Of Blogs Past Part Two: Patahistory

I started as a student in a history graduate program in 2006. As I contemplated whether graduate school was the right path, my undergraduate adviser cautioned me that graduate school would change me. He didn’t elaborate, but in retrospect I think I understand what he meant. It DID change me. It changed the way I thought about the world. I think it changed me for the better.

One of the crucial lessons I learned during that experience is that real learning takes real humility. Learning changes your brain, which changes your identity. It changes the way you understand the world and the people in it, and it changes the way you interact with everything and everyone around you. If you aren’t changing, you aren’t learning.

The study of history kindled a fire in my mind and I started a blog to share and think through what I was learning as a history graduate student. Casting about for a title I picked up an Alfred Jarry book lying on my desk and decided to title my blog Patahistory (tagline: The History of Imaginary Solutions). The term is taken from Jarry’s neologism ‘pataphysics. I’ll let Wikipedia define ‘pataphysics for me.

“‘Pataphysics (French: ‘pataphysique) is an absurdist, pseudo-scientific literary trope invented by French writer Alfred Jarry (1873–1907), that enigmatically resists being pinned down by a simple definition. One attempt at a definition might be to say that ‘pataphysics is a branch of philosophy or science that examines imaginary phenomena that exist in a world beyond metaphysics; it is the science of imaginary solutions. It is a concept expressed by Jarry in a mock-scientific manner with undertones of spoofing and quackery, in his fictional book Exploits & Opinions of Doctor Faustroll, Pataphysician, in which Jarry riddles and toys with conventional concepts and interpretations of reality.”

‘Pataphysics always has the apostrophe in front of it, and if you’re a Beatles fan you’ve heard the term before.

From ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’:

Joan was quizzical; studied pataphysical
Science in the home.

I eventually ended up writing a ‘Patahistory Manifesto’ which garnered some validating positive attention from fellow history grad students from around the world. (It’s also when I started my gmail account and why my handle is Patadave.)

Writing that blog lead to being invited to participate in a graduate student group blog titled ‘Revise and Dissent‘ at the History News Network. That was a flattering and exciting moment, but I shortly realized I was out of my league. My co-bloggers were all much better writers and far more sophisticated thinkers. All of them are now, I believe, working as professional historians in universities around the globe.

Real life intervened and I chose to move half-way across the nation. My wife was miserable in her job and found a position in Florida. We could either maintain a long-term relationship or I could follow her to a region that had no Ph. D. history program. Without hesitation I opted to follow her to Florida.

While here I finished my master’s in history and turned my attention to becoming a librarian.

NEXT: Eating Tampa & Re/Creating Tampa

Of Blogs Past Part One: Alien Intelligencer

[UPDATE: I wrote this just after Trump’s election.]

After a week or so of media blackout, staying shit-faced drunk and listening to Leonard Cohen’s ‘Everybody Knows’ on continuous loop I finally came down off the ledge. When I did I started reading as much as I could, trying to figure out what the hell happened. Is the US really that profoundly bigoted?

As I read and contemplated, read and pondered, read and thought I realized I haven’t been this turned upside down since just after 9/11. In the months after that I also felt blindsided, like I didn’t understand the world I lived in, or how we had arrived at such a perilous state.

At the time I ran a blog titled ‘Alien Intelligencer’. Originally intended to be a grab-bag of cool things I found on the Internet, it morphed into a space I could process what I learned in the run up to our permanent war.

I kept that blog up until 2008. It was terrific fun and I learned a lot. (The tagline was “There is no other,” which I still think is a pretty good tagline.) I finally shut it down because my interests had shifted. I was in grad school and working on some non-anonymous blogs more in line with my studies.

In the left-hand column of Alien Intelligencer I maintained a list of quotes I found meaningful. Looking back at it, this one seems most prescient:

“The advanced societies of the future will not be governed by reason. They will be driven by irrationality, by competing systems of psychopathology.” –JG Ballard

NEXT: Revise and Dissent & Patahistory

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long-stem rose
Everybody knows