Happy Anniversary, Mr. and Mrs. and Miller

Eighteen years ago today, two impossibly young kids went off to the justice of the peace in Iowa City with $30 rings they bought from JC Penney. I look at the pictures of us then, and I can’t believe we are still here and still together. I’d do it all over again–all of it–the student loans, the hideous dumpster couches, the cross-country moves–all of it, but only if Mr. Miller came along.

After all this time, Mr. Miller is still my best friend and a bemused participant in the tsunami—material, intellectual, emotional—that is living with me. He is my Galahad, my Sydney Carton, my Cyrano, and my Mr. Big. The wind beneath my wings? Please–Mr. Miller is the air I breathe, the water I drink, the food I eat, and my conscience. This is not an easy job.

Here’s to forever, old boy.

The best advice–ever–from Jonathan Kozol

I draw on Jonathan Kozol’s work heavily in my writing on reparations and social justice. My friend Sacha, a child welfare scholar who is working in the Obama administration this year as a fellow, introduced me to his ideas several years ago. Recently, he noted he says during his talks with students:

“You won’t believe it at your age, but life goes fast. Use it well.”

And a part of my childhood dies

It’s the end of Reading Rainbow, a victim of the bad economic times and, it sounds, education policy designed to make reading as mechanical as possible, according to John Grant, the show’s producer:

Grant says the funding crunch is partially to blame, but the decision to end Reading Rainbow can also be traced to a shift in the philosophy of educational television programming. The change started with the Department of Education under the Bush administration, he explains, which wanted to see a much heavier focus on the basic tools of reading — like phonics and spelling.

“Reading Rainbow taught kids why to read,” Grant says. “You know, the love of reading — [the show] encouraged kids to pick up a book and to read.”

You betcha. Thanks, Bush-era education policy, for reinforcing the notion that something which might be difficult must also be joyless.

LeVar Burton, both as the host of Reading Rainbow and Geordi Laforge, has been one of the great loves of my life.* Along with reading, I should add.

From happier times, Burton singing the Reading Rainbow theme.

Maybe I’ll spend this weekend reading, because I can, and it is joyful.

*Have you ever seen an actor with prettier eyes?

Tenure dossier creation is an ungratifying process thus far

Well, last night I sent Andy over to a friend’s house because I am so frantically trying to put together this dossier that I couldn’t take the time away. I missed sushi–LA sushi–for this.

Yes, I know it’s the last minute to be printing things out, thank you for pointing that out.

When I was UCLA, Brian Taylor was going through tenure, and I was one of his graduate students. While I sort of sympathized in my clueless, grad student way, you just don’t understand this until you’re in it. And then I think maybe like childbirth you forget the pain. Anyway, Brian was remarkably gracious and sweet to me, despite the stress and his father’s declining health, and had I been in his position I would have shaken me until I frothed.

Here is my assembled wisdom:

1) Do not assume that the Staples on Fig is going to have a binder big enough for your manuscripts. I would say this is a testimony to my big big productive self, but it’s more to do with the fact that last week was the first week of classes and Staples has nothing left on its shelves.

2) The good news: you can watch tv while you print. Did you know all the Dr. Babes on SyFy got their PhDs, tenure, and breast implants all at the same time? I know: I just saw it on Mega-Shark v. Octopus. Laugh if you will; it was awesome: a shark jumped out of the sky and ate an airplane. I have a new flying phobia now. Then there was Spring Break Shark Attack where the evil date rapist got eaten by sharks, and where they learned nothing from Jaws about not keeping the shark bait attached to the little ship with the put-put engines. Then there was Kraken, Tentacles of the Deep, with the Dr. Babe with fabulous Farrah Fawcett hair.

3) I am lonely and listless without teaching. Don’t tell my dean or I’ll never get another course release.

4) Do not try to assemble your dossier at the last minute in a loft that contains a six month-old kitten. There will be anguish.

5) Printing all this crud and putting it together takes longer than formatting your dissertation.

6) I am less worried about not getting tenure than I am by the deepening feeling that the big challenges seem to be behind me. Making full doesn’t seem relevant or challenging or interesting–I don’t know why. These first years have been without a doubt among the most enjoyable years of my life thus far, eclipsed perhaps by graduate school. Perhaps. I love what I do, and there is a weird part of me that loves the do-or-die performance aspect of it.* My icky competitive nature is the reason why I pursue grant money: I like the race; I like to win and I hate to lose, and all attempts to make me a better sport and more ladylike throughout my childhood failed–thank God.

But I like the race even better than the outcome. Tired as I am–and I am tired–I had fun. I guess now I am supposed to be an expert. Experts travel around, give talks, write “state of the field” papers and whatnot. I don’t really like doing those things. The best hours are the hours alone with the data and the ideas. I’d give any number of invited talks for a fresh dataset at this point. I don’t think I am supposed to feel this way.

6) The Staples in Pasadena by the Gold Line is also near Bev Mo, aka “heaven.”

7) It is remarkably comforting to talk to my Galileo finger puppet. He thinks I’m going to get tenure.

8) I think I’m proud of my binder. I think.

*Oh it will hurt if the answer is “die” but even if it is, I didn’t take a safe professional route; I did what I wanted, which was to write, think, read, and talk about ideas for a living. I’ve had a blast, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, I would have listened to Randy, Gen, and David more and mouthed off less.

The sort of day I wouldn’t wish on anybody

1. My CAREER proposal was sent back to me without review because of an administrative glitch and the fact I didn’t catch it prior to resubmission. Ouch. This was my second time out of the chute, but since I am going up for tenure this year, I won’t be able to resubmit. Unless I don’t get tenure.

2. I have gotten nothing done besides deal with this particular crisis.

3. I got in trouble for messing up my e-certification, which means the university might not pay my students. I love my students. Don’t pay ME as punishment: I’m the one who messed up and I, at least, have a savings account, but my students depend on their paychecks. Don’t punish them because I can’t figure out your byzantine online system.

4. The frosting fell off my cupcake and onto the floor. The dogs were happy, as I just let them have it because it was vanilla.

Gloom, despair and agony on me

My instructor for a queer theory class 800 years ago told me that Grandpa Jones, of Hee Haw fame and legitimate Nashville talent in his own right, was one of the original activists at the Stonewall? But I have never been able to verify this interesting little factoid.

Wonderful people have rag-arms

At yesterday’s Dodger game, a whole group of cancer researchers and organizers threw out the first pitch. It was wonderful. However, most of them are rag-arms, and so the pitches went every which where, going hither and yon, with long-suffering players chasing the balls down. It looked more like popcorn being popped than first pitches.

Go friars, go Giants. The Rockies are on our heels, and I just hate the Cards on the principle.