bathmen, where are you

Do men take baths?

Or, why is it that in American culture, anyway, you rarely see images of men taking baths? There are plenty of advertisements (& not just for bath products) which feature women relaxing in a bath. There are images of kids taking baths, I suppose because they're easier to supervise than showers. And certainly, in regions/cultures/time periods where there aren't showers, everyone takes baths.

But I realized last night as I was scrubbing the bathtub that I've never heard one of my male friends mention taking a bath. My father never took baths, as far as I know. Yet I happen to know that plenty of my female friends do choose baths at least some of the time.

I can't think of a single film scene of a man in a bathtub. I mean your regular bathtub -- not a jacuzzi, hot tub, sauna, or steam bath (all of which are sometimes very male spaces).

What's up with this? Is it just about menstrual cramps? Or are baths too soft and cozy and thereby feminine? Showers are fast and efficient and therefore manly? There's a Friends episode about masculinity anxiety where Ross goes too far in a conversation with Joey & Chandler (when they were worn out from going out with a visiting pal) -- they're talking about being "old" (at almost-30-something) and preferring quiet evenings -- and Ross says something like "and if we want to just stay home and take a bath and listen to Kenny G, that's OK" and Joey says "We're not women." I always thought it was a joke on Kenny G. But maybe it's also about men's secret desire to take relaxing baths? are men feeling shut out from bathtime rituals?

I have never seen bath gel, foam, oil, milk, or other products marketed specifically to men. (Though I haven't been looking for them, either.) A quick web search reveals D&G makes a "masculine bath gel" and Caswell-Massey makes something called "bath gin" packaged in a liquor-like bottle. But both of these are gels -- which can be used to lather up in a shower, too. No bubbly, foamy, milky liquids for the guys, oh no. It does appear that luxury hotels, which offer "bath menus" include a "masculine bath" option, but I don't know what that includes. But what about the guys at home, who shop at Target or Walgreens? Do they not take baths just because they don't have Surf & Sport Musky Bath Oil to lounge around in?


my november rules

I love this time change day. I got up and went to "early" yoga which was at New 8:00. It's great to feel so virtuous without really trying too hard. I'm full of good intentions for getting up early this week, since that's when the sunlight will be available. My sleep and work schedule got all out of whack the past couple weeks -- and so, of course, did my blogging schedule. But maybe all that will change & improve now. I feel like I got over the hump of the semester, and although my workload will not really lessen until Dec 22, my attitude sure has improved.

Rules I'm going to try and live by in November:
(1) GO TO YOGA. As long as I've slept enough, I never leave class thinking that I wish I hadn't gone. I've set myself a yoga goal -- to do 30 classes in 30 days (which is Bikram's basic "how to transform your life" recipe) next June. I've never done more than 4 or 5 consecutive days, so I have to really work up to this. The effects of hot yoga multiply the more consecutive classes you do -- you really do feel awesome. But it's strenuous. Lately, my work schedule has had me going two or three days, then off for a day or two. So for now, I'm working up to fives again. Then in January start working up to sevens.
(2) WORK AT THE CAFE. I get so much more done there. That's even harder to fit in -- I'll be at the office towards the end of the day, and think, well, I could stay here and take care of officey things, or I could go to the cafe and read for class (or, even, for my own work?!?). But it all depends on timing and traffic etc. But last week, when I did get my ass to the cafe, my grading and reading productivity sped up dramatically. And it usually improves my mood, to be working around other people working. (The fancy strong coffee probably doesn't hurt either.)
(3) READ MORE. My brain needs more input so that I can create better output.

a quiz I couldn't resist

theory slut
You are a Theory Slut. The true elite of the
postmodernists, you collect avant-garde
Indonesian hiphop compilations and eat journal
articles for breakfast. You positively live
for theory. It really doesn't matter what
kind, as long as the words are big and the
paragraph breaks few and far between.

What kind of postmodernist are you!?
brought to you by Quizilla

Somehow, this result doesn't quite surprise me, given where, when, & how I was interpolated into the academic regime. But the lacy camisole really isn't me.


an attitude adjustment cheaper than therapy

Want to feel much, much better about the state of your life -- no matter how crappy you might feel? Want to feel inspired to make a difference in the world? Go see North Country. Major points to Charlize Theron for taking on another substantive role after Monster, not just coasting on her success and doing pretty-girl action pics (not that I'm not going to rush out and see Aeon Flux, mind you).

What this film does very well is highlight not just the unrelenting misery of sexual harassment in a male-dominated industry that was only grudgingly employing women to comply with a legal ruling, but how that harassment is integrally connected to the treatment of women in society as a whole. Sure, you could complain that things are undoubtedly prettied up for Hollywood, the narrative channeled into certain formulas. But far less so than some of the other True Story Battle Against The Man movies. I think it's definitely worth seeing -- and, more to the point, worth paying for in the theatre so that audience interest in it is recognized.



I have now been at the frickin office for almost 10 hours. After staying up way too late last night scanning a book that absolutely had to be turned in to ILL today. My brain started turning off a couple of hours ago, but I've been plowing through a heap of emails etc. Now that traffic is starting to settle down, maybe I'll go home soon. To play with the dogs and then finish the reading/prep for tomorrow's classes. I've got to improve my work habits over the weekends so each weekday/night isn't quite so full.

Also on my agenda for the future, if I can overcome the magnetic attraction of our new duvet: polyphasic sleep. It was all over lifehack etc last week. Anyway, the idea is that your full sleep cycle is about 90 minutes -- so that the most restful sleep would occur in increments of 90 mins. The total number of minutes matters somewhat less than the increment, to make sure you aren't brutally yanked out of a dream state by an alarm clock. Full on experimenters split up their sleep into two or more sessions and claim that it's just as restful. This makes sense to me based on how I feel when I nap or wake up during the night. For instance, I will probably take a little nap at around 10 or 11 this evening so that I can wake up and get through the reading I have to do. (There is also a scary-sounding Uberman sleep schedule which doesn't sound nice at all because it's only 20 minute increments. That way craziness lies. No, really. The brother of a friend of mine had a psychotic break induced in part by lack of sleep.)

on the plus side of the balance sheet:
  • The meeting I ran today went well. So did the meeting during which I had to present something.
  • The cranky codger assigned to my departmental governance committee has not yet acted out inappropriately.
  • My third meeting of the day was shorter than I'd expected.
  • I got to think about my research for about 30 minutes! I had to write up a little paragraph to send to someone about a project he's inviting me to join.
on the minus side:
  • my shoulder hurts (too much scanning/computer/bad meeting chairs)
  • I'm tired
  • I'm hungry
I guess it's time to leave the office.


my students

We've rounded the corner on midterms -- and so, from now to the end of the semester, is when things start getting really tough for the students. And for the faculty, but that's a topic for another day and another attitude. Today I've been reflecting on how much I admire my students, even when they sometimes disappoint or irritate me.

What I mean is this: at Large Urban U, we teach a diverse commuting student population that mostly consists of older adults. Even the traditionally-aged 18-22 year olds usually work part- or full-time and are funding their education themselves. So instead of dealing with the still-drunk frat boys and over-achieving premeds of the previous institution where I taught, here we have students whose bosses demand they stay overtime, whose babies are vomiting, and whose lives are heartwrenchingly full with commitments. My colleagues take many different approaches towards working with this population who are inevitably rather different from the students we once were. Some maintain draconian attendance requirements (which, if applied to department meetings, would have them "dropped" awfully quickly); others serve as maternal shoulders to cry on, blurring the boundaries of professional conduct. And most of us are somewhere in between.

I set due dates for assignments, and also policies about how late I will accept written work. But I'm glad, when the situation warrants it, to offer a student special consideration or accomodation. Especially when I think about how easy I had it as a student, I am humbled to think about my students trying to write essays for my class in the midst of their life concerns. I am embarrassed to think about how pressured and overwhelmed I can feel, even though I am healthy, in a secure job with a middle-class salary, and not trying to learn new languages and modes of thinking on top of my regular life.

I don't expect my class to be the top priority in my students' lives -- when it is, or when it's near the top, I am honored by their efforts. When they can't get the work done, when they are tired and unfocused in class, it's my job to donate some energy, some ideas, some life force to them. It's easy for me to be casual about books, ideas, concepts -- the "stuff" of my discipline -- because I've been in environments that encouraged reading and learning for my entire life. My students have been working for their entire lives just to get here. Whatever small things I manage to teach my students, I am always learning from them as well.

student wisdom

A student talking about her other classes:
"Well, I really liked Madame Bovary, because, you know, she was a ho."


rebel whine

This is the week that, if we were a different sort of university, we would have Fall Break. But we don't get a fall break, only a spring break. And Thanksgiving comes far too late in the semester to be much of a rejuvenating break at all. Every single person I've talked to this week has been cranky, irritable, tired, and feeling overworked. Me included. Even though I know that this semester is lighter/easier than many I've had before. So I'm cranky and also irritated at myself for even feeling that way. After all, it's my own damn fault I'm overworked this week, since I obviously didn't do enough over the weekend.

This is the point in the term where my rebellious procrastination starts kicking in, and so over the weekend I persuaded myself that I needed some time for family & house stuff. But now, this week, it seems that almost every minute is devoted to teaching and administrative tasks -- few of which are that terrible in and of themselves, but I quickly get cranky when I'm not getting enough time to myself -- time for my "own work" as well as time for exercise and sleep. That phrase "my own work" -- which in my field is common parlance for "my research/writing" as opposed to "teaching/admin/service" is quite insidious, I think. Because it reifies that divide between writing and teaching, between the social mission of academia and the realm of the so-called purely intellectual. I don't really believe in that distinction, and it's one I try to blur or trouble in conceiving of my teaching and research projects. But it's at this micro-level of the day's to-do list that I can feel my heart sinking and my rebel self (who is not cool and James Deanish, but more like my inner 6 year old) popping up.

When I was six, I was in first grade, and I was bored out of my mind. I had been reading on my own for several years, but most of my classmates were still learning how. So most of the day was spent taking turns reading aloud, slowly and painfully. It was best when we had individual worksheets to do, because I could just get through it quickly. All I wanted to do was to read my own books. I would be perfectly happy sitting quietly and reading most of the day. I never talked in class or got in fist fights, or peed on the floor, or any of the stuff my classmates did. But my teacher was really threatened by this. She hated me to be doing my own thing -- even though she had to have realized that I was working at a much more advanced level. So she would try to catch me reading my own stuff and then she would give me extra worksheet crap to do. She dug out old "readers" from the 1950s that were in her closet and made me read those. Eventually she put me to work *grading* worksheets for her. This was my first introduction to what I would later learn from Foucault about prison design and strategy. It was less threatening to put the prisoner to work assisting the system than to allow small freedoms. What did it teach me? That my teacher was kind of stupid, and that she didn't like kids who already knew how to read.

This was in a smallish town, a town with a college in it, but which at its economic and social base was still very rural. There were no enrichment classes, magnet schools, or AP courses. This conflict between my desire to read on my own and what the school demanded of me was repeatedly played out throughout all my years in school. It's startling to realise, too, how many times I wound up being the unofficial or even official tutor or teacher's aide. I didn't mind helping other people, and in junior high had a very nice career working in the reading lab (where if no one was in for a session, I could, finally, read on my own). But that was always just a weaker substitute for what I wanted to be doing, which was thinking about other things on my own.

So when my week is completely filled with meetings, memo-writing, grading, and other things that are not especially onerous, but not intellectually challenging, then my 6 year old self starts showing up. She's well behaved on the surface but bored and angry underneath. She knows it's helpful and good to do the institution's tasks, but she wishes it didn't have to always be that way.


swamp week

I had a really, really nice weekend. Spent quality time hanging around with my partner and the dogs, doing yoga, going to the park. We also went shopping for some household things like a new duvet cover and pillows for the couch that are the finishing touches from our now five-months-ago move. We bought nice new stainless steel bowls for the dogs, so I can get rid of the old plastic ones that were kind of grungy no matter how much I washed them. I even did some of the work that was looming over my shoulder -- I read for this week's classes and I got through maybe one third of my stack of grading. There's a lot I didn't do, but I guess at some point my subconscious took over and said: you must relax a bit, since the work will inevitably expand to fill as much time as you give it.

So, now this week looks kind of crazy. But I'm feeling oddly calm about it. I got up early this morning and did some yoga and started in on a deadline-motivated research task. Later I'll deal with the administrative stuff at the office and the rest of the grading. The challenge will be to try and do some things, even small tasks, this week that aren't just time-pressured, that are part of my long-range goals and plans.


I did it!!!

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I replaced the power supply inside my PC and now it is running completely quietly and smoothly! I feel even more handy than when I replaced a faucet for the first time last year. I'd never actually opened up a computer before, and never would have this time except for the incredibly helpful coaching of my buddy Julie, who helped me diagnose the problem and assured me I could figure out how to replace the power supply -- all over the phone. Thumbs down to the dude at Micr*Center who too quickly handed me the wrong supply (which I forgot to take with me on my errands today to return -- curses!) But a major thumbs up to the folks at Power-on whose website made it super easy to get the replacement power supply I needed, and shipped it to me quickly.

Now maybe next month I'll replace the DVD drive that is no longer working . . .


supporting extracurricular events

Over the years that I've been at Large Urban, I've been gradually developing my "policies" for certain things -- it helps me respond to situations if I feel that I'm not always reevaluating everything from the beginning. So, of course the first things were grading & attendance policies -- which are the official sorts of plans I publish and share with my students. But I also have my personal policies -- how to respond to service demands in my dept, in my college, and at the university level; how to deal with loaning books or sharing resources with graduate students; how to respond to emails; etc etc.

And one of my internal policies is that if a student invites me to attend an extracurricular event s/he is involved in, I go, if my schedule will allow. Because I teach at a large commuter school, the number of such requests is very small, as compared with my friends who teach at smaller colleges where faculty participation or encouragement of campus events is sometimes not only encouraged but required. But because of that, I think it's even more important that I do show my support for student efforts.

So, over the years I've gone to theater performances, poetry readings, film showings, and a couple of athletic events. Last night I went to a performance art event held at a neighboring institution, invited by one of my students who knew the performer. I stayed for the Q&A afterwards, and really enjoyed the opportunity to hear the students discuss gender issues in a variety of frameworks. It reminded me a little bit of my own college days, the richness that comes from engaging with ideas in many different forms and practices. Sure, I was the only faculty person there, and the oldest person in the room (this other institution draws a more traditional student base than mine does). But my student was happy I was there, and no one else really seemed to mind. At an institution like mine, where faculty and students all commute from different parts of the city, such opportunities are quite rare. I like my privacy and my freedom that come from that urban environment, but it's nice to connect with students outside the classroom occasionally too.


post conference follow up

So it's now one week since I returned from my wonderful conference weekend. I knew coming back here that the biggest challenge for me would be to maintain the level of intellectual excitement that I generated during the conference, especially once I was back in the day-to-day maelstrom of teaching, administrivia, and household responsibilities.

So, how did I do? or what did I do?
  1. I had 2 or 3 conversations with close friends where I reported on the conference and the support I received for my new research projects. Although this might just seem like me talking on the phone, it was actually useful to codify & clarify some of the experiences of the conference trip, and to explain my research ideas to people not in my field.
  2. I made a decision to commit the effort and money to try and attend conferences more regularly again -- something I had to give up over the past couple of years as I was heading into the tenure vote (and trying to pay down my debt). The money thing is especially troubling, since I'm trying to control our household finances and my U has extremely limited support for conference travel. But one of the big lessons of the past two weeks for me was that I really need much more intellectual stimulus than I get from my immediate environment. Conferences and research trips where I will be able to interact with people working on similar topics could be really important in keeping my momentum going. (Also important in easing my tendency towards depression, which has a strong overlap with a boredom-resistance pattern.)
  3. I did some initial bibliography searches and began jotting down some general procedural notes for projects A & B.
  4. I drafted some correspondence to Eminent Scholars related project A -- correspondence that makes me nervous but is necessary before I get too deeply embroiled in something that someone else might have already staked out.
  5. Began planning my graduate course for next term to fit along with my research for project B.
  6. I felt happier and more energetic. I thought about my research almost daily, even if I wasn't actually accomplishing a particular task. I felt more engaged than I have in a long while.
So, I guess I'd give myself about a C for the week if I were grading this. Which sounds more negative than I actually feel. But I had hoped to accomplish more in the past seven days than I actually did. What else did I do?
  • caught up after a two-week sleep deficit
  • read for, prepared, and taught last week's classes
  • attended six 1-2 hour meetings
  • caught up on basic administrative duties
  • planned an event involving five speakers
  • participated in a campus-wide panel event
  • graded student work
  • planned future assignments
  • read for, prepared this week's classes
  • dealt with the computer problem that ate my weekend (I blame this as the main thing that sapped my productivity)
  • shook off an unpleasant cold/virus thing
  • saw two movies
  • errands, chores, dogwalks, life maintenance
Maybe I should check in with myself every Tuesday and see how I continue to fare as the semester hits midterm crunch and the long slump towards December. It feels crucial to my mental health (not just to my professional career) for me to stay/get involved in research again. But it's really hard to do in my current institutional environment, where research is given lip service but little material support. And unfortunately, because of various life circumstances, I'm not able to easily fund my research out of my own pocket.

My time at the conference (at a major research U, with an excellent library) reminded me of the pleasures of intellectual inquiry, the enjoyment I used to feel in the process of research. That's much harder to tap into when the resources aren't available. I'm not sure I'd be cut out for life at the top ranks of my field -- I believe in the kind of teaching I'm doing at Large Urban U, and would have a hard time teaching in a rareified atmosphere of privilege. But I wish that my social mission, expressed through my teaching, didn't seem to be at cross-purposes with my intellectual growth.


afternoon ick

Sitting in a long committee meeting today, I couldn't help but notice the length of my (male) colleague's fingernails. There was visible white nail growth, easily up to 1/8" or more, past his finger tips, on all of his fingers. Ewwwww. Now, I find long fingernails kind of unclean and icky on almost anyone, but I guess I'm sexist enough to find it particularly disagreeable on men. (and no, I don't think he has a secret drag identity on the weekends.) Or is this some metrosexual thing I just don't know about? (not that I think he would understand the term metrosexual, either--he's definitely two or three generations older than that)

movie roundup

To collect my thoughts from the past few weeks:
  • Transporter 2 -- it turns out that Luc Besson did NOT direct this (as the promo somehow implied) but only had a hand in writing it. But this sequel to a film I'd never heard of was tremendous B-grade fun: hyper stylized martial arts/thriller: Breathless plus Jackie Chan with a dash of Bladerunner.
  • Lord of War -- well done, but it's kind of the Traffic of weapons dealing. I mean, the people who care about this issue already know about it, and don't really need the didactic voiceovers. But maybe it will wake some people up.
  • A History of Violence -- I'm always interested in what Cronenberg is up to -- this film was really interesting, more low-key in tone than many of his films (although with a few classic gore moments) . Some intense sexual scenes that unfortunately had people in the audience nervously giggling (too many teenagers not knowing what kind of movie they were getting in to) -- the audience was actually kind of distracting for me but the film was a really interesting exploration of family dynamics and identity.
  • Just Like Heaven -- I'm partial to romantic comedies, and I've long thought that Mark Ruffalo was a great underrated actor. Maybe this will be his breakthrough film (which would be no doubt goodfor him, but might tarnish my perception of him as indie underdog). Sweet, funny, a good twist on the genre.
  • Serenity -- seemed pretty fun but sadly I was so frickin tired that I fell asleep during part of it. I'll have to rent it to fill in what I missed. I was definitely glad they'd trimmed down the roles of some of the characters from the TV show.
  • Thumbsucker-- Excellent quirky bittersweet identity/coming of age movie that wasn't trying too hard (like some other indie films I can think of). Possibly Keanu's best role-- plus the ever amazing Tilda Swinton. I really liked this one.


On Friday night, my computer started making a lot of noise. Unusual noise-- an oscillating loud whirring sound that I eventually figured out was from the power supply fan. So, with the encouragment of Julie, who does more of this sort of thing, I opened up my computer and cleaned out the insides. It still made the noise, so I removed the power supply, and carried it in with me to one of the warehouse computer stores. A guy came to assist me, looked at it briefly, pointed out a $30 power unit, and that seemed to be it. Well, I get it home, and it turns out that it's not going to work, since it didn't have one of the connectors I needed, and the housing was too big to fit. Sigh. Meanwhile, of course, our internet was out because my computer was undone, so Julie tried to look up part numbers for me over the phone while I was puttering around. Eventually it became clear that none of the warehouse type stores seemed to have a power supply that would fit. So I put the old one back into my computer, hoping to squeeze a few more days out of it. And within a few minutes of searching on line, I think I found the exact replacement part. It should be here in a couple of days. I'm not really sure why I didn't look online in the first place, except that my computer was already lying open on the kitchen table when I realized that I'd have to get a new part. I was really thrown off by not having internet access and I forgot that of course, searching online would be way better than going anywhere IRL. (My pc is the connected one of our home wireless network, so not only would I be without access, so would my partner. This would not be a good thing.)

But, so far my pc is holding up. Everything is backed up and I will be going in to the office anyway this week. So I should be able to make it until the new power supply arrives. And I think I've definitely upped my geekery quotient. But internet, I really missed you -- especially when I was afraid I'd be without you for several days!


tis the season

...for panel discussions about graduate school, that is. Jason was getting ready for one today, and I sat on a similar panel yesterday. I was there as the "humanities" representative -- flanked by an admissions counselor from the law school, and a lower-level dean from the graduate school. The science folks were absent. Of course, none of the students in the room were actually interested in humanities graduate school, which made my job easier -- I could just talk in a general way about discovering your goals, researching programs, and preparing your application package.

Almost none of our students go on to PhD programs -- maybe 1 out of 1000. More than that will eventually get master's degrees, especially since we produce a lot of secondary school teachers. But even at the masters level, the same things hold true: figure out why you want to attend school and what you hope to get out of it (internal motivations usually being more durable than purely external ones); look carefully at a wide range of programs and don't cut off your (geographical, financial, personal) options before you've thought about all the possibilities; put as much time and effort as you possibly can into your application package. Treat your would-be recommenders with courtesy and respect, providing them with plenty of information and plenty of time to write your letter. Show your application statement to people for advice. Rewrite, proof, and proof again.

A job I know I'd never want? Being the recruitment dean for a graduate school at a mediocre state institution. I actually felt kind of sorry for her as she kept talking in a very Bright and Cheery voice about how much people's income levels increased with each educational degree earned. (hah! So not true for people in my field.)


best. conference. ever.

It was really an amazing trip. Last night I didn't get home until 8:30 or so -- spent about half an hour playing with the dogs, an hour eating dinner and hanging out with my honey, and then I totally crashed. Today's been teaching, and meetings, and more meetings. But now I can finally take 15 minutes to reflect a bit.

Some of the great things:
  • I had my first blogger meet-up! Jason and I successfully negotiated the social events of the conference, made a trip to Kinko's, and even talked about professional & intellectual Topics of Serious Import. And considering how socially awkward academic events can be, I was greatly relieved to find a new buddy who I really liked!
  • My paper went pretty well I think -- I got some good discussion questions, and made some good contacts through the panel.
  • I heard some good papers (and only one really terrible one where I wished I hadn't gone).
  • I met a few Semi-Famous People. I saw a lot of FPs who I didn't meet.
  • I got a nibble of interest for a potential publication...
  • I reconnected with my On-and-Off-Mentor Figure, who was incredibly charming, supportive, and inspiring.
  • I reconnected with my academic surrogate parents, an older couple who befriended me some years ago and who I hadn't seen in a long time.
  • I did some research in a serious academic library and was reminded how much I like research, which I'd kind of forgotten because I'm living in the academic hinterlands.
  • I floated ideas for some new projects and got great feedback and advice.
  • I visited with an old friend who was super sweet and hospitable.
  • The weather was perfect and my travel plans went smoothly.
  • I came back from the trip feeling enthusiastic and energized, rather than worn out. (Though today my throat's been feeling scratchy and my head feverish -- I'm nervous that I caught a bug on the plane home.)
It was a great conference. Not without its less pleasant moments, since I'm prone to social anxiety and low blood sugar (which often go together). This was a large conference with a lot of Famous People, which really increases the badge-staring game. These were hung on long strings around your neck, so people would walk past you and stare at your belly. A little better than when you have to pin the badge to your chest, but it's always cutting, the glance-'n-glide of experienced conference eyes, checking to see who you are and quickly pretending you're not there at all. But there were a few people who did want to talk to me, and next time around I'll know more people. And some of us on the institutional margins of academic High Society bonded together and had good useful conversations about those dynamics, and how to change them for the future...