Thanks to Tweak for the picture. (And yes, that's the fabled bunker.)


Just a Note: Economical

So as of yesterday, oil has never been higher and the the dollar has never been lower.

The most important contemporary Marxian scholar out there is probably David Harvey, whose Limits to Capital is a remarkable update of Marx's entire oeuvre in terms of late-20th / early-21st century economics. I'm going to skip the long summary and just try to paraphrase Harvey on global capitalism as of 2006 (when the last edition came out.) Basically, the Right succeeded in deregulating every market in the world over the last thirty years in search of places to invest all of the insane profits the rich have managed to squeeze out of, well, everyone else. Not since the nineteenth century has there been such a wealth disparity between the top of the heap and, literally, the rest (the stats I remember off the top of my head are that 1 billion people live on a dollar a day, another 2 billion on about two dollars a day, while CEOs have never received such high salaries and bonuses, ever.) So capital needed a place to go, and it opened up every "emerging" market it could find in the space of a few decades, slaughtering labor and health and safety regulations in the process.

The thing is, from the perspective of the US, opening markets for investment may have seemed desirable, but now "we're" reaping the results. "We" shipped everything we had overseas as fast as "we" could so that stocks would go up a few bucks for a few months. And no one that I've read in the mainstream press has ever said anything about FUCKING INCOMES and REAL COSTS OF LIVING. "Consumers" are just supposed to find new ways to borrow. It's insane.

The scary thing is that no one that I've read anywhere, in the leftist academic press or the mainstream economic press, has any solutions. "We" sold ourselves out so that Haliburton could make more money in Iraq and the hedge funds could bet against commodity markets in Africa, and here "we" are. The only sane thing to do is vote for whoever-the-fuck the democrats decide on in November and hope and pray that he or she pulls out of every actual war we're in and launches a full-scale assault on the hedge fund managers and the CEOs instead. But I'm not holding my breath.

And in the meantime, as of March, B and I are now spending 1075/month for this shoebox we live in...


Fuzzy and Aquatic

My homie L just paid us a quick visit, punctuated by chowder, amazing views of a very wavy post-storm Monterey Bay, and an up-close visit with a fuzzy creature of extreme* cuteness.

While we were on the wharf watching him, he dove down three separate times and returned with tasty morsels. Them otters, they like to eat.

My TA assignment is getting a little ridiculous, for both me and the students. I have 60 5-page papers, 60 map quizzes, and 60 normal quizzes to grade. They have four lengthy textbook chapters to read and all of the above papers and quizzes to write. I think I'm going to have a little pep talk in section with them tomorrow about how they should be wary of lower-division history classes; profs tend to bring the hammer down in a way they actuallydon't in upper-division ones.

Shoulder to the wheel....shoulder to the wheel....shoulder to the wheel...

In other boring news, I'm kind of stuck on my field statement. I wrote all the stuff I can write without reading more books. So now I have to read more books. I think I'll try to figure out a way into tricking my brain into thinking that I'm having fun, maybe by taking up a powerful hallucinogenic drug habit.

* Extreme like paragliding down a tundra glacier with a jet-powered jet ski while pounding Mountain Dew.


Grad Schizophrenia

A brief psychological profile, following a typical chat/bitch-session with K:

The grad in humanities is fundamentally schizophrenic. He or she knows better than anyone else how little he or she actually knows about the literature, the languages, the theories, everything else. He or she knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he or she is a hack. Likewise, there is always the ambient terror of being found out; what if, at a conference or something, a venerable powerhouse in the field asks that dreaded question that reveals what a complete phony he or she really is?!* Ignominy, shame, degradation, and finally the sweet, sweet release of death.

On the other hand, the humanities grad is a self-important egotist. That's RIGHT! I got a 710/680/6-out-of-6 on my GRE! That's RIGHT! I'm a motherfucking PHD student! That's RIGHT! I (kind of) know a whole other LANGUAGE! I was praised for my "work" by a knowledgeable professor! I have been told by those-in-the-know that my research is PROMISING! I have beat the odds, I have been accepted to full-on graduate programs at full-on accredited research universities. I get money for reading books, bitches, and I plan on keeping that pattern going until I'm dead.

I think it's the tension between those two identities, and the fact that they're both completely heartfelt, that makes this such a weird business to be in. It's confusing to be equal parts fraud and self-proclaimed genius, and it's even harder to have any realistic perspective on it when most of the people you spend your time with are just like you.

* "Could you please write that in Chinese for us?" "But what about the findings of the following major authors you've never even heard of?" "But hasn't that already been argued by so-and-so?" To say nothing of the dreaded "So what?"


If I Could Do It All Again

Here are some subjects that would have been interesting that I could never do now:

  1. Early Icelandic and Norse history, based on the sagas and the extensive contacts between the Norse and pretty much everyone else in the entire western Eurasian world.
  2. Central Asian history, particularly all of the contacts between Buddhist and Islamic groups and cultures over the centuries in what is now the -stans (i.e. Kazakhstan, Tajikstan, etc.)
  3. The independence movements of nineteenth-century Latin America.
  4. The cultures of Pacific sailors over the last few centuries, particularly in the points of contact between the sailors of different regions or nations.
  5. The cult of the Assassins under Hassan I Sabbah in what is now northern Iran in the tenth century.
  6. History of ninjas. I've never figured out why my (two) friends who do Japanese history won't take this up.
  7. The intellectual history of free market ideology in the US.

Here are some I could still do eventually:

  1. The history of atheism in eighteenth-century France.
  2. A cultural history of casual violence before and after the French Revolution.
  3. Why Super Mario Bros. 3 is the best video game.

I hate Tuesdays. Stupid 6:00pm discussion section.

On an unrelated note: I have been producing superhuman amounts of mucous. I'm serious. I took an ungodly amount of pseudophedrine today, washed down with a few pints of black coffee, and it just barely cut the misery.


With the Snotty

I'm back from a weekend carrying two kids around on my back. It went exactly as planned and expected: it was fun, it was incredibly tiring, and I got a cold. Now I'm trying to figure out how to plan my day such that I produce more field statement verbiage, get groceries, and most importantly, get powerful drugs that will clear my air-passages.

B got me the first season of Flight of the Conchords for V-tine's day, along with a copy of Kitchen Confidential, which I'm reading several years after everyone else did. I now have the option to ingest good media when I'm not grad-studenting.

Also, she's been busy on her blog lately.

Various thoughts have occurred to me over the past few days, but my big one is just that we could all do with a week locked in separate cabins about now. We'd all return refreshed and ready to turn this February 2008 out something serious. Instead, we'll just keep plodding along like big weird bovines.


Advice For the Fellas

Guys, you totally do need to buy your lady flowers today. That's just how it works.

P.S. I guess you don't have to if you're one of those couples that mutually chooses to hate on V-tine's Day. But you better be damn sure she isn't harboring residual wanting of flowers. Err on the side of caution, dude.

P.P.S. Unrelated note: D+D went awesome last night.

P.P.P.S. Miller High Life is the champagne of beers!


This Again

Well, it's hot and sunny in February again, like it was all last winter. It's been about a week and a half of nonstop sunshine, kids walking around in shorts and sandals, muggy bus-rides to and from campus, the works. The state managed to soak up enough moisture during the January - early February monsoon that I'm lacking my characteristic paranoia about water-levels in the snowpack and resevoirs, but I've recaptured my equally characteristic misanthropic sourness at seeing all of the doofy 19 year olds walking around like they're in a commercial for Disney World.

This is officially the term from hell for my entire cohort. We're all right at our outer limit of workload possibility. Here's how it's all going down:

  • Everyone is madly scrambling to finish (or, as the case may be, start) their MA papers.
  • K and I have our QEs very, very soon.
  • The ABD kids are nowhere to be seen.
  • The cohort itself is sort of pulled apart by centrifugal work-forces.
  • We can't get no satisfaction.
  • The stark reality of death makes a mockery of our meager dreams and aspirations.

On the up side, my niece and nephew are coming down from Oregon this weekend, so I'll go get in some uncle/human jungle gym action this weekend and drink beers with B and her dad. Always fun.


Self-Disciplining, or, What a Stupid Weekend

A guy I took a class from at Oregon once noted that "there are only two kinds of grad students: those who finish their dissertations and those who do not."

The thing with graduate school is that, especially once you start on your own research, no one is making you do anything. There's a constellation of professors you work with sometimes, possibly some other grads who are halfway interested in your work, but mostly you're just kind of alone with some books and a computer. You can, for instance, play video games non-stop for three days and no one will scold you. You can take off your pants and lie on the floor. You can go the library and look out the window at the squirrels. Nothing gets done and no one else cares.

I gather this gets even worse once you're ABD - I, at least, have a very finite number of weeks until everything is due for my QE, and fewer weeks still until I have to take the Italian exam. After that, you're like a little dumb boat in a big dumb sea, with nowhere in particular to go.

The social stuff I've done this weekend has been fun: drinks and Thai food, more drinks and a slide show, a walk in a park with a kiddo and her mom, and tonight the third innovation after watches and banking that the Swiss have managed to come up with: fondue. All of the work I've done, however, has been half-assed and lame. Here's hoping that some completely badass stroke of inspiration strikes at some point this week. I really need it.

Listless, everyone. I'm feeling very listless.


I Can Has Ringtone!

Yes, I have taken the plunge into 2001 and purchased a ringtone for my new phone (it was the free upgrade for renewing our family plan [tm]). And the ringtone?

None other than AC/DC's Back in Black.

Now, all credit has to go to E, because she once had this very song as her ringtone, and every time she got a call I would have to start totally rocking out. I went looking for Europe's Final Countdown, but couldn't find it, leaving me no choice but to opt for that sweet guitar riff.

In related news, in the transfer of my little phone chip deal over, somehow I lost every one of my goddamn phone numbers. So: if you and I have ever talked on the phone, please to be e-mailing me your number, that we may once again converse. I'm at kungfuramone at gmail dot com.

P.S. Yes, I know the AC/DC picture isn't for Back in Black. It's still a rad picture.


Green Goo Drips Out of My Brain

Here's the text of my fake letter of recommendation I wrote for myself for our grant-writing workshop:

Dear Selection Committee,

This letter is on behalf of kungfuramone. I have been KFR's academic advisor for two years at UC Susanville. In that time, he has consistently exceeded my expectations and that of my colleagues in terms of self-discipline, depth of reading, and writing ability. His strength, dexterity, constitution, wisdom, intelligence, and charisma are all simply outstanding. I hope to convince you that he is deserving of the Andre the Giant research grant.

While I believe every aspect of KFR's scholarship is far beyond that of the average graduate student in European history, there are two areas in which he is particularly noteworthy. First, KFR is able to process a very large amount of information extremely quickly, while still achieving a breathtaking rate of comprehension, both in English and in French. This is to say that he can read through a stack of books or several boxes of original document in a fraction of the time it would take most graduate students (and many professional historians!) and remember almost every nuance therein. Second, KFR writes beautiful, straightforward prose, nigh-crystalline in its transparency and effervescent loveliness. Not only have his essays been published in prestigious journals, including Intellectual History Tri-Annual Newsletter and Journal of the History of Considerations of Ideas, but he was recently appointed editor-in-chief of the UCSV graduate journal, Sluggish.

KFR has already demonstrated a proficiency in historical research far beyond the twelve years he has spent as a graduate student would indicate. He has conducted extensive archival research throughout France, Belgium, the UK, and Oregon. He is never content to rely on the secondary scholarship in his field, seeking out primary documents to fact-check his own hypotheses and to contradict and undermine those of others. Indeed, he brings a critical, but sympathetic attitude to bear on the entire field of modern European intellectual history, probing for points of weakness in his colleagues' work and launching all-out assaults, armed with mountains of empirical data, when he deems it appropriate or necessary.

KFR's research is of tremendous importance for the field of intellectual history as a whole. He is in the process of writing what I believe will be the definitive work on arrogance as the predominant character trait of philosophers in the last two hundred years. According to his findings thus far, too many scholars simply assume that philosophers were “naturally” arrogant. Instead, KFR insists that arrogance among philosophers was and is caused by both the effects of the German language on the Limbic System and dust build-up in the sinuses. If he is able to secure adequate funding for further research, his work may well redefine how we think about the history of self-important thinkers.

Thus, I feel KFR is an excellent candidate for the fellowship in question. Simply put, he would use it efficiently to enable his research and, in turn, enlighten his entire field with his findings. I hope that the rest of his application will further indicate his eligibility for the Andre the Giant research grant.

In Solidarity,

Professor I.G. Readmore


Dungeons and Dragons; World History

I just finished giving my coffee presentation at the World History Conference. It went well; the ninja grand master of coffee history was there and he approved. Also, homies C and K did a bang-up job presenting on their chosen topics (whales and beavers, respectively.)

The conference was actually a lot of fun and I met several really nice, really smart historians from all over the place (Warwick, UK being the furthest-flung locale.) I am, however, far behind on my reading as a result and I'm relieved that it's over.

Now, on to the really important news: we are firing up a D+D campaign here in the SC, FINALLY. I've got an elite cadre of axe-wielding maniacs lined up to take part. The first session is Wednesday. And it's going to go down like it did for Daniel in Freaks and Geeks: