Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Dangling carrots

I have just recovered from having a draft chapter (that will hopefully serve as a conference paper, or perhaps it's the other way round...) knee-capped by my supervisor. Her criticisms were almost all valid (per ugge), but it's the old 50s-style no positive feedback or simple 'you can do it' encouragement which, made me, already tired and vulnerable, feel so punished.

I have this dreadful sense that I will, on some level, feel tired, defensive and inadequate until I submit (Kate???).

When you're in write-up mode, small escapes count, like yesterday when I rode up from my Department to Summertown, North Oxford. It was thrilling.

Here are a few carrots that I am dangling from a stick attached to my head:

1) The 12 October release of the Cohen Brothers movie, Burn After Reading. I am certain my cousin, cinemaphile Alice, will provide a deft analysis (hint hint!) on her blog. I saw the preview a couple of weeks ago and it made me feel uncomfortable excited, as if small stars were being drilled into my stomach. The cast alone makes you froth, right?

2) Seeing Frankie Boyle, the acerbic, outrageous Scottish comedian in early October. I just found this YouTube tribute to him. (Be warned. It contains a lot of slut jokes which makes him seem misogynistic instead of what he is: dark about everything.) Later that month, I am seeing Russell Howard, the little Brighton-born cutie who is less stinging than Frankie but no less witty. Click here for his YouTube salute. They're both regulars on an excellent television show I try to catch: Mock the Week, a satirical comedy based on the week's news.

3) Receiving used books from the exchange system, BookMooch. I have the black heart of an idealist - I can't quite believe that people are so honourable. Three goodies to....walk into my arms soon. I will let you know when they arrive.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Nerds are super hyper disco chouette...

They send you email invitations like this one that was sent to me from an English DPhil student in Physics (one of my oldest, most adorable pals in Oxford) who is about to start a post-doc in the big bad US of A :


On Thursday (or possibly Friday, its a bit like Smiths's driving test) next week, four years of dubiously allocated government funds will hopefully terminate with my viva.

Young master Brown has become strangely coy about advertising a house warming party/Sarah's birthday planned in his very own house on the evening of Friday the 29th which no doubt you will all be invited to anyway. Perhaps he hasn't officially informed the rest of his housemates yet, who can say?

Now that my supervisor has given me a massive vote of confidence, viz. "we should probably assume you'll pass, just don't say anything stupid", I intend to hijack the party with viva celebrations. Pending the outcome
of our deliberations there will either be a presentation on my far reaching and momentous contributions to human knowledge or a selection of alcoholic beverages.

It would be good to see some of you there, especially if you are good looking or witty. If you are both then I'm not sure we've met and if you are neither then I doubt I'd pretend to like you, so your inclusion in this list must be accidental. Any significant udders are also welcome, so that I can judge you by your choices.

If you can't come then don't fear, I'll hunt you down in the days and weeks to come and make you pay for the slight by selling you into the Dale Winton topless prize fighting circuit.

Incidentally and for your edification, I have attached a picture of a genuine physicist in America.

Peace out,

Ambient Dog Fuck.

PS. I can't find Beckths email address so she's not invited.
I am indeed attending this party, but I have asked that the hosts desist from the following: sitting in groups of three on the grass to compare bike repair stories or cycling routes, juggling any objects (especially those on fire) and playing hacky sack. Whenever you play hacky sack with these guys, for instance, no one playfully grabs you when you miskick. They just laugh at you nervously or kick it at you even harder. I have asked for some splashy-splashy. One of the guests overheard me making this request and he said he was too scared to come now. I told him we needed to learn from each other.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Meet you at the bonfire?

I have spent most of the last few weeks in a manky, mismatched tracksuit. I would like to think I look like the cutie (Alexa Cheung) below, but I rarely have a lollipop by my computer and my hoodies are for boys.
When you're a student it's easy to continue to dress like a teenager. Every year I tell myself that I will dress my age, more like these pretties:

I have decided that the end of my thesis means goodnight to my grotty teenager wardrobe. Who wants to come to my thesis submission party and burn tracksuits, and 1991 conference and heavy metal band t-shirts with me?

Fragmentation is Freedom

This is my first post in a while. I have been preoccupied. It's been so tragic and lovely.

I had an old boyfriend in town. He's been travelling. We ran from College to College, avoiding the angry rain and the hordes of Italian teenagers. We passed neat quadrangles, stone corridors and important man paintings, shouting out things over the heads of school teachers like 'So you didn't find yourself in India then?'

I had to say goodbye to a new friend, on the last corner of Queens Lane. He did not like how I kept on looking away. His eyes made me feel uncomfortable.

And The Boy thinks that I, as a PhD student, am making him grey. I did back-hand the pile of my birthday cards off the table and onto the floor in front of him two days ago. I was raging against my unruly conference paper. It has been causing me trouble for weeks and I have no one to talk to about it. I didn't feel ashamed by my tantrum, but I do feel a bit bad that I am quickening The Boy's decay.

I had a long telephone conversation with one of my brothers recently. One by one, he listed our family members and his complaints, peppered, of course, with careful qualifications and some more generous remarks. I understood. He hadn't seen them in a while.

I had a friend, Kate, come over to play. She took the photograph of the two of us in our 50s party dresses in the bedroom next to where I work. I was a little bit scared.

A local man from the village with a big face and a hidden chin told me that as an Australian, and with Australia lower on the Olympic medal tally than Great Britain, I was a miserable peasant, a bad loser and without electricity. It made me think about some things.

So these are some fragments of my life and only glimpses. I have only been offered glimpses by them too.

I found this little gem from Eric G Wilson, a professor of English at Wake Forest University:

To be against happiness is to embrace ecstasy. Incompleteness is a call to life. Fragmentation is freedom. The exhilaration of never knowing anything fully is that you can perpetually imagine sublimities beyond reason. On the margins of the known is the agile edge of existence. This is the rapture, burning slow, of finishing a book that can never be completed, a flawed and conflicted text, vexed as twilight.