Monday, March 31, 2014


It should not be much of a surprise that I write papers. Lord knows I have blathered on about being a scholar in the academic humanities enough in this webspace to let people know that I am one. (Admittedly, there is a bit of Polonius here. Perhaps I do protest too much.) And we all know, of course, that one of the things those who study the academic humanities do is write papers. Nobody who matters will read them, of course, because nobody who matters bothers with the academic humanities--because they do not matter. But we write them, anyway.

I wrapped one up yesterday and sent it off for what I hope will be publication. (If it gets picked up, I will certainly crow about it.) And I was relieved to do so; there is great satisfaction in sending something out. Doing so offers the chance for greater renown, greater demonstration to those few who actually look at such things that I am producing work, that I am working to add to the collected body of human knowledge and to cement human understanding of who and what we are. It thereby improves my chances of finding stable, steady work, however slightly. And it clears space in my agenda and in my mind for other work to get done--of which there is always more.

From late in my undergraduate work through my graduate and past (and it is strange to think that I am approaching two years past my PhD), I have worked on papers not only because I have been assigned to do them by my professors, but because I have had ideas that I have felt needed explicating. Notions of what things mean and how they make their meaning emerge in my mind, and, like Minerva, they scrape against the inside of my skull until they can find release. (The implication that I am like Jupiter is inaccurate, I know. It is not from my hands that peals of thunder come, nor is my marriage unhappy. It helps that it is not to my sister...) Working on them eases pressure in my mind, and finishing them so that they can be sent off or delivered is...I am not sure that there is a comparable physical act. I hope what I produce is better than excretion, but I know that it is as nothing against the birth of a child. It is something on which I will have to think more.

That I have been thusly eased does not mean that I am done. There is, as I note, always more work to be done, and I have already gotten started (or resumed work, rather) on the next paper I am set to deliver. It is going well enough so far, and I hope that it will continue to do so. I do not relish the idea that it will get backed up, for I know the vexation of it--not unlike a sinus problem, actually, although simultaneously less physically painful and more distracting.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Late in the day for this, I know, but it still needs doing.

There are things people say
About being a father
That it is rewarding
That it is a damned lot of work
That it changes everything
And they are right.

They say that there is a chance
For jealousy
Of the baby
Because the baby becomes more important to the mother
Of the mother
Because she is more important to the baby
Than the father ever can be
And they are right.

(Forgive the heteronormativity
I can only write what I know
And I know that I am in the kind of relationship
That is unmarked because it is privileged)

They say that there is a chance
For madness
For lack of sleep and fundamental alterations
To identity
Are decentering and destabilizing
And neither is rewarded anymore if they ever were
And they are right.

They do not say, though,
That the little one will fart so much
Incessantly pushing gas
And loudly
Through a hole known to be small from the repeated cleaning of it

Juvenile it may be,
The kid does daddy proud.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


It is easy to look about myself and become not a soothsayer but a doomsayer. Things are not as they ought to be, and there appears little hope of making them as they ought to be, for there is inertia in more than just physical things, and the long motions of cultures are not easily swayed. (It is an issue with which the Good Doctor wrestles more than once. The answer is not as it is in a different book entirely; leaping away will do no good, for we cannot move quickly enough. And what will be left behind will be even worse.) Too many of us perhaps ought to be renamed Cassandra; those who will look about themselves can see what is and what is coming, but those to whom they say it will not give heed. It is not for nothing therefore that she is said to be cursed--and that those who are like her can understand that curse all too well.

But I find that when I look at Ms. 8 as she moves very much like she is trying to crawl (when she has something against which to push, she can move herself, but she has yet to figure out how to get traction otherwise) or as she lifts up her head to turn it from side to side and look at my Mrs. or at me, it is hard to look at the rest of the world so grimly. She does not strip from me the awareness that the problems are still in place--far from it--but in her still-new face and bright eyes I see reason to hope and reason to struggle against the blind force of too many people too much content, reason other than having no other choice.

Friday, March 28, 2014


I remember reading something on one of my social media feeds to the effect of "If I follow the path this person walked, I will end up in the same place," remarking that doing the same things as a person being lauded will result in the same thing for which the person was lauded. It seems like it ought to make sense; follow the trodden road to reach the destination. But it fails to take into account other things and other ideas that influence the results of actions, and so it comes off as sloppy reasoning. (As I recall, the person in question has been trumpeted for being intelligent and for being in a good program at a good university. The sloppiness in reasoning is somewhat more annoying therefore; the person ought to know better.*)

Getting to the same location in the same condition as those who have gone before (and being in the same condition is necessary to get the same result) requires that the circumstances along the way be the same as they were for those who have gone before. To continue with the metaphor of physical travel, the road has to be in the same condition now as when those who went before went; if there are new potholes or construction, the travel will be altered. Too, the weather needs to be the same; a drive on a sunny road is far different than one in the pounding rain, and the driver will be in a far different state after the one than after the other. The scenery and surroundings need also to be the same for the result to be the same; changes to the cost of gas or food, or to the food offerings, or to the foliage will change the experience of the drive, the comfort of the driver, and the resources available to the driver at the drive's end. So will the company along the way; how other people in the car behave, and how many of them there are, makes a difference. Neglecting them and focusing only on the route traveled is not helpful; it is an oversimplification that fails to account for much that needs to be considered.

The oversimplification exemplifies one of the problems with aphorisms and the trite. By making things simple and easy, they strip from those things layers of meaning that may or may not be immediately evident but that certainly offer a better understanding of those things. They remove information necessary to make the best possible decisions, and so they strip from those who hear them part of their ability to meaningfully engage with the world--unless they follow up with additional questions. But those questions are seldom forthcoming; the pithiness of aphorism and the comfort of cliché tend to forestall further inquiry, for they sound final--but they need not to be.

*As I perhaps ought to know better than to make passive-aggressive comments.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


I have often wondered about the association between
Those who study language and literature
And cats
The stereotype is certainly in place
And many or most of such students known to me
Are in fact cat people

This is not to say
Of course
That some are not dog folks
And some do not go for pets more exotic
And yet others reject having pets at all
Whether for PETAs reason
Or the actually intelligent
Acknowledgement that they cannot care for themselves
Let alone something else

What is it about the cat
All too often dismissive or hostile
That attracts students of language and literature
Do we not get enough derision from the world at large
Do we really need to get more of it at home
Do we not crave adulation
Which a cat will never give
And the world will rarely offer
If ever

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Today was supposed to be several things.

It was supposed to be Ms. 8's day of delivery, the day my daughter was supposed to enter the world. I was going to take my wife to the hospital and sit supportively with her as she labored to bring Ms. 8 into the waking world. But other things happened--and I am glad, actually, since I have gotten to begin to know my daughter more than a month ahead of time. I do worry, though, that this sets a precedent; how often will she frustrate the plans others have made?

Today was also supposed to be a normal day. I do not have to report anywhere but the office and my classes. I am going to talk about the Bard with one class and about picking pieces apart with the other two--all things I am good at. I have grading and commenting to do, of course, but that is not unexpected; even in "normal" weeks, I have them to do in the middle of the week. I was rather looking forward to it, to having a regular, uneventful day.

The cats, though, decided to make things more complicated this morning. One of them, a neutered male snowshoe, took the chance to slip out into the back yard of Sherwood Cottage when my father-in-law slipped out to take care of something that needed doing. He managed to get the cat trapped in the garage and got me just as I was getting done getting dressed for the day. I made my way out to try to corral the cat; it took some doing, but I finally laid hold of the animal and got him back into the house. Ultimately, no harm was done, but it was not a good beginning to the day; I worry that it bodes ill.

That I am so concerned is a recognition of the primacy effect upon me, the idea that what happens first colors all that comes after. (The cliché about first impressions applies. I still do not like seeing it in the writing I read.) When I discuss it with my students, I make the comparison to a fight; a solid blow early on makes whatever follows it seem more powerful to the one being struck. There are days that open with something akin to a kick in the teeth; today was not one of them, perhaps, but a kick to the shin is hardly a pleasant experience. (Take it from one who knows.) No damage has been done, but I cannot afford to limp through the day, and I worry that my wife will be concerned by the bruising and swelling.

(I know that carrying a metaphor for some distance leads to trouble. It is actually part of the fun, seeing how far it can go before it breaks down and the comparison is no longer valid. And that strikes me as an entertaining exercise for students to pursue. I can envision the prompt: "Extend one of the metaphors listed below until the comparison it makes is no longer valid. Identify the point at which the metaphor breaks down and explain why it fails at that point and not before.")

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


As it happens, when I reported for jury duty yesterday, I was told that the case for which I had been called up had been settled out of court over the weekend. Since I had already made arrangements regarding work, and it would have been...bad of me to undo those arrangements, I ended up having a day with my family, about which I am pleased. It was a good day. (And I still stand by my point about jury duty informing the breadth of the secondary and undergraduate curricula. There are other reasons, of course, but for the civic-minded, it should be somewhat more convincing than most of those others.)

There is always a cost, of course. That I spent so good a day with my people as I did yesterday means that I have to work all the harder today. There are the arrangements I made to cover work with which I must deal, in addition to the regular things that go along with Monday teaching. There are also the many papers I have to write--that I knocked out one conference does not mean I am done. And then, of course, Ms. 8 needs attention. (Indeed, she is growing quickly, with a healthy set of lungs and a healthy appetite--and she still is not supposed to have been born yet!) Each is needful, if for different reasons, and each must get itself done soon if it is to be done at all (save for the baby, of course, which is ongoing and so s never really "done.")

It is for such reasons that I am not thrilled to take days off--ever. Even in elementary and secondary schools, I recognized that having to play catch-up is worse than simply enduring the routine. It is part of the reason that I never played hooky as a kid. (Only part. Another is that the truancy officers in my hometown were vigilant, and the town was small enough to allow them to be so.) It is why I do not tend to take "mental health days" even in places that actually offer me leave time in which I can do so without penalty to my paycheck. I simply do not feel having the extra time is worth the effort of getting caught up once the extra time is done; better to get done and be free of things than to take a break and play hell coming back in.

Usually. Like I said, yesterday was a good day. But I still find myself here again, writing, and I will soon find myself in another place, writing about a number of other things--some of which may even make some sense. For that is, of course, the way of it; work on The Work and on what supports my efforts in it goes on throughout the term and beyond, and while there may be some time to relax and enjoy, there is more that must be given over to efforts to increase what is known and the number of people by whom it is known.

Monday, March 24, 2014


Spring Break has ended for the Pokes, but I will not be going back to teaching today. Instead, I get to return to the county courthouse for another bout of jury duty. With luck, I may be able to be excused or dismissed (I think I have to pass voir dire first), but I cannot count on that happening, and I do not know how long it would take me to get through the process in any event. As such, I have canceled all of my appointments for today; we will see if I will have to put off my return to the physical classroom a bit longer. (Fortunately, one class can "meet" online, while the others can be fairly easily proctored for a few days. Still, there is some annoyance in having to juggle things around.)

The idea that any citizen in good standing can be called up for jury duty is an argument in favor of public education and education in the liberal arts and humanities. If any of us--and I *am* a US citizen in good standing (somehow)--can be called up to determine the guilt or innocence of a person, or the penalty a guilty person must pay for violating the social contract in which we are all enmeshed, then it is incumbent upon those who will make that call to ensure that those called are capable of carrying out such duties. The military does not send fighting folk into the field without at least basic training in what they will be required to do; it follows that the government which calls its citizens to serve should ensure that they are equipped to conduct that service.*

Because proof manifests in many ways, it becomes necessary for citizens who will be called upon to evaluate proof to be conversant in those many ways. Being able to negotiate raw numbers and applied, to understand basic physical and chemical processes, to understand the workings of history and social context, to have a grasp of the inner workings of the mind, and to know how words work together and against one another are all potentially needful in such circumstances. That they are justifies the diversity of curriculum at the secondary and undergraduate (now, sadly, effectively upper secondary) levels. Their necessity demonstrates why it is important the humanities remain part of formal instruction for all people, despite claims that students do not learn what is taught. (The claims are old and familiar. Do we blame carpenters if the boards we give them are rotten? Perhaps--but we are unjust to do so when they cannot choose the wood with which they work, and we are unjust to censure them for making a stool when they are told that the lack of a stool will mean a lack of employment.)

I am fortunate that I have had such training, although I am still not certain how well I can ascertain guilt or innocence, compliance or non-compliance with statute. And I know that I will be sitting among those who are both more certain than I and less well trained.

*I am aware that basic training is just that: basic. I am aware that it may not suffice to the tasks at hand. I am aware that the same is true for the various educational systems in the US: those who "complete" them may well not know what they are about.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


I gave a talk alongside a Latino man of peace
He said he had found himself in a sandbox
Left to play on his own
And that it is not a good thing to leave people in such places

He is correct, of course
But not for the reason he thinks he is.
Unattended sandboxes collect things.
How not, when cats use them as toilets

I suppose the metaphor continues to work
He was talking about research
And it is the case that digging around sometimes
Yields up turds

To the untrained eye
Such turds can look like ore from which to derive precious metals
Or else like snacks thoughtfully provided
And it sometimes takes painful experience to teach which is which

Shall I simply hand off the shovel and pail
And let another sit in the sand without watching
Hoping that person will teach that person's self
Or should I watch and warn and guide along

Choose carefully
Both options have implications
Both choices consequences
And they cannot be avoided

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Following up from earlier today...

In addition to having a successful conference experience at CCCC, I had a decent time. (The two do not necessarily go together.) I noticed, however, that the conference seems a bit...sedate, something confirmed by comments from several repeat conference-goers with whom I spoke. CCCC tends to sequester itself in its hotel, which has the benefit of offering wonderful focus on the greatly enriching activities, but which conduces to perpetuation of the ivory-tower myth that does so much harm to the academic humanities. And the comparatively few conference events seem...subdued. (There is reportedly an annual occurrence affiliated with the conference that is...energetic, however. Fittingly, I missed it entirely.) Those I attended--and I made a point of attending a couple, so as to be not so much a hermit or curmudgeon as I easily become--were not heavily populated and seemed to be fun for a small set of people within that attendance. (Overpriced drinks do not help, especially at events supposedly underwritten by publishing companies that definitely have the money to spend on an open bar--or at least a reasonably priced cash bar. Honestly, the drinks at the hotel bar were better priced than those at at least one event. But I digress.)

Perhaps my own personality is something of a problem. I know that I have a tendency to rub people wrongly. Among other reasons, I remind many people of some who have been...unpleasant to them, and I know that some others associate me with figures of oppression whom I seem to embody. I am also fairly loud, as those who know me know, and not hesitant about voicing an opinion that may not always be in accord with prevailing standards of discourse. (I will point out, though, that I kept the more...earthy humor in check. I do know how to behave in public, even if I do not always act upon the knowledge as I ought.) Those who are more...aloof do not always find me...congenial.

Ultimately, it is of little moment. The conference was good; I learned much, and I look forward to looking into things more deeply.


Things went well at CCCC. My presentation seems to have been well received, and I was able both to talk to some interesting people and to attend a few poster sessions that interested me greatly. I will return to the wind-swept plains and Sherwood Cottage with much on which to think--and I may have the chance to discuss some of it with colleagues who were also in attendance at the event. I look forward to it.

This will be an abbreviated entry. The road calls to me, bidding me return to it and cross once again the Father of Waters on the way to my home and my people. I will not long resist it, but once I have found my way back to my place in the world, I may find that I have more to say about the experience.

Friday, March 21, 2014


I find myself in Indianapolis today to attend CCCC 2014. I present this afternoon, in fact, something about which I am just a bit nervous. I should be okay, though; I have done this kind of thing before, and in front of large audiences, and I will again (in a couple months, actually, and a couple months after that). But I have not presented on a composition-related topic in some time, not since 2006, so I am a bit concerned that I am out of practice.

Cs is a hell of a place to come back in.

Those who know me professionally outside of my coworkers know me as a medievalist and fantasist; they know that I study the languages and literatures of England from the Anglo-Saxon invasion through the ascent of the Tudors to the English throne as well as that body of literature of which Tolkien is the touchstone and which so self-consciously borrows from and misappropriates the older works. It might be wondered at, then, that I, who am not a rhetorician or a compositionist, would attend what is perhaps the most important conference those groups have in the United States. I present on literature at the South Central Modern Language Association conference, and I present on the medieval at the International Congress on Medieval Studies. This year, I am presenting on a quirk in a group of texts at the Evil Incarnate conference in Cleveland (which still sounds like a hell of a time*). Why, then, do I feel the need to go out among the compositionists and rhetoricians?

The answer is that most of the work I do to support my ability to do The Work is in the composition classroom. Most of the teaching I do is of writing classes--and even my literature classes end up offering explicit writing instruction. It is not to be wondered at that I would immerse myself in the newest research and best practices in the field in which I work; I am a professor, and I am a professional, so I want to know as much about the work I am asked to do as can be known, that I may do the best job of that work as can be done.

What is really to be wondered at is that more people do not do as I do. I am hardly the only person whose area of study is literary who ends up teaching more writing than reading; the nature of the job market in the academic humanities is such that the composition course offers the only chance at something resembling steady employment for most in the field. (Not that it is terribly stable; composition classes show enrollment fluctuation, and so those who teach them are those most likely to be kept contingent so that they can be the more easily dismissed or released when numbers are down.) Most who teach literature also teach writing. Certainly they require that writing be good. They ought therefore to be invested in the development of proficient writers--and that means continuing to train such that they can assist in that development.

I do not know how many of them I am going to see today.

*I am a dad. I get to make dad jokes.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


It is evidently the vernal equinox. To those of my friends who celebrate it as a holiday--Happy Equinox!

More directly relevant to me is that today, I head to Indianapolis for CCCC 2014. I am slated to participate in a roundtable discussion on undergraduate research (something with which I have some familiarity and which I encourage). Fortunately, the talk is tomorrow, so I can spend today in transit without much worry--with traffic, I have to be concerned, but that will be about all. (I hope.)

Normally, I am happy to head to conferences. I enjoy learning (obviously, or I would not have spent so long in formal schooling, and I would not continue to work, however haltingly, on The Work), and conferences offer the opportunity to do a lot of it. In addition, there are some conferences which represent my only opportunity each year to meet with some of the friends I have made. (And, yes, I have actually made friends from time to time.) Too, conferences do allow me to travel to some interesting cities; I have gotten to go to New Orleans for conference work and Memphis, and I imagine I'll be heading to Austin and to Nashville in the coming years. The chance to see new things is one which I do not often take; I even sometimes enjoy it when I do. (I have noted being a curmudgeon, yes?)

This time, however, I go with some regret. It will be the first one I attend that I have a child at home, and so it will be the first one I attend at the cost of leaving to my wife the whole of such a burden. I do not pretend that I do as much of the work with our daughter as my wife does, but I do some, and over the next days, I will not be doing it. Yet it will still need doing.

I have to wonder if this will be how I feel about my conference work from here on out, if I will always go with some regret at leaving behind the people who love me (I hope). Curmudgeon that I am, I always have some reluctance to leave my routines and my home (much as I chafe at the restrictions upon me that I allow them to represent, and much as I often enjoy what happens when I do leave*). Such is the reluctance that I have to question its effect on my parenting (already, and the kid is only just a month old); I have to doubt how good a father I can be if I so loathe doing things. Yet if I hope ever to find my way to a tenured position, or even to one eligible for tenure, I have to do this kind of thing again and again.

Perhaps it will get easier with time. I do not yet know--but I suppose I am going to have no choice but to find out.

*Paradoxically, I tend to enjoy myself when I head out expecting trouble, and I have a bad time when I head out expecting to have fun. Such are the joys of pessimism.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


I would like to reject nostalgia.
It does no good
Locking me
And others
Into a past that was not nearly so good as we remember it being

It was not fun at the time
Whatever might be said of it after
Some of us kept track of such things
Things may not be better now
But that does not mean they were good then

For those for whom things were good
I feel pity
Those who say high school was the best four years of life
For what do they have to hope?

For those who have generational nostalgia
Who say "Things were better back in my day"
I have some scorn
Things were not better
The parents of today's collegians lived under constant fear of nuclear attack
Is this better?
Their parents saw the horrors of the Second World War
Was that better?
Their parents saw the horrors of the First and the failure of its promise
To be the War to End All Wars
Was that better?
Rape was legal if you were married to her
Was it better?
Racism was legal if you were white
Was it better?
And the language of the people was just as filthy then as now
Even if what counted as filth was different
Or else whence FUBAR and SNAFU?
What of the interesting history of the word jazz?
And further back was no better.
The Prohibitionists were not railing against nothing
Even if some of their suppositions were asinine
Not all of them were
Was it better?

Was. It. Better?

No, it was not better.
It was worse for most if not
In fact
For all
For I am made better when things are better for those around me
And things are better for those around me now than the day
Some claim as their own

The backward look is not done with perfect vision.
Before is in red-shift as we move away from it
Science supports the rosy-tinted lenses
But few of us run the calculations for ourselves
Or can

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


I am not hung over.  I did sleep in a bit, but that was as much because I am not at work this week (although I am working) as for any other reason. And I had to feed the baby.

I first subscribed to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in the autumn of 1999. The magazine still published eleven issues a year, then, and I read them voraciously through the end of my high school career (I graduated in 2000*) and throughout my undergraduate studies (all five years of them). Once I reached graduate school, however, I slowed a bit--not because I read less, but because I had to read so much more of other things. I had to fill my mind with Beowulf and Chaucer and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Malory, with Shakespeare and Shakespeare and Shakespeare, with Milton and Donne and Addison and Steele, with Bradstreet and Wheatley and Emerson and Thoreau and Twain. I had not the time for the still-pulp pages of pop culture products (although I did still get to read much of what I wanted to read, as my research history suggests).

In The City, the frenetic pace of life and of teaching my teaching load and working on my dissertation continued to crowd out my poring over the pages of the magazines. (Matters were not eased by the lack of space to keep them on the shelves.) While I did have time to read most days, that time was taken up by reading the scholarly journals with which I stayed abreast of the best practices in my field or, less frequently, local newspapers so that I could have some small idea of what was going on in the world around me. (Being much in the lower levels of the ivory tower, I do not get to see much. I imagine that those in the upper levels do not often look, some for being engrossed in their work on The Work, others for fear.) Seldom was my reading the kind of reading done for pleasure; while I enjoy the work I do, there is a difference between reading scholarship and reading for fun, just as there is a difference between working on construction sites and building small models.

It is only recently at Sherwood Cottage that I have actually been reading issues of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction as they have reached me. (I still have not gotten into the backlog.) I have been greatly eased by doing so, and not only because it "takes me back" (a phrasing implying a nostalgia I know I should not feel). The writing is good, the stories entertaining, the characters engaging, and the part of me that works on The Work wants to work with some of the series of stories that pop up in issues across the nearly fifteen years I have been reading the thing. Each bespeaks the reading as a thing worth doing, and there is some comfort in knowing that what is done is worth the doing. This is particularly true for those of us who work in the academic humanities, so often told that our efforts are of no account that parts of our own minds speak against us.

*It is, to my knowledge, the only year that graduation at my high school was rained out. There is a metaphor in there somewhere, I am certain.

Monday, March 17, 2014


Happy St. Patrick's Day! Enjoy this celebration of the day when the former slave turned churchman is said to have left this life and gone into the life eternal! And keep in mind that not all Irish wear green...

Work continues even on such a day. There are papers that need writing. There are papers that need grading. Some things need to be taken care of in advance of CCCC, to which I am bound later in the week, and I need yet to register for Evil Incarnate. (I could not resist submitting to such a conference, and I am happy to have had my abstract accepted. Now to get the paper drafted among the many others that need my attention...) And there is the baby to care for, as well.

Is it any wonder that I am glad it is Spring Break?

I have never been the kind to take trips for the sake of taking trips. When I have traveled, it has always been for some purpose other than relaxing and seeing the sights--although I have relaxed and seen the sights along the way. (The trip to the British Isles in 2012 was good for that.) As such, the "traditional" Spring Break trip has long confused me--while I understand the need for rest (so much more now than before!), the notion of going somewhere else to do it, and then not to really rest once there, has struck me as an oddity. Similarly the celebration of spending a week drunk and sandy.

My curmudgeonliness is not only a thing of bitterness, after all. I honestly do not see the value in getting sand in various crevices--and any trip to the beach ends up with sand in various crevices. Nor am I so fond of drinking that I look forward to being drunk for days on end. (I did that at the New Orleans Mardi Gras one year, and I regret that I do not remember more of it. The fun parts happened before the drunkenness. I think.) And I have never been so connected with my contemporaries that I am at ease among the fun-in-the-sun crowd. I am not the life of the party by any means, introvert that I am, and I know that I am supposed to be, that there is something wrong that I look forward to Spring Break as a time to get more work done rather than to "cut loose" and "have fun."

Part of me wants to snarl and say that I do not need fun. A less stupid part of me wants to point out that fun for me is a quiet thing and in small company. Another part of me, perhaps less stupid yet, suggests that the world does not work according to the calendars of schools, that it goes on despite the gaps in the teaching schedule, and that if I am going to have any claim to part of that world, if I am going to presume to put a foot outside the ivory tower at any point, I need to similarly schedule myself. And so I am going back to work.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


I have been up for a while. The baby deserves attention.

I have noticed that the writing I do makes abundant use of parenthetical asides. That is to say that I have a tendency to insert commentaries into what I write, commentaries that are not, perhaps, necessary but that are, I think, relevant. (I do the same thing in the classroom, which some enjoy and others very much do not.) In my more academic work, the insertions take the form of footnotes (which I prefer to endnotes because of the ease of access to them). In any event, I have to wonder about the effect of the device. I use it because ideas occur to me oddly, and things bear in on the line of discussion that I am not entirely sure how to integrate into it. I am aware that it can create the impression that I have a far-ranging mind that brings in much. I am also aware that it can create the impression that I have a scattered mind that is unable to focus narrowly on a single line of discussion, that I am a victim of the hypertext society which emerged into the world as I did.

Which is the most accurate, I cannot say with certainty. Regarding the first, none of us see ourselves clearly. We have not got a vantage point that allows it to happen; where we sit to look at ourselves necessarily circumscribes our vision. Too, we cannot approach ourselves without pronounced bias. And there is the fact that we believe we remember things as they were, which is not the case; our memories are fuzzy and filtered through the self-serving bias which inheres at some level in us all. For me then to state my intention is something of a misstatement; to amend, I believe I use the device because I remember ideas occurring to me in a way I recall perceiving as odd, and I remember thinking that things appear to bear in on the line of discussion I think I am maintaining, but I recall not being entirely certain how best to integrate them into what I recall of that line. (Complicated, yes; the shortcuts in language begin to make more sense.)

Regarding the second, if the ability to bring together diverse information is intelligence, it is an intelligence that is quickly becoming worthless. The Internet is seeing to it; information (filtered, of course, though the perspectives of those who disseminate it as well as the various search algorithms that are used to index and scan for data) is accessible to any with a connection. No longer is the work of cramming material into the mind for later recall necessary; it can be looked up nearly so quickly as it can be remembered, if the searcher is proficient in searching. The demand on the mind is not less, but it is different (and that which is different tends to be devalued). If I do create the impression in my asides that my mind ranges far, then it is an impression of a glory whose time is passing if not past, a memory of that which was and is not valued any longer. (As a scholar of the medieval, I am familiar with the phenomenon severally.)

Regarding the last, the idea that my thoughts are scattered as victims of hypermedia and the rapid shifting from notion to notion and activity to activity that purportedly typifies the Millennials and after and did not any prior peoples (which is not the case, by the way; multitasking is time-honored and helped our long forebears to not be so wrapped up in getting water from the stream that they did not notice the toothy beast coming to eat their faces), what can be said? I do drift from topic to topic, sometimes rapidly--and that outside the asides. Within them, within the insertions of other ideas that may or may not matter to what is getting comment, I leap about, my writing following at an increasing distance my mind as it races ahead, childlike, leaping from rock to stump to rail and back again, or doglike, ranging out to smell new smells and returning at odd whiles to the master's side before racing off again. If it is victimization or not, I do not know. If it is an accurate interpretation of my asides, I also do not know. But there is something to be said that I do it; there always is.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Beware the Ides of March, of course.

I find myself in mood to sing
As cuckoo was bid sing of old,
Yet I cannot let my voice ring
For allergy or else for cold.

The spring has sprung, the weather warmed,
The winter's chill has gone away,
Yet here where plants new-made are farmed
The chill is chased by fever hay.

My nose a faucet has become,
Scratchy now my throat has grown.
Sinuses swell and make me dumb
All unsettling reason's throne.

So on this day when Cæsar died,
When others find their way to cheer,
I sit and sniffle, joy denied
Until, at last, I can breathe clear.

Friday, March 14, 2014


Happy Pi Day!
Also, a bit:

Spring Break will begin at business-day's end.
Students will seek the sun on the beach--
Sand-strewn water's end, sea's thin girdle--
Resting, relaxing, and raucously feasting,
Though toils the teachers task them with
Are hardly so heavy as halt them from ease
Or would were they wise and diligent.
They wait and hope and pray
And put off work assigned
Until the near-last day
Returns it to their minds.

Look I with longing to lounge about, too,
To rest and relax and relish the quiet.
From five or from seven flee students now--
Professors potent, pen-red wielders.
From fifty or more freed will I be.
Welcome the week which does this is--
Gap in grading and going to classes.
I hear how The Work calls
And how it summons me
Away from empty halls
To tower ivory.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


This week, I returned once again to a piece I wrote in this webspace, using it once again as a teaching exercise in my classes.  Once again, I was struck by students' reactions to it. (I suppose some context would be helpful.  I am teaching two sections of first-year composition, as part of which I am having students carry out a textual analysis.  The piece was offered to students as an example to work through as a whole-class exercise.  And I do not tell students that I wrote the piece until after the work with it is done, even if some guess or reason out that the work is mine.)  It was not that students engaged with the piece--I always hope to see that happen--but the ways in which they did that surprised me.

For one thing, few of the students in the classes I had read the piece had played the game which it discusses.  This has been the first time I have had that result; even last term, when I presented the piece (to much less student delight, I might add), most of the students in the classes were familiar with the game.  Most of them this time around were not.  I suppose that I am beginning to be dated in my references (again), showing my age both in the specific selection and in the fact that when I think of video games I think of the major Nintendo franchises: Mario, Metroid, and Zelda.  And I suppose that I shall have to get accustomed to the shock of being made to feel old; there is certainly white enough in my beard anymore...

For another, one of the classes fixated on the goggles worn by the characters on which the piece focuses.  The argument that the selective hiding of the characters' faces indicates racist tendencies in the game, and therefore presumably of its programmers and/or its expected players, got lost in what seemed to the students to be the ludicrous inclusion of comments about eyewear.  Indeed, in that class, discussion quickly turned to issues of standard safety equipment--which could be productive, were it better directed.  The students seemed to lose track of the central thread of discussion, however, despite my trying to pull them back to it--with few exceptions.  I suppose I have to read it as the blindness of most of the class--overwhelmingly white and fairly privileged--to systemic racism, the idea that racism has to be overt to exist.  Whether or not I should work to correct it in the class--or can--is unclear to me; I fear to overstep my bounds in such a way, particularly given where and among whom I am.

For yet another, the other class revealed to me its relatively low reading level in its response to the piece.  Questions about vocabulary were abundant, as they have not often been.  (Even at the technical college where I worked when I first wrote the piece, filled with non-native speakers and those who had stopped their earlier educations far short of completing high school, I did not have quite so many.)  Their reactions did not bespeak as deep an understanding of the material as did those of the other class, and while they did not go off on goggles, they seemed to accept uncritically the assertions made by the piece.  It is not any better to do so than to get sidetracked in discussion.  I suppose that I will have to work with them to promote more skeptical readings--and that, I know I am supposed to do.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


I have been working on several academic projects (a term I mean in the sense of "connected to higher education in a specialized field" but which probably works just as well in the sense of "ultimately of no importance"), and so I have been doing a fair bit of primary source reading.  That reading has reminded me of the continuity of a genre, of the ongoing nature of the genre's development.  I have seen places where I am certain borrowing has occurred, and I have seen others where I think it might have occurred--but I would have to do more work to be sure.

More work is just what I need right now.

I think I might have written before that one of the glories of working on The Work is that there is always more to do with it.  I know that I have likened it to a crossword puzzle or other mental game; while such things, once worked, are to be discarded, The Work is a puzzle that always has another layer to it, always has something else to find.  This is true in all fields.  Math has yet to find the true value of π, although it has been working on it for some time, or of the root of 2, and both would seem to be simple things, small numbers and necessary.  Physics cannot yet say what mass actually is, so far as I am aware (and if it can, please let me know, as I would be interested).  The martial arts have yet to uncover the one universally-effective technique or method; there is as yet always a counter, always an escape.  Theologies continue to offer new interpretations of scriptures--and atheology (if such a thing can be spoken of and such a neologism accepted) looks for new ways to argue against them and their underpinnings.  In my own field, there is always yet another layer of meaning to be uncovered, another layer that has been added and can therefore be explicated; for example, how we read Malory changes with every new Arthurian refiguration.

Although it can never be truly done, not until the end of things when knowledge and understanding run out and all that is known is correlated in all the ways that it can be correlated, The Work offers the same benefits as do other, lesser puzzles.  It allows a focus that sharpens the mind and provides practice in unusual thinking.  It allows people to remove themselves from the crass physicality of their bodies and environs, tapping into that which makes humanity human.  It allows for the transcendence in some degree of those limitations imposed by the corporeal, for an unfettering of the mind from the heavy lumpen stuff in which it is too much enmeshed.  And it allows for connection to those who have gone before, not only in the blood of the body (which may be corrupt and all too often carries sicknesses along with it), but in the deeds that are what truly makes a person.

I prattle, of course.  But that is to be expected; is not the title of this blog a giveaway?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


I have written before about my annoyance at sloppy language and at the laziness that sloppy language frequently betrays.  (This is not the same thing as obscenity, as there are times when "naughty" words are the right words; "darn" is what is done to socks, not an appropriate response to a sharp and sudden pain.)  I still find myself annoyed by the lack of concern people display for what comes out of their mouths, the lack of thought for the implications and connotations of their phrasings.  (They, of course, find themselves annoyed that my mind ranges ahead and untangles those associations, that I break down the clichés and trite utterances that "sound good."  But I am an English professor; I am supposed to do such things.)

It occurs to me, though, that people take little care because they expect at some level that nobody else will care.  They know, somewhere and somehow, that the things they say will not be regarded seriously by those who hear them, that their hearers are more concerned with themselves than with those to whom they are purportedly listening.  Knowing that their audience cares not, they do not expend the effort to make sure that the utterance is as it ought to be.  The laziness, then, suggests itself as one born from a growing despair and disconnection.  Speakers and writers too often speak and write with the understanding that they may be heard and read, but they will not really be heard and read, that their efforts are futile, and it is easy to see why they might not expend the energy to craft well what they say and write therefore.

I am hardly exempt from this.  I am sure that even in this little piece, there are places where I show not having paid enough attention to what I am doing.  I know that I do not always attend sufficiently to my speaking; daily and more often, I open my mouth and let words fly before I consider how they will fall upon the ears of my hearers.  (And I am in positions such that my words are more likely to be attended.  I really should know better.)  It is not something in which I am alone, certainly, but that I have company does not mean that I am in the right for not working to be sure I am in the right.  (I apologize for it, by the way.)

Vigilance is difficult, certainly, and there will be times when the limitations of humanity intrude upon the best intentions of its members.  These are understandable and forgivable; they are errors, yes, but they are errors proceeding from that of which people have no control.  What is less acceptable is that people do not make the attempt--although, if it is the case that the lack of trying comes from a perception that none really pay attention, it is hard to find much fault.  As such, if the problem of sloppy language and sloppy underlying thought is to be corrected, it seems that the correction must come by way not only of actually attending to the words of others but in demonstrating that attention--tasks for which those of us in the academic humanities are singularly fitted.

Monday, March 10, 2014


There are times when I sit down to write, and words flow freely from me, although whether as rushing waters or as searing winds I am not certain.  At such times, I am able to produce page after page of balanced, researched prose, or stanza after stanza of occasional verse.  (Whether any of it is good is another open question.)  I glory in such times; I feel productive in them, and I have been trained by the culture of my upbringing and the culture of academia to regard feeling productive as being the primary indicator of my worth as a human being.  It is only in the making that I feel as if I matter, and so I make effort to be making much and often.  (Another reason for my maintaining this webspace despite its relatively low readership rate--perhaps thirty daily--presents itself.)

There are times, however, when I sit down to write, and the words will not come.  It happens to many if not to all who will place themselves in front of the blank page or screen with the intent to mark upon it in pen or in pixels, that they will find themselves sometimes desirous of writing yet unable to do so.  I know that, of course, just as I know that to go onto the mats at a dojo means that I may well find my elbow hyperextended or my toes broken, my nose bloodied or my body bruised, or worse yet.  But that knowledge does not mean I enjoy being injured, and the similar knowledge of writing does not mean I enjoy being stymied as I sit with pen in hand or keyboard before me.  It should not have to.

Such a time presented itself yesterday.  I was able to make my regular comments in this space, but afterwards, when I made to work on a small piece of The Work that has been much on my mind, I was unable to do so with any skill.  Part of the shift has to do with my sudden need to read again--I was making use of texts I have on my shelves but which I had not looked at for a while, so I had to refamiliarize myself with them.  It takes some time to do so, even for me.  More, though, came from simple blockage; I could not get my thoughts together well enough to push them out onto the page.  Even after I tried the eureka technique Asimov discusses, going off and doing something else that demanded attention but not too much in the way of deeper thought, I was not able to resume work on The Work as I had meant to do.  Whether it came from simple fatigue or from the more complex phenomenon many teachers know of pouring out the self into the tasks of attending to others, it frustrated me--and still frustrates me.

Each day, I rise and sit to write here and elsewhere, and I hope that I will have more of the former kind of day than the latter.  The latter is far more frequent than the former, more's the pity.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


On this Daylight Savings Day, let us pause to remember the hour that has been sacrificed to some noble end or another.  Let us not forget the hour of sleep we might otherwise have had today, an hour that we have given up because we have been told we must in deference to some outdated thing that might perhaps have made sense once but certainly does so no longer.  Let us not neglect to recall amid our increased fatigue that there is some reason that what we have given up, we have not given up in vain.  For surely there is cause for us to continue in the tradition, to maintain the way that things have been done, and to make things harder upon ourselves in the process of doing it.

(Let it be also known that, although I write this little piece later in the day than is customary for me, it is not because the time-change escaped me this year as it has in the past.  I actually had an appointment this morning, one final breakfast with my visiting family.  It was good to see them, and it will be good to get caught up on work and on The Work now that they are on their way back to the Texas Hill Country and points beyond.  I enjoy interludes, certainly, and intermissions, but the next movement needs to be played and the next act to be performed.  It is for such performances that I am paid, after all, and I very much need the money.)

In all honesty, I do not know why the United States still suffers through Daylight Savings Time in large part (not all of it does, and I commend that part that does not).  When more of the country was rural, it made sense.  When more of the work done in the country was done in places that get much of their light from outside, it made sense.  Neither of those is the case anymore; many work in offices without windows, and those who do not are often at work before sunrise and leave work after sunset whatever the civil time may be.  Those whose work relies on the sun will rise before it whatever the clock may read.  Those whose work does not will turn on artificial lights regardless of what the clock says, as well.  It is entirely needless, then, to save daylight now; the daylight is as it is, and the clock itself no longer matters.

The matter is not even really one of tradition; Daylight Savings Time as a more or less continuing phenomenon goes back less than my parents' lives.  It goes back less than Star Trek.  There is ample living memory that recalls a time when Daylight Savings was not in place--why it does not clamor for a return to that part of the "good old days" amid the many far-less-than-good parts of them escapes me (unless, of course, it is based on hate for those born afterwards, which I think is often the case).  For myself, I am simply struck by the inconvenience and lack of necessity; there is little reason I see to keep doing this to ourselves.

Saturday, March 8, 2014


In and around the many other things that have been occupying my time recently have been several papers I am more or less under contract to write.  They are my contributions to The Work, both those that I will be presenting in such venues as CCCC and the International Congress on Medieval Studies and those that are coming into or are moving into print (I have a piece forthcoming in CCC and a book chapter in draft).  Circumstances have conspired to prevent me working on them as much as I should like (and as much as they really need, truth be told), but when I do work on them, I am pleased by it.

Why I would bother with such things is something many do not understand.  (Saving the bit about prior obligation, of course; most people in my experience understand that because I have said I will do a thing, I must do that thing or injure myself so grievously in the attempt that the failure may be excused.)  They find it difficult to envision why I would shut myself away with books for hours, poring over them and slowly (oh, so slowly!) writing words about what I find in them when I could be writing about other and better things (like sports or sex) or doing better things (like sports or sex).  "Why don't you go out and have fun?" they ask, with "fun" meaning something like going to a loud and crowded club with bad music and overpriced, ill-selected beer and gyrating sweatily amid a throng of people who will go home with people they know not and wake up with pounding headaches and regret.  "You're boring" I have been told, and more than once--and probably accurately.

I do not do such things because I do not think them fun.  (I have tried them.  I woke up hung over and alone.  The only change was the hangover.)  I do what I do because I do find it fun--or, rather, fulfilling.  (I have to take such fulfillment as I can from my professional life; the pay scale is hardly enough to please me--and by that I mean "allow me to support my family without worry."  My ambitions are large, I know.)  As those who find themselves at the gym day after day delight in being able to move much weight and to have their bodies respond as they desire and to having such mass as they have (and are not much chastised therefore), I find myself amid my books day after day and delight in being able to move many ideas and have my mind respond as I desire and to having such intellectual heft as I have (but am much chastised therefore).  The Work allows me to engage with the sum total of human knowledge and to make it my servant, to compel it to show me things heretofore unknown.  (I suppose there is a parallel to the traditional concept of magic as the [evil] binding of spirits.  No wonder, then, that I and those like me are viewed askance; we do a thing not unlike what many rail against as abomination.*)

At root, my work on The Work is an exercise of power, an exercise that takes only from that which has been freely offered and which oppresses few if any.  It offers the benefits of the exercise without imposing the negative consequences that other such exercises (abuse, neglect, bullying, war) necessarily carry.  Why, then, would I not revel in it?

*Many such railings are wrong.

Friday, March 7, 2014


We read
In Matthew 7:7 and in Luke 11:9
That unto those who knock
It shall be opened.

I have been rapping at many doors for some time.
The skin on my knuckles is split.
The flesh bleeds
And in some places the bare bone shows.

The walls here look too much like doors.
There is nothing behind them
Save cold and empty stone
Or rooms already full to bursting
With those who are interested in keeping the door shut

How long am I expected
To break my hands against panels
That will not slide aside because there is no track for them
That will not part because they have no hinges?
At what point do I pass from hope
That I continue
To madness?

Thursday, March 6, 2014


I think that I may be missing something

I look about me
And I see things where they ought to be
For the most part

The things that are out of place
Are where I remember putting them
And so they are not problems

The things I know I need
Are accounted for
Ready to hand as they ever are

But there is something off
There is something missing
And I do not know what it is

It will nag at me
The missing something
Until I find it or decide it is not there

It is funny perhaps
To talk of a missing thing not being there
As a good thing

What will likely happen is
I will go to look for something
And it will not be there

That is usually how I find out what I am missing
That when I need it I cannot find it
It has happened too often

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


My wife, my child, and I have been lucky enough to have had many visitors these past two weeks; many members of both of our extended and blended families have been by to see the new baby.  Indeed, my mother-in-law stayed with us for some time and has just now headed for her own home in the less-good parts of the Texas Hill Country.  (Austin is not my favorite place, as might be guessed.)  My own parents and both of my grandmothers are due in today, and while they will not be staying at Sherwood Cottage--space is a bit limited, and the one bathroom would be a problem for seven people trying to use it--they will be in town for several days.

The people who have visited have been of great help for the three of us; I wish to convey my gratitude for it.  My wife and I are still feeling our way around being parents--the kid is only two weeks old today--and having the advice of those who have been parents (typically more than once), as well as the practical demonstrations and the other aid, has been good.  (I am less worried about breaking the baby now than I was.  I remain concerned about what being my daughter will do to the poor girl.  There may be a surgeon general's warning tattooed on me somewhere--"has been shown to cause psychosis in laboratory animals" was the joke, I think.)

I do not want to flail about amid the cliché.  I have written on several occasions about my resistance to it and my annoyance with the careless phrasing that cliché often embodies.  Parenting, though, seems to want to frolic amid minefields of it, possibly because most if not all have some experience of parenting, either as recipient alone or as recipient and provider.  Many people have things to say, or think they do, and many of those things repeat one another until there is a pulsing pattern of cacophony, Tolkien's "many trumpets braying upon a few notes."*  While I will not say that I am not a fan of trumpet music played well, I will say that I have known trumpeters before, and when they seek to exalt themselves through is not always good.

There is the temptation to fall into the same mode, parroting that which has gone before.  I do not claim to have any original vision, certainly; I do not know enough of being a father to know what has been done, and so I cannot go with knowledge into what has not been done.  But I can work to be more mindful of what I do and not simply throw things out because they "sound good" or because they "are how it is done."  Things that work against themselves do not sound good upon a careful listening, and I operate under the assumption that those who listen do so intently (seeking to trap me, which is a paranoid line of thinking but one that has worked to my benefit before--people have tried to trap me).  The way things have been done may have worked once, but it may not work now--and it may well not have worked then, either.  (There have been assholes in all times.)

I do not want to be a cliché parent.  I want my daughter's upbringing to be of value.  And I do not think I can be faulted for it.

*Silmarillion, p. 5.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


I am chagrined by my neglect to note and commemorate Texas Independence Day on Sunday.  I am normally observant of the holiday, and made a particular point of being so while I lived in The City.  (New York has nothing of the sort, really, and The City makes little of its contribution to the American Revolution.  Perhaps it is because its part in that is not what the braggarts of the clotted metropolis would have.)  This year, however, I think I may be excused; I have had other things on my mind, of lesser scope perhaps but of far greater importance to me as a man.

That I missed one (ultimately minor) holiday does not mean that I will miss others, however, and so even though the man's death was on the sixth, I wish to all a happy Sousa Day (as I have done before)!  For, as an old bandsman and as a life-long pun-lover, I have to say that today is the most appropriate of all days to laud the March King, to let the drums roll and the horns ring along with the President's Own, which Sousa led for many years.

(It is one of the great glories of being a father that I am allowed--nay, encouraged--to perpetuate such bad jokes upon the world.  My child needs to have such things.  And I need to practice them far more than I have thus far.)

There is something worthwhile in celebrating such minor things--based on jokes, really--as Sousa Day and the holiday in two months.  And I will turn to that, brief as my note today will be therefore.

Monday, March 3, 2014


I spent a fair bit of time at the hospital in the few days between my daughter being born and being able to bring her home.  I also popped back and forth between the hospital and Sherwood Cottage, among other things checking my mail.  Among that mail, I found a jury summons which calls me to the county courthouse today, and I am not entirely pleased to have received the summons.  It has been markedly inconvenient.

For one, I was obliged to alter my teaching schedule.  I am fortunate in that the department in which I am currently employed treats is members well, and I had no shortage of people ready to step in for me as I do my civic duty.  Even so, I largely enjoy my work (much as I sometimes complain of it--but do no most grumble about some parts of their jobs without being faulted for it?), and as a point of pride, I am not enthusiastic about allowing others to meet my responsibilities.  It is perhaps a failing.

For another, my daughter requires attention.  She is growing stronger daily, even to the point that she can pick her head up for a short time (having her turn her head to look up at me was startling).  She eats well and deeply, and she gives all signs that the handles well what she eats.  My wife will be at home with her, certainly, and my mother-in-law for a few days yet (which has been helpful, certainly), so that my daughter's needs will be met, but it is my place to do so and my responsibility, and I am not eager to be called away from it.

I am aware that I have to leave for work many days, and I am aware that jury duty is a duty, owed as part of a social contract in which I participate and from which I benefit directly and as part of a larger body.  Both are ultimately in the service of my family; I work to be able to buy food, rent housing, and maintain insurance, and I go to the courthouse when called so that I am not dragged to it in shame and dishonor and made a spectacle to the chagrin of my family.  But that does not mean that I am always pleased to do so. (Again, I enjoy teaching--but I enjoy my family more.)

For still another, I am not at all confident that my term of service will be brief.  Many of my colleagues have noted that I am likely to be discharged or excused through one means or another.  The court may take pity on my having so young a child at home, or the case to which I am summoned as a petit juror may be settled before going to trial.  But last time I was called up to jury duty, near the beginning of 2012, I was selected as a juror with little hesitation, and I had to report to be in the courtroom on my anniversary.  I cannot help but think that things will be the same here as they were in the Best of the Boroughs--and if there were to be things in common between this wind-swept-plain town and The City, that is not what I would have among them.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


I am sure that it has been said before
The ivory tower
Legendary bastion of thought and refuge of thinkers from a world that does not value thought
Is under siege

It is subject to a focused and sustained assault
One working to cut off its lines of supply
At the same time it seeks to blast through the walls
And knock them down

Many of the outer defenses have been silenced
The armies in the field routed
And many captives have been taken
And many others have defected

Those who remain are very nearly chained to their stations
Slaves at the oars after an old Asimovian pun
And the restraints chafe mightily
Even as carrying them offers its own strength

Those still in the locked rooms must wonder
If they ought to escape before the manacles are riveted on
If they can slip through the lines of battle--
But where will they go?

Saturday, March 1, 2014


I said to a colleague
Another new father
That I feel I am running on all eight cylinders
But I am only a six-cylinder engine at the best of times

The idea of the car as a metaphor for the man
One of which my cousins might approve
Is perhaps fitting

(I have said I am a father
And I spoke with another father
So the gendered reference is justified by the facts.)

The machine and the man are both constructed
Built out of pieces perhaps pre-assembled
And sometimes with flaws embedded in them
Places where the materials ought not to have passed quality control
But a lack of diligence allowed them to slip in.

They will fail under the strain.

Both are driven by others
The machine made to go at gestures and motions
The man made to move by something else
But to call that something else an inner driver suggests recursion.

If there is a fixed point around which all else moves
As has long been suggested
It is clearly beyond our reach
So much so that it might as well not be.

Such musings aside
Returning to the image of man as vehicle
If there is an inner driver
I have to wonder if that driver has a license
If that driver is not drunk
If that driver can see the obstacles coming
The potholes and hairpin turns
The pedestrians running out into the street without looking about themselves.

The suspension in this car seems not to be so good.