Inaccurate Babying

B and I have been doing the obligatory birthing classes at the hospital, run by a charming doula who has just the right balance of kindergarten teacher and wizened wise woman about her. I've also been doing the pregnancy / infancy book readings.

My friends: we have been misled by movies. I provide a parallel example and notes below.

Parallel example: fist-fights in movies. Put briefly, a movie fist-fight is like a boxing match; two guys square off and swing at each other. Often, they trade punches, smacking each other back and forth until one of them delivers a haymaker. 90% of real fist-fights go like this: the bigger guy jumps on the smaller guy and beats the snot out of him in 10 seconds.

It's the same thing with babies! (bear with me...)

In every single movie depiction of birth, it goes like this:
  1. Woman's water spontaneously breaks, much to her shock.
  2. Couple screams and runs around.
  3. Couple drives like crazy for the hospital while woman is already pushing in the back seat. Hijinks ensue.
  4. Baby is delivered in the nick of time at the hospital.
In actual birth it goes like this:
  1. Contractions happen for twelve hours before you even need to go to the hospital.
  2. You aren't even allowed to check in at the hospital until you're having one-minute contractions every four to five minutes.
  3. Once at the hospital, contractions intensify for several more hours.
  4. By the time the mom finally gets to push, the body's been preparing for something like sixteen hours. Most of the time, the water doesn't even break until well into active labor.
It's like the people who brought us light speed spaceships, romances saved by improbable gifts, and Vin Diesel aren't even trying to be accurate!


Let's All Cheer Up

There. Doesn't that make you feel better?

We went to a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner at our homies S + T's in San Francisco back in November. Along with us, those in attendance included bike punk co-workers and, especially, lots of T's surfer buddies (T is both an old school and a badass surfer.) We drank the wine, we drank the booze, we ate the food, there was a lot of loudness, but whenever a Hall and Oates song came on the mp3 mix in the background, everyone got quiet, and someone would murmur: "Man. This is a good song."

It's a post-post-ironic thing: Hall and Oates wrote good songs.


Baby Shower 2: The Quickening

We're off for B's second baby shower at her folks' place in Novato. Here's one of the things I've learned about weddings and baby-havings over the years:

Buy things off of registries when you attend events!

I once made the mistake of buying some friends some random stupid gift instead of something off their wedding registry. Then I got married, and discovered that far from being impersonal and unfeeling, buying some completely random crap off of a registry is actually the coolest thing you can do for someone. The point of a registry is getting the sum total of the stuff on it, so even if your only contribution is, say, some napkins, or, say, some diaper covers, that is still rad for the person receiving the gifts.

Our friends are great about this, I just wanted to let the public know.


Quick Note to the Haters

The health bill passed. Awesome.

First, read this piece about the Republican Party by NY Times commentator Bob Herbert. It sums up just about everything I loathe about them - the fear and hate-mongering, the insane combination of "war solves problems" and "less taxes for the rich at the same time," the paranoid-schizophrenic fear of regulation.

Second, there's the predictable critical bit by the Tenured Radical (author of the funniest and most readable blog by an academic I know of.) Yes, yet again, the dems made big concessions on abortion in the name of political expediency.

That the right is going to be frothing at the mouth and predicting apocalypse is a given. What I'm not looking forward to is the reaction of the (far?) left. Every time Obama makes strategic concessions, the left freaks out and pretends he's just another stooge, another lapdog of capitalism, another variation on the same theme that brought us W. This outlook is insane. Things are already so much better than they were from 2000 - 2008; we can and should be critical of concessions, but we should also keep in mind how far to the right "the center" actually is in American politics. For my money, the only thing I really blame Obama for is not playing dirtier and burying the republicans at every step; they've already proved they're going to do the same every time.

My current interest in politics was really born in 2000: put simply, if Gore had won (or, rather, if his win had been legally recognized), the world would be a much better place today. There would not have been an Iraq war and it's likely the fight in Afghanistan would have been "won" years ago, since millions of disaffected Muslims wouldn't have learned to hate and blame America from the Iraq invasion. The economy would probably still be broken, thanks to the long-term trend of speculation driving growth, but income would be more sanely distributed than it was under Bush. In short, it's naive and counterproductive to claim that the dems and the republicans are the same animal; the lesser of two evils is so much less evil, we have to support it.

And, finally, can you think of a single instance from history in which the business of mass politics was not complex, messy, and based on compromise?


Great Moments of Anticlimax

  1. Quitting a job you hate. It should be cathartic and liberating, but it's usually depressingly routine. I think it's because of the two-weeks' notice; by the time your final day rolls around, everyone's already reacted and chances are, your replacement is already starting. I've said it before and will again: the last day of a hated job should instead include a parade with retired astronauts.
  2. Moving away from a city. You're just tired. You have to get up really early and drive the truck all day. You're completely preoccupied with all of the logistical hurdles that have to be overcome. There are so many more things to do once you arrive in the new city that any sense of new beginnings is buried under the anxiety.
  3. As it turns out, finishing a dissertation. Writing a dissertation takes so long, by the time you're done, you've been semi-done for months already. You're citing things, filling in spaces, editing the bad grammar, and finishing the bibliography (easily the most painful part.) Worse, you know better than anyone how many gaps and problems remain, so you don't even really feel that good about the finished project.
That said, I expect having a baby will be pretty climactic.* A big part will probably be the intense insanity of labor preceding it. Maybe quitting jobs, moving, and finishing dissertations should be accompanied by some kind of wacky Klingon ceremony involving swords and burning, thereby making the moment more special.

* As opposed to climatic, which would just involve a high-pressure ridge or a 20% chance of rain.


Confound It All!

That's a pic my homie L put on Facebook the other day. It's an action shot from the infamous Paddy's Day party at Fort Awesome in 2000. That's B on the left, me, and our main man B on the right. I drank one million beers and fell over by about 10pm (in fairness, we started at about noon.) I slept poorly and felt slightly ill the next day.*

I can't get over it, guys. Do people denounce having fun when they get older? Did I just have a lot more fun than most people when I was in my 20s and the contrast is thus all the more pronounced?

Another possibility, following the following anecdote: I went to an expectant dad class last night at the hospital. It was informative, interesting, and kind of "fun" in the way that good classes are fun. The most intriguing part for me was the other men in the class; they were smart, friendly, and had NOTHING to do with the university.** This was something of a revelation for me; for years now, the only people I've known in SC are university people, and they're great, but I end up judging the town itself basically by the scumbags in the park across the street. It was heartening to meet some real human beings who live here.

The point is this: perhaps part of my attitude these days is grad school's fault. I stopped blaming grad school for my problems a few years ago, but it occurs to me that the current truncation of my horizons isn't just The Fear about the future, but could also be how dead-boring my routine is at the university. Moving, hopefully to PDX, will be a huge relief just in getting out of this institutional rut for a while.

I still miss partying at Fort Awesome, either way.

* This is putting it rather lightly.
** Note proper syntax here: "part" is singular, so even though I'm referring to multiple "other men," the proper use of the verb remains "was," not "were." Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week...

P.S. A programming note: a huge number of the blogs I used to link to have been inactive for a while. I removed all of the ones that update either 1. never or 2. really infrequently. Several blogs I read now are restricted to approved readers, so there's no point in linking to them.


Hate-On-It Tuesday!

  1. Salt! That shit is in everything! The FDA recommended maximum for salt is about one tablespoon per day, but the human body only needs about one teaspoon. But just try to actually keep it to one tablespoon per day - huge amounts of salt are in things you'd never even think of - cereal, salsa, beans, soup, even friggin' bread. B and I already cook our own meals every day of the week, and even the constituent elements therein have salt pre-added! For a guy waging a battle against pre-hypertension, this is not a good thing.*
  2. Accidental children! Dear world: birth control is shockingly straightforward. I've been coming across even more stupid stories of people having kids by accident, decades after the technologies to prevent that from occurring were pretty much in the bag. Frankly, it reminds me of Idiocracy. Sorry to be the crotchety, obnoxious smart-ass type, but that's just how it is.
* Also, there is stress. I'm starting to wonder if the constant feeling of exhaustion crossed with low-level depression I've been experiencing for about four months has something to do with the fact that I'm at the most fucked personal historical conjuncture I've experienced since 2001.


Oh, That's What It Is

Yeah, well...
  1. Up.
  2. Go to campus 50% of the time, stay home the other 50%. Cite a few things.
  3. Home.
  4. Video games, food, hanging out.
  5. Bed.
What I should be doing with the remaining seven weeks before the kiddo joins us in the one-bedroom apartment is start work on a proper article. Then, at some point soonish, I would finish this article and submit it to a peer-reviewed journal of intellectual history or, following discussion with patron crazy Marxist prof, submit it instead to some radical lefty peer-reviewed journal. In doing so, the thin thread of hope that I will someday be an academic when I grow up might yet remain intact.

But I'm done, people. It's been six straight years. I didn't always work as hard as I could, and I can think of a lot of things I'd do differently now if I'd known better, but I gave it a pretty good run and I'm really tired. A lot of people take a year after they QE and just kind of kick around and write for grants and (in the words of a friend) watch the tomatoes grow in the back yard, and I totally get that now. I'm looking forward to teaching this summer, because I can just do that without having to think deep thoughts, and that sounds juuuuuuust right (in the Goldilocks sense.)*

*i.e. I will be devoured by bears.


All Music Should Sound and Look Like This

During the Oregon trip last month, our friends introduced me to this wonderful band and this wonderful video:

For me, this kind of melodic, sludgy, accessible metal, featuring a sense of humor but without being a joke, is completely and utterly perfect. Soon, all bands will sound like this (once I run things.) This is their website.

Appropriately, they also found a mass grave of vikings today in England. METAL, AGAIN.

P.S. By "they" I don't mean that the band found the mass grave. But I wish they had.


You Can't Take It With You Post-Baby

Just a note on a lazy Tuesday afternoon here...right now, I have a surfeit of time. My time-cup runneth over. I have an embarrassment of time-riches. I've got forty gallons of time in a twenty-gallon time-bucket.

The dissertation is pretty much done; I'm going to make some additions to the conclusion, fix a few citations, and write up the bibliography properly, but that's really about it. The paper for the stupid conference is also finished. I've got a bunch of parent to-be classes coming up and I'm also thinking of new things that need to get done, but unlike a lot of people I know, I have more than enough time to do them all.

But there's the rub: in two short months, I will wish with all my wishing power that I had more time and space and energy, but there's no way I can do anything now to save it up. So I'll just go back to what I was doing before: not much.


Bad Movies in which the Titular Subjects Are Mostly Irrelevant

Having just watched a bad movie in which the titular subject was mostly irrelevant to the larger plot, I wanted to warn everyone about three such films (sorry if you like one or more of these movies and are thus enraged by my blog post.)
  1. Inglorious Basterds. We watched this last night. The titular subject in this case is a fictional group of Jewish-American soldiers led by Brad Pitt who wage a guerrilla campaign against the Nazis in occupied France. The only problem is that 90% of the movie is boring dialogue in German with only about 10 minutes (out of 2.5 hours!) given over to the Basterds actually doing anything. If you like boring German dialogue in a movie that seems like a weird adaptation from the stage, though, you might like it.
  2. Watchmen (sorry, K, different tastes and all...) We watched this a few weeks ago. The titular subject is a group of super heroes, all but one of whom don't have any "real" super powers, just ass-kicking karate moves and spandex. The thing is, the main plot of the movie is set years after The Watchmen have disbanded, so rather than it really being a super-hero movie, it's a long, weird rumination on...nuclear war? World peace? Tight pants? I'm not sure.
  3. Gangs of New York. Now, almost everyone hates this movie, so this should be an easy sell. For me, the thing that really sucked about it is...wait for it...the almost TOTAL ABSENCE OF GANGS OF NEW YORK! 90% of the movie is, again, boring dialogue, albeit in English, and even the big climactic battle scene isn't really between gangs, it's between Leonardo di Caprio (with a ponytail), Daniel Day Lewis, and the Union Army. Of the three, this one probably sucked the most.
Bonus round: while I hardly need belabor the obvious, the Star Wars prequels were the worst films ever made. Just considering the titles, though, they fit well within the category I'm considering here; WTF was "The Phantom Menace?" "Attack of the Clones" didn't even have the clones attacking anyone until the very end, at they were still good guys at that point. "Revenge of the Sith" is kind of accurate, except that it's never established what they're enacting revenge for in the first place!!!

Also: Jar-Jar.


Hyperbolic Rhetoric and the Men Who Love It

Yesterday was the big statewide strike and protests against the privatization of public education. The big news items were the "mostly peaceful" nature of the protests and the fact that about 150 people shut down the highways of the east bay before getting arrested (see: picture to the left.) Here in SC, it was the usual story: the protesters protested, the administration bitched and sent disingenuous statements to the press (there were, in fact, no protesters brandishing knives or clubs), and life went on.

I want to keep my comments brief. I had a great talk with my homie J the other day about the whole situation and he made a lot of good points. Basically, even if all the protests do is contest the logic of privatization, make it clear that public education is very, very important in democratic societies, then they're doing something legitimate and worthwhile. There is no easy answer for where the money is supposed to come from to "restore" public education, after all, but the trend that has led to the current debacle has been decades in the making, and it is important not to go along quietly.

That said, it's the most radical, self-serving, and straight-up fucking obnoxious elements of the protest movement that get a lot of the press and undermine the larger movement's efficacy. Calling for any combination of anarchy, communism, and the "destruction of the university" is counter-productive, because everyone recognizes those demands as hyperbolic nonsense. In the process, I think, the legitimate rejection of privatization is subsumed in that nonsense and is written off as equally unrealistic.

Finally, I'll restate what I've been saying to my further-left-than-me (I'm still weirded out that that's possible, BTW) friends for a while now: it's important to win over the mainstream in democratic politics. When you do something like stop all the traffic in a major metro area for hours during the commute, you alienate the mainstream instead. How many people were sympathetic to the student movement as a whole in the bay area before 5:15pm yesterday who were rapidly rendered very unsympathetic as they sat in their cars for hours?


Cow Towns

I'm applying to a one-year sabbatical replacement job in a cow town. I'm keeping the details offline for fear of showing up on a google search ("hmm...candidate KFR called our lovely village a "cow town." Let's not give him the job we would have otherwise totally given him.") My chances of getting it aren't much higher than were my chances of getting real (i.e. permanent) jobs, so I'm not investing much energy imaging what it would be like to move from lefty SC to a dude ranch in the sticks, but it does highlight the weirdness of this business in general.

What I mean is that in no other line of work does one investment this much time and energy and then snap at any pseudo-prospect that comes up, no matter how remote. My friend E is applying for a job that is literally at Panhandle State University (ok, it's not really called that...), and the two of us were laughing this morning in the bunker about how it's Come To This. Imagine going to medical school and then moving to, say, Nome, Alaska, because that's the only place that needs a doctor.

The real issue is the slipping point between hellhole and need for job: how awful does a location have to be that even us desperate would-be academics won't apply there? For me, I'm only applying to one-year jobs or community college gigs that are already coincidentally near where I want to be (i.e. Portland) because otherwise, why not just move to Portland anyway? I'm sure as shit not going to take a one-year throw-away job in the backwoods when I at least could move back to my favorite city, job or no job.

Also: It definitely makes scanning for job listings faster when you can ignore everything in the south.

P.S. The clever reader can infer that the cow town job that I am applying to is, in fact, nearish to Portland.