meme me!

If you haven’t read it yet, please check out Jenny’s Letter to W at Working Blue. I’ll post my own letter to W in the coming days, in hopes of turning it into something of a meme. Fellow bloggers, if you feel inclined to do so, join the Letters to W meme!


a familiar scheme

From xkcd:

an eerily familiar scheme

an eerily familiar scheme

Intended here, in part, as a response to recent reader e-mail, and also as a commentary on why a recent event (unblogged thus far) went perhaps predictably down the crapper.  Goodbye, 2008, and good riddance.

year in review

The year in review is a common enough trope and although I’m not really using it to structure this post, I figured it was as good a title as any.  I have forgotten for the past two years to write what was meant to be my annual Thanksgiving post, so maybe I can shoehorn some of that into a y-i-r post instead.  Below, some thoughts on 2008 in its waning days.  I’ll try to have 12 points, not chronologically, necessarily, but at least one point for every month.  In the vain hopes of yet creating my own meme (although 5 Sad Songs did find some purchase in my limited blogosphere) I’ll tag a few folks: Lacey, Ellen D, Derek R, JP Walter, Derek M, the Drs. Rice, Mark B.  Umm . . . that’s it.

  1. I am, needless to say perhaps, pleased by the Obama win.  I am not scandalized by the Rick Warren announcement.  I want Obama to do great, but realize there’s a number of different challenges ahead of him and I hope that I and his other supporters prove to be more than just bandwagoners.  What this translates into in practical terms, I dunno.
  2. Last Christmas season I was very sure that it would be the last holiday for my kitty Schnickelfritz.  He’s still with us (well, Xmas is a few days away so knock on wood) and appears to be in decent health for a cat of 17 years.  He likes a brand of treat made by Whiskas calls Temptations.
  3. So, perhaps predictably, I found myself heartbroken early this year.  I mean, moreso than usual and with actual cause.  I behaved rudely in response but I think I have made appropriate moves toward reconciliation with the person in question.  I’ve only seen said person once since the fit hit the shan, and it doesn’t look like we will have an opportunity to meet over the holiday break, alas.  So, back to the drawing board on that front.
  4. I was in a particularly black mood over my birthday this year.  In part, because of item 3 above–I had had sugarplum dreams of spending at least part of my bday with Person, but since things didn’t happen the way I’d hoped with P, no such plans materialized.  At least, that’s the best I can figure out why I was so upset about my bday.  30 is coming up all too soon (2010) but I don’t feel like it was some kind of preemptive age anxiety attack.  Age, after all, ain’t nothing but a number.  Neverthless, I’m sure 30 will be the cause of much despair, wailing, gnashing of teeth, rending of garments, etc., because at present there are no prospects for me to have fulfilled certain essential life goals by the time I hit 3-0.  So, you know, my continued sense of myself as a failure seems to be a likely bet for an ongoing thing.
  5. Well, despite said sense of iminent and absolute fail, things are going well in a professional sense, I suppose.  I’ve been accepted to two conferences for next year, my M.A. should be complete at the end of this semester (just waiting on one more grade being posted), I was asked to serve on the appointments committee, and my 3010 syllabus may be the basis for the dept’s standard syllabus soon.  All in all, not too bad.  This, of course, amidst the fact that with the M.A. I feel I am essentially committing myself with no hope of backing out to a life in academia.  Not that I would back out, per se, but this semester has felt particularly rough so thoughts of dropping out, etc, have been common.  This isn’t a plea for pity or anything (I know, I know, I always say that), just a note that I have found my attention distracted throughout this semester and I feel like I didn’t make optimal contributions in my seminars, and I know that neither of the projects submitted for said classes were examples of my best work.  For those of you already a bit more establish in the field, is there something like a”Year-3″ slump or something in the grad school lore?  I’d feel a lot better knowing I wasn’t alone in this.
  6. Okay, okay, I admit.  While Heath was amazing and deserving of every inch of the Oscar he seems a fairly solid bet to win, The Dark Knight didn’t really live up to my expectations.  There’s a lot of great stuff to recommend about it: Heath, yes, but all the performances were good, it’s well edited, directed, designed, and photographed.  But my god what a lazy, careless, sloppy script.  There are plotholes you could not just drive the Tumbler through, you could make it do loop-the-loops.  I’ll own this one, Lacey.  Did the flick give me some great Batman/Joker scenes?  Sure, but it completely duffed on Harvey Dent/Two-Face–so, what Two-Face’s criminal career is all of, like, six hours long?  Wtf?  The last, say, 10-15 minutes of the film are an embarrassment, frankly.
  7. Fecking insomnia.
  8. I just saw it a few hours ago, and I feel pretty confident no film will be as pleasing, romantic, funny, exciting, etc, etc as Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire.  Here’s a promise to all of my readers.  If you see the flick and don’t at least like the film, if you aren’t moved in any way whatsoever, I will refund your ticket price up to $8.  Honest to god.  That is how confident I am in this picure’s greatness.  See it.
  9. It would have been a great film to see with Person above, but, ay me.  For a while earlier this year, I thought there was going to be hope of another person, but it didn’t play out.  No harm.  Said New Person has already seen Slumdog Millionaire and loved it.  It is for things like that I thought this person could be the new person.  Ay me.
  10. Music wise, I haven’t heard much that really excited me this year.  Well, to be fair, I haven’t heard much that was brand new to me that I got excited about.  New discs from Coldplay and Radiohead wwere both good, but I’ve liked both bands for a long while now.  I think the only really new thing that dropped this year that I liked was the Vampire Weekend disc (self-titled).  I occasionally worry about my tastes metastasizing as I creep closer to 30.  Are Coldplay and Radiohead the only things I like now?  Will I never again read about some new gang in Blender or Rolling Stoneor Mojo or Spin (God it’s been a long time since I read Spin) and fall in love with a new sound?
  11. I really liked my summer students and got along very well with them.  In fact, one of them has joined my 3010 in the winter.  For whatever reason, my fall students and I just never really bonded the same way.  I’m skeptical, as some readers know, of the image of the teacher as some kind of hero in his students’ lives, so I’m not saying I expect to have that kind of dramaturgical relationship with my students.  That’s to say that I don’t expect any of my students to recite “O Captain, My Captain!” in my honor at the end of the semester.  On the other hand, though, I do like teaching a lot more when I feel like I have some idea that my students are more than automata being made to do my bidding.  I should note, of course, that the fault on this count in entirely mine–I didn’t make the effort, I guess, to connect with them in ways that I have in the past perhaps.  In fact, I’ll add this semester’s teaching to the sense of total fail mentioned above in item 4.  I wouldn’t say I let my students down, exactly, but I will say that they didn’t get my best, either.  Sorry guys.
  12. I was saddened when a friend and colleague decided to discontinue his blog.  Not that I’m pissing on him, though.  It has more to do with the fact that, although I get a kick out of having my own little private office on Maccabbees 10th, I feel isolated from my peers and fellow GTAs now.  (The ironic part is that said colleague is only, essentially, down the hall from me.)  I know grad school is not really meant to be an extended social event, but I hadn’t realized until this semester how important the social aspect of it had come to be for me.  Already I feel like people I’ve come to rely on for that sociality are soon (well sooner than me at any rate) going to be into their QEs and ABDs and I will like as not rarely see them.  Sad.  I’m now one of the “experienced” GTAs in the dept (well, more experienced than some, not as much as others) and I feel like I should be doing more to help welcome new GTAs to the dept, since I was so dependent on the camaraderie just to survive my first year and not either (a) drop out or (b) my own quietus make (with a bare bodkin).  Not that I want to force any unwated bonding or anything on people, but I feel like I should “pay it forward,” if you’ll forgive the triteness of the phrase.
  13. One to grow on: I used iMovie for the first time this year and really liked it.  If I can get more time playing around with it, I’d really like to use it for presentations or something rather than PowerPoint.

words from our sponsor

From Martin, Rux. “Truth, Power, Self: An Interview With Michel Foucault October 25, 1982.” Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault. Eds. Luther H., Huck Gutman, and Patrick H. Hutton. Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 1998.

The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.  If you knew when you began a book what you would say at the end, do you think that you would have the courage to write?  What is true for writing and for a love relationship is true also for life.  The game is worthwhile insofar as we don’t know what will be the end.

Here is MF with hair.  Wtf?!?!?

Here is MF with hair. Wtf?!?!?

talkin’ corporate university blues

From: Donoghue, Frank.  The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities.  New York: Fordham University Press, 2008.

135-6: In the face of the trends I have described here, it seems to me that professors of humanities can resist their extinction only by shifting the focus of their attention in two important ways.  First, rather than merely opposing the corporate assumptions that threaten their disciplines, humanists must challenge those assumptions along different lines.  If we constantly meet the corporate model of higher education with skepticism, we might keep its most precious tenets from becoming articles of faith for everyone: students, society at large, even disempowered humanists.  Central among these tenets is the assumption that a practical, occupation-oriented college education leads to a secure job and thus is crucial to improving one’s quality of life.

137-8: The second, corollary action that humanists will have to take in order to stave off their disappearance from the university of the future is to balance their commitment to the content of higher education with a thorough familiarity with how the university works.  That phrase . . . advocates a perspective on academic labor that most humanities professors have been reluctant to adopt.  Not only do we need to resist the tendency to romanticize our work, but we also need to locate that work in an assortment of unfamiliar contexts.  Many of the developments that I have discussed here—the hyperprofessionalization of academic careers, the rapid erosion of tenure, the rise of for-profit education, and the prestige race—seem to have caught professors by surprise, leaving them unprepared to deal with the very phenomena that directly affect their jobs.


vroom doom

From Kent Hughes, “Are the Wheels Coming Off the American Auto Industry,” The Chronicle of Higher Education. Washington: Jul 14, 2006. Vol. 52, Iss. 45; pg. B.11:

Where is the industry headed? Hybrids that run on both gasoline and batteries are already on the road. Ethanol is widely used in Brazil, where flex-fuel engines can run on gasoline, ethanol, or any mix of the two. Serious research continues on hydrogen and fuel cells, although breakthroughs don’t seem imminent.

In the near term, Maynard in her End of Detroit points to three possibilities: further shrinkage, perhaps leading to bankruptcy; GM and Ford securing antitrust approval to form a single, dominant company; or GM and Ford following the Chrysler example and finding a foreign partner.

Maxton and Wormald see two choices for the old-line American industry. Without change, it faces a kind of “graceless degradation,” not unlike the shrinkage scenario of Maynard. Their alternative is a fourth revolution, to succeed Henry Ford’s mass production, Alfred P. Sloan’s mass customization (a model for every consumer need), and Toyota’s lean production. The new revolution would be an unbundling, with specialized suppliers and assemblers, and new competitors in the industry. Instead of the integrated auto companies of the past, Maxton and Wormald foresee many companies, each with a narrow core competence in one aspect of the industry — say, engines, or design, or even assembling and then branding parts made by others. Sectors of the electronics industry have pursued such a path — the companies without factories that design semiconductors and have them made by others, or Dell, which assembles parts made by a number of companies.

The stakes go well beyond the interests of industry and labor. The Big Three are woven into thousands of supply chains — steel, springs, logistics planning — that remain an important market for new innovations and do much more U.S.-based research and development than do their rivals based abroad. Without painful change by the Big Three or some public-sector intervention, current trends will continue to favor foreign manufacturers.

Hahahahahaha!!  The answer is they are going straight to heck!  In an automated handbasket, no less.

not what i mean when i say wsu is the bomb

More threats today.

If you don’t know, this is like the third bomb threat that WSU has recieved in a little over a month.  State Hall was threatened in late Oct, the Student Center earlier this week, and now General Lectures.  We’ve been fortunate so far that, as far as I know, they’ve only ever been threats; it’s unclear to me that any of them actually were connected to real bombs in any of the buildings in question.

My concern is obvious, as a student and instructor.  But I also worry (due to my role on Appointments) how this could appear to potential campus visitors.  “Oh, well, sorry you can’t see State Hall where you’d be likely to do a lot of teaching; it could explode at any second.”  Not something I’d like to say to any of our potential candidates. I am sure other campuses have dealt with similar threats (and, obviously, much graver things than just threats) but this is new to me, even though I was an undergrad at WSU as well.

It recalls, in some ways, an exchange KL and I had some time ago.  KL, if you’re reading, I’d be interested to see how you’re responding to these threats as well.