Sunday, April 29, 2007


Strangely, a lot has been going on over the past 24 hours or so even though really nothing has been going on. Not sure how to blog about it, so won't really, but suffice it to say that all of what's been not going on has me doing some thinking and reflecting about a lot of stuff. This has led to journal-writing, not to blog-post-writing. Also has led to rereading - something I do in times of reflection (and in times of procrastination, for no, I've not begun with the Big Stack of Grading). And the kind of rereading I'm talking about is rereading for insightful quotations type reading, a habit in which I try not to indulge too regularly. Not a peep from CG, and after doing some reflecting about him, I'm thinking that ship has sailed. Oh, I think I'll ultimately hear from him, but I don't think he's for me. I think I did give it a solid try, though. So this week, grading and exams. Friday, parents come to town. Time to transition into the summer. Time to finalize plans for trips, for conferences, for what have you. Time to make a list and check it twice and get down to business.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Dr. Crazy's Current Theme Song

Ok, so I'm in love with Bloc Party. In love with them. And most of all I am in love with this song. And here's the video!

Dinner and a Movie and Some Phone Calls

So, the dinner date in which Crazy makes dinner for CG was a success. The food was fab (though we didn't eat dessert), and we were both kind of lame after a long week so decided to stay in. (He brought over movies, and we had a double-feature of It Happened One Night and The Philadelphia Story. As you see, CG likes the old movies.) You might notice that it is 1:04 AM, and I am now blogging, so this means that I have become some newfangled 1950s (or maybe even 1930s-1940s person?) person who sends a boy home at a reasonable hour rather than ... well, you get the picture. But it was fun. We shall see. I think that CG does like me, but I also think that he's very.... hard to read. Yes. That's it.

Only two awkward moments in the evening. Both were caused by the fact that in my flurry of preparation, I forgot to turn the volume off on my answering machine (and yes, I still have an answering machine, not voicemail, which I'm reconsidering as we speak), which meant I had to answer two phone calls rather than just letting the phone ring and go into voice mail. The first, before dinner, was my mother. I could not risk letting her leave a message, for she is a woman of crazy messages. Had I let the machine get it, I'm sure the message would have gone something like the following: "Are you out with that boy again? Where are you? Man-Kittyyyyy! Is your mama neglecting you? Meow!!!! Blah blah blah blah blah! [imagine a 10-minute conversation with herself here] You'd better make time for me tomorrow!" Obviously, I could not let such a message happen. As it was, the conversation was crazy enough, but at least it was brief.

The second call came at 12:10 AM - yeah, that's right - and it was from a person whom I'd told I would call either when I was done with the CG date or we'd just talk this weekend. This person, who shall remain nameless but who knows who he is, is kind of a cockblocking douchebag (and I say that with peevish fondness). A tip to boys who call girls on the phone: if the girl tells you that she's hanging out with somebody else that night, and she tells you either that she will call you when the date is over or that you'll talk over the weekend, do not call the girl up. Of course, I lied about who had called me to CG (though I suppose this wasn't really necessary, as the person who called is not, contrary to what this story might indicate, a booty call, an ex-boyfriend, a possibility, or anything in any related category, though, indeed, he is... well... male), so all was smoothed over and fine, but jesus. In what world do you call somebody up at 12:10 AM when you know they've got a date over for the evening? Just in what world does that happen? Apparently, that happens in Crazy's world. What's even more irritating is that I called this evil phone-caller before beginning this post, and I went into his stupid voicemail. LAME. Yeah, he really needed to talk to me in the middle of the night. Clearly. Saboteur! And so now I am proclaiming from the rooftops his cockblocking douchebagness, which I think he deserves.

On the whole, I think it was actually better that I answered the phone, for not to have done so I think would have made it seem like I had something to hide. (Let's just ignore for the moment that I apparently did think that I had something to hide, as I lied to CG.) Also, who knows what sort of message the cockblocking douchebag might have left? (What's funny is that this reminds me of the movie Singles when Mr. Sensitive Ponytail Man calls up Kyra Sedgwick while she's having sex with Campbell Scott, and she just turns up the tv, which is playing My Three Sons or something to drown out Mr. Sensitive Ponytail Man's voice. That said, nothing of that nature was going on, so I did not have to perform the Sedgwick, but rather could answer the phone unproblematically.) Or if he'd not left a message, that would have looked incredibly fishy, yes? Ugh. But enough of this. It's stupid imaginary drama. So what else?

Well, the Man-Kitty was his usual Man-Whore self. Now he's exhausted and has retired to a quiet dark place beneath the bed.

Also, before beginning this post, I called A. (who was out on a pseudo-date with her Accidental Husband) and I told her my tale of woe. She had her own tale of woe, which involved the AH telling her that he's "intimidated" by her and "scared" of whatever's going on with her and him - interesting in that tonight was a pseudo-date in that they're out at a bar with his friends and her friends and such, and it's not exactly the most daunting of circumstances, so yes, since she's out on this ridiculously lame date, we had a nice long chat.

Ooh! New Order on the iPod Shuffle!

"Up down turn around
please don't let me hit the ground
Tonight I think I'll walk alone
I'll find my soul as I go home!"

Awesome. I love this song. Ooh, and now it's Portishead. Apparently my iPod is all about Songs from Crazy's Past.

I feel like I should write more about the CG date, but I don't know what is appropriate to reveal. I think I've probably revealed all I should reveal, yes? This whole "discretion" business that I've been practicing of late really is not my cup of tea.

Aside: Speaking of Songs from Crazy's Past, Tori Amos's "Winter" just came on. It's like my iPod thinks it's 1991 in the life of Crazy.

I should just go to bed, but A. may call back, as may CD (Cockblocking Douchebag, which might be my best pseudonym I've come up with yet, and yes, this person formerly had a pseudonym, but I think this one fits him better). You know, I've got to say about the CD thing that I'm not really mad at him. I probably should be, but I'm not. He reminds me in many ways of my First Love (like when First Love and I were together, not now, as FL now, while kind of like his old self, is now different to me, maybe because when you know somebody from 15 they do change, whereas CD reminds me of 19-year-old FL, who was a real douchebag in many ways, but for whom I did have a particular fondness), so CD gets a lot of get-out-of-jail-free cards based on the fact that he resembles a version of FL.

You know, I suspect I'll want to take this post down in the morning, but I've kind of got a policy about not taking posts down, so if I post this at all, it will probably stay up. Must consider whether that is wise.

Aside: Now Liz Phair's "Girls! Girls! Girls!" is on. It's TOTALLY 1991 on my iPod. Oh God! And now Radio Free Europe! How does the iPod know to do this? Just how? It is magical!

I suppose this is something that I could write about the date tonight that isn't privileged info. During dinner we listened to Django Reinhardt. It was quite lovely. Oh, and the food came out smashing. The salad was as I described, and the dressing I made was with shallots, salt, pepper, lemon, white wine vinegar, and olive oil. The pasta was exactly as described and LOVELY. Mr. CG had seconds and kept raving about the deliciousness of all. For Crazy is a very good cook. That is one thing that I will brag about with impunity. For it is true.

Aside: Oh god. Now it's Bjork's "Big Time Sensuality." So apparently we've moved to 1993. Jesus. But this is a great fucking song.

Hmmmm.... So other than all of this I had a meeting with a student today that was really great. This was a student who really wasn't ready to be in my upper-level class, but she stuck with it and really was engaged throughout. Her writing still needs work, but today in our meeting, she brought me a draft and it really has moments of great insight. And at the end of the meeting, she said that I was the only professor who's pushed her so hard this semester, and so if she's improved at all it's all due to me. Look, I know that it's not all about me, but that is nice to hear. That's why I try so hard with my students, even when it's not necessarily the norm here. Even when it sometimes means my evaluations are fucked up in ways that they would not be if I stopped pushing so hard. And she thanked me for being so accessible and helpful (which totally contradicts some horrifying comments I've gotten on evals, even though I've not done anything differently with her than I've done with all the rest - it's just that she's come to me for the help). I had another student who thanked me for my class yesterday - and who expressed regret that he's graduating because he won't be able to take another class with me. You know, that crap really does mean something. It means everything. Teaching is so fucking hard - so fucking rewarding, but so fucking hard, too - and to hear that from students - unsolicited - it means so much. It means that the things that I do mean something - maybe not to all of them, but to many of them.

Alright. It's 2:24. Clearly A. is going to go home and make out with AH, and clearly CD thinks I'm pissed at him and won't be calling me back (or he's on the phone with some other girl in his stable of phone-talking girls, or he went to sleep, thinking I'd not call him back, or he's jerking off and can't be bothered, whatever). I should go to bed and stopped being entranced by my iPod (which now is playing "Here Comes the Night" by Van Morrison, which is also a great fucking song - I apparently have a lot of great fucking songs on my iPod).

So for tonight, good night. It was a good night. It will be interesting to see what transpires with Coffee Guy, who is now more than Coffee Guy, but whatever. Perhaps what's most interesting to me about the whole thing with him is that I can't quite figure him out, even as I think I have his number. I also can't quite figure myself out with him. I just don't know. In the past, I'd have said that not knowing meant doomed. Now? Hmmm. Maybe not knowing is just not knowing. Maybe not knowing means there is something that will be known later? Maybe not knowing is ok - not a death sentence.

Friday, April 27, 2007


Ok, so technically there is finals week, but, in spite of the 50 lbs. of papers and then later exams that will weigh me down over the next week, there is something so liberating about the regular semester being done. And not only the end of the spring semester, but the end of the academic year.

I was on the phone with CG last night, ostensibly to finalize "plans" for tonight - even though we both know that the plan is that he's coming over and we're eating and then we'll decide what to do from there - and he actually asked me what I was going to do over the summer. This was such a novel question. Nobody asks me this question, either because the people in my life are also academics, or because they're in my inner circle and they know what I do in the summer time. But CG - he was intrigued by this idea of unscheduled time for 3 1/2 months. (Point in his favor: he at no point said, "It must be nice to have the summer off," or any variation of that.) His whole life is scheduled. As far as I can tell, his job is to go to meetings and to have conference calls. And from what he describes, his meetings don't begin with a viewing of this, as a recent meeting of mine did (although everybody's meetings should, I think). At any rate, though, perhaps everybody needs to think of the CGs of the world at this tiring, stressful time, because let me tell you, we have got a SWEET gig, we grown ups who have the summer to get a break from the grind of one's regular work - even as one still works when one is on that break.

So. I need to get myself together and get to school to collect papers from one of my classes and then to meet with another student from another class about her paper. Then, I need to do some errands for tonight (grocery store for forgotten items, wine store, etc.), then back to school for a couple of "be visible and collegial and socialize!" events, and then I am FREE. I mean, sure I've got to grade, but I'm planning on allowing myself to slack this weekend if I want and then to have a marathon grading day Monday.

So I'm feeling pretty energized on this Friday morning (which, admittedly, has something to do with the fact that I went to bed early last night and got a great night's sleep and slept in this morning), and I'm feeling really excited about the weeks to come. My mom's coming to visit a week from today (yay!), my friend A's coming for Memorial Day (woohoo!), I'm planning my trip to England and also for a conference in June (hurrah!). Life's pretty darned good, if I do say so myself. (You will notice I've been counting my blessings a lot lately. Not sure where this newfound positive outlook has come from, but I think it's definitely a good thing.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Menu

Ok, so I mentioned in a bullet someplace that I'm making dinner for CG (whom my friend A. suggested I rename Juan Valdez - Juan for short - in order to make things more interesting pseudonym-wise, which I may do should he hang around for long enough for CG to become totally ridiculous). Here's what's on the menu (though this is subject to change):

Salad (I'm thinking a pretty basic salad, mesclun mix, cucumber, avocado, homemade vinaigrette - no tomatoes as he's one of these weirdo "I hate tomatoes" people, of whom apparently there are many but whom I never realized existed until like a month ago - and if you, too are a weirdo "I hate tomatoes" person, yes, I think you're a weirdo.)

Pasta (bowtie or other cut pasta, as I think it's rude to make people deal with long noodles unless one knows them very well - the person, not the noodles, but wow that sounds rude - or maybe even cheese ravioli? haven't decided- with a white wine/butter sauce, with pancetta and chicken and peas)

Dessert (Because I believe that dessert is essential when one is having somebody over for dinner, even though I'm not really a dessert person. That said, sometimes the people eat too much of the dinner to actually eat the dessert, so I'm going to do something that takes no effort but that seems swank - I'm going to buy nice cookies and nice icecream and make homemade icecream sandwiches. Thank you, Rachael Ray, even though I hate everything you stand for.)

Oh, and I'll probably buy a baguette or something and toast it.

Who wouldn't love such a meal? Just who? And it really will be very easy in the preparation and short in the cooking time, which is also key as I don't want Crazy Kitchen of Crazy Difficult Meal to be in evidence. Also will need to spend some time hiding things like piles of books and papers in my study, because it's the end of the semester, and I don't really want him to see Crazy's House of Clutter. So, per my ways of cleaning when I was 10, I will hide all of the clutter rather than actually cleaning. Who can blame me? I mean, it's the end of the semester, and we're doing this dinner thing on Friday, when I won't be able to get home until like 5 because of Important Social Collegial Things at which My Presence is Required. So what are your thoughts on the menu? Would you like to eat this stuff? I would, but as I generally cook only for myself, of course I would.

Peer Review, By Request

In comments to a post earlier this week, Life and Times wrote the following:
"And regarding peer review/peer editing, how do you work that? I was recently vetting a seminar syllabus with peers and their opinions were that it was a waste of time (because I was going to "grade" the peer reviews) and that it's silly to have people who don't know how to write try to tell other people how to write. My answer has been-- then you probably didn't teach peer editing properly and just because someone doesn't know how to write doesn't mean they don't know how to read and think about what someone else is writing. But I'd love to hear your take on it."
Well, L&T, thanks for asking! Not in the least because it means a non-bulletted post is required of me, and I know that my readers will be pleased to read something written in paragraphs and that is more than just me babbling about my life! But so now on to your question.

Peer review, like any sort of group activity that one might require of students, may seem like a waste of time, whether to instructors or to students, depending upon how much investment the instructors/students have in a hierarchical model for classroom instruction. If one believes that the instructor holds all of the knowledge and that the instructor's job is to fill up students with that knowledge, peer review or any student-centered work makes absolutely no sense, for just the reasons that your colleagues noted. If students have no power over their learning, and no power over how they do on assignments, then really, there is no point in putting the power to improve their writing into their own hands. They ultimately can't improve their own writing: only the instructor can do that, and generally the only way that the instructor can do that is by showing them all of the things that are wrong with their writing.

For me, this is a really problematic way of looking at the learning process. And I would argue that your peers would find such a way of looking at the learning process in their own lives problematic - I mean, what were you doing in vetting the syllabus but participating in peer review yourselves? If your peers' viewpoint about peer review had any validity, you shouldn't have been looking at your syllabus with them at all but looking at it with some eminent professor who would tell you the "right" way to design a syllabus and then you would just copy that eminent professor's strategies for student learning and any ideas that you had about how to run a course would be secondary to the authority of that eminent professor, right? So what gives your peers the authority to tell you that peer review is a bad idea when they themselves are participating in peer review of your work? For me, peer review is about working in a small way to empower students and to advance a model for student learning that is not entirely hierarchical. It also shows students that writing is about participating in an ongoing conversation - it's not about writing in isolation with only one reader but rather about writing to a broader audience of people who are interested in a particular area of inquiry. Academic research is built on a peer review process, and for me, part of educating students is about letting them into that process, in however small a way.

That said, peer review can be a total disaster if one can't convince the members of the classroom community to be on board with it. If peer review consists of just having students read each others' papers and make some marginal comments without instruction, it's going to be viewed as a total waste of time and it will be a total waste of time - not only for students but for the instructor. So, how does one avoid that? How does one do peer review so that it really helps students to write better papers?

1. I think peer review always works best in classes where students are used to working together in small groups on other tasks aside from peer review.
The trick is to get students to believe that the work they do independently is actually teaching them a skill. For example, in my writing classes, I have activities built into the course peer review that include having students work on making a reverse outline of a reading assignment. We then come together and look at the reverse outlines they've constructed, and I show them how such a practice can help with note-taking and with processing difficult secondary sources. The activity isn't busy-work - it's about teaching them how to read carefully and with a purpose. Because it's a group activity, they can see how others approach the same material, and they can learn how to think analytically about a reading assignment. Because they've already done such an activity (and this is only one example), by the time we get to peer review, they get that I'm teaching them how to do revision for themselves through the peer review process - that the activity they will do with their classmates is showing them how to engage with their own work before they turn it in for a grade. It makes the process less mysterious.

2. But in order for the process to be less mysterious, that means that it must be strictly regulated.
I give students specific questions to which to respond in all peer review activities, just as I do in group work situations. It's all about accomplishing discrete tasks - about breaking the piece of writing apart and looking for things that I will look for when I grade. While I don't formally grade all peer review assignments, I do monitor how students do with peer review, and I talk to students about how to improve as reviewers of their peers' work. I scold students who don't take the process seriously. I praise students who do very well with it. Doing well on peer review is a huge part of how I evaluate their participation in the course, and I'm very clear about that.

3. Moreover, it's important to explain to students what they will get out of being careful reviewers of each others' work.
Good students often feel burdened by peer review. Just as they often resist group work. They've been burned by these practices before. So I make a big deal out of the fact that by reading one another's work they can get ideas about how to approach problems in their own writing or how to be more creative in their own writing. If it's true that reading makes one a better writer (which I believe is true), it only makes sense that students should get the chance to read writing that responds to the same assignment to which they respond in their own writing. Moreover, it's often easier to critique someone else's writing than it is to critique one's own because one is not committed to it or absorbed in it in the same way that one is committed to and absorbed in one's own writing. This, then, can provide distance when one returns to one's own writing. A piece of writing becomes something that one works on - not something that one pulls out of oneself. As evidence for this, I talk about my own experiences and the way in which I believe (and I do believe this) that reading student writing has had an incredible influence on my own writing since becoming a professor. No, my students are not writing at as sophisticated a level as I am expected to do, but by engaging with their writing 32 weeks a year, I'm much more attuned to my own writing issues when I approach my own drafts. I've learned to approach my own academic writing in terms of process much more easily than I did when I was a student. As I tell my students, I want to give them that opportunity, which is one that I did not have myself when I was a student.

4. I think that peer review works best when there are multiple bites at the peer review apple - where there are multiple kinds of review that happen.
This is one that is less easy to achieve in a course that doesn't have an explicit writing component. In my writing classes, though, I tend to devote a lot of time to a range of peer review practices. For example, let's take how "peer review" works on the research paper assignment in one of my writing classes. Really, students are doing some kind of "peer review" for the last three weeks of the semester. For two weeks, students do presentations about their research projects. They give a handout with their working thesis statement and their outline for the paper, and they present for about 8 minutes about how their project is coming. Then, they have the opportunity to ask questions of the class and then the class has the opportunity to ask questions of the presenter. This gives them an opportunity to get feedback on their projects before they have a working draft. At the same time, it gives other students a sense of the range of projects on which their peers are working. I also have students assigned to peer review groups throughout the semester, and one week before the paper is due, they give a copy of a partial draft to each member of their groups. They've been working with these groups throughout the semester, and so they have an established comfort level with them. Over the weekend, they are to read their group members' work and to respond to it. Then, in the final two class meetings of the semester, I have more focused peer review where students work first with their groups and then with partners. In this way, peer review is a process just as writing is a process. Moreover, I emphasize to students that this takes the stress out of writing a paper at the last minute, which I think is one way of getting them on board with it. Now, in a non-writing class, this isn't really possible to achieve in the same way. What I do in my upper-level course (not a writing course) is that I give students the opportunity to discuss in class what challenges they are facing, and I give them the opportunity to discuss online (we have a class discussion board) their topics and their progress. We don't do in-class peer review. Still, though, there are checkpoints built into the syllabus that give them a sense of where I think they should be with their papers, and I think that's a good thing.

5. Finally, I think peer review gives me the opportunity to respond somewhat publicly to student work, and I think it's good for students to see how I respond to their peers.
To some extent, this last item is a self-serving one. Since I've started giving feedback in class to peer review groups and partners and feedback to research presentations in front of the class as a whole, my evaluations no longer have comments that indicate that students think I'm harder on them than I am on their classmates. This is always a good thing - to have them realize that you're equally hard on them all :)

I suspect that the resistance you got to building peer review into your seminar in part comes from the fact that you're not explicitly teaching a writing course. Peer review - done effectively - takes time, and it takes a lot of work on the front end for the instructor to make it a good experience for the class. Many would argue that this is not a wise use of time in a non-writing class. Even I might argue that in the context of my literature classes - I expect students to know how to do this stuff in my literature classes without as much guidance from me. My aims in my lit classes are, to some extent, different from my aims in my writing classes. That said, I've built more opportunities for peer review and the teaching of writing into my lit classes because I think it is good for students - even if those opportunities aren't as formal as the ones I use in my writing courses. And I think that my students do come out of all of my classes - both writing and literature - much better writers than they were when they came in, and part of that has to do with the fact that I show them how to be better writers and I expect them to think about what it means to write in an academic context. While that may seem obvious, I don't think that those things happen in a lot of classes. Yes, students are expected to write papers, but I'm not sure they're often expected to think about what it means to write those papers and to think about that writing as more than hoop-jumping.

So those are my thoughts. I hope that answers your question!

RBOC: Because As Much As I Hate the Bullet, It Allows Me to Keep You All Updated

  • I really hate that I'm falling back on the bullet on consecutive days. It's like I've lost all power to think structurally. I blame my students, for I have been spending all of that energy trying to help them to conceive of structures for their papers.
  • Speaking of students, nothing is worse than a student with rancid BO in one's windowless office - absolutely nothing. Ok, well, maybe I could imagine worse things, but that really has taken the cake recently.
  • Apparently I have decided to make dinner for Coffee Guy. I don't know why I think that this is a good idea at the end of the semester, but this is what he gets for making me decide what to do. I'm not going to do anything elaborate, but that doesn't mean that things won't require some work between now and Friday.
  • You may be wondering why I had this brilliant idea. Well, in part it's because he's been very "I'll pay for everything" on our dates, and while I do like and appreciate that, I don't want to be all "I'm using you to do stuff" lady. So this is a way for me to be certain that he does not pay for dinner, and I think that's nice of me. (Of course, depending on what we do after, he'll probably end up paying, but that is neither here nor there - it won't be like he pays for the bulk of the evening, which is my main issue.) Then there's the fact that I get to show off that I can make yummy food. That's always something I enjoy. And then, well, I don't know. I'd rather invite him over for a purpose than invite him in at the end of the date, and sooner or later I need to invite him in because he'll expect it and because the M-K deserves to have some input on my life. So yeah, now I've got to make some dude dinner. Must make a list of many things, not the least of which being things to buy at the grocery store.
  • Hmmm.... having lunch with a favorite student who may become a friend once she's graduated in a week.
  • I have no idea what to wear today.
  • I'm hungry, but my house has only the most stupid of foods. (See previous bullet about needing to make grocery list.)
  • Yes, I think that is all for this morning.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

RBOC: I've Got Nothing Edition

  • I know I've not really posted anything of any interest to anybody in what seems like weeks. Blame the end of the semester.
  • You also might blame that I'm actually trying out the whole "discretion" thing, it being the better part of valour and all that. It doesn't really come naturally to me, so I suspect I'll be giving that up as soon as the semester is done.
  • Well, except I have always been fairly discrete about the details of what's going on at work. I don't know - I suppose I'm a selectively discrete person. But lately I've been trying to be somewhat discrete about things that in a past incarnation I might have blabbed about without end.
  • So, yeah, enough of that. What else? Allergies are a motherfucker.
  • I'm really annoyed with a handful of students right now. I've come to learn that the only thing that students really do to annoy me is to expect me to spoon-feed them even the most obvious information. So, like, just for example, they will totally resist the peer review process, which they need and which they would benefit from, only to show up at my office to ask me to "proofread their paper" and "tell them how to fix it." You know, I want to be there for students, and I want to give them personal attention. But I do not want to wipe their asses for them, and that's what the above feels like. Grrrrr.
  • I've considered the whole, "New Name for Coffee Guy" thing, and have realized that he is now and will forever be "Coffee Guy." It's the name he's had for lo these last three weeks or so, and so it is his name. I feel kind of bad - it might be the most boring pseudonym in the history of pseudonyms. I usually try for something with a bit more flare, more panache.
  • So, this is it - the end. This is the week of celebrating retirements and the end-of-the-semester generally with events that eat away at one's schedule, it is the week of student evaluations and needing to finish writing finals, it is, really, the home stretch.
  • Rather than accomplishing what I need to accomplish, I've been rereading a book that I do not need to read (while not reading a book I do need to read). What am I rereading, you ask? Julian Barnes' Talking It Over. It's such a fun book. Well, fun in a kind of dark way, I suppose, but fun nonetheless.
  • I really just wish I were more motivated. I'm so not, right at the moment.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Monday. Ugh.

So. Yesterday I spent the day in the sunshine (and I've got the slight sunburn across my cheeks to prove it - even though I did wear sunscreen so it doesn't hurt or anything and is not the true and hideous sunburn of irresponsible sun exposure), watching baseball, eating a hot dog (delicious), having an icecream cone, drinking beer, chatting.... A perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Then, after the baseball game, dinner. Then, goodbye to Coffee Guy. And then talking with friends on the phone about my day and other things as well.

I'm a little hung over.

I'm a lot tired.

I really do not have the patience that will be required for my day today.

And I may need to come up with a new pseudonym for Coffee Guy, as clearly we've done more than have coffee (and get your minds out of the gutter - I do not mean that, I mean in terms of chaste 1950s-like activities). Must think on this.

But not now. Now I must drink as much coffee as is possible to do in the next hour.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I Am Such a Fool

Why did I think that I didn't need to finish the things on my to-do list last night? You know, the home-related tasks, the pre-date beautification? Why did I instead choose to socialize over the telephone? (Well, part of this is not my fault - had to talk to my mom upon her return from her first ever European trip, and had to talk to my friend A. during some pre-date jitteriness before her date with the fellow to whom we've been referring as her "accidental husband" - as in, if she doesn't watch out he's the sort who will just insert himself into her life and the next thing she knows she'll be married to him without really knowing how she got to that point - but there were some others - and you know who you are, ahem - to whom I did not technically "need" to speak but to whom I did speak and to whom it seemed great to speak at the time but now, at 8:31 AM? With all that I must achieve in the next 3 hours?) Yes, I am not happy.

So I need to:

  1. vaccuum
  2. straighten up a bit
  3. shave/self-tan (for my legs, they glow in their whiteness and cannot be out today unless I color them)
  4. polish toenails, as they really cannot go out into the world in their current state
  5. iron outfit (luckily I did try on outfits yesterday so at least I know what I'm wearing)
  6. things I'm sure I'm forgetting but that are not coming directly to mind.
You want to know what's sick? I feel like I want to call somebody on the phone instead of doing any of the above. Either that or to take a wee little nap, for which I do not have the time. Perhaps I should begin with the self-beautification, which will include the always somewhat motivating showering.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Woohoo!!!!! Going to Baseball Game!!!

Ok, so this Coffee Guy, he may be a man after my own heart. So we were supposed to go to the movies, a plan that was made like Monday or something ridiculous like that, and at first we were supposed to do so last night, but then I rescheduled for tomorrow because I didn't want to be lame tired on Friday Crazy, but now, instead of going to the movies, and in light of the spring-like weather, BASEBALL!!!!!!!!

(I love absolutely nothing more than a baseball game. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!! I mean, there will be the gorgeous sunshiney weather (1), hot dogs (2), cotton candy (3), and BASEBALL. Ok, really need to deal with closet and laundry now, as need to decide what to wear to the game tomorrow! Hurrah!)

Damn you, Target

Ok, so I've been really good about not making trips to Target since the fall. I have what is pretty much a Target problem. When I go there, I spend money I should not spend. But spring has sprung, and in a fit of spring rejuvenation madness, I went to Target and spent a boatload of money on...

  • 2 decorative tension rods
  • new curtains
  • a new quilt to go with the new curtains
  • new towels
  • 2 CDs
  • 6 new t-shirts (various colors)
  • a new sports bra
  • 1 new going-out shirt
And I think that's all. But lord, it adds up, doesn't it?

Ok, now must call Coffee Guy and then must get to laundry and some cleaning up around the house and cleaning out my closet and putting up new curtains and making fresh new pretty bed that matches curtains, etc. Also am hungry, so should probably eat something. Tra la! It is spring! I spend money I don't need to spend!

Friday, April 20, 2007

On Loving Students and Other Friday Night Ponderings

So tonight I received an award from my absolute favorite student that I've had this year. Yes, I have many bright and favorite students, but this student was in my freshmen class in the fall, and I have a special spot in my heart for any student that I have in that class, and she followed me to my intro to lit class this spring. She is bright and funny and thoughtful, and I wish she'd be an English major, quite honestly, because she's just... fantastic, and I'd love for her to keep in touch, and if they don't change their major, they often don't. Of course, this isn't a reason to advise them in this direction, so I don't, but I'll miss her if I don't hear from her after this year.

This award means so much to me, not only because it is from her (obviously) but because it is part of an award structure that is totally student driven. Basically, my university has a group of high-achieving students that give campus tours, do community service activities, are very involved with all aspects of what we do at our university. Each year, they have a banquet, and these students choose to honor faculty and staff who have influenced them and who have meant something to them during that academic year (and during their college careers, if they are graduating seniors). I feel so incredibly honored that this student picked me for this award. I feel so incredibly honored to be acknowledged as making a difference here.

And I know this sounds all pollyanna and stuff, but I suppose the thing is that in the past few weeks, now that I'm off of the job search roller coaster, now that I'm done with the book stuff (for the time being), I've been thinking a lot about this job and whether I do, in fact, want to stay. The fact of the matter is, I really do love this place. I love my students. I love my colleagues. I love the freedom that I have here, and I love the opportunities that this place gives me. This isn't to say I'll never apply for another job. But I think my reasons for doing so now would be different from my reasons for doing so this past year. This past year, I was trying to prove something to myself. And even though the result wasn't the desired one - a job offer - I did prove something to myself. If I were to apply now, it wouldn't be about that. It would be about personal life stuff, and not about raising my position in the food chain. The bottom line is that I don't care in a specific way about the food chain. I'm productive here. I do good work here. I do not need to be at a "better" institution to do my work, and, in fact, this is a "better" institution than many - even ones that are higher ranked. I like where I work. I like my students. I have hope for this place. And the bottom line is that I think the only reason I'd be willing to leave all that is if I thought doing so would produce a dramatic improvement in my overall quality of life - not just my professional quality of life. So it will be interesting to see what's advertised next year, and it will be interesting to see what I do with that information.

The other reason that this award is so... gratifying... is that the university president was at the banquet, as were other VIPs, and I was so grateful to my student for choosing me in part because this is a pretty selective sort of award and I know that it's good for my future here that I've been recognized as a junior faculty member in front of the VIPs in this way. This means (I feel like) that I'm not an idiot for hoping that if I stay here I may have a hope of getting the big award for junior faculty that is awarded in one's tenure year for achievement over the tenure-track. I've got to say, I want that award. A thing about me is this: I'm not particularly competitive, but I LOVE recognition.

Ok, enough for now. But that's how I'm feeling on this second-to-last-Friday of the semester. I'm feeling really fucking good.

A Somewhat Typical Morning at Dr. Crazy's House

I am so tired. I mean, damn.

Part of this is because it's been a long week.

Part of this is because I had a work-related event last night that kept me out until 11:00-11:30.

Part of this is because I talked to my friend A. on the phone about her upcoming date (with a guy with whom I made out approximately 12 years ago at a Christmas party, while she made out with his cousin) as well as about Coffee Guy, as well as about other fellows who hang around in the background. But then my other line beeped.

And so part of my tiredness is because I did not exercise any kind of self-control about my bedtime last night because I was more interested in talking on the phone until 2 AM than I was in, I don't know, sleeping.

So flash forward to this morning.


[I know, thinks the Man-Kitty, I shall run across Mama at top speed, and if this does not awaken her from her slumber, I shall make as much noise as possible by running my little paw across the blinds and/or by knocking things down! Hurrah!]

Crazy (after a long while of the above, and also after hitting snooze four times): Fine!

[Crazy drags herself into the bathroom. Her hair does not look unlike this. She wonders what she possibly does in her sleep to make the crazy hair shapes that she sees in the mirror. But only for a second.]

Crazy: Ugh.

Man-Kitty: Yay! It is the morning! We are awake and happy and free! Feed me! Meow!!!!

Crazy: Dammit, M-K, if you want your breakfast you have to get out from under my feet!

[Crazy scowls and curses the fates that mean she must awaken. She then makes coffee, and feeds her companion, the Man-Kitty. Crazy removes the milk from the refridgerator. It has a sell-by date of April 17. She removes the cap.]

Crazy (muttering in a kind of a chant): Please don't be bad, please don't be bad, please don't be bad....

[Crazy puts her nose to the container of milk and it seems ok. Crazy pours herself a big mug of coffee, adds some questionable milk - for now she wonders whether it might be slightly off, now that she's started guzzling the coffee, though it's hard to know whether that's true or whether she's just psyched herself out. How Crazy is going to force herself out into the world within the next hour, she does not know. Wish her luck.]

Thursday, April 19, 2007

On Students and Tragedy

Bardiac and Dr. Virago have posts up about how they've approached talking to students about what happened at Virginia Tech. I feel like I should write about how I've talked to students and why I've talked to students in the precise way that I have. And this is about more than this particular event: it is about how we as professors deal with the world beyond our classrooms and offices when it intrudes upon those spaces. So this is a generalizing post - a post with wide-ranging intent. This is not particularly a post about Virginia Tech. And while my heart goes out to all of those who have been directly affected by what happened there, I would never presume to say that I understand their grief and their loss or that it is my grief and my loss. And I'll go one step further than that: this grief and loss is also not my students' grief and loss except for in the most abstract way. Not really.

My initial response, when I learned of what had happened, was the following: 1) I was (and am) relieved that my mother is in Europe and not here to freak out to me about my safety. 2) I knew that I had to stop watching the television because I had a feeling I've only had twice before - during Hurricane Katrina and on September 11 - where I couldn't pull myself away from the screen even as it was sickening me and even as I wasn't learning factual or new information. I was feeding on others' terror and grief, and at least for me, that isn't part of coming to terms with something horrific but rather something that is deeply unhealthy and something that I find, for myself, disgusting. 3) I consciously decided that I would not take class time to "deal with" the events as they unfolded.

Why 3)? Isn't it my responsibility to address these horrors in my classroom? Maybe it is, or maybe it isn't, but here is why I made that choice.

  1. There is no way to deal with such a horrifying and inexplicable act of violence as it happens. There is no way to make sense of it, and there is no way to put it in its place. And while it is true that as professors we have a huge impact on our students, that does not mean that they necessarily want to hear us spin theories in an attempt to make sense of things that just don't make sense period. And I think it's valuable for me as a professor to acknowledge when I just don't understand something, so that's part of it, too.
  2. I remember after 9/11 that I thought I "had to" find some way to deal with what had happened in my classroom. But then I felt conflicted, like students might be so saturated with it that they might just want to do regular work. So I asked them, in our first class back (which was a week after it all happened - not the day of, not in the days immediately following). They all said, let's just stick with the syllabus. This isn't to say that it didn't come up throughout the semester, or that I never spoke to my students about it, but I didn't make it part of the class that they were taking in an overt and coercive way.
  3. Following out of #2, it's important to remember that while we see our students as "ours" that they've got 4 or 5 other professors as well. If they live on campus they've got RAs. They've got an academic adviser. And your university, if it's anything like mine, had a memorial service. They're getting the chance to open up and to talk in a lot of places. At a certain point, maybe it's better just to finish up with the semester? Maybe talk doesn't do anything but extend pain and fear at a certain point? (I'm not talking about those directly affected by this. I am talking specifically about students who are not directly affected.)
But all of this is not to say that I haven't talked about what happened with my students. Today, I did have some students bring up what happened. Casually, to find out what I thought about it all and to find out how I felt in response. And I responded much as I am talking about this now, here. I was honest about the fact that I've turned off the television and have been getting most of my news from written media. I talked about the fact that I believe that it's important not to dwell too much on this sort of thing because ultimately if somebody is willing to die in order to execute such an attack, there is little that one can do to prepare or to fend off that attack. My students also asked me what I thought about the link between this and Columbine (for they are a generation that grew up with things like lockdown and public service programs about school shootings), and I explained the ways in which I felt that the links being made between the two are not in all cases productive ones. They also were interested in my response to all of the discussion of the shooter being an English major and of how his writing is being viewed as revelatory, and I talked about academic freedom and my own beliefs about the classroom needing to be a safe place for students to explore all kinds of ideas - even if that involves some risk. (Incidentally, my students wanted to talk a lot about this - they didn't at all like the idea that their professors would be trying to diagnose them as potential mass murderers when reading their assignments.) I talked about how stressed out everybody is at this time of the semester, and how sometimes the intensity of that collective stress scares me as a professor and how I try to diffuse that stress in my students. And finally, we talked about the safety of our university, and I gave them my honest assessment of what I think about that, which involved a discussion of the hideous architecture on our campus as in some ways a positive.

So yes, I do feel like it has been important for me to be honest and open with my students, to allow them to talk if they want to talk and to respond as honestly as I know how. At the same time, I also feel like it's important not to participate in the exploitation of this event, to appropriate it for some kind of consciousness raising, to pretend that I have any idea what those who are actually experiencing this are going through. I'm not saying that this is the only correct response to this, but it is my response. I think we all have to do what we believe is right for our students, and I don't think that there is a one-size-fits-all answer to that. For me, though, my primary job is to get them through to the end. That may mean talking about events outside the classroom - like the massacre at Virginia Tech - but it also means making sure students are prepared for their finals, giving them help with their papers, and making sure they understand the last texts that we are examining in this final two weeks of the semester. And for me, those last things I mention are the things that are most within my control, and those are the things that are most important to the majority of my students, so those are the things on which I focus most of my attention.

So maybe I'm missing a "teaching moment." Maybe my response to tragedy - innately - is just to get on with it, and that involves some element of denial. Maybe I'm not doing the right thing. I honestly don't know. But there's no rulebook for this stuff. And so I'm just doing the best that I know how to do with the tools that I have.

Not a Good Sign

It is 3:41 AM and I just woke up enraged about crap related to my job. I then played out a variety of scenarios in my head related to that about which I am enraged, felt paranoid that some colleagues are trying to use me for larger battles that I don't want to fight, then played out some more scenarios, all of which involved the redesign of certain of my courses to reduce my workload (not good pedagogy).

This is not healthy. This is, in fact, immensely fucked up.

Let's hope that all of this rage is ultimately misplaced. Let's hope that after writing this down and broadcasting it far and wide that I can go back to sleep.

(Note: the last time I woke up enraged in the middle of the night was during graduate school. That ended, quite literally, in tears.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

RBoC: The Week Is Only Half Over Edition

[Note, I feel like a jerk, kind of, for returning to my usual fluff, but well, that's what I do in times of horrible national events. I mean, what can I say that would make any difference? So instead I shall do my best to entertain and distract.]

  • It's that time of the semester. I'm exhausted, but not particularly stressed. My students are like little balls of stress that I have to unwind each class, in each meeting that I have with them. It kind of works, but not really. They're just so overextended in these last two weeks.
  • I revealed something to a kind-of-friend colleague that I'd prior to this point only revealed to BFF. This may have been a mistake, but I don't think I care. I'm all sassy now because of the book contract which could fall through at any minute.
  • Coffee Guy and I will be going out again - this time to the movies. Apparently I have this whole New Approach to Dating, which really has very little in common with my personal preferences and inclinations, which drove my decisions until I was about 30. Part of this NAD has to do with not wanting CG to become my Instant Boyfriend, for, as it turns out, I think I don't actually want a boyfriend, even though I do. It's all very complicated. I suppose it's that while I want companionship, I don't really want a "boyfriend" unless that person really knocks my socks off. I'm not saying it's impossible for CG to do that, but to this point, well, I'm keeping my head about me rather than jumping into something head first that may/may not be a good idea. But so yeah - the movies. It's like I've returned to the 1950s. Whatever happened to good old-fashioned "dates" where you met up for drinks and then made out? That's what I'd like to know. (Although, again, the NAD means that I wouldn't do that with CG because I think he'd think I was his girlfriend, and we can't have that. Sheesh. It's all so complicated.)
  • I made a really crappy pot of coffee this morning. Gross. I think I put too little coffee in when I set it up last night.
  • Hmmm... what else? One of my students nominated me for some award (not even sure what the award is) so I've got to go to this banquet, which I think means that they're giving me this award. Don't even know what the award is, or what student did this. I'm kind of excited about it, though. It's a university-wide thing.
  • Today is going to be The Longest Day of the Week. Committee meeting, student awards ceremony, meeting with other students, a LONG-overdue letter of rec to write, other long over-due tasks to complete, grading that I avoided last night.... I wish I wasn't such a colossal procrastinator.
  • Apparently people still send things via post. As with the NAD, I've also entered a New Old-Fashioned Era of Correspondence, which, while supplemented by New-Fangled Things like email and telephone and IMing, also includes things like books and music and letters and whatnot criss-crossing the country, nay, the world. You know what I have to say about that? It is awesome. Love getting mail that isn't bills or junk mail or the occasional card. So I'm in a state of anticipation both about somebody getting something I sent and about receiving something somebody else claims to be sending. I hope the NOFEC continues, for it really does give me something to look forward to.
  • Ok, I need to drag my ass into the shower. I've officially puttered around to the point that now I'm running late. Damn.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

On Not Blogging

I feel like I've got to blog about the tragedy at Virginia Tech but I don't know how to do that. It is horrible. There is nothing that I could say that could make it less horrible. And so silence.

(Back to your regularly scheduled frivolous Dr. Crazy in the coming days.)

Monday, April 16, 2007

And So the Week Begins

Well, for the first Monday in ages I am not going to be lazy and to do the RBoC-style post. I think this is a good sign, though I couldn't quite tell you why. Anyway, so begins the final couple of weeks of my semester, which promise to be wicked busy. Before I talk about what's upcoming, though, I feel like I need to do a bit of an update about what's been going on with me. (This is as much for my benefit as for anybody else's so if it's boring, skip ahead down.

Weekend in Review:

Ok, so I did no "work" this weekend, if by "work" you mean grading (which I left in the trunk of my car all weekend long), prep, etc. That said, I think I'm willing to venture that I did work on my social life, which is really where my focus is right now, and I think where it should be. Saturday night was fantastic (which reminds me that I've got to email Coffee Guy about that), but also so was Friday Night, a night of beauty rituals and talking on the phone, and so was yesterday, a day of catching up with correspondence, catching up with the Man-Kitty, etc. I suppose what I'm saying is that after this weekend I actually feel like a human being, and really, I've not felt that since the book contract came along, and really since deciding to go on the market before that, if I'm honest. Oh, I should mention that I also finally got my copy of the signed contract back, which is awesome.

So this brings me up to the present time:

It's the second to last week of the regular semester, and things are chugging along. I've been swamped with advising appointments and that trend will continue in the next two weeks, and then there are all of the end-of-semester ceremonies and things that I'll need to attend, finals I'll need to write, etc. In other words, it promises to be a busy and stressful time (stressful more because of absorbing my students' stress than anything actually stressful in my own life). When the semester is over, my mom or maybe my mom and stepdad (depending) are coming to visit (the weekend of graduation because my mom wants to see me in graduation as faculty. I tried to explain to her that she will be bored to tears, but she does not care. Love my mom), I may go back to Hometown for a visit, and my friend A. is coming here for Memorial Day weekend. In between all the visiting, I need to do a thorough spring cleaning and weeding out of crap, and I also need to read a novel on which I apparently will speak at a conference in July. Which reminds me that I need to make my travel arrangements for that conference this week. Then June will be the month of writing conference papers and attending one conference, July is another conference and the UK trip, and then it's time to get ready to go back to school, and I'll probably have a bunch of crap to do with my book (if all goes well).

Looking ahead to the farther-out future:
I'm not entirely sure what to say in this section, other than that I'm out of the funk I'd been in about the state of my life. I'm feeling really good about how the job search this year went, after feeling sorry for myself about "failing" for a while, and I feel like good things are on the horizon career-wise, though I'm not entirely certain why I feel as sure of that as I do. And I'm not entirely certain whether those good things on the horizon mean staying here or going on the market again (hopefully successfully, if I choose to do it), but I feel like the reason I'm feeling positive in this regard has to do with the fact that I'm feeling more focused about what I want professionally in terms of what I want personally. Coming out of that, I'm also feeling a hell of a lot more positive about my personal life, even though, really, not all that much has changed. I think it's good that I'm doing the dating thing, but another thing that's been going on in the background is that I also have a lot of other friendships developing in interesting ways right now. The only way I can think of to put it is that for the first time in a long time my heart feels open, even if that is such a cheesy way of putting it that I almost can't bear to write it. I don't entirely know why I'm at this point with personal-life stuff, but I think it's a good thing. I'm actually optimistic about what the future holds in the coming months - again, no particular reason WHY that is, but it is, nonetheless.

So yes, that's where I am on this Monday. Now I need to get in the shower and get myself ready for the day ahead.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Question for My Readers

First of all, this is a gross question. That said, it has come to my attention that there are guys in the world who masturbate while they talk on the phone with people unbeknownst to the people with whom they are speaking. So like there is a regular conversation going on, and they are just masturbating as it happens.

Is this something all guys do? Is this normal behavior? Because I feel like it is repulsive.

The Car I Really Want to Date

Remember how I posted about which car would I date? Way back whenever? The honest truth is I would love to date this guy. Is that so wrong?


Crazy, she is drunk. She should not be blogging, but apparently, she feels the need to, even as she knows that it is bad to Blog Under the Influence. I went on a date tonight - the perfect date, probably the best date I've ever been on. Fabulous dinner, an excellent and smart and funny and serious and just SMART play, and then drinks (too many, clearly, though not so many that I did things I might do when having had really too many drinks). Oh no, I was sensible. And there was good conversation. But the point here is that it's nice to be taken out. It's nice to go on dates and to be shown a good time. And especially when it's in a subtle way, and when the "good time" involved actually involves things that one enjoys independently of any dating situation. Food, drama, drink? What's more awesome? Just what?

Very, very little is more awesome than that. That's what.

That said, what do I think about the guy? I don't know. I'll go out with him again, but is that about him or about the time I had? And really, would I rather go out with others who are less convenient? Totally. But you know what? The inconvenient ones are totally inconvenient. I've got to live my life whatever the case, and I will not pine for inconvenient potential loves. That, my friends, is just plain dumb. That said, I have a number of inconvenient potential loves whom I find more compelling (at this point) than this guy. This has nothing to do with him, but is the way of things.

That said, tonight was EXCELLENT. I am so glad that I've put myself back on the market for real.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Life of a Kitty-Cat, It Is Hard

Good evening, readers of my human mother's blog. I was attempting to retire for my late-evening nap beneath the bed, which precedes the actual good night's sleep, but it was brought to my attention that it was not the time for sleeping but rather, the time to reveal myself, the Man-Kitty, to the blogosphere. You see, Sidonia, long ago, requested that I pontificate upon five things that the blogging readership does not know about me. I demurred. I am a Man-Kitty of Mystery. I did not think that it would be appropriate to reveal to the internet the private details of my life. (Unlike my human mother, I might note.) But this evening, my comrade in arms, The Chalupa, who was also tagged by Sidonia, complied with the request to reveal aspects of herself to which the readers of her human mother might not be privy. When I was alerted to this development, I realized that I could no longer keep my silence. The gauntlet had been thrown down. And so, in spite of my instincts toward privacy and reserve, I shall reveal five details about myself.

  1. I love the music of Ray Charles. I first learned that this was true when my human mother watched the movie Ray for the first time. The voice of Ray Charles, it speaks to me. I could not stop myself from meowing along with his glorious, glorious voice. I should also note that I do not appreciate the rap music, nor do I enjoy punk, but I do enjoy the music of Jack Johnson and Fiona Apple. I appreciate melody. Is that so wrong?
  2. My favorite thing to eat in the whole world is Meow Mix original flavor cat food. It is the nectar of the gods. Tragically, my mother only buys this for me once a year or so, as she fears that I will become an Obese Man-Kitty with Diabetes. I say damn the consequences! Feed me Meow Mix every day, for the love of Mike! As the advertisement says, it tastes so good that cats ask for it by name! Meow!
  3. You may be wondering about my hobbies. Well, it is true, I do sleep a great deal, for I am a housecat. But in spare moments, I most enjoy playing with all manners of strings and ribbons, as well as with any sort of stick-like implement, in the manner of jugglers with sticks. I also truly love a brown paper bag.
  4. In addition, I have a tragic history. My feline mother, she abandoned my brothers and sisters and myself, and left us to be rescued by humans and to be raised from infancy by them. I fear that she met a tragic end, and that this is what prevented her from raising us to viable kittenhood, at which time I would have become a feral cat of the wild. Instead, I was taken into the life of luxury that I now lead. But the story is more tragic than you know. In fact, one of my brothers, he died after just a year of life because of a horrible medical condition. I thank the Great Cat in the Sky each day that I am leading the life of privilege and luxury and good health that I live.
  5. Finally, I am a Cancer, astrologically. This means that, positively, I am emotional and loving, intuitive and imaginative, shrewd and cautious, and protective and sympathetic. My more negative traits include that I am changeable and moody, over-emotional and touchy, and clincing and unable to let go. Being a Cancer in a house with a Leo human mother is not always easy. That said, I do love that my human grandmother traditionally reads my human mother my horoscope when she calls on the phone. I feel that this demonstrates her esteem for my position within the family.
Now, really, I am very exhausted by all of this revelation. I must go to sleep. Really.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Fool's Errand

So I was to give a talk, for the oldsters in the community. I prepared (crappily), I drove, but it was a cold and blustery day. The oldsters, afraid of the cold and of being blown over by the winds, they did not show up. I was actually not terribly disappointed, though I do love talking to the oldsters.

That said, I did have a lot of time for contemplation while driving over the rolling hills of my current homestate. There was much singing at a wickedly loud volume in the car, and well, the fool's errand was good for Crazy's soul, even if it made her tired. What all was Crazy contemplating?

  • My mom's going to Europe for the first time ever tomorrow. Yay Crazy's Mom (even if she's a fool and is trying not to follow the liquids rules thinking that they'll just pass her through because she's Crazy's mom).
  • What will henceforth be known as Crazy's Fall Sex Class (CFSC), which has now capped its enrollment. Am more excited than I can say, not in the least because I've got a number of "frequent flyers" (or as I like to think of them, repeat offenders) who will be gracing me with their presences.
  • Thoughts about the "stuff" that is apparently being mailed to me from Merry Olde England. I realize that thinking about said "stuff" means that I am dooming myself to disappointed expectations, but as any mail from afar does excite me, I'm allowing myself to consider the fact that this particular mail is forthcoming. I might mention that this mail will be coming from my Infatuation (or Ex-Infatuation, who claims he is "crap," after I sent him a hilarious - although possibly belligerent - email about how he wasn't paying attention to me.... the point here is that I need constant and unabiding attention. Why is this so difficult? I don't require much, just consistency. Consistent and devoted attention. I mean, I am CRAZY after all. Is that so much to ask?)
  • Trans Am: He has a job that may mean he has access to my banking records ( I know he could look up my credit report, which I actually think he did). I was concerned for a second-and-a-half that he looked up my banking records, as he would know what transactions I make with my check card. Then I thought, you know what? If he's a weirdee who looks at my private info, he deserves what he gets.
  • Coffee Guy: called tonight to firm up plans, but I was on my fool's errand. I'll talk to him tomorow, I feel. I am excited about Saturday's plans, less because of Coffee Guy than the plans, at this point, but who knows what may happen between now and Saturday?
  • Mountain Man: We are fantastic friends, I think, except for the fact that I'm also friends with a... person... whom he knows, and with whom I am friends separately. He's not bothered to mention this person ever to me. I feel like things would be much less shady and weird should I actually have a conversation about this with Mountain Man. The problem is, MM seems to be fostering a denial thing about this. The thing is, I don't care that he "knows" this other person - it changes nothing with our friendship at all. And yet, there's been no way to bring it up. Although the "person" and I have been working to make it happen. Either Mountain Man is the most obtuse person in the world or he is an evil genius :)
  • I also thought a great deal about my hair. I have received many a compliment over the past two days, though I have the paranoid thing that people are mentioning it only because it's obvious and not because it's awesome. What if it's really horrible but they feel they must compliment because it's obvious?
So yes, those are the things I considered while driving all over the universe for a talk that was never to be.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Because I Know You All Care Terribly about My Hair

So, I got it cut yesterday. Also had color done (highlights and lowlights this time, because it was beginning to look too lame and all one color). The color is fine - I know I needed the lowlights, and it does look a lot better, but I feel like it's kind of boring. This also may be because it's a gray day today, and no color looks great on a gray day. And because the hair is now really close to my natural color and I feel like why did I spend the money I spent to look how I look naturally.

So the hair. I was not brave enough yet to go for the Evangelista. It's been a long time since I've had actual short hair, and I needed to pick something that was an in-between that I could easily grow out should I hate it. (And when I say actual short hair, I mean short short - not just different lengths of bob, which I always do.) So what I've ended up with is....

Hmmm, how to describe? Part of the difficulty is that I can wear it in three or four different ways to make it look like three or four completely different haircuts. (I LOVE my hair person. LOVE HER.) First a basic description:

  1. I got bangs (like the sexy rocker kind that hit below the eyebrow). In the process of training bangs to go in the direction that they are supposed to go.
  2. In the back, the hair is very layered and short.
  3. On the sides, the hair is about chin-length and very choppy/shaggy.
So, if I blow the hair dry and smoothe, I can make the hair look like a bob that is stacked in the back and more conservative.

If I don't do the conservative thing, but rather emphasize all of the shagginess, the haircut looks a great deal like Shane's hair on the L Word (only shorter).

If I put the sides behind the ears smoothish but wear the bangs, I look either like I've got the Demi Moore in Ghost hair or like a soccer mom (or maybe that haircut was always already a soccer mom haircut?).

If I mess the hair up, but also wear the hair behind the ears and push the bangs to the side, I've got Winona Ryder's hair from Reality Bites or Drew Barrymore's hair from when she was going out with that one guy in Hole, Eric Somethingorother.

So who the fuck knows about this hair, but I certainly have a lot of options. The question is, which of the above will be the way that I wear it most frequently? Also, how will I wear it on Saturday, when I am being taken to dinner and a play by Coffee Guy. (Maybe I should change Coffee Guy's name? I feel like I should, but I'm not sure what he should be called if not Coffee Guy. We shall see. He remains Coffee Guy until I'm more sure about what's going on with him.) Also, what should I wear on Saturday that will compliment both me and my hair? I have a lot to think about over the next few days. (And also have to think about the fact that I am giving a talk in approximately 36 hours to a community group and I've not written this talk. I am so screwed. I also don't know what I'll wear for that. Or how I'll wear my hair. Or how to get to where the talk is being held, as I may have lost the directions.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Some Thoughts on Limbo, Having Finished It

Now that I've finished Lubrano's book, I want to post about it, in part because it really is good enough to be worthy of a lengthy post. As I wrote when I first began, I really do think it offers valuable insight into some of the internal conflicts that arise with class mobility, and it really highlights the way that education changes a person. But I'm not going to sing the praises of the book in this post (because I'm contentious like that). Instead, I want to do a post that talks about some of the things that I think Lubrano's book glosses over or just misses completely. Again, this isn't to take away from the book - but rather to say that it's not - at least to my mind - the last word on working-class upward mobility in America.

In Lubrano's book, the stories that he focuses most attention on seem to be about children who grow up in the following circumstances:

  1. Their parents are married, and often the mother stays at home to raise the children.
  2. The family has no more than five children. (In most cases, it seems like there are two or three children per family.)
  3. The father generally has a "good" blue-collar job - he's a union guy, a gold watch at retirement guy. These are people who have enough money to move out of the neighborhood when they retire. These are people who own their homes.
  4. There is a lot of emphasis on the role of the father as the center of the family, as the role model for what work means, and the mother seems to stand in the shadows cooking pasta or something, and even for the female interviewees seems to stand for a way of life that girl- and boy-children alike reject.
  5. As somebody in the comments to my earlier post about the book noted, the book is very interested in a masculine model for working-class-ness, and I would argue that even the stories of female interviewees are shaped in the book to fit into the values that come out of that masculine model. And at least in some cases, I think the book gets some things wrong for that reason, at least as I've experienced growing up not-in-the-middle-class.
Why do I write that in such a clunky way - "growing up not-in-the-middle-class"? Well, it's because this book has made me question whether there's a difference between growing up blue collar and growing up poor. The kinds of families that are described in Lubrano's book don't really look like my immediate family or my parents' immediate families - they look like the "snootier" branches of the extended family headed by great aunts and great uncles that had already moved to the suburbs by the time that I was a kid. My grandfather "worked on the boats," and so was gone for months at a time. My grandmother would proudly describe how she would take all of the kids (they ultimately had ten) with her down to the docks and make him hand over his paycheck. And if she missed him there, she'd go to the bar and take his money from him. My grandmother worked once the first five of the children were school-aged. These were "working" people. But they had ten children. They never owned a home. Neither of them drove. In contrast, my grandmother's sister was a stay-at-home mom - still drives at 88, her husband worked at the Ford plant, and they had just two children, one of whom is my godfather, who was a construction worker, while his brother did go to college and become a journalist. So. Either that branch of the family (and others) was just a generation ahead of mine, but all count as "working class" experience, or my family was actually poor when my mom was growing up ("the working poor"?) and my mother and some of her siblings became working class in the 1970s, and only with my generation is a transition being made to middle class?

One of the reasons that this is so difficult to pinpoint is because people in America don't readily acknowledge being below middle class. I remember asking my parents when I was in elementary school what class we were, and they told me we were "lower middle-class." I should note that when I asked this question my mother was working part-time only, my father had been laid off from his union job and so wasn't working at all, and we were surviving on government cheese and things like potatoes and eggs. We lived in a really horrible neighborhood in inner-city Cleveland (one time when my mother told a co-worker where she lived, the co-worker exclaimed "Isn't that the neighborhood with wild dogs that run through the streets?!"). That said, I went to Catholic school (one thing Lubrano gets right: overt racism is pretty common in blue-collar circles, and my parents sacrificed to keep me in Catholic school not because of deep religious commitment but instead to make sure I "wouldn't be bussed with the blacks"). I also did have things like ice skating lessons and dance lessons (but working-class dance lessons - tap-dancing primarily). I was an only child. They could scrape to give me some things that they didn't have growing up. (My father was one of seven, and his parents were divorced when he was 11 or 12 and his father died when he was 13 or 14. So much for the "father as role-model" bit upon which Lubrano insists.)

So one thing that Lubrano doesn't talk about at all is birth control. How much of class is related to how many children one has? How much of class is related to access to reliable birth control as well as to the belief that using birth control should be a priority? I'm sorry, but people don't have only two children without some family planning. Whether a couple just stops having sex, whether they use "rubbers" (one time, my grandmother's brother tried to press some into her hand - I think this was when she had just 5 children - and told her to make my grandfather use them), whether the woman uses a diaphragm, or, later, the pill. The fact of the matter is that a lot goes into a person using birth control consistently, and a lot of that is cultural. Lubrano mentions birth control not even once in the course of the book. Nor do any of his interviewees that he quotes - except for one "straddler" who has moved into the middle class who vaguely mentions only wanting to have as many children as she can afford. This is astonishing to me. I don't care how hard a person works, how thick one's father's callouses are on his hands - if you've got seven or ten kids, that's a whole different kettle of fish from what Lubrano most frequently describes in the book.

Another issue that is glossed over is how divorce affects one's class status and one's family situation. While some of the interviewees are described as having been raised by a grandmother or an aunt or as having come from single-parent homes, the stories that we read that are given the most space and detail are stories that feature families with intact marriages, families who sit down to "supper" every night. Lubrano seems to valorize the working classes as being all about "sticking together" and as valuing family above all else - in ways that are primarily positive, even if it does mean sometimes holding children back in order to keep them in the fold. What I've experienced doesn't really reflect this. While it's true that family is at the center of my working-class experience, many times that is true for negative reasons. Late night calls about somebody needing to be bailed out of jail. Frantic requests to borrow money because the phone/electricity/gas is about to be shut off or because there's no food in the house. Negotiating childcare when one can't afford daycare or a sitter. Getting rides for those who don't drive to wherever they need to go (grocery store, medical appointments, cemetery, whatever). Needing to help people move house with very little notice. This is a burden, not a blessing. And it has nothing to do with working-class people being more committed to their families than middle-class people, and it has nothing to do with working-class people having better values than middle-class people. It has to do with survival, and survival isn't something all rosy and pretty and to which to aspire.

Finally, the stories that Lubrano includes about women who grow up working class don't really reflect what I've experienced. First, there is the idea that daughters don't need to be educated. In my experience, and in looking at the experiences of male friends and family members in my generation, the inverse is true. Whereas my mother pushed education as the key to me not ending up a pregnant teenager (as did every single other of the girls in my elementary school class), the boys I knew were expected to go it on their own and to start earning as quickly as possible. My gradeschool boyfriend dropped out of high school and was working in a factory when last I talked to him when I was 16. My First Love was cut off at 18, and he paid his own way through college with no help from his parents, in spite of the fact that financial aid awards are figured with parents' income included. My cousin only finished one year of college because he had no support from his parents and couldn't afford tuition without working, and working full time meant he couldn't do his schoolwork. His brother dropped out of high school, as did another male cousin (both of whom are younger than I am). No one seems to think that this is that big of a deal in the family, as long as they're earning. On that side of the family, I'm one of 13 grandchildren, five of whom are girls. Of the five girls, three have college degrees, one is still in high school, and the other got her GED and was in community college the last I heard. None of the boys has a college degree. Obviously these aren't some sort of universal statistics, but I see similar trends with my students. I've got a lot of non-traditional female students who've gone back to school while their husbands work. I've got a lot of traditionally aged college students who are supported by their families to get an education, and the primary motivation for that support, it seems, is that families don't want their daughters to get stuck with a bunch of kids before they're grown up.

This isn't to indicate, however, that anybody expects the girls to do great things with the educations that they receive. The thing to remember, and that Lubrano does not acknowledge, is that there's a strong tradition in our culture of women "marrying up" and of pulling themselves up out of lower-class status not through hard work and achievement but by "catching a man" who can confer higher-class status upon them. (A great book that looks at this is Carolyn Kay Steedman's Landscape for a Good Woman.) I vividly remember conversations with my paternal grandmother when I was in college in which I would try to tell her about what I was learning or what my goals were after college and she wouldn't listen at all. Instead, she would ask not what I was majoring in or what I planned to do but rather what my First Love was majoring in and what he planned to do. At first, this totally confused me. I suppose that the expectation was that I'd marry him, and that whatever I was learning was just to bide my time until I got that brass ring - the wedding ring. The expectation was not that I would be a high achiever, but rather that I would choose a major and a profession that would be good enough until I decided to have kids. Something that would allow me to move in the circles of my newly middle-class husband without embarassing myself, but that wouldn't really take any attention away from him. (I should note that First Love followed me to college, where I was an honors student and he was not, where I graduated with honors and he did not, and where I was admitted to various honors societies and such and he was not. But I wasn't supposed to outshine him, oh no sir!)

As much as my maternal grandmother did seem to get it more, and really wanted me to excel, she, too, seemed to fear that I was signing on to be a "career girl" and that meant that I would lead a life of quiet and lonely desperation because "nobody wants to marry a girl who's smarter than he is." There was absolutely no model for combining academic and professional achievement with a personal life. (And you wonder why I write about all this stuff on my blog: that's got to be a big part of it, I'm thinking, that I want to construct such a model, even if the model I'm constructing is kind of lame, I admit.)

But so if all this is left out, what is left in the book that made me feel such a strong sense of recognition, a strong sense that this was, at least in some ways, my story? You know, there were random things. Like talking about how blue-collar people yell and wear their hearts on their sleeves whatever their emotions. I'll never forget my confusion when a middle-class boyfriend scolded me for screaming at him when I was pissed off. Not that screaming at a person is necessarily attractive, but to me, that's what you do when you're pissed off. He never got it. And like Lubrano's interviewees, I know I say too much at work in meetings, and in "telling it like it is" I probably do put myself at risk in ways that I probably shouldn't. We ate "supper" when I was growing up - not dinner - and I always understood how much things cost. I worked from the time I was 15. A telling conversation between my working class mom and the mother of my middle-class best friend from high school, Heather:

Heather's Mother: "Oh, Heather won't work this summer because I really want her to travel. I only want her to work at some point in college for the experience of working."
Crazy's Mother: "Oh, Crazy's going to work. And she won't work for the experience; she'll work for the money."

That pretty much says it all, doesn't it? But you know, the story that hit me the most was when one of the female interviewees described her experience of reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time in a college class. She described disliking the book, and she described commenting in class that she'd go crazy if she had to read about one more ball. Her professor asked her whether she grew up working class, and this was the first time that she realized in a concrete way how she differed from her middle-class counterparts in the class, who seemed intuitively to get the necessity of balls and to like the idea of them and to be able to relate to the book in ways that she couldn't.

My own first time through Pride and Prejudice, in high school, I hated it for similar reasons. And I wrote scathing commentary in the margins about how ridiculous the book was and I didn't think it was funny or charming at all. When I was assigned it again in college, after a couple of years as an English major, I couldn't get past my former self screeching in the margins, and I actually went out and bought a new copy so that I could read it again with a fresh eye. I loved the book the second time. I got it. I always thought the reason I didn't enjoy it the first time was because of my age - because in high school I wasn't yet "ready" for Austen. It occurred to me, as I read the story in Lubrano's book, that my problem wasn't one of age. My problem was one of class. When I read that book for the second time, I was already assimilating. I was learning how to move within middle-class culture and I was seeing myself as a middle-class person.

So I think I'm pretty comfortable with my status as a "straddler." I don't feel much anxiety about class these days, and I think this has to do with letting go of a lot of stuff when I was in grad school because I just didn't have the energy for it. Also, I think that working at my current institution is a good "fit" for me because I really do teach students who come from very similar backgrounds to mine, so it's easier to admit to that part of myself in this context. I don't have to pretend to be something I'm not. So I'm both things. I'm a person who has working-class roots and who now has moved into the middle-class. For me, there's just not much conflict in that. I don't worry about what forks to use anymore, and I've learned how to cook some things that would satisfy middle-class foodies. I've learned a bit about wine. But when I serve dinner at home there's just one fork (even on thanksgiving), no meal is more comforting than campbell's tomato soup from a can, a grilled cheese sandwich, and a dill pickle, and the wine I usually drink is cheap and nothing to brag about, and when I'm out I'm more likely to order a beer or a jack and coke. So that's me.

And as much as Lubrano gets right, I feel like he doesn't necessarily show that experience.

Monday, April 09, 2007

RBoC: For On Mondays I Only Write in Bullets

  • Yesterday I watched the movie Elizabethtown, and I've decided that I think I hate Cameron Crowe. Oh, don't get me wrong - I love many a Cameron Crowe Movie, but when you look at his entire oeuvre, one recognizes that every. single. movie. features a character whom I will call "The Girl." You know her. She's a little quirky, a little neurotic, but she's got a heart of gold, is wise beyond her years, if a bit fucked up, and when you look at her face it's like she's an angel, and of course, the male lead thinks she's an angel, because her role is to be the vehicle for his self-discovery. The whole "woman-as-vehicle-for-confused-guy's-self-discovery" thing makes me want to vomit.
  • I'm teaching a poem tomorrow that I've taught twice before but apparently the poem is not at home but in my office. This is annoying, as I really should glance over it.
  • Grading looms and I am ignoring it.
  • I also need to do other prep for tomorrow, and I don't want to do it either.
  • I have lots to say about Limbo, but I'm nearly done and I want to wait until I'm totally done and then do a whole post on it.
  • I'm giving a talk to a community group this week. I have not written this talk.
  • Tomorrow I've got a hair appointment. I'm at a loss for what to do with the hair. On the one hand, the hair lately is pretty good, but it's BORING. On the other, the hair I'm considering to replace it... well, I'm not sure. But I don't want to be a boring hair person. Yes, it's time for a change. But then that means choosing from among the things with which I might replace it. Options: 1) just get side-swept bangs (this is the least adventurous option). 2) go very short in the back and then longer on the sides and in the front, in a kind of choppy bob sort of a thing but that's short in the back. 3) do a version of Linda Evangelista's hair in the 80s, not unlike option 2, only shorter. (I really do feel like really short hair is where we're heading. Tragically, I'm not entirely sure if it's where I should head.)
  • I'm sorry I've been such a lame blogger of late. I've been so consumed with having a real social life that the blog suffers. I also might have a cold and/or allergies are acting up. I've been exhausted and a bit sniffly.
  • Ok, off to go accomplish something. Today's been pretty lazy, and I really do have things I need to get done by tomorrow.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter, One and All!

Heathen that I am, I'm not really celebrating the holiday. Well, unless you count lazing around and not really doing things one needs to do "celebrating," which I suppose one might do. Happy happy to all those celebrating. I hope the Easter Bunny brought you delicious treats!

(I will however be eating some delicious Cadbury chocolate to celebrate, because really, who doesn't love chocolate?)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Nerves Replaced with Exhaustion

Coffee with Coffee Guy was good. That said, having a long outing over Coffee with somebody really is exhausting (even with caffeine). This exhaustion led me to come home, order pizza (you'll be happy to know that it was an uneventful pizza-ordering), gorge myself on said pizza, and then watch The Lake House, which I love even as I know it's a ridiculous movie. Am about to watch Before Sunrise. I'm slightly concerned that these are the viewing choices I'm making this evening. Even as much as I've been all about forcing myself to have a life - a real life and not an imaginary life - over the past few weeks, I fear that the movie-viewing may reveal that this pragmatic and sensible approach is, well, not really reflective of the person I actually am.

Well, This Is Unexpected

Meeting Coffee Guy for what else but Coffee this afternoon, and it seems I'm actually nervous. Does not compute. Don't understand. Haven't been nervous in a very long time in this sort of situation. I'm all jaded and been-around-the-block-y, right? Hmmm. Apparently not.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Wanna Know Why I'm Crazy?

The Scene: Crazy on the telephone with her mother.

Crazy: Hello?
Crazy's Mother: Must be nice! I bet you were off all day today!
C: No I wasn't, we never get days off.
CM: Really? But I was talking to Molly and she said she thought you were off and that you went away for the weekend.
C: Well, Molly doesn't know Crazy. I never go anywhere because I never get days off of school.
CM: You're right. She doesn't know you. So, what do you think about American Idol? [insert long dissertation on the votes, why Sanjaya remains, how she is mad "that hussy" didn't get voted off instead of the "rocker girl," even though she didn't like "seeing that thing in her tongue when she was singing that serious song," blah blah blah... somehow she started talking about politics in the age of YouTube and MySpace.... blah blah blah....]
[Crazy spaces out of the conversation]
CM: Hey! What are you doing over there?!
C: Nothing. Ok, well I wasn't paying attention to you.
CM: I thought so! You're zoning out! I called you! You have to pay attention to me!
C: Look! It's been a long week! Do you know how many people I've had to talk to this week! I'm not really in the mood to talk to you right now!
CM: I don't care! I'm your mother and I'm waiting for your stepdad to get home to take me to eat something. You have to talk to me. Actually, no. You don't have to talk to me. I like Man-Kitty better anyway. Put him on the phone.
C: I can't put him on the phone; he's sleeping.
CM: Well, he must be tired. It's not easy to live with a person like you.
C: Thanks a lot.
CM: Oh, and I didn't tell you! I your Crazy Aunt called me [insert long disjointed diatribe about my aunt who is strung out on drugs calling my mother to rant and rave in disjointed fashion at her]
C: What? What are you talking about?
CM: Ha! I'm doing the same thing to you that she did to me!
C: ...
CM: Ooh! There's your stepdad now! Ok, I don't need to talk to you anymore!
C: Well, I'm glad I was available to help you pass the time.
CM: Yes! Isn't it great?! Byeee!