Saturday, February 02, 2008

Saturday Blues: Of Postings, Powerpoint, Periodontia and Presidential Candidates

The good news is that, as of last Tuesday I published my 200th post. The bad news is that I have had no time or inclination to post since last Tuesday, and then only a video. OK, it was a funny video, you've got to admit. Hence, although I cannot report bloggers' guilt (some of my fellow internet pioneers do claim to feel these burdensome obligations to their readers), I do have the Saturday Blues. If I had had time to either practice my guitar, or go to the lessons I was gifted for Christmas at the Neighborhood Music School, I would set this to music, but a post will have to do.

The Saturday Blues often follow a long, difficult week, after which I look back and have trouble remembering anything I did that met my own life goals and ambitions. But the Blues can also be connected to the temporary necessity of -- in addition to abandoning exercise, decent sleep, and therapy -- stepping out of my life as the Radical. One of the downsides of blogging, for those of us who lock onto it as a creative and intellectual outlet, is the loss of blogging when life closes in, as it can do for academics engaged in the sundry tasks for which we are responsible. When there is no time to blog, the absence of an intellectual and creative life is felt perhaps more keenly than it would otherwise be, were blogging not a solution to the evasiveness of intellectual and creative life that accompanies the often endless bureaucratic tasks of a senior member of the faculty.

Do I make sense here? Does it resonate?

In fact, I just had time a few minutes ago to sort the mail received at the house this week. In addition to the bills and offers to use my terrific credit rating to go into debt, I have: at least six flyers from the Clinton campaign (two women do live here after all) and none from the Obama people (which makes me think they are thrifty in some ways that could be good for the national government); a (small) check from my mother repaying me for a Christmas gift that we all agreed would be better purchased locally; and a tiny postcard informing me that the Radical Family (two aging lesbians and a dog) is being offered congratulations for having been selected as a "Nielson household." We are told that we should expect to be called shortly to respond to an exciting survey.

See if I answer the phone this week. As if a household that watches only Netflix, HBO and Showtime programming, Friday Night Lights, The Lehrer Hour, and re-runs of CSI is honestly worth talking to anyway. We have a television with a twelve inch screen. Call my nephews instead with your faux social science.

Now, I do have to admit that other good things have happened in the past five days as the mail and the blues accumulated: it's just that I have been too overwhelmed to notice and appreciate them, so without breathing space am I (imagine my brain as an overstuffed closet full of other people's coats, tennis rackets, book bags and outgrown boots.) And as I pause to write about them, even the bad and depressing things that happened this week have a good side. To wit:

*An article that I knew wasn't very together when I sent it was definitively rejected by the journal that solicited it in the first place. Of course, other than rejection, the unhappy side of this is that two anonymous readers may think I am stupid rather than overworked. Up side? None of that namby-pamby "revise and resubmit" nonsense: I respect this journal so much for rejecting me outright I may send them another piece some day. In addition, I don't have to do extensive revisions on a tight calendar at a moment when I have no time to think, much less restructure an article. Instead, the manuscript can sit in my inbox and ferment, along with the last half of my book manuscript. And maybe someone else will finish both of them when I am not looking.

*I have been invited to take part, along with two other people who I have always wanted to meet, in an Exciting Event that will garner National Attention. I cannot reveal what it is, however, nor be completely happy about it, because I am not sure it will happen. Yet.

*After watching The Wind that Shakes the Barley last night, a movie I had looked forward to, I am disappointed to say that I thought it was boring and poorly plotted, although in addition to narrating the brutal British occupation of Ireland following the uprising of 1918, it is probably quite relevant as a thought piece about more contemporary colonial occupations -- say in Iraq, just to pull one out of my hat. Other up sides? No matter what happens to me this semester, I will not have all of my fingernails pulled out with a pair of rusty pliers while Cockney noncoms shout at me to give up the names of my accomplices. Which of course, I would never do, since if my associates are like the good people in the movie, they would shoot me on the heath afterwards, honoring only my wish not to be buried next to the English lord they had executed a moment before. In fact, I am happy to say that the names of all my accomplices are already printed in an alphabetized list in the faculty directory. Some with home addresses! No interrogation necessary, thank you!

*I finally used Powerpoint in my classroom. Frankly, it was not an entirely emPowering experience, and left me feeling dull and listless, which I do not feel when I know I have taught a Very Good Class. But the up side: I have broken through the psychological Powerpoint barrier and, although time will tell, I think it will help rather than hinder my teaching in the end. Like everything else, it takes practice, doesn't it?

*I finally made it to the dentist, an appointment that I have had to reschedule twice because I have had No Time. This is a good thing, because it still weighs on me what damage I did to my teeth -- and how much money I ended up spending on them -- because I had no dental insurance in graduate school, and hence, never went to the dentist. Of course, going to the dentist also pretty much wrecked the only free day I had this week. Furthermore, the dentist comped me on some Sensodyne toothpaste, a sure and depressing sign, from my perspective, that I am on the Downhill side of life (memo to self: do those revisions on the Untogether Article sooner rather than later.) Up side: I did not have cavities in the places where I was feeling pain; am not being scheduled for gum surgery, the latest payment plan for sending the children of dentists on to college; did not have to replace an aging, cracked filling with either a new filling or a thousand-dollar crown; and the fact that my jaw dislocates from time to time is not due to incipient bone cancer, but rather, as the dentist reassured me, "probably nighttime tooth-grinding due to stress." Well, yay. The other piece of good news is that the way my jaw dislocates is all good. Dislocating forward makes it possible for me to snap it back in on my own (actually it feels more like a mildly painful "thump" than a snap), whereas were it dislocating in the other direction, my mouth would be stuck open and I would have to have surgery. Double yay.

*I lost my Presidential candidate, John Edwards (many thanks to those of you who wrote in sympathy), which was a royal bummer. Once again I have had to come to terms with the fact that if Americans care about resolving poverty, they see it as a mere happy side effect of giving more goodies to that "middle class" we hear so much about, and/or tax cuts for the wealthy, and/or the enhanced capacity of the poor to attend wealthy universities and SLACS while their families stay home and try to figure out how to eat, heat their homes, get child and health care, educate the other children and reduce the number of jobs they hold to the desirable "one job." But the up side? As Paul Krugman noted in yesterday's New York Times, Obama and Clinton have been pushed to the left because of Edwards, toward better social policies, or even speaking about social policies in a comprehensive way, and that is a good thing. Another up side is that, dreamer though I am, I knew perfectly well that the Edwards candidacy was not going to make it and that I was going to have to shift my allegiance in the end. Who I will vote for on Super Tuesday will provide grist for another post: I have decided that question definitively even though my heart is with the undecided at this point. And as it turns out, Connecticut will matter after all!

And finally, one of the two Commencements I have missed in my years at Zenith will have Teddy Kennedy as the main speaker. I have always wanted to meet Teddy, and even more so now, since a former Hill staffer I met in the park the other day in Shoreline told me that Teddy takes his Portuguese Water Dog Splash to committee meetings and hearings and whatnot. Up side to missing this once in a lifetime, glorious event? While everyone else is either broiling in the sun or dripping in the rain at Zenith, I will be in Paris celebrating my receding gumline -- er, I mean, my fiftieth birthday, and the end of a long and difficult year.


Sisyphus said...

I liked the Wind that Shakes the Barley, though I admit that it was very tough for me to decipher their accents. One detail I really enjoyed was how sidelined the women were throughout most of the movie, which really underscored the shockingness of the women taking leadership roles and participating to an unprecedented degree in politics when the rebels took over.

I had responses to other parts of this post too, but I forgot what they were, so there you go.

Susan said...

Oh, yes, I hate it too when I have a week where I work non-stop and can't figure out what I've done. As for the rest, I have had only (I think) 5 Clinton mailings, but the Obama people slid something in the door today.

And you may discover that some people you know DO remove fingernails in order to discover your associates. History is a dangerous business.

Clio Bluestocking said...

I actually once knew a grad student who gave up his associates under threat of having something more important than his fingernails removed: his funding.

anthony grafton said...

Thanks for telling the world you had an article rejected. This happens to all of us--J.H. Hexter made a point of listing rejections of the various articles that became chapters of REAPPRAISALS IN HISTORY--me certainly included. It's really good for readers who are starting out to know this, and to realize that sometimes the criticism is justified. One editor and friend of mine advised me in such a case that the best thing to do with a particular article would be to put in a drawer, lock it, lose the key and burn the desk. Perhaps he put it a bit strongly, but the advice was right, and after only a few years I was grateful for it.

dhawhee said...

Your description of the Saturday Blues very much resonates, esp. the part about having "trouble remembering anything I did that met my own life goals and ambitions." In other words, you know damn well what you did, and it was all--every bit of it--for other people. This has been for me perhaps the most surprising side of tenure: our own stuff very much takes a back seat at times.

Anonymous said...

Ok, you've had an article rejected. You're not, of course, the Lone Ranger. Were the reader reports useful? When I referee, I'm sometimes torn between writing detailed reports to improve articles and just making general suggestions together with saying go back to the drawing board. Your feeling on this?

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Oh, TR, I am in Revise-and-Resubmit purgatory still, and sometimes I think an outright rejection would be better. But either prospect makes me want to curl up into a ball.

But -- you were an Edwards supporter, too? I'm stumped now as to which way to go. I'll vote for whoever's the nominee, and I'll be happy to be a part of history that way, but yeesh. I wish that just one or the other of them would really make this country's desperately poor a focus of their campaign.