The Weblog

Home for the heteronomous

Sunday Stories: P, R, S, T &, of course, B

Vampires, mutants, dragons and some occasional time travel: it is high time to introduce some high culture to This Weblog. Not that I am as expert in high culture as others here are on food, film or episodic fiction, but I am driven by the will to bring culture to the masses. Chances are that one day I will be confronted by those masses and I would strongly prefer you to be a well-cultivated bunch. For instance, when I’m fed to the lions I would like to be not only well seasoned but I would like such a feeding to be accompanied by good music and an exquisite going-to-hell story.

It is annoying to see something announced instead of just seeing that something done. Announcements are crap. So is this one. I know, but I can’t avoid doing it. It has to do with my limited literary skills. Limited literary skills will also be the theme of the first real Sunday Stories which I predict will be about Bolaño’s Sensini and/or his Enrique Martin. That is Bolaño with a B, and B is a letter that is dear to me. This dearness has to do with my father. I will explain no further the dearness the letter B has to me as I hope you will be as uninterested in my biography as I am in that of the writers writing the stories to be touched upon in this column.

In fact, this lack of interest in biographical & other extra-literary details is what compels me to announce doing something before actually doing it. For how do you select your sources of high culture if you cannot base yourself on such data? I  have an answer. I doubt it is a good answer but it works for me.

The answer consists of two rules (and I’ll assume you know what they say about rules):

July 17, 2011 Posted by | academia, Sunday Stories | 3 Comments

Friday Afternoon Confessional: 366 and counting

I confess that I prefer Madonna to Bob Dylan. I confess that I would take every Lady Gaga over any Radiohead. I suggest that a way to approximate the projecting of vomit over an internet connection would be to launch a pop-up playing U2 songs.

I confess to writing this on an iPod on a train using an usurperously priced internet connection. This because I have no other time available to do it in this week and because I am too lazy to get my laptop out.

I am listening to Bill Frisell. At least I have that going for me.

I confess that when I was seeking controversy I barely got clicks and that when I was not seeking it I got 366 (and 61 comments). I confess none of that had anything to do with what I wrote.

I confess,again, that I live in luxury and that I wish all would be able to live therein without ever feeling guilty about it for even the smallest instant. I am happy that The Kids have a cat that sleeps elsewhere and that they tell me is 15 years old which is, they tell me, a good age for a cat to still catch mice in. I confess that I am allergic.

366 and 61 and no answer on what intrigues me and has to do with Anscombe and, afaik, Habermas. Life is a bitch. This being so, not as much of a bitch as using the word bitch in what seems a genuinely meant way.

June 10, 2011 Posted by | academia, Friday Afternoon Confessional | 4 Comments

Rejection form letter

Dear [applicant],

Thank you for your interest in our position. We have completed our initial review of applications, and we regret to inform you that your application is no longer being considered. We assure you that the process of reaching this decision was rigorous and excruciating. Knowing that we held the hopes of such a huge number of young academics — we received nearly 1,000 applications, all of which, including of course yours, came from already highly accomplished individuals who have the potential to be truly epochal thinkers — was more than some committee members could bear. There were several suicide attempts; one heart condition “acted up”; and all of us woke up in cold sweats or were afflicted with boils at some point during our discernment period.

In the end, we were forced to use a winnowing process that would relieve us of personal responsibility. Painstakingly writing the name of every applicant on a fun-sized Butterfinger candy bar, we packed them all into a giant pinata. Each of us took a swing (blindfolded of course), and the pinata was already destroyed by the time we realized that we had not actually devised any selection mechanism. After eating all the candy bars and in some cases getting our stomachs pumped, we sent in all the wrappers to the company, which garnered us 20 vintage Bart Simpsons “Don’t lay a finger on my Butterfinger” t-shirts. We then had the secretary type all the names into a spreadsheet, one letter per cell, applying elaborate numerological formulae to sort them randomly.

Unfortunately, only the top ten could be contacted for a phone interview, of whom three will be chosen for a campus visit based on a formula that combines the numerological value of their names and the number of words they speak in the interview itself. At that point, we will resume a merit-based process, giving special weight to the committee members whose opinions are most arbitrary.

I know that the length of this letter is beginning to get out of hand, especially since you need all the time you can get to deal with the many other opportunities you’re surely weighing even now — but to be honest, we looked back through the spreadsheet thing, and it turns out that the secretary forgot to input your name. In fact, we’re not 100% sure where she got the list she’s using, and we’re having trouble getting in contact with the lucky winners. So if you know Shelah, Cainan, Arphaxad, Shem, Noah, Lamech, Methuselah, Enoch, Jared, or Mahalaleel, please let them know we’re looking for them.

Yours sincerely,

F. Winston Codpiece III
Chair, Search Committee

July 15, 2010 Posted by | academia | Comments Off on Rejection form letter

Lessons in passive-aggression

I received an e-mail last week telling me that book orders for next quarter were due this week. It noted that there was a flyer about their used book program attached to the e-mail and concluded with the following: “Please consider getting your textbook order in on time to help save the students money.”

November 10, 2009 Posted by | academia | 4 Comments

Cover letters

I just sent out a job application, using a previous application’s cover letter as the template for the new one. Running a spell-check, I found that there were spelling errors in areas that I had not changed for this new letter. On the plus side, the template letter was fairly unique among my applications, meaning that the problem is hopefully not widespread in the others (for the sake of my sanity, I’m certainly not checking); on the negative side, this is one of the jobs I would most like to get.

I don’t know if having the ready excuse of having failed to run a spell check will make it better or worse if I don’t wind up getting an interview for this particular job.

October 21, 2009 Posted by | academia | Comments Off on Cover letters

The big Other has been satisfied

I have previously reasoned that since my defense, I effectively “had” my PhD, but I still wasn’t sure that my degree had fully registered in the symbolic order. Now all ambiguity has been dispelled by a public spectacle that included me receiving a diploma and a hood and shaking a lot of hands, a spectacle witnessed — one can assume — by the big Other.

May 17, 2009 Posted by | academia | 6 Comments

A flood of good news

Within the last week, I have somehow found myself with a short-term teaching position for next year. I’ll be teaching two courses each in the fall and spring quarters in the religion department at Kalamazoo College. Everything about it seems ideal — it will give me valuable teaching experience at a great school, and they are making every effort to be as generous as possible. The only minor drawback is the commute, which is definitely manageable as I’ll only be teaching two days a week for (to me, an inveterate “semester person”) short periods at a stretch, conveniently separated by a multi-month break since I won’t be teaching in the winter quarter.

In other news, I got a royalty statement indicating that by the end of 2008, I had made back my advance on Zizek and Theology and had in fact already earned £1.44 above and beyond. By the time the next royalty statement rolls around, I will doubtless be an extremely, indeed almost embarrassingly, wealthy man.

Thus readers who wonder why the quality of this blog has been falling so sharply of late have their answer: things are going too well for me.

April 29, 2009 Posted by | academia | 8 Comments

Defense result

Pass with distinction.

April 15, 2009 Posted by | academia | 33 Comments


I wanted to be the one who wrote the Inside Higher Ed article comparing academic job searches to online dating!

April 8, 2009 Posted by | academia | 10 Comments

The die is cast

I just officially submitted the version of my dissertation I’ll be defending.

March 30, 2009 Posted by | academia | 7 Comments