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.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

State of the Wiseass address

Nameless Summer Program draws to a close, at last. It's been a rougher year than usual. My barren little blog, a vast number of unfinished projects, and a two-week-old unmade bed bear witness to my general discombobulation.

I've been sick off and on for pretty much the entire summer, due largely to stress and lack of sleep. This weekend, I have two assignments I ought to be grading, an overdue paper proposal, a bushel of unreplied-to emails, a half-cleaned apartment, and some unfinished business from a seminar to tackle. But I have, instead, been sleeping for the vast majority of the time. My body simply seems to have proclaimed "Basta!" and forced an abdication.

I am trying to take better care of myself. One of the benefits of having toiled through NSP is that I do have a little money in my bank account, so I've been making the rounds to the dentist (for the first time in some years), several doctors, my hairdresser, and the drug store. I've bought vitamins, an electric toothbrush, and a load of frozen vegetables. I'm also flossing, exfoliating, self-manicuring, and moisturizing religiously. I am going to try to start doing at least a little martial arts practice every day, coupled with morning and evening yoga. The pushers of insane grading timelines are going to have to kiss my ever-widening ass, because I am tired of feeling awful all the time and hanging my head in shame while medical professionals and Master Fuzzy scold me for not looking after myself.

One of the most insidious dangers of grad school is that it's packaged and sold as a temporary state, rather than as the substantial chunk of our lives it actually is. The sales pitch tends to influence us to such an extent that many of us make bad choices about taking care of ourselves, our finances, our stuff, and our relationships--because we believe we'll get around to it later, once we actually have a predictable income and some security.

I've been realizing with increasing frequency how damaging that kind of thinking can be, particularly since predictable incomes and modicums of security are scarce on the ground for new academics. In fact, I'm beginning to wonder whether this isn't, perhaps, the very worst effect of the Big Lie about graduate "education" within the corporate university. How many of us are damaging or losing our physical, emotional, and financial health while we continue to do the lion's share of undergraduate teaching and scramble to meet professional standards that are set higher and higher every year, all the while being told not to look as though we're eager to "pre-professionalize"?*

I can't wait until I move into whatever life awaits me before I do a better job at self-care; it's bad enough that I've given up any hope of having something like a social life in the relational Vale of Tears that is Big City.

Regardless of my new resolve, however, I do have a lot of crap that has to get done during the next week, before I head out of the country for a friend's wedding. So I will do us all the courtesy of declaring a blogging hiatus until around the middle of next week.

Via con Dios, y'all.


* By the way, if you ever want to get the old Wiseass dander up, just utter this word in my hearing. I hate it. Hate hate hate it. It's part of an ideology in which graduate students are strange little homuncular entities or monstrosities that may even have the appareance of "real academics" but somehow just . . . aren't. Folks, we get paid peanuts to do a very large percentage of the hardest work on many of the nation's campuses while desperately trying to meet nearly impossible standards for the quality and quantity of our own work. We're already professionals. Have the ethical gumption to own up to it and stop circulating this kind of bullshit in defense of exploitative labor practices.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tuesday Poetry Blogging: William Butler Yeats

I missed Friday poetry/cat/shoe blogging, so I guess this is a late entry to catch up.

I love Yeats, but I recognize his faults. He is not always easy to love textually, and I suspect he was even less easy to love personally.

For example, there's this: so beautiful and so heartfelt that it invariably makes me tear up--and yet so guilt-trippy, so demanding, so threaded with bitterness. Is this the voice of a man who feels too passionately for anyone's good?

Aedh wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens' embroider'd cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Monday, September 11, 2006


I just went to my research cubicle in the library to make a mass return because I got tired of having books recalled by other patrons or going overdue by several days before I could get in to the library.

The plants I'd put in there--all of which are hardy succulents, by the way--were partially dead. I apologized to them as I watered them. I was also apologizing to the abandoned books, the abandoned work, the advisers who might actually have thought they'd see something useful from me this summer--and to myself.

I am desperate for this summer course to be over so I can begin to do something with my own work. I have given a lot of myself for a good while now, often to students who gave very little back. I need to read and write for myself as much (or maybe even more than) those plants needed water.

In part because I haven't felt particularly encouraged in or about my own work, I think my academic identity has become much more invested in teaching than in research during the past few years. I know I can teach fairly well, and I do feel that teaching is the most important thing most of us do as academics. But I can truly say, from the bottom of my heart, "Thank God I will not be teaching this year." Thank God.

I had plans to write something about the fifth anniversary of 9/11 today, but I'm underwatered and overworked. Other people will and have done better jobs, anyway.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Tuesday Bruise Blogging

In my last post, I mentioned having gotten punched about a bit during the last sparring practice. Here's the most spectacular result.

Purty, ain't it?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Open letter to a guy at the dojang and other training news

Dear guy,

You're a sweet fella. I know your apology after class today was kindly meant. "I had just been sparring with three guys, and I kinda didn't dial it back enough." But honey, look around. 'Cause I was the only woman in class today. So I'd just been sparring with those three guys, too.

And what I'm not going to tell you, since I don't want to embarrass you, is that I hardly felt the one kick you got in under my armor. What I did feel was when the guy who was on the tournament sparring team punched the hell out of me about four times in a row. Or when another guy kicked me full in the head. I didn't so much as squeak either time. So why do you think I'm going to hold a grudge against you?

I didn't walk into a martial arts school thinking I wasn't going to get hit a few times. I know I'm weak and slow and have no technique, but that still doesn't mean I'm a total wimp.



Master Fuzzy has been somewhat edgy lately--as he himself admits--and has been a little hard on us. On Thursday night, I was so frustrated by my poor performance in class, so humiliated by continued inability to do real push-ups, and so demoralized about things in general that I ended up doing something I swore I never would do in the dojang: I cried.

Thank God, it was only a few tears, and it was during the closing speech while everyone was facing front and at attention, so none of the other students could see me. I think I hid it fairly well, but I know Master Fuzzy saw me, anyway. Of course, that only humiliated me more.

On Friday, Master Fuzzy apologized obliquely for being tough on me by telling people over the phone in my hearing that he had been in a foul mood the day before and by giving me a short private lesson on the techniques I couldn't manage in class on Thursday.

He says my mind-body connection is bad. I say it's terrible to the point of non-existence.

Instructor Bellona tells me I have to learn to let go of my fear and anxiety. I'd say that's an understatement, too.

I've started doing some yoga, using beginner DVDs and a start-up kit I ordered online. I'm hoping it will help me develop strength, control, and a better sense of calm. I'm trying not to snort through my nose when the DVD instructors tell me to do things like "realize the stillness of my soul," not only because that sort of thing sounds infinitely hokey to my cynical ears, but also because I'm pretty sure my soul has almost no stillness left in it.

I'm slipping all over the place on the "sticky" mat that came with my kit, even though I'm not sweating all that much in the light workouts I'm starting with. Those of you who do yoga, can you tell me whether I ought to invest in something like this, which is a bit pricey, or just expect that I'll be able to better hold poses without slipping as I get stronger and my mat gets more worn? Are there other beginner DVDs you'd recommend?

I've been generally annoyed by how little my body seems to be responding to training, but I think I might be beginning to spy a hint of muscle definition in my upper arms. Anyway, I sometimes seem to spot the faintest whisper of a tricep, particularly on the right side.

Friday Cat Blogging: Close-Up Edition