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.)