Monday, December 31, 2007
Saturday, December 29, 2007
I must admit, I got lost on the way to my department reception. Yeah, I feel a little stupid there. And was totally sober. But first I got hassled by the badge-checking guys, and then they told me there was no way I’d get to a top floor without a hotel badge, and then I went to the top and walked down this long, long hall counting the numbers, with a piece of paper in hand with the room number on it, and then reached what should have been the number, but was a big black door that looked like a janitor’s closet. But it had the room number on it. (All the rest of the doors in the hall were white, I should add.) So I knocked. Cautiously. With all the timidity of someone who was sure that they were in the wrong place and didn’t deserve to be there. Nothing happened. Did I knock too softly? Was I in the wrong place? What now?
Conveniently, the phone rang. It was Dissertation Buddy. “I’m just outside the reception ---- where is it?” I asked her.
“Oh.” She seemed disappointed. “I’m at my hotel and wanted dinner.”
“Great!” I leaped at the opportunity. “I’m leaving the hotel to meet you right now. Where do you want to go?” She was happy that I wanted to hang out with her and not the department, and then, when I got out of the elevator (when there are not oodles of job candidates, it goes very fast from the top floor to the bottom, you know, and made me rather sick), another person called me asking where our dept. reception was.
“You don’t want to go there.” I said with certainty. “You have to bring everyone you know to meet me and Dissertation Buddy for dinner because I can’t find that place.” So thus, I gathered people together for a lovely and delicious, if expensive and fancy, Italian dinner.
We gossiped and vented and bitched about various issues. It was good. It was the kind of thing we need to do to get out of our systems. And it was very pleasant. And I wasn’t sure if the elderly men next to us were professors or not (I thought so, because they had bow ties on ---WTF??? I mean, really), but if that was you, we only meant our ranting in the most venting and polite kind of way, and said stuff about only fellow students in our program, and really, don’t take anything we said seriously, because that was a really big carafe of wine we were working on. Seriously.
I have to say here, why do the keys on this keyboard keep moving like they do? Come on, keys, stop it.
Then someone got the bright idea that we should go somewhere to drink more, but somewhere with a view, because Chicago is very pretty. So we called various people --- including someone who we knew had a “guide to Chicago” book, and eventually went on our mildly buzzed way to find somewhere with a view of the city lights and drinking. And I wanted to go somewhere with good dessert, because I was dissatisfied with the dessert options at the restaurant, although we had to wait a long time to get my chocolate mousse cake and I had two more glasses of cab while waiting and I think you could have given me cardboard at this point and I would have loved it. Or cut you. I mean, there’s not really any in between if you’ve had a bottle and a half of wine at this point.
So, yeah, by this time, we’re all very good and drinking wine and the level of bitching conversation has descended to “Capitalism ---- WTF?!?!?!?” “yeah, man, that shit sucks!” and whatever, and we have just ordered more stuff to drink when I check my phone to see I have a text.
Hello, where have you been? No, seriously, where have you been? And we have a very serious conversation about whether I should respond except it can’t be that serious because I have already responded with a text before anyone notices. (You people, with your slow reflexes and all! Mwhahahaha!)
But before I say anything more, I should note that I am a very ethical person, and so regardless of what was texted or what I texted or what the other people at the table think (and they do not have details), not much is going to happen, because I am an ethical person, despite how much that may piss me off at some points. I know enough not to fight my personality at this day and age. But whatever. So I send a note (“you should totally not say anything until tomorrow!”) and we decide I am having a much better time there and in celebration of that, and a big fuck you to the job market, we all switch over to champagne from wine. (luckily, I can’t do math right now, or else I might be more annoyed about the bill than I am right now. But luckily, I can’t add. Seriously, I can when I’m sober. Trust me.)
But after we take tipsy (or sodden ---- don’t tell me that though) pictures in front of the skyline, and go back down the express elevator, I make a call that everyone tells me (though not in time) I shouldn’t, leave a message, and then we all traipse (or stagger) off to our hotel rooms afterwards, and so, here I am. Or are. or whatever. Alone, and just a leetle bit drunk, and annoyed. At what? Me, him, you, --- capitalism, the chocolate cake --- who knows?
I’m just wide awake and the keyboard is moving on me like nobody’s business.
Friday, December 28, 2007
- It's snowing. (It wasn't yesterday, and hope to god that it won't be when I need to fly out.)
- I had to buy a hat. It is fuzzy. This was my first time in an H&M (lots of couture and handmade originals right by where I live, not much access to stylish and cheap --- an hour's drive to a Target, for example.). The H&M deserves a whole post of its own, later. Much to say about it.
- Yesterday I touristed around town, seeing The Bean and walking by the Art Institute (pictures to come). The line for the Institute was around the block though, so I went shopping at all the little art-gallery gift shop thingies across the street instead.
- Cheap hotel: it's not the Westin, but it's clean and has internet access that is still currently free.
- I love being here at the conference! Not, um, that I've gone to any panels or anything academic or anything, but so far I have touristed and met many people and gone drinking with them. Tonight all the people from my U are getting together for a big party. Why we don't, you know, just have parties back home since we are all there every day, I don't know. Oh wait, I do know ---- we don't live in Chicago, and Chicago makes all parties seem more fun.
- I'm also glad I went and saw the job circus, because it seems so much less circus-y now. It's harder to demonize search committees and the job process when you know that everyone looks like normal live people and seem like they are trying in good faith to find the best candidate. The "pit" also looks nothing like my Kafkaesque fantasies --- here, at least, the tables are curtained off from each other and it looks like a nice, if anonymous, conference hotel room (I peeked, but didn't go in) ---- like a big workshop or something. It doesn't look like you have to see everyone else interviewing or can really hear them. I was picturing something much uglier and more like a giant, bad, cafeteria set up with 6th grade science experiments. I'm sure it's stressful, but doesn't seem that bad.
- The main lobby and bar of the hotel is a bit circus-y though. It looks like this:
- It is also hard to find people at a big crowded bar when you don't know what they look like.
- The panels are set up stupidly here. By this, I mean that there are four panels I need to go to later today, all at the same time, and nothing that looks interesting before then. I'm slowly working up the energy to get out of my hotel.
- I already missed Dr. Hospitality and Dr. Herr Professor Doktor Doktor's panels, which were early. I need to go re-connect up with them somehow. Dr. H., despite having just gotten his job last year, and not really being in my field, did more to mentor me at my last conference than my advisor has done in 8 years ---- actually taking me around and introducing me to every prof, colleague, or grad student he'd paneled with before that he knew. He also saw me eating lunch alone and brought me along to the business lunch for his field at the conference (and introduced me, very nicely, to everyone there too). So I have nothing but appreciation for him and his sarcasm and dark humor and non-cloying brand of hospitality (tho' the fact that he got in and out of grad school and into a t-t much faster than me rankles at odd moments --- ah well.). I wish my advisor were not shy and hated going to conferences. Ah, can't be helped at this point.
- I forgot to take pictures of everyone's feet at the blogger meet-up for posterity. Or any conf. pics so far --- must remedy that!
- And people read my blog! And like it! How cool is that!?!? Heh. I have fans! (well ok, not really, but I have readers)! If only my academic work were so popular. But, on the other hand, people pointed out that academia is much slower than blogging and it will take time for people to love (or even, indeed, see) my academic work. So I just need to be Zen about that too.
- Meeting people was fun and I will think more about how that changes how I read them, and all the weird little disconnects of my mental pictures and peoples' real appearances and voices and all that. The meet-ups started out, as someone mentioned, like a very awkward first date ---- but a first date where you couldn't really make small talk, as odious as small talk is, because you already knew a heck of a lot about the person already.
- The liberal application of beer made the previously mentioned point moot after a short while.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
The MLA GSC, though not quite as rowdy and visible as when William Pannapacker headed it up, still performs a valuable service in the profession, and that service is to shout loudly and repeatedly, "there's still a job crisis! Grad students are still being exploited and tossed aside! Hello! We don't have the money to do ____! (fill in the blank here)" In the past, the GSC has shouted and raised hell and gotten some concrete tiny improvement, but any time they (or we) stop our hollering and constant reminding, things slip back into a very uncomfortable status quo and those with power and secure, busy academic lives, get distracted from the fact that structurally, the big problems have not been solved.
Passing resolutions to make it standard for job candidates being flown out be reimbursed? GSC pressure. Resolutions not to ask job candidates for piles of material because of the copying and mailing costs? Also GSC (you'll notice that the burden of writing samples and other requests has crept back up again lately). There are more good things the GSC has done, but I don't have anything saved at my parents' house, or the Disciplining Feminism book with me. And we seem to have accidentally lost the web domain name for the GSC's cool website, and they are replacing it with a Facebook account. I'll note that not all grads have or want a Facebook account, and besides, a web site does a better job of preserving and presenting an organization's history and back story for easy searching. Might I suggest that the GSC look into a blog? They are free, and could combine the ease of Facebook with the flexibility of a web site. But I digress.
Below I'll put some workshop and panel info that went out on the GSC listserv, but first I want to reiterate the importance of the Disciplining Feminism book, not just to feminists and their allies, but anyone who wants some background on how the upheaval of the 60s impacted the MLA. In her book, Messer-Davidow traces out how feminism was transformed as it moved from activist groups outside the academy to an official academic discipline, and a methodology or complement to other academic disciplines, including literary studies. This is where the GSC, the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, and the Florence Howe award all tie together. Or at least, I remember constantly going "whoa! I had no idea about our past or why we do things this way!" while reading that chapter, so I hope it is similarly inspiring to you all. Plus the preface, in which she tells the story of how she became a feminist, is short and wonderfully teachable to undergraduates who haven't personally experienced the kind of sexist shit that used to be more rampant (although women getting a divorce today can still have their husbands say "I will ruin you" and all the institutions from the courts on down can collude, this isn't so common that all of your students will have encountered it). If you want to be in this profession, you have an obligation to know its history. This is a slightly less standard, but perhaps slightly more useful, account --- go get this book.
"Dear members of the Graduate Student Caucus of the MLA--
1.) MLA events:
This year the GSC will be hosting a panel, a professional roundtable, and an informal (i.e. "unofficial"!) happy hour get-together at MLA. We hope to see many folks at all three of these events.
The GSC's professional roundtable, "The Dissertation and the Book: A Roundtable for Graduate Students," will be Saturday, December 29th, 8:30-9:45 am in the Burnham Room, Hyatt Hotel, and will feature Professors Karen Cardozo, Jennifer Fleissner, Kent Puckett, and Jennifer Scappettone talking about the process of turning the dissertation into a book.
The GSC's academic panel, on "Genre and the Forms of History," will be on Sunday, December 30th, from 1:45-3:00 pm in Superior A, Sheraton Hotel, and will feature papers on the "postcolonial surreal" (by Maureen Fadem), neo-noir film (by Ted Martin), Renaissance tragedy (by Martin Moraw), and the contemporary Georgic (by Margaret Ronda).
The GSC will also host an informal Welcome to the MLA get-together on Thursday, December 27th, at 7:00 at the BIG Bar at the Hyatt Regency."
* This post was originally titled "A Short Note..." but, as usual, I can't be brief to save my life.
Monday, December 24, 2007
The other half of the tradition is, of course, snarfing down as much chex mix as possible, to the exclusion even of regular meals. (Christmas cookies just don't do it for me; I'm a salty kind of girl).
It's all a great exercise in nostalgia and crunchy goodness, as my two cousins and I regress back to being 10 and fighting and being silly and competing with each other on a game system so old we need masking tape to hold the cords on the controllers and jimmy the cartridges in with paper clips. It's a powerful reminder of why you shouldn't throw out certain things just because they're outdated, or they mostly don't work any more.
Since getting the Nintendos we've had them break and had various other iterations of game systems come and go from the household, have had fascinations (always soon dropped) with computer games, and had a whole other generation of kids get born and grow up learning to play Metroid and Mega Man under the tutelage of us cousins.
So I just wanted to wish everyone out there happy holidays and remind everyone of the true meaning of Christmas: I've got to go beat Kevin's ass at Joust.
Friday, December 21, 2007
The rules, as explained at Absurdist Paradise, are to list (or describe, or quote) five books you have loved over 2007. They might not be books published in 2007, but you experienced them this year. What's depressing about this is that I don't think I read five books for pleasure over the whole year, sigh. Even if you threw in the texts I read for my diss, it's still primarily historical and critical stuff, not fiction or reading that is "pleasurable." And it's probably not possible for me to keep my tiny reading list if we stick to the criteria that I loved them and they really moved me, cause, as I mentioned in some distant blog posts, most of what I did read this year was just all right. Is there anything sadder than feeling constantly too behind or too exhausted or too overworked and guilty to do what you always truly wanted to do, which is read? Anyway:
1. Citizen 13660, by Mine Okubo. When you think "historical graphic novel" everyone instantly goes "Maus blah blah blah," and yes, Maus is wonderful and moving, but Okubo's spare drawings and blunt narrative of the Japanese American internment during World War II gives us a different entry into what we think of as graphic novels, the history of WWII, and the history of the graphic novel itself, as it was published at the close of the war. Trained as an artist, and actually having worked as an assistant to Diego Rivera on his murals in San Francisco, Okubo's visual style and focus on a collective protagonist make for a reinvention of "comic book" style (not without a biting sense of humor). She documents the removal of Asian Americans first to the Tanforan Race Track near San Francisco, and then to an internment camp in Topaz. What fascinates me about this book is how she documents the little acts of resistance and agency the Japanese Americans used in their everyday life --- most poignantly to me, she shows how they ripped apart part of the race track and recreated Japanese-style formal gardens, complete with little bridges and a mini-lake, as part of making themselves feel "at home" and providing themselves with some beauty and dignity. A lot of this novel is about everyday artistry, and using beauty as resistance, even if it might not be recognizable as political resistance. After reading this book, I wanted to go to San Bruno and check it out. Unfortunately, I guess they (the US gov? local racetrack owner? dunno) returned Tanforan back to its previous racetrack glory after all the Japanese Americans were shipped out, and now it is a shopping mall. They've erected a plaque there though.
2. Native Speaker, Chang-Rae Lee. I think I posted a bit on this one back in spring; he has such a lovely way with words and sketching out powerful scenes. Being as it's set in New York I don't have quite the same background and connection to this one; it feels like New York should feel, but someone who actually knows the place should speak to that rather than me. Henry Park, the protagonist, moves through the book as if swathed in cotton, but you aren't sure at first if that's because of his status as the child of Korean immigrants in America, the breakdown of his marriage, or the tragic loss that he's experienced and never really dealt with. (I don't want to give too much away.) He is a keeper of secrets. So is New York. In Lee's book, New York is a city bursting with immigrants, throbbing with noise, and yet everyone is isolated, desperately desiring to make a connection. This city, so full of grit and crowds and yet so dreamlike and profoundly saturated with language made tangible and strange, reminds me of nothing so much as Roth's Call it Sleep, also a novel of Global New York before it was fashionable to consider it that. I liked that this novel, unlike most literature, dealt with politics --- literally, I mean party politics and campaigns --- yet I wasn't quite happy with how that strand of it played out. I may hand it off to some of my poli sci and soc friends and see if they can put their fingers on it more securely.
3. Atonement, Ian McEwan. You may recall that I read this recently and was all, eh, fine. But now I have seen the film --- a free pre-screening, no less! --- and I will tell everyone: drop the book! Go see the film! I loved loved the film version. There was an interesting interview with the director in our local free weekly, where he said something to the effect of "everyone says they have to get away from the book to make a good adaptation. Me, I stayed exactly with the book." Now, I think this statement of his is highly disengenuous. Bad adaptations "stay with the book" as in try to put all the events, words, dialoge, on the screen. Good adaptations --- like this one --- translate the novel in a metaphoric fashion into what is appropriate for a different medium. The director here boils down pages and pages of prose into, say, a spatial arrangement, or a sweeping camera move, and the result is, in my opinion, a better work of art than the original (but remember I found all the name-dropping of famous dead authors pretentious). The score has wonderful percussion pieces that sound like (and perhaps incorporate) a typewriter; you can see the imaginative gears turning too fast in Briony's little writer brain. And the first half or so has a lovely sharp wit that I don't really remember from the novel, and snappy intercut dialogue that one review aptly characterized as "telegraphic." That and I am lusting after the green satin backless evening dress, even though I would look terrible in it. So go see, go see!
4. The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri. After all that praise of craft and beauty up above it would be harsh to note, as my friend rather cruelly did, that she had heard Lahiri wanted a Booker-Prize winning novel and sat down with the last ten year's or sos shortlists and reverse-engineered what the prize committees were looking for. On the other hand, I responded, if you or I tried to do that we probably wouldn't ever have produced a finished novel, much less a good one, so maybe there's something to that approach. On the other other hand, I heard that one of the profs uses the phrase "aesthetics without politics" to teach this book and that really gets at something that bothered me in this book --- such beautiful, lapidary sentences, such poignant moments and encounters, such gorgeous stuff recounted in equisite detail, and yet part of me was constantly thinking, "I'm supposed to feel pity and terror because this couple can't renovate their own historic brownstone and afford the right kind of gourmet cheese?" I also could tell you the exact floor plan of his one girlfriend's parents' massive house and cabin on the lake, but nothing about the New York of this book. The other denizens of this New York, besides the few main characters, are also ghostly. Is that a shortcoming of the novelist or a sign of the characters' self-centeredness? Not sure. But it is a very pretty read.
I'm even more tired now, and can't think of another book. Can you all just consider yourselves tagged and go on without me? Maybe I could read something in the odd-end days of the year and come back and update this post later. Yeah, like that's gonna happen. But do as I say, not as I do!
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Yes, my biggest struggle is managing current time and remembering what has happened previously. I blame the trauma of my field exams, which radically altered my brain cells and turned me into the pile of eccentricities and neuroses I am today. (Perhaps all those crazy and eccentric professors in our dept. really were normal as grad students. Perish the thought.) Or perhaps the second exam and going ABD, which leaves one feeling unmoored and at sea in a very unstructured environment. Couple that with a very big project (the dissertation) and it’s hard to distinguish the days from each other, month to month.
Profgrrrl did a semester wrap-up post a little while ago, which I thought was an excellent idea. I’m not going to steal the exact same format, since I’m not on the tenure track and dealing with the balance of research-teaching-service (scary!), but I love the idea of periodically looking back and remembering one’s projects and accomplishments. Otherwise I assume that I have been doing no work at all, since my dissertation was not finished instantaneously, and then I really do get no work done because I am depressed and disheartened. You all reading this blog might think all I do is take naps, pet my cats, and complain about not being finished writing yet --- which is true! --- except I do find some time to get real work done as well.
Not only do I have this blog, but a few years before I started it I began a “bitching log” ---- a journal where I tried to keep tabs on my problems and how I was feeling about them (as opposed to whining about the exact same problems to my dissertation group every day). So I’m looking back over it and picking details out of it, as well as my old planner (no I don’t ever remember to throw anything away --- I will be some future historian’s archival dream, if s/he is studying the procrastination patterns of grad students.)
So with that, let’s review the past year:
It’s not in the bitching journal but I remember having a horrible and emotional meeting with my advisor right after break ---- basically a meltdown over last year’s job market. Advisor said she wouldn’t let me drop a chapter and graduate right away since I didn’t have a job waiting for me, and we had a lot of … conflict and misunderstanding about my options for work and funding. On the more positive side I turned in my chapter.
I started this blog around this point, got a completely useless “readership” grading for a class ---- lots of work for not a lot of money and my fees weren’t paid by it either. I did a lot of rereading and rewriting for an article that had been rejected (it came back right in the middle of getting job rejection letters --- that was fun!), researched and wrote a conference paper, and then went to that conference.
Ok, it doesn’t look like I did do much this month. Oops. I continued grading for my readership and kept banging my head against the brick wall that was the rejected article. I did go camping, though.
With Spring, I managed to grab an actual TAship, and started reading and gathering my research for Chapter 4 --- I may have even started prewriting. Sometime around this point I finally decided that the (really harsh!) readers’ reports were right and this article was not salvageable ---- a lot of it was derivative and the most interesting stuff I had to say had recently been scooped. So I put it aside, reluctantly. --- And in a side note, I learn everything by doing it wrong the first time. You should hear about all the things I learned about how not to do research or how not to have an advisor-advisee relationship during my senior thesis. Now, I feel like I learned a whole lot more, and eventually am doing a lot better, than some of my friends who had a very smooth and easy time doing a more manageable senior thesis with a more “hands-on” advisor. But as the job market and tenure track and all of academia gets more competitive and professionalized, the stakes for “fucking up as a learning strategy” get more and more dangerous. I’d hate to think that a combination of rocky diss writing and steep publishing learning curve, combined with funding cuts and raising bureaucratic bars, might push me out of academia. But perhaps that is a rant for another day.
(And I have a note that as of April 23rd my chapter is done. That must be the day I got the whole committee signed off on it.)
Still teaching and grading, still reading and gathering chapter material, and I started pre-planning my summer course (I think I had to apply for it back in Jan). Then I wrote another conference paper and went to that conference, where I mocked some people cruelly for their appearance (that would be on the blog, not in person). My panel, I should add, was highly attended.
This month would actually be a year anniversary of being dumped, but there’s no notes about it in the bitching log, so I guess I was too busy to care. (Ha, take that, dude!)
This month I started revising one of my chapters into an article and was buried in end-of-the-quarter grading. I was still checking out books on chap. 4 evidently too. I also had the brilliant idea of how to get work done while exhausted, but it backfired.
A very productive, if boring, month --- I revised and sent out the article, plus revised the conference paper into an article and sent it out. Despite the occasional need for a nap, I was still reading background stuff for chap. 4 and preparing in earnest for my summer class. Oh, and probably sitting around on the beach too. But it was highly productive sitting, I’m sure.
I also had a minor freakout at the thought that one needs to plan out academic stuff a year in advance, as well as wondered how to juggle all the different academic deadlines. So I asked you all about it. You provided the advice, I brought the pretty pictures.
That summer course kicked my ass! I even stopped filling out any of my datebooks or journals after a while. I had no energy to do anything outside of teaching, grading, and prep. Heaven help me if I get a job somewhere with a high teaching load and each course takes that much work to set it up.
Finished the class and started right into the job market prep. I must have chased down and harassed my letter writers for a month straight. I also wrote another conference paper. Once I get to that spot in my chapter, I’ll unearth it and splice it in.
I asked the blogospherians for lots of advice, and you all delivered. What follows is my nifty Compendium of Job Search Advice and General Bitchiness, and no, you can't really have one without the other.
Full-on job market craziness. I should have kept a job-materials word count like with the international dissertation writing month count. I updated my letter and abstract, rewrote my statement of teaching philosophy, and applied for over 60 jobs. I asked the blogosphere about the usefulness and competitiveness of postdocs, and so far I’ve applied to one. Unfortunately, nobody counts or cares how many words you produce in the process of applying to jobs, even though it feels like the job search is a course load’s worth of work in and of itself.
Other job-search related discussions included how shitty expensive the whole process is, when you should go out on the market (ABD or PhD in hand? I think the answer is that you're fucked either way, but differently. Go figure.), and what I should do with those stupid piles of teaching evaluations. Oh, and a response to the debate over "it's a first job" vs "it's your one and only job you just married it and now you can never leave you sap."
Still reading for chapter 4 and still dealing with bits of the job applications, this is the first month I actually sat down and produced my chapter outline and pages of prose. This is really important for me to remember, because I keep thinking that I was intensively writing the chapter since January, not pulling the research. And then I think that this chapter was the only thing on my plate all year and start kicking myself for not being done. Really, I’m moving along and making some progress.
Well, that’s where we are now. You should be caught up. (Or you could just look over there to your right and see the word meter. I have another chunk that I’m revising into drafty sentences and will officially count them as soon as they no longer sound like stream-of-consciousness.)
Ok, so now that I've written out all my accomplishments I feel like I worked hard this past year, but damn if I'm not incredibly boring and pitiful ---- I have no life! Great, now I've just switched the topics to be upset about.
Monday, December 17, 2007
I'm thinking my job market hand currently looks a lot like that. And I'm not as magically badass as that generator claims.
I've been trying to come to grips with this all weekend. There are only a couple places I applied to that are still unaccounted for on the wiki, and frankly I don't see myself as a close fit and desirable candidate for them. I'm basically out, at least for this round. And I need to work through this and get over it as soon as possible. (That's what the wiki is good for.) Mostly, I'm ok with it and will soon be asking you-all's advice on various Plan Part IIs I'm working on.
What I really need to do, though, is to shift myself out of waiting mode and into action. The old goal was to try to land a job by getting an MLA interview. The new goal is to make myself as attractive a job candidate as possible by 1) finishing my dissertation and 2) getting some pubs out there. I absolutely have to get going on this and not sit around fruitlessly waiting. I have shitloads left to do on the dissertation and unless I get cracking, finishing it by grad division's deadlines is going to be nearly impossible.
Sigh. I have to get moving. I can't get myself moving. Hello, self! Get moving! Get writing. If you're stuck on that spot, maybe try writing a chunk from the end of the chapter next. What I want to do is take a nap. How will that help me graduate on time??? Gahh.
Friday, December 14, 2007
- So I went to get my teeth cleaned yesterday; it turns out that it has been two years rather than one --- fuck, where has the time gone? Evidently I didn't have the energy to deal with this shit the last job market run.
- No cavities, but I got a lecture on having incipient gum disease and not knowing how to brush from the Painful Tarter Nazi Nurse. (seriously! other grads have named her this, not me.)
- I still have no job interviews and am frankly not very hopeful, as who would hire somebody so fucking incompetent that they can't clean their own teeth?
- Besides a dentist appointment I got my eye exam out of the way, as I obviously don't have other stuff to deal with at the moment.
- Did you know you have lymph nodes all around your jawline and collarbone? The dentist examined my jaw and lymph nodes before looking at my teeth and it was kinda nice ---- like a very gentle lymph node massage. At least I seem to have no allergies or sinus infection stuff.
- I have a "divot" in one of my front teeth ---- purely cosmetic and a sign of the regular wear and tear of aging. It's not through to anything important, unlike one corner of a back tooth that we have to watch, it just looks funny. Great. I must say I'm more vain than interested in health.
- Today we had the department "holiday" (read: Christmas oops we should be more inclusive of other religions) party and I drank lots, but not enough, of wine. I'm sure that was horrible for the teeth, as was all the chocolate.
- While at the party and not talking about dentistry I had a good chat with Not My Advisor, who is dealing with the grad program at the moment. He's both helpful/sympathetic and seems slightly peeved I'm not doing better on the market, which makes for ambivalent conversations with him. I got back at him by telling him how his plan to re-arrange the grad program was all wrong and how he should do it instead. Neither of us will probably remember any of the details tomorrow.
- Why does the industrial-strength toothpaste they use in a dental cleaning always taste like pure Suck? Bubblegum? That, sir, is not bubblegum flavor. You should be ashamed of yourselves.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
But just before writing this (and after the commencing of cheese-eating) I checked in with Dissertation Buddy, who, while earnestly wanting to cheer me up, needs to grade all her students' research papers so that she can return them at the final tomorrow morning. I think she had just started. "Maybe it's just because I can distract myself with all these deadlines and you can't," she commented, "but I haven't really started to worry yet. I mean, look at what I'm doing; I assume that all the search committees are just as bad of procrastinators as me." That cheered me up. About half of my jobs on the wiki haven't posted much of anything, so I could see the rest running around like chickens with their heads cut off under grading, thinking to themselves, "I got in such shit trouble for not having the grades uploaded by the deadline last time --- we have next week to deal with all that committee stuff after grading. Now where the fuck did I put the students' participation grades?" At least I hope that's how search committee members talk to themselves, 'cause we'd get along splendidly, I tell you. I could pass them cheese and commiserate with them and mention that the vandals who attacked their office with a Bureaucracy Bomb (piles of forms and papers everywhere!) had hit up my office too. So, right now I'm feeling ok. Except for the part about talking to imaginary search committee members.
Today, in more boring non-news, I put clothes on and went into campus. This helped my productivity immensely. Not that I usually go on to campus naked, mind you; it's just getting out of the house, dressed nicely as if I have a plan or a schedule, really helped trick me into thinking there was something I had to do when I got there. And there was! I have this book I need to summarize and then explain why it's wrong. Well, not wrong in a bad way, but in a productive, totally interesting way that makes me have all sorts of new, fascinating discoveries about my topic. I want to sum it up in a couple pages or so and then extend out the argument, with some critiques, into my own argument. (I started this a couple weeks ago, or more? Anyway, I keep having to start over when derailed by a day of internet-watching and self-centered wallowing in despair.) So today I actually put in a full day of work and made it through the book! (again. This is at least the third time I've read it. First time creating a summary in my own words though.)
Unfortunately, the summary, with some incoherent, stream-of-consciousness objections on my part interspersed, is about 13 pages. Including a three-page long quote I lifted from the book. So, I made some progress, but I've got a lot more work to do in boiling down ---- and this slow, recursive, possibly redundant way of writing and organizing things is the way I write everything, which may explain my slow pace on the diss. And then there's the problem of how do you count this for my counter over there on the right? It doesn't make sense to plop it all in there and then count down, does it? And yet I never know when it's "finished" enough to actually put on the counter either. Ah well. Have some cheese; it's delicious.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Aren't his little white eyebrows the cutest?
And in answer to your questions: no, no, still nothing, I forgot to sign up for one, 3300 words but I didn't even touch it over the weekend or today, yes I am going to lie around in pajamas all day feeling sorry for myself, and what? that's a coffee stain --- hey, what're you looking at my chest for, eh? Eyes up here when I'm talkin' to you!
I swear ---- didn't your mother ever teach you some manners?
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Pseudonymous Grad Student over at A Philosophy Job Market Blog has been prepping for interviews and asking for advice for a while now (and I keep trying to be helpful and making everybody seize up with agony instead; I seem to be producing that effect inadvertently a lot these days. Maybe instead of giving Bizarre Metaphor Advice on the blog I should just STFU?). More recently, both Bardiac and Tenured Radical proffer their own helpful hints about preparing for interviews (TR even has a handy crib sheet for what to say when the search committee calls you!). I also just got an email instructing the grads to email all their job materials and availability for next week if they want to schedule a mock job interview with the placement committee.* I guess the time is ripe for me to create an interview parody. And apparently this is the time to start my preparations, run through my little diss spiels, practice answering stupid and not-so-stupid questions.
Or is it?
I have had no calls, no emails, no interview requests. Nada. I have accumulated a nice little pile of rejection letters, though. (Wait, I mean crappy, puke-filled Letters of Doom. I should put them in the litter box and make the cats pee on them. Ahh. I feel better already thinking of it.)
If the wiki of evilness is any guide, I'm out of exactly half of my prospective places already. (And a lot of the WS jobs left to hear from are not really what I do, on a humanities to social sciences continuum, unlike the one that requested materials). I'm feeling like the wallflower at the junior-high dance, watching everyone else get picked but me and my chances slip away.
I'm just feeling like I was in exactly this same place last year --- oh wait, because I was! I didn't get any interviews last time and I really think that this year will be a repeat. (Side note: Dissertation Buddy is on the market for her first time out this year. She keeps saying that she will feel like an utter failure and total fuck-up if she doesn't at least make it to the interview stage ---- "Just one interview, that's all I really want," she says ----- and when I point out that I didn't get anything at all last year, she says yes, I know, apologizes, and then five minutes later is talking about how much it sucks to not even make it to the interview level on the first year out and she really hopes she will make it that far. She's great, but not always the most aware of others.)
So do I even bother with scheduling this mock interview shit?
Last year, I could tell I was out of the running everywhere and so refused to practice the interview (got shit for it too). There is something nice to being eliminated so early --- I spent the week leading up to christmas being sad and getting over everything, and then went home and had a nice visit with the family. I didn't have to spend any time prepping interview questions or frantically researching schools or writing out a job talk, just relaxed and then got back to my chapter.
Of course, that was my first year out, and there were definitely tears and depression before I got to a zen enough state to go back to my work. This year is my second attempt and the stakes are higher (thanks for reminding me, Dissertation Buddy!) --- as in I haven't been able to secure teaching and have been subsisting on loans and I have to file and walk this spring, have to. And who knows what I'll do to eat and pay rent next year? My dept. has told me I'm SOL for adjuncting next year and I just recently got some "favors" from my other departments; that makes me suspect I've been put on the bottom of the list and they'll want to spread work around to some of the others graduating with me.
But most important, everyone constantly talks about how "you're supposed to do better" on subsequent years out. Supposed to do better as in, this narrative of progress, or moving to the front of the line and getting your turn. I don't see why, though, if they simultaneously claim the process is "a crapshoot" or like a "lottery." I thought the whole point of gambling and probability was that past results have no relation to future performance.
I don't know about that; just that I'm feeling pretty shitty about now. So do I sign up for a practice interview run that I probably won't even need? Gah.
* As far as I know, this year's job placement committee excused themselves by moving to other countries, leaving everything in the laps of the previous year's committee. I have no clue if there'd be people in that mock interview room, or crash test dummies dressed up like professors instead.
... even though some people have accused me. What?? Just because I (well, We) Await Silent Trystero's Empire and doodle muted post-horns on the margins of my course notes? I'm no Pynchon scholar; I just like conspiracies. And wicked parodies of Jacobean drama.
They do add a nice bit of grittiness to our obsessively clean and plastic campus though, don't they? There's another one on the university center building, but I didn't get over there with my cell phone in time. Yeah, sorry about the picture quality --- I also have some nice close-ups of the mute being obscured with my big fat thumb if you're interested. Stupid little camera phone.
The Political Animal (who swore it was me; he hinted all around it until I was sure I was guilty of doing something very bad and just didn't remember) liked it but found it very incongruous for our wealthy and apathetic campus ---- "Really, if it were our undergrads tagging the campus, it'd be paeans to Ugg boots or something---"
I cut him off. "I would sooo love some Ugg boot graffiti around here instead of just wanna-be models wearing them! That, I might do. Big ugly smears of graffiti --- with the circle A on them just to confuse people. --- Ugg Boots and Anarchy! Yeah, I'm down with that."
"It had to be English majors though," TPA mused.
"Yeah, it's nice to see the English club out there getting involved, " I say.
(and I just have to add that I've been having a running argument for some years now with another fellow grad student ---- I think that this campus is the setting for the campus that gets taken over in Vineland by the students and they secede and rename it The People's Republic of Rock And Roll, or the P R Three (not PRC). I haven't read Vineland in a long time, though, and S has some good arguments about why it's another campus. But still, I enjoy the connection, even if it's fictitious.)
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Scott McLemee has a little article about academic blogs over at Inside Higher Ed, and asked certain bloggers for their favorites. I poked around in the list a bit. To tell the truth, audience matters way more on a blog than in our academic writing, and so many of those blogs are so focused on disseminating new research, or perhaps synthesizing disparate research, in their fields, that someone reading from a different discipline can be both confused and bored. So, go ahead, convict me: I'm a bad academic blogger. Or bad academic blog-reader. I want to hear about the types of things I can relate to rather than intricate details of, say, digital copyright issues or self-regulating feedback loops. You can try to tell me about your research project, sir, but what I really want to know is: did you have writer's block, and how many trips to the vending machine for Junior Mints did it take for you to clear it?
These are the truly important questions for the age. (Well, that and, if your writer's block is so shitty, and your research so unacknowledged, and your institutional position so precarious, then why do you do it? What good comes of the whole enterprise?)
And oh, lookee here at this part of the article:
Aww, I've been recommended! How swee ---- hysterical? Hysterical??? Them's some mighty loaded terms for talking about a female writer. What, gonna suggest I take a rest cure to take care of that wandering womb? (the Silas Weir Mitchell money quote is in the last paragraph of the link.)
Scott Eric Kaufman, now finishing his dissertation in English at the University of California at Irvine, is probably better known as “that guy who walked in on two students having sex in his office,” thanks to a widely circulated post at his blog Acephalous. That was two years ago. The story will never die. Someday it will be adapted for film and shown at Sundance.
Kaufman cites Chuck Tryon’s The Chutry Experiment and Liz Losh’s Virtual Politik as blogs that probably have larger audiences than their comments sections might suggest. He says that Sisyphus’ Academic Cog is"the best barometer of job-market induced hysteria” he knows.
Hmph. I think I'm quite sane and level-headed, thank you very much. Besides, last night I was just reading through a long thread on The Chronicle about brand-new tenure-track faculty survival, and they've got waaay more intense freakoutery than anything I've got goin' on here. And, um, a lot more to do ... and higher stakes ... evidently higher levels of depression and stress as well ... ulp.
Excuse me while I crawl under the couch and hide. I'm not sure I actually want what's on the other side of the job search after all. If anybody calls, say you don't know where I am. And send cookies.
Monday, December 3, 2007
1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 random and/or weird things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
So alrighty then, let's see if I can remember what I've told you and what I haven't:
1. I'm overdue for a haircut. I have one tuft of hair that insists, when not properly coated with hair product, on sticking out from the side of my head at an exact 90 degree angle, and even, occasionally, further towards straight up. This tendency is exacerbated when I am in need of haircutting, and back when my hair was below my shoulders or even longer, this same tuft has done a pretty good job at the right angle thing --- think four inches straight out like a wing, then the rest limply drooping.
2. Back in high school I had a series of altercations with my parents (not to be confused with the even bigger shitstorms of junior high, which were even more traumatic) about going to college: I was intending to go to a music academy as a music performance major but my parents eventually declared that they would not pay for my college, would disown me, and would refuse to ever speak to me again. They won out, so I went to a big state university and majored instead in ... English. Yeah, big money-maker and secure major there. Every week I called home, for four years, my dad would rib me about not having changed to an engineering major yet. Ironically enough, my niece, who's a junior at a Cal State now, is majoring in music ed. They never said a thing.
3. My fourth toe (the ... ring toe? that just sounds weird) is bent so far it stays under the next-biggest toe. I fear that cute shoes are to blame, and that if I ever go get it looked at, they will make me swear to only wear unhappy orthopedic shoes of the grandmotherly sort.
4. I cannot roll my Rs, nor imitate my cats' purring. Made Spanish class hard, I tell you. I was never able to flutter tongue or growl a note, either, to go back to #2. Unfortunately, that sounds dirtier than it is. Don't worry, I can (or could) make up for that with the increased lung capacity and breathing exercises.
5. I'm pretty claustrophobic ---- had to be carried out of Carlsbad Caverns in full hysterics back in fourth grade, as a matter of fact. It's not usually that noticeable otherwise, but I've picked up on how my mom has to have the window cracked whenever she's in the car, smoking or not, and I wonder if she's got the same problem.
6. My biggest unrequited crush of undergrad was a poet in my creative writing seminar (oh, it gets worse) who somewhat resembled a cross between Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong and Sick Boy, complete with hair that was either platinum or pitch black. We'd sit out in the sculpture garden, him smoking his clove cigarettes, and read over incredibly pornographic and self-indulgent poems about having sex with his girlfriend, who I, and I would have regardless of her relationship with him, hated with a passion. Painful --- in so many ways.
7. Related to point #6, I think I've been through every color on the manic panic rainbow and most of the natural ones besides. This was actually hell for my letters of recommendation requests as none of my professors knew me --- more specifically, they remembered me with totally different hair and didn't believe I was who I said I was.
Now somebody, anybody, step up and do this meme. There doesn't seem to be anybody left!
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Well you all can think you're done with this challenge but I am different and I am on Cog Time. (You can see how well it has worked for the speedy finishing of the dissertation and other scholarly projects.) Deadlines and teaching mean nothing on Cog Time; only pushing the rock (I know I've seen this part of the mountain before). Therefore I hereby declare that it is still November ---- This is November: The Rerun, and I am still doing my inaweirdmo challenge with the same project and my current word count. Those of you who are behind on your Christmas shopping should be pleased; those of you who are sick of the semester may find it hard to take a mulligan and have to repeat it all (though I'm sure many of your students could benefit from redoing the last month's work). New Year's Eve will be broken up into four days for the celebration of Christmas and Express Chanukah and the following year will begin as normally scheduled. Naturally it will be difficult waiting for another month to hear about job interviews but on the other hand it means I got all my applications out way early.
So, to update: I'm still going to be plugging away at the chapter, and I hope to have met my goal by
And in related news I think I need less balance in my life. I'm spending too much time relaxing and napping and cooking weird food from scratch and going out and about with friends and generally taking care of myself ---- I need to just take a shitty month or three weeks or so to hole up and really power my way through all this crap I need to do. Perhaps I also need to consume much larger amounts of caffeine and wreck my health as well. But all this "balance" and "well-roundedness" shit's gotta stop.
For example: I did absolutely no work over the weekend. On Friday I went out drinking til late with Cool Scientist Friend and The Political Animal, which was fun except for the annoying matchmaking going on (let me know if you want to hear me kvetch about people who have an unstoppable urge to set you up with all sorts of strange and random people), then Saturday I sat around and did nothing for a very long time, maybe throwing some laundry in and getting some Christmas and blogger-present shopping done, and then Dissertation Buddy invited me over for a fantabulous multi-course dinner, which involved crepes. With goat cheese. Mmmm. And today I did nothing much besides more family present shopping and cooking immense quantities of food despite already having immense quantities in the fridge (I swear, I should never shop when I'm hungry, but also never shop when I have an ingredient list, cause I must have gotten enough fresh veggies to feed me for a couple weeks _plus_ all the materials for a big pot of soup. So soon I'm going to be throwing out leftovers left and right, and wasting food always makes me feel bad.) Not only did I not do diss work, I didn't do all my house work and crap that needs to be fixed. Meh. The one thing that has slid is my exercise --- I need to find something other than swimming since I can't bring myself to go when it's cold, and I think I'll just deal with the diss and freaking out more generally and leave the exercise until the new year, when I will turn over a whole forest of new leaves.
That's what I've been up to. And this makes me think about some comments profs and fellow grads say about "students these days": the ones who are doing a job (or two) and piles of stuff on top of their overloaded course schedule, and then look surprised when you tell them they need to make more time for the course if they want to pass it. "But I _really_ need the money from my job!" say students who own cell phones and new clothing. "How strange, the students these days," say the teachers. "Back in my day everyone understood that undergrad was a short time of temporary poverty; we knew to focus exclusively on our classes and 'the college experience' and not overload our schedules with too much, because we thought of our classes as our jobs."
Now I admit I have heard this and said this and even told it to some of my students (in the hopefully more positive framework of: you have three options and time to do two of them well --- classes, work, clubs/social. Be careful how you balance them from quarter to quarter and remember that if "classes" isn't on that list for an entire quarter you won't be here to worry about balance). But really it hadn't struck me how much I resemble the students or gen y/millenials or whatever it is. People who study today's current undergrad generation have noted that they don't see college as a "separate" time or transitional period of their lives at all, and the notion of giving up everything to narrow down to an intensely focused short period of time is foreign to them. Now that can be bad if they spend as if they were in their 40s and in an established job (which some of mine do), but it also marks a very specific relationship to time as well. The more leisurely pace, the trend toward coming and going from college and interspersing it with tries at various businesses or traveling the world or taking vacations, or alternately grabbing a bottom-rung job and working your way up through the company and the college together, running all the aspects of time and life together with no hard boundaries or transitions. It's interesting. And shockingly similar to my style, I'm noticing. I wonder why that is --- what larger forces are producing this trend?