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!