Category Archives: articles

The Emptied Prairie

This past January, National Geographic ran a fascinating story about the decaying rural North Dakota landscape.

Money Quote:

That’s the rub in rural North Dakota, a sense of things ebbing, of churches being abandoned, schools shutting down, towns becoming ruins. And all this decline exists amid a seeming statistical prosperity: Oil is booming, wheat prices are at record highs, and, as the average farm size grows, the land is studded with paper millionaires living in the lonely sweep of the plains, with surrounding community gone to the wind.

Be sure to check out the accompanying slide show.

Stop Trying to Get Tenure

Gary W. Lewandowski Jr., an associate professor of psychology at Monmouth University, says young professors should stop trying to get tenure and start trying to enjoy themselves:

I believe a superior approach is to get a tenure-track position and then immediately remove the idea of “getting tenure” from your daily (or perhaps even moment by moment) thought process. That’s right. Getting tenure should not be your primary goal (though admittedly this is secretly a “how-to get tenure” article). Instead, your goal should be to follow your interests, your passion, your curiosity, and your creativity. In other words, you should follow all of the things that got you into this field in the first place.

What would happen if young professors everywhere started following this advice?

James Wolcott on Mad Men

Everybody and their mother has fallen head over heels for this show. Here’s a rare dissenting view

It’s a critic’s darling groomed for greatness despite long inert spells in each episode that leave everything opaque, as if recognizable human behavior would be vulgar coming from such immaculate mannequins. It has a seductive look, a compelling mood, a cast that could have been carved from a giant bar of Ivory soap, but zero grasp of the elastic optimism and vigor of the Kennedy years, the let-go spring of release after the constriction of the Eisenhower 50s. Even the exuberant pop music on the soundtrack is used as a counterpoint to the characters’ enclosed meanness and malaise. The more explaining and self-examination that series creator (and former executive producer of The Sopranos) Matthew Weiner does in interviews and post-episode commentaries, the muddier everything gets. Is he aware that Sterling Cooper is the most incompetent, uninspired ad agency ever to blight Madison Avenue? Meeting after meeting adjourned until the next meeting because Draper’s dimwit team can’t rub two sticks together to spark a decent idea. I don’t mind Mad Men as a mild narcotic, but the raves it’s received smack of self-congratulation, as if its fans in the press and online were fondling their own taste buds. It’s fetishistic praise, better left to the movie critics and their blurb libidos.

Writers Are Hidden Beings

Cynthia Ozick – drawing wisdom from Henry James, Vladimir Nabokov, and Rainer Maria Rilke – argues that “writers are hidden beings. You have never met one – or, if you should ever believe you are seeing a writer, or having an argument with a writer, or listening to a talk by a writer, then you can be sure it is all a mistake.”

(Via Arts & Letters Daily.)

Good Idea

If I were a publisher, though, I’d hire the best critic I could find and have him or her write two reviews: a short one, to be printed the day or week the movie opens and that gives away little of the plot but tells readers whether it’s good or bad (the service aspect); and a longer, more in-depth review that discusses the entire film, to be posted online (the critical aspect). Then I’d put a message board beneath the in-depth review and sit back. Most people don’t want to hear about a movie before they’ve seen it but would love to discuss it afterward. Boy, would they ever.

—Erik Lundegaard, “Why We Need Movie Reviewers”

Zizek’s Least Favorite Job

When asked “What is the worst job you’ve done?” by the Guardian recently, Slavoj Zizek, in typical Zizek fashion, answered, “Teaching. I hate students, they are (as all people) mostly stupid and boring.”

Now, he might be right about most students being stupid and boring (though copping such an attitude displays a tremendous amount of arrogance), but, oddly enough, therein lies one of the pleasures of teaching. To paraphrase something designer Milton Glaser once said, there’s nothing more exciting than seeing a student go from a condition of inertness and inattentiveness to showing an interest in learning new things.

The Reviews

According to, The Dark Knight is getting the second-best reviews of any movie so far this year. The best reviewed movie of the year? Why, WALL-E, of course.