The Mainly Annual
EastWesterly Review/Postmodern Village
by T.S. DeHaviland
The worst part of PostmodernVillage's 2010 conference was finding the
damn thing. The sitting committee having split between Germany and France,
the only affordable compromise seemed to be the cross-border town of
Ausfahrt/Sortie, famous as much for its ubiquity as for its sausage
But once we got on the ground, every sign seemed to be pointing there,
no matter on which side of the border one landed or the distance one
traveled to or from the border itself.
These perplexities may have contributed to the economic downturn doldrums
to conspire toward a low turnout, but once the stalwart and geographically
imaginative made their way there, enough productive conferencing happened
to make the trip worthwhile. After all, we're all now beholden to the
neocons who have fled government and industry for academe, and they
proceed to make things difficult for the rest of us with either the
vacuous optimism of the charitable or the reforming zeal of the converted.
The Market Model dictates that conference-attendance pass the cost-benefit
analysis test, never mind how well these analyses worked when it came
to the relative risk of collatoralized debt obligations.
But that was not really PMV's problem. Following the lead of our financial
betters, we left the fallout to those reporting back home, though we
did feel a pang of regret for having asked a conferee from Stanford
how things were going now that their past provost is back on the loose.
It was sad to see a man so close to retirement so openly weep.
hospitality of the Sortie/Ausfahrters, at any rate, was served up in
typical Alsatian style—with plenty of sauerkraut and trotter of
dead hog, washed down with a variety of nectaresque white wines. Bad
behavior was at a minimum this year; as the World Cup-cranked locals
seemed so much more like pros, few of us academics bothered embarrassing
ourselves by tempting comparison. Still, rioting over the footie is
a decent substitute to constant war, castellated reminders of which
continue to crumble over every town in the Vosges and in every tower-turned
In fact, we had only one run-in with the local gendarmerie, and that
was when Stan Wankey accidentally locked his passport-and-wallet-containing
jacket* in his rented townhouse and the extra key had
to be fished out through the mail slot. Thank goodness for the abundance
of grape vines of odd configurations and cops with a patience for American
But then, a patience for American imperial absentmindedness could easily
describe most of Europe's reaction to our foreign policy.
Given that these sorts of digressions get one stopped at DFW by the
TSA and questioned about the imaginary presence of over $10,000 in cash
in one's supposed baggage, perhaps it would be prudent to start with
the papers already.
Papers, Part 1
* You know, the nice one? From Travelsmith?