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Monday, September 22, 2003

Why The Buggy Prof Frequently Lists Different Versions of the Articles Here

Originally published here in early May this year, this article --- prompted by a suggestion from a visitor --- subsequently climbed a golden ladder to cyberspace heaven, along with its sisters and brothers, several dozen of them all mercilessly scythed out of time by a nasty hacker attack on July 1st. The demon! Not to worry though. Little by little, as with the current metamorphosis, the ghostly originals have sprouted angel-wings and descenden graciously back to earth where, for good or bad, they agree to start a reincarnated life on the buggy site again. It explains why, a good half of the time --- maybe more often than that, come to think of it --- you'll find various versions of the articles listed in the title.

After some bugged-out bantamweight reflection --- nothing more: about all a droning, on-the-fritz brain is capable of these days --- prof bug has decided to start listing the latest version-number of an article. The reason for the change? Nothing cosmic, just something worth while . . . or so it seems. How so?

Well, as regular visitors here are likely to know, these are fairly long articles --- sometimes 25 to 35 pages in Word: at times even longer --- and the urge to get out something every day or two means that you can't leisurely do what we chalky pedagogues prefer to do with our incandescent stuff: write up with calm patience a full first draft; then hang loose another few days and get some distance from your initial thoughts while letting the murky unconscious parts of your mind buzz away in their dark and dismal subterranean chambers; then maybe --- just maybe if you're in luck, no need trying --- eventually find that some idea or two has been sent sneaking upwards to center-stage consciousness. After that, the rest's a cakewalk. Nothing more to do than glide back slowly Fred-Astaire style to the pc and revise with those giddy brainwave serendipities as new guides. No hurry, old boy. Take your time; take your time. Next grant application not even due until next month.

Oh, and be sure to pad your footnotes, demonstrate your up-to-date savvy with advanced statistical methods/game theory modeling/conceptual analysis and other wizard-like techniques, and drone on excessively about the follies of fellow scholars who have dealt with the subject in the past. And of course, all the while you're revising in a gliding elegant manner, glance wonderingly at your original style; maybe even giggle or moan as is your wont at all the swarming howlers and logical idiocies and bewildering lack of evidence for general points; and not least, depending on your staying power, suck in a slow long breath or two and iron out all the awful remaining wrinkles with determined grit: sentences running on too long, lack of clarity, a windy section, an even windier one a few moments later, and typos galore.
On and on, or more likely off and on, as the days buzz by . . . until finally, voila, voila: a finished pedant-product all cleaned and polished to what you think is a gleaming shine emerges, your final version. The academic pace, mind you. Acknowledgements chock-a-block on the first page: Our thanks to the Ford Foundation or to the US Academy of This or That or to President Jacques Chirac for the Legion d'Honneur nomination that cost me only $25,000 --- Sharon Stone a fairly recent recipient, believe it or not: hmmm, what did Sharon have to do to earn it so meritoriously in Paris? Could I do the same? Would I want to??? --- and not least to Jack and Jill for not tumbling down on top of you in the course of your strung-out leisurely writing-phases in between, let us not forget, droning, ego-driven department meetings --- the stakes trivial, the narcissistic clashes humongous --- and those garbled lectures where your mind isn't really on the stuff . . . rather, full of hot-wire fantasies about meeting Sharon Stone afterwards out there on the soft lush grass near the lagoon on the edge of the UC Santa Barbara campus, darkness conveniently enshrouding the area, a blanket and bottles of iced chardonnay no less conveniently on hand --- here doll, have a second bottle to guzzle on; lots more where it comes from --- and tell her with a gamy measured look how much you admire women who have earned the Legion d'Honneur.

Or, as the great pop song has it, intoned by the wonderful Sarah Vaughn:

Nice work if you can get it; And you can get it if you try.


Yes, each and every one of these debts all duly set out there in your preface of lengthy acknowledgements. Not to forget mom and dad for making you possible in the first place. And the electricians for making PC's possible. And Sharon Stone for making . . . all on the grassy lush ground next to the UCSB lagoon, heavy darkness conveniently all around. With, of course, in the upshot of these acknowledged debts, a good 69 potential critics cunningly neutralized by force of cant and hypocritical praise on those same pages . . . all those gooey warm-fuzzies, you understand, offered up as modest gestures for all the unstinting and unselfish readings and suggestions that these 69 potential critics sent shooting your way. Yes! Yes! What generous guys and gals you all are! Thanks, thanks everyone! Since the day Noah first floated his arc, have there ever been more wonderfully selfless humans on earth?

None of which malarkey, mind you --- enough to gag a small army on --- will be taken seriously by anyone. Anyone! Because look . . . even they, the 69 greatest humans who ever bounced about the earth since Noah's days --- who, in truth, most likely ran their eyes rapidly over your ms. in between gulps of coffee and doughnuts and giggles galore, or later in the day, the sun down, the stars up, in between even longer gulps of bourbon or maybe scotch or vodka or all three at once --- know as well as you do that their tips were noticeably unhelpful and unmindful and full of uptight tut-tuts at all your uncovered follies. Doubly so, if your follies happen to clash with their even nuttier hobbyhorse obsessions.

What? You mean to say, old boy, that you've never read the 19th issue of the lamentably defunct but iconic ‘Academic Adventures on Moonless Transylvanian Nights,' particularly the long letter of grief sent by none other than Count D' himself, set out in the second appendix --- the writing curiously red-splotched --- about how his humanitarian exploits and selfless generosity in situ have been monstrously neglected by the scholarly community back here . . . not to mention all those vulgarian Hollywood movie-types --- except of course Sharon Stone (did you hear that she got a Legion d'Honneur last year? My oh my, what did she have to do to earn it?) --- and on no better ground than that the Count's writings about himself resist easy translation into non-parametric statistical modeling? Yes, hard to believe it, this sudden exposed gap in your savvy-store. Not like you at all, ha! ha! But look: no need to let your mind turn fretful. As luck has it, you'll find an attachment enclosed here --- only 621 pages long (the 271 pages of footnotes to follow) --- of my suave-polished deconstructive analysis of Count D's assorted grouses and squawks, only 17.33% of which, you'll be happy to hear, turn out to be statistically valid using my latest technical innovation, yep my own little brainstorm . . . the inverted sideways-split T-Test/Chi-Square Hexameter. Enjoy! Enjoy!

Well, Ta Ta! old boy. Here's to your next grant. And don't worry. Should you have trouble reading the Count's long letter in my enclosure --- written in a weird Rumanian dialect that, as it happens, only six other people in the world besides yours truly turn out to know --- not to fret. Just let me know, and I'll send you my definitive translation.


Then the last stage of academic writing.

The final ms. sent off quickly, phew what a relief to get rid of it; postage paid by some grant --- "No, no need for insurance coverage, thank you very much; just third-class please. And oh, may I have a receipt for the IRS? And possibly for the Ford Foundation too? And of course for my parents who made all this possible, not least me at birth?" . . . with the recipient of said package likely to be some crapulous on-the-make agent or an editor in the midst of a divorce and a breakdown with a drugged-out brain or maybe a journal board somewhere in the fuzzy distance where politically correct fanatics, full of malice and mini-brainpower to match, comb through your ms. for telltale signs of very naughty and incorrect thoughts. What, he referred to a 13 year female student as a girl??? Can't believe it, the nasty caveman chauvinist! Call Madonna!! Notify the Dixie Chicks!!! See if there isn't a witch-hunt tribunal in full blast at UCSB to investigate!!!! For the buggy prof of late, truth to tell, that somewhere suspiciously located in a never-never land of barren intellect way beyond the tangled confines of the Saragossa sea . . . looming like the Lost Continent of Atlantis, mentally speaking. Or maybe, come to think of it, a madhouse of malevolent nitwits hiding out from the authorities.

No, no time for such leisurely pedant-crammed writing on the buggy site: all that ho-hum nitty-gritty of university-housed wind-machines, too much time and too many grant-forms on their hands.

What the flitting, oddly undisciplined prof usually ends up doing here, on the buggy site, is much more hectic: shooting off a banged-out, breakneck version with bursting energy --- in the process all mental hell broken loose, typos and teeming stupidities piled up, a tiny Everest of them; then later, maybe the next day as his slightly manic mind conjures up a whirring idea or two from a pitch-black subterranean torture-chamber of his inner world, darting back buzz-buzz like to the pc and bursting out a few ideas here and there in an on-the-fly, catch-as-catch-can way --- a swarming cloud of them --- plus hastily pruning this or that idiocy while trying to make sense of an obscurantist ratiocination that somehow had wedged itself into the borderland sections in between. Desolate borderland, not a good place to be; ever. Especially of the mental sort. Avoid it like the Black Death. Whatever, over two or three days, the sequential changes here can be startlingly different from the initial version.

Hence the decision to list versions. Note the above article's title: you'll see what I mean.