Category Archives: Academia in General


So it’s the end of the semester and papers are soon going to be due. In other words, writing season is upon us again. You’d think that after a while this whole ordeal would get easier. In certain obscure ways, it has. I know I’m definitely not writing like I wrote some three years ago when I returned to school after working for five years. Still, producing a paper is just as much of a gut-spilling experience now as it ever was.

So I have a draft due on Saturday. Earlier this week I was in this eminently familiar mode where I sit down to write, fire up the word processor and then get distracted by email, a passing breeze or an article that I just must read now. Basically, I’d sit down to write and immediately find a reason to not write. Fortunately, I’ve now moved on to the next phase of writing: I write whatever comes up even if it is shit. Experience has shown me that this is better than sitting around hoping for inspiration since it is often while I write shit that find the organizing principle around which I can write my paper. This does not seem to happen if I just wait for inspiration.

Alright, back to the shit…

Intellectual jackassery

Jane McGonigal has devised a yet another way people can make jackasses of themselves. Like there aren’t enough ways already. Her method consists in visiting a local bookstore, locating the copies of Orwell’s 1984 and reshelving them into “Current Events”, “Politics”, etc. Yeah, yeah, she leaves a card mentioning the new location where the books used to be but I still think that’s jackassery.

It seems McGonigal’s goal is to make a political point: 1984 is not fiction; we’re living it, etc… I think that is her message. While absolutely equating the current US administration with Big Brother is an exaggeration, I agree with the general idea that the US government has become remarkably more oppressive towards non-citizens and citizens alike since Bush took power. By all means this opinion should be voiced. However, I do not support obnoxious methods of voicing that opinion.

There there is the matter of efficacy. I think this is a rather poor method for propagating a political opinion. Creative? Yes. Effective? No. Heck, I’m sure McGonigal’s blog has done much more to propagate her views than any reshelving has done. For the reshelving to have any effect, people would have happen to walk into a location where the reshelving was done. They’d have to be looking for 1984 or stumble upon the reshelving notice or reshelved copies by happenstance. They’d have to understand the message. That is, they’d have to know what 1984 is all about and how the reshelving is making a statement regarding the current administration. They’d have to not have previously thought about 1984 in relation to the current political climate (otherwise, McGonigal’s message is redundant). All in all, I think the effect is minimal. In fact, attempts to maximize the effect would in all likelihood maximize the jackassedness of the method for it would most likely involve more reshelving.

People reading this blog entry may be wondering why I’m annoyed by McGonigal’s reshelving operation. As a scholar-in-training in the field of Religious Studies (Buddhism and Hinduism, mainly), I need to be able to find books easily and quickly. Reshelving qua “political message” is an impediment towards this goal. Anybody who’s been in a doctoral program knows that the last thing a Ph.D. candidate needs is more impediments.

And proving that jackassery is not the province of any specific ethnic group Tristan Mendès-France adopted the idea.

The whole thing via La Feuille.

Edited 2006/03/04: Corrected “Tristan Mendès” to “Tristan Mendès-France”.

Elsevier Boycott

Elsevier is a major publisher of academic journals. It appears that the rough way they treat the academic community has started to backfire. See this blog entry in the Computational Complexity site (via Boundless vanity…). The comments below the main entry are where the meaty information is.

I found this interesting in light of my confabulations (like in my entry titled Academic publishers and DRM) regarding a possible future for academic publishing in which the role of “publisher” is considerably reduced. This boycott against Elsevier could be the first sign of a general reduction of the power wielded by publishing companies and a redefinition of their role in the publishing process.

Academic publishers and DRM

Pamela Jones has an interesting blog entry regarding academic publishers and DRM. Her entry contains an article by Roy Bixler and one by Bruce Barton. I especially like Barton’s article since I’ve often fantasized about the future of academic publishing like Barton does at the end of his article and like him I see a future where a network of academic peers takes over whatever functions a publisher provides once the notion that publishing involves “producing print copies” has been removed from the equation.


I have a problem with the verb “to matriculate”, which is often found in sentences like “the student must submit form I99Z before matriculating.” For whatever reason (insanity?), I would expect the verb to be used in a variety of other contexts.

“Honey, the dog has matriculated all over the carpet again!”

“Set phasers to ‘matriculate’.”

“This species reproduces by matriculation.”

M.A. in South Asia Studies

I guess I can rejoice now. I found out some time ago that my M.A. degree in South Asia Studies has been awarded. There soon should be a piece of paper coming my way that I’ll be able to put away in a file cabinet and forget. Yay!

Soon, I’m going to be embarking on my Ph.D. in religious studies at UVA. Soon, the “curse of eternal traveling” will afflict me again. I’ll talk more about the curse some day.