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I don’t turn 40 for a couple of weeks.  But classes start the Monday after my birthday, so my “birthday weekend” needs to be fairly quiet.  So I decided, as one does, to get the party started a bit early.

Note: I’m not freaked out at all about the Big 4-0.  Indeed, I’m excited to be in my “early 40s” as opposed to my “late 30s.”  And nearly all of my friends are 40+ so 40 seems like a GREAT age to be!  And I don’t feel like this birthday is that big of a deal, but a lot of other people seem to think that it is.  I have a theory that part of the reason so many people (my mother, some family and friends, etc.) are putting so much emphasis on this birthday is because I’ve never had a wedding and I’ve never had a baby.  They, I think, feel like this is my Last Chance for a Big Party.  Do these people even KNOW me?  Ha!

So. I went on a journey to Grad School City (on Frequent Flier Miles!  It was FREE!) to visit with Grad School Best Friend (Dr. Medusa, for old time-y readers), Naomi (a high school best friend who got her PhD and is now on the tenure-track in the Greater Grad School City Area), and J (another friend who recently moved to the Greater Grad School City Area for her job).  The last time Naomi and J. had seen one another (the first time they saw one another) was my 30th birthday.  Nobody had ever met Medusa.  Whatever!  My friends are grand!  It would be grand!

It WAS grand!  The main celebration was Friday. Wine! Me outside of Medusa’s house texting her, “Why am I alone outside?” which really is an existential question for the ages, but mainly we were going to our ride that was there and all of my friends are slowpokes. Tapas at the most festive restaurant! A return to a Grad School Haunt, which really is the Land that Time Forgot, in that all of the people are different and yet all of the same scenarios are being played out!  Home to Medusas for drinks and dancing and fun!

And then the other days.  Thursday with Medusa drinking wine and looking at old pictures – taken on CAMERAS!  With FILM!  That you needed to have developed before you knew what the pics looked like!  Our constant refrain: “This is when we were young and beautiful.”  And singing along to a record from that time! Saturday hung over and eating Mexican food! Sunday with Naomi watching Drunk History On Demand!  Today – breakfast with Naomi and lunch with Medusa!

I did no work, and I did not think about work.  I bonded with my ladies and I appreciated the fact that I have such amazing and fabulous friends.

Up next: dates with two new suitors this week, a party for my friend S.’s birthday that I’m hosting next weekend, and then my actual birthday!

40 is FABULOUS!  Even if I’m not quite 40 yet :)

So I realized today that it is somewhere near my TENTH blogiversary. That’s right, readers, Dr. Crazy has been at this whole blogging thing for ten years just about now. I don’t recall the actual date (for I’ve changed locations 2 times since the first version, and I can’t be bothered to figure out the actual date), just that I started at some point in July (during the Republican Convention I think?  I know there was convention blogging, in part about a bizarre fixation I had on Tucker Carlson at that time, and I surely was seeing a fellow whom I named “Stupid Freud”) of 2004, assuming that I would quit almost immediately.  But I didn’t quit.  I still haven’t quit.  Weird, huh?

Lots of people from when I started are now gone, or mostly gone.  Indeed, a lot of those people from the very early days are now my facebook friends and that is how I keep in touch with them. But along the way new people have found their way here, too.  I don’t look at stats at all anymore, because I guess I don’t need to know that people are reading?  And/or I’m not paranoid about who is reading? And I am totally open now about claiming the blog as something that I write, in a way that I surely wasn’t in early days.  How I figure it now is that most everybody in the world knows who I “really” am, and that is really ok.

Although, to be fair, I did learn from BFF that she met a person at a conference who was talking about my blog and who didn’t know who I was, so I suppose there are still some people out there for whom Dr. Crazy is a mystery.  Why have I never gone public for real?  Well, a couple of things.  First, I think people like a Dr. Crazy being out there, and I think it would change things for them if I explicitly outed myself.  As Dr. Crazy, I can be an “everywoman” of sorts. Second, I do think that it would change the way that I write and the kinds of things that I write about if this site were the first thing that came up with googling my real-life name. I’m not saying I’ll never reveal my real-life identity in an explicit way, but I suppose I’m not sure what the value of that would be for this space, at least not right now. I have never seen my blogging as a professional vehicle – in fact, what I loved about it was that it WASN’T a line on the cv – and I really am not interested in seeing it as that. So who knows what the future holds, but this is it, for the time being.  If you’re dying to know who I am in real life I’ll tell you, and if you find out who I am I don’t actually care.  But I think there is value in the “character” of Dr. Crazy, as it were.

But so once upon a time, Michael Berube (and I can’t be bothered to do the accent marks properly, because I am lazy, but he is delightful and generous so I know he won’t judge me) wrote a blog post about my very first Dr. Crazy incarnation, in which he described my blog as “raw.”  And, well, looking back, that blog WAS raw.  I was a newly minted Ph.D. and I was only a year into a tenure-track gig (and I only defended my dissertation a week before my contract started for that job).  And blogging was this new and uncharted territory way back in 2004, and lotsa people were writing “raw” blogs, and I ended up blogging on a whim and the whole point, or so I saw it at the time, was to confess the TRUTHS of what it was to be an assistant professor, and the TRUTHS of feeling alienated and at sea in a new place, and oh, who the fuck knows, but that was what I was doing.  And then somebody threatened to out me, and I decided that I should acknowledge that threat and yet not acquiesce to it but yet move to a different space to signal that I would be slightly less raw.  And then I earned tenure and was on sabbatical and thought that I needed to move to yet another space to acknowledge that transition.  And so here I am now.

And what I realize is this: I no longer write a “raw” blog.  That said, I don’t think it’s fully cooked either.  I think that I give a par-boiled representation of things these days.  I still care about personal writing, about authentic and not-for-publication, not-for-reputation writing, but the reality is that since I’ve earned tenure I know a lot more, and I have a lot more to say, but I also feel much more limited in what I can say authentically on a blog.  Tenure does not give you license to say anything anywhere anytime. It gives you the privilege to fight certain battles, and it gives you the authority to do certain things at your institution.  But, frankly, it also gave me a lot more information than I had before, and a lot of that information is stuff I can’t just bitch about on a blog.  In some ways, I am much more careful about what I say on-blog post-tenure.  And in some ways, I actually think that this is the right thing.  I’m not sure that I believe anymore in the whole CONFESSING THE TRUTHS thing.  I realize now that what I think is true is a fuck of a lot more contingent and that there are things I certainly don’t know.

That said, I still try, in this space, to TELL the truth, if not to confess it or to preach it.  If that makes sense.

So yeah, I am considering this my blogiversary post, even though it might be early or late from the actual date. And I hope that this blog is still entertaining for people, or helpful to people, or whatever, even though I recognize that I am kind of a shitty blogger these days, in terms of frequency and even in terms of the interest-level of my posts.  And also that I recognize that only Comrade Physioproffe is interested in my golf-blogging :) (By the way: we finally used the drivers today, and while it is not my best skill, as long as I manage not to have anybody watching me and I don’t actually allow myself to think I do ok.)

Ten fucking years, people.  How is that even possible?!?!

Did he plagiarize? YES.

Should he be called out for plagiarizing? YES. (And all of us teachers can use this as a great example when we talk about plagiarism with our students, which for me is the only productive takeaway from this.)

Am I going to be a Zizek apologist on this one? NO.

But I will admit that what is most interesting to me about this whole “scandal” is that I suspect that a lot of this sort of thing goes on in academic journals, particularly when we’re talking about reviews, which don’t really “count” as publications.  If we went through every review in every academic journal, and if we scrutinized each and every one, I feel like (and no, I don’t have evidence, for this is a feeling) we would find a lot of language that is repeated without attribution, not because that is ok (for it is NOT) but rather because of sloppy scholarship and, frankly, sloppy work on the part of editors.  Honestly, in this case I wondered whether the blog that originally published the language that Zizek used actually got that language from a third source, The Source of It All.

 

If I look at the ball, I cannot hit the ball. I must look at a spot approximately 3 inches in front of where the ball is, but also I can’t look at where I am aiming the ball. Which makes no sense, but nevertheless it is true.

Well, except for with putting.  With putting, I must only look at the ball, and I must not look at the hole. (I am much better at putting than I am at everything else, incidentally. Miles the Golf Teacher seems quite surprised by my savant-like skill at putting, “one of the hardest things in what is a hard game”.  What Miles doesn’t know is that as a child I was so in love with miniature golf that my dad actually dug a hole for me in the backyard and stuck a soup can or something into it so it would serve my purposes, and I spent hours putting golf balls into it in non-putting-green conditions.  Since, as Miles tells us, 43% of all shots made on the golf course are putting, I feel that putting will be the “ace in the hole” of my otherwise crappy golf game -and yes, I am embarrassed to have written “ace in the hole” there.)

But so anyway, both of these things – not looking at the ball, not looking at the hole – do seem to send the same broader message: what matters in the moment is not the end goal (to hit the ball, to get the ball in the hole) but rather the process that gets you there.  I spend a lot of time telling my students this very thing about the writing process or about life as a student in general, but it’s an easy lesson to forget (over and over again).

And it is also a lesson that knitting teaches me (over and over again), because if the point is a scarf, the easiest (and less expensive, and less time-consuming) path to a scarf is to go to a store and buy one. The reason to knit is not that you need or want a scarf.  It is the knitting itself, and the end result is just a happy and inessential consequence of the knitting.  If what you want to do is to knit a scarf, you’ll never finish that scarf.  But if what you want to do is to knit, then you will end up with an awesome scarf.  (Note: this is why knitting under pressure – like knitting my High School BFF’s wrap for her wedding, or the blanket for her new baby – GEMMA! I am an auntie! As of Sunday! And no, that motherfucking blanket is not finished, dammit! – is such a problem for me.)

It’s not that you don’t have a goal.  But if you are overly focused on the end result, you can’t actually do what it takes to get there, apparently. Or I can’t, apparently.

I guess this is what people who are all new-age-y are really talking about when they say things like they are “practicing mindfulness.”  I also think that it probably is what discussions about internal vs. external motivation are really about, although I’ve never actually understood those since apparently my natural tendency is that internal motivation gets me to external rewards.  I don’t just spend my life living every moment like it’s my last (which, gross), but at the same time it is definitely true that I only ultimately end up achieving long-term things when I am focused on the moment and the steps of the process toward the long-term things, if that makes sense.

So I am going to do my best in the coming weeks to try to apply these mystical life  lessons to all of the many things that need to happen between now and September 30.  Because I haven’t been able to accomplish a thing for like 4 days, and I think it’s because I’m looking at the ball, looking at the hole.  I think I’m too focused on the scarf and not on the knitting. Golf +Knitting = Self-Actualization.  Apparently.

So I am taking some golf lessons, with my pal T who is awesome. So part of what’s great is that she’s great, and we are great and fun, and whatever.  BUT, my initial thoughts:

  1. Everybody always talks about how they suck at golf, so it’s totally ok to suck at golf.
  2. It is one of the few sports that encourages driving around (a) and drinking alcohol while playing (b)
  3. OUTFITS!  SKORTS! HUZZAH!

Thoughts after my first of 5 lessons about why it’s great:

  1. It’s like knitting.  It’s all about teaching your body to have sense memories of things that don’t come naturally.  I just need to mentally convince my body to do the things, and then to do them without thinking about them in my head, and it will HAPPEN.
  2. I am far ahead of the game of the D00dz in the class, who have to unlearn all of their bad habits.  I may suck, but I am not doing it wrong.  I have nothing to unlearn because I don’t know anything!
  3. I am really good at following directions that have no reasonable rationale, and I have exceptional persistence.
  4. I don’t care at all if I look dumb if it gets the desired results.

So our teacher, Miles, tells us that people care most about hitting the ball farther and about being consistent in the way that they hit the ball. I don’t care about these things.  What I care about is having fun with my lady friends and about outmatching The Dude when we go golfing (which we shall, for he loves golf, and we pretend to be friends).  All I want is to have fun with my laydeez and to beat The Dude’s ass into the ground.  These are not lofty goals.

My trip was really and truly wonderful.  As a trip.  Best flying experiences I’ve ever had (on “full flights” I sat with no one both to and from Milan!) and, just, Italy!  So good.

Things I discovered on my travels:

1) I know how to cook pasta and risotto perfectly.  I thought this was true, but it’s nice to have it confirmed.

2) Gay Pride celebrations all over the world include the celebration of Lady Gaga.

3) I am never more American or more Catholic than when I am outside of the United States.  Mass at the Duomo in Milan was one of my favorite parts of my trip.

4) In spite of the fact that my hotel was halfway up a mountain, I did love the family that owns and runs it.  (Really, it was more like a B&B than a hotel.)  And the fact that it was halfway up a mountain meant that eating gelato at minimum daily, if not twice daily, was totally something I felt no guilt about.

5) I apparently look far younger than my nearly 40 years!  And it is so nice to be told that! Over and over again!

Other than that, the trip was very productive for work and ideas, even if it wasn’t as super-fun as I might have wished it would be.  This is not a conference I will attend again, unless I have a Very Good Reason.  Just not fun enough.  Which might be why people don’t work as much on the author that this conference celebrated, frankly.  Stuffy sticks in the mud don’t necessarily attract scholarly interest in the things that they like.  Indeed. (Though I did meet some people I really liked a ton… just this is not the “vibe” of the group as a whole.)  Lest you think I am being unfairly judgmental, I will cite as evidence the fact that in nearly every panel and keynote I attended somebody cited F.R. LEAVIS without irony or any sort of qualification.

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/an-f_JFuutmh2ub/bridget_joness_diary_2001_a_regular_day_at_work_part_2/

And so now I am home, and the kitties are grand.  There was a lot of meowing initially, which I believe could be translated along the lines of, “WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN FOR TEN DAYS WE ARE LONELY AND WE DON’T EVEN KNOW THAT YOU ARE COMMITTED TO BEING OUR CARETAKER AND THIS IS TERRIBLE AND LET US TELL YOU ALL OF THE THINGS!!!!!”  Now, they sleep peacefully.

So I’ll write more in the coming days – lots to do between now and mid-August! – but I shall leave you with this gorgeous picture, perhaps the favorite one I took throughout my travels.  Truly, I think that this was the most gorgeous place I’ve ever visited.

 

I haven’t had much of anything to say to anybody lately – blog-wise or otherwise – because my summer has been The Summer of Writing.  Oh, sure, there has been some great hanging out with friends, VERY limited dating (for I have no energy to correspond with new potential suitors what with all of the legitimate writing I’m doing), some workplace shenanigans (though also very limited because IT IS SUMMER AND I AM WRITING GODDAMMIT AND STOP BOTHERING ME), and some drama with Mr. Stripey (URINARY TRACT DISEASE :( But I caught it early, it seems, and he should be just fine now that he is eating $5,000,000 cat food, which of course the Man-Kitty is eating, too, because there is no way to easily separate them, and it’s not like the fancy food will hurt the Man-Kitty).

But anyway, writing.  What am I writing?

1. Motherfucking narratives for promotion.  Which let’s note, are NOT AT ALL PLEASANT TO WRITE.  I mean, sure, I am just writing about how awesome I am, but the whole genre of “really sell yourself because you need to convince people except don’t be a braggart!” is not an easy genre.

2. My book manuscript, which is coming along slowly but surely, though I wish that I had more time.  I am at that point where I see the whole thing in my head and it’s just a matter of getting it down and giving myself time to refine it.  I am fairly confident that I can have the book proposal with two totally polished chapters sent out no later than July 15.  I’d be able to have at least that part of it done sooner than that, but….

3. I have had to interrupt work on the book for a conference paper I am giving about a work by a Notoriously Misogynistic Author (whom I love, even though it’s wrong to love dead people who hate you because you have lady-parts).  I am very excited about this conference paper, which also connects to the MLA paper that I will give in January.  And which I think will probably be my next book project if I can ever get the current one motherfucking finished.

4. And then I had to do some revisions on an article for a collection that finally is under contract and that will appear in 2015.

So I have been super stressed out, actually, in spite of the fact that it’s summertime and the livin’s easy.  More stressed out than I have been during the summer since before tenure for sure. And so, like, my mom or friends from afar will call, and they want to “catch up” and I’m all, “I’m just writing” because I really have nothing else to report, and then, because they think it’s the right thing to do, they are like, “so how is it going?” and then I get all, “FUCK YOU AND HOW DARE YOU ASK ME THAT AND DO YOU WANT ME NEVER TO WRITE ANYTHING AGAIN?!?!  DON’T YOU KNOW YOU CAN’T ASK ME THAT?!?!” and then they are all, “you shouldn’t be so stressed out, it’s not good for you,” and I’m like, “OH REALLY?!?!?! HOW EXACTLY DO YOU THINK PEOPLE MOTIVATE THEMSELVES TO DO WORK THAT NOBODY CARES ABOUT?  THAT DOESN’T HAVE ACTUAL DEADLINES AND THAT MATTERS TO ABSOLUTELY NOBODY?!?! DO YOU THINK I AM WHERE I AM BECAUSE I JUST RELAXED AND TOOK IT EASY?!?! DO YOU THINK THAT IS HOW PEOPLE GET BOOKS WRITTEN AND BECOME FULL PROFESSORS AND PRESENT AT INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCES?!?!  WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!”

Sorry for all the shouty capital letters.  I never have actually said all of those things in so many words or in shouty capital letters – or, well, maybe to my mom – but those are all the things I feel when I respond, “Oh, writing is slow but it’s fine, and I’m just a little stressed out,” or, “Yeah, I know I need to take some time for myself and make sure I relax,” or “Sure, I know I can really get everything done.”

The fact of the matter is, while I intellectually believe that I can do all of the things, that doesn’t make the process feel any less fraught.  I just feel pulled in a lot of different directions.  And no, I can’t just shut all humans out of my life (as my mom suggested might help, and for which suggestion I yelled at her) for the summer because I actually get more nuts if I don’t regularly engage with humans, and getting more nuts stops me from producing anything (as I learned when I tried that approach during the initial phase of my dissertation writing).  So, I’m just trying very hard to keep everything in some sort of happy equilibrium, and I’m for the most part succeeding.

One thing that has helped is I’m regularly going to my local (non-$bucks) coffee shop to do writing stuff.  Now, this is a VERY yuppified coffee shop, and since I go in the morning, what I typically encounter there are very slim, very tan housewives who do fitness walking together every day and then stop by for coffee and then talk about dieting.  Given my research, it’s PROFOUNDLY WEIRD. Oh, and men who are clearly on their way to a business meeting rush in and get coffee, too.  But a coffee shop is a coffee shop, and the music is very Tracy Chapman meets Bon Iver meets the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack, so it’s all very soothing.  And the space is very light and bright, and I always get to work at a big table, and because of the acoustics of the place it is both noisy AND not distracting.  (I know not everybody could work under those conditions, but I am a person who has more trouble in silence and who also has trouble writing in my own home unless I start the writing elsewhere, so this is perfect for me.)

So anyway, that’s the dealio.  You will next hear from me after June 30.  I hope you all are having less stressful summers than mine!  Tell me what you’re doing!

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