Ancrene Wiseass

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

My Photo
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, November 29, 2006

Open Letter

Dear Creepy Guy,

You really should not be surprised that young women do not engage in conversation with you when you are:

1) deeply unhygenic
2) eating potato chip crumbs off the table with your wet finger
3) at least 20 years older than the women in question, and
4) complaining loudly about being automatically kicked off the internet by the public, university terminal you're using because you were looking at porn sites.


Also, would you please stop staring at me now.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving . . .

. . . to those of you here in the States. May your turkey be perfect and your tryptophan coma long.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Rules and the Job Market

I've been thinking about The Rules lately. Fortunately, other people seem mostly to have stopped thinking about that dreadful book: you know, the one that promises to help women "beat men at their own game," which apparently means tricking them into marrying us by simultaneously acting like we couldn't give a shit about them and deferring to them in order to inspire their supposedly universal urge to hunt us down and drag us into their caves, embodying the Archetypal Woman, and wearing push-up bras. Personally, I'd be very pleased to blot the whole sordid phenomenon from my memory, but some things I've been hearing and reading about in association with the academic job-hunting season have reminded me of it.

In part, this is because I'm hearing stories about the deceptive things some people will do in order to improve their chances on the job market. But mostly it's because some very similar rhetorical and ethical strategies are deployed in the advice offered by The Rules and in some of the advice job seekers seem to be getting.

For example, as with The Rules's prescriptions for "looking the part" during the dating process, many academic job seekers get confusing and apparently contradictory fashion advice when they're prepping for interviews. They hear that they need to dress conservatively but not stuffily while also pleasing both fashionistas and fuddy duddies. Even worse (and also very much in line with The Rules's ethos), there often are some bizarrely retrograde and invasive elements to these prescriptions. But a certain percentage of job candidates seem prepared to take that advice, even if they feel it's wildly at odds with the image they wish to convey and their idea of the profession as they hope to practice it.

Let's face it: it's a crap shoot out there. And when the job market is as bad as it has been in academia for decades now, some of us understandably freak out and start looking for the sartorial equivalent of four-leaf clovers in our quest to embody the Archetypal Academic. But, folks, none of us is the Archetypal Academic.

To which I say "Thank God." Because the Archetypal Academic is a terrible bore, and nobody wants to work with or learn from him. In fact, I'd wager that plenty a search committee member has been dismayed by the attempts of too many job candidates to project a personality which is both as inoffensive and as charismatic as a head of cabbage.

One of the more disturbing trends in the interview advice getting bandied about is that advice to women and minority candidates tends to be aimed at either counteracting or highlighting their supposed biological eccentricities so as to mollify anyone who might be put off by them. Hence women being urged to leave wedding or engagement rings at home, wear pearls, and avoid pantsuits while minority candidates are being instructed to dress like a bad parody of Secret Service agents in order to seem less "threatening" to those who might view them as potential dissidents. (Y'all may think I'm making this up, but I promise I'm not.) One of my friends was told she needed to dress particularly conservatively because she would already seem "edgy" to some committee members simply because she's not Caucasian and she's a woman.

I call bullshit.

Do we really want to work with and for people so primed to dislike us on the basis of who we are that we must do some complicated sartorial supplication ceremony in an attempt to please them?

Do we truly want to step into the role of performing said supplication ceremonies, or do we intend to maintain some shred of personal identity and (dare I say it) dignity?

We are talking about a job interview here, not a pole dance. We are not walking into interviewing rooms to fulfill people's fantasies, and we are particularly not there to fulfill the fantasies of jerks who can't deal with job candidates having families or a high melanin count or a particular accent or background or what-the-hell-ever. We are there to present our best work, to answer questions thoughtfully and honestly, and to discover whether we are a good fit for the institution doing the hiring.

Dressing like a professional (which is not the same thing as dressing with no imagination or individuality) for a job interview is a good idea. But using clothes and jewelry as props to help you pretend to be someone you're not in a job interview is a very bad idea. What happens when you show up after getting hired with the family in tow, dressing entirely differently, chain smoking, riding a Harley, or generally not being a good imitation of the Archetypal Academic? Won't the people who hired you feel snookered? Do you really want to give your colleagues a reason to distrust you, right off the bat?

And, by the way, will you like working with the people you fooled into thinking you approached their Platonic ideal? Have you spent so much time transforming yourself into someone else that you forgot to pay attention to who they are? Because, you know, these people could be your co-workers for decades to come, so that sorta matters a little.

Why should people even be considering hiding their families as though they're ashamed of their loved ones for being a professional liability? Or doing everything possible to present themselves as being thoroughly assimilated and meek in order to avoid provoking The (Boogey)Man? That is not okay, people.

Yes, it's hard to get a job in academia now, and all of us on the lower rungs of the ladder are pretty scared and desperate. I'm not even on the market yet, and I've been terrified for years. But, the way I look at it, getting the job is one thing, and living with the job you got--and with what you did to get it--is another.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The most wonderful time of the year?

So the holidays are approaching, which means that the term is drawing to a close. Which means that I have a tremendous amount of work that somehow has to get done within about two weeks.

I'm not sure exactly how I evaded this realization until this morning: after all, Christmas/Hanukkah displays have been blossoming like Magic Grow sponge animals since the beginning of last month, overtaking more and more of the grocery store aisles. But, for whatever reason, I woke up this morning to a clammy feeling of panic. Maybe it's because I agreed to cover a co-worker's shift as she prepares to defend her prospectus, which means that I lose one of my two paltry "me-days" this week, just when I desperately need it.

Dr. V. very truthfully warned me that I had to figure out how to be "diva-like" about my work this year, and she's right. Thing is, it's pretty much impossible for me to be a diva. I just can't seem to do it at all. Nearly anytime anybody wants pretty much anything from me I will go out of my way to do it. Even worse, I constantly offer help to people who haven't even asked for it. It's crazy. I really, truly have to stop trying to be all I can be to everybody other than myself. Because, if I don't, it could cost me my career as well as my sanity.

So if anybody has advice about how I might try to escape my birth order, stop being the entire world's Big Sister, and find my inner Greta Garbo, I'd appreciate hearing it.

I was just beginning to get a little caught up on the tremendous backlog of emails and personal business that built up since this summer, but I'm going to have to switch gears all over again. So if you've sent me an as-yet-unanswered email recently, it's probably going to be longer still before I can get back to you, and I'm sorry.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging: Kitty Grin

Mouse has a particularly blissful smile, especially when he's getting his ears scratched.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Cue tiny violins

Today's accomplishments:

1) Attending one meeting and two lectures
2) Reducing number of emails in inbox from 330 to 130 (after looking through the emails I still need to answer, I think my "Uhura" result from the quiz I mentioned in the last post should be revoked. Bad communicator! Bad!)
3) Printing a bunch of crap from aforementioned inbox which I now have to file away
4) Eating too many baked goods
5) Buying some stuff I didn't really need
6) Writing two letters of recommendation
7) Looking through a couple of composition texts I got as exam copies
8) Writing a letter to various university administrators
9) Continuing to fret about a situation I promised myself I'd stop fretting about
10) Wallowing in despair about not getting my dissertation work done.

In addition, my arm hurts, and it's annoying. I strained the muscles around my left elbow badly doing endurance push-ups on Saturday. It's less painful than it was, but it's still in a sling part of the time, and it's pissing me off, particularly since it's a constant reminder that I'm a wimp who can't handle push-ups. Grr.

I think I need more baked goods.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Uhura, baby!

Stolen from Another Damn Medievalist.

Too bad I look nowhere near that good in a miniskirt, but hey, I'll take it.

Your results:
You are Uhura

You are a good communicator with a pleasant soft-spoken voice.Also a talented singer.

Jean-Luc Picard
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
Will Riker
Deanna Troi
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
Beverly Crusher
James T. Kirk (Captain)
Mr. Scott
Mr. Sulu
Geordi LaForge

The "Which Startrek Character Am I?" Quiz:

Friday, November 10, 2006

Poetry Friday: Fathers and Sons

Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, two poems in particular got to me today while I was looking for something to post. Both cost me a sharp intake of breath, and both are about fathers and sons.

Those Winter Sundays
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

--Robert Hayden

my old man

16 years old
during the depression
I'd come home drunk
and all my clothing --
shorts, shirts, stockings --
suitcase, and pages of
short stories
would be thrown out on the
front lawn and about the

my mother would be
waiting behind a tree:
"Henry, Henry, don't
go in . . . he'll
kill you, he's read
your stories . . ."

"I can whip his
ass . . ."

"Henry, please take
this . . . and
find yourself a room."

but it worried him
that I might not
finish high school
so I'd be back

one evening he walked in
with the pages of
one of my short stories
(which I had never submitted
to him)
and he said, "this is
a great short story."
I said "o.k.,"
and he handed it to me
and I read it.
it was a story about
a rich man
who had a fight with
his wife and had
gone out into the night
for a cup of coffee
and had observed
the waitress and the spoons
and the forks and the
salt and pepper shakers
and the neon sign
in the window
and then had gone back
to his stable
to see and touch his
favorite horse
who then
kicked him in the head
and killed him.

the story held
meaning for him
when I had written it
I had no idea
of what I was
writing about.

so I told him,
"o.k., old man, you can
have it."
and he took it
and walked out
and closed the door.
I guess that's
as close
as we ever got.

--Charles Bukowski

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Guidance needed for a book project

A colleague and I have what we think is a very exciting idea for a collection of edited essays, and we'd like any general advice you might have on:

1) Seeking submissions from other scholars
2) Targeting appropriate publishers
3) Writing the book proposal.

I can't give you information about the book's topic, because that would pretty much be a dead giveaway as to who I am if this project actually does get published. But I'm hoping that keeping my request fairly general means that any responses you give me also will be useful to others contemplating a similar project.

What I've Done

My posts have been pretty fluffy of late, and I apologize to all those folks out there who might've found my blog to be pretty insipid for the past little while. Truth is, I am wrestling with some profoundly difficult situations right now and have spent lots of time reflecting on major academic, professional, and social issues. But they're pretty much all, as I mentioned earlier, unbloggable.

So bear with me, if you will. I have hopes that I'll get through this period soon and will then be able to post more substantively because the substances I'll be handling will be a little less toxic.

Meanwhile, I've nicked a rather nifty little meme from Juniperus. The idea is to embolden the line items you've personally completed on a list of 150 experiences--some of them fairly pedestrian, others less so.

The cultural studies scholar in me wants to meditate on the parameters this list sets and consider what the meme excludes and includes as part of a somewhat limited view of experience. The philosopher in me retorts that there's no such thing as an unlimited view of experience--at least not for human beings. The neurotic in me notes that #98 is missing. But the rest of me says, "What the hell? This is not only kinda interesting, but it actually makes me feel a little bit better about myself. Because that's not a bad list of accomplishments and survival stories for a little less than half a life."

To wit:

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said "I love you" and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea - from the shore
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby's diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero not as an adult
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an "expert"
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently well enough to have a decent conversation
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn't stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn't have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone's heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad
135. Selected one "important" author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions so far
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you're living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone's life

Friday, November 03, 2006

Shoe Friday: Me Likey

Too bad there's not a fellowship which supplies deserving but impoverished young scholars with fabulous, expensive cowboy boots.

For, uh, the betterment of humanity through the advancement of well-shod scholarship. Or something.

In case you've ever wondered, guys . . .

Yes, it's exactly like this in the ladies' room. Really.

P. S. There are some damned funny e-cards at this site.