Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Zenyatta Mondatta, MuthaF*uckas

I am now approaching hour 39 of my seemingly-endless headache (having something to do with the previous post? I wonder...)

I'm fighting my way through the pain and exhaustion of this accursed throbbing, however, to say this: if the rumors about the Police reunion are true, I'm throwing a hootenanny. What other band do you know bases a song on a major American novel? [There may be many, but "Don't Stand So Close to Me is the only one I can come up with. There is that metal band that did a version of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" but who counts that?!]

My sad and pathetic concert history is legendary for its bathos; it begins with counting Huey Lewis and the News as my first concert experience. Yes, I was there when they first unleashed "Hip to be Square" upon the unsuspecting public. There was a slight redemption with Echo and the Bunnymen in junior high, but I cancelled that out with a trip to see Guns and Roses with a boy I liked in high school. I really wish I could remember what I wore to that concert...

The tragedies here are twofold (and I'm discounting having seen Axl Rose in person): I was 13 when U2 traveled the Southwest on The Joshua Tree tour. For my money, U2 was never any better, or any cooler than that. Bono may be saving the entire continent of Africa, but I still can't get past "In God's Country." My mother, bless her heart, had to balance parental responsibility for child safety against musical history. Musical history lost. No U2 for me.

The second tragedy: as a young tyke, I was in Honolulu during the last Police concert in the U.S. I had older cousins--they could have taken me, but NOOOO, no one takes a 9 year old to concert--even if it is, arguably, one of the top 5 bands in the history of rock. [Bring it on, haters!]

To conclude: I can't remember the last time I gave a hoot about the Grammys, but come Feb. 11, I'll be parked in front of my tv. And if they DO go on tour? I may have to give in to my adolescent desires for the life of a groupie.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Cortisol Hangover

I have an inane belief in biochemistry that verges on the superstitious. I'm sooo not a scientist and thus most of the information that I glean about how body chemistry affects us is accrued from such reliable sources as Allure Magazine, Oprah, and you guys. With those kinds of references, my scientific knowledge of chemistry is on par with that of my scientific knowledge of astrology. (But better than that of Scientology, I suppose...)

With that caveat out of the way, I subscribe to these ideas religiously. So when I read (full disclosure: in O Magazine) that women can be affected for up to two days by a cortisol hangover, I almost shouted "A HA!!" outloud on the train.

Cortisol, as all of us avid fashion magazine readers know, is the hormone the body secretes when under stress. It's been linked to all kinds of health issues: lowering immunities, insomnia, and the accumulation of the dangerous and particularly fetching abdominal fat. Some scientists (at least those that get interviewed by Vogue) identify cotisol as the chemical reaction that triggers the "fight or flight" reaction to fear-inducing situations. So, stress=cortisol=bad health, obviously. But a cortisol hangover? Well, why not? After my wretched, wretched meeting on Wednesday, the one in which I figured as the human punching bag, I felt sick for about 36 hours. Gradually, I went from feeling scared, shaky, and ulcer-ridden to my more typical cynical self who knows that everyone else is wrong and I'm generally right, but the recovery period was rather significant. is it the case that work situations that manufacture the fight or flight response have an attendant hangover to go with them? [Hell, if that's the case, I'll just start buying wine by the case and fight one hangover with another...]

My point, here, I suppose, is to remind myself that work can have physical effects; it's not that I'm a horrible person deserving of psychotic rage, but rather that situations where I'm treated like a clubber of baby seals can make me feel gross. In general, I don't have a whole lot of control over my physical responses to these situations, except in this one way: this weekend, Mr. Fluff and I went to the big city. If I hadn't had non-refundable tickets, I would have stayed home. But by day two, the hangover was over. Note to self: like any hangover, getting out of the house is crucial to feeling better. With the cortisol one, I think it's the case that I need new sights and sounds and experiences to activate those other neural receptors (or, in non-pseudo-scientific speak: new experiences help to push the old ones out of the front of my mind).

Non sequitur question for everyone: how many blocks of big city walking is normal in a vacation day? 60? 70? 120? How many would you go before you started referring to your mate as the "commander of the Bataan Death March"?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bring on the Crazy

Ok, I don't really know how much of this I can actually blog about, since God only knows who reads this thing, so excuse the vagueness to follow. One of my truly crap duties this semester is to sit on an faculty committee that serves as the gateway for many academic proposals. Whether or not there's ever any actual pressure or high stakes associated with being on this committee, I have little idea, but it always makes me nervous. People bring major programmatic changes here; they come to request starting new majors and general ed requirements and institutional policy. In the past, the committee had been known to torture people; you were called before it and sent away to do more research; the conversation about your proposal was often dictated by the whims and proclivities of members of the particular body. Once a month, I live in fear that I'll vote the wrong way and someone will have my head on a platter. [I'm a nervous nelly; what can I tell you?]

Today, there was a proposal on the table, and a very good one. The presenter had done all--and I mean all--of her homework, down to charting the phases of the moon and the potential for plagues of locusts that might occur should any change happen. She was waylaid, however, by the impact a former change, one that she had absolutely NO PART in. Despite the strength of her argument and her research and her planning, her proposal was tabled, meaning that she'll have to wait at least a year to put these changes into place; and that's IF this committee ever gives it's approval.

The facts of that situation are bad enough, and sitting there watching someone you know and respect, that has a good idea!!!, get hammered is never any fun. But the real rub is that I'm affiliated with the previous change--the one that's coloring faculty reaction to hers. That previous change was made fully in accordance with the rules, and the people who oppose it (in retrospect) admit that. But the vehemence of their reaction to it is nothing short of scary. One of the faculty members who is incredibly vocal about her displeasure with the change is not a member of this committee, but she shows up every time a similar proposal is on the table to voice her objections. Today, she was in fine form, and in speaking against the presenter's proposal, she raised the specter of the one I was involved in. She spoke through gritted teeth and with her index finger wagging; and she looked me dead in the eye as she made her opinion known.

I mentioned that we made the previous change in accordance with the rules, right?

Hours later, I find myself shocked and somewhat appalled by the obvious rage animating this woman's reaction. That's not hyperbole, either; she was enraged. There are two things here that make me incredibly sad. First, the idea that changes made in one division can so upset others, whom it affects not at all. What is the situation in which you can become vicious without something having any impact on you? [Here's a concrete example, although not the one I'm talking about here. Months ago, our science faculty voted to suspend a program because of lack of interest. I hoppen to think that the program is a good thing to have at the college, and I'm sad to see it go. I'm not enraged by it. When I see science faculty in meetings, I don't bring it up over and over, or even at all.] What is the psychology of the person who gets so wrapped up in others' business that she's holds them accountable--as well as others who might want to make similar changes--into perpetuity? The second thing: also on this committee is one of my senior colleagues who was also associated with this change that we're now being derided for in multiple public forums. While she had personally opposed the change, she was outnumbered (in a straight up and down vote), and agreed, in the interests of affiliation, to go with the group. In addition, she now profits quite handsomely from the change as it was instituted. When the nutburger with the gritted teeth ripped us a new one, however, she said not a peep. And when said nuttypants waved her finger in my face, my "colleague" wouldn't even look at me.

Without context, I don't know that any of this makes any sense. I do know that all of that "I'm totally into this semester and holding it down now" is currently at low ebb, to say the least.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hidden Reserves

In preparation for classes and meetings on Monday, I prepped on Sunday--no big surprise. The surprise was that I worked all day on Sunday. I was up and on the computer by 9, took a break for lunch, and then was at it until 4, dinner break, and then reading until bed. What shouldn't have surprised me but did: how great it feels to be totally prepared for the day. Today I taught two classes, went to a normally-heinous-but less-painful-than-usual department meeting, and then--gasp!--went to the gym.

The real question that stems from this series of surprises: where is all of this energy coming from?

When I look back on the marathon of last semester, the dominant images are of exhaustion, resentment, frustration--all reactions to and formed through the consistent feeling of having too much to do and being late getting all of it done. In objective terms, I have just as much, if not more, to do this semester: I'm giving a paper (gulp!) at a conference in April, I'm teaching a new class for the majors in addition to a major overhaul of an old class, there are some significant projects for my ACUN that I need to get off the ground this semester, I'm overseeing 3 internships and 2 independent studies, and serving on two departmental committees and 3 institutional ones. It's just a ridiculous list. And yet somehow, I'm managing to hold it together by working steadily. Admittedly, it's the first week, and pretty soon all hell is going to break loose, I have no doubt. But I can't shake the feeling that something has qualitatively changed in my feelings toward the overwhelming nature of my job.

A week ago, as we were brainstorming ideas for a potential project, Yogini and I were getting a bit carried away by our own enthusiasm.
"You realize," she told me, "that we're just feeling this hopeful and buoyant because we haven't had a meeting yet." She was right, as she so often is. But it got me to thinking about the ways in which the major personnel changes at my institution that were implemented this fall had a significant effect on how I was able to cope with the tasks allotted to me. Both of the people who left had served as the bastions of safety and sanity from the beginning of my time here. The idea that both would leave, and that the vacuum opened up by their absences would create such havoc, was more than I could respond to with any modicum of reason and measure. In retrospect, I think I significantly underestimated how I felt abandoned by those who left, and saddled with unwanted responsibility at the same time. Note to self: I don't function well when I'm resentful. I spent a lot of time telling myself that it was okay to procrastinate like I'd never procrastinated before, handing back papers 3 weeks late, missing internal deadlines by a month, playing hooky. The consequences of these actions were minimal, but made me feel like a loser, which only compounded resentment. Exhibiting more traditional symptoms of depression would have been much more efficient, I think.

I should spend some time figuring out what exactly resolved these issues; if it was simply time, or the discovery of new ways of shaping my work life without the constant mentoring of those who have moved on to new positions. Either way, it may be the case that my newfound energy is the symptom of moving into a new place: the place where I figure out how to be without the reassurance of mentors, but also without the boundaries of their expectations.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Magazine Mafia

Twice in the last 6 months, I've received letters from magazines threatening to turn me over to collection agencies. In said letters, they insist that I had indicated that I'd like to continue my subscription, and that they had sent the issues "in good faith." Thus, I now owe them for another year of the magazine. Have I ever contacted these companies to tell them to continue my subscription? No. What gives?

It is the case that I order what could be considered an obnoxious number of magazines--a couple of weeklies, a bunch of monthlies. We have an old fashioned mailbox at our house: the postman drops the mail into the box on the outside, and it slides down a chute into the inside of the house (not so smart for insulation). At certain times of the month, our box gets clogged with magazines, and I have to go outside to try to shove them down and through the chute. This problem, however, I lay entirely at the foot of the postman--why can't he just leave them on the porch?! Obviously, my excessive consumption isn't the issue!

I'm sure that my obsession with magazines began as I was writing my dissertation. To my mind, if you work on contemporary culture studies, magazines are a significant way to track phenomena in certain popluations/markets. And if you want to "prove" that such a phenomenon is widespread, then you need lots of evidence. [It occurs to me that this has changed significantly; now I spend far more time on the web...] My grad school pals were writing on James Joyce and Gramsci and reading The New Yorker. I was writing on "Asian American Shoes" (someday, someone's ACTUALLY going to write that diss) and I was reading Vogue, Elle, and W to track a couture market, and Glamour, Marie Claire, and Cosmo to track a more popular market. [For the record, Elle has the best book reviews.] At that time, my version of giddy over-consumption was to go the bookstore and buy all of them in a big pile. This was largely the graduate school equivalent of rolling naked in a pile of hundred dollar bills. Clearly, this got ridiculously expensive after awhile--hence, the subscriptions.

I'm not kidding myself; I fully realize that I'm rationalizing magazine-reading as academic work. To a certain extent, it's the kind of reading I do to fully relax: I don't have to read with a pen in hand. At the same time, I have files full of articles and ads that I've pulled that relate to projects that I'm mulling over. Perhaps it's both work and vacation simultaneously.

If, however, Vogue is going to place a horsehead in my bed rather than allow me to let my subscription to lapse, I may have to reconsider my research agenda. Does anyone know how to call off the wiseguys (in stilettos) before they make me an offer I can't refuse?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

First Week Rush

First week of spring semester, complete with whinging and moaning and resentment. On Monday, with no acknowledgement of MLK holiday, I had 4 emails from advisees with issues, and another 3-4 from those in my ACUN who needed help with internship info, etc. Not the way I wanted to start, particularly as I was still futzing with syllabi, building websites, etc.

Lo and behold, however, a good class meeting or two and I'm a whole new girl! I've undertaken the mammoth lit crit course for my department this semester, and it's been sending me into a panic. What to teach? What to assign for writing? Who's more important: Baudrillard or Bourdieu? Postcolonialism or Cultural Studies? Was I going to totally suck at this whole endeavor? All of the above may still be in play, but my students--or at least the vast majority of them--are perky and have a good sense of humor. Example: in order to introduce themselves, I asked them to come up with the most bizarre factoid they could--and encouraged them to lie. A few choice responses: a tattoo of Old Jerusalem; grew up in a nudist colony; replacing Bob Barker on the Price is Right... How bad can this semester really be? [Someone remind me that I said that...] If they can maintain a modicum of that humor and willingness to play along as we wander through the desert of deconstruction, we'll be in good shape!

Let this be a reminder to me: why is it that I love my job? It's not for the endless meetings and political intrigues--it's for the students. [Remind me that I said THAT too.]

And I haven't even worn my new boots yet...

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Somebody Shoe-t Me

Classes begin on Tuesday, and I'm still--to no one's surprise, I'm sure--working on my syllabi. I tend to function under the delusion that if I simply design the perfect syllabus, then my class will go smoothly with nary a speed-bump. Experience dictates that instead, the dynamics and sway of the class, along with other responsibilities, wreck all of that by about week 6, but I maintain the fantasy regardless. So what's a girl to do when working and trying to maintain a fantasy? Revel in shoes, of course!

Below are pictures of my new boots (oh so necessary now that the Northeast has actually decided to have a winter. Damn El Nino and global climate change!). But I'm not stopping there. I'm also giving you shots of my dear Frenchie F's new purchases, so that all of us can live vicariously through her.

Normally, I'd offer you ginsu knives at this point as well, but I'm too busy with syllabi...

Hee. Perfect with skirts, no? Now on to Frenchie's footwear (far more exciting).

That's full on leopard, people. Booyah!

She insists that these are red, although they look pink in the pic. Nevertheless, how cute are they?!!

I should have just started a shoe blog. But Manolo was already in business, and "Kulturshoe" just didn't have the same pizazz.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Evaluation-Induced Guilt

Let's face it: last semester was not my best. Not by a long shot. I was traumatized by relationships with my colleagues, overloaded with projects and meetings, and battling a significant tendency to react to the above with utter torpor. With all of this in mind, it was with great trepidation that I opened my course evaluations from the fall semester.

I was most concerned about my mid-level lit class for the majors. Some of these students had either had me before, or had friends that had. They would be apt to compare my previous perky and responsible teacher-self to my fall semester ascerbic chicken-with-her-head-cut-off persona. This was, after all, the class where I went, a few times, barely having finished the reading--no notes, no thinking time. I came out of those classes feeling defeated and irresponsible. No matter what other kinds of responsibilities I was saddled with, shouldn't I be prepared for class?!! In some circumstances, that would have meant losing hours of sleep, but shouldn't I be willing to do that? What the hell kind of professor am I?

To make a long story short, I was shocked to see the positive responses from my students--and the majors in particular. NOT ONE of them flamed me. Seemingly all of them enjoyed the discussions, and many commented on how the use of blogs allowed/required them to deepen their thinking about the course texts, record ideas for formal papers, and extend class conversations (that's not a transcription of their words, mind you, but my own interpretation).

At first blush, I was totally relieved. After all, these evaluations go first to my departmental review committee, and then go into the tenure file. Thank goodness they're all right. After the initial "thank you, fates, for protecting idiots like me" response, however, I found myself saddened by the students' responses. I don't think that my perception of my performance in that class can be so terribly far off; the students had a clue when I was winging it in class discussion. I returned papers late, I changed the schedule... How is it that they still come away with such a positive response?

My fear is that enthusiasm and sincerity blind them to my vast weaknesses, as they played out this semester. Even on a bad day, I love these texts and make that clear. In addition, I suppose the consistent feedback I get from students is that I listen to them: it matters to me that they try to make sense of a text in their own terms. I'm learning ways of nudging them toward interpretations grounded in the text, or that fall into line with scholarly readings, but at the heart of it, it's most important to me that they discover how the text makes meaning in their own contexts. [I know this is going to be read as: she falls into the "any reading is valid" school. Not true. The integrity of the text is paramount. But I do believe that learning to read is based in learning how to negotiate between your own world and that of the text.]

Could it be the case that these points overshadow my lack? Are they so starved for these qualities that they ignore other criteria of good teaching like organization and preparation?!! Don't they know they've been robbed?! In the end, I suppose I can't control these things, other than to vow to be more on the ball this semester. Can future classes benefit from what you've denied those in the past? Let's hope so.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Chapping My Hide, Blogger Edition

I totally get the idea that Google, post-Blogger buy out, wants us all to switch over to the new Blogger (formerly known as Blogger beta). I'm not totally dense. And the Google-Blogger Gods, in all of their wisdom and to their credit, have been using the positive "here's all the great stuff we have now!" approach for at least six months. So I suppose it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that they need to change up their tactics to get the final, poky, crotchety group of old-Blogger peeps to switch. [I'm working on it, okay? It's just that I don't have a drop of extra life force to deal with any complications that might result from the switch. I know some of you had issues...Beth, maybe?]

But it DOES surprise me that the old Blogger system has been down ALL DAMN DAY, and now, still, I can't get into my comments. What the *&%$?!! Apparently, NEW Blogger, however, is and has been working like a dream. Bah humbug. As I'm sure my students would tell you, irritation and obstructionism is not the way to convince me to switch over. If anything, this is the way to make me dig in my heels like a stubborn old mule.

Blogger, you're on notice!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Chapping My Hide

Two things today, only two, but I can't help recording them.

First. What good is it to go to the bougie grocery store if it doesn't carry what you actually want?!! Here's a sample of what I overheard there this evening: "Do you have any sushi-grade fish?" [For all of you playing the at-home game, let me remind you that I DO NOT live anywhere near the ocean. So the idea that you could get "sushi-grade" fish is a bit ridiculous, if not scary.] Despite this, I think I CAN expect them to have frickin' soba noodles, for crying out loud. They're non-perishable, whole grain, and a staple of any Asian food section (thankfully not called the "Oriental" section as they were in Midwest grad school town). This is highly preferable to 5 different varieties of Chun King Chop Suey in a can. IN A CAN!!!

Second. What is it, in American households, that smells SO BAD that we have an entire industry devoted to interior air fresheners? Candles, liquids, atomizers, infusions, or, as Glade likes to call it, the "fragrance landscape." What on earth is so stinky in our houses that can't be fixed by cleaning, I ask you? And why must there be soooo many commercials addressing this problem?

That's all for now.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Oh Dear.

You know, all the cool kids were doing it...(seen first at Kate's). What does it mean to have low anxiety but high neurotic tendencies? Shouldn't I be anxious about being so neurotic?

The Geek

You scored 40 anxiety, 71 awkwardness, and 74 neuroticism!

You stick out like a sore thumb, with your social awkwardness and mildly neurotic behaviors--but you don't let it get you down! You are The Geek, and are here to prove that people who know the first 1000 digits of pi and try to woo dates by talking about calculators can be happy too! You have friends...and they are probably just as odd as you.

Your low anxiety score implies that you are able to relax, can enjoy the here and now, and have a healthy amount of self-confidence.

Your high awkwardness score implies that you are socially inept, probably stick out from the crowd, and perhaps feel uncomfortable in large groups of people, such as at parties.

Your high neuroticism score implies that you exhibit neurotic behaviors--probably fanatic obsessions, counting compulsions, or other geekish tendencies. You may know every word to LOTR, or draw anime of all your friends.


See the other results!


The Neat Freak

The Dork

The Geek



The Subtle Neurotic

The True Neurotic

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on anxiety
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on awkwardness
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on neuroticism

Link: The Neurotic Test written by littlelostsnail on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Friday, January 05, 2007

Invasion of the Vice Snatchers

When I woke up this morning, I had every intention of going shopping today. After all, not only is it winter clearance time, it's also the preview day for the Macy's sale. Who's to say no to that kind of external consumer pressure?

Before taking off, however, I had to decide whether I could or could not whip out an abstract for a conference--due today. [This is typical Fluff timing, I'll have you know.] "No way," I thought to myself as I had lunch (reruns of What Not to Wear are satisfying, no?) "I haven't really begun the research I need to finish to think it through It will just suck." To support my own defeatist thinking, I cruised the website, ready to convince myself that it was an impossible task, and that my topic probably didn't fit the theme anyway. Lo and behold, the organizers were asking for a 200 word abstract. 200 words?!! Who can say anything in 200 words?! Better yet, in 200 words I could probably say just enough to sound interesting without having to have my entire thesis worked out.

Two hours and 198 words later, the abstract is done and sent. Yay me! An official entry for a conference that represents a new direction for my work. Scary, but since it hasn't been accepted, I can now just sit on my abstract-writing laurels a bit. Sometimes work just feels good.

Meanwhile, I find little interest in going shopping this afternoon. What happened?!! Could it be that productive work counteracts mindless consumption? Say it ain't so!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Not Just Another MLA Screed

There's a flurry of post-MLA blogging going on right now; I'm too lazy to link, but I assume y'all are reading Dr. Crazy, Flavia, Horace, Scott Eric Kaufman and the Berube, just to get started.
It's a hell of a way to dive back in to the semester.

The MLA conference is a juggernaut that many literature-types face with ambivalence; it is, first and foremost, the place where job-seekers go, freshly-scrubbed, to grovel at the feet of the hiring committee. At the same time (and perhaps because of the first description), it is also commonly known as THE conference in our shared field. It's a conference of academic rock stars and coteries, brilliant academics on the rise and wanna-be brilliant academics flinging jargon. It is a place to gawk and be gawked at. Basically, it's our very own version of Capote's Black and White Ball, annually.

Doubtless, there is a kind of glamour to the MLA, based on the idea that it represents the best and brightest thinkers about literature. But then there's also its seedy underbelly--the hundreds of job candidates waiting in tiny hotel chairs outside the "interview barn": an unsubdivided ballroom with scads of tables where some institutions examine potential hires; the black-clad grad student masses trailing the big name scholar; anxious attendees who read name tags before looking at faces.

Here's my HUGE disclaimer before I continue on: I attended the MLA exactly twice. The first time to interview with potential employers and the second time as a member of a hiring committee. Both times I hung out with my friends from graduate school, attended no mixers and not a single panel. I was just too skeeved out by the smell of desperation in the air; it seemed to me that everyone wanted something desperately, and was focused on measuring what others had. [If you 3 or less degrees of separation from a group of job seekers, this is particularly painful to watch. My favorite horror story is the one in which a group of--hmm, let's say Victorianists--were at dinner after having all interviewed earlier that day with the same school. The cell phone of Vic #1 rings: it's the school saying that he's their number 2 candidate. The school is waiting to hear from #1--does he want the job if #1 says no? Everyone else at the table rushes to check his/her cell phone. The dinner conversation is, as you can imagine, a bit tense after that.] I just can't take this kind of tension and immanent heartbreak. No doubt this says more about me than it does about the MLA.

With that in mind, however, I'm puzzling over my reactions to reading the enthusiastic MLA wrap-ups. I'm delighted to know that there are people that have positive, even rewarding experiences at MLA. Furthermore, it reaffirms my belief in the generosity of our virtual bloggy academic community that people would be willing to post suggestions as to how to make it work for you (see Dr. C's post on networking, for example). As I read these, I feel a brief flame of guilt and shame: why am I not working harder? Why don't I go to the MLA? Why don't I network? What have I been doing with my time?!! This is spot-on the reaction I had when I was last AT the MLA. Essentially, it all boiled down to one question: what was my academic identity as it was defined by my work? At the time, fresh off of writing the dissertation, I could answer that question. I'm going to be the go-to girl for (just work with me) Asian American shoes of the late 20th century! That's me!!

As you may have guessed, I'm not currently the go-to girl for Asian American shoes. Sometimes, I wake up in the morning and think "I had better either publish the dissertation on Asian American shoes right now (which got a pretty decent response from a major publisher, if I may toot my own sad little horn) or else I have to trash it because it's on the verge of being irrelevant." And then I let another day go by without re-sending my book proposal. In part, this is because I'm less and less motivated by the academic identity that one needs to have to navigate MLA effectively. With a lot of work, I could make myself into that girl, but she's not who I really want to be anymore.

Why, you ask? [And make it snappy, Fluff, as the battery on your laptop is dying and this is already a monstrously long post...] In part it's because my understanding of what it means to be a professor has changed. Who I am and what my work consists of at my current institution is not who and what the MLA values. I studied at a research institution that defined scholarly work as the sum total of our being and our worth, and MLA was the polestar in that system. Nowadays, in order for me to participate actively in the field--ie., to pump out multiple scholarly articles or a book-- would mean devoting far less time and energy to teaching, to institutional change, to the things that I care about more and more. This is wholly a personal observation--I know academics who can do both, but I'm not them. The second reason, and one I think is perhaps more provocative (and not original to me), is that MLA itself is starting to become less relevant to the reading and study of literature and the ongoing discussion of these among experts. We are already readers and writers with increasingly tiny realms of expertise, which MLA struggles to encompass. Is PMLA (the journal of the organization) REALLY the place we go to read about what matters to us in our field? Is the conference truly the place where the best and brightest minds talking about literature go to present their work? For my part, the last five things I've read that got me really excited about the field were in blogs and mass market books. And if I expanded the category at hand from "literature" strictly defined, to "practices of reading, writing, and/or interpretation", I'd be hard pressed to remember the last journal article I read that sent me into a flurry of further research. Henry Jenkins' work, on the other hand, has me revising my spring "work" reading list.

There is no doubt that we will continue to use lengthy, scholarly articles and conferences as means of dissemination for one form of our scholarly work--and for that, MLA may indeed remain a crucial site of academic identity formation. But as other vibrant spaces emerge, I find myself wandering farther and farther from the gravitational pull of the organization. This may be because I was a wacky literature scholar from the start (let's just say that a handful of references to the Pottery Barn catalog appear in my dissertation). However, this may also be because the world of literature and our role as scholars within it are shifting right out from under us.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Dog Ate My Blog

Obviously, I was smoking some good Christmas pine when I thought I'd be back a'bloggin' on the birthday of the Jesus. I had put out of my mind that I would get up at the crack of dawn to the shouting of nephews and niece, ripping into their stockings while my brother-in-law, bleary-eyed, handed me a cup of coffee. By 11 a.m., Senor Fluff and I were on the road, driving the 5 hours from his family's house to mine. You'll all be happy to know that I blurted out only one tiny profane ejaculation the entire time I was there (and only because my pre-teen nephews have entered into the phase where they search the internet for sites like this. WARNING: YOU TOO WILL CUSS LIKE A SAILOR!!).

So no blogging on the 25th. And none on the 26th either, which is when my family decided to open our presents. And none on the 27th, 28th, etc., because we were too busy playing with all of our new toys. Do you remember when you used to get really excited upon receiving the toy of the season--say, the Barbie Dreamhouse or an Atari game system? Meanwhile, your parents were thanking each other for new socks and gift certificates for auto detailing? At some point, my family members have reversed roles, because I was dancing around clutching new gloves, while my mother wandered the house for days stroking her new Nintendo DS and calling it "her precious" in some kind of Gollum-like trance. Which was just freakin' creepy.

By the time we got done with that, our departure was nigh. Senor Fluff and I have some big plans for the rest of our break: our house needs some work (I will return to my deep and abiding relationship with Zinsser 3-in-1 Kill and Seal Primer); syllabi need some writing; the gym, by God, to do penance for the 750,000 calories I've consumed while on vacation. There's no end to it all, really.

Today would be the perfect day for me to record some New Year's Resolutions and to reflect upon the passing of the old year. But there is a Twilight Zone marathon on, and I've got a brand new Sudoku book, so those tasks will have to wait. Rod Serling and the game demon call to me.

Hmmm. Do you think procrastination and punctuality should be on my list of resolutions?