I’m back after my break, so this edition will include some links I bookmarked over the last few months. Enjoy, and glad to be back.

If the financial barriers sound exhausting, there are physical tolls as well. It is physically demanding to be “on” lecturing at the front of a classroom for 18 hours each week. There are no TAs to do the grading. There is no break in the day (add meetings, 12 to 15 office hours per week, and an explosion of student email to those six three-hour courses), and there are no future escapes to dream about: no monthly dinners out at a restaurant, no annual coastal vacations, and no semester-long sabbaticals to conduct research or design a new course. All of your research, grading, course prep, and service work have to happen late at night, because there is no time during the day for anything but that 6–6 load.

The actual instructional work adjuncts perform is harder due to the low levels at which they routinely teach. Introductory students have more needs than majors. NTT faculty in the humanities, for example, are often charged with the task each semester of teaching eighty intro students how to write. That is simply more taxing than teaching sixteen upper-level majors and eight graduate students something in your scholarly field while advising three to four doctoral students, the typical instructional load for a faculty member on the tenure-track at a research university.

Unlike most tenure-track faculty, who slow down post-tenure to explore a hobby unrelated to their work, adjuncts must perform in perpetuity at the very highest level so their contracts will be renewed. Every position requires new syllabi. Very little can be reused from year to year. There can be no parental complaints, no failed teaching experiments, and no devastating student course evaluations. To enhance your value, you take on extra unpaid and underappreciated departmental, institutional, and professional service, which further constrain your schedule. That service, which should feel like a meaningful contribution to the field, ends up feeling like a waste when it remains invisible and undervalued in fields that promote scholarly publication above all.

There is a common, surprisingly straightforward formula for übernovels: Write a historical novel, a contemporary literary novel, and a science-fiction novel, and make them sections of a larger novel. These sections need not be part of the same story; one series of events might be followed by another series of events in a completely different setting and time, and the threads between them might be subtle—sometimes a theme, or maybe just a name, or perhaps simply the fact that the events of the novel are housed between the same two covers. (Part of the allure of these novels is the opportunity to divine the unstated connections.) Unlike autofiction, which seeks to reveal the hidden depths of an individual life, these books seek to dramatize many lives while surfacing the submerged links that tether the past (or versions of the past) to many possible futures. The resulting stories might not be impossible to film, but they would be incredibly expensive to film well, and their authors aren’t constrained by such quotidian concerns as budgets and actor availability.

Self-storage is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States, with rents and occupancy rates at a record-high, according to market research by IBISWorld. Its proliferation, it would seem, goes hand in hand with the growing housing crisis and the tumultuous nature of most people’s lives under neoliberal capitalism, only heightened over the course of the last two years. Practically speaking, storage units hold items for people during times of transition: relocating to a different city, changing homes following a break-up or a divorce, a loved one’s death.

But just because pigeon nests look useless to us does not mean they are useless to pigeons. Most humans, as non-birds, have no relevant expertise in evaluating whether a nest is good or bad. “There’s this idea that the whole group of pigeons and doves are notoriously not the best nest-makers, but that’s putting our own human constructs on it,” said Carlen, now at Washington University in St. Louis, who is one of the few humans actually qualified to judge a pigeon nest.

To appraise whether a pigeon nest is good or bad, you must try to understand the nest from the perspective of a pigeon. As Carlen sees it, a pigeon nest has one ultimate goal: to create an area where the egg will not roll away. 

There are several primary ways that the New York Times typically leverage the opinions of supposed crime “experts.” 

1. Reporters often cite “experts” without providing readers meaningful context on who those individuals are or what conflicts of interest they might have, including their connection to police. 

2. The “experts” are often referred to as a group, generating a weird kind of unaccountable anonymity that also serves to suggest some sort of consensus when there isn’t one. (For example, many articles support otherwise unsupported claims by prefacing them with “experts say” or “analysts say.”)

3. Reporters routinely use “experts” to offer opinions that have no basis in fact or that are false as a way of avoiding providing evidence.  

4. In articles about safety and crime, the Times routinely tilts its “expert” roster toward experts with experience in carceral bureaucracies and away from experts in public health, education, poverty, housing, urban planning, environmental justice, medicine, etc. 

5. More brazenly, the Times also tilts its “expert” roster toward those with pro-incarceration ideologies. These pro-cop “experts” often justify and normalize state violence, and they almost always suggest the need for more resources for the profitable punishment bureaucracy in response to social problems cops and prisons can’t solve.

An interesting fact about another well know, popular American poet, Emily Dickinson, was that she had a lot of bird references, comparatively speaking … [she] mentions birds in 220 of her 1,800 poems. “Mostly she mentions them as contributions to the texture of the poem, as an analogue, a simile, a comparison, a detail, or a member of a list. Apart from her 150 uses of the word “bird,” she names the robin 38 times, the boblink 12, the sparrow 9, the jay 7, the hummingbirds 5, and so forth on down through the crow and the oriole 4, the bluebird, the phoebe, and the wren 3, the blackbird 2, while there is just one mention of the nightingale.”

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♬ original sound – Adam Conover

Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.