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.