Or: public outreach act of the week: what an academic does at the weekend.

There will be a fresh “proper” post at some point before this evening the end of Tuesday. It will probably take the shape of a curated collection of last week’s Facebookery; much of which falls naturally into several distinct strands.

Some of these strands are woven into the broader longer braid that is the epic tale of woe, despond, calamity, small-scale individual tragedy, and ever-impending Doom And Gloom that is Academic Existence. It is part of The Present And Future Of The World (as we know it, as it might be; plus plenty of unknowns, unknowables, and fear of the unknown). My main recent imagineering-speculative-fiction reading has been Thomas Ligotti (who is a genius).

(Yes, reading is often an intense passionate borderline-obsessive amorous affair; full of wariness and full consciousness of peril at the time; equally aware that there will be repercussions–echoes, hauntings, learning from experience / “experiential learning,” “life lessons,” nostalgia and needs, and changes in the very fabric of your being–and that one will be in a Cloud Of Unknowing as to whether this will be a quickie, a short-term thing, or a returning repeating cyclical desire like that for the work of Ursula Le Guin.)

I have a sense that it might be a good idea to make sure I’m out of Ligotti’s shadow–insofar as that will be possible–before doing anything with my collected curios of Academic Existential Horrors.

I’ve been toying with the idea of putting together a giant mammoth post compiling that Great History’s greatest hits, personally-selected favourite episodes. The beautifully-composed, the heart-warming, the stirring, the breathtaking, tear-jerkers, and those things that caused lots of swearing.

I’m not sure that I’m ready for such heavy things; nor that anyone else is either.

Yesterday was my Official Weekly Reading Day, on which any writing is accidental.

I admit that I read at other points in the week too. Reading more or less constantly whenever possible at other times of the week is not cheating, it’s part of being someone who doesn’t just work in but fully is in the literary humanities.

Reading is  both an integral part of work–however tangential any given reading might seem to (less imaginative and/or intelligent) others, it’s always a stimulus to lateral thinking and indeed to thinking itself–and integral to work: allowing the mind to rest, relax, and refresh itself. It’s the mental equivalent of a good stretch, limbering up, and taking a walk outside in the fresh air or possibly a quick jog (or other physical exercise of your choice). Mens sana in corpore sano.

Another reason not to do anything with the tangled clump of hair that might or might not become a neat tidy elegant plaiting is that it’s almost sunny outside and I have vasty swathes of stuff to do today:

  • Laundry
  • Emptying rubbish-bins and cleaning the compost one
  • Selecting appropriate music to accompany the cleaning of the compost bin
  • Cleaning (did one bathroom yesterday so awarded myself an invisible bonus gold star)
  • Telephone The Mother ❤️
  • Skype The Beloved ❤️❤️❤️
  • Food shopping (though I still have reserve supplies for at least two weeks’ coffee, bagels with houmous, baked beans on toast, and kimchee dumplings & frozen veg: so I won’t starve)
  • Check the plants watered yesterday are happy, in case more watering, encouraging talk, and singing are needed
  • (remember to eat)
  • (And remembering to sleep)

A heavy-handed note on (sardonic flippant parentheses): I am one of those unfortunates who can work at 100% focus, and write fast as is happening right now; but who need at least seven and ideally eight hours per night, and who have the body-clock of a teenager. I had nine hours’ sleep on Friday and Saturday nights. If I don’t do this, I become very ill: that would be bad because it would have a negative effect on my functionality, usefulness, purposeful viability, etc.

NB: The usual warnings and restrictions apply: humans vary, some need less sleep (and other forms of rest) than others, and people and their brains work in different ways. If you, too, need a lot of sleep: take heart and do not be beaten down, as I was for years, by smug Early Birds and by those who make a virtue out of their busy-ness and a martyrdom out of self-abnegation. The latter category are fools, and dangerous fools at that, who threaten to destroy not just their own health and lives but also those of others.

Anti-sleep propaganda is a form of workplace bullying.

But I digress. Back to The Schedule. Next, between this evening and tomorrow morning early:

  • Prepare Monday classes
  • Reread some grant proposal stuff.
    (This is a slightly absurd kind of grant, being for money and other work-support that really ought to go directly to departments’ teaching budgets, but that’s a whole other story. What kind of story is a further other story: perhaps a lost branche of the Roman de Renart recast with a different sort of vaguely anthropomorphic beasts, of a sort who look human most of the time and even close up.)
  • Various emails to students (and co-ordinated colleagues) about course stuff
  • Highlight: Winter Exams Are Coming.
    (It has, as in GoT, been a Known Fact for a long time. Human responses to Known Facts are the same across multiple worlds: this is a Known Rule across the known (and unknown?) multiverse, governing all possible worlds.) This missive to the masses will need to be split into several separate emails to avoid brain overload, because that could lead to a Reason For Not Reading.
  • Diplomatic delicate email: for the benefit of students who STILL HAVEN’T READ THE FUCKING SYLLABUS and thus FAILED TO DO ONLINE EXERCISES and whom I have to continue to love dearly despite that, because they’re otherwise lovely people (no, seriously, they are: a statistically-anomalous tosser-free term, bodes ill for the future) and may have all sorts of Reasons.

Of the other more or less vaguely planned next blog posts, some are around OTIUM. This present post is probably a prequel of sorts. Considering it’s not supposed to be about very much at all, and is a “talking about talking (about talking)” sort of thing, I’m not doing too badly and am nearly up to #longreads length.

There will, for example, be more on lounging and its furniture; my FREN 101 students had quite a lot of that last week, from salons and boudoirs to Le Corbusier.

I’m thinking it’s time to return to the INNOVATION series, moving now from the chair to the sofa. I’d been thinking about Le Corbusier again for various reasons, and persistently remembering a recent excellent film-and-other-multimedia installation at the VAG, Amie Siegel’s Provenance, Lot 248, & Proof (Christie’s 19 October, 2013).

Meet the B306. The archetype, Platonic Ideal, and Ur-Form of the chaise longue:

probably best known in this version, in pony-skin to echo the “hooves” @ ecognoscente.com


full-scale live-action version @ designmuseum.org


So. Happy end-of-the-weekend-ing to all.

IMAGES ABOVE (unless specified otherwise): the first is a meme; all others are by Willy Rizzo and sourced from an Osartz Etc review of a photography exhibition, “Le Corbusier by Willy Rizzo @ Maison de la Roche, Paris” (2012-10-02).


Facebook brought me the following darkly comic gem of post-book writing; a beauty of live performance, audience interaction, and integrated commentary; enabling the transcendence of Schadenfreude in a way unimaginable to the literary mainstream that is The Modern (though very imaginable, of course, to the Medieval and other non-Moderns and other marginalised literatures …):


The fine art of lounging is a collegial, congenial, collaborative one. It is present in every human culture around the globe: the “cradle” of civilisation, at its oldest core, is some sort of bed/couch. It is the seat of, well, the seat and as such the place that brings together the human (and indeed any other “couching” creature) as a whole: from fundamental animality (comfort, safety, bottom, playful desire) to higher animation (mental and expressive activity, intellectual and imaginative play); and the place for conversation, sociable interaction, and cultural transmission: gossip, storytelling, connections and conjunctions of all sorts.

Eventual extension: the place of reading and seat of learning.

Some of lounging’s finest artists and creators have been women, through acts of resistance to socio-political constraints as expressed most overtly by fashion. Lounging furniture has (been) evolved to accommodate long skirts and under-apparatus and up-holstery, and to subvert restraint into enabling leisurely conversation and conspiring.

From Scheherazade resisting eradication, to radicality, and to radical politics: there’s a long intimate intertwining between women and sofas. Salons need salonnières. It is not just (cis-)women but all humans who have benefitted, the sedentary posterior and the horizontal lounging position being common ground and groundedness to us all. Find me a revolution that did not revolve around and derive from radical lounging in lounges.

We’ve survived through adaptation: from adding the necessary sofas, divans, canapés, and couches to our habitat; via key developments in the concept of the chair (the chatty caquetoire, for example); to the culminating high point that is Perriand’s B306 chaise longue.

Also available in bamboo for dreaming catlike of warm sunny days …


from the Charlotte Perriand exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in 2005-06 @ designboom.com


Still haven’t finished marking, though I’ve completed most of the other Tasks. Yes, there is a list; yes, it has little boxes next to each item; yes, I tick them off when done and yes, that gives me tremendous satisfaction and a sense of achievement. How did you guess?

The last word goes to another radical mid-century classic: G.E.M. Anscombe

In lieu of last word (which, as you know, women always get), another radical mid-century classic depicted here as an epitome of cool way beyond Sinatra’s wildest dreams: G.E.M. Anscombe

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