Up The People’s Republic of Cork

by Maria on December 28, 2004

And now for something completely different. As I was going over the Cork and Kerry mountains, only this morning in fact, The Langer Song came on the radio. So I finally got a chance to hear it, just 6 months after it was Number 1.

What is a langer? See here for essential information and the alarming news that the word langer is now in the Collins dictionary (surely the beginning of the end). Better still CT’s resident Cork sociologist, Kieran, has been there and done all that last June.

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Death of Susan Sontag

by Henry Farrell on December 28, 2004

Susan Sontag is dead from leukaemia; the New York Times has an “obituary here”:http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/28/books/28cnd-sont.html?ex=1261976400&en=f88d1db2e18c3c3b&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland.

Posner, Rawls, and Reflective Equilibrium

by Jon Mandle on December 28, 2004

Judge Richard Posner has been guest-blogging over at Brian Leiter’s site. In his first post, he expresses a not-quite-completely general moral skepticism:

much or even most morality seems based, rather, on instinct, emotion, custom, history, politics, or ideology, rather than on widely shared social goals….Are there really compelling reasons for these unarguable tenets of the current American moral code? One can give reasons for them, but would they be anything more than rationalizations? They have causes, that history, sociology, or psychology might elucidate, but causes are not reasons.

One might think that this is a prelude to a sweeping condemnation of the American moral code – most of it is based on instinct, emotion, custom, etc. and should be replaced by a code that is better grounded. But this is not what Posner is up to. His target is not a specific code that he thinks is not up to snuff, but rather a certain way of thinking about morality itself.

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It’s MLA Season!

by John Holbo on December 28, 2004

Tis the season. Open season! On the MLA! I see the NY Times has taken the first potshot. And so I give MLA bashing its first comment box! I must say, I don’t even think we need Chun to tell us this effort is not very impressive. (Scott McLemee‘s "Provokies" were much funnier. I think perhaps he was wise to get out of this business while the getting was good.)

Tragic hipness, multicultural agendizing and an almost abject embrace of low/popular culture converge in titles like " ‘Dude! Your Dress Is So Cute!’ Patterns of Semantic Widening in ‘Dude,’ " an entire session dedicated to papers on Mel Gibson’s "Passion of the Christ," "Urban Expressionism: Theater, Ritual, and the Hip-Hop Generation’s Black Arts Movement," "Utopia in the Borderlands; or, Long Live El Vez the King" (El Vez is a Latino Elvis impersonator), and "A Pynch in Time: The Postmodernity of Prenational Philadelphia in Thomas Pynchon’s Mason and Dixon and Mark Knopfler’s ‘Sailing to Philadelphia’ " (Mr. Knopfler is a rocker best known for wanting his MTV). The clunkiness of all this suggests that eggheads are still nerds, but it that some of them are terribly self-conscious about it now.

The trouble is that the author is so sure it’s all nonsense that he is lazily lumping the patently silly and the just possibly serious. (No, really, when the target is this big you should really try for a clean hit.) What is necessarily wrong with having a panel discussion of "The Passion of Christ"? What is specifically ‘clunky’ about it? (Unless, as seems grammatically possible, the panel is actually called ‘Dude! Your Dress Is So Cute!’ But I sort of suspect that’s not the case.) Also, calling English profs ‘eggheads’? Who calls anyone an ‘egghead’? (Sounds like Foghorn chuckling about widdah Hen’s genius kid.)

I have ever so much more to say but I’ll just declare this an open thread. I welcome reports from actual attendees of the conference. Be more informative and entertaining than the NY Times, if you please. (OK, here’s a specific question for discussion. If it’s alright for bloggers to give their posts very silly titles – which I mostly do – could the MLA solve all its problems, cross that fine line between stupid and clever, just by turning all the conference papers into blog posts?)