Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Back to Beowulf?

The man who brought us Back to the Future and Forrest Gump directed Beowulf. Oh dear, I thought. I am truly done with the babyboomer aesthetic (if you don't know what I'm talking about, watch AI. Gorgeous and evocative but the evidence of this style, this sensibility, is smeared across parts of it like a hummus flecked thumb print).

I was ready to blow Beowulf off and seeing that Zemeckis is the director did very little to challenge my prejudice fueled decision. However, a couple of aspects caught my eye and now I'm interested again. Namely, Neil Gaiman shares screenplay credit. Anthony Hopkins is playing the king (the one whose all night parties pissed Grendel off, and pardon my detour but can you blame Grendel, really? If some fuck opened an all night meade hall just a stone's throw from your house, I'll bet there'd be nights when you'd be tempted to go in there and drag off thirty thanemen to prove a point...). Crispin Glover is Grendel, which is perfect. And in what seems to me a most unlikely but amusing casting choice, Angelina Jolie is Grendel's mother.

Ok, they definitely have my attention. Let's hope it's not a set up for a big disappointment.

1:00 AM poetry

Someone set the thermostat on my building's oil burner to 80 degrees. My apartment, being directly and immediately over the furnace, is mighty warm.

Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
-Robert Frost

Monday, October 29, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Yeah baby, lick it!

Found on Forbes.com (and thanks to my fella for sending me the quote).
I provided some of the article for context.

Giuliani Is Asked His Conservative Views
By Sara Kugler
October 23, 2007 9:20 PM ET

Republican Rudy Giuliani declined Tuesday to tell a voter where he agrees and disagrees with conservative members of his party, saying it's about more than "just an ideology."

The former New York City mayor, who has made conservative Republicans nervous with some of his more liberal views - his support of abortion rights and gun control, for example - was asked pointedly at a town-hall-style meeting to outline where his views align with conservatives.
Giuliani ticked off his accomplishments as mayor, including his administration's 1995 zoning law that effectively closed adult entertainment shops or pushed them to the edges of many neighborhoods.

It is a part of his resume that he has been noting more frequently lately, and on Tuesday he suggested he alone cleaned up New York City's smutty reputation.

"I took a city that was known for pornography, and licked it, to a large extent," he said.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Snow miser

My little brother's doing better. He was down here this past weekend and I fed him so much he put on 5 pounds in 4 days. Excellent.

Life goes on. So do we.

I'm noticing searches for costume + Cold miser (or more properly known as "Snow Miser") have gotten this blog several hits in the past month or so.

I was the Snow Miser one year for halloween and apparently I mentioned that here. I feel bad for the people who come here looking...somewhere I have pictures. I've said this more than once, haven't I? And then I don't deliver. I have good intentions but bad follow through on that. This is (largely) because since I've lived in a series of apartments for the last 7 years and storage space is thus at a premium, my un-albumed prints tend to be packed away under or on top of things which would require strength and agility to negotiate. I admit to also finding myself thinking on at least one occasion while contemplating the pile of things which require strength and agility "Is this little bit of extra self absorption really worth possibly pulling a muscle, crushing a finger, dropping things on my head, or worse?"

It seems a big fat "NO" is a reasonable conclusion given the circumstances. And so the pictures stay un-posted. But I am ambitious and some would say an optimist (no really, a faculty member recently called me a regular god damned pollyanna...). So I'll at least consider trying to dig out some old halloween pictures to post. No promises though.

In the meantime or possibly instead, I've provided a YouTube Snow Miser/Heat Miser video clip from the movie, and below that is a (detailed) description of my snow miser costume in case you were considering a Heat Miser/Snow Miser costume (or set) this year yourself. It's pretty quick and not that expensive. Certainly no more than the bags o'costume you can pick up at those Halloween stores which spring up seasonally in the barely inhabited corners of strip malls everywhere. Or everywhere around here at least.

Truly, these "cartoons" are kind of creepy. Especially the little mini-snow miser chorus guys. Extra creepy. I went as the snow miser because the then-guy wanted to go as the heat miser and it just lent itself so easily to a couple costume. Oh the things we do for love...

Still, it was a fun costume and pretty quickly recognizable, especially if you go as a set. The costume below is clearly adaptable to a Heat Miser costume by substituting red, yellow/gold, and orange for the blue, white, and silver. This goes for makeup as well as for clothing. You should be able to pick up blue/white or red/orange/yellow cream makeup or face paint at most places which sell costume supplies (local drug stores out here have it seasonally on the halloween aisles). Obviously, if you're going to turn the costume below into a Heat Miser, don't go for the icicles and probably you should skip the boa and just plan to really go high and poky with your hair (with lots of cream makeup/hair-paint and that nasty, fumy colored hairspray they only sell at halloween).

What you'll need:
A long-ish long sleeved blue jersey (solid is best)
Blue gloves (borrowed or bought if you don't have any yet for winter)
Blue scarf (same)
White leggings, tights (if you want some kinda coochie grazing hoochie mamma Snow Miser get up), or sweats. I think I just wore black leggings. Not very accurate but boy was I comfy
Boots (whatever color, white if you want to match but any boot would work...so long as you can trick or treat or dance in them)
White cream face make up
Light concealer cream or base make up
Baby powder
Big powder puffy brush (at least, and possibly a slightly smaller one for eyes but if you're skilled, you can get away with sacrificing just one brush/puff)
Clear/white or silver glitter gel make up
Frosty blue eyeshadow or frosty blue powder makeup (cream will do in a pinch but I liked the powder over cream)
Enough white craft/marabou boa to fit around your head
At least 2 largish (>3" long) clear icicle ornaments

I didn't go for the straw hat...I suppose if you really want one you can probably get your hands on one at your local GOP elections headquarters.

Clothing: Cut a zig-zag pattern along the edge of the hem, sleeves, and neck of the jersey. If you cut too low on the neck, you can wear a t-shirt or tank top under it. Too high on the hem is why I wore leggings. Try not to go too high or you'll end up with a snow miser baby tee. You can avoid all that by trying it on and marking with some pins or chalk (inside out if you're going to do the chalk thing) but this takes all the fun guessing out of it.
The other clothing items are self explanatory I hope.

Makeup: Mix some white face makeup into the very light liquid concealer or very light cream base/foundation makeup. You can go with straight white face but I think it makes me look like a clown, which is not the effect we're going for here. We want pale and cold. Plan to whiten up a bit with the powder too, so your base doesn't need to be alabaster-like. Using powder rather than just cream white face make up helps avoid that nasty wrinkle enhancing property of white face (a concern if you're my age). Apply your very very light almost white base as you would regular base. For those of you who don't normally wear it, try dotting it along your face then lightly smearing down and over to blend it. Don't rub up or you'll be driving it into your pores and don't it in. Ick.

You can smear it right into your hair, adding in some pure white cream into the hair itself. Let it set a bit, then lightly puff on baby powder with a powder brush.

Use your make up brush (puff one, the thing you'd use for powder) to apply a bunch of blue frosty eyeshadow to your eyes and then around hair line, then more gently under your cheek bones (like rouge). You can put it all along the outline of your face really if you want to go for the very damned cold look. Using your finger, dot some glitter gel around - eyes, eyebrows, and hair line are good places, but wherever else is fine. Make sure to work some into your hair too. If you don't want your eyes to look totally dead, I recommend a dark blue eyeliner and mascara as well. You can mix blue eyeshadow or liner with lip gloss to do a blue mouth, set with a puff of blue eyeshadow and add a bit of glitter if you want.

Hair: By now it should be relatively well whited and glittered. If not, rub some on your hands with some hair gel or other sculpting product and work it at least through the ends of your hair with your fingers. You don't need color at the root, although it's pretty stiff when it dries and so it will help hold your hair up into the proper "cold miser" pokey looking 'do. Use a comb or brush to tease and rat up your hair a bit. If you have lots of hair, teasing it up is easier to do upright rather than with your head upside down. (a common misconception about pokey or otherwise "big hair" is that you need to flip your hair upside down to achieve it. I've found that while this may help in the blow drying phase, by the time it's dry and you're trying to get it up, keeping your head upright and just pulling up and ratting sections at a time (and fixing with spray if you're into the whole spray thing) is the best way to get it up and keep it up. Finish with glitter and tie the white boa around your head like a headband, covering your ears unless you want to rub a bunch of white makeup and powder onto them....

I think that's it. If I remember more, I'll add it later.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"how deep?"

This is the line on the flash Ford advertisement open in another tab of my browser. If I can, I'll post a shot of it. Until then, here's my description.

The picture this phrase accompanies is of a craggy looking man, close up on his face. In the gauzily focused background, there's a large black pickup, bed open, holding a very large, complex looking motor (there's shiny metal, dull metal, propellers, and even wood involved). The craggy man's face is creased extra hard with barely held in emotion. His mouth is making a begrudgingly appreciative flat smile, clefted chin straining to push that curve back into something more appropriately masculine. The overall effect is something which suggests judicious satisfaction. Mere inches from his face, a disembodied hand (presumably his) holds a very large metal bolt. The bolt is not shiny. It's dull with a bit of sheen on the head. It is perched delicately on the man's fingertips, glinting head about level with his creased brow, the base of the bolt disappearing down out of the frame (along with the rest of the hand which holds it). It is a large bolt.

The man is considering this bolt. The posture of him and position of the bolt inform us that he has been inspecting it and by the look on his face, we can conclude that he has found it to be satisfactory.
And now he is still standing there, struck by the imminently satisfying looking bolt, wondering "just how deep does it go?"

Update: Here it is. A screen shot of the craggy man pondering his bolt.

That is so Brokeback Mountain.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A favorite Dr. Katz

I stumbled across a Dr. Katz reference recently. To my delight, they have it on netflix. For now though, we can enjoy the random Youtube clip.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

MRSA it is

My brother's got a (community acquired) MRSA pneumonia. He is super sick. They're going to try to drain some of the fluid from his lung today and also to try to get him a bed at a Boston hospital, dare I say at "The" Boston hospital. It's where his primary is, so aside from the status of man's greatest hospital in Boston, MA, there is the benefit of being followed by a doctor and service who actually have his history. Currently, he's inpatient at at one of those cute little suburban hospitals. My sister calls the little suburban hospital a "baby farm". The admitting and subsequently attending doctor (a "hospitalist") didn't get a history from my brother and didn't bother to ask any one of us. They only got two sputum specimens and everyone but the attending said they were shitty specimens. I mean everyone. Infectious disease, the lab, the respiratory therapist who got them....

My rants on the hospitalist and on some aspects of the nursing care at Babyfarm Memorial can wait for another time and possibly another forum. For now, my primary concerns are about my brother and about getting myself better so I can go back up there to be with him.

Friday, October 05, 2007


I got a text message at 5:31 AM on Wednesday. My sister did too. The messages were from our brother, saying "Call me please".

By the time I woke up saw the message and called him, his phone was off and his voice mail was full.

My sister called me Wednesday evening to ask if I knew why there were ambulances and emergency crews all over Huntington Ave. Looked it up. Nope. Called her back after I saw a traffic report about a haz-mat spill. She promised to be careful and to call me later. I went back to work, writing my lecture for Wednesday, coughing, sniffling, and feeling kinda crappy.

Then my brother called. He was in a South Shore (MA) emergency department, and he was "wigging out" or some such phrasing.
"Well what's going on?" I asked.
He said he'd been cleared by medicine and was waiting to see psych.
To me, this signaled meth. I said "So you're having another - episode?"

I don't know for certain why I do this. I sometimes take my cues from him on it. If he's speaking openly about it, saying "I picked up" or "I used", then I feel like he'll be ok with me using more direct language. If he seems to be avoiding direct terms, then sometimes I will avoid them too.

I think my choice to comply with the oblique phrasing is because, at those times, I'm afraid I'll scare him off if he sees me as being aggressive or pushy when it comes to talking about his crystal meth addiction and his efforts to break it. I think it's because there have been times when I've insisted on saying "Did you use?" Or even more explicitly "Did you use meth this weekend/last night/today?" and when I've not heard from him for a month after.

So Wednesday night I didn't pry or push.

Later Wednesday night, my sister told me when she had last called the hospital, they told her our brother was outside, waiting for his ride home. "Are you his ride?" the hospital staff member asked my sister. My brother was fetched from where he was waiting outside the hospital. On the phone, he was unable to distinguish my sister from our mom. My sister tried to correct him and he got upset and hung up on her. However, according to the nurse my sister spoke with when she called back (concerned), our brother was alert and oriented and was being discharged.

Neither my sister nor I could believe that they were actually discharging him from the E.R. after only a couple of hours, moreover, that they had apparently discharged him to the curb.

And then Thursday came. I called my brother from campus, full voicemail. Sent a text message. Last night my sister and I talked only briefly. I felt like hell after teaching and then working in my rather chilly office for 4 hours. I got some work done but given how much I was coughing when I woke up this morning, I'm not sure it will have been worth it in the final account.

This morning, someone left a message on my house phone. When someone leaves a message on the answering machine on my house line, the machine helpfully beeps to let you know you have a message waiting. Much like a cell. Although I didn't wake up to the sound of the phone ringing (I blame the cold meds), I did hear the beeping of the answering machine. As I worked my way into wakefulness (believe me, it was work today), I realized there were in fact two beeps - the leading louder answering machine alert and the softer call of the cell phone which was smothered in the deeper reaches of my purse.

Both messages said roughly the same thing, each with slightly different details. My brother had gone back to the hospital and had been admitted. He has an aggressive pneumonia. He is in a lot of pain, is on O2, morphine, vancomycin, and his O2 sat is being closely monitored.

I can't go up to see him because I'm sick, still getting sick in fact it seems. They don't like you going into hospitals with a nasty rattling cough like this. This means there's fuck all I can do now. Just sit down here and
- craft a writing assignment which will elicit the clear and skillful written forms which I am to believe are sitting fully formed inside my students just waiting for the felicitous conditions under which they will burst forth in a fit of glorious, APA formatted erudition
- try not to smoke
- hope my brother rallies
- hope the organism isn't something on the order of MRSA
- hope he can be transfered to a hospital where the one E.R. attending isn't a moonlighting horse doctor

Thursday, October 04, 2007


It's October, the leaves are falling, pumpkins and cider are being sold on nearly every corner, and it's going to be in the mid eighties for the next four days. That's just fucked up.

The only thing keeping the leaf mold at a less than hideous level is the fact that we've been in drought conditions for about the last two months (or more).

Combined with the not unexpected but still miserable Fall sniffling, sneezing, hacking cold, I am not feeling terribly spry today. I'm also irritated with myself that my students are going to get about 2/3s of the lecture I wanted to give them and only about 1/4 of the lecture I'm supposed to give them.

That latter part isn't the crucial problem since what I'm supposed to give them is based on materials and a course structure which was outdated 5 years ago when it made its way into a series of computer files. That was the kiss of death for hopes of ever updating the materials to reflect the changes to the course curriculum because now the current poopapotamus and past poopapotami have dutifully copied and distributed this out of date material, semester after semester to grads desperately in need of teaching materials or even crutches.

Thus, the badly fitting material and structure has been perpetuated through the years, like some dysfunctional family tradition. Like the Nutcracker tradition my mother foisted on us each year for some period of my adolescence. It started with a drive into Boston on a weekend evening, always sure to get the clotting factor and blood pressure up. Our dad would navigate the minivan around narrow Boston streets, hunting in what seemed like a never ending loop which wove in and out of what used to be Chinatown and the Combat Zone, to Roxbury and skirting South Station. It looks like a small area on the map, but you drive it in the snow during rush hour on a Friday night with a drunk and three sulry and/or scared teens in the back. It's not a fun trip.

As with the Nutcracker, at some point you just have to say "Enough!" This is about where I'm at with teaching these labs. It's not that I don't care. I care quite a bit. I just don't care to "teach" my students by the book (or rather, by the CD) if the book no longer fits.

It does mean more work for me in terms of coming up with material though, and that's where we get into the 2/3 of what I wanted to give them today. Yesterday's fever sort of broke up my work time a bit more than I had anticipated and so my plan to cover this, that, AND the other thing had to be pared down at about 1 AM to just this and that.

If I had just stuck to the CD, I'd be able to give the students 100% of a lecture which is largely contextually useless, and still manage to have time for important activities like being seen dragging my sick, sniffling carcass through the hallways. This is very important in grad school, to be seen that is. If you can manage to be seen by a stodgey old paternalistic faculty member while you are visibly and indeed valiantly choking down a mouthful of your own vomit or carrying on with a two hour nonstop lecture despite looking like you could have played an extra in Shaun of the Dead, then you win.
At least for that moment.
At least in my department you do.

My advisor recently hurt herself. She doesn't know how. She just woke up in pain. It was so bad and enduring that she was limping quite severely all around the building last week. I wasn't feeling bad that day so when she said she was going to get lunch, I offered to get it for her.
"No, I'll get it. It's probably good for me to walk..." she said hobbling off. In fact, it is NOT good to use a part of your body which you very recently injured. The standard first aid which I honestly thought most people knew is Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. She was doing none of those.

It's been almost two weeks and she's lost work time, had to go home early and didn't even make it in on Monday, as a result of the pain not subsiding. But damn, she sure looked committed hobbling around campus, getting her own lunch. When she said it was probably good for her to walk on a joint which was so fucked that it was sore to touch, I wonder now if she meant good for her in a spiritual, pilgrim wearing a hair shirt sense....

Today I'm breaking my "don't come to class sick" rule. Because they have a project deadline coming up, and because although I've made up my mind to leave, I don't want to blow off my teaching responsibility. But Teaching in this state, it's like 80 degree weather in October. It just ain't right.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

a libran decision making paradigm

Here is the question. Do I finish my PhD or do I leave by Spring 08 with a master's?

Here is a brief and highly simplified overview of my decision factors.
Finishing what I've started.
Get to have people call me "Doctor".
Get a chance to hold a professorship.

Coordinating good faith and timely reading and review of various drafts of both my proposal and dissertation by a group of faculty who have demonstrated serious failings in time management and coordination abilities.
With loans + a half time GAship, I will run out of money to live on by March 2008.
I am borrowing money that I will be paying off at a rate of:
- nearly $600 a month if I can pay off the debt within ten years
- nearly $400 a month if I can pay off the debt within twenty years
- just under $330 a month if I can pay off the debt within thirty years
(And that's assuming a maximum fixed interest rate of 6.8%, which not all of these loans have)
Permanent, stable faculty positions are far less easily come by now than they had been for the past generation of scholars.
Permanent, stable faculty positions entail average teaching loads of 4/3.
Many of the lower teaching load tenure track positions give preference to candidates with post-doctoral training and who come with their own active grant (or strong "extramural funding" history).
Trying for such a position would require at the least a willingness and ability to uproot every one or two years for anywhere from 3 to 10 years post PhD.

I cannot get a more than half time GAship because I have been taking too long in this program since my second year in it.
I have good reason to doubt I will be healthy enough to hold a job after I leave my program (with or without PhD) which will pay enough for me to afford both my education debt payments and my other monthly costs of living.
I am certain I am not healthy enough to go through what is becoming the standard post PhD employment scramble and make ends meet, do a yearly tenure track job search, and bounce around following the promise of a tenure track job as if it were the damned holy grail.
I do not like the academic work culture/climate. The hypocrisies wear on my nerves, stress me out, and make me loathe nearly all aspects of the interpersonal interactions and even sometimes the impersonal experiences I have as a researcher and instructor.
I quite strongly feel the trends in higher education employment are socially irresponsible.
I quite strongly feel the trends in undergraduate education are socially irresponsible and socio-economically unjust.
I find it hard to reconcile both my principles and my physical abilities with how I would need to behave and act in order to be a functional part of this socially irresponsible, socio-economically unjust, hypocrisy laden, pretense riddled system.
Having some license to insist that people call you "Doctor" is, as I see it, not a sufficient reason to do anything.