Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Oraclism & counter-intuitive bullshitting


  1. I think it's pretty lame when nonfiction writers number their sentences and call it an "experimental form" or a "lyric essay" when really they're just too lazy to organize their thoughts into coherent paragraphs. But this is the kind of laziness that pays off because readers are also lazy and numbered lists are easy to read.
  2. Adjuncting is a miserable way to live. If you love teaching and you're really good at it and it's the only thing you want to do, but you can't teach at the college level reliably because there are too many other suckers competing for the same shitty jobs and administrators don't value you, they just throw a dart and hire the rat they hit, and you don't want to get a PhD, because things are likely to be worse in five years ... what do you do for work instead? I am, quite literally, asking for a friend.
  3. The title of this post refers to a couple of paragraphs I read in The Atlantic today, in reference to the Jonah Lehrer scandal. The writer, senior editor Ta-Nehisi Coates, wields so many vehement, neologistic soundbites that say almost nothing, and he keeps updating the page to change his spelling and word choices! When I first clicked a link to it the title was "Jonah Lehrer's Grievous Oraclism." What is "oraclism"? It sounds like a sex act. Someone in the comments pointed out that he misspelled "grievous," among other words; now he's changed "oraclism" to "oraculism" (still not a word).  He also says "we now live in a world where counter-intuitive bullshitting is valorized." Funny, that. Do we, though? I still think consensus is valorized over dissent. You need ten times the evidence to change someone's mind; people will accept any old crap if it flatters their existing beliefs. I basically think The Atlantic sucks.
  4. I'm too despondent to exercise. I thought to myself, "I'll just skip dinner and drink wine instead," but that's how accidents happen. At least that's how they happen to me; I've got the gnarly facial scar to prove it. (Don't worry Mom, I'll eat something.) 
  5. Negative statements in poetry reviews are like horoscopes: They always seem to apply to you.

16 comments:

  1. Couldn't agree more re 4. (Last night I horrifyingly misplaced my one unbroken pair of glasses...) or re the dreadfulness of the Atlantic, which I have stopped reading. As for 2., I'd sort of like to know the answer to that too, though I did get a PhD and things are, in fact, worse.

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    1. Oh dear. Are you settled in Boston by the way? How is it treating you so far? And do you know I am in BOS, right now, in fact?!

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  2. by "a world" i think he just means the non-fiction bestseller table at barnes and noble

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  3. i initially refused to adjunct because it IS miserable and the CC here pays the same as the university back in cruces, even though the cost of living is like 4x as expensive. but now i have like 85 different jobs and i'm going to teach in the fall, anyway (only 2 classes, but still). i think adjuncting is good if you only want a small PT income or if you're just a masochist...even w/the adjunct money, i still won't make a decent salary for the DC area. it's seriously fucked, but i want to stay academically relevant, at least for the time being.

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  4. Oracularity, maybe? Ocular hilarity? Jocularity?

    Having adjuncted, usually heavy course loads, I totally hear 2. But I've subsisted on prole drudgery, too--like jacking pallets alongside flunkies with criminal records--and I can assure anyone reading this that adjuncting is better, despite the scandalously low pay and the necessity of buying favorable SOQs with inflated grades. In fact, adjuncting would be okay if they'd just raise fucking the pay and give you some benefits. I got tired of drinking Gato Negro, wearing rickety ten-year-old glasses and shirts with frayed collars. Once I got sick while adjuncting, and I racked up a bill the hospital had to eat. (Which places me among those whom Republican pundits sneeringly dub "freeloaders.")Decent money was all I wanted! Most of the students are psychotic and/or stupid, true, but people like that are everywhere, you're like Kevin McCarthy among the pod-snatched, there's no escape.

    I'll bet your scar is adorable.

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    1. The "friend" in question could actually handle the lazy students and the crap pay if it were reliable work -- he just lost 2 of his classes and is scrambling to find replacement work.

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  5. Teach high school. Its long hours, but you get a lot of time off. My dad just made the switch, and he loves it, and he teaches in a rough Baltimore City school. The pay is good and the benefits amazing. I don't know why more MFAs don't teach high or middle school.

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    1. That was my thought too.

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    2. Teaching high school pays better (though not necessarily a lot better), but it's no romp around the punch bowl either; and if you weren't considering it as an undergrad, you'll have to go back to school for a teaching credential. You'll have to take a LOT of useless classes where they try to inflate you with pompous verbiage about the "professionalism of educators," and they'll mulct you of every kopeck they can, or you'll rack up a big student loan debt. But yes, eventually you'll make better money.

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    3. You actually don't need the extra credential to teach at a private high school as far as I know.

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    4. Right. My sister teaches h.s. without a certificate--at a parochial school, however. I haven't asked her what she makes, but I suspect that she makes far less than she deserves for the work she does.

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  6. He could try being a writing tutor. If the college/university has one that isn't peer-review. You'll still be looked at as a lesser citizen but if you've been an adjunct, you're used to it.

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  7. I've worked for a living for many years as a cubicle clone in a large corporation, doing more or less mindless cubicle clone work. The job is covered under a union contract (so the pay and benefits are better than they would be in a non-union place). That's something that would obviously vary from place to place.

    I've never taught for a living, and have never been in an MFA program (or any other grad program), let alone Ph.D., and though I periodically get an urge to teach (or to think about teaching), realistically the most likely option for me that way would be freelancing through the evening adult community schools here, or possibly catching a gig at the local corporate-funded "literary" center.

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  8. I've tried to come up with master theory of cults and fads. As you say, the cult has to appeal to vanity and interest. Second, it has to be counterintuitive, so I agree with Mr. Oraclism there. Fad diets must promise some easy way to lose weight that's also counterintuitive. "Eat less" or "eat vegetables" is not a cult diet, but the "eat all the fat you want" diet is both appealing and counterintuitive. Not only is the consensus advice wrong, it's the exact opposite of the truth. And once you've been initiated into the secret wisdom, losing weight is delicious and easy. If it weren't a minority opinion and counterintuitive, it wouldn't attract such passionate adherents.

    But back to oraclism, I've stopped reading anything along the lines of "studies say." It turns out that all of the studies say exactly the same thing, so that saves lots of time.

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    1. Either that, or they say every possible thing, all contradictory.

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