Thursday, January 24, 2013

It has Returned!!!! Aiiiiiigh!

It's ... it's ... Floyd! And how has he changed!

He has been stamped with a scarlet R&R on his forehead, but ... remember how long ago I heard that there are varieties of R&Rs, some are "warm," and some are "cool" invitations to resubmit? This editor sounds Highly Unimpressed.

I am afraid to even look at what they have done to him ... I know there will be major changes and the editor said s/he was interested in getting additional readers if/when I resubmit the reconstructed work ... I stopped skimming at terrifying words like "derivative" and "reductionist view of ____ literary movement" and cringed in horror. Not the Psycho music! Noooooo!

I'll go read the reports eventually. Maybe this weekend I will be up to it? I think it will just take a little time and steeling myself before I can open the door and view the carnage. And I'm going to have to find someone to help me clarify my wording about my field, since I haven't even read the latest criticism in my area for who knows how long! Yuck.

Wait, did ----  did you just hear some maniacal laughter? And a chainsaw?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Academic Cog's Advice for Keeping Warm this Winter

And the first piece of advice is: damn! get the hell out of the cold! Seriously, why do people live in states where coldness and this "snow" bullshit happens?

I told my students today they needed to hold a protest, or maybe form a Society --- the Society for the Prevention of Snow. For some reason, they were doubtful that it would work. Eh.

If you are like me, it has been cold lately and you are struggling with how to keep your extremities warm. Now, we don't have snow right now --- except where it has been shoved into small icy embankments on the side of the road ... did I tell you about my apartment complex's garbage bins? They are in the shade of a building, so these big metal bins, like the ones you find out back of restaurants, are up on a little hillway, and none of the snow has melted. Then the plow pushed all the snow on the driveway in front of the bins, making it impossible for the garbage truck to raise and empty the bins. That was fun. Now, everyone has walked on this snow and pounded it flat and slick and icy on the sidewalk and poor dead grass on this little hill, meaning that when I want to throw away my trash I have to scramble up an icy hill like I'm an adventurer scaling the mountain of glass. I need those pitons or whatever to get to my garbage bin --- what, reach out and grab onto the bin when I slip and fall??? Are you kidding? It is the most filthy thing you have ever seen! And I'm not steadying my self by reaching a hand out to the ground, either --- there's all sorts of disgusting trash bits frozen into the ice all around the bins. So it's like scaling the Glass Mountain, but in a really gritty dirty neighborhood. Oh.

Anyway, there is very little snow --- all the snowmen made after the last big snowfall have melted down to look like dirty lumpy peeled potatoes --- but it is still cold. Cold enough that wearing my big long coat and some gloves and a hat and a scarf means that my face and ears are still super cold and uncomfortable, although the rest of me is only mildly annoyed.

So I went looking for the best ways to cover one's face and keep it warm during the winter. Obviously the best option is one's bed-pillow ---- because it is inside, where it is warm, and it is on one's bed. It can be supplemented with a warm, purring cat.

Barring that ideal situation, I present the following options:

Option One: The knitted chicken Viking helmet hat. Note the earflaps, which are quite useful in the cold. On the plus side, there are several free knitting patterns around the internet for you to make your own, but you can see that clearly your face is still going to be exposed to the elements. Perhaps you could modify the knitting pattern.

Option Two: Go medieval! You could join all the crafters and SCA-ers and recreate your own version of a medieval peasant hood:

On the plus side, it has beautiful embroidery. On the minus side, you still have the problem of the hood only covering the sides and back of your head when you pull the hood up. Perhaps you can wind the long tail around your face multiple times to keep your nose warm?

Option Three: the standard ski mask or balaclava. This one gets high marks for the coverage category, but is pretty boring and unremarkable. How will this help express your personal style? There is the bonus of being able to rob banks quickly and easily, though.

Maybe there's some way to re-do the classic balaclava in white and decorate it as the V for Vendetta mask. (Surely this could be made into a knitting pattern!) That way, when you were robbing a bank, you could give all the proceeds to Occupy Wall Street. And keep warm while at it!

There are also, of course, that standard patterns decorating the typical balaclava, ranging from camo to skulls to the makeup from Kiss or The Joker, or you could go in the brightly-colored luchadora wrestler tradition, represented here by the Pissed-Off Frosty mask that appeared on regretsy:

Also please click here for a long regretsy post on homemade balaclavas --- she shares my interest in strange knitted balaclavas.

I am sure you have seen the "beard-mask" knitted or croched option --- for some reason it was the main ad whenever I went to the facebook login page for weeks on end --- and it is so standard I am not going to bother to link to one. But it is definitely an option, particularly if you are going to be wearing a skirt and heels that day. 

Branching off from that a bit, I present to you the Cthulhu beard-mask, a much more stylish option now that it is 2013: 

It seems good for warmth but might be a little bulky. I think you could avoid a scarf with this one.

But what if you are afraid your eyeballs might freeze? They do that, you know, in certain northern states ---- at least, that's what I've heard. In that case, let me present to you the option of wearing, of course, the face-hugger from Alien:

Yes, this too is knitted. After all, what is the meaning of winter if not the opportunity to bring out all one's knitwear? It looks way classier and seasonally-appropriate than the molded plastic ones I found for sale. There is an article linking to the etsy site for it here

And finally, we return to regretsy, who points out the delicious wonderfulness of the artist working at the brutalist knitting tumblr:
 Save this for the extra cold days, when you don't even want eyeholes. You'll see things in an entirely new light!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Writing and the semester beginning

First of all, thank you everybody who commented on my last post and answered the question, if you could write anything at all, what would it be? I'm happy to provoke an interesting conversation. Please go read everyone's responses and add your own if you haven't already!

I just looked over my blog posts for last winter and discovered that this January has been much like last January --- lots of time spent not doing anything much at all, no time spent working on academic writing, a vague feeling of decision that I should quit the whole academic rat race all together.

I have much more time on my hands this time around, however, since I am teaching the same comp class again and only had to tweak it rather than invent it, which is nice, and I did almost nothing to the Fruit Studies course, which is pretty much in the format I want it now, and I set up a very boring and standard-shaped lit survey and have done very little to prep it so far. The nice thing is that this one is somewhat related to my actual comps fields and research, so I look ahead and go, aha! I have read pretty much everything on the syllabus, or even taught it before! And I look ahead and go, aha! I have lectured on this historical development and that literary movement before, and I bet I can do a pretty decent job off the top of my head!

That is a very different experience than the other survey, which I was calling the Stripey class. (I am still using the striped folder to hold my syllabus and notes, however --- I wonder if this will confuse me.) But with that course, even when I had actually read these authors once before (the last time I taught the class) I still felt kinda like a fraud who had never taken a grad seminar in any of this stuff, and was always over-prepping and looking into more background stuff ... and occasionally discovering my "reading" of a text was leaving out the historical or critical background that like everyone uses to understand that author.

In short, I feel like I should be doing something. Or even Doing Something. I've spent a couple weeks, at least, doing lots of sleeping and knitting and cleaning (although I only cleaned out some of my closets and such and should continue that), and now I am starting to get a little antsy. I haven't started up teaching yet --- am I letting time get away from me? Shouldn't I go back to the book revisions??? I talked to another postdoc today and heard about his creative writing and his critical articles and was practically inspired to go do my own academic writing. And, really, I could make a lot of progress the first five weeks or so of the semester since there isn't much to grade at first.


If I don't get one of these jobs I just applied to, I'm planning on giving it up here at the postdoc and move back to be near family. And just get some random job. Or hell, be a slacker and sponge off my parents --- why should the potheads get all the sponging goodness? So I am worried that if I throw myself back into academic writing, it will drag me back onto the academic/adjunct/postdoc Treadmill of Doom. (I just love capitalizing for emotional emphasis, don't you?)

But I haven't figured out what sort of "other random job" I would try for or what sort of writing that might include. I suppose that if I do decide to do something with the nonprofit/grantwriting type stuff, I could spend the time this spring practicing grantwriting and teaching myself the ins and outs of that field. And while I think I could be good at that type of writing, and be happy doing that as a job that paid me, I am not so consumed with joy about grantwriting that I want to just get up in the morning and do it to be a better person on my day that is free from teaching. When I am in a groove, I do feel that way about my academic writing --- and there are many other types of things I like to write that would go in that category as well.

So should I just start writing something purely for pleasure? I dunno. I don't even know what kind of pleasure writing it would be. --- I am so waffly and indecisive that it will probably take me up to the crunch time of grading all the assignments for me to just make up my mind about what I want to write. And guilt-prone ---- I can't get over the feeling that I should have been hard at work writing something, or Doing Something, this month instead of taking it easy.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Rethinking Writing

Let's say for a moment you weren't an academic --- not one who needed to write as part of a career, anyway --- would you still write academic pieces? Still write for an academic audience? I talked to several people at the MLA who said even if they never got a job or followed their husband and adjuncted or transitioned out of the academy into a desk job, they would just make time to do their research and write on the side. I am dubious.

And yet, I still want to be writing; I think I am a writer.

If you could write anything at all, about anything you want, what would it be? Leave any idea of compensation or relying on the writing for financial support out of the question for a moment. If you could write anything at all, what would you want to write about? A novel? investigative journalism? stories about cats? a cookbook? What would be your purpose? Who would you write for? What sets you flowing?

I'd especially like to hear from my fellow "in-betweeners" and those who have taken the alt-ac path.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Prepping the new semester

I am close to done, but not completely done. Typical. I finished up my lit survey syllabus and my Fruit Studies syllabus and those are pretty much good to go, but I still have a lot to fix with my reading list and homework assignments for comp. Seems that we have changed our request format and now everything we ask for from the local community college gets shipped off to the state capital and then shipped back. Well, not quite that far, but it is ridiculous. I had wanted to get some readings in there related to law enforcement that were not "ooh, let's legalize pot." I don't need to read any more terrible 420 research papers, ok? This means I am still playing with readings and reading order and, well, procrastinating from making decisions. My first classes meet Friday, though (weird! I know!), so I am hoping I have time to wait and checkout these potential readings before printing and copying the final syllabus version. We'll see.

In other news, enrollment here is down, I am told. I don't know if this is a change in financial aid, or funding ability, or the recession is catching up with our students, or what. But this means that while my comp classes are packed to the gills (boo!) my lit and fruit classes are about 10 students each. Nice. Usually when I teach 4 classes I have about 120 students; this time it will be around 80. Much nicer for grading.

Oh, did I tell you I am teaching an overload, and thus 4 instead of 3 classes? They messed up (I guess since I have a class technically outside the department, in the Fruit Studies program, nobody remembers this and everyone signs me up to teach a regular load in both programs) but I need the money and they are not full, so I am ok with things. And besides, if my two *fun* classes hadn't hit 8 students each, I might have had them taken away from me and I don't know what they would have done at that point! I could be teaching extra sections of comp. Or not getting paid what my contract says. Who knows?

I guess that fewer students and smaller grading piles will give me a little extra time. Am I putting that time towards more job apps? Looking in to alternate careers? I don't know yet. Since the post-MLA market is generally community colleges and small schools with very low research expectations, I just don't really see the point in going back to my book or busting my butt doing more research. Sure, it's fun, but if I had the time, or was making the time to write alongside a nonacademic job, would I even do academic writing?

(Side note: at MLA I met up with several ex-bloggers ---- hello bloggers and ex-bloggers! *waves wildly* you should go back to blogging! ---- and one blogger introduced me to her friend, who I don't think knows that I write things on the web like this, and I must admit I said some pretty brutal and crushing statements like that to her. Sorry! If you don't know me and know that I bitch about academic exploitation all the time and have done so on the web for years, it can sound very harsh. Sorry about that. But, for a lot of us, going on the academic job market has amounted to a very expensive and pointless hobby, without any real payoff. it's true, but it is also very hard to hear when you are cheering yourself up at MLA.)

Anyway, this is all a long and tiresome way of saying that I might have a little extra time this semester, and I need to keep focus on using that time for the most important priorities rather than hiding from them.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Inflationary Pop Culture

I have half an ear on all that Oscar/GoldenGlobes/fancy movie buzz, but I'm not really paying too much attention (shout at me in the comments if you think there's anything I should really scrape together the dough to go see), but something made me think of Kevin Bacon.

Huh, I thought. Has Kevin Bacon even done any movies lately? Would my students still know how to play 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon, or will this little game be lost to the sands of time? If he stops making films, will we eventually have to start playing 7 Degrees of Kevin Bacon???

And then I started thinking, gosh, why hasn't inflation affected other aspects of pop culture? I mean, I know the Fed is holding inflation to sharp lows, but surely, if movie tickets are running 9.50, then surely inflation has bumped us up to Snow White and the 12 and a Half Dwarves, Goldilocks and the 5 Bears, and 42.6 Brides for 50.7 Brothers? No?

I mean, if they're making The Hobbit into three movies and all ...

Any interesting shows/films/exciting websites you want to recommend? I'm finally getting culturally up to date to 2009, so if you suggest contemporary stuff now I might get to it in just a few more years.

Monday, January 14, 2013


Hmm ---- I feel like I should be making New Year's Resolutions or plans or lists, or something. Yes, yes, I could have done that at the actual new year, but the new MLA dates make me feel all discombobulated.

Although --- why make New Year's Resolutions? I guess resolving to be what you already are --- in my case, lazy and indecisive --- doesn't really take the same effort or commitment that it does to change oneself. But then are these resolutions really at all about changing oneself?

Not long ago some of my friends on facebook were chatting about the futility of pop-magazine articles, how predictable and formulaic they are. Every single one of them starts out the new year with "New Year, New You!" and exhorts you to make efforts to change all sorts of things about you, your body, your career, your mental outlook. And then the next months are all about Celebrate these Heteronormative Consumer-Obsessed Holidays That Will Directly Undermine Your New You! soon to be followed by issues exhorting you to feel shitty about your body in the obligatory The Beach and Bikinis Are Coming And You Should Look Like These Models! issue. I guess the point is that  committing to actual substantive change would be something more than this --- probably the first step would be to throw out all those damn pop magazines --- and that the ritual of calling for, and failing to enact, real change is the Old You. The You You. Ok, now I have confused myself.

I'm feeling pessimistic about the ability to resolve to make any changes in what I suspect are pretty fundamental aspects of my personality. Procrastinating? Proposing wildly over-ambitious to-do lists for every day and every project? Spending too much time on the internet? Leaving semi-organized piles of stuff everywhere? Sitting home alone like a lump? Complaining about piddly shit? Falling off the exercise goal? These are all characteristics about myself that I have known about for most of my life. They probably aren't going to change in any significant way by now. On the other hand, why resolve to work on something that needs no work? It seems also to contradict the values of hard work and improvement central to the project of higher education, etc etc.

Maybe the problem is not the resolutions and the plans but the way my life appears to be stuck in a rut. (Side note to those of you not following along elsewhere: I had one MLA interview and have already been rejected for that school, and am back in the cycle of grinding out the post-MLA applications.) One of my professors once asked, "Do you know why everyone loves bildungsromans, Sisyphus? Because we tell ourselves that growing up is about having some sort of insight or realization that then makes you into the person you are supposed to be. The arc of the story has a telos. What we don't want to know is that, if we were to see that person later, he'd be making the same damn mistake over and over again." Of course, adding career ---> move up the ladder ---> marriage ---> buy a house ---> have a kid adds a bunch of mini-quests, as it were, to the story and disguises the fact that it's the same damn cycle over and over.

What am I saying here? I'm saying that once again it is spring semester and I need to prep my classes, apply for another round of jobs, make to-do lists and plans about revising my book yet again, unless I need to be making plans for beefing up my credentials for those second-round, comp-focused jobs, unless I should be making plans for strategizing and moving into some sort of alternate career ---- the same dilemmas I struggled with and couldn't make a decision about last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, and nothing much that I do seems to change anything. As if in punishment for being unable to make a clear decision about anything, I am forced to relive the year. It's like Groundhog Day. No wait, its not like Groundhog Day, which provided the certainty that everything would happen all over again, whereas I feel like at any moment, any decision I make, I could fuck it all up. I don't remember much in the movie about making rent and paying the student loans and making sure the cats have food, anyway.

Wow, this got really depressing really fast, eh? I totally wasn't planning that. Sorry. This is just my version of the pop magazine ritual ---- what the hell am I doing with my life? Fuck-all if I know.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Unleash the ear worm!

Couldn't sleep all that well last night. I blame it all on unfortunate music choices. That and on my cats, who have gotten in the habit of pestering me around 4 until I finally get up and give them the kind of cat food they want (if I guess wrong, the annoyances do not stop until I get back up again).

So there was this weird, yet cheerful song getting totally overplayed about the time I filed my dissertation, and it got so I really hated it. But a few days ago I had this weird nostalgic longing for it and tried to go look it up. Now, not remembering the name of the group or the title and only a vague line about fucking like the stars meant that trying to search for it was, um, challenging --- and you could imagine the search results I was getting.

I thought it was on the Juno soundtrack and discovered that people are putting up entire albums on youtube these days (thanks youtube people!) ---- but it was not. And I learned I did not like the Juno soundtrack. I do not approve of the moldy peaches, or anyone who sings off key whether for ironic or unavoidable reasons. I can't keep my pitch on track --- that's why I don't go sing. Why would I be a fan of someone else's lack of skill?

So anyway, the song:

I'm feeling rough, I'm feeling raw, I'm in the prime of my life.
Let's make some music, make some money, find some models for wives.
I'll move to Paris, shoot some heroin, and fuck with the stars.
You man the island and the cocaine and the elegant cars.

This is our decision, to live fast and die young.
We've got the vision, now let's have some fun.
Yeah, it's overwhelming, but what else can we do.
Get jobs in offices, and wake up for the morning commute.

Forget about our mothers and our friends
We're fated to pretend
To pretend
We're fated to pretend
To pretend

I'll miss the playgrounds and the animals and digging up worms
I'll miss the comfort of my mother and the weight of the world
I'll miss my sister, miss my father, miss my dog and my home
Yeah, I'll miss the boredom and the freedom and the time spent alone.

There's really nothing, nothing we can do
Love must be forgotten, life can always start up anew.
The models will have children, we'll get a divorce
We'll find some more models, everything must run it's course.

We'll choke on our vomit and that will be the end
We were fated to pretend
To pretend
We're fated to pretend
To pretend

Yeah, yeah, yeah

 I was going to find some parallels with this thinking and the bohemian anti-get-a-job sentiment and the foolishness of going to grad school/academia as a way of avoiding the mundanity of working life, but then I saw this:

Holy shit! Somebody read Lord of the Flies and then took a lotta drugs before making this. It's kind of mesmerizing. My Saturday morning gift to you.

Just be careful --- that melody won't let you sleep at night.

Friday, January 4, 2013

An MLA travel tip

Sorry this is a little late for most of you MLA-goers; I got behind in other stuff. Anyway, I just came across this and wanted to make sure you knew about it for your next travel or otherwise high-stress situation:

This would be great for your next long-distance flight, or boring conference panel. Also, I totally dare you to wear it into an interview situation. Bank robbing, however, I'm going to have to actually recommend against. It doesn't look like it would make for an easy getaway.

You might think I am advocating that the MLA convention become populated with furries and other sexual subcultures you only find out about on Regretsy, but I ... no wait. Wait, I am totally saying that. Let's liven up this place! It goes so well with a black interview suit.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


I believe GrumpyCat will be my power animal for the upcoming year. My motto is I Hate Everybody and Everything. This cat so perfectly expresses my disgust that it makes me happy. Which then ruins the grumpy mood and makes me even more angry. Then I get swept up in a vortex of emotions as I go back and forth between being happy at GrumpyCat's disgust and anger that I'm no longer in a bad mood. You could power a motor with all this turning!

Go. Away.

I will print out this pic and paste it on a new spiral notebook for a GrumpyJournal once I get back to the homestead. In other news, everything sucks.  I just want to have a few quiet days cleaning out and cleaning and organizing all my stuff. Meh.