I Think, Therefore I Am … I Think

Robin and I have begun to watch “The Chair,” a new Netflix series about a professor of English who becomes the first woman of color to chair the department at a formerly prestigious small university. She comes in at a time when enrollment is declining drastically, academic styles and mores are in flux, and her little pissant of a daughter is being revealed to us as an adopted demon-child. (I know, I know, elementary school-aged children can’t be little pissants … or can they? Remember cute little Damien of “The Omen?”) Sandra Oh is the title character, and for me she makes the whole thing work.

Or at least seems to work. What comes across to the viewer is that the job of “chair”is impossible, thankless, and an endless minefield to traverse every single day you get out of bed.

Now I have the advantage of watching the series with my very own Professor of English on the next sofa cushion. She’s not my very own, of course, but a full-growed woman who is highly independent in her thinking. But she is someone I can turn to with the query “Is it like that?” as many times as I need to. And she will patiently answer all of my questions, even the most painfully naive and childish ones.

My own ideas of how the world of academe should be are personified by the crusted and aging members of the hypothetical department in the series. There is still waaay too much old school and ivy creeping around in my personal conception of the university and I know it, but hey, they’re my fantasies and I am fond of them. In this way the student body comes across as a larger group of demon-children, being composed of narcissistic and half-formed adults . And who knows what that ultimate form will be if their only examples to follow are themselves?

Oh well, the show is definitely entertaining, even if I find myself jumping up on the couch several times per episode and exclaiming “AAUUUUGGGGHHHHH! I HATE THAT!”


From The New Yorker


So you might be asking yourself, “What is it really like being married to a Professor of English? Surely it must be a comfort to know that your every utterance will be at least examined for grammatical correctness and you will be spared the embarrassments of being revealed as the poorly educated lout that you are?”

That might be true in another’s case, but it doesn’t fit Robin’s management style. In our house I am given the opportunity to make as many mistakes as I want, and she will only comment in one of two situations. One is when I realize on my own that I am in way too deep and call out to her to cast me a life preserver, and the other is when it is just too painful for her to listen to a particular line of my gibberish without comment. As when I am writing or speaking in full fingernails scraping on the blackboard mode.


Okay, what it is really like being married to a Professor of English? It means that my education never stops. That Robin’s immense store of knowledge is available to me 24/7. That my appreciation of and for literature has increased so gradually and painlessly over our nearly 30 years together that I almost don’t recognize myself in the rear-view mirror. I am still quite the literary dolt, but I am an improved version of the dolt that I was three decades ago, thanks to her gentle and patient guidance.


From The New Yorker


The Boundary Waters are closed, and have been for a week now. The wilderness has been emptied of all of the canoeists and campers that could be located and ordered out for their safety. The culprit is fire. No date has been set for re-opening of the area, but there are some seriously disappointed people whose permits have been cancelled and money refunded.

Of course they understand the reasons for caution, and I doubt there are many of them who don’t appreciate how capricious and explosive a forest fire is, and what a miserable experience that leaving the planet as a puff of smoke would be.

No matter that fire has always been a part of the life of a forest, and that clearing away the old and making room for the new is often ultimately a very good thing for the creatures that live there. Somewhere in the unrealistic pudding that is my thinking organ resides the idea that I would prefer every tree and every bush to be the same as it was when I first discovered the “BW.” There are places that I don’t want change to mess with, no matter what. Right there is where my crazy begins.


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