Central Banks, Neutral Policy, and Economic Structure
Anybody Feel Like Making a Cleaned-Up Transcript of This: Historical Scholarship and the New Media?

Weblogger of the Month: Scott Eric Kaufman

Preview of Weblogger of the Month Scott Eric Kaufman

Scott McLemee: Obituary of Scott Eric Kaufman: "Scott Eric Kaufman--an American critic and journalist who developed a readership while blogging as a graduate student in English--died in Houston on Monday following multiple organ failure and acute complications... about a month short of his 40th birthday...

...A great many Inside Higher Ed readers will know his work--whether from his blog Acephalous or more recently when he wrote for Salon and The A.V. Club, among other venues--and I hope that they will join me in trying to help his family with medical expenses.... The past is full of dumb controversies.... I doubt anyone coming of age in the present decade can imagine how intense the discussion once was over whether or not graduate students or junior faculty could afford the risk of having a blog--indeed, whether even someone with tenure might not endanger any claim to professional respect by blogging. No, seriously, it was an issue. The year was 2005. A would-be moral entrepreneur calling himself Ivan Tribble’s... admonishing of younger academics about the risks of blogging was... rhetorical sleight of hand: the real point was to rally the gatekeepers, to warn them that nothing good could come of this new way of constituting and engaging a public.

SEK was among the first to respond... [and] also contributed what I’d say was the last word on the subject.... In 2006, he organized a panel on blogging for that year’s MLA and took a survey of his readership, which proved to be, as he told a packed room at the convention, “highly educated, consisting of a group best described as ‘the unusually literate.’” Out of the nearly 800 responses, he said:

two hundred and eleven were graduate students in English; another 172 of them were professors; 164 were historians, most of whom were professors; after that the disciplines begin to break down. Forty-two philosophers, 27 sociologists, 24 neuroscientists, 18 students of religious studies, 11 political scientists, seven physicists, three classicists and one self-described ‘freelance librarian’ named Rich.

He went on to explain:

My list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, merely suggestive of the intellectual community an unspectacular graduate student can create when he spends an hour or two writing for someone other than himself, his committee and the lucky 11 people who’ll skim his work, if, by some miracle, it lands in a flagship journal. My ideas are out there, circulating, in way not often seen outside of conferences and seminar rooms, but the diversity of the crowd forces me to find some way to communicate with my readers in terms they’ll all be able to understand. This doesn’t mean, as some would have it, that I’m simplifying my ideas for a general audience.

That any of this might even be possible came as a revelation to some people. Earlier this month, a young professor at a conference mentioned to me that reading Acephalous and The Valve (a now-defunct group blog SEK participated in) had, in effect, bridged the gap between what he’d hoped to find in graduate school and the realities he had to accept once there...


Scott Erik Kaufman: November 17 at 7:34pm: "I'm dead -- well, not yet. Still sorting it out. But I'm entering an entering an end-of-life facility at the end of the week, to die in Houston. It's been fun, but such fun can only last so long -- time to get to the difficult business of dying."



Scott Erik Kaufman: Assailed by the Miraculous - Acephalous: Three weeks ago Friday I went to the UCI Cashier's Office to settle two outstanding debts...

Overdue Library Fine: $12.50
Fall Student Fees: $2,640.00

I wrote the UC Regents a check, snaked through the Cashier's line and handed the check to the teller.  She smiled and chirped:

"Have a great weekend!"

So you can imagine my surprise when I went to register for the Fall Quarter and learned from the Registrar that I hadn't paid my Student Fees.  I walked over to the Cashier's Office.  I snaked through the Cashier's line.  I questioned the teller about the status of my account.

The teller pursed her lips at her monitor and asked me whether I paid my fees on time. 

I said I had. 

She asked whether I'd mailed them or handed them to a teller. 

I said I'd handed them to a teller.

She asked whether the check I'd written had been cashed. 

I said it had. 

She excused herself for a moment.

The teller had excused herself for more than a moment.  Much more.

I waited. 

Tapped my fingers.  Pulled my ear.  Fiddled with buttons. 

Ten minutes went by. 

I leaned over the partition.  Looked around.  Leaned back.  Tapped fingers. 

Ten more minutes passed. 

I huffed audibly.  Crossed my arms.  Scowled. 

That did the trick.  The teller returned and said:

"Did you pay a library fine the same day?"

I said that I had. 

"How much was it for?"

I said how much it was for.

"Because the library applied all the funds you deposited that day to the overdue fee."

"They did?"

"They did."

"Why'd they do that?"

"They don't know."

"Will they undo it?"

"They said they'll try."

"They said they'll try to refund the $2,640 they applied to a $12.50 overdue fee?"

"That's what they said."

"Did they indicate whether they thought they'd be successful?"

"They didn't say."

"Did they say what I should do if they weren't successful?"

"They didn't say."

"But they did say they'd try to refund the $2,640 they applied to a $12.50 overdue fee?"

"That's what they said."

"Did they happen to say when they'd try to refund the $2,640 they applied to a $12.50 overdue fee?"

"They said because they assessed the fine last month the money's already been reallocated—"

"Can they allocate it back?"

"They said it's not that simple.  In the meantime, why don't you pay your student fees now and work out this situation with the library later?"

I looked at her as only a man without $2,640 in his wallet looks at a teller who assumes he does.  (For reference: a subtle variation of "You Must Be Fucking Kidding Me.")  I continued staring until she looked uncomfortable.

"If you pay your student fees now you can work out the library situation later."

I stared some more. 

"I'd be happy to help you process your student fees."

The staring evolved into glowering around the words "happy" and "help."  I was determined to remain mute until she presented cartoonish symptoms of discomfort.  I wanted to see the color rise to her face.  I wanted to watch an exaggerated tug of her collar.  I wanted to hear a gulp audible across the room.  I wanted to—

"Do you not have the money right now?  Because you can't register for courses until your fees are paid."

I wanted to leave the Cashier's Office without saying another word. 

I nodded and headed to the door.  At my retreating frame she yelled:

"Have a great weekend!"

"It's off to a wonderful start."

"You sure can say that again!"

"I'm sure you can."

"I sure can!"


Scott Erik Kaufman: There are words for this, but they're meaningless. - Acephalous: "There are words for this, but they're meaningless...

...After the toll booth, a wall of fog appeared. Traffic crawled, then halted. I idled in the middle lane, flanked on the right by a semi-trailer. We breached the fog at about the same time, but the truck slipped a few car-lengths farther forward. On NPR someone said something about some pressing issue, but I couldn't pay attention because in my rear-view mirror a luxury sedan was barreling into the fog-bank at a speed I can't estimate but knew was inadvisable.

I made every effort to become visible despite the fog. I laid into the horn, turned on the hazards, and at the last moment, as I readied for impact, I was seen.

The sedan switched lanes, slammed into the semi, spun some and, irrevocably crushed, fell from the road.

I pulled over and jumped from the car, ran to help, as did someone else, maybe the driver of the semi, but someone from that direction. We reached the sedan at about the same time, him dialing 911, me pointing at the car, us running toward it together to help, but there was no one to help.

What was there, in the car, was beyond help.

I must've stumbled, or leaned forward, because the vomit was over my right arm, as if I'd braced myself beforehand. I took off my shirt, looked at the other man, who either puked first or reacted to me, and we stared, not at each other so much, but still, we stared and I felt that he felt the act was mutual. Was a recognition.

I made my way to my car.

I drove to campus.

Bought a sweatshirt from the bookstore and ran into a friend on the way to class. His "How are you?" loosed a torrent of unprocessed words punctuated by profanity, words that made what happened mean, in the basest sense. I went to class, set the kids to writing, walked out of the class. Called the wife, who talked me into telling them what happened. I did. Said they could peer review what they'd written and I'd let them go.

Then I didn't. Said instead that I would teach the class, that it was better than the meaningless pacing, the nothing I could do to erase what I'd seen, the nothing I could've done to have done something. I fell into the rhythm of the class, lectured more than I usually do, but forgot, for those minutes, what I'd seen, what I'd done but couldn't do.

Now I'm in the library writing this. Writing helps. It's the process. It's what makes the word mean what they mean. I still have another hour and fifteen minutes until my next class, and now that I've written this, I'm not sure what to do. I think I might describe a circle around the campus, sate hunger with weary, because food is not a viable option at the moment.


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