Now is the stage in the student’s progress where he or she records all that one hoped to do over a break, and in doing, reflect with growing bitterness, on failures that outnumber successes. That’s melodramatic by design because I have set myself up for this sort of disappointment from the start, and I suspect most students in my place do the same.
The easiest way to explain the unfortunate lack of content at PBS over the last three months is by way of my usual analogy wherein my brain is represented by a complex and not entierly efficient collection of offices and workshops. Starting around late May, the workers in the cognitive resources branch decided they could no-longer maintain the usual level of productivity—working conditions had deteriorated thanks to a steady increase in exterior noise and stress—and so they took action. There was no wildcat strike but there was a very clear decision to work-to-rule, meaning that they would do what was strictly required of them, as per their various job profiles, but no more. The blog was one of those ‘additional duties, as determined by the office foreman’ and it was left to sit out the period of stress. Otherwise, work progressed as planned with two more conferences since K-zoo, packing of the room for storage over the break, and other tasks no less vital despite their lack of glamour.
I don’t know what others think of Richmond as a historian. My own opinion is certainly positive, but it isn’t his scholarship I want to mention; it’s his way with words. Reading a paper by Peter Coss gave me this quote that was just too good to keep to myself. This is in reference to the debate about ‘bastard feudalism.’
So what occupied my time for the month of April? I’m not really sure, I will need to check. Hey! my day-book is a useless collection of mostly blank pages and short, largely uninformative, to-do-lists! Hmm. Was involved in some ‘incident’ and this is an effort to cover up unauthorized orders?
No. I’m thinking of U-boat commanders and their order logs. I was just crap at keeping track of things for almost the entire month of April.
External affirmation is the fuel of academic progress and its natural corollary is external rejection. We write papers and submit them and, more often than not, we get reviews that run from gentle refusal to sadistic cruelty. I am more familiar with the first. I have now received something close to the second. I won’t use this entry to complain about that review. Frankly, it’s not constructive. The paper was turned down and there are really only three options for the rejected writer:
I’m sure John Crok of Tetworth, Cambridgeshire, enjoyed his game of ‘guess what’s in the bag’, and won drinks at some public house in Southwark until a disgruntled husbandman, blabbed to the bailiffs. What no-one could manage to guess, and what became known to the bailiffs, was that John Crok was walking around the south bank of the Thames, with a head in a bag—capud cuiusdam Sarisini—a certain Saracen head, from Toledo.
In October of 1371, Crok was called before the court of King’s Bench at Westminster to explain himself (and the head).
While I am determined to maintain the habit of the monthly review, I can’t say I take much pride in the contents of this one. Naturally, I have only myself to blame for both the results, and my own disappointment. Judge all you want, I’m not particularly concerned about the course of public opinion. And, if that obviously defensive introduction does not deter you, read on for the month of March.
I have run into a rare form of writer’s block that isn’t usually covered in the literature. Apparently, I really don’t like writing about topics that, well, wind me up. Foolishly I wrote a conference paper last year on just such a red-button topic which I also submitted to a call-for-papers in an edited collection. That proposal was accepted and my personal deadline for submitting the draft is now so close that I am guaranteed to miss it (the editorial deadline is actually in late May, but I want it done, and out my door by early April).
My flailing and floundering is entirely down to my easily provoked tempter which makes it hard to write coherent and balanced prose. It is too easy to turn a nice argument into a laundry list of errors that will bore, or offend, most readers. I’m not entirely sure how to get out of this little pit that my bile has burned into the landscape but I must, and while I’m on the way, write another 5000 words while I’m at it.
What pushed me to this conclusion (that it’s my frustration with the ‘errors’ which prompted the paper in the first place) was this collection of pages put up by the University of Leicester that describe (in achingly sparse detail) the sharp-force trauma found on their Greyfriars skeleton.
Oh, and whatever you do, do not read the comments.
I have been neglectful of the blog lately, and while that’s unfortunate for the tiny elect of readers, I have been writing all the same, just not for the blog. Here then is the February review, in all its tattered splendour.
Results from January are something of a mixed bag, but there is progress, measurable progress. February will look better because a bunch of things must be done that month. For now, this looks less impressive than it actually is.