Thursday, July 31, 2008

Oh. There My Pants Are . . .

I can’t remember what drove me to start this blog—I probably wanted to comment on someone else’s, but couldn’t because I didn’t have an account. In the past I actually dismissed blogging as a superfluous bit of attention-whoring. If you need to journal, I thought, then just do it. There’s no need to hold it up for everyone to see unless you’re just in need of attention. But then, after grad school when I had lost my most immediate connections to my peers, I decided to look them up online.

Since I can’t control my urge to comment on everything (which has to make it frustrating for people having a nearby conversation I’m not involved in) I started making wisecracks in the comments of the blogs I found. And then I decided to open up shop on my own platform for making wisecracks.

Initially my intent for the Cynical Dog was that it would be a place where I could express all of the crazy ideas and frustrations that clutter my thoughts and make it difficult for me to concentrate on my serious writing. For a while, it worked. For a while I managed to produce the occasional post that expressed my real thoughts, that used my creativity and skill with language, and that presented my perspective. But then things changed.

After I left grad school I knew the path life would take: I’d get married, I’d work to pay the bills while looking for adjunct teaching jobs, and I’d bide my time until Michele finished her undergrad and figured out where she was going to grad school. Knowing what was in store was little comfort when I finally faced the situation: the wedding went well, the marriage is a good one, but everything else turned out less satisfying. The job I had bored me. I couldn’t get any teaching work. Not knowing where I’d be in a year started eating at me. My attitude, and my blog posts, degenerated.

Instead of thoughtful (if lighthearted) posts about the Renaissance Festival or the Demon Nephew’s birthday I started posting brief, ill-conceived updates, quiz results, YouTube links, and—worst of all—whining. I was ashamed to even log on, so when I did I spent as little time and thought on posting as I possibly could. The longer I did this the worse it got.

Life moved on, though. Michele finished school and we moved. I started teaching again and made some serious adjustments. In a lot of ways I’m in better shape—mentally and emotionally—than I ever have been. But I still can’t seem to shake this general funk. The possibility of full-time teaching work both buoyed me and tortured me over the last nine months. Now that’s done. All the applying, the interviewing, the waiting—it gained me nothing except in experience with those three things.

It’s easy for me to be overwhelmed. Chaos disrupts my mind in profound ways, to the point where I can’t think straight. I know this. I’ve known it for a long time, but it’s a self-perpetuating problem. When my brain spins out of control because of the craziness of my life, I can’t put two thoughts together to get myself out of it. Except that sometimes I do. Another thing I learned a long time ago is that trying to feel better only starts with trying to fix one thing and concentrating on it until I can move on. I can pick one thing and decrease the chaos by a little bit.

Last year I started the vegetarian process and now I’m done with all meat. That was one thing I could fix and I did. Failing to land a full-time teaching job has complicated my efforts to stabilize us financially, but I can still work on that now. So much is in flux, I just need to find the parts I can handle right now. World domination will have to wait.

Another thing I’ve learned is that the more I dwell on the past (and I’m a dweller) the less effective I am. So I’ve learned to bracket what’s come before so I can operate. So that’s what I’m doing now. This blog is done. I’ll leave it up, and I’ll leave comments open, but I’m moving on.

I’m still Cynical (and cynical), and I’m still dog-like, but from here on out I’ll be blogging here.

Addendum: I tried a number of ways to make my blogging life more satisfying, like starting my other blog to compartmentalize my philosophical ramblings, but it didn't work. That blog is also likely to just stop. All posts that would have gone there will also be part of my new blog. Because it's me.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Feels Like the End

Well, it does. Because it is. It's the end of the summer term at Rose State College, so today I turned in the grades for my lone section of Fundamentals of English. It was an interesting term, and I'll give you the breakdown:
  • We had eight weeks to cover sixteen weeks worth of material. We had the same number of class meetings that we would in a normal semester, but instead of twice a week we met four times a week. The classroom time was not a problem, but the students' out-of-class work time and information processing time was seriously truncated.
  • I had thirteen people registered when I last checked before the term started. I had ten on my roster the first day of class. I had eight on my final roster, and I never saw three of those. One dropped the first week of class and another stopped showing up on the last week of class.
  • I had one day with only one student present.
  • I had one day with only zero students present.
  • Since this was a developmental class, it was great that I was able to give them so much one-on-one time. Unfortunately, these students were true developmental students and had the usual problem of unpreparedness. The one-on-one time could have been more productive.

So now I'm getting ready for Fall semester. I have five sections at two colleges: one Comp I, three Comp II, and one Intro to Philosophy. I haven't taught any of these courses at the schools where I'm going to teach them, so I have four preps. This should be interesting.

But now I'm faced with a decision I haven't wanted to make: do I pursue my interests or do I meet my obligations? There was hope through the summer that I'd be able to do both, but that hope died. Actually, the death of that hope has changed me. I'm still going to teach, because that's the only work I've ever done that I think was worth my time, but my inability to parlay my qualifications and general personability into full-time teaching means I'll have to take other work, too. At least for the short term.

So this feels like the end of hope, too. And at the end of the month I'll put this blog to rest and start the next one.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Couple of Books

After the Fire by Paul Zimmer

I wasn't terribly interested in this book when I heard Paul Zimmer was coming to Mankato for a Good Thunder reading in 2002. It was my last year of undergrad and I was finally taking my required poetry workshop with Dick Terrill. Dick arranged for Zimmer to meet with our class before the reading and I couldn't have been less interested. A visit by a poet from Wisconsin who meant to read and discuss a book of essays he'd written about his retirement? No thanks.

But then Zimmer showed up to speak, and my opinion quickly changed. He was witty and engaging, humble and--strangest of all--interesting. He read some poems and took some questions. He seemed like a fun uncle.

Later, at the reading, I was impressed even more by his essays. I hadn't planned to buy his book, but I did anyway, and got him to sign it. Then I promptly forgot to read it. Grad school got in the way, as did the chaos of the last couple of years.

I'm glad I finally read it, though. Whether he's writing about his retirement in Wisconsin, vacations in France, his military service, or his observations of wildlife, he infuses his work with a clarity of recall, a sharp analysis, and a poetic (duh) expression of detail. Compelling stories.

Homeland by R.A. Salvatore

Another nail in the coffin of my connection to sword-and-sorcery fantasy. In my early adult years I ate up stories like this, with a protagonist I liked and just enough exotic setting to distract me from my own life.

Rereading this almost twenty years later I'm faced with a fairly interesting, if underdeveloped, protagonist, exposition infecting every element of the narration (including the dialogue), and the barest attempt at physical detail. This was one of Salvatore's early works, and I know TSR wasn't all that demanding of its authors in those days, but this is really shoddy.

I'm debating whether to commit any more time to its sequels. Or to fantasy in general. I'm leaning toward "not."

Friday, July 25, 2008

It's Just One of Those Days

This blog is likely to end soon, because the person who started it doesn't exist anymore. He died of disappointment and disgust. In his place is a surly, nasty human being who can't even go to the grocery store without finding more to hate in humanity.

I've had it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Another Video of the Moment or Several Germans

The first is Scanner, a German power metal band who liked the science fiction. "Warp 7" is probably the best song on their album Hypertrace.

How about a recent rendition of Kreator's "People of the Lie."

Or Rage's ode to the misfit werewolf?

Okay, just three this time.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I'm Sorry You Feel That Way by Diana Joseph

There's nothing I can say about this book that hasn't already been said better by Very Important People, but I will add my endorsement. The essays in this book are funny, neurotic, and emotionally moving.

Plus, it includes a dog having "relations" with a vocal stuffed animal. You can't lose.

It won't be on store shelves until March 2009, but I'll remind you of it then, too.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Okay, I'm a Nerd, Too says I'm a Cool Nerd God.  What are you?  Click here!
But I'm a weird one. I'm clearly a reader-geek.