duck-shaped pain


31 March 2006
A week of the nether regions.

I am feeling fairly good this morning. It's been sort of a hectic week, so having a nice sit-down with some coffee and breakfast [1] and the computer. Soon, I plan to go for my customary walk, and then, after that, I might try to clean up my apartment. It needs it, quite badly, I believe; one thing I've found as I get older that my clutter tolerance gets smaller.

This week was fairly hectic, though. I had to read a cranky, ponderous book for seminar. I had to give a 15-minute presentation on it, which means that I actually had to read read it, not do the typical abbreviated graduate school sort of reading. [1] My presentation went well. I had to write it out, since my winging-it skills leave something to be desired. (I feel comfortable winging it in front of my students, but that's because I'm In Charge.) It turns out that everyone was as baffled by the book as I was, by the author's poorly-veiled speculations, his inability to determine who, exactly, has agency in the processes he describes, etc., etc.

If I had to name this week, I would name it "Anus Week." Anuses just kept appearing and reappearing (not literally, thankfully, but in spirit). One of the assigned readings for my students this week was Freud's theories on infantile sexuality: the oral stage, the anal stage, etc. I usually start class off by asking them what they thought of the readings in general, trying to gauge whether anyone was completely confused by the subject matter/language in any of the assigned documents. One of my students raised her hand, and said," There were too many anuses in this document." And then, the ponderous book I had to present on contained much information on how early-20th-century advertisements tried to persuade consumers that bodily problems such as constipation, bad breath, suspicious hair, etc. were Critical Problems that could be solved with the help of Nationally Marketed Brand-Name Products. One ad scolded people for not buying the right toilet paper, the other connected personal failure to "intestinal fatigue" (i.e, constipation). All suggest that the reason people weren't fitting into the new professional, managerial world of industrial America is because there was something wrong with their bowels.

So, Anus Week. I'm glad it's over.

I finally got some feedback on my thesis, three weeks after giving it to my committee. Not detailed feedback, mind you, just an indication as to whether it was good or bad. So, in my case it was good, and I should start getting marked-up copies of the thing to work on, in order that I can submit the final copy to the Appropriate Office in a few weeks.

This weekend should be decent. I don't have a lot that I have to do, other than read another ponderous book, and fix the footnotes in my thesis.

[1] A blackberry-banana fruit smoothie and a cup of now-cold oatmeal: not the greatest breakfast, but a breakfast, nonetheless.

[2] There is a precise ritual to reading a book that you don't have time to read. First, you read the introduction, then, if there is one (and you'd be surprised by the number of books that lack such a thing), the conclusion. Be sure to try and figure out what the thesis is, although that's not always quite apparent, either. Then, read the introduction to each chapter, and read the introductory sentences to important-looking paragraphs. If you have time, read in some sort of depth a chapter or long section in the middle or end of the book, so you can comment on it in class. Then, look up reviews of the book, so you can quickly discern what the problems with the book are. Of course, you could also always read it, but that takes time!

the past + the future

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