention gotten rid of.
   In my case—I remind the reader that these remarks are not medical talk, but merely a small chunk of autobiography. In my case, the invisible itch that affects a small area of the skin is mostly assuaged, if you can reach the spot, by gentle rubbing—sometimes permanently, with no guarantee that its like won’t show up elsewhere.
   The much tougher type is the pointed bump/roughed skin variety. It needs real scratching or vigorous rubbing; that’s the type that backscratchers are made for. I have often thought of buying such a contraption, but have refrained from doing so, convinced that I would scratch myself bloody on more than one spot on my back.
   As it is, I rub those itches vigorously with a rough towel of Turkish cloth after coming out of the shower. I have some ointment for those Type II itches that I can reach, but haven’t found  it to help very much.

   In short itching will be with me, a condition more or less equivalent to a dull pain, if not as celebrated.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Pence the Reactionary

Mike Pence for President?

   I have been writing a lot about President Donald Trump and  hope in future to be able to reduce my comments about that erratic, uninformed nut. In multiple ways, he is unique in the story of America; even I know enough history to assert that. So my thoughts have been, get rid of the nut—somehow.
   But I have changed my mind. Better near-chaos than the wrong kind of order. Remember that order is not what Hitler’s Germany lacked.
  Mike Pence (Michael Richard was the name his parents gave him) is an unalloyed reactionary on any issue you might look at; I’ll let you check that out.

   Pence  would become president. Worse, he would be in tune—or they with him—with Republican members of Congress who call themselves conservatives. Many of them are not that, but reactionaries. But that term has essentially been dropped from use. A pity, because a big difference is being ignored. Conclusion: better a nut than a sane unalloyed reactionary.  I cross my fingers when I say all that.