David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
This Terrifies Me (As I Am Party)

August 20, 2015

Inside Higher Ed today posted a story that will provide more fodder for angry anti-intellectuals who believe so much about higher education is out of touch with reality.  And they would probably be right.  It seems that a professor of cultural studies and film has decided to immerse himself in the life of David Bowie so as to best understand the man for a book he will write.

According to the article, Professor Brooker has visited key places from Bowie's life, read the books Bowie was reading at certain points in his life, listened to the music he listened to, and even gone to the extreme of eating Bowie's weird diet (raw red peppers and milk) and dressing like him.

I can't wait for Professor Brooker to go to a meeting as Aladdin Sane.

Or, when he is in his Thin White Duke stage, and argues at a Meet the President event on campus that "you've got to have an extreme right front come up and sweep everything off its feet and tidy everything up," which Bowie said, maybe stoned, maybe joking, to Playboy in the late 1970s.

Perhaps he can hook up with someone researching Iman's life and get married to recreate that experience. However to that Professor, you might want to check out exactly what research has already gone on between Brooker and the person determined to immerse himself in the life of Mick Jagger.

I have to be honest that my disdain here is not simply about Brooker's choice of subject matter, an artist who I have found dramatically over-rated, as it is about "scholarly research."  Is this the "method researching" of book writing?  Did Robert Massie need to re-invent himself as Peter the Great to write his masterful biography?  If so, those days recreating the urinary problems Peter had (some lines are just destined to be written!) before death must have been very painful.  And then when Massie set out to write Catherine The Great's biography, whoah, that would have been messy.

In all seriousness, part of what I want from a good biography or study of anything, whether it be of a person, an event, a theory, is a reasonable detachment from the subject matter.  I just don't know how empirical and analytical this research is.

And you knew this had to lead me to parody, Bowie's "Fame" turned to "Lame."  Original lyrics can be found here.


Lame, when obsession takes things over.

Lame, lets him loose with a plan hard to swallow.

Lame, puts you out there with ideas so hollow.

Lame, lame, what's with your brain? It's just the flame

That burns your need for a research claim.

Lame, lame, what you like is in the margin.

Lame, what you sell is no bargain.

Lame, what you have is worse than jargon.

Lame, lame, "Nein! It's mine!" was his line.

And is it fine that it means you have no spine?

Lame, is this for the best, could it be? Really be, really, prof?

Could it be, my prof, could it, prof? Really, really?

Is it any wonder we don't respect your thirst? Lame, lame, lame, lame.

Is it any wonder you may be seen as a fool for your school. Lame, lame,

Bully for you, chilly for me. Need to get a ego check on vain.

Lame. . .

What a shame!  What a shame!