Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Goals, Dreams, Chances

Ah, my poor little fruits. This end of the semester has been hard for them. I recently had one get pregnant and drop out, another get pregnant and not drop out (which I think is an even worse decision in this one's case), they ran into major financial problems, got ready to graduate (stressful, if not necessarily bad) got dumped/broken up with/cheated on, and a few weeks ago, judging by frantic emails, the nursing program made its decision for admits, which means that a lot of my students who identified themselves as "nursing majors" on their enroll sheets were actually pre-majors and are having to look into finding a new major with an even lower GPA threshhold or transfer to community college or some other school.

If I were only concerned with covering the material and them mastering it, I could shrug and let the grade distribution fall out where it will. But that's not really why I'm teaching the course; for this class, even more than the freshman comp class, I want to teach them something that will be helpful for their larger lives, something that will help them be a better person or be in a better position whether or not they continue in college or not.

My goals were for them to undergo revolutionary consciousness raising and form a communal, if not class, consciousness. (Hey, aim high!) In practice, that means I wanted them to apply the concepts of the class to their own lives and to use these concepts as part of their plans and strategies for the larger arc of their lives. Even this was much more difficult than I had expected. (Side note: my ability to get them any further beyond a grudging admission that they are in a collective identity group was abysmal! They are still little libertarians and you can expect them to not pay their taxes or support any social services that they are not currently benefiting from. But I digress.)

How do you push someone to think in terms of a "career" when no one in their family has been to college and everyone in it thinks of a "job" as something you show up to and get a paycheck that you promptly spend to the bone? How do you push someone to be more ambitious when nobody in the family cares whether that person goes to college, much less graduates, as long as they pay a share of the rent or move out of the house? How do you encourage someone to think of how a family and career and some sort of valuable contribution to the world can be scheduled and balanced over the next 50 or so years of their lifetime when you have students flat out say they will kill themselves before they get old or are no longer "hot"? How do you get students who have never thought of anything like "service" or "changing the world" to even understand the concept of "make some sort of valuable contribution to the world"?

Now, my UC students really got the concept of "career" and "ambition" and "big plans to change the world" (although for a lot of them that meant, "follow in dad's law firm" or "make a really huge pile of money," but we all understood each other) but surprisingly, both sets of students have the similarity in that they talk in terms of dreams rather than strategies or goals. (The UC students were much easier to train out of it, however.)

And at this moment I would like to kill all the motherfucking-Hallmark-movie-making, heartwarming-story-telling, Oprah-ficated, rags-to-riches American Dream story producers out there in the media industry. Because you're fucking up people's lives, yo.

Now a plan or a strategy for your life goal goes something maybe like this:

1. campaign for the local city council on an environmental platform
2. enlist as many people as possible to knock on doors, call, and talk up your candidacy
3. get enough of your great environmental plans for the city passed so that voters can see you are competent, smart, and for general name recognition
4. wait for a likely state assembly seat to open up and run an aggressive campaign based on your accomplishments
5. set fire to the Reichstag to usher in your reign as a demagogue. You get the drift.

A motherfuckin' dream, on the other hand, is more like this:
I will be, somehow, the most famous celebrity in America! And when I wear that dress, I will rock it hotter than Beyonce over there. Everyone will tune in to my reality show and give me tons of money, which somehow will lead to someone running an electoral campaign for me and I will become a senator or something! Suddenly I will wake up and find myself on this stage and people will say, "congratulations, you're now the Senator of Somewhere!" and everyone will cheer and clap and I will be so good at running that senator-type job thing that it won't even interfere with my various media appearances where everyone looks at me and is jealous of how famous and hot I am, and whaddaya mean I didn't turn in the homework? Bitch, please --- do you know who I am? I'm gonna be famous someday! Ooh, that's so going in the tell-all memoir.
Or perhaps the "realistic" version my comp students subscribe to:
Education is our future and without Education no one is going to make it very far in life or get a decent job. That is why I am here, not to do homework or do any reading or thinking or plan out my life, but because I am, by being an enrolled college student, being marinated somehow in Education. After I have been marinated enough someone will give me a magic ticket that will guarantee me a job of some sort although I don't know what kind or what it would have to do with my major, and that job will be easy and pay a decent amount and not require as much work as my college classes or the requirement that I be there at the same time on time every day, and I don't know what exactly I will do at that job on a day-to-day basis but I know I will never ever have to worry about losing that job or getting laid off or having to apply up or out for another job again, because I will be marinated in Education like a steak in barbecue rub and everywhere I go people will sniff and go, "mmmm, that smells like the sweet smell of Education!"

Or, this, the shorter version:

I'm harsh. I'm mean. I know. I might not be the best person for all those poor dreaming freshmen to encounter right off the bat at college. But do you see the difference I am trying to highlight? A plan, a strategy, it's concrete and detailed, and it is a clear-eyed assessment of the actions you must do and the amount of work on your part it will entail. A dream, on the other hand ---- well, it's fantasy. Narcissistic, juvenile fantasy. And I'm ok with college freshmen being juvenile, because they are young and they should be in college to grow into some sort of maturity, but I am sooo pissed off at the sheer numbers of happy smoke blowers hyping instant easy success on all channels of the media. You could argue the housing bubble burst came about because of the dream-mongers pushing an image of constant, increasing wealth that would "somehow" come out of your house being worth exponentially more every minute. (You could be even more pessimistic and turn a critical eye on higher ed for more of that dream bullshit.)

So I guess what I want help in is more suggestions for how to get students to recognize the difference between trying out various plans of action and fantasizing about some sort of vague, vaseline-smeared, soft-focus dream. Without crushing their dreams (remember my students told me that I was mean for crushing their dreams or even mentioning our college's dropout rate) or making my students feel personally attacked.

Because, on the one hand, the world is in a shitty place right now, and young adults are actually the hardest hit by the recession currently and have the highest unemployment rate. It is harder to break in to an entry level job these days then it has been in years. And I think only the most savvy, flexible, goal-oriented, strategic of new grads will be able to wrestle down and hog-tie a job these days. On the other hand, thinking clearly about how shitty the world and the employment market is right now involves becoming familiar with some very depressing facts and trends and no clear answers as to what will "guarantee" anything, whether through individual or collective action. (I've had to stop reading about Wisconsin, for example, because otherwise I would not be able to get out of bed in the morning. How can I expect my students to be more willing to face depressing news than I am?)

In sum, I want my students to be able to critique the dreams they are fed and learn instead how to cultivate some tools that will help them plan their lives, make and adjust their life goals, adapt to adverse circumstances that work against their goals. I'm not quite sure what to do to teach this (waking up and having it magically have happened didn't work, heh heh), but you'll probably agree that this is more important information than what's in chapter 5. Even though the content of chapter 5 is important.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I'm going for a walk

I can never go for a walk without thinking of, and usually starting to hum, this Bad Religion song.

I don't feel like working. In fact, I didn't work at all today. Well, technically, I cleaned and vacuumed downstairs and then watched movies. But they were movies for my students' final film analysis papers, so it was "working"!

I just didn't move on to the actual grading part on the to do list.

I did, however, go for a nice walk this evening. Beautiful weather. Some people the other day were complaining that it was a cold spring and that is fine with me! I'm used to the sunny-but-chilly type of weather that is a little too cold to actually sit around outside. That is perfect walking weather, after all! I would like to announce that dandelion season is in full swing. Maybe even swung, as there are plenty of little puffballs in everyone's yards. And we have songbirds here! Craziness. I guess we don't have birds that make melodies in California. Mockingbirds (damn them) don't really count. I keep walking along and going, "hmm, a mockingbird," and then realizing that this really was a bird song, because the mockingbirds usually switch through a dozen or more songs including that four-part car alarm. There's city life for you.

Speaking of birds we have a cardinal who sometimes visits my yard! And some other bird that is more orange than cardinal-colored. And the local stray cats. And a dude with a boat. He parks it in the yard, of course ---- just in case the cardinal wants to practice fishing, I guess.

So far we have the presence of crickets, chirping in the tall grass on either side of the sidewalk (yes I drove about a mile to get to a part of the town that had semi-continuous sidewalks for my walking safety) but, no mosquitoes yet. Keep your fingers crossed for me and hope that I get out of here to visit the folks before they arrive. Or is it them? I dunno.

So while I have not made a brilliant and wonderful exercise plan for the summer yet, I did do yoga and then some gentle walking this weekend. Hurrah! I might have walked off about half of that beer I had the other night. Sigh. Looking at the calories of things vs. calories exerted is always depressing. I need to keep at it! And make a plan. Which seems to be contingent on me planning where I am for the summer, which for some reason I am loath to begin planning. Considering that summer is very soon, I should get on that. Meh.

Another thing I did this weekend instead of grading or any useful work was to finish reading one of the books on my coffee table! Now there are five books there. The one I just read was a history of Postdoc City and some stuff that happened here, so I won't tell you what it is. The next one down on the pile is Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, which is about the Katrina catastrophe and I think it is nonfiction or creative nonfiction. I picked it up on a whim for something different but I don't know how well I will be able to throw myself into it if it is depressing. Will let you know. And on that same trip I was going to actually get War and Peace, which I mentioned I have never read and might as well rectify that, but instead I got a novel by Henry James instead. I forget why I wimped out on the WaP but I had a reason. Maybe like there's a specific translation I need.

While I'm on random book babbling I notice that they have edited up and released the unfinished novel of David Foster Wallace, The Pale King. As long as I'm admitting various famous books I haven't read (see above), I will point out that I never did read any of his stuff. Yet. I was planning on working through Infinite Summer at some point, but I always feel guilty about getting out my own scholarly work, so I guess I will put it off indefinitely. Hmm.

And I was way too late to jump on the #rahmemanuel twitter novel until it had already closed, and I read this great article on the, uh, perpetuator. Author? Don't mind if I do. I was meaning to link to it way back when, but things got piled up there. Or, I had the laptop crash and didn't recover the 2,147 open firefox tabs that were "waiting for me to do something or other with." How many tabs like that do I have open right now? Don't ask. The number fluctuates depending on how crappy the Republicans/global capitalism are behaving at any specific moment.

But back to this article, which really got at how cool this Dan Sinker dude is (I wanna take a class from him) and also made me jealous, not only of his life, but also that he had a really cool article written about him. Not only does he get to be called Pynchonesque, but he is described as having "a heart made out of Chicago and balls of punk rock." Plus, he has a beard that could make Walt Whitman jealous. Go look if you don't believe me!

And he was the editor of a punk zine that ran for 13 years, which is amazing in itself, even more so when you realize that it was less about moshing and music and more about real progressive politics:
Sinker described the punk rock mindset in his introduction to a 2001 book that collected interviews from the zine. "[Punk] is about looking at the world around you and asking, 'Why are things as fucked up as they are?'" he wrote. "And then it's about looking inwards at yourself and asking, "Why aren't I doing anything about this?"
This. This! And now it appears that Sinker will release the fake twitter account in book form, which should allow me to get at least somewhat at the feel of actually following the feed (though the article pointed out how time-bound these tweets were, especially when you didn't know the ending ---- the fact that Fake Rahm Emanuel gets stuck and abandoned in the Chicago sewers and the next tweet doesn't come for 7 hours was a major part of the "hook" or the charm.

See how I have brought this post around in a nice little circle? I'm going for a walk!

Friday, April 22, 2011

LISTS!!!!!!! OMG I love lists!

So Profgrrl has a list of lists over at her blog, basically her pre-planning for the summer. I love making lists! I love the sense of order and control and procrastination! Yum.

She wouldn't mind if I stole her list of lists, would she? I will annotate it, if that helps. Someone's gonna bust me for plagiarism, I just know it.

Mmmm. Lists. I will make a list of:

1. books I want to read this summer

I should make this list. Hmm, however, there is a huge stack of magazines on the coffee table and 6 novels. Basically, my list should just be "read everything that is on the coffee table." But where is the fun in that? I may make an imaginary summer book-reading list, imaginary in that I will probably not get to them at all this summer since I have so many already purchased and not finished books right here by the couch. But still!!!! Book lists! Yum! Got any suggestions?

2. manuscripts I want to submit this summer

Hmm, this is another one that is much more fun as fantasy than as my actual list, which at most has two articles and the book manuscript --- barely long enough to be a list. And then there's the feasibility of "to submit" --- shouldn't it be "manuscripts I want to work on this summer?" OTOH, I like the definitive, declarative stamp Profgrrl puts on this list ---- it's a firm goal. I don't really know what my goals are for the summer --- I have a conference and a summer class and really how much is it complete insanity overachieving thinking to assume I could get any of these finished and submitted on top of that? Hmm.

2.b. things to prep for the conference trip

This is my addition --- I need to line up a catsitter and make travel itineraries and pack and all that jazz. Oh, and write the conference paper. Yeah, I should get on that. I will first procrastinate by planning everything about the conference in list form.

3. other writing tasks I must complete this summer

Hmm. I don't think I even have this. Clearly Profgrrl is a whirlwind of research productivity in comparison to me. Unless I call the summer class my "other writing task." However, I am not allowed to even think about it until grades are submitted, because it does not start immediately and I would procrastinate my grading even more than I already am!

4. review tasks I must complete this summer

Sigh. I feel like such a lazy slob.

5. all research in progress (because I need an updated tracking sheet)

Yeah, see above. I don't have enough research projects to really need to track them. Although I did print out and color-coordinate a potential summer schedule, like I did the other summer. But that was more about getting to use the fancy colored pens.

6. summer fitness goals

This!!! I totally need to figure out this, because I need to get in cardio in some form and plan a schedule for hitting it regularly. Will make plans!!!

7. household projects to tackle this summer

I don't know if I can put "decorating" on my household project list, because of money constraints, but I do have a big pile of mending/alterations to do. So I should make a list about that.

8. annoying tasks I need to take care of

I think all of mine can come under the heading of "annoying students." And clean out/file my teaching piles. Which actually should be under number 7. Ooh, doctor/dentist visits! I do have something to put on this list.

9. people I am somehow coordinating this summer

9. travel plans

This is a form of coordinating people. First up is to contact my dad and see if he is still willing to pay for a flight out to CA. Then I fit people and places into a mosaic of the summer schedule, stuffing exercise and writing in wherever I can.

Ooh, this is so fun! I am off to actually make some lists now.

You know, it just occurred to me that if everybody else procrastinates with these lists, it would be a meme and not me stealing posts off of somebody else's blog. Wanna join in?

Oooh, and I'm taking book recommendations! Or list-making recommendations!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Yoga as relaxation exercise, or as exercise in futility? Ask the cats.

On Monday I did two short yoga workouts from my new dvd and was completely wiped out and miserable feeling from all the backbends and poses that my other teacher didn't use regularly. I was still feelin' it all day Tuesday --- tired and with an achy knee. Well: do you rest longer between workouts or push so that you can get your stamina back up? I still don't know the answer to that, but this morning I tried again.

The dvd has a "relaxation" workout that seemed like it might be a possibility. I tried it and it was mostly breath training and meditation --- better for a wind-down than an actual mellow stretch. Dammit! I thought. Am I going to have to go back to the free samples on the internet? Or buy another dvd? Then, I got the great idea of starting the exhausting one in the middle! and skipping past some of the backbend stuff. Yoga practitioners can tell me if I'm doing something horrible by skipping around in a program, but I will probably ignore you.

What I wanted was to do some strength training stuff after doing that very mellow stretching/meditating thing. I fiddle about on the disk and do a couple stretches, then settle down for some plank poses.

For those of you who do not know, the plank pose is like in PE where you are on the ground holding your arms out below you right before you start a push-up. There's also a pose where you drop in a push-up, kinda slither forward, and then push off your arms to come up into a backbendy thing. Surprisingly, just the holding of the plank pose is tiring, even without any push-up motions.

So I've gone through some poses and now the dvd person is having me tighten up my stomach muscles and hold in the plank pose. Puff, puff. This is tiring. Concentrate, Sisyphus! Meow! ---- What? No, concentrate! Just two more breaths out of the five. Meow! Focus, slowly lower yourself ----

At this point there is a cat in my peripheral vision, hovering there looking at me with great intent as if he was willing me to stop and I make the mistake of glancing at him while lowering down in that push-up position, and he licks me On. The. Eyeball!!

I collapse ungracefully on the floor with an Argggh! and I can't even get my hands out from under me to clutch at the eye, and my cat walks across my back and settles himself comfortably somewhere on the region of my kidneys. Thanks.

I wonder: do the great yogis have to put up with eye-licks from cats? Do they just ignore it and keep meditating? Or do they have doors to keep the cats out of their practice room? If I have a cat lick my eye and I can still finish a chaturanga, will I have attained enlightenment?

Maybe I'm already there. After all, the cat is still alive.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

One Nation, Under P0rn

I'm a bit depressed. Classes didn't go so well as I would have liked today ---- partly the end of the semester, partly a problem with how I designed the arc of the class, partly because one of the students who was particularly vocal today is not very bright and not getting any of the concepts. Hmph.

But partly, it's because I have a group of students who are so damn accepting of the status quo that they don't see any point to studying it, much less doing anything about it. I might be able to get them to see, by now, that the media has relentlessly sexualized female bodies for a profit, and that women are enacting porneriffic fantasies more to conform or get ahead than because of any of their own desires (and the course has gotten pretty damn repetitive on this topic and needs reworking to build outward more), and yet, they just can't get worked up about it in any way. Yeah, you gotta flash yer tits to get past the rope and into the club where they have women go-go dancing in cages, but whattaya gonna do? Rape? Eh, sucks, but it happens. What about to you? Or your sister, or your mom? Ain't gonna happen to me. And why should violence --- physical or symbolic --- directed against anybody else matter to me anyway?

And raising our nation's children in a space that is not so relentlessly commercialized, p0rnified, sexualized at ever-younger ages? Eh, does it have that much influence on people? Really, it's all up to the parents --- and those kids who aren't in good home situations or don't have parents around are going to turn out bad no matter what. Why change anything? Why think about organizing or protesting anything? This is stupid and you'll never change the way things are!

And when talking about how to change how we raise children in this sex-saturated society, one said, "well I got the shit beat outta me constantly and I turned out pretty good, so I don't see why that won't work for everybody." Really? Even though it's horrible and painful? Eh, whatever. ---- This is my one who is not getting anything out of the course.

Sigh. Part of the problem is that all my material in the books (yes, I'm teaching the subject in multiple courses and they lined up today) is documenting media p0rnification, as are my several videos/interviews. (And another part of the problem is that we've been doing a lot of videos that took the whole class period lately and today they had to talk --- so I haven't been confronted with their stupidity and resistance as much before today. Serious.) Everybody already knows everything about how music and the media and magazines are all becoming p0rnified. I don't think my students have any clue what an alternative would be. I mean, they don't read books or look at art or know any history or knowledge of how other cultures do it --- and conservative Christianity doesn't mean that it won't be ok with H00ters or pole-dancing for Jesus. As my students experience it, religion is about hypocrisy and controlling women, not providing a space devoid of sexuality or alternative representations of sexuality.

And my students are mad at me (both classes) for my suggestion that educating kids to alternatives could involve pointing out to them the dangers and drawbacks of porn work, pimping or other aspects of "thug life" that they only see glamorized in videos: Hey, man, you messin' with a kid's dream! Don't be punchin' holes in someone's dream, they just want the good life and the good job! Like mentioning the graduation rate here or askin' us to study how well our majors did at getting jobs --- who would ask somebody depressing stuff like that?

Sigh ---- I guess their response to the possibility that they may be in a Ponzi scheme (that we all in higher ed might be in a Ponzi scheme, let's say it) is that they'd rather get more smoke and dreams blown up their asses than to investigate the facts and protest or organize. Huh. Kids these days.

So I want to revamp the course --- in a lot of ways; these students need regular quizzes and worksheets to make them read and even when they do read they often miss the point the author was making entirely, so that has to get changed around to fit with them more --- and I'd rather have my examples focus on representatives of alternative ways of being rather than the usual shit they can find on BET or the news --- but here I'm constrained by the required textbook --- textbooks, actually, since I don' t have the authority to choose a different book from the common text across any of these intro classes. Really I'm just giving up this group for lost and waiting for the opportunity to scrap my syllabi and restart. Though I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do about the readings, some of which are mind-numbingly boring and some of which are stupid.

I guess really what I'm finding, across my classes, is this self-centered, do-whatever-I-gotta-do-to-get-ahead attitude, and I want to at least get them to understand some concept of collectivity, of community, of reciprocity rather than competition or self-interest, and I'm kinda stymied about that. I'm also kinda horrified that the more I think about media and sexuality, the more I take positions resembling the conservative right. One problem is that I think I need to show a lot more examples of spirituality or talking about sex in a mature, nonjudgmental way in terms of intimacy and mutuality --- but I am terrible at that in my own life and not at all prepared in how to do that in the classroom. That's why I like me a good labor protest and teaching about something pretty impersonal.

I wish I had my MFT therapist friend move out here with me. Or you know what this city needs? Well, a Planned Parenthood that did sex education workshops that was within 150 miles would be great, but what someone really needs to open here is a feminist sex shop. Too bad I'm one of the most repressed people I know, 'cause that postdoc has an end-date on it and entrepreneurship would be a totally great way to go.

I've got two or three half-written posts on this topic that I should go back and finish, now that I'm on a roll, but for now, I just wanna say: bleah. Sigh. W. T. F, people.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Random thoughts while I wait for you all to update your blogs, yo

- I know it is the end of the semester and everyone is tired, but how can I procrastinate if you all don't procrastinate and write things on your blogs? You should be complaining about how much grading you have so I can avoid all the grading I have!

- I bought a yoga dvd and have not been very good about trying it out. The second time I did one of the longer sequences (ie today), I noticed that my knee has been tight and having trouble straightening out, alternating with the kneecap "catching" and locking or slipping around ---- something that usually only happens in very cold weather or big changes in weather, or, when I am not working out at all. Huh. Now I have to figure out if this is something that would get better if I did it more regularly and I'm out of shape, or a sign that something about these specific stretches is bad on my knee and I need to not use it any more. Hmm.

- In other workout news, I need to figure out some sort of summer plan for working out more regularly and getting back into some sort of cardio routine. I can't even bring myself to go to the yoga classes at school, so I don't know if relying on the rec center is going to work. And I need to figure out some way of inspiring me/holding my feet to the goals, because I really haven't done anything regularly this semester. I would like to get back into working out regularly and even lose some weight ---- though I have no interest in leaving the couch and I just ate an omelet for dinner followed by this popcorn, so clearly I have trouble with the weight loss goals too. OTOH, if I'm running around to different places all summer, I'm not sure that buying a membership somewhere would really work. Or be in my budget. Sigh ---- I couldn't really afford it b/c it was so fancy, but I loved my fancy-pants spin/pilates/yoga place! I wish I could have packed the whole studio up and taken it here with me.

- Today I cleaned my bathroom and the catbox and worked up drafts of two finals. I should have been grading film research papers. I'm also supposed to be watching one of the films right now. Instead I am eating popcorn and thinking about gladiator sandals.

- Didn't I say gladiator sandals were hideous and I would never, ever wear them, when they first came out? It's odd, because suddenly I kinda want a pair. A crazy pair with a zillion straps across the foot and some studs. Maybe it's because I bought those dresses. Maybe it's because I want to invade Gaul. I'm not sure. All I know is that I look hot in a miniskirt and spiked helmet, ready to go out and duel with a minotaur or lion or Russel Crowe or whatever. Bring it on. Unless, of course, my knee keeps acting up.

- I need to do a follow-up post about my teaching philosophy. Some time later when I am less tired. I also need to do a post about research, for lo! I have been researching. Not a whole lot, but I should update you about that. And I tried to make preliminary research/teaching/exercising plans for summer, but got kinda stuck on the whole moving/not moving dilemma which I still haven't solved. Hmm. Hey, you! Who am I going to come visit this summer? Because I need to work some side trips into my plans too, before I actually make any. Or as a way to avoid making plans. Whatever. Depending on what happens to the other postdoc, I may have some free catsitting to work in there too, which will help with the cost of touristing.

- That reminds me; I bought a tourist guide to this area back when I first moved here, and was pretty good about going with various postdoc people out to see touristy things, and do a few hikes, and sightseeing, and I only have done two little trips this semester. I should get back on that. It's partly that the history dude got a job (hooray!) and so is buried under teaching and planning and thinking about packing up and moving things again, and some of the postdocs have branched out to other hobbies that they like but I am not interested in, and partly that if I work a big chunk of the middle of each and every day, I can take it pretty easy in the evening and not do work. But that means I never take a Saturday off to take a hike or visit someplace George Washington had a beer or whatever.

That and it's been either raining or having tornadoes every fucking weekend ---- seriously, what's up with that? I thought we weren't supposed to have tornadoes wipe out the entire east coast. Well, we weren't supposed to have a major snowstorm shut down all of the deep South, either. Welcome to Global Catastrophic Climate Change. (As Cool Scientist Friend constantly complains, Global "Warming" is inaccurate, especially since if it shuts off the Gulf Stream, Europe will freeze while other parts of the earth will bake. Which means Global "Warming" explains things in a way that conservatives can weasel around. Anywhoo, I'm rambling.)

- I don't feel like doing anything tonight. Even fun, procrastinatory things. Hmm.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Arrrgh tired

Tired and completely delusional. For some reason I have boundless optimism that I can Do! Everything! this morning ---- "Oh, I have hardly any stacks of grading and I can pop right through that and all the laundry in minutes; I should write a book this weekend!"

What is my brain thinking? For one thing, my body is so not on board with these plans. I'm halfway through my coffee and still tired and sleepy. And because yesterday had certain sucky snafus, I had to run across campus three different times. Grrr! My feet are all blistery ---- ballet flats are ok for teaching in, especially compared to heels, and yet, they don't want to stay on your feet, which makes crazy-run-all-over-the-place-cleaning-up-after-someone-else's-incompetence days extra painful.

I am covered in purring cats. It's nice and warm. You'd think that was great, but Loquito never purrs because he is happy, only when he is actively annoying me and trying to get me to put out food. However, I just put out the food. It is not my problem that he did not notice the food was put out. It is fresh. It is just opened. It is edible, so go eat it, dammit cat!

And I just shoved Loquito off my lap and poked him until he walked over to the food. And now he is scootching his butt across the carpet instead of eating. Dammit. He has been doing that off and on for a while, and it probably means I should take him to the vet. Poor kitty. Poor bank account! I just took the other one in and they couldn't figure out why he was scratching at his ears. I don't really want to go through all that time and cost for no diagnosis again. OTOH, my cat just wiped his butt on the carpet. I don't really want to walk barefoot anywhere now. Maybe I should invest in a steam cleaner. Bleah.

Hmm what do I really have to do? I better have energy for the crazy plans my brain keeps coming up with!
  • laundry
  • grade set of peer reviews
  • grade set of big research papers
  • write last stripey essay prompt and upload
(reading and prepping for next week's classes, but not today)
  • create take home final
  • create stripey final
  • find last semester's comp final and copy
  • catch up on/clean up student emails
  • oh yeah I have a conference coming up in a while
Funny thing, while my brain thinks I have nothing I need to do this weekend, therefore I should go write a novel from scratch while creating art and a creating fantastic research book, my body is too tired to get off the couch and actually get the laundry work together or grade. Meh. Maybe I'll go back to bed?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Go make something!

I just watched this documentary, which was great and uplifting and inspiring and also heartbreaking:

Sure, I want to show it to my students to inspire them to go be creative, but when was the last time I made art? When was the last time I really created something?

And when was the moment when I decided scholarly articles were the same as creative work?

I watch this and feel like I should drop everything and go make something right now, but I would want it to be art, not pissing out some scrapbook hobby thing.

The director has a great interview statement in the extras of the dvd, first about how making art is so hard and so frightening that we can easily be consumed by self doubt and give up the difficult work of making art, and second that women especially often don't know who they are and what they really want, distracted by the constant rush of putting everyone else's needs first.

What are we collectively missing out on when we force a majority of the academy to frantically run in place in the effort to obtain a permanent job?

What are we collectively missing out on when we force a majority of the workforce in general to frantically run in place in the effort to survive on a low-wage, contingent job?

If we had a moment to really stop and think for a moment and catch our breaths, would we begin to figure out the answers?

If we had a moment to really stop and think for a moment and catch our breaths, would we at least begin to figure out the questions?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dammit, I didn't even get a pair of ruby slippers.

But the sky did turn this cool, eerie shade of green.

I sat outside in the oppressiveness that constantly threatens rain but doesn't actually produce relief until a few fat raindrops started to come down. Then I was forced inside, because precipitation here has a strange habit of going sideways instead of downward to the earth, even if there is no wind. Unfortunately I don't have a porch, but a tiny awning over my front door only as big as my doormat, and it was quickly soaked. Too bad. I love sitting out in rain.

I went upstairs and curled up in bed under a blanket and enjoyed the rain pounding on the roof, until the power abruptly cut out. It was weird, because it was mid-afternoon and light outside. Over our heads was a black cloud with pouring rain and a weird ambient green light, whereas all around the horizon it was clear and light and cloudless. But I had gotten my camping lantern and a bunch of earthquake supplies for Christmas --- although I guess they're just regular old emergency supplies here --- so I went back downstairs for my flashlight and unearthed my lantern. By the time I had found all those batteries and then cut through the packaging, the rain had almost stopped.

I went outside for a minute and my neighbor said something to me ---- not quite sure what it was, but it might have been something about how there was more storm off to the side of us still coming along. I asked if he had power and he said "Ayyuh," which clearly meant something but I wasn't sure what. I went back inside and read by the light of my lantern, which was quite pleasant. However, I had long ago eaten all the chips and salsa in the house. Hmm, what could I have? I could eat bread and cheese, but I really only like it as grilled cheese or toast. (Yes, I am spoiled and picky. I know.)

I had earlier sent word that us postdocs should go out for drinks, so I texted one of them and asked if he had power. No, but he was going down to our bar to see if they did. We met up not long after, with me having stopped (along with most of the town, it seemed) at the Wendy's for some actual cooked food. And so I hung out and talked poetry and punk music with my friend all evening. Great weather, by the way --- moist and oppressive and almost tropical. It wasn't raining, but sometimes the air just thickened into mist around us out on the patio.

Oh, and at first while at the bar we could barely talk over the tornado sirens, which I guess run both when a tornado is coming and after when it is all clear. All I have to say is that two sets of sirens, not synchronized, about a mile away from each other, sounds really trippy and freaky.

And I got home late, but still no power. Most everybody else had it back already, but I live out in the sticks. Or the hood. Or both --- they organize things differently around here. I read more and had some water and finally went to bed, only to be awoken at 2 when all the lights came on.

Today, however, it is like the tornado storm came along and slapped some spring into the recalcitrant landscape. As if startled by the violence of the rainstorm, the trees unclenched their fists and unfurled slivers of green. Now they look as if they are covered in feathers. The trees that had been blooming are now naked and wintery, while the bare, black-branched trees that had held off on flowers have exploded into color. And all of the tulips and daffodils that were just opening have now been beaten flat. But the scrubby dandelions infesting everyone's yards are indomitable and unchanged, leaving patches of bright yellow against the scrubby green now suddenly vivid and thick. Piles of debris are everywhere, including lots of roadkill, and dead cats, out in the open. My car is plastered with twigs and leaves and pine needles (where the hell from? I have no clue) and dead bugs.

And just as I write this two geese are trying to make up for the lack of numbers in their flying v by honking furiously as they cross the sky.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tornadoes! Awesome.

Are you not supposed to sit out on your porch and watch them coming? Because my neighbors sure are looking at me weird. They've all told me about the tornado watch. I tell them I want to see the thunder and lightning.

Finally I get to see some local weather!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dresses attempt take two

Ok, this time, it's from the sale Target is having on dresses online. I like these and will keep them, although I am annoyed that they sent me two of the following dress instead of the cute red dress I had ordered. Back to the return place with me! Again! Sigh.

Also, they had a really cute cap sleeve dress in some colors I liked, and they were all out of my size. In fact, I had one of the colors I didn't like in my shopping bag while I was dithering about some other dresses, and that size sold out from under me. D'oh!

What's this, asks my kitty. Yeah I just can't hold a phone and take pictures that obscure my face in the mirror, and the light is terrible. Grr. This is a medium that is almost a bit too loose. But I am sure the small would be too tight.

It is a dark purple with some other shades of purple forming geometric marks on it.

You know, I took a side view pic to show you that the widest point of my body is indeed my waist directly above the belly button and I don't think I will ever look at myself from that view again.

So it's a faux-wrap dress and you can see here that they didn't attach it over far enough along the waist --- it's kinda loose and drops open too much at the neckline.

Here's me demonstrating how I will put a couple stitches right here to make it both flattering and work-appropriate. I could wear a cami under it (or one of those fake ones, heh!) but it's so loose and comfy I don't want to deal with any other layers of stuff.

Now this one I like but will need to contemplate where to put a few stitches.

Also very loose and comfy ---- on the big side of medium ---- and you can see it's kinda grecian, kinda 80s, and as soon as I put it on it gave me ideas about how I should wear big chunky bracelets and accessorize it with funky tights. And maybe some short boots or suitably weird shoes. Can't wait for fall!

Ok here I'm trying to show off the sleeve shirring:

I swear I do not have lobster claws for hands.

Here you can see the neckline is lovely, but also kinda weird --- it feels loose (although comfy) and like I don't quite have control over where it will be at any moment. I will enlist help in figuring this out, because I also need advice on how to tie the sash in back without having a super-wrinkly butt.

And me, back in the dark ambient lighting of the bedroom and my poor-quality iphone camera:

Gee, I wish I could show you a beautiful chili-red dress! Grumble grumble grumble stupid mail order people...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Teaching Philosophy Meme

I freaking hate writing teaching philosophies! I hate them whether you call them philosophies, goals, statements, or declarations. Hate, hate, hate. And I hate writing different teaching philosophies for all my different types of teaching, whether different departments, disciplines, or interdisciplines. Gah. Do you know how many different types of teaching philosophies I have? And that they all suck? And that I still have no clue what order all this shit should go in or how to write an opening statement for it?

Therefore, I am here to spread the pain.

The Teaching Philosophy Meme: it's time to consider your goals and roles in teaching and meditate on your teaching philosophy. Post on your blog about your teaching statement, philosophy, motto, manifesto, or creed, whatever you may call it. What are your goals as a teacher? Your role in the classroom? What do you want students to leave your classroom knowing, or knowing how to do? Leave a link, so we can follow them all around in a little carnival-thingy.

Alternate assignment for the complainers:
What about this part of our job just really ignites your passion? Electrifies, revitalizes and energizes you? What has made you grin with pride or jump up and down with glee a little?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Fits and Starts, Bits and Bobs

- After a couple of weeks of cold, wet, cloudy, nasty weather, today has been lovely. Tomorrow is supposed to be very windy, so I need to go back outside and soak up the pleasantness before it gets dark.

- I am sick again! (rrr!) I was hoping that it was just a sore throat from a lot of yelling at recalcitrant students, but then the next day I woke up feeling horrible. And now the cold has moved from my throat (a minor blessing in itself) to my head (not so good) and I am taking cold headache stuff every few hours. I have had a couple bad, sleepless nights being uncomfortable. I hope I am on the mend soon. BTW, is anyone else confused by the sheer number of different Sudafed products they have? I have like six boxes, all for different symptoms. I swear I'm not making meth on the side. This weekend I was taking the cough Sudafed because I have a whole box of it and ran out of the sinus headache stuff. It's just annoying to go out and buy more when I have several boxes that are nowhere near empty. Hopefully there's not much difference besides the packaging. Stupid companies and their proliferation of specialties in order to increase consumption!

- Don't look now, but I am close to caught up on grading! Part of this is because of the large number of students who did not bring a draft to peer reviews last week. I caved and gave them the ability to send their drafts to me and their peer reviewers by email ASAP, and of course none of them have done this. Mmm-hm. That'll teach me to help them out. It will be interesting to see how this class ends up doing at the end of the year.

-However, I'm going to be under a steady barrage of assignments from here on out, culminating in being completely buried that last week and then finals. Meh. I'm going to have to really hold myself to the willpower, as grading every day as soon as I get assignments will be the only way to survive. Luckily I do have some videos to show between now and then.

- I still haven't gotten back to summer planning/future planning. I'd ponder that but I just don't feel up to thinking, today, honestly. Could be because I finally got out from under that one upsetting stack of grading.

- Nor have I gotten back to any of my research. What's strange is that I have been getting a lot of hits on that topic through my academia.edu account. I should take that as a good sign and be inspired to return to my toils. Meh. I am only inspired to return to a nap and more cold medicine at the moment.

- I hear you all when you say to send back the dresses from my last post, but then I am back to where I started with no dresses or patterns in my wardrobe to show for it! Grumble grumble. I am still trying to branch out --- and I do like teaching in skirts/dresses for some reason. Possibly because pants often look very strange on my body type. Unless they're jeans, which often have a kind of corseting-in effect. But I don't teach in jeans if I have any authority issues, which I feel like I do here. That may be more the kinds of courses I teach than the students, but still. The search for dresses and patterns continues apace!

- Speaking of fashion, after spending a year or so being completely offended by the existence of those ugly "cage" shoes and the shoes that look like hooves with cutouts --- you may remember some of them from Project Runway this past season --- suddenly I am wanting a modified form of them. I blame the sneakiness of advertising, creeping into my head and controlling me. That's the topic of our latest comp essay, btw. I'm going to push this a bit in conferences, but "advertising can influence who we are and how we think about things" is hardly an arguable statement, correct? Except I have so many students who at the beginning of this unit, adamantly believed that they were completely and utterly unaffected by advertising in any form, so even a statement this basic they think is a novel argument.

It makes me think about how I teach about claims: I usually present the idea that what we all already know and agree on is not really an argument and does not need to be cited, but what do you do when your students literally do not know anything? A typical example I give is that "the Civil War happened" does not need citing, but "the Civil War was actually instigated by an invading force of aliens from Mars" would need a lot of argument and many many citations to back it up. What do you do when your students really are that fuzzy on basic concepts or events and this seems like an amazing new idea? (The war happening, I mean, not the aliens part. Clearly I expect you to be in grad school before you discover the importance of the alien-invasion effect on American history.)

- I feel like I should do something important, like clean out the last of the straggler late assignments or prep class or do more job apps, but instead I shall have a snack. Popcorn or chips and salsa?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Be my shopping posse

because I don't have anybody here for a shopping trip, and besides, I've been doing my shopping on line lately.

I have done absolutely nothing today, feeling like crap, and resting up. But I had a package come today, and I finally got up the energy to try on the stuff I ordered. But I am unsure about everything. Give me advice.

Ok, remember how I was complaining about only having solid-colored stuff and black skirts and I wanted more dresses? I tried looking for cute bright-colored or patterned dresses, and finally decided on trying this:

(that's ruching on the side, btw, not the dress pulling.) It's really comfy, but should I go up a size? Both the dresses are very clingy and emphasize my big belly a bit too much. On the other hand, when I lean over and do that Marilyn-Monroe-type pose, I get great curves:

And I like the nice happy pattern, with the extra flower pattern up near the neckline. But, then I'm not so happy about the side view:

And worse, that is a seam on the dress going across my butt, not a panty line! I can do nothing about it!

Funky twisting to get a butt shot here, complete with inquisitive cat to help out.

Now this dress is such a fun, cute little color, and I love the pleaty neckline with the cap sleeves, but:

Look at how much it emphasizes my fat belly. Seriously, I look preggers. (I usually look preggers, because of the way I gain weight, but I try to dress around that) Should I try going up a size, or just give it up with this dress?

More funky twisting for a butt shot, but I'm not sure how much of those lines are from twisting, or the waist stitching, or what.

And it has a vertical seam that emphasizes my belly line! And and it has a zippered pocket ---- which might be a good thing ---- but lined with black fabric that kinda shows through, which is a bad thing!

Sigh. Should I just send this one back? Boo hoo.

It has this cute keyhole on the back. Which means that when I tried to put a cardigan over it to conceal the huge belly I have, it kinda wiped out everything cute about the dress, like the back, the cap sleeves, and the neck pleating.


I also got some tops and discovered that they were all too similar to each other. I love the purple one with embroidery, even though it smells kind of funny right now, but it was interesting and flattering and comfy.

The other two were bright orange and bright blue (tolja I love bright colors!) with a ruched split-neck top (you can see them all on athleta.com) but they were too similar to this neckline, and they were more fitted at the waist, whereas this purple one made me look like I had hardly any belly-pooch.

The only thing if I keep the first dress and this top is that they are really a bit too cleavage-y to wear to teach. Maybe I'll have to get these from the tv infomercial? Heh heh.

I'm watching VH1

And you will not understand how shocked I am that they have music videos playing. I was just discussing media and videos and advertising with my students and was amused that all of us, and we have quite a range of ages, all agreed that MTV used to be worthwhile and interesting back when it showed videos all the time. It may be just that it's early in the morning and Vh1 has no early morning reality tv shows (bleah), but I will take it for a change of pace.

Anyway, I'm just shocked at how out of it I became about my music so quickly. The Strokes released another album? and it's in the top-5 selling albums nationally? And Interpol released one too? Who's this interesting-sounding group? Who's that one? Arrrgh, the radio around here really sucks! I was talking to one of the postdocs at her housewarming, way back at he beginning of the year, and something I said prompted her to say, "Oooh, we should resubscribe to Spin" to her partner. I may need to do that, because I am not keeping up on top of music that I like or finding new stuff I may like.

So the video I just watched is a new one from Radiohead (they have a new album too? crap! I am out of it!) that was horrifying or wonderful, or something. It has Thom Yorke dancing, and yes, that is a terrifying thought. And yet, hypnotic in that ohmigod-a-car-just-crashed kind of way.

I'm not sure if I should describe it as "Walt Whitman having a crack seizure" ... or maybe "homeless panhandler channels Lucky and/or Pozzo." Here I'll let you see:

Strange, eh? I'm not sure I'm loving the song as much as their older stuff either, but that could just be the nail in the coffin of me being old and out of it. Sigh.

Also, I'm not sure if I'm having my usual Friday tired and worn out feeling or if this scratchy throat is about to develop into a full-blown cold. I can't handle grading during this feeling, though, that's for sure.