Rock Deprivation

This is a picture of Peaches. Her new album, Impeach My Bush, is pretty serious shit. I recommend it.

One of the things B and I talk about on the long list of things we hate is how cut off we are from the subcultures we used to be part of. The solidarities of shared tastes in music and lifestyle are nice when you have them and just terrible when you don't; if you're still invested in the outlook and the sound that got you into it in the first place, it's isolating not having it around.

What I'm saying is: I miss the rock. The hearing damage, the alcohol, the one-in-five bands that make it worth it to sit through the other four, not being the token tattooed guy in the seminar room, I miss these things.

I like to think that one of the things that will change when we get on to the next phase (T-Minus 1.5 years? Maybe?) is that we'll be able to get back into it. I'm fine with being the 30-something sitting at the bar listening to the band and being conspicuously old.


Activate the Party Machine

...that was a made up blog subject title line. At the moment, I am bereft a party machine that I might activate.

Things I need to do (in some cases, things I need to do more of):
  • Get a French Visa (tres involved!)
  • Sort out that housing scene. It looks like I may well be spending my time over there living with an older French Moroccan gentleman in the 20th arrondisement. More on that if it works out...
  • Take more pictures. My flickr site has tumbleweeds and we all know how boring these text-heavy blog(gers) are.
  • Actually do something that looks like preparing for my QE. I've been too busy with world history nonsense to be much aware that I have a pivotal exam in two weeks.
  • Receive a large cash gift of some kind. I mean, hopefully, somehow.
  • Having finished the latest stack of 60 essays, grade the 60 midterms coming in on Wednesday.
  • Practice restraint.
  • Develop miraculous elixir that melts worry away into Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Vitamin B-12
Lately my best moments have been those little ten-minute periods when I get to sit on a couch alone and listen to tunes on my headphones while staring out the window. As one gets older, one is resigned to the simple pleasures.


Like Pulling Teeth

A brief comparison:
  • In the private sector, i.e., a "normal job," whether or not you actually get anything done at work is secondary to your presence at the workplace. As anyone who has worked at an office job knows, you can easily kill nine hours in your cube futzing around online and bullshitting with your co-workers, so long as your boss isn't there looking over your shoulder. The downside, of course, is that you actually have to be there.
  • In academia, i.e., an "abnormal job," you don't have to be anywhere most of the time; you can spend up to four or five days a week sitting at home in your PJs if you're into it. There is no boss to look over your shoulder, either. The downside is that you only accomplish as much as you actually produce, up to and including the original scholarship that your whole meager career is ostensibly based on. It's a particularly nasty case of the "there's no point in cheating at solitaire" phenomenon.
I bring this up because I do not want to do another goddamn commodities in world history website. But I have to, and on COTTON at that. My first one, on coffee, at least had the virtue of being about something I'm deeply interested in. Not so with cotton; sure, it's great, it's soft, it brought underwear into the mainstream back in the eighteenth century, but its history is really, really bloody boring.


Top 100 Countdown

Tweak took this in the bunker the other day. I can pretty much intuit what books are going to be about at this point.*

So, B and I have a time-honored tradition that we were lucky enough to indulge in yesterday: we go someplace cheap for a 1 - 3 day fake vacation and we watch a VH1 Top 100 countdown of something while drinking beer. We don't plan the Top 100 countdowns; things just line up right for us once in a while. The first time we did it, we watched all 100 of VH1's top heavy metal bands of all time (Motorhead came in 16th, which was a scandalous injustice.) This weekend we managed to catch the Top 100 Songs of the 80s!** And it was rad! I...I never knew that Flight of Seagull's "I Ran" was so good. I just didn't know!

It was really nice to go someplace quiet for 24 hours. We're back in SC now, listening to the gentle burble of some idiotic 420-themed hip hop concert happening somewhere downtown. I wonder how far I could chuck a bottle from my roof....

* I can also Inuit how many seals are going to be on an iceberg. I can also into-fit tight shirts.
** Livin' on a Prayer totally won. Which I'm actually okay with.



Following some very serious e-mailing betwixt me and my homie A the other day, here are some trifling matters on which I ponder:
  1. White shoes! What about one pair of stylin', like, Asics for France? Would I earn the respect of the average Parisian? Would he or she be more forgiving of my mangled French? It's possible.
  2. Who taught California drivers that tailgating is cool? It's not. It's uncool.
  3. Will people still break dance in 200 years, and if so, will it be part of break dance reenactment societies, like civil war reenactments only with block-rockin' BEATS? Or, is it instead likely that break dancing is so rad that it will simply stand the test of time, like Mozart? I hope so.
  4. Could I pull off a hat like this? Perhaps, but perhaps not...
  5. A point of confusion about hair metal. The Whitesnake song "Here I Go Again" is both the best and the lamest of all songs, simultaneously. The chorus is infectious and the incredible pomposity and asinine antics of the video somehow only cement its permanent place in the history of human civilization.
  6. I get it with wines that cost up to about 12 dollars. From there on up, I don't get it.
  7. Can you fucking believe I passed my Italian exam?!
  8. I'm sorry that I'm missing out on sader at K's this weekend, but I'm super-stoked that B and I are getting to have one of our 24-hour "fake vacations" at her parents' place while they're in Hawaii. Hot tubs and cheap vino, here we come! Also, big TV with Bravo!


It's Not Not Complicated

The RA position was already filled for the Paris program, so I officially have to find housing in Paris the old-fashioned way, the way American students have done since the days of the Third Republic: asking around and using craigslist. Updates on that when I have something worth updating about.

I just sent off my QE dossier to my committee. Technically, I'm sending it five days early, but I always try to apply the same stance to graduate student assignments that my friends and I used to apply to parties: first to show, last to go.*

It's hard for me, studying world history, trying to keep up with global political economic hoo-ha, and being overwhelmed by how bloody difficult it is to get a PHD, not to conclude that we are all completely doomed. There's just a lot of evidence that we are, and doomed not in the sense of an apocalyptic conflagration, but of seeing our standards of living fall markedly in our short-ass lifetimes. So when anything does work out, I'm always shocked...getting the Paris program is one, and if I can actually find housing that doesn't break the bank, that would be astounding, and if I go there and actually get work done, that would be amazing, and if I end up surviving it all and writing a dissertation, well...pigs will fly, republicans will apologize for being wrong about EVERYTHING, and someone will finally figure out how to get cold fusion to work.

I have new blog post ideas! I will post those at some point!

* Granted, in this case, I definitely don't want to be "last to go." In fact, if I was "first to go" from my program for my incoming class, that would be rad.


Looks Like I'm Going to France

Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Looking for Her Shirt, 1830.

I received the news on Friday that I was accepted to be one of the graduate TAs for the UC Paris Program. I'll be there for four months, from mid-August through December, helping teach a class about Parisian and French history (in English) to UC undergraduates. I also applied to be a RA for the program, since they don't cover your housing and B and I are facing some serious financial predicaments if we have to maintain apartments in SC and Paris at the same time.

The whole thing is both really exciting and completely overwhelming. There are a lot of serious challenges this poses to me, to B, and to both of us put together. We hate being apart, and we've never been apart for longer than a week before in the eight years we've been together. The money issue is serious; we barely scrape by when we're both just doing our thing and there couldn't be a worse time to be dealing with the dollar-to-euro conversion. I'm always embarrassed about sounding like a rube in French. If I don't get the RA position, finding housing is going to suck. Etc.

At the same time, this is the single most meaningful opportunity I've ever had, certainly comparable with my acceptance and fellowship in my PHD program itself. The program is designed to allow time for research on the side, and if I'm clever about it, I could get a lot (most? all?) of my France-based research done on my dissertation while I'm there. Come hell or high water, we're going to get B over to visit me so that she can finally get to run around in Europe, too.

So: I'm pretty confused and suffering from sensory overload, but I'm also really grateful and excited. I'll be forced to confront a lot of the things that scare me the most about being alive (planes and speaking something besides English to native speakers being high on my list), but I'll come out of it a much smarter, stronger person than I am now.


We Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled Complaint

I'm going to write some haiku about e-mail.

If you get e-mail
It matters when you reply
Write the fuck back, fool

My fake wee career
Waiting on a damn e-mail
Drink in the meantime

Friday afternoon
Not likely to get replies
Bureaucrat goes home

Sigh. Update in a couple of days.


The Butterknife of Damocles

Along with the Myth of Sisyphus, a favorite Greek-by-way-of-Rome (as opposed to Greek-by-way-of-Rome-by-way-of-Paris) myth of mine is the Sword of Damocles. The short version of the myth is that a servant gets to be king for a day, then notices the sword dangling over his head held by a horsehair and decides that it's not worth it.

The myth is supposed to be one of those grass-is-not-actually-greener warnings, but for me it resonates on a broader level of what it's like constantly worrying about the future because of choices made along the way. This is to say that I made choices, as did many of my friends, that did not result in our coming by anything like money or power, but we're still anxious about our survival in the social and institutional contexts we chose. I constantly feel the dreadful tickle of the butterknife of Damocles, dangling a millimeter over my head, suspended by Glide brand dental floss.

This is obviously most acute in academia. The thing with academia is that if you choose to throw in the towel, all of your years of work amount to nothing. This one guy once said, there are only two kinds of grads: those who finish their dissertations and those who do not. The problem is that by about four years of being broke and tired, it gets old, and you're always worried that that piece of dental floss will snap and your efforts will be for naught.

Next up: further giggles about the decline of empire, this time in world-historical context! A comfy pillow and duvet recommended.


State of the KFR Address

Apparently, when you have a blogger blog (-gity bloggity bloggity blog), the good people at google automatically create a Picasa album and put all of the pictures you've ever uploaded to your blog (-gity bloggity blog) in it. It makes for some weird viewing, seeing the random nonsense I've posted over the years. I might have left flickr for Picasa if not for the fact that you can open pictures in tabs in flickr and you've can't in Picasa. And I've been a tab-using freak since about 2002.

ANYWAY. Here's what's going on:
  • I am doing French translations with this guy. It's like deciding that I want to be a cage fighter and training with Voltron once a week.
  • World History is as insane as expected. I fear that I'll stretch my goodwill with the nutty dude teaching it to the breaking point, as I'm just straight-up not doing some of the stuff. If I did (do the stuff), I'd end up a guy in a clock tower w/ a rifle in no time, so I think it's best that I don't.
  • My TA assignment this term is...adjective. I don't think the kids are going to learn very much. But I will try.
  • I have three 10-hour days a week on campus, which is tiring. So far, I've been hiding in a cubicle in The Dungeon, our new facility that compliments The Bunker rather nicely.
  • I am so freaked out about the translation thing. This guy...seriously...he's the lingual Bruce Lee.
Bien cordialement,


Roll the d20

Tweak took this picture at our game last night. I'm very pleased with it - it captures not only the awesome majesty of the d20 itself, ready to roll to hit, for initiative, or perhaps for a saving throw, but also the memorable floral pattern of Tweak's porno couch.* Which I like to sit on.

The prospective students for next year are visiting today. Here's hoping we can sweet talk the cool/smart ones into coming. I'm always on the lookout for new drinking buddies.

* So named because damn if it doesn't look like the kind of couch that would have been used in a porno shot in about 1987.