Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Payday has happened again, and thus bill-paying has happened again. I do seem to have a bit more left over this time than usual, though, which is a welcome surprise. Perhaps this time I will be lucky enough not to see it all flutter away from me, as so often happens. But, given some of the circumstances in which I find myself, I doubt I will. Something always seems to come up. Already, I am getting messages about renewing some of the memberships I hold--and since I benefit from them, I am inclined to do so. But they cost money...

That last thing, that money...it is a source of sorrow, of course. I and many others spend our time in trying to acquire it so that we can spend it to support our ability to try to acquire it, as has been pointed out and as remains something of a ridiculous cycle. But it does require doing; there is not a place that is not owned, that the presence of a person will go unremarked and unchallenged. Going "off the grid" as so many seek to do requires carving out a space from the omnipresent grid--and that can only be done through recourse to the resources controlled by the grid.

More, I and some others are caught because we need the resources of the grid to do the work that we seek to do. It accounts for part of the willingness of people to prostitute themselves adjunct for as long as they do; even an adjunct has (some) access to a college's resources, and that access enables the work that scholars do in a number of fields. I have yet to find recent journal articles or scholarly texts on the broader internet (and they do not seem the kinds of things to which pirates are like to attend), and those who work in the "harder" fields need access to equipment that far exceeds the ability of most every scholar I have ever known to purchase and operate. We are bound for our very identities as generators of knowledge to the systems that oppress us, and we can only extricate ourselves through amputation. How many will make the coyote's choice, then, and gnaw off a leg to escape the trap? And for those who might, what kind of life has the coyote afterward?

I do what I can against the circumstance. I work diligently, as I have been taught to do, and if the work I do seems not so much to be work...would I be making more to struggle in the sweltering sunlight? Does it seem that I would be happier doing otherwise than I do? Does it seem I would be less complicit in the structures that maintain the status quo? If I would not, why would I change what I do? For I do not see that so many others who stand near me have advancement, unless they have connections that I am too late to develop...I have not as much as I should like, perhaps, but I am not eager to give it up on a chance I see as unlikely to come.

Monday, September 29, 2014


The work week is beginning again (as though it ever really ends; there is a reason I brought up the workend, after all), and I find myself a bit...apprehensive about it. This week, after all, sees the submission of six-week grades, a sort of progress report on my students, and I have the notion that a number of them are going to be...displeased with what I will have to submit. I have already told them that the grades cannot be altered once submitted and that they will derive entirely from observed performance leading up to the submission, but I am certain some will come to me to plead for extra credit or a grade change. (They always do.) Frankly, I do not want to have to deal with the whining or with the fallout from the whining (for despite what is attested here and elsewhere about what ought to happen, student reports do much to influence re/hiring decisions, and I am not so secure that I can afford not to worry about rehiring).

What makes matters worse is that I believe I am due for course evaluations soon. Because of my position, I have been subject to additional scrutiny, which takes the form more of student evaluations than faculty observations. I would like to have more of the latter, particularly since the latter can result in letters of recommendation that work to my advantage. (I recall, suddenly, that I need to update my CV again. I recall, too, that I need to ask a few people for dossier letters, just to be safe. And I need to send out more job applications; I have been slower of late, for obvious reasons.) But that requires complicated scheduling, and I am not the only busy person about. Maybe I can make something happen, try to pull in favors...but in the meantime, I am obliged to be concerned for what my students will write about me.

I ought not to be, I know. I ought to simply do my job as best as I am able. But I also have responsibilities that require me to maintain steady employment; there is the job as officially described, and there is the job that is tacitly understood but often more important, and the two do come into conflict. It is not at all a comfortable situation, and it is not one that training in teaching (which I have at the undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate levels; I am a professional, and I seek to refine my skills continuously) generally discusses. (Seriously. Administrative rigmarole occupies quite a bit of time for those who would teach; it ought to be covered in professional development courses and seminars.) I have handled it relatively well so far; I have been renewed before. But I am not ever certain that I will be again. I have seen too many dismissed quietly, despite good performance, to trust to things before I have a contract in hand. It is a shame, really; things could be so much better...

Sunday, September 28, 2014


There are times I think I have been wrong
That I am still wrong
That I ought to accept as inevitable
That the things I think are wrong
Are going to happen
And others will benefit from them
And I ought to align myself with those others
And gain the benefits

There are pernicious dogmas
That come from all points on the political circuit
That is really a circuit
That ensure that all of us
Are caught in at least one of them
And I am no exception
And I am trapped in more than one
And I mislike the feeling

Saturday, September 27, 2014


This workend is brought to you
By Shit Academics Say and the letter F
Clicking the link will show why the one
You can guess the other

There is always more to do
There is never time to do it
There is never a task that can be not done
There is always something that is

A quiet time is what I ask
A quiet time to work
A quiet time that offers peace
A quiet time will soon be wasted
For fatigue leaps out whenever it can
And it, too, likes the quiet
And it is quiet now

Friday, September 26, 2014


My mind often wanders
Sometimes following paths worn into the grass
Sometimes following already-paved ways
And some of those have worn down the pavement from being so heavily trodden

From time to time
I strike out across the grass where no trails lead
And if I do sometimes step in shit
I sometimes also find flowers of great beauty
Hitherto unseen

Sometimes the wanderings go into the forest
Passing between the trees
And I sometimes run into them
Or catch myself on a low-hanging branch
But sometimes I climb one
Seeing in its branches and bole something to bolster me
And the view is good

I report on those flowers and that view
Sometimes, I am even believed

Thursday, September 25, 2014


I am tempted to write another piece on the encroaching "Christmas" holiday, particularly since my wife and I saw "Christmas" decorations in one of the stores we shopped at yesterday...right alongside Halloween decorations. (The juxtaposition seems poised to make some heads explode in this Buckle of the Bible Belt in which I live.) But I think I will not; I do not think I have much if anything to add to the earlier piece, unless it is in what I have said here and elsewhere. My hackles have not raised, whether because I am growing inured to the phenomenon or because I am too tired to do more than make the feeble observation, I know not and care not much more.

Since I am thinking about the holiday now only three months off, I have to think about Ms. 8 and how she will interact with it. I know it is a thing that can bring her little heart happiness, and I very much want my daughter to be happy, but it is also something that will immure her in consumerist trappings and appropriative, oppressive "religious" practices without my help, and I do not want her to be burdened by them any more than cannot be prevented. (I am under no illusions about my efficacy against the silent, tacit weight of dominant threads of popular culture.) So I am left with some concern as to how much to celebrate with her, and in what way.

The argument may well be floated that it will not matter at this point, since she will not be old enough to understand and will not remember what happens this year in any event. Both assertions may well be true. The latter, though, simply defers the problem. The former fails to understand that patterns established early continue to shape events and people, consciously and unconsciously, thereafter. Consider: what my wife and I have for Christmas d├ęcor is stored (if imperfectly) where it can be found. Any additions to it will be similarly stored. They can thus be found by Ms. 8 when she is old enough to understand and to ask questions (which I am convinced will be sooner than expected, but I would be convinced my daughter is unusually smart). She will be already embedded in some of the more...problematic aspects of the "celebration." And it is about that already-embeddedness that I worry.

I would like to "just be happy" about things. I would like to have uncomplicated joy with my little girl and with my wife. But I have the misfortune of being aware of--and indeed trained to seek--the implications of words and deeds, and many of them are far from happy. For me to neglect them would be irresponsible, and for me to ignore them as they apply to my daughter--and they cannot help but do so--would be far worse than that. Neither suggests itself as particularly acceptable. I do have some semblance of scruple, after all...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Things are finally returning to some semblance of normalcy from the tumult of the weekend just past. My wife, Ms. 8, and I were in Texas visiting my father-in-law and his family, which was fine and dandy. Less so was the fact that I took a head cold or some such thing, and I took it badly; I am not often laid out by one, but I was this time, such that I was still not in a condition to work Monday. (The Mrs. seems to be getting it, now, which is also bad; we have things at the house, and she works at a pharmacy, but still...) My wife and daughter did well, though, and so I am not displeased to have done what I could to help them see family.

I spent most of yesterday trying to catch myself up. It worked, more or less, but I find that I am not as...composed this morning as I would prefer to be to face the day. I think my students will appreciate not having a quiz today, but I also think they will be a bit annoyed at my not having gotten done the grading that I would normally have done. I would not worry, but their evaluations do factor into whether or not I get renewed, and as I do not yet have a stable job to which to go from this one, I need to secure this one as much as I can.

The job search is progressing, if slowly. There are not as many postings for my field this time as there were last time--so far as I have yet seen. Freelance work and the demands of teaching, as well as of the many research projects I have waiting for me (and to which I have not attended as diligently as I ought), have interdicted it somewhat. I try to send out one a day at least, but I have not done so well in that as I might otherwise hope. I press on, of course, as there is no other way, but I am not so...prolific this time around. What it says about me, I am not sure.

I do think that I have been busier this year than last. Ms. 8 accounts for some of it, of course; not only does she need attention in herself, she has prompted much more in the way of travel and visitors than had been normal for me before. (I am not complaining; I am instead glad she is so well loved.) Too, I have been working to improve myself so that I can land a more stable job and thereby do more to secure my daughter's future. I am working to get more material into print (which is working, if slowly) and to be of better service to my discipline. So far, I have been keeping up--but the illness of last weekend, minor as it is compared to what some others I know face, points out the difficulty I face in doing so and the instability of the situation.

I have got to get things done.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Matters are improved.
There is more work to do.
There is never enough time in which to do it.
Sick days do not help.

Monday, September 22, 2014


I was away.
I am now back
But I am unwell.

Friday, September 19, 2014



Ms. 8 is seven months old today. It does not feel like it. It is still largely fun.

I do not think the flu shot is the problem. There is still work to do, though. I am thrilled.

It is hard to jump into a series eight books in.

Scotland will remain part of the UK for now, it seems. With the oil to which it has access, though, I wonder that the US does not move to, ahem, "secure freedom" for the people there. Then again, they are awfully pale for the most part...

That's about enough.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Yesterday's health screening had the expected result. I got my flu shot, and I got told that I am overweight and under-active and that if I do not fix both I am likely to develop diabetes and heart problems. Nothing I did not already know, although I admit that I have not been good about doing anything to help matters. I do not think I quite qualify as Grade A beef anymore, being either past my shelf life or some other thing, but I am not sure how I feel about the matter. If it makes me less desirable, perhaps it saves me for something else...

The work continues--oh, my, does it continue. Grading piles up, despite my efforts; I have two classes of job materials to review today, as well as a couple of quizzes. None of it will take terribly long, of course, but it will take time, and there are other projects that need attention. Freelance work is still coming in, and, given how mercurial it is, I am inclined to devote my attentions to it. But The Work also needs doing, and if neglecting it in favor of other things is good for short-term things, it is far less so for long-term plans. The Work is what, if anything over which I have control, will conduce to my having the kind of job I want, and so I need to attend to it, although I also need to be able to eat in the meantime.

That is always the balance, of course, judging short-term needs against long-term goals, for the long term will not matter save that the short terms preceding it allow it to happen, yet without planning for the long term, the short term becomes all--and that is no way to live. (It is, of course, becoming the only way people are allowed to live. Which I suppose was the case 150 years and further back for most. But that "it used to be this way" is not necessarily a reason it should be that way again; there is a reason appeal to tradition is regarded as fallacious.)

I know that I am not alone in trying to find the balance between the two, and I will not belabor the point here. There are other times and places for it. What I will do, though, is note that the time I spend in composing these posts is not wasted, at least not in my view. If nothing else, writing in this webspace offers me exercise of hands and mind with which to begin the day; I am convinced that I have worked more and better since making this writing a regular part of my day than I did before. Maybe it is something in the pressure of the potential audience (which I admit I would like to see grow) that spurs it, and maybe it is something about having a regular task to accomplish and the satisfaction of doing so pervading more of the day that helps. Whatever it is, though, I approve of it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


I have a health screening today, an opportunity thoughtfully provided by my place of employment. It offers a small cash bonus for my participation, which I will admit informs my going to it, although I have to consider what it says about me that the money is a motivation, and I have to consider what it says about my place of employment that some kind of bonus *has* to be offered to get the employees to go to the screening. In neither event does it seem to me to be a good thing; the one suggests that financial concerns are or are becoming more important than others, while the other suggests that there are health problems among my colleagues and that few of us are concerned about them.

If I follow the latter thought further, though, I begin to see deeper implications. If the employer is concerned with employee health, it is doubtlessly due to financial worries. Healthy workers are more productive workers, after all, taking fewer sick days away from work and doing more with the days that they are at work. The attention to employee health can thus come across as something like maintenance of a machine--and if the employees see themselves as parts of a machine, reduced to being parts of a machine, it is not much of a stretch to think that they will not care so much for their own maintenance as might otherwise be the case. Being a replaceable cog is not entirely pleasant.

There are other reasons to think that the mechanistic view obtains. The prevalence of adjunct and contingent labor (noted here and here, among others) suggests it. So does the increasingly widely-held view of education as test-taking in the service of job preparation; education, even at the college level, is broadly seen as a service industry (attested here among others), and it is widely held that service ought to be provided in a predictable, efficient, ultimately mechanistic way. (Why else the success of franchises?) Education is seen as an investment on which a return is expected, again, much like manufacturing machines. Again, then, those who teach, who are in the work of making teaching available, have reason to think of themselves as being regarded as cogs, and reminders that cogs break and are replaced such as health screenings offer are not wholly comfortable.

It is something of a pessimistic view, I admit. Many I hold are; I am quick to see the problem, the cloud to the silver lining. (I forget who introduced me to that turn of phrase, but I am grateful to that person even so.) I look first to the left, seeking the sinister, and rarely do I look to the right thereafter. But if I do, it is because I recognize that Machiavelli is correct, even centuries later. There are deeper reasons to consider for the things that are offered, and even if they are not recognized on the part of those making the offer or those accepting it, they influence how the offer is made and the effects it has. And they are not always, or likely even often, happy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


I should be writing
But I am writing
I should be writing
I should be writing
Something else
I should be writing
I should be writing
I should be writing
I've work to do
I should be writing
I should be writing
I should be writing
I should be writing
I know, I know
I should be writing
I should be writing
I should be writing
I should be writing
I should be writing
I have to get done
I should be writing
I should be writing
I should be writing
I should be writing
I should be writing
I should be writing
There's more to do
I should be writing
I should be writing
I should be writing
I should be writing
I should be writing
I should be writing
I should be writing
Yes, I should
I should be writing

Monday, September 15, 2014


I has happened again that I had a brilliant idea about what to write here while I was in the shower, but have forgotten it in the time between stepping out and sitting down. It is quite vexing to have had the idea, and to remember having had the idea, but not being able to recall the idea...

Matters proceed as they would be expected to go. The pleasant weather of the past few days has seen me working on freelance work--which has included reading for the job just past and the one on which I am working now, and that has seen me on the front porch with the book and a beer ready to hand. I find it a good way to spend an evening and one I have not gotten to enjoy as much as I would prefer. But that is the way of it; the demands of the paycheck are such as they are, and the demands of supplemental pay are such as they are, and it is not always the case that they conduce to working in the most desirable locations. Still, the pay comes as it comes, and I do not complain.

The lure of that pay does remain something of a distraction, however. There is other work that needs me to do it, there are other things that need my attention, and while I am not slacking off by any stretch to be working on work that directly pays, I may be running myself into some difficulties by doing it ahead of work that may not pay directly but leads to other work that does, or that supports it. But the paying work is mercurial; it may not be in place again for a while, and so I need to act upon it when it appears...it is a conundrum. (And, yes, I am aware that the argument can be made that I ought to do it now instead of writing in this webspace. I am also more aware of circumstances now than many who would make the argument. I have considered it and rejected it.)

If I am going to have a conundrum, however, this is a good one to have--not where will I find work to do, but which work will I do to the best effect? Many are not so fortunate, as I well know. I am also in a position in which I more or less like the work I do. (There are parts of the job that could be better, but there always are.) Again, this is something in which I know many are not so fortunate as I am. This does not mean that I will not agitate to make things better, and I resent the implications in the mouths of many who caution me to be thankful for what I have that I ought not to seek more; being content with things breeds indolence and stagnation, and neither of those is something to appreciate. But I am aware that I am doing so from a decent place.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


I have commented before about the part of my freelance work that has me read and write up popular novels. I am most of the way done with such a project now--I expect to finish today--and another is waiting for me to do soon after. The current project has added some things to the list of requirements (and to the words for which I will be paid); while before it asked for a review, discussions of characters and setting, and chapter summaries, now it asks for those plus discussions of major symbols, motifs, and themes. As I do fancy myself something of a literary scholar, enough to teach literary scholarship, I find no challenge in doing so, although the turnaround on the task precludes my delving as deeply into them as I know I can do.

Why the increase in desire materials would occur, though, is not clear to me. My experience with general readership--which I will admit is somewhat restricted--is that the average reader will not delve much into such things as simile and metaphor. They will pass largely unremarked, or if remarked will be taken as a decorative fillip meant to "make it pretty" rather than a means to connect the text to what has gone before and embed in it evidence of authorial context and expected readership. Such things do not add to the enjoyment most readers seek in the texts that they read, although there are some who enjoy the puzzle aspect of tracing them out. Most, though, will make some comment such as "It's just a story" and reject investigating it as too much work to do. (They are the same people who will spend hours standing in the glaring sun to play a game or freezing in the crotch of a tree to shoot meat they do not need to have to survive so that they can mount heads on their walls, which would seem either to belie their argument or suggest that reading deeply is work, maugre the protestations of many. But that is another discussion entirely.)

I have to conclude that the guides I am writing to popular fiction are to be used as ways to ease entry into literary study--which is not something I oppose. Rather the opposite is true, in fact. And that tells me that literary study is being applied more and more frequently and broadly to genre fiction--which I knew was the case at the conference level, but which seems to be spreading into the conservative bastion that is mainstream public education (which is invested in perpetuating a specific narrative of culture that varies by nation and state but which in each case works to the maintenance of a stable understanding of the nation or state as a good thing, to be supported and obeyed). There, it had been (and is still in large part, if what I see among education students and the products of mainstream educational systems is any indication) anathema to consider popular work as worth serious study. I disagree, of course; how could I not, given the work I do? And I cannot say I am sad to see it shifting...

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Something about seeing the joy of others awakens grumpiness in me
Something about mass happiness bids me turn away from it in sullen annoyance
Retreating to my cave of home or office
Muttering about the inanity of it all

When asked about it
I rail
I am told that I should simply
Lighten up
Enjoy myself
Have fun
Be happy

Why I should be admonished for answering honestly an unsolicited question posed to me
I still do not know

Why I should have to enjoy mass celebrations
When I have work to do and a family to support
And the celebrations interfere with my ability to do so
I do not know

Why I should be expected to celebrate
Simply because other people are also celebrating
And about something in which I have no innate interest
And the exercises of which have tended to my abuse
And abuses perpetrated upon others for whom I have some regard
And which still do
And which perpetuate abuses of others
Not known to me personally
But by long and frequent report
I do not know

Why I would celebrate the existence of things which I oppose
And have opposed
Repeatedly and publicly
I do not know

I weary of the repetition
I am not about to lie
And say that I see joy in such things
As seem to my eyes
The work of idiots

I know that they will go on
I really wish people would leave me the fuck alone about them

Friday, September 12, 2014


One of the side-jobs I do is individual tutorial work. I have been working with one tutee for some time who had been a student in my spring literature class, going over a paper for submission to the undergraduates panels at the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo. In recent weeks, though, we have begun to look at some of the student's other assignments, currently for a US popular culture class. The tutee is obliged to carry out a participatory project and has opted to engage in fanfiction based upon a rough copy of a popular MMORPG.

Because I like the tutee, and because I am paid by him to do such things, I looked over the opening section of his class project, and as I did, I was minded of something I have seen in other fanfiction efforts, something that creates a problem in the writing of many such efforts: inconsistency of description. I told the tutee of this, grounding my discussion in a context he and I have from having worked together and his having been my student, and I think he will be working to correct it. But the thought occurred to me in the shower this morning that I ought to discuss it briefly in my morning blogging, and so I will.

Reading fanfiction--any amateur work, really--often reveals inconsistency of descriptions. That is, fanfiction writers will often go into exhaustive physical detail about one or two characters, vastly exceeding that accorded to physical setting, milieu, or other characters yet. Understandably, primary characters receive more attention; they are the foci of the story, and so they should receive more words. They should not generally receive orders of magnitude more words, however, and that seems to be the case with many fanfiction descriptions; the protagonist/s get three hundred words of straight physical description (and without a suitable context such as a police report, which might allow for such a thing), while other characters get three. The character is thus made inconsistent with the rest of the story, creating a disunity that makes maintaining the willing suspension of disbelief more difficult than it needs to be or can usefully be.

The inconsistency is not merely an issue of quantity, distracting though it is. Inconsistency also manifests in the irrelevance of many of the details included in the descriptions; they are not consistent with the rest of the narrative because they do not meaningfully interact with it. For a detailed physical description, such as the notable blazon in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, to work, its details have to connect to the narrative. The medieval example serves as multiple juxtapositions; the virtues supposedly indicated by Gawain's escutcheon are belied by his conduct, and the riches and glory of the rest of his accoutrements do not accord with how he acts. They thus highlight his failures. Many fanfiction descriptions fail to make such connections back to their texts; they are not tied back to the narrative tapestry, and so snag and unravel the effect of the work in which they appear. Thus it is that much fanfiction begins to falter, starting to stagger in a way that presages its ultimate condemnation.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


It is Patriot Day
Thirteen years later

The fear has returned
It never left us

Rumor abounds
Attacks are coming

They always are
They always will be
Some fear is healthy
Much fear is not
And we are diseased

Thirteen years is long to be afflicted
It will be longer
Other wounds have not closed after 150 years
Others have not closed after longer yet

Have we bandages enough?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


I spent much of yesterday reviewing what students had submitted to me on Monday. It went as well as it ever does; the assignment was for a one-page memo, I read quickly, and not all students submitted the work as they were directed to do. Even so, it took a large chunk of the day, the more so because it was interspersed with taking care of Ms. 8 and doing a few necessary things around the house. I was not able to attend to my own work in earnest because of it; by the time the grading was done, domestic chores called, and then other things demanded my attention.

I could have ignored them, of course. I have neglected meals more than once through simple forgetting. (One would think my belly would be smaller if I forget at times to eat.) I have failed to recognize the need for time and attention on the part of those whom I profess to love. And I could well repeat the occurrences; I doubtlessly will, in fact. But I did not yesterday, even if it had the effect of leaving me having not done things that I ought to do--not for the immediate demands of my job, but for the demands of my discipline and the potential to gain for myself a continuing line position.

It is a common complaint, surely, and one that can be dismissed easily as whining. And perhaps I ought to leave off it as such. The effort I expend on it can be better directed, as could the time...yet I do feel compelled to explain. Even if it is only to help things make sense in my own mind, I feel the need to explain, to try to arrive at some semblance of sense of how things work. Maybe, through building up the body of text that I do in this webspace, I can do something to look back over what of my thoughts and life I have recorded and identify some patterns that can help to illuminate me. And maybe, just maybe, I can do so at a time when doing so will be of some help to me.

It is a thing to consider. Even if I do spend much of the time I spend in writing the words in this webspace whining, there may be a pattern to the whining that indicates, among others, when I whine about what I whine about or what the focus of what I whine about is. The former would allow me to gain some sense of upcoming troubles (even if past performance is not a certain indicator of future performance), while the latter could help me to identify what (admittedly first-world and therefore not terribly problematic in the greater sense) problems there are for me to address. There are things that happen which escape immediate attention, after all, being too large to be seen in proximity but revealed in taking in the larger view.

Now, if I can get my students to realize that...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


It is not often that I am able to leave work at work; like most who teach, I too often end up bringing things home. Such has not always been the case for me; time was that I could get my work done at work, so that when I did come home, I could be at home. I also stayed at the office long to make it happen, which I cannot do in good conscience anymore, and my teaching schedule and assignment sequences were somewhat different. Now, even today, I am stuck with work from work, so that I cannot be home at home.

I suppose I deserve it, though. While I did not know about many of the problems of the kind of job I have now, I did know that grading would occupy much of my time, and I came into the line of work anyway. My supervising teacher, back when I did my student teaching, advised me against the very thing that I find I have to do--grade at home--coming up on ten years ago, now. It was good advice, and I am glad that I was able to take it for as long as I was. But that is no longer the case, and, like many others, I find that work invades my home life.

It is a seemingly sensible consequence, actually, of the work ethic promulgated in the dominant stream of US popular culture. The job is the thing that defines, and willingness to work hard (often interpreted as "work long") is seen as a major virtue. (Not cardinal, of course: having money is the primary virtue.) I am far from alone in wanting to be virtuous; I am far from alone in being entangled in the dominant culture amid which I was raised, despite seeing its problems. And so I am far from alone in finding that time I ought to spend improving myself in some existentialist way or being with those I love is spent in taking care of jobs of one sort or another.

I see no acceptable way out of the situation. I cannot exactly give up the work I do; I need the paycheck too badly, and not only for me. And since it buys my way into work on The Work, and I am called to The Work, I am stuck with it, as well. I could, perhaps, sacrifice some of the things for which I strive to earn the pay, thereby lessening the need for that pay, but not in enough measure to make a meaningful difference in the amount of money going out--particularly against the costs of transfer and relocation that would be involved (not all of which would be monetary at this point, but which still matter and could well become monetary). Too, I try to be a man of my word, and I put my name to some agreements that have contributed to the condition in which I find myself; to breach them would make a liar of me, and I have the misfortune of having scruples...

Monday, September 8, 2014


Go to work, work, come home, take care of baby
Take care of baby
My days have a familiar pattern
Go to work, work, come home, take care of baby
Take care of baby
My days have a familial pattern
Go to work, work, come home, take care of baby
Take care of baby
Do a few things
Take care of baby

Go to work, work, come home, take care of baby
Take care of baby
I am not alone in this, of course
Go to work, work, come home, take care of baby
Take care of baby
Her pattern is the same a day off
Go to work, work, come home, take care of baby
Take care of baby
Do a few things
Take care of baby

Go to work, work, come home, take care of baby
Take care of baby
We look for a change in hers more than mine
Go to work, work, come home, take care of baby
Take care of baby
Strangely, to accelerate the cadence
Go to work, work, come home, take care of baby
Take care of baby
Do a few things
Take care of baby

Go to work, work, come home, take care of baby
Go to work, work, come home, take care of baby
Go to work, work, come home, take care of baby
Go to work, work, come home, take care of baby
Go to work, work, come home, take care of baby
Take care of baby
Do a few things

Sunday, September 7, 2014


After a couple of conversations yesterday, I have had occasion to think about the kinds of things we leave behind. It is not a new circumstance for me; I have given some thought before to the stories of the stuff we have (as well as before that), and I have long since read Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, although my own experiences are far different from what the author reports, as have been the events of my life. And they have been different from those people whose papers formed the bases of those conversations I noted, the records of which contained in those papers are now gone away.

Parsing and poring over papers is a delicate process, I know. Were I to pass on now, I know that my wonderful wife would have some...interesting times trying to figure out what to keep and what to discard of the papers I have collected through my life of study and few years of writing. For those who must treat what is left by those who have had longer lives of study and teaching, I imagine that the task is more difficult yet. How can one decide what to keep privately, what to keep publicly, what to donate, and what to discard? Upon what bases are the decisions made?

And when it is known that such decisions have been made, what does it suggest that the choices made are made? When things are hidden, what is it that makes them worth hiding? When they are discarded, what makes them worth being thrown away, cast aside? What makes things worth display, and what does the display show about the one displaying? I find myself asking such questions, wondering about the lives of those concerned and what I now will never know about them. The choice is not mine to make, of course; the materials are not mine to handle at this point, and I have to respect the choices of those whose they are. (I recall some of the readings I have done in CCC, and I remain convinced by them.) But there is a part of me that will burn to know what I will never be able to know on this side of the grave.

I have to wonder who will ask questions of me after I have gone and what answers they will be able to find after I am no longer able to answer them mouth to ear and face to face. What I have left in this webspace will be available, I know, an archive that once established is like to endure long. But of my other writings, I know not what to say. Some, perhaps, will persist; I have a few things in print or on their way to being in print, and someone may at some point read them. Of my journals and other papers, though, what will endure, and what will be done with them, and what will be made of them, I do not know. But it is a thing that I will have to consider, and I think I am not the only one.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


There is nothing to say that has not already been said
And said many times before
Whether it has been heeded or not

There is nothing to add to the discussion
Maybe there is a way to combine the old anew
But that is increasingly unlikely

Perhaps it is the case that we ought to stop
That our endeavors have reached their limits
And we ought simply to let things be as they are

Friday, September 5, 2014


Something I enjoyed about teaching in The City was the relative lack of organized sport at the school where I taught and the schools where my wife and her friends taught. I grew up in the Texas Hill Country, where high school football is the national religion (a quip I remember hearing, although not where or when or from whom), and I was not seldom the target of that faith's inquisitorial practices--until I was part of its slave labor class as a bandsman. (We did not have songs this entertaining.) Even during my undergraduate days, when the school I attended did not have a football team (a blessed state from which it has since fallen), football permeated the campus and broader cultures, and I still found myself the subject of zealotry and proselytizing that I did not care to hear. My graduate school had a football program whose funding came often at the expense of such things as the library and professorial salaries, but in The City, I was blessedly free from such concerns. Some of the students would talk about the games shown on television, and when a team from New Jersey won the Super Bowl, there was (an annoying) celebration in the streets. But such were rare and minor occurrences; the people I met in The City had other things to do, by and large, and were very much about getting them done.

Then I left The City to come to what I have heard called the Buckle of the Bible Belt and teach at a school that rents itself out to the football fandom. Tents are pitched and cars and RVs parked for the weekend, interfering with students getting to class and instructors getting to where they can teach their classes despite those classes still being in session. Following my normal practice, I want to make some comment about prostitution and the blooms of various sexually transmitted infections; it would be apropos, if impolitic. I should not be surprised, of course; I was here last year and saw the same damned thing, and it is not as if I did not expect to face something of the sort when I reached this place where Red Dirt began. Nor ought I to be shocked that a school would make it harder to do that thing for which the school ostensibly exists in favor of 1) bringing in money to pay the bloated salaries of those whose salaries are bloated (which is neither me nor anyone in my department) and 2) setting up a spectacle to pacify the teeming masses of students and draw their minds away from study. (A cynical part of me thinks the latter either to distract them in the hopes of encouraging failure and thus paying again for classes or to keep them from unifying in a way detrimental to entrenched structures of power. But it is unlikely; it requires assumptions being in place that I do not think are.) While the point of school ought to be the development and dissemination of new knowledge and the skills used to do those things, it is not--and long has not been.

I have known this. But it still saddens me.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


I have been thinking back a bit on places I have lived, and it occurs to me that I have not lived in a great many of them. I have not had to move as much as many other people have, and many if not all of those moves have been largely supported by others, so that I have not had quite the trauma of relocation that others experience. I have been insulated from it, and I am grateful. How could I not be? I have been fortunate enough to enjoy stability and continuity because of it, and I value both of those things.

That I do may well be held against me. "The way things are" is a result of past and continuing oppression, locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally, and for me to benefit from it is for me to be complicit in that oppression. Many of my acquaintances would exhort me to throw off such structures--and they are not wrong, although they themselves remain enmeshed in them. (Several work for governmental agencies, federal and state, making themselves props for the legitimating structures of oppressive practices. As do I.) I have said before that I am in good company among hypocrites, and it remains true.

Still, I see no end to it and no meaningful means to bring about that end. Trying to extricate myself from the system requires more resources from the system than I currently command--or am likely to now or in the future. Even were I to be able to put every bit of money I earn to that end, it would not be enough--and I cannot, for I must eat and those who depend upon me must also eat, and the sacrifice of myself and those people would not do a damned thing to change matters, so that it is not even a question of service to the greater good.

If it sounds like resignation, it is wrong. It is not like resignation; it is resignation. It is the recognition that nothing available to me to do, and certainly nothing the consequences of which I am willing to suffer, will make a difference on anything more than the most minute of scales--and that what is efficacious on the micro level is deleterious to the macro. And I doubt that any of us can do any better. What would avail? Force? It will be met with greater force, and with glee. Boycotting? Who willingly forces their own children to go hungry for the sake of proving a point? (Stocking up beforehand solves nothing.) Going "off the grid?" How to get the land, seed, and supplies necessary to do so? How to maintain them? Unless to get the land and try to live off of it--but hope then not to have a cut get infected or a compound fracture happen. And even then, there are property taxes to consider...

Some will say I ought to spend my time thinking of solutions. Why they think I and others who make such remarks as I have have not, I do not know. That there may be no victory never occurs to them, and I have to wonder if it is true optimism or simply blindness...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


The Ceti Alpha V eel
(I know I show myself a nerd
By opening with such a line)
Is appropriate in kind
But not in form
For it is not simply some rubbery-fleshed tube that enters the ear
Controls the mind
Causes pain
But sounds themselves
Damnable earworms
Snippets of songs or the whole of them
Heard in passing and disregarded at the time
Growing and manifesting later
Playing again in the mind
(Which sounds like hallucinations
And hallucinations are a mark of lessened sanity)

I need a purgative for them

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


The wind that comes sweeping down the plain has brought rain with it, which I am sure will be a relief to the sweet-smelling wheat and more to the still-drought-reduced rivers, lakes, streams, and ponds in the area. They had been doing better, but the summer heat has told upon them, and it is good to have a bit of respite from the grinding glare of Helios (although at least one metaphor that comes to mind is a bit...icky). (Why I always have to make that kind of joke...) I am glad, then, that I do not have to walk to work today; one shower is enough for a morning, and I already had mine.

I suppose that it is one of many marks against me that my sense of humor runs to the ribald, the bawdy, the lewd, and the outright obscene, and that it sprints to them in such a way that would make Bolt look less like lightning and more like a fastener rusted into place. I have long been adept at doing so, and it is a human tendency to do often the things done well, but it is not always (or necessarily even often) well received. I persist nonetheless, in part because it is not until after I have heard the comment made that I realize it was not amusing in context. Yet to wait is to miss the moment when it could be funny; the potentiality of being funny and thus of being liked is a powerful draw and prompts the risk that collapses the potential into actuality--funny or not.

Yet the same could be said for any humor. And it is not only the obscene that falls upon its face in my utterance; I am an incorrigible punster, and even my non-lewd puns are met with groans and rolled eyes in most cases. I am an old hand at the dad-joke (in part because my own father is a past master of the form, something I am given to understand obtains in the American Midwest), but I am also an old hand at having those jokes fail to lighten the mood--or succeed. Still, they demonstrate, at least anecdotally and in my experience, that it is not only the obscene that suffers from the timing and moment. They suggest to me that I need to search further for the source of my salaciousness in speech.

The easy answer is, of course, that I have a dirty mind. Yet "easy" does not seem to be "best" to me; to say I have a dirty mind provokes the questions of whence and why I do, just as to say I am a pedantic ass provokes the questions. Certainly I am interested in sex and I have had it more than once, but the same is true of many people whose senses of humor are better received than mine, whose jokes do not always drip of genital juices and who do not seem so much to obsess about alliteration. So I suppose I have more to consider as I get up in the morning...

Monday, September 1, 2014


So it is Labor Day again in the United States, and I think I will be spending it better this time than I did last year. I doubt that I will be much on the grill or the smoker today--particularly the latter, as I would need to be already setting up for it--but I am with the two most important women in my life, and that is better than any cooking I can do. (That it allows me to continue to rest instead of having to work in the heat to cook meat and then to entertain until all hours of the night has its attractions also. I enjoy having people over, but I have not the endurance for parties that I used to have. Such is life.)

I will not go into the history of the holiday today. I do not need to, as there are many such histories already about that are better researched than my passing interest of a day will allow. (That of the US Department of Labor is one.) What I will go into instead is some discussion of my experience in the community that Labor Day ostensibly celebrates, a community that seems very much to be on the wane, so that the holiday may soon be more a day of mourning and regret than a day of celebration and hope.

For I was for several years a member of UAW Local 2110, and I did benefit from my membership. It was only because of the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement the union had executed with the school where I taught that I was able to make a living as an adjunct for my first few terms working there. It was only because of those provisions that I was able to put back what I could put back and pay down what I could pay down once I was promoted to full-time status. And while it was provisions of that agreement that led to my being on the short list for layoff, it was also sticklers for those provisions working on my behalf who ensured that I was recalled and so was able to support myself and my family through the summer until I left The City for Where the Wind Comes Sweeping Down the Plain.

During that time, I saw the kinds of people against whom anti-union pundits rant. They are correct that there are people who exploit the entrenched seniority systems found in many union contracts to essentially collect pay for no work. They are correct that there are those who act as reflexively against management as they themselves do against unions. But I also saw a great many hardworking people who were able to make decent livings for themselves and their families through the sweat of their brows and the work of their hands and minds--solely and specifically because of the union to which they belonged. And, in an institution that was rife with problems I will not explicate here, the common bond of union membership was a source of morale and community, welcome however thin. It had its own problems, certainly, but it did far more good than harm for me and for others like me.

But such things are becoming rarer. Union membership continues to fall, and law and legal precedent continue to vitiate against the power possessed by what membership remains. Popular perception continues also to align against the union, shaped by mainstream media that can hardly be called liberal in their statements overt and tacit against organizing workers and their concerns. Unions are not yet dead, but they are hardly in good health, and the day may well be coming when they can do no more good in the world. Perhaps it is fitting on this day to consider what they still do for the workers who compose them and thus for the communities in which those workers live, to consider what will be lost on the day when they function no more, to consider what we will then have to mourn.