Blog Re-Launch Extravaganza (or something…)

I am currently considering re-launching this blog. I am, however, not yet sure whether or not I should change its content, layout, aim, …

The simple reason for returning to blogging is: I have time again. The last few months were crazy and only now are things beginning to calm down at least somewhat (well, maybe in 2 weeks I can really say that and actually mean it). I finished my Ph.D., I got a job, I moved to Canada (I drove a truck up here from Chicago–took me all of three days, 1750 miles and did things to my body that scared me a little bit), I live in a house in the woods, I go swimming in the ocean in the evenings, I read and write a lot and I just agreed to function as committee director for a student who wants to write her thesis on the Beats.

So, I will probably be unable to post daily, but I am hell-bent on getting back to this. Hope you’re all well. I’ll talk to you all soon.

Day 400: Thank You

As the process of writing my dissertation nears its end, it may be time to begin thanking those persons and institutions who made the whole process possible, bearable and occasionally even fun. Today, I would like to thank Chicago’s fantastic indie coffee houses. You have given me much joy, necessary caffeine, free wi-fi and a psychologically healthy work atmosphere for a long time now. You indiscriminately house the masses of poor graduate students and allow them to be “social” (i.e. fight isolation by having a common workspace), provide them with a living room (since most of us live in studio apartments) and in certain cases even feed us for free by giving away day-olds at closing time (at which point it is VERY clear that only grad students are left in the building). So, my thanks today go out to: Intelligentsia (on Broadway–used to be indie at least, still kinda is, but definitely has the best coffee), Dollop (a fantastic place with good coffee, good people and a great atmosphere for studying), Pick Me Up (not as great if you’re in it for the long haul in terms of studying, but good and cheap food), The Fixx, Filter (at least back in the day when you could still smoke there) and, of course, my current home Noble Tree (which is where I am writing this post while enjoying a large glass of Metropolis dark roast–aaahh…). In fact, here is a short segment on Noble Tree Coffee & Tea that was recently featured on Metromix TV (you can see me working a few times and my friend Eugene was even talked into commenting on their coffee/food). You can also see the video on Noble Tree’s chronology site:

Day 357: New Computer

Last week, I forget when, but I think it was Wednesday or Thursday night, my notebook crashed. I tried to fix as much as I could with my limited knowledge of computers (erase potentially bad drivers to fix the blue screen crashes, run a system restore, etc. ) but to no avail. I took it to a computer repair place down the street the next day and they promised me to fix it within 24 hours. Oh, that means I must have taken it in Thursday, since I needed it back by Friday (I was supposed to give a practice job talk for my committee at 2 p.m. on Friday). Of course, it turned out that the problem could not be fixed (which meant that my job talk had to do without the pictures and videos I had intended to include). Ultimate diagnosis of the status of my notebook: completely fried! Apparently, it overheated and literally fried my entire harddrive. Hence, for the last few days I have been running around sans computer and have to say that I have not felt this helpless and unproductive in years (no internet and not even a word processor that would allow me write and correct my job talk/handout). The technological overkill has brought us a terrible beauty, indeed.

Long story short: I had to buy a new computer (I bought a really basic notebook for now and hope to be able to buy a nicer Mac once I have more money in my account–should that ever happen). Positive effect: I finally have an English operating system and version of office (which means that I, too, can from now on outsource much of the spell-checking process to regions outside of my brain). Negatives: I have to get used to a qwerty keyboard, which is not a big deal, and I am still hoping that my files from my old computer can be recovered somehow, which IS a big deal (I did not back up my music and pictures–big mistake). Luckily, the nice people at the shop were able to rescue most of my dissertation (which, of course, I had backed up 300 times anyway).

All in all, I am happy to be able to write again (even though Word 2007 still weirds me out a little).

Day 352: Things Are Happening

I can’t really talk about what specifically is happening, since I don’t want to jinx it, but there may be at least a little bit of excitement in the future for me.

Other than that I am writing a lot–an article I am hoping to turn in by the end of this week, as well as dissertation stuff (putting the finishing touches on the first few chapters).

Giuliani and Edwards dropped out of the presidential race today.

The temperature here in Chicago dropped over 50 degrees in 9 hours yesterday (one of the most significant drops in temperature ever–we were below zero this morning and are still only slightly above that mark with windchills reaching minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit). I stupidly did not check on the weather online, so I left the house with a light jacket (and without any gloves, hat, scarf, decent shoes,…) when it was still in the upper 30s. After sitting in a coffee shop working for about 6 hours, I wanted to walk home last night at about 10 p.m. only to find that the outside had radically changed without letting the inside know and without asking it for permission. What I encountered when leaving the coffee shop was the most severe snowstorm of the season and the effect of the above-described temperature drop. Awesome! Consequently, the 20 minute walk home was accompanied by insane laughter on my part for the last 5 minutes, since I was honestly as cold as never before–ridiculously so. Result: I actually got pretty serious frostbite on my hands (which I used to periodically cover my face in order to keep the wind-induced tears in my eyes from freezing) and on my ears, which have already begun to peel. But I am not complaining. This is exactly why I love Chicago. Who wants to live in one of those entropic states where every day is the same with a stable temperature of 78 degrees?

Day 326: Back Again and Almost Sober

Yes, I have re-emerged from the swamp of self-pity and alcohol abuse I was caught in for about a month (which climaxed spectacularly over the course of Christmas, which I exclusively spent with myself, the movie theater, bars, beer, shots, and, for good measure, the occasional Irish car bomb) and have entered the (ironically quite Bruce Willis-ean “with a vengeance”) “fuck it, I’ll keep working my ass off and show you what you passed up” stage. The last I have to say about what transpired in the last two to three months is this: you thought 2 girls 1 cup was disturbing and emotionally scarring? Try 400 Ph.D.s 1 job! You can catch it annually at the MLA convention.

As far as blogging is concerned, this site will from now on return to its roots and accompany me in the next three to four months as I finish revising/writing the last two chapters of my dissertation (we are at the moment looking at 8 chapters, excluding intro and conclusion, of which about 6 1/2 exist in more or less completed stages). Concretely, this means that I will not be posting about whiny job market and personal life shite any more (part of the elaborate process of repression I have developed in order to replace perpetual inebriation–for practical reasons: it’s a lot cheaper) and will instead return to posts on (critical) theory and contemporary issues in literary/cultural studies.

hope everyone’s well out there and had a good start into the new year–cheers,


Day 306: Bad Ideas

Bad Idea 1:

you decide to base your carreer decision not on concerns such as money, potential for fame, or marketability in social situations/pick-up lines in bars, but you go with your conscience and make an entirely ideological/idealistic decision. Hence, you choose academia and a life of the intellect, which you try to justify and desublimate from its lofty realm of what to MBAs appears to be splendid isolation from reality by formulating massive counter-interpellation based on the attempt to revive ideals such as critical thinking and social justice as the ultimate goal of your life. Thus far this seems like a good idea. What transforms it into a bad idea, however, is that the corporate university is being restructured in a way that it will be almost impossible to actually find a job that will allow you to do all these things. Becoming an assistant professor in marketing, engineering, biology… : easy. Becoming an assistant professor in the humanities: not that easy. Result: you train for the day that you will be able to start a carreer and make all your goals a reality and are then forced to sell out on alternative job markets, because capitalism quite paternalistically bars access to your object cause of enjoyment (which is not so much deferred as it is rendered illusory).

Bad Idea 2:

There are a few remaining jobs in academia for humanities professors each year, i.e. there is a slight chance of getting a job. In the field of English, choosing to specialize in composition and rhetoric (i.e. jobs in “writing across the capitalist curriculum” and “neoliberal service learning”), 18th and 19th century literature, etc. = good idea. Choosing to specialize in 20th/21st century literature, combined with a rigorous commitment to critical theory (however, not to deconstruction and poststructuralist postcolonial studies) and American Studies = bad idea. Just in case you were wondering, the chances of getting a job in this field are, depending on the position, between 250:1 and 350:1. Buying a sratch-off, low-win lottery ticket for each application you send out is therefore a good idea. If you get a job you’ll also win a few thousand bucks.

Bad Idea 3:

There is a German saying that says that sharing your pain with others means that you will only have to deal with half the pain. This may generally be a good idea and therapeutic to some degree. If, however, the only people you can share your pain with are living through the same pain, this turns into a bad idea. The equation in this case changes to: shared pain creates a closed set/system that escalates until everyone in the system reaches a state of emotional death, therefore consolidating the entropic equilibrium of disillusionment indicative of the closed system of the pool of humanities Ph.D.s on the job market.

Bad Idea 4:

Attempting to hold on to Oedipal, binary definitions of subjectivity meant to stabilize your emotional constitution. All such attempts will eventually reveal themselves as merely temporally stable, hence Oedipalism in the end also loses to the inevitability of job-market-induced entropy. An example: I had my mock job talk on Thursday (which went relatively well). After the talk I ran into a colleague who was waiting for his turn. My job talk had ended with the usual combination of encouragement and devastation (professors telling you that “you have a fantastic project and you will definitely be a professor–maybe not this year, but eventually–you know, it just such a crapshoot”) and I thus left the room caught in the usual combination of elation and utter depression. This mood, however, immediately changed upon seeing my colleague: haggard, shifty, his eyes barely able to look away from his feet that constantly, nervously and poignantly moved in place, he asked me: “so, have YOU heard anything? Have you gotten any calls?” “No,” I replied, then quickly adding, “but they just told me it’s still early. Most calls won’t go out until the 17th this year. There is still hope.” “Whatever,” he replied, surprisingly loudly, for a brief moment of strangely energetic spinal erection casting off that rock that up until that moment seemed to have weighed him down, “I can’t wait that long. I’m going nuts, man. Every time the phone rings I sprint across my apartment, knocking over all kinds of shit, just to find out that it’s someone else again. I don’t think I can last until the end of next week. I’m ready to walk into traffic, man.” That last sentences was followed by a nervous, desperate chuckle and the return to his previous habitus, that was simultaneously reminiscent of a Morbus Bechterew patient and an old rubber boat leaned against the side of a wall that was just punctured by the pocket knife of the small town’s richest family’s snotty 8-year-old. Thus, looking into his eyes that quickly returned to staring at his feet as if in a desperate attempt to hold on to the last remnant of a quickly fading idea of the potential for positive progress and movement into the future, I knew he was serious. The bad idea on my part was this: I felt strangely proud of myself for keeping it together so well, for not yet succumbing to complete depression, for dealing with this insane stress and existential insecurity so rationally. This was the binary I attempted to construct and hold on to. Turns out, however, that there was no binary, just temporality. Turns out he was just one day ahead of me.

Out of solutions, not even repression working any more at this point, the possibility of distraction by focusing on the insane amount of work I have before me (first grading then writing) disappearing increasingly, bad ideas appear to be all that remains at this point: heavy nightly drinking, followed by Tylenol PM to get to sleep, aspirin, a vitamin pill and coffee to clear the head for work in the morning…lather, rinse, repeat until head feels less/completely numb.

I managed not to smoke again, though.

Day 279: No Underwear

After a few weeks that were very busy again (and after another weekend spent at a conference–this time here at UIC) I took a close look at my apartment today, something I haven’t done in a long time. Result: I really need to do some cleaning and a LOT of laundry (since it is getting too cold here to keep going commando). After this conference, I was actually looking forward to having some time for other kinds of writing again (i.e. an article I have to finish, as well as further revisions to my dissertation). It seems, though, that I will first have to devote some time to housekeeping and grocery shopping (which will probably also be good for my health, since pizza by the slice and other forms of takeout, the only food I have been eating for the last few weeks, probably does not contain the nutrients my body needs at this point).

Quick report on this conference: my argument that biopolitics is an analytical paradigm utterly unsuited for the analysis of contemporary power structures (and the ways they are exercised) did not keep people from giving papers on contemporary power/political issues that were based on an uncritical use of this very concept, there were some scary talks fetishizing empiricism and reducing issues of power in governmental information gathering to a problem of trust and informed consent, and some male participants insisted on being referred to as “she” (which I sadly could not consider as revolutionary an act as I was apparently supposed to). Overall, it was a good conference, however annoying the overall praise of a politics of diversity may have been (which too many people still seems to think results in some form of liberation, not realizing that it is actually the politics of neoliberalism).

I will now go grocery shopping and buy some healthy things that will hopefully help me finally get over my cold, which, per Anna’s suggestion (my favorite this far), means: brandy. cheers y’all