Thursday, 18 November 2010

Quick Must-See

Two of the best Brits, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, have teamed up in 'The Trip', a six episode, part improvised series.

Check out this clip and then find more on the Tube. I am in love. The Richard Gere bit killed me. Off to dinner.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

100 000 words lighter

I submitted my DPhil thesis on Friday. That was really hard, and I did it. And I did it fairly calmly too ('cept for the last few days - the bibliography beat me!). Thank you for your encouragement along the way. It helped. I now feel liberated and excited. It's done! (exhale)

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Best For Last

After a year of measly, dead-end rooms that could nuttify the most stable of people, I am now living somewhere pretty bloody superb. The ceilings are five metres high, cluttered book shelves make up much of the living room, there is always fruit on the kitchen table and chocolate by the tea and whisky, the shower has shown remarkable gumption and should be commended for that, there are plenty of coat hooks and mirrors in the entrance, and there is a cream and bronze, art deco lamp hanging over the dark study desk. I can move freely from room to room, which feels, quite frankly, stately by comparison. The back garden is lush and the leaves are now orange, lime and plum.

Only two more weeks til submission. I am suspiciously cheerful.

Hoping you are well, and enjoying a home.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Tuesday, Before Sleep

I have a full thesis now. It's finally fun, this thesis-writing lark, tidying it up. Submission date within weeks. Viva date already set. Supervisor has uttered 'excellent' and 'very good' in front of me, in relation to my work, for the first time. With other words. But still.

These past couple of months, some of my final here, have had their own rhythm and purpose. I hadn't anticipated this. I have made some new friends, including this adorable, camp Irish guy. Goodness me, he is funny. Then there's this very attractive young woman from Puerto Rico via the States. She has that calm observer quality, and she's affectionate. I've been far more open to learning from people's research topics. I am not sure why I found it harder to focus on this before. Perhaps I was panicked. I went to a late-night bonfire a week or two ago. It was an odd choice of activity for a meet-and-greet. The marshmallows were lush.

My old friends have been my family, not because I am so important, just because they're good people. One couple I've taken to calling Mum and Dad. They give me fruit, and let me stay at their place when they go on holidays because it's closer to the College library than my place, which is near the Parks.

One of my oldest pals - we were in the same row of rooms in my first year here - has the same viva date as me. That's nice. For two weeks straight we worked together in the American Institute library, which has a lot of natural light. We've been continuing with Geek Frisbee on a Tuesday and we wore flowers in our hair the other night. Her idea. White flowers. I liked it.

The other evening, my ex-boyfriend and I walked down my favourite street in Oxford, Queen's Lane. It was mostly dark, but there was some thin orange light, sent out from the Sheldonian. We could hear classical music on one of the corners. I pulled myself up the stone wall to look in at a young, Chinese boy on the piano and an older gentleman on the violin. As I jumped down, I gushed. He replied that this would all be good memories for me very soon, my time here. I was not quite ready for the 'm' word and had to blink a lot.

Yesterday, I ventured down to Lunar House, in East Croydon, south of London, to give my prints over to the UK Border Agency as per their requirements. Once an Orwellian nightmare, it wasn't so bad this time. I made my way back to Oxford the long way, via Hoxton, East London, to check out some art studios. The high street there is packed with art students in leopard print harem pants, leotards and tailored jackets. In another street, in which there was a surprising number of cheap Italian shoe shops, women in gently sequined headscarves were picking up their kids from primary school.

I sat with Bill today and he asked what we were going to do next. We brainstormed possible business ideas and our top pick is setting up an ecotourist business on the meadows at the back of College. We'd dress in medieval costume and people could take photographs of us planting and weaving. We'd exchange our produce for goods, and speak in Old English. We'd have a hut with a few props in it, but, at Bill's insistence, it would conceal a tunnel back to our rooms in College. I added that the tunnel would need to house all the mod cons, so we could emerge in normal clothes. We'd probably take up the ciggs. Our target market would be wealthy students, tourists, and North Oxford families, with children called Ambroise, Saffron, and Orlando. I tested it on a friend after dinner and he said he would pay £50 to be our feudal lord for the day and give us light whippings. He thinks we should add potions to our products. I blue-skied that we could also take on troubled kids as one of those brat retreats, medieval-style, that would then become a Channel Four documentary. But this would probably require a dungeon and then, as my friend concluded, a marauding Mongol.

On most days, it is bright and blue outside, but it is very chilly.

We are all wheezing the same wheeze.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Thank you, Oxford

photograph by rugosa rosa

Sometimes a slab of time will pass and I won't feel a part of Oxford, even if, like right now, I can look out onto the dark, neat quadrangle lawn, and follow a student begrudgingly push open the lodge door. I will be here, though not part of it. It like it's over my shoulder, but remote. Then I have these times, when I almost want to apologise for not being adequately grateful to it.

Take this evening. After a bit of carry-on from me, I agreed to give Ultimate Frisbee a go. With a toe out the door, I had assumed my days of geek sports here were over, but it was bright and warm and it won't be so for much longer. In fact, the wind is already a little barer. As I rode up to the field, I rolled my eyes like a grotty kid, having spotted a young woman in a basketball outfit, practising. I had specifically told roperinerer that I was not up for opposing any 'bronzed, well-groomed American women of German decent'. They smash it in team sports. I asked her where she was from. Turned out she was Canadian so I made my way over.

There were nine of us - three Saffas, three Mrrkans, a Turk, a Canook and a Skip. Mostly boys. Two very, very tall ones. The game was bloody good fun. I often forget how much I love team sports. They're the best. Straight after, it started to rain rain-shards: slanty, slappy little shooty things. So many of them, and so thick! This all meant one thing: I had to take my girly bike to the max. She's named something like Maroon Dreamrider or Happy Challenger. I can never remember. I belted it - illegally, I should add (honk, honk) - straight through the University Parks, ripping up that central clay path, whipping past the cricket pavilion, dodging the odd mental poodle, and saluted all the way by the wooden benches of the dead. The sky was dirty-white until that last strip before the horizon when it became the clearest, prettiest see-through blue. (I've said this before, but England skies are marvellous.)

The rain rods wet me right through which made me start to laugh. I saw my year one primary school teacher coming closer through the windscreen wipers of my Mum's lazy, bronze Peugeot. She had her waterproof jacket pulled up over her happy-squishy face. She yelled that school had been rained out and made a 'turn around' motion with her finger. I fanged it up the walled bitumen path by Lady Margaret Hall. It's right near my house.

After I had showered, and sat down for dinner in front of a British bake-off show (so good), I realized that I was supremely happy. It was not that happiness that I sought to hold onto. And the realization did not make it go away either. It has not made it go away.

So, yes, thank you, Oxford, you thoroughly odd, magical place. You never demand that I love and respect you, you simply make it worthwhile when I do.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Last Crawl

One of my friends in the States, who is also in the final phases of write up, sent me this today:

I am joining you in the last crawl, and in celebration of how badly this last bit stinks, I am sending you this video...

Friday, 30 July 2010

Music To Get You Through

These assorted rippers are currently making editing far more tolerable:

Florence and the Machine, Dog Days

Mumford and Sons, The Cave

Stornoway,* Zorbing

The Band, Rag Mama Rag

Example, Kickstarts

Julian Cope, Sunspots

*Will shamelessly add that they were among my first friends in Oxford.

British picks plus one vintage American. The Aussie thread is that they would all be welcome at a festival (in fact 1, 2, 3, 5 all from a recent British festival)...and Aussies do indeed love festival music. Enjoy!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Life Lessons

It was my birthday yesterday. 31. I remember my 30th birthday being a surprisingly simple and elegant time, but the year that followed was punctuated by way too much personal angst and drama: big decisions, loss, two grief cycles, isolation, moving rooms five times (moving house sounds too glamorous), uncertainty, and the tension that thesis boredom and repetition can create. There were chunks of stable, productive, and very happy times, but, on the whole, I think, during 2009-2010, I coughed up some pretty staggeringly high prices for some lessons that I guess I couldn't just steal from the self-help aisle or pinch from a website. I feel better today, in most senses, than ever before, but I paid up, kiddies.

Here are some of those lessons:
  1. Take charge. No one is going to get you out of situations you don't want to be in, or help you into others, and certainly not the right way, anyway. Those who love you can't always be expected to push you off from the shore, even if you're fretfully thinking, 'Can't they see that I need a push?' This goes for personal and professional stuff.

  2. Beware fear of loss and rejection. These anxieties mean that you can attach too early, fantasize at the cost of really knowing the other, become ungrounded, and ultimately disrespect your own personal standards and boundaries. Don't foreclose early. Loss creates space, and rejection is, for the most part, a benevolent thing.

  3. Fear is contagious. No matter how sensible and sincere you think you are being in a relationship or friendship, there is nothing like a bit of fear (anger, defensiveness, dishonesty etc) from the other to warp your behaviour. Builds up. It becomes very hard to listen. Goes both ways.

  4. Remember the love. Lots of people love and value me, and I adore them. I am absurdly lucky in this way. I just spoke to my twin. Last week, my parents treated me to a holiday in France in which we met up with our French family friends. We also won pretty big on Neptune's Fortune at the Casino of Monte Carlo. I like that I've now been to a casino with my parents. They go all the time so it was nice of them to finally include me (wink, wink). Yesterday, a friend took me to late lunch at this nice French place in Oxford, then last night, a bunch of friends took me out for cocktails, dinner and nice chat. They also granted me my wish: to be sung Happy Birthday in a non-English language, in character. Included Latin, Dutch, Urdu, and Spanish. If that's not supremely loving...well, I just don't know...(fierce shake of my double chin)

  5. Generosity emerges from unexpected sources. A new friend made my birthday very special by taking me to a lovely dinner and out to a College party on Friday night. We laughed a lot and he just knows.

  6. Adversity can be a good test. Crap situations test your ability to respond to life with creativity and self-composure, and this, I think, is a reflection of how much you know and like yourself, in the good way, not the narcissistic way (narcissism actually blocks these opportunities for growth). Of course, some situations are just crap and you have to just get through without any theorising.

  7. Maybe just don't say it. Not everything needs to be expressed. Wait and see what remains to be said. My friend says to put things through the 'necessary and kind' test. Equally, not everything deserves a response. I have realised over the year that I actually don't like talking as much about things as I used to. I don't need to. Plus, I am more practical, outward, and flexible by nature. But I did hurt someone I love with too many words. Fortunately, we had enough in the bank. I am hoping the next year is one big 'shh...'

  8. Take your time. Giving yourself enough time and space for recalibration after set-backs is crucial. If you don't consciously do this, your body and mind will take it from you anyway, in some form, which means that no matter what you're intending, you simply won't have enough of the right stuff to give, and you'll probably be giving it to the wrong thing or person anyway.

  9. Chin up, chaps. Even if you have to start again at your beginnings, you're wiser for it, and it can be quite a light time anyway.

  10. Give yourself more credit.

The photographs are of my recent trip to France and of my party outfit that I purchased there.

Please tell me a life lesson or two that you have acquired over the past year...
But only if you feel like it. ; )

Friday, 9 July 2010

10 Signs you have a Development Studies student in your house

  1. He doesn't let not having met you before get in the way of helping himself to your beer in the fridge.
  2. He scoffs that you don't use your oven very often (No, earth child, I am not up for much roasting or baking at the moment.)
  3. He challenges the statistics on female genital mutilation or 'FGM'.
  4. Without asking, he starts frying half a bag of your pumpkin and sunflower seeds to add to his portion of the salad.
  5. Even though you've left him out a plate to use - the same type as your plate - instead, he takes the decorative bowl from the table and uses it because it 'just feels so lovely'.
  6. He is fascinated by the dish-washing practices of South American minorities.
  7. He won't touch your fry pan because a sausage has been cooked on it.
  8. He leaves more than half his beer behind.
  9. He tells you it is hard not to go to kiss you goodbye on both cheeks.
  10. If he read this, his first response would be to ask whether the image came from 'Roma' or not.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

My Special Cupboard

Am in a black jumper (sweater), with a big, stencilled, white zebra on it, and black leggings, inside, editing my thesis, on one of those English, still, white-sky days. But, fortunately for me, I have all these pretties ready to unleash over the Summer as soon as the weather picks up again:

(Excuse some of the models' expressions - we rarely need more of that in life. Please do imagine me writing this with a semi-crazed smile.)

Love the dramatic neckline and print. For some summer drinks.

Shopping...Although, it would have to be optimal (shame-free) conditions for me to keep the hat on.

Never sure about long shorts on women...very risky...but I might wear this to a casual day party.

For travels, however near.

Just 'cause.


Swishy, swishy at a garden party.

Yep. All sorted. Thanks, special cupboard (stare, stare, honky laugh).

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

A Poem

A while back, I started subscribing to the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-day emails. Today's poem was a nice wink. Thanks Tones!

I Have News for You
By Tony Hoagland

There are people who do not see a broken playground swing
as a symbol of ruined childhood

and there are people who don't interpret the behavior
of a fly in a motel room as a mocking representation of their thought process.

There are people who don't walk past an empty swimming pool
and think about past pleasures unrecoverable

and then stand there blocking the sidewalk for other pedestrians.
I have read about a town somewhere in California where human beings

do not send their sinuous feeder roots
deep into the potting soil of others' emotional lives

as if they were greedy six-year-olds
sucking the last half-inch of milkshake up through a noisy straw;

and other persons in the Midwest who can kiss without
debating the imperialist baggage of heterosexuality.

Do you see that creamy, lemon-yellow moon?
There are some people, unlike me and you,

who do not yearn after fame or love or quantities of money as
unattainable as that moon;
thus, they do not later
have to waste more time
defaming the object of their former ardor.

Or consequently run and crucify themselves
in some solitary midnight Starbucks Golgotha.

I have news for you—
there are people who get up in the morning and cross a room

and open a window to let the sweet breeze in
and let it touch them all over their faces and bodies.

Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty, published by Graywolf Press.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

To be done with these worries

My new romantic object said to me the other day, 'Won't it be nice when you finish your thesis if only to have new things to worry about?' 'Yes, champ, it will be very nice,' I probably replied.

Later, I realised that this is part of the reason why I haven't been inclined to blog much lately. It's not being poor of time and eye strength, it's that my worries have not changed. I need to be done with these worries. A while back I saw this movie, The Blind Side, the one with Sandra Bullock in it, playing a can-do (partly because I am wealthy) Mom who takes in an underprivileged African American teen (see Alice's review for more). I thought, 'Look at you football Mom in your white jeans striding so confidently over to your new son and his footy mates...How nice would it be to have a context in which you so well knew your value.' At times, I think similar things when I see super hipsters, especially those backed up with a bit of artistic talent. They form self-affirming communities, and seem to be quite open to the present. Actually, they like the present a lot. I don't think thesis writing gives you that. It is a solitary rite, par excellence, a process that forces you to chase the future, which, in turn, teases you like a kite's tail. But these are old worries. I have worried about how one creates a meaningful context for years now. I have been playing slap and run with the future for even longer.

I wonder if buying something pretty will help, or maybe avoiding it all together. Again, I need to look at things afresh.

I have been writing about the use of symbolism lately, and apparently in traditional rites, the neophytes' masks are often black, white and red to represent the colours of human bodily functions and a rotting corpse. I am pleased that I now have a scholarly reason why I detest this colour scheme for weddings. There are a lot of ladies out there who love a blood red rose and matching red maidies, and to see their man in black dinner jackets or tuxes, but they're the colours of redbacks on white petals, Phantom, and, it seems, together, they enact the life cycle. I am not into it, though perhaps it is inspired that in one of our few modern rites, premodern symbols prevail. I raised this to some friends on Monday night, over pints of cider on tired, trendy cushions, and one of their friends who was listening said that he wasn't sure he liked me because I say scary things. In any case, wedding colour schemes have been a constant replacement obsession in times of academic stress, and I have run out of subjects to wed-off in my mind. I am off it.

I need to finish this thesis so I can allow in fresh worries, and find new things to do with myself. Until then, I may as well be in that harlequin outfit, to mark my status as neophyte, as not yet done.

(How funny is that harlequin? In my thesis, I have a quote from a businessman talking about a night out playing Limbo to a Calypso band. Every time I edit this section, I crack up. Something about these sorts of things, including A Cappella, always gets me.)

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Honey, I Zapped the Kids

Thesis stress, some personal worries, and the warm weather have teamed up to give me some wacky dreams lately.

One of last night's dreams:

My sisters come over to visit my newborn baby. I take them to the kitchen, say, 'Here she is', as I open the oven and pull out the tray. On the tray sit four burnt meatballs. My eldest sister says, 'You put the oven on too high'. I look back at the dry meatballs, my baby girl.

Then I made myself wake up.

Any creative suggestions as to what this means besides the standard: 'modern woman worrying about whether she can have it all'?

Monday, 19 April 2010

Spring and Babies and Nests and Whimsies

Hey team. I don't have much free time for blogging at the moment, which is no fun. I am trying to follow my tips below and be a good thesis writer, and also good (outdoorsy, stretchy-stretchy) break taker.

I took a longer, more lovely break yesterday. My friend and I hosted a baby shower for our other bestie here. About a month ago, new mummy-friend has taken a rather literal approach to nesty, turning into an owl, owl's nest and general enchanted forest obsessive. So my friend and I tried to honour and nourish that in our Spring set-up. No pink or white allowed!

The final look was a little more Aussie-fied in the end than I had expected, but I was the only one who noticed, and I actually loved the shrine to the goddesses of abundance feel! I am sure Aphaea and Hera or whoever were appeased. Yes, a guest made these lush cupcakes with sparkle dusting:

I even threw on an owl tee to keep my friend happy (that I wore with a very light apricot full skirt with some black floral detailing). I am stretching it out here to show it off, rather than my chest, to a make slightly odd, sporty chick effect, but you get the idea:

And this is me riding home with some some goodies to brighten up my College room. Small pleasures, these days, including the dozen winks, toots and waves I received on my way. One of my friends said I seemed like one of those Amelie types. I did cop a spectacularly bad haircut in the week (which makes me look like I am wearing a hair-helmet) so it's all about the seemingly French, but actually cover-up, pony and short fringe pushed to the side. I wish or at least wish a bit that I was a floaty, Amelie type, but I am not really. I plan to unleash a whole lot more whimsy when this thesis is done, but I might not:

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Tips for Finishing a PhD

I have been lucky to have several friends send me advice on how to approach the final edits of a PhD (or DPhil!), what are the final laps in the stadium after a cross country marathon.

I know some of you are writing too, so I thought I would share them (you can tell when I've added my words). They're more PhD-specific than the general academic tips I shared a year ago. All the best and please do let me know if you have any more to add.

  1. Carve out huge chunks of time to focus.

  2. Set a submission date.

  3. Love the calendar. Set small, manageable, time-specific tasks and make a submission calendar. Tick off targets, be excited about your progress. Know exactly where you stand.

  4. Keep yourself energised. Too many people stop exercising when finishing up DPhil. Keep exercising. Take energising breaks. Become more interested in nature, like pretty flowers and families of ducks. Take deep breaths. Try to rest. Sleep. Routine. Get enough time to reflect, rather than just producing; make sure you are intentional about lifting your head above the water line.

  5. Manage the supervisor relationship. Take responsibility for your own submission. Show the supervisor your submission timetable and stick to it. Make supervisor feel confident in you, but also realise that he or she doesn't have to be for you to finish. Like all good Jedi Padawans, you must outgrow your master.

  6. Know that it can be done. When the task seems insurmountable, consider those who had gone before. If they could do it, so can you. Remember why you're here, that you deserve to be here, and that it can be done. A useful mantra to say, even out loud, is "I can do this".

  7. Find a proof reader. Find someone who will read your whole thesis, nudge you back in line when you've lost perspective, check for typos, make useful (but not too ambitious) suggestions.

  8. Get Brutal. Instead of trying to rework patchy sections, just cut 'em.

  9. It's about the "I-will". Finishing a doctorate may be less about the "IQ" than the "I-will". Finishing requires a tremendous amount of will. Dig deep, and get stubborn.

  10. Just Say No. Anything that is not work or energising rest is a distraction.
and a final thought, one that I picked up when I was reading about poetry, is Paul Valery's adage that a poem can never be finished, only abandoned. I think the same could be said of a thesis.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you

Today, I seemed to be continually stumbling on different materials that conveyed two separate, but interrelated themes: Firstly, that being thankful is very, very good and, secondly, that letting go is super dooper healthy. (This repetition was probably not entirely haphazard in the context of my last post, a kind of Brazilian footballer's dive after a light ankle tap.)

First, I clicked on The School of Life and found Alain de Botton's post on gratitude. Big Al, who loves a wistful line about a the shade of piece of fruit or the sad quality of the weather, here reflects on the meaning of the secular world tendency to not say thank you. He asks whether this is because saying thank you seems undignified and unambitious, an acknowledgment of our mortality; a recognition that what we are thankful for may not come again, that we are at the mercy of something beyond ourselves. He says:

To say thank you for a glass of wine or a piece of cheese is a kind of preparation for death, for the modesty that our dying days will demand. That's why, even in a secular life, we should make space for some thank yous to no one in particular. A person who remembers to be grateful is more aware of the role of gifts and luck – and so readier to meet with the tragedies that are awaiting us all down the road.
There is, in this way, something about letting go of your bigness in being grateful.

Then one of the academic articles I read before lunch (which was about mortality - not my area, but a nice touch so far as the coherence of this post goes) headed down a surprisingly didactic path, advising the reader that it is important to only use theories if they illuminate social reality, and that it is better to take into one's own work the flashes of insight that scholars have to offer, rather then get stuck serving some 'inflexible theoretical edifice.'

Then I spotted this poignant post from A Literal Girl on the miracles of being in a place without the weight (and comfort) of the having had a childhood there; how being without a past, while frightening and lonely at times, allows a certain light openness to the present, what I had only earlier this morning been thinking, as I reflected on an argument I had recently, was a kind of willingness to be a quiet nobody for a while, to sometimes just succumb to transition and linearity, rather than impress oneself onto others, or an illusion of oneself and others.

Then a new, lovely friend sent me a link to thx, thx, thx, a blog devoted to posting a thank you note a day. (Check it out and find her thank yous to the future, people who don't get it, and pianist. Gold.)

So, yeah, I guess, essentially, the hidden curricula of today's thesis writing, if I can pull it all together very quickly (I'm hungry!) was about: 1) not holding on to stale, fearful things, including the desire to be big and immortal; 2) being receptive to fresh experiences and intuitions; and 3) being grateful to no ones, as well as ones. So, as a sort of homework exercise, and do mind the tone-shift, I end this post with some thank you notes of my own:

Dear Friends (fleshy and online), Thank you for being such cards. You complete me.

Dear Toblerone Genius, Thank you for coming up with that triangle idea.

Dear College Room, Thank you for being so teeny that it does not take a long time to tidy you, and for being so patient with me.

Dear Most of the Old People at the Nursing Home I spoke to When I was 23, Thank you for nervously laughing or changing the subject and offering me tea and a dry biscuit when I asked you what the point of life was. It has saved me a lot of time and hassle.

Dear Lavender, Thank you for being able to be used in soap, bubble bath and misty spray.

Dear Wales, Thanks for having lots of castles, craggy cliffs, medieval-themed key rings, and towns that just sit there while flocks of black birds and muscly seagulls rule.

Any thank you notes of your own to share? I'd like to hear them!

Monday, 15 March 2010

Notice to Childish Ego:

I was wondering whether you'd mind please taking a ticket and lining up behind other customers in the queue - like thesis, outstanding publication resubmissions, job applications, exercise regime, relaxation and enjoyment, family and friends, balanced diet, regular sleep, and, right at the back there, healthy perspective. This meats and cheese counter is pretty busy right now, and I would ask you to honour the system in place, even if it's pedal powered and steaming.

When (perfectly lovely) ex boyfriend informed me that he is seeing someone else (a reasonable, natural thing), you saw it as some sort of invitation to bolt down the aisle, barge past everyone else (don't think I didn't see that neat elbow in the head to healthy perspective), and start firing your mid-late 90s-style questions about the past and my self-worth, and then you tried to distract everyone by setting up some fancy video montage of their meeting and happy moments together. It will take me some time to forgive you the video - that was low - though I recognise that you get bored sometimes, and that I don't let you run as freely these days.

Anyway, I may deal with you at some point, but, for now, you've had a good day's run around, and I'd like you to take a ticket or, preferably, step away from the counter and scamper back to the sugary cereals.

Right. Next? Thesis?

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Ra Ra-tastic!

In the University Parks earlier today, I mentally noted the truly inspired and vintage Oxford self-concept of a chubby-pretty girl. She was walking just ahead of me (and wearing a halfhearted bun on top left side of head, tight pink-red jeans and a cream, off-the-shoulder top).*

Over the top of the tale end of her friend's comment about the lovely, sunny weather, she proclaimed:

Ya, Ya, Ya, Ya, Ya, these next months, I am all about having a picnic and a sun-lounger on me to whip out as and when.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

You're Lucky You Didn't Cop One in the Chops!

I haven't posted anything in ages. Sorry, team. I am now back in Oxford and my life at present is confined to College, more specifically, a bedroom, bathroom, loo, kitchen, library carrel and dining hall. I am working on my thesis, alright!? What are you looking at? Who asked? What do you want?

No, really, I have been feeling icky about my blog, not even wanting to open check up on it. In fact, there have been times when I have wanting to punch it four times really fast in the guts, quick jabs, and then one quick upper cut to the jaw.

By the time I have spent a full day revising my thesis and keeping myself self-motivated and focused (helping my pregnant friends - and there are many - select baby names seems like the most compelling and noble pursuit to me right now), I feel most of my typity sparkle has gone and I feel angry that my blog sits there, waiting for me like some half-man, half-ape creature who thinks I don't love it, but just can't understand all of my feelings.

Plus, most of the energy that could potentially go into a blog is taken up engaging with introverts en masse over dinner. You see, I live in the heart of College now so I have to look at and even sometimes talk to a lot of people. Once I start, my natural tendency kicks in and I find myself performing for them, like an undergrad with a background in theatre. All the while, the introverts give me nothing, just blink and, if I am lucky, blush. So I go home, brush my hair, and tuck myself into bed and tell myself that one day I will be a star, and then I think about how narcissism works, and then I think about my family, and then I think about what I will do when my thesis is done, and then I think about how I shouldn't think about these things, and then I try some relaxation exercises, and then I laugh thinking about Yoga instructors, and then I think of how much I love socially awkward situations and try to remember the last embarrassing thing that I was part of or observed, and then I turn on my computer and watch something great on You Tube, like this, and then I can't sleep because of photosensivity which, for our purposes, means too much screen time, which is particularly harmful between 10pm and 1pm when the adrenals work their hardest to repair and replenish the body.

I guess I wish that I could write more about things that naturally suit my thinking, like relationships, and social psychology and behaviour etc, but I am not sure whether I can put these sorts of ramblings under the title Academic, Hopeful. I was going to ditch my blog altogether, but then I read some of Penelope Trunk's views on this - Her opinions seem to be like garden pots on a doorstep, just sitting there; There's a brusqueness or at least unrelenting bossiness to her writing that I quite like. Having said that, I'd be lying if I said I was a follower of hers. I was, in fact, sent these specific links earlier today by a pal who is trying to help get me over my blog malaise and I have, in fact, just spotted right now that she announced her miscarriage over Twitter. Hmmm...I guess there's an element of, 'Guests, either take my projectile vomit all over the fully laid-out table and your new outfits or else you can choose to leave' to her communication at times. In any case, said friend is a social media whiz and rates her stuff highly, and people deal with things differently, and I don't feel too strongly about it (but still - not really my way of going about the world, I've got to say). Anyway (ahem), my mate Penny, who is doing her best, thinks you should stick at your blog and let it grow, as an evolving conversation. But, she also insists that each post should link to an overall theme for it to be worthwhile. At the moment, I am not entirely sure how to link my interests to academia, except that I am, at present, living one part of the academic life, the writing 100 000 words on your own in a College carrel part.

I think my blog dismay-anger also arose from my bubbling resentment towards fear-mongering posts, those treatise on how there are almost no academic jobs, how competitive it is, what you need on your CV to succeed, and all this nauseating, go-hard-or-go-home crud. I got a heavy dose of these over the course of a few days a while back - I kept on clicking on random academic blogs to find these vast nuggets of shining smug, leaving me partially blind and without feeling in my right hand. I recognise that my acute reaction is in part a function of the ways these posts enact my own uncertainty and anxiety about the future, but it's also partly because I think the people who write like that aren't people I'd want to hang out with, so why would I in cyberspace? There's some genuine, school yard disagreement there. Just to be sure, I think it's very healthy to identify and discuss academic issues and debates, and to share knowledge about how the academic job market works, which can be otherwise quite a mystical thing, but I don't like the uptight (usually postdoc) blogs that are all about reminding outsiders over and over just how high the barriers to entry are, but how they managed to hurdle them. At least give me some little wink to make me know that you don't take yourself or academia too seriously. I just want a wink. We should be confident enough to do that. Anyway, I also don't want to find myself writing these sorts of blogposts, ever, and, in the final stages of this liminal state, the options to branch out in another direction, seem few. Besides being a whingebag about my thesis, a process that is the classic: set a task, halve it, then fail, try again, repeat, I am not entirely sure which academic themes I could shed light on in a way that would excite me as well as add value to your transferable skills, and I am all about transferable skills.

This blogging blockage connects to the fact that I really want to follow an academic career for so many positive, honest reasons, but, like most people, I have all these other dream careers. For instance, I'd really want to be a pop, non-fiction writer and by night enjoy some stand-up or zany performance art gig. These desires feel irreconcilable and almost unachievable and kind of ridiculous, which then translates, to some degree, into fear of putting anything in a blog post. I can't really state my case in life at the moment. Suspended on ropes in my carrel. In transition.

Am I nutty and alone or do most academics experience this kind of funny stasis (excitability but little movement) during the final few months? And do most academics, generally, have this whole fantasy career going on in parallel even when they have a job on the go? What kinds of things can I write about during this final burst or should I just come back later? Ideas and thoughts about any of this greatly appreciated. I am off to brush my hair.*

Blogging pals - I will definitely have a good catch-up with you over the week. I have been reading, I assure you! I am as loyal as a digger.

*Might I remind you that this blog is part fiction, especially the bit about my hair, and I'd also like to say that I like pretty things that have sparkles and/or teeny stars or flowers on them.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Wink at Me Sydney!

Isn't where I am from pretty? It's a wonder anyone here has a fully formed personality (ahem).

Having said that, last week, I took a friend from overseas to this new, rather cosy and possibly illegal zoo in town and he said that all our native animals - such as the koala, the wombat, the kangaroo - look like they're out of work:

Not much more of the sunny fun times. Shortly back to the blob of white.