Friday, May 11, 2012


In the wake of the Naomi Riley fiasco (original post, college misery with more on the issue), I've noticed the occasional blog commenter on other blogs saying something that I have seen before but never paid much time to. Indeed, it seems to me that I am seeing it more often, though that could just be confirmation bias. What I'm seeing are comments like this:
I have always thought that any discipline requiring "Studies" in its name isn't a discipline.
I find that an odd position. Logically, it falls apart when confronted with some basic facts, like the meaning of -(o)logy. Biology, Immunology, Virology, Archaeology, Zoology, Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology, Geology, Toxicology, Theology, etc. All of those have -(o)logy in them and are serious disciplines. Okay, maybe not theology (I kid), but having -(o)logy in a discipline's name certainly doesn't lessen the discipline. -(o)logy means science or study of. Perhaps it's the Greek origins of the word. If only African-American Studies, Cultural Studies, Women's Studies, etc. were properly made into word chimeras. Then we could have Negrology, Cultrology, and Gynology. Except those don't sound so nice. Perhaps gussying things up in Greek or Latin dress doesn't result in an inherently superior name. The issue with Naomi Riley and those who see "Studies" as an indicator of a weak discipline does not lie in the view of "Studies" disciplines. The issue lies in their intellectual rigor. Those who deride "Studies" as above tend not to actually examine the scholarship. It is far more efficient to deride them for being Humanities rather than STEM or as focusing on what are seen trivialities. Naomi Riley shows similar skill in critical thinking in her post. Rather than attempt to engage with the dissertations on a meaningful level, Riley shows that all one needs to do to understand a discipline (and how silly it is) is to read silly dissertation titles. If the title sounds silly or contrary to privileged orthodoxy, then clearly the whole discipline is worthless. Let's have some biology dissertations and run them through what someone who knows nothing of biology might say in reaction to them: "Systematics and ecology of benthic salt marsh algae at Ipswich, Massachusetts" -- Algae? What do we need to study that for?" "Explorations in Protein Expression and Attempted Purification of the CBI Cannabinoid Receptor" -- Sounds like pro-pot nonsense. "Do Human Sex Pheromones Exist?" -- What's a pheromone? And why are you talking about sex, you depraved ivory tower intellectual? "The Importance of Dynein in the Fashioning of Left-Right Asymmetry in the African Clawed frog, Xenopus laevis" -- Clawed frog? Are frogs where the X-Men are going to come from? What do you know? It's very possible to take a serious discipline's work and make it sound silly if you don't actually take the time to engage with it. Titles are enough. Riley's approach of mockery without information betrays her. She is either incapable of deep rational thought or she finds shallow "analysis" to be a more worthwhile pursuit. She is either blind to privilege as she dismisses the scholarship that oftentimes confronts it head on, or she aims to hold onto her privilege at the expense of the disadvantaged, hoping that attacking the scholarship will mask her prejudice. No matter what it turns out she was thinking as she wrote her piece, it does not reflect well upon her. However, commenters like the one quoted above may find themselves comforted by shallow and small-minded attacks on the Humanities and on cultural studies in particular. I only hope the numbers of such people are small.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A week later -- Graduation, Poetry, and Coin Pictures

This is going to be a bit longer of a post, with many pictures. In part this is to make up for disappearing for a week. I'm still no good at this blogging thing. It's also because I got some pictures of my UK proof sets done and I'd like to share them. I also bring news of graduation and what the hell I've been doing for the past week anyway.

 I'll save the coins for last, since they'll be the longest section.

 On graduation: I graduate again this Friday with my third BA (Spanish). I won't get to walk again because I already did last semester, so I just have to content myself with the fact that I managed to do three BA degrees in five years. With graduation comes summer, which this year means moving.

 Last time I posted I had just returned from a visit to my graduate school and signed a lease for the fall. My fiancee was happy and my mother and I relieved, so everything was good. I will have the 11th through 20th of May off from work this month to do some major work on the moving front. We have a lot of packing, moving of stuff down to the farm, moving of large items to the trailer for transport this July, and other things to do. I also have to help my brother move into his new place, and you can bet I'll extract my pound of flesh from him for that.

 On Poetry: I basically spent the last week working on my final project for my Contemporary Spanish Literature class. I wrote two poems, modelling surrealism under the Franco regime and surrealism in the new millennium, then wrote a short analysis of how my poems draw their essence from those specific movements. Let me tell you that, because I have previous experience in this matter, writing poetry in a non-native language is really hard. But when you figure it out, it becomes amazing. And now that I've made the attempt at writing surrealist poetry in Spanish, I have a new appreciation for the style. I also have a new way of thinking about surrealism, and that is that the surreal is "metaphor made not only real but literal." Groundbreaking, I know. But I now have a way of thinking about surreal literature that makes sense to me.

Finally, coins. I got loads of pictures of my UK proof sets. Next post I'll share a couple of my individual coins including the 1900 silver sixpence that will be residing in my bride's shoe at the wedding.
The 1970 proof set was actually put together and struck after Decimal Day and the official change to decimal currency in the UK. It contains the last examples of the classic £sd currency.
The obverse side of the last predecimal coins.
The reverse side of the last predecimal coins.
February 15, 1971 marked Decimal Day, the switch to decimal currency for the UK. Rather than have the old 1 pound = 20 shillings = 240 pence (and the various other oddities, such as the crown being five shillings, a guinea twenty-one shillings, etc.), Britain embraced common sense and defined the pound in terms of 100 new pence.
The obverse side of the new decimal currency. The five and ten pence coins were identical in size and composition to the one and two shilling coins, respectively, and carried the same value during the transition.
The reverse of the new decimal coins. The "New" on the reverse remained on every coin until 1981. 1982 saw the creation of the 20 pence coin and the replacement of "New" with the denomination.
The 1973 set includes text commemorating the formation (and British membership) in the European Economic Community, the precursor to the European Union. The 50p coin has a special reverse for the occasion.
The obverse side of the set. Note the coloration of the 2p coin.
The reverse side of the set. I like the reverse on the 50p coin.
A close up shot of the 2p coin. This sort of toning happens to brass coins sometimes if exposed to water damage. The set probably got some water spilled on it in the past and over the years the coin has discolored. I kind of like it, since it looks like a bimetallic coin.
The 1977 set commemorates the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The Royal Mint reintroduced a commemorative One Crown coin (25p) for the occasion. Due to the coin's excessive size for its face value, Crown coins after 1990 have a valuation of £5 rather than 25p.
The obverse of the set. The Crown has a special obverse of the Queen on horseback in honor of her Silver Jubilee.
The reverse of the 1977 set.
This is the 1988 set case. It's the first UK proof set I purchased.
I love the frosty look of the portrait side in this set. The quality of the strikes is really there.
The reverse of the 1988 set doesn't dissappoint either.