Thursday, November 18, 2010

So, how was your day?

OK, so they’re philosophers, not administrators....

Prof Ken Gemes
The first week of the second half of the term has been interesting. We have met Dr Frisbee, and today another quirky lecturer was introduced – Professor Ken Gemes (pronounced ‘James’), an(other) Australian, lecturing on Nietzsche. It’s interesting to meet a new lecturer. This one became more fascinating as the lecture progressed. First he apologised for talking so quickly – said he just had long speeches in his head which sort of flowed out. Then he mentioned that if we met him in the street anytime and said ‘Hi, Ken!’ but were ignored, it would be because he couldn’t recognise anyone – he can’t form ‘visual memories’, he said; his memories were all of text. His wife complained about this because it often had unfortunate consequences (which he didn’t go into). As we delved into Nietzsche (who wrote a LOT of books) it was apparent that Professor Ken is spookily familiar with all the texts. He would quote chunks, and name the book and the section from which it came – not just sometimes but often. The high point was when he said, ‘Oh yes, Nietzsche uses that word only twelve times, I think, in his whole oeuvre.’ My goodness – I’ve finally come across someone with a genuine photographic memory.


Professor Ken also said other interesting things, such as ‘Anything that is interesting in Freud is twice as interesting in Nietzsche’, but I’ll spare you the nitty-gritty of the lecture on Nietzsche. I need to digest it myself first.

Professor Ken and Dr Frisbee join the fascinating group of academic philosophers (is there any other kind of philosopher, I hear you ask? Perhaps not) that have been enlivening my days and providing food for thought and fodder for the blog. Earlier I was frustrated at the contrast between their evident erudition and their complete lack of administrative skills. Even the sanest and most organised of them, Dr Gudrun of Schopenhauer class, when I asked when the first essay was due, replied ‘Oh, we don’t worry too much about that sort of thing. When do you want to submit it?’ Then there was Dr. Owen who took the first sessions of Greek Philosophy. One day as he passed around a pile of printed handouts, he said ‘if anyone finds a payslip or anything like that in the pile, could you just hand it back discreetly please?’

From the course convenor who gave me [what I am assuming was official] permission to change courses: ‘this obviously presupposes that you know what you're in for’; to the administrative assistant, when I asked early in the term about what subjects it was open to me to do, replied ‘you can do whatever you want!’ – the Birkbeck Philosophy Department is certainly an interesting group.

And from the daily press...

The scene of the crime
Meanwhile, Guardian letter-writers are very excited about the applied ethics of a situation where a well-dressed young couple absconded from a high-end Michelin-starred restaurant (L'Autre Pied). They left their desserts on the table and went outside for a cigarette, and never came back – having eaten several courses and drunk two bottle of expensive champagne. As is often the case in such incidents, the  left-liberal letter-writers could find no sympathy at all for the restaurant. This from the Wine Critic at Counsel magazine:

Charging £285 for a bottle of 1997 Bollinger, a “so-so” vintage, strikes me as equally dubious as the conduct of the disappearing duo.

The general manager of the posh restaurant also made several grave PR mistakes, such as commenting that £572.74 was ‘an average spend’ for a meal at the restaurant; and – fatally – that it was the poor waiters who would suffer (? I’m not the only one to be puzzled by that comment). Then there was the sidebar discussion of the assumed name that the couple used – Lupin:

So a couple walked out of a swanky restaurant without paying the bill – an ‘average spend’ (!) of £572.74. At over £400 for a couple of bottles of champagne, who exactly is the robber? As for the erudite linking of the name Lupin to some fictional French thief (so Guardian...), how about an alternative clue: Monty Python’s Dennis Moore stealing from the rich – stealing lupins.
Blue lupin. Will it be spring soon?
 I see from breaking news that a couple have been arrested on suspicion of fraud, after trying the same thing at another restaurant the next night. It now emerges that they have hit a number of the best restaurants around town. This is valuable dining information, and I will keep a list of the places they have frequented for future reference, as they seem to have excellent taste.

Images from:

No comments:

Post a Comment