Day 299: I’m Sorry

I know I’ve been increasingly digitally (as well as physically) anti-social for the last, well, weeks and months, actually. My thoughts are just completely colonized by job market and writing issues and this to the extent that I am finding it hard to sleep at night. This week I’ve in fact been trying to contact Sam Elliott, asking him to read me Cormac McCarthy novels to help me fall asleep (which seems like one of the most effective forms of relaxation to me–it’s a voice thing). Alas, it seems as though this plan will not work out. He’s busy with some movie.

Apart from harassing actors, I am currently trying to write an article on 9/11, the desiring structures the event produced and their effect on contemporary cultural production. I also gave my first finals this week and have to grade them along with my first stack of final papers (I’ll be getting more next week–those that are still in preparation will probably be sent to me in draft form over the weekend for comments and suggestions, so I’ll have to do a round of pre-grading as well). Additionally, I have to start working on two other writing projects, which I may initially have to put on the back burner for a while, since I have my departmental mock job interview on Thursday. Our department sets these up to prepare us for the real thing. They assemble a committee that will simulate real conditions (or ideally, conditions that are tougher than that). Fun fact about my committee: one of the members will be Gerald Graff. Despite the fact that this scares me somewhat, I figure if I am able to do half way well in the eyes of the actual PRESIDENT of the MLA,  the actual MLA interviews should not freak me out too much any more, right?

Ok, that’s about it for now. I’ll try to be better about posting in the future–the overall pace of my life surely has to slow down sometime and leave me room for posting etc. again, no?


Day 280: Beard or No Beard?

I need some input on physical appearance in the context of academic job interviews, videlicet (I guess in the US you say viz) facial hair. I am contemplating shaving off my beard. What began as an exercise in laziness now has taken on experimental forms and I do want to see how long I can grow it. However, I am getting mixed reactions on my beard (including from myself). I personally find it rather annoying, except for the times I go running by the lake (makes my face warmer, which is important when running in Chicago) and when I want to be cozy (old jeans, flannel shirts, a book and, well, my beard as face blanket). Then, I heard that beards are all the rage for Hipsters at the moment (guess I haven’t been over in Wicker Park in a while). Some of my students told me they liked it, but then those students also live in Wicker Park. At the conference this weekend, someone told me that I looked like an 18th century German thinker with the beard while giving my talk, which, I believe, is in the US still an insult (regarding the difficulty of Hegel’s Phenomenology and such–which was technically published in 1807–but I think the remark was intended to go into the Hegelian/Marxian, hence 19th century, rather than into a Kantian, direction–actually, I have no idea, if Kant had spectacular facial hair at some point). So: I cannot really decide and figured I would make my decision contingent upon the job market.

Should I get some interviews, I wonder if beardless, or very beardfull would be the better way to go. Do schools want young and fresh (i.e. cleanly shaven), or serious and contemplative (i.e. bushy bearded). I guess it depends on the school–for some traditional programs I should probably add a pipe to the beard and for other schools I should shave and show off some of my tattoos (well, actually that may not be the case except for two schools I am applying to that do VERY non-traditional stuff).

So, I may just defer to the majority. Any suggestions: beard or no beard for the job market?

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

Day 275: Another Conference

Last week’s conference went relatively well. The presentations on the panels I organized turned out to be very interesting, the people were nice, and I actually got some valuable feedback on my own presentation. No rest for the wicked, though, as the next conference is coming up this weekend. I will be giving a presentation and moderating a panel on Friday, which means that I should really get my talk together. This, however, is being complicated by two things: 1) I am still sick as a dog (whenever I begin to feel better, I have to pull an all-nighter, or spend a few days with only three or four hours of sleep per night and the flu comes back because my body seems to be too tired to kick it out completely) and 2) I am beginning to wonder if giving a paper on the end of biopolitics (as a valuable/contemporarily suitable hermeneutic principle) was the best choice for a paper at a conference where biopolitics is the dominant analytical paradigm (the Project Biocultures conference). But then again, the organizers felt they should include my paper, so I guess I should not worry about this too much. Upside: it is rather unlikely that no one will want to ask questions/have comments after the talk.

Other than that there is really not much new to report that does not revolve around my efforts to get rid of my cold (I am taking vitamins, airborne, drink lots of fluids, and even eat fruit (yes, fruit–me!), but I still seem to be unable to get healthy–I have been trying to do things my sports coaches would have advised me to do back in the day, hence I tried to “run it out” by the lake for the last three days, but surprisingly this did not work either–I may try rubbing some dirt on it a little later, usually a coach’s second universal remedy.).

Day 268: On the Road

Hmm…I haven’t read that in a while. Not a bad novel, especially in those times during which you are confined to your room/notebook and dream of roadtrips (maybe not always of the Kerouacian kind, though).

I will be on the road beginning tomorrow. However, this will be less of a fun road trip than a hectic drive to Cleveland, where I will be presenting a paper at this year’s M/MLA conference, an activity that needs to be done but for which I really do not have time at this point. Today I sent out applications number 45-49, put together and sent out a panel proposal for next year’s ALA conference, graded some papers, and tried to figure out what to talk about at the conference. (Well, I just started that, got frustrated and stopped. I actually had to look up the title and abstract I submitted about half a year ago and realized that I would have to do some serious cutting/pasting to cut down the relevant paper to conference length–I may in fact just put down some bullet points and give a free presentation–it’s not like I haven’t memorized every word and logical structure/argument of the stuff that has robbed me of many nights of sleep throughout the past few months/years). The two panels I organized revolve around literary realism. I anticipate arriving at the conference along with two colleagues completely deprived of sleep, overcaffeinated, slightly ill, and with the insane smiles of desperation in our faces that are so characteristic of our current situation:  doesn’t get any more real than this.

Wow: ever realize how whiny we grad students are? How annoying–seriously, it’s not like we’re coalminers! Hence, I will stop complaining (even though I ran out of coffee and nobody feels my pain, but whatever) and get back to my conference talk writing process (accompanied by Nine Inch Nails remixes of Enigma songs–very strange stuff and I usually don’t work well with background music/TV, but I have to replace the missing coffee somehow.) What would Charles Bronson do, I wonder? Punch my conference paper in the nuts, maybe? Where are the simple, Bronsonian solutions these days? Oh, wait, they are being monopolized by the Republican Party. Sorry, I forgot.

Day 266: Eh…

…is really the expression that summarizes my present state of mind. The job talk was, well, ok, but I was still pretty unhappy with it. I am telling myself that I treated it as a practice talk and thus included a bunch of things I wanted to try out, but the fact that this made it into a far less polished talk than I would have preferred to give still annoyed me. I did get a lot of really valuable feedback and know what I have to do in order to produce an effective final product, but I still always hate to intentionally present works in progress–seriously: HATE it. The negative effect of this is that I spent pretty much all day Saturday being angry at myself and dwelling on the shortcomings (a number of which were expected and even planned, as part of the whole “trying things out and seeing what works” plan). Still, I am not very good at dealing with presenting work that underwhelms myself.

Additionally, I got sick in Saturday and spent the last two days in bed trying to get rid of my fever (I gave the talk heavily medicated and thus did not feel it as much on Friday, but it really hit me Saturday morning). The fact that a window in my apartment is still broken and won’t close (which my landlord promised to fix weeks ago), which makes it ridiculously cold in here, does not help that situation. But, I got some vitamins, rested on Saturday and began doing work again yesterday afternoon as part of my attempt to tell my body to suck it up. Seriously–what’s the point of quitting smoking, if you get sick anyway?

Hence, I don’t really have much else to report. Oh, the ray of light in all this may be the series of funny comments I am getting on an old post I put up in February (on Angelina Jolie and the filmic adaptation of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged). Shockingly enough (in more than one way), this post still brings me a lot of traffic and the occasional entertaining comment. For your personal enjoyment, you can find it here.

Day 263: It’s Job Talk Day

Yes, the day of the (departmental/practice) job talk is here. It is almost done (I have to do some last minute editing) and it may not be all bad. I have been crying a lot, since I wasn’t able to fit in a lot of cool stuff I wanted to talk about. Also, my skin is irritatingly dry. Sadly, I found that I get really good ideas under the shower–and I was in need of lots of good ideas. I also had to cut out all movie clips, photographs, music, etc., which is especially disappointing, since I really wanted to justify ending the title of my talk in “…Extravaganza 3000.” I only have some transparancies, which would call for something more like “…Extravaganza (not so much) 1973.” So I decided to drop that part of the title. Anyhow, I gotta get back to the revising and then figure out what to wear (I’m color blind, so this could end up being the “extravaganza” part of my talk). Oooooh, the anxiety.