Archive for May, 2014

Well, Russia is batshit crazy.

May 20, 2014

It’s always a weird experience when reality broadsides non-reality. While bitching about the US and throwing around Orwell references is a bit of a past time of mine, they’re never something so unflinchingly accurate that I stop and think, well, hell. They’ve gone and done it. Well, Russia has gone and done it. They’ve outlawed swearing. In and of itself, this is ridiculous, and it goes right in line with the fear Russia has shown towards how people communicate (Pussy Riot, anyone?) and people expressing themselves.  Layered on top of this is my reading Vladimir Sorokin’s Day of the Oprichnik daily in the bathroom. In it, one of the things the government has done is ban swearing. not just in media, but in every day life by everyone.

now, Russia is most certainly a bit batshit crazy with this. Sorry if you’re Russian and I offend you, or if you are really against swearing and you fully embrace this law, but it’s nuts. It’s also not what I really thought about when I had these pairs of experiences come together. instead, it was of convergence.  it seems life is a series of convergences where two things come together and bounce off of each other to either explain each other or deepen each other or destroy each other or what have you. Humanity isn’t expanded or contracted in a vacuum.  Another example would be Stephen King’s old short story Rage which seemed to predict the rise of school shootings/violence (I don’t believe King allows the short story to be published any more, which I don’t believe is necessarily a good or bad thing, but I do believe the story isn’t among his best, so maybe it’s best to be taken out of circulation for that reason alone. Another example would be Star Trek and how the technology that appeared so futuristic has started to converge with the present to the point where new movies can’t really keep up technology wise. The things that once seemed so out there are now in our living rooms and it’s to the point that only the big things, the interstellar space travel and transporters, are the things that remain truly out of reach right now (but for how long?).

But to go back to Stephen King and his short story, as I said, he has since removed it from the rotation. If you want to read it, you have to dig up an old copy of the Bachman Books (which I have, because I went through a massive Stephen King phase and it was at just the right time when a ton of great used book stores still existed in the area I lived).  He pulled it from circulation because it was reported that a kid who committed violence at school – I think he shot people, but I’m not entirely sure – had reportedly read it, and King felt some measure of responsibility.  Which I also don’t want to go into except in how it may have affected his writing since. He already pulled this one short story. Has he shelved ideas since? Have novels moved in different directions? Even if he doesn’t consciously think about it, could it be something that slides in, subconsciously moving his stories? Who knows. It was just something I was thinking about.

But how will we or Russia react to convergences such as between Russia’s new ban and Sorokin’s work? Will there be similar convergences and what will spring from them? Just my twenty minute take this morning.

As a former adjunct…

May 3, 2014

This article from The Atlantic has been sitting in my browser for a couple of days now. The short of it is that adjuncts are becoming a larger fact of universities, that the quality of education is slipping as the quality of the work environment slips, and that adjuncts are trying to organize in some way to fight for better pay, benefits, etc. Which is noble. I’ve been through the grinder of accumulating degrees, looking for work, teaching classes the majority of students give two shits about, and repeating this for semesters on end. It sucks. I think it also gives me a bit of a box from which to stand and speak. I think it is very noble of adjuncts to fight for a better work environment. They’ve trained to be good at something they (hopefully) enjoy. Having said that, they should just quit. Find something else they enjoy. Something else that pays better and better appreciates your work. I say this in the midst of a similar change. While I was forced to step out of teaching for a bit due to family concerns and getting my schedule to work with the wife, the kid, and the kid on the way, I’ve found that while I miss a paycheck, I don’t miss the job. I don’t miss the bad hours, I don’t miss bringing the majority of my work home with me, I don’t miss any of it.

My advice to students who have yet to graduate from anything is to not look into being a professor. If you can eventually find your way into a tenure track gig, and actually have the university live up to its promise and award you tenure, it can be great. It can also (still) pay poorly. You can be part of an institution that doesn’t care about your field. Where I went to grad school was in the midst of a merger with a local hospital and there was changes afoot with the administration. The end result being some folks in charge who saw the humanities as a whole as just needless blather, but was kept around because composition was needed.  If you were involved in anything other than the hard sciences you were chopped liver. It’s something to consider as the costs of going to college isn’t getting any cheaper and it seems one of the ways universities have looked to cut costs is to streamline the whole schooling process a bit so students only need to take what they “need,” which means a lot of them probably won’t bother with unnecessary fluff like literature, art, history, philosophy, or foreign languages. And as fewer students take those courses, there will be less need for those faculty and funding will dry up.  Awesome sauce, no? Think they will be next on the list of “To Be Replaced With Adjuncts?” I think so.

So. Don’t get into the mess. Quit doing it. Try to land a full time gig at McDonald’s and the pay will be relatively similar and the hours will be set, you won’t have to drive around to three or four different facilities, and it’s less stressful. Fight back? Leave them with no one to treat poorly, no one to teach their courses, until they want to come to their senses and treat us well.   Maybe then we’ll come back. Maybe. Depends if Mickey D’s gives me free lunches, cause that’s at least $5 a day I don’t have to spend.