Thursday, 03 March 2005

Tale of The Fishwife and Its Sad Fate ...sorry, got to thinking about German, so Mark Twain's "The Awful German Language" immediately sprung to mind. Particularly amusing is his English version of what the "Tale of the Fishwife" would sound like were English grammar German: It is a bleak Day. Hear the Rain, how he pours, and the Hail, how he rattles; and see the Snow, how he drifts along, and of the Mud, how deep he is! Ah the poor Fishwife, it is stuck fast in the Mire; it has dropped its Basket of Fishes; and its Hands have been cut by the Scales as it seized some of the falling Creatures; and one Scale has even got into its Eye. and it cannot get her out. It opens its Mouth to cry for Help; but if any Sound comes out of him, alas he is drowned by the raging of the Storm. And now a Tomcat has got one of the Fishes and she will surely escape with him. No, she bites off a Fin, she holds her in her Mouth--will she swallow her? No, the Fishwife's brave Mother-dog deserts his Puppies and rescues the Fin--which he eats, himself, as his Reward. O, horror, the Lightning has struck the Fish-basket; he sets him on Fire; see the Flame, how she licks the doomed Utensil with her red and angry Tongue; now she attacks the helpless Fishwife's Foot--she burns him up, all but the big Toe, and even SHE is partly consumed; and still she spreads, still she waves her fiery Tongues; she attacks the Fishwife's Leg and destroys IT; she attacks its Hand and destroys HER also; she attacks the Fishwife's Leg and destroys HER also; she attacks its Body and consumes HIM; she wreathes herself about its Heart and IT is consumed; next about its Breast, and in a Moment SHE is a Cinder; now she reaches its Neck--He goes; now its Chin-- IT goes; now its Nose--SHE goes. In another Moment, except Help come, the Fishwife will be no more. Time presses--is there none to succor and save? Yes! Joy, joy, with flying Feet the she-Englishwoman comes! But alas, the generous she-Female is too late: where now is the fated Fishwife? It has ceased from its Sufferings, it has gone to a better Land; all that is left of it for its loved Ones to lament over, is this poor smoldering Ash-heap. Ah, woeful, woeful Ash-heap! Let us take him up tenderly, reverently, upon the lowly Shovel, and bear him to his long Rest, with the Prayer that when he rises again it will be a Realm where he will have one good square responsible Sex, and have it all to himself, instead of having a mangy lot of assorted Sexes scattered all over him in Spots.
Sexual Harassment or Damn this Headlessness! I've put on my Serious Face... Let's play "Let's Pretend." On Tuesday, a T.A. walked up to a group of undergraduates he had taught in an introductory seminar. To keep this appropriately (maybe even legally) anonymous, I'd appreciate it if you pretended that the introductory seminar in which this particular T.A. had taught this particular group of undergraduates was MNE 1001. Micro-nautical Engineering 101. Or... The course doesn't matter. What matters is that this particular T.A. knows these students well. He knows the quality of their work; he knows their commitment to it; and he knows that they possess that rarest of all undergraduate traits: a disdain for the modes of accounting necessitated by the university system. Grades. They hate them. They don't care about them. But on this day, to the surprise of this T.A., these students seemed obsessed with their grades in an upper-level MNE seminar. Call it MNE 4001. Doesn't matter. These kids seemed downright uncomfortable with their grades. They seemed to believe that whatever relationship normally exists between the letters that appear atop their papers and the work that they've submitted had soured. Gone horribly wrong. This T.A. listened to their complaints, and realized that they were right. Something had gone wrong. So this T.A. fished for information. This is what he learned: ...that the professor who runs the MNE 4001 seminar spends an inordinate amount of time talking about his personal life. About the millions nested in his bank accounts. About the legions of women who desire him. ...that on the first day of class, this professor asked the students about their current relationship status. ...that when the students talk about anything, the conversation often, if not always, becomes a monologue consisting of this professor's observations about single life. About how he's hounded by legions of women who desire him. ...that the entire class recognizes his designs upon a particular student, and that--pathetic though his performance is--the entire class finds the whole situation somewhat more than acceptably uncomfortable. This T.A. cares about this group of students. He's taught some of them in two or three classes, and is concerned by what he hears. He decides to mention it to the head of the department in which he teaches. A shit-storm nearly ensues. A meeting is called. In it, this group of students talks to the head of their department and assures him that everything is kosher. They express gratitude for my concern; they acknowledge that there's something strange and off-putting about this professor; they express concern that something other than the quality of their work will determine their final grade. But they make no mention of sexual harassment. Neither they nor the department head nor the T.A. can really even say the word. The students so desperately want to believe that they aren't the victims of sexual harassment that they go to great lengths to convince the department head that they're fine. Because he respects their intelligence, he accepts their claim that they can handle themselves. And he's right to. But...

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