Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mr. T Treat your mother right

I found this during a break from the history of Anglo-Saxon studies. Thank you, Mr. T, for wearing those shorts. And for singing this song. everyone out there with a mother, treat her right.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Holiday post, somewhat specific to these winter ones.

Holidays. Thanksgiving is done--phew. That's the easy one, and it's a 48 hour event between the MIL family, the FIL family, and then three hours south to visit my Grandma. It's been her "last Thanksgiving" since I was ten. At 96 years old--and still not dead, as she likes to remind us--she's still a pistol, even if her aim is slightly off these days.

My family's not huge on the holidays, or any of the obligatory Hallmark traditions, for that matter. Never did anything for Mother's Day or Father's Day. We didn't do birthdays either--well, nothing much besides a cake, and maybe a dollar. Dude, there were seven of us. Know what happens when there's seven kids in a family?

  • unidentifiable blue and green stains appear on the ceiling (it was slime from those $.25 cent vending machines at the grocery store--but what mom doesn't know...)

  • you learn to answer to at least six names other than your own

  • first hand mercantilism lessons: stash treats and cans of pop when the groceries are fresh, then sell them to each other when the cupboard supply depletes. I could hassle $1.50 for a can of cold Pepsi.

  • Your family mythology develops in social circles after years of stealing each other's stories and embellishing them with each retelling.

  • complete lack of memory--if not interest-- regarding who was born when, or what day the youngest was really born. Whoooole 'nother post.

  • gift-giving holidays, such as Christmas, fall by the wayside.

Don't get me wrong, we're some "gift-giving mofos" (my sister-in-law coined the phrase). It's just not reserved for standardized--and sometimes completely arbitrary--times of the year. I prefer this method. It means more to me to receive a gift because someone thought of me than because this is the year that everyone gets a shower gel basket for xmas.

Later in life, as we all got married off, we returned to our parents to thank them. Why? With in-laws, each of us finally understand what we'd been saved from all those years. As we'd pretty much managed to avoid them our entire lives, nothing prepared us for the intensity of the holidays. It's a lot of commercial pressure, awkward conversation, and fruitcake. Dear god, fruitcake. Saving grace of holidays with in-laws? Heavy wine and cigarette breaks. Now, just so you don't think I'm a total grinch I will throw in the Beeyotch disclaimer: *ahem* holidays are very warm times filled with lots of laughter; there are great gifts, great food and etc. What makes them even better? Heavy wine and cigarette breaks.

Herein lies my problem. These are my first sober holidays. Stir in raging pregnant-lady hormones and...yeah: dude, so not cool. And you know what else? Apparently they don't recommend valium for pregnant ladies. Or nitrous. Grr. On that note, send your warm thoughts to Floyd, who is enduring my full-fledged craziness.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My nature exposed

One of my biggest pet peeves is getting honked at. Whether I'm walking down the road, taking my garbage out or getting the mail, I always have a ready middle finger for the dipshit who honks at me. I mean, really, what's it saying? Hey that girl MIGHT be a 15 year old and she may or may not have completed puberty--HOOOONK. (FYI: I am petite, and thus from the side of the road, one really has no clue if I'm 12 or not. ) I find it to be a personal affront, an intrusion into my inner monologue, and--it should go without saying, simply crass and tasteless.

But Crazy Beeyotch, maybe its someone you know just honking to say hello? I say, if I EVER catch someone I know just honking at me instead of stopping to help me with the trash, or hell, just to say hello like a civilized person, I will kick your car. Maybe that's the hormones talking. I just really, really, hate. being. Honked. AT!!

So, a few weeks ago, I'm filling up the gas tank just after work; this gas station is located at a decently busy intersection. The passenger leans out the window of a minivan at the red light. "Hey!" he yells. *Verbal equivalent of a honk* I ignore him, but it doesn't work--he yells "Hey!!" a little louder. I wheel around and nearly spit, "Get a life, you creep!"
He looked as though I had slapped him, and stared at me with a downtrodden and confused expression until the light turned green (thankfully only moments later). My conscience bothered me about this interchange. I really need to just simmer down, basically. I need to not get off on yelling at people, its just not cool (although thoroughly gratifying). What if the poor guy just needed directions? I told Floyd about this and we both kinda laughed, though he did mention that if the guy really just needed directions, he could have said "Excuse me," etc.

Earlier today my husband and his friend (AKA permanent fixture on our couch, or PFOOC) visited a nearby convenience store to buy some Dead Guy Ale. The owner of the store is a patient at the office, keeps an excellent beer stock, and happens to know that I am friends with PFOOC. He proceeds to tell them the story of spotting me at a gas station and trying to get my attention, only to be verbally accosted. He wanted to let me know that they had some new lagers in stock (now that's customer service!).

Moral of the story--dude probably should have tried something less obnoxious than "hey" but I could have been a bit less on the defensive.(Thank goodness I didn't use any expletives) Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is exactly the kind of employee representation that NO OFFICE needs! Fortunately he had a pretty good laugh with husband and PF, at my expense. I don't recall being more mortified in any recent history.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Election season rant

There are some issues that align me with liberal thought; my stance on other issues apparently put me in a Republican camp. I'm rarely black and white, except on issues that are against abortion and gay marriage (I'm against those). Obama's a'ight, and I'm looking forward to the changes that his presidency will bring. On the other hand, I don't think that Sarah Palin should be mocked to the extent that she has been. It's kind of like a blond joke, or a Polish joke. They're not really appropriate, ever, and they're definitely old. Really old. *There, I said it.*

Although I keep myself informed, I don't enjoy discussing politics, and I'm quite relieved that the election is over. TAs can stop ranting in the cubicles we all share; students can stop repeating things--with hands on their hips, essentially--they've overheard their parents or their roommates say; and professors can stop hinting towards, or blatantly announcing, their political agendas in class.

I was keeping pretty quiet over here in my little corner, feeling like I didn't have a dog in this fight, until I read this post from BitchPhd (click here). Granted, its obnoxious to have students wave around vague statistics about some political point--I know of one in particular from a previous semester who managed to somehow write into every paper something to the effect of 'America is the greatest place on earth and everyone should stop picking on us'. It was difficult, I admit, to stick to grading grammar and communicative skills in those moments. However, what I've run into much more often in my academic career, is the professor tying their political agendas into their lectures (some more subtly than others).

But there's only a few available reactions to a professor moseying off-course to make a random comment about political affairs:
  • You agree with them. You smile, nod, maybe laugh, and continue listening. Nothing is written down in your notes, except perhaps "cf. Obama's campaign" which, later, means little to you in the larger spectrum of understanding European history, or what have you.
  • You don't get it. You smile, nod, maybe laugh, and continue listening. Nothing is written down in your notes, except perhaps "comment made about George Bush...look up later"
  • You disagree. You grimace, you check your watch. Maybe you smile politely, or just look out the window. You feel like an outsider because everyone else is smiling and nodding, whether they get it or not. Nothing is written down in your notes.
  • None of the above. Rather than being concerned about whether you agree or disagree, you just don't find it germane to the discussion and would like to continue with the class that you've spent time preparing for.

Sometimes, depending on the severity or outlandishness of the comment, a disagreeing student is left unable to concentrate. A professor once joked about running for governor in ________. He/she said that their #1 platform would be to ensure that all Vietnam Veterans are tried as war criminals.

Blood. Boiling.

It was everything I could do to not get up and walk out of class. But I relied on this professor for a letter of recommendation. Biting my lip, I focused on writing the alphabet down--that is, until I broke the tip of my pencil. I consoled myself with the irony of the fact that the very reason I was able to afford being in this class to hear this bullshit was because of my father's "Bloodmoney" from chapter 35 of the G.I. bill. It was filtering into the university system and into this professor's paycheck. Don't worry, lunch is on my dad. Eventually, the professor concluded the rant and returned to the subject matter at hand (which, by the way, was in no way related to the remark about veterans). By that time, however, I was unable to concentrate on the discussion. My notes from that day are sparse and incoherent. *

This example is one of the worst possible outcome of talking politics in the classroom; albeit an extreme case. Why even go down that road? I don't make my political bents known to my students. It's not that I care whether they like me or dislike me because of it, it's that it does not apply to the subject matter of my classroom. Nothing a professor has ever said in a classroom, politically, whether I agreed or not, has informed my own opinions. It is a wasted minute of my education, as I see it, and I want it back.

*Later that week I swallowed my nerves and my potential letter of recommendation (because you see, professors, while students are not afraid of disagreeing with you on the outcome of a poem, they certainly don't want you to know that they disagree with your politics). I went to this professor's office to discuss the comment. I certainly did not imagine trying to sway opinions, or create a debate. I simply explained that comments of this nature prohibited me from concentrating on the lecture. Apparently, this was the right angle to play. To my knowledge, no Vietnam veteran comments have been made in this prof's classroom since this discussion about three years ago.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I was in a movie once

I was an extra. My boss called me one morning at 8 am--on my day off--and told me to audition. What the hell, I says, and I audition. I got to be on the news afterwards because here in this city a movie's a big deal. That night my parents watched me on the news, as did my husband, my boss and anyone else who keeps watching the after the sports highlights (probably waiting for Seinfeld to come on). They all said I looked very nice and articulated nicely. I was a star. Not so much in the movie. I didn't get any part, but I was supposed to be one of the "lead" extras.

Then I read the script. Yikes.

I told the producer that the lead female role should not say "Hey, tiger" to the lead male role, with whom she is flirting. The only person who calls anyone "tiger" is that weird uncle at my family reunion. I don't sit at his table for that very reason. The really awkward dialogue continued throughout the script, and I'm still not entirely sure what the whole thing was about. Kind of like a "B" movie although, aren't those usually bad horror flicks? This was a "B" emotion movie, not a "B" horror movie. I shudder to think of the accuracy of that description.

I got the DVD tonight. It's burned onto a silver Memorex DVD-R. Awkward script aside, the filming and photography is quite striking. It is exhilarating to see my hometown on the big screen. Also, the soundtrack is captivating--a bit Norah Jonesy, but with an indy twist. Several of the songs were written and performed by the same girl who won the part of "Golde" over me in Fiddler on the Roof my senior year. It makes me feel better-- the same way it feels to be the guy who played backup quarterback to Peyton Manning in high school, I'm sure.

My script snobbery cost me dearly. I was blacklisted by the director (the guy who wrote the script); I certainly recall that he snubbed me for most of the filming process. The results are in now. I was ousted even further during the editing process. Oh, and there's me in the credits...Dead. Last.

So I was the snobby extra, I admit it; I revel in the title. Plus I got paid. The whole "movie" experience was interesting, though it helped to have a good book on hand for the several hour intervals of wait-time between "shoots." Since the big deal was that it was filmed here in town, and was in effect about the town, I was happy to be a part. I like it here, and find those who complain about it rather unoriginal (go be blase somewhere else!). As I mentioned, the news crews were out and about, and a few local papers featured information about the movie--that's why I was disappointed by the scene in which the lead character talks about how stagnant it is here (I didn't remember that part from the original script).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"I'm pregnant"

I said these words to a former colleague today, when she asked how my plans for a PhD were coming along. She threw her head back and laughed, and laughed. And then I laughed, too. It is, after all, a bit ridiculous. Everything I had planned is uprooted. And yet, in the hole that's left where my goals were, is a reassured sense that things will be okay. (Note: flair for the dramatic is certainly not lost during gestation.) Besides, when were things ever really that stable?

I'm getting better at saying it without wanting to cry afterwards. I told the ladies at the dentist office today, and it wasn't so bad. Sometimes--in fact, a lot of times--I'm pretty happy about it. One thing's for sure, though. I'm not getting better at recoiling when people begin to coo at me, or offer me horrendous advice that in no way applies to me.

I've learned that once these words are spoken, the utterer becomes public property. No discussion is off limits--correction--several subjects are certainly off limits, but having a pregnant woman in the discussion suddenly makes people feel entitled to the ridiculously personal details of my life. The exchange of information takes place as coffeepot banter. My life? down the drain. Can you hand me the sugar?

I'm getting better at connecting the dots now. What is the most riveting and personal experience of my lifetime is actually pretty exciting news for other people, too. It's OK to share (just don't touch me). And what I can't really get over is how the most riveting and personal experience of my life is also quite a universal one, one that ties me in with centuries and continents of poets and thinkers and just plain ol' wonderful, lovely women. I don't say this to marginalize women or men who do not have children. There are several layers of experience that connect us and identify us with those who came before, and those who are around us; I just happen to have stumbled across one that I didn't have before. And as with anytime you find yourself connected to a new vein, it's as much a blessing as a curse.

..and since I first acknowledged these words, my speeling has gone down the drain.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Marilyn Manson and the Amish

If you read the title of this blog and wondered what the two have to do with each other, well, we're in the same boat.

For today's class discussion, I had my students read "Columbine: Whose Fault is it?". An interesting little ditty written by the shock rocker himself; students generally eat it up. It typically brings up interesting comments about media, video games, music, and makes students talk about darker subjects. On the one hand, they're not entirely in their comfort zone because of the events the article discusses; on the other, they are authorities because they have all come into contact with these items of entertainment.

Anywho, class context aside. We're full throttle into an engaging discussion. We've come to an interesting intersection in which students began asking about the role of religion in these types of massacres, when a student raises hir hand anxiously.

"I just have to say, I have a serious problem with the Amish!"

Things came to a screeching halt, all around the room students were suffering from conversational whiplash. Before I was able to regain my wits and prepare to response, another student chimed in: "Yeah, what's up with them?"

Apparently, one of these students has had issues with Amish children "coming out of the corn and running at her car" on her way to work.
In my altruistic English teacher's heart, I wanted to respond with a grandiose statement of universal tolerance, and etc. Instead, I had to make sure that she wasn't confusing her own experience with Children of the Corn, "Was the kid's name Malachi?"

Before I could redeem myself, or the wonderful discussion we'd had, it was time to leave. I will have to begin next our session with a defense of Amish practices!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The end is in sight

...and I can tell because I've spent the morning systematically destroying my fingernails, checking my Facebook, online Christmas shopping, typing random letters into and perusing blogs, academic and non-academic alike. Unfortunately, I rearranged my wrapping paper and gift bag assortment at the end of last semester, so that leaves me with alphabetizing CDs and DVDs (or arranging according to genre) or cleaning the microwave. *shuddering*

Despite my lolly gagging, I have begun a convincing list of sources for two upcoming papers and, with any luck, might just have abstracts prepared for two upcoming submission deadlines. I'm wondering if I'll send them, though. I hear about these conference things, and what great experiences they are and how nicely they pad a CV. I've got two under my belt but--aside from the little lines they occupy on my CV--they're pretty shallow notches. It seems that these are places where academic bigwigs rub elbows and share intellectual nods--worse yet are the graduate students, you know, with their theoretical jargon and their khaki pants (kids these days). They seem to know the game.

Then there's me. I attend these conglomerations with the same confused expression as someone at their first salsa lesson: its scary, it looks painful and I have no idea what the steps are. I smile, nod, shake hands, read my paper, smile again, and look forward to getting back to the hotel bar. Maybe I should buy khaki pants. I do enjoy listening to panels, and either making mental notes of how to adopt a speaker's excellent personal presentation or feeling relieved that at least I didn't grimace as badly as that dude.

Is there a limit to how many conference presentations one should have? A graduate student friend once told me not to go to too many conferences, because it looks bad on a CV. This confused me. Can anyone corroborate this advice?

...tap left on the first beat, step forward on the same foot, rock back onto the right foot...