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Special year-end-wrapup extravaganza!

That’s right, folks, this blog is officially signing off for 2004.  Today the family and I leave for Janet’s extended-family haunts in Connecticut; from there we go to the Modern Language Association convention in Philadelphia, which for me will be just chock full of so many quotidian, soul-sucking professional tasks that I might as well be attending the International Insurance Adjusters’ Convention in lovely downtown Omaha.  (I serve on the Delegate Assembly Organizing Committee and the Executive Council.  Don’t ask.  Don’t even think of asking.) And then we come back to little State College on New Year’s Eve.  Woo hoo!

So I’ll have to wish everyone a Merry Secular Solstice and Happy Pagan New Year now.  Let’s go to the wrapup!

Blog

It appears that this relentlessly annoying blog will wind up with something like 640,000 visitors in its first year of existence.  Not that I’m counting!  Honestly, I do appreciate your stopping by, and I want especially to thank Chris R., Chris C. (awesome hemp beret ballad, dude), Romy B., tc, jw, Bean, Sian, Roxanne, Mitchell, PZ, Dr. Wu, Carol, Doghouse, thehim, Ms. Not Together, random, Riggsveda, Terence, Librarian, Bellatrys, Glenn, Idelber, Emily, Amardeep, Wendy, Uncle Kvetch, Jonathan, Barry, and all my regular commenters (yes, you too, Jorge and the two Daniels– my apologies if I missed anyone) for being the very best on the web.  If I have one regret about this damn blog, it’s that I was too damn timid and/or stupid to turn on comments until May 10.  My loss.

One brief maintenance note: I learned recently that some conference organizers had been trying– and failing– to get in touch with me for a couple of weeks via the email address “michael at michaelberube.com.” Apparently, that address has not worked since this blog’s near-fatal crash on November 1.  So if anyone’s been sending me mail at that address and I haven’t replied, it’s because I never got it.  (As most of my correspondents can attest, I usually respond to email pretty quickly.  Not because I’m especially conscientious, mind you, but just because I get all weird and antsy when I have more than 30 messages in my “in” box.)

Home

On the home front, the second half of 2004 consisted of a Series of Unfortunate Events, the most recent of which involved our new oven bursting into flames about two weeks ago.  (Now who says that male academic bloggers don’t write about such things?) It turns out that we have mice– very tiny, very cute, and now (I hope) very dead mice– and that they had been stealing Lucy the Dog’s dog food and storing it under the oven floor, where it had been slowly fired into something resembling a volcanic-rock serving platter.  Our kitchen and pantry are now dotted with “glue boards,” but after one mouse inexplicably escaped from a glue board, the exterminator (after saying, “I’ve never seen that in all my years etc.”) gave us what can only be described as little glue pits into which the mice were supposed to fall face first and suffocate.  Alas, the mice fell into the glue pits sideways, expiring slowly and in great rodent-soul terror as they struggled vainly to free their doomed little bodies from the devices before one of the Bérubés– and you can just guess which one of us was assigned this job– showed up to deposit them, pit, body, soul and all, in a plastic bag and take them out to the trash.

On a happier note, Jamie is doing well in sixth grade, and seems to be the class’s resident expert on sharks.  Nick is home from Washington University in St. Louis, and we are pleased to report that he did not grow a goatee while at college.  The boys continue to rock.

Hockey

Recently a reader wrote to me– really and truly, I’m not making this up for once– and asked me when, if ever, I would get around to reporting on the NHL lockout.  I told him I couldn’t say anything that King Kaufman hadn’t already said better, but that I would be happy to update everyone on my own career– at least until DirecTV offers me a package that includes reruns of the Rangers’ 1993-94 season!  Ordinarily, as part of my Secret Other Life as a forward in the Nittany Hockey League, I play about 25-30 games a semester with my A-league team, the Centre County Misfits (CCM) and my B-league team, the Capitals (in other words, 50-60 games in a season that runs from September through April).  But thanks to our long Series of Unfortunate Events, together with Janet’s and my various academic travels, this fall I have played a mere eight games with each team.  In my four years in the NHL, this is an all-time low, and if I hadn’t played a game this past Saturday morning and two games on Sunday night, my all-time low would have been even lower.

In those sixteen games, however, I have helped CCM go 8-0 and the Capitals go 6-1-1, while scoring 12 goals and 6 assists with CCM and 17 goals, 12 assists with the Caps (who don’t really need me, having gone 14-1-2 overall).  The strangest thing is that despite my sadly diminished playing time, I actually have a semester-long goal-scoring streak in both leagues, having put the puck in the net in all eight games in both leagues thus far (my longest streak in the A league, before this, was a mere four games).  The A-league stats are reassuring, because the A-league talent gets pretty serious. Those 12 goals exceed my A-league total for all of last year, when I played 25 games and wound up with 11 goals and 8 assists– a severe dropoff from the really-not-bad 29 goals in 31 games of the 2002-03 season, a dropoff that was so dispiriting as to make me wonder whether my A-league days might be over.  (Especially since the only reason I broke 10 for the year was that I scored three in a late-season game against a weak backup goaltender.) And I have no penalty minutes in either league, so if the real NHL decides to make its many trophies available to the Nittany Hockey League in the 2004-05 season, I’m in the running for the Lady Byng.  What am I saying?  Nobody cares about the Lady Byng.  It’s much more important that in Sunday night’s doubleheader, I scored two as the Capitals defeated their archrivals, the Flatliners, 10-6, and then, mildly exhausted, scored two more as CCM beat their archrivals, the Geohabs, 4-1.  Not that I’m counting!

Of course, as ancient hockey superstition has it, scoring streaks end the minute you blog about them.  Remember what happened to Newsy Lalonde in the 1921-22 season, after four consecutive years of exceeding a goal a game– all because of his damn blog!  But it’s OK with me if the streak doesn’t survive the new year.  You know what they say– I’m just happy to be playing.  And besides, players who focus too much on scoring wind up neglecting the very things that make scoring opportunities possible– good conditioning, good forechecking, good passing.  So in 2005, I’m going to concentrate on being a better all-around player . . . and specifically on making sure that I get open for that first outlet pass out of our zone and don’t turn it over in neutral ice.  I don’t usually turn the puck over anywhere– except on the outlet pass, which I sometimes have trouble handling.  This bothers me no end, and so it must stop.

Work

I’m still plugging away at Liberal Arts, my book about what liberal-left college professors like me actually do for a living (and why every good citizen should help us defend academic freedom from the radical right’s attacks!).  Although the October 30 deadline has come and gone, I’ve been working steadily, ignoring the blog (and everything else) for the past week while completing a 15,000-word chapter.  I don’t know yet if the chapter is any good– it has to sit on the windowsill and cool for a while.

In the meantime, I’ll have a long review essay coming out in the Nation the week after next or thereabouts.  I wrote it in June, but you know how these things go– and my first draft needed some serious work in July.  The subject is affirmative action, as addressed by four more-or-less recent books.  If I recall correctly, I parse the books carefully and conclude that affirmative action is complex.  No doubt the essay will draw some fire from critics who will insist, No It Isn’t.  To which I will surely reply, Oh Yes It Is.

Res Publica

I was going to remark on the fact that Bush was named Time magazine’s Man of the Year just as events in Iraq became grisly beyond belief, but I decided that would be a cheap shot.  This blog does not take cheap shots!  This blog feels the Bush Administration’s pain for all who have lost their lives in this vitally necessary conflict, and throbs to the administration’s heartfelt desires to let the Iraqi people breathe free in elections that will doubtless bring a renaissance of political sweetness and light to the very cradle of civilization itself.  I was particularly moved by Bush’s earnest, unscripted, almost spiritual testimony on behalf of Donald Rumsfeld at his press conference on Monday.  For those of you who haven’t consulted the transcript, I have an excerpt of it here:

QUESTION: I’d like to go back to Secretary Rumsfeld. You talked about the big-picture elements of the secretary’s job, but did you find it offensive that he didn’t take the time to personally sign condolence letters to the families of troops killed in Iraq? And if so, why is that an offense that you’re willing to overlook?

BUSH:  Listen, I know how– I know Secretary Rumsfeld’s heart. I know how much he cares for the troops.  And I also know this.  No one knows what it’s like to be to the bad man, to be the sad man, behind blue eyes.  No one knows what it’s like to be hated, to be fated to telling only lies.  But Secretary Rumsfeld’s dreams– they aren’t as empty as his conscience seems to be.  I have heard the anguish in his voice and seen his eyes when we talk about the danger in Iraq and the fact that youngsters are over there in harm’s way. And he’s a good, decent man. He’s a caring fellow.

QUESTION: Exactly how caring can he be, if he’s not even signing condolence letters and he’s never admitted making a single mistake with regard to this fraudulent and obviously worse-than-counterproductive war?

BUSH: Listen– let me finish! and get that wire out of my back, goddammit!– no one knows what it’s like to feel these feelings like Secretary Rumsfeld does.  No one bites back as hard on their anger– none of his pain and woe can show through.  But, as I said before, the Secretary’s dreams are not as empty as his conscience seems to be.  He has hours, only lonely.  His love is vengeance that’s never free.  And no, I don’t really know what that last sentence means, and as I said before, I’m not going to negotiate with myself about it.  Or with you– it wouldn’t be right, it’s not the holiday spirit.  Thank you very much.

Happy second term, everyone!  Happy 2005!  And thanks again!

Posted by on 12/22 at 04:21 AM
  1. Love your transcript. Read it several minutes ago and am still laughing my ass off.

    Have a happy one.

    Posted by Roxanne  on  12/22  at  08:20 AM
  2. And you know that Rummy’s got a squeezebox he wears on his chest, and when Wolfie comes home, he never gets no rest--because he’s playin’ all night (and the music’s all right).

    Happy Holidays, Michael--thanks for the satire and sanity.

    Shannon

    Posted by  on  12/22  at  08:52 AM
  3. cool. this inspires me to do a transcript of bush using the lyrics of thom york. they’re similarly coherent.
    case in point: http://www.radiohead.com/gigantictvdvd/

    Posted by random  on  12/22  at  10:16 AM
  4. If I told you what it takes
    to reach the highest high
    You’d laugh and say there’s nothing that simple

    You’ve been told many times before,
    Messiahs pointed to the door,
    No one had the guts to leave the temple

    Posted by mistah charley  on  12/22  at  12:06 PM
  5. Well, Michael, I *think* I’ve come to know you as the real thing, even though your satire sometimes causes me to want to negotiate with myself.  (Haven’t fully forgiven you for leading me down the thorny on one occasion.) Happy Whatchawannacallit Days! Love to Jamie, Nick and Janet.

    Posted by  on  12/22  at  03:51 PM
  6. I like your transcription of the quadrennial Bush press conference.  Did you take all those shorthand notes yourself?

    Your oven story reminds me of one of my baked mouse happenings.  One subzero winter day, I had a mad urge to eat expensive bread as well as heat the house and kneaded dough and so forth .  I used the oven which had not been lit since the previous year, due to a lack of domesticity on our part.  All too soon we learned that we had housed a mouse nest in the kitchen.  Mouse elimination products do not lend themselves to baking.  The mouse stank.  The house stank. Sob!  The bread stank!  We had to flood the house with subzero air and throw the bread away.  Our domesticity suffered another yearly setback.

    As a non Christian, I feel an urge to wish you all a merry Christmas!  A happy Hannukah!  A Krazy Kwanzaa!  A cold sometime after the winter Solstice with asmall full moon !

    Posted by Carol  on  12/22  at  04:38 PM
  7. Happy Holidays and Thanks for the Memories.

    Posted by  on  12/22  at  04:41 PM
  8. Thank you, too, Michael. I always look forward to coming here for what someone else upthread called “satire and sanity.” Although the mouse story did go into a bit more detail than I needed on a full stomach ...

    Happy holidays. We all look forward to your return.

    Posted by  on  12/22  at  04:49 PM
  9. And the Who thing was the proverbial stroke o’ genius.

    Posted by  on  12/22  at  04:51 PM
  10. Happy Official JesusDay to you too, Michael, and it’s a distinct honor just to have made it past the rigorous commenter screening process.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  12/22  at  05:13 PM
  11. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    Looking forward to another year of you not taking cheap shots at the Bush Administration…

    Posted by thehim  on  12/22  at  05:14 PM
  12. I can testify that Michael does answer his email awfully quickly.  But don’t send him any, because I can’t wait until that book comes out!  We scientists have long wondered what professors in the liberal arts really do.  (Or will there be a chapter on scientists?  I might get in trouble here.) Oh yes, and more blogging.  Sleep be damned!

    Thanks for the inspirational work, and Merry Christmas to the whole rocking family.

    Posted by Sean  on  12/22  at  05:48 PM
  13. Thanks so much for all your work.  Your sharp wit wouldn’t be nearly so impressive if it wasn’t powered by such a compassionate brain.  I’ll be reading you regularly in the new year.  Stop by and see me sometime, too.

    Posted by Riggsveda  on  12/23  at  04:18 AM
  14. Happy Solstice to you, the family, and the mice!  Well, I guess not the mice.  I look forward to more of your nutritious and tasty blogging in 2005.

    Posted by  on  12/23  at  04:43 AM
  15. I wish you and your family a wonderful 2005, and I look forward to reading your latest book, once it’s done.

    Posted by  on  12/23  at  05:22 AM
  16. Merry Kwaanukkahristmalstice to all.

    M--if you need advice on citing your sources or proper MLA format for your bibliography, remember to call your library! when it doubt, cite it!

    and Chris C.--my crappy band wants to play your Hemp Beret song, do you mind & how do we give you credit? and do you have any more verses yet? we’re thinking some backing of gunfire & bomb sound-effects, and a break at some point in the middle where strobe lights come on and everybody starts doing the White Hippy Grateful Dead Chick Spinning Dance...and then whistles that “Bridge On the River Kwai” song. and yes, winter does unusual things to the heads of us folks here in south-western PA, obviously!

    -Librarian

    Posted by Librarian  on  12/23  at  06:44 AM
  17. Hey Michael, thank you so much for a great, entertaining, informative, deadly serious year of blogging and instigating discussion.  Happy holidays and a peaceful 2005 to you and your family. May you find edifying ways to fill the time created by the NHL lockout.

    Posted by  on  12/23  at  07:18 AM
  18. Happy New Year!

    Are you related to Craig Berube?  If so, why do you have all those fancy accents in your name?

    Thanks for the blog…

    Posted by  on  12/23  at  08:37 AM
  19. Librarian:

    I’m honored. However you want to credit me is fine. If you need fodder for an ID, the closest thing I have to a current CV is here. If you guys make tons of money on the thing, I’ll take four percent of the net, payable in euro. And a signed copy of the CD.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  12/23  at  09:30 AM
  20. Thank you for the credit, too, Michael.

    I had to get up off the floor to stop laughing at your “transcript” Bush press conference where Bush has once again quoted lyrics from the Who.  “Talkin’ ‘bout mah ad-MIN-i-stray-shun!”

    Anyway, every once in awhile, I’ve sometimes said to sympathetic liberal leaning Christians that Christian communities across the nation should organize something akin to the “don’t buy” day some anti-corporate trade folks during the so-called “Christmas shopping season.” I thought it would put Jesus and his wonderful humility and sensibility back into the season.  I have even gone so far as to say and write: “Right now, it’s more like Merry Capitalism than Merry Christmas.”

    Who knew, after listening to all these rightwing Christian pundits for the past few weeks, led by Mr. William Donahue, among others, that it was all my fault as a Jewish person?  Oy, oy, oy!  I guess I should have kept my mouth shut like my Mom always says…

    Insert Dennis Prager rant here that these crazy morons only meant “secular Jews"--who Prager hates too--as if that makes it all better…

    Posted by  on  12/23  at  06:39 PM
  21. And besides, players who focus too much on scoring wind up neglecting the very things that make scoring opportunities possible– good conditioning, good forechecking, good passing.

    You forgot ‘good roofies’. At least that’s what Kobe Bryant told me, just before he got body-checked by his self-esteem.

    And your Rummy take was priceless amid pearls.

    Have a great Christmas, Michael. And aren’t all those punctiation thingies in your name a bit French, monsieur?

    Posted by Kevin Hayden  on  12/24  at  10:40 AM
  22. Have a wonderful Christmas, Michael, and please continue to work on that book!  I’m going to be first in Amazon’s line to buy a copy, for sure.

    Have you considered a job as Bush’s speech writer?  Still laughing.

    Posted by Bean  on  12/24  at  11:09 AM
  23. I can attest to MB’s swift replies to personal emails-- had to cease sending them out of guilt, so that he could concentrate on more worthwhile tasks.  Michael, thanks for the frequent-wryer credit (groooan) and Happy Hiatus to you!

    I’ve recently returned from a ten-day Hawaiian idyll, which featured not a single newspaper, television, radio newscast, or blog: absolute bliss!  After a 48-hour reality-readjustment period back on the mainland, I finally took a tentative peek at… THIS blog, and no other.  Yep: it’s still here, and still dear!  My sanity-preservation resolutions for 2005 include a general blog-fast, but this one remains at the top of the list for continued consumption.  Less filling, great taste!

    BTW, if anyone in the MB-reading community hasn’t been to the Hawaiian Islands and might regard them as a rather clichéd and pedestrian getaway destination, I have some tips on locations that could convince you otherwise.  Fortunately, the hordes tend to cluster in predictable places, and it’s surprisingly easy to escape to otherworldly beauty and solitude if one knows where to go.  Wouldn’t want to broadcast such advice, though.

    Happy Holidays to my fellow temperate-zone (in the physical realm) and intemperate-zone (blogosphere) dwellers!  Just think: the days are getting longer at last!  (And you-know-who’s days are getting shorter.)

    Romy B.

    Posted by  on  12/26  at  12:04 PM
  24. Dear Michael: here goes a belated ´thank you´ for the amazing writing and the generous community building. Thank you also for the credit in this post. Finally, as an MLA member, thanks for all the hard work on the EC and the Delegate Assembly Committee.

    Hope Philly is treating you well (drink one to Poe for me, if his house is still there). Warm regards to Janet, Nick, and Jamie.

    Posted by Idelber  on  12/28  at  12:58 PM
  25. Just stopped by to wish you a happy new year and to thank you for the laughs!

    Posted by Mad Kane  on  12/29  at  01:21 PM
  26. Hey Michael,

    Love your blog, love your wit, love your politics, etc. etc. etc., and now that I’ve got that out of the way so you know my intentions are friendly: Could you pull-eaze stop with the glue traps for the mice? You yourself have noticed how cruel they are, or you wouldn’t be talking about the mouse’s terror.

    Okay, nobody wants mice in their house. Not even vegetarians. Not even vegans want mice in their house! You might get a cat—if you go to the shelter and adopt a cat that is friendly but has spent some time on the street, it may well have good mousing skills. A cat will kill some of your mice, which is no fun for the mice but beats a glue trap, and will scare away many others.

    Hmm, I should also talk to my super animal-rights-nut friend who knows everything, and ask her what else you can do to get rid of the mice that doesn’t involve torturing them first.

    Happy New Year ...

    Posted by  on  12/31  at  03:11 PM
  27. Dear Professor Berube:  I read with interest your above account of your forthcoming book “Liberal Arts.” I am wondering if you might be willing to discuss your premise [what liberal-left college professors like me actually do for a living (and why every good citizen should help us defend academic freedom from the radical right’s attacks!).] You may of course do this in your book, rather than in a once-sentence description, but would it be possible to expand this purview to encourage all good citizens to defend academia from the domination of radical politics, be they of the right or the left, as both threaten academic freedom? Might academia be enriched by including a range viewpoints across the political spectrum from the extreme to the moderate and back again? Is the right truly the only threat to political pluralism in academia?  I’ve linked to your post on our site, and look forward to continuing the dialogue in 2005.

    I did think your 12/08 post was very funny.

    Posted by AcademicElephant  on  01/01  at  05:30 AM
  28. Hi, Academic Elephant, and happy new year.  I don’t want to give away the surprise ending of the book, because I actually want people to go out and buy the thing when it’s published, but I can say that the short answers to your questions are, in order, yes, yes, and no in principle but right now they’re the only organized game in town.

    And thanks to everyone else for writing in and making the horrific final days of a horrific year a little cheerier.  Jolanta, honestly, we were told the mice wouldn’t suffer.  That’s why their abject terror was so striking, and why I dreamt about them for a full week after disposing of their little bodies.

    Posted by Michael  on  01/01  at  07:52 AM
  29. Michael: Thanks for your response, which I will copy to our site where I know it will interest the few but proud Academic Elephants--although I warn you it might backfire by heartening us when we hear ourselves referred to as an organized game.  We will look forward to your book, and hope you stop by to share the wisdom of the other side with us.  The key to resolving this situation is civil and respectful dialogue between colleagues.  Simple, but true.

    Mice:  You could alieviate your guilt by asking a cat what he thinks about the conflagration.  He will blame the whole thing on the dog food.

    Posted by AcademicElephant  on  01/01  at  02:30 PM
  30. Actually, AE, I meant that Horowitz et al. are organized.  Conservatives in academe are, in my experience, generally as disaggregated and disorganized as we are.  I was tickled that an earlier draft of your post referred to the academic left’s “rapid and aggressive” response to matters Horowitzian (at least that’s the text as I got it from Technorati)-- I mean, I suppose it might look that way to you, but most of my colleagues have no idea who Horowitz is or what his “Academic Bill of Rights” entails.  And even though my department is almost wall-to-wall Democrats, we (like most English departments) can’t even agree on what to have for dinner, let alone coordinate our efforts on things like the undergraduate curriculum-- or the role of literature, rhetoric, composition, theory, and creative writing in the department.  We’re quite good at putting together circular firing squads, though.

    Posted by Michael  on  01/01  at  02:47 PM
  31. Ah--you’ve noticed that I try to progressively curb my own rhetoric in the spirit of civil discourse.  I get that from my more temperate fellow elephants, and protest that no one could possibly be watching that closely.  Oh well.  I encourage you to check out the follow up post--the best defense against such “attacks” is a stronger in-house conservative presence.  Let’s agree to shoot into the ground.  It’s safer for both those in the circle and those in the middle.

    Posted by AcademicElephant  on  01/01  at  02:58 PM
  32. Please, Michael, please spare the mice the soul-terror.  Get a non-lethal mousetrap—greenfeet.com sells a couple of different models.  The Smart Mouse Trap is about twelve bucks, and the little Tip-Trap thing is only two or three.  I’m not shilling for greenfeet or the mousetrap makers—I’m just a mouse advocate.  The glue torture is just too horrible.

    On a happier note, thank you for all the gut laughs over the past months.  You amaze me.

    Posted by  on  01/05  at  04:08 PM

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