Life or Something Like It

I am having an intense couple of weeks and today I am taking a break before another meeting thing I have to go to this afternoon. For me, taking a break = getting up at 6:45, putting on these weirdly fancy sweatpants I somehow acquired (dry clean only?? For sweatpants????), making the thickest darkest coffee I can make, writing down all my recent nightmares in my journal, and then reading a book about Marx. Sample nightmare: the conductor of the wind ensemble told me I had to play saxophone at their upcoming concert or I wouldn’t get tenure.

My old man says I am this stressed out this time every year, so I wrote it in my journal and then put a post-it sticking out saying “check this next fall and see if it is true.”

What is so stressful? God, aren’t you sick of everyone constantly talking about how “stressed out” they are? We’re all always “so stressed out,” it’s like the main topic of conversation. This surely isn’t just an academic thing, is it? I think everyone is stressed out. But it’s like, no shit you guys, we live in late capitalism. It’s not a cultural moment that is tailored to fit human needs; of course we are all so stressed out we can hardly breathe. Like we’re in a tortilla press and some massive hand (an invisible hand if you will) is pushin’ inexorably down on the handle. What will give first? The hand/handle, or us? Time will tell! (Narrator: it was us)

Anyway it’s a hard time in the semester. More than halfway through but the end seems very far away still. The students are all exhausted and sick, hacking their way through their classes in misery, texting in what they believe to be a surreptitious fashion under their desks, emailing you saying they had to go home because of mental health reasons. It’s this time in the semester where I’m always like “wait, what am I doing?? Who cares if these kids learn to tell the difference between funk and disco???” It’s like the Mr. Show skit where the two guys start fighting in a bar and then just continue fighting their whole lives, getting married to each other and living together and paying bills together while fighting, and then finally one of them dies of old age and the other one looks up and gasps and goes “…my life!”

The sun is rising; dawn is breaking. Morning has broken/like the first morning. The cars are rushing down the street, carrying their occupants to their jobs where they will work hard to produce value for their employers. A downy woodpecker will soon begin working his/her way up the trunk of the ol’ apple tree, generating products of direct use-value (bugs). Soon all the birds will be dead and our skies will be silent. This is thanks in part to all the outside cats you people insist on keeping. Do you know that domestic cats kill BILLIONS of songbirds every year? Billions, actual billions. The birds making their way south and north are being decimated by airplanes, wind farms, pollution, the usual nightmare, but also cats. In Australia they did a study and found that cats there kill 100,000 birds A DAY. Soon there will be no more birds, but at least we’ll have millions of cats we refuse to be responsible for the behavior of.

Sorry for Franzening out, but it’s sad. When cats have killed all the birds in the world, you will notice their absence, I promise. It’s also frustrating because you can’t protect your yard from cats. They come in and kill birds and shit in the garden and there’s nothing you can do about it. Can you imagine if dogs were allowed the degree of free rein in society that we allow cats??? If there were just dogs killing creatures in your yard and shitting in your garden every day? It’s inconceivable. The SWAT team would be called. But with cats it’s fine for some reason. I love cats and I don’t blame them for their nature but honestly it’s bullshit.

FRANZENING OUT. What is worse than realizing you relate to something Jonathan Franzen cares about?????? We are all a truly mixed bag of contradictions. Jonathan Franzen helped me realize I don’t want to procreate, so there’s that. You can learn something from even the biggest ding dong (←not true). I think pretty regularly of Jonathan Franzen desperately trying to see that emperor penguin through his binoculars on that cruise he wrote about without ever mentioning DFW. Franzen must be filled with a lot of warring emotions that cause him anguish. Which, again, is something I suppose I relate to.

We’re all supposed to be working harder to relate to one another but then honestly don’t you just want to punch like half the population in the face as hard as you can?? The great struggle of our times. What Would Jesus Do? It’s hard to say, because he was Mr. Turn The Other Cheek but then there’s that part where he sends bears to kill those kids who make fun of him. Wait, is that Jesus??? That might be another guy. Now that I think about it it doesn’t sound much like Jesus.

The other day I said something that I believed to be a quote from Shakespeare, but when I googled it I discovered that it is actually from Game of Thrones

I am not reading anything for fun these days. I don’t have a novel going. What should I read? I read Dear Committee Members, on the recommendation of one of you people, and you were right, I loved it. I read it in one sitting and laughed and laughed. What else should I read?

You damn people have given me so many gifts and blessings over the MORE THAN A DECADE I have been writing this blog. So many book recommendations!! So many helpful lifestyle suggestions. Remember when I had that weird bathtub with the back you couldn’t lean against and somebody commented and said I should cut a kickboard in half??? I never implemented it but I was truly stunned by the ingenuity of that idea. I got a lot of dog help from you when we first got our snoopy and were so stressed out about it. And I will never forget how you schooled me so hard when I was being smug about not using my dishwasher. You have also mailed me amazing things over the years. One of you once MAILED ME A BICYCLE in exchange for a sack of CDs! What a joy this online web journey has been; thank you all so much.

Seriously, what kind of sweatpants are dryclean only? They were only $13 used on ebay; I’m not sure what the deal is. There is zero percent possibility I will ever have these sweatpants drycleaned. I didn’t even wash them before putting them on. “The stranger from the internet who mailed these to me probably washed them before they did so,” I told myself.

I’ve been reading about free time, how capitalist logic has invaded it and ruined it. How even our free time is supposed to be productive. Getting an app that helps you relax more effectively. It is VERY HARD for me to just sit on the couch staring out the window all day; I feel I always need to be producing something or working on something. Generating value even during leisure moments. Can you believe how many hours we all have to work?? The great promise of automation was that it would give us back our free time, but you see that that’s not the way it’s gonna go. And anyway my job will never be automated (LOL)

IN GOOD NEWS it turns out that the great promise of online education is finally being revealed to have been bullshit all along, as indeed we all said it was years ago. Apparently no one is getting effectively educated by these MOOCs where you watch a youtube video of somebody talking about Ancient Greece and then you take a multiple choice test that a computer grades. Who could have imagined such a wise scheme would fail?? So much venture capital down the drain! That’s the way it goes, I guess. I love how many times tech utopians/the government can manage to pretend not to comprehend the obvious truth that all their beloved data demonstrates (because doing so would mean a drastic reorientation of money/power which they don’t want to happen). Like how many studies do we have to do that show definitively that students have the best experience when they are in small classes with dedicated teachers? They don’t need fuckin’ iPads, they don’t need “self-directed learning pods” where they just Google stuff and play data-harvesting games. Just good old-fashioned small classroom teaching with a dedicated grownup in the room who gives a shit about them and their humanity, that’s the ticket. Hey, lets spend a relatively small amount of money—like lets divert maybe one week of U.S. military spending—and just hire some more teachers and create some more nice classroom spaces. But no, it can’t be that simple. There’s GOT to be a much, much more complicated and expensive solution that doesn’t solve any of the problems it was developed to solve. I BELIEVE we can find it! I know, lets spend 20 years developing a robot who can teach 40,000 students at once. Wow what a fresh idea, here is 800 million dollars of venture capital my boy! Then 20 years later it’s like “We regret to inform you the robot is racist”

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3 Responses to Life or Something Like It

  1. dv says:

    I got “Go Set a Watchman” out from the library and I’m excited to read it.
    There is also that newish Alan Moore book “Jerusalem” that is gigantic and I will never read it, but you are capable of reading gigantic books, so maybe you’d like it.

  2. Eileen says:

    – Do you want to read serious or not-serious novels? I feel like I have already recommended you most of the serious novels I like. Have you done any Terry Pratchett? Because if not I bet a copy of `Wyrd Sisters` would be excellent I tried reading the series that Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is based off but hoo boy the 1920s racism!!

    – Re: above ` `, you know you are actually a programmer now when you automatically use backticks around things

    – You already know I agree re: the “you must be productive during free time” thing since I have yapped about it constantly

    – Venture capital: WE MUST DISRUPT MOPPING. Related: apparently Denver is getting a not-public-trans tube system that actually transports people IN THEIR CARS at 200 mph to particular popular destinations. Item: trains already exist! And are less expensive and ridiculous and wasteful then transporting lines upon lines of actual cars! Can you fucking believe this Elon Musk bullshit, no seriously, who but Elon Musk would think of such a thing:

    – Also those sweatpants had to be $13 on ebay BECAUSE they are dry clean only, seriously, someone clearly bought them and then was all “dry clean only sweatpants??? WTF NO”

  3. Susannah says:


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