Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Getting back on the horse

I've been avoiding my blog for a few weeks now. Mostly this is because of an embarassing run-in with the folks at The Valve. I'm still too embarrassed to write about it, or really, even think about it. Suffice it to say Margo learned her lesson about criticizing smart kids' sites, and about participating on said sites after criticizing them. Good lord, it was ugly. My heart still sinks when I think about it.

But life goes on, even if the blog does not. I'm finishing up the second half of the antepenultimate week of the quarter and then, with the exception of some days doing summer advising, and some random meetings here and there, I'm on research leave until next January.

Good things in my life right now:
1. Following a colleague's example (and, actually, Profgrrl's) I've started dragging myself out of bed early in the morning and going to the gym before I do anything else. The great part about this is that I'm just as tired at the end of the day as if I hadn't already worked out, but because I have, I get to have this great conversation with myself as I leave school: "I should really go to the gym, but I'm so tired. But wait, I already WENT to the gym."

2. I got elected to a one-year term as alternate to the faculty council, which means I get to sit on the most powerful faculty committee (be that as it may), and watch and listen and learn as the big kids wheel and deal. As alternate I get to go to the meetings and sit at the table, (and I mean that, literally. It's an open meeting, but faculty who aren't on the council must sit off to the sides) but I won't be expected to serve on sub-committees.

3. Summer research funds are coming next month. Enough said.

4. SUMMER is coming next month.

5a. Total teaching bliss: I'm teaching Willa Cather's The Song of the Lark this week, which chronicles the rise of a Wagnerian diva, which means I get to do a mini-lesson on Wagner. I always enjoy that, but this time around, the class discussions coincided with the opening weekend of Episode III and so the students are in an epic, musical motif-oriented state of mind. Plus, I think I've finally figured out how to deal with the dangerousness of Wagner's nationalism/anti-semitism. First of all, there's the oft-noted contemporary politics analogy of the film, which drives home the point that there is no such thing as "art for art's sake," and that the lust of a pure, originary narrative and a "simpler" aesthetics can slip into fascism pretty quickly.

5b. But also, this novel, more than any other text we've studied this quarter provides an opportunity to talk about the ethics of divadom. What does it mean to sacrifice everything for art? What does it mean to value discipline and individual acheivement over everything else? And even as this pushes us towards a possible refutation of the diva as triumphant at the cost of any human connection, or as visible (as a woman and/or a racial or ethinc minority) in a way that doesn't actually do anything to raise the status or improve the lives of her community, only single her out as exceptional, it also brings us, as the last minutes of class tick by, to a clear vision of the diva as, above all, queer. Queer as in challenging every normative ideal of how a life should be lead, what should be valued, who it should be shared with.

6. I bought Season One of Arrested Development. This is a great show, and I'd fall for it no matter what, but because it's set in my hometown of Newport Beach, where they really do have frozen banana stands like the Bluth's (kind of a weird Balboa Island thing) it makes me happy, if a little homesick.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

One whole hour

I have an hour that's all mine, for the first time in I can't even remember how long. It's 6pm and I'm at school, where I've been since 10 this morning. I just finished my classes, and now I'm killing an hour before I go out to dinner with a colleague. She and I co-advise the student glbt club and it's election night, so we have to go to their 9pm meeting to count the votes. I know this makes me sound old, but 9pm is way too late.

The day started with a two hour faculty meeting where we sat around a table and really talked about our curriculum--what do we want for our students at the end of their majors, how do we make sure they get that, how do we organize the course sequencing so that we aren't repeating information or totally missing areas. I gotta say, I LOVE meetings like this. I like curriculum development and I love being in a program where I actually have a say in the curriculum, which is why I chose women's and gender studies over the English dept. And I love having colleagues who are all really into this--with only 8 or so of us, there isn't really room for apathy. So we talk about what works, what doesn't, what we wish we had done better, what we hope accomplish next etc. and it feels real, like it's really work, in the satisfying way you hoped it would when you read the Seventeen special job issue when you were a teenager and fantasized about what you would do with your life. (The hideous part is that I actually make just about what I thought my dream job would pay. That is, what I thought my dream job would pay in 1984.)

Today I feel like maybe this is a real place and a real career. I like what New Kid said about post-graduate conferencing. I actually haven't been to many conferences since I got my job, but I certainly went to a lot during grad school and my post doc (which is why I can hardly bring myself to go to them now) and I know the disempowered part of what she is saying. But these meetings, this conversing, this building/shaping/reshaping a program is good stuff. Which is not to say that we all agree or that people don't say dumb things or that some people don't take way too long to say simple things. But if I have to have a job, I like this one today. A lot.

Classes were cakey: in one class I showed Real Women Have Curves and in the other, the diva class, we had student presentations on Celia Cruz, Josephine Baker, and Bjork, all of which were really good--informative, but also highly analytical. And any day which includes an in-depth discussion of Celia Cruz's wigs is a good day, right?

So now I only have 45 minutes left. Should I file those papers that have been sitting on top of my filing cabinet since the fall? Should I grade that stack of quizzes? Should I comment on student project proposals? Should I look at real estate I can't afford on Craig's List? Or should I take out my contacts and crawl under my desk for a quick nap?

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Stuck in the Middle of Spring Quarter with No End in Sight Blues

So many of the academic blogs I read are gleefully reporting their end of the semester rituals. Only four more papers to go, one more conference, two more college meetings, etc.

I'm on the quarter system and though we're halfway through the last quarter, that still leaves four more weeks. Fall is great: teach ten weeks, get six off. But then we pay and pay and pay: twenty weeks of teaching with one measly little week in between, during which time we finish grading one quarter and hastily write our syllabi for the next.

On top of that, I don't think I've ever had more meetings in my life than I've had this quarter. Every week I have at least three. I'm on my way into school (on a Sunday) to meet with the lgtbi group I advise, making this the 7th day in a row I've had to go into school. Yeah, all day meeting yesterday as well.

And on top of that, my every other year formal review is due tomorrow. I should have had this last year, but my small liberal arts college within the larger university shut down and so my former dean said f**k that and now I have a new dean, a new chair, and a year past due review. Yummy. I've spent any time not in meetings copying evaluations, trying to remember what committees I've served on, and writing it all up in a way-too-long report. Yes, I know this wouldn't have been so hard if I had been more organized all along. Next time, I promise.

So I'm tired and ragged and the very last thing on my list of things to do always ends up being lesson prep. Thank god I'm teaching familiar class and so can go on autopilot a little bit.

Now I'm late. And I can't find my dvd of All About Eve, which I'm teaching tomorrow. Friends, klatch, L-Word viewers: did I loan this to any of you?