Why "Curmudgeon," Curmudgeon?

Tonight seems like a good time for a little explanation.

Having spent a little more time splashing about the blog-o-sphere (doesn't that spelling just beg for someone saying it like Mr. Burns?), one of the things I've appreciated elsewhere has been some note of introspection from the people whose stuff I'm reading (Dr. Crazy gives a good explanation about what her blog should do by explaining the transition from one blog to another as does Tenured Radical in her "About Me" page). And once, I promised to explain a little bit about what my greatest gripe about teaching is (this post won't exactly answer that, I don't think, but it might be as close as I get).

So here's what I'm shooting for with the post:
  • a brief bit of explanation of who I am which won't actually reveal who I am
  • an explanation of the ethic of the blog
  • some sort of amusing moment that might also be an epiphany
Let's see how it goes.

First, the name. After having read a post about the literary canon and the subsequent comments and categorizations of academics in that discipline, I find myself a little nervous over the use of the name Dr. Curmudgeon. I was shooting for fun and a bit of irony. I considered Dr. Cranky - it is probably taken but it also sounded a bit petulant (not that I'm not, but...). What I wanted was something that gave me a notion of being both disgruntled while hopefully being amusing and lovable. What I wanted was a sort of academic version of Statler and Waldorf from the Muppet Show. I'm hoping it doesn't imply - as the word curmudgeon seems to in that thread - that I'm insular or afraid to roll with the punches or the times.

And I wanted to be anonymous. I cannot stress this enough, though Dr. Crazy's thoughts that led to her move to Reassigned Time have me thinking.

For me, this blog is intended to be cathartic more than anything. You'll see the impact of that in a few ways. I don't edit so much here. There are posts with grammatical errors and leaps of logic that make my head and heart cringe. The posts are, in some ways, a form of intellectual shorthand. At other times, the blog is my virtual bobo doll experiment (I hope it is more Bandura than B.F. Skinner anyway). That it has - or might - draw an audience is both a thrill and a fear.

Here's the thing: I like where I am.

Sort of.

My department is great if sometimes dysfunctional, disorganized, and set in its ways. My Dean generally looks out for me and has the same priorities I do. After that, things get hazy. And if you go up a level, beyond the university, things get downright ugly. I like where I am. I just don't like where "where I am" is.

So the anonymity isn't just about protecting me - though let's be honest, that's the biggest part of it - it is also about making sure that I give a fair shake to those around. One thing that I've noticed so far is that by adopting the anonymous pose, I have to spend some rhetorical and cognitive effort to write what I do. Sometimes that has resulted in my finding a more equitable but less obvious spot to pin my gripes to. With that in mind, not every event I tell you here is the capital-t truth. I'll change a name or hide an event where I can when I think I need to to help keep me anonymous. And I'll do it to help make sure that someone who isn't a part of this forum gets as close to a fair shake as they're going to. That also means as people comment, I'm moderating them with the thickest red Sharpie this site allows. Having readers - and reading other people who are talking about the same things - has helped. And like I said, that's the biggest goal of the thing: to organize my thoughts and to keep me grounded.

As for me, I'm the first kid in the family to have made it through college. I'm the only one to have gone to grad school. I did it all on student loans because it was the only way to do it. I did it because this was the Olympics I could qualify for, the thing I had enough chops to have a shot at completing that would require me to push myself. I believe in education the way some people believe in Religion. It has sent me places I never thought I'd go. I've met people amazing people, and I've discovered just how often I'm only the smartest aleck in the room but not the smartest. It has come with a price - I can give you a figure and I can tell you the other parts - and most days it has been absolutely worth it. I've found a career that I like, even if it doesn't pay the tolls it took to get here.

There are some things I should apologize for - or at least note - in advance. I'm bad with names. My mouth - and my keyboard - often works faster than the rest of me. I decided when I was very young that if I couldn't laugh at it, I was afraid of it, and sometimes I take that too literally. I'm private to a degree that makes the notion of a public journal absolutely laughable (I'm serious: many of my best friends do not know my birthdate, when I'm dating, or who I'm likely to date). I can be too literal at the wrong moments. My Meyers-Briggs switches (usually, I'm ENTP or INTP or ENTJ or INTJ). I'm not above selling out exes, friends or family for the sake of a story. While I recognize that my taste in books is idiosyncratic, I'm convinced my taste in music is superior to everyone else's. If you recommend something to me too much, too often, or too strongly, I might ignore you just for spite. I like food baseball metaphors and movies but not the actual game. I love food that makes me cry. I may be a little too thrill seeking for my own good.

So that, my ducks, is a sort of introduction. Hope it fills in a gap or two without scaring anyone off.


8 Responses to “Why "Curmudgeon," Curmudgeon?”
Post a Comment | Post Comments (Atom)

Tenured Radical said...

I love Dr. Curmudgeon -- keep it.


October 8, 2007 at 11:47 AM
Belle said...

Agree. V. cool. I'd be Cranky Agnes, but it's already taken. (Fun book, BTW)

Your trail sounds very me. I love "the Olympics I could qualify for;" I try to subdue my competitive streak into dust bunnies. When I find her emerging, I shriek in horror and cower. Don't like that one. She's very OCD, and I try and not do that any more.

October 8, 2007 at 12:34 PM
Dr. Crazy said...

I think Dr. Curmudgeon is great, although it does cause problems for me because I keep wanting to abbreviate you to Dr. C. but then I think I'm talking to myself :)

October 9, 2007 at 8:20 AM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

Have no fear, the moniker is staying. I'll just have to make sure I'm doing enough to keep it ironically detached. And Dr. C., you're more than welcome to refer to me as Dr. C-.

October 9, 2007 at 1:21 PM
Notorious Ph.D. said...

I just found this part of your blog: Nice to meet you, Curmudgeon! (Being a medievalist means I'm a bit of a curmudgeon by nature, so that's good.)

I wish I were more anonymous, because I've got a couple of tales I'd like to tell out of school. But perhaps that's good -- knowing that a few people in my dept. know who I am, and that that knowlege might get out, keeps me from gossiping about Fusty Senior Colleague, or Recently Tenured Slacker.

November 1, 2007 at 11:54 AM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

Good to meet you, too, Notorious (and welcome back - I read a ways back in your blog while you were in seclusion).

November 1, 2007 at 9:15 PM
squadratomagico said...

I would prefer to stay anonymous, and so far I don't think any of my RL colleagues or friends know about Squadratomagico. On the other hand, I think anyone who does know me and reads it, will instantly identify me.

Good thing I don't get out much in the profession.

November 2, 2007 at 2:51 PM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

The anonymity thing is strange; obviously, I'm in favor of it. But I do think it's deceptive - as you said, people who know you could figure it out if they looked. And in most cases, we're in smaller professions than we often realize, even if we're not out in them so much.

It does make me wonder how common the use of red herrings are in these moments as a means of maintaining that sense of safety.

November 2, 2007 at 2:56 PM