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I’ve been busy revising an essay about my father’s funeral and have been feeling under appreciated and emotionally drained, all while trying to get stuff done. As per the last two posts, I am failing on all fronts, but failing isn’t dead.

And Not Dead = Winning!

I think we can safely say that there is no bar to lower anymore.

Sooooo because why not, I will add short commentary to random BNHA images:


When I lived in the Seattle-area, I took the commuter bus for years. This is a reflection of reality. I started as Bakugou, then Jirou when I got my first iPod and loaded it with Terry Pratchett audio books. Finally, before getting a car, I’d leveled up to Todoroki, feeling comfortable enough to sleep the whole way to work. Got lots of colds while I road the bus.

I know there was chatter about some classes being harder after the switch to remote learning and plenty of teachers were getting flack for not trusting their students, but I think what many didn’t realize (couldn’t realize unless they were still in or close to their coursework) is that flip from in-person to online midstream was terribly disrupting and by definition, any flow or rapport that had been established pre-transition was gone. I had a hard time adjusting as a student and felt myself torn between trying to corral my students and give them space.

This has turned into a Bakugou appreciation post and I’m fine with that.


My autobiography should contain a chapter called “Times My Mouth Got Me In Trouble/Fired” and this is not something that I’ve had a great deal of success in mellowing as I have some of my “other” issues. Yet, the precarity of being a graduate student, even one as financially privileged as myself (family support) but obligation overloaded (same family needs supporting), I may choose my words more carefully? I’m not sure – I think that sentence got away from me.

I never set out to have my students “like” me. I don’t need that. I’m the same age, if not older than their parents. I’m not looking to be buddies. My hope is that they feel like they can learn something from me and see me someone to bounce ideas off of freely. I want them to see me as someone that made them feel like their writing is important and that what they have to say has value. I want them TO ANSWER THEIR DAMN EMAILS!!! <3.

My office is full of notebooks and journal articles and books and grocery bags full of more books and empty Amazon boxes and trash and various folders and some clothes and at least four old laptops/computers and two printers and I really need to clean.

Thank you for taking this journey with me.

Bakugou Katsuki…a goddamn miracle.

Every semester will be different, yet every semester is the same. With all due respect to the Charlie Foxtrot that is the Spring of Covid-19 I think it’s time to disrupt the myth that a life in graduate school is one of relaxed reading, occasional writing, and laid-back teaching. I don’t know who needs to hear this…wait, I do. It’s me. I need to hear this, and I need to hear it from my own, lying mouth.

It’s a joke I have made several times in the past, to various graduate classmates. “Every semester we say, ‘This semester will be different!’, and by week three, we’re back to our usual selves.” The hope I bring to the start of semester, the desire to start early and work toward big projects a little every day, all disappear like mist as I struggle to keep up with the reading and chase down a million different research interests, not a single one tied with my current classes. By the end of the semester the ambitious scope of big projects have been scaled down to “what I can get done now” and, within recent years, the idea of taking an Incomplete becomes a real possibility. Ever since entering graduate school in 2016 it’s been the same, though, I admit, the incompletes only happened while working on my PhD. Looking back, I have no idea how I actually wrote a thesis and completed my M.A. on time. It’s almost like that Heather is a completely different person.

There have been some outside obstacles since joining my PhD program — none of them school related and I’m not going to go into them in this post. That’s for another time. However, the mental energy pool from which I used to pull my focus seems all but depleted these days. Perhaps because I’m getting older (planning to make it to my 50th birthday in December) or perhaps because this fall will be my seventh year in academia (two years to finish my B.A., two for the M.A and two to get through my coursework before comp exams). I’ve never held a job for longer than 8 years or so. Could this be the seven-year itch?

Nah. I love teaching too much. I love researching too much. I love talking about weird shit with people and talking about writing with students and telling kids, for the first time, what great writers they are. Man, that’s a feeling that’s hard to be, I tell ya. So no. It’s not the itch. It’s not the Covid. It’s not the zoom. It’s me.

I spent way too long playing with Zoom backgrounds.

All my workarounds, rough-hewned, jerry-riggings, MacGyveritierations cannot save me anymore. As we near the drop-deadline of the end of the semester, I’m hurting more and more and, to be fair, I’m still one of the lucky ones. I’m not necessarily looking at an uncertain future or trying to teach kids while worrying about rent. I’ve got it good in the scheme of things. My biggest battle (possibly) is with my brain and, land-sakes, is it fighting with me now.

(This took a turn into the neuro-diverse space. And while, yes, I agree with you and yes, I will look into it, I think there is a larger conversation to be had, if I could just refocus and have it. Dammit.)

The thing is, I never seem to be able to achieve that leisurely pace**: writing a couple of hours a day, reading after teaching, taking some color-coded notes into a leather journal. The real work of academia is much faster and grungy. As the semester moves on you start bargaining between primary and secondary readings. You find ways to teach articles that you haven’t had a chance to read yourself. Writing becomes an aggressive act the night before a deadline. Professional development? I don’t know her.

The woman I do know tries, she tries real hard to get it right each time. She fails (I’m sensing a theme this week) every semester, but she keeps trying. Maybe this summer will be different and I’ll work on side projects and writing and reading for my exams. Maybe I’ll take some time off and get some projects done around the house that will make my life a little less stressful. Maybe I can take this time of self-isolation (which is default for me anyway) and be productive on my own terms. Maybe maybe maybe.

I have read so many productivity blogs, listened to so many productivity podcasts, that I am an expert on this stuff for other people. Teach me how to focus that onto my own life. Show me how I motivate myself. Give me the strength to stop writing this post and finish my projects.

My apologies for the lack of cohesive theme or narrative. You know me by now.

**I think the fantasies of academic leisure come from four sources: 1) people who feel themselves outside of the academic world and think summers off mean no work; 2) people who only exist in an academic world and have nostalgic memories of their grad school days; 3) people with MBAs; 4) white men.

I did not expect this show to have such a visceral effect on me. From the very first episode, I understood that the slow pace of the narrative was in part to instill a sense of dread, I also felt the pull of another force: an undertow of awe. That was the promise at least. Devs for the most part just left me feeling desperate, confused, and eight hours farther behind on my work.

I’m not disappointed, but I am befuddled. Set in a Silicon Valley mega-corporation named Amaya, Devs entangles the world of tech entrepreneurship, industrial espionage, global politics, and, well, the true nature of love. This is not a standard review. I won’t be writing any episode summaries or talk about the performances in detail, but the setting of the show is arguably its main character. Amaya’s campus is situated inside a redwood forest and my brain mistakenly headed east, thinking of the Pando tree colony in Colorado from which Sarah Lacy, formerly of TechCrunch named her tech-focused spin-off blog. In 2012 that was an important fact that I knew and one that directly impacted my daily life. As a web developer in Seattle I felt the need to be jacked in to the tech world and the writers in Silicon Valley were my dealers. In other words I watched Devs, got my forests mixed up, and overdosed on nostalgia.

I never fell so deeply into tech that I could relate to the work environment. I’m not a natural coder, more of a tinkerer, and my skills, while good enough for newspapers and marketing firms, lacked the disruptive excitement that drove the industry before the gig economy started sapping all the drive from every one, every where.

I wanted to love Devs but had to settle for thinking about it, a lot. The violence bothered me. This means it’s successful and that bothers me. I was surprised by the amount of death within eight episodes, but later seasons of Breaking Bad would laugh in my face. Each one (nearly) felt terrible, awful, uncomfortable, brilliantly sound-edited (snap, still gives me chills) and sometimes even justified. I’ll never forgive the one. Never!

Nick Offerman as Forest…in a forest. You see how I got confused.

And ultimately, since this isn’t a regular review and I don’t have to worry about spoilers, I’m still not going to spoil anything and tell you to watch it for yourself. See if you’re still trying to parse out some things days down the road — not the large themes, they occasionally come down on the top of your head like a large hand descending from the sky to stop a nuclear war. I see you Captain Trips — but the flow of the narrative. The intersection of stories. The visual color palette. the magic of technology. The royal treatment and screwing we give to talented people. The giant statue of a child looming among the trees. The Everett Interpretation.

Sometimes, in the outer reaches of my vision, I catch a small glowing light above my head. I can’t tell the shape. Does it follow me? Do I follow it?

Devs is from FX and can be streamed on Hulu.

(A poem I wrote a couple of years ago, recently found in a pile of papers. I appear to be channeling Benny Hill. I could do a lot worse.)

I heard the hesitation
and the grunt of forced cessation
and I realized that I’d caught you in the act.

And I smelled the strain and guessed
at your movement now suppressed
and in kindness, I found no cause to react.

So I banged and boomed and bustled
and I hacked and huffed and hustled
and made quick work what I meant to do.

Parted quick in hands-damp hurry
to release you from your worry
left alone to sigh and finish up your poo.

Frens.

I have been through the Stargate and back and will now divulge the secret to having a pleasant experience inside the MRI machine.

Feel free to use this, unless you already have a process. This requires good brain muscles. Your mileage may vary.

FIRST! Do not, I repeat, do not open your eyes. When they push you into the magnetic womb, keep those peepers unpeeped. There is a nice flow of cool air spraying near your face and you can delude yourself into thinking you’re lying in an open area. That’s fine. NO PEEKING.

SECOND! Do not accept the gift of music. I have no idea what kind of playlists MRI technicians have available, but for this plan to work, you must not allow competing beats into your muffled earholes. NO COMPETING BEATS!

C! There will be some alarm sounds. That’s fine. That’s your signal to start the show in your mind theater. Take a deep breath. You are ready.

NEXT! There will be some thumping. Rhythmic thumping that once in a while will be paired with a second, deeper thumping. This is good. Don’t jig with it – you can’t – but move with the beat in your brain. This beat is permeating the depths of the earth, the only part of the EDM coming from a hedonistic celebration in your honor many miles above. You hear it. Your embrace it. Soon it will stop, for the ritual will be complete. For you are the…

VAMPIRE QUEEN!!!

(Now, I’m not the Aaliyah “Queen of the Damned” type, more of the Brienne-of-Tarth-as-a-Vampire type, which, let’s be honest, would have ended that show in Season four. ALL HAIL THE BLOODY QUEEN OF THE SEVEN * crash * SIX KINGDOMS!!)

So, you, the Vampire Queen, lying in your coffin in the depths of hell, awaiting your resurrection. Your most dedicated followers are engaged in a deadly disco (picture the “Bloodbath” scene from “Blade”) and you hear them calling you from your black soul.

The beat stops. For a moment, silence.

Suddenly an insistent “rat-tat-tat-tat-tat” echoes overhead. You know that the forces of good have come to break up your ceremony. These are the machine guns, silver bullets blazing, mowing down the weakest of your kin. Fine, you think, safe in your sunken cocoon. Their flesh will be the centerpiece of a celebration feast. Two more short rounds of “rat-tat-tat” are heard – then a long, nearly insufferable staccato of noise. You try to shift, but the long centuries of sleep have left you stiff and sluggish. And as you begin to think of the loss of your brethren, a feeling of peace diffuses through your blood. Of course, you realize, the tables have been turned and the human interlopers are now the ones staring down those metal missiles of misery.

FOURTH!…FIFTH! It is quiet again, for a moment, and then the EDM returns. Here, your brain projector switches from the crimsons and whites of the previous disco to the browns and tans of the overlong, sweat-stained dance frenzy of that one Matrix movie. You forget which one.

YOU HAVE EXISTED FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS AND IT IS DIFFICULT TO RETAIN FILM FACTS.
I AM THE ULTIMATE PREDATOR BUT BAD AT BAR TRIVIA.

The beats are not as insistent now and then more “rat-tat-tats.” But these have a distinct sound, as of a long heavy chain being pulled through an infinite chasm.

SIX! As your chained coffin is being pulled upwards through an infinite chasm, you begin to sense an end to your stillness, the bulbous stress ball some smarty-pants buried you with in 1987, now feels like the soft completion of a promise. You rise….RISE, noticing for the first time, a cool breeze across your face and you hope, desperately hope, that these dancing morons timed this right. No one likes being resurrected at dawn.

SEVENTEENTH!! In your ears a kind voice says, “okay, you’re all done” and you smile, knowing that you’ve successfully passed through the gate from undead to, well, technically you’re still undead, but now you’re ANIMATED UNDEAD and hey, lady, you said that like ten minutes ago. It’s time to release me from my IMMORTAL PRISON and let me out. Seriously, how far away are the operators from this thing? And if they’re that far away, should I even be in here?

END!! Not a moment before, but when you feel the table move out, out of the area, then, and only then, should you open your eyes, dismissing the previous twenty minutes and returning to a certain reality. Pluck out those ear plugs, thank the staff for their kindness and professionalism and emerge into the sunlight, ready to take on the day.

You squint at the sun. “Idiots!”

I find Facebook frustrating. As storyteller, the Facebook algorithm creates a logistical dilemma. In some cases, I like to use the first comment as a, for lack of a better term, the punchline, or, in most cases, a secondary punchline. Sometimes it is to give further comment to what I’m posting, other times it is to beat my readers to the obvious joke. I am not always successful, but narratively I find that first comment area gives me the necessary “beat” before a nice aside. It’s is the “Ching” to my “Ba-dum, dum.”

Unfortunately, when enough comments appear, Facebook shifts the order around, placing the “Top Comment” in this coveted spot, erasing any of my intended narrative flow—a small example of the Facebook news feed as a whole—shifting the narrative flow from a temporal progression of my Facebook feed to one decidedly non-temporal. Were I to view my feed in the default view, I would find posts from the day before at the top of the list because that one friend is a particularly prolific poster, or due to the apparent closeness of our “relationship.” As one who developed her online narrative style on bulletin boards, forums and IRC chat rooms, this presents a neverending mish-mash of content. More importantly, from a reader’s perspective, it completely undermines the immediacy of social media. This is also why I find Twitter much more useful, though not without its own narrative obstacles. (Snapchat, for what it’s worth, is useless to me, since I was never comfortable with the app’s user interface. Snapchat understands this and has been working on redesigns, but that ship has sailed for me.) The immediacy that social media promises is rendered moot within the confines of Facebook, a platform that was never interested in keeping its users in touch with their friends, but only interested in keeping its users on Facebook. A high-walled garden where all your friends play is still a prison. Yet Facebook’s greatest illusion is how it has completely obfuscated the temporality of human storytelling.

Typically, our narrative history progressed from one white man to another, creating a canonical trajectory. The present is easier to deal with if one can see a straight line leading up to a moment. Yet we have been and will continue to expand that canon, introducing and recovering new voices adding breadth to that timeline, or, more accurately, adding parallel lines of narrative, creating a multiverse of voices and stories. Though parallel may not be the accurate description, because these narrative lines dip and cross and intersect, changing the vectors of other stories, shifting perspectives and, in the worst instances, ending narrative lines altogether. How then do we find the time (in a tactical sense) to make sense of all the intersecting twists and turns that make up our present? What is the defining feature common among this tangled mess of narrative?

We are temporal beings, therefore the stories as we write them tend to flow forward, not necessarily from one action to another, but in enough of a recognizably linear fashion that we, as reader, find some sort of progression in narrative. Even stories that break timeline rules still follow a version of linear progression even if that movement is not past to present to future. So our stories are created and consumed temporally, by necessity of the mortal time boundaries of their creators. Yet, the stories as entities do not. They exist out of time, in a sense, from the first moment we were able to record an idea in a semi-permanent manner. Our stories exist as delineated moments along a our timeline, if not reflective in the narrative itself, then reflective of the fact that it was created at a particular time by a temporally-bound being.

Facebook essentially shifts our narrative from time-based to topic-based, disallowing users to see stories develop from one moment to the next in favor of feeding users similar stories hoping to keep users on the site and deliver sponsored content. By creating these new lines of narrative, Facebook (and those that use a similar method) disrupt not only our natural ways of telling stories, but our natural ways of consuming stories, creating less of a network of ideas that touch and influence each other, but a sticky web of stories that envelope a perceived desired narrative. The news feed does not damage us by hiding stories that are in political opposition to our own worldview, it damages us by disappearing the existence of other worldviews entirely. Our ignorance is actively curated.

For all of our discussions about Facebook and politics, we sometimes forget that we are creator ourselves. Facebook should be approached as just another publishing platform, one with its own rules and quirks, yet something that should be manipulated by us instead of the other way around. While many of us create with a rhetorical mindset, we must learn to consume in the same way: looking at dates of publication, looking at sources, reading critically even the most innocuous post. We must remember that we are temporal beings, stuck in a mortal timeline, all with the same end. Only our stories survive, unless the algorithm pushes it off the page.

Last night a friend and I texted back and forth about the “waiting game.” All of our PhD applications are in and now it’s just a matter of sitting by while committees of people decide our fate. While texting, I was also checking out thegradcafe.com for information about wait times, acceptance/rejection ratios and general conversations about applying to graduate schools for Literature, Composition, and Rhetoric.

I had made the conscious decision not to check these forums before getting my applications together. That was both a wise and unwise decision.

Had I known that one of my schools only accepts one student with an outside M.A. I would have saved the money on the application. (A similar realization for my friend was what spurred our conversation in the first place.) Also, had I known about the terribly low stipend from another school (information not easily found on their website) I may have skipped that one as well. Foreknowledge is forewarned, I suppose, but at the time I was adamant to keep outside influence out of my decision process. Sometimes I forget that some influence is helpful. Lesson learned.

I’m not sure if that realization led to my sleeplessness last night. I can’t remember anything other than the general self-loathing and self-doubt that normally invades the bookends of my nightly unconsciousness, but dang if I didn’t have a heck of a time getting to sleepytown. I woke up at the usual “stupid-early” o’clock to the smell of coffee being brewed by the programmable coffee machine (my life, my love) and am strangely lacking in the normal exhaustion that would accompany a short bout of sleeplessness. I’m sure this will catch up with me later today.

In the meantime, I will be productive. I have freelance work to do, thankfully, and I’ve decided to create a bibliography of my own work over the last four years. Time and again I will come across a paper I wrote and think, “when did I do this?” Moving forward with other research interests is my priority, but I think it will be beneficial to take a look back on what interested me in the past. Perhaps I’m hoping to rekindle an old flame. Perhaps I’m just procrastinating.

Either way, I need to get words on the page today; different words on different pages. Let’s hope the coffee holds out.

I put the blame of this election squarely on the shoulders of Stephen Colbert. Metaphorically, not literally. However, the inevitability expressed in “Death, Taxes and Hillary” transmuted from a commentary on the outcome of the Democratic primary to an assurance of the outcome of the general election.

Only Death is inevitable. President-elect Trump proved the other two wrong.

And we didn’t actually discover that half of the population felt comfortable electing a man who used racist, sexist, xenophobic rhetoric to attain the most powerful office in the free world. It was only a quarter of the population—a minority—but they were active enough to get their man in.

Half of the population didn’t vote. Was it because the outcome was inevitable?

Think of it this way:

Four people are in a room deciding on what type of pizza to order. One person suggests pepperoni and onion—not terribly popular, but a reasonable pizza recipe. Another person shouts for a shit pizza—literally a pizza covered in human feces.

The other two people just shrug. I mean, come on, of course we’re going to get the pepperoni and onion right? No one would actually order the other one. The pizzeria wouldn’t even consider making an actual shit pizza, would they?

Guess what we’re having for dinner.

So what do we do?

First, stop “draining the swamp” in your social media. I’m not suggesting that you allow harassment to continue, but there are people in your followers and friends list that are listening and those are the people you need to reach. The 46% who didn’t participate are going to have to eat the shit pizza just as much as we are, so it’s our responsibility to activate them in any way possible.

Keep in mind, the people who will have to eat the biggest slices of the shit pizza, the people who have always been disenfranchised and exploited, the people who have always had a target on their backs and woke up Wednesday to find it was the opening day of hunting season—those people ALREADY KNOW HOW TO VOTE. If you’re trying to preach to them, you need to turn around from the choir, my friend, or maybe, just step down from the pulpit altogether.

One suggestion: reminding your senior citizen friends that the hulking form of Paul Ryan is lurking in the background ready to privatize their Medicare.

Second, as much as the symbols and outrage and marches give you a positive outlet for your energy, we need to point some of that energy toward the people actually in possession of our government. It’s time to remember the power of the written word, not just in posts on Facebook groups or Snapchats to friends, but the power to inundate a government official with the will of the people.

WRITE. Write to your congressman, your senator. For the love of the cosmos, write to your state house and senate—where most of the damage to you is wrought. WRITE, not in emails, but in actual tree-killing paper letters. (Please buy recycled paper.)

READ. Find out what your representatives are voting on. READ the legislation. Make the time. If you can’t make the time, pick a few key issues and read up on them, not what is spinned out to you through pundits, but the actual bill. That’s what will become law.

March, scream, hug, support, shelter, fight, do all of these things and do all of them with righteous fire and kindness.

But don’t forget to WRITE until your hands bleed and READ until your eyes ache.

Only Death is inevitable…or, Death and Change.

Links in this post (If you have other links that would be helpful, please post them in the comments):

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