2013 Posts that Weren’t

Every year, I come up with ideas for posts that I never get around to writing. I jot these ideas down on scraps of paper, intending to work on them further, but for whatever reason, they remain in limbo. So, just for fun, here’s a list of 2013 posts that weren’t.

What Walmart and the Academy Have in Common

Synopsis: A lot of humanities academics are critical of corporations in general and Walmart in particular (I could’ve also used McDonalds). I planned to write a post that poked holes in their unjustified sense of moral superiority by pointing out several ways that the academy’s treatment of adjuncts is on a par with Walmart’s treatment of its employees. For some reason, this post never made it past the R&D phase. I still think there’s a good idea here though.

Wealth and Fame He’s Ignored

Synopsis: I was reading up on the life and times of comic book artist Steve Ditko. For those who aren’t uber-geeks, Ditko is the co-creator of Spider-man and the creator of Doctor Strange, The Question, Hawk and Dove, The Creeper and many other more obscure characters. More fascinating than his fictional stories, however, is the story of his falling out with collaborator Stan Lee (who received most of the credit for Spider-man and other characters that he created in collaboration with Ditko and other artists) and his eventual withdrawal from comics. He became very bitter toward the industry and, unfortunately, never enjoyed the success he deserved. I thought there might be a lesson here for post-academics who are tempted to carry their resentment with the academy forward. In the end, however, I thought the set-up might be too obscure and uninteresting to the average reader. I like the title though; it’s a reference to the Spider-man cartoon theme song.

Who You Gonna Call?

Synopsis: Intended as a Halloween-themed post, this idea was inspired when I realized that Ghostbusters could be interpreted as a post-academic entrepreneurial success story. I thought that was a pretty good hook, and planned to draw further lessons, albeit in a humorous way, from the film, but nothing came of it. Oh well. I don’t think there was much substance here beyond the initial observation. Perhaps it was better suited to a tweet than a full post.

Random Thoughts on Entrepreneurship

Synopsis: Inspired by one of elkement’s posts, I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned (so far) about entrepreneurship. I really appreciated her point about the difference between social media followers and customers. It seems that digital marketing gurus conflate those categories. However, I never developed it because I couldn’t really improve on Elke’s post. Go read it.

An Exercise in Counterfactual History

Synopsis: Although the post you’re reading is an exercise in counterfactual history (what could have been), the post I had planned was going to explore the question: What if Christianity had never caught on and the ancient philosophical schools had continued instead of being shut down in 529? What would the world look like today? I came up with this idea while I was researching philosophical counseling. Many philosophical counseling resources come from the ancient schools, Epicureanism and Stoicism in particular. Unfortunately, most people in our culture don’t know to look to these sources. One plausible theory is that philosophy has been crowded out of the market by religion. However, if Christianity had never taken off, I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to imagine philosophy taking on a ‘pastoral’ role in peoples’ lives. Instead of churches, we might go to Stoic centers for our spiritual needs. I think that philosophy can still play this role in the lives of secular people today, but it’s fun to speculate about such an alternate reality.

The Oracle

Synopsis: Speaking of alternate realities, this was an idea for a science fiction short story that has been kicking around in my head for about ten years. It came from thinking about what empirical proof of the existence of God would look like in reality. The basic plot involves a Carl Sagan-type atheistic scientist who is doing SETI-type research and comes across messages that purport to be from God. Over the years, I’ve actually researched some of the technical details of how this might plausibly happen, but I’ve never gotten around to writing it. The story would explore the questions: ‘How could we differentiate God from an extraterrestrial intelligence (a common sci-fi trope, I know)?’ and ‘How would the world be different (or the same) if everyone were convinced there is a God?’ I toyed with the idea of finally writing the story and sharing it on the blog, but it remains an idea in the back of my mind. I’m not much of a fiction writer anyways.

RIP Christopher Hitchens

Synopsis: Continuing with the religious (or anti-religious) theme, Christopher Hitchens died on December 15, 2011. I had planned to write something about him on the one year anniversary, but I was in the Netherlands defending my dissertation and didn’t get around to it. Unfortunately, I didn’t write anything for the two year anniversary either, so I’ll take the opportunity now. I liked Hitchens, not because I agreed with everything he said, but because he was unpredictable, a rare quality in editorial writers. The right didn’t like his critique of religion and endorsement of Obama and the left didn’t like his questioning the morality of abortion or his support for the Iraq War. He didn’t fit neatly into American political categories. Always the contrarian, you never knew what he would say, but whether you agreed or disagreed with him, he was a formidable debater, rhetorician, and polemicist. It’s a duller scene without him.

Papal Bull

Synopsis: I couldn’t resist the title. Hitch would approve. I planned this post as a response to TIME naming Pope Francis its ‘Person of the Year’ and as a response to the pontiff’s recent apostolic letter about free markets and their impact on the poor. I shared this article from The Atlantic via Twitter and Facebook and it struck a chord with a few of my friends and we went a few rounds on the subject of whether free markets really make the poor worse off or whether they raise people out of poverty. I learned from the microcosm of the Facebook discussion that this subject is a perfect storm of religion and politics. I figured that people get emotional enough about the political issue without bringing an implied critique of religion into the mix. For this reason, I decided against writing on it so close to the holidays, though it is definitely a conversation worth having.

So there’s a sampling of 2013 posts that weren’t. And those are only the ‘good’ ideas! Who knows, one day I might get around to writing them. Here’s an idea: maybe readers could vote for the one they’d most like to see and I’ll write it. Alternatively, if you’re inspired by one of these ideas and want to run with it yourself, go for it. I’ll see you in 2014!

10 comments on “2013 Posts that Weren’t

  1. Larry says:

    Hitch. And Counterfactual history. I’d love to read them both.

  2. You know, I’d collaborate on the oracle project, you know, contribute the fiction part

  3. elkement says:

    That’s an epic list!! I can relate to your approach of providing outlines of posts that never were. In a sense I did the same with book reviews some minutes ago.

    From a “strategic perspective” it might be better to keep those drafts secret until they emerge into full-blown posts. But I believe it is better to provide the concise initial idea to readers instead of boring them to death by watering down the inital idea (as you have explained for the ghostbusters post for example).
    You should partner with a visual artist, a cartoonist for example. I don’t know why but most of these ideas would lend themselves to “viral” images.

    Thanks for the backlink – glad you liked it! Actually the best stories about people who just “like an idea” and “follow” instead of buying are those including real-life contacts, not social media. But it is to hard to sanitize / anonymize so unfortunately I haven’t given more colorful examples. Probably thiese will morph into a dark satire someday.

    Happy New Year, Dan – your blog has always been an inspiration! (… says the follower :-/ )

    • danielmullin81 says:

      From a strategic perspective, you’re probably right, although I doubt that most of these ideas will ever be fully fleshed out. The synopses were as far as I got with them. They weren’t substantial enough to stand alone, but I thought there might be some value in presenting them together. I’m also not too worried about anybody ‘stealing’ these ideas; in fact, if they inspire somebody else to develop them, that’s better than having them stay in limbo.

      I like the idea of partnering with a visual artist. I’ve always liked cartoons and comic books, so that would be a fun project.

      Happy New Year to you too, Elke. The inspiration is mutual.

  4. Paula says:

    Looking forward to your 2014 posts! Happy New Year!! Love the Papal Bull and all the other “posts that weren’t” (but not quite sure how, beyond the need to avoid self-damaging bitterness, does the post-academic experience parallel that of Ditko…some other scholar “ripping off” your contributions?).

    Great blog…thanks for your voice!!

    • danielmullin81 says:

      Thanks, Paula. Yeah, the thread connecting Ditko and post-acs is pretty tenuous, which is ultimately why I decided against developing the post.

  5. I save blog ideas as well but I’m not sharing them yet because I’m ever optimistic about their potential. I’ve had a plan for years though, about a book of art ideas I’ve never made. There might be 300 of them (haven’t counted).

    I love the Christian thing not catching on, a really great idea. Novel, graphic novel, movie?

    • danielmullin81 says:

      Good luck on your book project. I also have a few book ideas, but time will tell whether or not they see the light of day.

      The Christianity not catching on parallel reality is an interesting backdrop for a novel. I just wouldn’t want to fall into the trap of some sci-fi and fantasy that build really cool worlds, but have weak characters and plot. I would need to come up with an interesting story to tell against that backdrop.

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