Monday, June 30, 2008

Blogging the Lost, Critical Edition

Is it possible to find a citation one has lost by blogging it? Where the hell could it be?

I went in to school thinking that this book I need to cite, thus finishing off one of these last little notes to myself, was in the office where I had left it. There were four monographs in there because I had too much teaching stuff to take home the other day (ah, the perils of working on multiple projects in multiple locations! I had an "oh shit the lesson plan is on the laptop not the flashdrive" moment today too, but then I realized I had saved it with the wrong name.).

The book I wanted and remembered was among these four. However, none of them are citing the theorist I remembered they did. Argh! I could not have made this up, could I? But I thought I had out all my Author X books right now? The only ones I put back, I thought, were the ones that I thought were shitty. (Old, outdated, basically.) But where is my wonderful "nuts to you, Bataille! Not everything is about the freakin' potlach. Ha!" quote? It is not in any of these books. I checked all the indexes, at any rate ---- do I have to reread them again? I guess now I need to go back into the library and trace my footsteps to figure out this mysterious reference that I am sure exists but could just be my brain giving out after the long dissertation haul.

Oh monograph, come out come out wherever you are!

In other news, it is hard keeping up with all you people on my Bloglines! I can't manage to read and to post my own maunderings. And really, I should be prepping for tomorrow. Or washing that massive pile of dishes. Or going and getting ice cream. Mmm.

The chapter cleaning continues, although, as you can see, sometimes the line on the to-do list that reads "fill in these four citations" takes a few minutes, and other times takes an entire afternoon of running about like a headless chicken. Gah! I suppose I should go work on it now. Dammit ---- at least its not the dishes.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Odds and Ends

Dissertation Buddy has gone! She is overseas doing her research and writing and seeing if she will get back together with Long-Distance Significant Other. I am a bit sad with her not around.

When she cleaned out and unplugged the fridge at her apartment, she gifted everything in it to me, which means that my fridge is now crammed chock-full of strange bits of food that don't quite go together. As in, I have two bottles of capers, three or four baggies of herbs, two eggs, and some butt ends of carrots and a few other slightly-wrinkly vegetables. Now I actually have all the fresh herbs that I never happen to have around for my recipes, and no food to cook them with. Or room to put more veggies in the fridge, either. Oh, and cheese. More cheese than I should be eating, since I already had quite a stash of my own.

I made it through the first week of class fine ---- I've got people talking, which is great, and now I want to get them talking more to each other, whereas right now everyone looks at me and I tend to speak after each of their comments, which is not really an organic conversation. There's a big wide range of abilities here again, I think; Mr. Eye-roller is clearly smart and knows how to talk about literature as literature and thinks my class is too baby-level, but I have plenty of other people who don't know how to read for detail at all. (Side question: when you teach people to read for significance, how do you teach them what's significant? I just see it, which makes it hard to teach --- it's probably something you pick up through lots of reading and get familiar with the codes intuitively.)

I also had the weird situation where I think all my majors dropped the class, as did several of the upperclass-people. (I was going to write "upperclassmen" but that just bugs.) I was miffed. I was even miffed when I gave my "be worried about taking 4 intense courses on a short schedule even though they give you a discount" speech and then some people walked out shortly after. Crazy, I know. I should think of it as having fewer papers to grade and more room to really get a discussion going. Last quarter, when everyone who wasn't a freshman dropped the big lecture course in the first week or so, I totally understood ---- it was not challenging, not presented in an exciting way, and really not a college-level class. But I like to think that my stuff is more interesting and doesn't seem like a baby course! The problem is that to get the not-very-good students who don't know how to deal with literature to feel comfortable enough to talk, we do have to go down to a very bottom level of questions so they feel like they have something to say. Then I try to push upward from there. But I did have some disgruntled comments about it the last time I taught this class, saying it was "too high school." Bleah.

I've had the odd experience of doing roughly a 9 to 5 schedule this week, then coming home and cooking and puttering around a bit and even going out with friends ---- as if I had a normal, not an academic job. It felt strange, and yet kinda pleasant. I've been really getting into the crafty, fixer-upper stuff at home and it's nice ---- although I'm trying to not let that displace the dissertation. I have been getting decent little spurts in on the dissertation, which is good on the one hand, considering how exhausted and behind I was on my summer course last year, and yet bad on the other hand when you look at my timeline for completing the diss and all my other writing projects.

Part of me wants to go see some movies and do all sorts of summer fun things that this area is known for, and part of me is, even when I look calm and lazy, freaking out inside about the amount of stuff I need to do and thinking I shouldn't even be on the internet this morning while waiting for my tea to cool. Oh, that's another thing: I'm not bringing my laptop to school anymore. Instead, I'm bringing a flashdrive and hogging the gradlab computer all day. I think I get slightly more dissertation writing done with the laptop, but it is also much harder for me to check my bloglines and facebook and get sucked off into that distraction --- I wouldn't want to have my secret academic cog passwords and my list of blog-reading on the public computer (or get caught posting), and I actually forgot my facebook password (which is just saved on the laptop) so I don't want to re-learn it and then have the temptation. The other problem has been when I want to check 57 million of my old teaching files for a cool idea I once had, when I only have today's lesson plan on the flashdrive. But for keeping my back healthy and minimizing the distractions, I think it's good.

Speaking of distractions, I should go clean out that litterbox. Or, I could read more blogs!

Monday, June 23, 2008


Hooray! All hail the great Zunguzungu, who has sent the balmy breezes of coolness to this humble cog's abode. That is, it cooled off yesterday and the temp actually went down a bit in my house, and today was beautiful --- a nice warm summery day in the 80s, which meant it was warm in my apartment, but not the unbearable horrible heat that it had been.

However. My class is meeting in a warm, west-window-facing room in late afternoon. Sigh. The last time I taught this same class it was a late afternoon class and I had the hardest time keeping the students awake --- and they got pretty resentful when I got aggressive about it and really kept harping on it. So, if anyone has suggestions for how to prevent students from sleeping during "slump time" or breaking up the stupor, I'm all ears. I guess lots of group work and making them move around between groups? Hmm.

What else do I have to report? Well, I set a bunch of personal deadlines/guidelines for finishing various aspects of the chapter, and, of course, am in the process of falling behind! Part of that I ascribe to the unscheduled heat wave, which really fucked with my ability to sleep, and thus
with my ability to think, but still. I've gotta get on this.

I can see that I'm going to have to be very on top of things, as while I have time in my schedule to write on the diss first thing every morning, I don't want to. I mean, I never want to; it's a fight every day to make myself buckle down. But what with teaching my own class I am tempted into doing errands or prep work all day instead, and since class meets every day it is so easy to push back a personal deadline, but I really can't afford to right now. Also, I ran into more grad students today than I do in a usual school month. (I would have said "the last month" but all those grad parties I went to belie this.) I love these people and they are all great, but some of them have Procrastinatory Habits. I must watch out that I don't get sucked into chatting and helping them avoid their dissertations. This may involve various hiding tactics; I don't know yet.

I also need to work on doing "dissertation work" that is not really dissertation work ---- fiddling with finding random articles that exist but nobody else cites and avoid finishing off this chapter with the eternal search for all the articles that exist in the universe on this topic, or reading stuff after I've figured out it is not useful for me, or even reading Random But Interesting criticism, which is the bane of my existence.

Anyway, I need to do acres of laundry. (stupid heat wave and sweating and whatnot.) How are you?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bored. Hot. Grumpy. Dissertating.

That sums up this week. Bleah. Yesterday I was all about the freezing cold showers; today I'm tired of showers and trying out the fan-with-wet-washcloth setup. It's hot and my apt won't cool off at night. This has produced the embarrassing result that I willingly went on campus and did work today. And was caught at it, too! Also while wearing no makeup and almost no clothes and with my pushed-back sunglasses making a Bride of Frankenstein hair mess. I don't know which part is worse. Hi, dashing and employed fellow graduates! Go show all your cool friends the sights over there, thank you.

And it's not so much sleeping in the heat, or the full moon that seems to blare on in through every rip and crack of the curtains, or even, god help me, the damn neighbors deciding it would be a good idea to play the radio so loud one morning at 5 that people from other apartment buildings up the street joined me to pound on their door; no, it's that I have this problem again ---- the labyrinthitis. Naturally, I toss and turn in my sleep a lot when I'm not. Grr. Is this crap going to just get more and more frequent until I have to be shut up in some bizarre variation on Howard Hughes's reclusiveness? (just as long as I get to be shut up in a gorgeous mansion with film stars, ok? And my own planes carved from cottage cheese.)

I'm melting. My couch is a sauna; even my books appear to be dripping down my hands like wax candles. There's nothing to do in here that isn't horrible punishment, and outside ---- let's see, do I go to the non-airconditioned movie theater or to the non-airconditioned shopping plaza? I think they'd notice if I permanently moved in to my ice cream place and just climbed into one of the buckets.


That's all I've got. Even the cats are listless. And Dissertation Buddy isn't available to hang out until 8 tonight. Doesn't anybody have some interesting and fun links or stories or exciting emails or ice cubes they can send me?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Year of Magical Thinking

I haven't read Joan Didion's book, but it must be about grad school, right? There are so many years of magical thinking there it's hard to pick one ---- the "I will finish the entire dissertation in 8 months" year, the "I am brilliant and I will get a wonderful job at Harvard" year, the "fuckit, I'll drop out to become a best-selling avant-garde novelist" year ... take your pick.

My favorite, though, was the two weeks before the graduation ceremonies. That's not a year? Well, that's the magical part.

I had such big plans ---- After I Graduate Everything Will Be Perfect! I Will Be Perfect! Even though I was completely incapable of motivating myself to work on the dissertation, I was sure Once I Graduate, my apartment would be always clean, I would be able to write effortlessly and fluently, I would go on a diet and stop slacking on my (expensive, already-paid-for) exercise program, I would cook healthy stuff I have at home rather than throwing out rotten stuff and then buying expensive, unhealthy crap on my way into the library. I would go out and do social stuff more and be an all-around better friend. I would, I told myself, Turn Over a New Leaf.

Something tells me that's not going to happen now.

Mainly because nothing feels any different. I mean, sure, yay, I graduated. But I'm over that now ---- I'm not done, so the week after the graduation hasn't been any materially different from the week before the graduation: I go to school, procrastinate in the library and roll the damn rock a little way. I have seen a bunch of random people ---- someone I TA'd for years ago, someone from a grad class my first year, a couple librarians I've met ---- and it's very fun to say "I'm almost finished! I just graduated and I'm getting ready to file!" (ok, I am exaggerating on the "getting ready" part, but they don't need to know that, right?) Yes, that part is nice.

But I don't feel any wiser or more accomplished or really like I've succeeded at anything. I don't feel like a "Dr." and let me tell you, if I were going off to be a "professor" in some tenure-track job in fall I would be dealing with huge academic fraud syndrome, something that never troubled me much as a grad student (heck, I've been one long enough that I'm quite comfortable in the identity). I still feel like me. And I've gotten quite used to "me" being equivalent to the snarky, procrastinating, backsliding lil' old grad student. So while I never turn down the chance to have a party in my honor, it didn't really feel transformative or like it actually marked any sort of real transition.

That's not to say I won't work on my List of Perfection above as goals ---- money is tight and my clothes are too after the past couple months of high-stress, low-free-time eating, so I need to undo that bad habit ---- but I keep coming to these new milestones and thinking "here's the happily ever after!" here is the moment of perfection, of nirvana, of closure, of something! And then it just turns out to be the everyday. Is getting a job, is getting tenure, going to be the same deal?

Sigh. Oh well. I sought an epic narrative and found only the quotidian. Maybe the epic can only be found in representations rather than experience. Good thing I'm a fan of satire and bathos, because those are always applicable to reality itself.

In other news, it is hot over here ---- something that's not helping my plan to eat out less and consume less ice cream. I start up the summer session very soon and will be complaining and questioning you all about my adventures in it presently, I'm sure, and besides finishing my dissertation ---- and the joy of formatting the dissertation, which, I have been told, will cause me to pull all my hair out, so you will get updates on that, too ---- I need to get my articles revised and sent out again, write another conference paper, plan for the next job search --- oh yes, I have many things on my plate this summer. You will get to hear me whine about them all. For that part of my personality hasn't changed a bit either.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Graduation Lowdown

So, I graduated! Yay me! Thanks for all the well wishes, peeps.

And I survived graduation weekend ---- the parties were no hardship, except for being very very tired from them all, but successfully dealing with my entire extended family was more of an accomplishment. They terrified my cats, who then hid under my bedcovers, and then they mocked them (the cats) for hiding there. My cats finally came out in the middle of the night (both nights) and since they had been very quiet and still, hiding from the crazy people all day, they had lots of energy to burn off and needed to make lots of meowing noises. Fun. It all added to the tiredness.

The day itself was beautiful --- a bit cloudy and a bit chilly, but man I appreciated it with those robes. Whoever pointed out that they would be hot and annoying was right! The ceremony itself was long and dull and had its few moments of shining in the spotlight and a few other moments of tearing up a bit ---- my many friends who are leaving me! We are all scattering to jobs on the four corners of the earth, and many of us have already scattered and were just coming back for this! And then, there is me. Hi. I might as well be unemployed here as anywhere, right? Ah well.
Here you can see that the day was mostly overcast ---- I took pictures of my row of fellow grads. Here are the tops of their hats.

I didn't pay attention to anyone's shoes, but there was a wide variety of other types of sartorial snazziness going on --- can I just say: bow ties. Yup. And it was cool to see profs hooding their students while wearing brilliant scarlet or hot pink or yellow or gray robes ---- the UC's colors are nice and all, but I kinda think I should have picked my grad program based entirely on doctoral robe bling.

The downside to graduating is that I'm not done, but man do I feel done. I have no desire whatsoever to finish up this whatever it is I need to turn in. What is it, a disserwhatchamacallit? Bleah. I also got peeved when I asked the grad next to me if I could have people call me "Doctor" now and she said no. She said it very forcefully, and I drooped, abashed. It's not like she's done either, and I wasn't even asking about "professor" as a title (which, since she has a job offer, she will be entitled to that title as soon as she does file and move there), but dammit, I want to use the title! The Chancellor, when he conferred on us our degrees, bestowed upon us the "rights and privileges thereunto," and using "Doctor" is the only privilege I can think of.

Hmm, what else? I made my family take me out to lunch (they were confused by the fancy restaurant with its California-fusion cuisine, and kept mocking the words they did not know, but whatever) and then out to a wonderful dinner at a place that usually specializes in wild game but this time only had "loin of buffalo." My dad said it was good. I had the NY strip and it was delicious! Mmmm, meat. My family did less mocking of the dinner because they recognize what steak and potatoes are, so it worked out well. Getting to each destination was a major trial, though, as the more people you have in a group, the harder it is to move them in an organized fashion. And we are far from organized as a people. (There was drama over contacting them on the way down, as they are incapable of running their cell phones, too.) My dad is getting both increasingly crabby and increasingly repetitive as he gets older, so I got to hear "finish your damn thesis already" a lot from him the other day. It may sound harsh, but I'm just ignoring him a lot of the time now; it keeps my blood pressure down.

Now that they've gone home I will set up some more rounds of graduation celebrations that can include drinking and swearing; many people in the department promised to buy me a beer after graduation and I'm going to hold them to that. If I work the scheduling out right I should be able to go out all summer and not have to make a beer budget. This pleases me. And tonight I need to work up some new lists and plans for summer, and finish prepping for my summer class (I get to teach a summer class! Yay!). I've just finished up my grading and now that the office has just opened I can transfer and store various piles, so I'm off.

Ah, a cog's work is never done. But sometimes she gets to rock a snazzy hat!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Cog Comes Out!

* * * *

(Of course, I couldn't get the tam on my cats as planned for the photo shoot ---- I don't know why I was thinking it would easy to put a big scary hat on Timido. As you can see, I can't even get one on Loquito here.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Is Our Children Learning? Play Along At Home

You might be completely disheartened by reading lit exams that fail to include any actual content or references to classic works of literature, or, like me, you might find them completely hilarious and enjoy pointing and laughing cruelly.

Go over here to Fretful Porpentine's and play the "guess which canonical work of literature is being butchered here" game. It's fun! For bonus points, add your own bloopers.

* * *

Or, if your sense of humor runs even darker than that, perhaps you'd like to see what adjunct hell is really like. Click on that to find a short story that is not as far-fetched as I'd like.

After all, as Polonius said, "there's a sucker born every minute!"

Hmm. Wait. Maybe it was Julius Caesar.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What Do Graduate Students Want?

Someone ---- was it COCAL? The Graduate Student Caucus? The NYU TAs? ---- once Photoshopped Goya's famous painting of Saturn devouring his children with the tagline, "How are you enjoying your 'apprenticeship?' "

(If someone has a link to that, I'd love to see it.)

Sorry to return to my usual bitterness but that's what passed through my mind as I was reading the IHE review of Frank Donoghue's The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities. (perhaps more because of my great love of Goya and his dark vision of the world than of anything else.)

I haven't read the actual Donoghue book yet, but the interview goes over the familiar blah blah we all know of increasing costs and corporatization and reliance on adjuncts, with the often-repeated-elsewhere conclusion that tenure and tenured professors are dying out. The keynote is sounded at the end of the article, which I shall post here in all its depressing glory:

Q: What are key steps that could be taken to restore the tenure-track professoriate?

A: The tenure-track professoriate will never be restored. Two factors seal its fate. First, the hiring of adjuncts continues to outpace the hiring of tenure-track professors by a rate of three to one. It’s silly to think we can reverse the trend toward casualization when, despite a great deal of attention and effort, we can’t even slow it down. Second, the demographics of American higher education don’t help us either. For 40 years, students have been moving away from the humanities toward vocationalism. This trend has been accompanied by an equally pronounced shift in enrollments from four-year schools (with English and History majors) to community colleges, where the humanities have never had a strong presence. Tenure-track professors don’t have a place in this new higher education universe. Much as it pains me to say it, I never considered putting a question mark at the end of my title, The Last Professors.

I don't believe that tenured profs will die out completely ---- there's still room for those few endowed chairs at wealthy, private top universities, for example ---- but I could see the balance shifting as high as 90% -10. What would that system concretely look like? How would it feel on the ground? And is this really going to be a case of that metaphor where you boil a frog in water by gradually raising the temp a couple of degrees at a time?

I guess, since there isn't an obvious single thing we can point to and say "that's what we need to do to fix the problem!" it may come to the frog result regardless. Mass panic and becoming immobilized by shock and despair might have the same effect as the frog not noticing.

Imagine a world then --- a college --- where 90 percent of the faculty are adjuncts and 10 percent --- the distinguished senior professors --- have tenure. What would it look like? How would it run? Is there any way we ("we") could be ok with this, any way this could work or be set up so that the adjunct faculty were happy? What do the adjuncts want? What do grad students want?

Of course, anyone who recognizes my little play on Freud's "what do women want?" will remember that he felt they themselves were profoundly incapable of answering that question. This leads to the troubling conclusion that if women cannot answer that question, men must --- that "woman" becomes the object for men to study, the enigma men take pleasure in claiming they can never figure out. Hmm. I'm of two minds on this, as I am on just about everything.

To what extent do we ("we," again) know what we want? What do we really want?

If you were to ask me in spring what I wanted, I'd say, duh! A tenure-track job! Where "tenure-track" actually fulfills the same symbolic hole as "good union job" might in Midwest parlance. By which I mean I want a permanent job with a living wage, where I don't have to worry about getting sick while uninsured and where I don't have to sit on pins and needles wondering if they'd give me enough courses the following term to pay my bills.

But, ok, is that what I really want? Was grad school for me just a ten-year fuckaround like some of my friends traveled the world for a year before settling down to their high school classrooms and corporate cubicles? Ie, that was fun and now I just want some financial security?

The author I'm writing about right now is largely neglected; he could be seen as a fuckup, a failure. He worked long shit jobs for the chance to take some time off and write bizarre messes that nobody else liked and nobody bought and then had to go back to toil at the edge of poverty again. He died before he could make much of a name or have any time to himself to think or to enjoy much of anything. The women in his life thought his writing was shit and mercilessly nagged at him to quit writing and make some money: "how's he gonna eat?" This all probably had some effect on the weird, fucked-up female characters he writes and that I'm obsessing over.

I know criticism isn't supposed to be all about identifications but I see myself on both sides of this author's relationships. And so maybe I've been insisting on and demanding the wrong things here? Maybe I should be embracing the bohemian freedom and poverty, insisting on the time and the freedom and the formlessness, reveling in my position as a parasite, a bit of grit in the economic gears, rather than griping about Roth IRAs and job security? Maybe what I really want is the freedom and autonomy, particularly the academic freedom part of tenure, which I haven't really had much to say about (or think about) before. Because really, if the point of the tt is to have a living wage and steady paycheck, I don't see what the problem would be with turning all humanities-prof jobs into the same thing as high school teachers. (and really, I think the reason we have 90% of our research is because we like to do it rather than it contributes anything worthwhile to society --- it's a perk to sweeten our jobs not a burden of them.)

The only problem I have with this was that I set aside all these bohemian, free artistic desires when I decided not to become an artist myself. I thought about it seriously and decided that I'd never be really, really good and gave up on the Lifetime of Sacrificing in Poverty for the Cause of My Art. Grad school and "teaching" was supposed to be my backup job. If freedom and poverty's what I want I can live in my parents' garage or hitchhike across country writing the Great American Novel or just sit around being poor and lazy somewhere and not give even half a fuck for all that shit you gotta do on the job market. I mean, sure, I'd probably contract some horrible venereal disease while living in squalor and compiling my gigantic dictionary of prostitutes' slang, but hey, someday, years and years in the future, some cynical and disaffected grad student would write a dissertation chapter on my work.

Oh, wait.

So, yeah, I've just run circles around my usual theme and come up with the usual impasse, the usual answers, the usual lack of solutions. On the other hand, I haven't pawned all my clothes and my prostate isn't swollen to the size of an orange. Gotta look on the bright side sometimes.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lego Art

Yes, I know I just posted ---- here, have some quick-and-dirty surrealness to tide you over between other things:

On Flickr, someone is recreating famous photographs in Legos. Like the flag raising at Iwo Jima, Lunch atop a Skyscraper, hippies putting daisies in rifles, etc. They're really cool; go check them out.

("The Unknown Rebel," Tiananmen Square, recreated)

Tip from an art blog watching LA events and galleries.

Also Lego-related, if you haven't seen The Brick Testament before, you should totally go look at it. The site originally stated that it was portraying all the weird, crazy, inconsistent, f'd-up stuff in the old testament that everyone avoids talking about. (I notice that this description isn't up there anymore.) The picture below is from one of my favorite Brick Testament stories, the story of Dinah.

Also, as a side note, I am very sad I am in California and not Boston right now, because there is a Velazquez and El Greco exhibit at the MFA. I am sorry to miss it! Anybody want to fly me out there and squire me around? It's times like these when you need a sugar daddy, sigh.

If you have any other cool Lego site stuff, or any other art stuff in general you think I'd like, leave me a link in the comments.

The Problem With Piles

So ---- I have an extremely detailed and organized folder with all my plans and dinner reservations for graduation and where my family will be staying and whatnot.

However, I can't find it.

I also have numerous piles all around the apartment, neatly squared off and stacked ---- because I am OCD if not actually organized ---- none of which, on a cursory inspection, appear to include the graduation folder.

Guess what I get to do today?

(Actually, after two long days of intense reading and hurried consolidation of criticism, I welcome the chance to do something different, something where I don't have to hold quite as still. The place needs cleaning and parent-proofing anyway. And while I'm at it, if this counts as "blogging the lost" and actually turns up the folder, I'm looking for my sunglasses as well. Please keep an eye out for them among the cat hair and crumpled paper.)

And in other news, I never did find something fun and appropriate to wear under my graduation robes. Maybe I'll just go naked. Considering the laundry piles around here, that's an entirely feasible option.


Today, I did:
  • one load of laundry,
  • one sinkload of dishes,
  • finished reading a biography (still need to splice info into the chap)
  • cleaned out one drawer of the file cabinet
    • (producing two buckets of recycling)
    • in order to file numerous dissertation-related items
  • thus consolidating/eliminating 3 piles.
    • (there are 3 more, but one is teaching stuff from this quarter and I can't chuck it yet)
But still, I have not found my commencement info. I'm having to make calls and reconstruct. Bleah. However, I managed to avoid a lot of dissertation work. Yay.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Party Update: Academic Liminality

So I went right out to the party, knowing that I’d go if I just went with the momentum of it all, and I had a pretty good time. It was also not really what I had expected. It turns out I saw quite a few people who I knew; I had TA’d for many of them. You see, the person who invited me is a new TT hire and the partner of said person is filing a dissertation. The party was very much a department party full of faculty welcoming the new TT hire to their department (not the same as mine). So the age and hierarchy and relationship to the people being celebrated breakdown ---- compounded by large numbers of children ---- was just kind of weird and unusual for me to encounter.

The subsequent mix of awkwardness and familiarity made me realize that I’m at a really weird, liminal position in the academy ---- you’d think grad school is liminal but really, you’re just on the bottom of the totem pole and treated like crap ---- no, as someone who is graduating along with lots of colleagues and a year or so after most of my friends who got TT jobs, I’m transitioning between two very different structural positions (well, ideally I will transition once I get a job). There were five or six “professors,” their first year on the TT, who, when I pressed them on it (for I love nothing so much as a little gossip) all said that they didn’t feel any different than when they were grad students, that they were struggling to figure out how everything worked on the other side and that they were still waiting for that feeling of, as I had put it, “I’m a real boy now.” There were also 5 of us from 4 different UCs who had just finished (four defenses and me, although I was claiming to everyone that I was done. Shh. Don’t out me.) There were also some people who had been staff people at my school for the past 20 years, and several professors of the Associate and Full and Distinguished variety.

So I obviously totally need to figure out how to maneuver in these types of situations ---- it was clear to me that my usual “charm,” which consists of being as snarky and profanity-laden in person as on this blog, with the accompanying problem of I don’t remember any of the social niceties like please and thank you etc until just a smidge too late (I blame my years of rebellion against my mother, when I would purposely not learn any of the manners she was teaching me) ----- yes it was clear that my usual abrasive charm does not go over so well in a mixed situation. I think I totally cheezed it with one of the staff people when she was asking what I knew about her dept. and the grad students and I mentioned I had done a lot of union work and also I said some things about them having had problems in the past. Then, after I said it, I remembered that you probably shouldn’t badmouth somebody else’s stuff in front of them. Duh. Also, you can’t snark about any professors in a room where there are professors; it might get back to them. And you probably shouldn’t air any dirty laundry or even too much of a cynical attitude ---- I got some shocked looks. Some were looks of pleased and delighted shock, as in “I can’t believe you said my innermost gripes!”, but they were looks of startlement nonetheless.

It made me realize just how bitter, how “us” vs “them,” our grad student parties get in tone. And that’s coming from someone who’s taken newbie grads aside and told them to cool it for being too hostile and adversarial. But I haven’t ever really been at a party ---- well, outside of the department holiday parties, but those are on campus and feel like a special hazing session ---- where the splits of union and management, boss and worker, prof and student, employed and unemployed newly-minted PhDs, the whole thing mixed with tenure and long memories, all get lumped together and expected to interact.

Grad student parties are all very homogeneous ---- even in age, for the most part ---- and are very “safe” spaces. You could puke under the kitchen table or hook up with the wrong person or have a huge fight with a fellow grad ---- and that would be bad, and also produce some wonderful gossip and entertainment for the rest of us, but we wouldn’t be shocked at it happening. Usually everyone’s on the same “side” and are all sharing gossip and info about how “the other half lives.” You just can’t really do any of that when the other half is living right there in the room with you.

As I said, weird. It’s all a very new and strange idea to me. The newness, when compounded with alcohol and pre-existing troubles with verbal self-censoring, means that I’m going to have to think a lot about how to navigate this in the future. And hope that none of the graduation parties in my department have the same situation. Because I’d like to have more champagne than I did this time.

Party. Woo.

I'm supposed to be heading out to a graduation party right now (I'd be arriving right between on time and fashionably late) and I don't want to go. I mean, I did want to go, earlier when I was invited, but now I'm all bleh and grumply and "don't make me quit what I was doing," which mainly involved procrastinating on the diss and being bored. (Inertia --- it's a lovely thing. I'm always happy being in my rut --- happy, because then I have something easy and familiar to hate and complain about.)

Thing is, it's hosted by someone I barely know, who is very nice, and when this person heard I too am graduating, invited me along. I don't think I will know anybody there, which is always nerve-wracking for me and makes it more of a social ordeal than a fun event. Plus, when I looked back at the email for time and directions, I noticed the person I'm TAing for is invited. I don't really get along with her, remember? And because I'm conflict-averse and all passive-aggressive and bitchy, I'm not sure how well she knows this.

So the more I think about it, the less thrilled I am about going ---- I'd be thrown together with the one person I know, who I'm still mad at for setting up class the way it is, and would need to make small talk with strangers otherwise. Bleah. On the other hand, I'm always beating myself up for not getting out more or making an effort to go socialize with people ---- you can't complain nobody invites you to anything or hangs out with you if you always hide in your room and refuse to go to parties, Cog ---- and it's pretty punk-ass to not even make the effort. Maybe I'll swing through and claim I've got another event to hit.

Gah --- am I the lamest person in the world or what?

Don't answer that.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Sisyphus Joins the Morelocks

Grah. Urgh. Bleah.

I got a second iced coffee about 4 pm last night and blogged a bit while waiting for it to take effect. I've been up and either writing or procrastinating writing most of the night ---- at a certain point you realize there's no point checking Facebook because everyone you know has gone to bed ---- and then I got up again this morning to continue.

Well, it ain't working. I'm going to bed to sleep out the remainder of the day and emerge into the world once cover of darkness returns. I hate royally fucking up my sleep schedule ---- and it switched over so quickly, too!

If you see a mysterious figure slipping through the shadows; that's me. Grunt.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

We Interrupt this Rock-Pushing for A Short Commercial Break

Argh! I hate dissertations, and deadlines, and chapters, and mid-afternoon slumps, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, I hate how intensity of work seems to have no effect on the amount left to do. You push the rock up a hill for a couple hours, it rolls over your foot to flomp back down to the bottom, and you call it a day. You get up extra early and really throw your back into heaving that rock up the hill and slave at it and slave at it for hours and put your heart in it, and it slips out of your hands and flomps back down to the bottom. Gah.

In other words, when I devote a couple hours before lecture to the chapter, I can turn a lump of crap into about a paragraph before I quit. When I spend the whole entire day at it ---- working, not even the midafternoon-dazed-stare thing! ---- I produce about a paragraph from a lump of crap. At a page a day, I'll need a time machine to go back and enlist my high school self into starting in on this project. Luckily she had lots of free time and slacked off, playing cards in class.

In other news, complaining about the camera repair people appears to be like blogging the lost --- I came home and there was a box! With my camera in it! Excellent. So I will be able to take pictures of people sitting there, looking bored in our funny suits and hats. Good times.

In other other news, I need to get this chapter into acceptable shape before my advisor flees the country ---- damn migratory academics! They flock to all the cool European cities and archives and conferences for molting season, where they converge in large flocks to preen and say "grawk!" I don't know what grad students did before radio tracking collars ---- how would you know it's even your advisor coming back in the rainy season? They say a grad can pick out the call of their advisor from a flock of thousands ---- "Where's your chapter, grawk!" ---- but I am suspicious of such easy biological explanations. I prefer to ascribe it to aliens. Or sunspots.

So yeah: the deadline. It's immediate, if not sooner. I am just expecting a miracle to happen, or perhaps a rift in the space-time continuum. Either or. I'm not picky.

Complicating this problem even more (if you could say me procrastinating an immediate deadline is complicated; really it's not.) is the fact that party season is upon us. No, I'm not going to avoid going to a PhD graduation party for someone (including me) just for the silly reason that I haven't actually finished writing the dissertation yet! So I've got a couple this weekend, and then some in the middle of next week, and then a lot more. What? I only graduate once. Maybe we can make finishing my chapter part of a drinking game of some sort. I'm thinking a cross between "threeman" and "exquisite corpse," the game where the Surrealists passed around a poem and everyone wrote a piece without seeing the other pieces. Plus, my students' final projects are due at the very end of finals week. And graduation itself is right between their papers and when grades are due. I don't know how that will work itself out either. Maybe I'll just make my high school self grade them while she's at it.

Ok, great! I have everything all planned out for between now and graduation! The sunspots will call the aliens, who will rip open the space-time continuum and allow me to capture and enslave my high school self, pressing her into service on finishing my dissertation and doing all my grading. Easy peasy. Thanks people ---- talking to you-all always straightens things out.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Weekend Checklist

Graded a cubic fuckload of student essays? Check.

Read a buncha boring articles and prepared to teach section? Check.

Completed, or at least worked on, final dissertation chapter?


I said, completed, or

--- Quick, look behind you, it's Elvis!

And now to completely change ths subject, I am not a person of foresight and good planning. My camera broke, well somewhat (a crack on the battery cover that I was having to hold or tape shut to get it to turn on), a few weeks ago, and I thought, "Aha! I must send this off to the repair people right away so t hat I can document my graduation, plus annoy the world with gratuitous cat pictures!" So I shipped it off.

Unfortunately, just on Saturday I got the email that they have received it and diagnosed the problem. Silly cog! You have forgotten that you are sending it off to be entombed in the bowels of a bureaucracy and it will never possibly get back in time for graduation! That sucks. I'm not sure what to do about that now. And not only that, but it is Purple Season here and I can't take pictures of all the beautiful purpleosity! Or my cats being cute! Or any of the other stuff I want random pictures of. Argh.

I went up into the hills this weekend --- well, no, not very far --- and graded like a madwoman with Dissertation Buddy. We set up beach chairs under some twisty oaks, and the light came through so beautifully. Plus, we walked by tons of twisty purple-blossomed Jacaranda trees on the way in, and it was oh-so-wonderful. Sigh. But could I take a picture of it? Nooo!

However, I will close this post with this:

(heeeey, baby! I am like GQ model, no?)

Ha, you thought you were safe from the cat pictures? You were wrong! I got reserves, baby, let me tell you, motherfucking reserves.