Friday, November 30, 2007

Poetry Friday - Marilyn Hacker


Consider the three functions of the tongue:
taste, speech, the telegraphy of pleasure,
are not confused in any human tongue;
yet, sinewy and singular, the tongue
accomplishes what, perhaps, no other organ
can. Were I to speak of giving tongue,
you'd think two things at least; and a cooked tongue,
sliced, on a plate, with caper sauce, which I give
my guest for lunch, is one more, to which she'd give
the careful concentration of her tongue
twice over, to appreciate the taste
and to express — it would be in good taste —

a gastronomic memory the taste
called to mind, and mind brought back to tongue.
There is a paucity of words for taste;
sweet, sour, bitter, salty. Any taste,
however multiplicitious its pleasure,
complex its execution (I might taste
that sauce ten times in cooking, change its taste
with herbal subtleties, chromatic organ
tones of clove and basil, good with organ
meats) must be described with those few taste
words, or with metaphors, to give
my version of sensations it would give

a neophyte, deciding whether to give
it a try. She might develop a taste.
(You try things once; I think you have to give
two chances, though, to know your mind, or give
up on novelties.) Your mother tongue
nurtures, has the subtleties which give
flavor to words, and words to flavor, give
the by no means subsidiary pleasure
of being able to describe a pleasure
and recreate it. Making words, we give
the private contemplations of each organ
to the others, and to others, organ-

ize sensations into thoughts. Sentient organ-
isms, we symbolize feeling, give
the spectrum (that's a symbol) each sense organ
perceives, by analogy, to others. Disorgan-
ization of the senses is an acquired taste
we all acquire; as speaking beasts, its organ-
ic to our discourse. The first organ
of acknowledged communion is the tongue
(tripartite diplomat, which after tongu-
ing a less voluble expressive organ
to wordless efflorescences of pleasure
offers up words to reaffirm the pleasure).

That's a primary difficulty: pleasure
means something, and something different, for each organ;
each person, too. I may take exquisite pleasure
in boiled eel, or blacmange — or not. One pleasure
of language is making known what not to give.
And think of a bar of lavender soap, a pleasure
to see and, moistened, rub on your skin, a pleasure
especially to smell, but if you taste
it (though smell is most akin to taste)
what you experience will not be pleasure;
you almost retch, grimace, stick out your tongue,
slosh rinses of ice water over your tongue.

But I would rather think about your tongue
experiencing and transmitting pleasure
to one or another multi-sensual organ
— like memory. Whoever wants to give
only one meaning to that, has untutored taste.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Joyless on the Tenure Track

In this post, I shall pick up New Kid's mantle, and I shall express my utter irritation at a Chronicle First Person column. Now, I get where David D. Perlmutter is coming from as he concludes, "As academics, we need to think about ways we can make the tenure track, if not less rigorous, at least less downbeat, even (or especially) at the moment of triumph. But a fog of doom and gloom will not help you seize the prize, and might even blind you to the best ways to achieve it."* Yes, thinking positive is a good thing, and being pissed off and down all the time is no good for anybody, or good for anybody's career. BUT. (And you knew there'd be a "but.")

The moment at which I began to question this guy's credibility was when he described his own personal Doom and Gloom during the tenure process. He writes, in the third paragraph, that while he had very pleasant circumstances surrounding his bid for tenure, that it was (boohoo) "without joy." He then goes on to describe those "pleasant circumstances," and concludes with the following:
"Thanks to the efforts of the office staff, my graduate assistant, and my wife, I had to do very little work in assembling my tenure file."
Ok, my first response to this sentence was utterly without value [insert expletives here]. See, he was dejected because, with all of that support and smooth-sailing he "felt no exhilaration" upon being awarded tenure. (One might ask whether he should since he didn't really put his application together, but I'm not going to be that petty.)

Now, I don't know when this guy got tenure, but who does he think he's kidding? Does he really think that his experience above is the norm? Apparently, yes, for he writes toward the end of the column,
"Consider a relatively minor bump on the tenure path: the task of putting together your tenure application. Sure, that can be time-consuming. But an obvious solution is to assemble your materials each year. A little upfront work can spare you lots of last-minute paper shuffling as you try to track down six years' worth of teaching evaluations. Ask for secretarial help from your department." (Italics mine)
On the one hand, he is right. Assembling one's materials once a year does mean that you won't freak out at the end. But on the other, why do I know this? Because my institution requires that we submit them for review each and every fall. Every single tenure-track person must do this, regardless of whether they're going up. And every year the binder goes all the way up the chain of command, and every year you get feedback about how to make your binder (not your application, but your fucking BINDER) more spiffy. Because apparently one needs a Ph.D. in scrap-booking as well as in one's field of specialty in order to get tenure where I work. Since I've been in this job, there have been no fewer than seven people on the tenure-track each year in my department alone. If somebody can explain to me how our two department administrative assistants (who do a fuck of a lot more than secretarial work, incidentally) would be able to "help" with all of those materials, I'd be interested to hear about it. I'd also love to see the looks on their faces if anybody were to be such an entitled, privileged asshole as to burden them with the request. And did I mention that I do not have graduate assistants? And that even if I did, I think it would be wrong to ask them to put together my tenure application? And did I mention that I also don't have a fucking wife, and that if I did (or have a spouse at any rate), I certainly wouldn't expect them to put my tenure shit together for me because GOD ALMIGHTY IT IS THE 21ST CENTURY AND IDEALLY ANY SPOUSE WOULD HAVE THEIR OWN LIFE AND INTERESTS THAT EXTENDED BEYOND MY BID FOR TENURE?

Look, I don't know this dude, nor do I think that he had any sort of a clue how these comments would be perceived by a person at a regional university with little administrative support, a 4/4 teaching load, and ever-increasing demands for service and publication. Nor do I think he possibly could have anticipated that I read his column during a "break" from the final tweaking of the book manuscript, at the end of a grueling semester where, yes, I've got a course release, which means I'm teaching "only" three classes (and three different preps, one of them a new prep, and again, with no teaching assistants or graders), a book that I've managed to see through the revision and publication process with no sabbatical (or possibility for one before tenure). So yes, I'm bringing my own shit to this.

But let's put my own shit aside for a moment. I suspect that the table of "unhappy assistant professors" with which he sat at a faculty reception and which inspired his column probably have their own shit with which they're dealing, shit that does not resemble David D. Perlmutter's own idyllic tenure bid. You know, sometimes people have good reasons for being unhappy, and it's not just that we need to "celebrate" the achievement of tenure with more pomp and circumstance or that people need to adjust their attitudes.

I mean, sure, it would be nice if achieving tenure did feel like more of a, well, achievement. And yes, it would also be nice if the process itself were more transparent, and if the work that we do on the tenure track received more acknowledgment. But come on. Sometimes when people are unhappy with their lot, they've got really legitimate reasons for being unhappy. And putting on a happy face doesn't necessarily constitute a reasonable or good response to a system that is at best difficult and at worst oppressive and exploitative.

So what do I wish? Well, two things. First, I wish that people who received tenure more than 10 years ago would actually talk to their junior colleagues about how their junior colleagues perceive their situations and the process rather than assuming that their junior colleagues' experiences are identical to their own. Second, I wish that the Chronicle of Higher Education would pay attention to the fact that their First Person Columns rarely, if ever, speak to the experience of anybody I know and respect in this profession.

*I should note that many of the things that Perlmutter writes do not entirely enrage me and I even agreed with him at points, but those points of agreement were overshadowed by the things that did enrage me. And so, I really do recommend that you read the whole column, as it's not without value.

Slow Start toward What Promises to Be a Long Day

I'm feeling a bit.... ok, the only word I can think of is "itchy" - but I don't mean that in a "I have a horrible rash" sort of way, but rather in an I'm itching for the semester to be over, the book to be done, my MLA paper to be magically written (which would be more likely if I'd even thought about beginning an outline for the thing), etc. etc. I've got a mountain of grading that likely won't shrink, for today I've made a solid commitment to try to finish with the book stuff so that I can get it into the mail. I have to get this done because not having it done is making me crazy.

The problem is, however, the timing. I've got just two weeks left, and so there's all of this pressure to do things in my classes and for my classes (though there is a bit of a respite in that next week and the week after do promise to be fairly light), and then also I'm putting some pressure on myself about other things... attempting to make holiday plans (some of which I am very stoked about and some of which I'm.... well, obligated to squeeze in) for example.

But so yes. This morning I slept in a bit, spent some time reading blogs, and only now shall I get in the shower and make my way to the office. I have a dream that I will also make it to the gym today (for I have realized that the book has made me chubby, and I'm finally ready to do something about it) and maybe will grade at least a few papers. This is the dream, at any rate.

So wish me luck, people. The sooner I get past this stuff, the sooner I can post things that aren't idiotic and boring.

Monday, November 26, 2007

In which Crazy Waxes Poetic about Tegan and Sara

Ok, so where I was probably a month or a month and a half ago was this place.

And then, a Certain Person Who Shall Still Not Receive a Pseudonym noted that he was humming to this song and thinking of me.

And then I happened upon this song and felt as if it was perfect for how I felt, even if I'm not nineteen years old.

My point here is this, people: Tegan and Sara are fucking awesome. Totally.

RBOC: Crappy Monday Edition

  • I haven't got it in me to do a post that is in anything other than bulleted form. Today, it has been.... grueling.
  • I'm coming up on the major book deadline, and while I'd fantasized about putting the thing to bed today and getting it in the mail, this is not to be. It's looking like I can realistically be done Wednesday or at the latest Thursday. I kind of anticipated this, so I feel like I'm in good shape.
  • The grading. Oh god, the grading. I've got so much freaking GRADING. That said, I won't have as much at the very end of the semester because I set it up this way this semester. I think the reason it's such a burden is because of the book deadline. Really, I think this shifting of deadlines is, as Martha would say, "a good thing."
  • The weather outside is frightful, and not in a Christmasy way either but rather in a Guns 'n' Roses sort of way. LAME.
  • A. and I decided that the skinny sister in White Christmas maintained her skinniness by living on a diet of black coffee, cabbage soup, dry rye toast, and cigarettes. Well, and she was a dancer, and so probably danced every day. We're wondering whether rocking it out old school in this fashion is really, indeed, the way to not be a fatso. I mean, sure, you would be killing yourself slowly with such a diet, but you'd have a body like a china doll!
  • So I have all of this work to do, but I've been on the phone with people for like 2 hours. I have bad work habits.
  • I'm beginning to feel seriously concerned that my "specialty" course next semester won't make. Sigh.
  • I think that is all for now, as I really do need to grade and to prep. Sigh again.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Grading Really Sucks

I mean, sure, there are some bright spots, but all in all? It sucks. That is all.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Back to Work

So Thanksgiving's over, A. has come and gone (we were VERY lame, basically just lying around and eating and we were both fast asleep by midnight) and now it's time for me to get back to the grind, to do book stuff and to grade and any number of other things. Can I just say, UGH. I don't want to work. I want to be lazy for about another week. But duty calls....

Thursday, November 22, 2007

On Feeling Grateful for Possibility

This thought just came to me in a flash. A rare thing, a great thing, about getting to know a person is in the fact that as much as each person in a new... dyad... may have revealed, that there is this repository of things, inconsequential, silly, important, whatever, that are still yet to be revealed and that, when it feels like something good, each gets to look forward to revealing.

It's funny: there was a time in my life when I thought this could never be true. When I broke up with my First Love, the thing that I mourned most was that he knew all of my things, and I just couldn't imagine revealing all of them - or wanting to reveal them - to another. Now, the two of us broke up about 13 years ago, and clearly I've revised my thoughts on this matter as I gained more experience. That said, I still tend to forget that this wanting to know another person that way, and wanting another person to know me that way, is a possibility. And when it happens, it feels like this amazing gift.

Because it's easy to forget that it's important for a person, in order really to know you, should know that you still resent the fact that you never got a toy cash register for Christmas when you were a kid. Or that you in the right circumstances have what others might call a "good" singing voice (even if such a singing voice is these days only apparent when you're either alone or too devastatingly intoxicated or into a song to forget to hide it). Or that Thanksgiving is your favorite of all holidays, or that there is a certain look on a tired face that in your family is called "Muffin Face." It's easy to forget that it's possible to want to tell another person those parts of you that aren't on the surface. It's easy to forget that those parts of you that aren't on the surface matter in really important ways. And, maybe more importantly, it's easy to forget that the wanting to tell matters. It's easy to convince oneself that all of those things aren't really the point ultimately, that when you meet people at this point that obviously there will be things that there will be things that they'll miss or that will go untold, blah blah blah.

And then a person comes into your life, a person whom you want to know your things. And you're surprised, because, really, it's surprising. And you find yourself opening up, and you find yourself telling about the resentment about the toy cash register. You find yourself telling things you never thought you'd tell again, or never thought you'd tell period. And it's scary and weird and perhaps stupid, but when you find yourself telling those things, you remember a self, a less cynical self, who wanted to tell everything, who wanted to give everything, who thought that telling and giving everything could result in happiness rather than pain.

It's easy when you're 16 to do that. You don't realize the cost; it feels natural. And then you think you learn in the intervening 17 years that it's not natural, and that indeed you were incredibly stupid to have believed that such things could be good or true. Until a new person, a special kind of new person, happens. And sure, it's fucked up. Sure, it feels uncomfortable. And you find yourself revealing parts of yourself that while seemingly inconsequential ultimately go pretty deep. And you freak out a little bit. But this thing - this revived belief - it's a thing to be grateful for. It's something to cherish. Even if it might not last, it's a kind of possibility that one should acknowledge as important, as special, as something for which to give thanks.

And that, really, is the thing I'm most thankful for on this Thanksgiving. That once again I feel this possibility, that I'm excited about this particular variety of possibility. And sure, it might all end in tears. But right now, the possibility matters infinitely more than the potential outcome.

Gobble, Gobble!

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I've long dreamed of dressing the Man-Kitty up in Thanksgiving costume, but we've discussed this dream at length and the Man-Kitty would like me to tell you that he is a dignified cat who prefers to remain in the buff. Indeed, says the Man-Kitty, his fur coat is more than glamorous enough for any holiday or event. And he refuses to be humiliated just to satisfy the whims of Crazy. It is clear who runs the show around this joint, and it is clearly not me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

See? I Told You I'd Be Posting over the Next Couple of Days....

This shall be a bulleted post, as I don't have it in me to do otherwise.

  • Ok, so the MLA Blogger Meet-Up currently has like 16 interested peeps. This is awesome. If you're interested in joining in on the fun but have yet to drop me an email, do so.
  • In fun MLA Blogger Meet-Up news, a person who dropped me an email turns out to be somebody with whom I went to grad school! How crazy is that? It's a small, small world.
  • I just finished a first draft of the book acknowledgments. I think they're pretty much done - though I suppose I might change a word or two - but I did find a way (thanks, Dr. Virago, who offered a suggestion, lo, many moons ago, for how to do so) to address the blogging peeps who've meant so much to me throughout this process. Indeed, the line is this: "I would like to convey my thanks to supportive friends scattered across the country, who offered long-distance care and encouragement when it was most needed."
  • In other news, I've spent most of the day house-cleaning, though I anticipate that I shall work a bit on the book as the night progresses. I'm trying to decide whether to make a pie tonight or whether to do so in the morning. Hmmm.
  • Is it wrong that I love Thanksgiving so much? It really is the best possible holiday.
  • Yes, I think that's all for now. I should probably eat something and do some work on the book. Or bake a pie. Or something.

A Thanksgiving Post

This year, I had decided not to do Thanksgiving. This is a pretty big deal, as Thanksgiving is by far my absolute favorite holiday, and I've cooked Thanksgiving Dinner every Thanksgiving, in fact, since 1999. But with the book deadline fast approaching and with all of the grading I have and how chaotic things are at the moment, I thought it wisest not to do Thanksgiving.

And then I realized that in spite of my plan "not to do" Thanksgiving that somehow I ended up buying all of the fixings for a full Thanksgiving spread (minus the turkey, because even I'm not fool enough to make a turkey for one - I'd planned to roast a chicken instead). Apparently, Thanksgiving is a holiday I do, whatever my intentions, sort of like how my mom does Christmas. So I was feeling vaguely silly this morning, as I realized what I was doing, but apparently, much like the field of dreams, if you build it they will come, for BFF's Thanksgiving Plans fell through when her cat Flo got a tummy-ache yesterday, and so now it will be the Thanksgiving of BFF and Crazy! Hurrah!

But so that is the first thing that I am thankful for on this Thanksgiving Eve. What else does Crazy feel thankful for?

  • I am thankful that my book is almost done. I've been making a major push, and I expect to mail the thing off on Monday.
  • I am thankful that I'm finally giving my house a good cleaning, something only possible because I'm "not doing" Thanksgiving for real. I know, this seems counterintuitive given the above, but there you are.
  • I am thankful that my mom and stepdad were so great about us not doing Thanksgiving together this year, and I'm thankful that they're just so generally great (even if they do annoy me when we're in the same place).
  • I am thankful for my crew of awesome friends, and I'm most especially thankful that I'll get to spend some qual. time with A. on Friday.
  • I am thankful for the great students that I have this semester. I really lucked out with the makeup of my classes, and I feel spoiled by how engaged and interested so many of them are.
  • I am thankful for my sweet Man-Kitty, as anybody would be, really, if they had the pleasure of his company.
I could go on, but suffice it to say that I have a lot for which I am thankful, and one thing especially that I'm not sure how to articulate in a bullet point but that sooner or later I'm going to have to find a way to write about, I think. Or maybe not. Maybe one thing for which I should be thankful is that there is something going on in my life that seems special enough to protect from the narrative of the blog. And now it's time to get back to the Day of Productivity. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! (Who am I kidding? I'll probably post tomorrow, too, but I suppose this will be the Official Post of Thanks in any case.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

MLA Blogger Meet-Up

Just wanted to bring this back to the top of the blog. If you're interested in participating (even if you said so in comments a while back), email me. My email is buried in this post. (We've already got like 11 people on the list- it promises to be quite the event.)

So, I'm Making a Journey to a Distant Planet.... (By Request)

So, in response to my call for queries to inspire blog posts, Belle asked the following:

You're being sent to a distant planet as a representative of species and type. You have twenty minutes to pack, and are limited to non-electronic versions of the materials you need for your mission and sanity. You can only take what you can carry, books, clothes, etc. Toiletries will be provided. What reading materials would you take?

Ah, what books would I take on my journey? I'm going to imagine that I could carry 10 books somewhat comfortably. This may be either overestimating or underestimating - I'm not certain - but I feel like that's at least in some way realistic. (And also, I'm resisting my own "top five" sort of tendencies with these questions, in part because it's always so difficult to narrow down to just five, and I inevitably make stupid choices. I feel like having 10 with which to work will help me to choose wisely as well as by preference.)

  1. Now, the first book anybody should take on such a journey would probably be a survival book, except since I'm going to another planet, I'm not sure how useful such a book would really be... what if they don't have the same plant life, etc., as we would have on earth? But, just in case I end up in the wild someplace and it in some way resembles earth in terms of how to make fire, etc., I would take along something like this. I should note that I have no idea whether this would be the best or most useful book, as Dr. Crazy's habitat is not generally "the wild." Thus, I'd probably rely on the kindness of natives or animals or die. But there we are. At least with a book such as this there would be some hope.
  2. Some might say that it would be important to take all of Shakespeare's plays. Most important works of literature and all that. I say no. Why? Well, because I don't exactly read Shakespeare's plays for pleasure in my regular life where I'm not limited, and to take an anthology of the plays would be wicked-heavy. Thus, I'm going to settle for five of Shakespeare's plays, and I will include them under one number, as I feel that five would equate to one normal-sized book. Obviously, I will take the slimmest pocket editions. And so the list is this: Hamlet, Antony and Cleopatra, Richard III, The Tempest, Much Ado about Nothing.
  3. Ulysses. A new copy (so it wouldn't be falling apart at the seems) but into which I'd have transferred all of my annotations. And no, I'm not picking that as a pretentious choice: I'm picking it because I know I could read it forever and find something new in it each time.
  4. Finnegans Wake. Also not a pretentious choice. Indeed, this is the choice of a fraud. I've read parts of it, sure, but I've never read the whole thing, and I feel that if I were stranded on another planet that I might be inspired to do so, thus making myself less of a fraud.
  5. Ok, if I'm really taking The Wake, I'm sure I'd need some sort of companion book, because even I'm not silly enough to think that I could go it alone with that one.
  6. The Witch of Blackbird Pond. One of my absolute favorite books in the whole world. I read it first when I was about 9 years old, and I recently bought a copy so that I could read it again. I could read it over and over again. Witches, puritan New England, love - it has it all.
  7. So far, I've picked stuff that's quite literary - even TWoBP was a Newberry Award Winner - so I feel I must pick something that is silly, for those times when I'm not terribly in the mood for Serious Literature. I choose Bridget Jones' Diary. For I love it.
  8. Oh God! Only three left! I must be sure to choose wisely! Ok, were it in print, I'd choose this, a book including all of Doris Lessing's Canopus in Argos books. Tragically, there is no such book in print, according to my cursory search. With this being the case, I'd pick either Shikasta or The Marriages between Zones Three, Four, and Five. If I'm going to space, I want to read Lessing's Space Fiction stuff. I'm consciously refusing to choose The Golden Notebook, as I don't know how interesting it would be to me were I on another planet (and, really, I don't feel like it's a book I *need* to read again even as I love it).
  9. The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. No, it's not an "important" book in the way that some others on this list are, but it is my absolute favorite Atwood novel, and I've read it more times than I can count. And I feel that if I were on another planet, it would be a book that I would miss if I didn't take it.
  10. I can't believe I've already made it to 10. I feel like this last choice must be something of great import. God. What will I choose? There are many ways I could go. Again, I could choose something I love that will comfort me. But then I look at this list and I notice that I've only got Shakespeare and Joyce for male authors. Maybe I need another dude? But then I think that maybe I should pick something I've not read, so as to have some new sort of stimulation on this other planet? Well, I'm going to rule out the last option, as I'm sure I'll have to learn the language of the new planet, and I bet they'll have literature, too, so I won't be at a loss for new material. Oh my god! I know what I need for the last one! I've got drama, and I've got fiction. I've got no POETRY! I'm going to make a somewhat lame choice and choose volumes one and two of the Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry. I'm cheating in two ways here - I'm technically choosing two books, and also I'm choosing anthologies as opposed to single-author works. That said, if I had these, I'd have all of the poetry I absolutely needed in order to survive on another planet. Sure, there'd be poems I'd miss that wouldn't be included there, but all the poetry that I most need - or at least poems by the poets that I most need - would be there. And what is life on another planet without poetry?
So yes, those would be the books that I'd choose were I sent as an emissary to another planet. I'm not sure if they're the most sensible choices, but I do think those are the books I couldn't live without.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Report from the Trenches and Some Thoughts on Students

Report from the trenches:
I know I've been a bit quiet of late - things are in the final stages with the book, and it's all the tedium of editing and checking references and stuff like that, which is not difficult but which is, in my humble opinion, absolutely the most annoying part of this process. I had a bit of a setback in which I realized that I didn't have a most recent version of one chapter saved and so I had to reconstruct the final content changes I'd made from the hard copy draft I had (and yes, friends, this is why one must save those hard copy drafts, and why I am totally justified in having about 45 draft versions of this damned manuscript, which I'm considering burning in a ceremonial purge when the thing finally is published), but otherwise the biggest challenge has just been in forcing myself to sit down and to do this stuff. It's not fun; it's not rewarding; it is boring. As hard as writing may be, at least it's not so fucking tedious. At any rate, though, I am at a good pace to finish everything with some room before the final deadline, especially as now I've decided that I'm not doing anything for Thanksgiving but rather using the mini-break to plow through and finish the damned thing and ideally to get a strong start on the MLA paper.

Oh, but the Thanksgiving weekend won't be all work! Oh, no sir! Indeed, the Inimitable A. shall be coming for a brief visit on Friday the 23rd, so don't be surprised if in between our planned activities (calling random people on the phone, gossiping, analyzing the current states of each of our lives, playing The Game of Life, what have you) there is an impromptu visit to Crazy Medusa's Lounge. At any rate, the anticipation of this visit has proved to be just the catalyst I needed to get a TON of work done - and efficiently, too - and sure, as a person who shall remain nameless notes, our plans are pretty much those of your average sixth grader (minus the wine, I suppose, as sixth graders really shouldn't be getting drunk together, and A. and I never would have done so when we were actually in sixth grade) but I feel that people who mock 30-something women for engaging in such activities really just don't understand exactly how entertaining A. and I find ourselves (and, really, how totally entertaining we are just objectively speaking).

Hmmm. What else? Well, a while ago I did a preliminary temperature-taking to see if people would be interested in doing an MLA meet-up again this year, and it seems there are many who would be interested, so here's what I'm thinking.

  1. If you want to be part of the meet-up, drop me a note at reassignedtime at gmail so that I can put together a mailing list of those who'd like to be involved. (I should have just had everybody do this when I initially posted about it, but I was clearly not thinking.)
  2. Lots of people are either interviewing or on searches, or are presenting or whatever. With this in mind, I'm going to throw out the idea that maybe we try to do the meet-up on the 27th, since then we can be sure most likely not to conflict parties, papers, interviews, etc. Let me know what you think about that, as I'm not sure when people are planning their arrivals, etc.
  3. Once I've got a mailing list compiled, I'll send out an email and we can start discussing the specifics of times/meeting places/etc.
What else? Hmmm. I don't know. I suppose that's enough to be going on with in terms of my report.

Some Thoughts on Students:

I think I'm going to do this portion in bullet-form, since my thoughts are kind of scattered.
  • Once upon a time, I mentioned in a post that I broke my self-imposed rule about suggesting graduate school as an option to my students. I've only done this one time in my time at this institution. That's not to say I've not supported students who have come to me with the idea already in their heads - I have - but I haven't presented it, except in this one case, as an option that a student should consider. Now, I think it's generally a good thing that I don't suggest grad school to my students. Grad school in English Literature is a pretty risky path to pursue, as it's a huge time commitment and it won't necessarily result in a full-time job with benefits even after all of that education. But even I am not made of stone. Even I can't help myself given the right set of circumstances. So, about a year ago, I tentatively suggested the possibility to a student of mine, a student whose plan was to teach high school. Now, of course I accompanied the suggestion with my usual Doom and Gloom speech about the state of the profession, and I explained my reluctance even to bring it up to the student even as I made the suggestion. (Which, it strikes me now, probably was a bit confusing for the student... but I wanted to impress upon the student that this would be a big decision and I wouldn't at all be disappointed if the student was in no way interested in such a path. Actually, an aside: my proudest moment last year was when another phenomenal student of mine announced to me that he had no interest in grad school [even though he is very, very talented as a reader, writer, and critic] because he'd rather write great books than write about them - that if he was going to choose a risky option for a future then he'd rather choose an option better than becoming a professor. So the point here, is I'm ecstatic when students see futures for themselves beyond the college classroom, and I encourage them to do so.) But so anyway, back to this student's story. When we discussed the possibility of grad school, he was resistant, and I didn't push him. In fact, I said that if he thought he could be happy teaching high school that he probably should do it. Even as I said that, though, I had a suspicion that he would not be happy doing so. Students who write brilliant theoretical papers for sophomore-level survey classes, well, they're not generally the best suited to the bureaucratic grind of education classes or high school teaching. So, this student announced to me recently that he's dropping education and is just going to major in literature. I asked him what he was thinking about doing after graduation, and he confessed that he's thinking of graduate school. In part, I blame myself. That said, if I'd not suggested it, somebody else most certainly would have done, and really, I'd rather that I mentor this student through the process if indeed he's going to go for it. He's just so smart and so engaged. How can I discourage this path if he really thinks it's right for him? How can I not encourage him when I know that he has what it takes to do well if he pursues this? I suppose what I'm saying is that perhaps I'm less jaded about this profession and discipline than I sometimes think I am.
  • I recently attended the induction of our chapter of the honorary fraternity for English. It was a nice event. So anyway, it was a dinner, and when I arrived, I saw that probably around a third of those in attendance were former or current students of mine. So do I attract strong students or do I help to make strong students? I hope it's a little bit of both. But what was most awesome for me was that I didn't sit with my colleagues who also attended. I plopped myself at a table with some of my former students, and just had the chance to hang out with them and talk about their classes and their plans and books and movies. What was so funny to me at the time was how excited they seemed to be that I chose to sit with them, but as I think about it further, I know that I'd have been excited if a professor chose to sit with me when I was in their position. And you know, it wasn't a calculated choice on my part - it was just that the event really was about the students, and I can socialize with my colleagues whenever I want. I wanted the chance to socialize with my students. I wish my department did more of that. I think it's a good thing.
  • I'm concerned about making my enrollment in my upper-level class. The topic is scary for many students for a range of reasons, and thus far, more than half of the students enrolled are students I've had in previous classes, which is both gratifying (they believe that I'll make the material accessible and interesting to them) and disheartening (why aren't students more motivated by the content of courses at this institution; why are they so afraid of things that challenge them? At another university, I have no doubt that this course would have made its enrollment pretty much immediately).
  • But it is exciting to me how many students do seem to want to take multiple classes with me. And it's not only the students who do really well who do so, which is also nice - it means that they're not taking me again because I'm "easy" or something. But so I don't have a single class scheduled next semester without at least one familiar face, and that's just awesome. It's nice to see students at different points in their academic careers, and it's nice to have the opportunity to guide them over a sustained period of time in their intellectual development.
So yeah, those are my scattered thoughts on this Sunday afternoon. Now I need either to take a nap (which sounds like a most excellent option) or to do more work (less so), or perhaps some combination of the two.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Poetry Friday - May Swenson

"In Love Made Visible"

In love are we made visible
As in a magic bath
are unpeeled
to the sharp pit
so long concealed

With love's alertness
we recognize
the soundless whimper
of the soul
behind the eyes
A shaft opens
and the timid thing
at last leaps to surface
with full-spread wing
The fingertips of love discover
more than the body's smoothness
They uncover a hidden conduit
for the transfusion
of empathies that circumvent
the mind's intrusion

In love are we set free
Objective bone
and flesh no longer insulate us
to ourselves alone
We are released
and flow into each other's cup
Our two frail vials pierced
drink each other up

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

So, What Do Your Parents Do?

Sara over at With a Duck is responsible for the question that inspires this post. (Thanks, Sara! And I don't think you've commented before - would you like to be on the blogroll?) Sara writes:

Could you write something about coming from a working class background? If you feel like talking about academic stuff, I'd like to know what you say when you get asked what your family does.

Ok, now I've talked about class before on the blog, but it's always been in the context of talking about other things, it seems, from doing a quick attempt at searching for posts about it. So I figured it would make sense to do a post in direct response to this question.

The short answer is that when I've been asked that question, I just tell people what they do. My mom currently works in insurance, but throughout most of my life she worked in various clerical positions. My dad was a steelworker when I was a kid and now is in charge of maintenance at a mall. My stepdad worked in a parking lot for years, and now runs a store with his brother. And no, none of these people has a clue about what my job really entails. They're ridiculously proud of me, but my career is something entirely separate from them.

My particular brand of academic insecurity has never involved insecurity about my family exactly. They are who they are. That's where I come from. It's always been simple. (Now, I've worried about my ability to pass as "belonging" in this profession, but that's a different thing than answering the family question. In fact, I have a friend whose father is a fairly public figure, and she is more reluctant to talk about that than I am to talk about my family's jobs. In other words, I think that this question can be troubling no matter what side of the class fence one grows up on.)

But I want to talk a bit how weird I find the question when it is asked. See, in my experience, people from my background don't ask it. Not really. And I've never asked somebody I've met in my adult life what their parents do. I don't get it. I mean, we're grown-ups, right? What difference does it make what our parents do for a living? Aren't there more pertinent topics of conversation? And nobody in my hometown circle has ever asked such a question of me. I mean, it comes up sooner or later, but it's not like, "And so, Crazy, what does your father do for a living? And your mother?" In my academic life, though, people have asked that of me, and I suppose maybe because I'm not used to the question being asked I just rock it out with the truth. I mean, what's the difference?

I think that what Sara's question gets at, though, is the shame that we can sometimes feel as members of this profession if we come from uneducated people. When we are surrounded by people whose parents are academics or lawyers or doctors or accountants, it can make us feel like we don't "belong" in an office alongside them. Nobody at our dinner tables talked about books that they were reading or what happened "at the office" that day; nobody discussed buying a "summer home" or even annual family vacations. Most of us probably didn't go to camp; most of us probably didn't go to elite universities because it was a big enough deal that we could find a way to manage the state university down the road. Most of us probably didn't travel to Europe until we were in graduate school; we most likely didn't study abroad as undergraduates. We didn't take unpaid internships over summers. We weren't necessarily encouraged to "find ourselves" before choosing a career.

In other words, as much as I say that I'm not embarrassed about my family, and I just say what they do without thinking twice about it, I also recognize very deeply the ways in which my experience that brought me into this profession differs radically from many of the people who work in this profession alongside me. And yes, that difference in experience can lead to certain kinds of insecurity, even as I own the background that brought me to this point. What has been fabulous about my current job is that I have learned not to be as insecure about that stuff, in large part because my particular experience is so incredibly valuable with dealing with the student population that I teach. While it may not be identical to each student's experience, it has many common features, and I really get their anxieties, the roadblocks to high achievement that stand in their way, and the fact that for most of them that education is a scary thing, because it really does threaten their most intimate relationships. Because I understand those things, I can help them to navigate their educations in ways that other professors might not be as equipped to do. And so, sure, there are still moments of shame. But there are far more moments of pride.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Colleagues and Universities

As I promised yesterday, in today's post I will address Lesboprof's excellent discussion question, but also, Nik has weighed in to ask another that is related, and so I'll cover both in this post.

Lesboprof asks:

What do you do with colleagues who don't seem to like students? They just want to spend all their time and energy on the best and brightest, the ones we don't have to teach because they critically engage the books and come to class already knowing more than we might teach them. As for those students who don't look right or act right or speak or write correctly, they basically ignore them or castigate them. They spend the rest of their time bemoaning "falling standards." What do you do besides wait for them to retire??

This is a great question, but it's funny: it's not one with which I actually have a tremendous amount of experience. I think that I have dealt more with the inverse of this question, i.e., colleagues who tend to make excuses for students and to talk about how "great" they are in lieu of teaching them basic skills that they need. What's interesting, though, is the result is the same, just what I've dealt with has a more warm and fuzzy cast to it. In other words, the needs of the lower third or half are still not met - those students are still ignored - but in your version that lower third is castigated or lamented, where in my version that lower third is explained away through excuses and apologies and, ultimately, praised. ("Our students have so many responsibilities!" "Our students have such difficult lives!" "They do the best they can!")

I think that the problem with both attitudes is that they both let us as instructors off the hook for what students fail to achieve or master. "Learning" becomes something for which one either has a natural aptitude or one doesn't. If a student doesn't "learn" it's entirely on the student, whether because the student is stretched too thin to fulfill their academic obligations or whether it's because the student is in some way inherently "weak." Now, I'm all about students having ownership over their own educations, and I don't think that it's all on the instructor to "inspire" in the fashion of Dead Poet's Society or Mr. Holland's Opus. That said, I do believe that there is a reason why it's worth it for students to pay money to park themselves in front of me for three hours a week, to do the assignments that I set for them to do, and to think in the ways that I show them how to think. For me, the classroom should be a space in which both students and instructors have obligations to each other: the moment that one lets the bottom third or bottom half fall by the wayside without any attempt at intervention, for whatever reason, I believe that the instructor is failing to hold up his or her end of the bargain between instructor and student.

Ultimately "standards" fall whether instructors blame students for not achieving or excuse them for it. The only way to insure that "standards" remain high is, to some extent, to teach to that lower third or half and to bring them up to the middle or higher. And, it seems obvious to me, that doing so ultimately pushes the top students to achieve more as well, because if the other students increase in their abilities it takes a lot more effort for students in that top spot to shine.

But so what is to be done? Well. Institutional change is slow, and I think overt attempts to change an institutional culture can often be counterproductive. The Old Guard will become even more entrenched in their positions because they'll feel that they are being threatened. One thing that I think is helping at my current institution is that there has been an influx of new professorial blood, and students are responding well to the higher expectations. Ultimately, I only really have *control* over what happens in my own courses, but when it *works*, and when students respond to it positively, that goes a longer way toward changing the minds of the fuddy duddies than if I railed against them in an overt way. And there are small changes that one can try to institute at a department level (somewhat under the radar) that increase the level of professorial engagement - like, for example, taking an administrative call for more transparent assessment as an opportunity to come up with assessment objectives that fall in line with hitting that lower third by framing it as "this is what all majors should come away from courses with the ability to do." This way, it's not an attack on specific individuals but rather the discussion becomes one of shared governance and about making the administration the enemy - not students, not other faculty members. [Edited to add: Dean Dad writes a post today that reacts against my characterization of faculty/administration interaction here. I've left a lengthy comment to his post, so I won't repeat it here. I will say, however, that I do not think that individual administrators are the enemy, nor do I think that all administrative pet projects are bad ones. What I want is to get things done, and sometimes an administrative decoy can help with that job. Again, though, I wasn't lashing out at administrators here, but rather just writing off the top of my head about how to navigate the distance between entrenched and embittered faculty (or entrenched and enthusiastic faculty) and faculty who are less entrenched. I'm in no way an expert, and I hope I didn't characterize my thoughts here as some sort of universal truth for how things should or do work at every single institution.] But at the end of the day, some people won't change their attitudes. What I suppose speaks loudest is if students stop enrolling in their courses. How one can achieve that kind of shift in enrollment, though, I'm not entirely certain.

This then brings me to Nik's question, which is about what kind of university would most appeal to me. How is this linked to the above? Well, I think students and the attitude to students matters a great deal in how I imagine the "ideal" institutional setting for me. But so here is Nik's question:

Nik asks:

If you could choose what kind of University you wanted to work at, what would it look like and where would it ideally be?

This is such an interesting question to me because given the state of my field (English) I've historically avoided allowing myself to fantasize about ever having such a choice. It was enough to have a job - any job. Even when I tried my hand at the market last year, I was fairly scattered in my approach because I didn't really believe that any preferences that I might have would make any difference. This year, however, I've been more focused on what I want than on what the market has to offer. So, let me first address the types of institutional settings that seem most attractive to me:
  • I'd like to work at an institution that has a better sense of its own identity and about the identity that it imagines for itself in the future. My current institution began as one thing (open enrollment, serving a community college type mission) and now is in the process of transforming into something else (although it's not always clear what that is). On the one hand, there is a heavy focus on serving the community. I think that's ultimately a good emphasis for my institution. But because it's not always as clearly articulated as it might be, it makes it difficult to figure out how to fit oneself into that mission when one's specialization doesn't necessarily lend itself to that kind of work. At the same time, my institution has been adding many graduate programs, which then requires (or should require) a greater emphasis on research for faculty. At the same time, the emphasis on teaching remains. So an institution that once was all about teaching now is all about everything. This makes it a pretty grueling set-up, especially for junior-faculty who must be aware of tenure requirements that seem to increase year by year with no grandfathering in. On the one hand, it's exciting to know that the work I do shapes the future of this institution; on the other, it's very easy for the work that I do to become all-consuming in ways that are not at all personally healthy.
  • I'd like to work at an institution at which I did not have to teach composition. My Ph.D. is in literature, I have no commitment to teaching composition and no interest in doing so. That is not to say that I don't have a commitment to teaching students how to write, but since I end up having to do that in my lit classes anyway, with students who've already had composition, there is a futility to teaching composition for me that is disheartening. I like working with freshmen, and I actually do enjoy teaching service courses in literature. The issue is not that I don't want to pull my gen. ed. weight. It's that I know that I do a better job with teaching things that I'm passionate about - even if only tangentially - than with teaching things that I am only barely qualified to teach (and where the qualification comes out of a system of exploitation that begins in grad school). If I'd wanted to teach composition, I'd have gotten a Ph.D. in composition and rhetoric. Now I do it, and I do the best job I can with it, but I hate it. I'm burnt out on it. And I am not inspired to find a way not to feel burnt out, and this does a disservice to my students.
  • I'd like to work at an institution at which my research has more value than it does in my current context. In part, this links to teaching, in that I know I'm a better teacher when I feel satisfied with the research portion of my duties. For me, the two really are linked, and I would love to be in a situation in which that link was recognized more than it is.
  • I'd like to continue to work at an institution that serves a large population of first-generation college students. I was in the first generation in my family to attend college, and I identify strongly with the needs of those students and the particular challenges that they can face in an academic context. I think that it's important that they have instructors who understand those challenges, not only intellectually but also personally.
  • I'd like to work at an institution where I have relative autonomy in choosing what courses I teach and how I teach them. I have that at my current job, and I'd be reluctant to give that up. Same goes for autonomy as it relates to scheduling.
  • I'd like to work at an institution that cares about all of its students - that does not privilege grad students over undergrads or vice versa - and that rewards excellent teaching as well as excellent research.
Do I care about teaching grad students, like, as a career goal? No. Do I think it could be professionally rewarding? Of course. Would I devote myself to doing a good job with it if I had the opportunity to do so? Yes. But ultimately I've never cared that much about the idea of teaching or supervising grad students as some sort of preference above teaching undergrads. Again, I really do love working with freshmen and non-majors, so it's not at all that I'm looking for a more specialized audience for my teaching.

Now, as for part two of the question: location, location, location. I'm actually fairly open on location. When I look at the positions for which I've applied this year, they do tend to be in cities of some kind, but geographically And they're not centered in a particular region. I did tend to choose based on being nearer to people I care about than I currently am, but not necessarily nearer to family in all cases. Some places are on the east coast (nearer to grad school and high school BFFS); some are nearer to my family and hometown friends; some are further west, but again, nearer to friends. Ultimately, I want to end up in a place where I can imagine myself making a life. Here, well, I've given it a good shot. And I don't see my life ending up here. For a long time I beat myself up or feeling that way, like it was somehow my fault that it doesn't work for me here. What I think now is that maybe this place just isn't for me. It's not a bad place, as places go. I'm not totally miserable. But I'm not *happy* here. And dude, I want to be happy where I live.

Monday, November 12, 2007

These Are the Days of Crazy's Life....

Yesterday, crushed beneath a deep malaise that meant I couldn't think of a thing in the world to blog about, I put out a call to you, my faithful readers, for potential topics that I might address. Now, only *two* people left comments (Thanks Lesboprof and Curmudgeon! Boo to the rest of you!), but both queries are excellent. I'm going to take the second first, and respond to Curmudgeon this evening (but never fear Lesboprof! I'm going to respond to your question tomorrow!). If any of you come up with something else you'd like me to post about, go on ahead and leave a comment either to this post or to the original one.

So, Dr. Curmudgeon (or, as I like to think of him, the other Dr. C.) writes:

I'm going to deviate from the academic questions 'cause I'm trying to overwhelm myself with those thoughts just now. So, something a bit more basic: if you were making the soundtrack to your life, what would the major acts be and what one song would represent them?

Now, I think what he wants is one song per act, for why divide the life into acts if one were only going to pick one song, right? So, Crazy's life thus far, in five acts:

Act One: A Precocious and Curious Crazy Makes Her Appearance on the Scene

This first act ranges from birth to age 11 or 12, thus covering the childhood of Crazy. Now, Crazy was an only child (or, as she mistakenly told people when she was small, a lonely child) and so she really was quite the center of attention. Doted on by her two 20-something parents and a bevy of aunts who were teenagers, the young Crazy enjoyed such activities as dressing her younger male cousins up like girls, playing in the dirt, ice skating, reading (natch), and playing pretend. I feel that it would be fun to choose a song that I really loved from that time, such as "Catalina Matalina," but then I think I really should choose something that says a bit more and that I also associate with that time. And so.

The track: "Different Drum" by Linda Ronstadt.

Act Two: Times of Change, Times of Trouble: The Divorce Years

Well, the title of this one pretty much says it all. After 11 years, Crazy's dad moves out, and Crazy becomes a child of a "broken home" (as Sister Virginia, the principal of my school, so tactfully put it to my mother in front of me). This, as you might imagine, was quite a turbulent time, which included some experiments with shoplifting as well as some acting out in school. I first kissed a boy, we moved to another part of town, I kissed a couple more boys, and then I settled down some. What song captures this time? Well, tragically, the song I most associate with it is Bob Seger's "Turn the Page," which my father played fucking constantly. However, if we're talking about what song I'd choose, and again going with the idea that it's a song that should be both descriptive and give a sense of me at the time, then I'd have to choose....

The track: "Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake. What? You know you rocked out to that song!

Act Three: Heathers, or a Girl Comes of Age in the Early '90s

It's true, during this time two of my best friends were named "Heather." And there were many other Heathers on the edge of our circle. I was editor of my high school newspaper, in choir, acted in some school plays, was in the Latin club, and worked at the frozen yogurt place at the mall. In other words, I was busy busy. This, however, was also the first time at which people started to associate the moniker "Crazy" (indeed, at my 10-year reunion the first thing My Crush said was, "Oh my god! It's the Heathers and that Crazy Firstname Lastname! You guys are exactly the same!" (He, tragically, was not exactly the same, or at least not the same as I imagined him to be, but I suppose that's for the best.) This was also the period of my first Real Live Boyfriend First Love (and the sort of turbulent relationship that only happens when one is transitioning from high school to college), my mom read my diary and found out I lost my virginity, FL and I broke up and only later did I find out he'd been cheating on me throughout - good times.

The track: "I Just Can't Get Enough" by Depeche Mode

Act Four: You Keep Talking about "Truth" - You Don't Actually Believe in "Truth," Do You? The Grad School Years

I've got to say, I do believe that thus far, these years constitute The Golden Age of Crazy (and indeed, a fair number of people actually called me Crazy, like as a name, which is where I got the idea for my pseudonym, in fact). Sure, Grad School was torture in a great many ways, but it was also the time when I really came into myself intellectually, I was living in a great city, I was going out all the time, I had a gaggle of boyfriends, I had a crew of peeps to carouse with, I went to New York for the first time, I fell in love for real for the second time (and out of it for the second time).... And sure, I learned that it was idiotic to believe in anything, such as "truth" or "love" or stable and fixed identity, which has caused some static in the years that have followed, but god, that was a great fucking time. Now, there is a large part of me that wants to choose the song "Livin' La Vida Loca" for this Act, but even I have my limits. No, there is one and only one song that I can choose, and only Medusa will know the precise reason why.

The track: "Ray of Light" by Madonna

Act Five: Dr. Crazy's Adventures on the Tenure-Track

Well, what really can I say about Act Five? This would be my life now, naturally, and so you all know an awful lot about it already. I suppose I feel like I'm in a much more centered place than I inhabited in Act Four - a period of hard work, certainly, and also a period that feels a lot like a phase of transition before I'm on to the next thing, only I'm not sure what that "next thing" will be. I suppose that you'll find out right along with me.

The track: "Extraordinary Machine" by Fiona Apple.


And so, that is the Life of Crazy in Five Acts and Five Songs. I certainly hope that this has proved illuminating (or at the very least entertaining) for you all, and that I have adequately satisfied that other Dr. C's curiosity.

A Bright Spot....

In an otherwise bleak morning (the morning of the first rejection of the season, indeed). The below did make me smile in spite of that. Just imagine what having a "Dr. Crazy" on both your houses might be like!

William Shakespeare

A Dr. Crazy on both your houses!

Which work of Shakespeare was the original quote from?

Get your own quotes:

As seen at Dr. Virago's.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

That Time of the Semester?

I've noticed a few people have been asking readers to ask them questions in order to generate ideas for what to post about. Maybe it's just that time of the semester, when we're all fried and when coming up with material for our humble blogs takes a backseat to other things. I can tell you what I've been doing other than writing scintillating blog posts:

  • Book manuscript crap. All of the boring editing and formatting and irritating crap that takes tons of time and yet isn't really rewarding.
  • Grading. Mountains of grading.
  • Laundry.
  • Having many, many phone conversations about topics ranging from boys to publication to job market woes to the fact that my mom thinks my cousin's baby is stupid (he just turned one, but apparently the bulb of his intellect, it does not shine brightly, and yes, my mother is the sort of person to note a baby's stupidity), and other things too intriguing to publicize on a blog.
  • Advising.
  • Beginning work on the MLA paper.
  • Thinking about the (I hope final) revision I've got to do on that collection essay.
  • Cooking.
  • Ruminating about what the hell my future will hold shall the job market be a bust.
I keep thinking that something will come up that will just inspire a real post, and yet, nothing comes up. Or, rather, things come up, but then I'm not quite sure how to translate them into Dr. Crazy Lingo. And I've avoided turning to you all for topics, because a) I felt like it would make me a copycat and b) I can't imagine what anybody would want me to answer that I've not posted about already at some point over the past three years. And yet, after sitting here for what seems like an age and trying to come up with something on my own... I'm caving. Ask away, folks. I'll do my very best to answer, or at the very least to avoid answering in ways that are fun to read :)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Why Does Everything Take Longer Than One Anticipates?

So I've spent today working, attempting to check items off of the big list of things to do, and while I know I'm making progress, everything feels like it's taking about 5 times as long as it should take and I don't really feel like I'm getting anywhere. I think part of the problem is that I was too ambitious when I made my list of things to do, and I didn't break it down enough to really let myself feel like I'm accomplishing things. That makes me then want to revise my to-do list, to make it fit into more bite-sized chunks, but it occurs to me that to revise one's to-do list when one feels like one isn't accomplishing anything may not be the best of all possible plans.

So here's what I'm thinking: I'm thinking that I will do a good chunk of work still on The Book, so that I'll be in good shape to finish up with what I'm doing tomorrow. Then, I think I'll leave that task, and I will do a few things around the house that don't require thought. Then, I think I will settle in for the evening, do some beauty rituals, and do some prep for my lit classes. Yes, this seems like a solid revised plan, and this will put me in fine form for the telephone conversation that I'm anticipating to end my evening. Ah yes, things may take longer than I like, but solid progress is being made.

In Which My Saturday Is Off to a Fine Start

So far this morning I have:

  1. Talked to my mom on the phone.
  2. Did two job applications.
  3. Did research stuff for the MLA paper.
  4. Made a plan for the afternoon, which will involve The Book. (For I've realized it must be done and to the publisher in just under a month's time. How this escaped my attention prior to this point, I'm not entirely certain.)
Ok, time for the library and then lunch. And then, on to ever greater heights of productivity! Indeed! (All I really want to do is to blow off all of my work and lounge around daydreaming. This would not be a good use of my time. Indeed, it would be a bad use of my time. Entirely, entirely bad. That said, perhaps I will do a more substantive and less boring post later. That might be a nice reward for all of what I'm accomplishing....)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Poetry Friday - Heather McHugh

"To Have To"

is an odd infinitive, in which
compulsion and possession meet
and share a word together.

Both propose, and both accept;
to have because it wants to hold;
have to, because it has no will.

But then there is
no past or present either.
Coming's going, in this match.

It's odd because they're one
and endless, in the end, in their
capacity to be attached . . .

Thursday, November 08, 2007

An Attempt at a Real Post

Things have been pretty crazy on this end, even for a person who calls herself "Dr. Crazy." In part it's the work craziness. I've got a lot I'm trying to manage right now in terms of work. The grading is totally overwhelming; I've had student advising (and, because being good at something ultimately results in more work, I've added five advisees to my roster because students requested me specially, and flattery will get a person everywhere with me); I've got the book; I've begun on the MLA paper (which reminds me that I really need to register for MLA and get my plane ticket; it also reminds me that those of you who will be attending MLA should drop a note in the comments so that we can begin figuring out a potential meet-up, and yes, I know it's early, but as I look forward to my MLA I realize that I'd better get the meet-up talks going now or I'll be organizing a meet-up that I won't be able to attend because already the calendar is filling up). So yes, all of that is stressful, and overwhelming, and it makes me for a lame blogger because I really have been focused on work as opposed to doing work and using the blog as a valve through which to let off steam or to satisfy the necessary impulse to procrastinate.

Things have also been kind of crazy personally, in ways that are totally... surprising... and also overwhelming in their own (positive, I think) way. I don't know how to talk about this portion of things on the blog, and I'm not sure I'd want to with any kind of specificity even if I were sure of how to do so. I suppose I gesture in the direction of talking about it because I've been thinking a lot about lately is that I've been struggling so hard for months and years to feel balance between my personal shit and my professional shit, and I've never been able to manage it. I would give short shrift to one or the other; I'd be involved in personal life nonsense that was ultimately easy to contain and had little chance of ever interfering with the professional, or I'd throw myself over to an infatuation that would take me away from work for a brief period, only to flame out as quickly as it began, thus returning me to the work. What is happening now... well, neither of those patterns seems to be in play. That's not to say that there isn't some infatuation involved, nor is it to say that everything is just perfect and I've finally figured out the recipe. No, not at all. Indeed, you may find me posting here next week and telling you, "Woops! It was the whole infatuation thing after all! My bad!" But, for whatever constellation of reasons, this doesn't seem to be the direction in which I'm heading this time, and I'm certainly not heading in the direction of the carefully contained thing.

I suppose the thing I'm thinking about is this: to what extent is finding balance not a matter of what we choose or decide, but rather something much more ephemeral, something that depends as much on chance and timing as it does on plans and actions intended to put one in a certain position? To what extent is "balance" not something we will someday "find" or that we "achieve," but rather something that just happens? And if that's true, perhaps there's no point in stressing out about it. Because at least for the past couple of weeks, I've been pretty much in balance. And through no fault of my own.

Thursday? It's Thursday, Right?

The week has passed by in a blur, and I think that in my efforts to not be the center of the academic blogosphere's attention, I've not thought about anything interesting - or, at the very least, I've not written about anything interesting. If I had the patience to figure out how to do a snazzy poll on the blog in the 10 minutes I have to write, I would give you some options for what I might post about and let you vote. Tragically, I do not have time, and also, it occurs to me that this blog is not a democracy, but rather a benevolent dictatorship :)

What this means, though, is that I've got to think carefully about what I would like to write about today, to lift my blog up out of the boring, boring funk it's been in. There are many topics about which I might right, some academic and some not.... I shall have to mull. I do promise, though, that I will post "for real" this afternoon.

Have a happy Thursday, blogging peeps!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

On Doing My Civic Duty

I managed to drag myself to the polls, where my vote likely won't make a damned bit of difference in this here red state in which I live, but I'm feeling very proud that I went and did it anyway. The little old people at the polling place were very excited when I came in, and well, I just love voting. This love stretches back to childhood, when I'd go to the polls with my mom or grandma, and really, the fact that my first election that I was legal to vote in was the 1992 presidential race only reinforced that love. Of course, I'm all jaded now, after four years of living in this place, where never has a candidate for whom I've voted actually won an election, but still.

And to think I almost forgot it was election day!

At any rate, now I'm home, and I'm exhausted, and tomorrow I've got a day of conferences stretching before me. The exhaustion just increases tenfold when I think about those. I think it's time to settle in for a nice, quiet night, in which I attempt to recharge for the grueling day tomorrow that lies before me.

Cranky Crazy

Well. It's been a couple of days filled with a lot of work, and this morning, the resentment about having to do work finally hit. Problematically, Tuesday is a heavy teaching day for me, so I wasn't able really to indulge in my crankiness, but rather had to motivate myself to work in spite of my crankiness, which, indeed, makes me feel even more resentful. That said, the work kind of improved my mood, and I'm actually feeling fairly chipper now, except for the following:
  1. I played "Waltzing Matilda" for my students today, which not only depressed them but also depressed me a bit.
  2. There is a person, who shall for the time being remain nameless, who has not responded with the desired alacrity to an email from me. I frown at this neglectful correspondent.
  3. I have a ton of grading to do for tomorrow. (The grading, it never ends.)
  4. While I am happy that it's finally becoming cooler, I'm unhappy that my office at school doesn't actually have a heating vent (no, I'm not kidding - my office is the equivalent of a supply closet, honestly), which means that spending any longer than 20 minutes at a stretch in there means I'm cold cold cold.
  5. I have so much work to do that I don't even know how to talk about it, research-wise, and I've been ignoring it all.
So yes, that's what's up in the land of Cranky Crazy. Sigh.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Good Morning, Lovelies! It is Monday!

Well, at least over the next few days, this blog promises to become a small festival of boring, in which I talk about to-do lists and accomplishing things, etc. etc. It's in part because I've got so much to do, and this will help me to get things accomplished. It's in part because there's stuff I don't want to blog about (yet? not sure....). It's in part because I'm trying to bore the pants off the haters and those who aren't old-time-y readers, for there's no way to put out a blogfire better than by throwing dull, dull material on the dying embers.

But so, it is Monday, and my plans are these:
  • Go into the office, and organize one batch of papers in the order in which they must be graded, as well as print off the checklists necessary for swift grading of those papers. The aim is to complete all papers that must be graded for tomorrow.
  • Catch up on emailing. This should amount to sending maybe 5 emails, but it's still annoying.
  • Meet with a student.
  • Do stuff with the book manuscript.
  • Prep for the survey for tomorrow, including making sure that I don't forget that I want to play "Waltzing Matilda" for them and so making sure that I have that with me.
  • Buy food for the Man-Kitty.
So, lots to accomplish, but I have high hopes that I will manage it. Perhaps more later, in which I will bore you further with my plans for productivity. I know, you can hardly wait :)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Sundays and Work

So, bloggy friends, it's been quite a whirlwind of a week and weekend in the Land of Crazy, with lots of things that have gotten in the way of doing work that I must do. But now, Sunday, popularly known as a day of rest in the normal world, promises to be a day of heightened productivity. On the agenda for today:

  • Make my Big List of Things to Do for the week.
  • Grading. I've got a stack of revisions to grade, as well as some quizzes, for one class, papers to begin grading for another (though I realized I forgot to do my comment checklists for these papers, which means that I can't really make a lot of headway with these until tomorrow), and worksheets to grade for another class.
  • Prep for the week, including some lecture notes, prepping for student conferences, etc.
  • Cleaning the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Sorting laundry and straightening up in the bedroom and living room and vaccuuming.
  • Cheffing up some meals for the week ahead.
In other words, I shall be busy busy throughout the day today, but the goal is that I shall work efficiently so that I can be free of work by evening. This, at any rate, is the goal. As per usual, if I get 60% of the above done, I will feel like I accomplished as much as is necessary, as really, not all of these things *must* be completed today. That said, if I make headway on most of them, I will be in very good shape for the coming week.

And I have to say, I'm really ready for a day of work, for the weekend to this point has been very social and relaxing. I had a phone date with A. on Friday night, which was awesome, I went out for dinner and drinks last night, I caught up with other friends telephonically and via IM.... All of this being to say that I feel like this has been a weekend of taking care of all of the parts of my life that really, ultimately, matter a heck of a lot more than the job. And so I'm feeling very centered and positive about everything, which I suppose is the best way to enter into a day of work. And there is a potential reward at the end of the day of work that has me very motivated to get the work done, which is nice indeed. So yep, that's the news on this end. I hope everyone has had a good weekend, and I promise that I'll get back to more substantive posting in the days to come, though I suspect that any posting I might do later today and into tomorrow will continue to be about the mundane checking off of items on the to-do list. That sort of thing is a motivator, even if it's boring for you all :)

Friday, November 02, 2007

Poetry Friday - Mina Loy

It's been a while since I've done a "Poetry Friday" post, and I'm in the mood to do one, so here we are. In this installment, I offer an excerpt from Mina Loy's Songs to Joannes (1915-1917). Edited to add: Ok, I think it's as fixed as I'm patient enough to make it, and at least it's better than it was before.

Come to me    There is something
I have got to tell you    and I can't tell
Something taking shape
Something that has a new name
A new dimension
A new use
A new illusion

It is ambient          And it is in your eyes
Something shiny      Something only for you
                             Something that I must not see

It is in my ears    Something very resonant
Something that you must not hear
               Something only for me

Let us be very jealous
Very suspicious
Very conservative
Very cruel
Or we might make an end of the jostling of aspirations
Disorb inviolate egos

Where two or three are welded together
They shall become god
-- -- -- -- -- -- --
Oh that's right
Keep away from me.    Please give me a push
Don't let me understand you    Don't realise me
Or we might tumble together
Into the terrific Nirvana
Me you -- you -- me

Thursday, November 01, 2007


I've been thinking about what to post, and I've been feeling a bit at a loss. It's not that I don't have things about which I want to write; rather, it's that I have so much about which I want to write that I don't quite know where to begin. This week has been... intense... on many different fronts.

First off, it's strange, when one writes a post, to imagine that it has the potential to spark such an uproar as that one earlier this week did. Again, I've got to thank all of you who have been supportive throughout this stupidity. One of the great things about this community is that support, and I suppose it's what's kept me blogging for as long as I have been. That said, it's easy to forget that one is just not just writing to one's regular audience, but potentially to a much wider range of people than those who are a vocal and public part of that community. One of the things that made this week's drama so intense was the huge spike in hits to the blog. It's one thing to develop a readership over time; it's another thing to have double the readers showing up as a result of just one post. That's what happened this week (and now I've been Inside Higher Ed-ed, and I've stopped myself from looking at the stats after I realized that had happened so as not to totally freak out over what that might mean).

So, if this is how you found the blog, welcome, but please, do read around. The archives are there for a reason. Make your own judgments about what you find here, but if whatever you find enrages you, I'd recommend you read something that doesn't do that and forget you ever heard of me. The blog has been a work in progress, and it's something that I enjoy and something that has been really positive for me. And while I realize that some blogs welcome a kind of antagonistic style of debate, this one doesn't. I'm interested in using this space to think about things and to try to figure them out. I don't have all the answers, nor do I pretend to. What I value most about having readers and having them comment is their engagement in real conversation with each other and with me. I'm committed to maintaining that vibe here, for whatever that's worth.

This week has also been a weird one on both professional and personal fronts. Not a bad one - at all - but... well, just there's been a lot to negotiate, I suppose. It doesn't help that the texts I've been teaching have ranged in subject matter from murder to rape to bloody revolution, that my students are pretty much universally wigging out, or that I seem to have a lot of things outside of work (excellent, wonderful things) that are demanding my attention. But so yeah. Things in all areas are pretty intense. Maybe this is just what I need at this point? Nothing like a little intensity to shake things up, after all.