I Love Serial Entertainment And So Can You

We don’t binge on television because we like it, we like television because we can binge on it.

Academia 101: Intro To Lab Reports

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I handed in my dissertation a year ago today. A month later, I stood up at the end of my defense and shook a professor’s hand as she smiled and said, “Congratulations, Doctor Livingstone.”

That feels like a very long time ago. This semester, I got my dream teaching position, but when the last class ended a few days ago, the job did too. I was filling in for a professor on leave, so I got to borrow her office and put my books on her shelf. I got to look out her window and talk to my students over a massive wooden desk; it was like living inside a waking dream.

For people graduating with a PhD in the humanities these days, the chances of obtaining meaningful academic employment are really, really bad. The river of university cash flows no more. The opportunities have thinned so drastically that hundreds of equally well-qualified competitors go up for every single position, no matter how rubbish the college or undesirable the location. One recent rejection letter told me that seven hundred people had applied for the two postdoc spots. The letter-writer sounded confused and regretful.

A fog of complacency has enveloped early-stage grad students and tenured professors alike. In the first couple years of a doctorate, the job search is so far off that it doesn’t feel real. The tenured professors are employed for life and busy with their own work, so they don’t have much motivation to warn their students of what’s coming. Both groups pretend nothing is happening, because nothing is, and a whole load of newly minted doctors lose their minds every year. Am I willing to go round after round on the job market like the guy from the movie who slugs the parking meters? No. Do I think this situation is ridiculous? Yes! But do I regret doing a PhD? Not with a single fiber of my being.

A Poem By Lee Upton

An Epic for Mother’s Day

                              Epic: “a poem including history”—Ezra Pound


A poem with history
a history with poems in it
in history with a poem
a history of the needle and wrench and cable
and a pretty dress and a grave
and a pretty dress in a grave
roll the stone from the grave
raise the corpse and breathe into her mouth
take Ovid from the shelf and change shapes in history
in history with a poem on a cushion or in a field
or on a swing or force fed
in a house or a trench
a body that pushes history out.



Lee Upton’s most recent book is Bottle the Bottles the Bottles the Bottles (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2015). Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Poetry, American Poetry Review, and elsewhere.

“It’s easier to sell the first two than the entire panel where the dog melts into nothingness.”
—Here’s an interview with the guy behind “On Fire,” the popular comic that you may have seen in many of the meme-friendly environments that our modern age offers up in place of churches as spaces of congregation for the lonely and uncertain. What I particularly appreciate about this quote is how it demonstrates the limits of what we will accept when it comes to laughing about how terrible life truly is: We’ll buy the dog telling himself that everything is okay while the flames burn all around him, but the inevitable results of that act of self-delusion are a little too real to slap on a T-shirt and show to the world.#

Dustin O'Halloran, 'Constreaux No 2.'


Here is something quiet, calm and beautiful to help you start out another morning in our seemingly endless series of days without sun. I hope you are all taking Vitamin D supplements. Enjoy.

New York City, May 3, 2016

weather review sky 050316★ Not enough rain was falling, or not big enough drops of it, to justify opening the little green umbrella on the way to preschool. Nor was there enough to convince the four-year-old to take custody of the umbrella for later. The dampness made it chilly outside the clothes and hot inside them. The early rain landed so softly that the puddles on the bare grainy dirt of the tree planters were clear water, like a spring filtered up through sand. A little more than an hour later, it was falling hard enough to stream from the scaffold. It was streaming from the canopy over the subway mouth on Union Square, too. Just beyond that, a dangling little radio played the news under the shelter of the array of  the fivedollaUMbrella man. The spray was blowing too hard for five dollars to have much hope of making a difference. Then it blew even harder. The afternoon dried out but got no more inviting, and in the middle of rush hour a faint drizzle returned. It took effort, under the pall, to see that all around was bright green.

Let's Have A Big Party To Celebrate The Return Of Chest Hair

chesthair“There are different ways to connect to your organic masculinity. Hair is one way to do it.”
Chest hair is in again, you guys! You can stop waxing and shaving and electrolysizing your chests! I know you have felt alienated from your manliness for a while now, but the concerns you couldn’t completely resolve by growing a beard will be fully assuaged by getting that thick thatch of pectoral matting back. My joy in seeing society once more register its approval for a tufted canopy up front is only tempered by my thoughts of those who didn’t make it through to see this happy day. But life is for the living, and the best way to know your alive is to affirm your virility by sharing your gigantic front shag with the rest of the world. I’ve never been prouder to be a man.

All writing is fraud, but menu writing is so over-the-top grasping and pretentious in its fraudulence that it makes regular writing read like our language’s most honest, elucidating prose. #

Laszlo Dancehall, "Channel"


Awl favorite Leon Vynheall has a hand in this one, so it comes pre-recommended. Enjoy. [Via]

In any reasonable world the frequency with which our ludicrously self-important political handicappers prove themselves incompetent at the only skill with which they are supposed to have any facility would result in shame, scorn and termination. As it is these same puffed-up “analysts” are going to get another bite at the apple with a series of “I was wrong about Trump—here’s why” pieces and then pivot so quickly to issuing predictions once more that you will forget they apologized in the first place. You must remember: These people don’t know anything more than you do, and they are so obsessed with keeping their seat at the table—no matter how far that table is from the center of the room—that they are actually more blinkered and prone to error than you are. Plus you at least have the good sense to shut your stupid mouth every now and again. God, why aren’t you doing our horse race coverage? It would be so much better. Please do me a favor and get one of those gigs.#

I Love Serial Entertainment And So Can You

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A friend who works in the movie business was ranting about the popularity of television and waxing nostalgic about the seventies, when his preferred medium was culturally ascendant. When I asked him why he thought television had dethroned film as the mass medium that matters, he answered that it offered a higher potential return on investment.

It takes an episode or two for a television viewer to meet the main characters, get the gist of a new show, and decide whether or not she likes it. If she doesn’t, she can drop it; if she does, she can look forward to a full season or even several seasons of programming. In exchange for an hour, she might secure dozens or even hundreds of hours of entertainment. Movies don’t work that way. At the end of a positive 90-minute experience, the still-hungry film viewer has no choice but to move on to another, self-contained work of art, which she may or may not find as pleasurable. Calculating enjoyment in terms of time, there’s no chance of a jackpot payoff.

We don’t binge on television because we like it, we like television—more than movies—because we can binge on it.