Landing the Plane

The bottom line is, you've been flying for a while now, and your only job is to get the plane on the ground.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Snakes on my plane

There are currently snakes on the plane I am trying to land, more later.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Liars, Liars, tie-dyed pants on fire

It's long seemed strange to me that every fifty-something person you meet claims to have been in Memphis when Martin Luther King was shot, on their way to Woodstock when the police raided their cars, at Kent State when student demonstrators were shot, and in Watts as the masses chanted "burn, baby, burn."

I mean really, there is a Forrest Gump-like level of coincidence going on with nearly every one of these guys. Unless, of course, maybe, they're... a big bunch of LIARS!?!

Also, for a generation that prefaces every long-winded trip down memory lane with a self-satisfied "The sixties were so amazing, man, I only wish I could remember them..." they sure do have a lot of, well, long-winded rememberances.

Which is why I was delighted but not surprised when my good friend Springy sent me the link to this story in The Guardian reporting the results of a recent study about baby-boomer lies. Turns out, at least in Britain (and I would bet they lie even bigger on this side of the ocean,) "Parents who have been trying to impress their children have resorted to exaggeration and outright lies over what they did during the flower power decade. Claims of liberated teenage years at love-ins and being at live Beatles gigs have led to the coining of a new phrase - generational gazumping - to describe 50-somethings desperately trying to appear cool."

In fact, compared to every other generation surveyed, the baby boomers were the only group to play UP their teenage antics, with all other generational groups ashamedly playing down their participation in teenage fads. The baby boomers, however, were proud to lie to researchers about their drug use (they didn't do as much as they say they did) their brushes with fame (they never met Paul McCartney,) and their appearance at decade-defining events ("2% say they attended Live Aid. This would have meant more than a million people crammed into Wembley stadium.")


Thursday, June 29, 2006

I only blame you because I love you

Just when I get a good lather going, I see something like this, and get the warm fuzzies. Look at that set! Look at those cheesy jokes! Look at those young, irreverant musicians!

Look at the generation that made music that "meant something" and then corporatized the music industry to such a ridiculous extent that we are supposed to be grateful for Coldplay!

Okay, there's my righteous indignation back where it belongs. Phew! Enjoy this hilarious 1975 footage of John Lennon and Paul Simon presenting a grammy award.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I blame the baby boomers (apologies to twisty)

Am I the only one who looks forward to a lifetime of nostalgic media about baby boomer experiences and wants to retch?

I mean really, individual beloved baby boomers in all of our lives aside, has there ever been a more annoying generation, when considered en masse? Sanctimoniously asserting that all groups to follow theirs are less free-thinking, more apathetic, and less radical while simultaneously selling out everthing they supposedly fought for is certainly pretty I alone here?

Did they not inherit a nation at the peak of its economic and cultural power, and then basically run it in to the ground, leaving us with more hoops to jump through in order to merely have the chance to fight over fewer jobs? Did they not stand behind reproductive choice until the moment they themselves became too old to conceive, and then abandon ship? Did they not legislate all meaning out of protest, and then persist in complaining that no one stands up for anything any more? Their parents begin to die out, and they advocate to abolish the estate tax.

I could go on and on, and I will.

Friends have called me jealous and petty (they aren't wrong here, but more on that later...) and they have told me that this obsession with the shortcomings of the baby boom generation is unbecoming and tedious. Turns out, I don't care. I am a woman obsessed.

I hereby present the inaugural post in an ongoing sporadic series dedicated to proving my thesis that baby boomers are to blame. This is a departure from landing the plane, but certainly it is a worthy one.

Mentors Fresh and Full of Life

Yesterday I met with a mentor of mine who has graciously agreed to read my dissertation drafts and offer feedback. We had lunch together w/her youngest baby in tow and she had some really good comments. I feel lucky to have her in my life, even if as a role model she is a bit complicated: In short, she encouraged me to apply to grad school, promised me anything was possible if I worked hard enough and got a little lucky, but then a few years ago she left her own tenure-track position because it was incompatible with child-raising. For a long time, secretly, I felt a little betrayed. Sure, she had done what was right for her, something I applaud in the abstract, I guess, but if she can't do it, and she is seriously one of the three smartest people I have ever met, why in the hell should I think I could? And what about all of us other young, partnered women who go on the job market and face the whole "well, she's just going to get pregnant and leave..." barrier. I spent a lot of time wondering, doesn't her decision hurt people like me?

Meh, that is all largely in the past though (for me, it is very much her present.) Now, when we meet, either socially or to discuss work, I mostly focus on all of the things I value about our relationship. Like for one, she is an amazing, generous reader and editor, and I think finding a mentor like this who is not officially on my committee is just an incredibly lucky strike. One of the best things about talking with her is that while I sit in my office and whine to myself about how this dissertation will never get finished, she is always thinking one or two steps ahead, and talks out loud about them. "After the book comes out, reviews will be able to say that...." and "This way, your second book can build on themes you outline but don't exhaust in this first one." These things are said with such vibrance, such confidence, that it's impossible not to believe her.

She helped me come up with a renewed plan of attack, one that I feel confident will be successful if I execute it correctly because, as I said, she is just so incredibly talented when it comes to issues of writing and analysis.

(wo)Man makes plans, God(dess) laughs

So, a month ago I cockily embarked upon the 100 days plan. And, considering everything, it hasn't been that bad in terms of progress. BUT, of course my hard drive and other computer parts decided it was time to crash and break. AND, of course the computer help I turned to was snarky, expensive and not that helpful. And one pesky familial entitity decided to let her proverbial hard drive crash, so there was also that to deal with.

Blah blah blah, long boring story, the point is NOW I have my computer back and operational, and thank goodness I didn't lose any dissertation, only teaching files and email caches (hence no post for so long, I couldn't find my login and password to save my life!) and I guess I shall have to RENEW my hundred days plan, only this time, I won't make any grand announcements. That's sure to jinx me. I should have known.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

100 Days

So the way I figure it, if I want to have any hope of finishing this program next year, and going on the job market this fall, the next 100 days (ie between Memorial Day and Labor Day, roughly) to do a huge amount of writing, and fill in with research along the way. Page-wise, I'm probably looking at about 100-200 pages by the end of August in order to feel like I stand a chance. If FDR could implement the entire New Deal, or most of it anyway, then I should be able to at least write down some stuff.

This is it. Time to bring "A game," separate the woman from the girls, and so on.

Oh yeah, it's also time to figure out what the fuck my dissertation is about. That too.

Monday, May 15, 2006

If it's not one thing...

it's your mother.

That's today's cliche that works.

Yesterday was mother's day, and all over the web, the regular news, and my apartment there was a lot of talk about mothers and families, as well as upcoming joyous milestones like graduations and weddings. If you haven't seen it, one of my favorite bloggers wrote a post about mother's day that really stuck with me. Link I especially liked one of the comments, I'll plug it in here in full, although without proper citation (sorry!):

"Here's what starry-eyed dreamers who prosyletize about mother-daughter relationships fail to understand: no one _wants_ to loathe her parents. As a mom, I know that kids are incredibly forgiving of the stupid shit otherwise loving parents do every day. Kids want to love their parents, no matter what., If a mom has broken that trust, and if her daughter can't stand her, there is a damn good reason for it -- which needs no explanation."

Too bad that's too long to put on a tee shirt. While on the subject of mothers, I'm looking forward to reading Deborah Tannen's new book You're Wearing That? : Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation. The reviews and press on this book looked really interesting, outlining that the most common conflicts between mothers and daughters in the US center around clothes, hair, and food. Sounds about right.

Also, New England is grey and bleak and under water after 4 straight days of rain amounting to 15" in some places. Supposedly this is just the beginning of the rain and flooding, more is to come over the rest of the week.

So today I have a sinus headache from all the water and air pressure, and I am thinking long deep thoughts about mothers and children, the passage of time, beginnings, endings, family obligations, and rainy days and mondays always get me down, and so on.

This isn't a blog about all that though. This is supposed to be about landing the plane, finishing grad school, and writing up a storm. Sometimes though life gets in the way. I will go back to landing the plane tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Envioushame? Anti-Schadenfreude?

There needs to be a term for that jealousy and shame of being jealous one sometimes feels simultaneously at professional meetings.

The conference I was at this weekend, as I detailed below, went remarkably well. For the first time in months, I felt confident talking about my dissertation project, my writing, and my career goals with people who were interersted and able to offer good advice. But this one moment (and really, it was only a moment...) made me think a lot about myself, my field, and gender in academia:

At the women's breakfast, a generally warmfuzzy group of 2nd wave feminists were tucking in to weak coffee and rubbery scrambled eggs. I was sitting across from another graduate student, in the same year of a PhD program as I am, who already has several articles published and awards won. She also has kids, is finishing her dissertation this year, and has a tenure-track position for next fall at Great University in what happens to be my husband's Dream City. I should also mention that she is a gorgeous woman, with incredibly cool clothes and shoes, perfect hair, etc. To top it off, she was incredibly friendly and, well, nice (though I hate that word) too.

I admit, it was a lot to be faced with at 7am without even a decent cup of coffee in me. I was envious, and I was ashamed of myself for feeling envious.

Here is this person who works on a very similar topic and time period, finishing faster and bigger, with all of our (admittedly tiny) world seeming to offer up open arms. On the one hand, this is truly fabulous. It's hard for women (for anyone, really) in my field, and harder still I'm sure if you have kids to take care of. Sisterhood is powerful, I wish her the best, and truly want to be the kind of person who feels only joy at the successes of others.

On the other hand, how could you not be jealous? Or feel (just a little) like by comparison you are just a lazy stupid complainer baby who needs hand holding and can't cut it on her own, even without kids to deal with and with all the amazing benefits I do have?

I went, I spoke, I got farted on

It's been a while since my last post because I was off in Canada at a conference. It was my first time speaking to a national (International, sort of, although there weren't actually many Canadians there, which is too bad) audience about material from my actual dissertation, and I was really nervous, certain that this would be the time someone would stand up and say, "FRAUD! I wrote that same exact thing 15 years ago!" or "How can you EVEN THINK that is important?" It turns out I have staved off that indignity for a little while longer.

For the most part, things went really well. My talk was slotted early in the program, so there was a good sized crowd of people at my session, which was well received. I got laughs at the right places and good feedback after the session. Also, because I was on so early in the conference, lots of people came up to talk to me about my work throughout the weekend, which was great because I got some useful feedback AND because it solved that "awkward-academic-nothing-to-say-cocktail-party" problem.

Really, it went very well. I was most relieved, and it was a real shot in the arm for me-- I feel much more grounded and like a professional than before, and I am hoping this will have the effect of jumpstarting writing and analytical brilliance in the next couple of weeks. It was an exhausting 4 days with pretty much nonstop networking from 7am until 11pm every night, and I am still pretty tired, but in general I feel very good about the experience.

Except, well, for one thing:

In my field there is a senior person who has a very public and high stakes conflict with my advisor. He knows me a little bit from a few years ago, and after my talk he came up to me in a very godfather way and said, "I'd like to talk to you about your future." We scheduled a 15-minute meeting the next afternoon in one of the conference-center lobbies. When we met, he made repetitive, vague, and creepily-delivered statements about how "he could do things for my career" and how "he was proud of me" and "he wanted me to keep in touch with him." In the middle of all this, without changing tempo or tone of speech:

He leaned over on to one buttcheek, and loudly farted. It was very smelly.