Thursday, May 31, 2012

Smith Mountain Breakdown

I know, I know. You're sick to death of blog silence or "posts" comprised of little more than iPhone snaps cheaply gussied up through CameraBag or Instagram, accompanied by sheepish apologies and promises to do more and better blogging soon.

But, hey, this $hit is still free, right, and what if the pictures are really, REALLY cute? Or boozy? You like that, don't you? Deal with it, peeps. We love you, but you'll just have to take what we've got to give these days. For now, that means a couple of pics that say, "Welcome, Summer 2012!" The Moms and Ms. Ruby spent Memorial Day weekend at Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia, enjoying the hospitality of the Carolina Moosians. The fun included boat rides and Moose's pathetic attempts to balance herself on assorted objects being dragged through water at high rates of speed. (Why do people do that, I wonder? There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the lord did not intend for humans to get around that way. Exhibit A: The bruises and pulled muscles Moose always gets when she tries to ski. Exhibit B: Sea legs. Still.)

Ruby enjoyed boating as much as I did when I visited SML in the fall of 2003. (That's where Moose snapped the noble profile shot of me that still graces the top of this blog's right sidebar.) Unlike me, the new embodied dog of Roxie's World also likes to get in the water. She took a couple of spirited dips in the lake, which Goose captured on video. By the way, Ruby didn't actually wear the cobalt blue goggles featured in the photo below, but Moose couldn't resist putting them on her. It's a look, kiddo. Work it.
Goose concocted the festive beverages pictured below, which Moose named the Smith Mountain Breakdown (in honor of this glorious Earl Scruggs tune). They were the bestest cocktails ever, or, you know, the bestest cocktails since the ones Goose had whipped up the night before. It was a weekend for blender drinks. This one included fresh peaches, a banana, and unknown quantities of vodka, peach schnapps, and lime juice. Add ice and blend the fucke outte of itte, as our good friend PhysioProf might say. Deelish, the crowd declared!
(Photo Credits: Moose, Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, 5/26//12 and 5/27/12.)

Gotta run, kids. The Moms head out again early tomorrow morning for a conference and a few days of visiting with various and sundry Goosians in the Lone Star State. Who knows? Maybe we'll post a margarita pic or three over the next few days. Stay tuned, dammit, and rest assured we adore you. Mean it! Peace out.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Stamp Acts

We're thinking you don't have to be an English major to spot the irony in the above photo. Moose was paying bills this morning and by sheer coinkydink ended up slapping the Sylvia Plath stamp on the gas bill. (Yes, children, Moose still pays the utility bills with paper checks, tucked into envelopes and placed outside for the postal person to pick up and stuff into a large leather bag. She's old fashioned. Don't judge.) When she realized what she'd done, she showed it to Goose and they had a good long guffaw, which they like to think Plath herself would have understood.

Not sure if there are any ironies in putting Elizabeth Bishop and Wallace Stevens on the phone bills, but, hey, we are grateful to the U.S. Postal Service for getting the faces of ten great twentieth-century American poets into general circulation. Who knows? Maybe some dutiful, bill-paying citizen will get curious enough about the beguiling face of the pretty young woman on the stamp to go read one of her poems. Something delicate and dainty like, you know, this one. It could happen!

Enjoy your weekend, lovelies. May you find unexpected blog fodder and reasons to laugh wherever you go, whatever you do. The papers will be graded soon, my typist assures me, and we'll get back to something approximating regular blogalicious programming in the very near future. Honor bright. Meantime, if you're in the DC area, you should head downtown tonight or tomorrow to spend some time with this extraordinary 360-degree projection experience by Doug Aitken at the Hirshhorn. The Moms swear it's the coolest, most un-Washington thing they've seen in more than a quarter century of living in the national capital area. Go after dark. Tomorrow is the last night.

Peace out, and don't forget to pay your bills.

(Photo Credits: Moose, 5/19/12)

Monday, May 07, 2012

Carolina Moosians Oppose Amendment 1

Who's Cary WASP, I hear you muttering from behind your computer screens, and what does she have against Amendment 1? Cary WASP (not her real nickname) is the Older Sister of the Moosians. She lives in Cary, NC (Cary -- Get it?), and she is not in the habit of making signs and carrying them around at festivals in the rain, but she did so Saturday because she is a good sister and a good citizen and she knows the simple truth that there can be no classes among citizens. Amendment 1, like all attempts to grant legal rights and protections to some relationships and withhold them from others, is discriminatory on its face. Since same-sex marriage is already illegal in North Carolina, Amendment 1 can't even be justified on the usual stupid grounds of preserving the sanctity segregation of marriage from teh gayz. It goes further, banning any type of "domestic legal union," including civil unions and domestic partnerships.

Yo, Carolina, want to protect marriage? How 'bout making sure this creep never gets a license to wed again? (Cheap shot, I know. Couldn't resist. But, still, srsly.)

The amendment seems likely to pass, despite the efforts of Cary WASP and Bill Clinton, who puts on his sweetest, thickest southern drawl in these charming robocalls that are going out in the state in advance of Tuesday's vote.

Thank you, Cary WASP, and thank you, Big Dawg, for fighting the good fight for equal justice under law. We'd be proud to march with you any day, rain or shine, win or lose. Some days, if you can't be on the winning side, you console yourself by knowing you are on the right side. March on, dream on, fight on, my pretties. And if you live in North Carolina, for dog's sake get out and vote on Tuesday! Peace out.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Feel the Burn(out)

If Jane Fonda were an academic blogger, she'd be feeling the burn(out) right now. The signs of it are everywhere -- and here, in this little blog, which has sounded a lot like this lately:

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The few proffie types who are blogging are blogging about how hard it is to blog right now, and comment threads are exploding with confessions and doubts and explanations and exhortations -- all signs of a veritable virtual existential crisis. Who are we? Why are we doing this? Why don't we stop? How can we keep going? Is it a seasonal affective disorder that temporarily has us in a funk? The school year is winding down, after all, and we are all overwhelmed with the madness of the academic spring. Or is something deeper going on? Are we coming to a fork in a road or -- perish the thought -- to the end of some line we've all been riding -- writing -- individually and collectively? Sorry to go all blog-apocalyptic on you, but you know something serious is going on when you see our dear (though unmet) friend Historiann casually declaring in a comment over at Undine's that she is "out of ideas."

Srsly, girlfriend? You? Matron saint of academic blog sass and savvy? Who for nearly five years has posted so regularly that we figured you were knocking back some secret blogger's equivalent of Metamucil out there in the high desert? Out of ideas? Cowgirl, that's like saying the ocean has run out of water. Or, to choose a metaphor more appropriate to your style and sensibility, that's like saying there ain't no ponies left in the corral worth saddling up and riding out. There's plenty of fine ponies left, Historiann, and we bet you'll get your giddyup back just as soon as the dust settles on the semester and  you have a chance to take a good look at the corral again.

For the record, here's part of what I had to say over at Undine's on the subject of whatever kind of crisis might be going on in the blogging community of which we are a part:
I think blogs (and bloggers) go through energy crises as well as identity crises. My blog has wrestled some with identity issues ever since I complicated our narrative set up by dying. (Hey, I say to my typist, you think it sucks for YOU? Being dead is no fun for me, ya know!) Recently, the energy crisis has been more relevant. My typist has had an insanely busy academic year. Her commitment to Lifestyle Adjustment also means that she's less willing to sit in a chair trolling the interwebs for pretty pictures or stuff to get pissed off about. If forced to choose -- and she often is these days -- she'll sometimes choose to go for a run rather than work on a post. As a result, posts at my place have gotten shorter and less frequent in recent months. 
Like Crazy, we're not thinking of shutting down, though the thought has crossed our minds. Still, our small but devoted band of readers sticks with us and we enjoy their company. We'll keep keeping on, one way or another.
We have noted before that blogs have life cycles. They come and go as bloggers' lives and interests change. We try not to get too caught up in the temptation to make Grand Proclamations about Technology, Communication, and the Future of Civilization every time some new social media toy comes along that is so much cooler, funner, faster, and easier than blogging. The question for us remains what it has always been: What is the best tool for any particular communicative/strategic goal? How can we say what needs saying and maybe throw in some eye candy and a joke or two?

Still, if we were prone to speculate, we might say that academic blogging that is not strictly speaking academic -- i.e., not directly related to developing or promoting a scholar's research -- may be under unusual pressure these days from at least two sources. One is the stress all workers in higher education feel from the labor conditions endemic to the regime of Excellence Without Money (™RW Enterprises LLC): stagnating or declining wages, increased work loads, rising insecurity due to the erosion of tenure. A lot of academic blogging that isn't strictly speaking academic arose in response to such conditions. It has served as a valuable means of sharing knowledge and building alliances across institutions, but those who produce it must do so during their incredible shrinking "leisure" time. We began blogging because it was fun and fascinating -- and when I say "we" I mean my typist, who has tenure in a Research 1 school and has been splitting her time between teaching and directing a small (i.e., resource-starved), interdisciplinary program for the past ten years. As mobile technologies have blurred the lines between work and leisure time and administrative demands proliferate in the age of No Dean Life Behind, few academics ever feel that they are not in some sense at work. How do you blog when the tool you would use to do it also holds all those reports you ought to be writing, all those e-mails someone thinks you should be answering?

Another source of pressure on bloggers arises from the fact that even as academic standards are slowly shifting to acknowledge the realities of a post-print culture that is producing "new venues for research, communication, and the creation of networked academic communities" (yay, MLA!), blogging is still devalued as a non-serious product of the non-peer reviewed internets. Bloggers aren't "builders" and so rank low on the hierarchy of values Stephen Ramsay constructed for the field of digital humanities early in 2011. Stanley Fish is so contemptuous of blogging that he makes a public spectacle of his resistance to acknowledging he himself is doing it, even from the lofty perch of The New York Times rather than down here with the riffraff of Wordpress and -- horrors! -- Blogger:
This is a blog. There, I’ve said it. I have been resisting saying it — I have always referred to this space as a “column” — not only because “blog” is an ugly word (as are clog, smog and slog), but because blogs are provisional, ephemeral, interactive, communal, available to challenge, interruption and interpolation, and not meant to last; whereas in a professional life now going into its 50th year I have been building arguments that are intended to be decisive, comprehensive, monumental, definitive and, most important, all mine.
Oh, it sucks to be you, doesn't it, Mr. Fish? Denied monumentality, stuck in this icky, ephemeral, interactive space filled with ugly words and pajama-clad wiseacres with the audacity to disagree with you. Yeah, you're just one low-rent cat video away from realizing that you, too, are free to go yet immobile in the realm of the provisional. Deal with it, Stan.

Everybody hates blogging, it would appear. Fish hates it for lacking "authority" and "disciplinary power." Ramsay turns up his nose because blogging isn't "making anything." Really? "Build, therefore, your own world," Emerson urges in Nature. Moose says that's what she set out to do in establishing this quirky little outpost in the blogosphere. Haters gonna hate, of course, but she still thinks it's one of the coolest things she's ever built, and she doesn't much care if it fits into anybody's system of rewards.

Burned out? Maybe a little. Fading away? Never, darlings. We're here for you, in bits and pieces and in the moments we manage to steal away from all the things we are supposed to be doing. How deep is our love? It's 12:57 on a Tuesday morning, and we are about to press "Publish." For you, my pretties. Because we belong to you and me, don't we? Of course we do. Peace out.