Thursday, August 6, 2009

Two other ways of looking at it

from daniel coleman's in bed with the word:
hard-hearted, cynical audiences are usually smart. you can't tell them anything they haven't thought about before. critique, clever interventions, intriguing arguments, and brilliant analyses are the bread and butter hard-hearted people chew up and spit out without stopping to breathe. the chink in the armour of cynics, however, is sorrow. (p. 101)

from frank donoghue's the last professors:
... professions do not prepare their members to deal with layoffs, chronic unemployment, or underemployment. ... when professors get fired, they cry. moreover, no profession more fervently believes in the myth of meritocracy than academics. the conviction that somehow one's talent alone ultimately determines one's place in the hierarchy of academic labor gives rise to a constellation of fantasties: my charisma as a teacher will be properly valued; my completed dissertation or published book will confirm my rare intelligence. in short, someone will discover me and celebrate my intellectual powers. since these epiphanies almost never happen, meritocracies have the effect of making everyone feel insufficiently appreciated. (p. 63)

Monday, August 3, 2009

What not to do (part 4)

from up here on the plateau, a partial list of things to avoid if you hope to be promoted in the university:
  • good teaching. in particular, do not attempt pedagogical experiments. do not move into a new area. do not team-teach. do not teach extra-to-load. do not pick up teaching from colleagues who fall ill. do not assist colleagues' teaching. do not use new technologies. do not concern yourself with the relevance of your material to the students in your class. do not co-publish. do not teach graduate students to teach.
  • responsible supervision. every time you are about to answer an email from a graduate student, ask yourself, "will this get me promoted?" you already know the answer. do what most people do, and leave that chapter sitting on your desk. eventually even the most talented doctoral students give up and drop out.
  • mentoring. it's supposed to be hard for other people.
  • publishing where people might actually read you. obviously, this makes your colleagues look bad.
  • arts and culture festivals, extra-academic boards, or other demonstrations that you take seriously the concept of community engagement. "sweetheart, we didn't mean it!"
above all, if you imagine change and work for it, you might as well pull the trigger yourself.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Not bitter part 3

the OED defines bitter as "one of the elementary sensations of taste proper: obnoxious, irritating, or unfavourably stimulating to the gustatory nerve; disagreeable to the palate; having the characteristic taste of wormwood, gentian, quinine, bitter aloes, soot: the opposite of sweet; causing ‘the proper pain of taste’ (Bain)."

so maybe i'm a little bitter. but also:
  • morose: "sullen, gloomy, sour-tempered, unsocial."
  • humiliated: i have thought a lot about humiliation this month, not just my own, you'll be glad to hear, but the routine humiliations of everyday life. i think about GB and what it must have been like to struggle with recalcitrant despondency, particularly in a world that takes chipper as a prerequisite for lovable. i look around and wonder how humiliating it feels to be chronically obese in the new 21st-century moral order: those hungers must mortify you. i think about the endless humiliations of poverty, being 50-something years old and standing in line after line after line. humiliation, it seems to me, accretes and compounds until the night you find yourself texting from the west side of the high level bridge.
  • angry: the chinese say anger is a function of liver imbalance, as are resentment, frustration, irritability and bitterness. the job of the liver meridian is to keep energy flowing smoothly throughout the body. when it doesn't: migraine. (huh.) in this case, though, it's hard to say exactly what i'm angry at. an anonymous reviewer? a poor chair? a corrupt process? "the system"? this is me, punching fog.
  • dismayed, disgraced, discouraged, disconcerted, disheartened and, perhaps most of all, and most inarticulately, disappointed.
taste of soot.