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.

Friday, July 27, 2007

A national artifact

Yippee ki yay.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A few words on Harry Potter 7

Thank you, Ms. Rowling. Nicely done.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Show 'n' Tell

I had an unusually successful shopping trip this afternoon, during which I bought cool things very cheaply. A sampling:

1) a marvelously garish Dia de los Muertos votive candle
2) a bottle of holy water
3) that movie that has William Shatner speaking Esperanto in it
4) a movie that has Vincent Price in it
5) an Amy Winehouse CD
6) an Ute Lemper CD
7) four peacock feathers for Mouse to play with
8) three little plants
9) a Hee Haw DVD
10) loads of quiet/trance-y CDs for working or getting into bed at night, none of which cost more than $3.99, and two of which I got free.

Yes, I am gloating.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Stupid Boys and Other Delights

Could we just maybe set up some kind of service? You know, Dial-A-Dump? That calls Stupid Boys* and tells them which of the utterly predictable Stupid-Boy things they've done? Preferably with sound effects like the one Namco used for Pacman deaths. Clients could call in, enter the phone number of the Stupid Boy in question, and choose from a drop-down menu of the, like, five dumb-ass things they All. Do.


"Hello [insert name]. This is Dial-a-Dump (R). [Insert "Requiem for Pacman."] You have been dumped by [insert name] because you are an official Stupid Boy (c). You are a Stupid Boy because you [insert typical Stupid-Boy Violation (c)].

If you would like to take a Stupid-Boy Tutorial (c) that will help you avoid such dumpings in the future, please press the star key now.

If you are an Incorrigible Stupid Boy (c) who just doesn't give a shit, please press the pound sign so we can enter you in our Stupid-Boy Registry (c) and notify every eligible, sentient being within a 100-mile radius of your stupidity.

If you have received two previous calls from Dial-a-Dump (R), please remove yourself from the dating pool until you can grow the hell up.

Have a nice day. Goodbye."


In other news, the migraine is still around. That's eight days, for those who're counting.

And, oh yeah, I don't think I've mentioned that I lost my keys last Thursday (as in, every single one of my keys, plus my pocket knife and jump drive) and cannot find them anywhere?

My computer is definitely dead, and I have a major deadline on Friday for an article that will pay my rent next month. If I finish it.

Teh awesum.

**Works very hard on seeing the positive possibilities for change or whatever in all this, because I am reading Self-Improvement stuff and becoming more Enlightened and all that rot.**


*Please note that I fully recognize not all men are Stupid Boys. Some men are marvelously grown-up, kind, considerate, and aware. I just seem to have a really hard time encountering any men of that sort who are close to my age, interested in me, and single.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

David Lynch

Years ago, I told a mentor that I loved David Lynch films. He gave me an appalled look and replied, "You would"--I guess because it's supposedly so obvious that I'm a dark, profane weirdo. Which, I dunno, maybe I am. At any rate, I do love David Lynch movies. I find them utterly terrifying and fascinating, not to mention unbelievably hilarious at times. I'm just plain besotted with Mulholland Drive, which I think is sublime in every sense of the word.

So, when I noticed that Lynch had written a book that's ended up in the "Self-Improvement" section of Evil Empire bookstores, I was intrigued. Turns out that Lynch has been practicing transcendental meditation for 30 years and organized a foundation designed to promote world peace by teaching children how to meditate (so, he's maybe not so dark, after all?). The book I'd found, Catching the Big Fish, is pretty much his declaration of love for meditation.

Here's some of the stuff he says:
  • "When I was making Eraserhead, which took five years to complete, I thought I was dead. I thought the world would be so different before it was over. I told myself, 'Here I am, locked in this thing. I can't finish it. The world is leaving me behind.' I had stopped listening to music, and I never watched TV anyway. I didn't want to hear stories about what was going on, because hearing those things felt like dying."
  • "Anger and depression and sorrow are beautiful things in a story, but they're like poison to the filmmaker or artist. They're like a vise grip on creativity. If you're in that grip, you can hardly get out of bed, much less experience the flow of creativity and ideas. You have to be able to catch ideas."
  • "If you do what you believe in and have a failure, that's one thing: you can still live with yourself. But if you don't [do what you believe in and fail], it's like dying twice."
  • "It's good for the artist to understand conflict and stress. Those things can give you ideas. But I guarantee you , if you have enough stress, you won't be able to create. And if you have enough conflict, it will just get in the way of your creativity. You can understand conflict, but you don't have to live it . . . . Right here people might bring up Vincent Van Gogh as an example of a painter who did great work in spite of--or because of--his suffering. I like to think that Van Gogh would have been even more prolific and even greater if he wasn't so restricted by the things tormenting him. I don't think it was pain that made him so great--I think his painting brought him whatever happiness he had."
I find that last passage particularly moving for its compassionate empathy, and I think an awful lot of these ideas are just as applicable to academic writers as they are to filmmakers. At least, although I know there's some controversy concerning the more extravagant claims of TM promoters and this book is unevenly written, a good bit of what Lynch says in it resonates strongly for me.

By the way, for those of you who've seen Mulholland Drive, he also has this to say. It gets a chapter entirely to itself:


I don't have a clue what those are."

Friday, July 13, 2007


Migraine: Day Four. Yep, I've had the same damn dizzy spells, light sensitivity, and pressure for four days running. This may be a record, though I'm not sure, since I didn't know I was having migraines when all the fun started last summer. My co-workers, clients, and advisers have had to deal with me wearing sunglasses indoors while talking to them all week, 'cause when Mama don't work, Mama don't get paid.

Anyway, in order to make lemonade out of this particular lemon, I've pulled out some favorite audiobooks and listened to them in bed with the lights out. Years ago, when I was working in a job that essentially made me a traveling service representative, I borrowed (and copied) lots of recorded books from my local library. They made my commutes wonderful, and I found them very useful while I was studying for the GRE Literature test. It's been nice to get reacquainted with old friends.

I've been listening to Chaucer Studio recordings, of course, but also 81 Famous Poems and my all-time favorite: Philip Madoc's reading of selections from Malory (which is apparently now available as an audiochip). And, just as I was diving into all of this again, Juniperus discovered that Alan Rickman's done a recording of Hardy's Return of the Native, which is very, very tempting, because I seriously love that man's voice.

At any rate, all this has me thinking that I probably should listen to audiobooks more: it's a far better way to chill out than watching junk TV. And I'm also thinking it might be useful to have a better sense of what's out there for classroom purposes.

So: do any of you know of audiobooks you'd particularly recommend?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

That's "Dr. Guitar God" to you!

Brian May finishes his Ph.D. in physics more than 30 years after he started it.

(Hat tip to Crafty Jew--thanks!)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


I've been very productive lately. My adviser wouldn't know it, but it's true.

I'm steadily working on making my life better, more pleasant, easier--steadily working to reclaim control. I've let myself believe far too often that I don't have control over my life, and I am beginning to see how much I'd given up on myself.

I refuse to be mean to myself about this, though. There are many, many ways in which I've been mistreated, abandoned, rejected, and had my heart broken during the last decade or so. I have had every right to feel angry, cheated, underestimated, and discouraged. I have had every right to grieve. But I need to learn how to be kinder to myself by learning how to actually own my life.

As I see it, my dissertation has given me a gift. It has forced me to fight Old Man Depression, rather than just coping with him while he builds rubbish piles all over my mental landscape. It has forced me to face up to the ways in which I have clung to the hope of controlling what I cannot (in particular, how others perceive me) and abdicated control over what I can.

It has made me realize that I have to work hard to become the kind of person who can write a book--or, at least, this book.

It has made me realize how much I've neglected my need to create, connect, and think beyond my career.

It has made me realize exactly how much I've tried to conform to some nebulous, idealized version of a graduate student. And how utterly and repeatedly I've failed to manage being who I am not. What is the point of trying to suppress a personality that, when push comes to shove, just won't allow me to compromise on what I believe most passionately, no matter who wants me to? What is the point, when I'm consistently labeled a rebel and a troublemaker, anyway?

I cannot try, any longer, to live someone else's life. I cannot try, any longer, to be who I am not. The attempt has only made me miserable.

"Disillusioned" has more than one meaning.

Tuesday Tidbits

"I made a few unimportant alterations and additions [to Erewhon], and added a Preface, of which I cannot say that I am particularly proud, but an inexperienced writer with a head somewhat turned by unexpected success is not to be trusted with a preface."
--Samuel Butler

"Making promises to yourself that you never keep brings you down and, over time, breaks your heart. But by breaking difficult tasks down into manageable chunks and building the strength of character to follow through and get them out of the way, you take a huge step forward in reducing hassle in your life."
--Elisabeth Wilson

Friday, July 06, 2007

Wisdom for 25 cents

I've recently developed the habit of shopping for books at thrift stores. It's much less guilt-inducing than visiting your typical Evil Empire store or buying online, for one thing: not only do I leave with a huge stack of books for less than $10 and no shipping costs, but I'm supporting a good cause. This also means that I can be just as impulsive as I like: when books only cost somewhere between 25 cents and a couple of dollars, I can give them away to friends or bookcross them with abandon. I can take more risks on buying things I'm not absolutely sure I'll like or use, too. Not to mention that people give away some utterly fascinating and marvelous books: it's like a treasure hunt!

I've been especially thrilled by the children's books I keep finding. So many people seem to toss out their kids' books--or their own childhood books--once they're "outgrown." This lack of foresight bewilders me. Don't these people realize how delightful and wise a good children's book is? Don't they know they ought to re-read their favorites every couple of years to remind themselves of who they are? Don't they think they'll ever know a child who needs those books?

At any rate, their mistake is my gain. During the last few months, I've found a first edition of Ezra Jack Keats's Snowy Day, a gorgeous copy of The Wind in the Willows, a perfect The Very Hungry Caterpillar board book, a beautiful illustrated copy of The Secret Garden, a spotless Phantom Tollbooth, and loads of spooky kids' books to give away on Halloween. Yesterday, I found a somewhat battered copy of Miss Rumphius, which every single one of you ought to own--or at least borrow from somewhere.

I think this habit is likely to stick.

Good stuff to read elsewhere in Blogland

Carl Pyrdum on medieval lesbians and drunken London Times reporters here.

Absolutely brilliant LolzEliot to be found here.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Financial tips

I'm trying to be much better about taking care of my life outside of academia, hoping that will actually make me better able to do the work I need to do. I've come to believe that grad school--and maybe particularly writing a dissertation--are so grueling that we really do have to pay a lot of attention to taking care of ourselves. I haven't been all that good about doing that, and it's made it incredibly difficult for me to do the work I need to do in order to move forward.

One of the things I'm working on is trying to disentangle and generally improve my financial situation. I think I've felt so hopeless about the possibility of increasing my overall income or lowering my expenses that I've sometimes neglected other, smaller things I can do to help myself. Here are a couple of things I've discovered during the past couple of weeks that I thought some of you might want to hear about, too.

1) This is rather nifty: a program that helps people save for college or--and here's where I get particularly interested--pay down student loans by making everyday purchases. The idea is that you register your credit cards and grocery or drug store discount cards, link them to either a savings account or your student loan account, and start accruing money in small percentages per item for qualifying products. Friends and family members can even enroll their own cards and contribute their earnings to your account!

This really seems like a positive thing, all around, to me: the program pays for itself by getting commissions from the companies involved, the companies gain more loyal customers, and the people who enroll get to save or pay off debt a little at a time for products they probably already buy.

2) If you're a student and, like me, have had a computer death in the family, check to see whether your school will allow you to adjust your financial need figures upward, allowing you to take out more loan money in order to get a new machine. Some banks and credit unions also offer computer loans to students at low rates.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Holy Hoppin' Tater Tots!

I'm an aunt!

How weird is that?

Also pretty cool, of course.

Welcome to the world, little fella.

Just for the record . . .

Remember the "cross-training" thing I mentioned before? Well, it works. I'm combining this with loads of to-do lists; a huge, 12-month calendar; and obsessive planner notations. Yes, my life really is just that exciting.

In other news, I'm very tired: I'm trying to wean myself off of the night-owl schedule I prefer and onto a more conventional 7am-11pm kinda thing. It hurts.

The computer is still dead. I guess I was hoping I'd wake up in the morning to find that I was just having a bad dream, but apparently not. (Enter more loan debt, stage right.)

I have a new gym membership, which is a good thing. But I still hate exercising.

I fully realize that this blog has become a bit dull of late. My apologies for that, and my thanks to those of you who're patient enough to keep reading, anyway. The late-lamentedness of my computer and my ongoing concentration on giving my life a makeover are forcing me to cut back on my virtual hours for the time being.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Yet another dramatic prairie dog

Courtesy of Boy Roomie . . .