fashionable masochism, or, anti-academic academicism

Music: Christian Death: Death Mix (1996)

I have always had immense respect for Mark Taylor, whose work on the project of the posts vis-à-vis deity is very good and often inspiring. His obituary for Derrida was rock solid and earned him even more respect. That’s why I just don’t get his recent editorial in The New York Times. I’ve already had my little rant over his argument on the Blogora, so I’ll spare you that. Basically he argues the university is a factory system and, to move to a better system, we need to scrap academic departments and tenure. Great, Mark. Academic hatemongers everywhere now have your remarks to hold up as more evidence of our widespread academic incompetence and irrelevance.

Taylor’s editorial, however, is part of a new genre of discourse about the academy: anti-academic academicism. Anti-academic academicism is a genre of trade discourse (e.g., Inside Higher Ed, The Chronicle, various professional newsletters, etc.) in which the following are featured: (1) the university is described as a borg-like factory producing mindless drones; (2) the author materially benefits from the very structures he or she critiques; and (3) capitalism is the answer. Otherwise known as fashionable masochism, anti-academic academicism provides new arguments and evidence for those engaged in the culture wars against the university system (e.g., David Horowitz).

Perhaps because I’m about to undergo the tenure-review process, I am more sensitive to anti-academic academicism these days, but I am noticing a lot of it lately. I always notice the factory metaphor comes up just before the policy claim for dismantling this or that. When I arrived at UT some years ago a faculty member whom I respect very much made the seemingly casual comment that I was hired because I am a good factory worker. The metaphor struck me on many levels, but I certainly didn’t like it. I also recently learned he thinks we should do away with departments.

To veer off topic slightly: The “tribe” metaphor works much better, I think, although I recognize some folks think that metaphor is too close to “family,” and folks don’t like to think of academic life as a form of public intimacy. The difference between cubicle culture and the academic department is precisely the forms of intimacy that make it function (yes, I’ve been reading Lauren Berlant today). Anti-academic academicism often takes aim at the mechanisms and conditions of such intimacy. Alienation comes before fragmentation and dissolution.

Taylor is just one of many folks who talk about the academy in terms of a factory system (“machine,” “borg,” and similar terms are surrogates); I think that is an ill-chosen metaphor, because it reduces the university to a production model that is blind to certain forms of intimacy (just think here of teaching–I mean, duh). Whenever you see anti-academic academism, you can most assuredly bet it is animated by the ideology of Economic Darwinism. The net effect of this discourse allows you to downside staff and phase out brands departments. Who will be the next Pontaic? Sing with me: we’re on the road to becoming an adjunct city . . . .

the garden is planted

Music: Susanna and the Magical Orchestra: Melody Mountain (2006)

Since I moved to Austin I have been trying my hand at gardening, and I have really enjoyed it. Since I don’t actually own a yard (this belongs to, and is maintained by, the HOA), all I have to work with is a patio. This means I have to garden in pots, which many plants are unhappy with. Years of experimenting—and lots of dead plants—has got me to the point where I think I have figured out what works and what will not work. There is only one “sunny” corner, and that is where the foodstuff and a large rosebush will grow. This year I have planted a jalapeno pepper plant, a Tabasco pepper plant, and a zucchini plant (oh, and a tomato plant, but that’s on the sill).

If you want to know what I spent this year’s honoraria on, now you know.

This year I also added a hydrangea and a big fat pot (in this shot, on the far right). My grandmother had hydrangeas, a blue one and a pink one. I’ve heard many people say they do not like hydrangeas. I don’t understand why, really. When I see one I think of my grandmother, who is in a nursing home now and who recently went into hospice.

My lime tree died (not enough sun), so in its place this year is some sort of African lily that tolerates low-light. I’ve also planted a Camilla plant, which reminds me of breakfast with Shappy here. I often choose my plants because they remind me of some happy thing or person or place I like. (The right fern is Johanna, the left fern, Jaime; the purple velvety plant in the sill is Adria)

I ordered parts to repair all three fountains (motors and tubing). I scrubbed them and added some environmentally friendly microbial stuff that will keep them clean. It’s nice to hear the tinkling water when I come home and sit outside to eat.

I have uploaded a current gallery of the just-planted garden. I have mostly a shady patio, so low light and shade-loving plants grow best. Any suggestions? (Note: Jesús is a camera ho; he cannot help but to try and be in every frame!)

Finally, I’ve come to the conclusion that gardening is a form of mourning for me. I cannot elaborate more on that just yet, but I’m thinking and feeling my way through it. Maybe I’ll write something up when I get it all figured out.

it’s synth pop friday!

happy 420 y’all

it’s synth-pop friday!

jokes about nepalese villages mostly involve goats

Music: Seefeel: quique (1993)

Today’s sermon was about the dog who brought back the explosives his master threw having forgotten the nature of dogs. This story must be referencing young Pakistanis who confirm Bin Laden is a CIA creation. By nature of dogs, I mean due process.

Which part of any of the white supremacist documentaries you’ve ever seen did you enjoy the most? For me, it was when the guy found a woman to love and she took him to the beach and said, Look, all these people are having fun and no one has guns strapped to themselves.

I wear a sleep vest. I’m a SWM, 46, who knows there’s a store with a backdoor that leads to a beauty salon. The store sells patterns for ponchos, sweater dresses, and candles—Burda, Butterick, and Ocean Theme; I can take you there. One time I watched a young girl at the store knock two candles together. I question the actual contact point of the candles now, but I’ll be more observant with you.

Do you feel the entropy? More about me: The bowling champion featured at Midway Lanes who’s holding his jacket on his back with one upturned finger knows that jokes about Nepalese villages mostly involve goats. The jokes are cheap and stupid in my opinion, but I’d whisper in your ear: Nescient. That bowler is I.

Do you know that Lammastide, a time from late July to early August, is when witch weddings usually take place? This, among other things, makes royal and political weddings very curious. Also? Hillary Clinton decorated her Christmas tree with Black Magick symbols.

Let’s get it over with and watch a movie about Mexican masked wrestlers fighting monsters. I’ll take you to the theater and pay for the movie with dimes I store in my shoe. My grandpa did that for my grandma during the depression, so you’ll know I’m being romantic.

drug when i was drug i was

we are more alike than you think

just eat it and stop complaining!

Music: Air: Pocket Symphony (2007)

i have become a flake. i am sorry

Music: Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie: Mysterious Skin (2005)

When I was a graduate student, I would sometimes get angry at my professors for not answering my email message to them. My expectation was that they should get back to me within a day. Here, many years later, I sit as an assistant professor and a traveler who is addicted to email. Addicted. There’s only one problem: I cannot feed my habit as much as I used to. After losing track of time in the hospital, and then having time speed up during three weeks of travel, email-checking became a “five minutes here,” “five minutes there” process.

I have spent two hours going through and answering email this morning, messages that had piled up during my travels. Some of them I tried to answer on the road, but some I didn’t get to. And so I’m trying to make sure I got to everyone, but then, I have deadlines on other items, teaching prep, needy animals, and the list goes on.

I regret I have become the flakey professor that always irritated me as a student. Now I understand. I am ashamed I got irritated then. And I beseech those of you who know me that I’m sorry if I have not responded to your email. You may want to send it again. And if you have a meeting with me, you may want to send a reminder.

I am contemplating purchasing a hand-held assistant that will beep at me to remind me of things. I have resisted thus far, but I fantasize it will help me decrease my flakiness quotient. (Another problem: I also have less time to fantasize.)