Sunday, February 26, 2006

Mistakes will be made, from time to time

I mean, I can't be expected to be intelligent on weekends, can I? Actually, it could have been worse. The point is, it could have also been a great deal more pleasant. Ah, well... live and learn.

Things started off well enough. Jane had informed me that another one of the philosophy department's famous parties would be taking place on Friday. There was no doubt about me coming. I decided to invite Miraj to come along, since he'd been complaining recently about not doing much or going out as often as he'd like. I figured this might be a good way to shut him up from his recent whining. So he and Jane and I made our way to the party, and just about everyone had arrived, including a good few faculty members. (Those silly philosophers, partying with their professors... what will they think of next?) There was wine, and beer, and excellent jambalaya (in keeping with the marti gras theme)... everyone got beads to wear when they came in (luckily, without having to earn them in the usual manner), and conversation was all aflutter with no effort at all. So far, so good... we're having a great time, and all's well.

After a couple of hours, Miraj got a phonecall. It was Isaiah, a guy in our department... Miraj talked to him for a while, then hung up and said, "Hey, I'm going to Harlem. Wanna come?" Stupid, stupid... damn it, Emily, why do you have to be intrigued by every stupid thing? Right. So a moment later, we had our coats on and were out the door. When we got to a corner a couple of blocks away, there was Isaiah in his car, and he wasn't alone. Napoleon and Moises, two more psychology grad students, were also there. We piled into the back seat, and off we went. Oh, yes... to Harlem.

No big deal... I mean, I live in the Bronx, for crying out loud. And I've been to Harlem before. But what the hell were we doing there at one in the morning? I would find out before too long: Napoleon had some friends from his undergrad living there, and we were going to visit them... they were having a small party while watching the Mosely/Vargas fight. Okay, no problem... I can definitely appreciate good boxing. And it was a good fight, so that was pleasant, and Napoleon's friends seemed like good people. So the fight ended, and we were back in the car and on the way back to the Bronx... and another random party.

There had been a concert on the Fordham campus, a hip hop event celebrating Black History Month. Napoleon and Isaiah knew a few of the performers, so we ended up at the after-party. Okay... this place was tragic. Let's just put it this way... people were passing around a bottle of Jim Beam. Enough said. From there, it just gets worse. We all got into a heated, uh, conversation... I'll just say that race and poverty was the primary topic. By the end of it, I was being condescended to in a way that definitely didn't sit well with me. Sorry, guys, but I'm not the kind of girl you talk down to or interrupt by trying to yell over me. Miraj and I got out of there, stopping at a bar on the way home for another couple of beers, because... well, why the hell not...

The moral of the story? Actually, there are a couple:
1. When at a philosophy party and someone invites you to Harlem, don't leave. You are definitely having a much better time at the philosophy party.
2. If you arrive at a party where they're passing around a bottle of Jim Beam and nothing else, leave immediately.

Okay, so I've learned my lesson. I just hope that others can learn from my mistakes. I'd like to think that, through my own moronic pitfalls, I might manage to lead others to the light.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The benefits of insomnia

For starters, you have more time in the day. I'm not fighting that. I'm not trying to stay up to the wee hours, but it happens pretty regularly, no matter what I do. The way I see thing, I may as well make the best of it, right?

John tells me he's been under the weather. There are one or two people here that seem to have come down with the odd bug. So far, I'm doing fine. Actually, this has proven to be something of a record for me... I have a reputation for being sick pretty much all the time. Well, so much for my reputation. I mean, I get sick when I visit Texas, but I'm just fine when I'm here in New York. Seeing as I live here now, I'm looking forward to the possibility of abandoning that old reputation of mine. That's the only reason I feel a little less than enthusiastic about my accidental long nights of less-than-lengthy sleep. If I want to keep my health looking as good as it has so far, I figure sleep might be helpful.

In the meantime, though, I'm making the best of it. I've so far memorized my lines for Vagina Monologues, gotten most of my presentation for my Program Evaluation course finished, and actually cleaned my room a little. My theory is that doing all of this will make me sleepy and knock me out for the night eventually, but it's not looking good. Ah, well... on to crunches and curls, I guess. Who ever thought that lack of sleep was a good excuse for middle-of-the-night workouts? Okay, maybe that's not so far fetched, but it is for me. Trust me... I don't see this part of the evening becoming a long-lived habit. Sure, I'm living pretty healthy now, but there's no way I'm becoming some sort of fanatic about it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Morphing into a pseudo-hipster

Not a full-fledged hipster, mind you... I mean, I can tollerate them, but I don't like running with that high-maintenance, aesthetically annoying pack. Be that as it may, I'm willing to don the dark clothes, hang out in the hoity-toity spots, take part in the posh, hyper-intellectual discourse... I'll take the nomiker of pseudo-hipster and still sleep okay.

Anyway, here's my confession, for what it's worth.

Friday began like most of my Fridays tend to. I taught my two classes at Lincoln Center, then headed home to relax for a bit. Miraj, my buddy in the department, invited me out for dinner and drinks with him and one of his friends from his undergrad, Michael. We headed off toward Columbia University, where Michael's a PhD student in the philosophy department, and we had some take-out Arabian food at Michael's apartment. From there, we made our way to The Spotted Pig, a restaurant/bar in the meat packing district that reportedly had a good beer selection and a great review in the New York Times. Apparently, we weren't the only ones to see the review in the Times. Apart from the place being packed, it was filled to overspilling with the obvious side effects of Fall Fashion Week... models and weirdly ritzy older people all over the place. We managed to get our beers and tuck ourselves into a corner upstairs, only to realize that we were standing right next to the table where Rob Corddry, one of the correspondants for the Daily Show, was having dinner with a lady friend. We glared at him while stick-figure women in spaghetti string tops bounced off us in an effort to navigate through the crowd. One beer, though, was all we could take of this place, so we decided to walk around aimlessly until we could find another spot for another beer.

For a change of scene, we took a cab to the lower east side, where the hopping of bars truly began; we found another bar, and another, and another... each one a little more low-key than the last. Luckily, the beer did get better and better. No, really. It was better beer. It wasn't just the fact that we were getting more and more inebriated. By the end of the night, we ended up at a bar called The Library... two guesses on what the thematic decor was like... and found ourselves in the midst of... oh, yes... the elusive New York hipsters. At this place, we were pretty much up to our ears in freaking hipsters. There was a couple at the table across from ours who made out for the entirety of the hour-and-a-half that we were there... we're not entirely sure if they ever came up for air. Michael and I allowed ourselves to settle into the true spirit of the place and got into an hour-long, amicably energetic, slightly intoxicated argument about the philosophical context of capitalism as a purely socially ideological concept (and yes, for the record, I won that one). Once we were sure we'd had enough of the scenery, we called it a night; Michael caught a cab, while Miraj and I made our hiccupping, zig-zaggy way to the subway and back to the Bronx.

Oh, but the hipsterness continues. The next day, Miraj and I bit the bullet and went to an artsy movie about... wait for it... Heidegger. Oh, I know... there are better ways to hurt oneself. Nevertheless, Miraj and I decided to go. We're in a class that's studying Heidegger's Being and Time, and it seemed appropriately nerdy of us to go. For good nerdy measure, Miraj sent an email to everyone in the class, including the professor, to inform about the time and place. As we rode the subway to the theater at 2nd and 2nd (oh, believe it... there is such a place as 2nd and 2nd), the two of us jokingly debated over who might show up. We thought it would be absolutely hillarious if Dr. Wertz were to come, and feasible that a couple of our more eager classmates would make it (though we playfully wagered on one or two of them). We got there, and it was pretty much what you'd expect; it was tiny, and several unattractive, anti-social-looking people wearing black were standing there, either socializing smugly or standing in the miniscule ticket line. Then, a few minutes before they let us into the theater itself, one more audience member walked through the door. Do I even need to say who? The three of us joined the little heard of darkly-clad, ugly brand of hipsters, filing through a dark little hallway lit with a single red lightbulb (how freaking artsy can you get?) and ending up in a tiny theater with a tiny screen. I sat between Miraj and Dr. Wertz, and we sat through three and a half hours of reading subtitles while French philosophers talking about Heiddeger's work, all set to the backdrop of a trip up the Danube. Here's the worst part... I read those damn subtitles, I nodded at the points being made, I reacted reflectively as the images droned on and on. I'm not saying I loved it. I'm simply saying that it was... interesting. Like, in a good way. Sort of. Well, let's just say I didn't entirely hate it. Not entirely. I don't know. I feel kind of violated by the whole experience, but I'm sort of okay with it. Whatever... at least there was an intermission.

So there you have it. And trust me, I'm not out shopping for a new black beret or anything, so I'll thank everyone not to rub it in too much. Fine, so I'm guilty of taking part in a criminally snooty weekend. But I'll live it down, I swear. Remember... I've still got the whole rock star plan in the works, and I never want to be any kind of hipster musician. If that ever happens, fire at will.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Ridiculous, narrowminded, conservative, frustrating opposition

I mean, COME ON! It's the Vagina Moonologues... so it talks about the female anatomy, a topic no one likes to discuss much because, let's face it, most people think it's disgusting. That's the point, though. It's kind of a problem when you're a woman and you spend your life thinking you're disgusting. I've been reading these letters of oppostion to the show in general from bishops and other church leaders, calling for a reevaluation of what's being accomplished by the performance of this play at universities around the country. They claim that it belittles women, that it makes the vagina solely a center of pleasure, debasing sexuality and removing it from its role in love.

Oh, please.

I'm almost convinced I ought to ignore this sentiment. Almost.

This play isn't about revealing any great truths about the nature of female sexuality, in my opinion. It's simply the telling of the experience of certain women, the women depicted in the show. It's the reality of their sexuality, and whether or not it happens to be representative of other women's views and experience is beside the point. Funny thing is that many women do in fact connect with the views shared through the piece. Some, on the other hand, find it offensive, and that's fine, too. But enough women seem to connect with it that it lives on. Women don't like to think that any part of them might be distasteful, disgusting, dirty, or unapealing. No one wants that, man or woman. And I would hazzard to say that a great many women feel that way about their nether-bits. Men have a sort of "love-hate" relationship with the region as well, while it's possible that many women experience more of a "hate-hate" situation... or maybe a "somewhat like-often despise" sorth of thing. The point is that young women attending liberal arts colleges (and whose mommy and daddy are footing the bill) like to talk about this sort of thing, usually at great uncomfortable length. I could do without it, personally, but not because I'm repulsed. I'm just over it... I've done more talking than most, and I'm done for now. In regard to my special anatomical fixture, I don't love it or hate it... I just go about my day, and it goes along for the ride, and we get along fine.

I don't like that bishops seem to have so damn much to say about it, though. They make a great many assumptions about the female experience, then attribute their rationalizations to religious precepts. That's foolish... religion provides guidelines, but it doesn't interpret experience for you. Bishops should think on that for a moment. And if the Vagina Monologues weren't being performed, do they really think such ideas wouldn't be voiced elsewhere? And as for those voices... are they really being heard by these religious leaders for what they're really trying to express? My guess is a pretty resounding no. Seriously... is it so hard to let people speak their minds? Does it get under your skin so much that people have not-so-holy thoughts once in a while. even talking about them with one another? After all, we let you guys spew your wrath... is common courtesy so much to ask?

Yeah... I figured as much. Doesn't matter, though... we'll never shut each other up, will we? Good.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Hello, thesis, my old friend

I've come to whack at you again...

I went in for a meeting with Dr. Wertz today, so that we could discuss the fate of my thesis. As it stands, it's not enough (that is, according to some unknown members of the ADP department... Dr. Wertz has given it his full approval). Granted, the head of my department, Dr. Sherrod, says it's adequate... except for the fact that some of the faculty want me to add a quantitative component. Basically, I have to add something of a side project to the thesis... not so much a matter of rewriting the thesis or anything... just a little extra bit tucked in, just to prove that I can do it. Bastards. It doesn't sound so bad, except for the fact that I'm not exactly rolling around in piles of spare time. At least, not so much spare time that I can just whip out an experimental study and plop it into my thesis in a way that makes sense. Be that as it may, that's exactly what I'm going to do. That is, of course, if things go as I predict... I have one more meeting with Dr. Sherrod, where I intend to plead my case one last time. Maybe I can at least find out who the hell's got a problem with the work as it is. It's not him, and it's not Dr. Wertz, so I'm curious to know who it might be. Not that it would make any difference now, but at least I'll know not to have them on my dissertation commitee. And maybe, just for good measure, I'll know who's car to egg.

Monday, February 06, 2006

On the verge of... um... the verge

I'm guessing I should start bracing myself. I don't feel it yet, but I have an inkling that things are about to get a little more frantic for me around here. After all, they can't really calm down at this point, so they must have nowhere to go but up, yes?

Here's one for starters... I've volunteered to take the GRE again. Hey... at least they're going to pay me to do it. Not that I relish the idea of taking the freaking GRE on a Saturday morning, especially when I've already done my time and gone through that special little hell once before. Again, I'm getting paid for it. Boy, those testing researchers sure know the way to a girl's heart, don't they? Anyway, if anyone's curiosity is peaked as to what I'll be up to this Saturday, your inquiring mind now knows as much as I do.

Right. So there's that. Then, you have the Vagina Monologues thing, which goes up some time in March. Apart from that, there's choir (two sets of concerts... two choirs, incidentally... I'm not even going to get into that one, or I may not hear the end of it), the possibility of starting this women's self defense martial arts class thing some time in the near future (though not too near, I'm thinking... something that will likely start next semester is my guess), and an internship that I'm starting this semester (for which I have an interview tomorrow). And no, I'm not forgetting the full load of courses, the teaching assistanceship, and the weekly recording time in the studio. For most people, this might look a little scary. For me... well, read some of the previous entries on this blog, and you'll see what I mean. I'm okay... just a little worried that I'm okay, if that makes any sense. I'll be fine, but I'm curious to see how.

I'm still fighting the laundry demons that have overrun my life, and I think I'm going to win this week. I can feel it... I have the power now, or at least the dire necessity. Besides, I can count it as a workout. On that note, I've finally made it down below 200 pounds... 198.6, to be exact... and I feel like I ought to throw a party or something. Then again, I now live in constant fear that I'll end up back over 200 if I breathe too much air or something. I won't feel really secure about this little victory over my designated numerical hurdle until I'm well past it... possibly in the 180's or so... then I'll start to relax a little bit. For now, though, the battle continues. And I'm still losing weight, basically about two pounds per week, so I guess I'll just hang in there for another month and see how it goes. In the meantime, I'm gonna go eat something. And yes, unfortunately, something quite healthy and good for me. Damn this vastly improved, guilt-enforced lifestyle.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Dumb-luck complications

Right. So yesterday, after choir rehearsal and fencing practice, I had my first Vagina Monologues rehearsal. Because I came straight over from fencing, I ended up getting there a couple of minutes late, and found everyone sitting around having some kind of general meeting. As soon as I sit down, I hear one of the girls talking about how she and another girl have been checking all of the local boxing schools and karate dojos and random martial arts studios, and that they haven't gotten any responses yet. After listening in for a while and still having no clue what the hell they were talking about, I asked a girl sitting next to me if she knew what was going on. "Oh, it's something we want to incorporate into the women's empowerment program... we want to put together a woman's self-defense course, and we're trying to find someone to teach it."

I promise... there was a moment that I really did consider not saying anything. I thought I might just nod my head and feign disinterest. Then I thought of who they might get and what they might teach. I thought of all the conversations I've had with John and other fellow martial artists about how this sort of thing should be handled (women's self defense courses are often a sad kind of joke among martial arts circles, well-meaning though such programs might be)... and then I took a deep breath, rolled my eyes at myself, and told the girl next to me that I was a martial artist with teaching experience, and sure, I'd put together a women's self defense somethingorother. Everyone seemed overjoyed, took a quick vote on it, and moved on. I asked if this was just a quick, one-day clinic sort of thing. "No, not at all," said the girl next to me, who turned out to be one of the directors. "This would actually be a full-time position, all semester, hopefully all year... and the university would pay you for doing it." Okay, so yeah, I'm not fighting it too hard at this point. I mean, come on! They wanna pay me for it? Oh, sure... I think you've got yourself a martial arts instructor.

After that, we went on to rehearse. My part was "woman #2" of three women who share one monologue. It went dryly, as most first readings will. Okay, actually, a bit more dryly than I might have hoped. I was trying to work, despite being a little tired from the fencing... I tried things, worked with the lines where I could... the other two girls, to be honest, might as well have been reading the ingredients on the back of a box of croutons. I got funny looks from the director, but at least they weren't disgusted looks... just weird ones. Then, today, I got an email asking me to take another role in place of the one I read, which would be a bit larger... the "introductions" was the only description I got, and I have a feeling this will include more than one, um, introduction... frankly, I have no idea. I shrugged, responded that I'd agree to the change, and went about my day.

I don't suppose an addition here and there to the state of things should make too much of a difference. It's never a big shock when things compile like this... it tends to happen in life, the way I figure it. So no biggie... just take it in stride, don't dwell on the free time you're losing, and keep on doing everything you love. I don't imagine you can go wrong when you look at things that way. One of my fellow grad students said the other day that people should learn to stick to doing one thing and be serious about it. Maybe, for some, that's the only way to make things work. I don't see how that has to be the case... why can't people do several things at once, and strive to do them well, and with passion, and still thrive and be happy and find time to watch a few hours of mind-numbing TV? I don't mean to jinx it or anything, but I promise that it's possible.