nightwork:

I’ve been awol for a bit, and I’ll get back at it again real soon. But things like this make me cower at the thought of blogging about anything of importance.

Originally posted on pan kisses kafka:

Today’s FoPKK contribution comes from Melvin Peña, aka @kittenry on Twitter, who first captured my cold, post-academic heart when he expressed his appreciation for “Thesis Hatement” with a be-Tweeted reference to the greatest movie of all time (“I didn’t have to read it, Dottie. I lived it.”)

If you want to know what academia is really like, there are two groups of people whose stories you should listen to–who also just happen to be the exact groups of people whose stories the academic establishment want to disappear. The two Untouchables of Academia are as follows: Untouchable Group 1: Adjuncts. Untouchable Group 2: People who do not complete the doctorate.

The single most dishearterning thing about academic socialization is that in many programs (although I hear whispers that this is beginning to change?) PhD students are prepared solely for the career of a tenure-track professor, one they have…

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I’ve been contemplating this post for way too long, and I’m still not entirely sure I should post it here. But reading the accounts of others who walked away from grad school without finishing or academia after getting a degree has been helpful to me, so I figure I owe at least this.

To get right to the point, I’m seriously considering walking away from my dissertation and the PhD program I’m in. I’m not 100% ready to go, but I’m pretty sure.

I entered the program in fall of 2006 and am currently ABD, but I just don’t really see the point in finishing. More importantly, I feel like the only reason I didn’t leave earlier (like 3 years ago when it would have made a lot more sense to bail) was some sense of duty–needing to finish what I started and not letting people down and other rationalizations born out of indoctrination and stubbornness.

A quick rundown of how I view the upsides and downsides of staying or going:

Arguments in favor of leaving:

1. I have no intention of pursuing an academic career, and getting such a job isn’t likely to happen even if I did. People, and I mean people who are better academics than I, and people who are willing to move for jobs, for the most part aren’t getting academic jobs. The academic job market sucks, and I want no part of it.

2. I need to adapt to the place I live and we don’t want to move. Despite moving here for grad school, the town where I live is home now. My daughter is in kindergarten, has great friends whose parents have become our friends. My mom moved here to be near her granddaughter and provides free childcare when needed. We own our home. Our garden is awesome I like my neighbors. The cost of living is low, and there are many things I would be satisfied doing for a living here.

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The analogy between aspiring academics and the cycle of abuse isn’t an altogether apt one, but “the exploited becoming the exploiter” just sounds stupid.

Earlier today, I received an email with the subject line “Copy-editor wanted!” via a university listserv I subscribe to. It both irritated and intrigued me. Since I won’t republish the whole thing, here’s the setup: the sender is working on a book project (as an editor, ahem), and ze (yeah, I’m gonna do this pronoun thing) is looking for “a grad student who is interested in helping with some copy-editing and formatting.” Ze explains the book’s focus and then goes on to tell prospective editors that:

while I can’t offer any payment, I can offer acknowledgement in the book as a research/editing assistant and a line in your CV.

Really?

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I’ll get right on that.

Anyway, as I read it, this person took on the role as a book’s editor and needs help because ze can’t do hir part alone. And, ze would like a graduate student (everyone knows grad students have tons of time on their hands) to help out . . . for free. Now, the suggested rate for a decent copy editor for light editing ranges between 30 and 40 dollars an hour. Yes, some charge less than this (full disclosure: I edit at $25 an hour with a decent discount for certain people, like other graduate students), but this is what is considered fair in the world outside of academia. So ze is basically asking someone who is already pretty busy, probably gets paid poorly for a teaching load that exceeds the terms of the signed contract, and made a shitty decision to get an advanced degree in xxxxx to do editing work that ze originally signed up to do by taking on the role of a book editor. And all this so as the lucky grad student can have an acknowledgement in a book tens of people will read and another line on a CV that will likely do nothing to actually help secure a decent job. Ze probably also sees nothing wrong with asking this because ze would have jumped at the opportunity as a grad student.

I, however, find it offensive that anyone would ask a graduate student to take on this kind of work for what really amounts to no compensation or reward.

The irony in this (and I don’t know the person and had to look hir up) is that the sender hirself is not tenure-track faculty. Ze is an adjunct instructor who, like a grad student, makes a poor salary and likely has a lot of work to do outside of the book publishing arena. This also likely explains the fact that ze can’t at least offer this as a paid research assistant position at a great salary of like 10 dollars an hour.

So, the sender is someone who continues to be exploited by a university system that cares little about actual teachers, and you would think hope someone in such a position would know better than to push this kind of work off on others for nothing, but no.

What is really sad and frustrating is that somewhere there is a graduate student (probably a Ph.D. student in the first couple years of a program and eager to build a CV and network) who will jump at the chance to do this. Why? Because he or she is still a believer that this kind of volunteer work will benefit him or her in the long run. That that CV line will make a difference somehow.

This seems unlikely to me, but what do I know? I’m 90% out of academia already. And, personally, if I’m going to volunteer, I’d rather read to kids at a library or help restore wetlands than help edit some academic book.

To return to the analogy of exploitation, what I see here is someone who went through some degree of exploitation in grad school. Ze is now in a slightly higher position (though still an exploited one) and is repeating the cycle of exploitation back down the hierarchy. Through hir training as a graduate student, ze has learned to think of this as okay/the way things work/a small price to pay for that eventuality of a tenure track position [snicker]. This sucks. Please tell me I’m wrong.

If young, non-established academics (and by this I mean grad students, post-docs, adjuncts, and the like) cannot find the means to stand against their own exploitation, it would at least be nice if they didn’t perpetuate the cycle on those slightly lower on the low end of the hierarchy.

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I received John and Jana’s A Rule is to Break: A Child’s Guide to Anarchy as a belated holiday gift ostensibly for my 5 year old daughter (but probably moreso intended for me). I missed it originally, but apparently this book caused a bit of tantrum among easily-outraged Tea Party types who equate anarchy with terrorism or liberalism or communism or whatever. Which is weird when you think about it (and forget that most Tea Party folks aren’t all that bright) because libertarianism is in several ways quite similar to anarchism (yes, the capitalism thing is a huge divide, but still).

Alternately, nearly everyone who isn’t a frothing Obama=Socialist, they’re-gonna-take-our-guns-and-ban-Jesus half wit seems to think the book is among the best kids’ books ever and uncritically lauds it. A quick scan of the reviews on Amazon (a great source of scientific data, I know) demonstrates a split response to the book between a bunch of 5s, absolutely no 4s, 3s, or 2s, and a couple of 1s from people who probably didn’t even read the book.

To say the critical response to the book is largely ideologically-driven would be too obvious, right?

Well, as a practical anarchist who has read more than a bit on anarchist theory over the years, I’m going to break with our esteemed Amazon reviewers (and the other glowing reviews or harsh condemnations I’ve read) and land pretty squarely in the middle on this book. I’d give it a 3/5 or C-plus.

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While I really need to be avoiding reading and focusing solely on writing my dissertation, I have a knack for picking up books that I feel I have to read right now. Here’s the ones that I picked up or arrived recently:

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I have various reasons for these selections: need to read before viewing movie/show (Life of Pi, A Game of Thrones), wanted to support a cool kickstarter that just happens to be right up my alley (Apocalypse Now), will pick up anything new by Le Guin (even if there isn’t much in those collections that is actually new), couldn’t resist a cool find at a St Vinnie’s (Judge Dredd: Annual from 1982), et cetera.

Yes, I probably should break down and get a tablet of some sort to cut down on the sheer physical volume of this stuff. There’s absolutely no reason I need a physical copy of A Game of Thrones. I’m just not there quite yet, and, honestly, a used paperback copy from my local bookstore is still cheaper than the Kindle version and it supports people I like at a business I want to stay in business.

I have instituted a new policy to prevent book hoarding, though. If I pick something up and haven’t read it within a year of getting it, I’m donating/selling/giving it away. Way too many unread “must reads” on my shelves.

 

This is going to be a bit different from what I usually post on here, but, having stumbled across this, I gotta say something about it in public.

I’ve been a regular, small-time ebay user since 2000. I mainly trade in collectibles: action figures, comics, punk and hardcore records, and other geeky stuff like that. The other day I was doing a broad search to identify an item (toy) that came into my possession. The search terms were “vintage” and “hulk,” which yielded a lot of results to wade through. As I’m scanning through comics and toys and pins and pictures of the wrong Hulk (ie, Hogan) and the like, two adjacent listings’ images stuck out as out of place . . . really out of place. See if you can guess which ones I mean:

Screencap of completed listings since I didn't cap the original search before the auction ended.

Screencap is of completed listings since I didn’t cap the original search before the auction ended.

Yes, the pictures of a kid opening Christmas presents seem more than a bit weird here. Nothing super insidious at first glance, but then out of curiosity I clicked one open to figure out what the hell this was someone was selling. The item for sale was a candid family photograph (as was the other one) listed under “other contemporary images”  and “Trading Cards>Comic>Incredible Hulk.” Yeah, that’s a trading card, right.

Here’s a cap of the auction (as above, as a completed listing rather than the live one I saw at first):

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Here’s a link to the original listing, while it lasts.

If the problem with this listing isn’t apparent enough from the title, here’s an excerpt from the seller’s item description (seller is gydfe55ney, who joined ebay June of last year):

I AM LISTING DOZENS OF ORIGINAL, VINTAGE, COLOR PHOTOS AND COLOR CHRISTMAS PHOTOS OF CUTE HANDSOME YOUNG TEEN BOYS, YOUNG GIRLS AND BABY BOYS.

 
THIS IS A GUARANTEED ORIGINAL AND VINTAGE COLOR SNAPSHOT PHOTOGRAPH SHOWING CUTE HANDSOME YOUNG BOYS.

I planned to outline and put together a comprehensive and long review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey; however, it isn’t going to happen. Too damn busy with other things. So what follows are some short(-ish) and haphazard observations about the film.

Two things to get out of the way first:

1. I consider Tolkien’s The Hobbit one of the most influential books on my development as a reader. My father (a fantasy and SF guy) read it to me when I was 6-7; and I read it myself at 8 (and again a few years later, and again, and a few more times adding up to 7 or 8 total). Having reread it last month, however, I have few romantic, nostalgic illusions about it overall. It is, in a number of ways, a flawed book, and it doesn’t engage me anywhere near as much as an adult as it did when I was much younger. I’m still a fan, though. I would venture that those who grew up as kids loving the Harry Potter books (which I read the first 3 installments of before deciding not to go further) will feel similarly rereading those books ten or twenty years down the road.

2. What is below the cut will contain so-called spoilers of the film and all of the novel (not just the section the film covers).

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