Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Notes on a Sunday  §

So I am downtown today in a university library, in a reserved study room, with the door shut, typing. Someone bangs on the door and when I open it, they angrily tell me that I’m “typing too loud” and need to keep it down. Keyboards make noise. I am making no more noise than any typical keyboard would make as I type on it.

I tell him that. “Keyboards make noise, but hardly a lot of it. The door is closed. What do you want me to do?”

“I don’t give a shit,” he says, “type slower. Maybe stop typing at all. Libraries are supposed to be silent. Take the computers to the park. Libraries aren’t supposed to be the place to come and type all day.”


Some days New York wears on me. The density, quite simply, can get on everyone’s nerves. This sort of thing never happens in places where you’re never within 20 feet of anyone else, even indoors on a busy campus.

— § —

When it was time to take a bit of a lunch break, I headed down toward Prince Street. Just below Prince there’s a kitschy Chinese home goods import store called Pearl River or something like that. My mission: to buy Gongfu/Taiji shoes for my wife. I have done this multiple times already, but each time I come not having remembered the size from last time.

I hope I got it right.

Also pick up some hot chili / garlic paste while I’m there. The big jar. The really big jar.

— § —

Today once again as I’m doing academic work I run across an instance in which someone has a major social theorist completely wrong. I see this problem almost all the time in academia. I start to get the impression that practicing academics either:

  • Haven’t read any of the works they cite, or
  • Have read most works only on a very cursory basis even though they happily cite them at critical junctures, or
  • Are so intellectually underqualified that despite reading a great deal they understand very little

Most of the best and most widely read/published social theorists answer their critics pre-emptively in many ways or are in fact not subject to the criticisms leveled against them that are often based entirely on misreadings or oversimplifications.

The fact is that there are a very large number of “scholars” out there that are in fact not accurately representing intellectual history or the current state of the art in their field to students. This is likely one of the reasons for the disrespect academics and the arts and letters receive in American culture. People think that they’re nonsense because academics portray them as nonsense, either unintentionally (perhaps most pitifully) or intentionally (after misreading), giving everyone the impression that most of the best works are easily “discredited” or undermined.

— § —

This makes my blood boil, but not as much as it used to, and that’s a problem.

I could write an article, or even post an online comment in response in some cases, outlining these points. I could stand up at a conference and make these points. When I first got to New York, in 2006, I did. That’s how I met my wife, in fact.

But now? I just don’t care. I am happy that they’re wrong, in a selfish kind of way. I am full of apathy and a kind of Schadenfreude: “Let them be wrong. What does it matter to me? Who has the energy to fight the ignorance that appears to be everywhere, about every topic and thing under the sun? Better not to waste your resources in such a Sisyphean task. Instead, use your secret intellectual advantage to somehow get out while the getting is good, before all of these people get their comeuppance when their society, which they do no even begin to understand or comprehend in its operation, needs, or theory, collapses beneath them.”

— § —

Such is the moment at which youthful idealism gives way to mature cynicism/pessimism, at which democracy gives way to totalitarianism.

When you can empathize with the totalitarian and begin to believe in his necessity, you know that it will be difficult any longer to engage in fruitful debate with the mainstream of modern western academics.

— § —

Will I vote in the next election? I suspect not.

I have already begun to feel guilty for voting in the last one.

— § —

There are many ways in coming days in which I will have to interrogate my integrity, to see what it is, precisely, that I wish to be made of and where I wish to go from here, from amongst the spectrum of possibilities that is open to me.

— § —

There are an incredible number of German-speaking persons, many of them clearly tourists taken aback at the ways of New York (i.e. the non-working subway turnstiles that give cryptic messages and trap families in subway entrances, split into two camps, those that “can escape” on the inside next to the oncoming train, and on the outside those that suddenly fear as though they are condemned to stay in New York forever, watching helplessly as it approaches and threatens to tempt their family away with it). I don’t know why that should be in the neighborhood surrounding NYU.

I actually don’t care all that much.

— § —

I have to sell my bicycle—the one that I assembled with m own two hands—online in the next week or two. This is not a happy affair, but it is a sensible thing to do. For some reason I suspect that this effectively marks the end of any serious bicycle riding that will occur in my life.

It marks me one stage older in the game, overall.

— § —

This year the old football team joins a new league. For this I can hardly wait. For the falling leaves, too, I am beginning to pine. And for leaving New York.

Time to get to work and make it happen.

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