Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Academic Life, Yet Again

Every now and then my ability to pay attention to anything I ought to be doing completely deserts me. It began to do this over the weekend (although I did get some work done at my neighborhood cafe) and I was utterly hopeless by Monday. The worst moment came when I attempted to look through Lacan's Ecrits before returning the book (which had been recalled for another patron. A year or so ago, I had been well enough able to understand what he was getting at in one essay that I thought I should re-examine it. Re-examination suggested that in the meantime I had lost too many brain cells to even dream about Lacan. I was tempted to throw the book across the room, but nicely returned it to the library figuring that if I later can't live without it, I can always recall it myself.
The nice thing about these fits, like most of Ms. Spots' ailments, is that they pass quickly. Just as the Spotted Wonder was ready to be extra cuddly by Saturday evening, her human was refreshed and pretty much ready to work again by Tuesday morning. This was a good thing, as today I have to overnight the latest postdoc application, all SIX COPIES of it. I think I have gotten the bugs out of the writing sample, which is a different one than I used for the last few, although I wouldn't say that any single writing sample gives an accurate picture of my (diverse) methodological concerns. We will just hope that the writing sample is suitable; my advisor thought that in this case it might be best to pick one that bears some relation to the research I am proposing doing, and my other potential samples were less closely related.
I was also able to make progress on my impending conference paper. Sometimes one writes these from scratch and other times one pulls together paragraphs from various old stuff and then by some sort of mysterious process comes up with something new (rather like Frankenstein) from these scraps. This one is the Frankenstein variety, but I think that by the time it is done, it should not too closely resemble any of its original parts, which come from something like three separate dissertation chapters and one or two other papers. After all, in tying these things together, one does change the wording considerably and of course they all have to be made to pull together to support whatever the paper's theme might be. It is a curious process, but after writing so many funding applications and a fair number of conference papers, I am finding that my ability to rework material for new purposes is definitely increasing. Whenever I start, I feel certain that the result will only be some sort of warmed-over mess, but it always seems to end up as something I am rather pleased with. With the conference papers, I always do end up saying something that I haven't quite articulated before, which does advance my thinking.
Meanwhile, one of my colleagues is defending her dissertation today. This exciting event occurs in the afternoon, and I am certain she will do an impressive job of it. We have another defense in my department next week, but I'm afraid I will have to present those congratulations before and after the fact since I'll be out of town.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Art Historians Do Halloween

I am pleased to say that Halloween is a reasonably important holiday for at least some art historians, although I'm afraid we didn't get into the same frenzy of costume preparation that marked the Halloweens of my undergraduate career.
It may, to be sure, be Pittsburgh as a whole that celebrates Halloweeen with enthusiasm, as I've been seeing yards decked out for Halloween all month long. (For my European and other non-American readers, Halloween is October 31 and is normally celebrated on that date or on the closest weekend. I have never before seen decorations for it up more than a week or so in advance of the holiday.)
Julia, one of our medievalists, was so kind as to throw a party. Julia is visible, with Travis, who went as a zebra. I have to say that ever since Travis decked himself out as Billy Idol, he has tended to look more like one or another of the more flamboyant rock stars than like anything from the natural world.

Leslie, one of our specialists in ancient Chinese art, makes a fine vampire, I think.

Katie, who normally can be relied on to tell us anything we need to know about the Viking period, the aquaniles in the museum in Copenhagen, or Saint Erik, arrived in a most impressive and lifelike costume. Who and what was she? Our computer network guru, Matt (who can be seen, faintly, lurking behind Katie and inside the door). Matt thought he should have known something was up when Katie wanted to borrow one of his plaid shirts.

Amy, who specializes in the Baroque era, chose a more modern period for her costume.

Robert, who generally likes to deal with conceptual art and other things that don't require attaching images to his seminar papers, appeared with his mate in X-Files gear.

Back at home, the rabbit wrangler in disguise as Leonor Fini since, as Travis (or was it Robert?) observed, it wouldn't do to go as one's actual dissertation artist. That would suggest an unhealthy degree of obsession. (Besides, I don't own any coveralls.) I still have plans to imitate Louise Bourgeois one of these days and make a costume with twenty or so breasts.
There was some discussion as to the possibility of doing a party where everyone would have to go as a rock star. I am still mulling over my options on this. Grace Slick? Janis Joplin? The taller stars would have to be left to my colleagues, as even with really high platforms I don't think I could carry off some of the males.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Domestic Scene

Ms. Spots would like it to be known that although she spent Friday feeling unwell and spent most of the day under the couch with no interest whatsoever in food, and even though her human was so irritating as to drag her to the vet and have subcutaneous fluids given, she is feeling better now. She is unsure she is quite her usual self, but she does regard a good carrot as something to be eaten.
Orion thinks that Ms. Spots smelled particularly interesting after her veterinary excursion, and he made attempts to mount her, which she rejected with considerable annoyance.
The human supposes that perhaps now it will be possible to settle down and write the conference paper that will be presented in mid-November. Or, failing that, to finish polishing up the writing sample that will accompany the latest postdoc application (Getty).

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Friday, October 26, 2007

More Romanian Film

I'm pleased to say that I liked the latest offering in the Romanian film series, The Paper Will Be Blue. Just as minimalist as Stuff and Dough, this film deals with the experiences of a squad of militia men on one night during the 1989 revolution. Everything is confused, no one knows quite which side to take or what to do. It's a poignant little slice of life with a sad outcome.
I'm less pleased about the implementation of Blogger's new email notification feature. I was horrified to find my email address showing on the comment page this morning, seemingly inviting the entire world to email me personally with its comments on the blog. It took some hunting around before I discovered that that's not what's going on at all. It's actually a tool for people commenting on blogs to keep track of responses to their comments, and each person only sees his or her own email address. In other words, I can choose to see responses to my comments on Kristen's blog, or keep track of how many people have posted congratulations on the new BibliOdyssey book. Or if you want to receive emails with comments subsequent to your own on this blog. So... the idea is fine, but the implementation is less than ideal. I'll bet a lot of bloggers were unhappy to see their email address showing up on the comment page this morning and made the same assumption I did. (And if my readers express a deep longing for a means of emailing me directly, I'll consider getting an account strictly for this kind of thing, OK?)

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Romanian Cinema on the Edge

Since I was just complaining about the impossibility of finding out about the myriad cultural events here, I will point out that the present Romanian film series is unusually well publicized.
It is true that the main reason we have a poster for the series on our TA Office door is that Cristina, one of my art history colleagues, is from Romania and was involved in putting it all together. There are, however, posters pretty well distributed around campus and in local cafes; Irina Livezeanu, who curated the series, assured me that there was a strong postering effort and that press releases and PSAs were sent out. I even found the films listed on our Student Events Calendar (admittedly rather incorrectly, giving the impression that every film shows every night), which bills itself as "the ultimate guide to life outside the classroom" but is in fact nothing of the kind. (In its defense, perhaps no one submits events to it? It only lists four events for today, which is rather thin for a university of "about 34,000 students.")
Anyhow, I wasn't paying attention, so I missed the opening film of the series, the classic The Reenactment, which I hear was excellent. On Friday afternoon I did manage to get to a lecture by visiting film critic Alex Leo Serban, which provided something of an introduction to recent Romanian cinema to ignorant parties like me who were unaware that Romanian film is currently, and for the first time in its history, the height of fashion. Apparently these films are winning international awards right and left, but no one in Romania goes to the movies anymore. There are, it seems, only thirty movie theaters left in the entire country. (The younger generation, one student informed us, downloads all its films off the internet. I was surprised that the Romanian public has so much bandwidth at their disposal, since when my friend Betty sent a link to her son's latest film project the other day, my DSL connection wasn't quite fast enough to watch it smoothly.)
I was a bit surprised by Romanian lack of interest in Romanian cinema, as while the Czechs like to complain that their film industry is poorly funded and that not enough films can be made, the urban Czech public, at least, seems eager to see films in the theater. On the other hand, the Czech situation has never seemed to have very much in common with the Romanian, and as regards film, the Czechs have been making very well-regarded films practically since the beginning of time. I did not get the impression that the Romanians had such a long love affair with cinema.
The film shown Friday night, Stuff and Dough (Marfa şi banii) was a worthy effort, but I confess that after a certain point it failed to hold my interest. Yes, it deals realistically with current social problems, but let's just say that I've seen my share of films about long road trips; ditto films about inarticulate, directionless, uneducated, and unintelligent youth; ditto films about post-revolutionary Eastern European crime and social malaise. After a certain point I was very anxious for the protagonists to reach Bucharest and stop having boring conversations; and I'm afraid that nothing about the film's end was at all surprising to me, it was pretty much exactly what I expected. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that the dialog was more engaging in Romanian. When I watch Czech films, I always catch at least a few nuances in the original that just don't get into the subtitles. But I can't say I have cared for all of the recent well-regarded Czech films either. I've been known to enjoy road-trip films (I liked Výlet, for instance, and for that matter Ross McElwee's Sherman's March although that's not quite your standard road-trip film), and I'm not immune to the lure of gritty, depressing films about criminals, disaffected youth, or post-revolutionary malaise. Still, something has to grab me. Perhaps I feel sympathetic toward the characters. Perhaps something appeals to my twisted sense of humor. Perhaps the cinematography and scenery are captivating. Perhaps the soundtrack hooks me (I'm convinced that Fargo works partly because of the music).
Oh well. More films are coming up, and I will get to at least some of them. With luck, I too will get all excited about contemporary Romanian film.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Weininger and/or His Publisher

After having put it off for some time (along with many other things, some of them not academic), I took it upon myself to check out Otto Weininger's infamous Sex and Character (1903), which was strangely influential for a good many years.
I have not really launched properly into reading it, but the publisher of the Sixth German Edition seemed to think that Weininger's characterization of women into the "two elemental figures" of the Courtesan and Mother was something new and striking.
While I realize that every idea was new at some point, I really don't think that this particular dichotomy was new in 1903, and I will be surprised if Weininger himself thought it was. However, the publisher strikes me as much less intelligent than Weininger. The publisher refers to "the programme of the modern feminist movement, with its superficialities and its lies" whereas while Weininger is famous for his misogyny, he did regard all men and women as being comprised of varying percentages of what I suppose we could call male and female essence and claimed that his analysis "turns against man in the end" and "assigns to man the heaviest and most real blame."
Well, we shall see, or that is we shall see if I can slog my way through to the end.
It's not really what I might consider a reward for having drafted yet another postdoc proposal this morning. It seemed, however, time to move away from Reich and the German sex reform movement, and when one contemplates early 20th-century theories of gender, one can hardly leave out Weininger.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Rotating Dancer Recap

For those who were wondering, I have located an online version of the rotating dancer. There are some other instances of her online, but I thought I'd go with the journalistic version.
I don't know whether this actually tests right/left-brain dominance, as various blogs point out that no one seems to have a citation for the thing and one version claimed that seeing clockwise motion meant left-brain dominance while other versions claim it means right-brain.
There does, however, seem to be general agreement that it is entertaining.
Meanwhile, the fact that the rabbits began to shed when the weather turned cold has, as usual, proven their prescience: the weather soon warmed up again, with highs of around 75. (It gets hotter than that in the apartment despite the general lack of sun through the windows.)

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I Complain

All colleges and universities have their quirks, I am sure, regarding what is easily found on or near their campuses. It is possible that, as an undergraduate, I was simply so dazzled at having so many resources within walking or bus distance that I was completely unaware of what was missing, but it is true that I cannot come up with a list of things I felt were lacking at UCSC.
Perhaps I am more demanding these days; the lack of lunch options on and around the American University campus, for instance, may be no more severe than what I experienced at UCSC when I ate most of my meals in the cafeteria. I was, however, very much annoyed at AU's paltry range of choices, which was much exacerbated by the near-nonexistence of affordable lunch in the surrounding neighborhood.
The University of Pittsburgh is not lacking in varied dining possibilities, I am glad to say, although I have been known to complain that when the parking lot near our building was turned into a park, we lost out on all the Asian food trucks, which were replaced by some very unimpressive kiosks. (Since when do I want to pay $1.85 for a can of ginger ale? Why is the food at the Chinese-Japanese kiosk so limited and bland?)
I have concluded, however, that University of Pittsburgh is seriously lacking in any functioning method of informing the world of lectures and cultural events. I have not found its various newspapers very helpful, whereas I relied on UCSC's City on a Hill to provide me with a convenient list of everything going on during the week. At UCSC, if I missed a play, a film, or a concert, it was not because I was ignorant. At Pitt, on the contrary, it is some sort of a miracle if I hear about any of these things. Here, one must either hang out in the correct building (or floor of same), or be on the right mailing lists. In other words, since I am not spending time in the German Department, I have no idea what German films are being screened. Since I do not normally go over to the Music Building, I only accidentally found out that we have a gamelan and that my former gamelan teacher was performing with it. Since I am seldom over at the Theater Department, I am usually clueless what plays are being put on and where our theater spaces are.
I thought matters would improve when, rather tardily, the Russian and Eastern European Center got around to putting me on its email list. (This happened shortly before I went to Prague; I was completely unaware of three years' worth of events prior to that.) Apparently the improvement is slight. I do get numerous emails about lectures on political and economic topics, regarding which my interest is rather slight although I do like to know about these talks. Some weeks back, however, I heard mention of a Russian film series, which was, I believe, occurring on Tuesday nights.
In my vague and dilatory sort of way, I finally got around to checking my emails to find out the time and room number for this series.
Was there, in anything Slavic-related, the slightest mention of such a series? Certainly not! I am glad to say that I know all about the Romanian film series (both via email and because a Romanian colleague has put a poster on our TA office door), but why is the Russian series such a secret? I'm all for improving my knowledge of Russian film, which currently doesn't go much beyond Eisenstein, Vertov, and a bit of Tarkovsky. For that matter, some years I miss out on the Slovak film series, and I usually hear about any Czech series after they have ended.
I feel aggrieved about this.
On the other hand, yesterday I was able to get my muffler fixed with great speed, although at appalling expense.
I suppose one cannot expect everything to go quite according to one's inmost wishes, although one would think that proper promotion of cultural events would be an all-around winner.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

We Pause for Reorganization

I realize that it is perverse of me to enjoy my dissertation as much as I generally do, but I cannot help it. Writing my dissertation is much, much, more fun than most of the activities that others tell me distract them dreadfully from dissertation-writing--things like vacuuming, washing dishes, and so forth. (Petting domestic mammals, however, is an important distraction and Ms. Spots and Orion make sure that I am properly distracted.)
This morning I was quite happily settled at my local cafe with Atina Grossmann's Reforming Sex, a book which I had started to read before going to Prague but not really felt certain quite pertained to my research, since it deals with Germany. At this point, however, I can see that it is chock-full of useful stuff and must be read slowly since it adds considerable useful information to various sections. After all, before I went to Prague, I had never heard of (such trivia as) the early contraceptive Patentex, promoted by the Hydiko store and the related magazine Moderní hygiena, which now I gather was also involved in a small scandal at Magnus Hirschfeld's research institute in Berlin. Nor had I realized what a prolific author Max Hodann was, as I had only come across references to his Czech-language books, not his many German-language articles.
By the time I left the cafe, I felt ready to spend the rest of the day learning more about this sort of thing.
When I returned home, however, I discovered that I could actually see my living room well. This is a rather rare occurrence, as while I have a large living-room window, the only time there is any light to speak of in the room is during the afternoon on sunny days--not a time I am very likely to be at home. The rest of the time, the room is a very dim place indeed.
This astonishing phenomenon prompted me to forget all about Reforming Sex and propelled me into a positively abnormal state of activity. Not only did I vacuum the carpet, but I put numerous summer clothes into a suitcase, emptied another box of art books (not that any of the art books in the living room are in any intelligible order), hung up a mirror, and would have hung up several other things except that they will require assistance. I did considerable rearranging of two closets, which is not to say they are all that usable even now, but they are somewhat improved from their previous state. (I am still baffled at the near-unusability of my three closets, but since I will not be living here long, there is no point in spending money to improve them.)
Ms. Spots and Orion, though they were very much opposed to the sound of the vacuum cleaner, were pleased that I had moved one of the chairs yet again and felt that all the small changes in scenery were for the better, as rabbits like rearrangements in furniture and objects.
They were very disappointed when I gave up all this activity and settled down to scan some drawings and paintings inspired by Štyrský's dreams.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Loathesomeness of Commerce

I will not claim that there is no fun to be had in shopping, but...
Why is every grocery store I venture into so enormous that by the time I emerge I feel as though I have gone on a long expedition into uncharted territory and need a nap before I think about the damage done to my wallet? The Giant Eagle (don't ask me where chain stores get their names) on Centre and Negley was once a normal, ordinary, adequate if unimpressive place to buy staples like baking soda, yellow mustard, and light bulbs. It is now about three times its old size and is busy competing with the Whole Foods down the street. It is hard to find the boring items one seeks amidst all the aisles of kosher, Southern, gluten-free, and other specialty things.
I am annoyed that, for one reason or another, I keep having to venture down to the gigantic mall known as the Waterfront (versus the much closer Waterworks mall). Both of these are designed on the faulty principle that the shopper has to keep getting back into the car and driving further along to get to the next stop on the list. This time I was in search of a new pair of basic black Bill Blass pants since one pair is somewhat tight and the other is reserved for those occasions when for one reason or another I have blown up like a blimp. I had always been able to get these at Kaufman's (department store that paid Frank Lloyd Wright to build Fallingwater for the Kaufman family). However, the store had now turned into a Macy's and there were no such pants to be seen. I did not feel like trying on alien brands that might not fit, so I proceeded on to Filene's Basement, which usually has some of these, though usually not in my size.
Filene's Basement did not have the pants either, but I decided to compromise with a different pair and a selection of socks. I am not sure what the woman at the cash register did, but after I had a chance to examine the receipt, the more competent person at the service desk had to take off something like seven extra charges. I really do not know how anyone could ring up pretty much everything twice and in a random sort of order. I was decidedly not amused.
After exiting Office Depot, I noticed that the tailpipe on the car was hanging remarkably low. This was, of course, after I had just ascertained that the place I used to take the car for service has gone out of business. Within a couple of miles of slow and gentle driving, the tailpipe gave up and dragged on the pavement the next several miles home, giving me that reassuring sensation of driving a junker despite having spent a small fortune on the car back in August or so.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Color-Coded Life

Since, although I'm reasonably pleased at the recent temperature drop around here, it's resulted in my catching what I hope is only a mild indisposition, I have nothing brilliant to say about Reich, Freud, Rank, Krafft-Ebing, or anyone else of that ilk just now.
Instead, I will reveal the color scheme for my filing system:
Blue = school stuff
Lavender = photocopies of journal articles
Yellow = utilities and other such things
Orange = computer stuff
Green = financial stuff
Red = family history
Recycled brown = folders on specific artists
Uncolored Manila = what-have-you
Folders relating to the world of fiction have their own antediluvian, unexplainable color scheme.
It must be noted that in recent years, with the virtual takeover of Pendaflex folders in business, it has gotten harder to locate colors that I was planning to use for specific things. I believe I had intended to buy a box of aqua to put the journal articles in and then couldn't find actual boxes of that color. At this point, to be sure, I would like to have all those articles in PDF files rather than taking up a drawer or so in the file cabinet.
Speaking of things colorful, I like to think that I have removed all signs of carpet beetle infestation from at least two of my dresser drawers, so I put actual clothing in them (although I refrained from putting in anything silk or woolly since you never know). Everything is arranged by color, although this will certainly not last more than a week or so.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Reich Returns to the Scene

It's on to the next set of dissertation chapters, never mind that the ones I've turned in are decidedly imperfect and incomplete.
By happy chance, when I dropped by the university bookstore this morning in search of blue file folders (they did not have the shade of blue I use for my academic filing), I discovered a heavily discounted book on Wilhelm Reich.
Reich is, I might point out, one of the theorists discussed in Chapter 5, and until today his subsection was small and undeveloped. I knew enough about him to have the feeling he could be important, but I really had no desire to try to read his work in Czech translation, so I had been putting him off.
For those of you who might be wondering, this is that same Wilhelm Reich who wrote The Function of the Orgasm and died in an American prison after escaping the Nazis.
The more I read of/about Reich, just as the more I read of/about Fourier, the more I favor him. I am sure he was wrong or extreme about some of his ideas, but on the whole I like him. I am a bit skeptical of the historical validity of his idea (taken from Engels) that human society was once a peaceful, satisfied matriarchy that transmogrified into an evil, capitalist, repressed patriarchy, but this is partly because I'm unconvinced that women are innately better than men and partly because I really don't know what would have turned a contented society into one that sold its women and developed capitalism. I mean, one such society, perhaps, but globally?
Nonetheless, I think Reich's early work is impressive and very much attuned to surrealist ideas, at least as surrealism developed from the 1930s on. I will be picking through Bohuslav Brouk to see how often he mentioned Reich... And then there's Reich's opposition to the Rankian desire to return to the womb. Does this mean Štyrský would have rejected Reich in favor of Rank, or that he would have concluded Rank set out the problem and that Reich offered a solution? Inquiring minds want to know.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Let Me Look Into Your Brain...

My friend Dirk, who forwards me all manner of quirky stuff from the sublime to the truly tasteless (Dirk knows me well, obviously), has now sent me a curious little item involving a dancer's rotating silhouette. Allegedly, if you see the dancer turning one way, you're left-brained, and if you see her turning the other way, you're right-brained.
Whether this particular test is accurate, I couldn't say, but she seemed to go one way for me for a minute or so, then appeared to stop and change direction, and then seemed to go back to her original direction. This is not how she appears to most people; supposedly the meaning was that I'm smarter than the average bear but more right-brained than left since I mostly saw the right-brained direction.
This reminded me of an old right-brain/left-brain test a co-worker gave me long ago which somewhere along the line failed to get moved onto my most recent computer. This test not only checks for right- and left-brain preference, but also auditory and visual. Well, the first time I took said test, I scored 50% on every preference. Subsequent tries at the test wandered around a bit but confirmed that I don't really seem to favor right- or left-brainedness or auditory or visual.
After staring at Dirk's dancing figure for awhile, I decided to see if I could find the old test on the internet. Rather to my surprise, I found it right away.
You too can take the test--I found it at where there are some instructions about taking it (mainly to give your name as 50 because this triggers it to give you more questions, which is rather peculiar).
I still scored right in the middle, with a 50/50 right-left split and 56.8% auditory, 43.2% visual. The personal evaluation tells me I'm well balanced but not a very efficient learner since I use a variety of approaches, not necessarily by choice. But, it says, I should feel content with myself although being a little indecisive and not being as creative as my potential (?! I think this refers to wasting time studying art history rather than creating on my own 100% of the time...). On the whole, the thing seems to know what it's talking about. If I can do something using five different methodologies instead of just one, I'll try to use six. And I wouldn't say that either my auditory or my visual skills strike me as reliably strong. I never know whether I'll remember a whole conversation practically word-for-word or just have a vague notion that it was about X. When certain members of my committee try to get me to remember what Picasso's Still Life with Chair Caning looks like (one of those less than stellar moments from my comprehensive exams), they're lucky to hear me mention the chair caning and the rope frame. I do have a good recollection of Picasso and Braque's favorite cubist color scheme, though.
What the test is missing, in my opinion, is the kinesthetic. This usually seems to get left out by everyone except people who study athletes. For that matter, even people who write about it seem to have a limited understanding of its varied nature. For example, has a pretty good piece on different learning styles and how to study depending on your dominant learning style. It assumes, however, that everyone who learns kinesthetically is fidgety, a poor speller, and good at sports and role-playing. As someone who learns numerous things best by doing them physically, I can assure you that I have never been very fidgety, have been an excellent speller since the age of 9, and was unimpressive at sports until I took up skiing at a rather advanced age. Something is not being gotten across about kinesthetic learning.


Friday, October 05, 2007

Signs of Progress

Now that the worst of the postdoc application process has passed (with application #1 out of the way, there is basic material to use for the others), my thoughts return to the actual dissertation.
Before the onset of postdoc frenzy and computer annoyance, I was in the throes of rendering my first three chapters presentable to members of my committee. Not done, of course, just in a state where it would be possible to make comments. (It's not usual to finish Chapter 1 until everything else is done, as presumably there will be some breakthroughs and inspirations along the way that should be taken account of in the introductory material.)
While that process was not being unusually troublesome, I was putting off writing the section on Jindřich Štyrský until I could get my hands on the big catalog that should be in Czech stores right around now, and the section on the Devětsil group was being rather slow to coalesce. The former problem, I felt, was not something I could do much about, while the latter got on my nerves a bit. After all, it is not as though I was expecting to say anything very new or earthshaking about Devětsil (not every portion of a dissertation is actually stunning new material). No... I merely wanted to give an account of aspects of the group that seemed useful for readers to know for my purposes. Little things like that it was large, active, interdisciplinary, and internationalist. That it changed theoretical direction periodically. That Teige wanted it to go in a Constructivist direction, but paired that with something he called Poetism. And so forth and so on.
I doubt that anyone has written a plain history of Devětsil, as this would take considerable doing. Nonetheless, there are some useful English (not to mention Czech) texts covering the basics, and I have copies of many of the articles and polemics written by the members. My goals for this section were not, as I say, particularly ambitious since the dissertation is not about Devětsil per se. Its Proletarian phase does not relate to Toyen, nor do, especially, the activities of its architects. But Poetism is important and slippery. So I wrestled around with whether the pieces I had written were in a reasonable order, and what more had to be done, and all that.
Fortunately, it is often beneficial to take a break from a recalcitrant piece of writing, so the postdoc frenzy has proved to have a purpose beyond the mere desire to obtain prestigious funding for the next year or three.
I am pleased to say that the Devětsil section is now responding nicely and sounds reasonably intelligent. While I don't imagine it to be a stunning and brilliant addition to the literature on Devětsil, I think it will perform its function nicely and say at least a few things I don't remember reading elsewhere.
This makes me feel very lighthearted as I prepare the next two postdoc applications and prepare to turn in chapters 1-3, all planned to be out by Monday.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Mushroom Season

Julia has reminded me that in Europe, fall is mushroom season. Fall has come to Pittsburgh (the mornings are cool and a few leaves are turning color and dropping, although it still hits temperatures in the 70s and 80s--Fahrenheit--in the afternoon), but as we all know, the United States is not a mushroom-hunting land. Yes, I know a few American mushroom hunters, but that's because I know an odd selection of people. My only personal experience with mushroom hunting was in the Czech lands, and nobody here brings over their booty to share (come on, can't I use the word "booty" in its dictionary sense? you know what I mean! not that anyone has brought over their slang-booty either.).
In any case, I offer up my own bit of mushroom decor in honor of the season. Mushroom Hat and his cousin Peter are Scandinavian, not Czech, but they've been good company for many a year. (It was nice of my mother to let me have them now that I'm old enough not to run the risk of breaking them while playing with them.) They stay well out of the way of inquisitive rabbits by living atop the CD tower.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

One Down, More to Go

Postdoc proposal #1 has been safely sent, on deadline and with all its letters of recommendation. Considering that the thing was mostly done late last week, I found it particularly aggravating that the rebuild of my laptop from operating system on up (still by no means complete, of course) meant I had to go to school if I wanted to make any edits over the weekend, and furthermore meant that I spent until nearly 2:00 yesterday sitting in the library installing Microsoft Office and Acrobat Pro, along with the university's anti-virus program and some utilities.
This was because:
1) the Microsoft Office that was restored onto my laptop required a code that I couldn't find;
2) I write the dissertation in Nota Bene but a good chunk of the proposal is in Word, thus Microsoft Office was needed;
3) the part that was written in Nota Bene needed to be saved to a PDF file so that I could print it at school where they don't have Nota Bene, and my Creative Suite (Acrobat) disks appear to be lost in the void;
4) the desktop computer does have Office and Acrobat Pro, but doesn't want to read my flash drive and my LapLink cable is probably destined to be sold at a postal auction;
5) Office 2007 took forever to install and then had to be reinstalled because it didn't show up on my system;
6) Office 2007 is so different from Office 2003 that very little one knows about how to use Word is valid, meaning that it took me forever to figure out how to insert the one footnote I needed to add, and then it gave it a Roman numeral which I could not figure out how to change to Arabic--something I certainly know how to do in Word 2003--so if a document that has several footnotes in Arabic numbering and one in Roman is a problem for the postdoc committee, well, I say they are picayune and should become professional proofreaders (one of my former careers, I might add);
7) I bought the latest version of Creative Suite, but only installed Acrobat and Photoshop, so when I tried to use Acrobat, I got a persistent error message telling me I couldn't use Acrobat until I had used one of the other programs in the suite, causing me to waste time opening Photoshop, clicking that I would register later, and closing Photoshop.
There was also some time wasted during the hour or so during which the wifi registered as "limited or no connectivity," which I gather is the library's problem rather than mine, but of course in practice I'm the one who suffers while waiting for it to work.
All that said, I was relieved to get the application into the mail and postmarked by 5:00.
And this morning I sat down and wrote up the next one...

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