If you are a U of I alum, chances are you’ve heard of the name “Ira Carmen.” He is a
on the Urbana campus, at least in the Political Science Department. A ripe young 73, the man still runs three miles a day and regularly reminds students of his superior fitness level. He teaches various undergraduate Constitutional Law classes and a few seminars, including his specialty: Genetics and Politics (which Billy and I are taking in the Fall).
For those of you not lucky enough to attend a Carmen class, let me give you a glimpse of his one-act-show. Picture a small Jewish man with somewhat unkempt white hair wearing a neutral-colored sport coat and skinny tie. He stands at the front of the class, sometimes behind a podium, sometimes gesticulating wildly inches from the front row. He glances periodically at a yellow legal pad while lecturing about Supreme Court decisions, always including the Carmen opinion.
Known for his wit and clever remarks, he never ceases to entertain. A few Urbanagora contributors and former-students asked me to record some of his quotes from the past semester. Here are a few of my favorites:
Discussing Roe v. Wade: “I have sufficient wisdom to remember the urge to fornicate… do it at a rock concert! Don’t do it on the Supreme Court and offend my sensibilities!”
Discussing his top ten list of women (which he never actually revealed): “None of the women from your generation make my list… women of my generation knew how to act, how to dress. [Falsetto voice] ‘I want to run a corporation!’ You can run a goddamn corporation, but you’re not making my list!”
“You are moving toward elite status, and I ought to know because I am an elitist. You are moving toward elite status because you have had this opportunity to take this class! There are really good people on this campus and I’m one of them!”
“You can be brain dead at 70 and brain dead at 20. No? Consider the people you know that are brain dead.”
Stopping mid-lecture and looking out the window at a man mowing the lawn: “What’s this noise? There’s always noise on this campus interrupting my thoughts. There’s always construction going on. As if better buildings make for better instruction. I can teach you in a shit hole! We are in a shit hole!” (A few minutes later, stops mid-sentence) “I’ll out-shout that bastard!”
Discussing his old age: “My y-chromosome shrivels, thankfully not in plain view. [Pause] I won’t go any further than that.”
“Obama’s constituency is made up of blacks, young independents, and college professors… and a handful of other self-proclaimed intellectuals who I call SNOBS!”
“I consider myself an environmentalist. I have to be, I live with my wife. She’s so green it looks like she spent the last 10 years sailing the Atlantic on a life boat.”
Discussing his prediction that Clinton will take the ‘08 Democratic nomination: “The Clinton machine will grind him down. You have to drive a stake through the heart of the Clintons. Obama doesn’t have the right stake. He’s been fiddling around for it. [Falsetto voice] ‘Where’s the stake? I can’t find it!’”
“No Country For Old Men was an absolute blood bath. They should have dedicated it to Osama bin Laden.”
“I was babysitting my grandboys. They’re 8 and 9, so we give them some slack. They were watching this show- ‘The Survivor.’ You’ve got to be a goddamn moron to watch that show. They’re all over there in Micronesia. They should be marooned over there!”
This semester, Carmen received a taker for the Carmen Challenge, introduced to a class many years ago, which consists of a three mile race, best 2-out-of-3 for chess, and best 2-out-of-3 for ping pong. The challenger was a past student that many of you know, known for his liberal tendencies: “That was 10 years ago! I’m an old man now. I’ve lost more neurons than you’ve swallowed little pink ACLU pills!”
Billy has suggested that U of I post some lectures on iTunes U to eternally capture the brilliance that is Ira Carmen. Until then, we’re all keeping our fingers crossed that he sticks around for semester, year, or even decade.