Sunday, May 29, 2011

Pippa Passes

Another session of EN 455, Victorian Poetry:

Dr. Smathers: Today we will discuss a poem by one of the most beloved of Victorian poets: "Pippa Passes," by Robert Browning. Can any of you scholars give us some insights into the poem, its theme and message?

Mike Brown (a member of the football team): Uh, it's about this chick named Pippa; and she's got a very gifted arm. She's a triple threat, as she can execute the option three ways, and passes accurately for 50 yards!. Because of that, she's the first girl to make the varsity, and may eventually be a pro prospect.

Belinda Cortez (a pre-med major): You would make a lewd interpretation on that poem.  Actually, it's a poem about the success of her eliminative processes.

Mike Brown:  That's a very alimentary conclusion.

Dr. Smathers: Now, Ms. Cortez, I think that you might have missed the optimistic message: God's in His heaven/All's right with the world!  How does that fit in?

Belinda Cortez: She had a successful movement; and she has afterwards that satisfied feeling. My boyfriend and my dog both always feel better when they have successfully pottied.

Mike Brown: No, she completed a pass for a touchdown!

Tom Wilson: Touchdown is the clown in As You Like It.

Dr. Smathers: No, the poem is about a young, silk-winding girl who wanders innocently through the region of Asolo, kindness and virtue to the people she passes. As she sings her song she influences others to act for the good — or, at the least, reminds them of the existence of a moral order.

Dewayne Fontenot: Asshole-oh?

Clarissa Tyler: She was also known for her ass.

Dr. Smathers: I don't recall any beast of burden mentioned in Robert Browning's poem.

Kate Thomas: No, silly. Pippa's the sister of the model who married Prince William!  She has a Kardashian bum.

Dr. Smathers: Kardashian bum? Would you please clarify for the class that term you used . . . . I don't think you were referring to a vagrant?

Kate Thomas: You know, Kim Kardashian. She has a lot of junk in her trunk.

Later on, Dr. Smathers went into the English Department office.
The Secretary: Smathers, how did it go?

Dr. Smathers: Oh, they talked, for a change. But I got more than I bargained for.  I'm not au courant on modern slang.  Somehow the class wound up talking about debris in the boot of a Ms. Kardashian's auto.

The Secretary: Never end a sentence with a preposition.  One day you will learn to understand us Americans.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

All in the Family: Nudity

Nudity of close kin seems to be something that people are uncomfortable about, as Sigmund Freud intimated in his concept of the Primal Scene.  Okay, Herr Freud was not simply referring to one's parents being merely naked, but nekkid and up to something, as Lewis Grizzard once put it.

I'm sure that most of us would be horrified if we discovered nude pictures of our grandmothers; or pictures of her wearing substantial décollété*, or a swimsuit that is too revealing according to contemporary standards (obviously, not in present-day circumstances!).  And, many of us would conveniently find a way to, uh, lose those incriminative photos.  In a New York minute!

But what about pictures of one's great-grandmother?  Or great-great-grandmother?  Or, let's be equal about this:  Suppose you found a picture of your grandfather nude, with his junk in all its glory; would you be upset?  How much?

Would you be less upset if it was a more remote ancestor?  How many great- or great-great- prefixes is needed before you are comfortable?

Specifically, does it work like this:

Nude picture of:                      Discomfort level:
Parent                                     Astronomical!
Grandparent                            High
Great-grandparent                   Moderate
Great-great-grandparent          Lower
5X Great-grandparent              None
Adam and Eve                          None

I'm just suggesting an idea:  people are more uncomfortable about this hypothetical nudity if it involves someone they directly know, rather than some distant ancestor who is also a stranger.

Look at it this way:  Adam and Eve are almost always depicted nude.  Yeah, it's the innocence metaphor; but if we go with the Adam and Eve story about being our species' original parents, we're pretty comfortable with how they are depicted.  Michaelangelo even depicted Adam's little soldier on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel!

*I have something specific in mind.

Friday, May 20, 2011


According to Baptist radio preacher Harold Camping, the Rapture will happen at 6 P.M. PST on May 21, 2011. At that time, 200 million saved will be raptured into Heaven, and the remaining 6.5 billion or so will be left behind.  Estimating roughly, that means that the average person has about a 3% chance of being taken up in the Rapture; and the other 97% are royally screwed, to be perfectly candid but less diplomatic.  And this cataclysmic event is supposed to happen tomorrow!

I don't know where Mr. Camping got his 200 million figure from, or what specific criteria places one on this A-list, but I assume it's the usual righteous criteria cited so often but even more often missed!

Obviously, claims of an impending Rapture or Doomsday have been intended by the claimants as a moral corrective: The idea is supposed to be that because the world is going to be in the soup pretty soon, people need to take this last-chance opportunity to clean up their acts. Who knows?  If you do so, you may slip into those Pearly Gates with the rest of the Elect; and beat out some other possibly deserving soul into being one of the 200 million!  Hard cheese, old buddy!

But -- whoa! Suppose your taking on last hour righteousness manages to make you beat out your Grandma? Or Nick Saban? Or Pippa Middleton? Or Oprah Winfrey? Remember, there's only 200 million slots available.  Your getting in means someone else is out in the cold.  Now that's an Ayn Rand scenario for you!  Except the old dear was atheistic, I think.  And she might eschew this Rapture deal, anyway.

I see my chances if this Rapture happens as slim to none; so the rational Plan B seems like a go.  Party, party!  Work on my bucket list.  Have that wild fling with that special person!  Run up the bill on the credit card!  Moon the legislature!  Declare this week to be The Ultimate Dessert Week!  

No, maybe I'll continue to play it as it lays.  But, just to be safe, I'll avoid going décollété with that red demibra and thong set underneath!  I believe in hedging my bets, within limits!   

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Magnetic Research at MSU

Mattie: "Welcome to our weekly program, Mississippi Research Report.  Each Thursday at 5 A.M. on WCOW we report on the various research doings in verious Mississippi universities, institutions, and businesses.  Today we're spotlighting the Biophysics Department at Mississippi State University at Starkville, the scene of some new and exciting developments in poultry science.

"In our studio is Professor Largebottom, Professor of Biophysics and Chair of the Department.  Professor Largebottom, thank you for coming this morning."

Professor Largebottom: "Mattie, thank you for inviting me.  Researchers in poultry science and biophysics are always up and at 'em early to feed the birds, and it's a beautiful morning!  The early bird gets the worm, I guess you've heard."

Mattie: "Somehow, that concept sounds familiar, but I can't place it.  Professor, your project is very curious.  You receive joint funding from numerous chicken-processing plants and from a Mr. Durst, a musician of the pop variety whose group is named after a soggy bread project.  Isn't this type of funding unusual in itself?

Professor Largebottom: "Oh, not at all, Mattie.  Manna and money come from odd sources.  And it's not chicken feed."

Mattie: "Now for the research.  You've trained baby chicks wearing red ball caps to eat chicken feed with some iron filings in them.  Is this so that when they are layers their eggs will provide more iron to consumers?"

Professor Largebottom: "Well, that's one of the reasons.  But there are others"

Mattie: "But, an unusual twist to normal poultry research is transpiring in your lab.  You and your associated are exposing the chicks to large amounts of magnetic forces, magnetic forces that require special equipment to produce the largest magnetic field in the South!  This is a new development in itself.  Have you discovered some unusual properties of magnatism, such as more rapid growth or more effective healing?"

Professor Largebottom: "Well, actually, we are in the process of developing a chick magnet.  That seems to be a pressing need in our society and MSU is on the cutting edge of that research."

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Protocol of Giving Intimate Gifts

Let's face it: one component that lingers under the surface in boy-girl gifts is the erotic.  There's a little of the old Adam and Eve in us: we like a little erotic kick from time to time, although societal norms constrain us to pretend otherwise.  Obviously, I'm not taking about brother-sister giftings (except possibly in Vermont and West Virginia).  No, I'm talking about boyfriend-girlfriend gifts.  

There's an additional component, the public versus the private, to take into account.  Believe me (speaking from firsthand experience), it is mighty embarassing to open a present at a party and find that your boyfriend had given you a matching black-and-pink semitransparent lacy teddy-and-panties set!  The reason?  Everyone in attendance automatically assumes that we were being intimate (shall we say), even though we weren't.

The damnest thing is, however, is that I liked the outfit!  I did indicate to my boyfriend that I loved his thoughtfulness.

You might not believe this, but I asked my Mama about it.  She inspected the (almost) garment, and asked me what I felt about it.  I admitted that being given it in public was embarassing, but that I liked it.  It made me feel special and beautiful.

Her advice was very practical:  Keep the teddy and panties, and wear them in private when I needed to feel special.

Anyway, my suggestion to readers about intimate gifts is this: bestow an intimate gift only on someone you are intimate with; and always give those kinds of gifts privately!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Signs You're Not at a Good University

If your institution has many of these, then you might consider transferring to another institution:

1. Your school's mascot is the boll weevil.
2. Jerry Springer was your institution's commencement speaker.
3. Diplomas are sold through vending machines on campus.
4. Numerous typos are found in the school bulletin.
5. The campus newspaper has a page with a large picture to color.
6. The school cafeteria has recently been awarded Four Roaches by the School Cafeteria Management Association.
7. The last time a Spanish major from it visited Spain, that government broke off diplomatic relationships with us.
8. Students typically spend their Spring Breaks in Cleveland.
9. The campus minister was reported for conducting black sabbats.
10. The campus infirmary has its own morgue.
11. The English instructors use "ain't."
12. The Psychology Department is housed in the nearby mental institution.
13. Biology students are told to "provide their own specimens for lab," and local cats begin to disappear.
14. The U.S. flag on the flagpole often is flown upside down, and they're aware of the symbolism.
15. The university marching band spells out words incorrectly on the field at halftime.
16. The university is accredited by such suspect organizations as "American Twirlers' Association," "Tassle Dancers' Association," "No-name, No-neck College Accreditation Association," and the "Bogus Universities of America."
17. The major sport at the institution is safecracking.
18. It has an unusually large number of graduates who became actors or politicians.
19. The campus has been designated a National Abestos Preserve.
20. The ROTC unit there is for the KISS Army.
21. There's an equestrian statue of Dan Quayle or Ozzy Osborne in front of the administration building.
22. They're considering changing its name to Texas State University and its location to Georgia.
23. Cows graze on the quadrangle.
24. The university administration has a parole officer on the staff.
25. They play polkas at campus mixers.
26. They don't use anything stronger than baking soda in the chemistry lab.
27. When the legislature funds the institution, they persist in referring to it as "hush money" rather than "state support."
28. The grad students make the campus unsafe after dark.
29. Literature courses have three-page term papers.
30. The history books have large pictures to color in them
31. The periodic chart in the chemistry classroom has only 87 elements.
32. The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendar is one of the topics covered in Art History.
33. Line dancing is taught in the library.
34. Some of the faculty have gotten their diplomas from mail-order degree mills.
35. The university cafeteria is the prime source of E. coli for the Biology Labs.
36. The University gave Anna Nicole Smith an honorary degree.
37. The majorettes dance at a nearby "gentleman's club" in the evenings.
38. The campus newspaper also serves a toilet paper in restrooms.
39. Professors greet their classes with, "Kowabonga, Dudes."
40. There's elevator music played in the halls.
41. Parking is only in parking decks controlled by the mob.
42. The institution has endowed chairs named after corporate executives under indictment.
43. The Music Department features applied music courses in the accordion and the kazoo.
44. Phlogiston is still taught as a current theory in chemistry.
45. The geography department thinks that the world is flat; er, shaped like a pizza.
46. The Faculty Senate holds bake sales to provide money for equipment.
47. The quadrangle is a toxic waste dump.
48. Management 400 is entitled "Beating the Rap."
49. An interstate highway goes right across the middle of the campus, and there are no walkways above it.
50. The Art Department has classes in Paint-by-the-Numbers.