Showing posts from September, 2021

On the fatigue (not the treachery) of images (series: notes to myself)

A pipe and its identity. A naked man, sitting on an uncomfortable rock. Another naked man, whose hand God seems desperate to reach. Another man, also naked, watching you, arms and legs spread like a gigantic X. Still another man, this time dressed, turned, watching a foggy landscape. And now many men, dressed like it’s a toga party, all together in an impossible meeting of fine minds. Just one more, of invisible people, probably men, probably dressed, on tiny boats, being crushed by a gigantic wave. The list goes on. Famous images, which even a few, clumsy words cannot fail to sketch, recalling them in anyone's mind. These images, and the countless others that have been cheaped by the digital revolution of high resolution and copyright-free downloads, are tired. Not tired of being themselves. Of course not. For they are proud of their lineage, of the depth of their meaningfulness, of the richness of their cultural references, of the thickness of their historical relations. No. They

On academic writing and its mannerisms (series: notes to myself)

Academic writing is a linguistic genre. And each academic discipline has its own style of writing. Just browse any decent, peer-reviewed journal. You will notice that the structure, the syntax, the words, the phrases all belong to a canon. Graduate students pick it up as they write their essays, and chapters, and theses. By the time one is out of the last stage of education one thinks it is natural to write in that way, that it is the only way to write scientifically, that everybody in the scholarly or scientific business of producing some text writes that way. Of course, that is not true. Each discipline has its own sedimented ways of conveying its contents.  Sometimes, a genius realises this and starts alerting the world that scientific articles are just texts like any other. It is just language, and not even that, it is someone's hegemonic language, whose intentions need to be deconstructed, psychoanalysed, socio-politically challenged. It is tyring to explain to the genius that

On the crucial importance of "still" and its value (series: notes to myself)

It is never clear when you change age. Not the birthday, silly. But the big transition from one block to the next. The stepping stones, that's what I'm talking about: child, teenager, young grown-up, adult, middle-aged, old... that sort of huge steps. All fuzzy and quite relative. Like crossing a border between two countries but realising it only hundreds of miles later, when the surroundings have finally, visibly changed. Not easy. And yet, there is a little word that I notice can help. Still . Not the adjective, as in "the night was still", but the adverb, as in "he still takes stairs two at a time" like Giovanni Drogo . How appropriate. An adverb that modifies a verb. A second-order reflection on a first-order event, or action, or behaviour. And it tells you what has happened to that modified referent, as you crossed the border. You are (if you ever were) still  this or that. You are still in love or still passionate about your job. You still like to t

On choosing a new book for the nights (series: notes to myself)

The work of an academic: read, write, speak. By oneself. With others. Privately or in public.  Three kinds of actions, no different from any other job today. But as life progresses, some success leads one to read less and write more, and then speak more than one writes. The successful academic becomes a speaker, perhaps a keynote speaker. From being an academic to being a dubious guru of some sort, blathering about anything, opinionating on everything, the escalation is quick, the risk of repetitive emptiness becomes a reality.  So, you know that you have to withstand the current, resist the temptation, avoid the easy path. Speak less, write less, read more.   Read more, but not of what must be read: the report, the thesis, the article to review, the draft to correct, the data analysis needed for the next piece of work, the text of some regulation, the commentary of an expert, an excellent op-ed unmissable, the dailies and the weeklies, the peer-reviewed paper, the academic monograph,