Thursday, September 29, 2005

in-class in-sight

In my grad class tonight, I had a little insight that applies across the board in all areas of my life and I'm only beginning to realize just how much it affects everything I do. Scary, really. I'm obsessed with authorship because, as I wrote in my diss, I grew up wanting more than anything to believe that I didn't need anybody, that with enough hard work I could do anything I wanted to do, including becoming a writer. This is, too, the reason I'm obsessed with social class and inequity: because the power operates in our culture such that hard work will never be enough, but we will continue to sell it as a bill of goods via education, especially. Being from the working class, I am very much wedded to the idea that I worked my way up to where I am now. And I did work hard, it's true. Very true. But all of this obsession with individual achievement is complemented by my obsession with how things, ideas, people, works, writings are legitimated. And, alas, in my personal life, too, I am fond (to put it mildly) of the idea that I need nobody, that I am indeed a person with no needs. To need is to be vulnerable, to be a prime target for rejection, to be dependent. I recently actually said, out loud, that there was a time recently--for three or four days--when I didn't like myself because I wanted him to call. I didn't like myself because I wanted something.


And, as I told my grad students tonight, I'm beginning to actually say out loud that hard work as an explanation for the job I got and the work I've published just doesn't tell the whole story. It's also because of who I know, who knows me, and who's legitimated me in this field. I didn't do this alone. And I'm certainly not going to be able to make it through this life alone, because, holy shit, I actually want more than this. I...need more than this.

Did I really just say that?


Ever notice that Thursdays come every single week? Today is what has come to be known in my life as Marathon Teaching Day. At 2:00 I start with first-year students, and today we're discussing Ward Churchill's "Some People Push Back" essay. On Tuesday students asked me if we were finally done with Oprah. Yup, we are. Today I'm thinking they're gonna want to go back to the comforts of Oprah. At 3:35, I go to my junior/senior rhetoric class, where we'll be discussing a chapter from Collateral Language and they'll be turning in their papers on the rhetoric of media representations of Katrina. Then, at 5:30, it's the grad course in social class. Today's agenda: Richard Sennett's Corrosion of Character and Basil Bernstein on class codes.

A day in the life.

And I'm writing when?

Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.

I thought I was a superwoman. Now I'm beginning to wonder if I'm even a woman who can get by. Glug glug glug, Becky.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

orphaned doggies

Here's a link to the front page of today's Pantagraph, the local newspaper. I would link to the actual story I want people to read, the one about the dogs and cats taking refuge in B-N, but only the front page has that picture of the doggie smiling for the camera. Makes me want to cry.

I know I can't adopt another dog. I can't afford one--time-wise or energy-wise or money-wise. But still. Good thing I have mountains of papers to grade this weekend, a task which will prevent me from having the time to go to the Humane Society just to "look."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

the classy voices in our heads

This just in from Harper's Magazine's October Index:

Percentage of patients hearing voices who hear a male voice, according to a British study: 70

Percentage who hear an "upper-class" or "BBC" voice: 30

I wonder what percentage of Americans surveyed would admit to hearing a bumbling idiot's voice in their head. A bumbling white male president's voice in their head.

Classy not so much.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Belly welcomes me home

I got home about 7:00 last night, took the girl for a short walk, and began cleaning like a madwoman because that's what I usually do on the weekend. I could see myself as I was doing it--the crazy woman who doesn't know how to relax--but I couldn't help myself. The dog hair everywhere and the dirty kitchen floor--they were getting to me and I wouldn't be able to sleep if I knew I had to wake up to cleaning. So there I am, exhausted after doing all this cleaning, resting on the couch. I call Belly up to the couch with me (she's not a big snuggler, but I forced her up) only to find out that she absolutely reeks. While I was vacuuming, it seems the girl decided to go out back and roll in her own poop. Her way of punishing me for leaving her for all of four days. She got a bath from a very tired mommy and now she's soft and she smells wonderful, but boy am I a tired girl.

She's such a strong-willed little beast, but alas, she does crack me up, so I can't complain too much. I like her spunk. I like that she's smart enough to punish me for leaving. Wasn't too thrilled about it last night, mind you, but still.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

aerobil's fan club

A conference first: I had a total stranger come up to me yesterday and tell me that she's read my work and loves it and is so happy to meet me.


Oh. I mean, um, thanks.

For the record, the boss suggested that I represent myself on my blog as someone who people actually want to meet as opposed to someone who spills beer in hotel lobbies. So there. I did. Look at me go.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Holy Jesus on a raft. This afternoon I'm hanging out in the hotel reading while Becky's napping (I gave her away) and I decide I'm gonna get in the car and go across the road to the big CVS (I miss it, it's a Massachusetts thing, but alas, there's no Dunkin' Donuts here) to replace the eyeliner that I brought with me but is essentially a nub. After I've chosen my so-called beauty products, I decide to get us a beer. They don't sell singles, so I decide to make the classy move and buy a 40 for us to share. So in my plastic CVS bag as I'm walking into the hotel lobby are three skinny eyeliners and a freakin' 40 of Miller Lite. I've got the bag on my arm as I'm searching for my hotel key and, well, just GUESS what happens as I walk into the hotel. The bottle falls through the plastic bag and explodes into a hundred pieces. My eyeliners fly. I look up at the woman at the front desk and shamefully apologize. She says, "Oh, it's okay. don't worry about it." I use my foot to sift through the glass to find that which will make me beautiful. The front desk woman tells me not to worry about cleaning up, she's called housekeeping. I say nothing, squat down to look under the furniture for my stuff. I find it, wipe the suds on my pants, and sheepishly make my way up to the room where I proceed to tell the boss that she had a beer coming but it just wasn't meant to be. But won't I look pretty when we go get a real beer tonight.

twist 'n shout

I ditched part of the conference this morning to see a little bit more of Ann Arbor the cute little college town as opposed to Ann Arbor the Michigan Union on campus. Somehow I managed to navigate my way through the maze of one-way streets in Kerrytown to find the famous Zingerman's deli and coffee house. I stood in line, chose a bagel, and heard the woman in front of me order a "twist 'n shout," which, it turns out, is a sourdough roll filled with chunks of chocolate. A chocolate chip sourdough roll, essentially. Um, I no longer want this boring old bagel, I told the girl behind the counter, and she graciously took it back and gave me a yummilicious twist 'n shout. I consumed it as a drunk consumes his guilty pleasure: out of the paper bag in gulps. I have tiny chocolate stains on my blue pants and I had chocolate stains all over my face. But shit, it was good. I just may have to go back there to get a couple for the road.

I bought some delicious macintosh apples from the farmer's market, found Trader Joe's, which we don't have in B-N, and made my way back here to the hotel. There's a session I do want to go to this afternoon on forgeries and frauds, so I shall wipe the chocolate from my person and make an appearance.

next time I need a laugh...

I'll go to this picture over at dooce: Chuck the Pooka University alumnus. Third one down kills me. Just kills me.

I miss my booda girl.

Friday, September 23, 2005

brain going crazy, brain on overload

Day 1 of the conference is officially complete and my brain is suffering from pinball disease: all these different lights are going off in different directions and I can't keep track of the ball. It is sooo wonderful to be at a conference where everybody is talking about things I really really care about, but as Becky said tonight at dinner, I kinda wish I could just replay this day for a while before going to tomorrow's sessions and taking in more ideas.

Quickie notes:

I still love Larry Lessig. Very much. His talk was wonderful and we're getting married.

Mario Biagioli suggests that published journal articles should contain the names of the reviewers so that there's a paper trail in case the reviewers try to get "too creative."

Daniel Okrent, formerly of the NYT, suggests that a worse crime than plagiarism is making something up because at least if it's plagiarism, it might be true. Reminds me of Frankfurt's distinction between lying and bullshit: at least bullshit has some relation to the truth in that it is its opposite. Bullshit bears no relation to the truth but is more concerned with getting away with something.

Another function of citation I failed to mention in my paper's list: to remind readers of information/knowledge that they presumably already know.

Michele Eodice and Kami Day offer the gift culture model as a new way of understanding the functions of citation and acknowledgement: gifts establish a feeling bond whereas commodification leaves nothing (by the way, our panel kicked a little bit of ass, if I do say so myself).

Lessig: let go of the seriousness and the reverence with which we approach the law and learn to laugh at lawyers, at the absurdity with which they protect the ridiculous complexity of copyright.

There's more, but those are the gems for now. Becky and I are having a blast as roomies.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hillary actually talked about Schleppy today

Hillary's sister Hope is very hugely pregnant with twins after many years of trying, so it's a pretty exciting time for them and I wish I was in Massachusetts to go to the shower and to shop for fun baby things. When I spoke with Hillary this morning, she told me about all the things she's gotten for the babies (a boy and a girl). She MADE them a cradle from scratch, for crying out loud (yes, this is the same Hillary of Scrabble tile fame), she's making the mattress, the sheets, the blankets, the whole nine yards. She got each baby a huge stuffed animal, too, and these words actually came from her mouth, "I was gonna get Schleppy, but I decided on Garstang the Gorilla for the boy and Manni the teddy bear for the girl." This is Hillary, the woman I've been friends with for 23 years now and who never once acknowledged the existence of any of the stuffed children, but she remembered Shleppy. Hillary doesn't humor me when I tell her stories about the things Annabelle thinks or her motivations for doing the crazy things she does. But new babies are on the way, and they'll do crazy things to a person. Sheesh. Over in Littleton, Massachusetts, the Schleppies are smiling.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

mother of god I'm tired

Exhausted. Not enough sleep being had. Too much thinking being done. Too many papers being responded to. This girl's wiped. I'm so glad I'm going to Ann Arbor this weekend. It'll be good to get in the car and drive...good thinking time to be had there. I realized only last night that this trip involves a time change, so I won't be getting there as early in the evening as I thought I would. And it'll be good to get the boss to help me figure out what I'm doing next. I have so many ideas and so many things I want to read that I end up feeling paralyzed with the possibilities and so I end up doing nothing.

Last night's sleep was fraught with dreams, as is, of course, not uncommon, especially after watching the season premiere of my new favorite show, Medium. I'm in Michigan with no car and I'm trying desperately to get home to Massachusetts but I can't find a map and I can't get in touch with anyone at home to help me. Don't know where I'm going, can't communicate with anyone. Ugh. So I finally decide that if I just keep walking east (as if I have a sense of direction, right?) I'll eventually make it home to Massachusetts. Here's a funny: Dunkin' Donuts was in the dream. I didn't eat any, but the further east I walked, the more they popped up. I must've been getting close.

I want one with sprinkles on top. Comfort.

Monday, September 19, 2005

it gives me away every time

I gave a colleague a ride home tonight in the midst of a monstrously wonderful thunderstorm (I love thunderstorms!). She lives on the same street as Julie, and she asked me if I happened to be at Julie's house on Friday night. Yes, why do you ask?

She says, I knew it! I was walking by her house and I heard this very sudden squeal of laughter and I thought it had to be Amy.

Funneeee, I am.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

arm. falling. off.

The other thing I'd let myself forget about teaching first-year writing is how much commenting on drafts is necessary. I've broken the 22 papers into three groups of seven: seven each for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Reasonable, yes? Except there's nobody here to massage my right arm after all that writing so I have no choice but to blog and whine about it. Arm. Hurting.

When I was teaching at UMass Boston, I remember having this dream about going to the doctor about my arm. He sliced it open the long way (so technical, I am I am) and pointed out the muscle that was hurting me so much. He didn't actually do anything about that muscle, just pointed out where my pain was coming from. Uh, thanks.

Okay, back to reading.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

squirrels, squirrels everywhere

their fat cheeks filled with acorns and buckeyes and their eyes bulging when they get one look at the big black beast coming toward them at full speed. She's a hunter, my Annabelle. She couldn't care less about chasing toys at the park--frisbees and balls are for puppies, she says--but take her to the park in mid-September when the squirrels are getting busy with their harvest, and she's happy as can be. All you have to say to her is, "Belly get the squirrel," and she's off.

The best thing about a dog: no matter what else is going on and what else sucks or is absolutely wonderful, she's always the same. Always eager, happy, energetic, and affectionate. And trusting. So very very trusting. I know I still have a lot to learn from this girl.

Fall: it's our favorite season. I've got all the windows open, I'm wearing jeans comfortably, and apple pie can't be all that far off. The smell of fall is in the air. Breathe it in.

Friday, September 16, 2005

one product from last night's class

I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to have students write in response to Steedman's work in order to acknowledge the pleasure of her text. Here's what I wrote:

"I think I would be a very different person now if orange juice and milk and dinners at school hadn't told me, in a covert way, that I had a right to exist, was worth something" (122).

"We carry moments like this through a lifetime; things were wrong; there was a dislocation between me and the world" (51).

"I always forget, always have to deliberately call to mind the fact that my father retaliated, shouted back..." (50).

The things that just don't come naturally, the things we have to force ourselves to remember. When I was a child, I surely had needs and those needs were surely responded to, which means in some small way that I was worth something. Before I went to school and was encouraged and rewarded on a relatively regular basis, though, I developed a psychic structure that remains with me to this day: any kind gesture, any kind word, any kind of evidence that I have a right to exist, that I'm worth something, has to be digested slowly, turned over and over again in my mind until it can somehow be, if not integrated, then at least accepted for now.

Get over the past. Change your structures of feeling. Change your responses to stimuli. Make new choices. Banish the voices in your head that tell you you're not worth anything. Do all this and then you'll be a good mother. Do all this and then you'll change your mind about parenting.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Nip/Tuck ob/session

A couple weeks ago I was flipping through channels and came upon the F/X series Nip/Tuck. The only things I'd heard about it were that it was a bit disgusting--gory--and that it was more of a drama than a reality show. I watched it. I liked it. I think it was one where I might've even cried. Get out. So last week I rented the first DVD from Season 2 and I've been working my way through it, and my goal is to finish Season 2 before Tuesday night's season premiere. Last night I watched 3 episodes right before bed and had all these crazy dreams about the characters. I ask you this: Could Christian be any hotter? Is it physically possible? Holy. Shit.

Guess what I'm doing this weekend. A little bit of nip, a little bit of tuck.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I'm a little worried about this dream

I'm signed up for some writing workshop, and when I walk in I put down my purse and all of my writing books at a seat at one of the tables and get in line for my nametag. There aren't anymore of the fancy big rectangular nametags left, so they're searching everywhere trying to find me something to use in its place. Finally they write my name in huge childish letters with a red marker and give it to me, but it doesn't stick. Have at it, Freud, but hold on, there's more. When I go to find my seat with all my stuff, it's gone. My purse is gone--identity, hello--and all of my books about writing are gone, too. I have nothing--no money, no ID, no trident (ha!), no books, no pens, no paper. And when I ask people for help, nobody really does much of anything. So I decide I'm going to take Annabelle and move out of the place we're living now.

Stripped of everything and my response is to get my dog and go. Not too far off, I suppose.

So much for ambiguity, eh? Get your girl and run.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

why I can't get enough of Steedman

"And women like this, friends, say: but it was like that for me too, my mother didn't want me. What they cannot bear, I think, is that there exists a poverty and marginality of experience to which they have no access, structures of feeling that they have not lived within (and would not want to live within: for these are the structures of deprivation). They are caught then in a terrible exclusion, an exclusion from the experience of others that measures out their own central relationship to the culture" (Landscape 17).


"refusal to reproduce onself is a refusal to perpetrate what one is, that is, the way one understands oneself to be in the social world" (84).

and still

"I read it with the shocked astonishment of one who had never before seen what she knows written down before" (16).

tomato plant: in memoriam

I never claimed to be a gardener. I never claimed that I could keep the damn thing alive. Oh, the shame I feel. It's a jungle-like mess, that tomato plant, and it's covered with tiny green tomatoes because they've not been given the chance to grow up to be red and shiny. Now what do I do with it?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

I just gotta say this

happy happy happy. I'm patting myself on the back BIG time this weekend because all the work I began this summer on being healthier is paying rich dividends these days. Life is good, my friends, it really is. And what I'm so proud of is that I have learned how to say, when happy, that this is enough. I don't wanna know what's gonna happen. I shall delight in ambiguity (as does this blog post).

Saturday, September 10, 2005

what the hell are they teaching at Kent State?

Yesterday I was on campus to do a few errands and I picked up our daily school newspaper, the Vidette. The cover story--and most of the issue--was devoted to reporting on the rally the school held on Thursday to support hurricane relief victims. (The school raised more than $33,000 for the Red Cross.) So I'm flipping through it, skimming, and when I get to the back pages, I notice an article under the "Features" section called "Fashion fans expect darker colors to dominate at colleges." It's written by Heather Beyer at Kent State and it comes to the Vidette through the U-Wire system. I cannot fucking believe this first sentence: "Just like Hurricane Katrina clouded the skies of cities across the country last week, it looks like fashion will also become darker this fall."

My mind has officially been blown. Christ. Perfect example for my rhetoric class on unethical comparisons. We could spend an entire class on just that sentence. And we may just well do that. But even more than a teaching moment, this sentence makes me want to shake Heather Beyer and ask her what the hell they've been teaching her at Kent State. Simply deplorable.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Oprah's going down

My first-year students crack me up. I love them. They're so damn smart and so willing to put ideas out there that might not be well received in academia--in large part, I imagine, because they haven't been disciplined yet, the students or the ideas. My 101 this semester is called the Politics of Writing, and one of the ways we're getting at the questions of writing and authority is by studying Oprah's book club via R. Mark Hall's article, "The Oprahfication of Literacy." The first major paper assignment asks students to speculate on Oprah's reasons for switching the focus of her book club from contemporary fiction to "classic literature." Yesterday in class we were talking about the different groups of people for whom this switch matters: readers, authors, publishers, bookstores, Oprah herself, etc. At the end of a discussion in which we found ourselves ragging on Oprah pretty harshly, I told them the story I'd seen on the news about how her camera man saved a dog for a man who couldn't take his dog with him when he was being evacuated from New Orleans. Trying to push them out of either/or thinking, I said something along the lines of "Oprah's not all bad. It's much more complex than we sometimes want to make it out to be." To which was responded, "Oprah's going down."

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Daily Show and doggies

I watched the Daily Show last night and the night before, and both times I laughed out loud and nearly spit my wine on Belly's shiny fur coat. I mean, I know that a LOT of my students watch this show and many get the majority of their news from it, so maybe that's why I was hesitant to watch it. But shit, any one of his segments is ripe for rhetorical analysis--and FUNNEEEE. Last night I dreamt that I was asking my students to tell me the difference between Barry Glassner's Culture of Fear and the book Stewart featured on his show the other night, False Alarm by Marc Seigel. And they did tell me, but it was a dream, so I can't remember what they said.

Weather: HOT.

My sister Sue, who lives in Anchorage with her family, and whose daughter Crystal started school this semester at the University of Idaho (pea fields, she's surrounded by pea fields--I remember that from when I applied there for a job), adopted another puppy recently. Now they've got two. Sasha's a less-than-one-year-old husky (I think) and Bandit, the new arrival, is a lab/rott mix. Two new reasons to visit Alaska sometime soon. Sue, if you're reading this, you're in big trouble for not telling me about Bandit. One of us is turning into our mother a bit more rapidly than the other. Ahem.

Annabelle still wants a brother and I still want to name that brother Oliver (Belly and Ollie--how cute is that), but for now we're stuck with each other and with stories about the illusory Ollie. Probably better this way.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Yesterday in my rhetoric class, I asked students to write about the particular aspects of Katrina's aftermath that, for any reason, continue to strike them. In part, this was a lesson in understanding our own biases: why are we drawn to what we're drawn to, and how do our personal histories help us understand why we pick up on some things and not on others? And what can understanding these biases help us understand about the arguments we choose to make and those we choose to ignore? Yup, I've got the teacher voice going on here.

Anyway, I wrote along with them, and the thing that keeps coming up for me is the trauma that the victims have been through and the very long road to a "recovery" that will never be complete. I understand my reasons for being drawn to this, and because of that, I also understand that other people's trauma is not something we can ever really get (can I use the word "understand" one more time in this post, I wonder). But what pisses me off is this ubiquitous attitude that people need to just buck up and get over it.

I'm simultaneously drawn to the material and to the psychological aspects of this trauma. I know that once the media attention dwindles and the stories about people getting on with their lives start coming in, we will, as a nation, forget the psychological struggles of the people living with the traumatic memories of these days. I guess that's human nature, but it makes me sad.

My constant questions: How do people get over something like this? How do they keep going in the face of so many unanswered questions? And I constantly ask these questions because I suspect that I wouldn't be able to do it.

Monday, September 05, 2005

cognitive dissonance

A snapshot of my morning thus far: sitting on the front porch trying to read Bourdieu's Distinction while the Labor Day parade crowd is gathering on my street and the carnival music is getting closer. Horns are honking. Kids are running. The beast is barking at everyone. And I sit with my tome of taste, trying to maintain some sense of distinction. I give up and take the girl for a walk.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

this is what kills me

The animals. I can't even bear to think about it, but I'll link to this photo because he's getting out. I'm beginning to understand Mary's willful blindness to any story of animal suffering. I can't bear it. I just can't. This is one thing I get from my mother that I'm not ashamed of.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

when language is NOT action

I spend a lot of time talking with rhetoric students about language as action and effect. Language has real, material effects. Witness "weapons of mass destruction," for instance. I use these words, action and effect, so much, in fact, that by mid-semester they're rolling their eyes when they hear me say these words, but at least I've gotten my point across, yes?

These last few days have made me think about the opposite phenomenon: the act of saying something over and over again in the hopes(?) that it will be believed, that it will miraculously come true. Relief is on its way. We shall overcome. "In America we do not abandon our fellow citizens in their hour of need."

When words become empty.

what I was able to forget in just one year

1. how labor-intensive first-year writing is
2. the analytical moves I take for granted in the writing of juniors, seniors, and graduate students
3. how enjoyable first-year students really are. I love them.
4. how much is at stake in the required first-year writing course
5. how much my hand hurts after responding to five or six essays
6. how much I need a massage after this kind of weekend (okay, I never really forgot that, but I thought I'd just write it here for the record)

Friday, September 02, 2005

struck speechless

I write tonight because I miss blogging. I write tonight because I want to reach out in some way to others and to just be. I write to be with others. James Britton wrote that the primary function of "expressive" writing is to be with others. I remember citing that line in one of my exams. And now I repeat it here because I really have nothing else to say but I wanted to say something.

I'm relieved that schools, including my own, are reaching out to help victims of Katrina. I'm sick inside at the thought of the trauma these people are going through. And the trauma that's going to stay with them for a long, long, long time.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

in the face of catastrophe...'s the little things that blow my mind. Waking up this morning in my comfy bed with my sweet sweet Annabelly, it occurred to me just how private a thing waking up is. I simply cannot comprehend having to wake up--never mind trying to fall asleep--in a sports stadium with 25,000 other angry, frustrated, scared people.

I'm incredibly saddened by what's happening in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, and it's truly beyond my comprehension what they're going through. How do people do it? How do they survive when they've lost it all?