Tuesday, September 26, 2006

research-minded again

Long time readers of this blog have noted my struggles trying to balance earning enough money to support myself with actually living up to my identity as a scholar and actually doing research/writing. When I was a lowly doctoral candidate, there was a lag between finishing my coursework and passing my exams which made my dissertation the first real bit of research I did in months. Then I started (sob) adjuncting and working part-time (at the zoo, no less) for two years, which, apart from a presentation or two and a review essay, was a scholarship-free zone...I just didn't have time or energy to do serious writing. And it took me a full year to get used to the heavy grading load of a 5/4 composition teaching schedule, where it seems you always have papers. But I love my students...

On this front, however, I think I have made a break-through. I have been working on a book review-turned-full essay with a friend of mine...I have high hopes for this exposé of ethnography. I just been accepted to the 2007 Northeast Modern Language Association conference (and my panel chair seems wildly optimistic about my paper). In my pursuit to figure out exactly how network theory and cultural studies can usefully intersect, I spent the majority of this weekend reading several scholarly books (in my football time, of course). And while watching Monday Night Football, I got an idea for another essay which requires my immediate attention.

This is good, because in my darkest hours of grading over the past year, I have felt like my prime identity role was of paper grader...I now feel like I did when I started doctoral school. I have the buzz.

Watch out, academic world.

throat all throbby-throbby

Last Tuesday, while at school, I noticed that I was starting to feel all drunk/stoned...but just the unpleasant aspects. As I had been "living clean" for a few days, this came as a bit of a surprise to me. Then I realized it must be some kind of cold in the early stages. Needless to say, this put a bit of a damper on "Speak Like A Pirate" day.

Later that night, I started to cough. I kept coughing. Coughing, in my body's opinion, then took precedence over things I would rather be doing, such as sleeping. I kept coughing...and it was, most disappointingly, non-productive coughing. Finally, Sunday night, as I tried to watch football and ignore my throbbing, glowing throat, I decided that perhaps, yes, I did in fact need to go to the doctor.

Got up early Monday, got an appointment for 10:45 am and thanked the heavens that I actually finally have health insurance. Finally saw the doctor at 11:50. After examining me, he told me that I had acute bronchitus. This was a relief, because at first, I thought he was coming on to me ("I have a cute what???").

Now on drugs...antibiotics that "run through me" and give me stomach cramps, and a cough syrup which is clearly codeine...which, if I were ever really going to be a druggie, might be my drug of choice...

While I am thankful that the healing may finally begin, special thanks needs to be extended towards my spousal unit for not kicking me out of bed during a 4am coughing fit.

I become non-contagious on Wednesday. Watch out, world.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

My Name is Earl dvd


Avast, me beauties. This fine morn, the My Name is Earl season one dvd set was released into the wild blue yonder. Shortly after the crack o' dawn, I smartly sailed over to Best Buy to pick up me booty...the Instant Karma edition, narry clad in a flannel shirt cover. Me bilge-drinking bretheren of the coast and I will splice the mainbrace with the finest grog when we get a chance to watch. Godspeed, me hearties!

(translation, for those losers not participating in National Speak Like a Pirate day: Hi. Today, they released the My Name is Earl season one dvd set. This morning, I got the Instant Karma edition, clad in a flannel shirt cover. I can't wait until I can get together with my friends to drink and watch it. Thanks!)

Monday, September 18, 2006

dumb and dumber

This weekend, the fine (?) folks at Girls Gone Wild were in Bowling Green. I gave my lovely wife permission to go wild if she so decided, but she declined.

Also, tomorrow is Talk Like a Pirate day. Celebrate. I'm gonna have to come up with a good post to do in pirate-ese.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

celebrate good times!

I just finished the last of my first grading bout! Wooohooo! Party!!!

(now, if I didn't have more coming next week...damn this life as a comp Lecturer)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I'm in grading papers. I have a sign on the door which says "Please knock...I'm in, just working." One of my more insane colleagues just knocked on the door. She didn't want anything, but she said she felt she had to follow instructions...

because I'm such an expert...

I have come to some conclusions about the rap genre. As I see it, there are three possible directions. The first, actually attempt to say something worthwhile, is guided by the example of Public Enemy. As this is not tremendously popular with the prepubescent suburban audiences, most new artists don't seem to follow it.

Instead, a lot of rap artists attempt to "tell it like it is" in the "hood." This was at least notable when it was news, but by this point in time, is there anyone who really doesn't know what it's like in the hood? Is there anything new to be said?

Instead of following that model, I suggest more aspiring rappers follow the "let's see how many obscenities and shocking things I can throw into a song" model of rapping. But please, do it honestly. Follow the example of 2 Live Crew and actually do the dirty limericks and nursery rhymes...it's certainly more pure.

Not that I'm a major rap fan anyway...I've never really seen the abandonment of vocal melody to be a step forward (which is also why I don't really dig Cookie Monster Metal)...but if you're gonna be inane, go all the way with it, damnit.

Who knows? You might end up with a career as long-lasting as Luther Cambell and with as much integrity as Snoop Dogg (whose web site, strangely enough, doesn't mention his line of porn videos).

Monday, September 11, 2006

two websites of notice

Rate Your Students, which is "a public forum where faculty and students can work out the tricky dynamic of the modern classroom. Students can tell us why they won't take the iPod out during a lecture, and professors can tell us why their clothes are so frumpy."

Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which you just have to see.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

pressure buildup and release

For the last few weeks, I've mostly been focusing on my classes. There's a lot to do...fix the plethora of stupid errors that seem to endlessly creep up in my web material, battle with the bookstore, battle with technology (or lack thereof), answer e-mail questions from people who obviously haven't read the syllabus (or anything else, for that matter), deal with the droves of dropped students...so I haven't given a lot of attention to the myriad of other things that have come up (including, as some of you particularly know, answering e-mails...soon, I promise).

One of the biggest things that has been simmering away is the Great Academic Job Search 2006-2007. I've been thumbing through the postings and such, but I haven't actually sent anything out yet. The teaching work has been one big reason, but perhaps the most important excuse for this procrastination was that I was waiting for a response from a university press who expressed interest in working with me.

Flashback: In 2003, I was finishing up my dissertation. I was lucky enough to get into the American Studies Association. For those of you unfamiliar with this group, they hold what is undeniably the Mac Daddy of all culture studies-oriented academic conferences. I was fortunate in that the panel which accepted me was chaired by uber-scholar Janice Radway and also included Lawrence Levine, also a heavyweight in the field.

It was quite a rush to get regular e-mails from two people who are very influential in my field. The conference itself was magnificent...there was always an interesting panel to go see, and those of you who've gone to lesser conferences know how unique that is. The panel I was on went swimmingly...and no one laughed at me. There was plenty of stuff which covered professional development. Most important for me, however, I recieved a letter from a major university press (who shall remain nameless) who was interested in meeting me...and if this worked, it would be an academic coup.

I pulled out my vita. I polished off the best chapter of my still-in-committee dissertation. I wore a nice tie. And the meeting itself went swimmingly...the assistant editor of the press seemed genuinely excited about my work and the possibility of it fitting in their press. A few weeks later, I was asked for a copy of the full dissertation and a book revision plan.

It took me a little while to get the revision plan to them because my funding had run out, and I was adjuncting at several institutions...in disciplines with which I had no experience....but I eventually got it done and mailed off.

Now, I've never written a book before, so I naturally assumed that the revision plan would cover how I planned to revise the manuscript...and that the press would read both of them. When I finally heard from the press, they were confused about the proposal...and it was very clear, from talking to the editor in chief, that no one had actually read the manuscript. Admittedly, since I wrote the proposal as a companion piece to the dissertation, reading it without reading my big chunk o' work would be a bit puzzling...so I told them I would take another swack at it, now that I (supposedly) knew what they wanted.

The next draft went through several iterations, and it did take a while...I adjuncted for another year before landing my current job, and it took a long time to cope with the heavy grading load that accompanies a 5/4 load in composition (in which I've had very little formal training, so I was behind from the git-go). But when I finished, I was very pleased with the results. It showed a tremendous growth in my thinking. It spelled out my research questions in explicit detail. It was solid and had real potential to make an impact. So, last April, I sent the thing to the press.

Now, as I knew I would be getting back on the job market, I really wanted to hear positive things from the press. My heavy teaching load since the dissertation had kind of put a crimp on the amount of research I could do, and as a result, I haven't published as much as I should. A book contract, however, would be pure gold. It would show that I had some research potential, and it would show that I could put out stuff. Pretty much, it would have, if not guaranteed me a job, then at least really bumped me up in most school's "potential hiree" stack.

So I waited. And then I waited some more. The press's 12 week deadline passed. I waited. After 4 months, I sent a polite inquisitive e-mail. And then I waited. I sent another e-mail. And then I waited some more. I sent another e-mail, cc'd to the press's editor in chief.

Today I got the reply. They do not want to work with me. The story, as the e-mail tells it, is that they couldn't figure out what my research focus was. When I read this, I immediately resisted the urge to grab a whiskey sour (it was, after all, 10:30 this morning) and opened my file of the revision plan I sent them...and in the third paragraph, starting on the first page, was the paragraph that explicitly spelled out my agenda.

If they just didn't like my work and thought I sucked as a scholar, that would be bearable. If they didn't think I fit into their press, that would be understandable. But it was clear to me that they only browsed my proposal and never put real thought into my project. I am going to take great delight in deleting these people from my e-mail address book.

I guess it's a fact of life for me as an academic, but I think I have to start assuming that no one I will encounter will be professional. In my 3+ years on the job market, I've seen some unbelievably rude and amature behavior, and my first university press experience just backs it up. I would be happy if people would just take their job seriously and realize it had severe implications in the lives of others.

I know that if any of my ex-students are reading this, they might giggle...I have, after all, taught while wearing Hawaiian shirts...but that's just mode of dress. In my actions, both in the classroom and in other academic settings, I've always made it a point to take whatever I was doing very seriously. I wish others would do the same. I'm hoping to find out differently, and I really want a future employer and a university press (anyone have any leads on either?) to prove me wrong.

So, granted, I'm feeling a little pressure now. Without a book contract, my application packet might look research-light. Is it worth while to bother with the job market? Do I try to rush out some stuff and neglect the teaching? Do I stare at the wall and listen to Motorhead entirely too loudly?

Thank goodness the Black Swamp Arts Festival is back! Tomorrow, we go see The Reverend Horton Heat. The spousal unit and I are volunteering Saturday afternoon, and then we're back up for several bands I don't really care about...but friends will be there, and the beer tent will be open, so it's all good.

Don't you wish you were in BG?

just noticed something possibly insightful...

This week, it occurred to me that, when I teach, I tend to put my hands in my pants pockets...and this is something I never used to do before. Anyone have any clues as to what the significance might be?