Mighty Quiet

The internet seems to have fallen silent for the summer. The blogs go un-updated, the flickr sites grow stale, and everyday the news is the same: oil prices up, economy fucked, McCain a typical republican asshat. California's on fire, literally, and those of us on the central coast wake up each day to a mix of marine layer fog and thick plumes of smoke.* The busses run less frequently, the campus is less choked with students, and our bank account (no link to that) keeps stumbling along thanks to my teaching gig. I've got a new pair of shoes, some new shirts and pants, and a new cut on my left arm / squid tattoo, because I'm a stumbling idiot.** I miss my friends: those I've lived away from for years, those who are just away for the summer or part of it, and those I'll be leaving behind while I'm in France (i.e. all of them.) I'm feeling kind of maudlin, obviously, but also less panicked about everything. The nice thing that has come out of leaving everything I know and love to be in a profoundly foreign place for that long is that I've been reveling in the things I do here that I like: spend time with B, drink chuck, watch Netflix, goof around. Humans are all retards: we can only enjoy things when we're confronted with their absence. Inefficient, poorly-programmed robots are we.

* This has the bonus effect of keeping things nice and cool, since the sun rarely breaks through until afternoon.
** Our friends S+T gave me a new desk, which is amazing, but I scraped my arm carrying it up the stairs, which is amazingly lame. I really hope I didn't badly fuck up my favorite tattoo.


Cool, Scary, Nice

New shoes and a Lonely Planet guide to Paris. These should be my final pre-Parisian purchases for the trip. Think I can pull off white sneakers with orange stripes? Tune in to find out!

The kind of creepshow old target range thing at the SC boardwalk arcade. It turns out that the targets are light-operated, so when B took the picture and the camera flashed, the whole joint went apeshit.

My oldest friend in the world, E, and his lovely wife, H, came to visit for the day. We met up with his cousin who lives in town and we took in some of the sights and some grub. We also played some serious air hockey at the arcade.


Enough of That!

I decided that Hat Week was a mere five day work week. So it's over.

Not surprisingly, I've been nervously anticipating Paris a lot lately. The panic is mostly over now that I've secured important stuff like a place to live for the first few months and I have my consulate appointment for the visa all set up. I'm left with a more diffuse kind of anxiety, knowing that it's en route but not having a lot to do in the meantime except half-heartedly read through my old French textbook and think good thoughts.

I found myself thinking of semi-comparable things that other people have to do that I don't, however, to cheer myself up. These include:
  • Go to war.
  • Get a culinary degree and then force yourself to move to France or Italy for extra top chef cred.
  • Immigrate.
  • Participate in a humiliating reality TV show.
  • Be a wet-behind-the-ears mormon missionary in, say, the Ukraine.
Let alone combinations thereof. Did I miss any?

So anyway: I've got a TA gig for the next month, which means B and I can continue to eat food and live in an apartment. I have a tiny, expensive studio to move into on the Ile Saint-Louis when I arrive in August, but I have to move out on October 26 and find a new place. Many of my friends here in SC have taken off for the summer, or at least part of it, and I've already become terrible about hanging out with the ones that are still here. We have a family of mourning doves living on our porch.

By way of summary, here I am. I intend to rock you like a hurricane.


Hat Week: Part 5

I was getting pretty sick of looking at pictures of myself, so I asked Jean-Paul if he would be kind enough to model today's selection.

Hat number five is my trusty old battered PBR cap. I've known for a long time that I need to wear hats; when you're a bald / shaved-head guy (I'm a combination), your scalp gets burned and some people think you're a skinhead. Hats help prevent both things from happening. The problem is, it took me a long time to find the right ones; the above is an early partially successful attempt. The hat itself is a Nike ballcap; B sewed the patch over the swoosh. Once I stopped drinking as much cheap beer and switched to cheap wine, I found myself wearing it less and less often.

Hat reason for the day: hats keep sun off of your head! We're not getting any younger. If we still want to be smoking hot at 40 and beyond, we need to keep our skin from getting leathery and dried-out like Clint Eastwood. Hats can be part of that.

P.S. The anniversary weekend was great fun. I put pictures up on my flickr site, now featuring donkey lovin'. Also, as an aside, I have a place to live in Paris for the first 2.5 months; I'm back on the street as of October 26, but at least I'll have a place to go when I get off the plane in August.


Hat Week: Part 4

Verily, there is something to my left! Forsooth!

This is my black Kangol 504 Ventair cap I bought myself for my birthday two years ago. It's a good summer cap - it doesn't hold on to sweat and it's designed to breathe.

That said, I've always felt a bit torn about my love affair with Kangol hats. Thing is, they can be like big white sneakers: lame. A lot of older dudes with no style sport Kangols, for some reason, and it's always a little depressing to find oneself matching a middle school band teacher on the bus. The flip side is that they also can be super stylin' - I mean, I first became aware of the brand because Ice-T was sporting Kangol stuff nonstop in his seminal role in New Jack City. And if Ice-T does it, you know it's badass.

(As an aside, it should be noted that girls look insanely cute in Kangols. Just ask E.)

Regardless of the pros and cons of Kangols, here's hat reason number four: you can easily combine hats with shades and headphones and transform into a kind of public transportation Darth Vader. What I mean is that a hat + shades + headphones = impenetrable field of consciousness on the bus. Barring actual physical contact, practically any mouth-breathing weirdo (or obnoxious self-involved undergraduate) can sit next to you and it won't bug you that much, thanks to your three-piece virtual reality helmet. Being big on shutting myself off from the outside world, this is a major incentive for me.

P.S. It's B's and my fifth wedding anniversary on Saturday and we're off tonight for a fancy-schmancy cabin by Mendocino. Happy marriages: we're proof it can be done despite insanity, cramped living conditions, being hella broke, and deeply entrenched pessimism. Maybe it helps that we have the above factors in common.


Hat Week: Part 3

This is how I look sternly at squirrels on our porch.

Today's hat joins us from Scotland. It was my dad's. When he died, I inherited the hat and his watch, both of which I wear a lot. He bought it at a castle gift shop somewhere around Edinburgh; I remember him buying it (I was about 11) and thinking that it was pretty sweet. Here's a close up of the actual hat:

Reason for wearing hats du jour: they're historical! Hats used to denote membership in social class and occupational field, especially in nineteenth and early twentieth century Europe. Hats like this were the official headwear of the English, Scottish, and Irish working classes (think of the contrast between your average eel-eating proletarian in Manchester and his boss in the bowler or top hat.) Berets were the French equivalent. It can still be a fun game to wear a hat and pretend that you're staking a claim as to your social identity.*

*That said, berets remain the wrong answer, no matter what the question.


Hat Week: Part 2

My far-off visionary pose, next to the heater.

Today's hat is the green cousin to the black one from last post. It originally shipped with a big red commie star on it, and I wore it like that for the first few weeks. After a while, though, I started feeling silly in it; was I being ironic? Sincere? Sort of confused? Trying to annoy the nonexistent right wing here in SC? The star was removed and now it's just an unadorned hat of fun.

Reason for wearing hats, part deux: they're so comfortable. It's like there's a little hug on your head all the time. Try it. You'll find that you're more comfortable with a hat on than without.


Hat Week: Part 1

Each of the next seven blog posts will showcase a hat. Each will be dope. In addition, I will take time to remind you of one reason that you too should sport a hat every day.

Today's hat is one of a pair of trendy army-style baseball hats I bought off of Amazon for six bucks each. They arrived "fatigued," which is to say "designed to look beat-up already." Someone with more shame would balk at sporting a cap like that of a garden-variety 22 year-old hipster, but not me.

Hat reason number one: hats make every outfit more festive. It's a fact of science. If you put a hat on top of a boring outfit, suddenly it's kind of rad. If you put a hat on top of an already-great outfit, it's even better!



  • Lock your keys in your car at the post office all the way across town.
  • Get in a motorcycle accident then sleep through your final because you're on the painkillers (one of my students.)
  • Lose your mind.


Nearly Back To Normal

...my nephew and me in repose.

I'll be back to my usual usually-every-other-day blog schedule shortly. We're back from a weekend with some kiddos and I'm full of the tired. It's finals week here at the University of California Forest Moon of Endor (UCFME) and I'll be doing a mess of grading starting tomorrow, so there will be plenty of time for me to get bored and procrastinate...


Logistics En Marche

The latest, the greatest:
  • I managed to set B and I up with video-chat capabilities using two cheapo webcams I bought off of ebay, some even more cheapo shareware, google's chat feature, and iChat. Total cost was less than fifty bucks, which beats the snot out of the 300+ dollar Apple-branded webcams and the 90+ dollar .mac membership. I love it when cheapness triumphs.
  • I got a fairly substantial grant from the department. This is awesome, because...
  • Housing in Paris looks like it's going to be around 600 / 650 euros a month for a freaking postage stamp of a studio. That would be okay if the dollar and the euro were somewhere close to on par. Instead, we're talking about 1000 bucks a month for the privilege of sleeping in something akin to a walk-in closet with a sink and a toilet.
  • I didn't get the other grant I applied to, but it was "only" 500 bucks anyway...
  • This is seriously the weirdest little town on the planet.
  • I had my last-ever class the other evening. Yet another anticlimax.
  • I'm considering writing the president de la republique for a letter of safe-passage that might ease the visa process. Think he'd go for it?
As ever,


Four Years of Graduate School

Over the course of the last four years, I have written the following:

63 reaction papers (4 - 8 pages each)
2 journal reviews
1 historiographical essay (25 pages)
1 substantial research paper (30 pages)
5 lengthy essays (20+ pages)
2 annotated bibliographies / project outlines
2 master's theses (one about 100 pages, one 35 pages)
2 commodity websites
QE dossier, containing 2 syllabi, 1 dissertation proposal, and 1 field statement

Besides serving the obvious function of helping me kill time before my discussion section this afternoon, I wanted to compile the above statistics mostly to see how many bloody reaction papers I've had to write. The reaction paper is a particularly virulent species that only exists in humanities graduate studies, and I am overjoyed to never have to write another one.

I could probably figure out how many student essays and blue-book exams I've graded, but that would just push me over the edge and force me to head up the nearest clock tower with a hunting rifle. So I'm not going to do it.


From My Document Entitled "Rad Lyrics"

Bow before the obelisk
Deep in the necropolis
Stygian hordes rend asunder
The celestial metropolis
Rise fallen sailors
Blood-drenched past invaders
Guided by flame and thunder
Endless armies of unmakers

Relentless warlock!
Maleficent navigator!
Reviled soothsayer!
Baleful captain of Gehenna!

Invoke the unnamable creator
Praise the great forsaker
Cryptic glyphs unmask
The cloaked form of the life-taker
Rise legions of the slaughtered
Gluttons of human fodder
Appointed to the vile task
Wretches blinded by their fathers

Relentless warlock!
Suspect geomancer!
Turncoat prophet!
Ox-headed keeper of the gateway!


Too Bad About Siggy

There's not much left of Freud. When you teach him in a history or lit class, you talk about his theories in terms of the anxieties of fin-de-siecle Vienna, of the sexual repression of bourgeois society, of the identity struggles of newly-emancipated Jewish immigrants to the cities, and so on, without really having to bother to note that the Oedipus Complex is a bunch of nonsense. Sure, he made everyone aware that the mind had lots of dark little corners and that sex seems to have a lot to do with human (un)happiness, but like Aristotelian physics, Freudian psychology as a whole is just an interesting chapter in the history of ideas.

Still, on days like this, I find myself feeling kind of nostalgic for something that died long before I was born. It must be nice to have thought that you could get to the root of debilitating mental problems by talking to someone until you admit that you have all kinds of screwy sexual predilections.* The thing is, the mind is opaque and it is treacherous, and it must have been nice to think that there was a system that could account for it all.

I bring this up, not surprisingly, because I'm so worked-up about the Paris thing and the opening stages of my dissertation research that I find myself unable to really do the stuff I know I need to do for the first time in my life. I've never been one of those people who puts things off; I usually respond to anxiety by jumping in and hitting it as hard as I can, out of sheer white-knuckled terror that I won't finish in time. Now I can't even bring myself to really earnestly look through the craigslist Paris ads for rooms for rent or, at least today, read another article about Gorz.

Thus, I lament the death of psychoanalysis. And the lack of freely available high-powered sedatives.

* Happily, most of us can just admit this freely to anyone who asks. In my book, that counts as historical progress.