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The Year of 40

So, I am officially 40 now, even though I started celebrating 3 weeks early.  And, to my surprise, I have been carded four times when attempting to purchase alcohol in that time, and one of those times the young whippersnapper cashier at Kroger actually disputed my ID – I said, “No, I just had short hair then,” and he said, “I know this is you, but there is no way you were born in 1974.  I was thinking 1982 tops, but more like 1985.”  I also have had a bunch of people randomly comment positively on how great I look.  I can only put it down to the fact that I am wearing heavy bangs and they cover my forehead wrinkles?

In other news, professional things proceed apace.  I am totally overwhelmed and busy, but all goes well.

And then there is the whole “dating two guys” thing.  Footloose and The Mailman remain in the picture, and I’ve been out on three dates a piece with them.  Of those three dates per suitor, I have cooked dinner for each once.  I think they are both great, in equal and opposite ways.  One is very cool, and he inspires me to be cooler.  One is very relaxed, and he inspires me to be very relaxed. Those are just two examples.  Who the fuck knows.

But if you would have told me that I would be dating two great guys and feeling great about my professional life and have a great crew of friends and feel like there are too many great things to do to the extent that I am exhausted (though righteously so) at 40 years old, say, when I was 38?  I would not have believed you.

Turns out, 40 is the most fabulous age ever.  First day of school is tomorrow.  I should be asleep, but alas, I got totally off schedule over the summer.  The good news is my first class is at 11 AM tomorrow, and I got totally ready for Day 1 and 2 when I went into the office on Saturday.

Random thing: If you’re not watching The Witches of East End on lifetime, and if you were a Buffy fan?  YOU SHOULD BE.

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What shall his pseudonym be?  My mom immediately began calling him “Footloose” when I told her about him, for apparently “Minister’s Son from Nebraska” to her translates directly into Kevin Bacon using the bible to convince a town to allow the dancing.  At any rate, I cannot decide something of this magnitude right now, but it may be that “Footloose,” unfortunately, will stick.

So we had our second date tonight, which was, as the first date was, absolutely perfect.  I have to say, I have never gone out with anybody like him.  Which is saying something, particularly given the fact that I have gone out with like 20 different men in the past year. He is “both a gentleman and yet not… “nice.”  I mean, he doesn’t put on the whole “I’m a nice guy” thing.  If I were to pick the top adjectives to describe him, I would say he is friendly, direct, interesting, genuine, thoughtful, confident, driven, and smart.  He isn’t terribly funny – like he’s not a “funny guy” – but I laugh a lot when I am with him. And I really love talking to him.  There is never an awkward pause, and it never feels like we are doing “date conversation.”  And while he’s not an academic, because he’d been on that path and then veered off it, I never have to explain anything to him.  It’s just… easy.  And FUN.

I will say, I do feel a little off balance with him.  Like, I know he is interested in me, but I’m not certain about how interested he is.  He isn’t demonstrably enthusiastic.  And since I am a person who is, just generally, enthusiastic, I don’t quite know how to read people who aren’t.  I mean, I know that he wants to see me again, and I know that he is attracted to me, but I am having a hard time judging the level of his interest.  What is probably the truth is that he is just taking things slowly – though not too slowly at all!  I think he is enjoying getting to know me, actually.  And I am enjoying getting to know him, so I need to get out of my head.

Of course, part of the reason that I’m in my head is because I am also dating the Mailman.  Who clearly is enthusiastic about me, even though I am pretty clearly, I realize now, “meh” about him.  I mean, I like him and I enjoy spending time with him, but it’s not, like, awesome.  I feel like I will go out with each of them one more time, and then I should be in a position to know for sure what I want.  What I think right now is that the Mailman feels like a Plan B, and I am not really a Plan B sort of person.  But I don’t want to act hastily, so I’ll just have to see how things develop (or not).

But, man, was tonight great.  Great, great, great.

 

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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?!?!

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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I’ve been Dr. Crazy here on teh internets (how’s that for a throwback?) since 2004.  I’ve inhabited three locations, and I don’t make a habit of linking back to previous virtual incarnations of myself, mainly because my first incarnation was a pretty brutal voice that wasn’t really “me” and my first “Reassigned Time” didn’t really fit my post-tenure self.  But in the wake of the shooting spree on the UCSB campus, I feel a need to take a trip in the way-back machine to 2005.  Apparently I didn’t feel the need to link, as the discussion was so ubiquitous at the time, but in reading the stuff realated to these murders, I immediately called up the memory of the bloggy shitstorm amongst I don’t know, 35 early-career academics, that played out the same arguments.  Here’s what I said then.  I’m sure google can provide you with the rest of the discussion from 2005, if you are so inclined.  And you know what?  Probably that narrative and analysis is as useful as being glued to twitter and comment threads about the current horrifying murders.

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But I want to post about this because there is a part of it that is mine, and I can’t tell it without giving a summary of the one that isn’t mine, if that makes sense.

Summary: BES is leaving her PhD program in order to pursue a life outside of academe.

She’s not leaving because she wasn’t excelling (she was).  She’s leaving because she has other things she wants to do. And because it made her miserable.

***

 

So here is where it becomes my story.  She told me about this decision a couple of weeks ago, and the deed was already done before she told me about it.  I think that she was freaked out about telling me – more freaked out, obviously, than she was about telling her mentors in her grad program.

How did I initially react?  Well, initially I just reacted as a friend, I think.  I wanted to know if she felt good about the decision, and I wanted to know that she felt happy.  After the fact, I admit that I did wonder at what motivated her to do it, and I had some uncharitable thoughts related to her being afraid to write her dissertation.  But those were brief.  Don’t take this the wrong way when I say it: I didn’t and don’t actually  care that she decided the profession wasn’t for her.

At no point in relation to this news have I felt like this is some sort of tragedy.  I don’t feel like the profession is in dire straits because she decided it wasn’t for her, nor do I feel like I have in some way failed, nor do I feel that she betrayed me or or that I have something to be angry or sad about about it or something.  I hate the thing that I feel is pervasive in academia where mentors feel like they are in some way the architect of their students’ lives, whether the students “succeed” or “fail” at academia, or just decide neutrally to opt out.  I feel like that is narcissistic bullshit, at the end of the day.  And I hate the idea that my value as a person or an intellectual or a professional should be measured by whether I make copies of myself and send them off into the (academic) world. I won’t lie: I’m a little wistful because the future of MLA conventions together that I’d envisioned won’t happen now, but I’m not disappointed in her, nor do I feel like her decision has a thing in the world, really, to do with me.

What was kind of funny about our follow-up convo last night was that she noted that her emotions about her decision were most dramatic about her undergrad profs (including but not limited to me) but that she was fine about telling her grad faculty, since they’d always been at such a distance from her.  I noted a couple of things in response: 1) I wondered if she’d had more of a connection with her grad profs if she would have made the same decision and 2) probably one shouldn’t feel that connection with profs in grad school, and that it was probably good that she was making HER decision rather than emulating people that she admired.

So why am I writing this post?  Mainly because I want some grad student out there who really doesn’t want this life, but who feels obligated for whatever reason, to know not only that it’s totally ok not to want it but also that acting on that feeling won’t make everybody in the world, plus the mentors that you most value, hate you.  At the end of the day, the point is living the life you want.  And better not to waste years pursuing that degree plus hours in therapy to get a PhD you don’t want.

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So the thing of it is, this semester has been… intense.  For lots of reasons.  As my last post indicated, there’s been a fair amount of department drama, which has the appearance of having calmed down but which has totally not calmed down, but that isn’t the only thing.  We are also in the midst of some massive administrative turnover, arriving at and working out the implementation of a new strategic plan, I’m responsible for getting us to a program assessment plan for the major designed and implemented (which I took on willingly because I’m a masochist and because with my curriculum experience I am very qualified for such a task), I’m teaching four courses (four different preps: a general education literature course, a sophomore-level survey, a junior-level theory course in the core of the major which is effectively half a new prep because the book I used to use went out of print, and an advanced undergrad course that I’ve never taught before), and I’m now on a five-day-a-week schedule for the first time in years (which is wonderful, ultimately, but it also means that I have a lot more consistent face-time with people and so I’m less inclined to write here when I’m done with that).  And also, my personal life has been very… full.  There has been a lot of socializing, with friends, and a lot of dating and its concomitant drama.  It’s not that my life is terrible or anything, but it has been very chaotic.  Lots of dreams about crumbling houses and floods and such other obvious symbolic dream things about being out of control and flailing.

But so I won’t lie: I have wondered over the past months about whether I should just close the blog down. I’ve thought about this for a couple of reasons.  First is the fact that I am not writing here consistently.  I post on Facebook, I actually now have a real-life twitter account, which, sure, I don’t really use consistently, but I could and might, and I’ve returned to actually writing in a journal consistently, which I basically do instead of writing here.  Second, I wonder sometimes about whether I really have anything new to write in this space, what with being a mid-career-style academic these days.  Sometimes it feels like I’m just writing the same damned thing over and over again. (Being in this mid-career space often feels to me like being in the movie Groundhog Day.)

I know that one option to alleviate the above concerns, if I want to continue blogging, would be to transform this blog into a more “public” blog, as opposed to its current incarnation, which is a more “private” one.  I could be more journalistic, comment on “issues of the day.”  I’ve never been attracted to writing that sort of a blog -for even when I write on issues of the day I tend to write about them in a very “private” or personal way.  Part of why I’ve felt this way is because so many of “public” sorts of blogs already exist and do it so well, and partly because that sort of “public” writing doesn’t really interest me very much, as a writer.  So converting to that sort of a public voice really isn’t going to happen with me.  That much I know.

So I want to continue the blog (that much I know, too) even if I’m a shitty blogger who hasn’t been posting much lately.  This July will be my 10-year blogiversary, which is like 50 years in blog terms – and the fact that I’ve maintained the blogging over that long of a stretch makes me feel like I shouldn’t just pack my bags and high-tail it out of here.  I think that I actually do say stuff that people find worth reading, when I do write, whether because they identify with it or because they think I’m a jerk or whatever.And I can imagine that maybe I’ll be energized about this space again sooner or later, even if I’m not energized about it right now.  So no, I don’t think the solution is to relocate or to change the sort of blog I write or even to quit, but I do think that I need to have something happen that energizes me to write more in this space, and I think that something like that must happen sooner or later.

On the horizon, there are some potentially inspiring things.  I am going to Italy for a conference where I don’t really know anybody in June.  And the conference relates to an author that I’ve worked on, but I’ve always been fearful of joining the community related to this author (for a variety of reasons, mainly related to the author himself, who is dead).  CF and I might be writing a textbook together (we have interest from a press) for an “Introduction to English Studies” book, and I am finishing up with my current book project and potentially know what my third book might end up being.

In other news, my students are totally inspiring this semester, and a bunch of them are following me to a course in the fall that I’ve totally revamped, and the course promises to be AWESOME, in no small part because of this core group of students who are already enrolled.

So perhaps once this cruelest month of April is done, I’ll be back here more regularly.  Things look good: one of my two 30-year-old suitors just texted me to inform me that he is leaving town for a job in TX on Saturday, so that will give me a little more free time :)

 

 

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It’s Been Forever

Why?

  • New strategic plan
  • A search for a new dean
  • Life (which involves some poor choices, some fun dates, etc.)

So I’m not dead (a) and I shall return in a real way soon (b).

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