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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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I haven’t been writing about work because things with work are, aside from non-important irritating things, really, really good.  Moving back to the 5-day-a-week schedule has been a revelation.  Turns out, being on a consistent schedule in terms of work and sleep really makes a difference in one’s quality of life.  I’m not saying I’d have this schedule if I taught a 2/2 load, or even a 3/3.  But with a 4/4?  WOW it is good.  CF and I were talking about it today, and even she says she notices the difference in me.  “You don’t look tired anymore,” she said.  No, I don’t.  Why?  Because I’m not!  And also: I am on top of grading and also caught up or ahead with course prep.  And I actually know most of my students’ names. And I don’t wake up in the morning with my first thought being, “God, I wish I didn’t have to teach.”

And I’ve actually returned to my book manuscript, and I have time for that plus time to juggle the dating and to have quality friend time. Sure, the weekends are short.  But as I am caught up, I really get to do no work on the weekends.

So it isn’t that I don’t have anything to say about professing – it’s just that there isn’t drama with work at all right now, and that is pretty fucking great, and I don’t want to just talk about how great my life is here, because seriously.

But so let me briefly report on the professing stuff:

  • I have the greatest students this semester, in all of my classes.  They are motivated and smart and engaged.  Yes, it’s true: in my one gen ed class, this is not the case for all of them.  But most of them are into it.  And attendance is really good, and even the least engaged amongst them are learning.
  • My theory students are terrified and overworked and feeling like they might die, but I feel like that is just about right for this point in the semester.  They just had their first test, and 2/3 did just fine.  The one third that didn’t?  Well, they either will step it up, withdraw, or fail.  And I’m ok with that.  My favorite moment so far this semester from them was that they took their first test, and I posted the results on blackboard before I handed it back.  I’ve got this one STELLAR student, and he totally came to my office to ask if his grade (he missed only one point – including extra credit) was a typo.  Like he couldn’t believe he’d done so well.  When was the last time you had a student challenge a grade that was over 100%?  It was awesome!
  • My new prep is going very well and I’m very pleased with their engagement.  I wonder if they realize the work I do in order to prep for our small class – I read my course evals from last semester and students negatively commented on the fact that I was using a discussion-based model, for they thought that I didn’t have to prepare to make that happen.  Because, you know, it’s so easy to get a good conversation about difficult material going and to make it feel natural.
  • And I am loving my survey course partly because I’m teaching it 3 days a week (for like the second time ever) and partly because FUCKING KEATS!  FUCKING MATTHEW ARNOLD! FUCKING ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING!  And Wednesday is FUCKING GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS!  I bitch about the survey a lot, but it gives me the opportunity to teach a lot that I love that I don’t have room for otherwise.
  • In non-teaching news, my agenda for program-level assessment for the department progresses apace, and it is going to be great when it all comes together.  Assessment is often a thing that faculty hate to hear mentioned, but I think I’ve made it palatable if not enticing, and people are on board.  And I’m excited that I have the skill to do that, and I’m excited about the potential for the work that I’m doing to positively impact our major and minor.  Because, frankly, I don’t give a shit about the external reasons for us doing this, even though the fact that we are doing it will put us in a good position in relation to those.
  • In other non-teaching news, my institution is working out the kinks in our new strategic plan.  All in all, I think that the new strategic plan is good.  But I would adore it if I never had to hear the word “transdisciplinary” again.  Especially because most of the people involved don’t know what the fuck it means.

See what I mean?  I don’t really have anything of note to report.  Which is why I’m busy being boy-crazy on this here blog.  But really the most exciting thing for me upcoming is that I will be going with my friends T and S to see Lydia Loveless, whom you must check out, for she is awesome.

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RBOC: Things

      I cannot help myself from listening to Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” every time I hear it on the radio, and since they play it on every station at approximately 22 minute intervals this is a lot, and I mainly can’t stop myself from listening because it makes no sense.  I am especially perplexed by the chorus.  The whole “play with magic” thing sounds just slightly too close to “play with matches,” which would make more sense in terms of what the song actually (appears) to be about.  And then the boy should know what he’s “falling for,” which doesn’t sound like somebody who is playing with anything but rather like somebody who is accidentally doing something. And then she is “coming at you like a dark horse” which also makes no sense, because the whole point of somebody being a dark horse is that they aren’t “coming at you” but rather they are mysterious and take you by surprise, although she is directly saying, “watch out, motherfucker.”  And then, finally, “are you ready for a perfect storm” seems to have nothing to do with dark horses or the dude who is playing with magic. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?  And yet the song is so catchy!  I also can be counted on to turn the song off the minute it gets to the rap interlude, which is awful, and incorporates both “Jeffrey Dahmer” and the rapper saying “she can be my Sleeping Beauty/ I’m gonna put her in a coma,” which, WTF?
      I am utterly and totally exhausted.  It was a crazy weekend, which involved lots of wine on Friday night that then turned into unexpected drama in which one of my friends (we were having the wine and eating junk food and watching chick flicks) decided to snatch my phone from me and to freak out on The Dude – with whom, incidentally, things have been fine and friendly and I’ve been dating other people and so has he, so this really was quite surprising to us both; a long conversation with The Dude on Saturday which was necessitated in part by Friday’s drama but also just we had a lot of topics we wanted to cover, none of which had to do with “us” (such as we are) in any direct way, and then hanging out with The Dude and The Dude’s friends yesterday, which was fun and drama-free.  No, we’re not back together.  No, we are not even in talks about being back together. We are trying to be friends, and we’re trying to be in the moment and not to put any pressure on the situation.  It’s kind of like Fight Club: the first rule of our whatever-it-is is that you don’t talk about it.  It is not totally like Fight Club, though, in that there is no beating the shit out of each other (not physically, obvi, but not emotionally either).
      The Blacksmith…. well, some of his more irritating qualities are emerging – mainly that he is a person who complains – a LOT – about all of his PROBLEMS.  I am fairly certain that he is just one of Those People.  Oh, and we did finally get together, which was fun and fine, but not like the most fun I ever had in my life.  Eh, we shall see.
      Things proceed apace with my Major Service Project, also known as leading our department toward a program-level assessment plan, and at least so far not only are things going smoothly but also it’s kind of enjoyable, actually, to facilitate conversations about Student Learning Outcomes and to see us making consistent progress toward aligning those with the program goals that the department unanimously passed this past fall.  I really like doing this sort of work, actually, because it moves us away from just bitching and toward actual meaningful conversations about teaching and what we want students to learn.
      I wish I could talk to you about scholarship, but frankly, between the weather and job candidates and teaching and all of the other things…. well, I have high hopes for March.
      I’m also exceptionally excited because a former student of mine – one whom I hadn’t necessarily thought had found my courses all that important to her – has asked me to direct her honors thesis.  She is brilliant and super-cool, so this is a very nice surprise.
      I’m also directing a critical theory independent study for a grad student this semester, and it is going so, so well.  She is a very hard worker, and I’m excited to be doing these readings and having bi-weekly conversations with her.
      Oh, and I’m teaching a new course this semester all about the history of the novel as a genre, and I am finding it ridiculously stimulating and interesting to teach.  One reason for that is that it is a very small, seminar-style class.  With great students.  And also I’m loving the novels that I’m teaching, and the ways that I’ve integrated theory and criticism into the course.  This is the reason to develop new courses – the excitement that one feels in teaching new, cool shit.
      I got my annual activity report done in time, which involved having to review my course evaluations by students from the past year.  I hate looking at course evaluations.  The casual sexism is the main thing that bugs me (this year I am “immature” and “vulgar”, but also: wtf with grad students in English who complain about the amount of reading that they are assigned?  I mean, why are they getting an M.A. in English if they don’t expect to read?  And wtf about students who enroll in a course, and who get the syllabus which clearly explains what the course will involve, and wherein the instructor on the very first day is very explicit about what the course will entail, both in terms of assignments and in terms of the content of the readings, and they choose to remain in the course rather than to switch into another course that might suit their interests or needs better that would also fulfill a requirement, and then 15 weeks in they fill out an evaluation in which they indicate they were sold a false bill of goods?  The silver lining this year is that my evaluations totally confirmed what I knew about my terrible schedule over the past couple of years: I am a shittier teacher when I teach a night course on Monday that doesn’t get out until 9pm and when I have to be back on campus to teach just 12 hours later.  This, at least, will give me evidence that I should never have that fucked up schedule again.  But all in all?  Course evaluations give little to no meaningful feedback about teaching.  It kills me that I am at a supposedly “teaching-centered” institution where that is the only evaluation of my teaching that exists.
      Today all of my teaching involved explaining The Sonnet, and talking about a lover separated from the beloved, and “Let me not to the marriage of true minds/Admit impediments” and “Say over again, and yet once over again,/ that thou dost love me.” On the one hand, teaching score that I basically had to give the same background lecture in two courses.  On the other, sonnets are a motherfucker when you’re trying not to be detached from love feelings.  I mean, seriously.
      My hair has officially grown out to the point (from a pixie) that I can now put it in a sad ponytail that I would never wear outside of my house.  This is excessively, if stupidly, satisfying.

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Down Time

It occurred to me today that I haven’t had a weekend totally to myself – no family, no friends, no dates, no travels, no work stuff bearing down on me – since… November? Last weekend was supposed to be a “me” weekend, but fate intervened in a 26-hour period in which I did none of the things that I had planned to do and did other things that were… surprising.  Fine, nothing worth recounting, but surprising. And no, I’m not going to say more than that because there really isn’t a thing in the world to say about it.

But so finally this weekend has been The Weekend of Me.  Last night I just relaxed and got a good night’s sleep.  I woke up this morning and began doing laundry.  I honestly don’t think I’ve had a major laundry day in months (because old bad habits from when I didn’t have my own washer and dryer die hard).  I also cleaned my toilet, ran the dishwasher, went to the grocery store, changed my bedding, and cooked a divine braised chicken.  I am now having a glass of wine and watching You’ve Got Mail with commercials until figure skating comes on.

The Blacksmith remains an attentive communicator though we’ve not managed to get together in person, which is wearing thin, so.  In other news, I’ve been bombarded with work stuff – including job candidate visits, service stuff, my annual activity report, research-related stuff, potential interest in a textbook that I would co-author with CF, grading (including the super-fun revelation that one of my students thinks it’s totally fine to pursue his white supremacist agenda in his very first assignment that he wrote for me) – friend activities, and weather (for it is a post-apocalyptic ice-covered wasteland here).

So if I’ve been quiet, those are the reasons why.  I haven’t had room in my head for thinking, much less for writing (either here or for actual work-related things).  But this weekend of hibernation and nesting might be just what the doctor ordered.

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In my single state, I have been on dates with an electrician, a plumber, a carpenter… No, I’m not consciously looking for a guy who can fix crap in my house, and I’ve not gone out with any of them enough for them actually to accomplish fixing crap in my house, but this is how things have gone over the past three or so months.  Though it would be nice to go out with a guy who could fix the shit in my house, I won’t lie.

But now there’s a new guy.  (We are in talks.  A meeting has yet to happen, though it is immanent.) He is indeed very handy, with home-related projects (dry-wall, refinishing floors, etc.) but his “trade” that makes him supremely interesting is that he is working on his skills in…

BLACKSMITHING.  In the 21st century!

Seriously.  In addition, he’s a guy who brews his own beer, cans the veggies that he grows in his garden, makes Kimchi and sauerkraut…. He’s like some sort of 21st century pioneer!  He likes “making things,” apparently.  Oh, and he teaches mixed martial arts to kids and trains dudes who do ultimate fighting.  And since I’ve stalked him on the internet, it seems that all of this is true.  Oh, and he has a college degree and actually reads for fun (again, stalking has confirmed these things, as have my conversations with him).  As I noted to him, he is infinitely more industrious than I am.  I mean, when does he have time to do things like watch television? Or to take naps?  And did I mention that he lived in New Zealand for 3 years?  And has traveled all over the world?  And wants to travel more?  (This traveling bit is key given the dating pool in my location, wherein people think driving the Florida makes them world travelers.)

In no way is this guy perfect… he’s geographically inconvenient (seriously) and, as my friend CF described him, “somewhat itinerant.”  But as I can be exceptionally rigid, perhaps?

Also, I think I have to go on at least one date with a BLACKSMITH.  I mean, who hasn’t gone out with a bartender, a guy in a band, a plumber, a professor?  EVERYBODY I know has gone out with those guys. NOBODY I know has gone out with a BLACKSMITH!

Whatever.  For the first time in a long time I am genuinely interested in a guy. We shall see.  Now, time to initiate weekend weekend relaxation.

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All Hail 2014

So I made my resolutions and checked them twice, and ultimately, just YAY that it’s a new year!  I’m busy preparing for MLA and getting ready for my spring classes.  All is well, but I don’t have a whole lot to say, at the mo.  So hang tight, kittens – I promise I will have thing to say soon!  In the meantime, here is what is probably my absolute favorite song of 2013:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEwM6ERq0gc

 

 

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Listen to This

Wildewoman – Lucius

And, yes, this song is my fave, but the whole record is amazing.

 

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So tonight I went out with my friend S., who is just the best.  S. is technically a former student, but we’re about the same age and we’re kindred spirits, so.  (Note: I have a fairly high proportion of former student friends, which is somewhat strange, I think, if I think about the relative dearth of former student friends that my colleague friends have.  It doesn’t turn out to be weird in the execution – I don’t count current students as friends, no matter how much I like them.  But I’ve accumulated a steady stream of former student friends, with the younger amongst them being sort of like younger cousins or nieces and nephews or something, and the older amongst them being more like awesome ladies who remind me of my closest friends from other points in my life – and who are, significantly, not people with whom I work.  I wonder sometimes if I have befriended all of these former students because I’m not married, so I have room in my life for them?  Who knows.  My point here is that I’m generally comfortable with former students who’ve grown after a significant gap into friends.)

So S. and I went out, and we had dinner at a Thai place, and then we had a beer at a bar just next door, and then it was lame so we went to another bar near my house where a band was playing.  And at that bar, I saw this guy.  And I was like, I know him from someplace.  My first thought was, “did I go on a date with that guy?” And then I was like, “no, he’s the right age, but no… but I know I know him…” and then I remembered: blue baseball cap, back middle of the room, night section of the survey.  I didn’t remember his name, but yep, I had taught this guy.  Because S. is the sort of person who does this sort of thing, she was all, “Hey, did my friend teach you in a class?” And yes, indeed, he knew exactly who I was.  And then he HUGGED me, and proceeded to sit down with us and he attempted to impress me with all the things that he remembered from my course.

On the one hand, I felt a surge of pride that he could quote back Wordsworth at me, and that he talked at length about “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and my love of Keats and talked about an episode of Breaking Bad that alluded to “Ozymandias” and waxed poetic about his hatred of Waiting for Godot.  I mean, dude, this dude retained shit from my class.  On the other hand, as S. noted, he was totally a Creeper who was hitting on me by talking about all the shit I taught him.  Except he was also at this bar with this 21-year-old he was dating.  That’s right: 21.  And he was all, “I need to stop dating 21-year-olds.  They are crazy.”  And I was all, “Well, that’s a little young….”  And then S. and I were like, “let’s get out of here,” and then he HUGGED ME GOODBYE, which was only slightly less uncomfortable than the initial hug, but DUDE WITH THE HUGGING.

Look, I’m not a hugger even with people who are not people I taught.  I don’t hug as a rule.  I hug a very specific subset of people, including family, BEST friends, and people with whom I’ve had the sex.  That’s it.  (Aside: once I ran into a senior colleague from another department whom I know from committee work at the grocery store, in front of the cheese, and I was all gross from working out, and he hugged me, and WOW was that the worst hugging experience I’ve ever had.)  Point is, why do people think that they can hug indiscriminately? And this is especially confusing to me when there are odd power dynamics in play!

But so here’s the thing: I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable over my ten years on the tenure track about running into former students, and about the fact that I’m a strange non-famous public figure, and that often former students have a connection to me that I don’t myself necessarily recognize.  But there is something PROFOUNDLY unsettling, still, about a former student, whose NAME I didn’t even remember (I had to ask him, and it was like I was meeting him for the first time because I still couldn’t tell you his last name), TOUCHING ME, LET ALONE HUGGING ME.

This, my friends, is why I mostly socialize in private homes.  I mean, seriously.

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The Dude came over tonight and it was great (and g-rated, for I am keeping my wits about me).

Seriously, it was phenomenal.

I enjoy not accommodating him.  (Though he makes me so happy!  And I love being with him!) And yes, I made him bring his own containers over to take food home (I really wanted to send him home with this food – homemade mac and cheese with andouille saussage – because I gained five pounds just cooking that), and obviously sex is off limits, for we need our wits about us.  So we are doing g-rated hanging out, which will either end in tears or in marriage (or both!  I will totally cry if I have to get married!)

(You might wonder how cooking for him is not accommodating him – cooking is something I love and I exploit the people who will eat my food, and this is why I like that he came over.)

The Dude is … tragically.. a D00d..  That said?  He appears to think I am a delight who might inspire him beyond his d00dness.  How I feel is that either he’s in or he’s out – but at least at the end of this (at the worst) we shall be properly broken up.  (We conducted the shittiest – dumbest – breakup ever. Given our continual being in contact and inability to let go. I want a do-over.)

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