Nature and Nurture Sundays

Another long break since my last post…bad on me.  But that last one got a lot of hits, so I basked in that for a while, and then there’s this whole new baby thing that’s been taking up a hell of a lot of time.  Turns out that many shorties (inspiration: The Onion), including our own, don’t give a damn about when you want to sleep, and that really messes up your work-life-blogging schedule (not that I had much of one to begin with, but whatever).  Anyway, I’ve made one New Years resolution this year, and it’s this: Nature and Nurture Sundays.  I will do no proper work on Sundays: no teaching prep, no dissertation writing/revising, none of that stuff.  I’ll allow myself to read, and maybe even take notes, but that’s about it.  Otherwise, I’m getting out into nature (and I will not think about the cultural construction of “nature” — that would be work) and learn the names of trees and shrubs and such, and I’m going to do a lot of nurturing: of my relationships with friends and family and of my soul.  That means things like playing guitar (which I just did for an hour, and DAMN do I need some calluses!), brewing beer (which I started doing in November), dreaming up storylines for the novel that’s been cooking in my head, and spending lots of quality time with my spouse and daughter.  I hope that this will help bring my stress level down a bit and remind me of what’s important.  I can’t say that it’s worked so far — after the first Nature and Nurture Sunday last week, I promptly had not one, but two, breakdowns, sobbing uncontrollably and repeating “There’s too much to do and I’ll never get it done!”  But even that was a little cathartic.  Distressing, but cathartic.  Anyway, I also hope that this means more regular writing on this blog, which was intended, after all, as a de-stressing activity, not as work.  So I hope you’ll come to expect a bit more of me on Sundays, dear reader — but not too much.  After all, there are trees to identify, beer to brew, and a daughter to be fascinated by.

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Concussed

So...that was interesting.

Last Thursday, I (apparently) took a bit of a knock to the head while mountain biking, and ended up with a concussion, a ride in an ambulance, some time in the ER, and about ten stitches.  I don’t remember the crash itself — there’s a gap between a memory of me thinking, “gee, I’m going pretty fast” and the next memory of me moaning for help.  Thank God I was (a) wearing my helmet, which now has a nice little crack in it (plus a bit of blood for effect) and (b) riding with friends, who were ahead of me, but were thoughtful enough to turn around and look for me when I didn’t catch up with them.  They called the ambulance, woke me up, kept me from going into shock too terribly bad, etc.  Everyone was stellar: the EMTs, the emergency room doctor, resident, and nurses (well, except one nurse — Steve — who didn’t share my concern about the blood gushing out of my knee), and my spouse, who kept it together in the ER despite the disturbing image of me strapped into a neck brace and back board.  CT scan and X-ray were fine; in fact, the only long-term damage is a chipped tooth.  And my confidence, of course — I’m sure I’ll be a bit gun-shy the next time I go riding, which, I’ve been instructed, will not be for a few weeks.

One of the memories I do have from the accident is talking to my friend about my dissertation while waiting for the ambulance.  My friends were checking my cognitive functions, and they decided to ask about my work.  To which I thought: “Shit, that’s hard enough when I’m totally awake!”  I mumbled something about the topic and the time period, but I don’t think I generated a thesis statement.  And that’s too bad, because wouldn’t it have been awesome to come up with a great thesis while coming out of a concussion?  Now that’s a good way to introduce a book.

Unfortunately, this has put me a bit behind.  I meant to have my last chapter sent off this week, but I don’t think that will happen.  I also want to get a panel proposal ready for the ASEH, which is due this Friday.  And there’s some summer school grading and this and that and the other thing.  On top of it all, it still feels a little weird to look at the computer screen and type.  There’s a slight disconnection there, and it’ll probably take some time to heal.

Crazy stuff.

Thoughts on the US Exit from the Weltmeisterschaft

Some things I would say were I sitting next to Alexis Lalas, McManamanamanaman, etc.:

  1. Enough with the US-underdog bullshit.  Sure, soccer may not be the biggest game in the US, but the men’s national team has plenty of money, plenty of time, and plenty of people to work with.  With all these resources, it’s frankly ridiculous that the US just barely scrape through the group stage, only to get beaten by the 32nd-ranked team (the US was ranked 14th, by the way).  So, to Mr. Donovon, who says that the US “goal should be to get through the group stage,” I say: raise the bar.  The expectation should be that the US get through the group stage; the goal should be, you know, to win.
  2. Thank the lord that we won’t have to hear too much more of the “Will the US finally become a soccer nation?”  I remember back in 1994 when Sports Illustrated ran a special issue trying to convince its readers that the US was “ready” for soccer.  I also remember reading a book for kids, written sometime in the late 1970s, that asserted that soccer was going to get huge in the US because of all the youth leagues.  News flash: soccer is already big in the US.  Lots of people play it, lots of people watch it, lots of money gets spent on it.  Stop moaning about how it’s not as “big” as the other football, and go kick a ball.
  3. In an odd way, I’m glad the US is out.  Now I can enjoy the rest of the games, instead of worrying about how the US is going to do.  Because it was getting pretty bad, folks–restless sleep, bad dreams, the works.  And with the US out, I can get back to proper work.  I haven’t written a sentence in the last two weeks.  Bad grad student, bad.

TV on DVD: Bad for you, Bad for television

[I’m using this fluff piece to get myself back in to blog-writing.  You are warned: this will stink.]

Much to my spouse’s chagrin, I have sworn off watching any new television series on DVD.  Having completed The Wire and suffered through the most recent season of Weeds (please, just make it end!), [hypothesis] I have decided that watching TV on DVD is bad for me and bad for the show.  Or at least that’s true for the way that I watch TV on DVD.  I seem to be unable to exercise any self-control; when a disc arrives, I usually watch every episode on the disc back-to-back on the same night.  This is both exhausting and an utter waste of time.  When I get to the end of a disc, I am tired from doing absolutely nothing.  And so I become frustrated at my laziness and my lack of self-control.  Naturally, I take this out on the television show, in which I find endless problems (see my previous rant on Weeds) and decide that I hate, but which I can’t stop watching.  So I trudge my way through as quickly as possible, missing exactly what makes good shows good: character development.  Mulder and Scully, the entire crew from Arrested Development–these characters evolved, and that’s what the made the shows great.  Some of that change and development is intended by the writers, the directors, and the actors, but I think some of it is imagined; viewers develop a pseudo-relationship with these characters, and imagine them to change over time as do real people.  But when you watch a show on DVD, the characters don’t get that kind of time and play-space in your brain.  All the evolution has to take place on the screen, right in front of you, and it’s usually incomplete or laughably radical.  I did this to The Wire.  My understanding is that people loved this show in large part due to the complexity and development of the characters.  And you get some of that when you watch it on DVD–but not all of it, I think.  By the end of the show, I found pretty much ever character on that show to be an unrealistically insufferable asshole–except for Amy Ryan’s character, who was only an occasional presence in the last two seasons, and so I was able to imagine the development of her character.  (note: Bunk and Omar were also good, so that complicates my theory).

Therefore, [thesis]: TV on DVD is bad for me because it wastes my time and irritates me, and it’s bad for the show because it doesn’t provide the time and space for character development.

And so, to Mad Men, Battlestar Gallatica, and all other shows that I “just have to watch,” I say: nein.  Ich habe die Nasen voll. But it’s not you, it’s me.

Ah, the modern condition.  It’s so stressful, I do believe I’ll faint!

The Weeds in Weeds

A non-academic interlude…

My spouse and I have been watching Weeds on DVD.  I’m not entirely sure why.  I’ve seen a couple episodes over the past few years, but when we signed up for Netflix, we decided to put Weeds on there, and now we’re hooked.  Sure, there are some cool things about the show.  Mary Louise Parker is gorgeous.  The original premise–suburban mom selling pot to her over-medicated and under-worked neighbors–is funny, interesting, and strikes a chord about the character of American suburbia.  Nancy (Parker’s character) has some obvious psychological issues with her deceased husband, and that help explain a lot of what she’s doing.  Her brother-in-law is funny, as is Kevin Nealon’s character, and the kids are likable enough (although Silas’s teenage angst is a bit over the top at times).  So, it’s pretty good for a TV show.

But I’m getting increasingly irritated with all of the balls dropped by the writers.  There are simply too many things that get brought up, floated around, and then disappear without explanation.  A short list:

  • Whatever happened to Celia’s other daughter, the one Silas was dating in the first episode and then, if I remember right, got shipped off to Mexico?
  • In the first season, the writers gave Celia cancer and turned her into a nice mother.  But by the second season, she was a mean mom again, now that the cancer had cleared.  It’s as though the writers decided that they needed a mean character, and they were trying to get out of the story arc they created.
  • Nancy’s DEA boyfriend/husband seemed like a really, really nice guy.  But then he turned into an asshole: abusive of Nancy’s children, violent, and totally and utterly corrupt.  But without explanation.  Again, it’s like the writers regretted their decision and tried to undo it: they created this DEA character, killed him off, and then turned him into a real asshole so that the viewers wouldn’t feel bad that he got killed.
  • Did Nancy keep the rest of the dead-DEA-husband’s life insurance policy, or did she pay it all back to the agent’s first wife?  And what about his pension–it got brought up once, but it’s been forgotten.  Is Nancy getting that check or what?
  • Why did Matthew Modine’s character get off so easy for owning Celia’s drug house?  All he had to say to the DEA agent was: I owned it, but I gave it to this other women (without a paper trail), so talk to her.  Bam.  Done.  WTF? as the kids say.

We’ve only just started watching  the fourth season, so I suppose there’s hope that these loose ends will come up again.  There’s also a good chance that all of this has already been explained on the interwebs, but because I don’t want to spoil the rest of the season, I’ll wait until I get caught up.  But for now, I’m kind of hoping that season five will be the show’s last, so I can be released from this unfortunate addiction.

This sort of crap never would have gone down in Arrested Development.