Daily Mail


Got trolls? Worse yet, anonymous trolls, or trolls with names, but fake URLs and go-nowhere e-mail addresses? One of mine today suggests that I volunteer for service in Iraq. Another believes this site dispenses unauthorized academic advice. Perhaps these discreet souls would like to read a note – signed, with an authentic return address – from an actually brave person:

El Chipote Encampment, Via San Fernando
12 July 1927

To: Captain G. D. Hatfield, El Ocotal

I am in receipt of your communication from yesterday, and I understand it. I will not surrender and I am waiting for you here. I want a free country, or death. I am not afraid of you; I rely on the patriotic ardor of my companions.

Patria and Freedom
A. C. Sandino

Come to think of it, we might send a similar note to the authors of the Iraq war.


The day is so beautiful, the earth is so cool and fresh, and the flowers are blooming so well, that it is hard to believe it is not spring. The postman has come, and I have received two books: my friend’s prize-winning poetry collection, and our friend’s excellent English translation of it. I will be speaking of them at the prize ceremony next month, and I am touched to have been asked.

I did not know that this edition of my friend’s book had an afterword by José Emilio Pacheco, from whom I took a class long ago. On the first day, he said that to be a poet was to serve the language, and this was what he considered himself to be doing. The language, and, as he says in the afterword I have at hand, “the perpetual poem.”


9 thoughts on “Daily Mail

  1. As, I was saying: sometimes the ability to skilfully manipulate symbols can be a blessing.

    PS I am real but not brave.

  2. “Unauthorized” academic advice? Do we have to clear our blog posts with the provost or the regents, those folks who are making decisions based on what parents are reading in US News and World Report about where to send their kids?

  3. I don’t know that you’re not brave, Charlie, but you definitely do seem real.

    JoannaO, it’s about my not publishing enough. Why do I get to say anything intellectual, or anything about intellectual life, when I am not a Star of Academe?

    Come to think of it, people with these ideas need another installment of What Is A Scholar? A f***ing B.A. is the degree which is supposed to enable people to speak in an advanced-ly educated way. That is why they call college “higher education.” This does not mean you cannot be educated without college. It does mean, however, that you can be educated WITHOUT GRADUATE SCHOOL, and certainly without being an Academic Star.

  4. Zero,
    One of the reasons might have doubts about your academic advice is that, by your own admission, you are not a successful academic. You have made this admission in your comments on your own blog, for goodness sake!
    If I want advice on a business matter, I would rather hear it from someone with a major successful business, than the person who runs the corner shop. If I want to know about speaking German, I would rather hear it from a professor of German, than someone who has just taken a first year course in the language and got a grade of C. Given these facts, a pinch of salt, with respect to your views does seem in order. Do you disagree? If so, I would love to know why.
    (By the way, I am not a ‘troll’, rather I am an interested by stander — this clarification is requested, so that I can try and make sense of this blog, even if I have not read every book, paper, web site and wherever you get your information, that you have).
    Hugh F-B

    Oh God, Hugh.

    One: When did I ever say this was an academic advice site? Yes, it is somewhat intellectual, it talks about books and culture and some things in my life which include being an academic, but it’s not actually dedicated towards the academic life per se – there are many blogs which are – and it’s not a research site – and it dispenses NO advice. The idea that it claims to do so, is a figment of your imagination.

    Two: A pinch of salt with respect to anyone’s views is in order. And with respect to anyone’s identity, or history, as well. Yours, for instance: I have no way of knowing you are what you say you are. And if you’re a soldier, the likelihood that you are also a criminal is high. Yes, even if you’ve been a “peacekeeper.” And you’re acting sort of abusive so I would not be surprised to discover you can get worse (when you think you can get away with it).

    Three: when did I ever say I was NOT a successful academic? It is a fact that I do not meet my own high standards. That’s really all. People do a lot worse. C in a first year course, come on … even I did better than that in German, not a language I pretend to speak! I am not a star. There’s a big difference from that to being “the guy at the corner store.” Acting as though you cannot figure that out, does make you look quite troll like, I must say. Someone I used to know called it “oxygen thievery,” in the sense of, trying to get people to waste their breath explaining the obvious, in excruciating detail.

    Four: what is your interest in reading this, anyway: why is it that you are trying to ‘make sense’ of it?

    I’ll publish you now, as I have before, since you are not nearly as rude as the commentators I have not. But if you seriously want detailed information on how academia works, from graduate school on up, the most practical thing to do is take a friendly local professor to lunch, and quiz him on it. I am saying “him,” because I have a feeling that a woman wouldn’t take you up.

    If you’re interested in the things the site talks about, talk about them. You may not be able to figure the whole site out. Then the whole thing will just be one of those mysteries of life. That can be fun, too. If there are some individual posts you’re interested in, enjoy those and ignore the rest. That’s what I do with blogs, newspapers, books in bookstores, and other recreational reading. –Z

  5. What makes a “successful academic”? Far too often, “success” means pathological focus on publishing and tenure and gatekeeping (of other professors and instructors, not students). The point of that? An old idea of what an academic is supposed to be like, one that has morphed into what we have now so that instructors and professors who say no to obsessive work and concern only about the university and rankings are seen as lazy, “bot good enough,” not “real” academics. Publishing sometimes means the professor is current in his or her field but not necessarily and that “currentness” may never translate to the classroom, which is where professors are hired to be, no matter what is believed or smirked. It is always about exclusion.

    And that exclusion often falls on women, minorities or other underrepresented grips. Unlike the white and black male colleagues I have, I have a child, another career and other interests than tenure and how many pages long my CV is. I care more about what goes on in the classroom than my CV–a story too long for a comment. And because of that, I am considered inferior no matter what I do in the classroom, in my writing career or for the university.

  6. You know, ProfZ, maybe you are so very very powerful that everything you say is dangerous! Because people who are being forced to read this blog will be incapable of distinguishing between what you write here and brainwashing. They might be mysteriously compelled, against their will, to obey your every capricious command. They might read that poetry stuff and take it literally! Or think that they must imitate you in every respect. I would love to be able to hypnotize my students like that. As it is, I have to work pretty hard just to get them to read the syllabus, show up to class, do their homework, and remember what I said a few weeks ago. Wish I had me some of those “academic advice” superpowers!

    All that power, I know. It is because when I do not know what to do in class, I just start putting on a show like the dancer in the Indio Gitano video I just put up! 😉 [I wish.] –Z

  7. Hugh, I don’t know why you conclude from this writer’s open discussion of weaknesses that they are a failure professionally, and from there, that they do not know what they are talking about generally.

    I’ll bet the problem is, you aren’t comfortable with the politics here. There are blogs by very famous, smashingly successful professors, under their own names, with similar politics. There is also a well known conservative blog by Daniel Drezner, but he did not make tenure at the University of Chicago, and is now at Tufts, so he probably is not good enough for you!

  8. Thanks everybody for interesting comments – I guess the next “What Is A Scholar?”, or a next one, needs to talk about the research-teaching connection – and exclusionary models, you’re right.

    I just reread the post and realized what Hugh may be upset about: the quotation of Sandino! Yes, a revolutionary, insurrectionist, etc., the very type Hugh probably “keeps peace” against!

    I thought of this because the last time he came over here and got mad it was because of the use of the term subaltern – also (originally) military.

    So Hugh, if it really is the Sandino quotation that set you off, well, yes – I’d have been with Sandino against Hatfield, and that might have been against you, depending on whose peace you were trying to keep.

  9. I am now off to my freshman class, which is very very good (the students, that is), but they still need some of my “advice” about not using their cell phones to IM in class, do the crossword puzzle, etc. Because they are not just learning the content, they are also at the university to be socialized, whether they realize that or not. And one of the less fortunate aspects of that socialization is a narrow definition of “excellence” and “productivity” and “research” and a number of other things that are part, but not all, of what we do in academia. I am also here to teach them how to punctuate and have manners, although I try not to make those concerns paramount!

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