About once a week my cartoon reading tends to condense, and today was one of those. The starting point was this cartoon [Link]
which brought out two memory chains. The first was that in the seventies, when I was balancing working for the Yankee army with graduate school, grown men actually wore shirts with a paisley pattern. Every time I saw one my mind was shuttled immediately to that bit in The Great Gatsby where the question of whether a man should/can wear a pink shirt is explored, a horrid result of having to read TGG for undergraduate ‘English” class. It instilled a continuing and deep aversion to Fitzgerald. One more instance of the academic instrumentality achieving the opposite of what it intended.
I had a paisley shirt myself, that was bought to wear with a ‘leisure suit’, which was not made, either by cut or by composition, to be conducive to leisure. It was, I recall, one of the most uncomfortable ‘suits’ I ever wore. The shirt was also uncomfortable, not because of the pattern, but because it lacked a yolk and hence did not move ‘correctly’ when the body flexed. Since then I have had several paisley ties, which have consistently been acceptable attire and I have enjoyed wearing the well made ones because the pattern does rather remind me of the paramecium I observed under microscope in high shule and undergraduate biology labs. I shall forbear to comment on spirochetos for digestive reasons. I also reflect that one of the advantages of being an ORF is not having to wear a tie often inasmuch as the construction of ties has degenerated greatly over my life span. Of course, the young, unless they are in some intimidation job, do not have to wear ties frequently today and therefore I consider them beneath contempt.
The second cartoon [Link]
struck me because it embodies two SF metaphors that I am generally disinterested of. The metaphors are those of the English SF series “Dr. Who”, and the Amerikan movie series “Star Wars”, the theme is a competition between principals and their respective technologies, a ‘sonic screwdriver’ and a ‘light saber’. I have enough knowledge to know the light saber thing is almost certainly absurd and I suspect the screwdriver is similarly. hence the designation of SF instead of science fiction. Both have the unsavory aspect of representing world views that are inherently oppressive and reactionary, the one overwhelmingly tyrannical and the other sanitary of change. Neither is on my list of regular viewing.
Nonetheless, I find myself rather agreeing with the picture. The Star Wars millieu is one that is not just abiding but supportive of slavery on the parts of both good and bad. Hence all are evil. The Dr. Who is, from what I have seen, not supportive of slavery and hence a lesser evil. That is the prescription of freedom, that the lesser evil triumph for a time until an even lesser evil may arise.
The last cartoon [Link]
is at once more welcome and more upsetting. As is consistently the situation with Chaim’s work I find myself remembering my own days as a graduate student. Too many of us go to graduate shule with the idea of getting a degree or of securing our life work and find ourselves having to accept a marriage to an advisor on much the same standing as slaves securing a master and then working on whatever we are assigned rather than what we want to work on. In my day there was still the fiction that a graduate student could propose his degree research and be affirmed in it. In practice none were and today none even try.
As a result, one is basically unhappy and dissatisfied from the get go, once the initial thrill of having a project wears thin in the realities of it being either drudge work one step removed from harvesting microbes from sewage or not only being highly unlikely of success but more unlikely we will be brilliant enough to overcome the difficulties of it being unwanted as much as unwanting. And we are ill equipped to realize that we are being used; that is why the slave-master metaphor is so apt.
As a result, one of three things happen. First, the weight of uselessness and alienness overwhelms and we drop out of graduate shule to do anything else we can. The folks who do this are often the happiest. If they can avoid re-entering in later life. Second, we have those who by dint of years of mind trashing finally win through and receive a degree as a Cracker Jack prize and obtain about the same value from. Or third, the project and student merge and creativity actually results, the advisor/master is surpassed, and the student graduates a pariah who can go on to future greatness.