Life as an Extreme Sport


A bad mood snuck up on me Monday afternoon. I shook it off as low blood sugar, got some food, and seemed to be okay. It crashed down on me again yesterday, right after lunch. Okay, not a blood sugar issue.

A person issue.


I’ve lost a bit of my zen calm, it appears, and have let someone’s constant challenging of authority get under my skin. And it’s not that I even see myself as an authority – not even when I’m standing up lecturing about something. If I did see myself in such a light, you can sure as hell bet I wouldn’t 1) go out drinking til who knows when with students in my classroom, 2) be willing to sit down and talk with any students at any point about anything or 3) make jokes and other comments on papers while grading them.

I have to keep reminding myself that the other person may have been having a bad week. Perhaps two sour moods just hit and mixed badly. Or hell, maybe they really do have an issue with me – whatever. I need to not take it personally…

…except that’s really the problem with the pedagogical (if you will) method that I inhabit. This is personal for me. I pour everything into what I do, and to have that rejected sucks. More than that, it hurts. I just want the best for the folks I happen to get into student/instructor relationship with. Hell, I tend to be possessive and watchful of them long beyond when I should be (failing of mine, I admit).

I just don’t want what feels like the constant battle, and feel like it’s really stupid for it to even be there. And so I indulge in petty fantasies of handing back a paper with little to no markings on it, of removing myself from conversational opportunities, and withdrawing and becoming distant. I have too much a sense of responsibility to do the first, but I suspect the latter two will indeed happen in outside-my-classroom spaces. If I don’t want to get engaged in that sort of thing, I need to remove myself from the potential.

And if you think you’re detecting a note of sour grapes, yes, you are. I don’t want to remove myself from conversation with a dynamic, interesting person. Of course, the other option would be the mature route – the one that sits down and says “what the fuck is up with you?” and goes from there. Maybe when I regain a bit of center and balance, I’ll even take it. Right now, it’s more fun to fantasize about being six.

A Good Day

I had a good day. A good Monday. Does this bode badly for the remainder of the week?

I want to get this out and down while I’m thinking about it. It’s been weird, today, the convergence of school and friends. Specifically, I was listening to a CD given to me by one of the musicians in 390; stuff he’s worked on over the past while. It finally clicked, after several days of heavy rotation, that one of the bands reminded me strongly of Crowded House. This, of course, meant listening to Neil Finn, and whenever I listen to Neil Finn I think of Lisa and I smile. A good thing, and something that probably means there is now a link between this student, Lisa, and smiling for the rest of my neural life.

The 390 focus group went well tonight. We ended a bit early, but it was a good place to stop and I knew two of the students needed to talk with me. Ended up spending several hours chatting with one, and just had a lovely time. I really like getting to know people better in those one on one situations; it makes me feel good about my meager role in this whole life-thing. She’s a smart girl, and I think things will smooth out quickly.

Focus group – right. We focused on travel, and what Flaubert and Nightingale have in common with one another, and then ourselves. Why do we travel? Why did they travel? What are their reasons versus our own, and their attitudes versus our own? It was a fun discussion, with much side conversation about the Ick-Factor of Flaubert. If they only knew the half of it (for which I’m ever so “indebted” to John for sharing). I felt really good about the class, and pleased with the constant participation. Adam really nicely picked up and ran with things (especially given he’d not been around for the planning of it).

Phillip, as usual, is right – teach from your passion, and everything will fall into place. Step outside that zone, and things will fall apart. I already know what I’m doing for Thursday, and am confident it will go well.

Plus, hugs and congratulations from Phillip, as well as a sweet “I told you so” and verification that he has much more faith in me than I have in myself. Yeah, a good day – I’m feeling very confident and good about myself; it’s nice to have that feeling stick around a few days. Maybe it will even stay a few more.

Said and Burton

Edward Said spends the second chapter of Orientalism talking about the history of orientalism, if you will. He starts with Sacy and Lane, and from those two move forward in chronological order, briefly addressing some of the most influential writers of that period. Chauteaubriand, Nerval, Flaubert, and Burton are all mentioned (in basically that order). Said draws some interesting distinctions, noting that the British writers tend to follow Lane in being very dry, academic, and empirically scientific when discussing the Orient, while the French are much more romantic (as well as Romantic), preferring instead to move within a narrative framework of the dream of the Orient.

Said concludes this walk thru the process and progress of Orientalist thought by ending with Burton, a man he claims walked a line between Orient and Occident, understanding the Orient while still retaining the power of the Occident. What I find interesting, though, is how Said treats Burton. Specifically, Said doesn’t focus on the extensive research Burton did on homosexuality in the Orient (especially India), his translations of the Kama Sutra and The Perfumed Garden, that the annotations to the Kama Sutra were considered pornographic for their time, or that Burton’s widow burned a new translation of The Perfumed Garden (renamed The Scented Garden), as well as 40 years of diaries and journals, because she didn’t want the world to know of Burton’s fascination with bizarre sexual practices and perversions (fearing people would label him as such).

For someone who’d just spent some large chunk of book discussing how the Occident eroticizes the Orient, and particularly taking Flaubert to task for it, it seems odd that Burton’s own fascination with the Orient and all aspects of sex is so completely ignored.

Hell Days

Wednesday was Not Good. No motivation, no desire, a really bad conversation with a former instructor – and then Kanna and Phillip pulled me right out of it (they’re so my shining knights). From there, Craig and I went to see Mirrormask, which I have decided was a very simple story highlighted by sharp writing, and a beautifully magical set. I came home, curled up with some Foucault and Pratt, and was in bed at a decent hour.

This morning, I feel relaxed and energetic. I’m confident about my 390 small group for the first time this quarter. I’ve found my personal hook into the material. While this week is on Orientalism, John asked that we focus today on the power/knowledge discourse that Said borrows from Foucault. Adam is going to talk about the EU and Turkey, Matt wants to talk about knowing literary texts, and me? I am going to talk about the power dynamics of a classroom, what it means to have knowledge, and things like that. Exactly what’s been on my mind this quarter, and off/on since I started this whole pseudo-teaching thing. I need to pull some quotes from Said and Foucault and make photo copies of the Pratt, in case anyone wants the article, but I’m feeling very confident for today. I have a small activity planned and everything.

It feels nice to have found my legs.


Up early today. I fell asleep before 9pm last night, just physically drained and exhausted. The 390 focus group went much better last night, using pop culture “props” to drive conversation. I’m strongly resisting the urge to make lesson plans and powerpoints, because I don’t want to (nor should I) be the teacher for that class. But, having things to make conversation go is nice. Bride and Prejudice is a wonderfully over-the-top way to illustrate Orientalism, too.

But, true to form, I crashed off the feeling good by the time I was halfway home. I hadn’t eaten lunch, so stopped to get dinner, and it was just downhill from there. I knocked together the very barest annotated bibliography, (which I will hopefully be able to flesh out some before class today. I also need to print copies of the papers for today’s thesis class, as well as reread an article for 390. …see, there was a reason I set the alarm for 4, even if I didn’t actually get out of bed until 5am), and then crawled into bed with a book, read for about 10 minutes, closed my eyes and gave up the fight.

But I like being up at this time of day, even if it’s so difficult for me to actually get out of bed in that initial instant. There’s something ever so serene and peaceful about the world, as it’s just me and a few other souls moving. I have just a few lights on, and (freshly showered and dressed) am sitting in the middle of my ever so comfortable new bed, listening to variations of Om Mani Padme Hum being sung over the stereo. The repetitive chanting, the peace and quiet of morning, the slight tinge of saltwater on the breeze – if only I could capture this feeling and always carry it with me. Right now, the world is busy and crowded and chaotic, but in a good way; it’s a way that energizes me and keeps me moving. I have the faith in myself that it will all be done and done well… if only that hung around with me until the end of the day!