25 January 2011

Why people ridicule academics

It's definitely got something to do with the post-modern titles. I just received a call for papers for an interdisciplinary conference whose theme is "Dissemi(nations): Embedded Identities in Cultural Con/Texts."

The conference will be held at the University of Utah and for all I know might be great. But does its theme really need two different examples of non-standard (but hackeneyed) punctuation? The conference "aims to examine various modes of expression that arise as cultures are located, isolated and relocated." A worthy goal, but not one that leaps to mind when I read "dissemi(nations)" or "con/texts". Because those terms aren't original, it feels like a pick from the smorgasbord of po-mo terminology rather than a meaningful intellectual intervention, no matter what the organizers' intentions. We scholars can't blame this on the barbarians at the gates—we do this to ourselves.

15 January 2011

Bad US Transit Infrastructure isn't Just Physical

I went to check a train fare on njtransit.com this afternoon. NJ Transit is the largest state-wide public transit system in the United States so I was surprised when instead of their site, I reached a page asking if I wanted to renew the domain for njtransit.com. That's what happens when a company forgets to renew its web hosting contract or doesn't pay its bills. What a sad comment on the state of things.

09 January 2011

The Politics of Meat in India

Everyone knows that Hindus don't eat beef and Muslims don't eat pork. At least that's how it goes in theory. A lot of my South Asian friends in the States will happily eat anything that moos, oinks, quacks, bleats or scuttles across the seafloor. In the Subcontinent, the entrenchment of cultural norms means that here you rarely get the opportunity to eat beef or pork (just as, for example, it's hard to find goat meat in the US).