Bacon Fries and Tech Support

Yes, while here in E-town, I had a chance to hit up Rennie's and enjoy a SEVEN DOLLAR AND FIFTY CENTS PITCHER and a big plate of their famous bacon cheesy fries. Which are served with ranch. Fear the wrath! The lovely and talented E was kind enough to accompany me, as was my brother. I'm sad that I'm leaving today, but I'm looking forward to checking in with an elite cadre of the PDX kids.

A note about my week here in the Emerald City: I am the tech-supportinist of sons. Here's what I did:
  1. Hooked up the wireless to my mom's/stepdad's new cable connection using a handy hack I found online.
  2. Hooked up all of the A/V stuff for their big-ass new tv. Cable + Tivo + DVD + VHS...total remotes: five (including the one that came with the TV itself.)
  3. My stepdad's laptop spontaneously died, hard, so I had to reinstall the whole thing from scratch, after trying the nonsense detailed in this Microsoft support article. That kept me busy yesterday morning.
Happily, I'm staying in P-town at the headquarters of the rackm0unter, and that guy knows how to do his own tech support like Bon Jovi knows how to hair-spray, so I expect to have a few days off from computering.

Anyway, happy new year's everyone. Stay out of trouble.


On We Go

For a good time combine:
  1. A chilly, rainy town.
  2. Lots of red wine.
  3. Pizzas and other tasty stuff.
  4. Good-lookin' kids.
The last 24 hours have been great. I had lunch with some of the extended family, hooked up yet more electronics for my mom and stepdad, then had dinner and vino and games with an elite cadre of fun kids. This morning my mom and I went for one of our patented long walks and I was again reminded of how lucky I was to grow up in a town full of trees and paths and moss instead of strip malls and parking lots.


I Hates Me Some Flying

Planes: they are illogical. They're huge and made of metal, and they have these engines that are very small compared to the mass of the thing they're supposed to lift. Whenever I do the mental math, I come up with a twisted pile of burning wreckage to-be and an image of me plummeting to earth screaming "I told you sooooooooooooo!!!"

Anyway, despite my skepticism, my flight went off like clockwork yesterday. I want to give a shout out to my homies* at Horizon Air** for sucking so very much less than, say, United. Because man, United sucks. And Horizon provides complimentary microbrew and wine; this is an in-flight service that I appreciate.

So, I'm now back at the homestead in Eugene. My mom got me a rad argyle sweater for Xmas and my brother got me a rad Amazon gift card and a rad funny mug with a D+D parody on it. It's snowing and cold here and, naturally, we're planning on going out for a walk in a bit. I've already attended to my son duties and hooked up the wireless router to my mom's/stepdad's new cable modem, so I feel like I'm pulling my weight so far.

* "A shout out to my homies" is the most early-90s hip-hop phrase I could come up with.
** Alaska owns and operates Horizon. I'm not sure why they bother to maintain the separate name, considering they don't even have a distinct website for Horizon. But, uh, who the hell cares, now that I think of it.


Holiday Reasons

I like Xmas and the related hoo-ha. I like it because it means I have a week off with my family and/or B's family, and I like hanging around with both. I like breakfast drinks followed by lazy day-long couch-sittings followed by evening drinks. I like the present exchange for the sake of the whole ritual of it and the wee surprises that no one anticipates that are nice to get. I think all of the (logically valid) reasons people don't like Xmas (i.e. the rampant commercialism, family tension, built-up expectations) don't phase me because they don't apply to me. I'm an atheist, so the "true meaning" of Xmas doesn't matter to me, I'm lucky enough to have families I get along with, and my expectations involve drinking and eating, which are achievable.

So: happy Xmas, everyone. Drink up.


So Much For Capitalism / Let's Talk About the Weather

One of the books on my QE list is The Golden Age of Capitalism, a kind of economic history retrospective of Europe's trente glorieuses from 1945-1975. Along the same lines, Eric Hobsbawm's Age of Extremes, a history of the European twentieth century, starts with a discussion of the unprecedented changes that happened in the same period, which he sees as being ultimately more consequential than the world wars. The point in both cases is that about 1970 was the best time to be an average schmuck in a first-world Atlantic nation. And it's gone downhill for average schumucks ever since (on the other hand, it's a totally kickass time to be a CEO or a Chinese industrial magnate.) My generation is the first in America in the twentieth century that will not do as well as its parents did.

What horrifies me the most is that, as this this smart guy often points out, the American economy has been running on credit for the last twenty-something years. As long as housing prices kept going up, people could sort of sustain borrowing against their houses and not go under. Between that and the nigh-universal phenomenon of credit card debt, Americans were able to sustain lifestyles they couldn't actually "afford" in the traditional sense. And now, with the collapse of the sleazy, despicable sub-prime mortgage practices, the whole house of cards is teetering.

There's no right answer for this shit (except that it started with Reagan.) And the more I read, the more I'm reminded of some good advice I got from this one girl recently, that to a certain extent all you can do is take care of yourself and try to keep your head above water.*

Then there's the weather. I'm not going to harp on about the rain again, just note something I noticed recently. Part of America's European cultural inheritance is its love of sunlight and heat. "Our" ancestors (apologies to non-European descendants) starved and froze when the winters were too long. Sunlight meant the crops would grow, while too much rain meant that they'd rot in the fields. Likewise, until the massive demographic shift after WWII from the rust belt to the sun belt (think: family from Detroit moves to Phoenix), most Americans lived in areas of the country that more-or-less corresponded to northern European climatic conditions.

I guess part of my sourness every time I hear people talking about how it's a "nice" day when it's day 200 of a drought or it's 80 degrees in October is that the conditions that our cultural perception of weather were based on are gone. In other words: I am objectively right to love rain and cold, because it's both necessary for life and endangered. (Insert tongue-sticking out emoticon.)

To sum up: lucky us, we get to live through the decline of American prosperity and the acceleration of climate change. And as usual, I'm pretty sure Dick Cheney is behind it all.

* A position made more difficult when you're ostensibly a socially-engaged would-be academic, not that being one makes much of a difference.


Bunnies at Xmas

B discovered the SC Rabbit Haven shortly after we moved here. They take care of abused/abandoned bunnies and get them adopted. Despite the ongoing financial predicaments of a grad student/part-time state university employee household in one of the most expensive towns in the US, we donated 30 bucks to them as our official holiday charity. The bunny picture is of one of their new ones who was abused so badly her teeth were knocked out. She looks almost exactly like Pesto. People who hurt animals make me wish I was wrong about hell not existing.

Our pro-bunny agenda has to do with the following:
  • Litter-box trained!
  • Never get sick!
  • Cost next to nothing to own!
  • So fuzzy you can barely handle it!
  • They like to watch movies on the couch!
  • Bunny sprints around the apartment are friggin' adorable!
In non-bunny news, I went out yesterday after a fun-filled lunch with the M clan, featuring a girl her mom calls "Doodle", and bought a bunch of booze. Last night I made my first few lemon drops, which were quite successful. * For Saturday morning, we're having bellinis, but with mango instead of peach: chilled Prosecco and mango juice, much tastier than a mimosa.

These supplies will be essential once B's brother A arrives tomorrow evening. In the meantime, I have two more books to try to get through, and in doing so I must try to resist the siren call of a certain addictive video game.

* Naturally, I would never drink a drink so girly as a lemon drop. I just had to have one as an experiment. In the name of science.



It finally rained something substantial. This is the second real rain since last year.

It's neat looking out off of our little porch/veranda thing over the rooftops. You can just barely see the hills off in the distance.

Phrase of the day, said outloud to myself a little while ago: "let's get some motherfucking pasta going up in this bitch." I guess I could argue I was saying that to Pesto, but who would I fool?

I have a sty in my eye. It's creepy that those things are caused by staph. Staph is one of those bacteria that might suddenly get together and form a super-bacteria 200 feet high that would go on to crush San Jose. No big loss, right, but what if it goes on to crush cool cities?! Anyway, apparently there's nothing for it but doing a "hot compress," which isn't as exciting as it sounds, and I'm bad about remembering to do it anyway.

I've been reading. Honestly, I have. But I've also been doing a fair bit of not-reading. I figure if I get through about a book a day, I'm doing a relatively good job staying on top of things.

B's brother A shows up on Friday evening, and we get a whole day hanging out with him Saturday before driving up to Novato for Xmas. If I know those two, we're going to be eating some seriously delicious food and drinking some seriously strong drinks, stat!


Yuletide Desire to Lie on the Floor

Before I spend more time complaining to the internet, I must alert you to this extraordinary list of terrible band names compiled by the Onion AV Club. There were a good half-dozen band names that made me laugh out loud, really hard. Foremost among them was "Count Dracula's Weed Smuggling Jam Engine." That is the best name ever ("Those Fucking Unicorns" is probably a close second.)

On to complaining. I just don't wanna:
  • Read any more books.
  • Study Italian grammar for my second language exam.
  • Read any more books.
  • Worry about the UC Paris program and its nonexistent grad TA application, worry about my QEs, worry about my shaky dissertation topic idea(s).
  • Read anything not written in crayon on a piece of construction paper by a five year-old. Let alone more books.
On the plus side, TJ's is still selling delicious Full Sail seasonal ale (Wassail - it's highly recommended by such booze experts as me). And B is in the other room making adorable bunnies, which is cute.

It's just...I've hit that point at which it's physically painful to pick up a book. Even if it's a relatively straightforward 200-300 pager with a discernible argument that I could skim and take notes on in an hour or two, it kills me to do it. I basically want to sit on the couch and play Yoshi's Island and pet Pesto. Is that so wrong?!

On an unrelated note, I was talking with K last night about the whole Picasa vs. Flickr thing that's happened recently (i.e. having to choose one), and I discovered that Google has already created a picasa album for me containing every picture I've ever posted to my blog. I especially like the inclusion of the ripped abs shot right in the middle.

(P.S. I'm sticking with flickr; I like the interface more. But I also like the existence of a bunch of weird pictures in juxtaposition that exist because Google says they do.)


So Much For That

In a welcome anti-climax, the case for which I was to be screened as a potential juror was dismissed before my group (5029, AKA, "your sexier potential jurors") even showed up. California law states that a juror can only be summoned for a specific case, so we all got to leave after dropping off our affidavits.

The absence of jury duty has allowed me to finish up grading finals this morning. I'll process the grades shortly and send them off to my prof. Then I should probably take a shower since it's, well, 1:00pm.

Speaking of a certain professor, one of our students collected his various funny quotes from this term and wrote them up in a document. Here are a few of my favorites:

On the first day of class:
Prof: “It is a history class”
Girl Outside: “OH MY GOD!!!!”
Prof: “Yes! It IS a history class.”

On Machiavelli’s Italy:
“Politics was cut throat. Italy was a place where people used knives and… cut… other people’s… throats.”

On the tarantella:
“I apologize, if I had my music and tambourine today, I would dance it for you and you would be amazed a what an erotic dance it was.”

On a fly:
Prof: “Damn that bug! Are other people being bothered by that creature?”
Student: “I think he just likes you.”
Prof: “Well. That’s entirely understandable.”

On some people talking outside:
“I thought I was going to have to go out there and knock some heads together. Which is my first impulse when people cross me.”

On George Bataille:
“It’s difficult to keep having orgiastic experiences. They become boring after a while. At least take my word for it. Don’t try it.”

Getting distracted:
Prof: “What a wonderful cupcake! Where were we?”
KFR: “Fabric of lies.”
Prof: “What?"
KFR: "We were on Nietzsche's fabric of lies."


Deux Choses...

First, The Golden Compass is good. Yes, it's frantically-paced, yes, they had to cram a lot of exposition into a short space, and yes, the ending is kind of abrupt and cuts off before the climactic moment that the actual novel ends at. That said, it's visually successful, the girl who plays Lyra is good, and they managed to translate all of the important plot elements from the book. I was especially glad to see the atheistic message survive despite the howling and protests of church groups.

Second, a personal/professional note: I'm now planning on taking my qualifying exams in May. Since I was originally going to take them in September, this is a pretty ambitious undertaking and I'm kind of woozy with terror. For the non-academics in the audience, once you take your qualifying exams (or comprehensive exams, or defense, or you literally jump through a big hoop, depending on the university), you're "all but dissertation." You can teach classes and, in some cases, you can get even get hired full-time so long as you finish your dissertation in a reasonable amount of time. Your turnaround from QE to PHD just depends on how fast you can do your research and write your dissertation. Since my abiding superpower is neither insight, nor language skills, nor thoroughness, but speed, I'm hoping to be done with this whole damn thing within two years.

Like Louis XIV liked to say, we'll see....


Trees and Compasses

We're back from the in-laws' place in record time this morning. The trick is leaving before 9:00am on a Sunday, which appears to be the only time that the highway system of the greater SF-bay area isn't choked with traffic. We were up for a lightning weekend raid for purposes of procuring a Xmas tree, carting it home in B's dad's truck, and decorating it. A chemistry lesson learned: Xmas decorating as an activity is a lot more fun if you do it while drinking coffee with Bailey's.

We're going to a late afternoon matinée of The Golden Compass with L and K today. Film critics have mostly been panning it, but film critics are a slimy breed who should be put in the stocks and pilloried, so I'm not worried about it. I'll have my infinitely better-written and better-informed review than those available elsewhere ready tomorrow.

I have jury duty this week. I called in Friday night and was relieved to get word that I don't need to report on Monday. However, I still have to call in Monday evening for the possibility of being called in Tuesday. This is me hoping that the SC justice system decides to take a few weeks off for the holidays.


Accoutrements In General

Related to my last post, about hats, I would like to note a few things about accoutrements. When it comes down to it, everything beyond a very basic pants/shirt combination is affectation. Before-mentioned fine line between stylin' and ridiculous is always located in the murky regions of identity and status, and the trick seems to be pushing the envelope of what you can get away with without stumbling off the precipice of looking like a complete jackass. To that end, I think I can pull off:

  • The messenger bag.
  • (Obviously) the hat.
  • The scruffy semi-George Michael facial hair.
  • The suit jacket.
  • The sweater vest.
  • Reading books in French on the bus.

However! There is no way on earth I can pull of the following....yet:

  • Fake fashion glasses.
  • A pipe.
  • Patches on the elbows of the suit jacket.
  • A cane.
  • A monocle (which would interfere with the fake fashion glasses anyway.)
  • A pet white tiger on a golden chain.
  • A solid gold rocket car.
  • An iPhone.
  • A theme song (which would probably be "back in black" by AC/DC.)

The two things off of the above list I wish I could do are the fashion glasses and the pipe. But I just can't take myself that seriously.

How about you guys? What, if anything, do you wish you were cool enough to do/wear/carry around with you?



B got a new hat yesterday while we were out touring downtown SC. I am excited. I think it's a crushing shame that hats are at an all-time low on the scale of clothing necessities, unlike in earlier centuries when they were requirements. As late as the 1960s in certain places in Europe, hats were semi-official banners for (social) class membership: the kind of hats I wear demarkated working class Brits from the middle class. I'm not sure I'm in favor of a revival of class-bannerism, but I'm definitely all for a general hat renaissance. And not just because I have to wear the bloody things to keep from burning my scalp.

Anyway, B looks adorable in her new hat.

It's week 10 of the term. I have essays coming in to grade today, then next week I have jury duty during finals week. I really hope the good people at the court find me deeply unappealing; if I get called, I'll have to coordinate with my prof to pick up the finals and grade them, perhaps during opening arguments, and what I'd really like to do is hide out and read books for a week instead. B was called up maybe a month ago and managed to convince them that she was too sympathetic, so the prosecutor dismissed her. Maybe I can show up "accidentally" having forgotten to wear pants.

To return to the question of hats: as I get older, it becomes trickier to navigate clothes. The problem is that any attempt to stave off appearing old and boring runs the risk of looking outright ridiculous as you pass the 28 mark - I'm thinking of 40-somethings dressing like college students. My strategy thus far has been the adoption of the "dapper old man" look, which I started working on at about 24. My hope is that by the time I'm a genuine dapper old man, the transition will have occurred fairly seamlessly. And, predictably, my silver bullet in this regard is the proper combination of hats and sweaters.

In conclusion: it's a fine line between stylin' and ridiculous-looking. And I choose to walk that line.


A and J Got Married!

Yesterday our homies A and J got married in a chapel in a strip mall in San Jose. The chapel was hilarious. We went out to a top-notch Italian joint for dinner afterward and ate delicious food, then rolled back to A+J's and hung out for a bit before heading back over the 17. The whole thing was great; it's wonderful to be there to celebrate the nuptials of such brilliant and beautiful people and I was honored to be included.

Today their whole familial gang is coming over the hill to check out Santa Cruz for a bit. The lovely and talented E is here for the celebrations and she and us and them are all heading out in a bit.

Anyway, a longer post later today or tomorrow. I put some pictures on flickr in the meantime.


J.P. Friday

(Click on it for the full version, and happy Friday.)

(P.S. There is a special place in hell reserved for people who write in library books.)


This Is What Happens When You Grow a Hitler 'stache

Ok, so, you're brilliant. You have a tremendous command of ancient Greek and Latin and, like Nietzsche, you assume a major university post at a young age. Your courses on Greece are so popular you have to hold them early in the morning just to get numbers down to a manageable level. Your students (Husserl, Levinas, Arendt) go on to be major philosophers in their own right, and you already cast a long shadow over the philosophy departments of continental Europe by the time you're forty. You argue that the analytic tradition of the ancient philosophers screwed up the entire course of western civilization, and that an appropriate stance is instead a messianic waiting before the becoming of Being. Fine.

Then, when the Nazis take over, you rejoice. You're appointed chancellor of Freiburg University and you give a speech praising the Reich as the fulfillment of the possibility of a rebirth of the West. You, my friend, grow a full-on Hitler moustache. Despite your later claim that you quickly tired of National Socialism, it haunts you for the rest of your life, and your erstwhile admirers are forced to reconcile your philosophy with your politics. A lot of people end up getting tenure writing about that issue, so it's not all bad.

Yet there are some of us who see the pivotal factor not in the implicit fascistic tendencies in your Sein und Zeit, but in that fateful choice of facial hair configuration. You can make a lot of arguments about a massive, nigh-impenetrable philosophical treatise, but there can be only conclusion about a dude who grows a Hitler 'stache.

P.S. "Schmutzig schnurrbart" is German for "dirty moustache."
P.P.S. My homie El has a new fun kiddo blog for her wee funny one, N.
P.P.P.S. Next time: my own special brand of cranky.


This Is What Happens When You Do Speed

You know the drill: you do a mess of amphetamines, you stay up for a few months, and you write the Critique of Dialectical Reason. Sure, you feel bad about it afterwards and claim that you'll come back and finish Volume II, but you never do, do you? You just let the cryptic, labyrinthine language stand, hiding the kernels of genuine insight behind hundreds and hundreds of pages of opaque, impossible prose. The next thing you know, all it takes is one short chapter at the end of Lévy-Strauss's The Savage Mind to take your work apart, and structuralism - and social science as a whole - has scored a crucial victory over existentialism, and with it, nothing less than philosophy itself. Don't you wish you'd stayed clear of the speed, especially at YOUR age?

For next time: This is what happens when you're a towering German classicist in the Weimar Republic.


Stuffing: It's What's For Food

SO. We drove up to B's parents' place on Thanksgiving morning, which was so rad I just about fell out of the car. There was simply NO traffic, you see. I drank a lot of coffee and watched the National Dog Show w/ B's mom, which was awesome, because a poodle didn't win this time (an Australian something-dog did.) Then there was hanging out and fun-having and drink-drinking, and then there was dinner, featuring homemade stuffing courtesy of B's dad. Then I drank too much wine and had trouble following the plot of Ocean's 13 (I'm pretty sure they stole some stuff again.)

Yesterday we headed out to Point Reyes and had a beach picnic, featuring sausage. I put up some pictures on my flickr site. Then we went back and had more turkey n' stuffing for dinner. I also had less to drink, allowing me to more easily follow the plots of Pirates 2 and (part of) National Lampoon's Xmas Vacation (hint to the plot: Chevy Chase falls off of things...FREQUENTLY.)

The drive home totally sucked, but we made it. And I still have one more day of weekend/vacation in which I can get work done, for my PH to the D.

Or maybe I'll just drink seasonal ale and lie on the floor until Monday morning.


At The Risk of Repeating Myself

Here are the reasons that Thanksgiving is the best holiday.*
  1. You do not need to buy anything for anyone.
  2. You do not need to set off explosives.
  3. You do not need to dress up.
  4. There are no parties at which people are likely to shout "wooooo!"**
  5. You do get to eat huge piles of dark meat and stuffing.
  6. You do get to drink a couple of bottles of red wine.
  7. There is the national dog show, hosted by that weird silver-haired guy who lost that celebrity dancing show a few years ago. And the show is RAD.
  8. You get to sleep, and in fact, you are drugged to do so.
  9. School's out! Albeit only for a long weekend!
  10. Work's out! Albeit only for 15 minutes, then it's BACK TO THE CUBE, YOU!
We're taking off for Novato tomorrow morning and we should be parked on the couch sipping on tasty beverages by noon. Happy turkey day, internet!

* Another interpretation would be why thanksgiving is merely "my favorite" holiday. I guess.
** I'm not down on parties or party-related holidays (New Year's, Paddy's Day) per se. It's just...when your chances of hooking up with a hottie actually go down when you stay out late, the attraction to parties kind of drops off.


I Am Lecture! Also: I Am Wimpling!

Part uno:

1. I am lecture! Which is to say: I gave my first full-length lecture today for my TA class. You don't win a prize for guessing that it was on the existentialists. It went fine, although there were a few times in which I had to take moments (during which I thought: "hmm. What is this 'intellectual history' you speak of?), and also, other moments in which I noticed the kids starting to space out (during which I thought: "hmm. What I must do is JOKE in a FUNNY WAY!") I was pleased to be able to use the phrase "sexual hijinks" in a legitimate upper-division history lecture at a major research university.

Part zwei:

2. B has this theory that the reason I'm such a light sleeper and all-around noise-aware neurotic at night is that I was raised in a quiet environment. This may be true. The room I spent a lot of my childhood in was downstairs, kind of half-buried in the side of a hill in a fairly quiet neighborhood in Eugene. On a grander scale, this phenomenon might reflect on my all-around high levels of paranoia and anxiety, insofar as my basically stable and happy childhood left me ill-prepared for threatening weirdos outside of 7-11s, driving in California, getting punched in the eye (happily, it's been a while on that), and so on. In other words, as a happy, non-abused kid, I was surprised to discover just how ugly and awful most of the world is, and I'm still not quite over it.

[Part deux brought to you by my trip to 7-11 last night and the drive B and I just survived going to Bed, Bath, and Butt-related Devices for a new Brita filter.]

[SC friends: do you think the professor blog-reading mafia would disapprove of the phrase "butt-related devices"?]

In other news, I'm pretty sure that the highlight of my year is going to be the two days I spend sitting around at my in-laws' with no responsibilities except for washing the dishes after Turkey Day dinner. I'm finding it harder and harder to squeeze any productivity out of an average day and I really need the recharge.


The 80s: Bad Canadian Music

B's back up at another craft fair and I'm left to my own devices once again. Normally, this would mean pasta + video games. Instead, so far it's meant pasta + Canada. My homie C came over last night and we did what we usually do when we hang out:
  • We drink. Please see the diagram for how normal drunkeness works vs. how it works for C.
  • We talk a lot of shit about the program (but it's constructive shit, I swear.)
  • We watch funny videos on youtube. This time he subjected to me to about two hours of terrible Canadian 80s pop videos. It was brutal. I had no idea how awful a lot of Canadian bands were in the 80s. As he explained it: "well, the good stuff made it down here, but the bad stuff just stayed in Canada."
Anyway, thanks to my bulletproof liver, I feel pretty ok today. And, while I have not yet taken a shower (it's about 1:00pm), I have written a bunch on my MA thesis and the lecture I'm giving on Monday.

Tonight: a wine "tasting" at K and L's. That is, assuming the big protest the stupid aimless hippies were planning for today didn't end up burning down campus.


Never-Ending Math Equation

"I'm the same as I was when I was 6 years old..."

I relate to that song. Despite my deepending awarness of getting older, or maybe because of it, I can't believe how little I've changed. I remember things I did and said at various points in my life and I'm completely certain that I'd do them all the same way now if I didn't know better. There was one nasty twist around the start of adolescence, 11-14 or so, where I picked up the cynicism and the pessimism, but besides that it's been exactly the same bunch of naiveté the whole time.

What I find confusing is that it seems like other people actually, you know, mature. They make better decisions and find ways to make their peace wth life (sorry, sounds pretentious), or at least put on a better show than I do. Maybe it's just that the memories I have of how I felt at various times coincide exactly with how I continue to feel in similar situations. The anger and powerlessness of insomnia, the utter, dizzying terror at doing everything I have to do to finish my degree, the silly elation of an afternoon in which I get to sit around play video games, they're all exactly the same as their equivalents when I was 6 / 12 / 18/ 24 years old... It also has a lot to do with how much I miss people. I can remember too clearly the variations on camraderie and affection with different friends and groups of friends in the past, and likewise, I can feel their absence.

Ironically, I'm not feeling particularly emo today, just kind of pensive. That and I wish I didn't have to take the bus after class today. Maybe I'll just roll down the hill into town.


Subaltern's Log, Stardate 11-12-07

Dear Internet,

Today was pretty great. Last night B and I drank a whole mess of vino and watched The Next Iron Chef, and guess what? Our bald baby boy Mikey "Soul Patch" Symon brought in the win against that cocky good old boy bitch John Besh! Way to go, Mike! After that, we both took a mess of narcotics and got some good sleeping in. Don't worry, internet, they weren't real narcotics, just melatonin and sleep meds. (We can't afford the good stuff.)

Anyway, today started with a big pot of black-ass coffee. I got to sleep in until 8am b/c it's a federal holiday, and there's nothing better than getting an extra hour of sleep followed by four or five big cups of paint-peelin'-of-the-walls-style Java. I read all of my T.A. stuff (Orwell's essays this week. It's hard not to like that skinny democratic socialist...), the rest of the book on structuralism and poststructuralism for Gopal, wrote a couple pages of MA Thesis, and wrote up my reaction for the structuralism book. I noticed that my prose gets more pretentious the more I read stuff for that guy. Coincidence?!

After the schooling, B and I set out for downtown SC. I scored two pearl-snap button shirts at Goodwill for 13 bucks, then picked up an Italian grammar workbook to help me pass my second language exam.* Then B and I went to 99 Bottles and rocked the 25-dollar gift certificate J had hooked me up with as a going-away present after working at UCO this summer. We ate some calamari steak (side note: do I violate or celebrate my love of giant squid by eating their smaller cousins?) and drank a pitcher of Red Tail Ale.

Now we're home. B's working on more craftiness. We can't decide what to have for dinner. I need to come up with my QE gold star chart (which is just what it sounds like) and write to my grandma.

As ever,

* I had a dream the other night of the prof who will be giving me the Italian exam. In the dream, she administered a French exam instead, which I failed, proving that I am a freaking idiot. But what are you gonna do?


Leave It To Deutschland

From the same people that brought you schadenfreude: liebestod! Love-death! The desire to annihilate consciousness in the sweet blackness of eternal nonexistence! (Can you tell I'm still trying to write a MA paper, teach, do two reading seminars, and read for my QEs all at the same time?!)

Another idea:
  • Existentialism was the thesis, a naive humanism that inspired political action.
  • Structuralism was the antithesis, a complex but ultimately stultifying philosophy of inaction.
  • Poststructuralism was the synthesis, but its implications for actual praxis are totally unclear.

Or maybe I'll just do that intellectual biography of Andre Gorz idea.

I'm going to throw a book at the wall and play video games for a while.


This is the best song in the world:


Should Have Been: Artiste

You can tell when you're not going to be able to sleep at about midnight. It just kind of occurs to you that you're not asleep yet and you won't be for hours to come. I've got some sweet new earplugs that work well for making the thumping neighbors less a factor. It wouldn't have made any difference last night anyway.

Fortunately for me, my eyes on the east coast A is very close to a fellow I once knew in Jersey who posts things here and who is now MFA at Berkeley. And how he dances. And how he dances, my friends:

In a best-case scenario, that's what it sounds like inside my head this morning. In a worse-than-that case, it's more like black metal, the really swedish kind wherein they actually burn down churches.


Getting Older by the Shoulder

We've had two days of beautiful cold fog in SC, completely blanketing the town from the hill out over the bay. Some of my favorite moments living here have happened while I'm on the bus, looking out over miles of fog with the odd building or bluff poking out. Granted, it still hasn't rained to speak of, but I'll take this over the stupid (Shakespeare called it "garish") sun any day.

I was trying to figure out this morning what it's really like as you get older. For one thing, you find almost everything outside of a prescribed set of routines really tedious. For another, you always feel tired. It's not just the routine exhaustion of sleep-deprivation and overexertion, however, which is something that plenty of us were familiar with when we were younger. It's a kind of petrification, a feeling that your body is made out of stiff, listless matter whose default state is STASIS. Psychologically, you have the benefit of a kind of caution that most young people (young me included) are too stupid to have figured out, and you come to appreciate close friends at a much deeper level, while having comparatively less enthusiasm for meeting new people. You become, in short, a crotchety pain in the ass.


Another Big Day in Paradise

My homie K demonstrates the finer points of being a Europeanist history grad.

The way I'm certain the year is well under way is that if I work hard 7 days a week, I just about get everything done on time. This week's experiment was to see if I could read three books for my QEs on top of teaching obligations and both seminars/readings I'm doing. If I read one more by tomorrow, I'll have succeeded in doing two. Which is OK, I suppose, for the first week's effort.

Today B's parents are visiting. We're going back to Natural Bridges to look at the butterflies, although I think we all know that since it's about 70 degrees at 10:30am in NOVEMBER, said winged little beasties will probably be happily flying around rather than clinging to tree branches like they're "supposed" to. It'll still be fun to get our picnic on.

After that, B's leaving me for some crafting up north w/ her moms. My plans? The usual: pasta, video games, probably drinking wine with Canadians and Jews (a few of my favorite kinds of people...) My faux-bachelor groove is to be disrupted a bit this weekend since I still have to get a buttload of work done, but oh well.

Hmm. The spell check doesn't think "buttload" is a word. Well, it's wrong.

Oh, also, B discovered an adorable blog of a dad with a kid. And this kid was a robot for the 'ween this year. And she sings a friggin' KRAFTWERK song in this video of her! Holy crap!


For The 'Ween, We Hide.

Halloween: Not a big fan, me. In SC it's even easier to be a non-big fan, what with the annual tradition of stabbings three blocks from my apartment. HOWEVER! That certainly won't stop B and I from eating a sumptuous chili feast, carving some serious pumpkins in a serious manner, and watching America's Next Top Model.

Happy day everyone. Wake me when it's Thanksgiving.


The 80s, Stuff Happenings, and so on, Etc.

Ok, so:

First, it's not just that I like a lot of music from the 80s (because I do: Don't you want me baby? Don't you want me....oh?!), it's that lately I've really appreciated what an incredibly original decade it was for pop music and pop cinema. The styles were totally distinct and iconic. Music has never REALLY gotten past the innovations that were introduced in the 80s; synth-pop, hip hop, punk, hair metal, all of it created the templates that everyone's been aping every since.* Granted, most of it was like eating a cake made out of poop (a "poop-cake," if you will), but the stuff that was good was often strikingly, memorably good. I bring this up after listening to a few contemporary bands that are SO warmed-over 80s (like, uh, these guys), but I think the point stands pretty much across the board.

Secondish, one of my students got the stuffing kicked out of him by a gang outside of the Safeway on Mission last week. Besides feeling awful for him in general, it heightens my already-extant paranoia about this town. B and I had a talk the other night about how we're feeling about SC, about reconciling homesickness (for Oregon) with loving our friends here (because they're smart and ravishingly attractive), but then also having to deal with the logistical problems of central coast living: it is sometimes sketchy and it is always expensive. I hate thinking that it's one of those places you have to go from locked car to locked apartment, and I guess I like the fact that such a huge percentage of the population is affiliated with the university, since it kind of wimps-up the general populace (no UC to the SC student can beat you, or even me, up...believe me.) It's still a bummer.

Thirdly, uh.......well, I am excited about Thanksgiving. My excitement was heightened by the insane, sumptuous feast prepared by K last night. That girl is not only one of the best minds of my generation, she can also cook the HELL out of a chicken-stuffing-veggies-fresh bread-type meal. Now I'm extra fired-up about the rapidly-approaching turkey day.

Side note: Regarding this season of Heroes, I, for one, SALUTE the awkward gay-couple stylings of Matt and Suresh. However, I am deeply troubled and irritated by the fact that no one has hit Sylar over the head with a wrench or shovel until such time as he dies a lot.

* Indie rock provides a possible counterpoint here...The Pixies were the first important 'indie' band, right? And when did they really get going?


Coffee, Tap Water, Alcohol

That's the usual routine 'round these parts. Today is no exception. Last night the lovely and talented E visited after spending her week being corporate in Silicon Valley. We ate some burgers at our favorite fancy burger joint / bar, came home, and watched funny music videos while drinking vino. This morning we had time to eat French toast and go look at the butterflies at Natural Bridges before she had to head to SFO.

After that, an elite cadre of Europeanist grad students got together to strategize about being less-screwed all the time at the local hipster coffee joint. It was probably the greatest concentration of mental acuity this 2-bit town has ever SEEN. Our conclusions? Someone needs to tell us how to get grants. Also, they need to teach classes about European history every couple of years.

Now I'm home, eating pasta, drinking tap water. At some point there's going to be a serious bathroom-cleaning throwdown and I'm going to hook up our VCR so that we can tape shows (yes...we tape shows. On tapes. Still.)

Then I shall read Kafka so I can talk about it with the kids next week (between ourselves, I'd really, really like to get back to teaching theory...I'm all literatured-out.)

I put up some pictures at flickr.

And that's all I gots to say at the moment...


State of the KFR Address

Or, at least, a brief assessment:
  1. It turns out that the actual, on-the-books QE requirements at UC to the SC aren't that draconian. Write a 20-page essay, write a vague dissertation proposal, write a couple of syllabi. Fair enough. I'm meeting with my adviser tomorrow to hash it out; I've got a proposed draft of my reading list ready to show him.
  2. It's been 90 degrees for the last few days. 90. It's almost November. Can you believe that the official Republican policy as late as a few years ago was that global warming was a liberal myth? Can you believe that there are still some fucktard hold-outs still claiming that?
  3. On a related note, I feel really, really bad about the fires in Socal. They affected friends in very bad ways. Also, this morning I asked my students and 50% said they had family there who either had evacuated or were going to evacuate.
  4. Still pondering another "week of thing!" photo essay. My man Matto suggested a different tattoo every day. There were also calls for a hat week. Sadly, I have only three hats, making hat week nigh-implausible. Ideas are welcome.
  5. Buying tonic for G+Ts at 7-11 makes me think about Russian nihilism. As if there were any other kind!
  6. I have an iPod, which is connected to big Princess-Leia-earmuff style headphones (no so-called "earbuds"...they creep me out) I was reminded of why yesterday, when I took the bus without them and had to listen to two room-temp IQ mouth-breathers complaining about how they didn't want any more "crazy bitches" in their lives. I restrained myself from reminding them that they were, in fact, the crazy bitches.
  7. No surprises: I still feel great about black coffee and red wine. Oh, and tonight Top Model is on. Let's hope that blond chick who looks like a skinny mule gets kicked off.
Thanks for tuning in. If you have week-of-thing! ideas, drop me a comment.


Shameless Wife Promotion

If you have 2.5 minutes to spare, please do the following:
  1. Go to the Etsy Plush Team page.
  2. Glance over the first post, the Plush Vote one.
  3. Go enter a comment in which you vote for the Soft Sculpture Wool Spider.
  4. 'cuz that's the one this one girl I know made.
Thank you.

Also, here are two delightful quotes I've come across in the last few days:

From a Veramyst commercial: "The way Veramyst works is not entirely understood." (yeah...THAT inspires confidence!)

From the condom machine in the bathroom at the Poet + Patriot Irish pub: "Electrify her with studded rubber nubs."

That, my friends, is freaking POETRY.


And Then There Was Strategy

It was a rough week. After I figured out that I had to populate my QE reading list on my own, I was struck by an acute malaise. Sleep deprivation and weltschmerz came together. Constant crankiness ensued.

But I did some thinking, then last night B and I had a productive chat about the situation. Here's what it comes down to, I think: it takes a tremendous, tremendous foundation of self-confidence to pull this PHD thing off. You have to believe in your own ability to do a huge amount of work without the slightest bit of encouragement or guidance. You're nominally a member of an academic community, but you're reminded every day that what you really are is an intellectual proletarian, grading the papers the profs don't want to bother with and hanging around at the edges of your field. You have to be both brave enough to submit work that might get torn to shreds (again, after having no one to warn you about its problems) and smart enough to pull it off.

Until last night, I don't think I really had the self-confidence to do it. Now, I still don't have the self-confidence to do it, but I'm fully cognizant that I have to anyway. And in that, there's a kind of relief.

So here's the plan:

  1. Use my newly-discoverd copy of Les écrits de Simone de Beauvoir to fill in the gaps on my highly-predictable MA thesis. Write said fucker over the next couple of months.
  2. Use the extensive bibliography of Tony Judt's Postwar to generate a QE reading list. Read books on said fucker over the next nine months.
  3. Identify intellectual leftist to write a dissertation about. Maybe André Gorz....
  4. Write stuff up for QEs. Take said fuckers.

That's as far as I've gotten. Somewhere in there I need to apply to the UC Paris program to be a TA and figure out other grants to apply for. Also, I must remember not to lose my mind. That is all.


8am Discussion Sections: A Bad Idea

This here's a picture of what I look like after leading an 8am discussion section. I found that the perfect musical accompaniment to a 7am stumble to the bus station after drinking beer the night before is White Zombie's soulful classic "More Human Than Human."

This here's a picture of my brother and I from this summer. I like it a lot.

Major big ups to E for both pictures. She is not to be held accountable for the creepy eyes in the first one, however.


You Don't Get Nothin', Kid

I'm glad everyone seemed to enjoy sweater week. If I can think of another themed-week theme, I wil produce another themed week.

I had an enlightening meeting with two of the older, wiser Europeanist grad students here the other day. They're both ABD*, trying to scrape together grant money to go to archives in Europe, being teaching assistants in the meantime to make ends meet. They both took their QEs** last year and now they're cast adrift to find their way with neither guidance nor requirements from any class, institution, or professor here. What I got out of the meeting is this: no one is going to give me anything here - not a reading list for my exams, not mentoring, not hints on how to secure grants. These two guys, smart, capable, mature, have no better idea than I do how to get finished with all of this nonsense, and because of that, I finally figured out that I'm going to have to do this all on my own.

To that end, I'm starting today on determining what needs to be on my reading lists and getting the books together. I already know who's going to be on my committee, so I should be able to take care of the exams this summer.

I'm not really bitter about any of this. I just feel kind of resigned. The advantage overall is that I doubt I'll be the least bit stressed out at any point preparing - I know I'll pass, I know I'll get it all done. And if I come out of it with inadequate knowledge about something important, well, I'll be able to throw up the best bullshit smokescreen anyone's ever seen.

SC kids: Poet + Patriot tonight, don't forget!

* ABD: All But Dissertation. An ambiguous state of being in which a graduate student must somehow pay rent and eat food while ostensibly researching and writing his or her dissertation.
** QEs: Qualiyfing Exams. Some programs call them "prelims," others, "comps," but they amount to the same thing: you write up a bunch of crap and then some professors quiz you to see if you know all of the important literature in your field(s). After the QEs, you're ABD.


Sweaters: Day 7

This little number is probably my overall favorite: the 2-dollar cream v-neck from the weird, slightly musty thrift store down by the bus station here in SC. Nothing says "broke outdated preppy" quite like this.

And so ends a thrilling week of sweaters! This means that I have to go back to coming up with actual topics, which I'm not really all that fired-up about. I've discovered that this much sweatering has brought the rain back - it is clear that I must continue to celebrate "the sweater love essence" (thanks, A) if I want it to keep raining. Thus, I will integrate future blog posts with sweater awareness and hopefully it'll keep the precipitation coming.


Sweaters: Day 6

Today's selection is a little on the polo side...the polo side of GOODWILL!!! Mwah ha ha ha!

It's been a big night of soup eating, Civ IV playing, and now, Heroes watching. Oh that Mohinder Suresh...such a soothing presence. Pretty soon we're going to find out that he can shake evil apart with vibrations or something.


Sweaters: Day 5

Argyle nouveau, courtesy of B, courtesy of a Valentine's Day present a couple of years ago. Now featuring a glittery skull that portends your doom!

Side note: I have been really unproductive this weekend. I'm enjoying the Habermas, but that doesn't mean I'm reading it at much of a clip. I'll start feeling like I'm behind and panicking slightly tomorrow, which should get me back on track...


Sweaters: Day 4

The first action shot for sweater week sees me sporting my crimson thrift store V-neck, which I believe I picked up at Valu Village in Springfield, OR some years ago. The above picture was taken only a few hours ago at Bob's Pumpkin Farm just south of Half Moon Bay, CA. I highly recommend it, not least for the extreme stem stylings of the pumpkins found there.

Further documentation on the flickr site.


Sweaters: Day 3

Today's sweater is my first: the emerald green Izod (this was from the era of Izod/Lacoste, not the current Izod = golf stuff, Lacoste = expensive stuff situation) from a weird thrift store on Willamette in Eugene. Its bold designs, suggestive fit, and alluring aroma have made me the toast of the old folks' home ever since.

Side note: today has been amazing. It has rained all day - dumped, even! I went for a 30 minute walk in the rain and thought about Habermas and political economy. Today is my weekly good mood.

P.S. In the above photo, I'm holding a giant (incomplete) fuzzy spider that B is making for the Plush Team's Halloween Contest. Word is, she'll be uploading a bunch of neat stuff to Etsy in a few days.


Sweaters: Day 2

B got this one for me for xmas a few years ago. I wear it whenever I feel like painting the town brown: all the time.


Sweaters: Day 1

This sweet vintage sweater-vest was passed down from B's dad to her brother A, who stopped wearing it at some point and put it in a box, which was subsequently moved to B's dad's airplane hangar, where I found it about 2.5 years ago. Today marks its inaugural voyage on the SC campus, for my third European intellectual history discussion section. It made the discussion of Freud extra-lively.


Et Cetera and So On

...yeah, yeah, narcissism and blogging, gee whiz but everyone I know is witty and articulate, but the point is:

RENT GHOST RIDER (or, you know, netflix it or steal it or something) AND GET LOADED AND WATCH IT. IT IS DUMBER, HARDER-CORE, AND FUNNIER THAN VAN HELSING, even.

It's a recipe for a hilarious 2 hours. Cook it on up, fool.


Let's call it like it is: blogs and flickr and networking sites, the stuff of the already-boring term web 2.0, are pretty self-involved. You talk about yourself, you take pictures of you and your friends, you create exhaustive lists of things you like, you post it online, you sit around waiting to see if anyone comments on it and thereby validates your PG-13 exhibitionism.

Traditionally, the best of the blogosphere and its cousin-technologies are considered to be sites that index information and opinion from elsewhere or generate original content: people like Fosco and his LOLTheorists, Mike and his music criticism and pop theory, and K and her funny crazy online crap exposés. And I am down with these people, believe you me.

For the rest of us, who usually just post bite-sized memoirs and their equivalent, what I find interesting is the relative success or failure ratio. Examples:
  • Kungfukitten posts almost exclusively about her own life and times. Thanks to her effervescent wit and skillful prose, it's almost always brilliant and funny and touching and totally worthwhile.
  • The academia bloggers like the scourge of the bourgeoisie can mix up a frothy batch of personal anecdotes and larger concerns about the state of education and social justice and it totally works.
  • Folks who are about posting funny crap and venting after bad days like Bahleedat are providing a valuable service in the context of my morning blog-reading and coffee-drinking routine. Which is to say, all day, every day.
  • No Therapy is, I'm convinced, the most important writer of consequence currently living in an apartment in NYC, and her best work is on her blog. Check out today's entry.
My point: there's something to be said for the inherent narcissism of blogs. If you're lucky enough to know smart people, even when all they're doing is rambling about themselves, it's usually interesting and funny. The same goes for flickr and its equivalents; I am perfectly happy to look at self-portraits of my friends, so long as they take the time to make funny faces, wear rad clothes, or just look pretty.

So! While this is all obviously a big masturbatory gesture of self-justification, I'd like to think it's also a big masturbatory gesture of OTHER PEOPLE justification! Next up: a thrift-store sweater fashion show.


Sigmeund Freud: Hilarious Man

I read Freud's "Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria" for my TA class earlier this afternoon. It'll be great stuff to talk about with the students - Freud's assumptions and, ahem, neuroses totally overshadow any actual insights he might have had about this poor kid he was "curing." I suppose this is a further example of how I'm becoming a worse and worse historian the longer I'm in this business; I just want to make fun of people (read: Strindberg and Freud) in the past for being conceited, misogynistic fucktards.

That said, check out this beautiful Freud quote:

"The two thoughts then act towards each other much like the two needles of an astatic galvanometer."

I made that into my e-mail signature for school.

In other news, I had a rollicking good time playing 5-dollar buy-in poker w/ a crew of well-dressed kids last night. I totally WON 5 bucks! I mean, 5 more bucks that I originally invested, even! I put up a few pics on the flickr site. In doing so, I hit my 200-picture limit, since I have a free account. Now I'm really, honestly debating what to do. Is it worth it to spend the 25 bucks for a pro account for a year? I kind of doubt it. The thing is, I assume that the only thing that happens on my flickr site is that people who are on my buddy list look at new pictures I put up as I put them up; almost no one goes through and looks at the older ones.

So: those of you that dabble in flickr and/or those of you that just e-stalk people on flickr, what do you think? Is it worth money to have an entire online picture gallery, or am I correct in assuming that the only action my pictures are likely to get is during their first few days/weeks online?


I Won't Actually Kill Them

The problem with the situation with my neighbors (the ones in the apt. below us who run head-first into the walls until 4:30am every couple of nights) is that I can't actually kill them at this point - I've said and posted too much already, and it wouldn't take a Gill Grissom to figure out whodunit.

I bring this up because I had my first 8:00am discussion section this morning, something that ought to be a crime against humanity, God, me, and fuzzy kittens, and my neighbors were in FULL EFFECT last night. The section ended up being amazingly positive, considering. I think it's all about solidarity: I made it clear to the students that we were all in it together and that all we could hope to do was make it suck as little as possible. Also, talking about Nietzsche after getting about 3 hours of sleep is just about right; he makes a lot of sense then. He's the kind of theorist that should be read in trying circumstances.

What else? How about some quotes that come to mind:

  • "If I had brought my tambourine, I could do the tarantella and demonstrate to all of you what an erotic dance it really is!'"- Professor B.T., to the European Intellectual History students.
  • "When Nietzsche said that God Is Dead, was he really sure?" - Anon., student.
  • "Love can't buy you money." - Lemmy, Motorhead.
  • "I'll see YOU at Stacycon 2000!" - Weiland Smithers.

Oh, also, check out this NY Times article on what it's like to be a graduate student. It's pretty right-on. Interestingly, it's really written with the humanities in mind moreso than the sciences, something you almost never see in mainstream media.

Maybe I should read something now.


Pedagogically Yours

I had what was probably the most enjoyable and successful discussion section of my meager academic career today. I more-or-less memorized 25 names, we discussed methods to make sections suck less than they usually do, and we talked about Nietzsche. I left feeling happy and hopeful, not miserable and despairing. Weird.

A conversation ensued with K in the bunker a bit later, which leads me to post about three things to do with teaching:

- I enjoy it more than I enjoy research. A lot. A whole lot. I get to do a lecture on the existentialists, May of '68, and my usual bullshit later this term and writing it has been a relaxing, enjoyable thing, free of all the usual stress on convention and citation that surround academic writing. Likewise, I really, sincerely enjoy talking about history with smart kids. I realize how spoiled I am being here, where more kids are more smarter(-er), but frankly, I still enjoy talking about history even with the dumb ones.

- On a related note, I'm terribly resentful of the fact that the central problem with getting an advanced degree in history, especially in European history, is identifying a topic. Writing, research, references, all of that's important, but what makes or breaks you coming out of the gate is whether or not you really have something substantive and innovative to write on. It's like turning over rocks in a field that's been gone over a million times already, trying to find a new kind of bug, and all you find are pill-bugs and daddy long legs....(ok, this analogy is not so great.) My point is that teaching is its own justification and really, when it comes down to it, HISTORY of all things lends itself to being TAUGHT rather than being RE-WRITTEN again and again.*

- I developed my pedagogical technique and philosophy while at UO, and it was there waiting for me, a year since I've taught anything, when I started up today. Here it is: don't bullshit your students. Don't invent busywork. Don't keep them there for the whole time if you don't have anything to talk about. I swear, it works great.

* Please, fellow academi-dweebs, don't remind me that it's important for new approaches and perspectives to come into play with history-writing. I know that. I'm just expressing my frustration at how the process works for 90+% of us, rehashing the same old crap using a slightly modified tone and theoretical underpinning.

Just don't feel like getting problematized tonight. Man, that sounds dirty....


Like a Day Job, Only Far Weirder

It was a good, good thing to work at a normal job for four months. It reminded me of what the rhythms of the working week are like, particularly the blank space in the day after you get home that represents the sum total of your free time. Also, it reminded me of how fast time goes when you're doing the same thing every single day. Mostly, I'm glad I did it because it makes the return to academia easier: if I just work 9 - 5 like I did all summer I'm OK.

I realized that I've been lying down on the blog-job when it comes to list-making. Here are things I'm liking so far being back:
  • The performative aspect of leading discussion sections. Technically, I haven't had one yet. But I'm sort of perversely stoked to start tomorrow; I suppose I like the captive audience. *cough* ATTENTION WHORE *cough*...
  • Coffee + sweaters + hats + my new bag + the bus = an aesthetic of sorts!
  • I'm sorry, but I like working in the bunker. Sure, it's subterranean and freezing cold and lacking in natural light, but since no one else can stand it, it's kind of like my own personal gigantic underground office!
  • Being nervous all the time keeps me on point.
  • I'm getting a PHD in an ewok village. That, objectively, is neat.
  • Finding out that it's ok to say Habermas was full of it, as long as you can say why. Can you imagine?! Habermas: dead wrong! Amazing!
I'm sure this evening's relatively good mood will vanish soon enough, so I have to kind of hi-five it as it goes past. Up high, bitch!


Blearily, I Write Briefly of Marriage

So B's been away for the weekend, being a crafty kid up north. There are things I like about it when she goes away for a day now and again; basically, I can indulge in the stuff she doesn't like (i.e. pasta, staying up late, the movies that I insist on watching 200+ times in a row.) But when she's gone, particularly for more than a day, I remember the kind of hidden, mostly unsung advantages of cohabitation, the fact that having someone you care a whole lot about close at hand keeps you honest and healthy and happy in a way that I, for one, am not able to pull off alone.

I've been reading Ibsen for the class I'm teaching in this term and it reminds me that there has been real, meaningful progress in the last century or so. It's true that there's absolutely no reason to get married any more beyond a few legal trappings, from a certain perspective. But from another perspective, I like how the people I know of my generation approach marriage. There's a (existential!) sincerity in choosing to get married when no one's making you, when the social pressure is so much less than it used to be and the decision to do it comes only from the people who are actually involved. I tried and failed to explain it to a friend a while ago; either I'm not articulate enough or the whole thing is just hard to pin down. I think my point is that marriage is one factor, out of many, that can contribute to the happiness of the people involved, and it's better able to do so now that it's not a requirement, at least in these happy liberal cities of the left coast.

On an unrelated note, the REAL start of the term is tomorrow (last week was kind of a teaser.) And I'm both dreading it and starting to feel my patented grad-psychosis start up, the mental disorder that keeps me sane and functioning while reading giant piles of monographs and squeezing onto crowded buses every day. We might have to go on strike; I'm not sure if I'm supposed to post about that, so I'll just leave it there. I really hope we don't have to. I have a lot, lot more to do and read this year than I did last year on top of that, but I think that's a good thing. I'm terrible about doing things I don't have to do, so having a year of no teaching was nice but ultimately counter-productive.

Pile on the QE reading list. Give me sections to lead. It keeps me honest.


Writing Lectures for Fun and Profit

I'm in a holding pattern with the start of the new year. My first meeting with a prof is, ostensibly*, this afternoon. Later I have the first lecture in the course I'm teaching in. Then I participate in the true vernacular of love: karaoke (granted, that's an extra-curricular activity.) Right now I'm sitting pretty for someone in the opening months of qualifying exam prep, because I have no book lists, AT ALL, because I have no communication with my committee members, AT ALL. So I'm totally not overworked and stressed out. Nice.

I'm T.A.'ing European intellectual history this term, which is to say, I'm teaching in my field for the first...time...ever. I get to talk about Nietzsche with undergraduates. I also get to do a full-length lecture on the existentialists, Raymond Aron, and May of '68. Lacking other semi-productive things to do yesterday, I started writing it (the lecture) up. I have this to say: not having to establish your own authority and not having to cite anything makes writing fun and easy. I could write lectures all day! I even get to use the terms "existentialism version 1.0" and "existentialism version 2.0" - because it's my damn lecture! Huzzah!

In other news, the CSI season opener really sucked. Its suckage hinged on the issue of plausibility. We the audience know that these scenarios are at variance with reality, that's not a problem. The problem is that for a show to be successful, plots must remain plausible within the context of the show. In this case, one of the main characters was trapped in the desert under a car, escaped, and then wandered off into the desert and almost died. It was deeply frustrating to watch because of all of the logical problems: it had supposedly rained 3+ inches in the desert the night she was trapped, then it was bone dry the next day. She's supposed to be a highly-trained, intelligent operative and yet she breaks every basic rule of being lost + getting found and every rule of basic survival (stay where you are, stay out of the sun, don't wander around aimlessly, etc.) She only had a few hours to walk but this massive team of search helicopters and so on couldn't find her. Etc.

Also, my man Grissom is looking a little old these days.

* Ostensibly, because he's, well, in the running for flakiest prof ever, and there's some serious competition in that field.


Nous Allons

The academic year has begun. We did our best to welcome it in classic SC history grad fashion: we drank all day and I got progressively louder. Sorry about that to everyone who was there at the bar last night.

I just re-read the comments on my essay produced for the cultural studies course I took Spring term, courtesy of this guy. They were harsh, but accurate. Like all lifelong Good Students (tm), it's hard for me to take tough criticism. It makes me feel sheepish and embarrassed, like I shouldn't have even produced the thing that got criticized because I clearly didn't know what I was doing. That is clearly not going to fly any longer. There are so many difficult things I have to do in the next few years, and crafting essays that can take some punishment (or, more to the point, developing the ability to take some punishment myself) is on the list.

Whew. Hangover almost gone now. That's a relief.


Left to My Own Devices

It rained for the first time in five months on Friday. I don't think I can really describe how rain makes me feel, especially to everyone out there with the traditional sun = beautiful day equation built in. I'll just say that how you feel about a sunny day after months of cold and gray is exactly how I feel about a sky full of beautiful dark clouds.

B has been up in San Francisco with her brother for the baptism of a friend's kiddo. B and A are now godparents of said kiddo. For being left to my own devices for the weekend, I've played very few video games overall. I wrote my first of many reaction papers to be written this year, I cleaned the bathroom, I walked down to TJ's and Long's, and I hosted K and L for an evening of watching music videos and, well, pretty serious drinking.

I'm starting to get a little hesitant about my drinking habits. I accidentally sucked down a bottle of wine the other night and didn't really notice. Despite the respective histories of Russian and Irish literature, I'm not sure that (lots of) booze and the pursuit of knowledge are happy traveling companions.

If you haven't, be sure to check in on Count Fosco - he's doing a LOL Theorists project that is probably the best thing ever wrought by a man, or at least by a graduate student man.

Oh, and the picture is of the rainy morning yesterday, featuring what's left of the trees that used to loom over our little patio. They were "trimmed" by the management. What the fuck is wrong with people?


(Barely) Dodged a Bullet

So. Abject terror. Let me explain:

If you are not a resident of the state of California and you are a Graduate Teaching Assistant for the UC system, your out-of-state tuition is NOT (that was NOT, people) covered by your assistantship. Let me rephrase: you owe 5000+ bucks (PER TERM) AFTER all of the remission stuff goes through.

Now, happily, when I moved here last summer, I immediately switched everything over: driver's license, car registration, voter's registration, the works. Unlike in the states I'm familiar with (Oregon and Washington), you can and do get residency as a student so long as you aren't a dependent and you made your living - even through fellowships - for one calendar year in California. So after a huge panic attack and a lot of frantic running around, my 5000+ dollar bill vanished from whence it came after the system officially processed me as a resident. But holy shit, you guys. For about two hours I was coming up with backup plans involving leaves of absence and continued computer-temping and/or dropping the whole graduate gig once and for all.

If there's a moral to the story, it's to spend as much time and energy as possible sucking up to bureaucrats. Keep the secretaries and administrators on your good side, because when it's your ass on the line, you need them.


Fear and Loathing on the Central Coast

I have three days left of honest, salt-of-the-earth computer work and then I'm back to my dishonest, cream-puff-of-the-earth intellectual labors as a grad student. I've got a neat handful of things to be terrified about:

  • Fees. It's at the point just before the term wherein I officially owe close to 9000 bucks. All but about 300 of that is magically supposed to vanish sometime next week. There's this kind of vertiginous terror involved in waiting for that to happen.
  • Writing for grants. I've never, ever written for grants. Armed only with a vague idea of what my "project" is, I need to try to convince various funding bodies (who are yet to be identified) to give me money to do...something? Go to France, I guess?
  • Preparing for my qualifying exams. I'm supposed to take them in exactly one year. Did I mention that everyone I work with is abroad right now?
  • Really nailing down what it is that I'm going to write my dissertation about. That decision will be the foundation of my eventual success or failure in getting a job as an academic. No pressure, asshole.

But I've got my iPod, I've got my thermos full of black coffee, I've got a slowly-healing new tattoo. I'm trying to keep my chin up.

I should note a happier thing: for a while now my lovely wife has been making awesome crafty things. If you haven't recently, you should go look at her blog and her flickr site and her Etsy shop. This paragraph brought to you by Shameless Wife Promotion, TM.

Times like this, when I'm sort of reeling from existential uncertainty (what good old Sartre called nausea), I take heart in knowing that Dan Savage is out there. Here's his latest missive. And here's my favorite part:

"Your friend, like a lot of Bible-thumpers, needs to feel morally superior to someone. And looking down his nose at you in your little-girl dresses and me in my big fag relationship allows him to feel morally superior at absolutely no cost to himself. He doesn't have to refrain from fucking hookers or cheating on his parade of spouses to get right with his make-believe God. He need only refrain from doing things he has no desire to do—sucking dick, dancing around in dresses—in order to go to his wholly imaginary God's entirely fictitious heaven."

In closing, something I got out of my French tutoring this summer: I used to say "bonne chance" (good luck) to people, but at the end of my last session my tutor sent me off with a "bon courage." It's a much smarter thing to say: wishing someone luck has absolutely no effect on anything, but there's always the possibility that wishing someone courage might sink in a little. And we all could always use a little more luck and courage.

Bon courage, homies.


Body Imaging

My friends are independent thinkers. As a group, one of their defining characteristics is and always has been that they're good at rationally interrogating social mores and cultural values. Not all of them want kids. Not all of them want home-ownership. Most of them have their own standards of what constitutes "success," and they rarely correlate to the default American standards.

One thing we, myself included, are terrible at, however, is extending that "rational interrogation" to include body image issues. Especially as the average age of my friends up and down the left coast hits 30 and metabolisms slow down accordingly, many of us are horrified as our bodies change. More to the point, most of us know and have known that we are of a certain body type since we were adolescents; for all the weights I've lifted over the years, I've known that I'm basically a tall, lanky guy, not a tall, bulky guy, since I was about 15. Very few of my friends eat fast food, almost everyone exercises, and as a group we're "healthy" people, but for some reason we can't get over how we're built. My point here is not that a certain height/weight ratio isn't, supposedly, "healthier," but that we all have different defaults within that healthy range. Despite that fact, most people still strive to achieve a standard that has very little to do with how their bodies are designed.

I'm genuinely puzzled by this. Why can we distance ourselves, more or less, from imposed standards in every other realm but our bodies? Is it something about the impression images make, rather than ideas? Why are we able to accept, reject, or modify standards of how to live but we can only accept (and struggle with)standards of how to look?

P.S. Appropriately enough, my plans for when I get home involve a bunch of crunches.


Suspicious About Vineyards

Camping was really fun, as ever. B, her dad and I did was do best when we camp:
  1. Sit around the campfire.
  2. Eat.
  3. Drink beer.
  4. Bullshit.
  5. Go "fishing" for bluejays with peanuts tied to string.
Having sampled a couple of the local state parks at this point, I can confidently recommend Butano over Big Basin - Big Basin is neat because it's the oldest of the California SP's and the redwoods are fantastic, but it's also a bit of a zoo since it's so well known and so bloody close to Silicon Valley. Lots of Hummers and giant trailers and screaming kiddos. We still had a great time, but we'll be returning to Butano (or perhaps trying out Big Sur) next time.

ANYWAY, the point is, we went to a local winery yesterday for their "harvest celebration." I have never been more suspicious. There's this breed of SF-hipster that seems to have the money and the time to go move to the mountains or the valleys and start wineries. These are not farmers. Nor are they immigrants from Tuscany or something. They're just tattooed weirdos like me that somehow came up with a couple million in venture capital and ended up running a vineyard...the end result is that the wine is not always that great (in this case, however, the imported cheese WAS that great.) Where the hell do these guys come from?

Pictures are on flickr. Rest assured that no birds were harmed, just irritated.


Poopin' In the Woods

I'm heading off to Big Basin State Park this afternoon to join B and her dad for two days of our usual campground activities: eating peanuts and drinking beer. Tweak is bunny-sitting for us while we're gone, because she's a fine human being and a good friend. Pictures when I return.


9 out of 25 on the Man Scale

My homie K just sent me the following from here:

Are You A Real Man? 25 Skills You Should Know:

(listed here with my self-assesment)

1. Patch a radiator hose
No way. Unless you gave me a very simple radiator hose patch-machine.
2. Protect your computer
Easily, whether from viruses, spyware, or people trying to steal it. Assuming I'm armed.
3. Rescue a boater who as capsized
I can barely dog-paddle. I would frantically shout for help, though.
4. Frame a wall
No. I can, however, help pick out tasteful spots to frame pictures on a wall.
5. Retouch digital photos
Easily. And I can also add stupid, low-quality Photoshop effects.
6. Back up a trailer
Probably. I can drive a Uhaul with the best of them.
7. Build a campfire
Oh, totally. And I can pitch a tent (Stewart.)
8. Fix a dead outlet
Not without killing myself in the process.
9. Navigate with a map and compass
Absolutely. After I got lost in the Desolation National Wilderness Area when I was fourteen, this became an important skill to pick up (I'm not kidding.)
10. Use a torque wrench
I don't even know what that is. I don't know; I could probably figure it out.
11. Sharpen a knife
Badly, but sure.
12. Perform CPR
Nope. As in the capsizing boat scenario, I would frantically jump about.
13. Fillet a fish
Ha ha! It would just look like I attacked it with a hatchet.
14. Maneuver a car out of a skid
It's possible. But I doubt it.
15. Get a car unstuck
16. Back up data
Uh, yeah.
17. Paint a room
How can you not be able to paint a room?
18. Mix concrete
WTF? I mean, sure, I assume you just pour the dry part into a bunch of water and stir it.
19. Clean a bolt-action rifle
Nope. I'd probably shoot myself in the process.
20. Change oil and filter
And deprive oil-change guys of their living? I think not!
21. Hook up a HDTV
Sure. If it has wires and electronics, I can probably do it.
22. Bleed brakes
23. Paddle a canoe
Unless I was bound in duct tape, yes, I can paddle a canoe.
24. Fix a bike flat
Sadly, no. I'm not proud of that fact.
25. Extend your wireless network

9 definitely + 3 or 4 probably/possibly. That makes me a bit less than 50% of a man, by my math.

I note, however, a complete lack of sex questions. I would like to think that if there had been a couple of those on the list I would have done considerably better. They should also have something about how much you can bench relative to your weight.

K herself scored a solid 12 out of 25, easily trumping me in manliness.