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Saturday, October 24, 2009

What is your College English lit major good for ?

My regular readers perhaps have in mind that scene that I think I reported here where I was staying in an Albuquerque REAL youth hostel (you know, the kind of place where you can find real drifters, marginal people, some crazies, in addition to the hordes of scrubbed, fresh faced, sweet smelling, identical looking youth from all continents now that youth hostels (hotels ?) are SUPPOSED to attract...) two summers ago, to the despair of my younger bro who seemed to think that over 50 year old me could either get raped or have my head sawed off by a pen- knife-wielding, Greyhound-bus-traveling schizo.
Whew, that was a long sentence. Are y'all still with me ?
Anyways, I spent an evening rocking on the porch with a 40 year old unemployed man with a chip on his shoulder and a "why me" whine in his voice who kept telling little ole serene me that he just couldn't possibly understand how ANYONE could consider an English major, and subsequent unemployment, to be GOOD for anything. (But.. what's it GOOD for, he kept saying stubbornly..) And I obligingly repeated that an English major in the humanities was, in my book, the entrance to that select club of.. civilization.
You just can't EXPLAIN to some people why it's better to be civilized than it is to be... a barbarian. (Note : Do NOT presume that my definition of "barbarian" follows any predictable configuration... I had this discussion the other night with some bourgeois colleagues who seemed to think that cannibalism was that fine line that separated the barbarians from the civilized, and they did not seem particularly fazed when I pointed out that it was OUR "civilization" that had come up with industrialized death camps...)(Note 2 : Do NOT presume either that the syllogism English major= civilization morphs into.. -English major = -civilization...)
So... today I have been messing around on the Internet, and fell into the black hole of's literary criticism section. (Actually that's a euphemism for "client appreciation". Everybody knows that literary criticism died years ago.)
And discovered WHERE all of us English majors are hanging out these days...
WE are doing literary criticism (online reviews..) for FREE, for !!!!
(Gratuity is the future for mankind, trust me on this one.)
I could spend hours reading some of those reviews which are really really excellent.
Sigh. As irony would have it, the most intelligent reviews, the ones REALLY written by all of us unemployed intellectuals often get one or two stars because "WE'RE" so intellectual, so passionate about what we're doing that the average reader gets bored and zaps.
Back to the drawing board, and my next Amazon review.
(Incidentally, the FRENCH are so much less generous on this subject. NO online reviews, or almost none, and don't hold your breath thinking that there are fewer unemployed lit majors over here, because that's a lie. They're just... less generous, that's all.)


Dink said...

Mish's site just had an interesting post on education bubbles. Commenters lamented PhDs in engineering who didn't know what to do with a wrench (honestly, I've never met one like this, but I suppose that doesn't mean they don't exist). But it got me thinking about Deb's post.

There are certain majors which I associate with "This gives me pleasure". Lit is one of them. And I totally understand the lure of pleasure, don't get me wrong.

But at some point you have to "sell-out" and say "what manner of whoring can I provide so that others will trade their stuff with me?". Realistically, it has to be something that they can't do themselves or really don't enjoy doing themselves.

I suppose if every member balances his/her own sanity with some energy directed to their own pleasure with some energy towards selling out, then the collective will be balanced by default.

Debra said...

Dinky... I NEVER whore.
And you can tell how much I've sold out by the sound of my comments over there in the jungle of SuddenDebt.

Thai said...

Deb, I am with Dink on this one

Street Dog said...

Zut alors! Clown, Nihilist Troll, "it", erector set sexist. With friends like this...

I guess i'm going to have to give everyone a basic biology lesson. This time look CAREFULLY at Street D♂g. Do you see it? Ok, if you are still confused then read this in shame (especially Thai, MD).
Remedial Biology Lesson.

Literature is part of the foundation of a well educated person. Each little work of art is like a time machine in which you can experience the wisdom, insights, mistakes, and solutions of generations past. There really is very little new under the sun. Just a repackaging of old ideas lost in the manifolds of time. We are doomed to repeat over and over the failures of the past as civilizations prefer myopic narcissism to enlightenment from the treasures of yesteryear.

Sadly, in our increasingly Orwellian society, the primary initial candidates for the Soylent Green vats are English Lit. majors. Not because they are of low social value, but because they know too much. Debra, quit painting bullseyes on your back, learn to operate from the shadows. I will, however, have to agree with the boys that Eng. Lit. has low economic value in the present economy. Dink, Street D♂g enjoys it's profession and whores itself out for free, but only to a very select few individuals.

Street Dog said...

(From last post)

Nice fractal adventure Thai. I'm a big fan of two of those guys.

I haven't asked Dink for blog privileges.

You select more characters by opening up your character map. With Windows, start menu, accessories, system tools, character map, click and copy and paste. For Mac OS Character map.

About grateful patients. An old girlfriend of mine had taken care of Carl Sagan as a patient. In a University Hospital setting, she and her colleagues had unintentionally kept him waiting a LONG time. He underwent some uncomfortable procedures. He graciously put up with residents learning procedures on him. He was verbally very thankful for their late, unexperienced, uncomfortable care. He was ill at the time with Myeloid Dysplasia and eventually succumbed to the disease. Pretty cool guy. BTW, she asked his permission to tell friends and family about taking care of him and he smiled and said he didn't mind. He was open about his illness and I remember reading about his experiences with bone marrow transplantation.

Thai said...

Are you in Seattle as well? So is Dink.

The reason I ask is that Sagan lived a few blocks from my mom's home in Ithaca- he was kind of a local hero- so everyone knew when he went off for treatments to Hutchinson.

Street Dog said...

No, but my girlfriend was from there and told me this story years later in NYC. She did know some folks at the Hutch.

Dink said...

"Street D♂g enjoys it's profession and whores itself out for free, but only to a very select few individuals."

I'm not sure that its whoring if its free ;)

"He was open about his illness and I remember reading about his experiences with bone marrow transplantation"

He seemed like a class act in every possible way. His sister donated twice. Sad stuff.

Debra said...

Na... you're NOT whoring if it's for free. That's the whole problem with whoring. It's NOT for free.
Cute little 1960's book. I wanted to see the pictures of the dog humping though.
Brought to mind an incident when a bunch of us were chatting in our communal living room at college, and the dog came in and proceeded to get its rocks off in front of everybody.
Does perversion exist in dogs ? (i.e. the problem was not that the dog was masturbating, it was the PLACE and TIME that the dog chose to indulge in his little private practice.)
(Careful, I'm not talking about YOU, Street Dog... Perversion certainly exists in humans..) ;-)
Alceste is retreating to her misanthropic silence after y'alls unsympathetic comments on my post.

Thai said...


Street Dog said...

Thanks Thai,

Now I understand my misanthropic, sociopathic, and inappropriate masturbatory behavior. I simply need to take a shower, get off the streets and find a clean-smelling place to live. I owe you buddy.

Thai said...


Not exactly the sentiment I had in mind but it is as good as any I guess.

I was really thinking more about the primacy of primitive neural pathways- such as the olfactory system- in changing human behavior vs. (say) higher cortical cognitive centers.

Deb always reminds us that we tend to take a course of action and then justify our behavior afterward, e.g. the "rational" is a total illusion.

I just thought the article interesting support of her point from the slightly unique angle of social cooperation angle, that's all.

And as there is fortunately no smell associated with this blog that I am aware of, feel free to hang and keep whatever personal hygiene habits you wish without fear of offense.

... Though I am sure your girlfriend might not mind a shower now and then ;-)

Street Dog said...

Does free will exist? One of my favorite philosophical questions.

Taking a course of action and justifying it later?

This guy is dying to meet one of your colleagues

Dink said...

Ah, Brigham Young University. Such polite maniacs....

But if spearmint leads Street Dog to practice only appropriate masturbation then I guess science has spoken.

"misanthropic silence after y'alls unsympathetic comments on my post"

I think Street Dog was mildly sympathetic....

"I was really thinking more about the primacy of primitive neural pathways- such as the olfactory system- in changing human behavior vs. (say) higher cortical cognitive centers"

Do you happen to know how far back this goes evolution-wise? I know its true for mammals, but does it hold true for reptiles/birds?

Street Dog said...


You reminded me of a high school teacher of mine. Mr. Brown was an exceedingly polite, proper British man. He constantly cautioned us to not cheat during exams. "Neither a borrower nor a lender be." This guy was a veritable wellspring of proverbs, contemporary and ancient. That is why I still remember him. My friends and I played an outrageous prank on him and the entire class (this was before Street Dog became the mature, virtuous, scoundrel that he is). He spent the entire hour giving us a lecture on ethics. Basically, he seemed to be a highly ethical fellow in his words and actions. Why did you remind me of him? He had sheared his olfactory nerves off his bulbs in an auto accident years before. He was anosmic!

Street Dog said...


I'm not really a misanthrope. Could you use your English Literary powers to coin a term for one who pities humankind (myself included at times)?

Unbearable pity of the lightness of being*

*CAUTION: be careful consuming solids/liquids (especially red wine, homebrew beer, yoghouts, baklavas, fanesca, ceviche, samosas, mimosas, sushi, chitlins, absinthe, couchon de lait, pommes frites, mountain oysters, truffles, caviar, gǒu ròu, dim sum, cold saki, pop tarts, gnocchi, focaccia, wienerschnitzel, gyros, brie, pan-galactic gargle blasters**, taffy, rocket pops, bhang lassis, or mangos) while perusing this site.

** yes, Dink, the caution is a mute point if you are consuming these

Debra said...

I checked out your Brigham Young fake science link, Thai.
Boy, some of those scientists are getting incredibly sloppy in the conclusions they are drawing from their lab coat setups...Windex ?? Not exactly Chanel n°5.
And... nothing said about the long term effects of... the CHURCHES and the metaphor of being.. CLEANSED ?
(Well, we can fairly say that Brigham Young is not exactly the place for people to pick up on this.)
I will stick up a post on my latest insane ramblings about... what Freud lumps together in the heading "anality", and what it is doing to our "civilization".
I didn't say YOU were misanthropic Street Dog.
But... I am, you see.
For the motorcycle footage, there is a really sweet lady on my loony blog whose male companion hits 200kms/hr on his bike while escaping the cops sometimes. Mostly in the fields though. Not on the... autoroute.

Thai said...

Indeed he is. Reminds me of this latest news release:
that's why they call them donorcycles.

"Our estimates imply that every death of a helmetless motorcyclist prevents or delays as many as 0.33 deaths among individuals on organ transplant waiting lists."

re: anosmia

LOL!!! And Touche

... Of course Brits are a special case as they even wait in line for the bus at bus stops.

@Deb- OK, OK it was junk science. I didn't read the second half close enough.

@Dink- even reptiles have a limbic system.

The Most Fabulous Objects In The World

  • Hitchhiker's Guide To The Universe trilogy
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Time Bandits