Failed Systems and Systems of Failure

There's Socialism and Communism and Capitalism
said Neal,
and there's Feminism and Hedonism,
          and there's Catholicism and Bipedalism and Consumerism,

but I think Narcissism is the system
that means the most to me...
- from Tony Hoagland, "What Narcissism Means to Me"


Like much of the country, they're predicting ridiculously cold temperatures here. Radiating "orphan," at least six people have stopped me in the last two days to warn me of the temperatures and to tell me to keep warm as though this weren't an intuitive behavior to a boy from Texas.

As ever, I am amused at how the cold and the snow changes things. It's come to serve as the key idea in much of what I don't understand living here. There are peculiar rules here that run counter to what you've learned about living in the snow elsewhere. For example:

snow + hazard lights on a car = ability to park anywhere you want


snow + 4 wheel drive = no need for extra distance between driving vehicles


snow + sports = no need for clothing

It's very strange how the snow trumps common sense. Today, I watched one car unload in that "not parking space" next to handicapped spaces, and another car pull in, turn its hazards on, and break out the cell phone to have a conference. This only seems to happen when it snows.

I'm tempted, each time I see it, to simply walk over the car as it blocks that space or to find a bat and break out their headlights.


My roommate has scored an on-campus interview.

In the notification, the committee chair mentioned that they remembered him as a student, and this sparked an entire evening's scavenger hunt to determine just when and how this person knew him because he was convinced he had to say something back about how he remembered them, too.

I suggested going vague but affable: "I hope you just remember the better moments." No.

I suggested avoidance and deflection: "I'm looking forward to catching up with you and meeting the department." No.

I suggested embarrassed honesty, clever trickery, vapid flattery. No. No. No. I ran out of adjectives. I ran out of interest. I ran out of the room. This morning there was a knock on my office door.

"I think he made a mistake," he said. "I don't think he knew me. I'm just going to accept."

All I could do was nod, thinking of how much preparation time had been lost searching through year books and transcripts and departmental web sites. Committees, be careful what you say. The tensions are high this year.


I've been struggling to finish a syllabus, wanting an assignment that might generate something students could put in a portfolio. Some courses, I am concluding, simply are not meant for this type of idea. Or maybe some professors aren't geared up for it. The thought of having to force this to something that I don't do myself and so wouldn't know quite so well how to judge anyway just didn't make sense.

But I'd been hearing and reading hither and yon about the need to try and help students relate things to real world job possibilities. We're student-centered, I heard. Students are consumers, someone wrote, and must be treated as such: give them what they want.


My class will be worth the trip because it's going to make them think of something in a way the business world doesn't. And it isn't exactly a commonly mentioned point of view anywhere else either.

Employers, here's what you can expect: a well-researched argument that considers the unpopular opinion. That's my contribution. Thank you. Bye bye.


One response to “Failed Systems and Systems of Failure”
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Brigindo said...

Come on over and pick up an award. It will take your mind off of the cold.

January 13, 2009 at 11:12 PM