josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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19 Jan '13 02:58:08 AM

(Or: if a musician feels the music, Connie Britton obviously doesn't.)

19 Jan '13 02:53:47 AM

Actors perform and musicians perform; but playing the part of a musician will hardly make your performance the performance of a musician.

19 Jan '13 01:55:17 AM

You could say that the whole point of doing philosophy is to eventually become a person who can always say, whenever they should meet another person: 'Say, I was thinking the other day…'.

17 Jan '13 10:53:23 PM

I'm sitting in my office.

In a couple of hours I won't be, because I will have moved out, and because it won't be my office any more.

I've been teaching, lecturing, at my graduate school alma mater, my old department.

I moved from graduating, to a visiting professorship at a small school, to being unemployed and living with my parents again, to returning to the Twin Cities for work offered to me, a couple of summers back, at nearly the point when I had run out of unemployment benefits, money, and hope.

I suspect that I owed the opportunity almost wholly to an administrative assistant who works in my old department, normally involved with the job searches of graduates and with the semester-to-semester teaching assignments of the graduate students. I'm not sure that anyone else paid that much mind. To anyone but her, there was just a slot to be filled, and any way of filling it would have worked.

My hopes were heightened at first, like they always are with a new semester. My year starts in August, not January. I was teaching under new conditions that challenged me to improve my work, and I think I did. I also got to see old friends and do some thinking with them.

The job market is a sink for hope. It drains hope. It barely permits reasonable thought; if you do badly, it's hard to know why, to assess yourself or your prospects.

I have a pretty good idea why I haven't done that well so far. This hasn't prevented me from feeling frustration, shame, resentment, anger, despair, from year to year.

So it went that first year back, and then again that spring, hunting for fall work. Again, I had almost no prospects and experienced rejection that frustrated understanding. Again I was saved at the last minute by the kindness of the same assistant in my old department; and by the accident of a peer scoring a full-time job that led him to vacate another one.

Now the work has dried up, or I haven't hustled enough to secure any. It's hard for me to maintain the sense that I have a future—that anything I do could carry forward. That doesn't stop me from acting as if it will. Turned down for a job teaching an ethics course, I nevertheless keep reading Kant, who I otherwise don't care that much about, and think about the syllabus for that course. It's just that this kind of habituated practice proves fragile, borders on unintelligible, owing to the turns of my moods.

Since I started writing here again I've thought a lot about how best to integrate my various interests and aspirations, how to fashion a written voice for myself, after too long having confined myself or only allowed myself expression in limited ways: talking with friends, teaching, writing with the vain hope of professional success, writing because I have something to say. But especially, writing about my life, which since graduating has been dominated by the fact of professional dissatisfaction and failure. As much as I wished to be myself, it vexed me: how could I write about this kind of disappointment in public, knowing or fantasizing that I would be read by prospective employers, colleagues, without casting my moods, my self-regard, my attitudes about my discipline and my career all out of proportion?

It's not right that someone whose job, or whose vocation, it is to think would not be able to think truthfully and openly about that job, about that vocation. Nor is it right that teaching, or doing philosophy, as kinds of paid work, could be in such a state that I should have to bear these thoughts, to weather the moods that seem to be the condition of intellectual life these days.

I hear and read affirmations like that, or denunciations I guess, plenty. And I can imagine others. But I don't think the readiness of anyone to issue them has much to do with whether people will in general have much time for the frustrations of unsuccessful academics. Everyone has their work, their pay, their teaching load, their papers to write, their colleagues to ingratiate themselves to or perhaps impress. And when they think about adding someone else to work alongside them, whatever criteria it is they use to make those decisions, they pertain pretty much not at all to my frustrations.

But why shouldn't they?

17 Jan '13 04:44:16 PM

Larry Johnson aka 'Ernest Mann', an 'urban Thoreau' and father of the zine movement.

17 Jan '13 09:28:42 AM

In Groundwork I and II, a link between analysis and purification.

17 Jan '13 08:23:03 AM

You're never meant to speak to just one other when asked to 'say a few words'.

16 Jan '13 10:37:07 PM

2012 Pazz and Jop ballot

(and overall and individual statistics)

15 Jan '13 12:53:01 PM

Who would ever think to confer reality upon things?