This is the kind of shit I have to contend with now

Screenshot 2015-02-17 10.03.52

instant assessment of student understanding, huh? You mean like when you ask “did you guys understand that?” and they tell you if they did or not? My god this will revolutionize education

make teaching more fun for me, huh? I am not sure you have any idea what kinds of things I find “fun” and “not fun” about my job. Lets just say that “constantly adding random new technology to my pedagogy” does not fall under the “fun” heading.

interact with my students through their own devices, huh? Oh sorry I just barfed

I love that I got this after grading 22 free-write exercises in which fully half of my students, un-prompted, wrote very eloquently about how much they yearn to live in a time before cell phones and the internet.

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Freudian Slips

we watched Forbidden Planet last night. I’d never seen it!


It is a very cheaply made film. It takes place mostly on a sound stage in front of a couple of different trippy paintings and it has one of the most poorly designed robots in film history. If you could build a robot that could instantly synthesize any material, including 400 pints of kentucky bourbon, and who could speak 180 languages why would you make him basically an unwieldy bulky man-size thing who can barely walk and whose arms are too short to carry things with two hands? Also why would you name it “Robby.”

1950s sci-fi is so conservative. The premise of this film is these earth dudes, led by a shockingly hunky Leslie Nielsen, fly 100 billion light years or whatever to go check on these scientists who were sent to colonize “an earth-like planet” 20 years before (much like in “Interstellar,” the timing of the film’s plot doesn’t quite add up if you ask me). The crew of the ship appears to be 20 hunky white dudes and one horny cook who is obsessed with dames and who is inexplicably in every scene, wearing his stained apron. Like he’s one of the first people to step out of the spaceship and set foot on this alien world. The cook, in his stained apron. “What kinda nutty joint is this” etc. etc. And when the robot turns up to invite them to dinner, the cook is like “180 languages my foot, what I want to know is, ARE YOU A MAN OR A WOMAN????” This is what the robot looks like


The cook will later cause some hijinks involving kentucky bourbon, due to being mired in the existential angst of sexual repression. Several men will die

Speaking of sexual repression, and spoiler alert, it turns out that the entire central conflict of the film is that this one scientist ill-advisedly “doubled his intellectual capacity,” which somehow had the effect of unleashing his Id, which became a massive invisible creature that killed everyone else on the planet. The dreaded Id, noooo!!!!!! Is there anything worse to the 1950s than the Id?

Speaking of Id, it turns out this mysterious scientist whose Id killed everyone has a daughter, and it’s just been the two of them living on this planet for 20 years. Here is what the daughter looks like in every scene

Forbidden Planet 231 4-5-13

except in one scene where she’s naked in a swimming pool and Leslie Nielsen sees her and quickly turns his back and says “Oh, MURDER.”

The men are enraged by her flimsily-clad body and all try to kiss her. She is completely uninhibited by culture because of living on this weird planet with her dad her whole life so she lets anyone kiss her who wants to. This further enrages everybody, especially Leslie Nielsen, who delivers this weird rant at her about how she deserves to get raped if that’s what she’s going to prance around wearing all the time. How dare she tease these good men? She’s like “dude this is my planet, I designed these clothes myself, what are you even talking about” and he’s like “THESE MEN HAVEN’T SEEN A WOMAN IN OVER A YEAR”

Somebody’s Id is about to kill a bunch of people! Just kidding that’s not what happens, but wouldn’t it be amazing if it did??

The daughter is barefoot in every scene, even when clomping along over rocks and grit, and she has the never-explained ability to tame wild creatures, including some very standard earth deer and earth tigers. So she is basically everything the 1950s was most violently trying to expunge from itself: uninhibited female sexuality, and a closeness with nature. Later Leslie Neilsen will kill her pet tiger with a blaster gun


Soon she will return to earth with him and finally attain her dream of sitting inside a house all day listening to the washing machine and wondering what orgasms are

The movie gets pretty psychedelic


It turns out there was this race of super-enlightened beings that lived on this planet two thousand centuries ago. The phrase “two thousand centuries” is repeated many, many times. “Two thousand centuries.” “Two….THOUSAND….centuries???” etc. Even though they lived two thousand centuries ago a bunch of their machines still work and so this scientist has been using them to try to learn about this wonderful race, which all died violently and all at once, two thousand centuries ago (unclear how he knows this). What happened to them? It turns out, after a series of extraordinarily long expository monologues during which I basically went into a trance state and came to a lot of good conclusions about how to revise the fourth chapter of my book, that this race of wondrous beings who lived two thousand centuries before had actually let their brain capacity get TOO high, which unleashed THEIR Ids!! Which killed them all instantly! How nice to know that no matter where you go in the universe, everyone you meet is struggling with the exact same inner sexual conflicts that Freud diagnosed as being unique to Western European culture, specifically because of Christianity. Oh well!

Anyway then the dad dies and the girl declares herself “united body and soul” with Leslie Nielsen (because if there’s one thing 1950s movies teach us it’s that the first man to scream at a woman that she ought to get raped will end up married to her) and so everything works out. They take the robot back to earth with them and the robot gets to fly the spaceship and is stoked. And nobody’s Id ever troubled them again!

Here is the cook seeing the 400 pints of Kentucky Bourbon the robot made for him. Id city! Somebody’s about to get DRUNK AS HELL and jeopardize everyone’s safety! JUST LIKE FREUD SAID


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Lovers’ Lane

It’s nigh on Valentine’s Day! My husband says this year he’s not giving me my usual gift, which is a long rant about heterosexist conspicuous consumption. He says he doesn’t care anymore. This is distressing.

Nonetheless, I realized that this time of year is when he gives me by far the most loving and wonderful gift of all, which is doing our taxes without even involving me in the process in any way except to get me to write down my passwords. He does this with neither rancor nor resentment; in fact, the other day he actually said “I want you to get your W-2 in the mail so I can do our taxes!” and he meant it like it was something he was looking forward to and couldn’t wait to get his hands on. All my life, the W-2 arriving meant nothing to me except a slow crescendo of dread and anxiety until April 14th when I would cry doing my taxes totally incorrectly or sweet-talk a friend into doing them, like the time Steve did them in exchange for a pot of my delicious potato soup. That was the year George Bush gave everyone $200 and I was so excited when Steve told me, and I remember him happily yelling “I FOLLOWED THE DIRECTIONS!!”

And then we all really did vote for George Bush again, remember how cool that was? (<—a real thing that happened. America you sell your loyalty way too cheap my friend)

He’s in his office now, periodically yelling at me to spell my mother’s maiden name and other such chilling questions.

In this one regard I am the most hideously stereotypical “wife” to his “husband” and yet I feel nothing, as a feminist. NOTHING. I feel nothing but joy and gratitude. He took my last name; he can do our damn taxes. Also in my family the mother does the taxes so I am somehow a weird double simultaneous failure.

My job anxiety is ramping up again. I woke up at 4 and couldn’t go back to sleep, I was just thinking with growing sickness about all the ways I am failing and all the aspects of my job that I don’t like and can’t do anything about. Sometimes you feel really trapped in your reality, I think this is probably true of everyone. You wake up in the night like, what the fuck is happening, what have I done. I suddenly imagined time-lapse footage of my life, where you’d see me slowly growing old sitting in front of my computer, like that was where I spent the majority of my life, as the seasons came and went outside my window, and how crazy that is, and how there’s truly nothing I can do about it. “Goodbye Daddy, I’m dying”

The other day I asked my students to free-write for 5 minutes on the question: “What is something from the past that you wish was in the present?” And then it turned out that fully half of them had written the exact same thing, which was that they wished they lived in a time where people hung out with each other instead of staring at their phones, and they wished there wasn’t Facebook. These are 19 year olds! We all got really sad. I asked them if there was anything we could do about this collective anxiety and they all said no.

I have a theory that there’s going to be a techno-backlash among the next generation. They’re going to grow up seeing their parents staring constantly at screens and that will be the site of their rebellion. They’re going to rebel by not having cell phones or paying Comcast for shitty internet service. It’s going to be rad. I’ve already met a couple of these weirdos. The hipster trend of the next gen is totally going to be living iPhone-free.

Anyway, that’s what I think in my lighter moments.

Last night we joked about me writing an email to my chair explaining that my job is too hard. “I don’t have enough time to devote to my hobbies, such as bread-baking, or to caring for my physical self.” Can you imagine! What would he write back??? He would probably just not write back. We aren’t allowed to say our job is too hard or that we don’t have time to take on some fresh chore. Maybe when you get tenure you can do that but that reality is but a misty half-hidden dream to mine eye. My physically damaging, intensely under-waged labor is all worth it when class goes well but when it doesn’t it just feels like WHAT IS THE POINT of killing myself sitting at this goddamn desk while my entire life passes me by. I had a bad class yesterday. I also had two good classes yesterday but those don’t matter when you’ve had a bad one. One bad one and you realize you have made a huge mistake and you are bad at your job and this generation is hopeless and the human species is going to go extinct and you wish it would happen tomorrow. One bad class and you think seriously about going to work on a bird sanctuary in costa rica “or something”

I wonder if parenting is this way. Surely in your darkest heart there are days when you are like “I’ve made a huge mistake–I hate being this idiot creature’s mommy.” But then your kid smiles at you and you’re like “it’s all been worth it for this one moment in an otherwise endless slog of terror and unpaid labor”

Yesterday I had to sit on my first pre-recital hearing. This is where a master’s student who is studying performance on a given instrument has to perform chunks of their recital program for a committee who then criticizes their performance technique and tells them stuff to change before their actual master’s recital. They are required to have a history faculty member on this committee. I asked at least four people to explain to me what happens at this event and what my role is supposed to be and literally all of them just gaily waved a hand in the air and were like “oh we just talk about the pieces, it’s fun.” So there I am, sitting in a chair with a bunch of scores, watching an EXTREMELY nervous student shred epically on a piano, and then when it was over the piano teacher turned to me and said “why don’t you start.” THIS IS A TRUE STORY.

I don’t even want to finish the story. It was a bloodbath. Lets just say I said something VERY stupid about pedaling.

I also realized yesterday that it finally happened; I finally developed my unconscious Professor Hand Gesture. Everyone has one. For the famous scholars, everyone can imitate theirs, to widespread glee. One guy slowly waves his right index finger in the air in a circle when he is making a point. One of my professors would put all the tips of her left-hand fingers together and gently strike the tabletop when she was making a point. Yesterday in class I suddenly saw that I’ve got one! This must be the mark of a new phase of my career. Mine is I take my right hand and tensely cup it, palm up, fingers spread wide. Like if you were to mimic gripping a baseball. And then I twist my wrist back and forth, like I’m showing different sides of the baseball to someone.

The linkage of hand gestures to speech is fascinating. What are we trying to do, with our hands? How do our hands help us communicate? We all do it all the time, but then also why do professors have one specific one they only use when in their professional mode?

My husband just brought me the phone and on the other end was a TIAA-CREF official who needed to verify that my husband was allowed to make decisions about my account. I said yes, and then he said “now, would you prefer that I go back to talking with your husband?” and I said “that would be great.” Now he’s in there talking about IRAs. I am literally in heaven. I married the man of my goddamn dreams. First he makes me a lasagna whenever I ask and now this. What next, I find out he lays golden eggs that I can trade in for a lifetime of ease and luxury?? Don’t cut him open! Let him lay his eggs in his own time. It’s a fable about greed

It’s 5 degrees and brilliantly sunny out. We have not had a single full week of class this entire semester, because of snow days, and now that it’s finally stopped snowing, it’s presidents day, and we get monday off, which means on tuesday we follow a monday schedule, which means I also have tuesday off.

I am trying to quell my anxiety by taking a chill pill. We haven’t taken a day off since christmas break–our Friday off-day is in the garbage can because we both have too many looming deadlines. It is okay and the sun is shining and I ate pizza for breakfast! I do like my job and if I can get this book published I will feel better and spend less time at the computer. And if I can’t get the book published then I will lose my job anyway, so either way, I’ll be spending less time at the computer. The Glad Game!

Oh today’s Friday the 13th!

omg my old man is really going for it in there! I have no idea what he is doing! I think he is rolling my TIAA-CREF money into a new 401(k)??? Or something? That goddamn TIAA-CREF account has been hanging over my head for a year! Now I am just getting tons of emails from various financial entities telling me that changes have been made to my account! And I can just delete them without reading them!!!! THIS IS BLISS. Instead of massage gift cards I just want my husband to undertake various investment and financial tasks in my name, it is infinitely more relaxing

I am either in for a lifetime of pleasure or I am setting myself up to be terribly long-conned, like one day when instead of warming up the car for our drive to school my old man just revs it out of the driveway and out of sight and I slowly realize he has transferred the car title into his name and rerouted all my retirement funds into a secret personal bank account and stolen the dog. Like I find the dog’s tag on the kitchen table with my phone number scratched off it. GOD wouldn’t that be terrible. But why would he scratch off my phone number if he was just going to take the tag off anyway, it doesn’t make sense

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