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 30, 2006

Blogroll editing time!

I need to edit my blogroll sometime soon-ish; there are some sites linked through it that have have, unfortunately, vanished into the ether. And there are also some sites with new addresses I haven't yet recorded.

I've also noticed some new folks stopping by every once in a while, despite my less-than-astonishing blogging activity this summer. So, those of you who aren't on the blogroll, let me know who you are so I can add you!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Shoe Friday: Tango, anyone?

Many moons ago, I mentioned the outrageous shoes I wore with the Black Pantsuit of Power at Kalamazoo. Some readers were eager to get a gander at 'em, but I was a little shy, in case they might make me too easily identifiable.

Anyway, I think enough time has probably passed to wipe most people's memories clean and keep me safe, so for that tiny group of you who might still be interested, here they are!

Many thanks to Mr. Helmet, who makes a mighty fine spur-of-the-moment fashion photographer.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Survivor: Bad Idea Island

I know I just said I probably wouldn't be posting much, but you really ought to check this out.

Why re-introduce racial segregation in sports? Well, Jeff Probst says it's certainly not for the sake of sensationalism and increased ratings! It's because people had complained about the show lacking diversity and because we'll get to see "new slang, new rituals--people doing things like making fire in ways that haven't been done [before] on Survivor."

Yes, that's right. This is all in the interest of scrutinizing the "strange" habits of people whose background isn't predominately European--in the name of multiculturalism.

I wish I had made this up.


Mmmkay. I am miserable with a stupid sickness that is making me achy all over and even more unproductive than ever and keeping me out of the dojang, too. Many, many projects weigh on my shoulders, but I am caught up in body aches, grogginess, periodically finding it hard to breathe, and the need to take three-hour naps on campus when I really should be working or 30-minute naps so I can face the prospect of walking to and boarding the bus. I am not happy right now.

At least I finally got in to the student health facility today and got hold of a competent person who quickly put me on drugs that will make it go away, although they will not actually make me feel any better in the meantime.

All of which is to say that my posting may continue to be nearly nonexistent and not terribly interesting for a while.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Poetry Friday: Adrienne Rich

In Those Years

In those years, people will say, we lost track
of the meaning of we, of you
we found ourselves
reduced to I
and the whole thing became
silly, ironic, terrible:
we were trying to live a personal life
and yes, that was the only life
we could bear witness to

But the great dark birds of history screamed and plunged
into our personal weather
They were headed somewhere else
but their beaks and pinions drove
along the shore, through the rags of fog
where we stood, saying I

Something I said to my students today

"Please, for the love of God, don't try to write like an academic. Don't pad your prose with protective, insecure, pompous phrases. Most of us write for shit."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Quotation meme

Medieval Woman tagged me for a quotation meme with these directions:

"Go here and look through random quotes until you find 5 that you think reflect who you are or what you believe."

Here's what I came up with:

1) "Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength."
--Eric Hoffer

2) "To be pleased with one's limits is a wretched state."
--Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

3) "I'm not going to die because I failed as someone else. I'm going to succeed as myself."
--Margaret Cho

4) "Every man serves a useful purpose. A miser, for example, makes a wonderful ancestor."
--Laurence J. Peter

5) "Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance."
--Will Durant

So now I get to tag people: I pick Morgan, Digital Medievalist, Boy Roomie, and anyone else out there who wants to play, too.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Where Bad Times = Belly Laughs

So, here I am, freezing my ass off in some extremely exuberant air conditioning, sitting in the dark because the energy-saving motion-detector lights have decided I no longer exist, with every muscle in my body aching in a way which encourages me to maintain a posture I'd hoped to avoid having when I was well past 90.

Of course, I am evading work, and where else to turn but the Interweb? There, however, I am confronted by the mournful knowledge that New Kid has taken an indefinite hiatus, Prof. Bastard's blog has disappeared and been replaced by spamtasmicness, and we've heard neither hide nor hair of Dr. V. for some time. I know that many other marvelous people are still out here posting marvelous things, and I revel in their marvelousness, but I get a little uneasy when members of my blogging community go poof. Makes me feel as though it's all a little, oh, I dunno . . . virtual.

And then, Wendy McClure appears, cape flying in the wind, to explain to us what's going on when we walk into that one Target which always feels dingy and soulless and never quite manages to have ANYTHING we went in there looking for. And yet, every time we go, we feel compelled to spend a ridiculous amount of time searching for something we need so we can justify the trip, especially because we already feel guilty for shopping in a place that allows its employees to pass moral judgment on women with birth-control prescriptions. And somehow, it is always just about to close when we get there, so we feel compelled to rush around the store while trying to find that imaginary thing we need. And the cashiers will not look us in the eye, though they sometimes seem to steal a furtive glance at our exposed jugulars. And we have the feeling that the management may be working with pirated, mimeographed copies of The Official Om Shin Rikyo Playbook, because there's a menacing and pervasive atmosphere of Toxic about the place, mingled with an unnerving sense of You Just Want to Lie Down and Sleep Now.

Those places? We are not imagining it. They are Bad Times retailers.

And Wendy McClure is brilliant.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Weekend picks and pans, featuring The Descent

Okay, so I went to see The Descent this weekend.

First, let me say what a bizarre and marvelous experience it was for me to actually go out to eat with friends, do some shopping (at The Gape, and none of it on sale, but I was tired of months of looking in vain for pairs of cargo pants and khakis that actually fit me) while my patient-but-bored friends shot thongs at each other, and then go to a movie. I can't remember how long it's been since I did that, primarily because I'm really too broke to do things like that, and it was probably terribly irresponsible of me. Still and all, it was, like, actual fun or something.

Anyway, The Descent is fantastic. Really, really good. Complex, challenging, absorbing, and terrifying. Boy Roomie says I need to post a full-length review because what I say about it would convince people to go see it who normally wouldn't watch horror movies. I suspect he may also want me to stop talking to him about it all the time, because I am undeniably obsessing over it. But isn't that the best kind of movie? The kind that keeps you thinking about characters' relationships, moral implications, tiny little moments that start falling together over time? The kind that makes you think you could use it to good effect on a course syllabus? The kind that makes you drive your friends nuts because you won't shut up about it?

I may just follow up on Boy Roomie's advice, but right now I have so much work to do before tomorrow that it makes my head spin. In the meantime, I'll just say that you should go see that movie NOW, because it's marvelous--and I'm saying that despite the film's unfortunate reduction of Southern culture to either "mud, blood, and beer" or "sweet Jesus" (in the words of its wittiest character) and its oblique implication that Appalachia is a haven for primeval savagery. So y'all know the movie had to be very, very good indeed for me to recommend it in spite of that.

I'm running a bit behind because we spent a lot of the weekend on cleaning the carpet, which I should have done ages ago. I honestly might not be ashamed to have people over any more, and I don't feel depressed every time I look at the floor. So, there's another thing I recommend: rent a steam cleaner. It's less expensive than you probably think, and it's worth it.

I do not, however, recommend going to an afternoon class at your dojang if its being taught by an extremely athletic young man who genuinely seems not to understand that other people's bodies may be unable to do all the things his can. I had a terrific migraine after class and am in some really serious and unnecessary pain from trying to obey his unrealistic commands. Master Fuzzy actually had to step in and tell him not to exact penalties of up to 100 extra push-ups on those of us he thought were too slow.

I honestly think it's a wonder nobody was seriously hurt, and I'm a little frightened, in retrospect, by some of what I attempted under the effects of adrenaline and chastisement: I simply am not strong enough yet to be doing some of those things. Needless to say, I'm going to work hard to avoid being in one of that guy's classes again.

Finally, Amy Winfrey of Making Fiends fame has sent emails out to let people on her fan list know that she's done a pilot for a cable series. If all goes well, she'll be unable to sell the cool swag on her website any longer, because the cable channel will own licensing rights. So if you were thinking about getting the Scissorfiend t-shirt or the DVDs or something, you might want to go on over to her online store soon.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Poetry Friday: Haiku

Who doesn't like haiku?

Nifty site over here called the Asahi Haikuist Network where people from around the world submit poems on selected subjects. I like this one by high-school student Garrett Schneider very much:

A fox and I met
once on a darkening path--
does he remember?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Walking on water wasn't built in a day

I am making lots of mental preparations these days for the dissertating process, because there is absolutely no question that I am going to have to change some of my work habits. As a person with somewhat OCD tendencies, I tend to want to keep my work divided up into neat little packets and finish one task at a time whenever possible. It's been a long, long road to multitasking for me, and I'm still particularly obsessive when it comes to writing.

At any rate, the Jack Kerouac approach to writing, in which I work like I've locked myself up in a cabin while hopped up on coffee and Benzedrine, is clearly not going to cut it for a book-length project. And it's going to get righteously in the way of my writing productivity in general.

Dr. McKinney's latest post over at Academic Coach has helped me realize that part of my trouble are the twin terrors that, if I let myself stop working, I'll never finish and that, if I start working, I won't let myself stop until I'm well past the point of exhaustion. This could be an exceptionally useful realization.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Feet in the shit, head in the clouds.

Beautiful discussion in my class today. Just beautiful. One of the best classes I've ever had; the kind of thing that makes you stand taller, breathe deeper, and think, "Okay, that's why I do this stuff. And yes, there is a point to wading through the waist-high shit, after all, if it leads to two hours as marvelous as those." It derailed my entire lesson plan, but I just let it go, because, well, sometimes you have to discuss what needs to be discussed rather than what you thought you were going to discuss.

I also realized that I really have to start taking my own advice. I need to start doing some freewriting for this dissertation thing. I have to make the vastness of the task less daunting. I have to start filling up the void with something.

Of course, now I have to roll up my sleeves and get to work on the huge pile of papers I agreed to grade for a faculty member. Just from the few I've read, I can tell it'll be a painful process, but at least I have those two hours this morning to keep me going.

Monday, August 07, 2006

"Why are you chicks so angry, anyway?"

Well, this kind of thing might have something to do with it.

Joe Francis, creator of the "Girls Gone Wild" empire, and his friends are apparently even bigger sleazebuckets than I could possibly have imagined. Why do I say that, you ask?

Well, how about Francis having raped an intoxicated eighteen-year-old virgin? How about his lawyer, Michael Kerry Burke, having declared that the reason why the victim kept telling Francis "no" and exclaiming "it hurts" was that "Mr. Francis is reputedly well endowed." Which, I suppose, means that the silly little bitch should feel privileged to have received the benison of such a stupendous cock, even if she was too foolish to realize how fortunate she was at the time. And hell, she got three pairs of "Girls Gone Wild" panties out of it. What more could a girl possibly want?

I was feeling rather nauseated and disheartened by the portions of the story in which young women proudly calls themselves "sluts" and wax enthusiastic about what a good opportunity GGW provides them. And I was angered by the account of Francis' past history of assaulting women. But the comment by Burke marks the point at which I went into a white-hot rage. But then, what should we expect from a man who helped Francis countersue a woman he apparently drugged and raped in a hotel room for $25,000,36--the $36 being the cost of the room-service hamburgers Francis ordered the next day?

In addition to apparently being a violent and dangerous bully wealthy enough to surround himself with other dangerous bullies, Francis is undeniably a total idiot. Why do I say that? Well, he verbally and physically assaulted the reporter from a major national newspaper who planned to write a story on him, "playfully" insulted her intelligence at every opportunity, and did his best to sabotage her relationship with her editor by painting her as a "woman scorned." (Because, yeah, what woman wouldn't find a megalomaniacal, abusive, unprincipled man-boy totally irresistible?) Yet, he is shocked--shocked! and hurt! and offended!--to realize that her work is unlikely to paint him in the best possible light.

Unfortunately, being a criminal and an utter dimbulb isn't keeping this guy from being literally a hero to millions.

Any guesses who I'll be thinking about when I need some extra energy for those kicks and punches at the dojang tomorrow night? Hell, y'all, this kind of fury may keep me going long enough to stay for the boxing class, too.

UPDATE: More commentary from Amanda at Pandagon, Ezra Klein, and ZuZu at Feministe. Jessica at Feministing has an idea for taking action.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Yet another request for information

If anyone knows of a conservative op-ed piece or article about usage of the word "Crusade" in current U.S./Mideast political rhetoric, I'd be very grateful to hear about it.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Magnatunes and medieval music

Check this out: there's a music service called Magnatune which has a small, but very nice medieval music collection available for download. I am excited, since I've been hunting for John Fleagle's World's Bliss for some time and had only occasionally been able to find used CDs selling for $45 or more. I was able to download the album for $8, and I will be able to download as many different versions to as many different machines as I like for 60 days. How cool is that? There's an article on the service posted here, in case you're curious.

Dream diary

Lots of unpleasant dreams lately. On Thursday night, Stan made his appearance for the first time in months, and waking up full of anger, disappointment, and the desire to scream, cry, and throw things all at once was not a good way to start the day.

This morning, the dream was about being entirely unable to control a class full of students who suddenly started screaming and yelling, not being able to figure out why, and then realizing that Lisa Loeb was visiting campus and had wandered into our room by mistake. About 20 minutes later, when Ms. Loeb had left, I gave them a speech which included the lines "This is a CLASSROOM, not TRL" and "Youthful enthusiasm is not an excuse to act like an untrained baboon."

That last comment is probably an insult to baboons, and I apologize for it, but hey, cut me some slack: I was only half-conscious.

Anyway, I then told the students that I was going to let them run discussion on their own time, since they'd chosen to act like a bunch of fools on mine, that they were still responsible for having an intelligent response to the material, and that there would be a quiz during the next class meeting. And then I gathered my things and walked out.

At least I've gotten more assertive with students in some of my dreams.

Why Stan should show up after so long, I cannot tell you. But I think the uncontrolled-classroom dream was about the course I have to start teaching on Monday, since I have positively no idea what I'm doing yet, the syllabus is not finalized, and my books will not be arriving until at least three or four classes into the course. See, Nameless Summer Program didn't let me know I was hired until about two weeks in advance this year, so that's created a bit of a, well, nightmare.

And yeah, Lisa Loeb? I mean, she's really cute and I liked "Stay" just as much as anybody, but I don't know, and I can't explain.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Poetry Friday: MRI edition (Lord Randall)

I have discovered yet another very good reason to memorize poetry: it helps you stay still during an MRI. I had the procedure done on Wednesday night and don't know what the results are, but I do know that trying to remember all the ballad lyrics I could muster helped to keep me from going nuts while I couldn't move and had weird laser-gun noises and vibrations focused on my head. (Those of you who've had MRIs before, was it just me, or did you have some portion of your body start to move involuntarily and have to concentrate very hard to keep it from jumping around? My feet and legs really did not want to stay still about halfway through.)

Here's one of the ballads I was thinking about:

Lord Randall

Oh, where have you been,
Lord Randall, my son?
Oh, where have you been,
my handsome young man?

I have been to the wildwood.
Mother, make my bed soon,
for I'm weary with hunting,
and I fain would lie down.

Where'd you get your dinner,
Lord Randall, my son?
Where'd you get your dinner,
my handsome young man?

Oh, I dined with my true love.
Mother, make my bed soon,
for I'm weary with hunting,
and I fain would lie down.

And what did she give you,
Lord Randall, my son?
And what did she give you,
my handsome young man?

I had eels boiled in broth.
Mother, make my bed soon,
for I'm weary with hunting,
and I fain would lie down.

What became of your bloodhounds,
Lord Randall, my son?
What became of your bloodhounds,
my handsome young man?

Well, they swelled and they died.
Mother, make my bed soon,
for I'm weary with hunting
and I fain would lie down.

Oh, I fear you are poisoned,
Lord Randall, my son,
Oh, I fear you are poisoned,
my handsome young man.

Oh, yes I am poisoned.
Mother make my bed soon,
for I'm sick at my heart,
and I fain would lie down.

What'll you leave your old father,
Lord Randall, my son?
What'll you leave your old father,
my handsome young man?

My castles and lands.
Mother, make my bed soon,
for I'm sick at my heart,
and I fain would lie down.

What'll you leave your old mother,
Lord Randall, my son?
What'll you leave your old mother,
my handsome young man?

My silver and gold.
Mother make my bed soon,
for I'm sick at my heart,
and I fain would lie down.

What'll you leave your own true love,
Lord Randall, my son?
What'll you leave your own true love,
my handsome young man?

Oh, I leave her hellfire!
Mother, make my bed soon,
for it's now I'm a-dyin',
and I got to lie down.

If this gruesome little ditty (oh, how I love those murder ballads!) reminds you of something, that may be because Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" is a kind of satirical homage to it.