Monthly Archives: May 2010

Among Stelae

The Professor Zero character is intended to resemble some rather severe individuals like Xolotl, Uaxaclajuun Ub’aah K’awiil (18 Rabbit), Augusto C. Sandino and Benito Juárez. But Professor Zero has come to resemble some aspects of the present narrator I would rather not have taken on even in real life.

Lately I have been looking forward to December 23, 2012, when I am to sit on a different mat. I have even toyed with changing all my signs now, but that would mean changing too many parts of this codex – which has, por más señas, advertisers invested in my name.

So I have thrown magic dust on everything. My codename is now no longer profacero, but Iansan, and it may change again. And these are some fiestas patronales with Lila Downs singing in Mixtec. Once again, “to be Native is to have a universe and not renounce it.”


Leave a comment

Filed under News, Songs

Zapotec Nation

Est-ce que vous m’appelez “hispanique”? This is Mixtec and then Zapotec territory. We crossed the border at Matamoros on the night of 26 May and we are now very far south. I am on the way to my stela but I must first traverse that Guatemalan land. “To be Native is to have a universe and not renounce it.”


Leave a comment

Filed under News, Poetry

Academic or Wage Slave

The top kill may be happening right now, and there will be or is a live video feed of it. I was so concerned the night Hurricane Gustav came in a couple of years ago, and that so pales in comparison to this. I have a photograph in my dining room of Katrina refugees waiting under a freeway overpass on September 1, 2005, but I want photographs having to do with this rig.

This post and this one came after two rough days that had followed on three or four unusually good ones and they got me thinking: why does one not always do the things that make the days good? Because after all, saying good morning makes the morning good, and so does seeing the dew and noticing how this day is yet another unique and complete meteorological performance. And even if that performance includes oil seeping through the seabed floor, fish choking in protest, and dolphins dying in disgust, it is still magnificent.

So why is one not always following the advice of Clarissa and ProfHacker, asks Undine? TenthMedieval reminds himself each morning that he is an academic, not a wage slave, so that he will act accordingly. I, however, have been told I am and should be a wage slave, not an academic, so often that it is hard to remember the opposite. So I do not follow the advice of Clarissa and ProfHacker reliably because I have been told to give up so many times and yet also derided for wanting to do something positive in that direction. So I try to temper myself, moderate myself, be less of an academic and more of a wage slave, so as to satisfy certain detractors.

Let us see who these people were: a dissertation director who kept saying I could not be serious because I was blond and went swimming at noon; a family with serious doubts; a first job that said one should be a “college teacher” not a research oriented academic; Reeducation which said the same; some nice visiting jobs where one knew, nevertheless, that one could not stay; this job where, once again, the exhortation is to be a “college teacher” and also a wage slave, and where I have lately heard we must, in the context of budget cuts, compete more aggressively for the market share of the University of Phoenix and not other universities in our tier.

These are the reasons I keep trying to change myself so as to fit in. I think it is perfectly clear, in this panorama, why I try to cut research productivity and physical health. It has been made manifestly clear to me again and again how dangerous it is to possess these two things. That is why I keep trying to unload them, even though we know that in the real world they are the two things one most needs. Yet the physical worlds I inhabit are not part of the reality based community, they are part of the Fox Realism and faith based communites. On this side of the looking glass pleasure, desire, incisiveness, ambition, interest, and love are all liabilities.

That is why I have the quandaries I do, and why I do not reliably follow the advice of ProfHacker and Clarissa. I know it is good advice in many universes, and at a theoretical level it is also good advice here. At a practical level following it has given me enough negative consequences that I have learned to be afraid. Even thinking of this advice on many days, thinking of the worlds to which it would actually correspond, fills me with such longing and nostalgia and pain that it is more practical, for purposes of getting through the day, not to try to follow it. Another important point is that in the universe I inhabit it helps to be in some form of altered state. I recently discovered I was not the only one who runs a sleep deficit on purpose: it keeps one  from noticing as much, and it allows one to fantasize that everything will be all right once one rests.

So these are some reasons why. I am not saying my, or our way of dealing with matters is good as a long term strategy, but for long time I had to deal in the short and medium term, and the strategies have had to be different or have been. I realize that the standard advice is to follow the long term strategy anyway. But everyone I have observed to actually do that has in fact not had the obstacles we have had in my unit, and the other members of my unit also suffer my same quandaries. And I got tenure, and many before and after me did not, and I am not saying that means my strategy was good, I am only pointing out how downtrodden we have been.

I may never be as practical as ProfHacker or as impermeable as Clarissa, but can ask myself TenthMedieval’s question every day and learn to choose ACADEMIC over WAGE SLAVE. And I am in Houston today, on the way to my stela where I intend to meditate upon these matters. I have never read Mornings in Mexico, but I would like to.



Filed under Resources, Theories, What Is A Scholar?


Pass it on, and republish often.



Filed under Arts, Movement

Academic Mondays: What We Imagined

Someone recently mentioned an expectation of their academic career that they had had in graduate school and that was not fulfilled: they would move up, and up again.

I had not had that expectation, and certainly not on my own behalf. I did have some misconceived ideas about what academic culture was generally, that produced surprises for me later on.

What funny things surprised you, and what odd expectations did they reveal?

I expected some form of research culture. I expected heavier discrimination, but I expected it to be systematic in more predictable and less opaque ways.

What surprised me first was the arbitrariness of decision making. I knew these processes would be political, but I did not expect them to be as uninformed as they often are.

What surprised me most and still surprises me is how conventional people are, and at how immature most professors, and especially the new ones, are for their ages.

I did know there were power circles, but I did not expect the unsophisticated cliquishness.

What did you find?

ETA: I forgot when I wrote this post my very first culture shock, on the degree to which professordom is also an 8-5-plus office job. I had not realized there would be so many days on which one would be so heavily scheduled, with classes and meetings back to back all day and then a required evening event, and how much of the day would be spent attending to low-level bureaucratic needs. That was when I understood the difference between jobs and fellowships, I suppose, and I may still be learning to understand that — or learning how to take control of my job so that it feels more like a fellowship than it does. But at the time it was the humdrum that amazed me, just when I was ready to be inspired.



Filed under Juegos, Questions

Irme Kero

This is Yasmin Levi. “Mother, I want to go to Jerusalem, to eat of its fruits and drink of its waters.” Her next show is this Tuesday at 8 PM, for those of you who may be in Istanbul.


Leave a comment

Filed under Songs

Son de Maringouin

Mother, I want to know where the singers come from, for I find them very gallant and I want to meet them; with their fascinating lyrics that I want to learn. Where are they from? Could they be from Havana? From proud Santiago? They come from the hill, and they sing on the plain. They come from Maringouin, with this Maringouin sound! Son de Maringouin!

It is the weekend, and we must sing. This is one of the best songs.


Leave a comment

Filed under Songs

Gemini Sun

Today the Sun moved into Gemini and it became summer here on the Tropic of Cancer. I have mysteriously recovered from this semester and we are walking to Oriental rhythms along the quais, as the oil washes in.

I am about to recede into my stela at Copán, now in the country called Honduras, to meditate for a whole lunar month. In that time no sacrifices of any kind will be made, and no penitence will be undertaken.

Before leaving, since this is the space in which I psychoanalzye myself due to the incompetence of others to psychoanalyze skulls sculpted on latter-day stelae, I will make some remarks on a comment made elsewhere that allude to one of my still secret wounds.

To wit: my most difficult issue about teaching is that when mine was first seriously evaluated, the only characteristics that counted were traditional femininity and excessive douceur. Sisterliness and interest were not nearly enough. I had never heard that before and it was shocking. I say professora sim, tia não.

That the actual quality of one’s actual work did not matter was devastating. I have been terrified of teaching since. Summoning the courage to do it daily exhausts my reserves. That is why I estimated long ago that this wound was a liability. Normally I do not speak of this lest I lose control of the fear. But I have spoken of it, so I am less terrified now.

As I say, I shall depart soon for my stela, which predates Columbus. Our ancient writings, and those of the people who came here, and those composed after that, are all very great and still relatively unknown writings; they hold a certain charm.



Filed under News, Songs

Dominique Homberger

Google the title of this post if you do not know what I am talking about. It is an interesting story, but I have another.

One day long ago I was sitting at a large table in the LSU Student Union, because my office was too small for this work and the then new hangout, Highland Coffees, would be too distracting. I had stacks of papers in a humanities discipline, written in three different languages, around me, but in front of me was a swath of butcher paper upon which I was doing math.

Someone was walking over to me. I was young then and new, so I was used to being approached by  men and did not look up right away.  When I did, I was amazed to recognize my calculus T.A. from my undergraduate institution. In school I would go to his office and ask questions about calculus problems, and he would ask me questions about the French class he was trying to pass. We had both done well, and his reappearance now was a positive sign.

“You may be surprised to meet me here,” said he, “but I am not surprised to meet you, because I have been in this business long enough now to know that one does meet people again. Neither am I  surprised to see you are teaching in your discipline. However, I do not understand why you are still doing so much math.”

“I am trying to learn how to curve grades,” I said. “I have never done it before. I am making projections based on different formulae to see how I can come up with a distribution I can stand by and the University will also respect. I have too many low grades here. I realize that the fulls give out an absolutely staggering quantity of Cs, Ds, and especially Fs, but I also understand I am in no position to do so myself. Hence my quandary.”

“I know,” said the T.A. “Earlier, I saw you reading the papers and muttering ‘Oh, God’ at the amazing errors they contained. I recognized myself as new faculty, and knew I had better come over here once I finished lunch.”

“So how did you solve the problem?” I inquired.

“Ah,” the T.A. said, “I realized that here, as at home, the grade of A+ is not normally given as it is awarded no extra grade points. So I invented it.”

“And how did that change things?”

“For myself, I place all the students to whom I would have assigned A and A- in the past in the category A+. That frees up A and A- for the students I would assign B+ and B, and then I take it all down from there. At the end I look at the spread and make a few minor adjustments, and I am finished. For reality checking, I have my ‘real’ grades, but these are then mapped onto a spread that is more reasonable here.”

I saw the logic of this strategy right away. I tried it out and it was good, and I have been doing it ever since. I still have grade complaints most semesters, but not enough to suffer the fate of Dominique Homberger.

Old calculus T.A., old artificer, stand me now in good stead.



Filed under Da Whiteman, What Is A Scholar?

And Now: The Actually Important Memo

It was about my late article, and it has been sent. I am very happy about that and much relieved. It went through four drafts in this space. Self flagellation was progressively removed from it.

My problem is that the politics at work have had me emotionally exhausted for so long. I keep hoping I see light at the end of the tunnel, but I have been wrong so often that in fact hope mourns. I am interested in my work but I have many hours in which it seems that the only true way out of the morass would be to shed my skin, absolve myself of every pending obligation, find a way to forgive myself everything, and go to live by the sea.

I dream of watching the clouds go by and feeling the air move. Waves would lap and roar. I imagine working on some very objective, very interesting, and very useful practical project as a face-to-face team member in a large organization, and hearing the universe click along after hours.

I have this fantasy because I want to escape intellectual isolation and also harassment, and the place where that has so often happened. Yet more precisely, I want to escape my own shame over it, and the blame I appear to place upon myself for having felt its effects.



Filed under Banes, Da Whiteman, Questions