Wednesday 1 October 2003

Brain Food

A title I could have used for my last post, but in a fit of good taste [sorry...], didn't. Pork Brains in Milk Gravy. I've eaten and enjoyed Fish Eye Soup, Pork Knuckles and Jellyfish Salad, Snake, Crocodile, and Kimchi (fermented cabbage sauce), but Pork Brains in Milk Gravy...

Moving right along.

This post is something of a celebration. For MIT have now released their Open Course Ware (OCW) project.
Welcome to MIT's OpenCourseWare: a free and open educational resource for faculty, students, and self-learners around the world.
With the publicaton [sic] of 500 courses, MIT OCW offers educational materials from 33 academic disciplines and all five of MIT's schools.
OK, so maybe the spelling needs a little work... Never Mind.

I just wish I had a couple of dozen lifetimes, and a couple of million dollars for expenses, so I could just gorge on this feast of knowledge. As it is, I must limit myself to a few choice tidbits from the smorgasbord. A few succulent morcels from the school of Brain and Cognitive Sciences (what else?) as a starter. Then a juicy gobbet of Linguistics and Philosophy. Back to the Elec Eng and Comp Sci department for a dollop of Computer Ethics. I'll indulge myself with some tasty Literature, than for dessert, some Political Science.

Ahhhhhhh. But I suspect that will take up most of the one lifetime I have. And I have something even more important in my life - a 2 year old son, who takes up a lot of my time. I wish I could play with him even more than I do though. And more time for my long-suffering partner-in-crime and wife of 22 years, Carmel. How she puts up with me, I do not know.

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous : a site brought to my attention by Evil Pundit, Australia's Wackiest Academic Websites. "We put the ACK!!! back in Academia".
The older universities tend to lag in this area, but UNSW [University of New South Wales] can provide supervision on such hot topics as `Cyberspace and embodiment' and, with the self-referentiality on which postmodernism prides itself, `Well-being through movement: Exploring the PhD degree'. Macquarie University has drawn even with recent research showing that "Tattooing is just a literalist process of marking and being marked, which is really what life is.".
NEW! Macquarie has blitzed all comers with its `Bodily modifications' conference: see the Herald-Sun's report. (If you think this article is exaggerating, check the conference abstracts, such as `What an arse can do: affect, time, and intercorporeal transformation'.)

As me good mate and fellow blogger Evil Pundit says :
One of the cool things an arse can do is win a tenured position at an educational institution by spouting postmodern gibberish.

A swift digression: When I was a mere lad, in about 1974, I attended a Pacific Poetry Seminar at the then newly-opened Macquarie University, the reward for having some minor work deemed worthy of publication - I forget what it was. Anyway, I took part in a seminar amongst the Best and the Brightest of what was shortly thereafter to be called "The Pacific Rim". Delegates from Tonga, Fiji, much of Micronesia, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, California, New Zealand and so on. Lo and Behold, the first item to be lovingly dissected was my own poem. Well, they managed to read into it things I'd never intended. I remember Kierkegaard and Joyce being mentioned as "obvious inspirations". When they got onto the bit about how it reflected the metaphysical essence of "A la recherche du Temps Perdue" I decided to call a halt to the whole farce – and was roundly shouted down. What did I, the mere author, know of what I was trying to communicate? Didn't the professionals know far more than I? As a 15 year old who had never encountered Marcel Proust (in the original or otherwise) and to whom Soren Kierkegaard's Existentialism was a closed book, I sat in silent awe at the Intellectual Self-Abuse that went on for a good two hours. They never did get to the next item.

I decided then and there that much of Literary Academe was Hokum, a power game played for the benefit of the participants, and sadly, of little interest to me. "'Tis a Tale told by an Idiot, Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying...... nothing." Oh, there was a core of meaning, of value, that I would dearly have loved to explore. But with so much accreted nonsense around it that to study it while retaining a shred of intellectual honesty was beyond my poor abilities. Macquarie University thus taught me a valuable lesson, even though I never attended a single class there.

I might add that under a former lecturer of mine, Jan Hext, Macquarie University's Computer Science department was later transformed into a first-rate institution, one of the best in Australia, if not the world. The Universe is full of strangeness, wonder and Irony. And of course Pork Brains in Milk Gravy.

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