Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Peace on Earth, Good Will To Men

Today is born, in the city of David, a Savior. 'Tis Christ the Lord.

I know it's true because Linus told me so.

Christmas Eve is always my favorite day of the year. I believe I've posted about this in the past, but a brief recap: my folks go crazy with food and drink, my brother and his girlfriend come over for dinner, drinks, presents, and general merrymaking, and we all have a fabulous time. It really is, in my opinion, the best day of the entire year for our family.

This year, we feasted ($80 beef tenderloin and various side dishes and sauces), we wassailed, and made merry ourselves in the spirit of the season. It was an altogether exemplary holiday.

Though it does make things quite interesting when you go to midnight mass and your biggest concern is whether or not the priest is going to screw up because you know that a few hours earlier he was over at your house and you made him several very strong drinks. (My uncle our priest, and he dines with us every year.)

(Sappiness to follow. Blame the Crown Royal and the Hendrick's.)

I've had a myriad of alcoholic indulgences this evening, so I won't prolong this blog. But to all of you readers out there, I wish you a very Merry Christmas. To my friends and colleagues (hopefully one and the same), I am eternally grateful for your presence in my life, and I shall hold you close with a thankful heart. May your holiday be blessed, the end of the year be safe and fulfilling, and may your year to come be new and exciting, bringing expected blessings and unexpected joys. You all enrich my life in ways I can't begin to quantify. I won't belabor the point, but please know that you are all very dear to me.

In the words of Garfield's Christmas Special:

There, I said it. Now get out of here.

(More cynical and ironic blogs to come after MLA, I promise.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

And So the Semester Comes to a Close

Batman is gone for the holidays. You know what that means, folks.

Crime is about to massively decrease in his hometown, whilst the good people of Madison must fend for themselves.

Of course, that leaves our Batcave entirely open for my whims. Nothing but coked out hookers and illegal arms dealings to Azerbaijan. Cause that's how I roll.

Or, my life could be a lot lamer, and I could be watching movies with the volume up high and planning to clean the place. Tonight's fare was the annual watching of Love Actually to continue my holiday film fest, which began with Elf, which I had never seen, and will continue with Scrooged, Christmas Vacation (never seen it), and The Ref (a yet unmentioned holiday hilarity), before I head home and watch more movies with the folks. Yup, I'm living the high life.

Yesterday, after breaking even in a five hour poker extravaganza (a Christmas miracle!), came home and started another movie at midnight, just because I didn't have a Writing Center shift today, for the first time since the start of the semester. Yay! Also yay for Waitress, which is a quality film that only increased my desire to kill Nathan Fillion and assume his identity. This will necessarily involve some kind of voodoo ritual in which I absorb his talent and appearance. And once that's accomplished, I begin my real goal: the promotion and development of Serenity 2: Revenge of the Reavers.

Last Thursday my students had their exam. Since I still had discussion session the following day, I made it entirely optional for extra credit, and basically had a Festivus-inspired "Airing of Grievances." (I contemplated a "Feats of Strength" section, but I have several football players in my classes, most of whom might bear a grudge for the grades I've been giving them.) My first section handled this well, offering insight into what worked and what didn't, etc. My second section, Festivus bless them, basically devolved into the "We Hate Spousal Hire and We Love Dubs Club." In the span of about 20 minutes, they launched a multi-tiered attack on SH's lectures, proving that they are capable of an insightful critique that their papers sorely lacked. In this time, they basically validated everything I've been blogging about this semester.

Which was AWESOME.

I'm not gonna lie. I managed to play it off as very neutral (or so I think), and tried to constantly turn the talk to specific things that work in lectures and things that don't, so I could learn to be a good lecturer myself one day. But it was fun to hear their young minds assailing the inanities of the semester that we all had collectively suffered through. Fun and gratifying. Very, very gratifying.

Beyond that, not a lot going on. Department non-denominational holiday party was last Friday. Got drunk, hung out with a bunch of MAs afterward and tried desperately not to feel old and sketchy. Had unflattering pictures taken of me (not that kind, pervert), further proving my age-old adage that the Dubs does not photograph well. Of course, the multiple glasses of wine and numerous rum and cokes, combined with no dinner, helped a bit as well.

Grading exams now, and I'm apparently being far too easy. Or our exam was far too easy. I suspect the latter. Though I'm somewhat disgruntled that I'm giving out so many ABs. Damn my students and their excellent participation.

All that's left before my holiday departure is my grading (will finish tomorrow) and my Christmas shopping. Hilariously, this will involve me going to a liquor store on the other side of town and picking up $250 worth of beer that my brother ordered online. Then I get to drive it all home. What a time to be alive.

So if you're around and looking for hijinks, give me a shout. And if you're still working, good luck with that. Otherwise, probably won't blog until my Christmas blog, which should hit the blogodrome right around the Eve.

Safe travels all those leaving their respective towns, and happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Battle for Our Approval!

First, a random observation. Those who have been with this blog since the get go will remember that one of my key methods of determining the elite from the slobs is the correct pronunciation of Pago Pago. Today at the Writing Center, I felt even more appreciation for my intellectual breeding. Because you know you're better than others when you can correctly pronounce words like "hegemonic," "apartheid," "Borges," "Proust," and "nuclear." You just feel better about yourself and your worth as a person in relation to the worth of other people.

This is also a great feeling when you realize you feel that way about your relationship to your lecturer, who spent the entire class restating the same things you yourself said in your guest lecture the week before. To quote another WC colleague, "Wow, I'm so much better than you."

Speaking of, I gave a guest lecture last Thursday (my fourth here at UW). As my topic dealt with art and politics (specifically classical music), I managed to open with a clip of a famous conductor playing Beethoven for Hitler's birthday, and I spent the last ten minutes of the lecture with Brahms' 2nd Symphony (2nd Movement) playing underneath me. Every so often, I would stop and conduct. According to one of my fellow TAs, the key moment was when I stopped mid-lecture, told the class to "Wait for it...", and then conducted the giant upsurge of the strings (around the 2:20 mark if you know the movement). Yes, I was kind of a media whore. And yes, I was showing off. But these poor kids have suffered so much this semester that I felt it was in order.

Ok, on to the main topic of this post. Recently, one of the MA students told me that, without the grueling agony of the MA test, there was confusion as to how the rest of the graduate student population would judge their new peers as equals. Without the rigors of testing, how would we know that these newcomers (infidels in the halls of our ivory tower, if you will) were up to snuff?

To be fair, anyone seeing how hard these folk are working themselves with end of the semester papers should inherently know that they're worthy of attention and grudging respect (or that they have no lives and work far too hard). But this hesitation has been echoed by many a newcomer that I've talked with, so I feel we as a collective must explore options for inducting the new generation into our elite brand of snobbery. As such, I have comprised a list of possible methods.

1. Deathmatch: We pit the MAs against each other in a three day Battle Royale. The survivors receive a Masters and pass on to the next stage of the program.

2. Random selection: A committee of PhD students (or Council of Elders, if you will) randomly chooses whom we wish to advance and whom we wish to shun. We would offer no logic or reasoning for these choices. This would cull their spirits and make them constantly curry favor.

3. Prison-method: We seek out the smartest of the MAs. We then beat the hell out of this person in front of all the others. This will strike an ungodly fear in the hearts of the others, who will always respect our authority and never seek to oust us.

4. The Quest: At the start of the year, every MA is assigned a mentor. To conclude the MA year, the Mentor shall assign an epic quest for the mentee to complete. Successful return leads to a degree. (Quests could range from "Bring me a soda" to "Here's half of a medallion. Somewhere in the world is a man with the other half. He shall lead the way to the treasure of the Incas. Find me this treasure.")

5. The MA Test (Alcoholic Form): Each MA will be plied with questions fundamental to the understanding of the literary arts. For every correct answer, you do a shot. For every incorrect answer, you do two shots. Those who both pass the test and avoid a hospital stay will receive the degree. This method also helps build the alcohol tolerance crucial to the continued pursuit of a PhD.

6. The "Shovel My Drive" Test: It snows a lot. Sure would be nice if someone shoveled my drive.

7. The Out-Write Test: Candidates are placed in front of a computer. Given a prompt, they must proceed to write more pages than me in an hour's time.

8. The Kobayashi Maru Test: A test to be determined which is impossible to pass without cheating. Measures ingenuity, and lets us laugh at people who keep "trying" to win. Bonus points for anyone who breaks down and yells "Khaaaaaaannnnnn!" as the test concludes.

Other suggestions? Something that might incorporate racing bears on the frozen surface of Lake Mendota? Skydiving off of Helen C.? Other thoughts?

And as a last note, every dissertator should be friends with several MA students. You never realize just how good you have it until you don't have to frantically write four seminar papers. (Good luck, you paper writers out there!)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Ninja Drunk

Ninja Drunk: To wit, the onset of a sudden and unexpected drunkenness that assails you stealthily despite any intentions of sobriety. Named for the practitioners of the arts of unseen assassination, the condition known as "Ninja Drunk" strikes without warning, leaving the victim horribly scarred and badly damaged, often before any real consciousness of the drunkening arrives. Most cases result in a period of PTHD, or Post-Traumatic Hangover Disorder, that leaves the victim incapable of performing basic functions for a long period of time following the catastrophe.

So last night, I got Ninja Drunk. Not sure how it happened, as I really (by my standards) didn't drink all that much. To be fair, I really hadn't eaten a lot of food that day, and I was fairly tired after seven hours at the coffee shop grading and reading and watching the snow fall. But still, the immediate switch from sobriety to insane drunkenness was shocking, particularly since my awareness jumps from about 10:30 Saturday night to 8:00 Sunday morning, when I awoke on top of my covers, still wearing my clothes and glasses. I've basically spent the rest of the day trying to come to terms with my near assassination by evil Ninja Bourbon (perhaps the dark counterpart to the Bourbon Samurai).

Using this as an excuse, then, I offer you a post I've been pondering for some time. The Top Five Drunken Experiences of Dubs. Note, these are not necessarily the drunkest experiences of my career. They're simply the most memorable (or not, given the amount consumed), the ones that come to mind when I ponder the really great drunken times of my life. These are presented in no particular order, and I make no judgments on those who choose to drink or not drink. Think of this as a way to kill a lot of time when you should be writing a seminar paper or doing work.

1. Housewarming at the Wudan.

Or, as I consider it, "The Harry Potter Night." I've told this story too many times; therefore I won't rehash it again. If you're one of the very few who hasn't heard it, ask me sometime when I've had a drink or two. It's quite the tale. And it even forced my fellow band of reprobates to include a new rule into the Drinking Tournament Code that we later drafted.

2. New Year's Eve, 2002-2003.

New Year's in Chicago. One of the greatest cities in the world, at our disposal, and of course we choose to have an apartment party and get trashed there. We started drinking at around 7:00, and we didn't let up until everyone was hammered and gone. Memi decided it'd be swell to mix all the alcohols she liked into one uber-alcohol, which tasted like the underside of a bus on a snowy day. I think it actually started to curdle. Bluesman and J.D. decided to polish off a bottle of 18 year old Scotch (Glenmorangie, I believe). I believe I was drinking bourbon, probably Booker's or Knob Creek. We had a fair amount of people there (McJew might remember who else came, as he was definitely there for the bulk of the evening and left around 6 a.m. to catch the El back to Evanston), and we were all pretty much gone by around 10:00 or so. Epic way to close out the year we graduated college. Spent the next day so hungover that we couldn't move. (Well, the men at least. The women went out dancing or some such tomfoolery, while the men stayed at home, watched The Time Machine, Deuce Bigalow, and then played Mystery Mansion. All without ever leaving the futon, or even folding it back into couch position.)

3. The 40s Party

Also known as the great showdown between the East Side and the West Side gangs of Madison grad students. East Siders wore green, West Siders wore yellow I believe. East Siders were clearly the dominant group, and upheld the pride and dignity of our side of town. That night, I was challenged to a drink-off of a second 40, having already pounded one by myself (though to be fair, these were 40s of beer, not malt liquor, which might very well have killed us). Because I'm stupid, I agreed. To my shame, I lost this challenge. But win or lose, we're all winners when we drink more. This was also the night I stumbled in the bathroom and tore down Winter's shower curtain (which I tried to fix and ended up damaging even more). I believe this night I also attempted to attack some skateboarders on the way home.

4. My 26th Birthday

This one holds a great place in my heart, though I don't remember all that much of it. We were all out at a bar, and everyone kept buying me drinks. Apparently, my decision to drink mostly beer as a means of staying in the race longer meant that everyone would instead buy me shots. I was actually managing to hang in there, until the then head of the graduate English program, The Absent-Minded Professor (who was at the bar with another group), bought me a very large glass of bourbon. I have no memories after this, but that alone gives the night a huge ratings boost. Apparently after that, we went to a cigar bar. This is confirmed by the fact that I woke up and my clothes reeked of smoke and my mouth felt like an ashtray.

5. Dubsgiving

I consider all of Dubsgiving one drunken experience, and I'd hate to have to choose between "The Night of the Five Beer Boats" and "Let's Go to a Bar Night 2: Return of the Revenge of the Blood." I've chronicled the full details here and here, so take a look if you haven't read them already. They're long, and will waste a lot of time you could be writing seminar papers.

Runners Up

-The Night of the Cherry Flavored Whiskey (chronicled here by Bourbon Samurai)
-The Othello cast party (the night of the animal crackers)
-The Measure for Measure party (where I remained drunk until about 3 p.m. the following day, despite having friends over for an afternoon gathering).
-Really any time we went to the Wudan.

I'm sure there are others, but I was probably too drunk to remember them.

(Readers are now invited to offer their own stories of inebriation, so I don't feel like the only drunk in the blogodrome. New Yorkers especially, I'm looking at you. Largely because none of you blog anymore.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Holiday Ramblings

My love of the holiday season is well-documented (see here and here for last year's treatises on the subject of Christmas). So I won't go into things at length again, lest I grow repetitive. I'll only point out that, in fine Dubs' family tradition, our Christmas tree was appropriately removed from its natural habitat and put to far better use in our living room, where it will glitter and gleam and slowly die for our holiday cheer. (Those of you with facebook can see the latest conquest of nature in my profile picture. No, this is not in Madison. Sadly.)

Over the course of past week, I learned several things, which I shall enumerate in no particular order.

1. I am a 13 year old girl. As proven by my great enjoyment of the movie Enchanted, which is just so danged earnest that it avoids being sickly sweet.

2. You know how they say that if you've just lost weight, it's easier to put it right back on? That's true. Damned delicious stuffing.

3. Pine tree sap doesn't wash out of anything easily.

4. It's really weird to go back to places you frequented as a child. I discovered this when I entered my old parish church for the first time in about eight years, and immediately felt like I was back in sixth grade.

5. New coats are fun.

6. I apparently don't age. Or, if I do, then I'm retrogressing. I was told I still look 18 by my cousins, and the man in the grocery store nearly didn't give me a free sample of wine, despite the fact that my gray-haired father was right next to me. For further proof, see the aforementioned Christmas Tree / Facebook profile picture, where I look like I'm frakkin' twelve.

7. New episodes or movies of Battlestar make me want to say "frak" more often. So far, I have resisted this urge in public. But BSG: Razor was pretty cool.

8. "Pushing Daisies" + Pee Wee Herman = Awesome.

Nothing much else to add. But for a diversion, I'm throwing the floor open again to Christmas songs worth listening to. I have an extensive list from last year (see above), but here are a few that I either just discovered or neglected previously. (Through the miracles of our age, videos provided for your enjoyment. Per usual, watch the videos at your own risk. I just pick 'em for the songs.)

-"Snoopy's Christmas" I love this song. No real logic behind it, other than it's Snoopy.

-"Donna and Blitzen" by Badly Drawn Boy. Last year, T. made me a CD of some truly excellent Christmas songs. I think this one is my favorite, despite it's unclear connection to Christmas itself, or really any logical progression in the lyrics. The music itself overcomes all that. (Sadly, no video.)

-"River" by Joni Mitchell. Largely known for her ability to teach cold English housewives how to feel, she also gave a great Christmas song that I had never really heard before late last year.

-"Song for a Winter's Night" by Sarah McLachlan. Not technically a Christmas song, but still a winter song. Beware the video for egregious fangirl King Arthur clips.

-"Spotlight on Christmas" by Rufus Wainwright. Another from the T. collection. Contains the wonderful description of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph: "And they were each one quite odd / A mensch, a virgin, and a God." Again, no good video.

-"Maybe This Christmas" by Ron Sexsmith. Third and last I'll mention from the T. collection. Peppy little tune, apparently used on "The O.C." (hence the video, and though I've never actually seen "The O.C.", I hear good things about this Chrismukkah thing).

And that's it for me. What are your suggestions? New songs that need to be explored? Old favorites that need to be rediscovered? Anything else Christmas-related? 'Tis the season, and I'm a sucker for it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

We've Got Boston, South America, the Good Part of Ireland, and We're Makin' Serious Inroads in Mozambique, Baby!

Listen Jack, I'm a Catholic, which means I'm a cheat and a liar.

No, wait.

That's something else.

I'm a Catholic, which means I'm a sexist and I like to subjugate indigenous peoples.

There, that's more like it.

Back where I come from, St. Louis, there were basically two options as far as my small suburban world was conceived. You were either a Catholic, or you went to public school (what my mother would refer to dismissively as "dumb school" [you can basically understand my entire personality if you consider the fact that the greatest danger of my young life was going to school with stupid people]). I went to a Catholic grade school, and a Catholic high school. And though there was a time in college in which I and Holy Mother Church parted ways (due to my laziness rather than any profound ideological schism), I today continue to go to church every Sunday. Not out of habit, but out of belief.

Plus, as the oldest of the Christian sects (I wouldn't hesitate to use the word "truest"), it also appeals to my sense of snobbery. Many's the joke I've had at the expense of my Protestant friends (who I've affectionately referred to as "the damned" on myriad occasions). But largely, my knowledge of the Protestant world comes from what I hear on the streets or read in books. Before college, my world was very insular; I had met Protestants, at one point or another, but never actively associated with them. And I knew that "Jews" existed somewhere, but I never actually met one until college (the closest I came was when a Jewish film festival nearly kept my father and me from seeing Crimson Tide together).

I bring this up because my Catholicism has been brought home to me in several ways these past few days. (Well, two. But that's enough for a blog post, don't you think?) First, recently over the course of an evening of alcohol and alcohol-related festivities, I was grilled rather earnestly by one of the opposing team, who seemed completely incredulous at my professed belief in the HRCC (that's Holy Roman Catholic Church for you noobs out there). A serious amount of alcohol was involved, so the conversation was already a bit skewed, but I believe at one point I had to counter the claim that Catholics prayed to nuns. (As if nuns were saints, I imagine. Anyone who ever met the knuckle-slapping nuns at my grade school would know that was not the case. Well, except for the Flying Nun. She had superpowers.)

I do not bring this instance up to mock or show offense taken on my part, as the conversation was mainly highly literate and intellectually intriguing (or as well as can be after several drinks). Not to mention a lot of fun. Instead, I merely bring it up as an example of the great disparity between some of our fellow Christian faiths and Holy Mother Church. And as an excuse to blog. Because I always need those.

Oh, and the other instance that brought my faith home? Tonight, at mass, someone had put gum on the pew I chose to sit in. And now I have gum all over my sweater. Thanks, God, for looking out for your faithful. (Seriously, who even brings gum to church, let alone sticks it on the part of the pew people lean their backs against?)

And so, as a Sunday meditation, a list of reasons why Catholicism is superior to every other religion ever:

-Nobody says ceremony like a Catholic. If you try, we immediately play the Latin trump card.
-Catholic history is much cooler than other histories. Great Schism, Pope and Anti-Pope, etc. Seriously. Anti-Pope. Whereas the nearest Protestant equivalent is just one more group of splitters.
-The Popish Plot. I don't know what it is, but I know the British were afraid of it for the better part of three centuries. I think it meant the pope was going to blow up Parliament.
-In case of vampire attack or demonic possession, my Church is prepared to seriously whoop some undead ass. You just keep telling yourself that faith alone will save you. Now, faith combined with a giant jug of holy water and a priest consecrating the actual body and blood of Christ? Bring on them vamps and demons! Cause a Catholic priest is the Batman of the undead battlefield.
-As addendum to the last point, all the secret rites and rituals for dealing with vampires and demons that you know the Church still has secreted away somewhere. Bust out the Latin, bust some undead heads back to Hell.
-That priest in Dead Alive. "I kick ass for the lord!" Even though he bites it in the end, he does it in style.
-Jesuits. Like the Popish plot, the Jesuits instilled fear and terror in the hearts of Protestants everywhere. You never knew where the Jesuits were going to strike next. Maybe as part of a Popish Plot.
-The Flying Nun.
-That little dude who does the chant at the start of Easter Vigil mass every year. I love that guy.
-The Popemobile. Not to mention the Pope's Awesome Giant Hat.
-Saints: The Action Heroes of the Dark Ages.
-The Monty Python Spanish Inquisition sketch.

That's enough for now, I think. I'd say that my irreverant attitude will get me condemned to Hell, but then, I'm Catholic. Absolution, baby.

In conclusion, two videos for your perusal. The first, our ass-kicking, zombie fighting priest:

The second, a very moving and stirring song about self-acceptance in this harsh modern world. (Author's note: I only steal the YouTube clip for the music. I advise you not to watch the movie itself. Indeed, you'd be better served closing your eyes, or opening another window, lest you inadvertantly watch part of this video. Don't encourage people to set their photos to music, or they'll start to breed.)

(Seriously. Hit play then look away.)

(Ok, I warned you.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Please Let Me Die

Ah, nothing like long days of student conferences to really sap the life out of you and make you envy the dead. Often in grad school, you fantasize about being injured, so that you won't have to write that paper or meet that deadline. ("Man, if I got hit by a bus and put in a full body cast, I bet I could get an extension.) But only after meetings with loads upon loads of students do you truly pray for your existence to end.

There's a lesson in there somewhere. Damned if I know what it is.

My students have papers due, so naturally, they all have waited till two days before the paper is due to contact me. So for the past two days, I have been answering about a hundred e-mails, meeting with about 20 of my 34 students, and generally not accomplishing anything else because they keep pestering me and destroying my will to live.

Plus, of course, I've had my Writing Center shifts these past two days, where I get to look at even more student writing. I swear, by the end of tonight, I just want to start setting papers on fire and kicking undergraduates who get in my way. Why can't that be some kind of law? Or a tacit agreement? "I'll look at your paper, if I can kick you on your way out the door." That'd be sweet.

The lows:
1. One student came in and claimed he was nearly done. I then pointed out that he had not a single debatable claim in his entire paper. He has since asked for an extension.

2. Multiple students cannot understand that The Sound and the Fury is a tragedy, and that Caddy is not a figure of hope for the modern woman in escaping the evils of traditional values.

3. Someone is actually writing on McTeague. After I hinted very strongly that I wanted no papers on McTeague, as it sucks.

4. People writing on Malcolm X seem to think it's ok to just tell me about all the different things he did. Or to claim as a thesis that "Malcolm X was a very important figure."

5. Some people can't seem to grasp that when I say "You might want to consider this other viewpoint", what I'm really saying is "Your reading of this text is quite wrong. Please change it before I have to fail you."

The highs:
1. Today, one student seemed to arrive quite unwittingly at the Aristotelian definition of tragedy. Without ever having studied tragedy before. Made my morning. At least until the next student came in.

2. I cleaned parts of my apartment. This was very therapeutic for me, as it did not involve any conscious thought.

3. I think I finally found an intriuging way for a student to write about Caddy Compson without being trite or cliche. I shall now use this idea as the foundation for any teaching I do on The Sound and the Fury in the future.

4. I've been so busy with others' work, I haven't had time to be nervous about my CLC dissertation workshop on Thursday. (That will change tomorrow.)

5. Today, at the Writing Center, someone was writing about a character named Socrates, and he pronounced it So-crates (a la Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure's So-crates Johnson). I've never read the book he was discussing so for all I know, it actually is pronounced that way in that text. But I still nearly laughed out loud as he read his paper to me. Best part of my entire day.

Now if only I could see papers about Bob Genghis Khan, Dave Beethoven, Maxine of Arc, Herman the Kid, Dennis Frood, and....Abraham Lincoln. Ah, that'd be excellent.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Because Undergrads Can't Understand Althusser

I'm not sure which is more disturbing. That:

A. I used The Usual Suspects as a way to start talking about The Autobiography of Malcolm X and ideological state apparatuses today in secton...


B. Only three of my 18 students knew what I was talking about.

I mean, I figured it was a no-brainer. "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled is convincing the world he didn't exist." Malcolm calls us "white devils." And what is ideology but that which we convince ourselves doesn't exist? Sadly, my brilliant foray into the realm of pop culture is about six years too old. I mean, I remember when you couldn't go a week in college without seeing Usual Suspects somewhere, usually in someone's dorm room starting around 2am. So once again, my students made me feel old.

In a fit of spite, I spoiled the twist ending for them. I think Malcolm would have approved.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me

Because then I might freeze to death.

Batman and I, in a fit of pride, have yet to turn on the heat in our freezing apartment. We have to pay for it, you see, and gas prices tend to skyrocket in the winter here. As we are poor (or at least I am, and all of Batman's funds are clearly going into his crime-fighting apparati and the facade of his playboy existence), we choose to save money by slowly freezing into corpsicles.

Of course, I did just watch a wonderfully fun movie that seemed to offer a lifestyle not entirely incompatible with this level of cold. Granted, it was set in California, but this movie advocated that constant night activity, a casual disdain of the ways of the world, and a willingness to break the "rules" and "social norms" can lead to a fulfilling life amidst the chaos of the world. The name of this movie, if you haven't yet guessed, is The Lost Boys.

Yes, in between my Netflix shipments of "Freaks and Geeks" (which is excellent, by the way), I've been getting horror movies to celebrate Halloween (even a bit belatedly). I had never seen Lost Boys before, and I heard it was quite the celebration of all things '80s. Well folks, this is quite true. Vampires with mullets, and Kiefer Sutherland as a Billy Idol-esque punk biker vampire. And, apparently, vampires aren't that bad. Sure, they may kill the occasional fat boardwalk security guard, and they may generally cause a disturbance, but before they were provoked, whom did they viciously mutilate? Beach thugs! Listening to Run DMC! Clearly drunk, and possibly on drugs! These vampires aren't evil, they're just hardworking, decent, Reaganite Americans.

As I'm sure every child of the '80s but me has already seen this movie, I won't take the time to unpack it further or mention many of its obvious absurdities. Ok, two more. First, why did the vampire dying in the bathtub cause all the pipes, sinks, toilets, etc. to start spraying blood? Physics seems to imply that that degree of force would have exploded outward (i.e. out the top of the tub) rather than generating a massive, water-main disruptive shockwave that not only exploded the pipes but managed to change all the water to blood (I won't even touch the metaphysical implications of that one). Second, the theme song? Children singing the ten commandments? Used at multiple points throughout the film, and linked with a bodacious hair-metal power ballad? Awesome. It was hilarious camp, and it's making me seriously contemplate turning to the undead side of life. If nothing else, I'll no longer feel the cold. (For further justification, see 30 Days of Night.)

(Again, sorry for lack of interesting posts. Since TGD switched CLC spots with me for next week, I've been frantically revising my dissertation chapter to make it suitable for presentation. On the plus side, I now have 31 pages of my dissertation written.)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Overheard in Madison Today

Girl on cell: "We should totally do it, because we never got our bellybuttons pierced."

There are days when walking down the streets of Madison can be quite fun. I believe I spent the next ten minutes after overhearing this particular snippit pondering just how many different ways that conversation could have started. Granted, the thing they plan to do is probably something cliche like get a tattoo or another piercing. And yet a part of me wonders about the causal relationship implicit in that statement.

"We should totally do it, because we never got our bellybuttons pierced." (emphasis mine)

What, exactly, would not having a pierced navel allow to come into play? On the one hand, I immediately imagine some bizarre form of liposuction, in which the navel is untied and excess stomach fat is pumped out through the umbilical remnant. Or, perhaps, some kind of surgery to turn an innie into an outie, or vice versa. Or, given the dual nature of the conversation and the emphatic "we," it could imply some procedure to conjoin two people at the navel, where one person's nutrients would be spread out into two bodies (some kind of reverse-engineered pregnancy, where you're eternally pregnant with another living, conscious, similarly-aged person). What the benefits of such a procedure would be, I can only begin to imagine.

Or, we could hope for the dream: Care Bear implants. Some mad scientific process, enacted upon an unpierced abdomen, could possibly lead to both the creation of an intricate Care Bear tattoo and the insertion of ungodly powers into said tattoo. And if that's the case, then sign me up. I'm totally going for the Care Bear with the shamrock on his stomach.

(Sorry folks, been a while since I blogged, but I got nothing new to report. Got drunk at the Halloween party, graded exams, wrote more dissertation, watched more tv. "Pushing Daisies" still rocks, "Chuck" seems to be getting better, "Heroes" is still lame-ish, though this week was better than most this season. Oh, and on "Smallville" today, Clark Kent just watched a man get gunned down without batting an eye. Granted, he was an evil government agent torturing Supergirl, but still. Way to be the hero, CK. Otherwise, Batman thinks our apartment is haunted, since it's constantly colder inside than it is outside. I don't yet disagree with him.)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Rejected Halloween Costumes

Finally having decided upon a costume, here are the top rejected ideas I came up with:

1. Groundskeeper Willie
2. One of the Flood
3. Winnie the Pooh (too difficult and costly to assemble)
4. Pillsbury Dough Boy
5. Eric and/or Kevin
6. One of the two singers of "D*** in a Box" (Easy costume to assemble, though. Step one, cut a hole in a box...)
7. The Sea Captain (I hate the sea, and everything in it.)
8. Stephen Colbert

Also, I asked my students what I should go as. Here are some of the choice responses:
-Power Ranger (red)
-Kevin Youkilis (a baseball player, apparently)
-A ninja
-Justin Timberlake and K-Fed (combined)
-J.D. from "Scrubs" (oddly enough a costume I considered myself beforehand)
-Underwear model (this one really disturbs me)
-An M&M
-Peter Pan
-Captain Planet (He's our hero. Gonna take pollution down to zero.)
-Team Ramrod, from Supertroopers
-Belle from Beauty and the Beast (apparently this would work because I "have high cheek bones")
-Benjy Compson (something else I considered)
-Shredded Cheese

So there you go. If you're still looking for a costume, feel free to poach from either list.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

An Open Letter

To: Old Woman in Red Car
From: Pedestrian with Open Umbrella

Dear madam,

The State of Wisconsin's Department of Motor Vehicles would like to inform you that the large red octagonal sign posted at the intersection of East Gorham and Carroll Streets is what is commonly referred to as a "Stop Sign." We realize they may not have had these devices back when you acquired your license during the days of the Model T, so we of the DMV would like to clarify. These signs, prolific amongst the many streets and intersections of non-stoplighted America, generally indicate you should bring your vehicle to a full and complete stop at the white line perpendicular to the road.

We would further like to clarify that these signs are particularly worth noting during inclement weather, as we in Madison suffered upon the afternoon of Monday, 22 October, 2007. When the streets are particularly slick from rain, sleet, or snow, it is vitally important that you pay attention to all traffic signs and signals, particularly around heavily-trafficked pedestrian areas.

In short, this means that when you see a "Stop Sign" on a rainy day and there is a pedestrian walking through the intersection already, stop your fucking car. The sign, while liberally interpreted by many drivers, does not mean you can roll through an intersection without even slowing down, you stupid bitch. Nor does it mean you should gesticulate accusingly at said pedestrian, especially when he was deft enough to dodge your ugly-ass vehicle's prominent bumper, thus saving himself from massive reconstructive leg surgery and you from slightly dinging your bumper (not to mention paying for said surgery). Your wild accusatory hand gestures signify only that you can't read a goddamn stop sign, and that you have no business being on the road in the first place, you decrepit old hag.

In the grand and noble spirt of the DMV, we would like to conclude by cursing your very existence and wishing you wreck your car around an innocuous tree or lamp post, thus sparing the world the very real dangers of you operating a powered ton of metal. You filthy whore.

Yours in Christ,

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Theorizing that One Could Time Travel Within His Own Lifetime...

...Benjy Compson stepped into the Quantum Leap Accelerator, and vanished.

Ok, not really.

But I did compare the non-linearity of Benjy's time in The Sound and the Fury to Dr. Sam Beckett's journey through time last Friday in section. The blank stares of my first section were a cutting reminder of just how little they know about the television of my youth ('88-'92 was not that long ago, folks. Learn your cultural history.). But then my second section massively redeemed itself through the few nods of recognition I saw. Though to be fair, both sections were more familiar with Quantum Leap than with Journeyman, so they all get props.

And, to be even more fair, there was an episode of QL where Sam leapt into the body of a mentally challenged man-child. And another episode where his own internal linearity of time was disrupted due to excessive electroshock therapy in an insane asylum. ($5 says Nittany Lion remembers both of these episodes.) So I think there's a future in my comparison; a new hourlong serial adventure-drama in which Benjy travels through various periods of history, setting right what once went wrong. His only guide on this journey would be Luster, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Benjy can see and hear, who taunts him repeatedly by whispering "Caddy Caddy Caddy" before giving him a jimson weed, and laughing uproariously as Benjy starts to cry in front of a bunch of strangers. During sweeps, he could try to save his brother Quentin, and end up leaping into the body of Shreve.

I think I'm on to something here. Time to call the networks. Does Compson Leap do anything for anyone?

Not much else to report at this point. Finished grading (yay!), went to my five year reunion (good friends! free food! Settlers of Catan! Northwestern wins in double overtime! Superbad!), been working ever since I got back. Oh, and Pushing Daisies continues to rock. Last week had Kristen Chenoweth singing "Hopelessly Devoted to You" in sheer moment of whee!-ness, and this week had pirate metaphors (which were apt) and a swashbuckling swordfight straight out of an Errol Flynn movie in a funeral home against an angry Asian man who spoke with a southern accent and was a Civil War re-enactor (including an excellent curtain-rip descent and the best justification for swordsmanship prowess ever: "I wanted to be a jedi!"). Seriously, if you're not watching this show yet, check it out.

At least until my Compson Leap pilot hits next fall.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Spousal Hire and the Agony of Being Dubs

And now for another entry in my ever-continuing series "Posts That, If Read by the Wrong People, Could Get Me in Trouble or Possibly Fired."

As I've mentioned before, this semester I'm teaching for someone I'm calling Spousal Hire. At first, it was just an amusing bastardization of academia, something to while away the time while I did my own work, a kind of "Don't Let This Happen to You" guide for educators.

Now, however, my heart is full of hatred; gone is all kindness and charity from my mind, and my soul knows no pity except for the deterioration of my own brain cells. Twice a week, my mind is filled with error, inanity, and the ever-mounting horror that my students might actually think this is what an English class should look like. And I am torn, torn by conflicting emotions. Half of me wants to throw down my books in disgust and storm out of the lecture hall. The other half of me just wants to smash SH's face in. With a brick. Or, barring that, a jagged rock. But preferably a brick.

Back at the beginning of the semester, I handed out a guide to close reading for my students. Looking it over the night before, I realized I had to edit out the first sentence. That sentence? "As we have been practicing in lecture and discussion, the way we are accessing the texts in this class is through the practice of close-reading." Because, dear reader, it simply wasn't true. In fact, looking back, I'm fairly certain that we've never modeled close reading in lecture. Discussion, sure, but not lecture. You see, there are two typical SH lecture models:

Model One: The Intro Model
This model is appropriate for introducing a new text, or a new artistic movement. It will largely involve 40 minutes of historical context (often wrong or inappropriate), vague generalizations about artistic and aesthetic movements (sometimes wrong), and the examination of various pieces of visual artwork that may or may not actually apply to the historical period we are introducing. With the last ten minutes, we will discuss biographical information about the author, and maybe introduce one or two key topics that we will never actually explore.

Model Two: The Continuation Model
This model applies to every non-intro lecture. Here, we will offer generalizations about the text, often of an intellectual rigor akin to Sparknotes. These will very rarely ever be in the form of an arguable point; instead, they will be blanket statements and observations that might serve as the intriguing foundations of argument, if they were to be explored further. And, in the rare occasions that these are interesting claims, they will never be matched with evidence from the text to make these points clear. To be sure, SH does bring in the text quite often. Most of the time, this involves the reading of large chunks of text at once, or the quick hopping from quote to quote, rarely in service of any kind of point. Also included in this model are further historical digressions, repetition of previous historical or aesthetic discussions, and other aesthetic concepts that, while true and important, are seldom connected to the text in any meaningful way. Almost as if trying to prove that SH did indeed go to grad school and can talk the talk with the rest of us.

At first I found this rather charming. Then came last Thursday, when be began our discussion of Shmigh Shmodernism (I am altering the terms slightly so my students won't find these by googling them in order to learn what the heck we've been talking about). For this class, the students were assigned some of the most difficult Schmodernist poetry, including "The Schlove Schong of J. Schalfred Shprufshok," "The Shwaste Shland," four poems by Shrobert Schrost, two poems by Shamy Showell, two poems by Schwallace Shtevens, three Schedward Shrobinson poems, and four sh. sh. shcummings poems. All of that, in one day. One day. I'll say it again, because it infuriates me so. One day. I wouldn't wish that on my worst foe.

And what did we do in that one day? Well, see Model One. And how much time did we spend on any of the poetry itself? Six minutes.

Six minutes. Six mind-boggling, biography-filled, sparknotes-quoting minutes to understand perhaps the singlemost famous and one of the most complex poems of the 20th century. Which, of course, led me to playing massive triage in section, trying desperately to teach the WL to my uncomprehending students. I often lament the limits of the time we have to teach in section, but then I rationalize it by saying the important things are what we cover in lecture. But now, I feel like they aren't getting anything but my sections. And since I actually care that my students learn something, I am full of rage at the gross bastardization of their education. Seriously. I leave every class full of rage. And amusement, of course. But mostly rage.

Some things I've learned in lecture so far:
-It's bad to be a professor and leave your cell phone on. It's worse to not turn it off and just let it keep ringing during your lecture.
-You can give three lectures on Naturalism and its importance in American Literature, without ever mentioning Theodore Dreiser.
-The Renaissance was a period from about 1400-1650. This was going on simultaneously in Europe and America.
-The Romance, as an aesthetic literary genre, most often involves the successful marriage of two lovers. It's modern counterpart is the romantic comedy.
-In 1918, Russia and other nations underwent Communist revolutions.
-Fighting these Communists was one of the aims of America in World War I.
-The Immigration Act of 1924 had something to do with Shmigh Shmodernism. As it has so very much to do with the plight of immigrants.
-The American Civil War began in 1862.
-In 1937, the Nazi's invaded Spain during World War II.
-Always spell-check your outline and compare it with the text, lest you repeatedly misspell the name of one of the key characters.
-Don't misquote Macbeth. Particularly when the title of your text comes from that quote. "Signifying nothing", not "meaning nothing."
-It is embarassing when a student stumps you with a question about the plot of the text.
-It is even worse when you misremember a key scene of the novel and misinterpret it in front of the entire lecture.
-It's quite funny when a student interrupts your long and pointless historical digression to ask you a question about the plot.
-It's hilarious for the TA when a student, in office hours, claims that the text is more complicated than the instructor's interpretation of it.
-If you're six weeks into the semester and your TAs still haven't gotten their desk copies, you might want to check into that.
-When scheduling the first paper, it is always a bad thing to offer the student only one choice of texts to write on. It's even worse for the TA, because then he or she has to grade between 37-80 papers on the same text.
-It's even worse when you only offer one possible prompt to write on, thus ensuring 37-80 papers on the same topic.
-It's even worse when this prompt is poorly written and confusing.
-It's even worse when you couple all of these things with a lecture that contains no close reading and no argument, because then your TAs will have to read 37-80 papers on the same topic, the same text, and all with no argument or close reading.

So pray for Dubs, gentle readers. Tomorrow we continue our three-lecture exploration of Shfaulkner's The Schound and the Shury. In lecture one we didn't even open the book. I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Pushing Daisies

Mad props to the Lady in Black for her recommendation of "Pushing Daisies," easily the best tv I've seen in a while and my new first season favorite. It's sweet, clever, kinda weird, and altogether charming. If you can, catch the pilot online or if it gets repeated before next week. Definitely worth the watch.

Promise to post about Spousal Hire tomorrow. Would have tonight, but I didn't want to deprive you all of the fun I'm going to have tomorrow in lecture, when in one day we introduce high modernism and somehow discuss Eliot (Prufrock and Waste Land), Lowell, Frost, cummings, Robinson, and Stevens. It should be a hoot.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Holy ABD, Batman!

First and foremost, I am now officially ABD. To my non-graduadte student friends, this means All But Dissertation. As of Wednesday morning, I have passed my proposal conference, my dissertation topic is approved, and I have completed every aspect of my graduate career except my dissertation. This will now take me roughly 2-3 years to write, barring a miracle or the cessation of financial support.

Wow, diet hot chocolate doesn't taste half bad. What an age we live in.

Also, as of Tuesday, bought Halo 3. As of Wednesday at 4:45, beat Halo 3. Would have beaten it much sooner if I hadn't had that pesky proposal conference Wednesday morning. The phrase "awesomely good" gets bandied around a lot these days, yet I find it applies very well to this particular entry in the Halo franchise. Plus, the four-player co-op mode redefines notions of greatness, particularly when you've got three tanks and a warthog on your side, all controlled by uber-weet killing machines and not dumb as bricks UNSC Marine AI. If anyone else owns this bright example of the glory of our times and wants to run some games over Xbox live, let me know.

So, having moved into my new apartment over a month ago, I've noticed some strange behavior on the part of my roommate. He's never really at home until late at night, claiming repeatedly to be at "the library" doing "work", and he's up freakishly early (7 a.m. every day, listening to NPR, keeping abreast of the current state of society in a rather suspicious way). He dresses very well, usually wearing at least a dress shirt and slacks and tie, if not a blazer or suit jacket. He was seen not too long ago by the Norwegian, walking the streets of Madison around 3 a.m., and when offered a ride home, he said he preferred to continue his walk. And, most tellingly, he is behaving in a decidedly un-gradschoolish manner, taking extra effort to cultivate his physique, to the point where he is what the common masses would refer to as "ripped," spending numerous hours at the gym "pumping his guns," as they say in the parlance of our times.

All these things combine to convince me that my roommate is, in fact, Batman. (Or some Batman-esque nighttime vigilante.) Consider the evidence: the odd hours and repeated absences, and the obviously false claims of "work" (no grad student works that hard--it just isn't done); the natty attire, as if openly cultivating the image of a millionaire playboy (or his grad school equivalent)--thus deceiving the masses about the angsty internal core; the nighttime wandering--clearly prowling the streets for muggers, pickpockets, or other scum; the intense devotion to the cultivation of physical strength--entirely unnecessary in the world of academia, but a vital component in the eternal hunt for justice and the battle against the forces of darkness and social decay.

I believe the evidence, as presented, speaks for itself. He's clearly Batman, and I shall refer to him as such henceforth on the blog. Needed a nickname for him anyway. In any event, I think the city is better off for his efforts. There's been a recent string of purse snatchings, not to mention the random armed suicidal mental institution escapee wandering te streets. So go forth, Dark Avenger, and protect the unwitting city! Godspeed, Dark Knight!

That about does it for tonight. Next time, I shall regale you with stories of Spousal Hire and my eternal struggle to not just leave lecture in disgust.

Oh, and in case anyone cares, I'm looking for a Wednesday night tv show to consider, now that Lost won't be on until February. Right now, my schedule seems as follows:

Monday -- Chuck (on a trial run) and Heroes. (No Journeyman, however. I liked that show when it was called Quantum Leap, and won't sully my memories.)
Tuesday -- Reaper. (This replaces my lost love, Veronica Mars.)
Wednesday -- ???
Thursday -- Smallville and Supernatural (the latter of which really started to bring it hardcore at the end of last season).
Friday -- Drinking.
Saturday -- Drinking.
Sunday -- Whatever I've got from Netflix

So till next time, I leave you with the following advice: You can't go around London asking people to pretend to be Gussie Fink-Nottle...Well, you can, I suppose. But what a hell of a life.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Two Questions

I promise shortly to blog about the Roommate = Batman theory, as well as telling you all of the wacky misadventures of Spousal Hire and the Lecture from Hell. But for now, two quick questions for the more knowledgeable out there.

1. What are your favorite places to take your parents when they come to Madison? Both for dining, and for entertainment, of course. My folks are coming in October, and I'm contemplating things they might enjoy.

2. Anyone have any recommendations for a good laptop? First and foremost, I'm not buying a mac. So don't suggest it. My folks want to get me one for Christmas, and they're contemplating the Dell Inspiron 1720 (my dad gets a discount on Dell computers through his work), so I wanted to see if anyone had any thoughts, as others are tech-savvy and I am not.

Thanks, and more enjoyable posts forthcoming.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Try to Remember the Kind of September

Today was very close to a perfect day. This, in spite of the many many things that seemed to conspire to make it less perfect, including:

-The severe cold in my apartment this morning, due to all the windows being open all night during the 40 degree weather.
-The five hours of drunken sleep I got the night before (congrats TGD on the ABD).
-My dissertation chair's note that he'd have to leave after the first hour of my proposal conference, but that he was sure we'd keep the conversation going without him.
-My continued confusion as to how exactly The House of the Seven Gables fits the traditional Romance genre in the way that my instructor seems to think it does.
-My students' confusion in lecture as our instructor seemed to assume they had read the entire novel already.
-My state of near exhaustion throughout most of the day.

Yes, in spite of all that, it was nearly perfect. For the following reasons, each of which is ok in its own right, but together conspire to make the day great:

-I had perhaps the greatest cup of chai ever after lecture. The kind where you're cold, tired, sore, and slightly hungover, and the hot beverage just seems to seep into every bone in your body and take away the pain and the lethargy. I'm not a coffee drinker, but I imagine this is how they feel every morning.
-I set up a CLC listserv, which makes me look both helpful and important, increasing my status in the department ever so slightly (very, very, very slightly, but hey, take what I can get).
-I booked the room for my proposal conference and filled out the appropriate form, after a flurry of e-mailing during my office hours.
-When the sun came out on my walk home, it was absolutely gorgeous to walk by Lake Mendota. Because I'm a pretentious midwestern academic, I really like walking along in the fall carrying a jacket slung over my arm. It's one of the few times I actually feel like a professional coming home after work, not just some bum who can't get a real job. Plus it's got this whole scholastic/aesthetic feel to it. Or at least it does in my mind. Don't take it away from me.
-It was really really windy, just cold enough to feel the chill, but sunny enough to take the edge off. The wind made the lake all choppy and white-cappy (or as much as it can on a lake the size of Mendota--I still miss Lake Michigan sometimes).
-What can I say? I love the fall. Love it love it love it.
-I took a nap. Just an hour, but still.
-I watched quite an intriguing and entertaining film called Metropolitan, on loan from T. It's all about snobby preppie college age kids during the debutante season in New York (Quantum's people, in other words). It's mostly a lot of talking, a kind of Jane Austen-esque intellectual romance set in the early 90s. The acting takes a bit to get into, as they are all largely unknowns, but not in a jarring way. There isn't really much plot, just a lot of character interaction. And it's loads of fun. Thanks to T. for the suggestion. (Though I now have an overwhelming desire to read Mansfield Park. I hate it when movies make me feel culturally illiterate, despite having read several other Austen novels.)

Oddly enough, I think my tiredness was the exact precondition I needed to really appreciate both the weather and the movie. In my sleep-addled brain, I was in just the right state to really stop thinking about school and my dissertation, and just enjoy what was going on around me. Today, in all the good things that happened, the day was about celebrating sensation, from the hot chai to the cool breeze to the sound of the leaves rustling madly outside my window or over my head as I walked. And I think my near exhaustion was just the right way to approach a day like today.

So huzzah for fall! Down with the tyrrany of summer!

Next post, I outline my new conspiracy theory. In brief, I'm fairly certain that my roommate is Batman. More to come.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Who Would Win in a Fight?

Well, the new semester starts up this week, and to celebrate, we've pretty much been drinking ourselves silly every night (beer margaritas = awesome; beer margaritas < scotch martinis). Madison, our quiet tranquil little town, is once again home to an infestation of young people, breathing my air and taking up my space on the sidewalks (sidewalk's for regular walkin', not fancy walkin'). I believe the situation was best summed up by the two obviously sketchy middle aged men I saw standing on State Street, one of whom remarked to the other "Well, all the co-eds are back." Yes, sketchy lecherous old guy, they are indeed. (See McJew's blog for further elaboration.)

I personally am looking forward to the new year, as I'm finally going to have a sit-down meeting with my advisor to discuss my dissertation proposal, and hopefully have my conference sometime early this month. And I'm apparently presenting part of a chapter from it in December for the CLC, so I should start writing it sometime in the near future. Plus, I need the structure in my life to counter the eternal ennui of being me.

My lecture this fall looks particularly promising. We're reading a book no one seems to have heard of called Rhapsody, my instructor has yet to give us a syllabus or tell us the theme of the course, and I have to teach The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which will both neuter any type of coherent discussion amongst my freshmen because of its obvious *gasp* problematic racial discussions and simply confuse them because it's a long, sprawling work that clearly is participating in and altering a dominant American tradition, which they won't care two licks about because they aren't familiar at all with that tradition. Oh, and the kicker: we're reading Hawthorne's House of Seven Gables. The title of the course? English 169, Introduction to 20th century American Literature. Yup, Hawthorne. He was in the 20th century, right? Right? Bueller?

Anyway, every semester I try to ask my students at least one pointless question on their "get to know you" survey. Traditionally, this question is "Who would win in a fight, Samuel L. Jackson or Batman?" (See here and here for past breakdowns.) But this year I'm contemplating breaking the pattern and finding a new question. Part of me wants to maintain the "fight" schema, as it provokes hilarious responses, so I need two new people to fight. But I'm hungover and unimaginative, and afraid I already peaked with the Jackson/Batman rumble. Any thoughts from you the readers? Or any other questions you're dying to hear answers to? (Nothing too obvious, either. I'm a huge fan of "What's the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?", but that and questions of its ilk are a bit overused.)

A few other random notes before signing off:
-Happy Birthday to T. over at SpeakMemory, even if she didn't tell anyone. Drop over and send her a shout out.
-Read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which is as awesome as T. says. Though I still feel more strongly about Everything is Illuminated, even though I recognize Extremely as the better book. (Quantum, you as the fanatic about everything New York should definitely read it.)
-Saw Superbad. Captain Americanist says it best with his recent post "Superbad=Superawesome!" Personal favorite line, "Yeah, they told us about that in health class."
-God the new M.A.s all seem so young. Definitely starting to get that "sketchy older guy at the party" feel that predominated my last year in Evanston, when I wasn't a student but still hung out with them all the time.
-Just noticed L.A. Girl has given me a link on her new and improved blog. My empire expands!
-Last, if you're the one recalling all my books, please stop. I need those to sit on my shelf and not get looked at ever again.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Random Madison Question

To my fellow TAs: anyone out there use GHC and wear glasses? I'm trying to decide if it'd be cheaper to buy glasses at the clinic, or go someplace like LensCrafters. Any thoughts or insights appreciated.

Also, if anyone knows how I can convince my landlord that it's his responsibility and not mine to pay for maintenance on the freakin telephone wires, please let me know.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Brian and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day

You know that your day is going to suck when you wake up shivering on the floor of your friend's office after four hours of sleep with the stale aftertaste of a cigar in your mouth and an appointment at the mechanic's to prepare for.

Some background: Yesterday, I was homeless, and had been so for about 24 hours. All my things were in my new apartment, save a few scattered throughout my car and on TGD's floor, but I could not officially inhabit my new space until the 15th, due to the persistant inhabitance of the subletter. That night, after moving all morning (on about 5 hours' sleep), several of us went drinking and cigar smoking, which was awesome. I got loopy drunk, due more to the exhaustion than the drinking, as I only had 3 drinks (well, five including the two scotch martinis before we left, but to be fair I spilled half of those). But since we were at a cigar bar, we decided to go with the pure stuff, so I had me some very nice Basil Haydens and a glass of Macallan 12 year. We were out till 2, then stayed up till 3 to sober up a bit. When I went to sleep, it was pleasantly warm in the office, and I had my comfy comfy air mattress.

What I did not have, was a blanket. That really came back to bite me in the ass when I woke up at 7:00 and it was pouring down rain and it was freezing cold in the room. So I went to the Mitsubishi dealership to get my air system repaired (apparently it was so encrusted with gunk that the switches and whatnot couldn't even move). I was already irate with these people because they hadn't called me to let me know the parts I ordered two weeks back had come in (as they promised to do after taking $150 of my money). So it was with no small amount of shock that they told me it would take five hours to replace these parts. Apparently they had to pull out the entire dashboard to do so. Sadly, the dealership is far from my usual haunts, so there was nowhere to really go, and it was pouring down rain. So I sat, in their crappy waiting room, for four hours, attempting to read, and inadvertantly watching Live with Regis and Kelly as well as The View, both of which reconfirmed my hatred of morning television, and talk shows in general. Furthermore, as I was hungover, with cigar breath and taste in my mouth, I was particularly disgrunteled to discover that I didn't have any bills smaller than a $20, and thus the vending machines, not two feet from me, were woefully off limits.

After four hours, the rain stopped. Going slightly mad at this point, I decided to walk underneath the Beltline and go to the Culver's on the other side for lunch. Which was not bad, particularly since I've been dieting and thus not eating fast food for about 3 months now (all dieting restrictions went out the window during moving time, as I had no food and no patience to look for healthy alternatives). Unfortunately, as I began to eat my burger, it began to pour again. The dealership was a good 20 minute walk away (despite the fact that I could still see it out the window), because the closest crossing under the highway was that far. And I had no umbrella, as the two I normally keep around me were both in my car (the irony of which was not lost on me). So I waited at Culver's for an hour and a half, nursing my diet pepsi and cursing the heavens. (Seriously. We had a drought for two months. It couldn't stop raining for 25 minutes more?) Finally the rain stopped, and I made it back, to see my car sitting outsite, all ready to go. Again, they had not called my cell to let me know when it was done, as they had promised. For all I know, the car had been sitting there for three hours).

Of course, for the sheer time it took to pull my car apart and put it back together, I ended up paying over $500. Only to discover, as I was driving along the highway, happy as a clam, that the damn air system still didn't work. Turns out that the motor of the blower is on its last legs. Which is ironic, considering when I took the car in originally, I said I thought the motor of the blower was busted, and they should look at that first. How these professionals managed not to hear the deafening rattle it put out is beyond me, but I basically ended up spending about $775 to fix a problem that didn't even fix the problem I took it in for. Realizing their stupidity, they agreed to put the new motor in for me at no charge, once it gets here. Sadly, though, that won't be till at least next Monday, which means that I will be driving in St. Louis weather (highs in the 100s, lows in the 80s) with a busted air conditioner this weekend. Again ironically, this is the very thing I took my car in to avoid. I could live without a/c in Madison, as I never drive far and it isn't all that hot. But in St. Louis, especially on a 6 hour drive, it's a death sentence. Oh well, at least I paid a shitload of money to get screwed and then sweat a lot.

By this time, I could finally move into my new place, which I did. I've since been unpacking and organizing, which has been going well. The only downside is that none of the phone jacks work properly, thus negating the dsl and phone service I'm spending yet more money on. So I have no internet connection, which for me is like a slow kind of death. Hopefully this will be taken care of while I am out of town this weekend, or at least set in motion to be remedied at some nearby future date. But considering that AT&T is probably up to their eyes in service calls (considering everyone moves right at this time of year here in Mad City), I'm not holding my breath.

Oh, and there are lots of cracks in the paint in my bedroom. I had wanted to paint over these, but my landlord seems to feel his only contribution needs to be a single can of paint, left outside our door. No rollers, pans, cloths, brushes, or anything. We're going to have words. Unless the cracks drive me mad in the night.

Still, I've managed to survive the past two days for pretty much one reason. I just finished reading Everything is Illuminated; or, as I'm now calling it, The Awesomest Book in the History of Books. One of the plus sides of moving is that I don't have time for focused work, so I've put my proposal on hold for a week (considering my advisor told me to take the month of August off, I don't feel too badly about this move). As such, I've been reading for pleasure again, particularly books others have recommended. Finished Atonement (very good, even if it is British and made me deal with the fact that British Lit. is fundamentally different than American Lit., my professed love), finished The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (quite good, particularly if you have any interest at all in comic books), and then yesterday at the dealership I started Illuminated.

Now, as a scholar of literature, I've discovered I have different modes of appreciation for literature. There are the books you recognize as great and appreciate both aesthetically and intellectually (Atonement was like this for me); there are the books you see as stylistically or technically innovative, or genreically innovative, and thus merit appreciation (for me this will always be Ulysses, just because I can get no sense of poetry from it, a statement I know many of my readers will profoundly disagree with); there are books you see as important or enjoyable because of the way they deal with a particular issue or topic (much of my reading of Vietnam War fiction falls in this category, though the best transcend it); and then there are the books you see as important in some other way, but aren't really all that good (i.e. you'd never read them outside of a class or for a dissertation).

Then there are the books like Everything is Illuminated. Reading a book like this is akin to a sucker punch to the gut. The book takes your breath away with its beauty, its brilliance, its emotional or spiritual or intellectual resonance. You don't read these books; you consume them. Even if you take breaks between sections, or go off and do other things, you still feel like you're devouring the book when you return to it. Then, when you're finally finished, you can't do anything else for the day, at least not with any degree of mental focus. Finding books like these made prelims summer enjoyable, as they would be the gems within the pile, books that you could just love even before you began to analyze, dissect, or plan responses to. The Iceman Cometh was like this last summer; Catch-22 has been that way for me since high school; In the Lake of the Woods (along with pretty much everything else by Tim O'Brien) is basically the reason I came to grad school, and shoehorned a dissertation around a specific topic. This type of book demands a lot from the reader, but it also demands an audible silence at the end, a moment when you can't do anything but marvel at the fact that you just read something so wonderful.

All this digression is a longwinded way of saying that I liked the book.

Seriously. You should read it. It's awesomely wonderful. It's funny, poignant, sad, and devastating, and it's written in a style that is both technically innovative and accessible and not showy. At it's core, it's about a young man's journey to find a woman who may or may not have saved his grandfather from the Nazis in 1941. It's also a history of a Jewish shtetl in the Ukraine, and the tale of another man's relationship with his family, particularly his grandfather and his dog. It's about translation and mistranslation, the humor of the everyday and the complexities of memory. It has the best joke about the Burning Bush I've ever read. It made me laugh out loud more often than I could count, which earned me many weird looks at the car dealership. I could go on and on as to what it's about. Or you could just read it. I'd recommend the latter option.

Ok, it's late, and I want to leave my office and go eat, then go home and hang a few more pictures. Hopefully I'll return next week with wacky stories from St. Louis. And hopefully my car won't explode on the way there.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Historical Archives

This is pretty much a stopgap post, designed to fill the void until I can blog about tomorrow's experiences at Scotch Martini Night.

While cleaning out my closet in preparation for my move, I came across an old notebook. Amidst my own personal notes on Sebald's The Emigrants and my notes from my American History course, I find the following page, which I reproduce here for your amusement. I have attempted to conjecture explanations where appropriate, in italics.

Library Date (The page opens with this mysterious heading, which is crossed out vehemently. Given the location of said page within my notes, I believe we can safely place it within the context of English 100 Winter Semester Training. Furthermore, the crossing out of the heading indicates that we never did in fact learn when our library dates were at that time. Not surprising, given just how little we actually learned during that training.)

Gwen, are you sure I can't convince you to go see Tristan and Isolde instead of Kong? (I can only assume that I am speaking here to my colleague Gwendolyn Fungy-Phipps, a noted scholar of 17th century Polish folk music and deep lover of the works of Mozart's second cousin, Bartolomius. The movie reference of course indicates my desire [as yet unfulfilled, alas!] to see Tristan and Isolde, the epic tale where James Franco tries desperately to be a leading man and not just Harry Osborn or the child of some other, more famous actor [see City by the Sea]. At the time, I maintained that, given our proclivity for adaptations of famous works of literature, we should see this movie with all alacrity. Clearly, I was outvoted in favor of a giant ape.

I do, but I've seen it already. (Here Gwendolyn apparently attempts to entice me into seeing Kong by offering to show me her collection of spores, molds, and fungus which she keeps in the office we share, safely contained in half-empty Coke bottles. Having had to throw out several specimens at various points throughout the year, I was not to be dissuaded from my desire for brilliantly adapted medieval romance.)

It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
And I feel fine. (Clearly I had just seen the film The Day After Tomorrow, in which I learned that if I just stayed inside, global warming wouldn't kill me, no matter how many ice storms and cgi wolves it unleashed. This most likely led me down my usual train of thought, how to survive inside Helen C. White during the apocalypse. Which, I do not doubt, led to its corollary, how to survive inside HCW during a zombie infestation. I often dream about fortifying our concrete bunker of an office building, as we could most likely defend it indefinitely against any kind of undead attack, provided we managed to secure provisions and weaponry at the first sign of trouble.)

SSSHHH! (I assume here I was deeply engrossed in the training, and Ms. Fungy-Phipps was talking incessantly, as is her wont. Either that, or I was again imagining myself to be a steam vent, or some kind of gas leak slowly suffocating the occupants of a small, two bedroom home with a leaky gas stove, in a race to see which would kill them first, the gas itself or some sparking appliance that would incinerate the gas and all occupants of the house. Such thoughts of murder and death being common during English 100 training, after all.)

Why do we care? (Here and with all notes following, I clearly actually started listening to whomever was speaking.)

No, really, why do we care? (My question remained unanswered, I assume.)

Will she ever shut up? (Here I deduce that the speaker was either female or a very effeminate male, either of which was talking too long. Sadly, this doesn't rule out anyone that tried to "train" us during 100 training.)

She's gotta be over time. (Time is clearly demarcated in 100 training, using the standard system of seconds, minutes, and hours. Yet during training an odd phenomenon has been noted several times: during each speaker, the space-time continuum manages to bend fractionally, localized entirely within a two foot radius surrounding the speaker. Within these temporal vortexes, time manages to flow more slowly, to the effect that each speaker is remaining within the allotted time while ensconced within the vortex; yet to everyone outside, time moves at the normal rate and thus the speaker inherently goes far far far over time. Such phenomena have been noted by Dr. T. Grant Dancer in his recent study "The Effects of Microscopic Black Holes on the Educational Institutions of America: A Study in the Mismanagement of Time and its Effects on the Quantum Mechanics of English Teacher Training.")

My God! Shoot the woman! (Clearly she was preventing us from going drinking. Or, perchance, just wasting our time with one inanity after another. Oh, wait, that would be every aspect of the training. In any event, I don't recall a shooting, so clearly no one listened to my writings.)

(The notes here break off into random drawings of yin-yangs and circles with arrows indicating which direction to trace the circle. These cabbalistic symbols bar any attempt at translation, lest I summon forth some kind of demon from the nether world to teach me more about how to not teach composition to freshmen. Peruse them at your discretion, reader.)

Monday, July 09, 2007

What Is All This Crap on My Head?

Those of you who know me understand that I don't embrace change all that often. Politically, ethically, morally, religiously, and culturally, I'm a somewhat conservative sort of person (though thankfully no longer culinarily so). Not freakishly so, and not flauntingly so (or so I like to think about myself), but fairly conservative nonetheless.

Which is why I can't stop thinking about this damn goop in my hair.

Last Thursday, I went out and got a haircut (as discussed previously), altering a hairstyle that has remained constant for about 14 years now. Post-barber, my hair is really quite short, with no discernable part, and I'll be damned if I don't contemplate my hair at least once an hour now. See, the beauty of my old hair style was that it was very low maintenance. As long as it wasn't in my eyes, I was fine with it. I could manage it, I knew what it looked like, when it was messed up, and how to fix it. Now, however, all reference points have been lost. My knowledge set has been lost, and have no clear understandings or viable points of comprehension. My head has gone postmodern.

I'm not saying I dislike the haircut. At times, I quite enjoy it. I just have no idea how it looks. I have no idea how to style it, and when I try to style it, I feel like a shmuck. Is it too flat? Does it look too styled? Does it look like I'm wearing a goddamn helmet on my head? Is it too messy? Or too stylistically messy? Or do I just look like a moron who can't figure out what to do with his head? (Currently, on the advice of the barber, I'm trying to "pop it up" in the front, which when she did it looked spiky and a bit messy and kinda cool, but when I do it largely involves several clumps of hair sticking together and sliding back along my scalp, as if I were trying to slick my hair back a la Friends' Season One Chandler Bing, which I'm not. Also, I think my hair still remembers the old style, as it still has a tendency to lean to the right, and look thinner on the left, which may just be my mind playing tricks on itself.)

Largely, it's this crap that goes into the process that I despise, what we in our era of infinite wisdom and lexiconical mastery have given the generic term "product". As in, are you using product? Do you have product in your hair? What product do you generally use? I really hate product. Hate hate hate. In the first place, something about its usage as a noun bothers me to no end. Why can't you just say gel or mousse or spray, or whatever? Product is such a generic noun that we can use it to signify just about anything (What's your product? We produce monkey tranquilizers!), and yet we also see fit to use it for the specificity of hair product (as opposed to say, Bucky Badger Cheese Product). I don't know why, but I get very irritated just by the word as a word.

And second, having expressed my distate for it as a signifier, I also can't stand using it in my hair. I never know if I'm using enough, too much, too little, the wrong kind, or how to use it to effectively style, as opposed to making my head look like a helmet of goop. And furthermore, my head now smells. I don't really know if it's a good smell or a bad smell. All I know is I'm aware of it in ways I never was before. But apparently, based on the advice of those much more fashionable and respectably stylish than myself, I need to use it. Damn it to hell.

So basically, through the course of this blog post, I've revealed the fact that I apparently am as self-consciously vain as a 16 year old girl. Do you see what happens when you ask me to change? I become neurotic. So if you have any advice on style or product, feel free to share it with me. If I look like a moron, tell me. I won't take offense. And if you have tips on what to use or how to use it more effectively, I'll be your friend forever.

And I promise, the next blog post will be something hilarious about drinking, not this whiny little girl crap about hair. My apologies to my readers.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Sense of Style

So I'm told by numerous people (granted, many of them inebriated) that I need a new hairstyle. As I have no personal sense of style, I can only assume they must be correct (as many of them are, in fact, quite stylish, and not just a bunch of shlubs). And while I'm fairly certain I'm not going to follow one line of thought and get my head shaved, I'm in the market for a new hairstyle. So I open the floor to you, gentle readers, to solicit your opinions. Feel free to comment with links to appropriate pictures, vague descriptions, or any other feedback.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Homo sapiens senilius

I had the unique experience of encountering two very amusing old men yesterday.

The first, on library mall, was wearing black dress shoes, black socks pulled all the way up, khaki shorts, a white polo shirt, and a pith helmet. Yup, an honest to God pith helmet. As if he were preparing to breach the jungles of the subcontinent in search of Dr. Livingston. But he had the dark socks and dress shoes just in case a formal event broke out. Which they tend to do in darkest Africa, or so I'm told. Wasn't that the point of Heart of Darkness?

The second, a seemingly innocuous old timer, was hanging around a gas station I stopped at to get a bottle of water. As I was out for a walk, I had my portable cd player with me. This fine specimen of old timery wisdom noted my equippage, and informed me rather stridently that pieces very similar to my little Sony originally cost $1500. That was the entire bulk of our conversation, and yes, I can call it that, because he emphasized the point several times. You know, so I'd appreciate how valuable my cd player with the crappy radio reception really was. Or I'd just appreciate how old he was, as he can remember back to a time when these things were apparently made out of gold.

Nothing really more to say. I just find the elderly amusing.

Oh, question for my Madison folks. Do any of you know of any competent movers in this town?

Second question for my Madison folks. Do I want SSF as a third reader in my dissertation? TS seems to think this is a good idea, as she can fill in my large gaps in narrative theory. Of course, I could have printed his entire e-mail to me as a blog post in and of itself, as it is quite amusing in its brevity and its powerful use of all capital letters embedded in my own text. But that's another story for another day.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Monday Musings: The Efficacy of Lumber

Teddy Roosevelt famously said "Speak softly, and carry a big stick." I personally feel this would serve as a great mantra for my life. Specifically, my life in the dissertation proposal stage, where much of my existence is spent at libraries and coffee houses reading books. If I were to adopt this as a guiding rule, then I could nicely explain to all those around me that they, as well, should speak softly, and not in a loud, shrill, high-pitched voice that grates your senses until you just can't concentrate on the obscurely-written theory in front of you and you just want to scream. Or else, you know, I'd hit them with my big stick.

Recently my work at my coffee house of choice (Espresso Royale, home of the addictive chai) has become beleagured by addle-pated ninnies who seem to think that a coffee house is a great place for their loud, rambunctious, inane chatter. Never mind that there is a studious-looking individual reading a book about trauma theory right in front of them. But if there was a studious-looking individual reading a book about trauma theory with a big stick right in front of them, I bet they'd think twice.

I find myself fantasizing about that scene in The Untouchables, where DeNiro's Capone just clubs a man to death with a baseball bat. Seems like an effective way of getting some damn silence, or at least a muted conversation.

Other applicable uses:
-People who come to the Writing Center and demand you proofread their obscure scientific text. Learn the damn language or learn where to hire an editor, lest yet get smacked with my stick.
-People who feel that the perfect time to go for a long run is right before your Writing Center appointment, so that you reek to high heaven just in time for a studious-looking individual to sit very close to you and sit almost with heads touching while you together read your crappy personal statement that you clearly wrote the night before in about fifteen minutes. Seriously, on what level is that a good idea? Stick-whacking for you!
-People who talk in the theatre.
-Slow drivers. (This would be more difficult, as you'd have to account for windows, range, and uneven surfaces. Maybe some kind of hood-mounted car paddle.)
-People who have air conditioning in their public buildings and yet refuse to turn it up, even though it is insanely hot and humid.
-The organist at our church, who clearly has no sense of tempo, no idea of what genre of song is appropriate for a specific part of the mass, and who seems to delight in finding all the variations on the same melody, thus leading us to constantly singing the same tune with different words week after week after week. (Granted this is a religious institution, so the stick-beating would not be as fierce. Maybe a ruler-knuckle rapping, a la nuns.)
-Hugh Jackman.

Monday, June 11, 2007

I'm an Idiot

So I just got to the office, excited to finish revising for the day and actually send a draft of my proposal off to my committee members, when I realized that I hadn't e-mailed the file from my home computer to here. I wrote about 8 pages this morning, and now rather than sending them off in a timely manner, I have to go back home to do so. As I had planned to spend several hours on campus reading, this is a major inconvenience. All because I'm too stupid to realize that just because a file is on one computer, it may not be on the other. Yeah, I'm a putz.

Granted, this really in no way causes problems beyond the slight alteration of my schedule. I've missed no deadlines (other than a personal one), and will incur no wrath. So really I'm just whining at my own stupidity because it slightly makes me change my schedule. Feel free to mock me if you wish.

But on the plus side, I think I finally have a handle on what the fuck anything has to do with Vietnam. Or at least, I can bs my way into a convincing answer. Hah!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Oh, The Places I've Been

Well, there's really only two. Two places. Chicago and St. Louis. And not nearly long enough to warrant this Brownsoxian dearth of posts. Mea culpa, mea culpa.

Anyway, school's out now, and I'm in dissertation proposal mode full-time. But it wasn't always so. Once I traveled the world. And by the world, I mean the upper midwest localized around the Wisconsin-Illinois-Missouri area. Yeah, I'm just cool like that.

A few weeks back was the Freshman 15 spring concert, "Epic Show." Considering there were going to be more alumni at the show than actual members in the current group, I wasn't about to miss it. So I proctored my exam that Saturday morning (7:45am!), then drove down to good old Evanston, IL. This, I'll say, was kind of freaky, as for the first time Evanston felt like this strange town, rather than my college town. I guess five years away will do that to you. Not to say I didn't enjoy walking around campus, watching rehearsal for Shakespeare at the Rock, and then lazing around on the lakefill for a few hours. The shows were awesome, including an epic cameo by Hodgkins as Hades, and we would go on to prove that night that yes, we can still act like we're in college. Which means, of course, lots of beer pong, excessive drinking, and staying awake till 7:30am because someone simply has to talk with you once everyone else has gone to sleep (which was fun, granted, and there's no conversation like the 6:30am drunken conversation that you don't really know what the hell it's about and you won't remember it entirely the next day anyway), but the fact that I only got 3 hours sleep that night was sorely felt the next day when I drove back to Madison. Mad shoutout to all my F15 boys; you still know how to party.

A few days following, I returned to the place of my birth to celebrate my 3^3 birthday with my family. St. Louis, as I've said before, is always kind of odd now, because most of the folks I know who lived there have since relocated to better climes. So it was mainly me and my parents who, god bless em, can't quite party like they used to. But they did buy me a very excellent steak dinner. And I got to see my oldest friend from high school with his new house (awesome) and his new baby (which totally weirds me out, as my friends from high school should not be parents yet, regardless of how cute said baby may be). I had planned to blog from St. Louis during my massive downtime, but apparently DSL means "Damned Slow and Laggy" at my familial manse. When it's difficult just to check your e-mail, blogging is out. So I was stuck reading a lot of non-essential books (mostly Isaac Asimov robot stories, one of my dad's favorites that he had lying around the house) and watching their satellite tv (ah Veronica Mars, it was bitter to watch you end, but sweet to watch it on DVR, skipping mirthfully over commercials).

So now I'm back here in Madison, and will be until August (unless I end up jaunting to Chicago again to see Bluesman). We went out for the cubed birthday, and while we did travel to several bars, it was mostly because they were all too crowded to be fit for human occupance. We started at The Local Tavern, which promises "Good food, good beer, good friends, good cheer." Well, the food was mediocre, or so I'm told, but the beer was good, as were the friends and cheer (I imagine it didn't hurt that we were practically the only people there, and we were a party of at least 20 at one point, so the waiter was fawning over us). But then sadly, I led a valiant charge to Karaoke Kid. Unfortunately, apparently this Saturday was "Every Undergrad in the Tri-State Area Go to State Street and be Drunk and Obnoxious Night." There was no karaoke to be had, and we spent the majority of our time scouting out other possible bars, before walking almost all the way back to where we had started. We stayed out till closing time, then I apparently went home and made hot dogs and watched Batman Begins. I know this because there were two hot dogs less in the fridge, my grill was clearly used, and Batman was on the tv screen. I have no recollection of any of these events. But apparently I was cogent enough to hang my clothes up rather than sully my newly cleaned room (when you're only other option is to read dissertation stuff, you find ways to fill the time).

And now I spend my days reading about Holocaust survivors and thinking about Vietnam, trying valiantly to answer the Dude's question "What the fuck does anything have to do with Vietnam?" All I know is that I didn't watch my buddies die facedown in the muck to not write a disseration proposal. At least, I'm assuming they died in that muck. I never actually stopped to check, because I'm lazy and don't like to get muck on me. But then, Brownsox hasn't posted in a long-ass time, so he may still be muck-bound.

In closing, a brief representation of the kind of theory I'm reading these days, as illustrated by Saturday night / Sunday morning. I'm reading a lot of trauma theory, and this is what I gather from it: The traumatic event is something that the mind itself cannot cope with during the instance. For example, the cooking of hot dogs and the watching of Batman Begins. The mind is too scarred by the event, and cannot fit it into a linear framework of causality, and therefore rejects it, as clearly demonstrated by my inability to remember said events. However, the trauma does not disappear; rather, it constantly haunts the mind, forcing re-enactment on a literal and psychological level. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that, Sunday eve, I made more hot dogs and re-watched the end of Batman Begins, because I had no memory of doing so, yet I felt the compulsion to see the end of the movie I've already seen at least 20 times. So Sunday was, literally, a revisiting of the previous forgotten events in an attempt to reconstitute them into the awakened psyche. And now, this blog serves as the witnessing of the trauma, as I seek to cast my message and my testimony out in search of what Celan refers to as "an addressable you." My witnessing will neither be complete nor psychologically fulfilling unless it is heard and witnessed by others (i.e., commented upon). Whether the Other can ever really be addressed, or whether it is even desirable to find this Other, remains to be discussed by my dissertation.

Oh, and see Knocked Up. It's awesomely good.