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Wednesday, August 31, 2005
That's PROFESSOR Lecturess to you!
I have to admit that I'm really digging on being called "Professor," even though it's a little weird that a number of my students address me simply by that title (no last name). All those years subjected to the academic hierarchy, which is especially rigid in the INRU English department, may make one resent those artificial distinctions (for example, the way that, as a 4th-year grad student--orals passed, dissertation begun--I was still expected to address junior faculty my own age as "Professor So-and-So"), but they also make one place an undue significance on those same distinctions.
Being an authority figure, though, also means being a public figure. I was sitting in the student center today, looking over the materials for my comp class, when a student from my morning survey noticed me and came over. She told me how much she was enjoying the course and how well the classes are managed (oh yes, my lass, keep the flattery coming!) . . . and then out of the blue asked me if I'd published anything. I said, uh, yeah, and told her what about, and then changed the subject to her major and her interests. Then she said, "The rumor going around is that you got your degree from INRU; is that right? That's really impressive!" And I was thinking, there are RUMORS about me already? Or is this your way of saying that you Googled me?
Either way, it's bizarre.* I'm not used to having people care all that much about who I am or what I've done. But I have to admit that it's kind of fun, and I do like that whole pacing-in-front-of-the-room, being-the-center-of-attention thing. Which makes me wonder: is this the first step down a path of raving egomania? And if so, what can halt that progress?
Oh, right: the job market. Ego now firmly in check.
*Of course, I would totally have Googled my professors or TAs if Google had been around when I was in college, but that's because I am, in my alternate life, a private detective, and I have a compulsive desire to find out everything possible about everyone I meet.
Fall Semester: Day Two
On balance, things went pretty well, at least on the teaching end of things (I'll spare you the drama of my morning attempts to get to campus--the connecting train that wasn't there, the expensive ticket on an alternate train service, the taxi cab, etc.).
The morning section of my survey was great, though I'm not sure it was particularly due to anything I did; my lesson plan and my ideas were solid enough, but I think it's really the fact that I have such lively, eager, and smart kids in that section. Every question I asked--"why does this poem begin this way?"; "what seems to constitute a good king in this society?"--got me all kinds of raised hands, and mostly pretty thoughtful responses. By contrast, my afternoon class was sluggish and just didn't seem that into the material. I had perhaps five obviously engaged students, who were giving me good stuff, but the rest seemed to be bored and/or uninterested.
But whatever. If the success of my morning class isn't entirely my own doing, I refuse to regard the not-quite-success of my afternoon class as entirely my doing, either.
As for my comp class--I'm going to have to whup their asses next week. Through a minor miracle, I managed to secure a TV/VCR after all, and so was able to screen the very cool, very provocative video with which the course is supposed to start. (I'd run into the director of the writing program a few hours earlier and mentioned in passing all the drama I was having with Media Services; he was outraged and promised to give them a call. I wasn't expecting much, but when I showed up for class, lo, there sat the media cart.)
I'm sure the movie surprised and perhaps discomfited some of them, but even after filling out worksheets as they watched that directed them toward some of the key issues, they had . . . nothing much to say about it. Even very general questions--"what surprised you about this, what did you like, what did you dislike?"--went mostly unanswered. Now, admittedly this is the remedial comp class, which gets those students who need to work up their writing skills before they can take the required comp class, but having marginal writing skills does not, last time I checked, necessitate having marginal thinking skills, or a dearth of opinions.
I did have two students who had some great things to say, but in a class of 16 they just couldn't carry the conversation themselves--and no one else seemed to want to engage with or respond to them. I really can't figure it out: are these kids bored? shy? uncomfortable? Who knows. But in any case, I'm going to have to give them a stern lecture next week about the importance of participation, and I'll force them to work in groups and talk to each other if I have to.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
The boredom meme
As seen at Cheeky's, Cynical Prof's, and elsewhere. Too tired for a real post today, so you get to learn fun personal facts about me instead.
[ ] I've run away from home.
[ ] I listen to political music.
[ ] I collect comic books.
[X] I shut others out when I'm sad.
[X] I open up to others easily. (Depends what about.)
[ ] I am keeping a secret from the world.
[ ] I watch the news.
[ ] I own over 5 rap CDs.
[ ] I own an I-Pod.
[ ] I own something from Hot Topic. (??)
[ ] I love Disney movies.
[X] I am a sucker for hair/eyes.
[ ] I don't kill bugs.
[X] I curse regularly.
[ ] I paid for that cell phone ringtone.
[ ] I have "x"s in my screen name.
[ ] I've slipped out a "lol" in a real conversation.
[ ] I love Spam.
[ ] I bake well.
[ ] I would wear pajamas to school.
[ ] I own something from Abercrombie.
[X] I have a job. (Hooray!)
[ ] I love Martha Stewart.
[X] I am in love with someone.
[ ] I am guilty of tYpInG lIkE tHiS.
[X] I am self conscious.
[X] I like to laugh.
[ ] I smoke a pack a day.
[ ] I loved Go Ask Alice.
[ ] I have cough drops when I'm not sick.
[ ] I can't swallow pills.
[ ] I have many scars.
[X] I've been out of this country.
[X] I believe in ghosts. (Well, I don't not believe in them.)
[X] I can't sleep if there is a spider in the room. (Only if it's BIG.)
[ ] I am really ticklish.
[X] I see/have seen a therapist.
[X] I love chocolate.
[ ] I bite my nails.
[X] I am comfortable with being me.
[ ] I play computer games/video games when i'm bored.
[ ] Gotten lost in your city.
[ ] Saw a shooting star.
[ ] Gone out in public in your pajamas.
[X] I have kissed a stranger.
[X] Hugged a stranger.
[X] Been in a fight with the same sex.
[X] Been arrested. (Only for a civil disobedience action)
[ ] Laughed and had milk/soda come out of your nose.
[ ] Pushed all the buttons on an elevator.
[ ] Made out in an elevator.
[ ] Swore at your parents.
[ ] Kicked a guy where it hurts.
[ ] Been skydiving.
[ ] Been bungee jumping.
[ ] Broken a bone. (Fractured, is all.)
[ ] Played spin the bottle.
[ ] Gotten stitches.
[ ] Drank a whole gallon of milk in one hour.
[X] Bitten someone.
[ ] Been to Niagara Falls.
[X] Gotten the chicken pox.
[ ] Crashed into a friend's car.
[X] Been to Japan.
[X] Ridden in a taxi.
[ ] Shoplifted.
[ ] Been fired.
[X] Had feelings for someone who didn't have them back.
[X] Stole something from your job. (SO many office supplies, and my Rolodex when I left)
[ ] Gone on a blind date.
[X] Lied to a friend.
[X] Had a crush on a teacher/coach.
[ ] Celebrated Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
[X] Been to Europe.
[X] Slept with a co-worker. (Well, technically there was no actual sex...)
[ ] Been married.
[ ] Gotten divorced.
[ ] Saw someone dying.
[ ] Driven over 400 miles in one day. (Only as a passenger.)
[X] Been to Canada.
[X] Been on a plane.
[ ] Seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
[ ] Thrown up in a bar.
[X] Eaten sushi.
[ ] Been snowboarding.
[X] Been skiing. (Once, sort of. I did have skis on, and there was a hill involved.)
[X] Been ice skating.
[X] Met someone in person from the internet.
[ ] Been to a motorcross show.
[X] Gone/Going to college.
[X] Done hard drugs. (Several, but none in recent memory and none more than a few times.)
[X] Taken painkillers.
[X] Cheated on someone else. (I don't know if it really counted as cheating, but I did feel guilty as hell.)
[X] Were so bored you took this survey.
[ ] Have a tattoo.
Monday, August 29, 2005
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
It's after nine p.m., and I'm just home from my first day teaching at Big Urban. God, I'm tired. But herewith my scattered thoughts on the day, organized under these helpful headings:
And now: and now I'm going to go do all my reading for Wednesday, before I go to bed, so I can spend all of tomorrow working on my dissertation.
Provided I don't fall asleep first.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
John Roberts, grammarian
Nevermind politics--this article in the New York Times convinced me that John Roberts is my kind of guy.
I can't believe I'm teaching tomorrow. Somewhere between 80-90 students--which is as many students, total, as I taught in six entire semesters at INRU. I still don't have my ID card. I haven't even seen the room my comp class is now in. And I know JACK SHIT about this first period we're studying in my survey, despite my diligent perusal of The Cambridge Companion to same these last few days.
But, at least I'm well-armed with handouts--I've been drawing up all those I expect to need for the forthcoming week. And I'm thinking about wearing a suit.
Handouts and a suit: they make me a professional, right?
Saturday, August 27, 2005
I was just out in my neighborhood running some errands when I encountered Jazz Man, and my mood instantly improved.
Jazz Man is a fixture in this part of Historically Black Neighborhood (and, for all I know, in other parts as well). He's a small man with a dapper little moustache, probably about 60 years old, always dressed in a loose-fitting suit, shirt, bolo tie, and a hat that's not quite a fedora; today he was all in white, including his hat.
Those things alone wouldn't necessarily make him stand out, since many of the older men in my neighborhood are natty dressers, but what identifies Jazz Man is the music that preceeds him everywhere he goes: he's placed an ancient portable stereo inside one of those two-wheeled shopping carts that old ladies use for groceries, and he pushes it around with him, blasting out bebop. For a long time he also had a painted plaster figure of a jazz saxophonist, which I believe was meant to be Charlie Parker, tied or taped to the front of the cart.
And as far as I can tell, this is what he does all day: saunters up and down the streets, pushing this thing in front of him, and nodding genially at everyone he sees. It took a long time for it even to occur to me that he must be soft in the head, he comports himself with such grace and he's so warmly received--as he walks by you hear a constant stream of, "Hey Jazz Man, what's happening?" "Jazz Man! Lookin' good!" And he just smiles graciously, as if he were the mayor, and continues on up the block.
And I don't know why, but seeing him always makes me happy. Happy, I guess, that he seems to get such joy out of his music and his perambulations, and happy that he lives in a place where he's able to do his thing and where people look out for him.
Friday, August 26, 2005
For those of you who haven't heard it yet, August Wilson has just announced that he has inoperable liver cancer. Life expectancy: 3-6 months.
What sad news.
(Article from the Seattle P-I here.)
Fie on thee, Media Services!
Grr. So I decided yesterday that I needed a TV/VCR for Monday for my comp class, since we're starting off with a provocative video on the subject that the course is designed around. I hastily called up the Media Services Dept's online request form, since they need two business days to process any orders. After I clicked "send," I got a screen that said I'd receive an email confirming the order, and that it wouldn't be confirmed without that email.
However, by this morning I hadn't received an email, and I'd further discovered that, since my class only meets twice a week (instead of the usual three times), it's actually 110 minutes long, not the 80 that the scheduler had told me--meaning, I'd need the equipment for longer than I'd requested it.
I called Media Services around noon. No one was there, and the option tree wasn't helpful. I left a message for the manager, explaining the problem in detail, and requesting that he call me back. Of course, he hasn't. And now it's the weekend.
Then the course director emailed me to say that my room has been changed to an entirely different building (I guess because my original room wasn't available for the full 110 minutes? no clue).
So now I don't know whether I'll have equipment or not, or if I do whether I can get it sent to the correct room--and this seriously affects my lesson planning, since I doubt that going over the syllabus and doing introductory ice-breaking activities will take up even 45 minutes, much less 110, and although I don't mind letting my students out early on the first day, letting them out an hour early is a bit much.
(Oh, and also? There are multiple Media Services offices, and the one that supplies the classroom I thought I was in does not supply the one I'm now in.)
I'll say it again: grr! Guess this means that I'll have to do some actual PLANNING for this class, damn it to hell.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
This is the first day I've had to myself in almost a month, what with those 2.5 weeks with my folks; that long weekend with GWB, the Fergusbergs, and the luau; and most recently those manic three days of early-to-bed, early-to-rise orientation sessions--and now that I've been able to sleep in, take a long bath, and spend some uninterrupted-except-by-choice time on my dissertation today, I'm feeling much more calm and on top of my shit. Here's what I've recently gotten done:
Things that remain to be done before Monday:
[Updated at 10 p.m. on Sunday]
They probably won't all happen, but in theory they're doable, and that's very calming. I don't have the faintest idea how to conclude Chapter 4, which should really be the envoi to the entire dissertation, but otherwise the only big thing remaining is my diss introduction. It's probably just going to be a quick-and-dirty ten pages or so, but since it's the first thing anyone is going to read, I'd really like for it to be at least somewhat engaging.
But, that's a task for tomorrow. Right now I'm chilling here with some vodka-rocks and thinking about turning my attention to a magazine, or possibly to bed. I'm not really a vodka fan (I hate how flavorless it is, and I hate the fact that some people like it for just that reason), but I'm broke, completely out of all my decent liquor, and vodka at least recalls me to the Polish half of my roots.
And anyway, it gets the job done.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Orientation: Days 1-3
Short version: so far, I've been impressed with just about everything I've seen and everyone I've met at Big Urban. I think I'm even excited to be starting to teach next week.
Now, for the longer version. Monday, yesterday, and today I commuted to BUU for various orientation activities: two days for a program designed for new instructors in the writing program (since my comp class falls within the scope of that program), and one for an orientation and welcome session for new non-tenure track faculty.
Although much of the material covered in the writing orientation wasn't strictly necessary, as the program is intended as an introduction for all new instructors (many of them graduate students who have never yet taught a class), none of it felt painful and the program was almost unbelievably well-conceived and well-run (if this tells you anything, every session started within five minutes of the appointed time). It was also just a really thorough and useful general introduction to the university: which administrative offices do what, who to call for various services, where to find the relevant forms.
Today's orientation for new faculty was also generally useful and interesting (and featured a goodie bag of free stuff!), though it did begin thirty minutes late. On the whole though I've never been to better-run admin-type meetings than these two: no droning enslavement to PowerPoint, no hail-fellow-well-met administrators blustering about the life of the mind and the specialness of their university; just smart, efficient, funny people who seem to love what they do and to be totally on top of their shit.
The weather's been beautiful these last few days, too, and it was nice to have the chance to wander around campus a bit--I checked out all my classrooms, got assigned an office, made sure my books were in at the bookstore, met some of the faculty I've been e-mailing, and just generally tried to get a feel for the place before it became overwhelmed with students. Although about half of the buildings on campus are ugly modern things, like the Sovietesque beast that houses the English department, the campus as whole is really quite attractive, with brick paths, lots of trees, and careful landscaping; it's also a more cohesive whole than most schools in urban areas tend to be.
So on the whole I have a really good feeling about everything; let's just hope that it isn't destroyed once I actually enter the classroom on Monday!
Monday, August 22, 2005
Class and evolution
Recent articles like this one on Intelligent Design (many of which Anbruch has linked to and commented on) have started me thinking about the class element involved in the evolution/creationism debate. Obviously there are people of means and even people with PhDs who believe in creationism or its ugly stepchild, ID, but so much of the popular suspicion of evolution seems to be based on a suspicion of the educated elite (and maybe more importantly, on the presumption that said educated elites look down upon the beliefs and attitudes of the average guy).
It’s interesting, because it reminds me of the reading I did for a paper that I wrote early on in grad school on Matthew Arnold and T. H. Huxley, “Darwin’s Bulldog”—the man responsible for popularizing and disseminating Darwin’s theories to a mass audience. (And yes, if you’re wondering, that subject is totally outside of my field!)
Apparently the notion that humans were descended from apes had actually been floating around for a long time before there was any kind of evidence for it, and the idea was really popular among many members of England’s working class because it seemed to provide a scrappy, up-by-the-bootstraps narrative of human development. Evolution was both the great leveler and itself a kind of social mobility, and by embracing the theory members of the lower orders could spit, metaphorically, in the faces of the political and religious leaders who wanted to keep them in their place.
(Can’t provide any citations for any of that just now—but it’s an interesting comparison, yes?)
Sunday, August 21, 2005
After staying over at the Fergusbergs’ last night, we got up late, and then went to see Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers with them before heading back into the city. A good movie—it’s the kind of film (leisurely, quirky, and lovely) that Lost in Translation THOUGHT it was, but so crashingly wasn’t. Both have relatively thin plots, but Jarmusch’s film has just enough to give it shape and direction, and it benefits from outstanding supporting actors. Almost all of the scenes are rich and strange, with the kind of below-the-surface fullness that I felt Coppola’s film completely lacked—that sense that the peripheral characters had complete, complicated, off-screen lives that the movie just briefly joined and then left again. Worth seeing.
Then we returned to the city, and GWB headed back to Quaint Smallish City for his first day of classes tomorrow. I'm starting orientation at Big Urban tomorrow, myself, so I guess this is really and truly the end of summer. (And, God, I'm so anxious about everything!)
Had a complete blast this weekend. After that fun night out on Friday, Saturday afternoon and evening were devoted to celebrating Babe (my college roommate)’s 30th birthday. Babe and Mr. Babe threw a luau-themed party, their large backyard hosting a homemade pit and brick oven to roast the requisite suckling pig; their patio festooned with lights and surrounded with tiki torches; and the guests in loud shirts, sarongs, and the like.
Babe and I have a sizable circle of friends and acquaintances in common, thanks to a shared college extracurricular; it’s the only group of friends I have that’s really a group—for the most part, my social life is one-on-one, so most of my friends, though they may have met, aren’t necessarily friends with each other—and I love the dynamic that this creates: all those shared inside jokes and references and the way you don’t even need to see someone for a year or two to be completely current on his or her life. I’m actually much closer to each member of our core group of five or six friends than I was in college, with the possible exception of Babe (it’s hard to be much closer than sharing a room with someone/living across the hall from her for four years, and we’re now in different states).
GWB and I hitched a ride to the festivities with the Fergusbergs—Mr. F. sporting a grass skirt, me baring perhaps too much midrift—arriving around 1 p.m. to start in on the ample supply of beer. The afternoon passed pleasantly, catching up with old friends and meeting various other guests from the neighborhood and from Mr & Mrs. B’s places of employ. Some guests went swimming, others invented new athletic events involving extra plastic leis. Tiki music wafted through the air (I’m proud to say that I contributed the Exciting Sounds of Martin Denny--that’s a trip to Planet Eisenhower if ever there was one!) The roasted pig was hoisted aloft, carved, and eaten; every time I looked over at G-Fav he seemed to be waving aloft or chowing down on the snout, or the tail, or the better part of a leg.
As darkness descended some of the older guests and those with kids started leaving, but the rest of us fired up the tiki torches and plugged in the illuminated palm tree. Mr. Babe brought out his string bass, another friend his sax, and they and a couple of their jazz buddies started jamming on the patio steps—live music, people! We ate leftover birthday cake, threw together several pitchers of Mai-Tais and Blue Hawaiians, and the collective blood-alcohol content got even higher. When the jazz combo was done we started raiding Babe’s iTunes for old favorites to sing and dance to. Mr. Fergusberg busted out his direct-from-Brooklyn break-dancing moves. Babe and I danced together, as I recall, quite a lot, sweating like the unfortunate swine (presumably) once did. We stood on the steps and collectively bellowed out “Living on a Prayer.”
After Mr. Babe smeared frosting on the chest of a male guest and proceeded to lick it off, we decided that the party had perhaps reached the point of no return—and since we had an hour’s drive back to the Chateau Fergusberg (behind the wheel the sober Mrs. Fergusberg), we called it a night.
How’s that to end the summer?
Saturday, August 20, 2005
Planes, playwrights, and plays
Back again, after one of the most gruesome days of travel I’ve yet experienced. My flight into O’Hare was delayed by two hours. Then, when we finally arrived, we sat on the tarmac for ONE HOUR before getting a gate assignment—meaning I had exactly 15 minutes to run to my next (thankfully also delayed) flight. Arrived back in Major Eastern City at 1 a.m., but at the wrong airport: mid-flight, they announced they were sending us to a different, theoretically also local but much more inconvenient airport. Said airport did not have a gate for us. So we sat on the tarmac for FORTY-FIVE MINUTES. Didn’t get home until 2.30 a.m., after a $60 cab ride.
Really, the only good thing about the day was finishing up the Thursday NYT crossword puzzle and starting to work out ideas for my first week of class (including reading the first half of the first book for my survey—hooray!).
Slept in a little today, though not enough. George Washington Boyfriend arrived in town in the afternoon and we had a great evening—happy hour drinks with two playwright friends (hereafter, PW1, GWB’s best friend from high school, and PW2, who went to drama school with PW1). Cheap margaritas and off-color jokes ensued and a good time was had by all. Then GWB and I took off to see a David Mamet play (yes, that one). GWB and I see a lot of plays, since he works on the theatre and we both have friends in the biz, but this is the first live-performance Mamet I’ve seen. It was a great production, and it’s a play I really like—but, somehow, I’m not left with anything more to say than, “damn fine job.”
GWB teaches this particular play regularly, and so wound up getting the souvenir poster and lurking around the stage door to get a couple of the actors he admires to sign it—very sweet and rather strange. (I stood several yards away, out of the melee of fans, hiding myself in the program notes.) Sometimes I forget what a theater geek he is.
He does have a good Mamet joke, though:
Guy and his wife leave the theatre one night—a prosperous couple, habitual theatre-goers. Just outside there’s a bum, who asks them for five bucks. The husband, smiling at his wife, decides to give the bum a little lecture. “My friend,” he says, “neither a borrower nor a lender be. That’s a little Shakespeare for you.” And the bum—being a Broadway bum—pulls himself up and says, “Oh yeah? Well FUCK YOU. David Mamet.”
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Giving the smack-down
Forgot to mention that I just had a snarky letter-to-the-editor published (and directly rebutted by the author of the article in question; ooh, I'm famous!), which I found pretty cool.
This small-circulation, sorta general-interest, sorta specific-interest magazine that I subscribe to, and that I think is generally very smart and literate, recently published an insane cover story on Super Huge Famous Author that touched peripherally on my scholarly interests. It was written by an "independent scholar" who has (somehow) just published a book on SHFA--and though the article began decently enough, it descended rapidly into madness. Shakey premise? Check. Flawed literary-critical method? Check. Huge leaps of logic? Check, check and check!
So, naturally, I had to give the author the serious smackdown. Not that I imagine she's exactly cowering under my blows; which of us has the book contract, again?
Home again, home again, jiggety jig
No time yet for such jigs, but I'll be doing one at this time tomorrow, I hope, assuming my apartment building hasn't burned down or my landlady changed the locks in my absence.
The last few days here in the Northwest have been good, and I regret leaving because I know that, as soon as I arrive in the Northeast, the academic year officially begins--and it will be rush-rush-rush until the end of November. (After that, it will just be teaching and grading. And really: how hard can that be?)
Yesterday my mom and I went shopping at the fabulous local mall, next to which every other mall will be, to me, gross and depressing in the way that malls are widely reputed to be. But this one I love because I grew up with it (& it's also in fact quite well-designed). Though it's now scarily upscale, like absolutely everything in the once-provincial town in which I was raised, it still has some oddball tenents who hang on and on--probably as a front for drug dealers, but never mind that.
Then today I stayed in and finished up my most recent round of edits to Ch. 4, which was a nice note to end the trip on even if this is not, in fact, the final round of edits for that damn chapter. Still, I emailed our DGS to say I was submitting next month, so's the department can line up readers in time--which means that, shit, I guess I'm actually submitting!
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
The new me
Hey, check out my new avatar over on the sidebar!
The image is a little blurrier than I'd like, but closer to the real me. Will put all my minimal technological skills into sharpening the resolution when I get around to it.
UPDATED TO ADD:
Well, I took it down. Didn't really like the kewpie-dollness of it, in the end. But here's the full original image:
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Really loved this article in today's NYT science section about the value of gossip; it appeals to the social scientist (and perhaps also the gossip) in me. The authors argue that gossip is essential to keeping social units functioning, serving to reinforce group norms and bond more loosely affiliated individuals--and while that "enforcing group norms" sounds ominous, neither the article nor (I think) one's own experience bears that out, particularly when the gossip concerns friends. How often do any of us really treat a friend differently because of something scandalous we learn about them? We may natter on disapprovingly and thus cement our bonds with our other friends, but in the end I think we judge people on much more complex grounds than one failing or bad habit.
The article also notes what prime social currency gossip is, and this is certainly as true in the academic setting as anywhere else. At one of our job market meetings last year, our then-Job Placement Officer lectured us on the dangers of gossiping during an on-campus interview (at dinner, for example, or over drinks), telling us how that sort of thing reflected badly on a candidate, making the interviewers nervous about one's obviously loose tongue . . . and would inevitably get back to INRU. And while this isn't bad advice--one shouldn't go around talking about the sexual escapades of senior scholars or rumors that they plagiarized their latest book, or anything--I think it fails to recognize the kind of collegiality that can be established by sharing the occasional juicy detail.
In my own case, I've certainly told stories on my advisor at conferences--mainly because I'm always asked, "so what's it like . . . working with Advisor?", in a tone that perfectly conveys what the interlocutor is expecting to hear. I'd never talk about the rumors surrounding her married life, but I'd certainly tell humorous anecdotes that, while they might not make her look particularly good, are essentially harmless and basically conform to what everyone already knows or believes to be true about her. And I've cemented friendships with junior faculty at other schools by mentioning the nicknames we grad students have for certain of our own junior faculty--but only when it was clear that the person I was talking to also disliked said faculty member. I don't trade in rumors with new acquaintances, but the illustrative, little-known fact? Absolutely. Because, as the article notes, when you share what you've got, you gain valuable currency in return.
Give, and ye shall receive!
Sunday, August 14, 2005
Greatest movie you've never heard of
Or, at any rate, that GWB and I had never heard of (Margo and my friend Jonesy may well have done): 1936's Libeled Lady, starring Jean Harlow, Spencer Tracy, Myrna Loy, and William Powell--those last two better-known for their roles as Nora and Nick in the Thin Man movies.*
It's one of the best screwball comedies I've seen, featuring uniformly great acting and convoluted romantic storylines reminiscent of Midsummer Night's Dream. Plus, a newspaper setting! A spoiled heiress! Reno divorces! What more could you want?
Really a treat after Dinner at Eight, which, apart from a fantastic performance by Harlow, was rather a disappointment.
*What is it about 1936? It seems as though many of my favorite songs and movies were released in that year, as was my Western Electric telephone.
And though that's really the only work I've gotten done since George Washington Boyfriend came to town, I'm refusing to feel bad about it; in fact, I'm pretty happy about my survey syllabus, the first few descriptive paragraphs of which took me forever to write, but which should really help me to focus the semester thematically.
Tomorrow morning GWB leaves, earlyish, so it will be back to Ch. 4 for the few days until I return east. Maybe I'll get around to reading that first book we're reading for my survey--one of those I've never before read--on the plane back home. Here's hoping, anyway.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Fleeing to Canada
Off for a couple of days to Canada with the GWB, and when we return there will be crazy relatives in the house (notably my one aunt and her husband, but other assorted people are expected to drop by), so I'm unlikely to post for a couple of days. And since I don't have a digital camera, you can expect photos only if a) we take them, b) they get developed, and c) I scan them into my folks' computer. Yeah, yeah--primitive cultures out here, I know.
And ooh, good not-spending-any-money-at-the-vintage-stores karma: when we got home from the ballgame last night my mom mentioned that there's a woman at her office who recently inherited a gorgeous 1960s fur coat that she doesn't want, and if it fits it's mine. (And whatever fur-related scruples I might have simply don't apply to vintage stuff--those foxes? Not coming back from the dead any time soon.)
So ta for now~~
On trying NOT to be the worst teacher in the world
So I emailed the course director to see whether I could meet with him and discuss my class, and I mentioned the problems I've been encountering (minus, obviously, my belief that the subject matter and materials kinda suck), and he wrote back with a few moderately helpful suggestions, probably the best of which is just to do a shitload of different things each class period: reading quiz, discussion, in-class writing, group work, etc.
That makes sense, and after coming up with about five related but very different activities I'm feeling much more positive about how things will go tomorrow. I've also been assessing my expectations for the course and from my students and realizing that I may simply not have properly anticipated what these students can do and can't do, or thought through the ways in which my pedagogy needs to adapt. For instance, I hadn't really seen much point in giving them reading quizzes when the reading load is so light (and it's pretty evident who's done the reading), but I think it's true that my students aren't always reading very carefully. Short quizzes will a) allow me to find that out, b) put them on notice that they need to be reading closely, and c) provide a starting point for discussion.
I was also a little surprised when I looked over the introductory paragraphs I'd asked them to write, in stod och småpratade en liten stund under mitt megastora paraply som jag hittade på pride. vi utbytte nummer och lovade att höra av oss snart.
det är jobbigt väder. så fuktigt. jag svettar ner alla mina kläder jättesnabbt. jag känner att jag börjar få lite vinterlängtan också.
noterat: audioscrobbler har blivit last.fm och riktigt snyggt
dagens fotoblog: a photo a day
dagens roliga: fimpa virtanen (sanslöst roligt)snyggt
dagens fotoblog: a photo a day
dagens roliga: fimpa virtanen (sanslöst roligt)
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
GWB arrived earlyish yesterday, and we kicked around for most of the afternoon & evening, not doing much--he has an abnormally high tolerance for endless conversations with my extremely chatty family, for which I love him. I mean, I enjoy my family mightily, but, first of all, they're MY family, and secondly I do get exhausted after a while and have to go hide out in the basement somewhere. But not so he.
Today we went into the university district to an awesome bookstore I'd discovered, completely by accident, while searching for something on ABE. I don't know whether someone in my field at the U recently died, or what, but I walked out with five scholarly books I either needed or wanted--and I could have purchased close to ten, if I'd been willing to spend more than the ::cough cough cough:: SEVENTY-FIVE DOLLARS I in fact spent. (Or at any rate put on my credit card.)
Then we drove over to a nearby artsy neighborhood to check out some of the vintage stores--man, prices are so much cheaper out here than they are back east. I saw some lovely old portable typewriters at this one store, 1950s and 60s models, for under $50, every single one of them. Some were under $30. Not so in Major Eastern City. But I refrained from making any purchases.
And now we're off to a ballgame with my dad and brother--hooray for vacation!
George Washington Boyfriend just heard from Big Name Press, which sent him his first, and very positive, reader's report. Second and final one to follow soon--but the editor is apparently already making plans to present the project to the editorial board to make the case for a contract.
So, maybe one of us will have tenure someday! Whoo-hoo!
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Well, that's what I get . . .
For thinking about teaching right before going to bed:
My first teaching-anxiety dream of the academic year: oh no, today's the first day of classes! And I haven't finished my syllabi! Or planned a discussion! And, oh, shit--I just missed the train I was going to take. And huh, I never made it out to campus, so I don't know where anything is.
Thus follow many attempts to get to campus (train, car rental, etc.), finally ending in success . . . except that of course I have to walk for miles to get to the English department, and nothing is signed and the map I have is imperfect, and the entire rest of the dream is spent going in one building and out another, hiking along paths, suddenly remember things I urgently have to do first in the library, and watching my watch tick down all the while.
Wait, waddaya mean I'm teaching in three weeks?
So here's the new game plan: I've finished inputting that last round of edits to Ch. 4, but I think I just have to set it aside while George Washington Boyfriend is in town. I could plan to work on it for, say, two hours a day--but really, just looking at that thing will make me cranky, and I'm optimistic enough to think that I can get the thing in final form next week.
However, it has recently been brought to my attention that I'm starting to teach in a matter of, oh, days, practically, so I'm thinking that this week might be a good time in which to finalize my syllabi and just maybe start reading the three works I'm teaching in the first month alone that I have, in fact, never read (luckily, they're short).
I really can't believe what denial I'm in about these classes, though it's been an effective way of keeping myself focused on the dissertation. In part I suppose it's because I know the semester is going to be tough, with a really steep learning curve, one way or another--so why worry about it in advance?
I'll be teaching three classes, though I'll only have two preps: a freshman comp class and two sections of one of the standard lit surveys. (English majors at Big Urban are required to take four semester-long surverys: Brit Lit I and II and Am Lit I and II. If you've been paying attention, you can probably guess which one's got my name on it.)
The comp class will be cake, except for the whole grading part; I've taught comp before, and BUU's comp classes are rigorously standardized: I've got a pre-fab syllabus, pre-fab paper assignments, and I'm going through a three-day orientation before classes start. Love this organization, people! Love it!
The survey class, however, will be a bear. I'm really excited to teach it, but, being a survey course, it's not all material with which I am deeply and intimately familiar (see above, in re: not having read three works--and there are many more that I've read . . . but not recently, or that I've never taught). I've also never taught a survey course before, and neither have I taught a class as large as THIRTY-FIVE STUDENTS. So, just the mechanics of the class are going to take some getting used to.
On the other hand, that's the advantage of being a lecturer, I guess: it means I get a practice year (or, uh, maybe more) in which I can master all these skills and get some important courses under my belt before the tenure clock starts and before my performance actually matters to anyone.
Although, of course, it still matters to me--and grad school clearly didn't do its job if I'm capable of yet greater demoralization and feelings of incompetance.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
I'm referring, of course, to my chapter. I just got through my first set of hand revisions, which involved way more longhand composition than usual: six pages of new intro material, some five pages of transitional material in the middle, and numerous other insertions of at least two pages apiece--in addition to all the usual sentence- or paragraph-level changes. I'm pleased with the general direction this is taking, but all this new stuff is still pretty rough, and the overall structure is strange and ungainly, like an adolescent kid who's just hit a growth spurt and hasn't yet figured out how to keep from banging his shoulders into door frames or jabbing people with his elbows. Long term this work will be all to the good, but I worry that I won't have enough time to make it look presentable by the submission date. Sure, I can smooth down his cowlicks and get the schmutz out of his eyes, but his pantlegs will still only come halfway down his shins, his socks won't match, and one shoulder seam on his jacket will be ripped out.
But what the hell. There's only so much time, right? And now my brother's in town for a week, and GWB arrives Tuesday, so after I type up this round of changes tomorrow my gangly teenaged child will have to fend for himself for a while.
Saturday, August 06, 2005
Sent to me by Marielle, and seen in slightly different versions around the blogosphere:
1. What is your full name?
Them that knows me knows this.
2. What color pants are you wearing?
None. I'm currently wearing a black cotton skirt from H&M.
3. What are you listening to right now?
Morcheeba, Parts of the Process. And the various neighborhood kidlings being called inside by their parents as it gets dark.
4. What's the last thing you ate?
Frozen pizza. My folks are off at a wedding, so I'm on my own.
5. Do you wish on stars?
No. But I do wish on coins thrown in fountains.
6. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
Cornflower, cobalt, or indigo.
7. How is the weather right now?
Well, now it's evening. But the last few days it's been around 85 degrees, gorgeous, clear, and with no humidity.
8. Last person you talked to on the phone?
George Washington Boyfriend.
9. Do you like the person who sent you this?
Marielle is the greatest!
10. How old are you today?
Thirty years, five months, and a couple of weeks.
11. Favorite drink?
This is a hard one, since I'm much more of a beverage person than a food person. In the average day I drink a couple of cups of coffee, a glass of juice, and lots of water; often, I have a cocktail at the end of the day. But my favorite drinks involve one of: Gin (G&T, gin gimlet, or martini), Scotch (on the rocks or in a rusty nail), or Campari (with soda, in an americano, or with gin to make a negroni). Ooh, or Champagne!
12. Favorite sport?
I don't play any sports, but I really enjoy most live sporting events (not so big on the televised kind). Baseball and hockey are among my favorites.
13. What color are your eyes?
Blue. (According to a famous old brontosaurus of a professor at INRU, my eyes are "startlingly blue.")
14. Do you wear contacts?
Yes. But just for vision, not for color.
One awesome brother, 24.
16. Favorite month?
17. Favorite food?
Salmon. Smoked, broiled, baked; on toast, in eggs, on bagels, encrusted with pistachios--however you prepare it, I'll eat it.
18. Last movie you watched?
I'm just about to watch Dinner at Eight on DVD. (I bought a six-pack of "classic comedies" at Costco the other day, when I was there with my dad.) Last one I saw in the theatre was Wedding Crashers.
19. Favorite day of the year?
Hm. I like Thanksgiving a lot, but I haven't actually spent it with my family in 12 years. So let's say . . . the day after final spring term grades are due!
20. What do you do to vent anger?
Rant. Rave. Sometimes throw (non-breakable) things. I suspect that I'd find smashing glassware to be really satisfying, but then there's a big mess, and I'd feel foolish cleaning up the results of any tantrum. Oh, and I also cry when I'm angry, which really pisses me off.
I don't think I actually have a particularly bad temper, though a cab driver in Grad School City recently insisted that, being half Italian and half Polish, I must have a fierce one.
21. Summer or winter?
Autumn. Then spring. Then summer. I don't really like either summer or winter, but at least it's pretty in the summer and my skin doesn't dry out.
22. Hugs or kisses?
23. Chocolate or vanilla?
Really good French vanilla.
[replacing the next three e-mail related questions with better ones seen elsewhere]
24. Do you like your handwriting?
Yes. And I have quite elegant handwriting, if I do say so myself.
25. Red or pink?
Red for lipstick; bright, shocking pink for clothing & accessories.
26. What's the furthest you've been from home?
It's a tie between Japan and Korea (separate trips).
27. What did you do last night?
Worked on Ch. 4.
28. Living arrangement?
Just me, in a studio apartment with a 100-square-foot bathroom and a bathtub dating from probably 1910. Fabulous old brownstone building that could nevertheless stand to be renovated, or at least have the plumbing redone. One rock musician and her boyfriend below me, one rock musician and his pet birds across the hall. All of whom tend to get home at 3 a.m. and yell their goodnights up the stairs to each other. And the walls, let it be said, are rather thin.
29. When was the last time you cried?
Almost cried last week in Advisor's office.
30. What is under your bed?
Back home? Lots of collapsed boxes, a suitcase, my humidifier, some cassette tapes, and two sets of beautiful cloth fans, for dancing purposes.
31. Who is the friend you've had the longest?
Hm. Probably KB, who I played with as a kid, though we went to separate elementary and middle schools and didn't re-meet and become friends until high school.
32. Favorite smell?
Coffee. Vanilla. Gin ("You like gin, don't you? it smells like Christmas!")
33. What are you afriad of?
Violent crimes and painful death. And, of course, of being found out as an intellectual fraud.
34. Popcorn - plain, buttered, or salted?
Buttered and lightly salted.
35. Favorite car?
I do not have, nor do I want a car. But I'd loovvvve a Vespa!
36. Favorite flower?
37. Number of keys on your key ring?
Four: building key, apartment key, office key, and key to a private club I belong to at INRU.
38. Can you juggle?
With scarves, just barely. They move slowly.
39. Favorite day of the week?
40. What did you do on your last birthday?
Threw a fabulous party.
41. How many states have you lived in?
42. How many cities have you lived in?
Three. Well, one suburb and two cities.
43. How many countries have you lived in?
Just the one.
44. What was the first car you had?
A most excellent 1978 Pontiac station wagon with the bumper sticker, "USS New Jersey BB-62 -- Firepower for Freedom." Completely unlike my dad, and yet, somehow, there it was.
45. Where were you born?
NW City. Or at any rate, a suburb of.
And now~~anyone who wishes should consider him or herself tagged!
Coming up for air
In spite of appearances (and Dr. C's very kind concern!), I am not, in fact, lost in the thickets of Ch. 4, wandering around and trying to tell north from south by the position of the sun overhead and the location of moss on the trunks of the trees. (At this point, all those readers who know me in real life are saying, "I didn't know she knew that much about orienteering! or that she'd in fact ever SEEN moss!" But they forget that I'm from the noble western wilderness, a place so outdoorsy that the semi-rural brew pub where we went to dinner last night featured several rows of bike racks and special shelves for the helmets of the many patrons who did, in fact, arrive by bike.)
So yes: I'm making progress, though my work schedule isn't making me very happy. When I'm at home back east, I often don't start working until 3 or 4 p.m., or sometimes not even until after dinner. Which is okay, since I live alone and when I start work at 8 p.m. I can still put in a solid four or five hours of writing. But at my folks', with my retired dad and my mom getting home shortly after 5 p.m., it's been difficult to find the uninterrupted blocks of time that I prefer; most days I start working around 1 or 2 p.m., but what with interruptions and going out to dinner or needing to look at a whole bunch of old vacation photos from Las Vegas featuring people I don't know, I usually don't quit working until 10 p.m. Which leaves me feeling that I've done nothing all day but work. . . and at the same time that I haven't been particularly productive.
All that being said, and after some nasty episodes involving my family's inexplicably fucked-up printer, I'm now halfway through a first set of revisions to Ch. 4. Most of the revisions I plan to make are in the second half (and all these revisions will take another couple of rounds of editing before they fit smoothly into the existing material), but I'm still reasonably happy with what's taking shape. I've ended up not really doing what my advisor suggested, in part because I've come to the conclusion that one of her suggestions just doesn't make sense, but in expanding a couple of sections today I think I've figured out what I do need to do when I return to the manuscript, post-dissertation. It's irritating that I can't do it now, but really investigating this particular context for my author's early works would require more research than I can conduct in the next two weeks--and in the interests of my sanity, I think it's best just to tiptoe past that particular sleeping dog for now.
Otherwise, being home is nice. Seeing the folks is nice. Sleeping is nice. Reading the New York Times and doing the crossword puzzle every morning is nice (couldn't quite finish it today, but I did all of Thursday's!). And as for the magically-refilled pantry, and the free washer/dryer? Verrrry nice indeed.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
Biting the bullet
Today's the day I return to Ch. 4. If you don't hear from me, you'll know what happened. Send dogs.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Painfully boring work update
Painful, I should say, not so much for you the reader as for me the writer.
Here's what I've accomplished, work-wise, in the last few days:
So, all in all, lots of hugely tedious and time-consuming work that, although necessary, hasn't exactly felt rewarding.
It was fun going to Local U today, though, and spending some time in its lovely library. Despite being one of the west coast's largest academic libraries, housed in an ivy-covered American Collegiate Gothic structure, the stacks are completely open to the public; you don't even need to show a driver's license, much less academic credentials, to wander on up and look at whatever you please. And the aging hippie staff members (all of them seemingly bearded, long-haired, and sporting interesting beret-like headgear) are a delight: wacky and funny but very helpful. The collections are also extremely well-signed and well-ordered--frankly, better-ordered than INRU's collections.
I grew up in the shadow of the U, and when I was in high school it represented the sum total of what I knew or could conceive about the academy. Both my parents were first-generation college grads, and I knew no one, but no one who had ever attended a better school than the U. The U was where the smarter kids from my high school went. The U had nationally-ranked athletic teams. The U was in the hip part of town, where all the used bookstores and art-house movie theatres and tatoo parlors were. It's where my friends and I went on weekends as soon as we got our driver's licenses and could get the hell out of the suburbs.
And in some ways it's still what academia is to me, and it may be why I wound up choosing INRU rather than a liberal arts college: college, to the eighteen-year-old me, meant something urban, diverse, big, and exciting. And although I now have virtually no friends left on the west coast, if there were a job in my field at the U, and they wanted me, I'd be there in a heartbeat.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Death cheated, once again
Arrived in NW City about 24 hours ago, after two extremely uneventful flights--no crying children, no turbulence, no drama of any kind. In fact, my second flight arrived 20 minutes early, of all unheard-of things.
Although I fly pretty regularly (about 7 or 8 round-trip jaunts a year), I'm always convinced that each one is going to be my last. Which isn't to say that I'm a nervous flier, because I'm not, and I rarely get stressed out either before or during flights; I just kinda figure that this time, probably, my number is up.
The upside of this fatalism is that before each trip I usually review what I've actually done with my life, and over the last couple of years I've been mostly content with what I've found. As a scholar I obviously haven't done much yet, but I do have two articles out or forthcoming, one of which I think is pretty significant, and the other of which is at least a useful starting point for a reevaluation of a particular writer. As a teacher I've had some impact on a few students. I hope I've been a decent friend--but in any event, my friendships have brought me some of the greatest pleasures in my life, and I'm happy so many of them have lasted for so long. I have a good, adult relationship with my parents and my brother, and a happy love relationship--none of which I'd want to see end here, but I also don't have any major regrets or a sense of unfinished business.
HK used to refer to herself as an "optimistic fatalist" (I think I have that right--she had a whole set of categories, including pessimistic optimist and optimistic pessimist). I don't remember what I called myself at the time, but that label would definitely fit me now, and I tend to think of this as a particularly "Catholic" perspective; you know, you hope for the best from people, and always believe that they're capable of it, but at the same time you figure that even the best-intentioned are often working at cross-purposes to their own desires and will sooner or later show themselves to be venal, petty, and disappointing (not that one necessarily loves them any the less for this; it's just how we are).
In everyday life I don't experience these feelings in religious terms, but it does seem to me that, philosophically, such a perspective fits well with a belief in both free will and in some kind of human "fallenness"--and this is perhaps part of why I'm still a practicing Catholic: taken as metaphor (which to some degree is how I take everything), the core beliefs feel profoundly true to me.
(Which is not to say that I have a good answer to what would happen to me if I were in fact to die in a fiery explosion; for that one, we're just going to have to wait and see.)