Day 261: Job Talk

This Friday I will be giving my mock job talk. Our department makes us do this to prepare for the real thing. Strangely enough, I am more freaked out by this one than by the real thing. I have no problem talking in front of large crowds and have done so at dozens of conferences. However, there is something unsettling about a room filled with all of your professors, friends and colleagues, who all expect you to do well (especially my diss director will not be happy with anything less than a stellar presentation)–but I guess that’s good and really forces me to work on it. Sad part: I haven’t had time to work on my talk yet (I’ll start immediately after I’ve posted this). I need to get together a 1-hour, ca. 25-30 page talk and I can’t quite decide what I should talk about. This is in part due to the fact that a) it is at this point increasingly difficult for me to tell which parts of my diss people might be interested in and b) whatever part I choose, I will have to cut it substantially and therefore be again confronted with the question which parts are the most interesting ones and which ones I should cut. My dissertation is sadly not  a traditional one, since it is not separated into what you would consider clearly separate chapters. It is more of a large, complex logical argument for a new hermeneutic system for the study of contemporary culture and of postmodernism (which I argue are significantly different), which develops over the progress of the chapters. It is hence difficult to select a section for a talk without summarizing all previous chapters (and I cannot use chapter one, since writing sample and job talk have to be different). Eh, it’ll work out somehow.

Other than that there is not much new stuff to report. I have to get a haircut today (and possibly shave off that big beard I’ve been growing as an index of my hermit existence) and I need to start figuring out what to wear (I will actually have to wear a suit etc.–yuck–well, I got some nice ones earlier this summer).  I hope that I will have made substantial progress on the talk by tonight, so that I’ll be able to leave the house for at least a little while to go see the Boystown Halloween Parade (which will be on Halsted, hence only a block away from my house)–I hear it’s, well, fabulous!

A propos Halloween. I actually decided to leave the house on Saturday night for a Spanish department Halloween costume party. My friends and I decided to get up early, worked away as long as we could, then met at a coffee shop to figure out our costumes. The costume store we went to gave us nothing, really. Just a lot of slutty costumes for girls who decide to fight sexual repression for one day a year and jump on the chance to look like hookers in training and a lot of lame (mostly overly masculine) costumes for men. Even Bakhtin would be sad to see the US-carnivalesque deteriorate into simply a low-budget softcore porno for a nation of otherwise sexually and morally repressed people. In any case, the store did not have what we were looking for and the Spanish Inquisition idea turned out to be too expensive. Hence, we decided to have a pow-wow over the greasiest Chicago beef we’ve had in a long time. Result of brainstorming: we’ll dress up as Sigmund Freud, carry a Slip n’ Slide and hence be a bunch of Freudian slips. We figured that way we would at least win the prize for the lamest, most grad-student-y costume (which everyone else either greets with: “what???” or “Oh, my God” followed by shaking of the head that simultaneously expresses disgust and pity). Actually, the initial plan also included a different costume for our vertically challenged (i.e. short), Italian friend Eugenio, who, we thought, was perfectly suited to dress up as objet petit a. Sadly, he did not share our excitement about this possibility. But, long story short, we dressed up as Freudian slips, which sadly excluded the Slip n’ Slide (turns out, they are quite difficult to find in the fall/winter), which was replaced with actual women’s slips we decided to wear (nice satin/lace combination). Despite the fact that they were very comfortable and we got a lot of support from the people in Boystown (which is where the party was), wearing short, satin-y women’s underwear turned out to be quite cold in all the wrong places, but then that’s probably just one of the many potential problems you’ll face when you dress up as Freud in women’s underwear. (Oh, I just remembered, as the night progressed we also developed a dance that included a burlesque-show component of Freud meets Trotsky–“we will bring your perrrrmanent rrrrevolutionnnn.”–but that is something I should probably not describe in too much detail.)

Ok, back to job talk. Freutsky out.

Day 257: Mongolian Death Worm V. 2.0

Ok. I’m going to quickly come up for air here. Finishing and sending out applications number 23-28 today (if all goes well). Then will have to devote every free minute to my upcoming job talk (next Friday), which, as of yet, (euphemistically put) exists only in a rather postmodern state. But much like postmodernism had to find out, this kind of state of affairs does not actually provide what we could stably define as jouissance. Hence: gotta finish that sucker (i.e. clean up/make cohere/arrange in a linear narrative). To that end, I need to find a good picture of the Mongolian Death Worm. Also, I need to find a good map of the internet, as well as an old map that still shows the Buenaventura River (a river that did not really exist but was included in maps for quite a long time because people so desperately wanted it to exist). I like maps that clearly show that we do not in fact map our environment but instead the desiring structures (and consequently the forms of consciousness) via which we articulate our existence to what essentially reveals itself to be the simulation of a simulation (i.e. what B. calls a simulacrum of the second order). In other words, maps of the internet’s terra incognita function ideologically much like the persistent circulation of maps featuring the Buenaventura River or Native American rain dances (or tarot readings). Also, I discovered a way to summarize the first three chapters of my dissertation using only emoticons. I figure this way I can text-message my writing samples now and save some trees (since I like trees, as you may remember from previous posts). Ok, seems like I need coffee (had to pull two all-nighters in the last five days). Today is the weirdest day since yesterday.

Oh–here a picture of the Mongolian Death Worm:


Day 254: Online Backup

Sending out lots of application and preparing my job talk for next Friday. Also, took my students on a field trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art last night. Good times. Saw the “Collection Highlights”–part of MCA’s 40 year celebration. Took pages and pages of notes–fantastic(!) stuff in the collection (may have to write about it at some point). Lectured as we walked through the museum and at some point realized that people kept joining our little tour (old couples, whom, despite my tired brain yesterday, I identified at some point as non-students–“Hey, you’re not in my class, are you?” “No, is that ok?” “Yeah, what the hell.”)–so I couldn’t stop lecturing at that point (and no one even tipped me 🙂 ). In any case, I haven’t had a lot of time for anything else, including blogging. Today, thus, a post that is actually more a question to all of you than a proper post:

can anyone recommend a decent, safe, free, unproblematic online backup service?

I am getting too paranoid about losing my diss and buying and hiding memory sticks makes me feel too much like a digital squirrel preparing for winter. I know there is ibackup, that MSN has some free service and that google may be offering similar online space. Again, I don’t need much, so the space offered by any of the free sites will most likely not be an issue. I just want my baby to be safely tucked away, so I can sleep again at night. Any suggestions, warnings, etc.?

Day 250: No Country for Old Men

I have no idea why I haven’t heard about this before: The Coen brothers directed an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men (limited: November 9, wide: November 21). I am slightly scared to see the outcome of this gutsy project.

Personally, I don’t think the novel lends itself well to filmic adaptations. The outcome will doubtlessly focus more on the actual action of the novel than the psychological struggles, the political backdrop of immigration and globalization, which is juxtaposed with traditional US values, morals and narratives and the philosophical conflicts contained in the interaction between the characters–or so I fear. Maybe it is just because I am actually writing about the novel in my dissertation and fear that too many hack critics will write crappy CS criticism about the movie I will have to deal with when revising the dissertation for a publisher later on. In any case, the novel is fantastic. Especially memorable scenes include the final encounter between Chigurh and Llewelyn’s wife, in which Chigurh explains in painstaking detail the reasons that require him to kill her. In the novel this is a long, drawn-out scene that contains a very complicated argument regarding the attachment to universalizing teleologies, an argument that runs through the entire novel via the intersected passages that reflect the thoughts of the Sheriff on the “new world,” which is simply no country for old men. McCarthy’s novel, however, illustrates to us the pervasiveness of those desiring structures that are clearly outdated, but which at the same time appear to be difficult to supersede. Many of us, so McCarthy, are old men in a country that seems to travel faster through history than we appear to be able to.

Let’s hope the Coen brothers are able to at least capture a part of McCarthy’s extraordinarily sentitive and insightful exploration of the present US psyche.

Here a trailer:

Day 249: Sleepless in Chicago

Damn, I’m tired. Had to pull an all-nighter to catch up on writing, grading and applications. Am exhausted. Will go to the Überstein Hofbräuhaus with a friend later tonight to unwind. Yes, that’s right! Überstein. Seems appropriate: I’m über-tired and definitely have an itch for stress-escapism by getting über-drunk (which, considering the amount of work that needs to get done tomorrow, is not a possbility).

Be that as it may, contrary to what Robert Frost may claim, fall (not spring) seems to be the mischief in me: there is a job opening at Regent University. Do you think I should apply? There certainly is lots of “über” at that place (not the good kind, though). I wonder if I can put a notion in their heads. But, über-Pat probably, “moves in darkness as it seems to me // Not of woods only and the shade of trees. // He will not go behind his father’s saying…”


Day 248: Blackle

Today, a recycled, or a parasite post, if you will. I have to do a lot of work and additionally actually send out the first three applications. Still, it doesn’t feel like the actual serious stage has begun yet and these applications applications feel more like trial runs (since they are for visiting assistant prof. positions, which I would only be willing to consider, if I got nothing else). But I am sure this attitude will change quickly, once I actually find myself walking to the post office with an application for a job at a very intimidating program in my hand (which will happen for the first time on Friday). Oh: I got really fancy paper and envelopes for CV, cover letter, diss. precis and teaching philosophy (the writing sample will still be on regular paper)–that stuff is expensive! If you are going on the academic job market next year, here one practical suggestion: put aside a serious chunk of money! Adding together postage (I am sending priority with delivery confirmation), stationary, toner cartriges, online dossier services, alcohol and pain killers, the academic job market can become a pricy undertaking quite quickly. It may not be exaggerated to calculate about $10-15 min. for each school you will be applying to–and there will (hopefully) be a bunch (especially, if you are also considering post-docs, etc.)–and this is a calculation excluding pill-popping and beer you can cry into at night.

As for today’s post: it is something I saw on the site of fellow SCTer Nirmal, who is fighting the good fight over in Boston. Suggestion: a black version of Google would save 750 megawatt-hours a year. You can find a detailed explanation of this here. You can find a black model of Google (called “Blackle”) here.

I’ve been using black or at least really dark templates for my mail accounts for a while now (as well as for the customizable pages, online blackboard sites for my courses, etc.), but I mainly did it for aesthetic reasons–it seems less harsh in the morning and gently eases me into a day of work that initially appears less scary this way. Good to know that this also has an environmental purpose.

Day 245: Colbert Amok

Today is a busy writing day (well, yes,  I admit it: I will have the game on on the side and enjoy writing a lot more while it is accompanied by the sweet sound of the Bears crushing the Vikings). I have also wanted to go see a few new movies for a while now. There a LOTS I would like to see (including a few zombie and vampire flicks I STILL could not make it to–is 30 Days of Night out yet?), but the ones that really bug me, because I haven’t had the time or the proper persuasion by a second person to leave my work for a few hours, are Into the Wild, The Darjeeling Limited and The Assassination of Jesse James… . In any case, I don’t have much time for, well, anything, really and will thus simply post this link to a very funny op-ed column in today’s NY Times (Steven Colbert writing Maureen Dowd’s column–which, I must say, is a change the NY Times should consider making permanent–not necessarily because of Colbert–mostly because of Dowd–well, that’s unfair–she actually wrote a great piece on regressive sexual politics a while ago–but still–actually, the more pressing issue would be to finally replace Thomas Friedman–maybe with a parrot who constantly repeats: “the world is flat, globalization is opportunity, outsourcing makes for cultural diversity and great anecdotes…”–but I’m rambling…). Here the article: