Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Dead Time of Year

This is the Dead Time of Year. The week between Christmas (or, if you prefer, the end of school) and New Year's Day is a time of reckoning, during which we in the Radical household have a tendency to obsess about what we didn't get done during the calendar year, as opposed to praising ourselves for what we actually accomplished. Thus, this week tends to be taken up with neglected household projects: repainting that last bit of molding in the downstairs bathroom, attending the annual sale at IKEA, washing the dog, putting up the mirror that has been balanced precariously in the upstairs hall for seven or eight months. Or endlessly re-organizing our notes on writing projects that we have, to date, resisted the charms of, well, actually writing. Everyone knows that once you get all the books re-alphabetized, the notes in the right piles with paperclips at the exact same spot, and the pencils well sharpened, the revisions might just do themselves in the middle of the night.

Yeah, sure. After a visit from the Revision Fairy.

Our other strategy is to leave town. One year we left on January 1 for San Cristobal, in Chiapas, and stayed for five months. Last year we left for Kauai the day after Christmas, which was a blast, and stayed for six weeks. This year, because of massive administrative duties, the AHA and some urgent scholarly deadlines, the Radical will be staying put in the Good Old Continental U.S. of A., watching the Republic dissolve around her, thanks to the tender ministrations of the Bush Administration. But my companion N is heading off to Unnamed South Asian Country, where she will be virtually incommunicado for three weeks and doing worthwhile things while I hold the academic and political fort here.

Now, this creates a different paradigm for Dead Week, from my point of view, which is that it is now part of a twenty-one day hiatus in life, a monkish interlude, that can actually be a turning point in the year. I will have so much time on my hands (because domesticity does take time, my friends) both for the idiotic things I aspire to during winter break (how to fix the draft coming under the front door because the guys laying the floor in the front hall never bothered to and it was summer and I never noticed until they had left town? How to make maximum use of the post-holiday sales so that I will look my best at AHA? What would be the perfect reorganization of my study?) and for the non-idiotic things on which I have actually made a lot of progress in the last year: finishing several pieces of writing without overly obsessing since, like bad nickels, they will surely come back again for more revision; getting my spring course organized so that it can more or less run itself; actually writing that paper for the AHA, the one that I am giving in nine days (oh yeah, that paper!) And is now the time to learn Power Point? To do those perfect visual presentations that I always wish I had ten minutes before the lecture?

And I need to think about what direction this blog will take in the New Year. Because for all of the ups and downs on the last post, it has caused me to think about a lot of very interesting things, and I now think that I haven't even scratched the surface -- after successes and failures; errors and corrections; anonymity, pseudonymity, and coming out as myself (whoever that is); positioning myself as a professional advisor to others; struggle with complete strangers and reconciliation with some -- of what blogging can accomplish as a literary or political form, or as a critical space that compliments print. That's pretty exciting, and some peace and quiet around here will help me think about the next stage in my blogging -- or could we just say writing? -- life, I'm sure.

Oh, and dear reader? If I owe you a grad school recommendation, and it's not done yet, it will be in by 5:00 today. Promise.

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Please note that I have edited my blog ethic slightly, to explicitly add "name calling" as an element that will get comments deleted in the future. It's a really mean thing to do, and doesn't advance a conversation one iota.

10 comments:

human said...

Oh oh oh, a fellow woman I can ask: WHAT DO PEOPLE WEAR AT AHA? I'm going for the first time, you see. Which is very exciting, but I don't know what to wear!

Edward Carson said...

I am looking forward to seeing you at the AHA meeting in D.C. As for deadlines, I have a paper that must get done soon. I can hear my ulcer talking to me. This is natural when my to do list and get it done list are on my mind.

nickname said...

To human said,

Well, while not a historian or attendee of AHA, I give advice to folks who ask similar questions about MLA. I say wear the dressier version of what you wear everyday (to class, meetings, etc.). I do that and did that at the very beginning of my MLA attendance for job interviews and then later for panel sessions. Wearing the dress up version of everyday helped me to ignore my body and appearance and think about the task at hand like getting through the interview or the session without hyperventilating. It didn't do everything, but it helped.

My grad students think it helps them cut back on what they have to worry about. They don't have to worry about pieces of clothing they're not accustomed to wearing. What to do with legs when wearing unaccustomed skirts. Whether or not earrings are fastened or jewelry around the neck is where it's supposed to me. You know, that stuff.

sharon said...

Just wear something you're comfortable in. (Especially footwear. You'll have a lot of chasing around between venues to do; you want shoes you can dash around in and then relax and forget about.) These are historians, not business executives.

Belle said...

Hey TR, is there a blogger meetup at AHA? When's your paper, so I can be sure to go?

nickname said...

Just noticed that you have Irene Silverblatt's book (representation thereof) in your left column. That is a great book. Her work on the dailiness of the Inquisition as well as the bureaucracy it generated and enhanced across time and space is truly remarkable. Plus, the writing is quite fine. I heard her give a talk about this work and respond to questions. It was riveting.

Tenured Radical said...

human: nickname's advice is correct, except if you are me, whose everyday garb is a black tee and blue jeans (which, if you add black cowboy boots and a black jacket, is not so bad for the AHA, really.) I have been told that dressing a little up from that can be not quite *up* enough.

Edward: me too. I'll look your session up.

belle: no blogger meet-up that I know of, although if you want to, I'm game. Let me know -- Saturday's no good as I have drinks, 2 receptions, and a dinner to go to. Unless there is a pre-drinks....my paper is Sunday during the midday session, and if you can't (won't) hang around that long I'll see you at the Berks, I hope.

nickname: thanks for the help on the clothing. Human is clearly not a lesbian, because asking a butch what to wear is an exercise in futility. I can hear femmes laughing all over the blogosphere. Or as Debrah of DiW fame would say, ROTFLMTO!!!

TR

dr zombieswan said...

For the cool powerpoint thing, since you don't know me well (I can't remember if I've ever de-lurked before) I won't post a link, but there's a nifty webpage design magazine called "Indezine". The guy who runs it wrote the "Dummies" book on Powerpoint. And he gives free powerpoint templates out. I used a bunch of them this year in my classes, and I found them very nice; MUCH better than the standard stuff Microsoft gives out, but much faster than doing it myself. If you google indezine, you'll find it, I'm sure. It's free, and you do have to register, but he doesn't appear to sell your name to spammers (my spam has not increased on that email address). Or bother you himself. Anyway. In case that goal: powerpoint: ends up being one that you pursue this year.

I highly recommend it. My students really loved having the presentations available on Moodle (or Blackboard, if that's what your school uses.)

Powerpoint is pretty easy to learn, too. You SO can do it. :)

human said...

There is a progressive historians meetup Saturday at City Lights of China: info here.

Contact Jeremy to RSVP so we can warn the restaurant. :)

human said...

And thanks for the clothing advice!