Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I'm on the way back to Providence from New York/New Jersey actually
more tired than I was when I left for this trip. I brought a
colleague's diss with me to "inspire me" for lack of a better term,
but did nearly nothing in terms of tangibly advancing my own diss. I
did, however, spend an ungodly amount of time riding in some sort of
conveyance and in the process, New York lost a bit of its sheen for me.

I dropped off my bro at Vassar yesterday. It reminded me of how
awkward that first week of college was for me (with the near-tears in
the shower in the middle of the night because I couldn't stop
pooping). And at the end, I liked college a lot, enough to stick
around in a way.

But as I helped Al build his furniture (after a kinda hilarious
journey from Vassar Shipping and Receiving to his dorm with 7 boxes, a
pushcart, and some rolling hills), I realized that I want to go to the
"next stage" of my life already, but that it seems like things will
pretty much stay the same for a long ass time. I've had some flashes
of change -- new room, first real class, etc. -- but I realize that
I'm 28 and haven't lived by myself yet and that I could be teaching 3
or more classes at a time (you wonder why your professors are so
strange). I wonder sometimes if this unsettledness is just part of
being in my late 20's or some inherited trait from my father who for
other reasons had never really settled on something until recently.

I talked to Daniel and Kim about what it is I want to feel when I have
that one job or one person or one path that I'm to be heading down for
the rest of my life. It basically boiled down to being able to not
take myself so seriously that I'll have drunk the kool aid and believe
that what it is I do is so great that I can't share my detached irony
with a like-minded person. In other words, for better or worse, I want
to live the absurd. I also realize that sorts sucks as a life goal --
such is the strangeness that is being me.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

In Philadelphia, No One Can Hear You Scream

So a few people have been re-reading the ole blog (some very
thouroughly) and so I *guess* I'll give you more than a tweet's worth
of an update. And really there's not a whole lot worth saying, other
than a few depressing issues with my funding and the fact that I
probably burnt out the graphics card on my laptop.

Though yesterday I had to play high school again and my mom dragged me
shopping with her. As usual, I fell asleep in the passenger seat. When
I came to, I realized my mother had locked me in the car without the
keys. It was fairly stuffy inside, and luckily I had been wearing
layers (and shorts), so I thought nothing of it, until I decided to
get out and go to Office Max next door.

I attempted to unlock the doors from inside, it slowly dawned on me
that I couldn't AND that if I tried to open the doors, the car alarm
would go off. I started to flick the "unlock" switch more desperately,
of course to no avail. I called my mom who was still in the store.
"Mom?" I said. "Um, I'm suffocating in the car an I can't open the
doors without the alarm going off."

"I'm still in line. 10 more minutes," she said.

So I was convinced that if I were a small dog or an elderly person,
I'd probably be dead already. Bejeweled wasn't helping, so I went back
to trying to unlock the doors. Eventually mom came out and
thoughtfully unlocked the doors from a distance. I opened the door and
panted in some fresh air. Mom had kind of a silly look on her face,
and we had a good (sorta) laugh about it.

Today, we we discussing what my brother has to buy when he gets to
Vassar and the subject of the Philadelphia airport came up. Apparently
the airport has a big mall that's tax free, which produced this gem of
a nonsequitur from Mom:

"They must have a lot of gays there in Philadelphia (silence)"

"Why's that, Mom?"

"Well there's that movie, Philadelphia Story (sic) and [Al's] teacher
is gay, so..."

And then we had one of those "that doesn't make sense" moments. You
wonder where I get it from.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

How I Got the F- Out of Dodge, Part 1

A couple nights ago I dreamt that I broke down and told off all my Providence friends, telling them that I couldn't stand them or the city and that I was leaving for good. I count it as a bad dream, seeing as my arguments for telling people I really like that I disliked them were pretty bad, but it was defintely the capstone to a night where it became painfully obvious that Providence wasn't a place I'd ever call home. And as my dream self cried unthorough insults, my real self slept somewhere besides my own bed for the first time in months.

I spent that day criss-crossing New York, first from Brooklyn to the Bronx to see my aunt, then from the Bronx to Jersey, then on the ferry from Jersey to Manhattan. A cross-town bus later, I met up with my friend Daniel and spent a few hours with him and his co-workers at a frattastical bar that held a lame fake orgasm contest. Daniel assured me that co-worker bar nights rarely happened, though in my mind, I believed they did. Daniel had apparently "pimped me out" to his single co-worker, so much so that his male co-workers greeted me with, "Oh, so you're Daniel's single friend." Owen and Yu-wen met up with us there, and we had dinner and hung out at an Italian restaurant in the Meatpacking District. Kept a seat away from the girl I wanted to hit on, Owen and I caught up.

Daniel and I headed back to Brooklyn, munching on a donut and a cookie. In a half-drunk, half-concussed moment of truth, Daniel and I talked about how much life and work became more fulfulling for him when he left Providence. And while he cut some ties, he basically said he's happier. I felt like a wet blanket, as Patrick would put it later, droning on about how I had no motivation to work. But, it seemed very clear after that that I should get the fuck out of dodge.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Finer Points of Pancaking

While others may choose to do good while procrastinating on their
dissertations, some of us (me) just make ourselves fat by cooking.
Well, I like to think of it as practice feeding my offspring, lest
they succumb to Red Vines and Soft Batch cookies.

Here we see what happens when you get one side of the pancake right
and then you leave to see if anyone responded to your email about
basketball and burn the other side. Also, those banana pieces were
supposed to be inside the pancake, but I blame a lack of oversight. So
basically, I forgot to use up all my remaining groceries in this batch.

Of course no kitchen folly would be complete without me dropping my
knife as picked up the plate. As you can see, without supervision I am
pointless.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Harey Kiri?

A while back when I was a Netflix subscriber (happier times...), I ran through classic films, just to get a sense of what I was missing by watching Star Trek IV over and over as a kid. Admittedly, I liked Ben Hur, but fell asleep during Raging Bull, but I also managed to fit in lots of great Blacksploitation films, Peter Jackson's Dead Alive (ever see a pair of lungs preen itself?), and Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter.

Anyway, I kinda want to go through some of Hollywood's depression era screwball comedies, but without Netflix, I'm limited to reading summaries on Wikipedia (or exerting effort to find them at the Brown Library). But one thing stands out: the Wikipedia page for silent film actor Harry Carey -- who played the Senate President in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington -- has a little disambiguation link at the top. You may have accidentally wandered into his biography looking for a way to commit ritual suicide, or Hara Kiri, which I can only assume happens when you're looking for Capra movie actors and thinking in a Southern accent.

In other news, we're under more snow, with more snow to come. These are the kind of days when I wonder why I really need a Ph.D.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

King of Soups

So for some reason, Blogger just posted the photo and not the text of my post. Suffice it to say, I heaped generous praise upon myself for making the soup you see above. It's a spicy catfish stew, which I made in the good ole crockpot with minimal elbow grease and a moderate amount of chili powder and red pepper flakes. I take the disappearance of my original text to be a sign to be less proud, but damn, this soup is like the queen of the catfish allowed me to do whatever I wanted to her, and we made magic. And this post just got creeptastic.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Is It Because Readership Is Down?


From Don Assmussen's Bad Reporter, my favorite comic strip. This week's gem is the first panel: "Obama to Close Gitmo - But Promises to Retain Its Online Presence".

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Am I R1? Or Just R1-Is-The-Loneliest-Number?

So I mailed my first ever job application yesterday, Priority Mail because the materials have to be in by this Friday. In the process of geting that appready, I started to muse about a few things. First of all, can a human being live strictly off of Fig Newtons? I submit that it may actually be possible -- and maybe even enjoyable. By the way, the "fig" in "Fig Newton" stands for "FrIckin' Good". Also, what is a fruit?

But what really got me to stop in the middle of Providence slush and take a minute was whether or not my time here at Brown has actually proven to me that I'm not an "R1" kind of researcher -- that is, a publishing machine who brings in tons of external grant money and commands legions of graduate students. I have meager accomplishments by R1 standards, I think. Actually, "meager" might actually be me avoiding the truth, since I'd think by R1 standards, I have no accomplishments. But I wonder more deeply whether or not I failed along the way to become R1 material or that somehow subconsciously I was steering myself towards what I thought my profs at Conn College were like -- independent scholars who were sort of unbound by data sets to milk or grant deadlines to meet (probably not true, but it seemed cool).

I should know better, of course. I do have memories, however, of a couple of my favorite profs going on long sabbaticals to write their books, which sort of indicated to me how the typical process of scholarly work supposedly went: you teach most of the time, you go on a long sabbatical and write a book, and then you come back and teach again. Actually, when I was younger, I was convinced that the publication process was when you write an article, someone criticizes that article, and then you compile that "conversation" and others into a book. Oh how naive was I.

But these past few weeks I saw my good friends pick up NSF grants, I read my friend's research statements, and just generally looked back on my experiences as a "researcher" and realized how strangely uncommitted I was to any particular topic or research project (mine or others). And I'm not talking about effort; I mean to say that I was never a "something-ist" nor was I ever continuously part of some big NSF-y team. As such, I was never part of a sort of publication mill, nor did I work with (or was attracted to) big data sets or flashy methods. But I never really had a substantive passion either, or even sort of a sense of daring-do that I think people who do really good fieldwork have to have. Also, since I'm so obsessed with my writing, I haven't been able to turn my own work into something publishable (now if dissertations were blogs... well, I'd still not be done!)

Anyway, I really wanted to write my research statement (I'll link the bastard for ya'll) like I wrote my teaching statement: personal, more passionate, and just plain better. And in writing my teaching statement, I reviewed my all-time favorite C. Wright Mills piece, the last chapter in The Sociological Imagination -- about being an intellectual craftsman (I guess now we should be craftspersons or craftspeople. Might as well be artesanos). He had this line that I didn't quite quite get as a piece of advice, until recently (though as a sort of philosophy of the discipline, it makes sense given what he wrote in the rest of the book):
Now I do not like empirical work if I can possibly avoid it. If one has no staff it is a great deal of trouble; if one does employ a staff then the staff is often even more trouble
and later, he basically speechifies:
Let everyone be his or own methodologist; let everyone be his or her own theorist; let theory and method again become part of the practice of a craft. Stand for the primacy of the individual scholar; stand opposed to the ascendancy of research teams and technicians. Be one mind that is on its own confronting the problems of the individual and society
Replace those periods and semicolons with exclamation marks and I think I might start crying. And this is certainly not what we mean nowadays when we talk about "independent scholarship". Mills wanted us, I guess, to be a little like him: a sort of a maverick, as we'd say now, who did his own work and justified it because it had meaning for the "big questions" of the day, and who didn't base his status off of the quantity of his publications, but their craftsmanship.

I'm not going to be C. Wright Mills, though what Mills advocated wasn't the R1 model, it'd seem. I think I do see my research as being more oriented towards this sort of individualism, that includes sort of these thinly-veiled fuck yous that Mills would write into his work (when he wasn't actually writing explicit fuck yous). I mean, I think like he suggested: take opposites, play with words, move stuff around in your files, I write to think and think to write, all that good stuff. And really, in terms of research "themes", I'm interested in historical irony and the strangeness of human agency, not in some three-headed monster of a research agenda that we all have to stick up front in our CVs or in these research statements. And sadly, I did not do the file thingy for my research statement; had I though, maybe I'd have written something different.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Missing Mural

This was one of those times when I should have used my mobile blogging powers, but as Elli drove me home today, we took 101 past Farmers Market and I noticed that the People Power mural that was on the side of a nearby building was gone.

Apparently, it's been gone since 2007 (http://www.mbulletin-usa.com/printview.asp?ID=170&NM=KP%20Gallery) and shit, I wish I could find a picture for all you folks, but it was the first and maybe the only political mural that ever really affected me, that I was proud of. It featured people pushing back a tank (the tank's cannon ends at a grate in the wall), and on the left -- if I remember correctly), there was a hand holding a torch, smashing a bust of Marcos.

Fuck, I feel like I've lost something.