Wednesday, July 01, 2009

deconstruction and the academic

There are mixed joys inherent in being a renter rather than an owner. Chief among these is maintenance. Our house seems to need this more often than I would like (noted by things such as the great shower collapse of 2007), but on the plus side, at least I don't have to pay for it. However, this also means that I experience, over our humble abode, a complete lack of control. This, of course, has massive effects on my writing. Why wouldn't it?

The plan was, after 2 weeks off due to a faux reunion, an aborted evening of bocce ball (which, of course, morphed into a night at the sports bar), a day drinking beer out of plastic buckets while listening to polka and contemplating leiderhosen, and an afternoon traversing the grocery store mecca that is Ann Arbor, to get back to work on what I have started thinking of as The Paper Which Would Not Die, 2009 edition. I always end up writing papers that require I learn whole fields of knowledge of which I am unversed before dismissing them wholesale. This year's edition of this paper involves studying political economy--more specifically, trashing Marx, Frankfurt school Marxism, and British Culture Studies. It is not a task for the faint of heart. Moreover, it does require concentration.

So, Monday was spend doing errands (recycling, getting stamps, house cleaning, and shoveling wild yak carcasses out of the study). Yesterday, I was to refresh my theoretical chops by plowing through several Gramsci-related articles. Today was to be The Day of Drafting...or more accurately, the day of trying to remember what I was thinking when I abandoned drafting to go down to Florida.

So how well is this working so far? Well, to truly understand, you must understand the principle of deconstruction.

No, I don't mean Derrida-inspired deconstruction but that of the home repair genre. Since the spousal unit and I moved in, there has been problems with our brick facade on the front of our house...mainly, it has been cracking and falling down. I suspect they did not use weather-proof bricks. The landlords, in their infinite wisdom, decided this week was the time to repair our houses...but in stages. Friday, the contractors pulled out a few cinder blocks holding up our front porch but did not replace them. Monday, they finally replaced said blocks, but they also removed a row of bricks, thus exposing the structure to one house wall when there was a (thankfully unfulfilled) 75% chance of rain. These bricks only got replaced yesterday....when the contractors removed all the bricks off our neighbor's facade.

Come to think of it, this is actually exactly like Derrida deconstruction.

Anyway, just when I thought the worst was behind me, just when I thought I could get back to writing, just as I'm walking to the study with my coffee (which is, after all, a vital part of the writing process...right up there with Tetris and Solitare), the construction crews break out a jack hammer.

At this point, I don't want to know what they're up to. Did the repairs really need to be done this week? While I should feel thankful that our landlords finally want to start improving this place (and how about a good extraction fan for our bathroom?), I also gotta think that the house has stood like this for five years. Why now?

My latest theory is that the contractors are secretly agents from some communist country (is Albania still communist? Mongolia?) sent to undermine the American education system by creating distractions which stifle the academic advancement of some poor non-tenure faculty stuck in Bowling Green who desperately just wants to write scholarship that does nothing for his job but can't concentrate because of the damn jackhammering.

Hmmm. Now I'm feeling rampant paranoia. Luckily, that also is a vital ingredient in the writing I'm hoping that these balance out in the end.

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