My Beautiful Wickedness

Lilac trees
May 25, 2012, 11:12 am
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I am blessed with lilac trees. Every year, I cut down a ton and every year, they come back again. Death, taxes, and lilacs…the sure things in my life.  All my flowers are in now (first wave) and I think I’ve solved some of my color craving by putting a planter of coeropsis and salvia on the back porch steps.  Bright yellow and purple waving around makes me happy.  My hanging baskets of geraniums are also finally kicking into gear — I babied them all winter long and they are back in bloom at last.

After the mosquito bloodletting, I feel a little dizzy. As work avoidance goes, this was a very productive day.

Let a thousand flowers bloom (but only in the shade).
May 24, 2012, 1:52 pm
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Wrote some, then went and planted a lot of impatiens.  My backyard is dominated by a giant tree.  As J points out, that means that it’s cool and protected from frosts, but…I cannot have poppies. Or pretty much anything that blooms in bright colors.  Each year, it’s a struggle not to bullshit myself about this. I have to rein in my inner Zenobia and just say no to the profusions of scarlets and yellows.  Meek little low-growing pinks and purples will have to do.


Canola oil is bad, bad, bad.
May 23, 2012, 3:28 pm
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Ok, so maybe it’s not bad for everyone, but it sure as hell is bad for me.  John was trying to be all heart-conscious and bought a massive bottle of canola oil, which we used last night to make fried chicken.  And wow.  Huge migraine, diarrhea, vomiting, crazy inflammation of my joints to the point where I could barely walk…but now that it’s out of my system, I feel fine.

However, I’m pissed that I’ve basically wasted the day clutching my head.

Well, so that happened.
May 22, 2012, 11:55 am
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This break in the action brought to you by community fundraising, some volunteer stuff, and getting my learner’s permit so that I can get my drivers’ license again. But now I’m back on task.


So, my thoughts on Aron
May 18, 2012, 10:54 am
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What was helpful to me:

1) His frank embrace of landscape and bioregion as an appropriate unit of analysis.  I work between rivers as well, so figuring out exactly what to call this place in a way that does not anticipate how it will be carved up in the future is a struggle I had more or less given up on at the time I defended, but I’m ready to take it on again.

2) His observations about politics on the ground — which strike me as common-sense, but it’s where my head is at as well, so it’s nice to see how well this plays in a book-length work.

3) His characterization of the first groups of Americans.  They are sometimes even the same people, but even when they are not, they have similar actions and attitudes.  I feel more confident that I am reading them correctly.

Things I can do better:

1) I don’t think he understands the French very well because he’s trying to leave them French rather than the amalgamated Francophonic group I perceive them to be.  I think he’s been hanging around with Jay Gitlin (who also writes about the French as transplanted rather than transformed) a little too much.  Maybe my position as a relatively isolated scholar (which I’ve been seeing as a great liability) will help me be a little more independent and fresh in my interpretation.

2) Gender, rather obviously and glaringly.

3) Possibly, ethnographic interpretation.  Sometimes I got the feeling that he was just recapping someone else’s work on the inter-river peoples and that while it was incumbent on him to acknowledge and demonstrate their control of the region, he hadn’t really deeply thought about how their ideas of belonging and power and commerce, etc were also in flux.  It’s a critique that I’ve had with some of his earlier work on borderlands as a theory and I’m still skeptical that the whole idea of a borderlands is useful if what you really are interested in is telling the history of American Indian people.  It feels overdetermined — like it anticipates the eventuality of a national endpoint and it’s just a theoretically useful concept to include Indians as limited agents in a story about the regrettable extinguishing of their sovereign power.

So, that happened.  I’m working on and thinking about the mss every day, which was my goal. I may not be “doing” as much (new writing, reorganizing), but I’m at least applying my ass to my desk chair and seeing what happens.

This is the week of baby steps. And hey, I’ve almost tottered over to the coffee table!

Is it avoiding? Or is it something else?
May 17, 2012, 11:48 am
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I decided to get out that copy of Stephen Aron’s American Confluence that I purchased five years ago and just couldn’t bear to read for reasons that seem stupid now.  (Praised highly by one dissertation co-chair, published in the other dissertation co-chair’s regional series with a gushy blurb by him, deduced that because Aron was great and all that and a full professor, I couldn’t possibly even begin to measure up and it would just make me sad to know that for sure.)

Yes, I am a self-defeating insecure person.  I’m trying to get over it.

I’m going to read it today (it’s not very long), figure out where I need to engage it, mark those passages with notes for further reflection, and move on. In more relevant news, I also found an “edited” spiralbound copy of the mss where I had already done some work on the very things I was despondent about yesterday.  That’s yet a different copy than the one that Betsy looked at…so that makes twice that I made a run at this thing.  Third time is charming, I’ve heard. I love it when my past self leaves little gifts for my forgetful present self to stumble across. Maybe I’ll find that I have completely finished a new better draft as well…

Probably not, but it’s pretty to think so.

Quit piddling and write your book.
May 16, 2012, 8:09 am
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Baby steps, y’all.

Today, I’m rereading the mss with the goal of enjoying what’s good about it.  It’s been long enough since I wrote it that I’m kind of surprised that it came out of my brain and I need to appreciate that I have some skills. I’ll note places that jar me, interpretations that I no longer agree with or that I’m having other thoughts about, and obvious holes.  But I am consciously taking it easy on the self-criticism today.

But I have found my motivation, which is (maybe sadly, always) money.  I’m from the working class — I want to sell what I write, I want to get promoted in rank (which comes with more money), and I need to do so to help pay for my kid’s high school tuition (which is coming up shortly).  So, off we go.

What’s not witches is pirates…
September 4, 2010, 1:52 pm
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I’m at an odd stage in my research and teaching life. Instead of doing a lot of quotidian things to pay the academic rent in hopes of being able to do a little cool research now and then, I’m actually teaching about witches (next class, familial ideals, familial discord and their bearing on witch accusations/convictions) and researching pirates as a type of non-state national actor in the early modern period.

It’s actually a little frazzling.

In ordinary circumstances, I can put in my time on the survey class and then steal some focused time away on my cool stuff. Now, though, I’m so interested in everything that it’s actually a little hard to know where to look first. I also have a research assistant to keep busy on the piracy work, so I’m having to learn how to be a good research director without giving up all my most interesting stuff (which I actually want to look at).

Anyway, I realized today that this is the kind of career I never could have anticipated in graduate school and it’s actually more personally rewarding than the R1 career we were urged to see as the pinnacle of academic success.

Girl (sleep) interrupted
September 3, 2010, 10:33 am
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I’m mentally toasted today. Kid has gone from being a “go to bed at 9, get up at 7” kind of a child to getting up about every fifteen to thirty minutes to tell me that she can’t sleep and could I please fix that.

I know that part of it is the surge of hormones that kick of puberty. I think that part of it is still grappling with the aftermath of having her lullaby eliminated unilaterally by me about a month ago. (A kid who wants to stay up until 10 every night and begs to watch Glee does not need a lullaby tuck-in.)

I am guessing that without that familiar ritual, she just doesn’t know how to shut herself off. Or, rather, she gets to sleep rather easily (9-11) and then can’t get back to sleep once she wakes up.

She gets plenty of exercise during the day, both running around outside at the park and dancing. She has a light snack before bedtime so I don’t think she’s hungry.

Any ideas about suitable age-appropriate bedtime rituals for a kid entering sixth grade? Alternately, any insights from your own experiences about what she/I can do to get her back to sleeping through the night?

So, it’s kind of hard to tell how it went.
August 31, 2010, 5:56 pm
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I guess I won’t know until the class gels (normalizes, to use a Montessori term) a little bit.

However, I have to remember that academics is not uppermost in some of their minds. There’s a mentally ill guy in the neighborhood whose particular compulsion is having to repeat the last thing he’s heard. Today, I walked by him and he was muttering “I’m kind of homesiick and I miss my dog. I’m kind of homesick and I miss my dog.”

And then I said “good morning” and off he walked, repeating “good morning good morning good morning…”

That was sort of how the day went. I feel like I too was repeating myself (a repeated prep).