Sunday, March 30, 2008


I just saw a television ad for some asthma medication, where one of the side effects was "increased chance of asthma-related death."

Don't you miss the days before they would let drug companies advertise on television?

Monday, March 24, 2008

self realization hurts

Today, I learned something really sad about myself....I still know all the lyrics to the commercial jingle for the Atari 2600 version of Defender. Why can't I purge this and all the other useless crap (like how to play the guitar part for Accept's "Balls to the Wall") from my head so I can remember useful stuff?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

if you really put metal there, it would hurt

Today, while exercising, I had the computer play Metallica's Ride the Lightning. A few thoughts:

  • I actually remember when Metallica was transgressive. When you played them, everyone looked at you as if you were crazy.
  • I also remember when Metallica was cool. Today? They're classic rock. Wee.
  • I will never be able to make clear to my students just how shocking it was to first hear "Fight Fire with Fire" in 1984.
  • Today, a kid listening to Metallica is basically akin to if I, when in high school, would've listened to The Byrds.
  • Is this really the same band who did "Enter Sandman," which had the really wussy "Now I lay me down to sleep" bit?
  • This album would've been even better if they would've eased off the effects. Metal guitar does not need a chorus pedal!
  • It's neat that you can have a full album and hardly hear the bass.

This is all secondary to my biggest conclusion: jeez, I'm old.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

on race and hope

For the first time since I can remember, I'm excited about the presidential election.

The first president I remember was Carter, and I really don't remember too much about him. I have lots of memories about Reagan, because I started to become aware of the importance of government by that time...but that's a topic for my book, not the blog. I was not old enough to vote for Bush I, and to tell you the truth, I have no idea where I would've went with that's not like Dukakis inspired great loyalty, after all. On the other hand, I did get to see the marvelous economic effects of the Bush I presidency, so it's not like I have an abundance of love for him either.

I did vote for Clinton both times. The first time, it was in part because I saw the economic devastation of Bush I first hand, but the biggest reason was frankly that I wanted health insurance. I voted for Clinton the second time because as bitter as I was about the health insurance debacle, he still seemed less deadly than Dole.

Al Gore got my vote, but that one was a toughie. Gore ran without a doubt one of the worst possible campaigns I could imagine. How can you distance yourself from a president with one of the highest approval ratings ever? But he was no Bush II, and that was enough for me...although I had to have a shot of bourbon after voting to get the taste out of my mouth.

Kerry was also hard, because he was such a charisma void and an idiot to boot. However, by this time, I saw the damage Bush II could do, and I would vote for anyone who could prevent our great country from turning into an overly moralistic bully. We all know how that one turned out, though.

This time, however, I feel really good about the election, and that's mostly because of Barak Obama. I used to wonder what it would be like to vote for someone you actually believed in, who wanted to be president for all the right reasons, who made sense and had obviously weighed out all sides of an issue--morally, politically, ethically, practically.

I like Obama so much, I went out and campaigned for him on the day of the state primary. For those who know me, you realize how hard it is for me to approach and interact with total strangers, so this was not easy. I wanted to be a part, however, and I wanted to know that I did everything I could to help in this movement.

In this, I was largely inspired by a friend, who was very instrumental in the BG Obama campaign. Also, my in-laws drove in and did campaigning the week before the primary.

Today, Obama finally addressed the 500 pound gorilla in the room...race. After all, when you have the first black man ever to be a serious candidate, race is obviously an issue in some regard. On his website, there's a video and a transcript of his speech entitled "A More Perfect Union." It is perhaps one of the more lucid, eloquent, intelligent, and hopeful takes on race in America I've ever heard. It shows a grace and spark which I've never before seen out of a politician.

It's also a good reason why I, for the first time in ages, have real hope for our country.

Monday, March 17, 2008

2007-2008 job decap

Last year, I spend the better part of the summer writing, because I was quite clear that the number one thing I could do to improve my chances on the job market was to increase my publications. I got several articles and a book proposal revision finished. I felt good.

I also decided to revise my letter and vitae format significantly, so I sought advice from several sources. The cv is now 100% better...nice font, nice format, much tighter and more professional.

The letter, however, suffered some growing pains. I took it to a professor who, although I had only very limited experience with her, came highly recommended. The draft of my letter that she wrote (while I sat and watched...I swear, it's great being excluded from writing your own job process) bordered on science fiction...and not the good kind. Apparently, I use my classes as "inversion portals" or something like that. I have no idea exactly what an "inversion portal" is; it sounds like something off of Star Trek, but how that might fit in with my teaching, I have no idea.

So I tried a draft that combined whatever good elements existed in this sci-fi letter with my normal letter and took it to a co-worker. She liked it, so I went with it, and used it on my first 13 jobs. The results? Some trees died. Some woodland creatures had to find somewhere else to live. That's about it. I even bought some of the most expensive deluxe resume paper, hoping that might set me above the crowd, but the $25 per half ream paper also yielded no results.

Finally, I went to my work department office and grabbed a handful of job packets. We were running a search, and I figured out that the best advice I could get would be to see how actual job candidates were doing their stuff...why not, since they were my direct competition?

This was truly enlightening. For one, no one ever told me to use letterhead. Can you believe that? In all the people I asked for advice, this simple bit never came up. Also, research was always the second paragraph and took up 35% of the paper's length. I, after being told that I'd end up with a teaching position instead of a research job, minimized my research.

These are just two of the things that I had been doing wrong and no one had ever told me about. I wonder how many jobs I had lost because of no letterhead and minimal discussion of research.

The job market has been really tough for me, mostly because I've been doing a lot of the work completely on my own. My dissertation chair did a great job getting my diss through committee, but I never got much help on the job process from her...and now, I hardly see her and feel a bit abandoned. My department chair has been wonderful, but he has entirely too much stuff on his plate to really dedicate any consistent amount of attention to me. So everything has been trial and error, and I fear that the errors have cost me on more than one occasion.

I know I can be a great professor and a wonderful colleague. I like teaching, especially when I am allowed to get more involved in the subject and in my student's work than the business writing I currently teach allows. I feel I do good scholarship that will eventually earn a notable place in the academic arena, once I get a job which more greatly allows me to write. And in spite of the limitations of being a full time 5/4 teacher in a field outside my own, I think I've done a great job of everything, even above and beyond.

Making this all the more stressful is that I don't easily fit into an established field. I do the eighties, and this is not a standard academic field...or even area of concentration...or, for that matter, a topic...yet, that is. I have been told by many that the eighties will eventually end up being a hot academic area someday. It should...there's way too much fascinating stuff, and with the intersection of identity politics, postmodernism, and Reaganism, we should be talking about this stuff. As of now, we haven't got there yet. Soon, I hope.

I also do media studies, but there's not a tremendous number of those jobs out there. Many are film studies gigs, and for those, I just can't compete against film studies scholars. Others require production skills, and I don't have them. What's left is a small percentage of jobs where I can apply. I could also do Culture Studies jobs (and it is my preferred area), but there are even less of them. This means that in any given year, there's 15-20 good jobs out there. The odds are stacked against me. And although I applied for 21 this year, I only got a single phone interview.

In spite of this, I am very optimistic. There's a really good university press who's requested a book manuscript, and I have high hopes for that, ideally thinking I can get a contract by next October if all goes well. I have great ideas on how to revise several articles. I have several good articles on the go. One of these is a guaranteed publication. If even 10% of the irons I currently have in the fire work, I will be in great shape for next year's run.

On top of that, this past year has really taught me how to do a good resume and letter, even if that instruction came the hard way. My materials are now dynamite. I feel fully at ease with my application packet.

Get ready, world. 2008-2009 will be my year.

a crisis of delivery

So, I'm in the zone, I'm ready, I'm back in the "whenever I'm not in the classroom, I should be working" vibe. I feel good, I know what I'm doing, I'm confident. I am riding the writing/research wave, and I am hanging ten. All the other beachgoing-academics are swooning.

Of course, that's always the first sign, isn't it?

There are currently a large number of balls in the air, but the one I'm most concerned with is my Captain America article. I have every right to be has the soonest and most absolute deadline.

So I read and reread the source materials enough to where I actually know my topic and took a little bit of time, since I haven't actually done any work with the fine Captain in four years, but I have it nailed, and it will be a good'un...notable, with the benefit of expanding my cv.

Of course, my argument fits in to my general scholarly theme of studying how identity works in a postmodern existence. Also, however, this paper is sending me to yet another field of theory--masculinity studies--where I don't have a whole lot of experience or knowledge backlog, but that's how things are working lately, so I expect that.

There's one of the industry-wide classics of theory in this field (Connell's Masculinities) which is listed so much as source material in my research, I feel I have to read would be like ignoring Marx in a Marxist analysis if I miss it. But, thanks to the internet, you can order anything and have it on your doorstep in days...right?

I've got the book ordered, and I have a long weekend to start the drafting process...almost a full week, thanks to student online draft days. I'm in great shape. Then I realize that, even though it's been a few days, the book hasn't come yet. I check the fine print on Amazon, and it says "ships in three to six weeks."


There's still time to recover, so last Wednesday, I order from and select expedited shipping. This means I should get the book this Friday or Saturday. That still leaves all weekend, Monday, and Tuesday to draft. No problem...right?

On Saturday, I get an e-mail from the seller...she can't ship the book until Monday...which means I wouldn't get it until Wednesday at the earliest.


I cancel the order with her out of general spite, and, after online checking, find out that no one in 100 miles seems to have this very important book in stock. Barnes and Noble online, however, claims they can get it to me in a few days, but I'm still looking at Wednesday before I can start reading it...and only after that can I outline or draft.

Keep in mind my deadline is March 31, and you can see why I'm panicking. I thought I'd have a nice long binge draft session and then relatively relaxed revision. Instead, I lost a four day block of work time and will instead have to cram this together in a few days. This is made all the worse by Easter and the inevitable family visits the holiday entails...which I love, but they make my deadline a migrane.

It's just my life, I expect.

The weirdest thing about this snafu is that it gave me a weird weekend. I couldn't do any more work on this paper because I was missing a source. I didn't want to distract myself by working on something else, because my mind can no longer multitask several arguments...I lost that ability when I finished by coursework. And there's nothing built up on the TiVo to occupy my brain. This is why I spent part of Saturday night bored out of my skull and reading A Cricket in Times Square.

This is also why I can tell you the aforementioned Cricket book kicks Judy Blume's ass.

Ah, the joys of being a full time academic...drowning as a wave of unavoidable delays and setbacks crushes you against an outcropping of rocks.