Friday, September 28, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • Conversation over breakfast of Swiss oatmeal this morning included Alan Watts’ lecture over the coincidence of opposites, Huston Smith’s Zen training, and the metaphysics of becoming (as opposed to the Heideggerean notion of Gellasenheit, a letting be). All this before 7:30 a.m.
  • There is no front without a back, no heads without tails, no sickness without health, no I without you.
  • Now that it’s almost 9:00, I can also think about bringing in Parmenides’ attempt toward deduction: one can’t make negative existential statements, nor can one make positive existential statements (because by saying what something is, then one is implicitly saying what something is not—if this is a dog, then it is necessarily not a cat—which takes you back to the first premise).
  • Therefore (in all of its metaphysical/rhetorical glory), all is one.
  • There is no Buddhist monk without a dictator-general.
  • And every poet has her other.
  • But who is the poet’s other? The rhetorician? The philosopher? The linguist? The poem’s reader? The poem? The poet herself? All and (n)one::all is (n)one.
  • It’s now 9:02, and I still have so much more work to do....

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What there is to learn

If nirvana is reached only after the extinguishing of desire, which, of course, includes the desire not to desire, because desire causes suffering, which defines the life of samsara, yet Buddhist monks can march toward a greater freedom from suffering within samsara on the way toward nirvana, can we not too desire their success? I can only pray that when Rangoon is painted red it won't be with their blood.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Scivias

I remain
Together:t(w)o-gathered
A union w/o unity
Identity w/ difference
Singable yet always (yet) unsung remainder
Twinned coils twining through
Here & (t)here & no(w)here:now/here
Wo ist der Mensch?
W(h)er(e) ist der Mensch?
Here- her- he- ach
And a thou-
Sand hands to hold at night
And an eye
T(w)o-ward
Hath an ear
Near- 'ear 'ea- æ
Farawaywayawaywayaway
Let be--this subjunctive that terrorizes time
I'm set ... for now
Know- now- no-

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Il y a / n'est plus

A hundred years of his undying death articulating as if the singular unsaid, unsaying, unsayable, in its fully exteriorized impossibility against the homogenized totalization of a text, an other. He always already (yet) exceeds his own excessive supplementarity. I hereby sign and countersign your centenary as we both recede in our mutually singular oblivions.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • Stop having those miniature emotional outbursts (read: breakdowns) when you translate sentences like, "The baby with the head like a balloon died in the hospital while she held his hand," or you're never going to finish this translation assignment by Monday. Tochman's reportage is difficult enough without getting emotionally involved with the people he writes about. Besides, you'll have plenty of time to cry after you finish the Ph.D. when you find yourself even more unemployable.
  • I have to admit that I hate Apple more and more. Their software is utterly non-intuitive and buggy. I feel the vein in my forehead start to throb and my right eye begin to twitch every time that damned spinning rainbow mouse icon appears because that usually signals that I'll soon have to reboot. And why, oh why, can't they not release iTunes updates every fucking week? (Or when they do, make it smart enough to not require that I have to delete all the old shortcuts and add new ones?) And how much longer will it take me to figure out how to add Polish and Japanese fonts to this PowerBook? I've been trying for a couple of weeks so far with no luck whereas I had no problem with all my PC machines. (And yes, I've visited all the help sites and have downloaded various fonts packages, and yet still I can only type in the Devil's language (read: English).)
  • Offer to take Jason to the Stevie Nicks' concert next time she plays Dallas. Hell, if he is interested in spending his birthday listening to Tori Amos wail away at the piano, then he's got to be a fan of the spinning lace and chiffon of that witchy-witchy woman with the soul of a poet.
  • Remember the pure bliss of sitting at all those coffee shops in San Francisco just last weekend with Jola, Kris, and Stephen with no agenda, no plan, and no anxiety about the sheer immensity of my insurmountable workload waiting for me back in Dallas. That was the best (and most necessary) get-away of all times.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Rugged Ascent

This afternoon I had my students do a close reading of Plato's Allegory of the Cave for the entire class period, and I have to say that they did an amazing job. I remember being wowed by Plato when I first read him as a college student, but several years later (and after one absolutely useless semester at the University of Dallas--the most narrow-minded, ideologically driven mockery of education) I just don't get that excited about Plato. Derrida? Yes. Blanchot? Heidegger? Yes, yes.

I wanted my students to get a feel of how a much more advanced philosophy course might be, doing a hermeneutical exercise for an extended period of time. Of course, we only covered two of the four-page excerpt, but I had students who I had assumed had already checked out of education altogether raise their hands and want to argue/discuss/interpret/analyze. One student in particular--one who has never spoken up in class before--started doing a Freudian analysis of Plato's allegory. Granted, he had never heard of Freud before, but his interpretation was dead-on. (I have colleagues at the university who would've been lost with what this college freshman was saying!) I joked with my students that they were doing advanced philosophy and that I wanted them to dumb it down a little.

In my own philosophy course this afternoon we read a short poem by Celan, taking three hours to barely cover the three stanzas. My head is still spinning. And of course I feel even more like I need to go back and reread all that Plato I haven't been excited about in twenty years. Being/Becoming a professor opens up all kinds of avenues of (feelings of) inadequacy.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • Don't stress out about misplacing/losing my debit card. With lack of sleep and new drugs and several frustrating factors worming their way into my otherwise sedate and calm life, I'm bound to lose more than a little plastic card along the way, especially when my wallet has barely recovered from the move back into my Texan life. I've narrowed down possible places I could've left it: the ATM, doctor's office, the college, the university, Fadi's restaurant, my office, my classroom, the faculty office, the copy room, the car, Starbucks in the basement of the Bank of American bldg. downtown, my home, or (perhaps worst of all) my wallet.
  • Don't cry out loud. Keep it inside; learn how to hide your feelings. (This Melissa Manchester moment was brought to you by the letter J and the number 3.)
  • Drink strong coffee while having even stronger conversations with Jola and Stephen while enjoying the cool afternoon in San Francisco starting this afternoon until Sunday afternoon.
  • Write that short bio my boss asked me for three weeks ago, and begin looking at the teaching schedule for the spring '08 term.
  • Accept the vajra when it strikes as it is always already striking yet again.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Professional Experience Optional

I love my teaching job. Really. My students are bright and inquisitive and ask really difficult questions. It's easy to see that many of them are engaged with the subject. Of course, I have a few slackers and wanna-be dozers as well, but most days I feel more akin to them—thank you, insomnia!—than those students who always raise their hands and want more information.

What I’m utterly sick of, however—and mind you, it’s only the third week of classes—is the shitty secretarial/clerical pool who can’t seem to do one fucking thing except sit on their asses and scold you for something completely out of your control. I still don’t have a key to my classroom. I was hired last April, but the key request wasn’t submitted until after the fall term began. And the one person on campus who duplicates keys took the past week off for vacation.

So I calls the gurl who should be able to get things done and am told I needs to just contact the campus police via the emergency phone to have someone sent up. My first thought was to simply pull the emergency alarm—feigning ignorance and misunderstanding—and fuck up the entire campus at least for a few minutes.

Of course, campus police feel they have more important things to tend to—and they really should; no argument here—but my class and I sit in the hall until about a quarter past before someone appears with a key. And I have to show my faculty ID, blah blah blah, because I look “like just another student” to the trained professional campus security force. Funny how some back-assward compliments tend to just piss you off.

Yesterday my email account stopped working, so while on campus this morning I called IT to solve my problems. Instead I’m confronted with Bitchy Bitchison. Now I don’t want anyone reading this to think I don’t like bitches. That’s just not true. Some of my best friends are bitches. But if she didn’t sound so completely laughable with her deep southern accent when she scolded, “Wahn thang atta tayme, now!” my head would’ve exploded right then and there.

I understand your jobs are shit. And seeing your plaques that read “In Honor of 5 Years of Service,” “In Honor of 10 Years of Service,” “In Honor of 15 Years of Service,” and “In Honor of 20 Years of Service” above your desk everyday has got to just rub you as raw as your inner thighs when you think back to a whole constellation of bad decisions that got you this far in life. But you have insurance—I don’t. Your paycheck—despite my almost Ph.D. compared to your Associates of Secretarial Training (I’m not making this shit up!)—is much more than mine since you’re fulltime and I’m barely part-time.

Is it too much to ask for a little respect? If not for my degrees, professional demeanor, maturity, functionality, then at least for the fact that once, a long time ago, I too served as a secretary/clerk, but that I used my secretarial powers for good and not evil. And that I got out of the secretarial pool to evolve into the super boy-genius you see before you. And I probably type just as fast if not faster than Thou. So fucking do your job and stop telling me how to do mine!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sweet Substitute for Joy!

My neurologist prescribed a new drug for me yesterday to take in addition to Rozerem, and last night was my first ride on the Amitriptyline pony. It’s classified as an anti-depressant, but since the only thing I tend to be depressed about is my insomnia, my doctor prescribed it for my insomnia. It didn’t do much for me last night in the sleep department, but I woke up in an appreciably better mood than usual. I actually sang out, “Good morning!” to one of my neighbors. She was scared and ran inside to lock her doors. You see, I’ve conditioned most people in my life to fully appreciate my asocial, misanthropic self.

On the commute to work I found myself mostly flipping between the classic rock stations and actually enjoying the gratuitous guitar solos I’ve shunned since the early ‘80s. When I heard Coldplay as I was scanning the other listening options, I immediately shuddered and switched back to the oldies. Amitriptyline strikes again, I thought. What else could make me both sing greetings to my neighbors and listen to hair bands from my teenage years? Was it depression after all that turned me into my post-punk, spiked hair, black-clad self? I’d probably be married with kids in college and living in the ‘burbs if I could’ve gotten a decent night’s sleep in the past few decades. I’d be driving a Lexus instead of that damned sensible Camry!

Perhaps tonight I’ll up my dose and see where the Amitriptyline pony takes me tomorrow down the stony path of self-rediscovery.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Nur ein bisschen

All throughout the German language course Saturday morning I kept thinking that the grammar my teacher was going over was too easy for me and that I should transfer to a more advanced level. Then we had to open our mouths and introduce ourselves, and the realization that I have absolutely (or at least almost) no vocabulary under my belt or in my head hit me square in the face. Worse: we had to read a short passage from the textbook and then translate it into English. I started to think that perhaps I should drop down a level instead. Or two. Maybe I'll just ride it out for a couple of weeks.

I like my teacher. That's an improvement over the angry (and smelly) Romanian from this summer. She talked about being a girl during the Berlin Airlift, jumping up and down on the mounds of rubber at Tempelhof with excitement when the one plane would tilt its wings to let the children below know that it was going to drop chocolates with tiny parachutes down to them. I almost always like people who can share stories from the Cold War. I wanted to shrink her and put her in a tiny box for my desk and make her jump for joy every time I lifted the lid and dropped a Hershey's kiss down for her.

I especially liked how she introduced herself and then immediately admonished us not to pronounce her name "like Americans." Now that's the German efficiency (and domineering) I can get behind! Ah, we shall see, no?

Friday, September 7, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • Insomnia - Since returning from Germany two weeks ago I haven't been able to sleep past 4:30 AM. Most days I'm awake before then. (I'm usually in bed by 10:00 PM every night.) I'm just about at the breaking point physically as well as mentally, especially when I have as much work to get done during my typical day-to-day as I do. I fear my philosophy course--the one I'm teaching downtown--is suffering because by the time 11:00 rolls around I'm yawning and ready for a nap. I have an appointment with my neurologists (sleep doctors) Tuesday morning. Hopefully they'll put me on some better medication.
  • Next Friday I fly to San Francisco to hang out for a couple of days with the ever-lovely Pani J. I'm looking forward to the escape from Dallas--yes, even though I've only been here for two weeks! Even more, though, I'm excited about spending time with one of my absolute most favorite people in the world. Jola and I were neighbors in Warsaw for almost a year, and I know I wouldn't have been able to last that long in such a miserable city without her continual friendship, insight, and hilarity. Can't wait for those long chats over good coffee while staring out over the Bay.
  • Tomorrow I begin the German language course at the Goethe Center. Am I ready to focus yet again on that language in an attempt to develop some sort of fluency and literacy after such a crappy experience this summer? Stay tuned to find out.
  • Exercise - Will I ever return to my pre-Europe schedule of hitting the gym 4-5 times a week? I'm afraid that all the weight I lost while in Germany was just muscle mass. I miss the sweat. I miss the endorphins. Ah, sweet endorphins! Perhaps before the German class tomorrow I can make it to the Y for a quick 30-minute workout.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Spam from the Great Beyond

Bobcat JesusIf you are reading this, then the Lord Bobcat Jesus has come down in his infinite flames and glory, surrounded by heavenly hosts and neighborly guests, in order to take those whosoever believeth in Him into the folds of his celestial paradise for eternity ... or until the boredom settles in. Millions of His believers have been called into heaven, and you, dear, have been Kept Down on earth.

Rumors are surely abounding around the globe about the disappearance of His followers, but in case you haven't heard about it already, then you must just assume that there is a huge worldwide conspiracy to suppress the fact that Bobcat Jesus has returned for His chosen.

I was one of them. So there! See, I was right. All those long, preachy sermons about how the flames of hell will lick the boils on your ass if you don't believe in the sacrificial graciousness of His Lord Holyroller were not in vain. Whereas my cup of everlasting mercy shall overflow, you will lick the dregs of your Dixie cup of Tang.

The only way out of this infernal predicament is to clasp your hands together oh-so-tightly and repeat after me: "I was wrong. There is a Bobcat Jesus. I believe in Bobcat Jesus. I offer up my worthless piece of shit self to your unlimited grooviness and love."

Only if you say that three times fast and really really mean it, then maybe--just maybe--Bobcat Jesus will pick you up next time he swings by planet Earth. Keep your fingers crossed!

The only trouble with this is that some people would rather waste their time believing in Jesus (without the "Bobcat") than accepting the Bobcat (perhaps without the "Jesus"). Thanks to I Blame the Patriarchy for the Good News!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Poet/Novelist/Writer/Blogger/Scholar


toothpastefordinner.com

Guilty.

I wrote bad poetry until my poetry was published by a publisher of bad poetry. Then I was too humiliated that my heart-wrenching poems were enclosed in the same volume as this stellar work:
There once was a mouse.
He saw some cheese.
He went for the cheese.
But it was a trap.
There is no longer a mouse.
In college, when I was president of the English honor society, I organized Bad Poetry Readings. If you showed up with none of your own bad poetry, I would hand out that collection and have each person find an equally bad poem to read for the group. I haven't written poetry (too) seriously since.

A few years ago, when I was gainfully and woefully underemployed, I too participated in a "write a novel in a month" program. My novel remains unfinished--like much of my life--as I do actually concentrate on finishing the Ph.D.

Perhaps Dr. Skajlab will revisit that writing project at a later date, perhaps when tenure is not looming quite so large overhead. Perhaps retirement. Perhaps when Wendy Faris reads the last sentence of À la recherche du temps perdu I'll be walking to the post office with my manuscript in a brown paper envelope to send it to a respected and reputable publisher of fine letters. Perhaps.

Until then I have much work to do on my dissertation. And all those writing assignments for my last semester of coursework. And articles to submit for publication in peer-reviewed journals. So it looks like I'll be able to delay and postpone the fear that I'm really a shitty novelist for years.

Until then, I'll just focus on the fact that I'm a pretty shitty blog writer.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Voices

Nothing abides. Nothing remains.

Today I found out that Ray Williams died. (We raise our voices.) He was the chair of the fine arts division at the community college I attended. (We learn to speak.) He listened, especially when I had something (important) to say. (We speak our minds.) He spoke to me as if I had something important to say. (He taught speech. And humanities.) Although we certainly were not close, he had a deep impact on my life. (I teach.) He was sensitive, and intelligent, and passionate. (I am still learning to listen when my students speak.) Rest in peace, Ray. (Your voice will be missed.)

Monday, September 3, 2007

Dog Day Afternoon

Saw a dog of a movie this holiday weekend: The Year of the Dog. Who in their right mind liked this film? And why did so many people recommend it to me? Just further proof, it seems, that human beings are ultimately unknowable.

I almost always take my cue from a film’s popularity: if it grosses more than a couple of million, then it’s probably not to my tastes. But everyone was talking about this film. Hell, even Saturday Night Live brought back Molly Shannon to host—only the second time a former female cast member returned to host—because of the success (or buzz) of this movie.

There wasn’t a single likeable or believable character. And a very fundamental note to the director/writer/producer: a real vegan wouldn’t be drinking wine or brushing her teeth with a big-name brand displayed on the tube. Those things typically aren’t vegan! I learned those things when I was a teenager on a farm in East Texas. I have no idea why someone in Hollywood wouldn’t be as smart as a dumb country fuck.

Another DVD I rented this weekend was Strangers with Candy. Still not sure what the point of that was. It was strange and bizarre, but I certainly didn’t find it funny. Thankfully the third DVD was a winner: Wanda Sykes’ stand-up routine filmed in Seattle. Now that made me laugh out loud.

To wash the gullet and clear the (mental) palate from crappy DVDs, I went to see the latest Bourne film this afternoon. Not quite as good as the first two, but still something worthwhile. I really like Matt Damon’s character, and I also really like Joan Allen’s and Julia Stiles’ characters as well. I’m glad Ludlum kept developing those female characters. Finally a film I would recommend.