Sunday, June 30, 2013

20130630.2143

It is a quarter to ten
At night
And an ice cream truck just drove by
A cheerful tintinnabulation
Ringing through the sultry air
Still rising from the city's streets.
There are not many places
Where such happens,
But there are any such things
That happen
Here.

It is a thing to think on,
That such things happen.
The theater of the absurd plays out
On sidewalks
And in the streets
Every day and night
Here.

Cheek by jowl
We crowd together
Here,
And we are yet set apart from one another,
Walled off by will more than by any physical barrier
(For there are few such barriers)
For those who must ride the subways,
Their sweating bare skins pressed together
In contact otherwise intimate
And still too often genital),
But surrounded by all manner of strangeness
If we but look to see.

I wonder if people refuse to look,
To hear,
Because it *is* so strange
And to see or hear such strangeness
Is to take it into the self.
Remaining as one is is hard
Here
Because there are so many selves
And they think themselves the only selves
Worth attention
Worth consideration
Worth being
Here.

Is it any wonder that such absurdities,
Banal and otherwise,
Pervade the surroundings to be found
Here?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

20130623.1737

A former colleague pointed out an article from yesterday's New York Times, Verlyn Klinkenborg's "The Decline and Fall of the English Major."  In the article, Klinkenborg offers an elegy for the decreasing numbers of undergraduate students of English language and literature.  Cited are graduation numbers from Yale and Pomona College as well as a tripartite reason for the decline those schools evidence.  Presented also is a statement of the value of the humanities in general and of the English degree specifically--not a direct monetary value, but a value insofar as it represents being able to effectively express thoughts and ideas, thereby effecting agency in the world.  Unfortunately, Klinkenborg's statistical data offer too small a sample to be representative, and the statement of value--a fairly standard view among humanities scholars--is too vague to convince those who are not already convinced of the value of the humanities that the decline of their study in one form at the undergraduate level is lamentable.

It is unfortunate because Klinkenborg is correct in many points.  The tripartite underpinning of the decline of humanities study is one of them: "One, the rush to make education pay off presupposes that only the most immediately applicable skills are worth acquiring (though that doesn’t explain the current popularity of political science). Two, the humanities often do a bad job of explaining why the humanities matter. And three, the humanities often do a bad job of teaching the humanities."  The first point, the focus on "practical" rather than "soft" skills, is in some senses understandable; if college exists so that students can graduate and "get a job," then it ought to work towards getting them jobs.  The idea is problematic, though, as I have noted in a few places: here, herehere, here, and, a bit differently, here, among others.  In brief, the "soft" skills that the humanities teach can, in fact, help students in their jobs.  Too, a narrow focus on "applicable" skills does not at all guarantee a hob--and students are more than their prospective jobs, in any event.  The study of the humanities helps to address the whole person, and the improvement of the whole of the person is a desirable goal.

Klinkenborg does work to address the second, the paucity of explanations by humanities scholars of the value of the humanities.  It is something which I have addressed in my own writings (here, for example, as well as here and here).  I can add to my earlier discussion at least one other idea.  With the observably increased saturation of popular and public culture with multimedia material comes a concomitant increase in the amount of symbolic content with which people are presented--and the humanities, both generally and in the English major Klinkenborg addresses specifically, are very much invested in the recognition and interpretation of symbolism.  They may not be quantifiable skill sets, given the fluidity of interpretation.  Even mathematics, reliant on such numbers as π (the accurate value for which is yet undetermined) and i (which is openly called "imaginary"), is not wholly quantifiable, yet it is not so decried as humanities study.  Too, the studies of such revered subjects as law and theology (admittedly arguably among the humanities) are fundamentally investigations and promulgations of interpretation.  Their value is not lessened thereby--and neither is that of the humanities as it emerges in the studies of languages and literatures.  How people use language, in literature and elsewhere, reveals much of the human condition, and its study is therefore well warranted; the decline of such study is concomitantly a matter of concern.

The third member of Klinkenborg's trifecta, that of teachers too often teaching poorly, rings uncomfortably true.  I have addressed that issue before, as well (among others here, here, here, here, and here).  There are a great many people in the classroom, in all fields so certainly in the humanities, who ought not to be there.  Many teachers at all levels are teachers because they could not get other jobs--and this is in part because teaching is too often seen as not a "real" career, not a "real" job.  The image of the schoolmarm, who would often be dismissed from employment upon marrying, informs it.  So, too, does the refusal to offer teachers decent salaries in many places in the United States.  So, too, does the increasing reliance on transient labor to staff classrooms.  It is disingenuous at the very least to act surprised that those who are in the classroom will handle their jobs poorly when they are told repeatedly, both explicitly and implicitly, that the job they do is not worth doing.  Again, this is true in all fields, including the humanities.  Perhaps it is more true of the humanities, whose students and teachers are more likely to be told of their uselessness than are those in many other fields.  Their poor teaching, too much tolerated, combines with the other two members of the trio to undermine the value of the humanities.  And if I have a vested interest in them, so that my comments on them must admittedly be regarded as biased in favor of them, I am not the only one--for as I note above, the humanities are the study of humanity, so that all people are invested in them.

Another point in which Klinkenborg is correct is that "writing well isn’t merely a utilitarian skill. It is about developing a rational grace and energy in your conversation with the world around you."  Despite what pushes to testing standards would assert, despite what some of my current colleagues try (with too much success) to enforce upon the policies of my current institution and despite the views of a great many people (noted in at least one of the earlier posts I have already linked), clear language use is not only a matter of following "the rules," of adhering to arbitrarily determined forms of orthography and conventions of phrasing, just as effective play of any sport (something widely valorized) is not only a matter of following the sport's rules.  Knowing when which rule comes into play is important.  Knowing when and how to violate the rules is also important.  And more important than either is delving into what has happened to develop new knowledge about what is happening so that what will happen can be glimpsed, if dimly, and shaped perhaps to better ends than would otherwise be the case.  Good writing is very much an engagement with what was and is in the world as well as a means for the development of vigor and rigor of mind, which, as I tell my often-resistant students, allows for greater ability to resist manipulation by it as well as enactment of greater agency within it.  These are desirable, as well.

Because Klinkenborg is correct in several points, as well as in the greater assertion that the reduction in study of the humanities is something worth concern and even mourning, it is unfortunate that "The Decline and Fall of the English Major" is unlikely to convince those not convinced of its correctness before reading the article.  How it might be able to persuade those who need persuading is unclear.  Perhaps a reliance on more of the type of empirical data that those who would seek to undermine humanities study--or even those who simply do not know enough about the matter and are therefore not so steeped in the humanities as to be already convinced of them--value would help.  What is clear, though, is that more people do need to be convinced of the truth that Klinkenborg accepts and with which I agree: study of the humanities is necessary, far more than is often recognized.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

20130622.0913

In the past weeks, I have been pushing myself to do more.  It has been working, and I feel much better for doing so.

I have been exercising more.  Again, I note that I have been studying aikido at the New York Aikikai since I moved to The City in 2009.  For most of that time, I have been...less than diligent in my study; years saw me fortunate to make it to the dojo twice a week.  In the past weeks, however, I have been going to the dojo four or five times a week, and in the past couple of weeks, I have been going for two or more hours at a stretch.  Not long ago, I remarked on the effects the resumed, intensified study has had on my body.  Those effects continue in some measure; I am sore in a few places, but that is to be expected from the kind of workout that I have been doing.  More to the point, though, are other expected effects; I am getting stronger and my technique is getting better.  Certainly, I have far to go in both regards, but I am making progress, and I appreciate it greatly.

I have also been writing more.  Since the end of April, I have in this blog made some twenty-five posts (with this one being the twenty-fifth), more than I had from November into April.  I also have made a number of posts in the blog I maintain for my renewed teaching, as well as adapting materials on the related website and commenting extensively on the work my students submit to me.  My personal journal, which I have maintained with some regularity since the end of my undergraduate work, has also seen some updating (if not as much as I should like).  The training I took to earn my doctorate in English has inculcated in me a drive to be productive in terms of making more text; I am not at ease when I do not write each day, usually several hundred words if not one or two thousand in cohesive bodies.  That I have been doing so, turning out five hundred word blog entries or three page journal entries or sample conference papers for students to use as models for their own work, is helping me improve my own writing abilities.  It is also helping me to feel better about myself; I am actually getting things down on paper or on screen, as I damned well ought to be.  Some of it even helps other people to do things and be better, and I am not unmindful of my call to be of good and useful service to others and therefore to the communities in which I exist.  Witness this, this, and this.  That, then, also helps me feel better about my work.

Yes, I am tired at the end of the day.  Yes, I am a bit stiff when I wake up in the morning.  But I am very much alive, experiencing the greatness of creation, and it is well worth the cost to me.

Monday, June 17, 2013

20130617.0842

As I was doing my morning reading today, I found this article, which notes that "Tweet," referring to use of Twitter, has been included in the Oxford English Dictionary.  Because I am not necessarily a trusting person, I followed up with a check of the online dictionary itself--and found the word, as well as a number of others that are sure to titillate the few schoolchildren who still actually use the OED rather than Wikipedia or Dictionary.com.

I know that there will be many people who will decry the addition as blasphemously tainting "pure" English (which has never actually existed, by the way).  Others, who perhaps view the OED as a gatekeeper of English, will think that the venerable volume has laid down its guardianship of "proper" lexical understandings.  In such views, we rapidly approach a linguistic cataclysm, an undermining of all that was once held dear and a release into anarchy.

Such people betray little understanding of how language works--or even of how the OED works.  "Ain't," which "ain't a word," has been in the OED for at least twenty-five years (I do not remember looking it up before I was five or so).  Other words, of more or less "propriety," have been included for as long or longer.  The dictionary takes--and has always taken--a descriptivist stance, reporting usage as it is observed rather than as it "should" be.

But for those who wish to preserve a "true" English, in all the glory of its traditional grammar, there is some hope.  For by consistent and widespread usage, it is possible to "correct" how the word is used--and it can be made a strong verb in the finest West Saxon tradition.  If the verb is "to Tweet," and in the present-tense we can say "I Tweet, You Tweet, He/She/It Tweets, We Tweet, You Tweet (in the plural), They Tweet," then in the past tense we can say "I Twit," and for compound tenses formed with the participle, we can offer "I had Twat," "I have Twat," and, it is to be hoped, "I will have Twat."

Sunday, June 16, 2013

20130616.0736

I am damned lucky to have the father I have.

The man isn't perfect, admittedly, but such flaws as he as are minor.  His virtues are far more numerous and of far greater extent.  Significant among them, of course, is having raised such an excellent elder son.  That, of course, was aided immensely by having such fine taste in spouses.  (And, I must admit, he has not done so poorly with his younger son.)

His is a work ethic worth following.  I have known him to rise well before daybreak, get his sons up and off to school, then work twelve or fourteen hours in the kindly Texas Hill Country summer (which often starts in February or March and lasts until October or November, with August interrupting), returning home after night has fallen.  Then, stained with sweat and the dirt of honest labor and despite being drained from the day, he would still make time to connect with his family before at last making his way to bed.  And he would do this day after day after day for weeks on end, all to provide for his household.

Even now, with a better job on a more regular schedule, he is seemingly always at work.  When he is home, he tends to projects around the house--not just the normal upkeep of lawn and garden, but such things as extending the roof of the house to cover the front porch better, or removing sheds that have been storm-damaged to put up others of better quality.  Or he works to restore family heirloom furniture, century-old dressers and chair and curio cabinets that connect him and the rest of us to our heritage in a palpable, physical way.  Or he pieces together panes of stained glass and frames them.  Or he does any one of a hundred other things that "need doing," staying busy for most if not all the time the sun is in the sky and making things better for others.

And that is the most important thing; he helps other people, regardless of the cost or reward to himself.  The drive to do so is what drove him to take them helm of an overwhelmed and underfunded band booster organization and lead it through acquiring a grant of hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy instruments for a band whose equipment had not been upgraded in twenty years.  It is what led him to suffer through sun-blasted weekends, working with vendors who were all too often unpleasant and customers who were no better, for a decade so that a local craft fair could become stable and enduring.  It is what led him to stop what he was doing and set up a pup tent for a young boy and his brother instead of staying inside in the blessed coolness of an air conditioned home in the Texas Hill Country summer after a day of hard work.  And it is what led him to set up a solid standing platform near the tree line for an ungrateful little twerp who learned later on what it takes to do such a thing.

What he does as a matter of course, without concern but with great sincerity, is something I hope to someday do half so well--and many others could well stand to strive for the same.  So Happy Father's Day, Pop; I love you.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

20130612.0857

I have made no secret these past years of being a student at the New York Aikikai.  In studying there, I continue on in an admittedly erratic tendency to train in Japanese martial arts, one that began as a result of having gotten stomped on during a school field trip.  I will not recount that story here, but I will instead comment on something I have observed recently, as I have tried to get more training time in and to do so more reliably.

To do so, a bit of context: Before moving to New York City and taking up the study of aikido, I was an active participant in the judo classes and club at my graduate institution.  There, I would get quite a bit of practice in weekly, and it did wonders for my physical conditioning (although, because I like beer, I still had something of a belly about me).  Judo is demanding, and it is a full-contact sport, so I would go to my dorm room from the dojo covered in bruises; from the knees down, on my upper arms, and in the middle of my chest, the skin was perpetually darkened from the burst blood vessels under it.  Yet they did not much inhibit my range of motion, and, given a few days off of the mats, I would soon see the bruises fade away, leaving my skin as pasty-pale as seems to be its natural state.

Aikido is much gentler on the body, although it would be a lie to say that it imposes no strain.  Rarely do I come home with bruises, and never to the extent that I did while I was a judoka.  When I do, though (as was the case last Tuesday, when one of the people with whom I trained made damned sure to have a good grip on my forearm*), I find that the bruises take far longer to leave me, and they do much more to make it harder for me to do the other things that I do.  Indeed, the bruises from last week are still visible on my arm (if only just), and one the size of an old dollar coin on my knee does not fail to remind me of its presence.

I am not about to leave off my study of the art for the sake of a few bruises.  I know that, with time, my body will return to its former ability to act despite the discomfort (something well worth developing, I might add).  And, frankly, if I were better at what I ought to be doing on the mats, I would not have the bruises, in any event; I earned them fairly, and I work to take from them the appropriate lesson.  But what I do mark is that it is taking longer than it used to do.  Am I really so much older now than four years ago, when I had just left the judo dojo for the aikido?  Has passing from my twenties to thirty changed me so much?  Or is it only that I have been as erratic in my training as I have been that causes my body to behave as it does, punishing me for not taking care of it better?

Whatever the answer, I will get back onto the mats today.  I am having too good a time on them to not.

*I do not blame him.  I know that aikido is a martial art, and that it necessarily runs the risk of inflicting discomfort or injury upon its practitioners.  But that does not mean I was glad of the specific experience.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

20130609.1243

It should not come as a surprise that I am on LinkedIn.  Blogging, even as erratically as I do, positions me amid social media, and I at least haltingly entertain the idea that I am a professional.  Accessing what purports to be a professional social networking tool, then, suggests itself as a natural and appropriate step for me to take.

One of the website's offerings of which I routinely avail myself is the Influencer, a series of short blog posts hosted on the website and containing comments from business and industry leaders.  While I am not at all convinced that the commercial is the best standard of measurement, I concede (and not even unhappily) that the comments are frequently worth looking over and their ideas considered sincerely.

One such post is Tim Brown's "The Secret of Great Work: Play," which was posted to the LinkedIn Influencer on 4 June 2013.  In the piece, Brown asserts that the best workers are those who are offered time to engage in unstructured creative activities--in brief, to play a bit at work.  The piece is admittedly scanty on implementation details, particularly regarding the implementation of the design challenge used as a case study in the piece, which limits its effectiveness, but the simple fact of stating outright that play is necessary to good work is compelling.

That Brown is overt in saying so, and that the comments appended to the article* reconfirm the attitude, strikes me as odd.  One of the arguments often leveled against educators is that they have "so much time off."  The usual rebuttal--usual for the very good reason that it is true--is that the time off is not really off.  Continuing education expectations take up much of the "time off" for those who teach at the primary and secondary school levels.  At the collegiate level, grading is what eats evenings and weekends while classes are in session, and research occupies much of that time as well as the "idle" summers.

That research often itself draws ire from commentators who argue that the real work of higher education is teaching (and teaching a curriculum suited primarily to getting students jobs that pay well, despite the fact that many of those who make such comments will prefer to pay less, thereby shrinking the field of available high-paying jobs).  Those who make such arguments are not entirely wrong; those who claim the professorial dignity are identifying themselves as scholars, and it is part of the scholar's duty to disseminate knowledge.  But it is equally important to develop new knowledge to disseminate--hence the research.  And, as I have discussed before (following Edmundson), many of those who enter research do so from love of the subject material.  That is to say, the research begins with play.

Brown, and those who state their agreement with him, valorize the very thing that is so often decried by the very same people who are held up in the Influencer as being worth emulation.  People are never wholly internally consistent--or if they are, it is according to a strange fractal pattern that produces nothing resembling a straight line--so that I am not surprised to see the contradiction.  But I am also not displeased to see it.

*I am aware of how dangerous it is to even look at the comments section of an online piece.  Even in professional settings, much happens in comments sections that ought never to be released upon the world.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

20130605.2217

From time to time, I come to own books that other people have discarded.  This is not because I am so depraved a bibliophile that I rummage around in rubbish bins, but is rather a result of my capitalizing on being around bookish folks when I am one, myself.  People clean out their office spaces, and among what they set aside are often the bound pages of books.

Frequently, those pages abound with marginalia.  Many of the texts I acquired from where professors and others had left them on tables, free for the taking, have been liberally provided with comments at the edges of pages or squeezed somehow into the tiny spaces between lines of text--and there have been a few times when such marginalia has proven quite useful.  I am sure that anyone who takes up a text from my own working library (rarely; I do not often get rid of books, particularly those I use to inform my scholarship) will find much the same thing (provided, of course, that my handwriting can be surmounted).  I entertain the hope that it will be of help.

If happens occasionally that I find something a bit more...substantial than notes on the page, however.  For instance, I recently came into possession of a copy of Luce Irigaray's Between East and West: From Singularity to Community (trans. Stephen Pluháček; New York, Columbia UP, 2002; print).  The previous owner had left in its pages a bookmark, wedged between pages 112 and 113; when I found it, I found myself forced to wonder why it was there, working through some questions.  I am still not sure I have a good answer.

Had the earlier reader simply stopped reading at that point and never opened the text again?  Unlikely, since a reader who leaves a book behind will typically take the bookmark away.  There is no need to mark a page in a text that will not be revisited, after all, and the bookmark itself could be put to use in another work entirely.  Too, the position of the bookmark is a bit strange for interrupted reading, as it is not at a section or chapter break--and I, who read much, work to leave off only when the text does.  Irigaray is not light reading, so I can only posit that the earlier reader was similar to me in dedication to the work of interpreting text.

Does the marker mark a passage of importance?  Possibly, for although there was no marginalia in the book when I got it, the two pages which hold the bookmark found themselves covered in my markup.  They discuss issues of female civil identity and the problems attendant on its lack--serious subject matter, indeed.  But this is true of other parts of the book, some more powerfully put than what the bookmark marks (at least to my thinking).  So I am not sure that it stands out particularly prominently--unless there is something of significance for the earlier reader that I miss.

So, the earlier reader forgot the bookmark?  Also possible.  And I seem to have misplaced one, myself...

Monday, June 3, 2013

20130603.0738

I tend to be up and about fairly early, usually rising around 5 in the morning.  It is a habit I first developed back in high school, when I would walk the mile from my house to what was then the school, and it is one I returned to in my undergraduate days, when I had an hour-long commute along the twin asphalt ribbon of Interstate 10 in the Texas Hill Country.  And it has confused a great many of those who have known about it, people who tend to sleep in as much as they can in favor of staying up late into the night (I usually find my way to bed at around midnight or a little earlier).

What they frequently do not understand is that there is much of value in getting up and getting going while the day is yet young.  As the weather warms yet more, the precious hours of coolness in the mornings become more attractive.  Too, there is commonly a quiet about things that is of aid in finding peace amid the concerns of the world; even those who must be at work while the world is yet dark, diligent and proficient, are hushed in their motions and words.  And so I have tended to find it a good time to put in place my own words; in the relative quiet, I can hear the voice within me dictate what my fingers, stroking keys, will leave behind.

As I write, of course, the day is emerging fully, and the din of The City (never truly silenced, although muted between last call and first light) is building.  The noise of news (or what passes for it) and people going to work (or not) swells in a cacophonous crescendo that will soon drive out such stillness and serenity as city streets ever permit.  I am hardly unable to write in such surroundings, of course; I do much writing (if not enough to please me), and not all of it can be done as I would ideally have it.  And there is always more of it for me to do.  Letters, entries in my journal, posts to this and other blogs, comments on student work, the documents upon which my current institution seems to depend, papers for conferences and presentations, reviews of books, summaries of what I read, and small scraps of verse all call to me to be done, and even I cannot be awake in all the quiet hours to attend to them.  Too, they take more time than there is quiet to be found.

Still, when I write in the quiet hours that are vanishing away for the day, I have not got to block out the many distractions that threaten my focus.  I can attend more fully to the tasks that present themselves, and it is to be hoped that I do better with them therefore.  For as my writing is, making it worse would not do well at all.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

20130602.0957

This morning, I read Robin Hobb's The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince.  The text expands upon a narrative thread referenced (among others) in one of the commentaries that Hobb uses to introduce chapters in her Six Duchies novels--in this case, an excerpt from the "Legend of the Piebald Prince" (Royal 641-42).  In doing so, The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince does seem to engage in a bit of a temporal paradox, but even so, it offers an entertaining and well written story that offers a useful glimpse of the implied history of the Six Duchies.

That the tale suggests its narrator is somehow aware of future events is noted fairly early in the novella.  The narrator remarks on the name of a character: "His name was Lostler.  Now some will say that his name was Sly, and some will even call him Sly o' the Wit when they sing of him.  I never heard him called by such a name" (38-39).  The name is the same by which the character is referenced in the "Legend," and while it is true that the perceptions of names change over time (as Hobb addresses elsewhere in her Six Duchies corpus), the change seems a bit too rapid to be described as taking place within the frame of the novella.  The narrator reports events she witnessed, marking the shift as taking place within living memory--and the change from "Lostler" to "Sly" is a bit much for one or two generations of speakers to make.  It suggests, rather, a bit of narrative slippage, and one consonant with the awareness of future time the Willful narrator exhibits from the beginning of the text (9).

Even so, Hobb writes an excellent story, one well worth the short time taken to read it (my copy offers less than 175 pages of text, and that in a large and easily-read print).  The narrative voice is again in the first-person retrospective that typifies much of Hobb's corpus, a humanizing gesture that does much to foster willing suspension of disbelief.  The suspension is further eased by the ample establishment of the narrator's particular authority to discuss the matter; the repeated insistence on providing a true and faithful account is one likely to ring true for early twenty-first century readers who are themselves concerned with offering what may be taken as authoritative assertions of personal and historical authenticity.

In addition, Hobb continues to work in The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince to present whole, detailed characters, rather than the flat archetypes too frequently present in fantasy literature.  Each of the prime actors in the text is possessed of sensible motivations, qualities that are themselves virtuous, and all too human flaws that render those virtues far less at times.  In brief, those in the text read as people, rather than as mere characters or caricatures; there is an evident sense of history and doings unseen in the narrative yet present and relevant somehow to the main story presented in the text.  It is quite compelling.

Of particular note to me is that the text avoids a flaw I have unfortunately had to point out in some of Hobb's other work.  Although the novella is rather short, it does not feel unduly rushed.  The denouement is brief, yes, but its brevity makes sense, in terms both of form and of content.  It is swift but not frenetic, which I appreciate greatly.  And if it is the case that a particular plot point at the end of the book is fairly common, it is one that is foreshadowed within the text itself and in some of the comments in earlier volumes of the Six Duchies works, so that it feels and organic part of the text rather than something forced into it.

Also, Hobb again manages to address social issues in the work.  Queer studies will have something to say about The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince no less than other works in the Six Duchies milieu, as will gender studies.  Marxist criticism is likely to be particularly applicable to the text, as well.  The question of what certain major threads of the Six Duchies milieu signify is also further complicated by the text, so that my own work with Hobb's corpus will find more to do--and I appreciate having tasks to which to turn my mind.

Works Cited
~Hobb, Robin. Royal Assassin. New York: Bantam, 1997. Print.
~---. The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince. Illus. Jon Foster. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2013. Print.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

20130601.1049

As the weather has grown warmer in The City, I find that a change has come over me in my years living here.  Time was, when I lived in the strong and kindly sunlight of the American South, such temperatures as have been seen in The City these past few days did not disturb me.  If I stood in the sun (and I spent many hours doing that very thing), I would sweat, of course, but it would not flow from me in runnels down the divot of my spine or the backs of my legs.  It would form instead a sheen on my skin, leaving me glistening in the light to the eyes of those few who would bother to look at me.

Now, though, at a bare brush of light I begin to burn and I pump out perspiration in plenitude.  And I feel it most on my upper lip; I swear that I sweat more from under my moustache than any other similarly-sized part of my body.  I do not understand why.  Other places on me are more thickly haired, and some of them are swathed under layers of cloth even in the hottest days.  Yet I notice more the sweat of my upper lip than of my brow, my back, or most any other part of me.

The problem is compounded by the relative lack of air conditioning in The City.  This place depends on window units for the most part, leading me to wonder if there is some kind of arcane agreement between The City's builders and the companies that make such things.  While I well understand that retrofitting some of the older buildings for central air would be prohibitively expensive and ridiculously complicated, new construction here all too often eschews central ventilation, continuing instead to deploy window units and radiators.  Why they would do so when other systems are so much better, I do not know.

In any event, I find that I must fall back on some of the older ways of doing things, ways which work well enough (if not so well as actually having decent ventilation systems!).  I minimize light so as to minimize the perception of heat in the mind (brighter often translating to hotter), I stay in the shade as I can, I wear a hat when I am out and it is remotely appropriate to do so, and I make a point of staying hydrated.  The last has the unfortunate effect of sending me to the toilet more often than is usual for me, but given the alternatives...at least bathrooms are often cool.