Ask the Bolshevik

Meet the UI Press is a recurring feature that delves into issues affecting academic publishing, writing, education, and related topics. Today, industry advice columnist The Bolshevik answers your questions.

bolshevikDear Bolshevik,
The other day I caught up with a science story that reported baboons keep dogs as pets. Then I read that chimpanzees entered the Stone Age over fifty years ago. Does it seem to you that animals increasingly act like humans these days? I don’t mean dancing bears or other Vegas-related indignities. I mean creatures in the wild picking up habits that made Homo sapiens the toast of the planet. Tool use. Expressing grief. Scorning humans who did their friends wrong. My question: will my press replace me with a colony of bees? —Signed, Worried at Wayne State

Dear Worried,
Probably not bees, as they are vanishing for unknown reasons, and employers get enough of that from their human drones. But you are wise to be concerned. Job-stealing robots get all of the headlines, but our austerity-obsessed neoliberal ruling class cannot wait for artificial intelligence to deliver cheap labor. That being the case, baboons offer a tempting short-term solution. These Old World monkeys are trainable and willing to work for kibble. That far outweighs their penchant for violent outbursts against recalcitrant copy machines. True, they attack anyone who makes eye contact with them, but we all work with people like that already.

I advise you to frequently remind university administrators of the many downsides of employing Earth’s more intelligent fauna, i.e. chimps show up to work blasted on tree sap, dolphins prefer mating (and mating) over keeping deadlines, pigs will eat everything in the office fridge, etc.

Dear Bolshevik,
What are your thoughts on the Oxford comma? The other day I submitted a press release that included the snippet “…with lawyers, guns, and money.” I received a strong reprimand from Editorial—no less than two frowny face stickers—and a lecture on house style. I tried to explain that using the term “…with lawyers, guns and money” would’ve caused my fourth grade teacher Sister Lorraine to rise from the grave and thump me with a Pius XI snowglobe, but to no avail. —Comma Tose in Barrington

Dear Tose,
Leave it to those snobs at Oxford to claim an entire piece of punctuation for themselves. What’s next, the Harvard apostrophe? The Mercedes-Benz ellipsis? Unfortunately, I fear you must adhere to house style. It is to publishing what The Collected Recipes of Joseph Stalin was to the USSR, though nowhere near as obsessed with potatoes. I admit it will be difficult to reason with the aggrieved spirit of a persnickety nun. I also admit abbesses are a bit too quick to label “explanations” as “sassy-talk.” But, if possible, remind the sister that she would be even more disappointed if you ended up jobless after she did so much to form your character and grammatical skills. Jesus sympathized with the poor, but the man made a proper career as a carpenter.