Friday, September 26, 2008

cere bellum

My brain is staging a revolt. When I sit to write, I feel overwhelmingly tired and I'm having trouble creating coherent ideas. This isn't caused just by sleeplessness; it is also mental fatigue. But I need my brain to put off the revolution for just a bit longer. I think I'm close to wrapping up my chapter. (which is very different from achieving the sense that the chapter is acceptable to send off without apologies. I've realized that I have to give up on such a luxury.) A break from this grind is a great idea, but it won't work until I have some closure. It is always on my mind (to the point that S has begun to disparage by abilities as a lizard-catching assistant). So, a true 'break' has to come with a release from the weight of this albatross. O.k. heading back to the task now (which includes corralling my wayward mind).

Monday, September 22, 2008


These past three weeks I've been in a hazy writing fog. I've taken these weeks to "finish" my chapter and the days I've slunk beyond my deadline continue to pile up. I have increased my work routine: I haven't done any new research and I've been staying up late writing (which I don't do on regular work days when I comb sources because after 9 o'clock my analytic skills are at their ebb). Now, I've achieved a sleep-deprived state of mind: easily distracted and agonizing over just finishing the chapter. My days tick off with anxious anticipation, frantic work, discouragement, then I repeat. While I have put together various parts and found great evidence for my points, it still is not done. This is a very discouraging situation.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

new/old danger rooted out

So, this post is a sign that I should stop reading the local rag and just write my dissertation, because I keep getting side-tracked (or, perhaps, blind-sided) by the things people around here do.

I recently learned that long hair on boys is distracting to eight-year olds and prevents them from learning third-grade things. No news yet on how long hair on eight-year old girls distracts fellow students and prevents them from learning, but I'm on the case and will file an update as soon as that news flash comes across my wire.

Fortunately, the OC Register uncovered this haircut or I never would have known what trouble follows the long-haired. (Perhaps you long-haired readers have tales to tell?!) If you go to the link and scroll through the pictures, you can see for yourself the physical transformation a haircut wrought in young Nipa. (My favorite is the pre-cut "halo" picture.) If you're wondering how Nipa's hair got so menacingly long, it was his parents (and their parents and theirs, going back generations). Curiously, Tonga is not like the United States (IMAGINE!); there long hair is admired and, apparently, not indicative of soon-to-come disorderliness. But Nipa's parents decided that Nipa - the only one of their boys to keep his hair long because, in his words, "I just like it" - should follow the school rules and get his hair cut.* Doing so, the Tuitahi family earned the uproarious applause of OCR readers (scroll down through the comments at your own peril). These readers must know too, that rule-breaking and long-hair are sure signs of criminality. Out of no concern for the rest of us, though, OC'ers are keeping mum about these secrets to an honest life. And I know they're tight-lipped because we students were not made aware of such deviance when I was in high school (in Montana). Several of my Sioux and Crow classmates (who were male) kept their hair long! They even defied rules dictating young athletes' short hair length, citing some flimsy rationale of "tradition." Fortunately OC'ers have vice-principal Dan Moyer who has found the solution to long-haired males and to the southwest's diversity more generally: "if we make an exception for one we'd have to make exceptions for others." So, breath a sigh of relief! The OC possesses the solution to rid the country of those long-haired deviants and it is equality! After all, being uniformly insensitive to all cultures** is the essence of modern equality (much like language conformity. Wait! I see a pattern emerging....)

*Bear in mind that this is a private, Lutheran grade school.
**Except that ONE culture; you know which one I mean.

Monday, September 8, 2008

the profession and pro bono

A few weeks ago, R received an interesting request from a New-York based ad agency/PR firm. The agency/firm asked him - in his capacity as a historian of the American West and of tourism - to contribute to their new project for Rosewood Resorts. Apparently, this highly-exclusive hotel chain had just renovated their Rancho San Ysidro Resort.* And the resort wanted to expand the (mythic) Californio experience for their guests. According to the agency/firm, R could contribute to this by compiling a list of recommended readings - fiction and non-fiction historical - for guests to imbibe while lounging at San Ysidro. R considered it (he figured this crowd would probably go for Ramona over Factories in the Field), and he replied to ad agency rep saying that he would be happy to compile a list. He told her he charged $100/hour and the project would take between 2 and 3 hours.

Imagine his surprise when ad agency rep replied that big NY ad agency (which advertises for, among other companies, Porsche) had not allocated a budget line for this particular aspect of the Rosewood account. In other words, she expected him to do this for free. I think R was annoyed; I certainly was. In what world do professional historians - who have spent years professionalizing and refining their skills (and this, just to get to the job market) - give away their specialized training? And to a for-profit ad agency developing promotional materials for an overpriced, for-profit luxury resort? Moreover, what does this say about the impression that ad agency rep has of historians? (She could have been a recent graduate who thinks that history professors just teach - and do all this "other stuff" without getting paid. She could be a seasoned rep who considers the work that historians do peripheral to her world of multi-million dollar advertising accounts.) Perhaps the most disturbing part of this story is that ad agency rep will probably happen upon some beleaguered person with a PhD in history who will do this work for free.**

So, I hope that if you're a scholar (or a scholar-in-the-making), you never do something so professionally demeaning. And if you happen to work in advertising, remember that my colleagues and I expect to paid for the work that we do!

*Nightly rates at San Ysidro begin at $650/night and go up to $6000. Did I mention that the resorts were highly-exclusive?
**Despite the title of my post, this work is NOT pro bono as it contributes nothing to the greater good. (I support historians who do actual pro bono work from time to time.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

first day

My dear girl started back to school today. I recalled all of my first days - the excitement and fear. Best wishes to everyone else on your first days (in and beyond the classroom)!