Thursday, September 29, 2011

up, up, and away

I have come to realize as of late that my daughter is a superhero. My evidence? She:

  • is able to eat more than her body weight in a single sitting!
  • has a piercing cry with the power to cripple any parents in 1.2 miles!
  • can fight nap and bed time with an intensity belied by her diminutive size!
  • is able to bend time to her own purposes! She can make a simple diaper change seemingly take an hour.
  • can squirm with the strength of ten babies (see above point).
  • can cause intermittent memory loss in outside observers! Yesterday, for instance, five minutes of laughter while the two of us were playing "hoot" made up for all the yelling and screaming of the entire grumpy day.

...but then again, I always expected she would be special.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

update...or why academics is doomed

Hey, remember the post the other day about my bad attitude towards scholarship? Well, there's been developments.

Remember how I mentioned two papers I've had trouble placing? Remember the one I called a "massive leap forward in terms of both theory and writing" and considered the best thing I ever did? Well, the essay was under review by an appropriate journal. When I sent them the submission, the journal required I print off three hard copies and mail them to the editors. At the time, I presumed the journal had yet to hear of e-mail, fax, or even teletype. Well, I just got a rejection....via e-mail. I am highly tempted to drop them a line reminding them that all rejections must be sent via hard copy....or, barring that, they need to send me a check to reimburse my shipping costs.

Secondly, the text of the rejection itself is enough to drive one up the wall. After explaining how their decision process works, they list their criteria for rejecting (not publishing, mind you...they only quantify why they don't like something) submissions. An exact quote:

  1. The subject matter or approach is not suitable for the interests and readership of [journal name redacted];
  2. The argument was deemed unconvincing; or,
  3. The argument fails to distinguish its contribution to existing literature on the topic.

Wow. That certainly clears up things. Gee, thanks.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

brain trying to kill me yet again

When I was still a scholar, I used to plan my work based on fairly logical assumptions. I tried to see where the academic world was, what was the focus of most culture studies scholarship, and I used this information to try and find myself a niche, some place where I could do what was most needed, do work which both filled a gap and precipitated curves in the scholarly world. I thought my work would come out right as a new big trend came, I would ride the crest of this new scholarly wave, and that I would come off as a leader, a pioneer.

I was, however, pretty much universally wrong in my predictions.

When I started doctoral work, I noticed how everyone in culture studies seemingly was obsessed by the race/class/gender triad. Surely, I thought, identity has to be more than just these I avoided doing race, class, or gender. The scholarly world, however, still really loves race, class or gender...and shows no sign of changing. Moreover, my idea that our concept of "mainstream" is both under-formulated yet still drastically important seems to only draw the wrath of most academics. Strike one.

When searching for a dissertation topic, I noticed that no one was doing 1980s studies. In general, I realized, people think of history as something that only starts fifty years in the past. So you are either current, historical, or in some kind of limbo. However, the eighties seemed to be an especially important decade, one where a lot of current trends and crises have their roots...the credit crunch and real estate bust, for instance, must be connected in some way to the Reagan "deficits? who cares about deficits?" angle. And time and time again, the eighties seemed increasingly relevant and ready to break as a new subject of analysis. So I started doing eighties studies in hopes of being at the front of that scholarly wave. However, in spite of multiple possible Eighties Studies-launching event after event (reinvading Iraq, the Reagan legacy project, Reagan being mentioned again and again in every presidential election (by both sides in 2008)), academics never started caring about the eighties. No one wanted to hire an Eighties scholar. Where did that leave me, who wrote a dissertation on the intersection of 1980s politics and popular culture? Facing strike two.

My job market failures made me realize I had to reinvent myself. There were, I noticed, tons of film studies jobs...but in order to land one, one had to hold a film studies degree. Television, I reasoned, was a different with more possibilities. Hell, TV, with the likes of Deadwood, The Sopranos, The Shield, The Wire, and tons of other great programs had become the creatively dominant medium. So why not refocus myself as a television scholar? This is what I did. I wrote several great articles on television, with the highlight being a publication in Television & New Media. I gained some level of prestige (or at least a minimal presence in the field). However, 97% of every television-oriented job I've seen requires production skills. I have none. My refocus as a television scholar leaves me still unemployable. Strike three.

Planning has gotten me nowhere...except out.

Lest you think all my moves (to paraphrase Clouseau) are carefully planned, I have also experimented with just letting my muse direct my writing. A few years back, I was watching the first post-Katrina New Orleans Saints home game. The broadcast, in spite of covering post-Katrina quite thoroughly as a matter of design, meticulously avoided mentioning race. It was a paper I just had to write. I still can't place it. Later, at the beginning of one of my summers, I found myself unable to sleep at night because my mind was deconstructing the traditional notions of political economy in relation to television production. My mind immediately started thinking of the then-still-in-production show Dollhouse, and, as a result, I ditched the two articles and book revision I had planned and focused on this new, "I can't get it out of my head" paper. It took me seven weeks to write. It was good, thorough, a massive leap forward in terms of both theory and writing. I still can't place it.

Following my heart didn't work out any better than following my head. This is one of the reasons I've pretty much abandoned scholarship and thinking of myself as an academic. Now, I'm trying very hard to look for nothing out of my popular culture experiences other than just killing time and occupying maybe 3% of my mind.

Today, while watching Bones (my new television addiction), I figured out a way to tie in the research from my abandoned CSI: paper with my understanding of both NCIS and Bones. It would be very doable. It would even incorporate much of my research on hierarchical authority structures, and of nerds. I even have a thesis statement in mind: "the concept of liberalism within contemporary media and society is dependent on the social positioning of geeks, nerds, and experts."

It would, in short, be good. However, it would also, if past experience is any indication, be completely pointless. No one would care. And even if a few readers liked it, cited it, used it in classes (as has happened with my scholarship in the past), it would do utterly nothing to add to my infinitesimal chances of ever finding a tenure-track job. Moreover, I don't have any time whatsoever to immerse myself in the necessary research, let alone chain myself to the computer's word processor to write the damn thing.

So why won't this idea just go away? Why did it come into my mind to begin with? Why can't I quit thinking, accept where I am, and just be?

Friday, September 23, 2011

then and now

Back when I used to think of myself as a scholar, a day without class would generally mean getting up around 8, eating while browsing the web, writing until lunch, watching a half hour of television while eating, and trying to continue to write until 4ish. I would then cook, hang out with my beautiful wife, and climb into bed around midnight. My main regret would be avoiding my guitars.

Things are different now.

Today, I woke up at 7:30 to the sound of my beautiful daughter giving us her "good morning" scream. I hugged her, changed her, and fed her. We then played "hoot" for a little bit, she hit a whale and octopus on her play mat, and then we did TummyTime. While the kiddo was napping, I checked my mail, avoided a few Facebook academic arguments, and just finished lunch when I heard the "I'm done napping" scream. When I went to get my daughter, though, she was smiling. We fed, did a trip to a produce stand, and tried to keep everyone (meaning her) happy while stuck waiting on a train (both on the way there and back). My wife came home from work, and I immediately hit the chiropractor (to get relief from hauling around my kid), hit the grocery store (to get kid supplies), picked up dinner, got to hang with my wife for an hour before she started the "get Mighty sleeping" routine and I started housecleaning. Currently, "get Mighty sleeping" is in phase two while I unwind with a vodka and apple cider.

Oh, I also avoided playing guitar again.

Monday, September 19, 2011

night is weird

I have an infant. I love her dearly. It does precipitate several lifestyle adjustments...the main one being an adjustment to irregular sleep patterns.

While I have always been a light sleeper (no doubt in response to my inherent paranoia), I don't sleep anywhere as deeply as I once did. This is probably because of the increased likelihood that either I or my lovely wife might be called into action at 3am. To be perfectly honest, it would most likely be my wife as I, after all, am not personally a food source. Furthermore, our kiddo has actually been sleeping through the night for a little while. However, I still expect her to wake up, and those expectations keep me up. Moreover, I often hear phantom kiddo sounds...I think I hear her move, cry out, hiccup...but it always turns out to be the television, a passing car, (most puzzlingly) an extraction fan, or something similar.

There is a plus side to never getting deep sleep, though: I have more vivid and rememberable dreams! Here's two from Friday night:

  • I thought I was the last survivor of a zombie apocalypse. It was, though, a pretty wimpy zombie apocalypse, because the dead only became reanimated for about two, by the time of the dream, I was more bored than scared. After a few weeks of boredom (told in dream-montage), I met another living person! And it was....either a girl from high school I used to have a huge crush on or the brunette from That 70s Show...I'm not sure which. However, the only other survivor, whomever she was? She didn't want to have anything to do with me...because I personally bored her.
  • Later that night, I dreamed I found out Sylvester Stallone was a major historian of 1980s video games. For this reason, he was called in as a consultant for Jersey Shore. He quickly became a friend of everyone in the cast. For this reason, I was called in to write an article for Esquire on him. When I got to New Jersey, I went to the beach, and there was Stallone, sitting on a weight bench in the sand, pumping iron. Only he wasn't using weights...he was bench-pressing a car axle with two tires on each side.

I'm just happy I've given up on finding meaning in anything.

Monday, September 12, 2011

my shiny weekend

Much of last week was dominated by my darling Progeny Unit's case of being illin'. The poor little kiddo has acid reflux, so we have her on a drug and off the natural BoobJuice and onto a special formula (cost as if made from ground gold, awkward to construct, makes poo smell horrific). What's worse is the little tyke is still obviously in might be getting better, but it ain't there yet, and she ain't comfortable.

I don't want to minimize her discomfort, and I know she must be feeling terrible. I cannot, however, shake my personal viewpoint. Namely, I feel horrible and useless. She's not happy, and there's utterly nothing I can do about. My knowledge goes to feeding, to diapers, to rocking her, and to singing Eagles songs in my limited, creaky voice, and when all those fail me, it's frustrating. It generally puts a black cloud over my mood.

This is where I was when my Spousal Unit came home from work on Friday. She took one look at me and told me "you need to get out tonight. No, it's really need to get out."

Luckily, there were entertainment options. I live in an awesome town, and it was the weekend of the Black Swamp Arts Festival...which is truly one of the greatest weekends of the Bowling Green social calender. This year, it caused the clouds to lift.

Because of the BSAF, everything became shiny.

I walked downtown, hit the Thai food vendor (chicken on a stick, fried rice, and a noodle dish), and headed toward the parking-lot-turned-beer-garden. The chicken particularly is awesome and shiny...I half suspect they baste it in butter. Halfway through my meal, I saw my former bass player. In spite of her duties as festival chair, she sat down with me, hung out, and, as I shoveled delicious Thai food into my gullet, we had a great talk about our former band and our changing relationship to music. She was called away for festival duties/hobnobbing, but then some other friends came by...then some more...then some more. Eventually, some of us got close to the stage to watch the very cool Stone Foxes play before I had to head home.

Next morning, my Spousal Unit had to work, so I was back on kiddie duty...but, far from being uncomfortable, the kiddo was in a positively bright mood. The Progeny Unit woke up just fine. She was happy when I woke her, happy when I changed her, happy when I fed her, and happy afterward. She fell asleep in my arms, and she was calm when I was able, with very little effort, to get her back asleep in her crib. She had a good nap, during which my spousal unit returned bearing carry-out.

After a meal/brief conversation, we got a call from an awesome friend who asked, "would you like me to come over and babysit your daughter so you two can go to the art festival?" So, an hour later, my darling Spousal Unit and I were walking hand in hand down main street, sun shining on our faces, looking at art, meeting friends, sharing an order of freshly cut french fries, and just having a wonderful time being a married couple again after a few months of being parents only. The art was even shinier this year...lotsa new artists, really cool and inventive stuff. Spousal Unit bought a postcard from this local artist who did watercolors of Halloween-esque stuff and interpretations of The Wizard of Oz. I saw about thirty seven things I just really needed to have and vowed to become a millionaire by next year's fest.

We got home, and our kiddo was just fine...beaming, even. After a good afternoon and dinner, I had to go back downtown as my new band The Black Swamp Rats was playing a show at the auxiliary rock stage.

I got there a bit early and loaded my stuff into the bar. For some reason which escapes me, they had some hip-hop guy playing in the rock club, so I jetted out of there and went back to the main stage. I ran into my new bass player, we met my old bass player, and went to the front of the stage to see Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears. The band was, for some reason, all wearing matching black pants and shiny white (albeit not matching) shirts...but in spite of the pseudo-costumes, they utterly rocked. Joe Lewis in particular played guitar as if he was strangling the thing...which is the way it should be.

When my bassist and I got back to Howards, there was (again, for reasons which escape me) a trio playing. There was a guy on a computer. There was a guy playing death metal guitar (albeit with less melody). There was a drummer who was wearing a gas mask. They weren't as good as they sound as if they'd be, and we were to follow them. Luckily, though, the room filled back up as we set up. It was a new experience for me...playing in a new band (with whom I haven't had a full band practice), without a set list. It went fine, though. Actually, better than fine. There was a packed room. There was fairly raucous applause. There was dancing...I first noticed the woman in the shiny red dress swaying, but there were multiple dancers in the crowd.

I did a few screw-ups during the set, but they were the kind that, unless you knew my parts, you wouldn't really notice. Fortunately, I'm really the only one who knows my parts, and in general, my playing--particularly in my solos--was shiny. I think I passed the audition, because as I was getting my stuff off stage, my bassist came over, shook my hand, and thanked me for joining the band.

I got a good audience reaction as well. Although there weren't a lot of my friends in the bar (two of my closest were there for the set, but my gig lined up with someone else's birthday), I did receive several compliments. My singer told me [name redacted-local rock star] was checking out my guitar, and the singer for a cool band (with whom Analog Revolution played our first gig) told me I sounded really good in The Black Swamp Rats. Later, I got further confirmation that I did alright when, as I was hauling my equipment out of the bar, [name redacted-local rock star] (with whom I've never talked) bounded over, shook my hand, and told me I did "an excellent job."

The next morning, my Spousal Unit told me the Progeny Unit went to bed around 9 and slept through the night. When the kiddo woke up, she was again happy. After the feeding, I put her down on her play mat, and she was smacking the hanging octopus and giggling...generally in a bright mood.

Strangely enough, right about the time The Black Swamp Arts Festival was over, my daughter turned cranky again. The only real lesson from all this? Art festivals make everything glow.

Friday, September 02, 2011


Sitting at home on a Friday night? Watching your spousal unit feed your progeny unit while others are at the bar? Why, you need a drink! I call this one the "Drinker to Daddy":

  • four ice cubes go into a highball glass
  • add one measure of dark rum to remind yourself of the exotic life you used to lead
  • add a half measure of peppermint schnapps for the zest your drinking friends are no doubt experiencing
  • add a half measure of strawberry liquor for sweetness to rival the smile of your kiddo
  • top with cran-grape and stir

Thursday, September 01, 2011

road trip!

I'm on a music mailing list, where, for the last few days, people have been sharing stories of their most notable concert roadtrips. Here's my entry:

I was not, at first, a big fan of the Black Crowes. They came to my hometown of Jacksonville, FL on the Southern Harmony and Musical Companion tour. I heard them occasionally on MTV and our otherwise Classic Rock-obsessed radio station (which, to this day, has a playlist which is 95% stolen from 1986), but none of their stuff really bowled me I decided not to go. Day of the show, I'm sitting at my computer doing homework (be fair and honest: I was probably playing solitaire), and the retro rock radio channel, in honor of the show, decides to play two straight hours of the Black Crowes. The more I listen, the more I'm getting into them. After about an hour, I decide I really wanna go see them...just as the dj announces the show has sold out.

Grrr. I decide to instead do what anyone disappointed in life would do...go to the bar. On the way home, I get pulled over. I'm driving a 1973 Plymouth Duster that is, without a doubt, the worst car in the world (passenger door only opens from the inside, driver's door only opens from the outside, the roof leaks so much holes got punched in the floorboard to drain the car, there's an ecosystem of some unkillable alien mold, and there's no foam padding in the front seat...only a folded rain coat prevents me from having a metal enema whenever I drive), and it's about 30 outside, and my heater doesn't, in spite of me going relatively light on the beer, I'm shaking from the cold and can't pass the field sobriety test.

I head to jail. I pass the breathalizer test, but the technician decides to book me anyway, telling me that, under Florida law, if the arresting officer thinks I'm drunk, my blood alcohol level only has to be relatively close. Legal precision! Nice!

They put me in the holding cell. One of the cellmates was convinced the skin around organs was peeling, so he was walking around with his pants around his ankles, scratching himself (that is, until the nice officers came in, grabbed him, slammed him against the wall, and moved him into an isolation cell). Another gentleman was cold and kept trying to steal people's jackets...but everyone just basically told him to screw himself. An intimidator, he was not. Then he took to yelling at the guards, saying he had a health condition. Then he started to insulate himself by wrapping himself up with toilet paper. Then they moved me into a cell block, where my cellmate was a crack dealer.

All this because I didn't go to a show. It was a mistake, I vowed, which I would never repeat. So, when the Black Crowes toured again in our area, I decided to go. Problem one: it was in Gainesville, roughly two and a half hours away. Solution: get a bunch of friends to go with. Problem two: I got suckered into driving, which was an issue because, by that time, the Duster had died (threw a rod the day after I gave it to my brother), and I was in a not-all-that-spacious-bordering-on-microscopic Honda Prelude. Solution: cram a total of eight people inside as if using a clown car. Problem three: tickets were pricey. Solution: wait until band put special $3 "crowes nest" tickets"...because we were all cheap/broke.

We somehow got to Gainesville and untangled everyone in the car. It was at the arena where University of Florida plays basketball, which seats roughly eight thousand or so. There were about two hundred people on the floor, and the rest of the arena was pretty much empty...except for these "crowes nest" cheap seats, which were fairly full but as far away as humanly possible from the stage. I sat down as The Dirty Dozen Brass Band (the openers...who were awesome) least I think it was them and not a bunch of ants with miniature tubas. Then a guy next to me asked me if I wanted a hit...not off his joint, but off his two foot tall water bong. The security guard in the area just shook his head. I politely declined the offer, by the way.

The Black Crowes came on, played for exactly one hour and fifteen minutes, were fairly lame, and then the lights came on. We left the arena and lubed everyone up to squeeze into my Hot Wheels-esque car for the ride home. Our travel time was longer than the show itself...which, itself, was fairly unimpressive.

At least, though, I didn't get arrested this time.