Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Life in the Pissant Swamp: We Are Writing to Inform You That Pharoah Has Requested...

It is amazing to think that within the short space of my academic life, academia has changed dramatically. In the 1970s, when I matriculated into university to study for a bachelor of arts degree 67% of university faculty were tenured. In 1970 adjuncts constituted 20% of all higher education faculty. Tuition at some colleges and universities like the University of California Berkeley and the University of Texas at Austin (two of the finest premier research universities in the world) were so low that they were almost free. A professor from my department at IU, Religious Studies was finishing up his two year stint as Dean of Arts and Sciences by the early 1980s. Grants and loans were readily available, regulated, and reasonable. I received a loan for college from a bank that actually where people knew me as this was when banks were local, the owner of the bank lived locally, and there was a division between commercial banks and casino capitalist vampire banks.

Things had begun to change when I started teaching in the 1990s. Between 1998 and 2008 spending on instruction in America's colleges and universities had risen by 22%. However, in a harbinger of things to come, spending on administrative staff rose by 36%. At the massive University of Minnesota alone administrative hires were up 37% between 2001 and 2012. Between 1985 and 2005 elite administrative hires rose 85% while the administrative staff of elite administrators rose 240%. By the 2000s the professor who served as dean for two years and then returned to teaching had become largely a thing of the past. Todays deans are brought in from other schools, make their name by transforming departments or programmes (not always or even usually in positive ways), and then move on to other schools just as long as the job involves a move up the class and status ladder and hopefully, for them, ends in a college presidency (sound like corporate America? It should). At the same time as bureaucrats increased at American universities student numbers increased at American colleges and universities by 56%. College and university tuition has risenat a rate higher than inflation since the 1970s. Since the 1980s alone it has quadrupled. As for spending in the 2010 and 2011 school year colleges and universities spent $449 billion dollars. 29% of that went to instruction, 35% went to administrative costs even after you subtract college food, housing, hospital, and independent operation costs.

Since the 1990s I have been adjuncting in various universities across the United States. These days I adjunct at MicroMegaStateUniversity where I receive a paltry $2500 dollars per class taught. I usually get two or three classes. Teaching part-time, by the way, is not a part-time job. I have to prepare for classes by writing lectures, preparing materials for class discussion, generate tests, generate paper assignments, grade all of them, answer student queries in person and by email every day of the week, do tasks set me by the bureaucracy--to justify their existence they have to create more and more things for us to do--not to mention teach classes which require as much energy as performing in a Shakespeare play. What makes it all worth it is the benefits we in the MegaStateUniversity system four year and research colleges get for doing all this work for meagre pay. As of April of last year my retirement pension was vested. As of December of 2015 I will have my health insurance after retirement. Hopefully the Koch Brothers and their ilk won't have gotten their hands on both by the time I hit 65. After December of 2015 I hope to never have to teach again.

Teaching is just not worth the hassles, the hassles of whinging kids, grade inflation, holding your tongue while students threaten and abuse you. And than there are the administrative hassles. I just learned that one of my American History 2 classes, US History from the Gilded Age to today, has been "randomly" chosen for the Social Science "College’s Spring 2015 General Education assessment process". What this means is that I have to fill out a bunch of forms written in bureaucratise--bureaucracies have to develop specialist discourses or languages to justify and legitimise their existence and convince interested onlookers that they are doing something worthwhile and scientific (without even realising that hermeneutics put the last nail in naive positivism's coffin long ago)--all for no increase in pay. As one college bureaucrat put it "[p]erforming General Education assessment is an expectation for teaching faculty...there is no extra service compensation for this activity." By the way, I can't imagine a college bureaucrat being asked to do anything similar.

So what does the union that we adjuncts are part of, the UUP, doing about all of this? Very little as far as I can tell. They asked for a raise for adjuncts during recent contract negotiations. They didn't get it and they clearly didn't pull out all stops in order to help us lowly slaves at the bottom of the faculty ladder move even a half step up. In the era of the ever increasing power of the boards of directors (filled to the brim with bankers, capitalists, lawyers, and such) and their administrative underlings all of us, the decreasing numbered of tenured faculty and the increasing numbers of adjunct faculty are working for the Pharaoh and his ever more numerous princes and viziers. Liberal Arts college, RIP. Where is Moses when you need him?

Any resemblance between this blog post and reality is coincidental.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Life In the Pissant Swamp: Slackers of the Student World Unite and Take Over

There are a zillion stories in the Pissant Swamp.
This is one of them.

Once upon a time I taught courses at UAardvark. UAardvark is a state university, one of four research universities in the MegaStateUniversity system of the Northeast United States. UAardvark fancies itself a first class research university but in reality is and always will be a third class American research university in the same class as Ball State University or Kent State University. At UAardvark I taught courses in Cultural Anthropology, History, and Communication. The course I taught in the last, The Idiot Box: The History of Television, had proven quite popular with Communication students and beyond though as time went on the ability of non-Communication majors to take the class diminished.

Because of the popularity of my TV course I was asked by the Journalism programme to do a course on Non-Fiction Television. I agreed to do the class. In retrospect this was one of the worst decisions I ever made in the course of my academic life. I was not prepared for Journalism students, Journalism students who had trouble making sense of the syllabus, Journalism students who had difficulty figuring out that in a class of 100 total points 20 points was the same as 20%, Journalism students who proved to be rude and threatening when I told them something about the Canadian health care system that conflicted with what they had probably heard from some right wing American radio demagogue, and Journalism students who thought that a Twitter post was the future of journalism. The future of journalism 140 characters may be but that doesn’t mean that barely skimming the surface journalism is good journalism. All in all my experience teaching Journalism at UAardvark convinced me that if social media journalism is the future of journalism than good riddance to it. Don't worry dear readers and unreaders, I do realise that UAardvark is hardly the first or last word on Journalism Education in the United States.

But back to my sad tale: Long story short some of these rude students complained about my supposed lack of clarity when it came to what was expected in class. I was called on the carpet by the English Department of which the Journalism programme was a part. I was able to show that everything the complaining students said I didn't tell them was contained in the syllabus for the class which they had apparently not read or not been able to, for some reason, make sense of. I taught the same class in the spring term though it was as dismal as the class I taught in the fall. Controversies surrounding my Journalism sojourn also affected my employment in the Communication Department. I was called on the carpet in that department as well because, according to the Departmental Chair, some students had complained about me. Many of these complaints were similar to those of the Journalism students. Some claimed the syllabus was unclear and that the electronic component to the class was confusing.

The fundamental problem in both cases was that the students did not read or did not comprehend what they read in my syllabus. Additionally, students, who surprisingly at least to me, were largely computer illiterate had great trouble accessing the Blackboard components of the course. I put up all my lectures on Blackboard. I put up links to assigned TV shows students had to watch on Blackboard. I put up discussions on Blackboard that I had to use the carrot and stick to get students to engage in. I had students submit assignments on Blackboard. For whatever reason--they didn't expect a traditional class to have a tech component?--the electronic component to the course which I thought would make the course easier and more interactive, made it harder and more less interactive.

There are several things I have learned in my thirty plus years of teaching. Lesson one: in general students don't read or watch the assigned material before class discussion. When students don't read the material they were supposed to in order to prepare for class discussion the class doesn't work as well as when they do. One has to wonder why these students are in college. Lesson two: students have difficulty navigating electronic components to a course be it Blackboard or Blogger. This observation, by the way, has relevance for what is happening in cash strapped higher education today which sees high tech as its salvation, is that computer components of courses are no replacement for traditional face-to-face classes. In the past, as I noted, I have used high tech in class quite extensively. Currently I use Blackboard sparingly, basically for collecting assignments. Even with the sparing use of Blackboard students still complain and some have actually asked me to return to the old collect the papers in class ways. The problems associated with on-line teaching, by the way, is a lesson I don't expect higher education to learn. It is too "cost effective" to them. Lesson three: students resist referring to the syllabus. Whether I have students read the syllabus on their own, whether I read large chunks of it in class, or whether I have the students affirm that they read the syllabus, students throughout the course of the term ask me questions that are answered in the syllabus. It makes one wonder why faculty even bother to spend hours writing the syllabus. Whether these problems are the product of laziness--when asked why slippers had become prominent attire on campus many students said the reason they wore them was not because some celebrity wore them in public but that they wore them because they were lazy--and technological illiteracy--students are cell phone not computer literate (a variation on the laziness theme?)--and/or something elses, all of these are problems in the contemporary college classroom. They also suggest that the slacker do it for me culture has a strong foothold in the culture of contemporary youth. Lesson three: Part-timers like myself have no job security, a conclusion that is perhaps the least surprising of all these lessons. I was offered another class in Communication conditionally but since I thought I was being treated unfairly I didn't accept the conditions and moved on. When I inquired about whether my services were wanted by Communication in the future I was told that the department was not hiring at the moment, a polite corparatese way of saying piss off. I did. I had no choice.

I know dear readers and unreaders, you are thinking that I wouldn't get in such trouble if I just became a yes man, if I strived to become miss congeniality, and if I just did what I was told. But I can't. That is not who I am or who I will ever be. I guess I am fated in life to be a dissident wherever I go. I blame it on the first book my mum ever bought me and made me read. This book opened up an intellectual horizon for me that continues today. It is an intellectual horizon that doesn't confuse what is with what things should always be. It made me eventually, in other words, into a social and cultural constructionist who realises that much of what is, is the product of power.

Any resemblance between this blog post and reality is coincidental.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Life In the Pissant Swamp: The Bureaucracy and the Peon...

There are a zillion stories in the Pissant Swamp.
This is one of them.

I hope you realise by now dear readers and unreaders that there is a lot of pettiness, backslapping, piss arse power struggles, strangeness, bizarreness, and even surrealism of the Kafkaesque variety that goes on behind the ivory gilded halls of the Pissant swamp. One of the most bizarre and surreal, at least in my opinion, is the mandate that faculty submit their grades within forty-eight hours of the last exam during finals week at MicroMegaState University. I quote an email I received from the College Registrar, "Please remember that final grades are due 48 hours (including the weekend) after the final exam meeting time."

The MicroMegaStateUniversity 48 hour deadline sometimes feels a lot like that the deadline cop and con were under in the Walter Hill film, 48 Hours. As this school terms comes to an end I feel a little like Cates and Hammond in 48 Hours. I have two exams on the last day of finals, the second one ends at 4 o'clock, This means that I have little turn around time to get my finals in. This means, in turn, that what I used to prefer when I tested--essay exams or journals--is no longer practical or possible given the 48 hour deadline. And this means that the emphasis on trying to implant critical skills in our students has become more and more difficult if not impossible in the Tayloresque university. Fill in the blank tests, the kind of test I now give during finals week, has become the test of choice for an old liberal arts dinosaurs like me who thinks that critical thinking should be at the heart of the liberal arts college. The fill in the blank test just isn't a test that sharpens critical thinking.

But this is not the only problem that we faculty labourers have in contemporary academic institutions. There is an additional problem that those of us who teach at MMSU have at the end of the term, namely, accommodating students from the Division of Disability Student Services (DDSS). DDSS allows students with a varieties of disabilities to take exams in their offices ensconced in a building on one of the far edges of the campus. Historically, I have allowed any student who requested that he or she take the exam at the DDSS offices no questions asked. Since I have to give the exam on the last day of finals, however. Since that exam lasts until 4 pm. Since I am now 60, have severe asthma, have osteoporosis thanks to my asthma medication, have failing knees and legs, and have a failing back, and work three jobs to make ends meet I asked DDSS to accommodate me for a change. I requested that they post the exam to my home 82 miles from campus in Capital City. They replied with what I thought as an imperial NO. I then requested that the office mail the exam to the departmental office via campus mail and that I would give the student an incomplete (an I) and change the grade as soon as I was able to get the exam. On a part-timers salary it is simply not rational to drive 180 or so miles to pick up an examination. Again, I got the royal NO. We were finally able to come up with a compromise the DDSS bureaucrats would accept: the departmental secretary would pick up the exam and pdf a copy to my email address so I could grade it without having to drive three hours. Ironically, the student who had taken the first exam in class--somehow DDSS did not receive copies of these I sent though I found these emails sitting comfortably in my sent box indicating I did indeed send them to them--decided to take the second exam in class.

But back to the 48 hour rule, this mandate is simply one of the things that is increasingly turning colleges into high schools these days. If and when America's MegaBusinessGods ever decide to do to public colleges what they are doing to public schools--taking them over in the name of reform--the real reason they are getting into the public school business, of course, is that just like the bloke who founded the for profit University of Phoenix they see money, mammon, their green god, in them there educational hills. Ironically, if and when private for profit interests begin their takeover of public non-profit colleges they will find that others have already laid the groundwork for them by fatally wounding if not killing the liberal arts college and university. RIP, liberal arts college. We all hardly knew ye.

Any resemblance between this blog post and reality is purely coincidental.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Life In the Pissant Swamp: The Incident of the Politically Correct Feeling...

There are a zillion stories in the Pissant Swamp.
This is just one of them.

I don't remember quite when it was. A year ago? Two years ago. However long ago it was doesn't matter. What does matter and what is very revealing about life in the Pissant Swamp these days is that it did happen.

I was teaching a comparative history class at MicroMegaStateUniversity. I happened to mention something I heard from a friend of mine who gave a lecture at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He said that what happened after the lecture revealed quite clearly to him that compared to the tensions and battles between modernists and traditionalists, the "secular humanists" and "the penguins", the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians was small potatoes.

A few weeks or so after I mentioned this in class as an example of tensions between "moderns" and "traditionalists" in ostensibly secular modern societies, I got an email from a lawyer-bureaucrat at MicroMegaStateUniversity. He said a student had expressed a concern about something I said with his office, I don't remember what the office was called but it had some typically pleasant sounding bureaucratic name. What I do remember is that his office dealt with student complaints about alleged prejudicial statements made at MMSU. The lawyer didn't tell me what the complaint was or who made the complaint. He did say he wanted to meet me.
After email tag and problems associated with bad weather in the Northeast, the lawyer and I met in my office in the Campus Library. The lawyer brought the head of Hillel with him, the same Hillel that is engaged in discrimination against certain Jews who hold views at odds with their when it comes to Israel these days. They told me that a student made a complaint about my use of the term "penguins" as a description of traditional or Orthodox Jews. That I was repeating what someone else told me about his experience at Hebrew and that it is a fact that at Hebrew and in Israel seculars often call traditional black and white clad Jews "penguins" was judged immaterial. I was informed that an official complaint had not been made and that I needed to be careful in the future about what I said in class. Political correctness.

Beyond the issue of political correctness, and let me remind you at this point that political correctness can come from the "left" and the "right", I couldn't help but wonder if this is what the ever shrinking liberal arts university had come to. Has the American college and university become hostage to the tyranny of student feelings? Do student feelings trump empirical reality? The story I told, after all, was a real story and traditionalist Jews are called "penguins" in Israel. My answer to this question. It has and it is. And this is just another nail in the liberal arts coffin and another nail in the coffin of critical thinking. Welcome to the modern Pissant Swamp. It's been good to know you liberal arts education.

Any resemblance between this blog post and reality is purely coincidental.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Life In the Pissant Swamp: Don't Take No Plug Nickels and Don't Try to Give Students Extra Sympathy and Empathy...

There are a zillion stories in the Pissant Swamp.
This is just one of them.

Once upon a time I created a magical and romantic vision of college teaching. I came to believe that because I still had an intellectual's and a student's mentality, that I, should I ever become a college teacher, could have this wonderful relationship with those who I might have the opportunity to teach. Well I became a college teacher though, by the 1980s, it was largely against my better judgement. By that time I had grown more than disillusioned with academia and had, by that point, came to understand what the ivy tower really was, a provincial place dominated by pettiness, Machiavellianism, political correctness, cocktail activism, and a variety of other sillinesses I saw during graduate school. By the 1990s I had also grown disillusioned with students. This semester has reminded me why I had become so cynical about students in the first place and why I came to believe that one shouldn't try to be too sympathetic with students because that sympathy will be repaid many times over with sophistry, anger, threats, and whinging on a soap opera scale.

I remember that day in the 1980s--it was an Introductory Cultural Anthropology class--on which I discovered something about students I had not known previously or even imagined about students. It was in the 1980s that I had a student come to my office hours and cry because she had received a 16 out of 20 on an assignment that was one-fifth of here total grade. Well things haven't changed in the pissant swamp because this year I had a student do the exact same thing as that student some thirty years before, I had a student cry about his grade on a paper that once again was one-fifth of his grade once again.

For some reason I wanted to travel back in time and try to be less cynical about students. This semester despite what my syllabus said I did not follow through on my policy of not accepting late papers. This cynic, apparently, still has a hard time having such a negative impact on a students educational life. I allowed students to do extra credit papers in order to raise their participation score. I allowed students to go to any one of three of my final exam dates.

So what did I get from admittedly a minority of students in return for what I thought was sympathy and empathy? I got myself much more work but no more pay, which is meagre at MicroMegaStateUniversity. I got bit in the arse. I got in the vicinity of ten students hand their last assignment in late. I had around 6 students who handed it in wrong. I got a student who did his first three Blackboard assignments right but got his fourth assignment wrong on Blackboard. When given late points he went to my Departmental Chair, threatened to go to the Dean, and claimed that others whom he talked with about his situation said they agreed with him not me. He claimed not to know what "write submission" meant in the Blackboard assignment page. He yelled at me. He screamed at me. He said in effect that my job made me unsympathetic to his, a poor person's, plight. Ironically, I am a part-time teacher partially by choice, and I make a pittance for being a college teacher. I got a student, in other words, who would not take responsibility for his failure to do something the right way on Blackboard and who wanted me to restore points to his grade thereby, in effect, asking for special treatment because he did not ask me to restore the points to other students who did exactly the same thing he did. I got several students who did not participate in class but who still expected a good grade in the participation component of their grade. I got students who again and again did not tell me which of the three classes they were in when they communicated with me via email. I got students who failed to find the classroom in which my Wednesday final took place. I got a student who may have stole one of my exams and who may be planning to give it to the students who have not yet took their finals. In this term and in previous terms I got students who committed plagiarism and a few who continued to do so even after I gave them a free get out of gaol warning the first time around. The plagiarism got so bad that I had to turn the plagiarists in to the student affairs bureaucracy on campus.

My New Year's Resolution this year is to stick to my guns and not accept any late papers, not allow students to do extra credit, and not allow students to come to the final of their choice. Next term I may be next years Ebenezer Scrooge or Mr. Burns if I only have the cojones. Bah humbug.

Any resemblance between this blog post and reality is purely coincidental.

Life In the Pissant Swamp: The Princessa and the Peasant...

There are a zillion stories in the Pissant Swamp.
This is just one of them.

On and off during my time blogging during the last three years or so I have written about the surreal bizarrity and peculiarity that is the academy. I want to continue to reflect on my life in the academic wasteland where the intellectual life is more an accident than a planned commodity under the general rubric of Life in the Pissant Swamp. So off we go.

The Pissant Swamp is a term I first heard in reference to academia in Andrew Davies wonderful television programme, A Very Peculiar Practice (1986-1988). This BBC television programme, which ran for two series, was based on Davies experiences while teaching at the University of Warwick. Like me he apparently found academia a very peculiar practice. Ironically, I was admitted for post-graduate work at the same University of Warwick, though I never had any intention of matriculating there. But enough of TV cabbages and university kings. I want to go back to the pissant swamp in the rest of this blog and talk about one of the more than one million tales I could talk about in the pissant jungle, the story of a Princess and one princess in particular, the Princessa.

I met the Princessa for the first time in 2012 if memory serves. In that year all of the History adjuncts and all of the English adjuncts were stacked like sardines into an office in one long narrow room in the Campus Library. There were, if I remember correctly, four or five computers and one printer for the English adjuncts and three computers and one printer for the History adjuncts. I dare say this was symbolic of the relative status of both groups. At any one time three or four adjuncts might be hanging around the pissant swamp at any moment making it rather difficult to study, grade, or even prepare for class. For this very reason I usually didn't try to do any of the above. I usually simply tried to relax after my one hour and a half commute from Albany to the pissant swamp.

It was an entirely different fairy tale story for the Princessa, however. Before I get to that, however, a bit of prologue. The Princessa and I didn't really hit it off. She was a bourgeois living the bourgeois dream. She and her academic hubby had a nice little home and one bright little one child, or so she told me. But she wanted more. She had a Ph.D and she dreamed more than anything else of that fantasy so many of the legion of PhD's that are being overproduced (syllogism: too much supply, too little demand) by graduate schools these days, she wanted a full-time job in the academy. And the academic life she fantasied became a kind of reality for her. When she was in the office she spent most of her time conversing with another History adjunct about her bourgeois life, her bourgeois husband, and her divine bourgeois semi-domesticity. I was, I understand in retrospect, apparently supposed to bathe myself in the brilliant bourgeois light radiated by the Princessa and bow before it and her.

But I was and am not a proper bourgeois who spends hours politely barking out banal bourgeois niceties about nice little husbands, bright little children, or the joys of the weather. I am instead an intellectual who finds the academy about as far from the intellectual life as one can get. When I said this I think I hurt the poor Princessa's feelings. I now had the honour of being the first person in the Princessa's life who, or so she once again said, did not like her. Apparently the Princessa also Mrs. Bourgeois Congeniality for time and eternity.

Anyway, my relationship with the Princessa blew up once upon a time ago. On one fateful day I was first into the office. The Princessa and one of the English adjuncts came in later. As I commute to campus from a city 90 miles away and as I don't have the dreamy bourgeois life of the Princessa, to make ends meet I have to work three jobs. One of them, to digress a bit, is a cashier job at the Co-op in Albany, a job that is far more intellectually stimulating than any I have experienced at any of the bourgeois university I have taught at. But back to that day of horror: To prepare for class, preparation I had been unable to do because of my busy schedule and commute, I was watching a documentary I had asked the class to watch as part of their homework. The Princessa came in and demanded in royal tones that I turn the documentary off because it interfered with whatever she did during office hours. Point: Note that she didn't ask me whether her bourgeois conversation with her bourgeois colleague about the joys of the bourgeois life interfered with what I was doing. It did. I have been annoyed by the banality of contemporary culture since my Holocaust seminar but I found it absurd to complain about a situation that brought a bunch of academics together in the same strange place and at the same strange time. Anyway, long story short I refused to turn off the video though I did turn it down from the already low volume I had it at. Supergrass that the Princessa was is she ran with metaphorical tears in her eyes to the Department Chair complaining that I had threatened her and that she now feared for her sweet little bourgeois life. Needless to say such a fantasy scenario seems to come more from one of those multitude of soap operas that permeate American life than it does from reality and that says a lot about the Princessa.

The Department Chair, needless to say, sided with the Princessa. She is apparently one of his favorites. I was ordered not to watch videos even if they were preparation to the classes I teach in the sardine office. I don't know whether the Princessa was told that her attempt to grade, study, or prepare for class in an office full of any number of adjuncts at one moment was more than a bit looney but I do know that English adjuncts were, for obvious reasons, provided with an office in the Library to which they could take students for consultation. And I do know that two years later History adjuncts were given offices in which there was less adjunct traffic and as a result were more reasonable and rational places to have office hours. I also know the Princessa now refuses to deign to talk to a prole like me. I, however, couldn't give a toss. Bourgeoisie with aristocratic attitudes, absurd demands, and fantasy delusions, are not by cuppa anyway. I learned that long ago when I did a term at another fantasy land full of fairy tale delusions, Cantab.

Needless to say I won't miss any of this silliness when I (hopefully) gain my pension and my health care pension after the fall term of 2016. I look forward to doing something I like much more than the peculiar job of teaching in academia, thinking. Thinking is, after all, the best way to travel...

Any resemblance between this blog post and reality is purely coincidental.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Fog of the Web: Musings on Posts on The 100

I have recently been reading the posts of many fans of The 100 (CW, 2014-) at web magazines such as the AV Club, IGN, ET, and others out there in cyberspace. What is remarkable about a lot of these comments is their almost total historical illiteracy.

Recently, a lot of the comments about the show have centred on one of the 100--now the 47--Finn Collins. In the fifth episode of season two Finn suddenly becomes a torturer, a murderer, and a massacrer of Grounders, one of the groups of humans the youngish 100, when they are sent to earth as punishment for their crimes by the adult leaders of the ark in space on which they had been imprisoned. Many say they no longer like the character of Finn. Others don't understand why most of the Sky People, who are now on the ground, are willing to forgive him. Still others say they never liked Finn in the first place, can't understand what Clarke (Eliza Taylor), another of the 100, ever saw in him, and hope the character isn't around much longer and that Clarke and Finn never get back together.

What these posters don't seem to understand is that soldiers can and have suddenly cracked during war. And Finn is a warrior. He fought the Grounders during their epic battle in the finale of season one. Another thing they don't seem to comprehend is that Vietnam hovers in the background of The 100. Recently I read an interview in which Jason Rothenberg, the creator of The 100, says he has been studying the Vietnam War and the My Lai massacre in particular. If memory serves many commentators ascribed the massacre to soldiers who had cracked under the pressure of rarely ever seeing the enemy that harassed them. Additionally, if memory again serves, the US military, after denying that there ever was a massacre at My Lai, circled the wagons around those involved in the massacre including Lt. Calley, the man who eventually faced court martial for the mass killings in a Vietnamese village, once the truth willed out. Many on the pro-war front said Calley had done nothing wrong and turned him into a hero flavour of the month. Many on the anti-war side saw Calley as a scapegoat and thought the massacre went higher up the officer chain. The moral: My Lai seems to be the broader context for the massacre committed by Finn and the response by others to the massacre. By the way, a similar story would play out when Oliver North became the hero and villain flavour of the month during the Iran Contra debacle of Reagan's 1980s. History ever repeats?

The 100, by the way, is, in my opinion, one of the best shows on US television at the moment. As the AV Club recently said of The 100 in its largely excellent review of the most recent episode of the series, "Fog of War"--a title that recalls the title of Errol Morris's documentary about Robert McNamara, JFK's and LBJ's Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War--"The 100 moved from being a solid but unremarkable dystopian teen drama, to a complex, intricate musing on morality, politics, colonialism, and bureaucracy. Almost halfway through its second season, the show is using its detailed world building and cast of characters to explore the physical and psychological costs of war." And this review doesn't even mention the large number of important, strong, and powerful female characters in the show nor does it touch upon the show's investigation of fascism at Mount Weather. I only wish more people were watching this truly outstanding show.