Ancrene Wiseass

A would-be medievalist holds forth on academia, teaching, gender politics, blogging, pop culture, critters, and whatever else comes her way.

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Location: United States

Yes, this really is yet another blog by a disillusioned grad student. I sympathize, but that's just the way it has to be. For hints as to what my bizarre alias means, click here and here and, if needed, here and here. To get a sense of what I'm up to, feel free to check out the sections called "Toward a Wiseass Creed" and "Showings: Some Introductory Wiseassery" in my main blog's left-hand sidebar. Please be aware that spamming, harassing, or otherwise obnoxious comments will be deleted and traced.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

This is a very, very sad story.

I've just learned that fellow blogger and grad student Badger lost her young husband to terminal liver cancer on Monday. Badger has written eloquently about the horrors she and her family have had to face at the hands of our barbaric national health care system, as well as the incredible pain of watching her partner die, and many of us in the blogging community have been both angered and saddened by her situation. I'm feeling a lot of sorrow for her and her twelve-year-old son today.

Mary McKinney, a.k.a Academic Coach, has set up a PayPal account through which people can make contributions toward the absolutely astronomical medical costs Badger and her family have incurred. I imagine the funeral costs will not be inexpensive, either.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Because you got to represent, you know?

It's the weekend, so now I get to wear the new t-shirts that arrived from the CafePress "Geek" emporium this past week. This is most exciting, because, well, look at those shirts. They're awesome.

Best joke from the Geek shirts?

SITH happens.
If the thought of George Lucas didn't make me feel a bit ill, I might actually have bought one of those.

Second-best joke?

"Without geometry, life is pointless."
If the memory of high school Geometry didn't make me feel a bit ill, I might buy that one, too.

And any medievalist guys who happen to see this might want to check out the "I Shave with Occam's Razor" shirts. They're pretty cool. In fact, I reckon they'd be perfect for the (in)famous Kalamazoo conference dance.*

Speaking of which, since I can no longer wear the "Ancrene Wiseass" shirt without outing myself at K'zoo, I guess I'll have to get to work on the "Margery Has a Posse" one. And oh, yeah, I guess maybe I should send ICMS an abstract or something, too.


*And, may I just ask, why has nobody posted an ethnography of that event online? Do they make you take a Vow of Secrecy before you can enter the room? I wouldn't know--I haven't been yet.

The Plot Thickens

The Inanimate Object Conspiracy has managed to recruit my new rolling briefcase, which has promptly done (in two days) exactly what my old one had taken nearly a year to do: one of the wheels became misaligned and stuck. It would not budge, so I had to just give up and drag the danged thing behind me: this, of course, led to total wheel disintegration. This means I'm back to walking like Igor.

Honestly, the last thing I need is a rolling briefcase that actually offers resistance. Particularly in the midst of this heat wave and its attendant horrible air quality. It basically means that I always feel a little as though I'm dragging a 40-pound lead weight behind me through a polluted swamp; only the swamp has brick pathways through it that reflect the heat right back up at you.


I have located a discount luggage store via CitySearch (shout-out to the old employer, there) which apparently does repairs. I'm going to go tomorrow morning to see whether they can do anything with either this bag or the old one. And, if not, maybe I'll just have to buy a new one. Again.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Inanimate Object Conspiracy

It started yesterday morning, when every object I came across seemed to be working against me. The toaster burned my bread, a kamikaze tube of lipstick leapt out of my hands and dove straight for the bathroom trash can, my computer refused to make a pirated wireless connection, and a bus roared past the stop when I was a block away. Then printers failed to print, copiers spit out sad little parodies of the jobs I'd programmed, and doors refused to stay open as I went through them.

Today, they've gotten more aggressive: Computer keyboards are rearranging themselves under my fingers as I type and various pieces of furniture are continuously throwing themselves across my path to be walked into.

I suppose, of course, that some of this could have to do with a sleeping to waking hours ratio of approximately 1:5 and a consequent inability to operate reliably in the three-dimensional world. But I prefer to pretend that non-sentient stuff is out to get me. It's keeping me entertained while I wait for the real hallucinations to set in.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

If it's so predictable, why do I feel so unprepared?

Okay, so it's Week Three of the Nameless Summer Program. Hump Week. Hell Week. The week in which, like clockwork, every single year, a whole lotta students just kinda lose their shit. The pressure of the intensive coursework and the realization that, nope, people weren't just talking about how the work that'll be expected from them at Big City U. is both different and tougher than what they're used to combine to make smart, hardworking people completely freak out. They become convinced that (1) some or all of the instructors and tutors involved with the program are sadistic jackasses who're just messing with them and/or (2) that there's no way in hell they can possibly accomplish what they're being asked to accomplish.

Sometime around Week 4 or 5, most of these folks will realize that (1) we're all really on their side, or we wouldn't teach for Nameless Summer Program in the first place and (2) that just because they haven't done something before doesn't mean they can't do it now. And then they will start to chill out a bit and trust both themselves and us more.

But in the meantime? Well, it pretty much sucks monkey balls, 'cause people are slacking off, lashing out, or acting up left and right, and it feels a lot like trying to close a warped Tupperware lid: everytime you push down one side, another one pops up.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


My body is not happy with me today. Something about still trying to get over whatever viral entity took up residence in my innards, an inexplicable feeling that I always need to eat something RIGHT NOW that settled in yesterday afternoon, having a bizarre allergic reaction to God-knows-what that made my right eye swell up slightly and start watering at around 9:30 last night, falling asleep on the futon couch in my living room at about 11:00, and then waking up at 4:30am--only to realize that, rather than going to bed like a normal person, I had to get up and finish prepping for class--seems to have pissed it off slightly. The only nice thing I can say about waking up on the futon at 4:30 with my clothes from the previous day still on and all the living room lights blazing is that Mousie had jumped up there with me at some point and was nestled in just under my ribcage, and when I woke up, he started purring like mad. That was a nice good-morning.

Speaking of which little quadruped, he seems to have a hairball. Poor little guy. I've been doing less well with the brushing lately than I should have, so whatever he coughs up will look a lot like guilt to me. I'd worry about what it's remnants will look like to somebody else if the carpet hadn't been covered in stains since before I moved in anyway. Which reminds me that, whenever I get a chance to think about being domestic for more than five minutes together again, I really need to get somebody in to clean that carpet. (Yes, friends, this is what I'm reduced to: a fantasy life that includes visions of steam cleaners and enough time to brush my cat and glue my rickety patio chairs back together.)

I have no idea how I'm going to manage to force my abused personage into grading all my students' papers between now and 9am tomorrow, amid office hours and archiving hours and more class prep. And yet, that is precisely what has to happen.

And while I'm thinking about this, I'm also thinking about my student who's in the third trimester of her pregnancy and single-parenting her two-year-old while her husband's on duty with the military in Korea as she takes a full load of intensive summer prep classes. She didn't come in this morning, and I'm hoping she's okay and thinking what a slob I am not to be able to deal with grading some papers on time, juggling a few jobs, keeping my apartment from becoming a dump site, and brushing my cat every now and then. At least I don't have to deal with morning sickness, a husband in harm's way in another country, an hours-long daily commute, and a whole little person whose happiness depends on me. Honestly, I don't know how some of these folks do it. I really, really don't.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Things I have learned (or been reminded of)

1) Gatorade tastes a lot better than it used to. The grape and mango versions get a serious thumbs-up.
2) I am a needy little thing when I'm sick. And grumpy. I do not like being incapacitated, because it makes me scared. So I want somebody to tell me they love me and fuss over me and bring me stuff all the time. I suddenly become absolutely certain that I'm completely, existentially alone if I'm not getting somebody's attention whenever I happen to want it. It's pathetic, and knowing it's pathetic only makes me grumpier and needier.
3) I want a wife.*
4) Even having a low fever for three days in a row will tend to make a person temporarily incapable of simple acts like remembering her zip code and phone number. Which is terrifying.
5) At Big City U's student health care center, when given a choice among several unknown doctors and R.N.s, choose the R.N.s. They tend to be, on the whole, both more competent and more attentive than the doctors.
6) I may or may not have strep throat. The student health people are testing the lovely little swab sometime tomorrow morning, probably.
7) Icy Hot patches are, as I told Morgan (who turned me on to them last night) "the bomb-diggety." Who cares if you smell like an arthritic grandma? At least you can stop moving like one for a few hours.

*By the way, when I Googled to find the Judy Syfers essay I was referencing here, I found this first. Interesting.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Apparently, I'm reading the right book.

You are Neverwhere! You are dark, intriguing, and
lenient. You might make people feel
uncomfortable, either because you are
intimidating or you dress differently possibly
both. In reality you are a nice person, but
people tend to make snap judgments about you
and think they can push you around. You
probably are idealistic and dream of a utopian
society. The friends that you have are the kind
that last forever and you are fun and
easy-going when people bother to get to know

*~Which Neil Gaiman book are you?~*
brought to you by Quizilla

Yes, I really should be doing all the things that somehow need to get done before 9am tomorrow. But I'm sick and a little scared and grumpy and lonely and needy. So there.

As ye sow, so shall ye reap

And I have sowed waaaay the hell too much work and not enough sleep in the past week, so what I reaped was a really narsty sickness of some kind, starting Thursday night, but really settling in with a vengeance on Friday. We're talking about a fever that seems to increase from around mid-day to early evening, incredibly sore throat, body aches, chills, and now some truly vicious lower-back pain that appears (since a massage yesterday did bupkiss for it) to be non-muscular and therefore, potentially internal.


Let's just hope the generally incompetent folks at the generally inadequate student health service can figure out how to make me better tomorrow. Because the only way I could get someone to see me today would be to go to the ER, and I know what would happen then: six hours sitting (which is excruciating for me right now), then getting sent home with a $30 prescription and charged $250 for hospital fees.

Ain't our health care system just fantastic?

In addition to being grumped out about my health care non-coverage, I am also in mourning over have to miss out on a 5pm showing of "Wrath of Khan" today, because sitting through the whole movie is clearly an impossibility. Dammit!

Good things, however:

--Geek Boy is lovely and came over on both Friday and Saturday nights with DVDs to entertain me, despite the possibility of catching whatever version of the Plague I seem to have contracted. DVDs and snuggling are definitely good medicine.
--Boy Roomie is lovely and has promised to take my invalid ass to the grocery store later today.
--Mouse is, of course, always lovely, but he's also very happy with me, because I am home all the time now and he can jump into bed with me for hours at a time.
--My students are extra-lovely: when I couldn't come in on Friday and the Nameless Summer Program office didn't get my messages, my class decided to just run a discussion anyway, using the template I usually use. And they stayed the whole two hours without a break! How cool is that?

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Thank God, I've finally turned in grades for the class that ended last week. Now I can start sleeping more than three hours per night--at least for the foreseeable future. That's not to say that I won't still be up too late tonight: I still have to read the assignment I gave my students, make handouts, and figure out what to do during discussion. But I should be able to sleep for at least six hours if I play my cards right.

Which is good, because I definitely am coming down with a sore throat today.

Meanwhile, Geek Boy continues to behave himself just beautifully: he's calling every day to leave me goofy messages. Normally, I might be a teensy bit weirded out by this, because I'd have a hard time understanding why he was so eager. As it is, I figure I'm due, and I've decided I'm going to be just fine with it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I am totally wiped out

Post-teaching, post-errand-running, post-office-houring, post-emailing, post-archiving, I am so tired that I am not even capable of deciding whether I should take a nap in the grad lounge or force myself to walk the seemingly interminable distance to the bus and then the seemingly interminable distance from the bus stop to my apartment. I suspect I'll end up hoofing it, just because I don't trust myself not to sack out for about the next three hours and wake up when it's already dark outside, without coming one iota closer to having finished my grading.

I am so tired that I can't even manage to type very well: the neurons are just not firing fast enough for my fingers to get the messages from my brain in time, so I'm having to correct a truly insane number of errors in everything I type. Furthermore, I have achieved that level of exhaustion in which one becomes suddenly convinced that having thought things were going right in her life may have been somewhat delusional; that perhaps she is tempting fate to be pleased with much of anything. Fortunately, I have not yet achieved the level of exhaustion in which I am unaware that this feeling is, itself, delusional. But hey: Give it a few hours, and I'll probably get there.

Is this a good state of mind in which to be giving students grades? Um, no. I think not. And yet, it would appear that it's necessary.

Suddenly, I recall that I tended to go home and sleep for three or four hours most afternoons after teaching for the Nameless Summer Program and before re-awakening for a few hours to make dinner and lesson plans. I really wonder how I'm going to get through this summer, seeing as how I now have an afternoon job which will keep me from taking the nap.

I think I mentioned something a while back about having bitten off more than was chewable this summer?

Okay. I think I will need to head home and have a shower and some tea and hope that gives me enough of a second (or, more properly, third, fourth, or fifth) wind to at least finish grading the exams that remain to me, if not the essays.

This is why I dearly love teaching for the Nameless Summer Program

Okay, so I am running on less than three hours' sleep and have no idea how my grading and class planning is going to get done and can definitely see potential for an anxiety attack looming in the oh-so-near future.

And yet, as of yesterday, I am teaching again for my beloved Summer Program Which Shall Remain Nameless. Said summer program is oriented toward under-represented students, students from lower-income backgrounds, and those who are first-generation college students, and it's meant to give them a leg up on the school year they're about to start. It is, hands down, my absolute favorite thing about grad school that I get the chance to teach for this program every year. It is horrifically intense and intensive and time consuming and emotionally exhausting, and yet I look forward to being a part of it for all of the 10 1/2 months that I'm not teaching for it. Why?

Well, here are some examples of answers the students from this program gave to the question "Why are you here?"

--"Because I want to get my bachelor's degree and then go on to graduate school and eventually write my autobiography and make a killing."
--"Because I want to teach so I can help other people get here."
--"Because I want to go to law school so I can make things better."
--"Because I want to give my children a better life." (The woman who said this is, by the way, pregnant.)
--"Because I want to just stuff myself as full of learning as I possibly can while I'm still young."
--"Because I worked really, really hard to get here and I absolutely deserve it." (This one got a spontaneous round of applause.)

Let me assure you; these sorts of answers do not generally appear in response to this sort of question during the regular year and with the usual student population, which contains far too many spoiled entitlement junkies, just angling for their "A".

Seriously, these answers make me get a little teary-eyed. THIS is what it's supposed to be about. This is the stuff I'm here for.

Blessings be upon the Nameless Summer Program, which assures me, every year, that a collaborative, innovative, responsible, fully engaged, honest-to-God educational experience really is possible.

Monday, August 08, 2005

What's going on

Busy, busy days at Chez Wiseass. One class has ended (and grades are due within the next couple of days, God help me), another (which meets for two hours every day) has begun, and I'm still working in the archives, too. Oh, and there's that little matter of the dissertation prospectus (one portion of which is already overdue) looming in the background.

Meanwhile, despite all its stupidities, the world of online dating has yielded up one Geek Boy who not only has nice eyes and behaves himself, but also thinks my brain is "sexy" and gave me a stuffed Zombie Bunny on the second date. I am counting no chickens, but I will say that this is quite a pleasant turn of events, thus far.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Suggestions on Crusades Documentaries?

I'm getting ready to teach a summer course that will focus on "intercultural encounter in the Middle Ages," which will be a revision of a class I did last summer, so I'm looking to re-tool the syllabus a bit. One of the things I did last year was to show the class portions of Terry Jones's Crusades documentary series for background info. It's very useful (and very funny, as you'd imagine), but it's also pretty heavily skewed against the Crusaders. Now, believe me, I'm NOT a fan of the Crusades, but Jones's characterization of Europeans as essentially "barbarians" seems just as inaccurate, in its own way, as more traditional histories have tended to be.

I still want to use Jones's documentary this year, but I'd also really like to find a foil for it: a documentary that presents the material from a different angle, and not necessarily a very balanced one, either. In fact, I'd almost like to find a documentary in which there are at least some talking heads who seem to be making a bid to be "Crusader apologists:" I think that could open up some very lively, useful, and informative debate for the class.

Any suggestions?

And, of course, I'd be very pleased to have any other suggestions for readings/viewings that spring to mind more generally.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

More on the Dove Gals

Wendy McClure, so lately ballyhooed by this very blog, has written an op-ed piece in the Chicago Sun-Times (home of Uber-Jackasses Lucio Guerrero and Richard Roeper) on jackassy responses to the Dove campaign. Excerpt:

". . .These remarks aren't about being politically contrary; they're about something else. They expose the nasty inverse of 'the beauty standard,' which is the belief, held by some men, that women who don't look like fantasy material aren't just unworthy of their attention but are actually offensive, or even menacing. It's worth noting that none of the complainers goes so far as to call the Dove models ugly, yet they consider these women visual nuisances, annoying as litter, sour eye candy, gross.

It's a dirty little notion, and rarely is it ever this publicly expressed. The sheer entitlement behind it is usually a silent presence, perhaps even an unconscious one."

Meanwhile, good ol' Twisty Faster, spinster aunt and genius, points out (in two posts) another aspect of these ads: the women portrayed here are still "conventionally pretty," express some truly gag-worthy, uber-chipper sentiments ("I feel beautiful whenever I keep a positive attitude!"), and are, indeed, hawking a firming cream that "will give you the only thing that patriarchy actually values in a woman: a tight ass."

She concludes that "hot young babes in underwear selling beauty products is not radical," and you know, I think she really ought to be right. But the Neanderthal reactions being shamelessly spewed across the pages of mainstream papers like the Sun-Times make me think that, in this fallen world we actually inhabit, even ads as innocuous as these still fail to be patriarchy pleasers. Because, after all, they do indeed confront certain shocked and awed male viewers, perhaps for the first time in their lives, with the idea that maybe--just maybe--not all advertising has to be about catering to their pre-programmed fantasy lives, regardless of what it's selling and to whom it's selling it. And that, sadly enough, is probably a pretty radical notion to most of these jerks.

Even more depressing--and even more indicative of how programmed we all are by Madison Avenue's relentless Kate Mossing of ads for everything from sports equipment to Summer's Eve--are the negative reactions women are having to the ads. See Curiousgirl's comments on Twisty's second post:

"Many normal size women I know are offended because women with bodies like that should not be seen in public in their underwear. They'll say 'I mean, I know I'd look like that too. But if that was my body, I wouldn't wear a bikini to the beach, right?'"

[Note: the transmission of this post was interrupted by the author's inarticulate howls of rage and frustration. Especially because she, herself, will not wear a bikini (or, indeed, even a one-piece) to the beach.]

Monday, August 01, 2005

File under "random enthusiasms"

Favorite 19th-Century British Printing Business Name: Sustenance & Stretch.