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Jun. 2nd, 2010 | 12:28 am

 today i had my annual meeting in which my performance was to be discussed. while it turns out that my fall evaluations are outstanding, what i need to work on is how to make myself more appealing to students who don't give a shit about anything. this is because this is the kind of student we cater to. although my good students get awards, i need to be more concerned about the shitty ones because they prevail: they are our "bread and butter" as it were. 

on a related note about the centrality of shitness to our mission, today i went into the administrative office of the department to talk to the ultra-competent woman who works there. we seem to be on good terms and she was even willing to print off pictures of hairdos on her color printer that i could show tomorrow to the guy who cuts my hair. i accidentally looked up and to the side and there was my woolen scarf, which i thought i had lost two months ago, hanging from the separator wall of her glorified cubicle.

why was my scarf there? because it was found left in the conference room after a faculty meeting by the chair. she didn't know whose it was. it was after hours. so she threw it over the wall of the administrative office but the scarf didn't make it over. the wall was too tall for her to reach. so there the scarf stayed for two months in the hopes that someone some day will raise their eyes to the point of no interest, outside the regular range of ocular motion, and recognize the scarf. so it happened today. would i expect civilized humans to think this way? i guess not. 

interestingly, i didn' t react with any kind of emotion, except to think of it in relative terms and to remind myself of the necessity of vigilance at not adjusting too well. are these people shitty in the big scheme of the world in which most people are presumed shitty and treated as shit? clearly not. 

Link | people are talking {1} |

more reading

May. 25th, 2010 | 01:21 am

i finally got a (library) copy of the book by silvan tomkins in which there is that scary passage on the "depressive script." i am reading more about his theories of affect, about 'late bloomers' and then about people who went through the "iceberg model of affective development."

In this case the individual also begins with the same contempt from parents for crying, which teaches the child that whenever he feels distressed he should hang his head in shame instead. However, these parents otherwise are a source of much reward. They give the child much loving attention and enjoy his company so long as he does not cry. Further, they much applaud any show of achievement. This child begins then with a relatively sharp differentiation between affects of his own which elicit positive affects and affects of his own which elicit negative affects. [Years of successes intervene: accentuate the rewards; minimize punishments.]

As he enters adulthood this individual has a firm sense of his own identity as the master of his own destiny, as one capable of achieving what he wants, of eliciting respect from others for his efforts, and of generally enjoying his interpersonal relationships. However, he may be suddenly confronted with distress which he cannot counteract, produced, for example, by a long siege of enforced passivity through illness or by loss of a child or of his wife, or by the loss of his savings and business in the event of an economic depression which does not permit his customary counteraction, or by senility and retirement which undermines his customary activity and productivity and confronts him with the imminence of his death. Under any one of these or similar circumstances he is confronted with deep and enduring distress for which he has learned only one reaction, that of shame and humiliation. In such a case the iceberg of childhood learning may suddenly intrude itself as an utterly alien experience, so disturbing to produce further negative affect and depression or withdrawal. It is just because this individual never experienced protracted distress and its associated shame that he developed no gradations of such affects and therefore no psychological immunity to these negative affects. 

not only for reasons of personal attachment and recognition of the script, i think i haven't thought well enough yet about the combination of family scripts and political/national ones. i like that this sort of thing gives me some faith back in psychology. apparently, forty years ago the man worked for the same institution i'm working for. there were some positive effects and some of the "negative side" of the experience: "he was really not an administrator at heart, nor was the arts of compromise highly practiced in his way of life." he then moved to a different institution across the river, where he "became increasingly disenchanted by the apparent lack of interest shown by the students in anything other than practical, concrete problems." 

Link | people are talking {2} |

have i

May. 11th, 2010 | 12:07 am

have i seen a jar? no, i haven't. it's a small jar with an orange lid. no, i haven't. it's a small jar with an orange lid and it has oranges on the lid. it's a plump jar with an orange lid and it was a mustard jar. it's not a big deal but have i seen it? i may have seen it. i went through the fridge a while ago and threw out everything that was expired. it might have been one of those jars but i can't remember. maybe it was one of those in which i made salad dressing? maybe it was. it's not a big deal but it was one of those jars she collected when she was having a home-making phase. oh, i'm sorry. it's not a big deal but i do understand? i do. it's not a big deal but she was collecting those. do i see what she means?

Link | people are talking {2} |


Apr. 20th, 2010 | 09:37 pm

Audubon Birds of America


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nothing, except catch 22

Apr. 11th, 2010 | 01:07 am

i haven't read anything here in ages, until tonight, and then i only checked a few things. i have meant to write but then, again, things would pile up and then i wouldn't know any longer which ones were important. it all became a big mass of gray.

on the whole, it seems that i will be allowed to reside permanently in the land of the free, which is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so i'm guessing that might be worth mentioning. other than that, i'm just doing daily living and trying to figure out what that means for my sense of where i live and how.

i should decide soon where i'd like to spend next fall. i had a theoretical plan to go to london and stay the summer and the fall, but the more i think about it now, the more i feel like it's unacknowledged escapism. i've been running all over almost every weekend and inventing places to go so that i could see people i like. so i could go to london but the plan has turned into a philosophical question about whether i should 'settle' more actively in one place (e.g., new york) so that maybe i could feel like i live somewhere (e.g., new york).

i am keeping house in new york, but i don't have any house-related things, except for a few kitchen items. the idea of living somewhere has to do with the possibility of being in touch with actual, physical people in the locality and not pining for those who are far away. i think i have made some friends here, but they are also likely to disperse. as i keep house, i live in my head, and i wonder if living outside my head more would help, provided that it could happen at all. what concerns me more than anything is that my ostensible routine would be disrupted, which fundamentally means that i would have to find a place to live in london and a decent place for yoga. both are probably not huge problems, but solutions would take energy.

at the same time, i don't feel tied here too much so i don't know why i'd invent reasons to stay. of course, if i stayed, i could find attachments. and like that, over and over again.

Link | people are talking {9} |


Feb. 19th, 2010 | 01:02 am

i organize monthly meetings with guest speakers who talk to our students about their careers and what one can do with a degree in english. i have known for a while that my chair is profoundly alarmed by my project because i give students ideas about what they could do that she doesn't think they should do because they can't afford to be that ambitious. that is because they are poor and should be thinking stability and steady jobs, rather than law school, theater, or (god forbid) creative writing. she was also freaking out about the food i was ordering because she was perceiving my effort to give a semblance of dignity to the event as some sort of horrible dissipation entirely undeserved by anyone in attendance. 

this was all implicit in her tone until i got the message below yesterday about the most recent meeting which she couldn't attend because she had to go meet with the college president. in this message, please note, i am being praised for my success and being trusted with *information and *facts on whose relevance we shall certainly have to agree: 

How wonderful, [info]shmizla. I am so happy you took the initiative on this. I'm thinking it might be useful to have one on high school teaching. More of our students might be interested in teaching at this level than at college level with research etc. How would we find English teachers with MATs? (I actually have a former JS student, very limited -- she got a C- as I remember on her final thesis -- who wrote to me about a year ago saying I'd be surprised to know that she went into the NYC version of Teach America, had gotten her MA, and was very happily teaching high school English. Since she'd had seemingly unconqueable thick blackdialect writing problems I'm hoping she learned a lot of grammar in her MA program. She said she loved the teaching. I wonder if we have others . . . . Or if the lot of us keep making inquiries we couldn't find some.

Sounds like the food after all my fuss was just right.

Kudos to you. Very impressive. I plan to be there for the next, PRESIDENT or no PRESIDENT! 

the last time i was trusted with such information was when i stepped away from two of my spanish-speaking friends who promptly switched to spanish. then a white lady standing next to me asked if i, too, was uncomfortable when a foreign language was spoken around me. i said i was not. 

Link | people are talking {1} |


Feb. 10th, 2010 | 11:40 am

i'm reading the letters that mrs. carter sent to her friend mrs. montagu back in the 1770s. they were two of the 'bluestockings,' the fine ladies who discussed politics and literature amongst themselves, but wouldn't be caught dead discussing politics and literature amongst themselves, as it was revolutionary enough for women to do it, but not so fine to be seen doing it. hence it is all in letters, which are a festival of bitchiness to other women, especially those who didn't know what not to do in public.

the 'protofeminists' are also bitchy in the sort of way that feels familiar to me--the way i imagine regular american women talk about me when they think i can't hear them. mrs. carter writes in april 1779:

I met Mr. Stuart yesterday, and enquired after the progress of your palace, which he told me went on very prosperously. He is grown fat, and looks very happy with his young wife, who was with him. I pitied her, for seeming so de-paysee among gentlefolks. She had on a very odd becoming kind of dress, which made her look like a foreigner, and was I think on that account advantageous to her, as it seemed to assign a reason for the difference of her manners from the rest of the company. Perhaps he had furnished her mantua-maker with some Grecian patterns.

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Dec. 27th, 2009 | 07:00 pm

i stink all the time when i'm in the land of my people (hereafter, lomp) in the winter. unless i stay at my parents' house, i have to go to places where smoking is yet to be banned. there was a conversation tonight about the degree to which a smoking ban is inconceivable here.

i even went to a wedding last night. i didn't even mind it. i had only my sister to talk to and it was almost interesting people watching. it happened twice (with two different men) that i was asked why i wasn't more forthcoming about how bad the lomp was and how fabulous my life had to be elsewhere. when i said to the first questioner that i wasn't that kind of talker, and that i figured people lived where they chose to live, he said it was a "cruel" thing to say. i didn't continue that conversation.

i didn't even meant to come to the lomp but it was inevitable if i was to leave the country at all because i couldn't return to the us without renewing whatever paperwork i had. it took three days to get here because of all the storms. i've been having trouble sleeping and waking up before noon. there is no yoga to be had for love or money, and i'm stinking all the time. meanwhile, i dread checking my work email because i get emails from students who wonder how come they failed after not doing any work or why deciding to skip assignments (because one just can't do what one doesn't like) costs so much. those seem to be subsiding. i keep getting questions about what i'm doing new year's eve. i don't want to do anything, really. getting stinky in a crowded space just doesn't sound like fun.

it feels like i'm done here and i'm not done, officially speaking. maybe this is the last time i had to come because of officialdom. maybe this is the last time i escaped: i had no pressing physiological problem that would get resolved by leaving. i left partly to leave the shared housing situation, but that could have been resolved otherwise. overall, a bit unhinged on all sides.

Link | people are talking {4} |

good riddance

Dec. 15th, 2009 | 12:20 am

today was the last day of semester and it came not a day too early. i couldn't wait for it to be over, for the past few months really. it felt like it never came together. too many students who couldn't be turned around, arrogant but not too smart, patriotic and tedious, 'creative' and trite. but i took it in stride so i'm not expending much energy on that.

in that same spirit i went to the holiday party at the yoga studio. i even baked again and took a pretty bread there, causing surprise. had more conversations with white people who most often flock to yoga because they don't know any better, because that's the smartest thing they've ever heard. so they haven't heard much of what i listen to daily, and i never hear much of what they ponder daily, including "energy work," "polarity" and "reiki." all of them "feel energy" and i have to stop myself from asking for the fifteenth time what that means. i spent hours listening to songs about everyone and everything being beautiful, but i kept contact with the regular white people and i didn't even cry afterward.

the most giggle-inducing detail was the confirmation that the woman who runs the studio, ostensibly with her husband, is a recovering shrew. the recovery is going very slowly. i hope i never deviate from the path of universal positivity and all-encompassing love or she may bite my head off. also if i don't do exactly what i was told to do, or if i have spontaneous conversations at parties about topics that hadn't been pre-approved.

Link | people are talking |

on that same note:

Dec. 7th, 2009 | 11:50 pm

again i thought there was something to say and now i can't remember what it was. it feels like a good thing that i don't.

i've been looking at photos of myself and the female nuclear family who came to visit. i think we look like mrs. golly. that's not a good thing, it feels like.

Mrs. Golly

it's not a good thing not only because mrs. golly was the kind that "never had any interest in anyone else, nor in any book, nor in any school, nor in any way of life, but who has lived her whole life in this room, eating and sleeping and waiting to die." now, we don't seem to be that kind, but i feel like we look it, in the tight shoulders of people who are chronically tense and afraid.

i've been trying to walk without tensing up and it isn't easy. i am trying to be different in yoga classes because all of my back hurts because all the muscles there are always tense. i'm learning from the serious teachers where my hips are getting stuck. that's good. i'm trying to leave my body alone as much as i can. according to latest theories, i ran into a wall because i have a viral ear infection. sometimes these leave people deaf; sometimes they just damage the center for balance. it takes a while for the body to re-figure the balance system so that's why it feels like it's getting better, but still happens on occasion.

yesterday i went to a "chakra yoga" class with the tacky excellent teacher and i had two aroma therapy options:
a) right hand on the belly if i "only take care of myself and have no sense of direction" or
b) left hand on the belly if i "have trouble expressing emotion and am sensitive about touching"

it was the left hand for me. and i do wish, as i was recently communicating to fflo, that i were better about telling people they are objects of my desire. i have lost some of the 'ability' because i have lost the sense of motion in that respect. too many abrupt stops, i guess, so that i don't know what to do with it. but i do know i'm alive to it. that much is still there.

and i should sleep more, as in right now.

Link | people are talking |


Nov. 25th, 2009 | 12:40 am

when i went to yoga tonight, the sometimes-snarky man who teaches it said, in the direction of nobody in particular but with direct relevance to how i was doing, that one should concentrate on the practice. that's because i was putting the wrong feet forward and forgetting parts of routines i had done many times before. it had been a long day of multiple activities. i like the snarky man because it looks like he's emerging from some kind of darkness and into betterment and is a gentle sort generally speaking, when the window feels open.

right now i'm being kept awake by the buzz of the class (which still kicks my ass; he explained to me today how to get into the head stand properly: for one, i need patience:). i am also being kept awake by the passive aggression of a regular white lady. if there's anything that makes me feel like i'll never belong here it's exposure to passive aggressive regular white american ladies. i have caused the assault by my tendency to have friends visit the place where i pay rent and she pays rent. my having of friends naturally interferes with the general rules of a bourgeois household because it seems inappropriate. what seems inappropriate, i think, is to have 'no privacy,' or, in other words, to have friends. one should have a husband or a "significant other" to take up all imaginable kinds of intimacy; who'll need any other person then? but it is the *landlady that minds visitors, you see, and i need to remember that.

the vague threats issued to me (e.g., that my housing for spring isn't secure yet, because the husband hasn't asked about it although he was supposed to, implying that i should be more careful about how much i permit myself) i find appalling. i start immediately to worry about practical issues. but then i remember that i had a brain mri this morning and i'm thinking the passive-aggressive white ladies of america can go fuck themselves. i was apparently very still, as required, during my exam so the pictures of my brain are "beautiful." there were no apparent holes in my brain, or none that the doctor could see right away. i was happy about that. i talked to people. i talked to my sister. the day was sunny. we had really good coffee. the yoga was good even if i was distracted by various thoughts at the beginning. i know the secret of the head stand, too. so i guess i'm hoping i can avoid having to feign interest in the game of lady talk because it saps me and makes me think the world is horrible.

Link | people are talking {4} |

philip lopate

Nov. 16th, 2009 | 05:05 pm

from Against Joie de Vivre (1989)

Over the years I have developed a distaste for the spectacle of joie de vivre, the knack of knowing how to live. Not that I disapprove of all hearty enjoyment of life. A flushed sense of happiness can overtake a person anywhere, and one is no more to blame for it than the Asiatic flu or a sudden benevolent change in the weather (which is often joy's immediate cause). No, what rankles me is the stylization of this private condition into a bullying social ritual.

Link | people are talking {1} |

back and forth

Nov. 6th, 2009 | 11:14 pm

i went to a conference where one could hear many mediocre and decent papers and my once advisor gave the keynote address. it was all about how boring it can all be and also about how amazing it is when it is good. also about the people being set up to know what to do and how and being groomed into their 'intellectual life' and then being protected by the presence of non-insane grownups who remind them how not to go crazy.

days like this make me happy and make me sad. i am constantly reminded to what degree my life never prepared me for any of this and how i can't prepare myself and that i'll never say and think the right thing (because i didn't grow up in the right suburb; because i didn't get married when i was supposed to; because i'm not the bundle of the needs in demand; because because). i am, of course, also reminded of the shitness of the shithole i am in and the degree to which it has nothing to do with anything meaningful, and how the future is being shaped by the shitness of the shithole which is inevitably impressing its shape on me.

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Nov. 2nd, 2009 | 01:40 pm

i got into an international seminar for junior scholars in belfast in august. stiff competition. good sign. never been to belfast or to ireland before.

Link | people are talking {3} |

nerves more

Nov. 1st, 2009 | 10:16 pm

i wish i would post more frequently because i occasionally feel like i would have something to say. then i can't get the time to do it and then i forget what it was that felt important. aside from the philosophical value of such relativity, i do find that i'd feel more regular if i could in fact take a few moments to reflect upon what it is that might feel important when it does. otherwise, i continue to exhaust myself, physically and mentally, and go over what i'm supposed to go over hoping not to think about it too much because as soon as i do, i exhaust myself even more.

walking down the street three weeks ago i ran into a wall to my right. lost balance, i guess. was hoping that the loss of balance would go away but it didn't. will find out more about it on thursday, when i do *balance tests*. i do hope it's nothing serious, that i'm just demonstrating to myself the magical powers of my brain over my body etc.

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muscles better and nerves more

Oct. 14th, 2009 | 09:21 am

i like this from today's writer's almanac: 


i like my body

by E. E. Cummings


i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite a new thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which I will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh...And eyes big love-crumbs,

and possibly i like the thrill
of under me you quite so new

"i like my body" by e.e. cummings from Complete Poems 1904-1962. © Liveright Publishing, 1991.

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previous years

Oct. 6th, 2009 | 09:50 pm

i went over some of my (few) posts from the past couple of years looking for the poem that fflo translated almost exactly two years ago. it was "autumn day" by reiner maria rilke, the one of "duino elegies" and terrifying angels. the poem goes

Autumn Day

God, it's time. Summer was long.
Cast shadows on the sundials,
and let the winds loose on the fields.

Urge the last fruits to fullness; give them
just two more sun-warmed days
to move to ripen, to squeeze
their final sweetness into heavy wine.

Anyone with no home now
will not be making one.
Anyone who is alone
will live on long alone,
will stay up, read, write long letters,
and wander the streets, up and down,
restless, while the leaves blow.

someone here made me think of it. said he only thought about eating the day last week when it was overcast from dawn till dusk and then it rained too. of course, this was nothing like michigan two years ago when the fall descended and there was no telling what the future might possibly hold. i also bought a book of rilke's poetry (so i could also have duino elegies), but the translation was so clunky i had to complain to fflo directly and declare hers a greater artistic achievement.

two years ago is also when i wrote something about how much i liked london although it was the cruelest place i had ever lived in. i would like to correct that ranking, if i may, and say that new york is the cruelest place i have ever lived in, hands down. i wonder if i will grow to love it too. i am sensing in certain quarters and certain moments that i might. it is crystallizing here for me that i may end up kind of feeling for all the lunatics here who aren't even trying to make it, who just do their thing because there is nothing else to do.

i was reading somewhere about what-one-is-to-do and i can't remember where it was now,  but i remember the urge to detect and protect those felt to be not lost or frozen just yet. maybe expect protection from them, too.

talking to a colombian philosopher friend here--an easy friend who never gets angry and i never have to worry about--about the death of mercedes sosa and how 'democracy now' put 'solo le pido a dios' (one plea to god, that my life be good and that i never have any regrets, and that i never do harm etc.) on their site as the song most illustrative of her life and contribution. we talked about what an adrenaline rush it is to hear of people who don't or didn't think it was silly to be an artist and an activist. he has also gotten rid of all his stuff and plans, like i am, to live somewhere for the next few years.

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silvan tomkins

Sep. 16th, 2009 | 10:20 pm

from shame and its sisters, on the "depressiveness" in the educator ("depressive personality or script, as a durable feature of certain people's way of being, a constitutive feature of their best aptitudes as well as disabilities, regardless of whether or not...they are experiencing depression," e. sedgwick): 

the depressive, like his parent before him, is not altogether a comfortable person for others with whom he interacts. as a friend or parent or lover or educator he is somewhat labile between his affirmations of intimacy and his controlling, judging, and censuring of the other. his warmth and genuine concern for the welfare of others seduces them into an easy intimacy which may then be painfully ruptured when the depressive...finds fault with the other. the other is now too deeply committed and too impressed with the depressive's sincerity to disregard the disappointment and censure from the other and is thereby seduced further into attempting to make restitution, to atone, and to please the other. when this is successful, the relationship is now deepened, and future ruptures will become increasingly painful--both to tolerate and to disregard. so is forged the depressive dyad in which there is great reward punctuated by severe depression. the depressive creates other depressives by repeating the relationship which created his own character. the depressive exerts a great influence on the lives of all he touches because he combines great reward with punishment, which ultimately heightens the intensity of the affective rewards he offers others...the depressive is concerned not only with impressing, with pleasing and exciting others through his own excellence, but also that others should impress him, should please him, and should excite him through their excellence... (225)

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back to it. or not.

Aug. 31st, 2009 | 09:07 pm

today was the first day of class. most of it went ok, i thought. i had another moment (months after i first had it) when i momentarily thought, 'i need to respond like a man.' a student asked me how long the readings would be (in a composition course), and i said approximately twenty pages. she first sighed and rolled her eyes and then she said it all sounded like another english professor and another course: "i dropped that one." i said she could drop this one too.

i survived the departmental party. it wasn't nearly as horrible (on me) as i thought it would be. i managed to shift among the three people with whom i can exchange a word or two. then i sat for a bit with the gay boys. then the regular people came and it was stupid conversation and bragging and 'intellectual' observations. i even survived that without saying anything. then i took off to have drinks with a friend before it got too late (for me to remain in a good mood).

i am hoping this year will be better. the housing situation is promising and pleasant and makes all the difference. i hope that does part of the trick at least. the big trick is for me to live in my head whenever stupid conversation happens (often). it's not, as a rule, good for a person like me to aim for living in her head but i don't think i have a choice under the circumstances.

i have been running into people (friends) who tell me they have to leave this country and go back to their (whichever) country. not sure if it's the age factor or something else. some have deadlines, some just know they have to leave sooner rather than later.

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i have been rude

Jul. 29th, 2009 | 05:07 pm

i have caught myself several times since i came here completely disconnecting form the conversation. i would come back within a few seconds and pick up where i came back in. usually there's no trouble. sometimes i'll even have the nerve to ask to be told again the subject of the conversation (usually a person's name). it's usually with people who are telling me the same story i've heard a million times before, or the same kind of story, but i think it's really my self-obsession. i don't even feel like i'm having particularly important thoughts--i'm usually just exercising the letting go of the usual nonsense i stir up in my head. but i can't bring myself to care enough sometimes.

otherwise, i have been fine. what is regenerative here is life around people. i don't like many, but i like their presence, the bumping into them. none of the lives i want, but the immediacy i do. i talk to the blood relations well. some others. i eat regularly. i juggle various locations as if i knew how. it's going better when i don't think about it.

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