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Monthly Archives: March 2008

Deep Sunday thoughts  §

Probably it’s as simple as: anyone who holds an M.B.A. degree should be executed. That would fix the world in short order.

Test.  §

This is a test.

Test.  §

This is a test.

Okay, I’ve got to rebuild this thing.  §

So I haven’t been posting for a while. It seems like an eternity, but when I look at the calendar it’s basically just a week and a half. Still, a week and a half is a week and a half. I haven’t been posting because I ran out of hosting space and when there’s no space, Greymatter simply can’t handle it and loses track of what it’s doing, corrupts its own index and counter files, and basically becomes a dysfunctional pain.

Things are fixed now, for the moment. But there are going to have to be some changes in the near future:

(1) Old blogs (say, 1999-2003) may have to finally go offline
(2) This thing is going to be transitioned from Greymatter
(3) It’s going to be “undesigned” this time rather than “overdesigned”

The word of the moment is “writing.” Writing is:

– What I am not doing enough of
– What I really miss doing
– What I really ought to be doing
– The one thing that I had a career in that lasted
– Central to the way I think in and interact with the world

Nice to be speaking again. I know I owe a bunch of people an email. It’s horrible. A weekend is coming up. I’ll get right on it right away. Sorry for not keeping up, and I’ll try harder.

Spring is here. It isn’t full-on warm yet, but it smells like things will burst into fresh growth any second.

Test  §

This is a test.

Once I was a writer  §

and I wrote. At first I wrote fiction and verse; lines and wonders, even if small ones, even if broken, even if late. Then I wrote facts and methods. Facts and methods and lists. I thought it a secondary sort of writing, a second-rate sort of writing, an impoverished sort of writing.

Now I read more than write. Now I code. This is not writing. This is not better than writing. I want again to write. I need again to write. There are words. I think. Or, there may still be words. I wish to find out; I want to find out; I must needs find out.

There is little time to lose. It is not enough to read. It is not enough to


There are things that matter, and writing is one of them. Even if writing facts; even if writing methods. To write is everything. To read is nothing, invisibility, incognito, incommensurability, incapability, incapacity. To read is merely to consume, a watcher, an observer, epiphenomenal.

There is still time to write.

There is still time to write?

8 am chicago spring raining  §

I remember walking across campus getting a little wet in the rain.

In the rain.

Nights under archways at the entrance to the pub between drinks looking at the sky and wondering about all of the things that there is no point in wondering about. Those things are always there; they are there until you’re dead.

Then you can’t wonder anymore.

Religion strikes the masses like sunlight.

Darkness strikes the masses as a bad idea.

The masses crowd each other in the courtyard; they trample each other in the non-shadow; they wonder aloud whether there could be any greater tragedy; they sing strange songs of denial and absent-minded forgetfulness as they don’t talk to one another about their plight.

New York in the morning: almost transparent now. Almost transparent. Are there places that aren’t? I suspect not. That’s being human.





Transition phase  §

So both my wife and I are in the midst of a transitional phase. We are having to integrate the sphere of academcs into a behavioral habitus of everyday life—to make academics a profession rather than a task or set of tasks, something in which we guide our own actions and aspirations and make our own openings for success.

In the grand scheme of things it is a relatively simple job to meet a benchmark; it is an externally-supplied structure, eminently navigable. It requires no generation, no imagination, relatively little in the way of politics or social interaction. Its location is primarily material—papers, books, rooms, pencils, pens, computers, blackboards. It is a matter between self and things. These things will be evaluated by others, yes, but they will be evaluated according to the logic of the structure that gives rise to them.

We are now in the post-benchmark realm. Evaluation is increasingly purely social. To the extent that material or nonsocial elements come to play in the process, these act as mediators, not as ends in and of themselves. Our task now is to create space for ourselves in the social structure of the greater academy. There is no map and there are no benchmarks. There are only sociality and our fellow travellers.

This week I am teaching Saussure. It has been a while since I engaged on this level with structuralism and linguistic theory. This is powerful stuff and I would do well to re-read and re-connect with it, from Saussure to Barthes to Derrida to Foucault, the poststructural and postmodern realms of theory are the location—the rightful location—of social theory today, in conjunction with the study of all things as media, technologies of mediation, and components in the institutionalizations of mediation.

Powerful stuff. Powerful stuff.


My whole life, people have said  §

two things about me:

(1) God, you know a lot and you seem to be good at everything…
(2) …but you’re so undisciplined, just imagine where you could be if you focused!

Thing is—the thing that people don’t get—the two can’t be untangled from each other. Focus means, literally, a pinpoint-like concentration, excluding or ceding to the periphery all else. That is irreconcilable with “good at everything.”

If more people were well-rounded, fewer people would be hungry.
If more people were well-rounded, fewer people would die in wars.
If more people were well-rounded, more people would be happy.

They use the phrase “renaissance man” but it should really just be “man,” the human condition. Evolutionary man, primal man does not focus his attention in a single task or concept every hour of the day, every day of his life. This is not what we are “designed” for, and this discipline, this focus, is precisely the source of unhappiness in modernity that both Marx and Weber, at the very least, so rightly criticized.

Everyone in the universe has lost perspective.

This is your one life.

You are living it right now.

You will not have a chance to change your answers later on.

Live and live well, taking it all in judiciously and with foresight the first time, because there is no second time.

Okay  §

Today has not been making me happy. But I brought a camera with me to work and have been snapping shots along the way. It makes me feel much better. Happy. It makes my day.

Every now and then—moments like right now—I wonder if I am in the wrong business. Sure, I like teaching and writing… But I dunno, it’s not the same sort of sensation at all.

At all.

When you are doing the right thing,  §

every color is the color of happiness, no matter whether the day is blue, yellow, or gray. We are doing the right thing. It is a long road ahead but there is nothing to do but live and live well—something that has been too long in coming and that sometimes still gets lost in the confusion of things. But it never gets lost for more than a moment or two; we have found the way and the way is clear. The way is for us and we will walk it.

I can’t imagine where it will take us. I can’t imagine where we have already been, and where I was before even that; it’s all a dream, a shadow, a scent on the breeze. The past never was, neither the present. There is only one thing that is forever real, one thing that is forever: the future, the future, the future.

It’s ours and we’re taking it.

It’s been  §

a difficult kind of semester. Really everything since the Christmas and New Year break has been a bit difficult, a bit meandering; there is just too much going on in too many quarters and a few of the chickens have clearly come home to roost. It’s been necessary to lighten responsibilities and make compromises and it feels a bit like having to suffer little defeats here and there.

I think we’re both just a bit tired and we’ve both bitten off more than we can chew; or rather, we bit off a great deal a while back knowing that we’d eventually get tired of chewing it all and that time has come.

I really can’t wait until the semester is over. My first full year of teaching at the university level will be over and it will be amazing to have an empty summer with no classes—not taking classes, not teaching classes, just work and home and recreation, something that hasn’t happened for too many summers now.

Really it’s just too long to be juggling so many things. Job one and job two and, with teaching, job three, not to mention classes being taken and exams being studied for and trips being planned for and holidays upcoming and life changes on the way and so on and so forth. Things may finally calm down come summer, and it can’t possibly be too soon.

I just want to Norman Rockwell it for a while, rather than New Yorking it all the time.

Meanwhile, tomorrow is the first day back after spring break, which followed on the heels of a week that saw the biggest snow storm of the year in New York—a storm that canceled classes. As a result, it feels like an age since I was in the classroom and I’m wondering whether I can remember anything that was going on before the break. I guess we’ll see.

It seriously feels as though the semester ought to be over already. Seriously.