Thursday, July 31, 2014


Payday has come once again, and I am glad of it, although the bills have come along with it and there is all too little left. So it is not quite the same as I have remarked before. More's the pity.

The end of July has tended to be a good time for my writing, I find as I look back through the blogroll. I posted here on this day in 2010, 2011, and 2013; in 2012, I was overseas and concerned with being a tourist. It was a good experience, overall, even if I do still lament the amount of money I spent that month...never again. The years of which I do have records here, however, show a shift in preoccupation and in writing. Being able to make such a claim is one of the advantages of record-keeping, and being able to do so easily is one of the advantages of doing so online. That I can seize upon the advantages helps me to understand some of the claims of scholars in favor of digital humanities work; Fish is still wrong.

In 2010, my concern was entirely local. I lived in The City, and there was rancor about the so-called WTC Mosque. My comment about the matter was terse, a mere 125 words. I have not heard anything about the matter since moving--and, indeed, I did not hear much about it before moving, although it is possible that my relative isolation from mainstream news media did something to inhibit my hearing about it. The comment was somewhat passive-aggressive, I admit; it is addressed to "those of you," a nameless collective I have no real expectation ever actually read anything I write. Perhaps it bespeaks some degree of cowardice. Perhaps it bespeaks some degree of stereotyping. Certainly, it indicates a lack of focus for the annoyance evidenced in the piece.

In 2011, I was enmeshed in drafting my dissertation. As it happened, I did not get the draft completed until the end of the year and hurriedly pushed through revisions and final proofing in the short months of the UL Spring 2012 term. Again, I posted a mere 125 words to apologize for and justify the gap in my writing into the blog. I suppose it is understandable; I was teaching six classes at the time in addition to the research work (on the dissertation and on other projects). Such actions do not leave much time for other writing, whatever the value of that writing might be. (I am well aware that there may not be much to anything I put on a page, although some writing is more likely to be of worth than other writing.)

In 2013, I was working through preparations to move to Sherwood Cottage from Bedfordside Garden in the Best of the Boroughs. I was also more fully engaged in my teaching than I had been in previous years--sensibly, since I had completed the dissertation at that point. I was also dipping a toe into digital scholarship. I have not immersed myself more fully in that kind of work; I still do most of my criticism with printed pages, even if I find many or most of them online. (I read more quickly from a sheet than from a screen. Old habits.) But the kind of writing that I was doing in 2013 was of a more sustained, more contemplative, and more developed sort than my earlier pieces. It suggests that I have gotten better at doing what I do--which is good, since a fair chunk of my money comes from my sitting in front of my computer and typing madly about things clients want to read. It is how I can increase my payday yields and maybe have a little bit more left o'er next time around.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


My time away from work is drawing towards its end, and so I am beginning to retrain myself for the working world. It is not going quite so well as I would hope, of course; it never does. But I am making some progress. I have been waking up a little earlier each day, fighting with my snooze button less. I may only gain a few minutes each day by doing so, but I do gain, and that is something of which to approve. Too, I have been writing more (although not in this webspace, which still usually gets between 500 and 600 words a day). I have been trying to keep up with the Tales after Tolkien Society blog, making a new post every few days and editing other people's work (of which we could use more) to ensure it fits with what else is there. I have also written pieces for other social media sites in the past few days, and it seems that freelancing is starting to pick up again, as well. There has been more to do, and in doing it, I am readying myself for a return to my regularly scheduled job.

Being at home these past weeks has been interesting. I have a keener appreciation of what it takes to keep a household going, certainly, although I have not fully assumed the prescribed role of the at-home spouse; I am still earning money, and my wife still does some housework (probably still more than I do, which I likely fail to notice due to long social conditioning), so that the otherwise expected neat inversion of the "traditional" gender dynamic is somewhat frustrated. I have been gratified, as well, to see how Ms. 8 has grown; she is flipping herself over, now, and she has decided that she dislikes sleeping on her back. She also likes a number of fruits and vegetables, although sweet potatoes seem not to like her in return. She laughs now, as well, which is a delight to hear.

I find that I am somewhat conflicted. While I feel the call of my job, and I cannot help but respond to it because of my socialization, I also feel the inertia of having been at home for so long and the gravity of Sherwood Cottage and the family it emblematizes. I want to go and to stay both, and I know that it cannot be. I know that the society in which I am enmeshed demands that I go, and I know that I will go when the time comes (and it will come soon; within two weeks, I am expected back). I know that that society says I ought to be happy to go to work, that a person's worth is bound up in the job and the paycheck the job brings and that conformity with gender roles demands the work and says I should be happy to do it. But I also know that I take delight in seeing my daughter smile and having been the first to hear her laugh and watch her turn herself over. While I will be going back to work, for I must, I will not be as happy to do so as might otherwise be; I am giving something up to do it.

That, perhaps, is the thing needing to be learned. That, perhaps, is the useful simile.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


My wife received her certification as a pharmacy technician yesterday. It is a good thing, demonstrating not only that she has developed a marketable, "practical" skill set, but that she has done so in a way that has been recognized and endorsed by an outside agency. I am happy for her, of course (not least because she is supposed to get a raise from doing so), but, being prone to thought and question as I am, I find myself moving along lines of inquiry that may come off as casting aspersion on what my wife has done--and even some of what I have done. For I began to think about credentialing, and, as I have made much of the credentials I hold, it is a topic with which I find myself quite concerned.

The idea with credentialing, of course, is that an outside agent certifies that a certain level of performance has been achieved by the recipient of the credential. This often takes the form of passing a specified test, whether of practical skills as in the case of martial arts instruction (in my experience either x number of techniques or x set of techniques) or of knowledge and its manipulation (as in my comprehensive exams or the exams I give to my own students). The idea is that recourse to an outside agency prevents--or at least inhibits--personal concerns from influencing the decision to credential or not to credential (with apologies to the Bard). The outside certification is supposed to ensure that only proficiency, not sympathy or other concerns that do not bear in on the thing being credentialed, decides the matter. And the possession of the credential itself is supposed to serve as evidence in support of assertions of that proficiency; it is supposed to make lying about capabilities more difficult. Each is meritorious in itself.

Each, however, presents problems. Certification by testing tends towards the dreaded phenomenon of "teaching to the test," going no further in terms of instruction than that which is known or assumed to be on the certification exam. Outside agencies are not less subject to corruption than local ones, and the certifiers remain people who may well have their own agendas and biases. Too, the issuer of the credential may not be in the best position to know what proficiency actually is. And there is no guarantee that those who have been certified continue to merit that certification. To return to earlier examples, having attained to shodan does not mean that the artist continues the practice necessary to retain appropriate skills, and having passed one set of exams does not mean the knowledge and insight needed to do so remains. The world offers many instances of people who ought to know better, who have the certifications and credentials to argue that they do know better, acting in ways that prove they do not know better. I have known martial artists who should not hold their ranks and know many scholars who ought not to be. And I doubt I am alone.

I am not calling for an end to credentialing. I would hate to think that mine do not matter, after all, and I remain convinced that the benefits of the process are worthwhile. But perhaps rethinking how it is done would be worth doing.

Monday, July 28, 2014


With my long engagement in a number of things that are definitively nerdy--role-playing games, for example, or fantasy authors such as Tolkien and Hobb, and even the very fact that I am a scholar in the academic humanities--it may be something of a surprise that I am not a great attender of conventions. I have never gone to either the San Diego Comic Con or the New York Comic Con, and only twice (and as an undergraduate) did I go to Gen Con in Indianapolis; I have not been to either of the other two. I do not even go to more local cons, accepting as valid the reasons of cost and time that would preclude going to the major conventions. Yet it seems like the kind of thing that a nerd ought to do, and to do often.

Again, though, cost is an issue. Time is also an issue. And I do something not unlike convention-going in my conference attendance. Both are gatherings of like-minded people who come together to share insights and attempt to convince others of their own rightness, and they center around intellectual and artistic exercises that the main thrust of US popular culture only tangentially addresses. Yes, comic book movies are big business. The books themselves are not as much. Nor yet are various cartoons and games, or cosplay taken from the lot. Yes, colleges and universities are big business (which is its own problem). The classroom itself is not as much. Nor yet are various subjects and research apparatus, or the ideas taken from the lot. I admit that the dress-up play at academic conferences is not as pervasive as cosplay at conventions, but it does happen, and it is sometimes quite...ornate. It is also more likely to end up in actual blows traded; judicial duel reenactments happen. And it is the case that conferences will talk about comic books and movies, television shows and games, popular fiction and fan culture; my own work has done so on more than one occasion, and I am far from alone in giving such talks. Even though I do not attend conventions, then, I still get experiences much like them. (I suppose it once again links nerdiness to scholarship. Somehow, it is not a surprise.)

I do not disdain conventions, certainly. I recall my attendance at Gen Con 2013 and Gen Con 2014 with fondness; I was in good company and did a number of nifty things with them and with other people entirely. But I have to wonder if the convention experience is not for me a thing done in youth, to which I may not or cannot return as a full adult with responsibilities that exceed doing well in my own classes. I have to wonder even how much conference work I can continue to do, given the costs involved and the obligations I have at home. Some must be done, of course, and I am happy to do it. But how much more, and how much longer, I am not at all certain.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


There is never enough
To do all of what needs to be done
Or all of what we want to do

There is never enough
Because we are never enough
We would have enough if we were enough
The delays in our deeds that eat away at time
Would not happen
The waste and spoilage of resources that makes us seek more
And more
And more
Would be greatly reduced
At least
So that we would not need to do so much to get more
The lashing-out that precludes love
Comes from places where we lack
And it would have no source or support
Were we enough
And who could fail to be happy amid such plenty?

There is never enough
Of us
That there will ever be is doubtful
We work on symptoms and not the disease
If we even have the diagnostic tools to find that disease
And it may be there is no cure
That where we are not enough
Is where we are human
For those who are so

Saturday, July 26, 2014


My wife and I watched Willow last night. It was not the first time either of us had seen the movie, certainly, and as we watched, we both remarked on how well the film holds up. It remains a cheesy knock-off of Tolkien, of course, and is intertwined with it even more deeply than a focus on small folk fighting abominable dark powers with the help of bigger folk suggests; some of the scenes were filmed in Middle-earth New Zealand. But as I watched, I found my mind filling with ideas for papers that I could write, not just about the specific movie, but about the genre of fantasy film in general, working from, say, the 1978 animated Lord of the Rings through Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films.

The last few words point towards a common problem in academic work: determining the limits of a study. It is not possible, of course, to look at all things that are or have been, so any examination must limit itself to looking in specific places. That specificity matters, however; there are concerns of representativeness of examples to address, and even if the examples within a give frame are representative of that frame, the frame may not be positioned such that it takes in an adequate view. Windows offer a useful metaphor; a window of 100 square units in area easily can measure 1x100, 2x50, 4x25, 5x20, 10x10, 20x5, 25x4, 50x2, or 100x1,* and the view from each will be different from any of the others, although the window is in at least one sense the same size in each case. For fantasy films examined by someone who often treats fantasy literature, the invocation of Tolkien makes sense, and so bracketing the field of study with film versions of the Prince of Fantasists suggests itself. Then again, animated film and live-action film operate under different constraints (even if the increasing prevalence of CGI and motion-capture tend to blur them), so mixing the two may not make for the most reliable frame.

Such are the kind of thoughts that occupy me, even when I do kick back with family just to watch a movie. The Work is omnipresent in a way that other jobs I have had have not been and in a way that the words of others tell me their work is not. It suffuses most of what I do; most of what I see and hear is filtered through it. When I am therefore asked why I "can't just enjoy it," I know that those who ask do not understand. I am a worker on The Work. It is from working on The Work that I find my joy (other than in my family, but my wife is a scholar; she understands). Finding ideas in things and working through them is fulfilling. Why should I not then do it? Why, then, should I not have such thoughts as I did while watching Willow with my wife last night? And why should I not act upon them in days to come?

*I am aware that I ought to identify which unit I mean. That I do not is deliberate; I do not want to get into an argument about which system of measure to use. I am also aware that the measurements are mathematically equivalent. The rephrasing is also deliberate--and those who have built things know that 1 wide and 100 high is not the same thing as 100 wide and 1 high, which is the kind of difference indicated. Not all students of English are ignorant of such concerns.

Friday, July 25, 2014


One of these days, the date and time I write will line up...

I sent off a book chapter yesterday, which pleases me greatly. It is a relief to have another project done (at least for the moment; I know that I may have more revision to do) and thus a bit of time freed up for other work. Reading, perhaps, or work on another of the many papers that are lined up for me to write even now. (I have another conference paper to write, and I need to send an abstract to yet another.) Or perhaps I might work on some lesson planning, since the fall term approaches with one class I have not taught in a while and another I have not taught.

What I will not do, cannot afford to do, is take the day off. I am tempted to do so, though. The summer heat makes it an attractive prospect, and the work of putting together a piece of writing is work neither easy nor swift (at least for me). But there are too many other things that need doing for me to be at ease with letting them go today. There are other papers to write. There are grant applications to investigate and work on (and I have already missed deadlines for some of them because I was busy with other work). There are jobs to look for (I am not in a bad place where I am, but it is a contingent position, and I would like a permanent). And not one of them can be done if I let myself have a day off.

I have had too many such days already. I have sat and stared at things that do not help me instead of doing the work (or The Work) I ought to be doing. I have puttered about on other things than the papers and reading and job hunt that are mine to do--and I do not refer to keeping up the house or attending to Ms. 8 in that. Clearly, those are things that I am supposed to do, and I do not begrudge them. Rather the opposite, really. But there have been days that I have spent of no account, far too many for me to claim them as needed rest; they have gone past recuperation into other things I hesitate to name. (I am somewhat superstitious, after all.) I have spent too much time listlessly, and now I pay the price for it in missed chances and the need to get more done than I have--and possibly more than I actually can.

Still, past errors cannot be made as if they have not been. Atonement can be made for them, and their repetition can be prevented (or the attempt at prevention made, at least). I have enough of that to do to keep me busy for quite some time; I had best be about it. And maybe it will work out well for me that I do so.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Among other things, I gave a tutorial yesterday. One of the students in my literature class last semester has been working to improve upon the paper he wrote for me, one tracing the manifestation of a particular medieval Celtic character in a particular anime series; he means to submit it to a papers for undergraduates panel at one conference or another. It is flattering for me to have a student want to continue to work with me after the semester is done, and it is professionally gratifying (or will be, when it happens) to have a student submit a paper written under my guidance. It is also helpful for other endeavors in which I am engaged, such as the Tales after Tolkien Society. Now, if I can only be sure to guide him well...

Engagement with a project across terms is one of the things that I valued about my college and graduate research experiences. While an undergraduate, I was lucky enough to be able to carry out a project in role-playing games under the kind tutelage of indulgent professors and instructors (something about which I spoke at CCCC earlier this year). In graduate school, of course, there were the thesis and dissertation to do, neither of which was a short-term project; I was on the thesis for two semesters and the dissertation for close to three years, both under the guidance of several excellent faculty to whom I was not always sufficiently grateful and with whom I have not kept in as close a contact as I ought. In all three, I had the luxury of taking time to work on and work out details of the research, uncovering new avenues of exploration and doing much to learn in ways that the classroom could not match. (I must note, however, that the classroom did explicitly and specifically prepare me to carry out the independent research, offering training in methods and providing me places from which to begin useful lines of inquiry. Scaffolding works.)

Having the chance to facilitate such a thing now, even if on a small scale and informally, is proving to be one of the better parts of the work of teaching. Not only do I get the satisfaction of seeing a project take shape under my guidance but without my having to do the work of generating the ideas, I find my own store of ideas growing. The project my student/tutee/mentee pursues now suggests others to me; I have to tear myself away from some, as my work on them would poach upon his, but there are yet others that occur to me as worth undertaking when my current slate of work is clear (so not for a while, but still...). It is the kind of thing that cannot be had from large lecture classes; it is the kind of thing that cannot be had from distance learning; it is the kind of thing that can only be had from direct, face-to-face interactions. It is the kind of thing to which the academic humanities lend themselves, and it is perhaps the kind of thing that can reassert the relevance of the disciplines in an increasingly technocratic world.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


There is satisfaction in working with fire
Taming the old elemental force
Restraining it so that it eats but slowly
And in its feasting makes a feast for its tamer
But metaphors are dangerous and following them perilous
It has to be said that if the fire eats, it must excrete
And while the coals are as what passes from the nether eye
The smoke is as the ale-sharing of the Danes outside Heorot
In that battle of which the best of bard-craft sings

It is not, perhaps, the most comforting thought

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


One of the benefits of staying home to take care of Ms. 8 is that I do not have to do much to make myself ready to face the world. That includes not needing to put on shoes; my feet get to air out and breathe, which is nice in that it helps me to feel cool. (It also offers me more reason to keep the floors of Sherwood Cottage clean, which is a good thing.) After spending days without having to cover my feet, though, my socks feel oppressive and my shoes feel heavy; I begin to understand again the reluctance of children to put such things on in the summer. (I write "again" because I was a child once. I do not recall liking it. I certainly would not go back to it, particularly if it meant having to go through puberty again.)

I have to wonder if the kinds of shoes we wear serve as metaphors for us. (I know that not all wear shoes. Not all have feet on which to wear shoes. I obviously do not include them among the first-person plural I use. This is not to say that there are no metaphors for them or that I devalue them in favor of the footed or the shod.) If I perceive them as heavy and confining, does that mean I perceive the society which produces and values them as likewise oppressive? If, as is the case, I own multiple pairs of shoes, does that mean I perceive myself as occupying multiple roles? Does the fact that my usual shoes this summer have been battered cross-trainers indicate that I regard myself as a failed athlete? The last one is a stretch, perhaps, for those who look at me, but I have been a competitive athlete, if not in many years.

I am reminded as I consider what my shoes say of me that a little more than a month ago, a friend of mine wrote of the stories some of his things have for him. He is correct that there are stories in our possessions, but there are things other than stories in them--for there are things other than the story in any story. There is always more to tell, more that is referenced or evoked by the way the tale is told, more that is connoted by the plot and character and setting. Inferences can be made about the teller of the tale and the audience expected to hear it; understanding of the human condition can be had from careful attention to the stories and the details of them. We can use them to better understand who and what we are (and here I do include those who lack shoes or feet upon which to wear them, both to understand and to be understood). And it is because of that possibility that the academic humanities exist as discrete disciplines (problematic as the boundaries between them sometimes are). It is because there is understanding of humanity to be found that the disciplines are needed. It is towards uncovering that understanding that I and my colleagues devote our efforts, knowing that we will never have the whole of it either singly or in aggregate, but knowing nonetheless that The Work must be done.

Monday, July 21, 2014


Along the way back from Texas to Sherwood Cottage yesterday, my wife and I talked about my journal-keeping. As I think I have noted, I have kept a journal for some years, switching from gathered legal pad pages to inexpensive bound volumes in spring 2005 and upgrading from them to nice leather-bound, gilt-edged volumes while I lived in the Best of the Boroughs. (Brooklyn treated me well; I feel obliged to sing its praises even living away from it.) I am nearing the end of another such volume, the twenty-fifth in just over nine years (I did not say I was good at keeping a journal), and as I want to continue to keep one, I have to see about procuring a successor volume. And that means I have to think about what type of volume I want for the next volume, either to maintain my current practice or to change it, and if to change it, how to do so.

Determining how best to proceed requires that I contemplate what I want to do with my journals. It is a task to which I am giving the journal. But similar questions obtain here; how ought I to proceed with the entries on this blogroll, and to what purpose do I make the posts that I make? In answering the latter and more fundamental first (because it is more important, and it is easier), I look back at the earliest entry in this webspace. In it, I write of the same kind of impetus that prompted my switch in journal-writing: the desire to offer my comments in a socially-privileged form. What I had been doing before, making status updates (now lost) on a vanity site (that still exists but that I do not maintain as I ought to do), seemed no longer to suffice for my purposes. Although it was not until late last year that I began to make daily or near-daily posts (and some of those, I admit, are made more to post daily than to post well), there seemed to be a difference in presentation that pushed me to do a better job of writing for this blog. If nothing else, it has equipped me to better carry out the work I do for the Tales after Tolkien Society here.

So has the work in public intellectualism--if I can call it that--begun early in this blogroll and continued intermittently throughout. Whether or not it has done any good for me to offer summaries and responses to the piece I have read in, say, CCC, College English, the New York Times, PMLA, and Profession, I do not know. They have helped me to better understand what I have read, certainly, and that has helped me to be better in the classroom, but I am not sure that they have been of benefit in fostering conversation about the kinds of things that need to be discussed better than they generally are. I have tried to encourage it as I can; it has been another of the standing projects of this blog that I do so. I have to wonder, however, at the effectiveness of it. Perhaps it is another thing at which I need to keep working. Perhaps I have my answer to the earlier point, as well; I ought to keep doing what I have been doing, hoping that it will make some kind of breakthrough and practicing for other writing venues whether it does or not.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


My wife, Ms. 8, and I are back at Sherwood Cottage after having taken a quick trip to Maypearl, Texas, to attend the wedding of one of my wife's cousins. It was a pleasant ceremony with a good reception following, and seeing the extended family was appreciated. Ms. 8 was the best-behaved baby in attendance, and she very nearly upstaged the bride; I am sure she did not mean to do so, but my daughter is sneaky, and we are both descended from show-folks...

For the moment, though, I will be glad to not be moving so much. More later.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Ms. 8 has made it through five months of life in the waking world. Her parents have made it through five months of having her in the waking world. Her grandparents, I am sure, are laughing more than thirty and thirty-five years further along in the process, as are her great-grandmothers.

I am not about to wax philosophical about the joys and challenges of parenting. There is quite enough of that out in the world as it is, and I try not to be "that guy" whose entire conversation is always about the kid. Yes, she is the single most important part of my life, but there are other important things, and conversation need not always restrict itself to the most important. (Really, it never does. How many of us speak of nothing but what is truly most important in the world? How many of us ever actually speak of it at all?) I know that it grates on people to hear of nothing but Ms. 8, and I grate on people enough simply by being who and what I am. (That I lack certain charms is not a secret to me. Or to anyone who speaks with me.) So I tend to restrict how frequently I announce things about Ms. 8 to the world, and the relatively few people whom I know do not readily tire of hearing of her hear of her often and in abundance. And that seems to work well enough for all who are involved.

Even so, given the normative social practices expected of those demographics to which I belong--notably "Millennial" and "middle-class" "white"*--I probably ought to say more of my daughter online than I do. As I have noted, I have been staying home with Ms. 8 during the days while her mother, my wife, works. I have been working to be the "more engaged" father, even if I feel myself not to be doing too good a job at it. I still feel compelled to be of use outside the home, and have been doing a fair bit of freelance writing to do so, as well as various blog posts such as these and what I do for the Tales after Tolkien: Travels in Genre and Medievalism, as well as more formal scholarly projects. I cannot help but think it takes me away from my daughter when she needs me, yet we need the money, and if I am going to find the kind of job that will allow me to offer some security and stability to my family, I have to do the outside work on The Work. In any event, I am home, and I have access to cameras; the sensation that I ought to be taking pictures of her and posting them to the internet for all to see nags at me. It is, after all, what I see many others of my demographics doing, and I have to wonder if it is not the way in which our children will know whether or not we love them that we do such things.

I do not think I am out of line for worrying about whether or not I will be remembered with love by my child. And I know that some will say "Be a good father, and it will happen." I do not disagree with them. I simply wonder if part of "being a good father" now includes for members of my demographic group/s the kind of thing I describe (perhaps ineptly) above. I keep Ms. 8 fed and clothed, clean and dry, housed and protected (insofar as the last has been an issue thus far). I work to ensure that she benefits from contact with her broader family. But I do not know that it is enough, or that if it is now that it will remain so. Hence my concern.

*Not that any of these have stable meanings.

Friday, July 18, 2014


I wrote yesterday of working to catch up on my journal reading (among other things). I continued to work at it after making the blog post (in and among writing pieces for online distribution, of which one is here; yes, I engage in shameless pluggery). As I did so, I read Chris M. Anson's 2013 CCCC Chair's Address, "Climate Change," in CCC 65.2 (December 2013): 324-44. (How much catching up I have yet to do should be obvious.) Despite what the title connotes, the piece is not about meteorological concerns; instead, it treats the climate of higher education. While it does invoke the doomsday metaphors associated with the emergence and explosion of online learning (such as are invoked here), it does not stop at them as so many other pieces do. Rather, it offers through a pleasant, quiet narrative a palliative for them; Anson calls upon the reader (and the earlier listener, since the piece as printed is taken from a convention address) to emphasize in the classroom what cannot be gotten anywhere except the classroom. The raw information many introductory classes provide is available elsewhere. Conversations, deep and engaging multi-party conversations, can be had online. But what cannot be had outside the classroom are the hands-on things required of work in many of the sciences or of the arts; what cannot be had outside the classroom are the immersion in the learning environment, the consideration of learning as learning, the immediacy of feedback verbal and otherwise. In reminding the reader of such things and suggesting that they can be emphasized, Anson offers hope, and that is of remarkable value when job sites speak of the doom of schools and senators call the humanities wasteful.

There is the problem, though, that it is not only the teacher who is responsible for making the classroom a place where such things can happen. Yes, the teacher does have to provide a space in which inquiry can happen, a time in which students can work through things in their heads and in collaboration. But the students have to be willing to make the engagement. They have to be willing to ask questions and to voice ideas that may end up not working well. And they are sometimes not. I have had classes in which students sat and stared blankly at me when I asked them for comment; on occasion, one or two would tell me that they wanted me to lecture at them. (I have worked to forestall the desire by labeling the practice an "infodump," as if what I offer them is the digested remains of what I have learned, squeezed out into an insufficiently critical receptacle and flushed away at the earliest opportunity. Metaphors matter.) When I have refused to "give the answers," students have complained, and I have found myself chastised by my institutional hierarchs for the complaint. When I have given them what they "want," they have not really learned, and I have reinforced the very problems that typify my working conditions. Such students view my class as a hurdle, concordant with Anson's assertion, and in the fifteen weeks I see them, the forty-five hours their faces and mine point at one another, there is not much I can do to correct more than a decade of carefully inculcated instrumentalist views. I continue to work at it, certainly, because there are always students who are willing to engage, but I only have so much of myself to give in the classroom; there are other claims upon me that supersede those my students make.

I do what I can. I can only hope it will be enough.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


I spent a far bit of time yesterday catching up on my journal reading (and I mean to spend a fair bit of today doing the same). Why I am behind in it, I have addressed before. But in trying to come abreast of where I need to be in terms of keeping up with my disciplines, I find myself somewhat saddened. It is not because the work is bad and I am having an arrogant "Oh, how the world is degrading, that such things are allowed to pass as knowledge" moment. It is not even because I have not gotten as much into print as I ought to have done; I am working to correct that particular failing, with a book chapter in revision and a poem and an essay just accepted for publication (details to follow). No, I grow sad because I see in the research places where humanity has failed and where it is called to action by my colleagues, and I know that they will not be answered. The work in which the calls are made is seen as wasteful, as I noted, and when it is the case that the work is looked at by those outside the academic humanities as being of value (which is seldom), it is regarded as arcane and abstruse, such that it cannot be understood and the calls cannot be answered.

Seeing and knowing such things makes difficult the fight against despair. Seeing and knowing my own complicity in systems of oppression and my continued benefit from the oppressions of the past join with the certain knowledge that I cannot extricate myself from those systems, that I cannot set aside those benefits. I am the Shakespearean Claudius again, asking how one might be pardoned when one cannot set aside the offense. Even within the fairly common Protestant tradition in which I am immersed (itself beset with problems), forgiveness requires repentance, and repentance entails giving up what is gained through regret, and how I can set aside my privilege while I 1) remain who I am and 2) do the work that I do inside the classroom and outside it eludes me. I feel I have to be in a position of authority, one which I have in some senses earned through the work I have done thus far and which I have in other senses yet to earn but still possess, but how much of that feeling is the result of my internalization of preexisting social constraints and practices is unclear to me.

My discomfort is as nothing compared to the down-treading of which so many have been the recipients, I know. I know that the problems I have in considering my complicity in oppression are insubstantial against the problems of those who are oppressed. And I know that it smacks of elitism in many senses that I would even for a moment consider that I alone am tasked with the redress of the situations imposed upon others prior to my arrival and continuing on into the now. But I know also that I ought to be such a person that the world is better for my being, and I do not know how even to look at what better actually is.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


I know that many people view the kind of work I do outside the classroom as being...not. Even the work I do inside the classroom is seen as...not, of course, following Shaw's old adage about those who can and those who can't. I have addressed that issue before, however, here and here. I need not do so again at the moment, although I likely will sometime in the future; people continue to throw it in my face and in the faces of others, so I will continue to need to scrape it off and shove it down their throats. No, today I have something else against which to write: the perception that the work I do outside the classroom is...not.

That the perception is prevalent is clear to me. I have frequently faced such questions as "What do you do?" and "Why would you ever do it?" I have often been asked "What's the point?" and "Why do you waste your time?" (Sometimes, the questions have come from others in the academic humanities, which is hardly comforting. I have spoken to it, also.) Each bespeaks not only a lack of understanding of the mission of the academic humanities, but also a denial that there is a mission, or that there is a mission worth pursuing. And I am not alone in having faced such questions, as my many colleagues in the academic humanities can attest.

Our collected assertions, however, are likely to be dismissed as anecdotal and therefore insufficient upon which to base judgment. Admittedly, evidence that is purely anecdotal is insufficient upon which to base broad assertions--but I think there is a point at which the combined weight of anecdote becomes something more than that. (Social scientists and ethnographers can likely speak to that point more fully than I can; I rather hope to hear from some, or from some who can point me towards such discussions, which are likely to be relevant to my interests.) And I can point to other evidence than my own to support such assertions.

For a variety of reasons, my wife and I receive Reader's Digest, and we do typically read through it; we have the occasional five minutes to spare, enough time to need filling but not so much that something more complex can be begun. In the August 2014 issue, I read a distillation of Oklahoma Senator Coburn's Wastebook, in which, among others, the complaint is made of the less than $1 million spent since 2010 by the US National Endowment for the Humanities on the Popular Romance Project. Why it should be considered a waste for a government to invest in understanding the people from whom it ostensibly derives its power and to whom it is theoretically accountable escapes me. It is the case that looking closely at what people seek out for their entertainment reveals much about them, and romance (of the Harlequin sort rather than the medieval) as a genre is abundantly sought by the reading public of the US. Too, the assertion that the studies "represent two American industries that are raking in millions of dollars and don't need government support" is misleading; the studies represent the work of scholars, not of companies, so that it is not the "industries" that benefit but the people who work to expand human knowledge of humanity. Yet, since Reader's Digest is, as "nonfiction," thought real, and it is widely circulated and read, the errant ideas voiced in the piece are likely to be taken up by a large portion of the US populace and discussed as "truth." It goes beyond my anecdotes, and it goes to a prevailing attitude that what I do and what my colleagues do does not matter.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


As I have noted, I spent the weekend just past at the Evil Incarnate: Manifestations of Villains and Villainy Conference at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. The conference ran from Friday through Sunday; I attended sessions on Friday and was present all day on Saturday. Although I did not hear all of what was on offer, I feel that I benefited greatly from the experience in terms of enriching my own understandings and in making useful contacts with other scholars and with those normally outside academe.

While I have yet to fully compile my conference notes, so that I cannot yet "tell all" as a friend has asked me to do, I can offer some observations. One is somewhat self-serving. There was to be a session at the conference titled "Retold Mythology," and I had meant to attend it, as the papers on offer seemed to be relevant to my professional and personal interests. The panel was canceled, however, for reasons that I do not know. (A new friend, one who works in folklore and popular culture, suggested to me that panels with comics papers often falter--although, again, the cause is not clear.) A paper from that panel was shunted to another, one handling evil in television. It was a medievalist paper, one laying out some of the foundations for the current infatuation with the paranormal in mainstream popular media (so it will likely be discussed somewhat on the Tales after Tolkien Society blog, Travels in Genre and Medievalism). And it was both excellent and excellently received. It made those of us who work in medieval studies look good both through its developed and thorough scholarship and through the verve and ebullience that accompanied its delivery. (I would note that many of the medieval papers I have heard given are thus: detailed and energetic.) I had to respond in kind, and the panel discussion seemed to take heart from it.

Another is less fortunate. There were several panels I attended that were also attended by a particular other person. (I will not use names because 1) I am not sure I recall the correct name and 2) Even I maintain some standards of etiquette and behavior.) That person seemed bent on forcing the panels--including one of the keynote addresses--into that person's own narrowly circumscribed, ossified worldview. Questions such as "Are we just using comic books, then, to teach people who can't actually read the things that they should learn from Shakespeare?" punctuated the person's "contributions" to the discussions following panel presentations, bespeaking that person's disdain for the underpinnings of the panels the person attended. Challenge of ideas is good. Challenge of assumptions is good. Dismissive rudeness towards colleagues is not. Nor yet is open attack on junior scholars (and many of the conference participants are yet at work on their degrees). It happens even so, and seemingly at every conference; there is always one person who does such things. That one cropped up at what I am given to understand is the first iteration of the conference bodes ill--although given that the conference was about evil and its nature, I suppose I have to consider it strangely appropriate.

Monday, July 14, 2014


While I was showering this morning, I recalled a joke which I first read in Asimov but cannot seem to find this morning (and looking for it is what caused the delay in my writing this; I have been at it since half past seven), which I give in loose form below:

Bob had been plagued by headaches for several months before he final went to see a doctor about the problem. After several thorough examinations, many tests, and much wrangling with the insurance company about paying for them all, Bob got the news from his doctor: "I can cure the headaches, but the only way to do so seems to be to remove your testicles."

Bob considered the matter closely for a time, weighing the options, but in the end, the headaches were too much for him to bear, and he went under the knife. The headaches were indeed gone, but so were other things...

After his recovery, Bob thought to soothe himself a bit by buying some new clothes, and he went to a fine and reputable tailor to be fitted for them. The tailor took many measurements, among which many were already known to Bob. He knew, for instance, that he needed a 17-inch neck on his shirts and a 32-inch inseam on his pants. And so when the tailor said, "And for your drawers, a 36-inch waist," Bob knew something was off. He said to the tailor, "That can't be right. I take a 32."

Came the reply: "Oh, no. At that size, your balls will get bound up, and you'll get such terrible headaches."
The Good Doctor invites his readers to laugh at the matter of course, and the joke is funny in its reversal. But like most jokes, it teaches amid its humor, provoking laughter to open the audience such that a core message can be received. In it, there are multiple such messages to be found. One is that the erudite are not always right--or as right as they could be. The recommended procedure has the expected effect; it is successful in that it accomplishes what it seeks to do. The cost for it, however, is high, both in the investment of resources to achieve it and in the bodily sacrifice made (which has its own set of associations and sociocultural overtones). So perhaps the joke is also warning against the perils of too narrow a focus on things or, to invert the notion, of not appreciating the contexts in which things exist.

I worry about the anti-intellectualism towards which the first message tends, although I find that I am firmly on the side of the second. Context matters, and context is far broader than is often realized--which brings me to a third message the joke conveys: do not scorn the knowledge of any. Tailoring is a skilled craft, and there is much of value in the work of any craftsperson who is devoted to the intricacies of that craft. It has much to teach, just as masterful craft-work does in any field--if those who look upon it will pay attention. Works of craft are works of humanity, and by attending to them, we learn more about what it is to be human. And the divergent perspectives consideration of outside endeavors demands can help address the broader contexts in which we are all enmeshed, offering solutions to our problems that cause at least fewer problems of their own.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


I am back at Sherwood Cottage after having attended the Evil Incarnate: Manifestations of Villains and Villainy Conference at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. It was a good conference and busy for me; I will have to take a bit to put together my notes and commentaries.

I hope it happens again. I may not go, but I would certainly encourage others to do so.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


There is a sense of hurry
Still, I must write
Even if it takes time I do not have

There is never enough time
For anything good
Always, we could linger longer
On loving
On a simple cup of coffee
And never are we given the chance to do so

Yes, we draw things out
But not as they ought to be
Not as we ought to be
There is always something else to do
And now I have to do mine.

Friday, July 11, 2014


The road may go ever on and on
But there are stops and starts upon it
And I am about to make my start again

The trip should be quick
I look forward to making the stops

Thursday, July 10, 2014


Sherwood Cottage stands amid the rain as I write this. Once again, the heavens have opened up, pouring out life-giving fluid onto Mother Earth and making the weather the end of a typical pornographic scene. It is different than it was when I first came to this part of the world right around a year ago; then, the grass was not so green as it is today and is like to be tomorrow, for there had not been as much rain. I do not know if the area is still in drought, but I know that it is far less so now than it has been. The rivers are still low, but they are actually rivers now instead of ditches with trickles of water flowing through them. It is an improvement, even if it means I will have to mow the lawn again.

I rarely mowed while living in The City. It is not a thing that is much done there; few have grass to mow, and even those who do (such as my wife and I did) have not a lot. My wife usually took care of the grassy bit of the part of Brooklyn in which we lived; the concrete slab was mine to tend. But things are different here. The "traditional" gender roles which we frustrate this summer demand that I be the one pushing the lawnmower and tending to its air filter so that it can continue to run despite the dust that still often kicks up. I am enough of a product of my upbringing and subject enough to popular opinion that I feel compelled to do so--aside from the terms of the lease which demand that the task be done, although not by whom.

It would seem that my struggle with negotiating the purportedly traditional masculinity of my upbringing as a member of the Anglo-Saxon Protestant working class and my later-assumed identity as a scholar of the academic humanities is ongoing. Finding the balance between the type of responsible, ethical adulthood to which my education leads me and the best patterns of behavior to be inherited from the concepts of manhood emergent among the dominant popular culture of the early to mid-twentieth century American Midwest is still not easy; I find myself unable to relinquish either, the one because I know in my mind that it is right, the other because I know it in my heart, even as I see the problems in both. (One tends to inaction because of the impossibility of oppression, while the other tends to overaction because of the unconcern for oppression.)

Thus I remain as I am, not unlike Claudius's "man to double business bound" even if I try to neglect neither. The tension can be productive; it forces me to consider things in certain ways, and that consideration often yields a better path than reflexive following of either. I can hope that it will end up leading to a kind of adulthood I will not be ashamed to teach my daughter. She will have enough problems without the burden of poor models to follow at home...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


I worry about the day.

I wake up and head first for the kitchen
Where a coffee pot awaits
Day after day
I do this
Except that today
I didn't

I thought I had.

After I turn on the pot
I bathe
And when I am done
And dressed
The coffee waits for me

It was not waiting this morning.

I do not worry about such things
I try not to be superstitious
I am supposed to be a man of reason
A man who considers what is before acting
And superstition has no place in that

I cannot shake the feeling that something is wrong.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014



Work continues, as it ever does. There are papers that need writing for presentation and publication. There are shifts to upcoming schedules that need to be accounted for and thus curricula that need development. There is some freelance writing to do, as well, and some tutoring, since money must be made. Personal projects have been set aside in favor of them, but they still nag at the edges of consciousness.

Family is fine. Ms. 8 continues to grow and to exhibit new behaviors. She squealed with delight last night, first time that either the Mrs. or I had heard her do so. The Mrs. does well, also. Matters are improving for her at her job; she is assuming new authority, and she will be assuming a new and higher rate of pay to go along with it. This is helpful, as she will be able to get fewer hours once my own "regular" job starts back up.

Weather is in full summer session now. Last week, we had a front that drove in some rain and kept the temperatures pleasant. It is gone now, and the air is heavy and quite warm. It increases lassitude in many. I am tempted to reorient my sleep schedule entirely; I need to, actually. These blog entries have been later in the day than they ought to be, and that is because I have slept later in the day than I ought to do. Must start going to bed earlier.

Monday, July 7, 2014


Today, I am trying to return to what passes for normalcy for me--which is not "normal" as most understand it, I admit. My wife and I are currently enjoying an inversion of several of the normative gender roles prevalent in the perception of mainstream US popular culture; she works, while I stay home to take care of the house and those who dwell in it. As such, I have some cleanup to do from the trip; there is laundry to handle, and there are dishes that need washing. (I do reserve the right to write a bit and to have a cup of coffee before I go about doing so, though.)

To that end, I am glad that the water is back on at Sherwood Cottage. It is not because of problems paying bills that the water was turned off, certainly; I cut the requisite check as soon as I received the billing statement, and it appears to have already cleared my bank. No, it was off in the evening because of something that happened a couple of houses down from me ("down" being higher-numbered lots, thus farther away from the origin point). I am not sure what caused it, but a water pipe going to the house in question burst, and it did so on the city's side of the water meter. As such, city crews arrived to work on the problem, and doing so required that they close the main that serves Sherwood Cottage.

I understand the need to do so, of course, and I acknowledge that the inconvenience imposed upon me was only an inconvenience. But I am nonetheless reminded of the precarious interconnections upon which I rely, and I doubt that I am alone in that reliance. It is some way to the nearest water source for me if I have to carry water by hand, for instance, and I know that my skill set is not such that I would do well at foraging for my own food or food for my family. I suppose that makes me something of a parasite, or would did I not contribute in some small way to the betterment of that body from which I derive sustenance. I am perhaps as one of the bacteria in our guts, distinct from us in fact but vital to our ongoing lives in the aggregate. Some of the work I do, whether on The Work or elsewhere, is needful, and all of the work that I and those like me do is necessary even if any single worker is eminently replaceable.

It might be asked why I would contemplate such things. They cannot conduce to my comfort. They certainly do not ring of that which builds up a person. They are images that do not need to be taken far to unravel, since it is not at all a great cognitive distance to travel from gut bacteria to feces and flatus, and thinking of myself as mostly belching forth stinking gases and producing waste is hardly flattering. It is what I am trained to do, however, and I cannot but do as I have been shaped by myself and others to do. I cannot but be as I am made to be. And so I will be getting back to chores and The Work soon.

Sunday, July 6, 2014


I am only now returned to Sherwood Cottage from a trip to the hinterlands of Arkansas to visit with my in-laws. It was a good trip, to be sure, and one of several I have had scheduled for the season (such as next week's Evil Incarnate conference trip). Still, I am glad to be home, as I always am at the end of a trip.

I betray some cultural elitism in my description of the part of Arkansas where I was as "the hinterlands." I am not exactly in a major metropolitan area at Sherwood Cottage, nor is this pace a particularly prominent cultural hub. I suppose, though, that I display my having grown up in Texas and lived in the Best of the Boroughs in such a comment; the former breeds a pride of place that lingers, and the latter promotes arrogance. It is not the only parallel between the two, certainly, and I have every intention of explicating them. But not today.

Today, in what remains of it, I will unpack from the trip and decompress from the hours behind the wheel that seem longer than they used. And I will see about returning to The Work, which I had put off for a bit to attend to the obligations and joys of family.

Saturday, July 5, 2014


Somehow, among the other things that need doing, I am squeezing in time with my people. It is a good thing to get to do, but it is one that makes some other demands upon me than I am used to having. There is part of me that insists I ought to be working, that I ought not to have stopped what else I was doing, that The Work requires attention above all else. It is not uncommon among those of us who study the academic humanities, really; I am not alone in feeling that there is more that needs doing and that I am the one who has to do it. Only through doing such work in finding new knowledge, developing understanding that has not before been had, can I and the others in my field establish ourselves and have some small chance of mattering, of being in a position that matters and from which we can do some good in the world.

Today, I mean to fight against it. My people need attention, and I cannot be the person I need to be to do The Work as I need to do it if I do not give it them.

Friday, July 4, 2014


I tried to write this earlier. It came out as the leavings of a seething ball of hate. It was not what I wanted it to be, for if it was my leavings, then it was shit and I shitty for leaving it around. What I had meant for it to be was another musing on the US Independence Day holiday, as I have done once or twice in the past. And I admit that, given the US Supreme Court decision on Burwell v Hobby Lobby, upon which a friend comments here and here, and the abundantly expected slickening of the slippery slope that is already begun, I had the thought that there is not much to celebrate about the country.

Worry not. I am not about to rattle off jingoistic platitudes averring uncritical adulation (much to the chagrin of some members of my family). Things are fucked up in many, many different ways in the US, and however much "better" things are here than elsewhere, they are not as they ought to be, and I am not wrong to be vexed that they are not. This is despite my efforts to the contrary, as well as those of many people I know. We do what we can to encourage people to pull their heads out of their asses and think, to recognize their complicity in structures of oppression and to try to minimize that complicity, to actually improve things for themselves and the world in the long term. But it is all too little, and the social inertia is not blunted or turned aside by such efforts as we can muster. And I hold out scant hope that others will rally. Why would they? Most do not recognize that there are problems, or if they do, they have been convinced--bludgeoned into believing, really--that the problems are entirely other than they are.

We have not done well enough to reach out to people. And I am not sure that the attempt is worth making anymore. I am not at all sure that there is any reason to think that there are enough people willing to do what would actually be necessary to make things better in the long term and for the most people. In all honesty, I am not. Doing so would imperil those for whom I am accountable and hold affection, and whatever I may owe to the world, I have trouble putting it above my family. I suppose I am not alone in the notion, and I suppose that that is part of the problem; the concrete short-term benefits to ourselves and our loved ones as complicit parts of the mainstream US culture, as well as the fears of what will almost immediately happen as a result of non-complicity, outweigh the more abstract benefits to the world. What happens to us is more visible and therefore more "real," and it is difficult to put the imagined before the "real." The few who do are lauded as messianic figures or derided as mad--or worse. Their ends are remarkably similar, however, and not the kind that encourage emulation.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


Metaphors unravel when followed

Perhaps that is why humanities scholars are derided
For they do little but follow such things
Chasing them without chasing them
Disturbing them at their rest
Until exhaustion takes them
And they die upon the dirt
Their lives are valued
More than the sustenance that can be taken from them
Too often

The figuration of Mother Earth and a Heavenly Father
Makes the rain obscene
And all of us have been doused in such life-making fluids as issue from that joining

The equation of eagle and nation
Any nation that claims an eagle as a symbol of itself
May be apt
Eagles eat carrion as much as they do anything else

The Trojans many take as an emblem
Lost their war
And stupidly
They were warned and heeded not
So that smaller things emerged to ruin the city
Once the larger thing was admitted in

Rainbows only include what we can see
But much more is not seen
And we may have yet to look

The light of knowledge
Surely casts a shadow when it strikes upon the material
And many dwell happily within that umbra

Chins kept up are easily kicked
Knuckles knocking that things be opened bloody
Neither conduces to any end but pain
Neither conduces to comfort
Neither does extending a metaphor

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Ms. 8 got to go to the doctor yesterday. Since she is a bit more than four months old, she was a bit past due for a series of vaccinations, and it was good to get her checked up on in any event. For the record, she is on the lower end of normal size for her age--and that without correcting for the five weeks her birth was early. But it is not an issue of her being underfed (I promise; I feed her often and abundantly during the day, after all). I think that because the Mrs. made an effort to eat well and not too much while she was pregnant with Ms. 8, our daughter has started off with an advantage over many of her contemporaries. It is something worth prizing, as she will need all the help she can get in the years to come.

The vaccinations went more or less well. While I am aware that some conspiracy nuts will say that my wife and I are setting our daughter up for autism--which is not the case, as study after study has found, although I am aware that those same nuts will claim that the studies cannot be trusted and that the "real" truth is being suppressed by Big Pharma--and other conspiracy nuts will say that we are setting her up to be a complacent, chemically-dependent subject of the corporate-hegemonic complex, I am confident that I have done what I ought to do with her. She does not appear to have had any adverse reactions to the process, other than objecting strenuously to having needles in her thighs (for which I cannot blame her).

I have seen what one of the diseases against which Ms. 8 has been inoculated can do. I remember seeing--with my own eyes and not on a screen--some of my older relatives who had contracted polio in the days before vaccination was available or widespread. I have heard the story of what happened to the family of one of them; the person's father sold as much of what they had as could be sold, trying to raise enough money to find a cure for what ended up being unable to be cured, and so was reduced to near-penury for no effect save the ongoing scorn of his own kin. I would spare my daughter that if I could. She will face enough challenges simply because she will be a woman in this world that too often does not value women except as dumping-grounds for sperm that must be controlled by men and in the men's interests. She will face enough hardship because she has not been born into a family that can afford to give her affluenza--which is not a disease so much as a superpower. She will face enough difficulty because she has me for a father, and I know that I am not an easy person to endure. I do not need to add a bevy of easily preventable diseases to what she must overcome.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


Today is my wife's birthday. What number birthday it is does not matter, for to my eyes, she has changed in appearance only insofar as she has grown yet more lovely. Hell, I show more gray in my hair than she does; I have diminished more over the nearly nine years I have known her than she has. Her sunny disposition accounts for much of her continued vitality; she routinely displays a youthful exuberance I have long tended to deny myself, so it should be no surprise that she retains more outward youth than I do, despite my years-later birth. She certainly retains an inner youth that is a delight to see and to be around.

That youthfulness does not come at the cost off naïveté, however. My wife is an intelligent, perceptive person upon whose insights I rely (and in which I ought to trust more than I do); she is an adept scholar and thinks along paths that end up being better to tread than those many others seek. So she is not fooled by the kind of thinking that informs certain recent judicial decisions--and she is not fooled into thinking that online slacktivism will be of any effect in righting situations that are wrong. And aside from political concerns, she is a skilled teacher and reviewer from whose oversight efforts many people would certainly benefit.

Further, if I may range into saying so without being thought to reinforce heteronormative gender roles as part of a phallogocentric assertion of patriarchal hegemony, she is remarkably nurturing not only to her own family (whom she recently traveled to the Texas Hill Country to help) and to me (she bolsters my fragile and unsteady sense of self-confidence frequently), but also to Ms. 8. The child's delivery was...unusual, and her first few weeks of life were not the easiest, and my wife did most of the work of caring for Ms. 8 through it. She did so with a good will and cheer, not approaching it as a heavy obligation to be borne but as a delight--and she still maintains the sense of delight (somehow), smiling even at our daughter's screaming and at changing diapers that seem to defy reason in their contents.

I am lucky to know her and more lucky to be part of her life. That she has long consented to have me with her has been the second-best thing to happen to me (the best thing, of course, being the arrival of Ms. 8, but that was itself an outgrowth of my wife's agreement to have me with her as she does). We argue from time to time, of course, as any two people who are both thinking will, but she is usually right, and I am lucky to be able to learn from her not just better reasoning and better ideas, but how to be a better person. And even in my folly, she sees in me something worth loving and loves it. For those reasons and many others, I love her, and I am greatly pleased to be with her on her birthday once again.