Dr. W. S. Palimpsest
10/6/2005, 11:14 pm
Are you a professional radical activist? Has your rigorous schedule of anti-war and anti-capitalism rallies left you exhausted? Perhaps you're beginning to feel more like a programmed automaton than a free-thinking human being? Are slogans like "No Blood for Oil" starting to seem a bit inane and trite? If so, you could be suffering from Protest Fatigue Syndrome (PFS), a common malady among full-time malcontents.
Well comrades, there's no need to worry, for I've got the prescription for restoring your zeal. It's called Utopia Bay Beach Resort (UBBR) - a place where outspoken opponents of Bush's illegal nuclear war can come to decompress and recharge their revolutionary batteries before the next protest cycle. With a breathtaking backdrop of lush, green mountains arrayed in colorful tropical flora, this hillside enclave of serenity, located on the Caribbean island of St. John, commands a spectacular view of Utopia Bay, a stunning expanse of brilliant turquoise water fringed by a secluded white sand beach.
For those of you not familiar with my five-star ecolodge, let me provide a little background information. As President Bill Clinton was nearing the end of his term back in early 2001, he issued a flurry of executive orders. In addition to pardoning Marc Rich, he also instructed the National Park Service to lease, in perpetuity, 150 acres of the Virgin Islands National Park to my progressive development company, Utopia Bay Ventures, Inc. The rest is history: my partners and I secured the services of an accomplished "green" architect from Cuba, and, soon thereafter, we broke ground on our celebrated environmentally friendly resort.
Erected on stilts, each of our twenty-five "tree house" cottages rises into the forest canopy. Our architect flawlessly employed the technique of Eco-flage, ensuring that the built structures blended seamlessly into their surroundings. We also constructed a network of low-impact boardwalks, which are also elevated so as not to disturb the sensitive ecosystem below. These boardwalks connect the cottages to the welcome facility, the restaurant, the cocktail lounge/hash bar (shhh!), and, of course, the gorgeous, palm-shaded beach. Each of our quaint cottages is named for a utopian visionary. For example, our guests can stay in Plato's Beach Bungalow, Bellamy Looking Bayward, Campanella's Cabana in the Sun, Sir More's Seaside Sanctuary, and Wells' Welk. (Note to potential guests: Cindy Sheehan has reserved Morris' Nowhereland for the month of October.)
Of course, there are no TVs in the rooms, although the bar has two - one of which shows re-runs of The West Wing and the other, CNN (24/7). But who needs TVs when you will find hours of entertainment playing with your complementary People's Cube? Furthermore, each nightstand comes complete with a copy of The Antonio Gramsci Reader and the New York Times is delivered on a daily basis for your reading pleasure.
Don't forget the myriad of workshops we offer, including courses on yoga, body piercing, appreciating militant Islam, tie-dyeing, and making jewelry from recyclables. We also teach a popular class on how to create and maintain dreadlocks. If that's not enough, every evening, our resident folk singer, Corey McGhee, serenades guests with such rousing songs as "Hey America: What the Hell is Wrong with Ya" and "A Right-winger Tried to Kill Me with His SUV."
Alternative sources of energy and conservation are of paramount importance to us at Utopia Bay. A beautiful wind farm provides the resort's electrical power; its turbines gracefully crown the summit above the cottages. Unfortunately, outages are frequent and often last for hours, but that's a small price to pay for helping to save the world from global warming. (Critics have asserted that we, at UBBR, are sending a conflicting message.
They say that our wind farm stands in mockery of basic Eco-flage principles because its conspicuous turbines compromise the integrity of the natural setting. We disagree, of course, believing that our "propellers" impart a decidedly progressive eco-aesthetic to the property.) As regards bathroom facilities, we have taken the European approach and require our guests to use a communal "comfort center," with low-flush toilets and pull-chain, solar-heated showers.
Our world-class restaurant, The Pampered Conch, offers a menu that will tempt the palate of even the most fastidious gourmand. The vegan surf-and-turf is "too die for," according to the Food Network's resident know-it-all, Alton Brown. It consists of an impeccably seasoned, pan-fried veggie "steak" patty, smothered in a soy-truffle sauce, served along with six delectable California rolls bursting with Nori seaweed, avocado, and imitation crab meat. Isn't your mouth watering?
If enjoying all of Utopia Bay's luxurious amenities makes you feel a little guilty, you can find relief by taking the ferry over to a neighboring island, Masochism Cay, where a colleague of mine runs The Center for Self-Flagellation - a must visit for all devout radicals. Trust me, those palm fronds and broken shells really hurt!
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7/17/2005, 8:19 pm
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Dr. W. S. Palimpsest
6/30/2005, 5:48 pm
Social Entrepreneur Professor Palimpsest at his renowned winery, Château Babeuf.
Bonjour, mes amis! I'm sending in this installment from my artisan winery, which is magnificently situated in the picturesque Côtes du Rhône region of southern France.
I purchased the establishment back in the early '90s and renamed it "Château Babeuf," in honor of François Noël Babeuf, the father of the proto-socialist "Conspiracy of Equals" movement that flowered during the French Revolution.
When looking for a suitable winery to acquire, I naturally eschewed the viticultural regions of the United States, and, instead, chose the progressive country of France, where I'd be assured generous government subsidies to get my "enterprise" up and running. I must admit that it's so nice to be back here among the enlightened French people and to get a respite from the unsavory commercialism and myopic mindset of America.
The Oscar-winning comedy, Sideways, certainly familiarized more people from "fly-over country" with the passion that many members of the urbane intelligentsia have for the fermented "juice." Unfortunately, however, the uninitiated folks who saw the movie probably came away with the false impression that the Pinot Noir grape produces the world's finest and most complex wines.
Au contraire! In fact, Pinot Noir is the bourgeois prima donna of varietals; not only is it ridiculously delicate and temperamental, but it is also terribly inconsistent, often succumbing to the vagaries of climate and environment. In this respect, the Pinot Noir grape is much like the unstable capitalist system, which itself is subject to the "business cycle" of expansion and recession.
Like the staffs of all trendy, up-and-coming wineries, we here at Château Babeuf have selected some enigmatic and highbrow-sounding names for our wines. We offer an opulent Syrah called "Propaganda," a sensuous Mourvèdre called "Liquidation," and a fruity Grenache called "Gramsci's Reverie." Need I even mention that we only produce red wines here at Château Babeuf? I didn't think so.
Of course, Château Babeuf is a model of the new "," the subject of PBS's current mini-series, "The New Heroes," hosted by the progressive actor-director, Robert Redford. There will always be a special place in my heart for Robert Redford for producing The Motorcycle Diaries, a touching film that recounts the story of how Ernesto "Che" Guevara came to embrace the cause of social justice. But enough about him; let's get back to me and my activist endeavors.
Here at the Château, every worker is viewed as an indispensable cog in the machine. Everyone, regardless of education, specialization, and competency, makes the same salary and receives the same generous benefits' package. Therefore, the vintner (winemaker) makes the same as the chef de culture (vineyard manager), who, in turn, makes the same as the vigneron (vineyard laborers), grape crushers, tasting assistants, etc. Each worker, in accordance with the French custom, is also entitled to six weeks of paid vacation yearly and may only work a maximum of 35 hours a week.
Another perk that our employees enjoy is the ability to drink on the job. Yes, that's right: I said drink on the job. Taking a nip from the bottle is not only allowed at Château Babeuf; it is whole-heartedly encouraged through our popular "Employees Drink For Free" policy.
We have yet to turn a profit, though we almost broke even last year thanks to the considerable amount of "Propaganda" that we moved. When, or if, the winery ever reaches the black, I, as a social entrepreneur, plan on sending all surplus revenue to the French government to help fund its numerous altruistic initiatives.
I'm currently here to oversee the summer pruning efforts, but my favorite time has to be the late fall, after the grape leaves have turned red. It's a sublime sight, indeed! Sometimes, after a few bottles of "Gramsci's Reverie," it even brings tears to my eyes. With their post-and-wire training system holding them up like the superstructure of the welfare state, the vines intertwine, each reaching out to embrace the other. The rows of crimson-leaved vines evoke such a splendid mental picture: I imagine serried ranks of red-clad comrades marching arm in arm, down the hillside, into the grand socialist millennium. Please excuse my sentimentalism.
At any rate: Cheers, or, as we say in France, À Votre Santé! And don't forget to look for "Propaganda," and Château Babeuf's other exceptional products, at one of $. $. Halliburton's wine stores near you.
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5/25/2005, 2:48 pm
Another semester has ended here in the progressive, sub-alpine village of Boulder, Colorado. The always hilarious Bill Maher (my buddy Ward's favorite comedian) has delivered the commencement address, wryly peppered with side-splitters about our half-witted President. Once again, our halls of higher learning have disgorged a fresh class of graduates out into the dog-eat-dog world of capitalist wage slavery. Hopefully, the seeds of collectivism that my colleagues and I so insidiously sowed in their minds will sprout into thorns in the side of the bourgeoisie!
Graduation has not been the only event of consequence around here lately. The Head of the Department, with the Dean's assent, has granted me the opportunity to conduct a trial run of a new, more socially just grade redistribution system next fall. I'm simply giddy over the prospect.
Unfortunately, Marx's sacrosanct creed "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" has been downgraded to a hollow platitude by "fashion radicals," who try to look the part and parrot socialist rhetoric to seem au courant, but rarely put their money where their collective mouth is. You shouldn't have much trouble finding one of these!
Unlike those dilettantes, I intend to put the creed into practice in my classroom by redistributing grade points in a more equitable manner. University administrators, still too overawed by the conservative power structure, have deemed it too extreme to dismantle the traditional collegiate grading system, with its ten-point scale and corresponding letter grades. Nevertheless, they have invested me with the power to "subtract" points from the grades of certain students and "award" them to others on the basis of need.
For too long, disadvantaged students have been left behind by an unfair system that rewards the bourgeois values of diligence and discipline. Changes are necessary for a myriad of reasons. Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is affecting the majority of today's young adults.
In addition, some students are, shall we say, less cerebrally endowed than their peers (being gifted, of course, in other, equally vital ways). So why should the students who possess greater "book smarts" receive preferential treatment if their intellectual faculties are merely an "accident of birth?"
Several other mitigating factors affect a student's performance. Grandparents pass away (sometimes all four in one semester), drop-outs abscond with their roommates' computers, and even alien abductions have been known to occur on occasion.
Furthermore, certain students may decide that staying out all night carousing is more important than studying. Who am I to judge them? As a progressive, I understand that such convivial behavior is an integral part of someone's personal development.
It's time that we require the "A" and "B" students to give something back to the class as a whole. Towards this end, I intend to lower their grades to "C"s. Then, I will add the points subtracted from their scores to those of the "D" and "F" students to raise them up to "C"s as well. The average will stay the same, but the individual outcome will be every utopian's dream: Equality of Result!
I will have the discretion to make exceptions to this general rule. For instance, my favorite students (those who go the extra mile to show their devotion to the progressive cause) will be given "A"s. Male and unattractive female students can demonstrate the requisite zeal by joining socialist organizations on campus or by performing certain tasks for the professor, such as running errands for him, doing his laundry, or cutting his grass. Desirable female students need do nothing more than come by the professor's house for a private lesson on what it means to sacrifice oneself for the Greater Good™. Conversely, any student who refuses to abandon his or her conservative or libertarian biases will receive a "D" or an "F," depending on the degree of their ideological intransigence.
This should teach the students a valuable lesson of progressive morality, fairness, collectivism, and sacrifice, preparing them for the life in the future society we are building for them. I can't wait for next semester.
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Dr W. S. Palimpsest
5/5/2005, 12:51 am
The other night, I must confess, I was presented with a great moral dilemma. To wit: I realized not only that I had forgotten to "requisition" my weekly supply of toilet paper from the History Department's custodial closet (that's one of the perks of tenure), but also that my local cooperative had already closed for the evening.
To make matters worse, my third wife (who is twenty-seven years my junior and a former student) recently left me for an anti-globalization activist. I don't really blame her, though - the guy's quite erudite and he's a dead ringer for Che no less. But I digress. I really haven't been myself lately; no wonder I forgot to pay my usual visit to the custodial closet.
The plot thickens...
Having overheard the prattle of a student conversation earlier that day, I knew that the local Target "superstore" would still be open. Oh, what to do? Would I be compromising my progressive principles? I was an emotional wreck.
Reluctantly, in a moment of desperation, I decided to patronize the corporate entity to acquire my much-needed item. Imagine my embarrassment; me, a zealous champion of the dispossessed, having to show my pale, professorial face inside such a temple of consumer culture and commodity fetishism. A wave of nausea washed over me as the automatic doors opened like the gates of some mythological hell and I helplessly inhaled the repugnant stench of the market economy. I'm sure you can pity my poor olfactory system...assailed by the incense of decadent goods and the musk of salacious, capitalist transactions.
Oh, the savagery of it all--and to think of the independent proprietors who had been sacrificed on the altar of this behemoth. The corporatist lackeys just slap a fresh coat of paint over the scene of the slaughter and go on as if it's business as usual. It's simply ghastly! But there I was, to my great mortification, among the "bartering" masses, in one of their depraved houses of worship.
Sheer astonishment and joy, however, quickly supplanted my state of disgust and disquietude. As I was walking by the clothing section, a specific garment leapt out of the racks like a red tiger of the Revolution. It was a sweat jacket beautifully emblazoned with the letters "CCCP," along with a stylized hammer and sickle. I could barely contain my delight and nearly knocked over some androgynous wage slave trying to get to this sacred artifact, which enticed me like a palm-shaded oasis in the midst of an expansive, desert sandscape.
The sight of it brought back memories of rooting for Soviet athletes during Olympics past and of courtships kindled by the fires of Marx, Lenin, and Gramsci. I grabbed one off the rack, found a four-pack of toilet tissue made of recycled materials, went through the odious check out process, then made my way out to my Prius, having gained a modicum of respect for Target for having the courage to stock such a potentially controversial garment. I have since worn my sporty sweat jacket around campus, and have received a myriad of compliments from radical students and professors alike.
Like my dear friend and mentor, the historian Eric Hobsbawm, I also find myself, as of late, "treating the memory and tradition of the USSR with indulgence and tenderness." Obviously, I'm not alone - the CCCP sweat jacket stands as a testament to the burgeoning romanticization of the former Soviet Union and its heady, egalitarian ideals.
I find this phenomenon particularly gratifying. For, despite the best efforts of rightwing historians (such as Robert Conquest and Richard Pipes) and the swarm of other red-baiting scribblers out there, the hammer-and-sickle has managed to weather perverse attempts to place it on par with the swastika in the annals of twentieth-century ignominy. Thanks to the efforts of intrepid New School historians (the most notable of which include J. Arch Getty, Gabor Rittersporn, Shelia Fitzpatrick, and Robert Thurston), the reputation of world's foremost utopian experiment has been largely rehabilitated.
Moreover, it has been absolved of many of the most damning charges that crypto-fascist traditionalists have made against it. Nevertheless, for daring to challenge the scurrilous and unverifiable allegation that Stalin was responsible for the deaths of over 20 - 30 million Soviet citizens, these "revisionists" have suffered the indignity of being compared to Holocaust deniers and labeled Stalinist apologists. Such is the lot of myth-debunkers.
A synthesis of this revisionist work, along with new scholarship on the counter-revolutionary conspiracy to destroy Stalin's regime and the proportional response to this threat, are the subject of my forthcoming book, Purging the "Great Terror" and Plowing Over the Fields of Famine: Deconstructing the Myths of Stalin's Brutality.
In my next installment, I will lay out the argument of my book, and, in the process, examine the shocking pervasiveness and malevolence of the fifth column, which was composed of Trotskyites, Zinovievites, first- and second-category kulaks, bourgeois specialists, unreconstructed shopkeepers, and other "outdated elements" operating in collusion with Western spies.
I will also utilize a Gramscian theoretical framework to illuminate the processes whereby anti-socialist historians, i.e., the shills of the capitalist ruling class, helped to foster a Sovietophobic hegemonic consensus in mainstream America, via the vilification of Bolshevism.
So stay tuned.
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