The Kindle, Part III: Love Song and After

Hello, readers! For the last two posts, I’ve discussed how I feel about one e-reader, the Kindle: my love and its diminishment. Well, today, I’ve going to discuss a category I hinted at in Part II: the role of book covers in how we feel about what we read. In a way, I feel like I’m betraying the text in doing this—I think of myself as a person to whom content matters, not image. Yet that is part of why I was somewhat surprised by my feeling that books seemed more generic in e-form than enclosed in covers dedicated to them. Analyzing the reasons for my surprise is, hey, part of the meta this blog is dedicated to.

Often, Kindle covers mirror those of the paper book. See for example, the two pictures snapped-from-my-own-Kindle covers of Jo Baker’s novel Longbourn and W.J.T. Mitchell’s Seeing Through Race.   (They are ghostly given Kindle’s limited palette, so I show the printed book cover image as well.)  Covers, of course, often give a nice visual symbol of the inside. Baker’s retelling of the events of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice through the eyes of the servants—a telling of their story, rather than that of Elizabeth and Darcy—is well represented by the stilted, partial view of a serving woman pictured just at the moment of walking into our view.

Longbourn

 

longbourn cover

 

 

 

Mitchell’s idea of race as a medium seen through, and his larger discussion of the role of media and frames in determining what we see, is nicely captured by a photograph that causes viewers to, well, use intervening media to see what might not be seen without it.

WJT kindle

Seeing through Race cover

 

 

 

 

But my re-picking up a Kindle has also led me to realize that an increasing number of e-books are opting for generic covers. See, for example, the cover of Laura Lippman’s mystery novel In Big Trouble, which seems to have been chosen to get across the idea that this is a, well, generic book.

Lippman

A cover like this doesn’t do justice to Lippman’s nicely individuated detective series, which is replete with vivid cultural detail about Baltimore and a feisty heroine who lives in the upper level of a bookstore (how’s that for symbolism!), and sculls on the Patapsco (http://www.lauralippman.com/).

Even so, In Big Trouble’s here-I-am-a-generic-book-cover has nothing on my download of Mary Seacole’s 19th-century autobiography The Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, which is almost horrifyingly generic.

secole

Indeed, I find the obliteration of Mrs. Seacole herself in favor of a mobile phone almost shocking. (Probably because in my dissertation life I work a lot with nineteenth-century slavery in the Caribbean and its related ideas of the circulation of people-as-commodities, as slaves were. When I first saw this cover I nearly fell over at what seemed to be an inadvertent symbolism—the mixed-race Mrs. Seacole as part of the circuits of exchange, just as a telephone would be.) To be fair, this is from the bibliophile and student’s friend, Project Gutenberg, (http://www.gutenberg.org), which allows downloads of many a free e-book. The cover is probably intended to represent the circulation of an e-book, not Mrs. Seacole. Mary_Seacole_Drawing

Still. Wouldn’t the drawing of her been a nice cover?

Where am I now with my Kindle? A fondness, not a love. It is convenient and wonderfully so. But it doesn’t contain the whole reading experience. For that, I still want physical pages, discrete objects, and covers.

I think my love, its cooling, and its partial reinstatement are representative of where we are now with the history of the book and digital humanities. No question that the digital humanities are a wonderful resource for many things: keeping vulnerable treasures intact in virtual form (old books, old scrolls and so forth) and enabling unprecedented access come to mind. But remember, physical books are also a technology for carrying knowledge. One that has worked for a very long time. The power of the physical book is not going away any time soon. Its younger sibling, the e-book, stands with it in a row of empowering technologies for spreading the word.

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The Kindle, Part II: Why the Bloom Went Off the Rose

So readers, in Part I of this post, there I was, downloading books to my Kindle and loving it.

And then came a period in which most of my reading wasn’t available on e-books. (Although a lot of stuff is on Kindle, a lot also isn’t. So for a long time, my Kindle languished.)

Recently, I went back to it. To my shock…it no longer seemed like a Big Bright Book of Life. It seemed gray and nondescript. Even unworthy of holding so many multifaceted stories.

Why? I was anguished to think of something that had once given so much pleasure suddenly turning so…unappealing.

Well, several reasons, I think. And all of them very related to how we experience books, text, and book jackets. First, in the intervening period (about a year), I saw enough iPads to see what Genuinely Bright e-readers looked like. The bargain Kindle screen is a kind of grayish brown, rather than white.

Second, and more importantly, the text is undifferentiated in one container. Although each book downloads separately, of course, you as a (human) reader pick up just one object to access any number of books. In a new print book, by contrast, there is an anticipatory buzz in picking up a special object, neatly enclosed within covers designed specifically for it, that really doesn’t occur with a Kindle. I had just been in an extended period of reading books where every separate readable object I picked up was a separate narrative enclosed in covers specifically designed for it.

Covers, although secondary to the text, are highly important in giving a sense of the text—another level of anticipation. Covers exist as part of the download of an e-book, of course, but they are pictures on a screen rather than protective, encompassing borders between the book’s contents and the world.

Also, e-books often open to the first lines of text, bypassing the cover entirely. I have to specifically press buttons to go to the cover, rather than seeing it automatically, which makes the book less specifically identified.

And the third reason, the big reason, is related to the second. The all-together, undifferentiated container suddenly made all e-books within the Kindle look generic. I felt like I was engaged in some reading equivalent of buying generic paper towels at the Acme: reduced to an ugly package, a bare bones contract, and ultimately, contents that weren’t…quite…as…good.

And part of that was fed by the nature of the books I’ve been reading in the transition period between graduate school and new position. I have dealt with this period by reading an incredible amount of mystery novels. (I think the sense that there are clues and ultimately a satisfying ending comports well with the search for a job, actually—all tantalizing clues until the final piece of the puzzle—an offer—occurs.)

Mysteries are a kind of generic fiction, of course. A bad deed, investigators dedicated to seeing it punished, and a number of clues and strong plot (and good characterization, if you’re lucky). In that, they are like paper towels; you can buy very good ones or a bare minimum to meet the genre requirements. In book form, mysteries feel solid and have an exciting a new one quality, to me. In a Kindle, less so.

So I had a period of feeling trapped in the land of the generic paper towel, book division.

For more on book covers and their role in the e-book reading experience, see Part III, coming soon!

The Kindle, Part I: Love Song

Although this is an alt-ac blog, my intent is not only to discuss academia but to make public its concerns: to share stuff that I’m interested in and that people might like to read. A piece of this will be paying close attention to scenes of reading and writing and their uses in our life. The field I’m in—English—is highly invested in these scenes, and mediating their uses in the academy and the life beyond is one of the things I really love to do. (Indeed, at one point our department chair told me I should develop a brand—like a marketing brand—for myself, and what came to mind was: I’m The Incredible Reading Woman. This is a parenthetical digression, but since this is an alt-ac blog, alt-acs and postacs who have received similar advice might want to know that I found good info at the grad site maintained at Tufts: https://sites.tufts.edu/gradmatters/2013/01/04/a-graduate-student-guide-to-developing-your-professional-profile-part-3-for-professional-careers-in-industry-nonprofits-and-other-fields/. Ok, end of helpful digression.)

Today’s post is on a particular e-book, the Kindle, and my love for it. Then I’ll move to the next installment, and describe how the bloom came to be off the rose.

Three years ago, I bought a Kindle. The purchase was an experiment, designed to see if I liked reading books electronically. My plan was: download a ton of books, read them, and take copious notes. This would eliminate the need for typing up the notes, I felt, because all would be electronic.

From the first, I simply loved my Kindle as a reading device. Never mind note-taking (which, as it turns out, is as time-consuming as typing notes outright).

I loved my Kindle with a love that was almost embarrassing. See, I’ve always thought of books as a kind of Big Bright Book of Light. Knowledge, companionship, fun, pleasure. A portal to enchanted realms. Well, the Kindle literalized the big-bright-book-of-light-ness.

A lot of the conversations around History of the Book (http://www.sharpweb.org) and digital humanities in our field center around the differences and continuities between old and new media. Much popular media makes these out to be entirely different—as if the Web made Everything New. But the conversation is much more interesting. It can be argued, for example, that the current scene displays a lot of continuities with earlier periods rather than abrupt difference. Think, for example, of how e-mail more resembles letter-writing in the 18th and 19th centuries than voice/telephone methods. We are back to frequently written missives.

Well, here’s another continuity: reading with Kindle reminded me of the kind of immanent spirituality early Protestant England saw in everyone reading their own bible. As I learned it, stained glass was replaced with clear glass, and windows became larger, because incoming light filtered through plain glass facilitated reading.

I saw e-books as combining reading with the same ease of movement one has in one’s mind. Suddenly, books were unencumbered by the need to carry them and pay attention to their relative heaviness. This was a considerable boon to me. First, I checked a helluva lot of books out of the library. And academic books—heck, any books in the aggregate–are often very heavy. Two, when I took vacations I was in the habit of packing and sending books or carrying a very heavy load as I traveled. The Kindle simply took care of that: wealth and ease all in one.

Part II soon!

Master and Man in Masterpiece, Part II

Yesterday, I wrote about the ongoing PBS mysteries Inspector Morse, Lewis, and Endeavour, analyzing how the series seems to be playing with the medieval concepts of three orders:  the knights, the peasants, and the religious orders.  Mostly, it focused on the differences between Inspector Morse and Lewis in Inspector Morse.  Today, I look at the sequel, Lewis, and the prequel, Endeavour.

Although Lewis was a figurative peasant in Inspector Morse—a man to Morse’s master–once Lewis became the titular character in his own series he unified the concepts of master and man in one person.  As an inspector, of course, he gave the orders and saw them carried out. Yet his private life, when shown, was often centered around a figurative field that he plowed:  his kitchen; his family; his cooking.

But it’s his sidekick that connected the series with the three orders for me.  James Hathaway is from the third order:  those who prayed. He is a religious young man once drawn to the priesthood whose crises—of faith, sexuality, or both—caused him to seek a career as, in his own terms, a “copper.”  Hathaway is a Cambridge graduate, and thus continues, in a minor key, the Inspector Morse concept that Lewis is part of a duo in which he is intellectually subordinate.

The permeability of the inspectors is the point at which I think the show is having fun with the idea of masters, men, monks, and their permutations. Lewis in Lewis is a master; he’s the guy giving the orders. But he’s also a man; with his focus on suburban family life and his cookery, he is a tiller of fields, just domestic and contemporary versions rather than a lord’s parcel.

Hathaway is similarly dual rather than unitary: he’s a man, taking orders, but also a (figural) monk, with religious leanings and sensibility. Indeed, Hathaway, who was raised on an estate and (at some points) treated as an equal of the lord’s children, raises the possibility of unifying all the medieval estates in one person:  he is a member of those who worked, those who fought, and those who prayed.

The idea of dual or unitary figures is continued in Endeavour, which takes us to early 1960s England and a youthful Morse.  He is a man here, with some trappings of a master (the Oxford education, primarily).  His master is a lower-middle to middle-class Britisher who is one of those who have fought—in World War II, very specifically. Arguably both master and man. (Indeed, many of the characters of the older generation in Endeavour are knights–those who fought, indelibly marked by WWII.)

Contemporary retellings of master and man, once I start to think about it, abound.  In the 2003 film Love Actually, Billy Mack—the aging rock star played by Bill Nighy—is, because of his celebrity, a type of master to his loyal roadie and manager, Joe. Mack’s giving up a Christmas party hosted by Sir Elton John to spend the day with Joe recasts the custom of giving the servants presents around the holiday season to celebrate their loyal service (think Boxing Day).  Yet Joe, the manager, is also the putative master.

Indeed, one could argue that sans the middle-aged Morse, all these characters represent the contemporary world as embodied versions two or three of the medieval orders, at different times and in different contexts.

Master and Man in Masterpiece, Part I

I am very fond of narratives set in academe.  So today’s post is going to focus on peri-ac in popular culture:  the dreaming spires of Oxford and a television show set there, the PBS Mystery series called, in various incarnations, Inspector Morse, Lewis, and the latest, Endeavour (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/endeavour/).  Detectives in Oxford, often called to the university, pursuing murders in the town and among the gown.

I was late coming to the first of these, Inspector Morse.  A detective show featuring a college is right up my alley, but I was unenthusiastic about some other sleuths on Masterpiece Mystery—I find Miss Marple a bit tedious and Inspector Foyle a study in grey—and simply didn’t tune in enough to know that Morse was my cup of tea.  So I only became a fan once he was gone and had been replaced by his sidekick, one-time Detective Sergeant Robbie Lewis, promoted to the rank of inspector and then to the title of his own TV show.

So I love this series, now, and have steadfastly watched as it returned every summer, morphing to a different duo (Robbie Lewis and his sidekick, Detective Sergeant James Hathaway), and then to a different era (the early 1960s of Endeavour, a prequel showcasing the young Morse).

My initial focus on Lewis, though, led me notice motifs in the show that may have gone unnoticed had I started with Morse. The interlinked series seems to be knowingly playing with the medieval concepts of the three orders–concepts of master and man and their mutability in contemporary life.

And what is the three orders, you ask?  Lucky for you I’ve got my meta on. I am indebted to Peter Speed’s sturdy trilogy, among the first books I was assigned in graduate school. Their titles serve as a handy recap of the three orders: 1) Those Who Fought (knights and squires; kings and masters were a subset), 2) Those Who Worked (peasants, usually tilling the land of those who fought; the yeomen, as it were), and 3) Those Who Prayed (the religious orders). The idea of triple status, Speed cheerfully tells us ended only with the revolutions of the Enlightenment.

In the original Inspector Morse the titular character was the master—those who fought. Why?  The class distinction between Morse and Lewis in the original Inspector Morse was marked:  Morse has an upper class education and accent; Lewis is a relatively uneducated lad with a Geordie accent; Morse is an aesthete who loves opera; Lewis’s information on cultural or historical subjects is often lacking or comes from television.  Morse gives the orders, often condescendingly and in haste; Lewis carries them out.

Morse’s transport is also distinctive, just like a knight’s steed would be. In righting wrongs on the streets of Oxford, he drove a bright red Jaguar.  The international provenance of the operas he listens to links him with a cultivated elite—those who ruled. Lewis was a dogsbody, often on foot.  Master. And man.  Yet I think as the series morphed into Lewis, Lewis became a type of dual-order character.

Part II, explaining more about this, comes soon.

How the 21st Century Echoes the 19th: The Rise of the Alt-Ac and Post-Ac Blog

One of my enduring interests (and a prime reason why I went back to graduate school) is how much phenomena in the 21st and 20th centuries replicate that of the 19th-century.  I find these echoes everywhere, but what I want to focus on today is that there are so many alt-ac and postacademic blogs that the writers are like latter-day Lowell mill girls. The Lowell mill girls, in the 19th century, were New England maidens sent to work in the woolen mills of Lowell, Massachusetts—the first time unmarried young women left the home to work in commerce.  The relevant part here, dear Meta readers, is that they banned together to write, share, and publish a particular genre—poetry.  A real phenomenon in an era where poetry was more widely published, read, and known than now.

Let me pull back a second to say that I don’t really plan to comment a great deal on other blogs, because the point of Retaining the Meta is to take in the whole wide world of thought.  I don’t want to make it too insular, or too self-referential.  So I don’t plan a lot of bloggist-on-bloggist commentary.  I especially don’t want to make it intertextual with other blogs on leaving graduate school, the alt-ac track (for those not in the know, this is an abbreviation for “alternate academic”—with degrees, but leaving academic research and teaching, no longer is pursuit of the tenure—or any—track), the postacademic movement (leaving academia entirely), or the perils of higher education. The last way, especially, danger lies. As I said in my first couple posts, there may be perils, but there are also many pleasures.  And I intend this blog to focus on those.

But I do want to salute the alt-ac bloggist phenomenon. In addition to the ones I’ve mentioned in previous posts (the narrators–Life After the PhD (http://lifeafterthephd.com) and PhDs at Work (http://phdsatwork.com) and the sharing sites/organizations (http://versatilephd.com) which provide great resources, a shout-out is also due to the guides (beyondacademe.com).  And even, recently, a narrate-your-own-guide feature in the Chronicle of Higher Education, asking us all to nominate a favorite alt-ac resource (https://chroniclevitae.com/news/366-what-s-your-favorite-alt-ac-resource).

Like the Lowell mill girls, we peri-academics are using a widely published and read genre, blogs, to make our experience known. A great example of using an art form to, um, weave your new world together. They clustered around a communal art form—in their case, poetry; in ours, blogs—to give voice to the newly formed nexus of culture and economy they inhabited.  Alt-ac bloggists, similarly, are making sense of a new phenomenon via a popular and accessible art form.  The new phenomenon is the growing evidence to indicate that not everyone with an advanced degree can be accommodated in academia, whose tenure track lines have been shrinking—particularly in the liberal arts. Adjuncting—the fallback position of many academics—is extremely underpaid; moreover, with the decline in academic teaching positions overall, it is under pressure as well.

Now—starting several years ago, and hitting a critical mass maybe a year ago—there is growing public sharing in the alt-ac/postac/peri-ac moment.  What one does; how one lives. How we feel.  How to do it.  We are charting a path together.  So to that effort, live long and prosper.

Dance, Dance, Dance

Last year, something unexpected happened to me.  I went to several dance performances, and the end result is, I can’t get enough dance.

It’s not like I  have never seen dance before. I have, for example, particularly fond memories of Twyla Tharp’s 66 and, since reading Joan Acocella’s biography of Mark Morris, try to follow his stuff too, when it comes near me.  But one or two shows per year were fine; they slaked any need I had.  Now, I feel like I could watch dance every week and still want more. Only the pocketbook stands in the way.  (Those searching to assuage their dance need vis-à-vis need-for-bucks and living in the greater New York City area will want to check out Ryan Wentzel’s blog entry “Dance on a Dime.”)

What caused the shift from medium enthusiasm to enthralled aficionadoism, you ask?  Well, partly it was easy barriers to entry.  New York’s Joyce theater, for example, is both relatively cheap ($10 tickets) and low key (at ground floor and just one balcony, you never feel like you’re sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon). Partly it was music. In the past year, dance performances have introduced me to the music of Nina Simone and Moby, both not part of the Meta-ist jukebox prior to the light fantastic upon the stage.

But the main reason is that the dance world is Thinking about Things. Meta-style. And here’s my piece d’ resistance example:  the Seán Curran Company. His performance at the Joyce Theater last year was, for two pieces, wonderful but standard dance fare. And then, a portly middle-aged man in a business suit came on the stage. Spoken words began to be broadcast on the loudspeakers—not spoken word as in rap, but talks and speeches. And, looking at his feet and with a frowning expression, the portly man began to dance.  A considered and moving dance. About being a portly man in a business suit.

Readers. I don’t know why, but somehow, he conveyed that this was a dance about Difference. The Other. And of course, that it why the experience was of a piece with Adventures of a Midlife Graduate Student. Our talk is robust about Othering and people’s response to Difference.  Gender difference. Sexual difference. Racial difference. Bodily difference.  Implicitly, these differences exist against a backdrop of the unmarked standard. Certainly white. And more specifically—since there is a space for gender and disability difference–the white, able-bodied male.

But think about the unmarked standard of dance. Customarily, the dancer is young. Lithe. Minimally clad. They usually look outward—if not directly at the audience, at least in the direction of the viewers. They gaze into a middle distance. They move to music. And they move between solo and paired.

This dance was, in every way, Different from those standards. Older. Portly, as I say. Clad in the most conventional full-body suit imaginable. Looking at his feet. Moving to the beats contained in speech, not music. And alone.

It was a thrilling meta moment. Really. He was using these differences to stage Difference, and to enlarge the concept of difference. And to question, really, what is Difference?  Who is not Different?

Done without a trace of “let’s bring back the white male” or “give these guys a break.”  Just, we’re all Different.

Later, the playbill revealed that the dancer was Seán Curran himself, who apparently no longer dances frequently.  So, his company became one I watch for. Its Web site gives a lot of great information on the company (although, sadly, the schedule is currently not updated).

Dance, dance, dance…

Introduction Part II: Some Stuff About Me

Now that I’ve told you about my particular take on at least a part of the alt-ac/post-ac movement (shouldn’t we coin, maybe, “peri-ac” as an umbrella term?), it’s probably a good idea to tell you some stuff about me.  I’m a midlife graduate student, so one of the things you should know is that my feelings about the negativity in some of the alt-ac post-ac blogosphere is predicated on the fact that I spent many years wishing I’d gone to graduate school, just like some bloggers wish they’d never gone.

So, why didn’t I?  As an undergraduate, I went to Berkeley, then as now one of the flagships of US graduate education. A lot of professors thought of undergraduate education as an appendage to the graduate side.

I will say that this affected them positively in terms of pushing their students toward graduate education.  In classes, a continuum between undergraduate and graduate study was often assumed.  In fact, I had a work-study job as a journal editor with two merry professors, one of whom was constantly attempting to build the bower that was my graduate school plans. He would be sure to bring unusual words to my attention (like, say, palimpsest) and say “Remember that one, you can use it on the GREs.”

And, at some point, my roommate and I rebelled about this.  I can remember my roommate (I’ll call her Mary, since that’s her name) screaming “Why do I have to think about this??  It’s just their profession!!

All the genial assumptions that we were heading in their footsteps, for some reason, upset us:  two first-generation college students who had trouble justifying their interests (history and the Holocaust, for her) and their determination to go to the best school possible, miles from home (me).

And then, there were horror stories from the graduate students. One in particular, a suite-mate I’ll call Ann, because that’s her name, arrived from Texas to study Chinese history. She also fled back to Austin after the first term, claiming it was student heaven as opposed to Berkeley’s student hell.

But when I look back at it now, California was not only not in a fiscal crisis at the time, it was something of a paradise.  I paid, for my share of a two-bedroom apartment, $136 a month approximately 1 mile from campus. We paid tuition of roughly $300 a term for one of the finest educations in the US. So, bloggers who gnash your teeth about the contemporary grad picture, take note.  Gnashing one’s teeth about the graduate experience, or considering the graduate student experience a trial, is not new; it’s something of a rhetorical trope of the experience.

Introduction Part I: Why This Blog: or, the Birth of Retaining the Meta

For the last few days, I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about the alt-ac or post-ac world: people charting new paths in academia, or feeling stuck in academia, or ambivalent about leaving it, or leaving in a huff and in pain.

I’m reading these compulsively, to see how my fellow alt-ac travelers are doing it. (For those of you new to the alternate academic [alt-ac] world and wanting to read more about it, I’ve found strength for the journey in the narratives of successful transitioners. See the sites Life After the PhD (http://lifeafterthephd.com) and PhDs at work (http://phdsatwork.com) for insightful narratives and Versatile PhD to share thoughts and experiences (http://versatilephd.com).  The outpouring of alt-ac experience is so strong that the Chronicle of Higher Education devoted an article to it and provided a running (and growing) list of resources.

Despite the fact that I find all of this compelling reading, part of me is sad that so much of the alt-ac/post-ac blogosphere cries fie on academia, as being soul suckers, exploiters, purveyors of crap no one reads, etc. etc.

See, I don’t feel that way about either academia or my dissertation. The academic job market is a set of musical chairs that won’t provide seats for all of us. As I think through my future outside the ivory tower, though, I can see a lot of benefits to finding employment that will use the writing and research skills I’ve used in it.

But what I’m really going to miss about academia, what I’m scared of losing, is my meta. The meta. The sense that I am empowered, entitled, expected to participate in the life of thought and intellectual discourse. Meta—and here I’ll thrown in the OED’s definition, one of them, that meta is “beyond, above, at a higher level”—is a precious gift of academia.

So, as I contemplate life in which “researcher,” “teacher,” or “thinker” is not an explicit part of my outward identity, that’s what I’ve got to work out. How do I retain the meta?

By meta, I mean that I pretty much face life anyway with a free play of ideas and speculation on contemporary life. It interests me that any person feels it is their right to comment on movies—their quality, the acting, and so on—but would never think to comment on, say, contemporary art with a sense of entitlement about their own reactions. And it interests me more that Walter Benjamin was saying why, in “The Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” and that it’s still true. What I really loved about graduate school was deep knowledge about stuff I saw every day. That cartoons weren’t just an American art form primarily for kids, but represented a suture between pictures and words (the cartoon balloons) that had been seen before in the illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages, for example. That Twitter, or the Internet, or whatever new media flavor of the month the US media is gassing on about isn’t necessarily changing our thought form forever, into short bits, but represents hooks from the old media. That kind of stuff makes having a background of academic knowledge a pleasure—one I think it’s unfortunate that more people in the blogosphere aren’t upfront about liking to participate in.

Can’t I discuss with friends art, politics, literature, movies? Sure. But moving out of academia still occasions a loss of a sense of membership in a daily community that is about sharing a realm of discourse and thought. That is officially about the production of new knowledge. Yes, it’s easy to get caught up in the economic crisis of the humanities: too few jobs for too many people. But cries of “the system is broken” often ignore one thing: the knowledge production part works very well. Ideally, an academic is part of a triad of knowledge: 1) producing, 2) sharing with colleagues, 3) sharing with and fostering the new knowledge of students.

And that, I’ll miss. So much so that I feel I simply can’t miss it. I’ve got to still be part of it.
And out of this conundrum, Retaining the Meta was born.

I pretty much produce new knowledge and new speculation, all the time. Every day. And I want that to inform what I do. I want to, above all things, keep the meta. So this blog will be on stuff that interests me, that I observe, in a depthful sort of way. Some culture. Some art. Some literature. Some epistolation to the world at large. Meta.