Category Archives: Academia

1000 Words: Olio

Notice that word in the headline? Proof positive I’m a crossword junkie. Olio shows up approximately every half dozen crosswords I do. Clue: A four-letter word for Medley. Or Miscellany, Assortment, Melange, etc. It’s one of those words that turn up only in crosswords.

I don’t use it myself (until this very minute) because it just doesn’t sound right. It doesn’t fit its definition. Plus, it sounds and looks too much like Oleo, another crossword word. Short for Oleomargarine. Which itself is a funny word like Omnibus, the grandparent of our commonly-used term, Bus. Or maybe it’s the parent thereof. If, in that case, it’s related on its mother’s side, it would be described as Enate. Yet another crossword word.

See how my vocabulary has been expanded by spending so many hours, months, years — decades, for chrissakes — filling out all those crossword puzzles? Not that I use any of the aforementioned in everyday conversation. Nevertheless they continue to reside in my personal word bank. Or Jargon, Glossary, or Lexicon.

Okay, I’ll stop.

Anyway, Olio. It’s in the hed (an old newspaper contraction for Headline) today because this post will be, natch, a collection of things, as opposed to an essay on a single topic.

Topic No. 1 (obviously): Olio and crosswords.

Topic No. 2: The 45th President of the United States may or may not be indicted today in New York City. He may or may not be arrested or turn himself in. Nobody knows nothin’ just yet. We do know he made a hush money payment to a porn star with whom he dabbled some years ago. We don’t know, just yet, if the funds he used to shut her up came, illegally, from his campaign chest.

But here’s something we do know. Donald Trump is a man who’s never let an opportunity to be in the public eye slip — even if it’s for being involved in a potentially criminal, tawdry bribe. The other day he shrieked out to the world on his Truth Social page that he was going to be busted today, thereby spurring countless idolators to unbelt and send scads of scratch to his campaign and other accounts because…, well, that’s what he does best. Raking in suckers’ dough and portraying himself as ever-aggrieved, the target of vicious, spiteful persecutors, and the Victim-in-Chief, are his primary — and likely only — talents.

In any case, when announcing he was going to be perp-walked, he called for his supporters to come out and protest as the bracelets are being slapped on him. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why there hasn’t been a screaming outrage over this call-out. I mean, the last time he called for protests, a mob stormed the United States Capitol, occupied Representatives’ offices, smeared human shit on marble walls, floors, and statues, broke stuff up, and cost the lives of five people. It was, perhaps, the ugliest scene in Washington, DC since segregationists felt comfortable enough to display their true colors (pun intended) back in the days of Strom Thurmond and Dick Russell.

It’d be like Bernie Madoff announcing from his prison cell he was about to start a new business venture. Or the loon who killed nine Black people in a South Carolina church back in 2015 authoring a book on the history of race relations in the United States.

Donald Trump begging for people to take the streets is a clarion call for violence and mayhem. Yet it seems nobody was terribly disturbed by his call. Except me.

In delving into this, I learned that Trumpists, by and large, are being uncharacteristically circumspect regarding these protests. USA Today reports Trump’s message “seems to be falling on deaf — or at least unwilling — ears.” The Hill quotes House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a notorious Trump coat-holder, as saying, “I don’t think people should protest this stuff.” The Associated Press reports, “Former President Donald Trump’s calls for protests before his anticipated indictment in New York have generated mostly muted reactions from supporters, with even some of his most ardent loyalists dismissing the idea as a waste of time or a law enforcement trap.”

What does this all tell us? Is Trump’s svengali-hold on that 30-or-so percent of the American electorate petering out? Or are the Trumpists playing a strategic hand?

Either way, what Trump did is spectacularly rash, even for him.

Of course, it could be that America, at long last, is beginning to ignore him the way frazzled parents strategically ignore the tantrums of a brat.

Topic No. 3: I’ve lived in Bloomington, Indiana for a good 14 years now. I’ve loved much of it. I told one of my Bloomington pals early on that it was like a dream for me to live in a college town and rub shoulders with professors, lecturers, researchers, and other such cerebralists.

Yet the habitués of academia are not without their quirks. Take a look at this description for an American Comparative Literature Association seminar that took place this past weekend in Chicago:

What key concepts or fundamental principles might best equip theory as an engaged practice for the 21st century? What sorts of norms and ideals should organize criticism and theory: how and why? This seminar asks participants to identify a specific value — i.e. “sustainability” or “freedom” or “impersonality” or “disclosure” or “affirmation” etc. — and to argue vigorously for it. It seeks papers that situate these values both within and against guiding edicts in the tradition of literary criticism and comparative literature.  What principles might better operationalize and animate critical theory? What habits and dictates have precluded value assertion from within literary criticism? How might a specific value for the present and future either extend and explicate or counter and revise the governing conventions of the past?

What in god’s holy name does any of that mean?

My first impulse was to ridicule, mercilessly, whomever wrote the description as well as anybody who signed up for the seminar.

But perhaps I’m just ignorant. If any Pencillistas can decode this paragraph, please help me understand it.

Although any statement containing the word Operationalize seems, de facto, inscrutable.

Operationalize:  Yet another entry in my word bank. And one I don’t suspect I’ll ever actually use.

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