Hide the Eraser

Fiction, nonfiction, technology, & retrotech

#academia #itchytweed

There are two kinds of mind poison that linger after extracting oneself from the academic priesthood. The first is yourself thinking like an academic. That's about thinking of projects as never-ending, worrying that your expertise is not expert enough, drowning in imposter syndrome, giving away your labor for free and so forth. But there's a second kind of academic mind poison too, not completely divorce-able from the first, which fosters the condition of constantly looking over one's shoulder, an intrusive thought which asks “What would an academic think?” about whatever it is that you are doing.



I was reading Elaine Aron's The Highly Sensitive Person, a self-help guide of sorts to those who find that the world offers just a bit too much sensory input. It is, in so many ways, like reading the manual to myself that I never knew existed.

There's a part in the end when she talks about spirituality and how many HSPs find tend to the spiritual but often outside of organized religion. (check and.... check.) I think about this every weekend, when we tune into the livestream from my kids' religious school (in a religious tradition from my wife). I am an outsider of sorts. I appreciate the music, the sentiment, and all the positive expressions of faith. But I'm detached from it. At first these were fairly pleasant affairs, but in recent months they've devolved into endless tech troubleshooting and arguing with my kids over getting dressed and putting down their other devices while listening to/watching the live stream. It cuts out constantly (fu facebook) and doesn't work at all on some devices. So spiritual breaks have become the opposite of what I tend to need – quiet time and reflection.

It is a constant worry, comfort, tragedy, and comedy to recognize that I probably could have been a decent monk.

Aron's description of HSPs crystallized for me why I can go back to religious services and enjoy the music and the spectacle without wanting to remain part of the flock.

I wonder whether it's the difference between religion and spirituality. Is spirituality different, a connection to nature or the world from a place of quiet and stillness? So spirituality is nature, outside, trees, beaches, water, sky, animal noises, moving through space or sitting quietly and observing the world outside. That seems to be what I crave most, a space for that.

https://fivebooks.com/best-books/james-turner-on-philology/ gives a handy introduction to some key works about the 'pre-history' of modern humanities, with James Turner's answer here being the perfect explanation for why I never feel at home as a professor despite doing everything, outwardly, that would seem to say otherwise.

So do you think there should be philologists in universities now, studying this broad range of subjects? Or is that impossible?

I think it’s very difficult, not for any intellectually solid reason, but because of the institutions that have grown up around disciplines. For example, if you are an assistant professor of art history in an American university and you write a book about Dante, you’re going to get fired. You’re certainly not going to get tenure. It’s very difficult for people to ignore the present disciplinary boundaries and get away with it in the structure of the modern university. People who are not hampered by universities can do this kind of work and they should. People who are old and in no danger of losing their jobs can write a book like I wrote.

One correction there. It's impossible for anyone not already at the twilight of their career to do this kind of work. Not difficult. Impossible.

#itchytweed #highered #100DaysToOffload

Middle night and dampening din cricket cadence stereo tableslab slick with rain, decrescendo waxing, able pad, staffed and stylus, then sleep and bed

Mousing hour, clacking killed HB, for office use yellow, plain, letter-sized missive mirror, Facebook-free and de-googled, algorithmically unencumbered.

Tear and toss. Its work is done.


I've been writing a lot but under different guises and pseudonyms. I've found it very helpful to fragment everything. It's also been a bit of a pain the ass sometimes. Did I really mean to post that there? But it also means that different minor notes have had room to grow and develop. The impression of something like anonymity has been helfpul too. I don't mind at some point, later, claiming any of these identities. They are, after all, all true. But they have not all been equally expressed or expressible.


Atlas, total slacker


There's a nice writing exercise to help exorcise your inner critic. I saw it in The Artist's Way but you may find it in a lot of different variants. It's a visualization exercise. Every writer hears the voice of criticism when they write. And after they write... And before they write... It can be crippling. You can rarely shut it out or shut it up but you can defang it. You start by imagining what that inner critic looks like. Who's making all that noise? Draw it, model it, make a representation of it in some way and then post that in a way that you can be reminded of how stupid and ridiculous and pathetic that inner critic is.

Simple enough. But I don't think it's enough. Just one inner critic? Unlikely.

I would add, to my mental cacophony, at a minimum, the inner martyr. This character is the voice claiming I haven't done enough or that I'm being selfish. It's like a mission specific cousin of the critic, able to cut right to the chase about why I am such a fucking selfish asshole for sitting here putting words in order when I could be doing something that someone else needs. Like programming some shit for them. Or maybe making them a website. Or grading something or putting comments on a paper that a student will never retrieve. Or one of a thousand things that my family needs from me.

If this were psychotherapy, then, yes, of course the inner martyr would be a close relative, like, say, my mother. But I suppose the more colorful visualization is a monk, hunched over and bearing the weight of the world, like the Farnese Atlas but upright (take that, Atlas you fucking lazy non-multi-tasking slacker), tapping on a keyboard answering all the emails that come to him, starting at the screen rigged in front of him as he stumbles ahead, bleary-eyed and exhausted, arising at 5 am and falling asleep mere hours prior.

After he passes, then behind him struts the inner hero, who's just a handsomer, thinner, fitter version of myself. He doesn't actually need to say anything. He just sits there and glows.

And finally, loudly, comes squawking the inner critic. Older British chap blathering on about some pedantic nonsense and how no amount of education and no amount of praise (“”surely they're lying to you about that” he intones) will paper over your clearly pedestrian heritage and utterly unremarkable intellect. I suppose he's an Oxford don or someone of that caricature, clueless and bloated with condescension.

(With no apologies to all the obnoxious academics I have known, from whom my inner critic draws its form, I do apologize for singling out British-ness. It is less that I have met people of this caricature than that it is the collective image that one gets from reading reams of archaic academic prose.)

So they shout, those varieties of the inner critic.

A single inner critic is not good enough. At a minimum, there's a martyr and a hero in there as well.

Every day is an act of exorcism. But they're crafty. And shifty. And able to change costume at will.

#itchytweed #highered #academia

Today’s humanities disciplines are not ancient, integral modes of knowledge. They are modern, artificial creations—where made-up lines pretend to divide the single sandbox in which we all play into each boy’s or girl’s own inviolable kingdom. It is a sham. . . . If the lines were real, disciplines would not need so relentlessly to police their borders within colleges and universities

James Turner, Philology: The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities, 385

Last week Shadi Bartsch published a pithy piece in the Washington Post about the latest iteration of debate/discussion/confrontation around race, the discipline of Classics, and the adoption of various bits of antiquity (Sparta, stoicism, hyper-masculinity, etc.) by the far right. I have no interest in wading into those issues and their various and ugly eruptions in that field, except to say, as a starting point for what piqued my interest, that I agree with Bartsch on all points.

As I have no skin in this game about Classics specifically, seeing all of this from afar has made me think a lot about a different sort of question, relevant to all parts of the academy nowadays. Namely, who gets to decide the future of a discipline? Who gets a say in a field of study?


I've been looking for some names and branding related to work projects; consequently, I've been indulging in the joy of name generators. My favorite currently is https://namelix.com/, an “AI-based” site generator, both for what it comes up with and for the thoughtstorms it helps generate. It can do brandable names or compound names or a bunch of other types. I had only moderate success finding a good name for what I was trying to do, but came up with plenty of others that sounded like projects that should exist, but which I'm not able to pursue at present.

Some choice ones are unusable to me, but seem to deserve being birthed into the world:

Manguage: Is that a mansplaining site? A lexicon of bro lingustic idiom? I don't know, but it should exist. Authored by “Dr. Stones” or “Brofessor Manning” or something like that.

Grammarch: master of the grammar. Or a real grammar stickler's blog.

Tactfly: Either this is a site with a lot of fishing lures, or some sort of awesome drone site.

Junglish: a karl Jung fan site

Idiomance: some sort of romance novel featuring idiots?

Branslate: a blog by Bran; or all about fiber

These were mostly the “brandable” type from namelix, so they fell like portmanteaus. (Familiar and amusing in varoius bro-compounts: https://arnoldzwicky.org/2016/01/13/an-eruption-of-bromanteaus/).

Ah, well, not enough hours in the day to build these out myself. But I'm definitely checking out manguage.com when it's up.

#thinkpad #voidlinux #100DaysToOffload

My desktop, virtual and physical, can get crowded quickly during the week. Everything piles up and, far too often, there are a hundred open tabs, file folders piled on the table, and my mind is larded with unease. I've been trying a simple fix.


Photo by Saif Selim from Pexels Above: A view with tea; Not my view, but a view.


Making lunch at home

I have for many years been in the unfortunate habit of grab N' go food during the workday. Needless to say, this leads to some fairly unhealthy eating. There is something pleasant, comforting (homey?) about a simple meal made at home. It feels like an indulgence which I had not known I was missing.

Walking up and down stairs

I'm many months out from a fairly catastrophic ankle injury. I will never again take the ability to walk up stairs for granted. (Or walk down stairs, which is far more difficult and terrifying with broken biology.)

Loose Leaf Tea

With all the working at home, routines have been upended and remade, often rediscovered. In that spirit I have shifted to tea as my caffeine of choice. I yo-yo between coffee and tea in a fairly predictable way. Coffee intake swings up as I focus on its deliciousness and rely on the sharp kick in the brain to jumpstart my brain. Inevitably, stomach pain creeps in over the weeks and the inevitable afternoon caffeine crash forces me to lay off the coffee , at which point I realize that I didn't need it and can enjoy tea at all hours of the day. Thus tea. I have, until these past months, been largely of the cheap and basic type of tea drinker at home. It is somewhat harder to come by loose leaf teas around me, but there are many online retailers. (Thank you internet!) Someone got me a gift from Tea Runners (https://tearunners.com/ — Nepali Breakfast tea = so so good) and I got myself a selection from teabox (https://www.teabox.com/) which has lasted for quite a while now. It is that warm comforting drink that makes your mood improve (so science says).

My grandmother drank tea. It's what we had as a treat at her house. Lipton of course — she wasn't of the fancy tea generation or type. And I'm not really either. Simple black teas are fine. White teas are an indulgence. But the constancy of it. That's a comfort. And a reminder. And a memory for which I am thankful.

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