Delightful Excuses…

A student email (I left the horrific composition in tact):

Dear Prof Shahar:

I am so sorry to tell you that I am taking off today. This morning, when I was about to go to school, i got diarrhea. It took me about an hour. So I couldn’t go to school on time. I ‘ll ask my friend about homework. And if we have a test today, could you please allow me to take it another time? Therefore, can you tell me when can I see you and do it?
Thank you so much.

File under: Too much information.  Funny, yet disturbingly inappropriate, but funny…

More Draconian Security Measures from TSA

Nothing like closing the barn door after the horse escapes!  TSA has decided to implement some security measures in response to the failed terrorist attack on Christmas day. Here’s an excerpt from the US DHS security directive that TSA has already begun to enforce on international flights:


1. During flight, the aircraft operator must ensure that the following procedures are followed:

1. Passengers must remain in seats beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
2. Passenger access to carry-on baggage is prohibited beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
3. Disable aircraft-integrated passenger communications systems and services (phone, internet access services, live television programming, global positioning systems) prior to boarding and during all phases of flight.
4. While over U.S. airspace, flight crew may not make any announcement to passengers concerning flight path or position over cities or landmarks.
5. Passengers may not have any blankets, pillows, or personal belongings on the lap beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.

Read the rest here (and the 100 responses!)

Reading The Book of Disquiet

Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet is one of those books I keep coming back to. When I first bought it I sat down and read it straight through and I have found that over the years I will, from time to time, pick it up and either flip through it reading random passages or get lost in the aphorisms and burn through the whole text all over again. It’s an autobiography in the form of journal entries by Pessoa’s “semiheteronym” Bernardo Soares, because as Pessoa describes it, “his personality is not different from mine, rather a simple mutilation of it.” I don’t know what grabbed me early on, perhaps the musings of the everyday (“the quotidian is maternal”), the utter and hopeless solitude, and the periodic fits of frustration and failure that mark many of the pages. Or maybe its the moments of what seems to be a series of transforming realizations that Pessoa dutifully reports throughout. Yet, most of all is the constant wrestling with what Benjamin Kunkel calls–in an excellent reflection about reading The Book of Disquiet— “a kudzu Cartesianism: a crazy interior multiplication of egos, each thought or feeling producing a separate spectator self, a subject then made into the object of a brand new subject, and so on indefinitely.” It is this seductive solitariness, the complete withdrawal into dream life and at other times, more mildly, a vacillation between waking and dream life that always jumped out at me. Regardless, this passage caught my eye this evening, having picked up the book on a complete whim:

We should arrange our lives so that for others they are a mystery, so that the people who know us best don’t know us from closer range than the rest. I shaped my life that way, almost without thinking of it, but I put so much instinctive art into doing it that for myself I have become a no to all my clear and sharp individuality.

Kunkel’s article in The Believer is well worth taking a look at. [There, that should fulfill my pretentious post quota for the month, and not a day too soon!] Aces…

New Encyclopedia of Mass Violence Launched.

From Liberation: Sciences Po has launched today a new free encyclopedia dedicated to the analysis of mass violence in the 20th century.

Sciences-Po lance aujourd’hui une encyclopédie gratuite sur l’analyse des violences de masse au cours du XXe siècle. Le projet, dirigé par le professeur Jacques Sémelin, est présenté comme une première internationale.

Le site est ambitieux. De l’aveu de son concepteur, il s’agit même d’un projet «monstrueux par le sujet qu’il traite et par l’ampleur qu’il prend». Après plus de quatre années de travail, Jacques Sémelin, professeur à Sciences Po, a ouvert aujourd’hui, la première encyclopédie en ligne -et très anglophone- sur les violences de masse.

The Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence provides chronological indexes, case studies, analytical contributions on socio-political violence in a given country, a glossary of the terms most often used in genocide studies as well as theoretical papers written by the most representative authors in the field.