Restraint Clearly Doesn't Work for Me

(Apparently, Wes Anderson is making a stop-motion animation version of the kid's story The Fantastic Mr. Fox. I like the above behind-the-scenes shot of Bill Ghostbustin'-Ass Murray and a badger.)

I had an interesting day yesterday. My first lecture was too much: the Ancien Regime, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic era, all in one three-hour lecture (with breaks.) Too much. But then I came home, drank a beer, and watched several hours of Deadliest Catch. B and I had a nice night, featuring wine. Today I have a lot to do, but I'm going to get it done by drinking coffee until they've stripped the coffee fields bare in Brazil. Tonight I'm hanging out with K + L and playing Wii, or at least watching L show off his sick Guitar Hero skills. Tomorrow PDX K shows up for the long weekend. All in all, I am determined to stop worrying and learn to live the bomb.


Out of my Skull (Bored)

Today's post title inspired by one of the greatest band names of all time: Porn (Men Of). I never saw them, but they played at some metal-fest in PDX years ago and I saw the name advertised and grew six months younger all at once.

It was a bit of a rough weekend. The first class went really well and I don't anticipate too many problems with the next one, yet I find myself wishing I had a week to recuperate before diving in again. I have written / am writing something like 150 pages (single-spaced) of lectures over the course of these two classes. Yesterday I made myself get back to wrenchin' on the diss as well, trying to figure out something original to say about Gorz and the context of late-70s / early-80s France and the "death" of academic Marxism.

But back to complaining about the weekend: I hate summer. My usual seasonal affective disorder, summertime edition, seems to have settled in at this point. Most of the people I know in SC are off running around the world, and those that are here have things going on as often as not. B's snowed in trying to finish her beasties for the various shows she's in during the next few months, and I am thus left to my own devices for the most part. Meanwhile, the lectures are there, the diss is there, the conference paper needs to get written. The net effect is that I'm sitting here feeling paralyzed, huge piles of shit that need to get done on the one hand, almost total lack of inspiration to do any of it on the other. Coffee, while still a part of this balanced breakfast, seems to have no effect whatsoever in dislodging my grumpy academic's block.

Anyway, on a happier note, our homie K is coming down to visit us on Thursday. She is the first person to come from Oregon just to see us in SC in the three years we've lived here (it turns out that Portland is shockingly far away from the Cali central coast. We didn't really realize that when we moved here.) We have big plans involving wandering around, going to beaches, going to Half Moon Bay to see the big dinosaur statues, and eating burgers.


Oh, Also

Summers without Yards: Inappropriate

What can I say? What can I blog? It's another pleasant SC summer afternoon, temps hovering around 70, scattered clouds and ocean air. But I'm in my third-floor apartment. B's in Santa Rosa for homie SJ's bachelorette party. But I'm in my third-floor apartment. Somewhere in the United States, a poverty of grad students* has gathered in a grassy yard to talk some smack about university politics and share gallows humor about ever finding jobs. But I'm in my third-floor apartment. I'm complained about this before, but I will say it again: what kind of an idiot sets up a town in a temperate zone like this with no fuckin' yards?!

Screw that idiot. Screw him right in his poor municipal design.

Anyway, in other news, I finished teaching my first class on Thursday. I'm still stewing over lessons learned from lessons taught and will post about that some other time. Mostly, my heart isn't in the analysis since I have to start teaching my next one on Tuesday.

* A group of graduate students is called a "poverty." It's like "murder of crows" or "parliament of owls."

P.S. For the comic with the cadence, see achewood's typically-brilliant "my car has been shot."


Dads, Daughters, Dumb Kids

I had a few beers yesterday with my homie J. He was recounting finally meeting his lady-friend's folks, out to visit from the east coast. We were laughing about it, because meeting your SO's parents is never easy, and there is that particularly troublesome connection between father of daughter and boyfriend of daughter; it is a vexed diagonal line in the graph of people and their relationships. It sounds like J did a fine job, holding his own in polite conversation and taking them all out to eat in style.

But it got me to thinking. As anyone who teaches college kids knows, 19 year-old boys are idiots. I can only imagine they're even dumber when they're younger. Imagine yourself a dad to an adolescent or late adolescent girl, who brings home Random Dumb Kid to meet you, because he is her boyfriend. Now, what I realized is that even the best-adjusted, least-protective, most reasonable father in the world faces a quandary in this situation, because this kid is of course, incredibly naive and full of himself. The point is not some archaic desire to protect your daughter's "honor," it's just that there's this little shit in your living room and you're supposed to be nice to him! How irritating must that be?!

In retrospect, the dads of the girls I knew back in the day were all the very picture of restraint and courtesy for not hitting me with a shovel.*

* In this scenario, I imagine them sharing the same shovel with which to hit me.


Also: Gay Wizards

Gawker article about the gay undertones of the latest Harry Potter is funny and right on.

The one I would comment on: the totally inappropriate* kind of stuff that goes down between the new creepy professor** and both Harry and (in the flashbacks) Voldemort when Voldemort was a kid. It's very, very teacher's pet hitting on teacher, teacher hoping to get some hot statutory action. All Harry and lil' Voldemort need to do is swap their sweaters and ties for choirboy outfits and the stage would be completely set.

* I have been enjoying using the term "inappropriate" of late. Nazism? Inappropriate. Limbaugh? Inappropriate. Man's inhumanity to man? Inappropriate.
** Whatever his name is. The old one with the photos of his past students (naked.)


Works in Progress

  1. The new Harry Potter movie: nicely shot, the actors do their best with the material, but it is sloooooooooow. Funny to see them all as they grow up: the Harry actor is tiny like Mini-Me, Hermione is hot, and Ron has been pumping entirely too much iron to be a convincing gawky nerd any more. Oh, and Malthoy looks like the lead singer of any emo band.
  2. On days on which one is exhausted and has one of those awful all-day slow-acting hangovers, what does one do? One hikes around campus from library to library in the name of putting on a convincing show of productivity.
  3. The worst thing is when it's the wrong kind of tired for coffee to help. I mean, obviously, there has to be coffee at the start of the day, but further coffee is to no avail. I think I might go to the Stevenson Café and get a too-expensive juice drink here in a bit.
  4. Did I mention that I'm now the web editor of H-Ideas? It's funny how low the bar is set in the Humanities for recruiting techs. Apparently, I'm good enough because I know how to use SFTP to upload things, I have aging HTML skills, and I have a couple of WYSIWYG web editors on my laptop.
  5. Last week of my Euro Int class - tomorrow is poststructuralism and Foucault, Thursday is the final. And then I start my next class the next week. No rest for the mostly harmless.


The Best Commercial Series Every Made

My homie T was down with his girl (and other homie) S a few weeks ago from San Francisco. We all went out for cheap tacos and T brought up the Dos Equis "beard guy" commercials. I was so relieved and happy to have someone to talk to about how straight-up fuckin' dope these commercials are.

I don't think this campaign is going to make me start drinking Dos Equis. But it is going to make me remind YOU to stay thirsty, my friends.


Don't Worry About the Prozac

Years ago, the one cat I knew in high school who knew what he wanted to be when he grew up (a US senator) opined that prozac was a kind of vision of the norm: it makes people calmer, more thoughtful, it takes off the ragged edge of the neuroses from which most of us suffer, and he thought that it would be interesting if literally everyone was on it. Things would probably be a lot more peaceful. I was talking with another friend about it recently and that's what prompted item 7 on my last listy blog.

I don't have any orbit-breaking insights here, I just think it's funny and interesting how we all self-medicate. Prozac, sure, but so with alcohol and caffeine and nicotine and THC and sugar and exercise and stinky cheese, to say nothing of the insane chemical reactions prompted by and for sex. Heck, even sleep and solitude. It's just that tastes vary.

When I was younger I found the idea that our emotions were all just a very complex chemical stew to be appalling, but now I don't have a problem with it at all; it's like having a chemistry set in your head, and as long as you don't blow the whole thing up, it's not a problem trying out different combinations of reagents. Likewise, it doesn't make us any less human to accept the fact that there are biological bases for emotions; they're complicated enough to keep us all busy.


Monitoring the Internal Monologue

  1. The trick with these kids is to convince them to try to focus on figuring out exactly what it was the famous intellectual was trying to argue before going off on how stupid or unrealistic or short-sighted his or her ideas were. As with Marx, so with Sartre, so with Foucault: you, undergraduate, are not actually smarter than they were.
  2. Everyplace we've lived since we moved in together about eight years ago has been too hot in the summertime. Upstairs apartments and stifling weird old houses. The advantage of this one is that it actually has a screen door for the sliding door and a decent window screen in place, so we can air it out at night. I do wish I could cast 'silence, 15' radius' on my head to drown out the neighbor sounds, obviously.
  3. I have this one kid in my class who reminds me of several of the too-smart-for-their-own-good punk and semi-punk kids I was friends with about ten years ago. At least he's not a complete jerk.
  4. A just got back from Italy, where she had a lovely time gallivanting about. I would like to go to, say, Newfoundland, or maybe northern Alaska, instead. Or maybe a mobile camp on an iceberg, one of the ones that has broken off of Antarctica because of global warming.
  5. It's very hard to keep finding fun stuff to watch. We tried one of the other HBO shows out, but we didn't like it. Why can't they release four seasons of True Blood all at once?!
  6. Best True Blood characters: Lafayette and Eric. Oh, and Terra.
  7. Maybe we should all be on prozac. Have you ever thought that? Just take that electric jolt of anxiety that comes with everything and be all "forsooth! Away with you!" I am seriously tempted, and I'm not kidding.
  8. I realized today I need to stop eating a gigantic plate of pasta smothered in pesto and Parmesan every single day for lunch. I'm bummed about this, but seriously.
  9. Happy Bastille Day, everybody. Consider storming something and seizing the ammunition.


Working Notes

  1. Eight single-spaced pages of lecture is about right for two hours, supplemented by a meager PowerPoint, tangents, anecdotes, and Q+A with the kids. Writing those eight pages takes me a solid couple of hours, assuming I can keep myself from becoming completely distracted.
  2. Apparently, I run a tight ship when I'm tired and hungover. We had the best overall discussion yesterday in class, of Freud and Weber of all things. The kids really seemed to get it with Id - Ego - Super-Ego by the end, and we had a pretty good time mapping out Freud's attitude about reason and civilization vs. aggression and madness.
  3. BBQ tonight! Hot diggity.
  4. Working on writing up my poststructuralism / postmodernism / Foucault lecture right now. Someone left a copy of Perry Anderson's short book on postmodernism lying around the bunker a week or two ago, and skimming it (which I did to avoid other work) gave me a lot to work with for this lecture. I'm convinced this is how 90% of productive academic work actually gets done (i.e. by accident or through procrastination.)
  5. Shaved off the semi-beard after it got too itchy. This happened on Tuesday.
  6. B and I booked a trip to Yosemite for October. We'll be out of town for Halloween, our second-least favorite holiday in SC, which is pure rad. We're staying at a fancy lodge in the park, whose off-season rates made it cheaper than a comparable weekend in Mendocino, which is weird.
  7. Constant tension from worrying about lectures, dissertation, conference paper, l'avenir in general.
  8. Weird conversation with this punk kid in my class yesterday, telling me about a show at a house somewhere in town, celebrating the violence and obnoxiousness of the local punk scene. Reminded me of why I stopped playing music in the first place: the human condition is wretched enough without arbitrary additions of violence and obnoxious behavior. Unless it's obnoxious behavior directed toward republicans, granted.
  9. My relationship with sleep would be considered by therapists to be abusive.


Finding the Summer Groove

July 4 came and went and the inhabitants of the KFR household survived unscathed, although it should be noted that Pesto shares my loathing for fireworks. The marine layer* has been AWOL for the last few days, so summer is verily upon us, with temps hitting the high 70s.** Naturally, I am against this, but I've learned over the years to take these things in stride.

So here's the thing: I think by early August, I will have figured out summer 2009's tricks. I really like teaching, but my lectures are a little too short and it makes me feel guilty. I really like playing vampire and running my mouth (no disclaimer on this one.) Despite the fact that B's job is still potentially on the chopping block as the Californian budget train wreck goes into its sixth month, for now we are booking vacations in October anyway. I think I just need to hook up a little more BBQ and find a way to get a little more dissertation written, and I'll be all set for the season.

* The marine layer is the giant fog bank that rolls in from Monterey Bay most mornings from May through September, burning off in the early afternoon and keeping summer temps to about 70 - 75 degrees.
** By everyone else's standards, this is not summer weather. I am not concerned with those standards, however.


On the Dork Scale: Vampires Versus Dragons

Is this not dorkier than...


As just about everyone knows, I'm a shameless player of pencil + paper role-playing games. I've been rolling the twenty-sided die since I was in fifth grade. I have spells memorized. I can calculate skill checks on the fly. I've slayed some serious dragon.

For the last two years or so, I've been running a D+D game with some of my homies here in SC. I finally got tired of running it and turned over the scepter of control to J. In the process, we all democratically decided to switch from D+D to Vampire for a while.

Now: I heard from B that my homie K, wife of player L, thinks that it's waaaaaaaaay dorkier that we're playing Vampire instead of D+D. And the thing is, I understand. D+D is kind of the vintage, old-school dork-style, all pocket protectors and calculator watches. All things vampire have that veneer of pseudo-cool that is so not really cool (and which the brilliant HBO series about vampires, True Blood, does an outstanding job of making fun of.)

But this just makes me wonder more about nerdiness in the present conjuncture - at some point, my generation embraced their inner (or in my case, outer) nerd, with all of the nostalgia for 8-bit Nintendo and all of the movies about toys we grew up with and so on. Perhaps we're not ready to move forward. Perhaps we're not ready to get on board with current nerdiness. Perhaps the next generation will have to be the ones to be nostalgic about vampires, while in the meantime, a group of us gathers at K + L's and surreptitiously plays a game in which we pretend to BE them.


Time to Blow Up the Town Again

Here's a picture I took last year of the Fourth of July in SC.

Every year, the inhabitants of San Jose pack their cars full of explosives and come to SC, clogging up Highway 17 and Ocean St. completely. It's illegal to set off fireworks here, but the cops turn their backs on it for an hour to prevent complete carnage once the sun goes down. This semi-formal relaxation of municipal law doesn't stop throngs of idiots from continuing to set off fireworks until the wee hours of the morning, of course, but it probably does keep it from being as bad as it could be otherwise.

Tonight we pick up B's brother from SFO after his ten-week walkabout in Europe. We'll force his jet-lagged ass to hang out with us and drink delicious cocktails for a few days before he heads back to Oregon. I think it's an appropriate welcome back to the US of A to be subjected to explosions.