Monday, April 27, 2009

Seven Days

It's difficult for me to believe that Monday was only 7 days ago, because there is no way that so much could have happened that quickly.

When last I completed a blog (another story altogether), I was riding high. Really high. Fabulous concert; met Duff. Riding high and even managed to garner a description as "cute" as a result of my overall giddiness from a fellow member of one of the online forums I hang out in. Cute, I have to say, is a word seldom applied to me, even by my husband, who finds in necessary to muster up a very serious face just to say it without hurting himself from the laughter.

Suffice to say: whatever I may be physically and emotionally and mentally and what-have-you, cute is generally not among the descriptors. Hence, I was really high on life as the week opened.

On Monday, I met with Rev. Dean on the subject of a book project and held court in the first of many search committee meetings. This one, as I recall, did not go particularly well and brought me down a few pegs, but, in general, all was well.

Then came Tuesday morning, when we received word that a beloved friend and colleague, who was due to have heart surgery that morning, would not have the life-salvaging surgery because his heart was just too damaged by the heart attack earlier in the semester. He was to be sent home and into hospice care. We'd been getting reports all along about his well-being, some hopeful, others quite depressing, but the surgery had been a point of possibility, even as much as it would be a difficult procedure. But on Tuesday morning, he was suddenly dying. For real. G. came home that night to report on the finance committee meeting that had been held at church. To say that I disagreed with the tactics of the committee regarding cutting the budget would be a significant understatement. I was angry, sad, hurt, and convinced that what we had fought so hard for--to protect the ministers and ministries against the tide of support for a building...yeah, wooden beams and stained glass over people and mission--that all of that was for naught. I went to bed furious and exhausted.

Wednesday bloomed a bit brighter than Tuesday ended, if only because there was a concert to look forward to. Early in the morning, still high off the morning run, I got the word that Loaded would be playing a free show in Augusta, in addition to the one I was planning to attend that night. So, G and I arranged to take off early and go to both. As I prepared to leave, there was one last search meeting for the day, and it went FAR better than I expected, in that we made a decision, something that seemed unlikely at the close of Monday. The concerts that night were indeed fantastic and took my mind off the events of Tuesday, just a bit.

I came into work on Thursday on 3 hours sleep (after some 21 awake). Tired, perhaps a bit cranky, but generally mellow, though notably unable to write either of the blog posts I had started. Read Duff's SW blog, which he swore on Wednesday was a poor one, written in exhaustion. As of today, said blog has generated more response (I think) than any of his prior ones. So much for a pathetic piece of prose, eh*? Posted a response that was likely longer than the original post (oops). Friday was more of the same; a bit rushed, but otherwise tame. The most contentious meeting of the day ended with a decision and I went to the other campus for a meeting, where we signed a poster for our colleague, who was home but trying to work out his affairs, and thus wanted no particular company.

Then Saturday. This one made national news. While we oriented and registered two hundred or so new students at our lovely semi-rural campus, a local professor shot and killed three people at a local theatre gathering near downtown. I live, as I have mentioned before, in a college town, and one of the (many) idiosyncrasies of college-townness is the incestuousness--everyone knows everyone, at least by degrees. And, indeed, as the news unfolded, we discovered that one of the victims was the husband of another beloved English professor. To say that shock washed over this campus would be a serious understatement; we held together, registered the new students and went home to our families, trying not to feel morbid as we saw "Professor on the loose" in the headlines.

Sunday was for grief. For my friend. For the families. For my community. Rev. Dean reminded us that life exists within all this death, when he dedicated two babies during Sunday's service. Fought tears during the service, then gave into them. What safer place to cry?

This morning, as I returned from class, I received an email regarding my friend Tom, who died this morning, simply and quietly, as befits his delightful and magical life. He died at home, as he wanted. He died with friends, as was needed. I gave more tears at the desk and turned toward getting the word out and making sure students and faculty knew there was counseling available. "We are here if you need us," I signed off. Morbid humor pervades the day--I find myself making cracks about the relative insanity of PhDs or listening to similar jokes about SWAT teams in the middle of the city.

Seven days of highs and lows**; an exhausting 7 days. A puny seven days. SEVEN. Life, death, music, terror, anger, sadness, and humor.

And we are still here, somehow or another, if a bit in a heartbroken daze. But, we are here, trudging ever onward and wondering if this week will bring peace or something we have not yet even begun to imagine.

*Of course, mentioning vinyl will tend to generate comments from the masses.

**And reading about bipolar disorder at the same time. Bipolar life would be more accurate at the moment.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Loaded Evening

I have a longer, serious post for later on the same subject, but for now, only celebration and sharing. After 18 years (either I am getting old, or I was ridiculously young the last time. Yes, that's it. I was 5 in 1991. At a GNR show. In the pit. Yeah.), I got to see Duff play live again and finally had the opportunity to see Loaded in action. I am delighted that I took the time to get up to Nashville to see them--the show was well worth the drive.

The pics included here attempt to document the inveterate silliness that occurs on the Loaded stage, as band members plot and harass and cajole each other and the audience into sharing in the good time. Readers, if you have the chance to see them (oh, look, a list of dates!), take the opportunity--make the opportunity, for few bands have the energy (even if Red Bull...ummm... "enhanced"), camaraderie, or excitement as this band. The segues in and out of band and fan favorites in the midst of "I Wanna Be Your Dog" (including a hint of Judas Priest, an appearance by ZZ Top, and scores of others) is alone worth the price of admission.

Gentlemen, should you ever see this, my hat is off to you. Thank you for such a fabulous show.

I also had the pleasure of meeting two women, duffdiver and rhyte (nicknames are theirs from the Loaded fan forum), who epitomize musical fandom and allowed me to share in a brief retreat back to 15-year-old girl concert craziness. Seriously groovy ladies, they are. Even managed to get a few excellent book recommendations from them (Loaded seems to draw in an awful lot of English degrees in the fanbase).

Now, as befits the geekiness of this blog, I do have to share one tiny thing. One infinitesimal detail about the evening, that, as you can imagine, I have mulled and pondered and tried REALLY, REALLY hard not to drive G crazy with.

I got to meet the band after the show, and after Duff's shout out to me in his SW blog, I thought I was prepared for the event. Squires, Jeff (a god of the stage, I must assure you--wow), and Geoff were terribly groovy and gentlemanly, even as I quite clearly geeked out over meeting Duff. Cause, you know, haven't idolized the man for 22 years or anything. Okay, truth be told, I managed to keep my cool--didn't geek out (completely) and even managed to introduce myself to Duff. The exchange when like this (remember, all of us were suffering post-traumatic-hearing-loss, so I'm editing a few "huh's?" out of the exchange):

K: Hi (shakes Duff's hand), I'm Kris (cool, ain't I?), from your SW blog.
D: (leaning in, hearing being what it is at this point in the evening). Hi. You're who?

This is the part where I would usually have died and walked away.

K: (louder, realizing he's as deaf as she is) Kris, from your SW blog.
D: (eyes wide & incredulous): You're fuckin' Kris?

I will never hear my name quite the same way again. (*grinning as she types*)

D: Okay, so you're not a professor? (not sure what I said in response to his blog that gave this impression, but it was the second time someone had asked me that during the evening. So for clarification, he was half-right in his blog: I am a professor, but I am not from Seattle. Unfortunately.)

And so on....

He was very cordial and complementary, even saying that he found my little blog inspirational.

At which point I fainted.

Kidding, kidding.

I maintained my cool (sort of), and thanked him, completely awestruck...even gobsmacked...again. Cause, like, you know...22 years. My hero--one of the coolest musicians I've ever had the pleasure to meet, certainly one whose life and work has provided much aural pleasure and, indeed, inspiration over the years--said that I (or at least what I write) am inspirational.

To him.

I am humbled once again.

My fuckin' hero.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Darby Crash Lives?


Okay, first one of those "pop culture FAIL" moments: I've never, until last night, watched American Idol. No interest. But, last night, as FOX has, in its wisdom, decided that TV schedules are made to be messed with, I caught the last few minutes, while waiting for Fringe (yes, geek here: wacky science, a daft scientist, poorly acted romantic interest, and, bonus, a cow in the lab. See, what's not to love there?) to start.

And, I saw this gentleman singing Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild." -->

The fellow's name is apparently Adam Lambert, but when I glanced at the TV screen, I yelled, to G's unutterable surprise and momentary discontent (he's accustomed to the outbursts, but I usually reign myself in before 9pm, because, well, I'm usually nearing unconsciousness by then due to that whole 5am wake-up routine):

"Holy Fuck, it's Darby Crash!"

When the hell was Darby reincarnated and why wasn't I informed? Worse, why is he on American Idol? This is clearly irrational.

I recognize that Lambert, like oh so many others, is adopting a look that is intended to convey rebelliousness; this particular manifestation of the leather look has been synonymous with such for decades. Sid and company did it with the Pistols; Duff and company...yep, them too (heck, Loaded is still doing it).

What, exactly, in American Idol screams rebellion? The fact that the whole freaking show was apparently centered around film songs? Was it merely costuming to go along with the song's theme?

Image versus reality--Crash lived inside that sphere, manipulating it as he saw fit until it either (pick your poison here) spun out of his control or he acted on the most significant manipulation of his short life in commanding his own death (even if his timing was a bit, in the end, poor, what witch Lennon dying a few hours later). I'm vaguely troubled by the idea that Lambert deliberately mocks (as in makes a copy of, not ridicules) Crash here, but I'm even more disturbed by the very real possibility that he doesn't have any clue whatsoever.

Didn't anyone else look at him and shriek obscenities about Crash? Or was this a me thing?

G. votes that it was clearly a me thing, as the odds seem to be stacked against a horde of Germs fans watching American Idol, a suggestion I am inclined to support, as I clearly had no business doing so either. Is punk appropriated and controlled in this show on a regular basis or did I happen to run across one rather bizarre instance? Yeah, yeah, I know that the guy in My Chemical Romance* is equally likely to be the source of Lambert's inspiration, but I didn't yell anything about Gerard Way (yes, I did have to google that, *sigh*); I saw Darby writ small across my minuscule TV screen.

And why am I troubled by the vague, nagging sensation that Crash might have used this kind of pomp and preening to his own end, should he have lived in this era?

*WTF #347152372156396: The title of the book in that link is terrifying...*shudder*

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Humoring the Professor

I've come to the shocking conclusion that I have been taking myself too seriously. In fact, the level of seriousness with which I have been examining my case is so completely out of whack that the PMLA has gotten in on the gig of reminding me to chill out.

The PMLA, for the uninitiated, is the journal of the Modern Language Association (PMLA=Publications of the Modern Language Association*), which is one of the behemoths, er, major professional groups for literature and composition professors, grad students, and "unaffiliated" scholars. MLA is most infamous for it's meat market interview process, which--and I am not kidding with the next remark--most often take place in hotel rooms.

And you wondered why your English profs were so daft, didn't you? What would you be like if the major interview location afforded you a seat on a bed and a view of the toilet?**

As a result, we tend to take ourselves very seriously, since, well, no one else will do it for us.

But, PMLA was kind this month in reminding me of the humor of my situation in an article entitled "What's So Funny About Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder" by Paul Cefalu. As an OCD-type myself, I was immediately drawn to the article, and damn if he doesn't manage to pull off a relatively literary study of comedy and OCD.

For context, I should point out that my OCD (look! mine!) manifests in two very specific ways. First would be a focus on symmetry. If I touch one side of my neck, I am compelled to touch the other side with approximately the same amount of pressure for the same amount of time. If I am not careful about the matter, the process of scratching the left side of my neck can become an affair of considerable effort. On really bad days, I can't knit because the needles are held differently in the hands; I also shouldn't (but do) grade, as the paper touching my right wrist*** will inevitably stop the grading so that balance can be sought. Then there are the sidewalk cracks...oy.

The second manifestation appears as compulsive thoughts: I get stuck on ideas, people (um, Hi Duff!), images, songs, and I have to do something--usually write--to get the thoughts under control. Occasionally, I unwittingly scare people with this particular manifestation; I'm sure that more than one object of my affection (I hate the word object with reference to humans) of the people in question has considered me a candidate for stalkerdom. I'm not, though. Just occasionally a broken record. (Yeah, that's it. Call me the Vinyl Queen. No, wait, don't.) One might argue that my parenthetical remark habit (my first thesis director certainly would have, had he thought about it in this way) is part of this particular quirk--I explain (and digress) to a rather, um, silly degree.

As I have suggested before, my drinking appears to be related as well, since I was nothing if not compulsive about it.

Cefalu's argument is pretty simple: the humor of OCD is born of irony: "If a master trope explains the uniquely disjunctive experience of OCD, it is irony. Not only is there something fundamentally ironic about the extent to which obsessives with OCD concentrate on tasks that they believe to be ridiculous, but compulsions, usually orchestrated to relieve underlying obsessions, tend to worsen the motivating obsession, and the victim gets caught in a ritualistic loop" (47).

I am so adding to the subtitle of this blog: "Occasional feakouts, Ritualistic loops..."

Humor, he suggests, is so often borne of incongruity, that OCD can't help (ha! It's compelled!) but to be a part of the humorus considerations of a culture awash with images of assorted neuroses. OCD is funny because it makes no sense (even to the obsessive), but the actions continue nevertheless--even after acknowledging the foolishness. He notes, following Alan Wilde, that there exists a difference between modernist and postmodernist irony insofar as "modernist irony recognizes but desperately tries to overcome incongruities, [while] postmodern irony unheroically and skeptically accepts them" (47). Quoting Wilde, he continues "Postmodern suspensive: an indecision about the meanings or relations of things is matched by a willingness to live in uncertainty" (qtd. in Cefalu 47). He concludes, however, that while the symptomology of OCD is indeed the very stuff of humor, the depictions that we have access to are, in the main, merely depictions of OCD-like symptoms, and not the underlying guilt and frustration that accompanies the clinical condition; thus, one might suggest, even in this logical and available source for humor, we tend to take the easy way out.

But for the last part of his argument, which is one of the most frequent complaints in literary studies-->that "they" aren't doing/showing/examining/whatevering something authentically****, I rather like the analysis because it pulls literature back into the real world, which it does, after all, attempt to reflect (however inauthentically it may do so). Too, the analysis takes theory, which has all but killed literary studies, and positions it within the familiar and concrete (well, OCD and concrete is probably not exactly accurate, is it?), which makes theory more functional--a good thing, says the comparatist who has watched her discipline all but abandon literature over the years.

In thinking about the remarks about postmodern irony, I see a correlation with my own world. Certainly, I recognize that my compulsions can be troublesome, but they are also, for the most part, really freaking funny and I'm willing to live with the oddities. The guilt is most often associated with wanting to talk about people and ideas that make others uncomfortable, and I have learned how to stop myself for the most part (usually--another way academia is a good place for me--few barriers to discussion).

So, back to making fun of myself and taking a lighter view of the world...which is way more fun that being serious in any event. Maybe I'll get back to that whole analysis of 80s glam videos...

What would I do without PMLA?

*How's that for creativity?
**I did not "do" MLA (nor vice versa); I was fortunate enough to be hired by the college I had been an adjunct for. So, no toilet view for me. Thankfully.
***Here's a gloriously odd example: initially, I typed "left"--then changed it to "right" because I had already written about the left side of my body. Someday I will write a post in which I strike through such changes rather than deleting them outright. That should be a fun one to read.
****Kindly bear in mind that I came of age during the height of 80's glam, so I tend to take a dim view of notions of "authentic." Art depicts and is understood through perception and judgement, two faculties that like to pretend they know and experience "the authentic," but do not, hence the ease with which I laugh at Romantic writers who searched for the voice of the "common man," whilst living in the country by the lake or adopting another image as needed to play the part. I could get started on rock-n-roll image on this, but I'll refrain for now.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Trippers and Askers Surround Me

If you don't recognize the post title, it's from a Whitman poem, Song of Myself. Even as much as I make fun of Whitman at times, this really is one of my favorite poetic moments:
Trippers and askers surround me,
People I meet, the effect upon me of my early life or the ward and city I live in, or the nation,
The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors old and new,
My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues,
The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love,
The sickness of one of my folks or of myself, or ill-doing or loss or lack of money, or depressions or exaltations,
Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news, the fitful events;
These come to me days and nights and go from me again,
But they are not the Me myself. (4:1-9)

This resonated today insofar as this post is as much grab bag as analysis (and probably a good deal more). See, I am not the bits and pieces I collect; "I" am more than the sum of their parts, but they are no less a part of me. If I fail to give them voice, I reduce myself. At the same time, if I give them more attention than is their due--try to make them all of me, I reduce myself. So, this collection of randoms is not "me" but they are very much the expression, the clothing of my voice.

Marathon Training: 25 miles last week, the same and additional change for this week (27 total?). Time is, as ever, pokey, but speed is not the goal--dragging myself across the finish line is. We can worry over speed after the race. Not thrilled with the whole return to cold weather deal that we had this morning. In fact, it SUCKED.

The 10 mile loop I mapped out is an interesting beast; turns out that little country road behind my house is one very long hill. With bikers.*

10 miles--two of these uphill battles plus a 10K and I'm done, right?

The psychology of running is a beast with which to reckon--more on that in a later post, but I'm pretty sure I rewrote my will, sketched the first 74% of a novel, and re-centered my current research project in the course of Saturday morning. I did discover that it is a good thing that I don't carry my iPod along, as I am distracted enough without music.

Duff: A perennial favorite in these parts, yes?

For those who missed my ├╝ber-freakouts last week, a brief update:

First, Loaded kindly consented to come to the Southeast on their tour, and while I can take no credit (though I did harass), I am very pleased and wish to say thank you to all four musicians in question. I look forward to seeing all of you this month. Thank you, gentlemen.

Second, Sick (Loaded's album--see the link at the bottom of the page) arrived yesterday. Good tunes. Good fun. Great humor. The joy in the music is palpable.

Third, Duff mentioned me in his blog. No really. See the quote below? "Kris" is me (I love, love, love the digression about newspapers and blogs that accompanies the remark about's ridiculously fitting):

Of the readers that I deem to be local, a professor dubbed "Kris" has a blog of his/her own that is drenched with deep-thought and hyper-awareness. I am honored that people like this even give a guy like me the time of day to read the neophyte script that I turn in to the Weekly. (On this subject, I just watched CBS's Sunday Morning, and there was a segment on blogging and news otherwise obtained on the Web. Apparently, for the first 100 or so years of their existence—1680 to 1780—newspapers would leave a blank page at the end of an article so that readers could write their comments and then pass it along for someone else to cross-comment. By 1915 there were some 15,000 different newspapers and magazines circulating in the U.S. Radio, TV, and other media eventually diminished the high demand, but it appears now that with the Internet, we are back up to having the wide variety celebrated those 100 years ago. Back to the future, I guess.)

I grant that the pink daisy probably should have been a gender clue, but, I appreciate the gender-non-specificity nevertheless and, moreover, I really appreciate his kindness. When in the world did I become a "people like this"? I thought that was his role. He's my hero after all.

He's "people like this," not me.


Duff. The guy mentioned first in the blog's cast of characters. My hero thinks I'm a "people like this"!

I'm not though. He is.

"people like this"

...The last piece of Duffness came in an article that inspired a post that I will put up later this week on the subject of recovery. Because, damn, he is "people like this" and fuck all if he doesn't make me think time and again about where and how and who: this time, he made me remember something about recovery that I had rather suppressed.

On that note...

Recovery: Rather melancholy at the moment. I realized this week, happily, that while the first go-round at recovery was brutal for an extended period--the craving, the obsession with consumption, I haven't had much in the way of a pull toward alcohol at all this time, at least since the first month (which was a bitch--way worse than the first time). The...I can't think of the right word here...lackadaisical? ambivalent?...what? The (whatever word I am seeking--detached?) attitude is a bit baffling, and, at first, I thought it was a good thing. Then I remembered that this was about the same feeling that preceded the decision to drink again. At which point I began to pay more attention to my thoughts and rambles, and they are a bit darker than I realized. Not threatening, mind you--not going there, but definitely dark.

Or maybe it's the return to cold weather that's getting me down.

In all likelihood, it is some of all of the above--some of each of the bits and pieces reflected here. I was getting low last week, before I saw the remark quoted in Duff's blog above, which buoyed me more than I can readily articulate. My hero and his kindnesses. Great highs, such as the excitement of last week, inevitably precede precipitous lows, and I will simply have to weather those, as well as the snow flurries outside my window.

Snow flurries in Georgia in April should be verboten, dammit.

Maybe I should work harder at not hanging my hat on the kindnesses of heroes and strangers, but celebrate those moments and allow myself to revisit on tough days and hours, but buoy myself with my own service and work in the world. Touch upon the joy and savor it for a time, but rely on internal measures, rather than external ones.

And in thinking about the weeks to come, perhaps I should not worry so much about how I appear to others, that I may be over-excitable (why not be so, after all?) or risky or scary or whatever, but I do. I do worry over the trippers and askers, the dress and compliments, the depressions and exaltations.

My compulsions and ecstasies and smiles and encounters and addictions and stories and whatevers and whatnots are significant. Even my silliness.

Which makes me wonder...what makes you who you are? What are the events and ideas and behaviors that clothe your self? Who and what surrounds you?

*For those not in the know, this community is rife with cyclists (not bikers, I know...I couldn't resist). Scads of brightly colored, spandex-clad folks on minuscule tires cover the roadways each morning. They are, as a rule, a fun group of folks to watch, even if the occasional super-athlete feels it necessary to make an obnoxious remark at me. Heh...I'm usually too whipped to care by the time they come upon me. Fortunately, most of the cycling crowd is quite polite.