It took a paid advertisement to get the Toledo Blade to notice, but the local paper finally printed an article on the labor woes which have me in a panic...I do wish, however, that they would've gotten some of the very real sense of uncertainty and panic that I feel at the University of Toledo across.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
So I had thoughts of doing some grandiose "State of the Blog/State of the Mike" post which would sum up the whirlwind changes I've encountered over the past year, everything from the rent-a-cop interviews to crazy adjuncting to full time employment for the first time ever...but on second thoughts, screw it.
Whenever I reflect, I tend to get a little morose, and I definitely don't need any more of that in my life. Let's face it...although my situation has definitely changed for the better in many ways (employment!), there are many ways where things are just as uncertain now as they were last year (once again, employment). So why would I want to spend a day thinking up an entry which sums all this up? Although there are a whole lot of positives, I would inevitably dwell on the negatives, because that's just the kind of weirdo I am.
So, briefly, I've become better friends with some people, started to regain connections with a few people with whom I've lost, and have all intentions of regaining contact with those with whom I've been lax...no matter whose fault. Instead of being a pretender in four different uncertain jobs, I'm only a pretender in one uncertain job...which is some improvement, I guess. While I might not have gotten a whole lot of scholarly work done, I at least now have an agenda and concievably time to do some of it. And I stay married to the most wonderful person on earth. So, overall, it's a lot better than it could be, and I remain fairly happy.
I do know that I gotta move on a few things, but if all goes to plan, 2006 should be okay...or at least a move forward, which is all one could hope for...
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
For a number of years, the cable network TNT used to play the original Star Wars trilogy every Christmas day. In our house, it became a little bit of a competition to see how much Lucas one could stand. Myself, I usually gave out about an hour into Return of the Jedi...of course, my nicotine addiction at the time probably did as much to make me give up as did the overbearing weight of the three movies. One year, my father actually made it through all three films...I was torn between being proud of him and being jealous and a little peeved at my own inadequacy.
My Christmas memories are, as a result of this tradition, triggered as much by sci-fi as they are anything else. I never had much appreciation for the average Christmas special on television, and a few years working at various Little Caesars located in shopping centers that played carols from November 1 to January 10 made me utterly despise Christmas music...no, it was light sabres, rather than any of the traditional Christmas trappings, that rung in the holidays for me.
Unfortunately, when Lucas released the "special editions" of the original trilogy, TNT quit playing Jedi...then, soon after, they quit playing any of the movies. A small, geeky part of me died a little, and I have been searching for another weird holiday tradition to call my own.
For a few years now, Spike TV has been playing James Bond movies during the holiday season...they call it "The 008 Days of 007." I like the Bond films...if you watch them in sequence, you get a pretty good timeline of:
- the cheese of special effects
- the evolution of ethnic stereotypes
- the increasing fantasy of female body imagery
- the age and deterioration of the various principle characters...Miss
Moneypenny, for example, becomes very matronly during the later Moore
- how sexism does (or doesn't?) change
...amonst other things.
Of course, the James Bond villian is and has been a stereotype for quite a while. They never live up to expectations...Dr. No was much more frightening when they didn't show him, and you have to wonder how Communism lasted as long as it did with all the idiots working in SMERSH/KGB. Yet James Bond villians never caught on, even the James Bond villians who were not in Bond films...Buffy the Vampire Slayer even had three characters who aspired to be Bond villians...and who, hilariously enough, would debate which Bond was the best.
Like most people, I gravitate towards Connery's Bond...none of the others really strike me as having the "badass" quotient. Would anyone really be afraid that Roger Moore would take them in a fight? And none of them were very smart or tactical...it seems like an unsuspecting yet smug Bond always gets himself bonked on the head by the one bad guy who snuck up on him.
I suppose, however, that critiquing the lack of intelligence in Bond films is a little like using logic to study wrestling narratives...it ain't about that. Which is why, if I were asked to name my favorite film of all these, Moonraker would be my answer...it doesn't even pretend to be logical. Six undetectable space shuttles, a plan to kill all humans and repopulate with "perfect specimens," Jaws finding love, and more silliness...it's all so beautiful.
The women--or, as they're called in popular terms, the "Bond Girls"--are also funny. Some are skeletal (especially in the one set in Bombay), some are scary (Grace Jones, anyone?), and even the ones that supposedly have college degrees (the A View to A Kill one...who went on to That 70s Show) still talk and act like pinheads. They also follow a set pattern in terms of order of appearance and fate...the quick fling at the beginning who never comes back, the good one who gets killed, the one who turns evil, and finally, the good one who goes on to have climactic sex with James at the film's climax.
I'm not sure if it's really an appropriate film series for Christmas, though. Do the Bond films have any Christmas references (as does Die Hard, which is more festive as a result)? Yes, there is good versus evil, but do Bond's quirks, sinful as they are, ameliorate his goodness?
The one thing the Bond films do have going for them, however, is that they are stupidly addicting enough to make one not do any of the multitude of work assignments one might have hanging over one's head...and for that, if nothing else, you gotta love them...or is this opinion just my severe procrastination coming to light? I wonder...
So my darling wife and me went to the movies last night to see The Ringer. Several points of interest there:
- The "chef" at the theater's Szbarro's (or however you spell it) got to wear the really goofy, puffy chef's hat...I guess it was intended to allow him to lord his position over the popcorn flunkies. Anyway, before this, I never really thought about the hierarchical order of concessionaires before.
- Who really goes to the movie theaters for hot dogs, pizza, and smoothies?
- Why can't theaters pop fresh popcorn? It ain't hard.
- There were three people working our line at concessions, but two of them couldn't work register. One of them, when the others were off getting various food items, was stuck with nothing to do, so he did a goofy dance. It was nice of this schmuck to make light of the fact that we're waiting and he was totally useless to us.
- The Ringer is marketed a little bit as a gross-out movie, and that type of humor apparently attracts the kids.
- Why do teens like to sit right next to the screen and adults like to sit a mile away?
- The previews were all pretty much for movies with a main selling point of making fun of the overweight. Included in these was Alyson Hanigan in a truly dreadful-looking film which was to date films what Scary Movie was to horror films...at least that's how it was being marketed. She's a much better actor than that, so I'm only assuming she must have a drug problem or something to accept a role so far below her talent level.
- The actual film itself was fine. The plot was predictable, of the "you could see that coming a mile away" variety, but the acting was quite good. They used a large cast of mentally challenged actors, many of which were very funny.
- One of the coolest things about the movie was how self-aware the mentally challenged characters were...they were under no illusions as to how people saw them and how they could use that information to their benefit. The characters were well-rounded, never characatures...and Hollywood rarely does that for anyone. To do that for a whole group of people who otherwise wouldn't even be used in our media was quite extraordinary.
- Ultimately, The Ringer was more sensitive and enlightened than it had any right to be...and I wonder how many of the teens, undoubtedly drawn to the theater for a "retards are funny" film, felt like they were bait and switch victims. Using the trappings of car crash culture to educate? Maybe it's a viable approach.
Afterward, I went drinking with a friend, which went the way such things tend to go.... We eventually ended up at a local bar which has a drag night...which is as much (a) a straight meat market and (b) a place for enlightened straights as it is a gay hangout. We saw many wonderous things, including a very scrawny woman shaking an ass that she did not have for two obviously gay guys, who nonetheless participated in dirty dance grinding...which is relatively puzzling. We did stay for the second show, which mainly raised the questions (a) where else can you see transexuals wearing whipped cream? and (b) why are so many drag queens black? These are somewhat important questions that deserve some study and serious answers...although that research is not going to come from me, as my life is weird enough as it is.
Friday, December 23, 2005
While preparing for the first annual "State of the Blog" address, I reread every entry. These are a few of my favorite quotes from the year:
"rather than being wined and dined by senior faculty from around the world, I'm sitting here in Bowling Green, staring out my window, looking at the snow-covered shrubbery, and contemplating a trip outside to look for child-assembled snowmen to knock down and beat up."
"sooner or later we may see CSI: Wood County, OH. Coming up on this episode, the gang of super sexy forensic experts in low cut tops examine the crime scene for clues on who tipped the cow, Bessie."
"the ability to teach Intro to Ethnic Studies doesn't help convince an employer that I can ring up the newest Nu-Metal cd or pour an icee."
"Now, forgive me if this offends or makes me look more like a pig than I actually am, but I found the whole experience of watching women's curling to be terribly...erotic. There were some mighty attractive curlers there (even the ones whose hair was straight, HA HA HA HA HA...sorry)...I think either the Ontario or the Manitoba team had the most babes. And then they started to play, and they started to yell... "Woah!!!!".... "Harderrrr!!!!!!!".... "Yeasssss!!!!!!".... "Curl!!!!!!!!!" Tell me, it's not a stretch to get turned on by this, is it?"
"I have seen people without dissertations get jobs. I have seen people apply to only a handful of places and get jobs. I have seen a few people with diminished social graces and limited classroom skills get tenure. I have seen the black wombat of Satan on the horizon, fangs glistening with ichor, bearing down for one last bite..."
"the female (hot in a redneck housewife kind of way) asked me if she could clean her glasses on my shirt. How do you respond to this kind of question? I couldn't tell if she had no social grace or if she was coming on to me."
"Is dressing formally really that far behind? Will I quit drinking too much? How about getting mad at the young whippersnappers across the street who make noise to all hours of the night? Will I start complaining about how today's music doesn't have melody like it did in my age? Who can indeed understand these kids today? Somebody give me a comic, quick!"
"Having a big head isn't all it's cracked up to be. Sure, it attracts the chicks...my wife was telling me the other day that the sheer size of my melon was what first set her heart all aflutter...but you face other difficulties. Guys, driven to sheer envy by the inadequacy of their own skulls, used to beat me up on an hourly basis, and my head provided a big target."
"Wal-Mart is very close to what I expect Hell to resemble. As you get closer to Christmas shopping season and the Wal-Mart crowd increases, you move down to a more perilous circle of hell...you see, Dante was wrong in the details. We did run into one of those plastic animatronic mounted deer heads that sang Elvis' "Suspicious Minds," and that was the highlight of our visit."
Stay tuned for the actual year end address, which hopefully will be the last of the ego-building grandstanding I'll do for a while...
Sometime yesterday, I realized that I missed the one year anniversary of this blog...bummer. So, in between making a tomato sauce and cleaning house, I plan to spend a little time assembling the "state of the blog" address today.
I am also going to make an effort to keep posting over the break, unlike many of my loser friends who are using the excuse of being in other states or on the interstate...weenies.
Had to go to the grocery store yesterday to get last minute food, and I came to this inevitable conclusion...I really friggin' hate people.
I swear, there's something about groceries which makes everybody oblivious idiots. No one was looking where they were going. Everybody was moving at .071393 miles per hour. Shoppers spending three minutes (no exaggeration) trying to decide what variety of frozen fruit they were gonna buy. People shopping as a family experience, which would not be a problem, but they were walking four abreast. Mothers sending their four year old to pick out the proper variety of non-diary creamer, and then yelling directions from the end of the isle.
And of course, in light of all the frustrations, I forgot a few key ingredients and had to go to another store upon unloading the swag from store one...from now on, I'm giving serious thought to shopping at 3am, just to avoid the morons.
Friday, December 16, 2005
Friday, December 09, 2005
As I'm actually finished with my grading, I'm putting together my syllabus for next semester, and I'm trying (as I always do when I do these things) to focus all the course material to put my students on the right track....that is, assuming any of them read my syllabi and related course material to begin with
To this end, I am assembling two lists:
- topics I never want to see (such as papers on abortion, the death penalty, and so forth)
- phrases I never want to read (including "due to the fact that" and "according to Webster's Dictionary,")
C'mon, everyone, do my work for me!
Thursday, December 08, 2005
After two marathon sessions of grading, where I stayed on campus untill 7:30 and just slogged endlessly through papers, I finished most of my obligations for Fall semester (I did three classes yesterday. Note to Meredith: HA!). Save a few stragglers, not to mention actually entering the grades into the U's system, I am done. And, not to take anything away from the generally nice group of students I had this year, it feels good. I stayed home and slept in today. Note to any BGers reading this: I am ready to drink, so call me.
The bitter part of this is that, with the impending labor situation, I am not really sure when I will actually start back up again...so each day when I leave campus, I have been taking a load of books home with me...assembling an office in exile, so to speak.
I now have a break where I have to plan two courses, one of which I've never taught and for which I still don't have a textbook. Thanks to Jen's hard work (you go, girl), I now have to write a paper for the Cultural Studies Association in DC this year. I've been reconsidering my exit from the job marked. I have a lead on a publication I need to pursue. I have a book proposal to revise, which has been sitting around too long. And Mr. Thunder and I still have an upcoming intellectual excursion into the Toledo nightlife underworld. So I need to be sure this holiday season is not a time of screwing around.
But I can now sleep. I am free from deadlines, at least for a while. I can not wear pants for days at a time. All in all, things are okay.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Thursday, December 01, 2005
A friend of mine burned some of my lps over to cd last week, so I've been able to listen to some great songs I haven't heard in a long, long time...tuesday, on the way to campus, I was listening to Black Sabbath's Technical Ecstacy ("Dirty Women" is one of their best songs). What I was not prepared for was how crappy records can sound. Yes, the records had a few skips in them, but the level of hiss and noise was tremendous.
I still miss lps, but it's mostly for the cover art. I have become, it seems, a total cd-head. Now, if they could only get better packaging for the suckers...
So I drove to campus yesterday, ready for a fun day of students going over drafts, still panicking from the approaching (and possibly catastrophic) labor strife and difficulties and wondering when someone would give me some information and maybe a textbook for the Scientific Report Writing class I'm teaching next fall. I decide to stop and get some gas at the 7-11 by campus. What could possibly go wrong?
First off, I've been listening to Two Cow Garage, so I have "Smell of Blood" stuck in my head, which is good. I'm able to fill up my tank for under $30, which is also good. Then I go to start up my car, and....nothing, save errant clicking.
I try two or three times, in the vain hope that the automotive gods (who is the patron saint of Oldsmobiles anyway?) will be kind, but no dice. Then I have to push the car away from the pumps and into a parking space...which would be easy if I drove a nice compact, but no, it's a late eighties Delta 88, and I have to push uphill...so I'm out of breath, sore, and feeling very much like a weenie loser...more so than usual.
I then powerwalk to class (only 3 minutes late) and sit through draft days and then, at my office, through a few hours of conferences. I call AAA and go back to my car, wait an hour and a half, and the guy comes to give me a jumpstart...only he can't start the car. Rather, the battery starts smoking. He tells me the battery must be dead. He was an observant guy. He can, however, sell me a new battery for $95...but that is installed. I politely decline.
I call my wonderful wife, and she agrees to bring me my tools after she gets off work, so I can buy and replace a new battery that night. So I return to my office to warm up, drink some tea, and play some poker (I play online at UltimateBet in case anyone wants to join me). I lose tremendously...every time I get trips, someone else flops a straight. Thank the heavens I'm still in the free games.
My lovely wife arrives...I'm very glad to see her...and then she realizes that she forgot my tools. She does have some in the car, though, so we go to (shudder) Wal-Mart to get a new battery...yes, I know they're evil incarnate, but they do sell cheap car batteries, and right now, my finances outweigh my ethics.
At Wal-Mart, we encounter people walking on the wrong side of the isle, elderly in those electric carts directly in front of us who suddenly and mysteriously shift into reverse, parents who push their kids in front of our cart, idiots who don't look where they're going, and other travesties of man and corporation. Wal-Mart is very close to what I expect Hell to resemble. As you get closer to Christmas shopping season and the Wal-Mart crowd increases, you move down to a more perilous circle of hell...you see, Dante was wrong in the details. We did run into one of those plastic animatronic mounted deer heads that sang Elvis' "Suspicious Minds," and that was the highlight of our visit.
So we got my battery and got out of there. While I was putting the battery into the trunk, I checked Lori's tool box...and all the tools I'd need had mysteriously been removed. So I go back into Wal-Mart to look for one of those all in one tool thingies...the really handy guys reading this will know what I'm talking about...and they don't have any. So I pick up a plastic tube of 5 tools for the home for $5 dollars and what ends up being the worst beef jerky product I've ever tasted.
We drive back to the car, and needless to say, the cheap tools are useless. I can't get anything to budge, and I'm getting weary and frustrated, so I break down and call AAA back for a tow to a Bowling Green service station. The whole time, I have the Drive-By Truckers song "Outfit" stuck in my head, particularly the line "don't ever say your car is broke." I feel like a loser, out of touch, like less of a man. I can't even change the stupid battery in my car. I'm going to have to turn in all my macho clothing and forget the secret "real man" handshake.
Lori runs to McDonalds, and we are just finishing our value meals when the tow truck guy pulls up. He's nice, but he looks a little too much like a psychotic Amway salesman I know. He informs me that he could just tow my car to his shop, because his mechanic is still there, and they could install the new battery there. The only thing is, if AAA asks, I have to tell them that they took it to BG. I agree, but somewhere deep inside me, the "watch out for scam-o-la" light clicks on.
We get to his shop. There's a whole bunch of used cars littering the lot, and not once but several times, various people working there try to sell me a used Crown Victoria. Every single person there is smoking Marlboros, even when working on my car. One gentleman complains about the cold, and another responds: "If you think you're cold now, just wait untill I piss on your let and it freezes." While they're installing the battery, someone else tries to sell me another Oldsmobile.
They get the battery in, and...it's dead. The car won't turn over. After speculating that I might need a new starter or alternator ("which we can put in for you tomorrow"), they jump the car, and it turns out that the brand-new Wal-Mart battery was dead on the shelf. They let the car run, test the battery, test the alternator, and try four times to convince me that I need to let them perform a tune-up ("you can drop off the car on your way to work tomorrow").
I ask them how much for their trouble, and they tell me $30...only $5 less than the battery cost me. I tell them I've got $20 cash or we'll have to go to credit card. Luckily, they don't have a machine, so I'm off the hook for the cheaper price. I have a feeling that I've inspired them to upgrade their technology to better fleece stranded motorists...they realize they can get more for their services if they take plastic. They then give me two sets of directions home, one hideously complex, one very far out of the way.
Yes, I eventually get home, and the car does work now. I didn't get to hit the grocery store, put up my window insulation, get a much-needed hair cut, cook my famous jambalaya, or do anything remotely fun. Instead, I stared blankly at the television for a while, thanked my wife a few times for being so nice and not abandoning me, and then went to bed, where I dreamed I was street-racing Santa Claus, and I disconnected his sleigh from his reindeer, causing Santa to tumble from the sky...
My car made it to work just fine this morning...so things are looking up, but I do realize it's still early.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
The Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter has published a very wierd article which claims in part:
The "postmodern" supposition that sex is nothing more than a "constructed social identity" threatens the very concept of "woman" while leaving intact the oppression of women. Little wonder that the sophistry of "deconstruction" - primarily developed and promulgated by white men such as Michael Foucault - has found such favor in our sexist society. But whenever off our backs publishes a two-page paean to "deconstruction" which cites Colin Powell and Jerry Springer as its only "authorities" ("Identity Politics and Progress", off our backs, April 1998) it is time for a reality check in a world in which women are routinely discriminated against and murdered because they are women. "Deconstruction" may very well eliminate the perception of such injustice by mutilating the bodies beyond all recognition but the injustice itself will continue unabated.
Now, I want to come out and state, for the sake of the record, that I am not disagreeing with the ultimate goals of this organization. Hell, I've never even heard of the organization before following the link the other day. And yes, for the record, the opression of women and violence against them is horrible, icky, and nasty, so my goals are basically aligned with theirs.
Now, my point: this group's observation quoted above shows a complete lack of thought or attempts to understand postmodernism. It is unnuanced, stereotypical, and knee-jerk reactionary. In other words, they are looking for a scapegoat to distract from their own lack of intellectual engagement.
When I was in a grad theory class, the major beef that some of the students seemed to have with postmodernism (other than the fact that many of its proponents could not write anything comprehendable) was that by deconstructing the essential existence of categories, it was saying that there were no categories at all. Furthermore, by deconstructing these categories, postmodern (they argued) rendered political action impossible. The only possible recourse, then, was to ditch this way of thinking and stick with our modernist politics, thank you very much.
This reminds me of the die-hard Christians who seem to think that Atheism is nothing more than a license to act sinful...that if one doesn't believe in God, then one just does whatever they please regardless of the harm to others. This view also reminds me of those who see anarchists as a bunch of people who think we should throw away the government, rule ourselves, live for ourselves, and to hell with everyone else.
For some reason, we mock the simplistic view that one has to be evangelical Christian to have morals, and we mock the view that one has to believe fully either in our government or in chaos. These are simplistic readings which show a lack of critical engagement, we (rightfully) say.
Why, then, is it okay to kick postmodernism using the same mindset?
Now, I am not the most fervent postmodernist out there, but it does make some good points. And while I am quite capable of slinging around the theory to support my argument, this ain't that kind of blog. But we cannot simply say "postmodernism says this," because the amount of things postmodernism does say is huge...because there are multiple varieties of postmodernism (the avant-garde engagement of Jameson, the weird literary formalism of Hassan, the "everything is illusory" world of Baudrillard). But what most people mean when they use the term "postmodernism" is really just a stereotype of people playing a meaningless intellectual game. What I would like to do is suggest that we have to look at these things with an open mind towards the true complexities of intellectual existence before we dismiss them with stereotypes.
Something I go over with my freshmen is the "social construction of reality" does indeed say that the categories under which we operate are constructed socially. What it means to be "a woman" or "a black" or "a working-class" is contextual, constructed, often entirely so. However, that your identity as a Jew or Latino is socially constructed is relatively unimportant if you are being beaten up with an axe-handle as the result of that identity. The students, being relatively reasoning individuals, get this.
Just because something is socially constructed and thus not really real does not mean that construction is not very real in terms of effects. You can deny the reality of an image, still be upset by and work to overcome its consequences, and be entirely logically and morally consistent. Postmodernism is more than capable of sustaining political action because (unless you are reading something written by an idiot or are yourself unbendingly literal) it does not say that since large elements of our lives are constructed, we should treat everything like a dream.
Furthermore, if you deny postmodernism, you are also denying the denial (if you follow me) of manichean logic and "essential" truths...because these are the things against which any good postmodernist should rally...they are the "shared feature" of most varieties of postmodernism (if such a thing can be said to exist).
To my mind, the question is less "how can you be postmodernist and politically active" than it is "how can you not be a political postmodernist?"
Elsewhere, I have railed against the annoying tendency of pro-choice activists to fall into a "you are either entirely with us or you are entirely against us" intellectual binary (this was, incidentally, in response to my being told that I wasn't allowed to have an opinion on abortion unless I could gestate a fetus). This binary, I argued, plays into the "women are reproduction machines" argument which is part of the system that has been oppressing women in the first place. It, unfortunately, is a mindset similar to that of many postmodern-hating lefties out there.
And yes, it's not a suprise that there are varieties of feminist thought out there that buy into the construction of gender roles as essential and natural (which seems to be an undercurrent in the Center's article)...but it's still kind of stupifying that people can call themselves political activists when, rather than wanting to change the system, they really just want to bend it to their purposes. This isn't activism, it's opportunism.
Short term change is a matter of getting ahead. Long term change is a matter of fundamentally altering the system. To do the latter, you have to question the thoughts, ideas, and assumptions at the basis of that system. This is what postmodernism does, if you let it by fully exploring it and considering the consequences.
Monday, November 21, 2005
I just got word that I have been turned down for one of my conferences for next year. While I am bummed that I won't be going to Vancouver, my bank account is slightly less precarious as the result of this rejection. Now I just have to hope that my other conference gets accepted. Jen, who do we bribe?
The thing that's kind of weird about this one is the paper I was planning to present (not written right now, of course) has a lot of potential...which means I'm probably going to have to actually write it, which means lots of work even though I don't have a home for it yet. For someone who's having trouble scheduling all the writing tasks I already need to accomplish as it is, this is slightly annoying.
I once read a sci-fi story about a human mutant strain that, for the people born with it, eliminated the need to sleep (sound familiar to anyone? I can't remember when/where I saw this). Those born with this mutation were generally very smart, could get twice as much done as everyone else...so naturally, the rest of society hated them and ostracised them. Personally, I wish I could not have to sleep...I could actually get caught up! I could get to all that scholarship which is sitting in my brain's "to do" file...which means that when I hit the job market again, I would actually have improved my chances.
Does anyone know how I can avoid sleep and get caught up..other than coffee, which is nice, but it would send me to the restroom too often if taken in significant quantities?
Friday, November 18, 2005
Everyone told me years ago that when I moved up north, I'd get to experience the change of seasons. They lie in fundamental ways.
Yesterday, it suddenly got cold. There's a very evocative scene in Bone where one minute it's fall, and the next minute, a solid sheet of snow, two foot thick, falls from the sky in one giant layer...and after that event, it is definitely, unequivocally winter. That's what yesterday felt like. It went from mid 50 degree, jean jacket weather to 28 degree high, quilted jacket and scarf time.
I thought that I felt it in my bones, but upon reflection, that's just the weariness. Sixteen credit hours of composition. Two hour blocks of "Mike as Professor" performance, and two of those back to back. Marathon grading sessions, extending over to the weekends. I'm tired. I see thesis sentences gone awry in my sleep. I think in terms of five paragraph essays.
For the first time, I did one of the worst things for a teacher to do...I changed my teaching (paper grading specifically) not for the benefit of the students but for my own purposes. I'm not sure if I can keep giving it my all, do what's best for the students, and still get everything done....but I'm still trying, in spite of the impending feeling of impossibility.
Maybe I just need sleep, rest, time away. The winter fell quickly...I just hope the break comes in as equally a swift fashion.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Warren Ellis has a brilliant character named Spider Jerusalem who mentions feeling the crackle of intelligence enhancers and caffiene in his head.
I have the latter and am wishing for the former. I am sitting in my office grading papers. I am thinking that Madagascar's fine coffee makes up for their extraordinarily gross roaches.
I am also thinking that I need to keep a ten year old friend from Scotland in my office to keep me company through such ordeals.
Where exactly does your political compass point? Go to Political Compass and then take the test...and please post your results here...I wanna know what my readership is really like.
My political compass:
Economic Left/Right: -6.88
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.00
Thursday, November 03, 2005
When I was last at the grocery store, I was wandering down the cereal isle and decided to buy some Weetabix. As I am the type of person I am, this has led me into an incredible period of moroseness.
For those of you who don't know, Weetabix are these wheat cake cereal things that come from England. I used to eat them as a child, when we would visit my Grandfather and Nana in Cross Keys (a little farming town outside of King's Lynn). I had good memories.
While they still taste fine, they are texturally weird. They are the biggest absorbers of milk I have ever seen--and when they get milk, they revert to a mush state, so you can't just put them in a bowl of milk like with normal cereal. No, you have to put it in the bowl, pour a carefully measured amount of milk around it, and you have to have just enough milk so that it will absorb halfway up the cereal cake, thus balancing mushiness and sawdust textures. It makes eating breakfast much more of a ritual than it should be, and is frankly a bit of a pain in the ass.
Maybe the existance of such a product reveals some deep, cultural insight about the British character; maybe Eoin can lend some insight. Frankly, however, it just sort of bums me out.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Yesterday, I came to the decision (after discussion with the spousal unit) that I was not going to do the job market thing this year. Earlier, I deleted a bunch of job announcement e-mails. I have to say, it feels good knowing that, for the first time since 2003, I will not be under tight, irrational scrutiny...except for that from my wife...or my students...or my boss...or my parents...or my friends...or the people who hate me for some reason unknown to me.
I still hold great hopes to get a tenure-track position in academia, and I feel it is even a realistic possibility. I am not giving up on my career. Things will still go forward...just not this year.
There are a lot of reasons for this decision. I am in a job that's going fairly well, but it is not a place I intend to stay forever...and they know this. I like my classes, I like my co-workers, I like my boss. However, I am teaching Composition, which is not my ideal topic...I'm a Culture Studies guy after all. I'm doing a 4/4, but the fall semester is 16 long credit hours...that's a lot of time to perform in front of a class. And whenever I have an assignment due, I get 80 student papers to grade. I'll probably be here untill 8 tonight in a marathon effort to get caught up.
So, if it is so much work and not in my field, why am I abandoning the search for a good job?
I am, frankly, tired. Before becoming an instructor, I adjuncted for two years. Last fall, I taught 18 credit hours at three colleges in four disciplines...one of which I'd only had one class in, another one that I'd never taken a class. I taught three different courses over Spring in addition to a part time job. This is all paying dues, yes, but paying dues frankly sucks...and it takes a lot out of you.
I haven't had time to be an active academic writer since I finished my Ph.D. I have a whole new theoretical direction I want to pursue. I have a book revision plan which, did it not reside in my computer, would have gathered a significant amount of dust. I have articles I want to write. And if I was to get back on the job market, I know all these things would never come back into my rotation.
So I'm taking a year off. UT is a nice place to be, for a while, and I'd like to just be a working adult for a little while, without the ego-crushing pressure of the job market.
I will be back. I will be ready. I'll have scholarship and hopefully a book contract with me when I do return, and I'm really hoping I can land a job that I want to work at for the rest of my life.
Long-term stability would be great...just let me experience a tiny period of respite before the hunt for it continues.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
title: Radio Free Skynyrd
Workin' for MCA
The Ballad of Curtis Loew
Things Goin' On
Four Walls of Raiford
Cry for the Bad Man
I Know A Little
You Got That Right
Am I Losin'
Made in the Shade
One More Time
Every Mother's Son
Don't Ask Me No Questions
I Never Dreamed
Roll Gypsy Roll
Call Me the Breeze
My good friend Jen brought up, in her comments on my recent entry entertainment thoughts, the question "don't you find the Earl show to be classist? I haven't figured this out yet - but the representation of poor white Americans is somewhat disturbing..."
I have to say, this gives me pause...but I haven't found anything in the show so far that either strays out of my personal experience or shoves a view that is outside of possible expectation. The main thing of which I'm reminded is the reaction from my Northern friends (who, aside from having pretty ugly versions of barbecue, are generally okay) to Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? They kept asking me if, as a southerner, I took offense to the southern stereotypes. I remain puzzled by that one, and, after further review, I have to admit to a certain amount of puzzlement over the Earl show comment...and, of course, this brings me to a whole deeper issue, that of context.
My father grew up in what could most likely generously be called working class situations. Although I have no real details, I always got the impression that his mother's first marriage (to his father) was not particularly happy. I know for a fact that it was not particularly long, and at a time when marriages generally didn't break up and single motherhood was not really easy, she divorced him, so that says something. Her second marriage was happy but short, as the man had health problems. Somewhere in the non-married times, my grandmother sent my father to live with one of my great aunts and uncles. When he did live with Grandmother, I know she had to work several jobs.
(I suppose for fairness, I should include something about my Mom's upbringing...after all, she was the daughter of a small town British farmer. However, my mother, most likely as the result of her schooling, seemed to acquire a certain desire for that sophistication and civilized life that is uniquely British...and also a covert elevation of upperclass values as to that which all should aspire. So this is obviously important, but I just can't figure out how to articulate it just yet...)
When I was growing up, my dad was in the Air Force for most of the time (through 7th grade), so the perks of military life (living in exotic lands, on-base housing) kind of ameliorated any real level of class consiousness awareness (racial as well, but that's a different post). When he retired and we moved to Florida, he ran into ageism and couldn't get the kind of job for which he was clearly qualified. So, for a while, he worked at first as a security guard and then at a propane delivery company before eventually getting his Post Office job. But his retirement pay, and the career military mindset, kept us, for the most part, shielded from the spectre of working class culture.
School, however, could not. Friends could not. The working class neighborhoods where some friends lived, where fellow musicians lived, let us know that we were in a vastly different place than an Air Force base. When I started working at Little Caesar's Pizza (see the pizza of my dreams), that also exposed me to a whole new realm, class-wise, of society of which I had not seen.
In many ways, the Air Force base lifestyle was better. Identity seemed to be not as much of a factor as outside our enclave. We were all military, even if black, from a rich background, from another country. There were jerks, yes, but they were mostly just jerks because of their personality. Maybe I was just too young and naive to see it, but it seemed a zone where the only thing by which people would judge you was your rank, and you could always change that. But was this realistic? Reproduceable?
Civilian life was different. Upon entering high school, I found the whole status-as-related-to-what-kind-of-car-you-drive thing hilarious (of course, I drove beaters, but still...). Upon working in different neighborhoods and seeing how class could largely determine how much of a jerk you were, I started to formulate ideas. Upon gaining friends from a wide range of classes (some had doctors parents, some had pawn shop owner parents, some had grunt work parents), I started to question how each person's sense of and definition of reality was determined by this social class.
Somehow, I tended to gravitate towards the working class people. One friend told me and my brother, upon getting his own trailer, that his fondest desire was to live somewhere where he could open his door, go out to the woods, and burn something. I had some female friends in high school who assumed they would be working full time right out of high school, not due to any "women's lib" notion but to the reality that they would never be able to have a family without two incomes. I worked with people just turning 16 who knew they would have to punch a timeclock until they turned 65 at least. I can picture these people playing beer can tag or stealing roadside barriers for the recycling money.
Conclusions? The working class had better music; where would you rather go, Skynyrd or Yanni? They had better food, as a rule, with barbecue being example one...Tony Bourdain says that the best cuisines, including what is now thought of as Classical French, came about due to the necessity to use the nasty bits of animals left over from the rich.
They also had a distinctly different outlook on life. I don't really think they believed that they could drastically improve their situation. They didn't have the time or opportunities for the sustained education which might lift them...could you really gamble away four years of earning potential, especially if you were chancing large debt and still having the uncertainty of a better career? In many respects, they saw the power structure for what it was (crooked, biased, self-serving), but they didn't have the luxury of even considering reform.
Their main goal was surviving, and maybe getting an extra pocket of luxury by any means. They had long abandoned the illusion of some idyllic fifties utopia. Their quest for survival lead to different pleasures, different aspirations. I've kind of suspected that it was a post-apocalyptic life for most, and that sort of situation breeds that different outlook which must appear foriegn to those who have never experienced it.
So, that's how I see My Name is Earl. Moreover (and definitely more importantly), I think I'm willing to see that whenever identity is the subject. When one views society from a middle or upper class perspective, it gets easy to forget the true impact that life can have on someone. If you are in a post-apocalyptic world, your logic is formed by your basic realities, not the basic realities of outside observers, no matter how open-minded they are. And yes, you may act weird, even after having the eureka moment of enlightenment, be it a windfall, karma, or anything else...but it's only weird from a perspective informed by a different rule of logic.
Although my parents did their best to shield me from that poor/working class life (are they really that different?), I got enough exposure to understand and adopt the thought process. Maybe it's the thing that makes me stand out in department meetings or in seminars (I learned long ago that it never really was the hair or the fashion choices that made me different). It's what accounts for my unconventional approach to handling students, my unconventional approach to my scholarship, and my unconventional approach to my musings (which surely you've noticed by now...).
Sometimes, that weirdness is a better approach to life. Or maybe there are more factors I haven't considered: how, for instance, is all of the above informed by the fact that we were White? Southern? Living in the eighties and beyond?
So, is this all a classist outlook? My gut's telling me no, but it is definitely an issue for further pondering. And maybe, it's not the depiction of poor white culture in the show that is the problem, but the accuracy of that depiction is what should give us pause.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Apparently, I'm now a part of the bloggosphere. We have more links to the right. Frightening. I'm happy to have everyone, glad people seem to like reading this, but I am a little puzzled. I didn't think there were that many people who both knew me and liked me....who would've figured? Be on the watch for the occasional pressure-filled freakout, now that there's an audience.
So, welcome simmeringhatred, Mrs. Davis, and Cassandra. Glad you're here. Be nice to me...
(continuing my series, which last looked at current music in the Mike rotation...)
Over the summer, I decided to celebrate landing a full time job by treating myself and my lovely wife to TiVo. I have absolutely no regrets. TiVo is simply the greatest invention in the history of entertainment. Television now works for me. It will record shows automatically. I never have to delay my extraordinarily busy social calendar because the one decent show is on. My fans and admirers can have access to me at any time, and I can still be entertained...which is how it should be, isn't it?
(Okay, the only regret is that I really need DirecTV to go with it, then you might as well get HBO so you can record films, then why not get a DVD recorder, so you can archive your more important shows? Then you need to buy blanks, then you need to schedule time to burn those DVDs...you get the idea)
There's still not a whole lot on television, but now we can get everything there is that is worthwhile. I've become a regular consumer of shows other than sports or brainless entertainment (ie, cooking shows). So, my insights:
The original only. I've written about this show before , but I've gained a new appreciation. All the characters on the show are wierdos or freaks, which is nice to see. It took me a while to get into the whole art/avante garde look of heavy blood and grossness presented as a part of normal life. And while the story lines are 90% cheddar still, they do pull out the occasional doozy...the murder in the S/M parlor episode or the delusional/insane former model turned homeless episodes were astounding, as were the segments which dealt with Grissom's hearing loss. I've become pretty fascinated with the Grissom character, and it gets good whenever they either acknowledge or play with his quirks. Plus last season's Tarantino-directed finale was probably CSI's and maybe even Tarantino's best work.
Also written very briefly about this one. I had fears that they would take a pretty decent first season (with occasional brilliant episodes, such as the Emmy-winning "Three Stories") and turn the whole thing into a soap opera. The episodes of season two which have aired to this point have been nothing short of astonishing. Their race episode was one of the more astute takes on ethnicity from a major network. The episode about the girl with cancer is playing a huge role in a proposed paper entitled "My Brain is My Superpower"...more details about that one if it gets accepted.
My Name is Earl
The only new show I can get behind 100%. For those of you unfamiliar, the concept is that Earl (Jason Lee) is a small-time crook who, after winning the lottery and immediately getting hit by a car, decides that his life sucks. He sees Carson Daly on tv in the hospital talking about karma and decides to give it a try: he is going to make up for everything bad he's ever done in his life.
The show is witty and crisp, especially in terms of dialog. Jason Lee is amazing, and the writers never talk down either to the characters or to the audience. Everybody has multiple dimensions, which is a rarity in modern entertainment. Yes, Earl is not the brightest guy, but he is wildly sympathetic...as is everyone else in the program. Stereotypes so far have been exploded as absurdist constructions. Plus, the show has had killer soundtracks...its use of Skynyrd caused me to go to iTunes and make my own compilation, and they actually played Montrose's "Rock Candy," one of the most underrated 70 rock songs.
Male bonding as aggression. Yelling as a sign of love. Complex family dynamics. Senseless destruction. Newly made celebrities who still appear to be true to their roots, class-wise and locale-wise.
Food meets science. Engaging the theory of cooking, rather than recipes or catch-phrase spouting, is what sets this show apart from other more boring cooking shows. Instead of learning about a dish, you learn about how the world of the kitchen operates. It's more an operational manual of cooking theory than anything else. Plus, the recurring characters (W, the incarcerated Cocoa Carl, Paul) and electric popular culture spoofs make this a fun show even if you care not a bit for cooking.
Tony Bourdain is a great personality...he's loud, abrasive, crude...yet surprisingly touching and sentimental. Unlike A Cook's Tour, this show gives him the time to stretch out that he has in his books. My only regret is that there are not enough new episodes.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
In my continuing effort to understand the commodification of sexuality in this country, we also stopped by a place called "The Women's Sexuality Resource Center." I guess it's a sign of something that a porn shop has to be a "resource center," but I haven't out exactly what it signifies.
When we got to the toys, we were informed that they were indeed demonstrators, and we could pick them up or try on the strap-ons...which I found a little unnerving, but I guess it is good customer service.
I told this to my friend Eric, and he told me that he heard the Seattle, WA, store Babes in Toyland used to let you take their demonstrators to the back room to sample...as long as you kept your underwear on.
This leads me to wonder what tehy do with the older demonstrators...could you buy them at a bargain rate, or would that be slumming it a bit too much?
One more thing about Bennetts...when we were there, we saw a flier for something they call a "meat raffle."
Naturally, we were curious, so we asked the waitress what in the heck a meat raffle was. Apparently, they raffle off various cuts of meat throughout the day. Fairly self-explanitory, I know.
So why haven't I heard of it? The waitress thought that meat raffles were quite common. She expressed shock that we didn't know anything about them. It led her to ask, "Are you from out of town?" Yes, my ignorance of meat raffles led to me being marked as a tourist.
Now, I can get the working class appeal. I don't, however, understand the pure regionality of the event. We don't have meat raffles down South, even in the working class bars. Never seen one around Ohio. I can only assume this is something you do in the places where it gets way too cold for rational thought, which, while I like Wisconsin and think it is one of the most beautiful places I've been, certainly is an apt description of their winter.
So, anyone ever heard of a meat raffle? Are they confined to certain areas of the country? To certain ethnic groups? Anyone ever enter? Win anything?
I do like the concept, however, and it is one more reason in a long list of why I would never be a vegetarian.
This past weekend was my fall break, so the wife and I got out of town. We travelled to Madison, WI, where my friend and ex-roomate Jack lives. I like and miss Jack a whole bunch...he's easily the best raconteur I've ever met. I need to talk him into documenting his stories...
Anyway, when this trip was in the planning stages, a friend of ours (an ex-Madisonite) told us of this bar called Bennetts. Apparently, on weekend mornings, Bennetts serves breakfast. Nothing unusual there, and indeed, the breakfasts do rate better than Dennys. However, they also broadcast hardcore pornography throughout the breakfast hours. They call it "Smut n' Eggs." Naturally, we had to go.
So, Sunday morning, we all piled into Jack's Jeep and went to Smut n' Eggs. There are two Bennetts locations, and we went to the one outside of downtown, on the philosophy that it would be less student-oriented.
I first spotted the bar by the Old Style sign visible from the road. Personally, I took this as a good omen, but I've been into working class swill beers for some time now. The bar was itself suitably working class...stuffed fish, beer mirrors, and other similar decorative items lined the walls.
And then there were the three screens of hardcore smut going. It was amazing how unsexual genetalia pounding together can be when taken out of its normal context. Of course, the three of us occasionally deconstructed the action, but very few of the other patrons seemed to be paying a tremendous amount of attention to the screens. There was a gentleman who came in with what looked to be a very used-up hooker, but the majority of the crowd was either slumming college students or working class guys there to eat. The sex seemed to be just there to provide a bit of a "bad boy" image to the proceedings.
The bar did its bit to play up the surroundings...the Bloody Marys were garnished with tampons, for example...but the staff mostly treated the whole thing with a sense of humor. I heard one of the waitresses comment that "I'd need implants and liposuction to look like that," but nothing unusual there. As unsexual as I saw it, they really must just be bored with the closeups and money shots.
I did buy a t-shirt, but I'm not sure if I have the guts to wear it to campus...it may be pushing a line which I don't really want to cross (and that does say quite a bit). I asked if they had their coffee mugs for sale, and I was told that while they couldn't sell me one, I was free to steal one. So I participated in sanctioned robbery. Is that immoral?
We came back to Bennetts Monday night, mostly because Jack had the burning desire to see what the bar looked like during non-pornographic hours. It was just another working class bar...a good one, the kind of place I would love to hang out, but thoroughly unremarkable. The only thing out the ordinary at all was the jukebox selections, which went from Ozzy, to Elvis, to Cher, to Johnny Cash.
Overall, I enjoyed the experience and would go back...it makes a great intro into class discussion if nothing else. However, I don't think it is the perfect combination of food and sex, as the sex almost operated as an afterthought. The same thing happened when me and my brother stopped at Cafe Erotica for lunch on the way back from Atlanta...only there, the food was as unappealing as the skeletal dancers. While Smut n' Eggs was by far preferable, it still treated both the sex and the food as plebian items.
This is all a shame, because food and sex should definitely not be mutually exclusive. Quite to the contrary, good food can be very orgasmic if treated with respect. I've had a manchego cheese and applewood-smoked bacon gratin which made me weep. I cook a wild mushroom smothered steak which can make you melt. Both of these would go great with sex. But both the food and sex have to be something special...not necessarily snobby, but at least luxurious. If someone has done it yet, I hope someone tells me about it, because I want to go there.
Hmmm...maybe I've figured out what I need to do if the whole academic thing falls through.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Friday, September 30, 2005
I am proud to announce that TheMikeDuBose the blog has increased our circulation. Two more sites have linked to us, bringing the total up to...two, I think. Meredith Guthrie's blog is one of them (it's been linked up on the right for a while), and my former colleague and Slobberbone fan-turned divinity student Brian Bork's blog Headful of Sermons (which I've just added to the list).
I hope one day to break into the double digits, reader-wise.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
I just did a google search for myself out of idle curiousity...also to see if this blog would show up. Didn't get myself (I'm un-googleable!), but I got the football coach, a British oilman, a religious photographer, and a grant writer. The strangest one, however, was of an Austin TX musician; it says at the Austin Chronicle:
Singer-songwriter described as "the love child of Kurt Cobain and Lucinda Williams." Dark, introspective lyrics are perfect for post-breakup listening. So melodic that you can sob and sing along at the same time. Think Steve Earle, Elliott Smith, Bob Mould, Son Volt, and Neil Young.
It did have a link to his homepage, but that link went to (for some strange reason) Microsoft.com. Amazon didn't have any of his albums. Hmmmm...did I stumble across a tear in the space/time continuum that leads to another dimension? It does sound like it could be a version of me. Is this the non-academic alternate dimension me? Contact me if you see this, you other Mike DuBose...you brave man, you.
Amidst the oceans of papers I have to grade, I have had time to surface for a few bits o' entertainment. Some basic thoughts:
Aimee Mann, The Forgotten Arm
At first, this did nothing for me, and that was mostly due to "In the Jailhouse Now." I love Aimee, but this song is a stinker. It's very "by the numbers" and sounds like Ms. Mann and company have fallen into formula. Luckily, however, I have given this album another chance. Pretty much everything else rocks! Aimee has rediscovered mid/uptempo songwriting! "Going through the Motions" couldn't be catchier, and "Little Bombs" is possibly one of the most devastating songs I've heard in ages. This album definitely has legs.
Son Volt, Okemah and the Melody of Riot
I wanted to like this, I really did. Son Volt returns and Jay Farrar remembers how to rock...it sounds like a brilliant combination. And there is a lot to love here: "Jet Pilot" is biting and crushing, "Atmosphere" is catchier than it should be, and "Bandages and Scars" gets the blood racing. Alas, there are also a lot of dogs here. "Ipacac" has a weak chorus and suffers from "let me throw in a big, vague word so I look smart" syndrome, and "Medication" is a low rent version of "Vitamins" from Jay's first solo album, sans a decent chorus. This album does give the impression that Jay has forgotten how to write choruses. Plus, the dual disk format is extremely annoying.
Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, Jacksonville City Nights
More solid and consistant than Cold Roses. This is a nice album. It is also very country, specifically the type of country where you should really be slightly pissed off and starting a whiskey drunk. The inclusion of new versions of old unreleased favorites "My Heart is Broken" and "Don't Fail Me Now" really makes this a keeper. The other songs are great, but as I only got this yesterday, I'll have to stop back for more details. It does seem like great companion piece to...
Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell, Begonias
The album of the year so far. Damn, this is good. It is also very country. I seem to be listening to more country stuff. Is there something wrong with me? Am I just getting older? Caitlin and Thad have tremendous chemistry. Too many highlights to list, but "Something Less than Something More" and "Waiting on June" are possibly perfect songs. If there was more country that was this good, I would go full-bore and forget rock ever existed.
Clutch, Robot Hive/Exodus
Awesome stoner metal. Who could ignore the catchy chorus of "10001110101?" Plus, the first song mentions both REO Speedwagon and Dokken! This is very hard, heavy and much less monotonous than I was expecting, especially since every song is in the same key and tempo. The best heavy thing I've gotten in ages.
More media later.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Friday, September 16, 2005
I have a big head.
For those of you who know me, this probably comes as very little of a suprise. But, in the spirit of full disclosure, I feel the need to come public with the revelation. Besides, isn't admitting it the first step?
When my niece Clare was younger (you know, when they're at the age where they don't get the idea of editing themselves) and I would be riding with my sister, I would often hear her exclaim from the back seat "Uncle Mike, you got a big head"...which of course led to frequent chuckling on everyone's part...except mine...I instead cried gently.
Having a big head isn't all it's cracked up to be. Sure, it attracts the chicks...my wife was telling me the other day that the sheer size of my melon was what first set her heart all aflutter...but you face other difficulties. Guys, driven to sheer envy by the inadequacy of their own skulls, used to beat me up on an hourly basis, and my head provided a big target. And since my head is so large, I have chronic neck and shoulder pain.
It's also difficult finding hats. One size fits all? That phrase is a conspiracy set forth by those with smaller brainpans. Their sheer jealousy causes them to produce shoddy wares that cannot breach my head's circumference. My inability to wear a hat is the only thing that stops me from emulating those mightiest of heroes, the frat boys...the blackballing bastards who wouldn't let me join their club, only because of their jealously over my head size (although, looking back on it, going to a commuter campus might have also been a contributing factor).
I wonder what a phrenologist would say...
In a desperate attempt to at least look semi-normal, I thought about getting a fitted hat. I found a web site that told how to measure one's head. So, after gently closing my office door to avoid prying eyes, I broke out my Craftsman retractable tape measure and wrapped the crinkling metal band around my head. None of you will be shocked to learn I literally measured off the charts...I estimate an 8 1/2.
So I looked for a large (technically, an XXXL) hat online. There were none for my alma mater. There were none for my place of employment. There were none for my favorite football team.
What I need here is a reputable head diet.
And pray to whatever powers that be that I never get encephalitis...the resulting head would blot out the sun.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
I don't care, this is a source of endless amusement for me. Again,
funny spam names from Gmail:
So, you were wondering how the weekend was?
I got sunburnt at Black Swamp. The festival itself was great, and Lori and I bought our first festival artwork...a cool collage I call "Dinosaur Lady." We ate there twice. My fave festival food was the Thai stand...chicken on a stick! On the down side, the cajun place still has fried gator, but it's no longer on a stick...you have to buy a platter, and half the fun was eating it off a stick. Bastards.
I was a little underwhelmed by the music selection. Friday's acts just sucked, and we saw one person...who was with females and didn't want to hang with a couple. Saturday, in the afternoon (when we were volunteering), we saw two people we knew, but they just mumbled and went on their way. There was one good country act. We went back Saturday night for Chuck Prophet, who was a hell of a guitar player...unfortunately, his songs only really matched his playing 15% of the time. Again saw no one. Sunday, stayed in and went for TOTAL FOOTBALL IMMERSION.
Friday, September 09, 2005
It's Friday, and I'm in my office. I think that I might be the only one left at the University.
I walk the halls. Emptiness. Vast, labyrinthian unused spaces. Darkened offices. I think I might see the occasional office worker, but they might just be mirages...or perhaps ghosts.
I go to the Union office, yet there is no answer when I knock. Am I paranoid? Is there some significance with the Union office being deserted on a Friday afternoon?
I go down one floor. The third level of University Hall has the best echoes. It's like being in an ivy-covered Grand Canyon.
I go out to the green. Still deserted. Ghost campus. Save for the occasional tumbleweed and circling vulture, I am alone.
Did the railroad move, leaving the town's occupants to pull up stakes in the middle of the night? Space aliens kidnap everyone? Or was the life I thought I was leading only a dream? Am I the only one left? Has my world become a Twilight Zone episode?
Hello? Can you hear me? Knock once...
For all of my friends in BG, I will be at the Black Swamp Arts Festival quite a bit this weekend. As my wife volunteered me, I will be working somewhere in the beer area Saturday from noon to about two. I will of course be visiting both Friday and Saturday night...I gotta see The Derailers and Chuck Prophet. Please, come drink with me! Don't make me feel like I'm alone!
For those who have departed from BG...doesn't this make you miss the town just a little?
Sometimes the simplest of decisions can influence you in ways you never thought, and they often can stick with you longer than you would expect.
My first job was as a (ahem) "Asphault Pigmentation Application Specialist"...which essentially means I worked for a company which painted lines on parking lots. It was hard, hot work...Florida summers on freshly laid asphault do not make for a comfortable work day. The boss was one of those "speedeat so we can get back to the jobsite" types...a nice guy, but he didn't exactly need his morning coffee to get going. So it was long hours in miserable conditions.
The pay was mighty nice, though. Apparently the boss got tired of people goofing off, so he made the snappy decision to pay his workers by the job rather than by the hour. After that, everybody worked like dogs on amphetamines, and I would pull in $300 for a weekend's work. This cash went largely to cars and guitars...that is, the cash that didn't go toward partying.
When the summer was over, the work dried up. So, after a little while of no income, I started looking for a job. The only problem was that I was a young heavy metal kid with long hair (this was the eighties, after all) and very few places would hire me...and I couldn't see chopping the hair for minimum wage. A friend worked at Little Caesar's Pizza, and they didn't make you chop your hair...so I got him to pick me up an application.
I ended up working at Little Caesars on and off for nine and a half years...throughout my community college days, through parts of my "one semester break" (which turned into a few years), and right through getting a BA and an MA. By the time I left, I could do the job in my sleep...and often did.
There were controversies. I got fired from one company after the manager's cousin got promoted...which would have been more bearable, but the boss lied to me (told me the "powers that be" ordered my termination), and it all went down after I was in a bad car accident. So, injured and jobless, I tried other jobs including loading trucks and a disasterous stint doing temp work (remind me to tell you about the one where they wanted me to kill rats with a broom handle with a nail on the end). All the other work sucked so badly that I got a job at the other Little Caesars franchise in town and worked there, on and off, for a long time.
While management, I yelled at a lot of teens. I hired and fired. I drank with my superiors. After a while, I became a little bit of a "problem solver" for the company...they would send me somewhere when a store needed "cleaned up." I would yell, cajole, and generally train the little buggers to do things right. Somehow, I was able to get crews to move from hating my guts to really liking me yet still doing their job better than ever. One store in particular, no one would talk to me for about two weeks. When I left a few months later, they baked me cookies.
By the end of my pizza run, I was down to just working a couple of morning shifts a week. I could get into work at 9:30 and have all of the day's prep work (sauce, dough, cheese, all done fresh) finished by the time I unlocked the doors. I would then take care of customers for the lunch rush, fix myself a pizza, and read for school.
I only left because I needed to come to Ohio for my Ph.D....otherwise, I have the striking suspicion that I might still be doing a few days there. It was actually really sad when I found out the chain has pretty much left Jacksonville...both franchises folded.
Anyway, my time at Little Caesars influenced me in more ways than I care to think. When I taught Intro to Sociology for Terra Community College, most of my examples of group hierarchy and behavior came from Little Caesars. Those kids learned almost as much about pizza as they did about Sociology, and they would audibly groan when I would try to slip in another example.
More elementally, my teaching style is very close to my management style...a nice mixture of scary and quirky. It seems to work. I still get to my jobs 15 minutes early, just like I did at Little Caesars. I also learned how to deal with others from a leadership position by interacting with my pizza makers. So in many ways, Little Caesars made me the man that I am.
I think about the place more often than I probably should. I even dream about it. This morning, my alarm went off in the middle of a dream about a Little Caesars workers reunion, and I spent my time in the shower wondering which of the 13+ stores at which I worked was my favorite...and I still can't figure it out. Casset was good, but Beach Blvd. got to be really family...and then there's my first Orange Park store.
I also wonder what happened to all the fun people I worked with. Where's Willie, the monsterously tall and very sweet black man who joked about tearing down the Statue of Liberty and putting up a statue of Shaka Zulu? Terry, the very funny and cocky Lee High School tight end, who I once got to sing along to the Misfits, thus thoroughly confusing our manager? What about Paul and Paula from Orange Park...are they still together? Jim and all the rest from Beach, who made me feel like a friend...do they still repeat my mantra "a clean station is a happy station"? The dramatically short and funny Wendy from OP? Gina, the short Carribean girl with the heavy accent? The hundreds of others whose names I unfortunately cannot remember?
In many ways, Little Caesars did a whole bunch to shape me into the person that I am. I wonder what would have happened if I would've chopped the hair and went to McDonalds. Would I still be where I am today?
Of course, now I have to jet out of office hours early and get some Crazy Bread. Damn you, memories...
Monday, August 29, 2005
Society for Cinema and Media Studies
March 2-5, 2006
Call for Papers: "Signs of Intelligent Life in the Media"
Is it a good thing to appear intelligent? More to the point for our purposes, what does the media think of smarts? Academics have frequently seen anti-intellectualism in movies and television, but is the medias view of smart people really as simple as the pompous, bumbling professor? Is there in fact any cultural capital to being smart?
This panel hopes to examine the nuances of depictions of intelligence in the mass media. Some possible areas of inquiry include: the connections between intelligence and social skills; intelligence and mental health; brains as an asset or liability in reality programming; intelligence in sport narratives; connections between race, class, gender, and images of intelligence; mental strategy depicted in non-intellectual competitions, such as wrestling or competitive eating.
Proposals covering any media are welcome. Please send a 150-word abstract plus a vita and bio statement to Dr. Mike S. DuBose at firstname.lastname@example.org by September 3rd.
School is back in session, so I have been spending most of my time working on related issues. As you know, I am now a Lecturer at University of Toledo. I have been trying to deal with the usual array of student concerns (which I really don't want to get into here), but I have also been trying to get my office together. The plus side? I have an amazing computer...new Dell, fast as all git-out, big monitor, laser printer. Unfortunately, though, it does make my home machine seem ancient.
The only down sides to my new office are (1) the ugliness of this old place and (2) lack of shelving. Both will be corected eventually when building maintenance can get here, but who knows when that will be. I'm going with wall mount shelving, but I gotta store the shelves in my office lest another faculty lay claim...and some of these boards are long. I have to move chairs over stacks of boards when a student comes by. But, I suppose, there are worse tragedies.
Now that I have an actual office out of which to work, I find that (1) I feel much more professional, and (2) I seem to be more organized over my workload....to do lists and everything. I hope this means that I will get back to writing once I finish with the first stack of papers (which is, groan, already here). I should also have more time to blog while I'm at it.
This all leads me, however, to one scary thought: I think that I might be becoming an adult. My friend Jamie got me referring to my "adult salary," and I have been putting it to adult uses (paying off bills and restocking the liquor cabinet with good stuff...it is, by the way, really fun to buy five bottles at the liquor store). The responsibility at work also seems adult, as does the fact that the office staff now actually knows who I am. Hell, I'm even planning when I can afford to buy a new car, which is really weird...as my newest one was about ten years old when I got it.
Is dressing formally really that far behind? Will I quit drinking too much? How about getting mad at the young whippersnappers across the street who make noise to all hours of the night? Will I start complaining about how today's music doesn't have melody like it did in my age? Who can indeed understand these kids today?
Somebody give me a comic, quick!
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
For those of you who know me, the fact that I do in fact actually think about fashion might come as a suprise. But this is an area of my life that has been thrust to the forefront by two recent events.
First, some history. Back in high school, I was mister Heavy Metal, complete with the jeans, dark sunglasses, concert shirts, denim jacket, and long hair (briefly in a Bon Jovi-esque perm...not that I was trying to emulate the man...I still dislike his music...not that any of this is relevant). In this fashion, I was not very distinguishable from most of the other heavy metal fans.
Eventually, I got tired of being a conformist non-conformist, if you get my drift. So I was looking for the next Mike fashion when I decided to go tie-die.
Keep in mind that this was the late eighties. I did not choose tie-dies due to any love of the hippie movement, although I did listen to the Dead when hung over. Rather, I thought that if I wore such clothing, I would at least have a certain uniqueness. After all, who in the hell wore tie-dies in 1987?
But tie-dies, perhaps on the coattails of the suddenly radio-friendly Grateful Dead, came back. They started to show up everywhere. I realized the full extent of their incursion into the fashion realm when, sitting on the porch of a downtown restaurant listening to a friend sing and play, I saw a three year old in a (gasp) tie-die.
That was it. My choice of fashion had been coopted by kiddie clothiers. Something had to be done.
My next choice for what now was, I admitted, my pursuit of an anti-fashion was the humble Hawaiian shirt. So I got a few, had my dearest Mummy (a good seamstress) make me some very loud Hawaiians. I thought I looked good...or at least, reasonably bad. And hey, I thought in 1995, Hawaiian shirts wouldn't dare come back into fashion, would they? Surely, the public would continue to ignore them.
And you all know what happened. Personally, I started worrying when they started showing up at Old Navy. Then Red Lobster adopted them as work uniforms. Then there was the episode of The Simpsons, where Homer told Marge, "Only two types of guys wear Hawaiian shirts: gay guys and big, fat party animals." When they hit the local Meijer, I really freaked.
I tried valiently to be zen about the whole cooptation thing. I tried shaking it up by combining the Hawaiian shirt with tie-dies, but it was obviously an example of "trying too hard." Eventually, I came to the conclusion that as I was simply destined to be a fashion pioneer and whatever I moved to next would become the next "big thing," I might as well just bite the bullet and wait the trend out, until Hawaiian shirts became comfortably retro again.
Two things have made me really think about this, however. First off, the Chronicle of Higher Education published one of their first person pieces about clothing and teaching, which drew a connection between a professor's choice of attire and their teaching style. No problem. Contrary to what my parents think (they feel I should now start dressing professionally as I finally have a "real" job), my fashion choices have always been pedagogically thought-out. Hawaiian shirts work in front of a class. First, the students stay awake...the bright colors, you know. Second, I appear less intimidating...in a suit, a 6'5" large guy would scare the hell out of them.
What the article did do, though, was make me wonder how exactly the students see me. What is their image of their fearless leader? Especially as I express a few liberal ideas during the course of a (heh heh) course, such as homosexuals might well be real people, and women and minorities are not always treated nicely by society...do they, following the model of Homer Simpson, think I'm gay?
The second event was this past weekend. I've mentioned in this space before that my wife got us tickets to see Hall and Oates. Well, the post-tick reschedule was last week. There's a lot I can say about the show (solid band, very caucasian-heavy audience, Hall is still tired, why don't they let Oates sing?, $5 for a Bud?), but the main attraction was the crowd.
Immersed in that body of humanity, I did feel really good about my hairline...as a large percentage of males had bald spots that would put that of my friend Joe to shame. But it became quickly obvious that in this crowd, a Hawaiian shirt was more a uniform than an anti-fashion statement.
My God, I thought, I've been dressing up like a mid-fifties, thinking about retirement, lower-middle class WASP! Is that how my students see me? What can I do about it?
Lori thinks I'm thinking about fashion a bit too much, but I feel shaken. I don't know where else to go. I'd like to adopt a whole work uniform thing, but none of the thrift stores seem to sell any. I though briefly about going Izod, but I really can't see adopting the preppie look. I could return to the high school concert shirt image, but it doesn't go with my now short hair. I have realized belatedly in my life that I am a man without a fashion plan...and surprisingly, that frightens me.
Suggestions are welcome...hit the comment link below.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
In lieu of an actual post (I'm writing, damnit), I present my collection of funny fake names that were attached to spam I've recieved.
- Ferdinand Randy
- Ferdinand Mead
- Millicent Patty
- Nettie Lopez
- Iris Flowers
- Lizzie Romo
- Ebony Vance
- Elnora Pratt
- Marissa Souza
- Ahmed Luna
- Noah Ibarra
Monday, July 11, 2005
First, while I don't want to turn this into a blog about bloggers (for those of you who love big words, that would be a metablog), I do want to throw one more at you. I got an e-mail from an ex-student today. It was nice. Apparently, he doesn't want to kill me, which is always a shock. Anyway, him and his girlfriend have a blog called Egg's Nestwhich has the best entry titles I've ever seen.
Second, on the above blog, there's a link to a great, funny site, Overheard in New York.
Thirdly, sci-fi/cyberpunk author William Gibson (of Neuromancer fame) has written a good article called "God's Little Toys: Confessions of a Cut and Paste Artist," which draws the comparison between William S. Burroughs, hip hop and sampling, intertextuality, and the interconnectivity and hyperlinking of computer work.
Saturday, July 09, 2005
Friday, July 08, 2005
As an educator and academic, I am a reader of the Chronicle of Higher Education...it's a professionably viable thing to do, and they often have intriguing articles. Case in point: in the job section of this week's edition, they had an article written (anonymously) by a member of search committees called "Bloggers Need Not Apply."
The basic slant of this article was that whenever they've been able to dig up a blog of a job candidate, it has usually somehow worked against the potential hire. The article (as well as the author's searches) seems based on the assumption that the blog, in order to be anything other than a drawback, has to be an attempt to bring the author's scholarship to the masses. If it is not, the article argues, you should eliminate your blog from the ether.
There are a few really weird assumptions that result from this argument. First, one candidate's blog worked against him because it "revealed that the true passion of said blogger's life was not academe at all, but the minutiae of software systems, server hardware, and other tech exotica." The underlying assumption here is that in order to be an academic, your teaching and field of research have to pervade every mote of your being. To show that you have interests outside your work is to show that you are not a viable professional academic.
This of course means that academics is only for the totally obsessed among us...at least in this article's view of the world. I've got to wonder. My brother is an electrician, and a damn good one at that. Still, he has hobbies other than electricity, and he doesn't think of running wires every minute he's away from the job site. If he wrote a blog about his rabid love for music, would he be considered less of an elecrician? This example, incidentally, is not going to happen; not that he doesn't love music, but he's too much of a technophobe to have a blog.
Anyway, is being an academic really so far different from any other job that you cannot be good and it and have a life and outside interests? Personally, I've known a lot of academics who do nothing outside their research. They are not fun people. They can't hold a normal conversation, they're ill at ease with people, and they can't talk about research without (a) looking at the conversation as an excuse to dominate or argue with their position, (b) steal potential ideas from those with which they converse, or (c) use the talk as a tool to intellectually rank and compare their colleagues. Is this really the type of person that you want as a colleague?
When I was going after my MA, I was pretty much a school/work hermit, and I don't know if I did anything significant other than those two. When I started my PhD, I promised myself I would still have a life, I would converse, make friends. Guess what? I found that having some kind of existance outside of academics, rather than distracting from my work, actually allowed me a type of perspective and awareness that I could not get when thinking about scholarship was all I did. Knowing other parts of the real world allows academics to better relate their work to that real world...strange but true.
In many ways, many academics want to have their field dominate all existance...both within the university and without. I understand this...it's largely tied up with the struggle to stake out ground for your discipline in general and your research in particular. However, outside perspective, I would argue, is also something you might want.
Later in the article, another serious point came out, one that I feel the need to quote at length.
Part One: "it's best for job seekers to leave their personal lives mostly out of the interview process. It would never occur to the committee to ask what a candidate thinks about certain people's choice of fashion or body adornment, which countries we should invade, what should be done to drivers who refuse to get out of the passing lane, what constitutes a real man, or how the recovery process from one's childhood traumas is going. But since the applicant elaborated on many topics like those, we were all ears. And we were a little concerned. It's not our place to make the recommendation, but we agreed a little therapy (of the offline variety) might be in order."
Part Two: "More often that not, however, the blog was a negative, and job seekers need to eliminate as many negatives as possible. We all have quirks. In a traditional interview process, we try our best to stifle them, or keep them below the threshold of annoyance and distraction."
If the people writing the blogs have nutso politics, then yes, maybe they might not want to advertise that fact. But the idea that you should squeltch your personality entirely to do a successful interview? That I have problems with.
Why, as an interviewer, would you not want to get to know any of your interviewees and in fact encourage them to hide this stuff? On what basis then are you hiring? A CV/resume? Some candidates have a great cv and look good on paper but would make awful candidates as they have no character or social skill. The very strength of other candidates is exactly in how they work with others, how they would work with your students, how they would work with your department, and if these things are not matters of character and personality...the very thing the article recommends squeltching...what are they? I've been reading Kitchen Confidential, and Chef Bourdain argues (I'm paraphrasing here) that when hiring, character is the very thing you want to look for, as everything else can be taught but character cannot. I've also hired in my past, and Bourdain hits it on the head.
The artice continues: "Our blogger applicants came off reasonably well at the initial interview, but once we hung up the phone and called up their blogs, we got to know "the real them" -- better than we wanted, enough to conclude we didn't want to know more." Should I mention that I find the whole idea that reading a blog and assuming you now "know" the person is just slightly presumtuous?
This isn't the first time I've seen someone questioning the logic behind doing a blog, and although I don't fancy myself a blog apologist, I have had to answer the question "why do/would you do the blog thing?" Lotsa possible answers. For me, the first reason is that I needed to have an outlet for non-academic writing. Writing scholarship requires an ultimate intensity...I'm glad I do it, and I do enjoy the process and the results, but it isn't always what one would call "fun." The writing style that I apply to the blog is much different in form; it can be fun, breezy, light, artistic, needlessly caustic, or any other mood that fits my whim. It is an artistic outlet more than anything else, and having it lets me be a more confident writer in all areas, including academics.
Of course, there are other reasons...I have lotsa friends all over, and it's nice to be available in some sense to them. I like the idea of having a body of work that I created, that other people enjoy, without having to go through the "submit/reject" cycle.
I also have serious ideas as to what goes here and what does not. This is not an academic blog, so I do not chronicle my research. I think of myself as a professional educator, so I do not go into specifics on individual students. My job search (except in broad, general strokes) is off-limit because the decorum of such a quest demands it.
To take the approach that a blog is inherently a bad thing for jobseekers seems shortsighted and assumes a relatively narrow view both about what a blog is supposed to do and about appropriate potential employee behavior. Of course, if someone was to read this blog specifically and directly tell me "you are a crazy person and will never get hired unless you hide your insanity from the world at large," then I might consider differently...