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    Sobriquet 40.27

    Monday, March 31, 2008
    It's been a few days since I last posted anything and, as I had assumed would be the case, I did not get a whole lot of work done over the weekend. I did, of course, continue reading (and enjoying) Waiting for the Barbarians and I have been doing a little bit of prewriting. I seem to have hit another of those instances when writing begins to feel both daunting and irksome. As my doubts swarm around me like midges on Joba Chamberlain, I find that although I feel as if I should be starting the chapter in a day or two, I never seem to get any closer to the actual writing. It sucks.

    I would have gotten a bit more done today, but I decided that having the opportunity to meet Mike Gravel this evening was too tempting to pass up. Now, after having listened to Senator Gravel speak in person (he is a tremendously eloquent man, especially when given more than a few seconds to speak as was the case during the Democratic debates) I have no qualms about unequivocally supporting the newly-minted Libertarian candidate for president.

    Seriously, if the nation would just listen to this man speak for an hour or two, most people would probably embrace him as the best candidate. No joke. This man is really, really bright, very eloquent and, in my opinion, the only one to actually support his rhetoric with, you know, facts and stuff...

    For tomorrow: Really get a move on the prewriting. Read a bit more of Waiting for the Barbarians.

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    Tuesday, March 11, 2008
    I seem to have hit something of a rut lately and, as is often the case with these sort of things, I have difficulty identifying a moment when what had been a steady pace began to slow into a wheezy stagger (this is one of those instances when I wish I could place footnotes in my text, so that I could make some snarky, if unfunny, quip about Weezie from The Jeffersons). Like so many other things, the development is gradual and one only recognizes that the change has taken place well into the process. On the other hand, I wonder if perhaps I have not really slowed down, that memory has colored past progress in an unrealistically rosy shade...

    Despite the hours spent procrastinating, however, I did make my way through the reading I'd set aside for myself today. I am enjoying In the Heart of the Country, as I believe I've already mentioned, though I find that reading the unhinged protagonist's stream-of-consciousness narrative is not always as easy or quick a task as I'd like it to be. Though I would like to say a few things about the book, I will hold off on discussing the novel at length until I have finished it.

    Other than the unpleasant sense that I am lagging a bit in my work, I have begun feeling some of the old anxious standbys creeping into my consciousness. For instance, as I progress down the rather narrow intellectual path a doctoral dissertation necessarily requires of the beleaguered scholar, I crave a broader knowledge of fields outside my own. I long to read history books, philosophical treatises, religious screeds, political exposes, and scientific studies. I want as thorough an education as Will Durant, as deep an understanding of things--of everything--as is humanly possible, and yet I haven't the photographic memory of a Harold Bloom (not to mention his astounding ability to read in excess of ninety pages an hour), I lack the focus and, above all, the time to devote to that sort of extended study. And, boy, it tasks me.

    That restlessness extends to this blog, too. There are times when I would like to write a short essay on some aspect of higher education that I feel particularly passionate about, but I do not feel as if I have the time to devote to that sort of effort. There is one thing, however, that I would like to say about something wholly unrelated to this blog: I am astonished by the overwhelming outpouring of support among my 18-35 year-old peers for Barak Obama's presidential candidacy. I should emphasize that I am not particularly concerned with the possibility that Mr. Obama will become the next president of the United States, as I am sure he will be about as effective a leader as any of the current candidates. What concerns me, however, is the blind acceptance with which so many young people seem to embrace Obama's message. Bearing a message of hope as consistently vague as it is enthusiastic, Obama seems to have channeled the spirit of Beatlemania as effectively as any politician. Now, messages of hope and progress have always drawn the enthusiasm of socially-concerned, altruistic idealists--as should be the case--but the unquestioning enthusiasm with which Obama's brand of political optimism has been accepted suggests that the widespread dissatisfaction many Americans feel towards the Bush-Cheney era has weakened the healthy skepticism with which we normally scrutinize political rhetoric to a point when unremarkable statements dressed in decidedly eloquent, powerful oratory are welcomed as both novel and genuinely profound. Again, I am not saying that Mr. Obama's upbeat message is anything but a positive thing, but I hesitate to dismiss his lack of political experience, his inconsistent legislative record, or his astonishing self-importance (three traits many candidates share) as irrelevant to an evaluation of his candidacy as so many people seem to do. Therein lies the problem: Mr. Obama is as glib, as charming, as eloquent as any politician ought to be but we've lost our skepticism as a nation. In our haste to usher out what many perceive as a shamefully bleak era in American history, we have suppressed our skeptical nature, the hallmark of critical thinking and that is the problem with Barak Obama's candidacy. He has channeled the zeitgeist of a dissatisfied nation into an infectiously electric frenzy and very few commentators seem comfortable questioning whether such a splenetic mass mentality is healthy. If Mr. Obama wins the Democratic nomination, I suspect we will see some of these issues raised in the media and I suspect they will be spun as part of a conservative agenda, but they are not meant to favor the John McCain ticket or even a Hillary Clinton-headed Democratic slate. What I fear is reactionary fervor, blind acceptance as the result of sheer disdain, and a moment in our history when we lose an opportunity to reflect upon the consequences of jumping on a jingoistic bandwagon in the wake of a horrible tragedy by simply jumping on another bandwagon after the first one crashes.

    For tomorrow: More reading.

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    Tuesday, February 5, 2008
    Like most Monday-Wednesday-Friday afternoons, I returned home from work today and promptly napped for several hours. Despite the sleeping, however, I did manage to go over another article on The Master of Petersburg. Michael Marais, it seems, is one of the more prevalent names among Coetzee scholars, as this is the third essay of his I have encountered in a relatively short period of time.

    Marais's "Death and the Space of the Response to the Other in J. M. Coetzee's The Master of Petersburg," like many of the other essays dealing with the novel, focuses on the relationship between fiction and history. Using the rather common criticism that Coetzee's fiction does not engage with the politics of South Africa in any defined way as a starting point, Marais examines the author's claim that literature can rival rather than supplement history. Although it will in all likelihood have little bearing on the shape of my own work with Coetzee, Marais's essay does strike me as the type of criticism many other critics-to-be would benefit from reading.

    For tomorrow: Try to write some more...

    Though I do not want this blog to veer too far away from the documentation of my dissertation, I am compelled to briefly address tomorrow's massive "Super Tuesday" primary elections. A number of my friends have been swept up by the political fervor of certain campaigns and I find it disturbing how readily some of the brighter people I know take the words of particular politicians at face value. At any rate, having gotten emails from a number of my friends urging me to vote for a particular candidate, I want to say that I will not be voting for Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama, Ron Paul, or any of the other candidates in tomorrow's primaries. I am, contentedly, politically unaffiliated. Furthermore, despite the oddly idealistic glasses through which some of my brighter friends have somehow decided to view certain unnamed candidates, I have very strong doubts about the front-running candidates. All of them.

    Granted, the president is largely America's diplomatic figurehead and I would hope the next president will represent our nation abroad with dignity and class, so I would prefer certain candidates over others strictly on the basis of their charisma...having lived abroad, I can say that the difference between the international response to Bill Clinton or George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush is night-and-day...we need someone the media in other countries will like. Still, I will not be voting for Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama or John McCain or Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee, no matter how charismatic they may be.

    Again, I will not attack any one candidate, though I do think there are more than a few sociopaths running and, like Ted Bundy before them, they've got people fawning over them...

    I will, however, endorse one candidate for tomorrow: Mike Gravel. Whether or not he'd make a good president, I respect what he has done with his career and he says things that none of the top-tier candidates want to say or hear. A vote for Gravel, it seems, would be a nice way of sending a message, however small, that common sense and individual liberty are important. If Sen. Gravel runs as a third-party candidate (with some Libertarians drooling at a cross-party Gravel-Paul ticket), I say vote for him there, too. You're not throwing your vote away by voting for a third party; you're making a small voice that much louder. And, believe me, we need that voice to get louder, we need third parties. Imagine if the Greens and Libertarians had a few seats in Congress...If you want a government to represent the people, you'll want a Communist, a Fascist, a handful of Libertarians, a smattering of Greens, a few dozen Socialists, a bunch of Democrats and a slew of Republicans. Take that first step now...take a voice away from the Big Two and vote for a small three.

    Work Cited

    Marais, Michael. "Death and the Space of the Response to the Other in J. M. Coetzee's The Master of Petersburg." J. M. Coetzee and the Idea of the Public Intellectual, ed. Jane Poyner. Athens: Ohio UP, 2006. 83-99.

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