David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
For The Thousandth Time, Just Indulge Me!

June 1, 2024

With this blog, I will have reached 1000 original (for whatever worth that term has in this scenario) posts for this website. I am not one to self-promote (It's All Academic proved that 14 years ago) and yet I feel some kind of recognition of this milestone should occur, especially since this totals somewhere around 720,000 words. 100 blogs over 13 1/2 years averages out to about 74 a year, not counting some "posts" within posts, while also discounting any number of unfinished posts.

Anything I might say here feels incredibly self-serving, even if I am proud that this website has never once had a pop-up ad, never once asked for a donation. I never intended to make any money from these thoughts (outside of hoping it might encourage a few more people to buy It's All Academic providing me that life-changing $1.88 royalty). Very quickly, I realized only people who really want to be here stop here, with maybe a few accidentally ending up here, me hoping they might stay and ponder the view for a few minutes.

Conservatively, the website has cost me me between $5000 and $6000 to maintain since 2011, so I suppose I have the right to write whatever I want, no matter how self-serving. I look back at 1000 blogs and can honestly say that all of this has been a labor of love, with the emphasis almost always on the love, but too often also on the labor.

With my song series complete in less than two weeks, I do need to determine what to write next. That realization terrifies. I have tried a lot in 13 1/2 years and feel like a dry well. However, there is a compulsion to continue, as if I am Hercules awaiting my next assignment from King Eurystheus. Given that I once compared myself to Sisyphus, my arrogance to see me as Hercules with these labors is not a stretch. I hereby present to you my 9 labors so far, and what they share from the Hercules myth. And even though I am retired, I am still an academic and, thus, need to be more pretentious and compare myself to Heracles, the original name of this great Greek figure.

Just for background, here are Heracles' 12 labors as captured at www.greekmythology.com:

  • Kill the Nemean lion;
  • Kill the Learnaean hydra;
  • Capture the Ceryneian hind;
  • Capture the Erymanthain boar;
  • Clean the Augean stables (in one day);
  • Kill the Stymphalian birds;
  • Capture the Cretan bull;
  • Steal the mares of Diomedes;
  • Steal the girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons;
  • Steal the cattle of the monster, Geryon;
  • Steal the Hesperidean apples;
  • Capture Cerberus, guardian of the underworld.

If you don't know the myth, Heracles' originally had 10 labors, but the King refused to accept two, and added the final two. Boy, if that doesn't seem symbolic of a working life.

So, how can I possibly compare myself to such a slayer, capturer, and thief of historical proportions, you ask, oh skeptical reader (I note you have no hesitation regarding my ability to clean out stables)? Well, I can promise you I did my best, even avoiding the obvious plagiarism that could come with stealing in the academic world.

In the beginning (good Lord, can I make this even more pretentious?), I started by posting almost entirely about higher education, following the lead of It's All Academic, unable to hold back on parody, satire or (relatively) gentle criticism. You could say I was biting the hand that fed me, or killing the golden goose, or perhaps eating from the forbidden apple. On that note, let's just say I rivaled Heracles stealing the golden apples from the Garden of Hesperides. Not counting a few higher-education-based blogs buried within some other categorization (to be accounted for below), that is 289 apples, maybe more mealy than golden, I stole through the years.

Back in 2012, I blogged daily (at least "work daily") about the every day life of a Chief Academic Officer, a series called "Higher Education Administrator Diaries" (or HEAD). Running for 15 weeks (a full Fall semester), this totaled 70 entries (hey, if it was a holiday, I took it off here too; in addition four days of conferences got summed up in one day). This regimen required me to be more reactive to the stuff that fell on my plate day to day (I often said that the best thing about being a Chief Academic Officer is that everyday is different; it was also the worst thing). Hopefully you can smell where I am going with this, Heracles cleaning the Augean stables for a day. Hey, if you have never been a Chief Academic Officer, you have no idea of the manure you must attend. Week Six alone from that series captures so much of the effort: scheduling challenges; meeting with high school partners; surveying; and conferences. That's a lot of fertilizer that needs to be shoveled.

Then in 2013, recognizing that I needed structure more than randomness to fulfill my goals of regular academic content, I launched a series called Bracketology 2013, which ran 64 of the most pressing issues in higher education through a mock NCAA-type tournament. This series totaled a mere 7 entries, as only the championship match, remediation going up against graduation rates, merited its own full blog. Other "match-ups" got only brief summations within full discussions of a "region." I had three specific regions (money, students, and faculty), my version of the three-headed giant, Geryon, the monster's body being the fourth (general) regional, from which graduation rates emerged.

Finally, still within the realm of higher education, for a couple of months in 2013, I posted "Higher Education Headlines We Really Want To See," now collected on one page, but which were quick pot shots through a changed word in a higher education article, such as changing "Students Hold Protest of Emory President" to "Students Hold Protest of Amoral President," or, "Georgia State U. To Grant Course Credit for MOOCs" becoming "Georgia State U. To Grant Course Credit for BMOCs." In this case, I am sure everyone can appreciate my middle-school maturity in saying I am capturing a boor instead of the Erymanthian Boar.

When I couldn't find anything within my industry to light my creative juices, I often found targets in the general social milieu, ranging from the Watson AI phenomena on Jeopardy to high school shootings to Pokemon Go! In retrospect, it feels kind of stupid for me to go after so many targets, as if I was trying to slay the 7-headed hydra, ignoring its regenerative properties. That hasn't stopped me from going after 63 of those heads, not yet ready to put down my weapon.

When COVID hit, I went into serious reflection mode, 19 posts, mostly poems, regarding the pandemic, between March 12 and April 27. I probably became as religious as I ever have been with a quartet of four horsemen analogy poems, suggesting, I suppose, that these were the human-flesh-eating mares of Diomedes.

Most recently, I, of course, took on the Pandemic Panoply, the writing of 365 posts about 365 different artists through 365 specific songs (actually sitting at 356). Given the origin of "panoply" as a Greek suit of armor, this seems appropriately to strolling into Pelopennese, Greece, to slay the Nemean lion.

After my 2017 heart attack, I started a series called Cardiac Chronicles, a series of 12 poems and essays capturing my physical and mental state during that recovery time (which continued, intermittently, into 2019, and could at any time resurface). Given that I was so close to death that July of 2017, this must have been my very brief trip to the underworld (where as one friend said, Satan rejected me) and returned with the beast Cerberus. Granted, we got Grizzly late in 2017 after Sylvester died, but I will gladly call him my dog from Hell.

All along, I have never been above simply forcing poetry on any unsuspecting reader, perhaps my Stymphalian Birds, given the dangerous, sometime ugly nature of what should be beautiful beings. I cast out such birds 159 times, although sometimes these poems were about higher education or something in the social realm, so there was some carryover. What can I say? I have no trouble multi-tasking through my labors, unlike Heracles who simply had to do each one at a time.  Pansy.

I also wasn't above promoting my book or truly self-indulging, done 22 times, although most between 2011 and 2013. Since this did almost nothing to help with the book sales, this must be my capturing of the Cretan bull, which once Heracles had that accomplished, still ended up being released in Marathon where it lived out its life.

So, all of this leaves me wondering what my next labor of love will be for this website. I have been thinking about writing another book, but unless I serialize through this website (and I can't see doing that), that will be no help. I only have a few of Heracles' labors to coordinate. Certainly the stealing of the garter of Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons, should be my next trick. I might have wanted to try that when I was a younger man, but this old man may need the girdle himself. What is my equivalent there? I am afraid to Google "amazon & girdle," however, to generate ideas.

Still, I never could have imagined in October 2010 cranking out 1000 of these things. And 1001 (a poem) through 1010 (the rest of the song series) are queued up. What can I say? This website has kept me out of real trouble that might get me into a higher education headline we (I) really don't want to see.