Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Those who have read what I have written know that I discuss my work as a college-level English teacher--a work that I am moving to Oklahoma to be able to continue with some sense of security.  I assign my students a fair amount of writing, even though I know that many of them are entirely unaccustomed to doing such work.  I also try to model the kind of behavior I want to see from my students, and so I end up doing the same assignments I give them.  When I assign them a short essay--say, a summary of an article from the New York Times--I do so from having written a number of them and doing yet more at odd intervals, and the same is true if I ask for a short contrastive essay, or yet other kinds of papers.

One that I assign to my first-year composition classes and my literature classes is a conference-length paper, one intended for a fifteen- to twenty-minute presentation--although, given the relative newness of the experience to my students and the demands on my own time, I tend to work at the shorter end of what is acceptable for such a thing.  Since I am teaching one section of first-year composition and one section of literature this term, I have drafted two such papers (and recently!); the second, a piece on Robin Hobb's Words like Coins, is of particular note for me, offering something of a new experience and what might be a small foray into digital humanities work, broadly defined.

It is so because I have Words like Coins only in e-book format, and working with it in that format was my first experience with inserting marginalia for my own use into an electronic document.  (I tend to grade papers in digital form, but there is a marked difference between writing comments for students who too often do not read them and leaving notes for myself to follow later as I draft papers.)  The process is a bit unwieldy for me, given the number of clicks necessary for the input method to work, and I am still not able to scan through an electronic document as quickly as a print one to find individual notes and comments.  Still, the notes are typed rather than scrawled out in my less-than-elegant pen-hand, and they mark out the text to which they refer more clearly than my analog scribblings, so there is something worth pursuing in the process.

I have long since decided that the e-reader my lovely wife bought for me a few years back would be the venue through which I will read most of my leisure reading (I maintain a subscription to the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, as I have since 1999, and still receive it and some other magazines in print).  My library remains (if a bit leaner due to packing for the move), and it still receives additions, but those are typically critical materials and gift/display copies; the throwaway books with which I occupy myself on planes and trains are being moved to the e-reader.  I do a fair it of work with such materials, however, and it is good to know that I can do so in the digital as well as in the print.

Monday, July 29, 2013


The upcoming move is fast approaching, and packing for it is going decently.  Yesterday, in fact, my beloved wife and I managed to get our main bookshelf packed away and broken down.  Thirteen boxes of books are waiting for loading, now, ready to go when it is actually time to go, and the apartment that she and I have shared looks remarkably barren.

There is a sense of finality creeping upon me these past days, one intensifying in strength as I get closer to flying to Oklahoma to take up my new work.  The sensation of things drawing to a close has settled on me a few times in the past when I have known that it is time to move on.  Coming up to the end of my undergraduate study was one such.  As I completed my cycle of student teaching and faced moving on to graduate school, I could feel my institution reorienting to have me outside of it.  I had spent much of my time as an undergraduate at the school and involved in its activities, so to feel myself being shunted away was unsettling--and a bit depressing.

Similarly, when I made the adjustment that brought me from being on-site at my graduate program, I had a decisive feeling of change and reorientation.  Something was ending for me, something that, despite its problems, had become comfortable and familiar.  I knew what I was supposed to do, when, and with whom, and making the arrangements to leave that and for it to leave me was...uncomfortable.  That I handled it badly did not improve matters.

I am similarly...uncomfortable now.  Over the past four years or so, I have grown accustomed to The City and its ways.  I have adapted to the incessant sounds of slow-moving traffic and screaming train brakes.  I have grown used to the inanity of city services and the hassle of trains running as they ought to just often enough that people meaningfully hope for them.  I have come to understand how unions function for the benefit of their working members--and how that sometimes screws over other working members.  The crowding and clutter no longer faze me as they once did; indeed, I negotiate both with some ease (and more annoyance) now than before.  And I have very much taken to the many things that are offered to my benefit here, things like the New York Public Library and the New York Aikikai, both of which have been useful and helpful for me these past years and which I appreciate very much.  I understand how things work here, and I know how to work with and around them.  I have made a place here, and I fill it well.

But I am leaving that place for what many here regard as uncivilized hinterlands.  I know that they are in large measure wrong; there is much of value in "flyover country" and I am not unhappy to avail myself of it.  Still, I do not entirely relish the idea of having to re-learn how to live, and I know that I am going to have to do so.  The City works differently from other places (and I will, at some point, be writing about how), and I have adapted to it.  I was comfortable, and I have disrupted that comfort to pursue other opportunities, opportunities that The City does not offer me.  My time here is ending, and I know it in the fibers of my being as much as in the recesses of my mind and whatever descriptor can apply to my soul.  And I cannot say that I am at ease, not honestly.

However I feel about it, though, the move is happening.  It remains, then, only for me to try to face it better than I have such endings in the past.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


As noted in my previous entry, I am in the process of relocating to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to take up a position as Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Oklahoma State University.  The process requires me to do a number of things, including going through the various stuff that has accumulated in the home my lovely, loving wife and I have made together in The Best of the Boroughs and getting rid of those things which do not serve us well.

I have discussed my reading at length, I think, and my stated work as a scholar in the academic humanities on its own suggests that I spend a lot of time buried in texts.  Implied by this, known by those who have been in my home and those who have known me for any length of time, and openly stated here is that my wife and I have quite a few books.  Both of us work with language, and much language is encoded in written and printed texts.  Both of us enjoy reading, and we both began decades before electronic texts were widely available.  So it makes sense that we have had many books--and we are hardly unique in keeping around us the things we like, so that it makes sense that we have held on to a lot of books.

We have fewer of them now, and we are likely to have fewer yet as we move forward in packing for the move.  Many that we have already set out on the curb, and which have already vanished away, are duplicate volumes; both of us have owned copies of a text, and only one of those copies was permitted to remain with us (usually mine, given my greater propensity to produce marginalia).  Many others are the kind that I have taken to purchasing for electronic reading, using the e-reader my beloved wife gave me a while back; my recreational reading, in almost all cases, is done on the little device.  Some are volumes hopelessly out of date and without sentimental value attached to them; I have several books from older generations of my family, and although the understandings they represent are long since invalidated, having the notes of my forebears in their margins serves to connect me to my heritage in a way I value greatly--and those books are staying with me for a long time to come.  Others are not so lucky.

The necessity of paring down the gathering of printed pages is conceded, and relocating offers a good impetus to meet that obligation.  Still, for a person who has not vainly sought to borrow from his books surcease of sorrow, surpassing Poe's most noted narrator in that as in much else, the reduction of the library that has grown up over years of reading is...uncomfortable.  Print itself is shrinking away, and while it will never die out altogether, its decline has had and is having effects that are not necessarily to be encouraged.  Purging volumes from my wife's collection and mine serves in part to promote that decline, even as it is called for by other circumstances.  Too, I like having stuff, and I have less of it now.

Monday, July 22, 2013


Work in education traditionally does not pay well, particularly given the amount of training time necessary to work in it in a full-time capacity.  At the primary and secondary level, a bachelor's degree is required.  At the collegiate level, working as an instructor or lecturer, education past the bachelor's is mandated.  For professorial work, a terminal degree--usually a doctorate--is obligatory.  Each requires years to earn, and terminal degrees almost always require work beyond the classroom; for example, the PhD is a research degree, meaning that to earn it obliges a candidate to contribute to human knowledge, to learn something that nobody else on the planet has known before.

It is no small thing, yet it is relatively little rewarded. reports that the average new assistant professor in the 2012-2013 academic year (who will have been in school for eleven or more years to earn a doctorate and will have worked several years outside the tenure track) earned some US$65,000.  It is a good salary in itself, but it comes at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt in most cases, and years of lost wages and benefits in nearly all; the degrees get done in a decade only through full-time enrollment, and full-time enrollment almost completely precludes full-time employment, which is where the (few remaining) benefits are to be found.  Data on the far more frequently seen adjunct faculty--part-time college teachers who constitute the majority of the academic workforce and who often themselves hold terminal degrees--are lacking, but from having been one and having been among many others, I can assert that the remuneration leaves much to be desired.  The pay comes from the classroom hours only, but the job necessarily extends outside of classroom hours; there is no other way to do it.

One of the things that was supposed to offset the relatively low economic position of the US teaching corps was the security of the job.  It may not have paid well, but those who showed up and did a decent job did not have to worry that they would not have a job to do the next term if they wanted it.  But there is a reason I cast the description in the past tense, and that reason is that it is no longer the case.  No Child Left Behind (about which is a bit here and a related bit here) does much of it at the primary and secondary level--but that is old news.  Various other applicable laws impact it at the collegiate level (about which comments are here and possibly elsewhere).  My own experience has not avoided the problem, either, as I have remarked (here, here, and here).  That many people continue to pursue teaching careers, then, is perhaps confusing.

I am sure that there are many who use teaching as a stopgap measure on the way to a "real" job; the increasingly contingent academic workforce promotes an accelerating turnover that ensures there will always be jobs coming open.  But there are many who view teaching as a career even with the difficulties attendant upon it.  They speak to the old entanglement of formalized education with religious institutions because they respond to the work of scholarship as a calling, a thing that is in them to do and demands to be done.  I am such a person, as can be guessed; even in this blog, I push out piece that at least passingly resemble scholarly discourse, and I certainly talk about enough of it.  In that spirit, I have accepted other employment in the academy, employment that does something to connect me to the professed faith of my family these past few generations.  As I have noted, I am a Methodist and come from Methodists, and it is typical of Methodist clergy (among whom have been a great-grandfather and a great uncle of mine) that they are rotated among churches, traveling from post to post from time to time.  And so I will be relocating to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to take up a position as Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Oklahoma State University.

The position is temporary, one year renewable for up to three.  The teaching load is quite nice, particularly given the load I have been carrying these past years; I will be able to spend more time with students and more time on other work.  Early though it is, I am confident that I will be renewed, but I am not arrogantly assuming that I will be; instead, I am working to ensure that I have the option, and I am not ignoring others.  How and where I will move after remains to be seen--and I look forward to finding out.

Friday, July 19, 2013


Several weeks ago, I posted a piece that looks at a bookmark that I found in a book I came to own.  It occurs to me this morning (entirely randomly, I know) that asking about why a bookmark would be left in place where it is might come across as odd to a few people.  It occurs to me also that I have often had to address the questions of why I study what I study and why I study them in the ways that I do.  Now seems as good a time as any to work towards answers.

(A note: I teach English and study literature, so I tend to be text-oriented.  Accordingly, I will frame my answers in terms of writing.  They apply, with minor adjustment, to other media, as well.)

In one fairly restricted sense, a text is a gathering of words assembled to convey some meaning that is idealized in the minds of the author and reader but not fully understood by either (for reasons that can be discussed later; for now, please go along with the idea).  The words on the page--whether print or digital--carry meanings individually and in sequence, their denotations and connotations interacting to foster larger understandings.  Much of the work of scholarship in language studies is to examine those understandings, to look at the formal definitions and associated meanings, and puzzle out what they are, for there is more going on in any text than people typically realize.  (This includes authors, who write what they write from who they are--and we do not have a full grasp of ourselves and our identities.)

The words do not exist on their own, however.  To see them, there must be some medium of display.  There must be a page from which to read them, or a screen, or a sign, or the perhaps poorly pricked-out design of a tattoo on back or bust or butts.  That medium also carries meaning, frequently a set of associations derived from larger cultural contexts, and that meaning interacts with that of the words themselves to make the text mean something different when it is in a book than when it is on a computer or when it is a series of roadside signs (Burma-Shave, anyone?).  A book bound in hardcover and printed on high-quality paper implies that the words on its pages are more important by virtue of the greater expense and effort spent in producing the volume.  A richly designed webpage seems to matter more, while something evidently dashed together in a hurry matters less (for if even the writer does not care enough to do a good job...).  Each medium conveys different ideas, even if the text is identical, so the embodiment of the text contributes to the understanding of it.  Making sense of the text, then, requires making sense of its context--including how it is presented.

The medium of display also impacts how the words themselves appear, and that appearance carries meaning, as well.  Changing the color of the text alters how it is read.  Red is associated through the machinations of evil English teachers with error when it appears in writing, for instance; does this not appear to be a mistake?  Yet there is no error in it.  Similarly the type-face; something seems different in these words than for those words which precede them, does it not?  The font can make it easier or harder to read the text, and the alteration to the amount of effort needed to decode the thing will attract some readers and repulse others, changing the dynamic of reading and therefore of how meaning is conveyed.  The changes demand explication, hence the attention paid to features of design even in books, let alone more "visual" media.

The same is true for individual copies of the text.  What is left in a given copy of a book--marginalia, for example, or bookmarks--serves to indicate how previous owners of that copy have interacted with the text, and that interaction offers a perspective on what the text means.  The Irigaray bookmark I still do not understand, but I know that there must be something there.  My own bookmarks, when I leave them in place, indicate things about me, points of particularly relevant meaning.  My family Bible (a quatercentenary facsimile edition of the 1611 King James Version), for instance, is bookmarked at Proverbs and 1 Corinthians 8; make of it what you will, and you might even be right (I have no way to know).  The margin-notes in my own books call attention to what my background makes clear and leaves unclear--and if even I, who claim with some arrogance and some justification to be a master reader, see things as unclear, they are likely to be quite opaque to a great many people, a place where meaning breaks down, and so a place well worth examining to find meaning.

Looking at the things that surround the words, their paratextual features, helps reveal what the words do mean and what the words can mean.  In those meanings and potential meanings there is much to reveal the human condition, to speak to us about ourselves, and in learning who and what we are, we can find ways to improve.

All of us need to be better.

Monday, July 15, 2013


Those who know me best know that I just took a flying trip to the middle of the country.  The news is not bad, this time; it is, in fact, quite good.  I managed to get done what needed doing on the trip, and my lovely wife and I will be able to move ahead.

As I took the flights (four in total), I was reminded of a few things that are commonplaces in my travels--and I do a fair bit of traveling, what with conferences and all.  One of them was the expense of the airport, although I must admit that living in The City makes the price hikes less noticeable.  Another was the crowding, although, again, life in The City prepares a person for economy seating; cramped as it may be, a seat is a seat, and there are fewer performance artists and reeking indigents with which to contend.

Most notable to me, however, was the pain.  Taking off does not bother me; my ears pop, and then I am fine.  The flight itself is no problem; I usually sleep through most of it, anymore.  But landing...landing is what shoots spikes of pain into the deeper recesses of my head, icepicks driven by increasing pressure in stages through layers of my tissues.  Landing is what makes me want to send up an infant wail at the frustration of feeling my ears shift and pop (ruining my hearing for hours, I might add) over and over again as the place slowly spirals down to a too-often jerky landing.  Landing is what lays me low--and it is far worse when, as now, my sinuses are acting up.

It was not only my ears throbbing, but the plugged cavities inside my head.  I swear I could feel my skull bowing in slightly, the bones of my face trying to flex against themselves to adapt to the pressure differences within and without.  And that was with me chewing a stick of gum and yawning and trying to clear my nasal and sinus passages to allow free air flow.  I shudder to think what would have happened otherwise.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


Conventional wisdom holds that New York City moves quickly, its millions of people going about their business at a frenetic pace at all hours of the day and night, restlessly passing from one task to another.  It is not far wrong; simply walking down a sidewalk in The City often demands weaving and dodging among hordes of people united only in the hurry with which they make their separate ways from place to place with little concern for their surroundings beyond their ability to be exploited and their potential to cause harm--if even for so much as that.  A nervousness develops thereby that itself demands a more hectic series of actions to work it off, feeding into a cycle that conspires against the people who live and work in The City.

That frenetic, nervous haste demands much energy, more than can be effectively had from cream-cheese-smeared bagels and slices of greasy cheese pizza (both of which can be easily and cheaply found at almost any time in almost any place in The City).  Most frequently, caffeine is what is used to supplement the need, and it is delivered most commonly through something mangled in the mouths of locals as "coafee" although written as "coffee."

With coffee, I am long and abundantly familiar, as those who know me know.  But I find that I am something of an oddity in my intimacy with it, even in The City where much that is elsewhere exceedingly strange is a daily occurrence.  For although The City is a place of coffee drinkers, it is a place where the basic form of a thing is rarely acceptable.  It is part of the character of this place that people cannot leave well enough alone.  Clothes must be accessorized, apartments personalized, and idiosyncrasies indulged.  Coffee must be adjusted through sugar and milk and other flavorings that make the black and bitter brew something else--except, it seems, for me.

I take my coffee black.

I must admit that The City is not the only place where my propensity to drink coffee that is untainted and unadulterated by milk or cream, by sugar or one of the substitutes therefore, or by flavorings naturally and artificially evocative of ice creams and candies has struck people oddly.  When I was in my graduate coursework, before I came to the Big Apple, I had access to coffee pots operated by the department of which I was part, and I made good use of that access, downing another cup every hour or so as long as I was in the building and the department offices were open.  Never did I introduce cream or sugar into my cup as did nearly all others who availed themselves of the most welcome service.  And it was remarked upon that I did not do so, usually alongside comments such as "I can never drink it black; it's too strong for me."

It might be remarked that my drinking my coffee as I drink it is an indication that my palate is blunt and undiscriminating, that I have so abused my gustatory senses that only a sharp shock registers with them anymore--much as someone who listens to loud sounds loses the ability to hear soft ones.  But it might also be remarked--and more accurately, I think--that my refusal to cover up the taste of brewed, burnt beans has left me better able to actually perceive that taste and to understand more finely the subtle distinctions among blends and roasts.  And lest it be thought that I have made myself some sort of hyper-pretentious gourmand who scoffs at the plain thereby, let it be remarked that I do not buy for my deep daily drinking civet coffee or high-dollar exotic blends, but instead a common red-bagged coffee found easily in Louisiana and some few other places.

I drink other coffees, certainly, and I enjoy them.  But I do not do so daily.  I do not orient my life around being able to make it by coffee shops local and international.  Instead, I brew a pot (or two, for a long day) at home as I have done for a decade and more, showing in it the working-class background that is mine.  In it, I remain grounded in my origins, and I am glad of it.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


Today marks the two hundred thirty-seventh anniversary of the declared independence of the United States from Great Britain (the establishment of the nation as a nation came some years later, since it could not be confirmed until the Revolutionary War--something of a misnomer--was won, and the current Constitutional government is younger even than that).  As has been the case once or twice before, I find myself musing on the ideas that the day is supposed to commemorate and those that it celebrates in practice.

Ideally, the holiday celebrates what it is to be an American, or what is best about being American.  The willingness to stand for the right even if standing alone, to rely on the self and not drag down others, to work relentlessly to improve upon the world are good things and should be celebrated (although I am not convinced that they are strictly American).  The ideal that people can make things better for themselves is one well worth striving towards--and although the striving is not done yet, it remains a thing to do with all diligence.

In practice, though, it has become a celebration of what is...not so fortunate about America.  Brooklyn offers easy examples.  Already, it devolves into disorganized hordes crowding the streets and parks, people each acting for themselves and commonly to the annoyance or injury of others.  People are being drawn in to stores, not so much to buy food to share with friends and family, but to buy clothes and shoes "on sale" and clutter their lives with more crass material that tries and fails to ease the longings for importance and significance they feel.  And on Coney Island, preparations are being made for a spectacle of gluttony--the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.  People gorge themselves on highly processed and decidedly unhealthy food on camera and for the entertainment of others while a scant few blocks away children are starving to death in the streets.

Clearly, there is more striving to do.  Let us take thought for what is best and do more to work towards it.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


It should come as no surprise that I spend a fair bit of time and energy writing.  Erratically as this blog updates, it does update, and I am not exactly noted for doing a lot of audio or video work.  Too, it is not the only blog that I maintain; I run one in support of my teaching, and I have (comparatively) recently taken to working on another one entirely.  While it is admittedly the case that neither updates particularly quickly, they, too, update, and they, too, are creations of text.

So, too, is the journal I have maintained since the end of my undergraduate career.  I had made abortive efforts to write one a few times in the past, but I had never been able to summon the discipline to actually carry out the task of putting pen to paper on what I admittedly still struggle to make a daily basis.  The years have seen my entries increase in length and heft, and while I do not anymore usually devote myself to a simple record of the day's events, I still do much to note what happens and how I feel about it.

In addition, I do still work on papers.  The fact that I am more or less done with formal education, having earned a terminal degree in my chosen field and having no plans at this time to try to seek another, does not mean that I am done with papers.  I have constructed much of my identity around being a productive scholar; years of graduate school tend to have that effect.  And while it may not be the case that terribly much of my writing has made it into print (or promises to; I have an article forthcoming), much of the writing that I do for my blogs is of a scholarly nature, and I do a fair bit of conference work each year.  Although I am presenting fewer papers, I am proposing and organizing sessions more frequently, and doing so (especially the latter) takes many words on many pages.  Really, it is like writing short papers, and so even when I am not "writing," I am writing.

Similar is the editorial work that I have been doing recently.  I am a reviewer and a member of the editorial board for the nascent journal Humanities Directory (and we could use submissions!), and going over articles requires no small amount of writing.  For example, I worked through a series of drafts of an article for the journal, and each of my sets of comments consisted of several hundred words.  One topped a thousand.  Admittedly, the writing was far less intensive than is needed to generate an article, but it was still writing.  I still had to be able to identify what I saw, recommend changes, and explain why those changes were the kind that ought to be made--and in text rather than in voice or image.

And then there is grading.  I do not teach the kind of thing that can be reduced to a multiple-choice exam.  I do not even teach the kind of thing that can be assessed through nothing more than a simple formula or template.  I teach writing, and writing can be good in many ways, such that a single pattern cannot account for them all.  Instead, as I assess the writing submitted to me, I write  in response to it, noting what I find works poorly and what works well, and explaining both how it works as I find it and how it can be improved.  I have yet to have happen, as has happened to me, that there is more text on the page from the instructor than from the student, but I very much leave my marks on the papers I receive--and they do not stop at A or B or F.

Of course, I cannot grade what I do not assign, and those assignments oblige me to generate written materials.  It is true, admittedly, that when I teach a course across semesters, I retain much of the earlier assignment forms, and so my writing tasks are lessened.  But I adjust each term, often several times, and I am occasionally assigned to teach entirely new courses.  Further, because I seek to model the behavior I expect to see from my students, I write responses to the prompts I assign.  Again, I am sometimes able to recycle them from term to term.  I also sometimes use writing I have done in other circumstances but which illustrates what I want the students to do.  But there is still the need to generate writing, to produce fresh examples so that the students have an increasing body of work from which hopefully to draw inspiration for and understanding of the assigned tasks, a need that I work to meet each term and for each class.  So I end up writing a damned lot for many reasons.

Even so, there are many times I find myself struggling to get words onto the page.  Despite the practice I get in doing so, I have difficulties writing.  It is not easy, as some well know, to generate content.  I have to take in much to be able to produce much, and there is only so much of either that doing the other will allow; it is quite the challenge to read while writing, or to write while reading.  And even though I read much (subscribing to several journals in addition to reading online and in other venues), there has to be time for the ideas to percolate and align themselves in my mind before they can productively emerge into the part of my mind that I can directly perceive, from whence I develop them into a form that may or may not be worth the attentions of others.

It is, frankly, a damned lot of work.  And I know that it is not the kind of work that is commonly called work.  I know that there will be some who read this who scoff at my assertion that writing is exhausting and demanding.  After all, to write, a writer sits with a pen in hand or a keyboard at fingertips, rather than sweating in the humid heat of the New York City summer or stopping sweating in the kindly Texas Hill Country August sunlight.  A writer traces lines or presses buttons rather than carrying weight up stairs and hills or hammering nails into boards so that they may stand independently.

To those people I say several things.  The first is that it requires experience in the world to be able to write of it.  Did not Melville serve aboard ship before writing of shipboard life?  Did not Poe suffer loss before penning odes to loss?  Did not Bradstreet see the hardships of new colonies before bespeaking them in page-bound verse?  Did not Twain work in the world before commenting upon it?  Did not Wheatley know of slavery?  (Is it not obvious that I have been teaching American literature?)  What can be written without experience?  For even if a thing may be discussed which had not been endured by the one who discusses it, still that one must have some embodied understanding of something at least tangentially similar to be able to discuss it in a way that has any hope of being convincing.

To them I say also that I have done such things as dig ditches in the lush and fertile soil of the Texas Hill Country while the cool and kindly August sun smote me about the head and shoulders.  I have put pipes together and pulled wires through them so that the darkness of the night could be pushed back in homes mine and others'.  I have fought in the dank and humid heat of the New York City summers.  It is why I use them as the examples of physical work.  And I still struggle as much to do what I do with pen and keyboard as I have done with hammer in hand.  I think I am not the only one--and I think that it is far easier for me to do such work than it is likely to be for those who inveigh against my speaking of "challenge" to do the work that I do.

But they are like to know that.  For from how many is heard the refrain that "I'm no good at English" or words so similar as to make no difference?  And what else is the study of English but the study of writing--a study embodied in the very thing being studied.  Writing can hardly be studied save in writing, and many are the people who say that they cannot write well.  For them to then say that what I do, writing in abundance and striving ever to do yet more of it, is not work and is not difficult is, frankly, a fucking load of shit.

Monday, July 1, 2013


Today is my beloved wife's birthday.  Which birthday it is, I leave to those who already know to know.

This is far from the first of her birthdays that I have seen, although I admit that I have not often commented on that fact in this kind of forum; I can find only one such, and that does not come from this particular blogroll.  But that does not mean that I have not been with her on her birthday before--since 2006, in fact.  Each time, I have worked to show her quite the time, and this year will be no different.

(She already knows what will happen.  There are no spoilers here.)

The first time I helped my wife celebrate her birthday was well before she was my wife--or even my fiancĂ©e.  At the time, we were very good friends, but we were not romantically involved as is typically thought of.  The birthday dinner was a large affair, with a number of people from graduate school still hanging about; we were still both in our master's program, then, still sitting in the cubicles across from one another that had seen us work on Beowulf.  It was at an Italian place in Lafayette, Louisiana, that I am not sure is still in business at this point (last time I was in that part of the world was more than a year ago, and that was only for a few busy days), and I do not recall the details of the meal.

I do remember, however, that a good time was had by all.  It set a precedent that I hope to continue for many years to come, one of making the woman I love very happy on her birthday--and as many other days as I can arrange.