Monday, December 31, 2007
Yesterday was my birthday – I turned 33. I was bitten by a cat! Like, seriously bitten - the skin was broken and blood was drawn!! It was a cat in the Pet Valu. He was up on the counter and I was petting him and all of a sudden he bit me. It was - I kid you not - one of the more painful things I've ever experienced. It Hurt A Lot. Anyway, just a weird, random thing, being bitten so badly by a cat.
The highlight of the birthday was dinner at perhaps my very favourite restaurant...I go there just once, maybe twice, a year – so it remains special. And goddamn, it has good food. Really simple, really awesome Italian food. Last night for an appetizer I had baked polenta with wild chanterelle mushrooms and toasted ricotta – good lord, that was good. My main was a beet ravioli. Here’s the thing – usually beet ravioli is not very beety at all...you can barely taste the beet. This one was marvellously beety, exploding with the earthiness of beet. With a fantastic counterpoint of some very sharp cheese over top. So simple. So. Freaking. Delicious. Dessert was a little thing made of hazelnut meringue and dark chocolate mousse and espresso zabaione. And they gave us a gorgeous, peachy, frizzante dessert wine because it was my birthday. I kind of died. Like every time I go there. Yum.
We drank a lot at dinner, though, and then headed out to meet two friends for drinks at my local gem of a bar. The result was that – without intending to – I got really, capital-D Drunk for my birthday. We both did. That would be fine, except for the fact that being drunk meant that I went to bed wearing the new necklace R had given me that morning for my birthday, which is delicate and has a pendant made of wood. It is a thing that should not be slept in, and would certainly not be if I were in my right mind, that's for sure. It broke while I slept. Oh my goodness, that is SO bad. So bad. I have some faith that it can be repaired, though. Eeep - I hope so.
Today? Ouch. Today we walked the dog in the morning, both headachey and exhausted. Then met my mother for lunch – which, thank god, restored me somewhat – and then went to a matinee of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Hee – it was amusing. Much more of a silly spoof than I was expecting...obviously I knew it was a satire, but I didn’t know it was bordering on that kind of Airplane genre. Fine, though, especially for a hungover day like today.
I was planning to go out to friends' annual really fun New Year’s party that I usually go to every year I am in Home City, but I am most definitely not up for the dancing and merriment that it entails, after last night. Instead, we have decided to stay home, do up a taco kit with veggie ground round, watch our remaining two episodes of The Tudors (a gift from me to R for Xmas), and...I suspect I will fall asleep before midnight.
Happy New Year, faithful blogfriends!
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Today we were supposed to open presents and take the dog to the park, before taking transit out to my mother's for dinner and "festivity." Alas, R spent the night violently throwing up. She hasn't been able to move from the bed yet, after 3pm. (She is convinced she picked up whatever this bug is in her short time at the hospital.) Poor R!! We had to call and tell my mother we couldn't come today, which resulted in major disappointment for her; I'd bet my life she cried - nay, howled - when we hung up the phone. I invited them to drive over here in the late afternoon, bringing the huge Xmas dinner with them. So that is what is happening. I suspect my mother and stepfather and I will eat in the dining room, and R will have to stay in bed - and not eat. I worry about Xmas-dinner smells making her sick again. Oh dear -I feel really awful for her.
I took the dog for a considerably less cheerful walk than planned, my head pounding with something that seems to be related to the fun in my throat. And then I have spent much of the day cleaning the house to ready it for guests. Again with the funny/depressing times!
Ah yes, the best-laid plans...
Monday, December 24, 2007
I've also been BUSY! I was in Fun City (certain bloggers who live there - forgive me for not getting in touch...I was only there for 48 hours and decided not to see any of my friends/family there except for the one friend I was visiting, M) and Dad City last week, returning on Friday afternoon to a booked-solid weekend: Tea dates both days, lunch one day, dinner parties both nights. At this point, after two solid weeks of socializing over major meals and treats, I feel as if I need a serious detox! I may actually do some kind of cleanse after I get back to Scary City.
My 33rd birthday is on Sunday. My Jesus/Buddha year. Great. So far the only thing of note that I can imagine is going into therapy, which I am going to look into when I get back to Scary City. (Slightly worried about finding an appropriate therapist there, but I'm sure s/he exists...)
R and I are going to my mother's on Christmas Day, after (I hope) a nice long walk with the dog in the morning. On the 27th, I'm going to North City for the night - it is my favourite aunt, F's, 25th wedding anniversary and she and her husband are having a big party, and I'm staying over with M, who will be in North City visiting his family. On the weekend, R and I are going to visit her mother out of town for the weekend. This is worrying because historically, her mother's place has been like a Vortex of Fighting for us...we usually have quite a miserable time there...even when we're not staying, but just dropping in as we drive past from visits to North City, somehow we always manage to get into a fight in the car as we approach - with me invariably screaming at her to drop me off at the bus station - and then have a visit with her mother in which we are secretly not speaking to each other. Ah, yes. Charming. My strategy to counter this, on this visit, is to have R and I go inner-tubing at a nearby ski hill. I am excited!
To all of you, dear blogfriends, whether you are celebrating things or not, have a happy, safe week!
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
He told me something important when we were talking about my job situation and about how unhappy I am - how I feel like my unhappiness has turned me into Shriveled Heart Person, emotionally distant and feeling-less, and most of all, completely estranged from myself. He said he watched (well, listened to) that happen...he could feel my personality change. He said that when I called him from Home City over the weekend, leaving a message on his answering machine, he heard "me" - as a person who can be light and relatively bubbly - for the first time in months. He'd been only hearing me become more and more shut down, ever since I arrived in Scary City with Potential. This is interesting because I didn't realize how incredibly poorly I was projecting...I thought I was covering it up admirably. Apparently not. (I think of how my TA said to me, about 6 weeks ago, "You seem really unhappy...If you ever want to go out and talk about it, then I'd be more than happy to..." (This is more appropriate than it perhaps sounds, since she is a couple of years older than me - it's not like she's a twenty-two-year-old fresh out of her undergrad...))
Well. I don't know what to do with this information, right at the moment. I want to apologize, retract myself. That doesn't make any sense. I suppose I want to "be myself" again, so that M - and others - see and hear me again when they call. So I can hear myself again.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
But today I am inside all day avoiding Insane Storm, and so it is a fitting day to do the meme that the lovely Earnest English tagged me for. The meme asks one to name five books that one loved in 2007. So here goes. I don't know really what to say about these, besides "I loved it and it moved me." I'm not feeling inspired these days. So I guess I won't really say anything.
1. Veronica, by Mary Gaitskill. (I was most surprised and thrilled with this one.)
2. Be Near Me, by Andrew O'Hagan
3. Literature After Feminism, by Rita Felski
4. Borderlands/La frontera, by Gloria Anzaldua. (Reread this; always adore it.)
5. Soucouyant, by David Chariandy. (I just started this novel yesterday, but good god, do I love it already or what? The opening scene was three pages of perfection. I read it on the bus and began to cry. Also, it has possibly the world's best cover.)
I am meant to tag five people, but I'm just going to invite you all to do this. I'd love to see your inspirations and recommendations.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Anyway, really what I'm wondering about is grad students in undergrad courses. For a number of reasons that I'm not going to get into here, often MA and PhD students at my uni take upper-level undergrad courses for grad credit. Of course they negotiate an appropriate workload for themselves, appropriate to the grad level. I'm not wild about this because I don't think the level of discourse is high enough for grad students, but so be it. This fall, I had one (good) grad student auditing my upper-level course. In the new term, she'll be taking my Theory course for credit, as will at least one other (PhD) student. Another PhD student has asked to see the syllabus. So it looks like I'll probably have several grad students in there, to my 20 or so undergrads.
Does anyone have any experience with this? I remember that as an undergrad, I took one fourth-year seminar that had about half a dozen grad students in it. That's the only experience I have with a mixed classroom; it simply wasn't done, where I was, except in this one department. I'm wondering if people have taught such courses, if they have been students in them, and what they might be able to share about it in the way of advice. My plan so far is to have a meeting with all of the grad students who take the course, to determine a common workload for them - I don't want each of them doing something completely different. Anyway, I'd love to hear any thoughts on this phenomenon.
Monday, December 10, 2007
This week is dinner date week...Every night. Egads. I also need to get work done...WANT to get work done. Some of my own work. I really have been craving, for the last month or so, turning back to my own project. I have some exciting new directions to pursue...some reading before I turn to writing the first chapter, in January. So I'm hoping to get at least a couple of hours of reading done each day...Laced in between other bits of work, and a few daytime coffee dates. R works all day, so I am relishing this time to get my own work done.
The big thrill - besides seeing R - was seeing Mr. K. He peed on the floor from excitement when I arrived on Saturday afternoon. He has been inordinately happy ever since. Never stops wagging. I imagine that to him, it's like some kind of miracle that I've returned...
In being here, and talking about it with R, I've already achieved some clarity about what has been going on in these last few months. It's not so much about Scary City with Potential, my unhappiness, as it is about the job. The institution. I could handle Scary City if I liked the job. I definitely could. But the uni - ugh. There is lots I haven't felt comfortable blogging about, that would show you what I mean. Just know that it is quite an unpalatable place, and it isn't just me being whiny. Cases in point:
The other night I went out for dinner with two friends who have been hired at SCwP U over the last couple of years. A good part of our evening together was spent exchanging the tales of our distress and dismay during our interviews and the negotiation process. All of our stories involved tears and resistance. (I was thinking last week about how my interview was exactly one year ago. I cried for the entire flight home, knowing an offer was likely. And those of you who read me last December will know that I was very ambivalent when the offer did materialize.) Each of us chose this job against our better judgement.* There's something important in the fact that all of us had this gut reaction - and that we each feel disillusioned enough about the job to be honest with our colleagues about this at this stage.
A few days later I had dinner with another colleague, also hired in the last couple of years, who asked me quite early on, "Can we be really honest tonight?" And told me s/he - though in a senior position - is trying to get out. It is quite telling that this person - who ostensibly has a lot of power in the world of SCwP U - is fleeing. S/he feels lied to, betrayed, manipulated. Those aren't exactly the sentiments I feel, but they're not far off.
So it's pretty clear that the place is poison; it's not just me. It is clear, too, that I need to get out. And I sort of wish in retrospect that I had applied for jobs this fall. Not having done so puts me there at least another year after this one. But it is good to realize that I'm not alone, that I don't have to feel like a whiny ass for not being "grateful" for this job, and that there are alternatives. It is interesting to me that I couldn't quite see this until I arrived in Home City. But at least I've seen it.
Off to take the dog for a long walk and then settle in for an afternoon of reading...
*This says something really quite depressing about academia - that none of use felt it made sense to turn down these offers, even though our guts told us to run far away. The job market is tight, and we have internalized ideas about sacrificing ourselves to our jobs...Yuck.
Friday, December 07, 2007
And, if I do say so myself, I am just damn proud of the syllabus. I feel as if it's a really coherent set of readings...They are all up-to-the-minute and either Canadian or global...(It's a problem that so much of the available literature is American, speaks to the US situation - it's really easy to default to that.) I've built in good films. The units work together as a wonderful, interlocking whole. We end on an "up" note. And I've put in a couple of cool assignments. I think they're really going to like it!
My question for the blogosphere: I am having the students do presentations in groups of 2 or 3. Fun ones, I think. But I've assigned no group assignments, ever. I've resisted it, for some reason. So I am a complete novice in this area. I am wondering if you could tell me what you've found is the best way of grouping students? Having them choose their own partners/groups, or assigning them into groups? Also, what have you found is the best way of spreading out the presentations? I.e. there are six presentation days spread across the course - there's one at the end of each units...and I'd like to have them choose what they're most interested in, but what if they want all the same dates? What are your ways of spreading it out? Do you ever just assign dates/topics randomly?
Thursday, December 06, 2007
I am so pleased!!! They're doing a fantastic job. They really get it, many of them. More than that, they know how to put into practice, how to "do things with" what they've learned in the course. What a heartening feeling. Granted, I am only grading one of the two questions, while the TA is grading the other (harder) one, but still, there is proof here that the course has been an intellectual success, at least. Hurrah! Who'd have thought I'd love my first-years so much??
Coming soon: Leaving for Home City on Saturday (surely there will be exclamatory posts surrounding that event), overall reflections on teaching this term, and thoughts on assignment design for my courses for next term.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
The thing is, this volunteering-me email was sent to a good half dozen people, including a Dean, etc. (Not my Dean, but still.) As an untenured faculty member, this essentially puts me in a position from which I can't say no. I really, really resent that. I have enough to do right now without working to bring to campus someone I really could not care less about. Especially given that it is SUCH a long shot...this is just going to be going through the motions, and it is not going to pan out in the end, mark my words.
I am coordinating three freaking DAYS of speakers and events and off-campus shindigs in March...as well as running a program, even though I'm a brand new hire. I feel as if I'm more than covered, thanks, in the service department. Blech.
Monday, December 03, 2007
My friend C from Nearest Metropolis was here for the weekend. We had a great time - I cooked a lot, and we drank wine and watched movies. I had rented a car for the weekend, but we were pretty homebound, in the end. Only really took one short excursion on Saturday afternoon. It is so wonderful to have her near me for the year. We only actually lived in the same city for one year...and for the last five years she's been living in European City. So all this time with her is a treat.
Anyway, guess what? I had been hatching a plan to foster cats for the humane society...I am home so much, and love cats a lot, and am missing animal snuggling...But I learned last week that my downstairs neighbours are moving out at the end of this month, going away for a year of backpacking and working in Southern Commonwealth Country. I impulsively asked them what they were planning to do with their cat, and they said they didn't know yet. I offered to take her. And so I am going to have a cat for the year!!! I even have a colleague/friend who would be willing - nay, happy - to take the cat for when I'm away for chunks of time (including up to 2 months in the summer). How excited am I???
Finally, Dr. Bad Ass asked me if I would post the recipe for the cranberry pear chutney I made and canned yesterday. Sure!
I tripled the recipe, giving me enough for a dozen 250-ml canning jars of chutney + about 3 leftover cups for which I had no jars. I have made this recipe before...people really love it. It is the kind of thing that goes really well with cheese.
CRANBERRY PEAR CHUTNEY
2 pears, peeled
1 green pepper
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp salt
1 red onion
1 bag fresh cranberries
1/2 cup raisins
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp tabasco
- Dice pears into 1/2 inch pieces
- Dice onion and pepper into 1/4 inch pieces
- Placeeverything in a medium-sized saucepan
- Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat
- Reduce heat and simmer gently, covered, stirring often until berries have softened and everything is a deep, ruby red (about 40 mins.)
- Place in airtight container and refrigerate
- Keeps up to two months
- Place in sterilized canning jars to preserve.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 random and/or weird things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
1. When I was seven years old, I invented an imaginary...community that I called the National Society. It was populated by figures from pop culture (plus me, of course): Anne of Green Gables, Kimberly from Diff’rent Strokes, the Charlie’s Angels, etc. The National Society was headquartered in a building that was one mile high and one block long, and there were two multi-storey apartments on each floor (?). I seem to have imagined myself in a kind of “recreation director” or camp counsellor role...I still have notebooks filled with things like groups I had organized them into, each the name of a bird (the chickadees, the tufted titmice (!)) for various scheduled activities. (‘cause we all know how much Cheryl Ladd would have loved to ‘play gymnastics’ with Anne of Green Gables.) I kept this going until I was about nine, maybe even ten.
2. I used to imagine quite vividly – when I was about twelve – that there was a kind of big slug-like worm living in the flesh at the base of my neck. I would picture paring off some of this flesh (yum) and seeing this fat immobilized worm just curled into me. Delish. Note: This was not a pleasurable fantasy, just so's you know. It was just...neutral.
3. When I was twenty-one, I used the postmodern theory with which I was all newly heady to excuse and justify my mean and irresponsible treatment of my girlfriend. Not my finest moment. (The mean and irresponsible treatment involved cheating on her – with a guy, gasp! – and dealing with the fallout (breaking up with her to date him) very callously.)
4. I had a wonderful experience in high school. I went to alternative schools, and they attuned me to the possibility of critical education and were just generally fabulous communities.
5. Until I was in my mid twenties, I was thought by many to be very sullen. Part of this was shyness, but part of it was that I didn’t smile much. I am infinitely more smiley now (also not so shy)...I detected a change in myself in this regard, incidentally, when I moved back from France.
6. Sometimes I think I'm destined to end up with my friend M.
7. I can’t really get it up for Christmas. At all. No thanks. Although I did today spend my afternoon making and canning cranberry-pear chutney to give as gifts to people here in Scary City with Potential who have been nice and/or helpful to me, like my Chair and my TA and the admin assistant, and the couple who invite me to the blues jam every time they go.
Erm, so many of you have done this or been tagged!! I will try to think of seven who haven't been (sorry if this is a repeat for any of you):
Psychgrad (oh no, psychgrad! Email me!), Kermit, Neophyte, grumpyABDadjunct, Medieval Woman.
(That's the best I can do right now.)
Friday, November 30, 2007
Anyway, I received a hysterical note from a student who got 60% on an assignment in my first-year class (which she's taking although she's a fourth-year student). To date, she's been receiving grades in the high 70s or low 80s - her grade is probably around 80%. She is hitting the roof about the 60%. The assignment was graded by the TA, and she has asked me to look it over. I have looked, and 60 is an appropriate grade - she did not do the assignment correctly. I am not worried about this being my fault for not instructing the students properly, because the vast majority of students understood what was being asked, and did it.
We parted ways after class yesterday, I with her essay in hand, saying I would look it over. A mere three hours later, before I'd had a chance to do anything, she sent me this histrionic email, freaking out about it. It reads, in small part:
"My marks mean alot [sic]to me, as I am trying to get into grad school [If you want to go to grad school, learn to write "a lot" correctly. - Pissed Off and Snarky Ed.], and these types of marks are just not acceptable to me. If I had spent little time on this assignment, I can absolutly [sic] understand a 60%, however I put a great deal of effort into this assignment and I feel my grade is a poor reflection of this. I had to drop the second part of this class because I cannot afford to be graded like that, and as I have 80% or higher in everyone of my 5 classes this semester besides [Name of my Discipline - spelled incorrectly, btw], and I think focusing on other areas of study would be my best and only option at this point."
(She says later, "I just feel like I can't win in this class." This is why her emails rings hysterical - she has had an 80% average before this!)
I am sorry, but WTF? Her grades are "unacceptable"?? What the hell kind of language is that? Unbelievable. And this notion that she spent a great deal of time on the assignment and therefore deserves a high mark, no matter that she did it incorrectly? Insane.
Obviously this originates from the belief that effort equates with entitlement. And this rhetoric of "unacceptability" comes from the conviction that I owe her a good grade as good customer service. Ugh.
I just wish students realized that the more they communicate in these terms, the less inclined we are to respond generously. As far as I'm concerned, her email is "unacceptable."
Thursday, November 29, 2007
- It is my last week, and I have today taught my last two classes. Hallelujah, people. It has not been my finest hour...er, my finest three weeks.
- I had so much anger about my upper-year students and their atrocious work. Seriously, I don’t know what’s with me and the rage of late. Anyway, on Monday night I – sort of accidentally – did some positive visualization. I had been mentioning, in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way, the need for an “attitude adjustment” on my part. Then all of a sudden I pictured it – I had a mental image of re-screwing my head on, and it amused me, and I felt more generous about it all. Ta-da.
- I went to class the next day and felt much, much better about them. They were engaged and chipper and trying. And so was I.
- After class that day, I had a couple of them talk to me – separately – about how much they enjoyed the course and had learned from it. Both said they found it different from any course they’d taken, and said this was the thing that made it good. I don’t really know what they’re talking about, but I felt immediately better about my teaching this term, and less worried about the evaluations than I had been.
- Last night I made brownies for the upper-year class today. It was my secret entente – secret because they didn’t even know we were warring. They were tickled by the brownies, and ended on a happy note.
- Today I went to the upper-year course without really having prepared. It was an article I had taught twice before, and have written about, and know that I know. I could talk about it and answer questions about it off the top of my head. This is a total breakthrough for me, to go with really no notes. The class went just fine, too. I’ve been steadily becoming less reliant on notes, but to feel confident enough to pull off class like this was amazing.
- My first-years continue to tickle me. I haven’t felt ragey about them. They’ve been consistently engaged and their work has been more coherent, at times, than much of what the upper-years produce. (An alarming realization because it suggests that this university actually dumbs down the students.) I look forward to teaching “Intro Part II” in the second term, with a smaller group that seems to include the strongest among them.
- On another note, went to a meeting of the members of my faculty yesterday. I have just one thing to say about that: If I wanted to work in a corporation, I wouldn’t have done a PhD. I may as well have been at the AGM of a biotech firm. Major, major, major ick.
Monday, November 26, 2007
I have in front of me a critical response to an article, in which the student is countering the author's claim that the Bible contains myths. (An offhand claim, by the way - biblical myth isn't the point of the article.) The student writes, "[t]his article is incorrect to say that this belief system is a myth." Erm. And then also says "God is the source of life to all" and talks about Adam and Eve as if they are his/her next-door neighbours, giving an account of what "actually" happened between them. Uhhhh. The student also says the article is characterized by "false pretences" and "should not have been published." I am not sure what to do with this, and I don't want to start up the culture wars in my classrooom. So far I want to say the following, which is likely guaranteed to further piss off the student and lead to the wars:
- Genesis may be an account of truth to you, but it also fits the standard definition of a myth - a story that functions as an explanatory framework or origin story. "Myth" is not by definition a pejorative term in this context, nor is it necessarily opposed to "truth."
- You "strongly believe in what the Bible shows": Adam was asleep when Eve was created, etc. But there is no evidence for the account of Eden that you give.
- You claim the article is characterized by false pretences, but have not provided a convincing argument for why they are false, since the counter-argument you provide is based upon speculation about what Adam and Eve were feeling and doing.
- The article "should not have been published"...?????
I can't believe I am getting into issues of empirical verification of the existence of figures from Genesis! What the hell?
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Aaanyway, so there I was, running. And the next thing I knew, I was tripping over something on the gravel. (Don't even get me started on why the roads aren't paved properly so there is a car width of gravel at the edge of many major streets in this, a freaking city.) So I fell, I did, and the DVD went flying out of its case and possibly was ruined by being scratched on the gravel. Not only that, but I landed on my chin, among other parts. Thankfully, the chin is not badly damaged - just some scratches and light bruises - but both of my hands and one knee were torn up. I must admit that I was standing there in the street crying, it was so freaking painful. (Hands are the worst for this.) So I limped slowly over to the video store, which happened to be nearby, exhanged my videos (having three hours of TV to watch while I licked my wounds suddenly became very important), and called a cab from there - I happened to have just enough cash left over to pay for the ride home. I got home and discovered just how nasty it was...especially the knee. Incredibly bloody and oozing (sorry). All punctured-like, too, from gravel bits. Ew. And the thing is, all sorts of other bits of me seem to be wrenched or sprained: both thumbs - I can't chop or scoop, I have discovered, or use a pen normally - and one ankle. But the worst is my chest...I half-wondered if I'd broken a rib. I can't seem to move normally...it's like I have to hold my chest "in" or "together" if I try to bend down or twist at all. The best description I can come up with is, "something in my chest came apart."
I don't know whether to laugh or cry about this; something about it strikes me as funny. But part of me is just so exasperated and lonely and in pain. Sigh. Wow, I cannot wait for this November to end. Anyway, just hoping that a good sleep will take some of this extreme ouchiness away. And that I can hold a pen tomorrow, to finish grading. (Or not??)
"Time sure gave way to new traditions and labels as currently we live in a world of politically correct sentences and empirically based findings."
I also learned, from this same enlightening piece of work, that the 20th century was the Victorian era. And that same-sex marriage is legal in over half the states in the U.S.
As well, the writer asserted that, "[people] of the past should be proud that the trails [sic] and tribulations they faces [sic] helped pave the path..." To which I could not help but respond, in the margin, "They can't be proud; they're dead."
An upper-year student.
This is why I drink wine, in case you were wondering.
Friday, November 23, 2007
- Why do I hate doing units that touch on contemporary popular culture in my classes? Because I get critical reading responses in the vein of this collage: "I had Barbies...My mother didn't let us watch cable...The media oppresses people...I shall regale you with a four-page tale, unrelated to the readings, of my trip to Developing Country and what that told me about Western media..."
- Why, why, why, why is it so hard to learn a citation style? It. is. not. difficult. to open a book about the style, or look online at the website I direct you to in the syllabus, and simply DO WHAT YOU ARE TOLD.
- On that note, how many times do I have to tell you - either in class, or on your weekly assignments - that we do not put article titles in italics, when we are referring to them in our writing, but we put them in QUOTATION MARKS? Obviously telling you half a dozen times is not enough. I worry about your brains; are they sieves?
On the non-grading front, I have had the most ridiculous email from editors of a journal that is publishing an article of mine. I am, frankly, not happy. I didn't reply to this morning's email from them right away - I had to send it to a senior scholar first, to get confirmation that it was, indeed, ridiculous. And then I had to just sit on it for many hours so I would be able to compose a calm reply. Combine this with two other awful stories I've heard lately about dealing with journals in my general area, and it is all VERY disheartening.
I don't know how I'm going to get through this weekend of heavy grading - I have hit the wall - harder than ever before - and I have been avoiding grading like nobody's business. Not my usual habit. So now I have an ENORMOUS pile of...badness to get through. Thankfully, I have one of my recently acquired wine-drinking friends coming over for pasta and wine tonight. Yay!
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
So it's fantastic to be in this city - parts of which I know quite well, from having spend a significant chunk of time here - with her. I got to dance on Friday night. On Saturday night, we went out for my friend's birthday - urban wine bar, cozy, candlelit - a group of eight. Such a fun night. As I told her, love collects around her. I always feel that when I'm with her - I get to meet these fantastic people through her, usually in her European City, where I've visted her three times. People who are drawn to her loveliness, and who are similarly lovely. Though I know she has an unsettled life, and that's sometimes frustrating, she's also so fortunate to have these networks - all over two continents - of fabulousness.
Being here, in the Metropolis, has been interesting. Yesterday, as we were at a crowded cultural event, I felt a little teary for a brief moment. "This is what I need," I thought. "This is who I am." I recognized that I cannot live for the rest of my life - or even for very long - in SCwP. I will leave academia, if I need to, to live in an environment that nourishes me. I'm not saying any of this is imminent. But I know this can't be forever.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
I became friends with a few of my extraordinary students from last year at Dream Uni. One, in particular, is very special to me. We are pretty regularly in touch, and actually mean quite a lot to each other.
I got home tonight (from drinking wine! with new friends! and it's going to be every week!) and there, in my mailbox, was a package from her.
Now, the story with her is that she's spectacularly brilliant, but that she had a hard time emotionally and personally last year, and basically messed up most of her year. I had a lot of awkward negotiations with her about late work, etc. (She has taken this year off from university, which I think is a great thing, and is working at a job R and I hooked her up with, through connections.)
Anyway, so this package contained a mix CD for me, which she made for me months ago but which has been sitting in her car, unmailed, ever since - she would mention it sheepishly every time we talked or emailed. The note with it (written on a recycled envelope with a giant picture of a rollerskate diligently pasted on it) says this: "Well. Are you surprised? This mix CD, not unlike everything else I've ever given you, is a couple of months overdue...ahem! At least I'm predictable!" A few lines later, it says, "I love you lots and lots. Take a deep breath and smile."
And the CD's - there are two - are labeled like this:
CD one: I will deduct 5% per day from our friendship, for every late mix CD I receive.
CD two: "I'm sorry, I'll make it up to you, I promise..."
I love this girl. I love that our professor-student relationship has become this great, hilarious, reflexive friendship. It makes it all worthwhile.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
- My Chair rocks. She had asked me the other day if I wanted a winter squash from her garden. Sure, I said, expecting a big ol' squash. But no; today she brought in a whole whack of pumpkin flesh - already peeled and sliced up for me. She also brought three pumpkin recipes from the Vegetarian Times. What a sweetheart! I made a pumpkin soup tonight - yummmmy.
- I handed in seven - count 'em, seven! - curriculum proposals today (two new courses, five tweaks of the program requirements, etc.) Not bad for my first few months of this job, I'd say. The admin person I handed them to looked through them, and all their attendant sheaves of "consultation forms" on which other departments had signed their approval. Her eyebrows rose into her hair, and she looked up and said to me, impressed, "You've been very busy." And then informed me that, due to a misunderstanding, I was a day late with the proposals and they wouldn't start their way through the rounds until January. (Hilaire laughs bitterly.)
- Had a meeting today with a couple of people about the possibility of putting a team-taught graduate course on the books for next year and beyond. Ahem - I must be careful, here...there is so much I could say... Let me just ask you, bloggers - and this is a real question: How much reading did you do in a graduate theory course, typically? A book a week or the equivalent, am I right? That's certainly been my experience, but it seems I will be seriously butting heads with one guy over this. I'd be curious to hear what kinds of reading loads others faced - I really don't think my graduate programs were unusually demanding.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
But anyway, here is what I've been thinking about lately:
Yesterday I was at the home of the colleague who, essentially, hired me. I just went by her place to talk through some stuff related to the six curriculum proposals I'm submitting tomorrow. We got to chatting - she's a chatter - and I said that I'd had a hard couple of days. She told me some veeeeeery interesting things. She said that when they hired me, they were aware that I was a risk. That I might be really unhappy here and might leave. But that I was still the best candidate, so they went for me. That I'd even cracked the Dean, who didn't really want to make a hire in this area. (Such a charming Dean.) She asked me if I'd looked at any job listings. I said I'd seen them. (Oh yes, I have seen the two freaking AWESOME jobs, one of which is in Home City, and one in Dad City, that I am a very good fit for.) I said I'd decided not to apply, though, feeling that woudn't be right. (Which is true - I just didn't feel right about going out on the market in the first year of a new job!) She said, "You should be doing what makes you happy, ultimately. I'm very lonely here...I've reconciled myself to spending most of the rest of my life here, but I'm lonely." She also said that she felt strange saying this to me, given how happy she is that I am here, but that she was just being honest.
Given all the asshole brouhaha recently over junior faculty changing jobs, I found this really interesting. It just goes to show how fundamentally the thinking around job-changing in mid-career has shifted, if I have senior faculty members telling me, in the first year of my job, that they know I might choose to leave - and giving me their blessing. (She is not the only person who has said as much to me, either - someone else has, as well.)
Anyway. I tried to swallow my despair at not having applied for those two PERFECT jobs - it is too late now. It is true that I just ethically wouldn't feel right leaving after a year; I'd feel like a complete ass. It would make it nearly impossible to get this long-straggling program off the ground; it would be the final nail in the coffin. Still, though - ouch. Home City, Dad City? Buh-bye.
Monday, November 12, 2007
O excellent! I love hilaire better than figs.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
I picked up some episodes of Ugly Betty, and stopped at a corner store on the way home to buy myself a bag of chips and a bag of berry candies. Those were my dinner. Those who know me in real life will know how ridiculously NOT like my usual dinner that is. I watched my two episodes, then started reading a novel on the couch, but fell asleep by 10 after 6pm. I napped for almost two hours. Don't even remember the last time I napped - a year ago? More?
Whatever is going on with me, I sure hope it passes soon. I'm hoping writing about it here might begin to purge it.
Anyway, it's off to bed, even though I've been up for half an hour and it's 8:15pm.
I don't know why I continue to invest energy into the formal discourse of teaching and learning at universities. Well, I do it because I really care about teaching, and I keep hoping there is going to be something meaningful to me in any of these workshops and events. But it really is becoming clear to me that ways I - and many of us in the humanities - are thinking about teaching, has very little to do with the approaches in this little "teaching and learning in higher education" world. You know, for starters it's the lingo - using the term "feed forward" instead of feedback is a prime example.
In fact, at this last workshop (attended by just four of us, plus the facilitator) it really seemed to me that a lot of what is being talked about is teaching as administering a kind of therapy. And it is not coincidental, I think, that the people at many of these workshops, who are engaging this rhetoric, were nursing and education faculty. (Not that these are lesser disciplines, of course, just that I think it makes sense that there would be different approaches in these fields from the ones we might use in the humanities.) And that these folks are also often talking about inculcating a kind of morality - my goodness, at this last workshop, one of them talked about how she assigns "making a shoebox of gifts for Xmas and giving it to a local charity" as a project!? Uh, how does that work??
I actually really felt like an outsider at this last workshop, and I think a couple of the things I said about my approaches to evaluation were really scandalous to the people there...I got that vibe. And I'm not saying this in any kind of "poor-me" way; I really don't care. Because frankly, it seems to me that any kind of intellectual rigor is being sacrificed in much of this discourse, and that it's just about feel-good...stuff. As well, I find that some of this talk shades uncomfortably into a kind of instrumentalization that dovetails with the commercialization of the university - terms like "value-added" and "leveraging" get tossed around a little too often for my liking.
So, yeah, not feeling satisfied with that world, not at all. Every time I go to a workshop, I come away feeling disappointed. But I still feel as if I need people to work through some teaching stuff with. People in my own kinds of fields, who are facing some of the same pedagogical issues that I am, who have similar kinds of visions of what a classroom can be. And who are not interested in infantilizing university students, nor in producing good little workers!
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Today, because I happened to have my camera in my bag, I took a picture of the desk area of my office (quality not great because lighting so dim):
Strewn with papers, and they're not in any kind of orderly piles - somehow this picture makes them look much more orderly than they actually are. Other surfaces in the office are similar - the top of my file cabinet, the shelf of the bookcase where I store my materials for current classes (nuclear holocaust, that shelf is right now) and even this week one of the chairs in there are all home to disheveled sheaves of unrelated stuff. Now I am usually a messer when I work - my home desk looks like this - even messier - and I am used to it and don't usually mind:
But the university office feels unmanageable. And so I've realized something about what's going on for me on campus. Since my days up there are so crazy, I have no time to properly do anything about the papers that accumulate. I don't have time to organize, nor to file. But of course, this adds up to chaos - and very rapidly, too. And so when I walk into the office, the feeling of anxiety is increased. It's a vicious circle that just leads to the magnification of my discomfort in that space!
One of my goals for next week (when I have a special day off from teaching) is to sort this out so that my office doesn't feel like a black hole anymore. I so hope this works - right now it's no fun to go in there, that's for sure. How do you feel about working in your office?
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
- If I have to read one more reference to "the male species" or "the female race," I shall cry.
- I am tired of the torrent of emails from students wanting to talk to ME about the mark they received from my TA. (This is the problem, in my experience, of having someone else do your grading, when the students don't have any interaction with that person except for the grading. They'd swallow the marks they're getting, if they came from me; they resist them, because they come from the TA, with whom they have no relationship.)
- On that note, go AWAY, dozen emails an hour that I get from people on my university email account. I wish I could say these were mostly informational, but they're not. They all require Action! Immediately!
- I am sick of working in my office at the school - it is so unnerving and the opposite of relaxing.
- I am tired of getting up at 6am all the time. I'm not a terrible morning person, but I don't love the pre-7am hours.
Bah - sorry. I'm whiny. But it's amazing, the wall you hit as the end of term nears. I always feel, when it ends, as if it ended just in time. Like I couldn't stand another moment - I need off. And it's not that I don't like my job; I love teaching. But still, this week is the beginning of the structures of feeling that lead to that just-in-time end, I think.
Monday, November 05, 2007
That is right. After spending the day in the city - we ate yummy things, and went to the Gettty Center, and did some driving through Beverly Hills, etc., etc. - we stumbled, just after sunset, upon a scene. We were just driving along, coming down from Mulholland Drive, not sure what to do next, when we spotted...glitziness. It seemed to be a premiere at the El Capitan Theater, of the new Coen Brothers movie. Red carpet and all. We swiftly pulled over into a parkade and parked, and went and stood next to the barricades. We realized as we were walking to the barricades that we were walking on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, stepping on those stars. Oh! we said. And there was the Kodak Theater, right across the street. Oh! we said again.
So anyway, there we were, against the barricades with many dedicated celeb-hunters. Watching the paparazzi get into position for their many photos of the red carpet walkers. And who did we spot but two other conference-goers?? We waved them over and all laughed at ourselves, and chatted for the next hour while we waited for the show to happen. Yes, we academics, our guards down, gawking at the stars.
So anyway, we waited a long time, but finally, they came! Numerous tinted-window SUVs arrived and ejected their celebrity passengers a mere few feet away from us. Who did I see?
- Tommy Lee Jones
- Hugh Laurie (An unexpected, late arrival, prompting much swoony screaming all around me.)
- Thandie Newton
- Casey Affleck
- Joel and Ethan Coen
- Ed Begley Jr.
- Olivier Martinez
- Some actor named "Kelly" who was reportedly in Trainspotting and Gosford Park
- Some actor named Ronnie about whom people got all screamy - but I didn't recognize him (He was also, like, 70, and had an 18-year-old on his arm. Ew.)
- Some other people who had to stand on the red carpet for a long time with paparazzi shooting away - I don't know who they were. Apparently one was Julie Delpy, but we were far enough away from the photographing area that I didn't realize who she was. I certainly can figure it out in retrospect, though.
I didn't get many pictures - it was pretty much pandemonium. But here, taken holding the camera high above people's heads, is Tommy Lee Jones, signing autographs for the media geeks right in front of us. These media geek types - the types who collect movie memorabilia and then go to premieres and scream, "Tommy! Tommy!" so the celeb will come over and autograph, and then sell them on Ebay - were actually the most fascinating part of this whole deal. And there's one of him posing on the red carpet.
And that, my friends, was my LA experience!
Sunday, November 04, 2007
The conference has been pretty great - I am always a fan of this event. And out of it has come a wonderful contact, who had actually read my dissertation! Good god. Who reads your dissertation?! (Her PhD advisor was the external examiner at my defense, and had passed on my diss, that's why.) Anyway, she has and she's great, and she and I have also had the co-editorship of a volume of essays fall into our laps! Which is pretty great...one of the things I included in my list of goals for this academic year was to decide whether to edit a volume. I'd been thinking not, regretfully, because I know it's a huge amount of work, and that I should be focusing on getting this monograph written. But for this, there's already a publisher and I can share the load with someone else, so it's fab. I am way into collaborative work. I'm pretty excited about this project. And we will meet up at this conference next fall, and I suggested that we might work there on starting to draft the introduction. That's a fun thing to look forward to. It is perhaps overly optimistic of me to be this excited about working with someone I just met and don't know at all well, but I have a gut feeling that it is going to work out very well.
And today my friend from Home City and I are going out with a rental car to explore this crazy city. I am looking so forward to that.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
- It's Halloween. Scariest thing of the day: Tenure/Promotion workshop for junior faculty. Brrr...horrifying. The air was positively think with anxiety, hysteria. People lost their minds. (This is due in part to circumstances that are specific to this institution.) I witnessed outrageous slick-dick behaviour on the part of a familiar figure from earlier this week. I admit that several times, I thought, "Forget it. Let me out of this profession."
- But do you want to know how fabulous R is? She is the most loyal and supportive person I know. She gets so pissed off on my behalf (and your behalf, fellow bloggers), it's adorable. Case in point: I read her some bits of the vitriol lately spewed at poor Dr. Crazy/all junior faculty who deign to consider changing jobs. If we were mad, folks, well, we had nothing on her. So enraged about this - and she's not even an academic. Last week, too, when I relayed to her my awful exchange with condescending colleague, she was so livid she wouldn't even let me finish before she began ranting. I know it sounds ridiculous, but damn, it's nice to have that kind of strong and emotionally engaged support. Too bad it's from afar! (And don't worry - she can also criticize me when need be.)
- I leave for California tomorrow. Hurrah! It shall be warm. I shall see the sun (a very rare occurrence, these days). I shall hang out with my good friend from Home City, who's on my panel. Perhaps most excitingly, I have two blogger meetups scheduled, with two damn fine women. What a treat. And, oh yeah - I shall present some muddled new thoughts. And listen to some good talks. But, more importantly: friends! blogfriends!
- And, as I discovered at the conference I went to a couple of weeks ago, I feel free when I leave here. I must say, that's a nice feeling. Bring it on.
Hee. Somehow I find this heartening, knowing that a fancy academic is on national radio talking about the things he researches as "thingies."
Monday, October 29, 2007
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Here are the rules:
There is a set of questions below, all of which are in this format:"The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is . . . ."
*Copy the questions, and before answering them, you may modify them in a limited way, carrying out no more than two of these operations: [fn1]
*You can leave them exactly as is.
*You can delete any one question.
*You can mutate either the genre, medium, or subgenre of any one question. For instance, you could change"The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is . . . " to "The best time travel novel in Westerns is . . ." or "The best time travel movie in SF/Fantasy is . . ." or "The best romance novel in SF/Fantasy is . . . .
"In addition, you can add a completely new question of your choice to the end of the list, as long as it is still in the form "The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is...."
*You must have at least one question in your set, or you've gone extinct, and you must be able to answer it yourself, or you're not viable.
*Then answer your possibly mutant set of questions.
*Please do include a link back to the blog you got them from, to simplify tracing the ancestry, and include these instructions.
*Finally, pass it along to any number of your fellow bloggers.
*Remember, though, your success as a Darwinian replicator is going to be measured by the propagation of your variants, which is going to be a function of both the interest your well-honed questions generate and the number of successful attempts at reproducing them.
Here is my genealogy:
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparent is Pharyngula.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparent is Metamagician and the Hellfire Club.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparent is Flying Trilobite.
My great-great- great-great-great-great-great-great grandparent is A Blog Around the Clock.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparent is Primate Diaries.
My great-great-great-great-great-great grandparent is Thus Spake Zuska.
My great-great-great-great-great grandparent is k8, a cat, a mission.
My great-great-great-great grandparent is Monkeygirl.
My great-great-great-grandparent is DancingFish.
My great-great-grandparent is Brazen Hussy.
My great-grandparent is Bad Ass Turtle.
My grandparent is Belle.
My parent is Squadratomagico.
And here are my mutated statements, plus one newly-added statement at the end.
The best classic movie is: The Women
The best novel in classic fiction is: Frankenstein
The best high-fat food in Indian cooking is: Pakora
The most eyebrow-raising conference-paper-related words I ever received from a scholar are: “Great outfit.” (Conference presentation two weeks ago.)
The best everyday lie in academic life is: “I'm really into radical pedagogy" (as an excuse for putting absolutely no effort into teaching)
The best red wine grape is: Pinot Noir
I tag: Psychgrad, What Now?, Marcelle Proust
- I am looking forward to finishing this conference paper. Not that it's been a terrible experience. In fact, it's been a rather illuminating one, but I'm ready for it to end. That should happen tomorrow, or even later today. Short-order happiness.
- On that note, I am sooooo looking forward to being away at the conference next weekend. (Hey, are any of my blogfriends going to be at a fairly large annual conference in southern California next weekend? If you are, and you'd be into meeting up, email me to see if we'll be in the same place. Perhaps some long, irony-soaked chats over wine could ensue!) I have long been envisioning this conference as a kind of release - it signals the end of the insanity for this term for me. Presenting this paper is the last piece of major, deadline-oriented work on my plate after these two months of crazy workaholic behaviour! And the panel I put together for the conference includes my good friend from Home City, so we shall have a chance to reconnect and cavort for four whole days. Hurrah!
- I am having a cheese party in a couple of weeks!
- I am visiting Nearest Metropolis in mid-November to see my great friend C .(She's there for the year on a Visiting position, after living in European City for many years - it is officially a scandal that we haven't managed to see each other yet.) While there, I also get the chance to dance!
- I leave for Home City on December 8. This is, of course, exciting in itself. But also: I was expressing to R my hunger for queer events, queer communities. She has arranged for us to go a spectacularly fun and debauched queer event the very night I arrive - after a delicious dinner of Indian take-out!
- While I'm in Home Area, I am going to Fun City to spend a couple of days with M. We are so in need of this reconnection. He and I once together dreamed of a perfect, decadent day: sleeping in, going out for brunch, coming home and spending the rest of the day and evening watching videos and napping. If this kind of day is foreign to me, it is even more so for him, overburdened, workaholic star that he is. I plan to make this happen on this visit!
- So many exclamation marks! Such hyperbole! What can one do in the face of so much upcoming goodness?
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
After approving them at the level of my program's advisory committee, I sent my two new courses out to my department for approval before they go on to the next stages. I have received nothing but accolades and support for them. Except from one colleague, who is sending me - and the whole department - absolutely horribly condescending emails in which they are essentially asking, "Why aren't you teaching things the way I would teach them?" Well, my friend, that is because we have different kinds of training, and I am not an expert in what you do. You want courses that do that? You teach them in your program; the courses you're proposing don't actually fit with my training or my "inter-"discipline. This colleague is also sending me emails in which they try to "teach me" very basic things I already know. I don't know where this person is getting the idea that I need to be taught these things - it is a mystery to me. In fact, in an email I had just sent them, I had explicitly said these things! It is like my words are not being heard, and what the courses actually do is not being engaged with on any level. How frustrating!
I'm not sure how to respond. I feel as if I can't just let it go, this latest condescending email that purports to "teach me" things. It's a matter of pride. But I don't know - maybe I shoul just ignore. Ugh. Why, why, why do people want to make academe into a monoculture? And how do people have the chutzpah to talk to colleagues - people with PhD's, for goodness sake - in that way? (Part of the answer is gender, in this case.)
Update: I responded quite collegially but quite forcefully, and seem to have gotten the colleague to back off: I received a "Peace" response.
Monday, October 22, 2007
A few incidents/people lately have underscored all of this for me.
First, there is D. D is my best friend here - he's a great guy. He's my go-to person; we have lunch together at the uni often, live within a ten-minute walk of each other, and see each other for an hour here or there, all the time. As I say, great guy. But, what's not entirely satisfying: D has very little sense of irony. I need irony, I realize. (Not that there's much irony on this blog, I know. But trust me - I'm all about the irony.) As well, all we ever talk about when we're together is work; I am all talked out about work. I am all worked out; when I am not at work, I need to be talking about other things. Especially because with D, it's all negative. D also doesn't drink much, which means I do things like go over to his house to watch a film, the night after my uncle dies, and sit there and drink 3/4 of a bottle of wine by myself.
This leads me to my next point: I really like drinks with my friends. I like drinking wine and having long, intense chats about our whole lives. So, when I went to that conference ten days ago and had drinks with Mentor and a PhD student of hers? I felt like something clicked back into place for me; it was the kind of languorous, indulgent evening I hadn't had in soooo long. It was a way of being I'd almost forgotten, but that is so foundational to who I am.
Now, this doesn't all have to come in the same package - for instance, my good friend A, who I was living with over the winter, remember? A doesn't drink. I don't drink with her. But she's probably the most ironic, funniest person I know. We can talk deeply-yet-ironically for hours.
Then there is my friend K, who visited me a couple of weeks ago over Thanksgiving weekend. Why do I not feel as close to K as I should, given how much time we spend together and how much we talk about? I've thought a lot about this - about how I like her a lot, and know her very well, but how she'll never be an A, or an M, so so close for me. Even though she's a wine drinker and a major chatter. It is, I think, that she is highly, highly in control. A very successful lawyer at 35, she is the most efficient and, I guess, masterful person I know. She has the crazy schedule of any high-powered lawyer, but she doesn't ever, ever let the craziness of her life phase her - at least on the outside. She has a kind of clinical approach to analyzing her own life and those of the people around her that I find, frankly, alien. And it's not that she's unfeeling - not at all. And she is damn smart about people. But I have heard her make judgements - of people's incapacity to "control themselves", like in making perhaps unwise romantic choices, for instance - that I just find to be intolerant of the confusion and humanity of people. I think what I need to feel truly, deeply intimate with someone is a sense that they can admit to, give in to, chaos. That we begin from a point of admitting our own fallbility.
So, yeah. That's what I need, what I'm really, really missing. That is the ad I should put out for a Scary City with Potential Friend. Wanted: ironic, chaos-embracing wine drinker.
By the way? All you folks out in the blogworld? It seems to me you are like all the people I would hope to have answer my friend-wanted ad. And certainly, those of you I've met have been ironic, chaos-embracing wine drinkers. Perhaps this is why I feel so at home in this little slice of the blogosphere.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
But, more importantly, I've had a breakthrough! A breakthrough in my thinking. Because my writing process is quite open, I never know quite what's going to come of it. Sometimes that's a bad thing - ideas that come to me have a contingency to them that means they won't easily be made into a foundation for...anything. But yesterday and now, this morning, I've had a breakthrough that shows me my entire larger project in a new way. That has foundations, that connects to and intervenes in very important, I think, ways in the field (whatever the field is!). What a great feeling that is. Back I go!
Well, what do I do?? I duly separate the pile into two every week, "to be graded" and "not to be graded"...AND THEN READ EVERY SINGLE RESPONSE, AND EVEN MAKE COMMENTS ON THE "NOT-GRADED" PILE. In short, I treat every single one the same - just don't attach a grade to most. But of course this defeats the whole purpose of the thing - the random grading thing is so that I don't have to read 70+ things every week. And yet here I am, reading 70+ things every week.
It's just that I feel bad! I don't think I can stomach having them do work and getting no feedback, no engagement from me. Especially because they're having epiphanies all over the place - these critical responses are full of them. It feels terrible to not engage with them. I'd never expected to feel like this, and I certainly don't for a moment think everyone should feel like this. I think the random grading structure is a good one. But I am too much of a softy, it appears, to do it.
More evidence of my weakness in the face of students: A student had talked at me for way too long about a novel she had read that related in some way to the course. She was really excited about the novel, and was suggesting that she would bring it in to "tell my classmates about it." (With me thinking, "oh dear god, no - what is this, show and tell?") Anyway, last week she brought it in and came up to me to tell me excitedly that she'd remembered it - and then she insisted I take it. So I took it, and now I am reading it. It is a really badly written (and problematic, I might add) young adult novel, for chrissake. But I don't have the heart to give it back to her without reading it. So, though I don't really have much time for fiction-reading these days, and I sure as hell don't want to be reading bad young adult fiction in the little time I do have, I have been reading it these last couple of nights before bed.
Sigh - where can I buy a spine?
Friday, October 19, 2007
So, it's Friday. My favourite day, these days. I woke up in a happy mood for the first time in a loooong while. This bodes well!
Why am I feeling happy, despite the fact that it is Bad Cramp Time?
Why, it's certainly because the insane overwork is starting to come to an end. I have one more push over the next couple of weeks, but I no longer have multiple hugenesses on the go at the same time.
And yesterday I had the first meeting of my little program committee - you know, the little group of folks who are advising me through the process of growing this program. I brought to them fully fleshed proposals for two new courses to go to the university curriculum committees - one at the second-year level and one at the third. These are my attempts to teach theoretical courses without stepping on the existing Theory course. They are both on particular topics, but they are theory courses, without being named as such. The committee loved the courses, and I am so pleased. They also confirmed that there is likely nobody who will contest them as horning in on their territory. One of the members of the little committee also had a great idea: teach a general theory course at the second-year level! Yes!! This is what I should be doing! This won't step on the toes of the existing upper-level theory course (one would hope!) and I can make it a requirement, like I wanted to. It will just involve rethinking the course a little, but that's certainly doable. So, yes - I am satisfied with this piece of the puzzle.
Also, my teaching is going so well. Who'd have thought I'd love my first-year course so much? They just amaze me - they are so engaged. Even on topics that I don't expect to be taken with much enthusiasm, like yesterday's. And I have a number of them expressing interest in taking the minor in the field, or a major when it's available. This is wonderful - I am building momentum, and it's so heartening. My upper-level course was a dream yesterday, too.
Have I mentioned that I have four weeks in Home City to look forward to? I had an exam scheduled in my first-year course (of course) but I have to admit that I was not looking forward to the possibility of it being scheduled toward the end of the exam period in December - which would mean I'd be hanging around Scary City for weeks, just waiting for this exam, when I could be in Home City. So my Chair suggested that I turn it into a take-home exam, an option of which the students were almost unanimously supportive when I took a vote. (The only thing about this is that designing a good take-home is VERY hard, I think.) So I am leaving on December 8, and will be HOME for a whole month. That is helping push me through the next weeks. I shall see my puppy! And R of course - but I talk to R every day. My puppy!!
So my final push is to write a conference paper. I want to get most of it written this weekend - ahem. It's for a conference in two weeks. When I pulled the panel together in the spring, I wrote an abstract that I just pulled out of thin air. Now I have to go and write that randomly conceived paper (which does, after all, fit with my larger project). Oy. I couldn't even remember what I'd written. But when I went back and looked at the abstract, I saw that it could function nicely as an introduction to the paper. Yes! There's 1/12 of my paper written! :)
So, plans for the weekend:
- Write a minimum of 60% of my conference paper
- Write abstract for Congress paper, which will be on a panel that's a reprise of this year's Congress panel, with M and C
- Mark critical reading responses for both classes
- Prepare as best I can for thing on Tuesday, at which I am being a respondent/discussant at talk by visiting artist
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
So, I say: If you'd like to receive a gift from me before the end of the calendar year, be one of the first five people to leave a comment, and ye shall receive! Just email with your RL address. You just have to put out the same call on your own blog, and send out five gifts yourself.
I can't wait to get little presents for you! Let's celebrate the end of crabbiness!
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
The A/V equipment wasn't working, I discovered when I got to class. The projector wasn't speaking to the components. My 80-minute class today was to consist of a 60-minute video and a 20-minute Q&A session with the librarian, following up on an earlier session. So when the equipment wasn't working, it was kind of a problem. Not such a big deal, though - my TA immediately went and phoned IT. (Although, since there is no phone in this LECTURE HALL, she had to run down three flights of stairs and out into the pouring rain to use a phone in the library.) IT said someone was on their way - not hard to send someone, since that someone is coming from practically next door. Nobody came. She went and phoned again. Nobody came. Finally, after half an hour of waiting, I just had to let the students go. Now we are completely behind schedule and off track. This video is written into the syllabus - I still have to show it somehow.
This is so unacceptable. It's shocking. I had thought today would be a relatively relaxed day, since it just so happens that I am showing videos in both classes. Apparently I am wrong to assume any day around this place will ever be relaxed.
Oh, but what's this? An email from Mr. Chris Walter from the "Hobbit Security Vault and Trust" to tell me that an undisclosed benefactor wants to deposit $10.5 million in my account. Freedom shall be mine. (Thank you, Mr. Chris Walter, for providing me with the laugh that let me release this rage. Hobbit Security Vault - you slay me.)
Sunday, October 14, 2007
It was, first of all, the conference itself. What a joy. It was small and intimate. I didn't know many people besides Mentor, but felt just so warmly welcomed into this circle. I feel as if I made some real connections with people. Had one particularly fantastic conversation at the dinner last night with a person I'd met once before, in the summer at Congress - the two of us sat there til the restaurant closed, and then (rather unsuccessfully) moved on to a nearby bar. Such a good conversation about things that really matter.
The sessions themselves - I attended every timeslot - were roundly great. I felt challenged in a way I haven't in a while. It makes me realize how pedestrian my everyday intellectual life is these days. So teaching-oriented, and that ends up reducing complexity, so much of the time. Sad. This was a real intellectual rush for me, this event. It got me thinking in all sorts of ways - including some great ideas for teaching...(My paper? Meh...fine. Well-attended, received without argument, but felt somewhat out of place. And I had taken an extra-strength decongestant, which had dried me all out, so my lips were sticking to my teeth in ridiculous, constantly embarrassing ways. But it was fine, overall.)
And spending time with Mentor was wonderful...we went out for drinks, she and I and a current grad student of hers, at a quiet bar on Friday night. It's been ages since I've had such a lovely night - I felt in touch with myself again.
Then, too, there was the fact of being away from Scary City with Potential.* I didn't know this would mean so much to me. But yes - being out of here mattered. I felt free. (Hmmm. That's not good, really, in terms of what it says about my negative experience of this place. Anyway, this is a time for dwelling on good things!)
I came home bubbly and energized and chirped away on the phone to R for a long while. I want this feeling to last...
*Recent events have prompted me to an amalgamation of its two names.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
- I have actually become angry about the conversation I had with my colleague the other day. Not about her course - whatever. It was the other ways she was talking to me about my beginning this program. It was a conversation consisting in the main of veiled threats - served to me with smiles and a chai latte she insisted on paying for. I won't rehash it here. But I am not pleased, not at all.
- Today I had a meeting with a student in my first-year course. I'd asked her to come and meet with me because I am curious about her, frankly. What the heck her deal is - why she's so freaking brilliant at, like, 18 and in her first year of university. Well, no, not really - I wanted to check in and see what she was thinking of doing her degree in, see if she was bored to tears in her first-year courses. So I asked, "What are you thinking of for your degree?" She said, "For my undergrad degree, I'm thinking of..." Ha - for her undergrad degree. Someone had a sense of her path, doesn't she? Her dad is my departmental colleague. She writes these stratospherically learned things. In our meeting, she sat there, all lanky and shy - such a classic teenaged girl. But she worked the word "intertextuality" into our conversation. And the thing is, she knows what this means - I read her writing every week; I see that she's not name-dropping. She's not arrogant. And yes, she went to a regular public high school. Huh. I guess she's really a living example of what can come of living in an intellectual household. I just hope she can carve her own path, out of her dad's shadow. She wants to minor in my program and major in another. These are both fields that have a lot of overlap with her father's fields.
- I am off to a conference tomorrow morning. Returning Sunday night. Do not want. I am nervous about my paper. I feel like a fish out of water at this conference, doing something quite different from - and more easily dismissable than (in this context) - what other folks are doing.* That, and there are going to be a lot of people at my talk. Great combination. I'm doing this because my mentor suggested I get in the habit of doing more Canadian conferences, for visibility. She was right; I should be. But I wish this weren't one. Repeat: Do not want.
- What is worse than going to a conference you don't want to be at, to network? When you have so much to do that any spare non-networking or nervous-nausea time is going to be spent holed up in your hotel room doing program-building? Doing so when you're sick. That's right. The telltale signs began this morning and intensified this evening. I have a full-blown cold. And I have to fly there. Ugh. Looking on the bright side, perhaps my paper will be a foggy, sinus-y blur (for me, I mean, not the audience)!
- More bright side: Mentor will be at this conference - I will see her! Hooray!
- Good luck, me, with the cold and the paper!
*You know, it really bugs me how annual conferences get organized around themes, so you tailor your paper to the theme and then see that nobody else has done so and that the theme meant absolutely nothing and now yours stands out as...just...weird in this context.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
And perhaps my whininess can be productive of some thoughts, this time. Because what I was feeling particularly demoralized about today was something to do with interdisciplinarity, and what better space than this to think that through?
The context: Each of my three degrees is an interdisciplinary one. To what is sure to be the scandal of many, I don’t have a disciplinary home – I never have. I had my BA and MA in one kind of interdisciplinary program, and my PhD in another kind. I have taught exclusively in such programs – I have done so these last two years post-PhD, and even when I was a TA, my teaching was in another interdisciplinary program.
My own research is not easily categorizable, not at all, as a result of all of this. I draw from, and my writing could be used in, multiple disciplines.
And I was hired to develop an interdisciplinary program here at Scary City/with Potential U. That is what I’m here for, and I know that my interdisciplinary background made me an attractive candidate here.
The Problem: So here I am, trying to develop my interdisciplinary program. Tra la la. (In truth, I am doing next to nothing about this right now because I have so much in the research department, and absolutely no stomach or energy for this admin piece.) What is clear to me is that Theory is going to need to be a requirement to graduate with a minor or major in this program – such is the case in most such programs. And I happen to do Theory, and to teach Theory (quite successfully, if I do say so myself - as those of you who read my rhapsodies about last year’s Theory class might remember). So I want to introduce this Theory course, and to teach it. But my Chair tells me, “there’s this person in [Discipline X] who teaches a course called [Name of my theory course]. You should just consult with this person to make sure they’re okay with what you’re proposing.”
But Chair and I, we both think this won’t be a problem because of course this person will be teaching Theory in [Discipline X], and not the kind of interdisciplinary Theory course that I teach. Tra la la. So I send this professor an email explaining what I’m up to, and attaching my Theory syllabus from last year – which will be very similar to the Theory course I’m teaching as a Special Topics beginning in January, and proposing go on the books as a permanent course.
And what do I get back? This prof’s syllabus for their Discipline X Theory class, which is essentially the same as my interdis Theory course!!!! So we met today, and the only solution to this is to let this Prof teach this course – I can’t propose to put a course on the books which is essentially a duplication of an existing one; it won’t go through. So there you have it – I don’t get to teach the core course in my specialty. I am not pleased.
I’m not angry at this prof, of course – how could I be, when they are teaching such a splendid course? :) And when I value and tout interdisciplinarity? But it does make me think about the way the disciplines are becoming increasingly interdisciplinary. And if this happens, do “interdisciplinary scholars” like me become redundant? Do we go the way of the dodo? What, in short, am I doing here, if I can’t develop the courses I want to? This prof made it clear that I would potentially be blocked in the program development I want to do, by all sorts of overlap with all sorts of courses in existing disciplines. I was essentially being told that there was no way to do what I am supposed to be here to do.
So we’re all becoming just one big smoosh? That’s what academia is now? Interdisciplinary puree? I’ve encountered this recently in another way because my friend D is teaching the Intro course in another interdis program, and there is the risk of some overlap between our courses. For god’s sake. You know, smoosh is nice in theory, but I feel like I’m at risk of being smooshed right on out. (And frankly, it makes me want to leave for pastures in which the interdis thing is already sown, and I don't have to spend my energy battling smoosh when I don't even mind smoosh.)