The Scholar's Tea
Believe it or not, I actually clawed my way past the icy jaws of Death himself and left the house today. My excursion was prompted by my former English professor and noted fan of Minneapolis Dr. Kunka, who invited me to attend a lecture he was giving.
The lecture turned out to be USC's Scholar's Tea for Fall 2005, an event thrown to recognize a particular professor's contributions to academia, featuring--and this is the important part here--free refreshments.
The talk focused on his research methodology and how it relates to his upcoming book on the incidences of shell shock in World War I and how they impact narrative theory, but I was far more interested in the massive stack of Scientologist propaganda he got in the mail a few weeks ago.
There was a free copy of Battlefield Earth, with the movie-themed trade dress of course, a hardcover coffee table book celebrating the life and works of L. Ron Hubbard, and assorted teaching materials. These, my friends, were things of beauty, including a DVD lecture for classroom viewing, a lesson plan for teaching Battlefield Earth that included discussion questions and a vocabulary list, and my personal favorite, a form for evaluating the course and requesting additional information.
He's reluctant to fill it out, fearing that he'll get on their mailing list, but I think it'd be a great idea, if only for the reason that there's a section marked off for "any additional comments." Brother, additional comments are about all I have.
Sadly, Dr. Kunka didn't address these topics in his lecture, even though it's clear to me that a term coined in 1914 to represent the severe mental disorders produced by industrialized warfare could easily be applied to Terl's subjucation of the human race in the year 3000. I mean, could you blame a guy for having a breakdown if he was confronted by a 9-foot tall John Travolta?
Despite that, it was a pretty fascinating subject. Especially when he got around to talking about Dr. Lewis Yealland, who was essentially the Granny Goodness of World War I. They'd send him the soldiers that were suffering from obvious and outwardly displayed effects of shell shock, like being unable to speak, and he'd strap them into a chair and shock them with electricity, burn them with cigarettes, and generally berate them until they were able to tell him to knock it off. He never once experienced a failure, returning all of his patients back to the front, where they could Die For Darkseid. I'm not sure, but I'm guessing he did it in green chainmail.
There were plenty of stories of torturous treatment and insidious hypnotism. Like I said, it was fascinating.
But I've got to say, it left me feeling pretty empty. I mean, I sat in a highly uncomfortable chair and paid rapt attention to both the lecture and the slides, but in the entire hour of discussing World War I, not once did he mention Enemy Ace. Nor did he share the version of the Aristocrats that he allegedly thought up featuring the Fantastic Four.
What a gyp.