Regards, University Mailing Services

I received this email from my employer today:

From: Read Green from Office of Human Resources – Benefits Department <universitymailingnoreply@pitt.edu>
Subject: Faculty Stress
Date: April 25, 2017 at 12:08:33 PM EDT
To: <bickford@pitt.edu>
Reply-To: <noreply@pitt.edu>
If you have ever been through a spell of submission rejections or had unpleasant course evaluations, you know that faculty work can be depressing. If you are unsure about your funding, your research, or your reputation, you know that faculty work can provoke anxiety. And if you are fed-up, you know how burnout got its name. Maybe you are experiencing one of these issues now or maybe you see a colleague going through a hard time. In either case, the University Senate’s Committee on Benefits and Welfare reminds you that Life Solutions knows all about the unique stressors of faculty life and is here to help you. Please review the flyer to find out about this free confidential service for Pitt faculty and staff.
For more information about Read Green, please visit http://technology.pitt.edu/readgreen
Regards,
University Mailing Services

It’s a pretty good email.

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The biggest difference is that when I was young, I wore sweaters. Crewneck sweaters, with button-down shirts and jeans, every single day. And I think at a certain point in my twenties, I decided that was childish. So I gave away all my beautiful sweaters.

Blue jeans are childish too, obviously. But luckily everyone my age kept wearing them. It used to be that adults did not wear jeans—not men, unless they were construction workers—only teenagers wore them. But I guess my generation just said, “We’re going to keep wearing them until we die, because we’re almost there.”

I have to say that one of the biggest changes in my lifetime, is the phenomenon of men wearing shorts. Men never wore shorts when I was young. There are few things I would rather see less, to tell you the truth. I’d just as soon see someone coming toward me with a hand grenade. This is one of the worst changes, by far. It’s disgusting. To have to sit next to grown men on the subway in the summer, and they’re wearing shorts? It’s repulsive. They look ridiculous, like children, and I can’t take them seriously.

You know when George Plimpton died, someone told me, ‘He was so eccentric. He used to ride his bike in a suit and tie!’ and it drove me crazy. I said, ‘What’s eccentric is the bicycle. Everyone here used to wear suits and it was lovely! But only children rode bicycles.’ The trademark of New York City fashion used to be that we dressed more seriously here. More formally. Now people need special costumes to ride bicycles. I mean, a helmet, what, are you an astronaut??

via ‘Yoga Pants are Ruining Women’ and Other Style Advice From Fran Lebowitz.

Let it blaze

No guinea of earned money should go to rebuilding the college on the old plan; just as certainly none could be spent upon building a college upon a new plan; therefore the guinea should be earmarked ‘Rags. Petrol. Matches’. And this note should be attached to it. ‘Take this guinea and with it burn the college to the ground. Set fire to the old hypocrisies. Let the light of the burning building scare the nightingales and incarnadine the willows. And let the daughters of educated men dance round the fire and heap armful upon armful of dead leaves upon the flames. And let their mothers lean from the upper windows and cry “Let it blaze! Let it blaze! For we have done with this ‘education’!”‘

—Woolf, Three Guineas

The university has not only casualized its own labor force: it operates as a kind of fusion reactor for casualization more generally, directly serving the casual economy by supplying it with flexible student labor (which is to say: by providing flex workers with the identity of “student”), normalizing and generalizing the experience of casual work. The casualization of the higher education teacher has been accompanied by the wholesale reinventing of what it means to be an undergraduate: the identity of “student” has been disarticulated from the concept and possibility of leisure and vigorously rearticulated to contingent labor. In the twenty-first century, “being a student” names a way of work. The graduate employee understands that the gen-x structure of feeling proceeds from the generational register of the economic order: insofar as casualization colonizes the experience and possibilities of “youth,” cheerfully extending the term of youth and youthful “enjoyment” into the fourth decade of life—because youth now delimits a term of availability for super-exploitation.

—Bousquet, “The Waste Product of Graduate Education,” Social text, 2002, p. 99

What I have found is that people who really need the science education are the adults. Adults outnumber children. They’re in charge. They wield resources. They vote. All of the things that shape the society in which we live are conducted by adults.

[…]

The challenge has never been children. The challenge has been adults. I don’t think you have to do anything special to get kids interested in science, other than to get out of their way when they’re expressing that curiosity.

All the adults are saying, “We need to improve science in the world. Let’s train the kids.” I’ve never heard an adult say, “We need more science in the world. Train me.” I’ve never heard an adult say that. It’s the adults that need the science literacy, the kind of literacy that can transform the nation practically overnight.

Calling adults childish

John R. MacArthur, “Google’s Media Barons.” A classic of the genre:

Thus proceeds the infantilization of the American public, hooked more than ever on superficial, unchecked information sometimes rewritten from more reliable, though uncredited sources. It’s no coincidence that Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and Yelp sound like toddler gibberish from the Teletubbies.

Whenever I hear these silly corporate names invoked with sanctimonious awe, I imagine Dipsy, Laa-Laa, Po, and Tinky-Winky singing their hit single “Teletubbies say ‘Eh-oh’ ” as they shake the change out of some two-year-old’s pocket. Come to think of it, Eric Schmidt’s new playmate, the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, bears a more than superficial resemblance to Po.

Where will it end, as the dumbing down of America accelerates and Google becomes ever more dominant? A psychoanalyst friend tells me that listening to baby talk may be gratifying up to a point, but that constant subjection to it produces unconscious rage in adults.

(an ongoing series)

Calling adults childish (an ongoing series)

Felix Salmon, Netflix’s dumbed-down algorithms:

Television stations learned many years ago the difference between maximizing perceived quality, on the one hand, and maximizing hours spent watching, on the other. Netflix has long since started making the same distinction: it wants to serve up a constant stream of content for you to be able to watch in vast quantities, rather than sending individual precious DVDs where you will be very disappointed if they fall below your expectations. Netflix’s biggest fans tend to be parents of young kids — but in a sense, Netflix wants to turn us all into young kids, consuming an endless stream of minimally-differentiated material. (Note that Netflix doesn’t allow you to watch a trailer for a movie before streaming it; it just expects you to stop watching that movie, and start watching something else, if you don’t like it.)

(context)