Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Postcolonial Theory and the Medieval

J.J. Cohen has a post entitled "Postcolonial Chaucer" that's essentially an excerpt from a book describing the application of postcolonial critique to the medieval.

Since I just finished writing a paragraph in which I'm extremely skeptical about the application of postcolonial theory to the medieval (though I'm sympathetic to its aims), I thought to be fair I'd provide this link.

To avoid stealing my own thunder before I publish (or even finish writing) the article, I'll summarize my position thusly: Postcolonial theory is a nice attempt at trying to break down some of the artificially-manufactured barriers in medieval studies, but is ultimately too theoretically rooted in modernity to fulfill its promise in the medieval context.

Obviously, Cohen would disagree with that, and with some pretty good arguments (which you'll find frequently in his well-written blog, In the Middle). You want a developed argument from me? Sorry ... wait a couple of years until the article is in print.

In Defense of the Trojans

Eugene Volokh over at The Volokh Conspiracy asks this question about USC:
So why does USC name its team after losers? And not only that, but why did the
Trojans lose? Because they were dumb and gullible.

Though Volokh has really called damnation on his head with this one, I'll be restrained in my response, and just point out that every medieval king worth his salt traced his lineage back to Troy. They did, after all, found the Roman Empire (mythologically, anyway).

Besides, everyone knows that USC aren't the real Trojans. Troy University has the real Trojans. USC Trojans are just poseurs -- not a Hector among 'em.

There ... now I've linked the phrase "real Trojans" to Troy University's homepage three times. That ought to raise our Google profile. I've done my civic duty.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Caprica Six and Baltar

Back on the popular culture front for a moment (which is a fun thing to do when breaking from grading midterms), I've been getting a lot of traffic over the weekend to my post in which I claim that the manifestation of Number 6 in Baltar's head is neither madness nor a cylon. The most recent episode, in which we find out that the Number Six who was Baltar's lover on Caprica (a.k.a. "Caprica Six") sees her own hallucination of Gaius Baltar. Apparently, many people out there think this proves my theory to be correct. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it proves it, but it is certainly suggestive.

This was really a wonderful plot twist, because it establishes for us the idea of a Fifth Column in both the human and cylon ranks -- a Fifth Column that is being controlled by a third force, neither human nor cylon. In all likelyhood, this third force is the cylon god (since both Baltar's Six and Caprica Six's Baltar seem very interested in god's plans), but that's far from certain.

By the way, following the Aeneid storyline, the trailer for the season finale looks like the fleet is going to find Carthage (a habitable planet) and be tempted to stay. The real question is who will stay behind on Carthage, who will go on to Rome (Earth), and who will be Dido (whom I predict will die in a nuclear blast visible to the questors in space as they are leaving)?

Bringing in the Big Bucks

I found this article amusing, particularly in its assumption that somehow the low pay of instructors is new or limited to CUNY, as seen in the closing comment, "in New York City in 2006, the joke isn’t so funny anymore."

I've got news for you, NY Press -- $35k is pretty good money for an instructor. It's interesting how many people think professors are pulling down well in excess of six figures.

h/t Arts & Letters Daily

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Critiquing Horowitz's Critics

Though I did a satire piece on David Horowitz's 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, I've been a bit put off by a lot of the criticism of his list. Nearly all of the critiques I've seen in the academic blogosphere have been disingenuous, including those from bloggers whom I generally like. I'll not include links here because I don't wish to make this an attack on those people, but rather on the ideas they present, but it won't take but a few minutes of surfing to see the kind of critiques I'm talking about. The dishonest critiques are the ones that protest that professors don't have much influence anyway, and only someone deranged/paranoid/demagogic would think otherwise.

First off, let's start with the caveats. This post is not intended to be a defense of Horowitz's book (which I've not read), nor or his list (because, as the satire suggested, I think the idea of such a list is pretty funny in that VH1 top-100-most-shocking-pop-culture-moments-from-the-Eighties kind of way). Those attackers of Horowitz whose exchanges with him end up on his website should realize that those sorts of attacks don't weaken his argument; they strengthen it by example. Furthermore, is he wrong to say that the people on that list are dangerous? I don't know all of the people on the list, but of those about whom I do know, a great number frequently behave badly.

I think the academic blogosphere has tacitly acknowledged that Horowitz is right in his assessment of the professors on the list by failing to offer defenses of them. If there's a post out there offering arguements that these 101 academics don't behave badly, or that some small group of them do not and shouldn't be lumped in with the rest, I've missed it. Most of the posts have run along two lines: that Horowitz is an evil right-winger (and worst, a turncoat from solid left-wing credentials), and that he over-inflates the influence professors have. I'll ignore the first line of argument, since it is ad hominem at its roots and just offers more evidence in favor of Horowitz every time it is made; instead, I'll focus on the second.

There is something in the nature of academics that makes us presume we have influence where we do not, and presume we have no influence where we do. I'm guilty of this as well. Whenever people hear I'm a professor, they inevitably ask what I teach. My favorite joke (which my friends have heard too often) is to say, "Nothing. I don't teach because they don't learn."

But do I really believe that? Of course not. Let's take Frankie Freshman for example. Frankie comes to me straight out of high school, as ignorant as a moss-covered rock in the shady side of a quarry. His eyes are glazed over, his opinions drawn from Toby Keith or Jon Stewart, his view of the world extending about six inches past his nose. Now, four years later, Frankie Freshman has become Sammy Senior. Sammy Senior has a degree of intellectual development, a framework in which to integrate new knowledge, and a set of supported arguments where facile slogans once dwelt.

How did this transformation take place? Was it happenstance? Does it always happen in everyone as they age from 18 to 21, regardless of education? I don't think so. I think that I had some part to play in the transformation of Frankie, as did the other professors he met. In otherwords, not only do I think I had some influence over Frankie, I think that the influence I have is so great as to merit charging tuition.

Nor do I think I'm alone in this belief. Most professors know that we have a great deal of influence over our students, and the ability to shape their future beliefs and opinions. It is no conincidence that so many religious cults focus on recruiting college students; they are intellectually very receptive. Now, I often bemoan how little influence I have over students, and how apathetic they are, but I bemoan (and exaggerate) that precisely because my goal is to have as much influence as possible. Where influence is lacking, I have failed.

In fact, I submit that any professor who honestly believes the influence they have over their students to be nil has the responsibility to resign. If the belief is true, then they have failed utterly in one of their primary roles; if the belief is false, then by failing to recognize their influence they are unlikely to influence the students positively.

Unfortunately, professors often like to pretend that we have influence where we have none (because it allows us to posture), and that we have no influence where we have a lot (because it absolves us of responsibility). The result is the kind of absurd situation wherein the MLA is voting on issues of foreign policy (I'm sure Condoleezza Rice awaits her daily MLA briefing with great anticipation), but the members scoff at the idea that the students with whom they have daily contact and over whom they have great power might be influenced by them. We all know perfectly well that we can make fatuous pronouncements about foreign policy because no one cares what we will say, so there we will bear no direct responsibility for the policy outcomes (such as genocide, poverty, war, and all the other things that can result from ill-considered policies). On the other hand, we make those same pronouncements in the classroom because we know perfectly well that our opinions will be given some credence, either because the students fear retribution for dissent, or because they respect our opinions based upon their respect for us. When a student hears a professor ridicule ideas, they assume that the ideas are ridiculous, whether that assumption be fair or unfair.

So, what's my point here? Am I calling for the deification of Horowitz, or the mass-firing of the people on his list? Neither, of course. All I'm asking is that we acknowledge that we do have a great deal of influence over our students, and that we accept responsibility for the way that we use that influence.

Even my six-year-old son knows the Spider-man Principle: "With great power comes great responsibility." As academics, when we hear of someone abusing their power, is our first impulse to chatize them for abusing their power, or is it to defend their right to abuse their power under the banner of academic freedom? When it is the latter (and I am just as guilty as others of yielding to that impulse), shame on us.

There will be those who will argue that it is our responsibility to use our power to indoctrinate our students into our own worldview. While I disagree with that position, opting instead for a little more humility with regard to my own vulnerability to error, it is at least an honest position that acknowledges that we have influence and that we are responsible for how we use that influence. Of course, our humble recognition of our own propensity for error need not lead to a fear of ever saying anything; I freely confess that I try to indoctrinate my students into the love of medieval literature. I think that it should instead curb the force with which we use our power, so that we don't insist that students like everything we like or agree with every position we hold.

Ironically, I've found that students tend to have more respect for professors who gently guide them, and less for dogmatic bullies. Not surprisingly, it is the former who end up having the greater influence -- which is just as well, because they are using that influence carefully.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Safe Scholarship and Serious Blogging

Jeff Rice responds to a lot of the criticism of his IHE article on serious blogging. I don't think he's responding to my own piece (actually, I doubt he's even read it), but he still addresses some of the issues I raised. He makes some interesting comments (well, actually rhetorical questions) about whether or not academic writing is supposed to be safe.

I think he hits on an important issue there. He thinks the difference is access; I think the difference is the very seriousness he raises. Too many scholars are profoundly unserious about their scholarship, but mask their unserious nature in a solemn expression and rhetoric of earnestness. For example, I know of one scholar who used to brag to graduate students that he woke up every morning, looked at his CV, and asked himself where it could be beefed up. I like having a career, but that kind of careerism reeks of intellectual and scholarly unseriousness.

Then again, in a tenure race in a publish-or-perish atmosphere, is it any surprise that some people become cynical about their scholarship, and refuse to publish anything unsafe, leaving the risky stuff for pseudonymous blogs? Write something unsafe, and it probably won't get published. If it gets published, it'll probably be ignored. If it gets noticed, it'll probably get slammed. Why not just apply the latest critical theory and pump out safe, tenurable plug-and-chug scholarship, e.g. "What would Zizek say about this thoroughly canonical text...?"

Speaking of pseudonymous blogging...

Though it's been around for a while, Geoffrey Chaucer's blog has recently roused itself awake again. In addition to his usual services, such as providing us the latest gossip on John Gower, he's now occasionally offering an "advyce" column for the lovelorn.

How long do you think it will be before some halfwit will try to plagiarize his Chaucer paper off of the "author's own" website?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Pseudonymous Blogging

In this post, I mentioned that I didn't know who Jeff Rice is, even though he's from the department that granted my Ph.D (about two years before he arrived). I've gotten a few people asking if that link was an implied endorsement of his article -- and it was not. It was simply to say, "hey, here's a blogger from my grad school, but I don't know him at all."

So now I feel compelled to write about the two issues raised in his post (and the raising of hackles that followed): pseudonymous blogging and overly-serious blogging.

First, as to pseudonymous blogging: the short answer is that I think it can be both fine and terrible, as with any other pseud/anonymous activity. Though I blog in my own name (part of that whole "public intellectual" project), I don't have anything particularly against pseudonymous blogging. I know the identities of many pseudonymous bloggers (a few who don't know I know, too), and I feel no desire to "out" them. In one case, I have not blogrolled a pseudonymous blogger because I think she feared others might figure out her indentity by the connection (so I keep her blog in my "Favorites" file). Most pseudonymous bloggers I know blog to maintain a freedom to be honest without fear of damaging their careers; in the case of academics, this generally means that their institutions also go unidentified.

But, the protest goes, pseudonymous bloggers often use their anonymity to behave badly! Yup, that's right ... but I can think of a dozen academic blogs of the top of my head in which the blogger behaves badly in their own name, generally in the form of stupid political posturing protected by tenure. I can also think of a lot of pseudonymous blogs that behave properly, are always respectful of their audience, and use their pseudonymous nature to blog more honestly, not more cruelly.

Besides, I engage in all sorts of anonymous behavior besides blogging. Like everyone else, all of my electronic financial interactions are done anonymously (lest hackers steal all those big bucks we professors get paid). I have used anonymous e-mail accounts to subscribe to all sorts of online publications because I don't want to get a bunch of spam (Let us tell you about our latest exciting product!). I vote anonymously. In other words, I engage in anonymous behavior to protect myself from all sorts of threats, from major (hacking all my dough) to minor (getting spam). My children are required to remain anonymous/pseudonymous online, for the obvious reasons, a reputable websites for children forbid kids from posting identifying information.

My point is that anonymity itself is not a problem; the problem is people abusing that anonymity. Sure, some people use ski masks in bank robberies ... but then, a lot of people use them to keep from freezing. Let us freely condemn those who use anonymity (or tenure or sheer cussed-ness) to be mean, but let's not condemn all pseudonymous blogging.

Now, as to the second issue -- seriousness. I think it is true that a lot of bloggers take the medium (and by extention, themselves) too seriously. But we took down Dan Rather, but we're the New Media, but we are a democratizing force ... yes, all that may be true, but there's also a lot of blogging out there that is delightfully unserious. I've got a pretty serious project behind the Wordhoard (again, the whole "public intellectual" thing), but if I ever start falling prey to the idea that because of my blog I'm "Professor Awesome, Ph.D.", it's time for me to go back and read Plato's account of the dialogues of Aristotle, 'cause I'm not all that (nor am I with a bag of chips). I think a blogger can take the blog seriously without taking himself seriously.

So, to summarize:
Pseudonymous blogging = sometimes good, sometimes bad
Taking one's blog seriously = usually good
Taking oneself serious = always in moderation

Rice Who?

Yes, I got my Ph.D. from the English Dept. at Wayne State University, but no, I have no idea who Jeff Rice is. He must have been hired after I left.

Jeff Rice, for those of you who don't know, wrote a piece for IHE that got a lot of pseudonymous bloggers angry. All I know is that Rice must be a time traveller, because he stole this post from me, yet managed to steal it 3 days before I wrote it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

An Open Letter to David Horowitz

Dear Mr. Horowitz,

I am writing to you about your recent book, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics. I find the book a travesty, completely unfit for print in any civilized nation, for the simple reason that I am not included on the list.

I'm way more dangerous than any of those guys. Can you honestly tell me you'd rather confront me in a dark alley than Noam Chomsky? I mean, the man's name is homophonous with "gnome"! He wouldn't last a day in prison.

Or Michael Berube? The man obviously has masculinity issues -- why else would he put that hockey photo of Gilbert on his blog? Sure, he might high-stick you, but I can kill with my bare hands. Plus, he puts an accent mark in his name ... there's just no call for that. Now an umlaut is masculine, but an accent mark...?

What about "Grover Furr?" Everyone knows that Grover Furr is a fictional character owed by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and he got displaced by Elmo. ELMO, for Pete's sake! How could someone defeated by Elmo be dangerous?

Let's face it, the list is full of geriatrics who couldn't make a shiv from a broken piece of metal if their lives depended on it. How could you overlook me when you've included the entire supporting cast of Cocoon? Listen, there's a math professor of my acquaintance who has a blackbelt in hapkido and regularly kicks my butt when sparring. Now THAT's dangerous!

Please amend your list to include me and my math professor colleague. Also, please note that if you ever come out with a "101 Best Dressed Academics" list, my bow-tie and tweed combo surely earns me a spot in that list too.

Richard Scott Nokes,
Danger to Those Around Me

Sudden Mutation

I think The Truth Laid Bear ecosystem must be broken again, because it is suddenly claiming that I've lost about a quarter of my incoming links, but I've evolved upward into a Flappy Bird.

Compare & Contrast

Anyone who has ever taught the Compare & Contrast mode of essay writing has seen this type of paper. I found myself laughing while reading it, and wanting to cry afterward for how similar it seemed to papers I've received.

By the way, I've linked it to the term "Compare & Contrast" in the hope of raising its Google profile. Any student who plagiarizes this one gets what he deserves.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Chaucer's Accursed Scribe

The most recent Speculum has an article identifying Chaucer's scribe (who copied Boece and Troilus and Criseyde) as a fellow named Adam Pinkhurst. Much of the article after the original identification is speculative, but the naming of the scribe seems sound. I should note, however, that I'm not familiar with the hand and have not seen the manuscripts in question. Nevertheless, strength of the argument combined with its publication in Speculum (which presumably had the paper reviewed by specialists more familiar with the subject than I) suggests that we can accept Adam Pinkhurst.

What I really like about this name, though, is that it is also sometimes spelled "Penkhurst." I like to imagine that it was pronounced "Pen-cursed," which would be a really delightful name for a scribe. Even better is the idea of "Adam Pen-cursed," as if the Fall of Man resulted from disobedience of the pen rather than eating the Forbidden Fruit.

Search Committee of the Dolls

As someone who's been on both sides of the hiring process (as have most academics), I've rarely seen anything as brutally raw and funny as this commentary on search committees over at Slaves of Academe.

When the author writes:
But here again is another interesting and disgusting differential that plays
into committees and their candidate selection: being well-networked. Remember
all the ass-kissing you never did in grad school? Well, you better, because it
means you run less of a chance at a prestigious post. Remember all your horrible
grad student colleagues who were, let's face it, stupid, but certainly had a way
with brown-nosing? Well, those people end up with fellowships and good jobs.

... she's right on target. There are too many academic superstars who are intellectual zeros (some of whom are worshipped as unto Baal and Dagon by grad students in the blogosphere). I'm not recommending aspiring academics kiss-up to get ahead, but I do recommend that they understand how much of the market works.

Incidentally, I found (quite by accident) that refusing to kiss-up can get an ironically positive reaction from a lot of people ... mostly because when you know someone influential and you're not a suck-up, they perceive that you must be talking to them because you find them interesting. Don't count on that reaction, though, because just as many are insulted if you are merely cordial instead of fawning.

h/t Inside Higher Ed

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Blogging and Medievalists

Ancrene Wiseass recently addressed the issue of why medievalists are such prolific bloggers (and a bunch of other stuff I'm not commenting about in this post), and she takes hold of two suggestions from Scott of Acephalous:
Scott's wondering (at least, this is what he's wondering insofar as I understand
it) whether medievalists aren't such prolific bloggers because (1) we tend to be
rather isolated at their home universities and therefore to desire the kind of
community with other medievalists that blogs provide and (2) Kalamazoo offers a sort of
"bonding spark" which gets us interested in keeping up with each other in such a

Since I've got to be on this panel about blogging medievalists in a couple of months, I thought I'd take a stab at examining this, as much as a way of giving form to my ideas as sharing them with y'all.

First off, I think these two points are really cause & effect. There's no reason that the International Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo has to be a "bonding spark." Other fields have their big field-wide conferences (such as the "Four Cs" for comp people), or more broadly the MLA for all English & lit types, but these tend by all accounts to be bitter and cruel events in which grad students all try to play David to the Goliath of established scholars, and established scholars do their best Marie Antoinette impressions regarding the un-hired and un-tenured. These are spaces for the cult of academic celebrity, not for great intellectual work, nor for making friends.

Medievalists tend to be isolated on their campuses. Every department seems to think that it needs one, and ONLY one, medievalist (at each university, two -- one in English and one in history). We end up with an absurdly-broad field of expertise, so that the fellow in the office next to us is a specialist in 20th-century American poetry (one genre from one country during one century), while medievalists are supposed to speak with authority on all literature (and culture) spanning more than a millennium on more than one continent. This isolation has two effects: 1) When we get to K'zoo, we are just so darned happy to have other specialists around who understand what we're talking about when we let loose and really geek-out about our research; and 2) When we get to K'zoo, we have a chance to find out about all that other literary/historical/cultural stuff we're supposed to know about but can't possibly because the field is so broad (e.g. -- "One of my colleagues keeps asking me about some Viking saga I've only once read ... hey, look, a whole session on it!").

I think, too, this explains why medievalists seem to be so much friendlier than many other fields -- we're really genuinely happy to see one another, and tend to see ourselves as an international community of potential resources, rather than an international community of potential rivals. Is there any other field that has so many vibrant e-mail listservs as medieval studies? Heck, I couldn't live without AnSaxNet and MedText-L.

I think there are at least two other reasons for the number of medievalist bloggers: First, ironically, medievalists tend to be technophiles. In literature, the only field that even offers competition with medievalists for techno-geekiness is composition and rhetoric (especially the compu-comp folks). I'm not really sure why this is (though I have some unflattering suspicions), but the love of new technologies certainly helps the medievalist bloggers along.

The other reason, though, is the one that I'm finding most interesting as I think about it: Medievalists tend to be more postmodern than others, and so gravitate toward postmodern genres like the miscellany (i.e., blog) quicker than others. I think the medievalist impulse is not really so much post-Modern as non-Modern. Medievalists have to work all the time in pre-Modern culture, yet at the same time have to live in the Modern academic culture. When our Modernist colleagues (and in most departments that means nearly everyone else) look at postmodern developments, those new things must seem strange and alien to them. Medievalists, though, are already by necessity somewhat alienated from the Modern world, so we find the Postmodern world no more alien to us. Where Modernists are often frightened and threatened by new developments (dollars to donuts says Ivan Tribble ain't no medievalist), medievalists go, "hey, neat!"

To boil all this down to three main points (for those of you who can't survive without a bullet-pointed presentation), the three main reasons for the ubiquity of medieval blogs are:
  • Medievalists are isolated and appreciated the chance to communicate with our own.
  • Medievalists are draw to new technologies.
  • Medievalists have a non-Modern sensibility that is compatible with Postmodern sensibilities.
I wonder if Classicists are the same way?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Sea of Trolls

Jeffrey Cohen (and his son) are recommending Nancy Farmer's Sea of Trolls for young readers. I haven't read it myself, but I thought I'd pass it along. It sounds like good medievalism for young readers (with a Beowulf re-telling, too!).

Cheney -- Champion of the Common Man

I was delighted to hear that Dick Cheney had shot a billionaire in a hunting accident. I think we all know this for what it really is: The Most Dangerous Game.

Usually, though, it is billionaires doing the hunting in The Most Dangerous Game (though occasionally it is vactioning aliens). Finally, a representative of the people stands up for the Common Man and hunts down the billionaires.

Look out, Bill Gates. Cheney might be coming for you next ... but perhaps he'll be sporting and give you a six hour head start.

Monday, February 13, 2006

UD on Going Cosmic

University Diaries has this post about "going cosmic." One way to know that an academic has lost an argument (and knows it) is that they go cosmic -- in my field, generally arguing that truth is a construct.

It's the rhetorical version of a scorched earth strategy in war. I spend 20 minutes arguing that my position is right (implicitly acknowledging you should value the truth of my position), and when I realize I am wrong, I burn the earth behind me, declaring that I might be wrong, but you are wrong too because there is no truth, etc.

The biggest mistake people make when confronted with this policy is to pursue the argument further, taking seriously the position that there is no truth (made by a person earnestly telling you that this is an indisputable truth). Once you've done that, you've playing into their hands, playing toward a draw in a game you've already won.

No, the best thing you can do at that point is smile politely and end the conversation. By doing this you bring the argument to an end (with yourself as the victor) and allow the other person to save face, perhaps creating enough doubt that they will reconsider their original position.

By the way, a great example of going cosmic is found in Pilate's interrogation of Jesus. Pilate has to figure out if Jesus is some kind of rebel against Rome, a rather straight-forward legal and political question. He asks Jesus, "Are you king of the Jews?" In his answer, Jesus says that he came into the world to testify to the truth, and that everyone on the side of truth listens to Him.

Pilate responds, "What is truth?" and proceeds to have Him executed when it is clear that it's the politically expedient thing to do. He'd have made a great academic.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

More on (non)Dhimmis and (non)Dhimmitude

Stacey Philbrick over at al-Hiwar: Words Matter has a thoughtful comment to this earlier post. In it, she objects to my appropriation of the word "dhimmi." Since her comment is at the bottom of a thread on an old post, I'll reproduce it here:

Thanks for the plug on my post - I'm glad you found the concept of the dhimmi
useful. While I'm sympathetic to the broader point that you're making about
self-censorship in general, I do think that you should avoid adopting the word
"dhimmi" or "dhimmitude" in this reworked context. The examples that you give
are evocative and - of course - troubling. But the position of the dhimmi in
Islamic society is a legal one, with a full range of accompanying consequences.
If one is a dhimmi, for example, a number of one's basic freedoms (movement,
worship, association, etc) are contingent upon the agreement to pay a special
tax. Failure to do so, or to acquire an alternative legal form of safe passage
called "amn", would result in a kind of legal vulnerability. In many cases, a
number of other regulations were imposed on dhimmis, such as identifying dress,
limited residential options, restricted permission for the building of places of
worship, etc. In effect, the oft-repeated claim of many Muslims that Islam is
tolerant towards People of the Book (dhimmis) is true - they were tolerated, but
not juridically equal.In the cases you cite, the individuals are juridically
equal, and they are feeling the pressures of a kind of social censorship. This
is vitally important, but is neither unique to Islam, nor equivalent to legal
restriction. That's one reason to avoid adopting the idea of the para-dhimmi, as
much as I applaud your creativity.The second reason, though, is suggested by one
of your other commentors. There is a "dhimmitude movement" to which Pipes most
certainly belongs, dedicated to ferreting out any underlying "submissive"
attitude on the part of Jews and Christians, or dhimmis who still - even while
living the West - allow themselves to be subjugated. It's an offensive movement
of thought police, and based on my reading of the wide range of interesting (and
open minded) discussions on your site, you wouldn't really want much to do with
them.That doesn't mean, though, that the idea of socially imposed limits on free
expression is worth abandoning. Chapter 4 of my dissertation is all about the
way in which some Muslims coerce other Muslims into remaining silent in
expressing their moderation. :)

I know even less about the dhimmitude movement than about the concept of the dhimmi, so I'll refrain from comment on that. I have been thinkng about the idea of self-censorship, though. The idea was raised here by Philbrick and others that self-censorship is not unique to Islam, and can be found in all sorts of other political and religious settings.

I'm not so sure about that, though. Of course, self-censorship is very common, and to some degree healthy. For example, I'll sometimes be at a conference and hear a terrible, sophomoric paper -- then later, when asked by the presenter what I thought of the paper, I'll either change the topic or say something non-commital, rather than saying what I actually thought: Sir, your paper was stupid. How could you have written such tripe? We shouldn't think that all self-censorship is bad.

In this case, though, my distress is over the degree of self-censorship. In the two examples I gave, one of the students was a native-born American (though living in an immigrant community) and one was from abroad, yet neither felt safe performing normal student activities (participating in class or reading the assignment) in an American classroom. I don't believe I've ever had any student of any other religious/political/social affiliation tell me that they could not speak in class nor publicly acknowledge reading assignments (more often they fake having read assignments they haven't actually, but that's another issue). Now, I've had students tell me that they found a particular reading politically or religiously offensive, but those students did not pretend that they did not do the reading. Students will often remain silent in a class for fear of sounding stupid, but already-talkative students typically do not suddenly shut down because of one other student (unless they've had a bad breakup, with is also another issue). Unless my memory fails me on this point, I can think of lots of examples of this degree of self-censorship among Muslim students, but no examples of this degree among other students.

Of course, these two examples are not the only two I can think of -- for example, I've probably excused a couple of dozen Muslim students from the Koran readings -- but they were simply meant to stand in for the whole. My point was that while it is fair game to call for Muslims to condemn actions done in the name of Islam (just as it is fair to expect Christians to condemn the complicity of some congregations in the Rwandan genocide), it is perhaps a little unrealistic to expect that the calls will be heeded. If a student feels completely unable to fulfill their normal scholarly duties in an American classroom simply because of the presence of a few other Muslims, what chance do we have that people will speak out from the immigrant communities or from the neighborhoods in the Middle East? Perhaps non-Muslims should try to keep in mind the tremendous threat of social condemnation or physical violence that might prevent many Muslims from speaking their minds.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Hand That Binds

AnSaxNet today had a link to some Beowulf fan fiction -- the story of Grendel's attack on Heorot from the perspective of the bard (Widsith, in this case), entitled "The Hand That Binds." It's not very long, so I post it here for your weekend reading pleasure.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

An Open Letter to NPR

Dear National Public Radio Drones,

I have made no secret in the past of my philosophical disagreement with the idea of public radio (and public television), as well as my contempt for NPR's method of sanitizing all sorts of offensive ideas by droning on about them in the most boring possible way.

This post is not about any of that. Instead, this is actually intended to help you become better. The radio station with the strongest signal in my town is NPR, so I have a vested interest in improving the quality of NPR, even while I disapprove.

My request is simple: Please refrain from mentioning New Orleans on your network. Please never again say the name of the city.

The problem is that when Hurricane Katrina hit, NPR suddenly discovered, to its shock, that the South consisted of more than just the Atlanta airport and the locale of Deliverance. That early ignorance might excusable, except that all these months later, with nearly daily reporting about the city, your reporters still cannot properly pronounce the name "New Orleans."

Here's a quick lesson: Proper Southern pronunciation is two syllables, /Naw-lins/. Proper Yankee pronunciation is three syllables, /New-Or-Leens/. Yet, still, every day for months now your reporters are pronouncing it with FOUR, count 'em, FOUR syllables, /New-Or-lee-ans/.

I notice that cities in Massachusetts such as Leominster (3 syllables) and Worcester (two syllables) get a proper pronunciation -- but not New Orleans.

Please, just stop talking about it. Better yet, stop reporting on anything south of Baltimore or west of Philadelphia. Please -- you're just embarrassing everyone.

Hugs and kisses,
Prof. Richard Scott Nokes

P.S. -- Please also stop saying the word "funk" or any of its variants (funky, funkadelic, etc.). Somehow it just sounds wrong the way you say it.

Dude, I laughed

Kaufman's recent post on the word "Dude" had me laughing and thinking he's been admiring the dialogue of Hurley's character on Lost.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Speaking of links...

... I also got a lot of traffic today from the discussion boards of NDNation, a site dedicated to Notre Dame and its alumni. Since I'm from northern Indiana originally (Starke County, for those who know the region), it's kind of nice to know that folks from back home are keeping an eye on me out here. Otherwise, my only Notre Dame connection is that I took a summer medieval Latin course there, taught by Frank Mantello from Catholic University (He is not to be blamed for the quality of my Latin).

As a tangent, Notre Dame has the best cafeteria food of any university I've dined at. They charged me something like $7 or $8 admission, as I recall, but it was worth every penny. That summer I ate only one meal a day, lunch at the cafeteria, and gained quite a bit of weight. If I ever got hired to teach at Notre Dame, I'd be morbidly obese in under a year.

Dorkafork & Me

You ever have someone who is not really your friend, but they seem to be friends with all of your friends? I don't mean that you are aquainted with them but don't like them; I just mean that you've somehow never had the opportunity to meet even though you run in the same circles.

That's Dorkafork to me.

I got a bit of traffic today from INDC Journal (which I had never heard of), and when I investigated I found that Dorkafork had posted a link there. When I saw the name, I recognized. I think ol' Dorkafork has commented here before, and I'm sure I've seen his/her/its name elsewhere. When I clicked on the link, I was taken to Dorkafork's blog (unsurprisingly called "Dorkafork"), and realized I had never been there before.

So, if you are reading, Dorkafork, hi there! I'll try to visit your blog occasionally myself. In fact, I'll even blogroll you.

[Yes, the pleasure I get from rolling the sounds of "dorkafork" around in my head made this otherwise pointless post worth it]

Beowulf Preview

Ain't It Cool News has a preview of the Zemeckis Beowulf movie that's slated for release next year. Truth be told, there are so many Beowulf projects at the moment that I'm starting to get them all confused.

Arrogance and Literature

Peter Berkowitz's article "Literature in Theory" has nothing new in it, though it is an interesting read.

I was struck, though, by this quote:
Progress will depend on faculty, many of whom have been educated, in Theory’s arrogant and angry terms, to “interrogate” texts, recovering
what David Bromwich, in “Literature and Theory: Notes on the Research Programs
of the 1980s,” calls “tact,” or the capacity to “show some feeling for the
language in which the work was written, for the period in which its author
wrote, and for the particular inflections that its style gave to the idiom it
inherited and revised.” [emphasis mine]

That word "arrogant" is interesting, especially when paired with Wayne Booth's second principle for pluralists:
I will try to publish nothing about any book or article until I have understood it, which is to say, until I have reason to think that I can
give an account of it that the author himself will recognize as just.

Last night on the telephone I was speaking with a colleague about how much he dreads teaching a particular poet he hates. He mentioned that he would have to pretend to like the poet, but I suggested that he let the students know that he doesn't like the poet. After musing about that for a bit, he said that the problem is that they will feel free to not like the poet, but that they have not yet earned the right to dislike him, because they haven't yet tried to understand him. In other words, he didn't want to feed an arrogance by which students think they can pass judgment on a work or poet they haven't really tried to understand.

Perhaps all professors are arrogant; I know I sure can be. Perhaps the most important thing we can take to a work of literature is not a theoretical approach, but an attitude of humility.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Moderate Muslims as Dhimmi

Stacey Philbrick over at al-Hiwar: Words Matter has an interesting post about dhimmitude and how we understand the ways that Western nations attempt to cope with their Islamic populations. I must confess that I was unfamiliar with the term dhimmi, so all of my information regarding it comes from the links she provides. Given her expertise, I'll assume that her links are reputable.

As I understand it, dhimmi are non-Muslims living in Muslim areas who compromise certain principles in order to be protected by/from the dominant Muslim population (I trust if this is an inaccurate understanding my kind readers will comment with corrections). Her post comments on the idea that a particular anti-Islamic website labels countries where no one has reprinted the cartoons at the center of the current violence as "Neutral/Dhimmi" (map here). She takes issue with the idea that refraining from reprinting the cartoons is a tacit agreement to be subjugated to Muslim dominance.

I started thinking about the concept of dhimmitude, a new idea for me, and I began to wonder about the constant complaints of Western media that moderate Muslims often fail to speak out forcefully against violence. Occasionally, they do, as CAIR did on this issue (yes, I know that CAIR tried to recast the issue as one of "incitement," but given how often CAIR speaks with a forked tongue, I think their press release was about as strong as we could hope for). Nevertheless, if moderate Muslims are in the majority, they certainly seem to speak sotto voce compared to the amplified voices of their more radical compatriots.

I think often this leads non-Muslims in the West to assume that there really isn't any such thing as a "moderate" Muslim -- just violent, death cultists who occasionally restrain their rhetoric when on TV. Perhaps a better way to construct our thinking would be to temper it with the idea of dhimmitude, in which moderate Muslims take on the de facto position of dhimmi within a more totalitarian Islamicist community. Since my understanding of dhimmi is that the term properly only refers to non-Muslims, let me call this community the pseudo-dhimmis.

Let me give you a couple of examples of pseudo-dhimmi moments. Once I was talking to a Muslim student, and she was very shocked. She had just discovered that one of her classmates was a Wahabbist. Apparently, her home country had very few Wahabbis. "Those guys are crazy," she whispered. "I'm going to have to watch out for him." From that point forward, the student never spoke in class -- instead she would come to my office after class to ask questions. She was afraid, as a woman, to answer questions I posed in the presence of her Wahabbi classmate. This seems to me to be a pseudo-dhimmi moment, in which a moderate Muslim acquiesced to domination by a more radical Muslim out of fear of confrontation or violence.

Or, here was another pseudo-dhimmi moment. I was teaching a literature class that involved readings from the Koran. I have often had to excuse more conservative Muslim students from the assignment since it involved reading the Koran in translation (translating the Koran is forbidden by some more conservative sects), and they could not read it in the original language. When I was teaching in the Detroit area (with a very large Muslim population) this occasionally resulted in the bizarre situation in which I would be teaching the Koran only to non-Muslims, with all the Muslims adopting to do a research paper instead. In any case, on one occasion I had a Muslim student who came to my office to confess that he had been secretly reading the Koran, and he wanted to ask me some questions about it. I told him that I'm a Christian and not particularly knowledgable about Islam beyond literary issues, and suggested instead that he go ask one of his own clergy some of the thorny theological questions he was posing to me. The young man became horrified that they might find out that he had read the Koran in translation, and made me promise not to reveal to anyone what he had done. A Muslim studying Islam in secret from other Muslims seems to me to be a pseudo-dhimmi moment.

What I am suggesting is that possibility that many, perhaps most, Muslims oppose the rioting and arson that we see around the world at the moment, but as pseudo-dhimmi, they exist under the domination of more radical Muslims, and so must make compromises for a relatively peaceful co-existence. They would like to speak out but, like my students, refrain from comment out of fear of condemnation or violence.

I suppose one might also take the idea of the pseudo-dhimmi to claim that Muslims living in non-Islamic territory moderate their rhetoric only because they are the counterparts of the dhimmi in Islamic lands, and are at heart radical death cultists -- but I prefer the more charitable interpretation.

Well, SOMEONE likes me...

I just discovered that I was last week's Recommended Blog Site at Very British (Political) Subjects. Huzzah, Peter Troy!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Five Questions

I've been tagged by King Alfred over at The Bitter Scroll with a five questions meme. As you all know, I don't really like these thingies, but King Alfred has been such a faithful reader that I thought I'd respond just this once -- but to avoid excessive hypocrisy, I won't tag anyone else for it. As Truman might have said, The Meme Stops Here.

Remove the blog in the top spot from the following list and bump everyone up one place. Then add your blog to the bottom slot, like so.

1) Jeni
2) Anastasia
3) Haligweorc
4) King Alfred
5) Unlocked Wordhoard

Next select five people to tag:

Ain't doin' it.

What were you doing 10 years ago?

I was in grad school, so at this very moment I was probably procrastinating.

What were you doing 1 year ago?

Um, probably playing an online computer game with friends, though I was possibly prepping my Monday morning lessons.

Five snacks you enjoy:

1) Salty snacks
2) Sweet Snacks
3) Salty & sweet snacks
4) Snacks in my presence
5) All of the above, combined in a big bowl.

Five songs you know all the words to:
1) Happy Birthday
2) Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
3) I'm a Little Teapot (indeed, I am short and stout)
4) Ring Around the Rosie
5) Um, that one song. You know, the one with that name I'm always forgetting?

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:

1) Buy an old Russian aircraft carrier, set it out in international waters and declare it a sovereign nation
2) Hire Gary Coleman to host my parties
3) Start NokesCorp, an evil multi-national corporation that acts as a front for my nefarious schemes
4) Build a time machine and go back to the Cotton library to install a sprinkler system before the fire destroys it.
5) Nap

Five bad habits:

1) Refusing to respond to memes
2) Refusing to tag when responding
3) Starting sentences with the phrase, "When I lived in the Soviet Union..." or "When I lived in Korea..." or similar things.
4) Collecting secrets. I've sometimes gotten a reputation for knowing (and keeping) all the secrets around me ... but if I'm not going to make use of them, I really shouldn't be poking my nose into them.
5) Drinking too much tea.

Five things you enjoy doing:

1) Drinking tea. Lots of it. All sorts of it.
2) Acting. I don't like the attention, but I like acting, which is probably why I like RPGs, since I can act with a very, very small audience.
3) Reading ... but do I even need to mention that since I'm an English professor?
4) Watching films.
5) Yakking for hours on end about books and films.

Five things you would never wear again:

Anyone who knows me knows that I would wear anything if I thought the gag were good enough. I suspect if I live long enough, I'll return to wearing diapers, too.

Five favorite toys:

1) The Fisher Price Little People castle I got when I was a kid.
2) Legos. I loved 'em.
3) My Tesla coil. I was the only kid I knew with a Tesla coil. Now, while it's not technically a toy, I treated it as one.
4) Bikes. I loved riding my bike as a kid.
5) My Timex-Sinclair 1500 computer. It was all we could afford (my friends had Commodore 64s), and it was in retrospect a pretty weak computer, but I loved it and learned BASIC programming on it (a skill with exactly zero marketability today).

Muhammad Cartoons

I guess we won't be seeing a Muhammad/Spider-man crossover comic soon, eh?

Seriously, though ... Gypsy Scholar has several recent posts worth reading, and be sure to check out the comments section. Protein Wisdom has a post that's been receiving a lot of attention (and has a very high level of lit/crit content), and let's not forget Al-Hiwar: Words Matter, the most relevant participant in TTLB's Academy community. Of course, there are many other people blogging on this issue, but these were a few I thought you should not miss.

One question, though. Now that I've seen the original cartoon, how did anyone know it was supposed to be Muhammad? I mean, it just looked like a dirty, bearded guy in a bomb/turban to me.

Argh! It's my own dang fault, too...

Pilgrim/Heretic has all the links for the early modern carnival, and has kindly linked to me because of a question I asked about the origins of a certain generally-unmentionable word, a word that I'm avoiding mentioning again lest Google start sending too much of the wrong traffic this way. Lemme give you a hint: Think of the name Bilbo with the Bs replaced by Ds.

Why am I arghing over a link? Because the word that Pilgrim/Heretic used for the link was not my name, nor Unlocked Wordhoard -- instead, it was that unmentionable word, meaning that I'm going to start getting a higher percentage of sleazy traffic around here.

Even worse, I asked my friend who wanted to etymology of the word about the post, and he hadn't even read it! No good deed goes unpunished, I guess. In the future, I'll only be asking the origins of such words as:


Saturday, February 04, 2006

Podcasting Query

As regular readers know, I'm not really a techno-geek (my geekiness is of a different breed), and this blog strains the envelope of what I can handle, to the point that I've actually received e-mail making fun of my html coding skills (or lack thereof).

My question is: how hard is it for a tyro to podcast? In terms of difficulty, is it any harder to do a video podcast than an audio podcast?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Tristan & Isolde Review (for real, this time)

Last night I finally got to see Tristan & Isolde. The short-hand version is that it is better than I expected and I can recommend the film.

As regular readers will remember from previous postings, I was worried after seeing the trailer that the film would be a facile teen romance. Indeed, there are a few moments from that genre, such as the horrifyingly bad line, "Why does loving you feel wrong?" For one mentally crippling moment, I feared that Tristan would reply, "If loving you is wrong, I don't want to be right," but the movie never went over the cliff like that.

One of my worries was that the film would remove the magic potion element, and with it excise some of the more mature concerns about adult sexuality. Interestingly, the potion is gone, but there is a significant mention of Isolde's facility with potions, making me wonder if an earlier version of the script didn't retain the potion. In any case, the potion is gone, but by establishing firmly King Mark's love for both Tristan and Isolde, the movie gets beyond the typical childishness.

I would argue that the portrayal of King Mark is one of two real strengths of the film. Never do they let him become a villain. Even when, at one point, he is outraged and screaming out of control (spittle flying), his fury is completely justified, and we sympathize with him. For this reason, viewers are never able to completely hope that Tristan & Isolde get together, since King Mark would be dealt such a terrible and unjustified blow by the double betrayal. In this way, I prefer the film's Mark to Malory's Mark (though regular readers will also know that I don't much care for Malory's telling of the T&I story anyway).

The great weakness among the characters is that of King Donnchadh (Isolde's father). He is well-portrayed by David O'Hara, but he just can't hide that the character is written as an over-the-top bad guy. O'Hara plays him with as much subtlety as the script allows, but the "hey-I'm-a-bad-guy-in-a-black-hat" dialogue bleeds through.

Which leads then to the other of the two great strengths of the film, its subtle tone. The film opens with the very unpromising location title, "Britain - The Dark Ages," leading one to think it is going to be a stupid portrayal of the Middle Ages as being a time of idiots and fools rolling around in filth (wonderfully spoofed in the Monty Python and the Holy Grail line, "There's some wonderful filth over here, Dennis."). The "Dark Ages" error aside, the people in the film are normal humans. They bath. They have non-anachronistic technology. In other words, the film never becomes about either how barbaric people in the past were, nor about how noble and chivalric they were.

The best dialogue shares that subtlety. The first time they make love, Tristan asks Isolde, "How do you feel?" At this, I was bracing for the worst, for a Leonardo DiCaprio/Tom Cruise/Meg Ryan-style oratory on how deep (and trite) her love is for him. Instead, she replies simply, "I don't know," and the scene ends. Probably a perfect response.

It avoids being overblown in symbolism.Very early in the film, King Mark loses his right hand, and Tristan becomes his symbolic right hand. The characters never point this out, leaving it to the viewer, so that when Isolde glances at Mark's false right hand (which has been removed) and we cut to a shot of Tristan, we understand that the hand, rather than being a sign that Mark is maimed, is a symbol of Tristan's constant presence in their lives. The constant references to the long-gone Romans in the film is a reminder to the characters that their individual lives are relatively unimportant, and will be swallowed up by time, lending power to their devotion to duty.

Some might complain that the film isn't historically accurate -- well, duh. It is the legend of Tristan & Isolde, not George & Martha Washington. They are already legendary figures, without a true historic home. So, let them exist in a faux Dark Ages rather than in our world.

One last note -- everyone else in the theater were couples; I was the only single (the wife was too tired to come). I sat through a bit of the credits, but I was still the first to get up because all the women were crying. Later, in the parking lot, I saw that one of the women was STILL crying as she walked to the car. So, ladies, though my Y chromosome prevented me from being similarly moved, Tristan & Isolde is a good film if you want a good cry.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

State of the Blog Address

[I noticed this morning that about every blog on my Blogroll has been updated, mostly with State of the Union comments of the "Hi-I'm-A-Professor-Of-Elizabethan-Sculpture-And-My-Expert-Opinion-On-The-Economy-Is..." variety. So, instead of adding my own stupidity to the chorus of inane repetitions of facile memes, I offer for your reading displeasure my State of the Blog Address].

My Fellow Blogospherians, Medievalists, Academics, Bowtie Wearers:

As many new blogs are created, all of us in the blogosphere share a great privilege: We've been placed in The Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem by the links of the people we mutually link to. And tonight that is a privilege we share with newly-formed blogs of the world. (Applause.)

Seven months ago, I sat in a bathrobe before my computer and renewed my commitment to the guiding ideal of babble for all. This evening I will set forth policies to advance that ideal on this blog and around the blogosphere.

Today, with a healthy, growing list of incoming links, with more readers wasting their work day checking the Wordhoard, with my blog an active force for good in the world -- the state of my blog is confident and strong. (Applause.)

Our generation has been blessed -- by the expansion of opportunity, by advances in wysiwyg html coding applications, by the computer literacy purchased by our parents' sacrifice to buy us an Atari when we were young. Now, as we see a little gray in the mirror -- or no hair at all, in my case -- (laughter) -- and we watch our children IM one another, we ask the question: What will be the state of this blog? Members of the Blogosphere, the choices we make together will answer that question. Over the next several months, on issue after issue, let us do what readers of Unlocked Wordhoard have always done, and build a better world for our children and our grandchildren through commenting on the latest minutiae of Battlestar Galactica. (Applause.)

First, we must be good stewards of our blogroll, and renew the updated links on which millions of our fellow blogospherians rely. Unlocked Wordhoard's blogroll is the fastest growing of any major blog containing the word "Wordhoard" in the world. In the past few month, we provided links to every person who links to us, overcome a sudden re-structuring of the Ecosystym, opened up new links to other bloggers, persecuted people who say stupid things, raised the hackles of our readership to its highest level in history, and in the last year alone, the Unlocked Wordhoard has added dozens of new links. (Applause.)

Our second great responsibility to our children and grandchildren is to honor and to pass along the values that sustain a free blogosphere. So many of my generation, after a long journey, have come home to family and faith, and are determined to bring up responsible, moral children who don't turn up Nickelodeon too loud while we're trying to read. Blogs are not the source of these values, but blogs should never undermine them, unless they are porn blogs specifically dedicated to that goal.

Because marriage is a sacred institution and the foundation of society, it should not be re-defined as a union created for the sole purpose of shuttling children from one appointment to another. For the good of families, children, and society, I support a pledge to protect the institution of marriage by allowing my wife some computer time as well, rather than hogging the whole thing for myself. If that fails, I support the creation of a special fund to buy a laptop so that I can blog while she surfs her sites. (Applause.)

Our third responsibility to future generations is to leave them an Unlocked Wordhoard that is safe from danger, and protected by peace. We will pass along to our children all the freedoms we enjoy -- and chief among them is freedom from fear. Therefore, I pledge to you that our blog will never dissect the latest gossip about Brangelina, nor will it make puerile calls for the immediate impeachment of any political figure of either party. No one need fear the Wordhoard.

In these few months, the Wordhoard has seen the unfolding of large events. We have known times of sorrow, and hours of uncertainty, and days of victory. In all this history, even when we have posted really moronic things, we have seen comment threads that were relatively troll-free. The attack on intelligent discourse in the blogosphere has reaffirmed our confidence in blogosphere's power to waste many hours of the workday. We are all part of a great venture: To extend the promise of inane babble in this blog, to comment on things about which we know nothing, and to spread the chuckles that ironic posts bring.

As Franklin Roosevelt once reminded Americans, "I really wish I could have a blog -- if only computers would be invented before my death. Alas, I'll simply have to comfort myself by smoking cigarettes out of very long, silly-looking cigarette holders." And we post in the blogosphere where the biggest posts are unread because of short attention-spans. The dissolution of the Backstreet Boys was only a dream -- until it was fulfilled. The creation of a feature-length Firefly film was only a dream -- until it was achieved. The promotion of public discourse about modern medievalism was only a dream -- until, one day, it was accomplished. Our generation has dreams of its own, and we also go forward with confidence. The road of Providence is uneven and unpredictable -- yet we know where it leads: It leads to more posts resulting in hatemail from Tolkien fans.

Thank you, and may God bless the Unlocked Wordhoard. (Applause.)