Tuesday, 31 March 2009

So Long, Greece

This gives you some idea of why I haven't blogged for a week. David and I flew into Athens with Tess and spent three days checking out the Acropolis and living in a suburb where total strangers gave us almonds, pastries, blood oranges, and drinks, which was pretty much magical. James flew in for our last evening, and then we caught an overnight ferry to Iraklion and a bus to Chania, where we spent the day eating bougatsa, jogging along the beach, and wandering around the old city before attempting (and succeeding!) to make tzaziki and salad ourselves. (I also made everyone try a bottle of retsina that I got for less than one euro. Everyone hated it, so I finished the bottle myself and pretended I was being culturally sensitive.) David and I hiked to the west of Chania, then spent our last full day taking a bus up the Akrotiri peninsula to Stavros, where we played with dogs on a beach, got yelled at by a shepherd, were harassed by a herd of goats on two separate occasions, climbed a volcano, and managed to eat a loaf of bread and avocado on the beach for lunch with no silverware whatsoever. And then I finished the New York Times crossword over a cup of Greek coffee on our balcony and we went to Tamam for grape leaves and yogurt, stuffed peppers and tomatoes, and boureki for David's birthday, and it was a pretty uniformly excellent day. And then the next 48 hours are pretty much a blur because they involved a bus to Iraklion, exploring the palace at Knossos, an overnight ferry to Athens, a day on the Pnyx and at the National Archaeological Museum, and then various subways, buses, and airplanes from Athens to Piraeus to the airport to Gatwick to Oxford. And now I have to learn to be in a library again and to deal with my badly sunburnt face.

I did follow the flooding in Fargo as closely as possible from Greece. My grandparents were evacuated from their place in Moorhead, and my parents moved everything in our basement up into the garage in case the Sheyenne goes over its banks. My mom said everyone's just kind of sitting tight and waiting to see if the river will crest higher after the storms this week, but apparently they're housebound, school has been cancelled for over a week, all nonessential businesses have been asked to close until further notice, and the National Guard is everywhere. She said it's like a war zone. This didn't really help assuage my guilt after spending the past week on beaches in the Mediterranean, which is part of the reason I might embargo my pictures for a couple of weeks to prevent being kicked out of my family.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

In Which I Put the Grr in Greece

Ugh, I have an interview for a fellowship today and I've been having these mini-panic attacks sporadically over the past few days where I think about the fact that I'm shortlisted for three full years of doctoral funding and a stipend, and I've somehow managed to schedule it so I'm doing a roundtable interview with eight interviewers by Skype in the lobby of a hotel on the fringes of Athens using quasi-functional wifi and my boyfriend's cell phone as a backup. This is pretty much a textbook example of how not to get a fellowship. And while I'm kind of understandably stressed about this, I didn't realize how stressed I was until Tess and David offered to go find a SIM card as I wrote my presentation last night, couldn't find a cheap one, and were afraid to come back to the hotel empty-handed. It's times like these when I actually hate myself.

Anyway, the interview is in 45 minutes, and then I can stop freaking out and let go and let Zeus or whatever. I was kind of expecting Athens to be stressful and urban and then Crete to be relaxing and low-key, but we're a little ways out of Athens and our neighborhood has been totally great. We did walk all over the city to see the Acropolis and Agora and everything yesterday, but we've also just been poking around the suburbs and getting free stuff from random and kindly people who think our cluelessness is endearing. (A couple bought us a giant bag of nuts on the street, and then we went to a bakery and they gave us a bag of free pastries and biscotti, and we were walking through the market yesterday morning and a vendor gave us a sack of blood oranges. I'm very much a fan of this place.) And once James gets into the city after the interview, we're all just trucking around until we leave for Crete on the overnight ferry tonight, and then we'll be in Hania and I won't have any bus schedules or hotel reservations or maps to manage for the rest of the trip and my blood pressure will drop so far that I might die and that is excellent.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

You Can Take the Boy Out of RWing...

Because we'll be taking some overnight ferries and generally bopping around, my goal was to have everything transportable in a backpack so I wouldn't have to carry a duffel bag all over Greece. It's not like I have that much to take, and it'd make it infinitely easier to keep track of my stuff if I could just pretend to be a turtle for the week. I just finished packing, and I am suddenly apprehensive about this plan.

Backpacks are so much smaller than they look.

It all fits if I take a little day pouch for my books and my impossibly tiny camera, but barely. I thought about only bringing four days worth of clothes and then washing them at a laundromat (and by "laundromat" I probably mean "the sink in our apartment"), but this is my only respite until my thesis is due and I don't think it's too much to ask to have soft clothes and not develop soap leprosy during your vacation. So I'm going to throw caution and intelligence to the wind and just wing it with a backpack that I'm pretty sure is smaller than the one I had in elementary school, and when it breaks and I lose all of my possessions, it'll be fine because I could only fit like five things in there anyway. I love budget travel.

Spotify Is the Coolest

I just downloaded Spotify and I've been streaming a bunch of albums that I probably wouldn't buy but are still tremendous, like Alanis Morissette's Flavors of Entanglement, Alphabeat's This is Alphabeat, and the soundtrack to the 2006 revival of Company with Raul Esparza. So I guess I'm one of those people who uses streaming music to freeload off of record companies without actually purchasing music.

That said, I'm currently streaming Tout Le Monde Veut Devenir Un Cat from the French soundtrack to the Aristocats, so nobody can say I'm not being a good customer and using it to expand my musical horizons. Spotify is awesome.

Saturday, 21 March 2009


I'm leaving for Greece in t minus 24 hours, and it looks like we've finally got the buses, hotels, and ferries finalized for three days in Athens and four days mucking around in Crete. If anyone has recommendations for things to actually do, those would be especially appreciated. (So far, we're like, "meh, we should probably go to the Acropolis," so there's plenty of space on the agenda.)

Like the anthropologist I pretend to be, I've pregamed the trip by reading Michael Herzfeld's Cultural Intimacy: Social Poetics in the Nation-State. I'm not sure that it'll be helpful since I don't think I'm going to engage in a lot of Cretan sheep theft while I'm there, but it's the only ethnography about Greece on my list of readings to prep for exams when I return. Ugh, being a vegetarian takes all the fun out of travel.

When Gender Studies Majors Date

"Okay, I need to go to the gym."
"And I'll let you go, because I recognize that you're an autonomous being even if you're not prediscursive."
"Aww, that's the nicest thing anyone's said to me all day."

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Good Morning

"Are you already watching TV?"
"I'm watching Gossip Girl."
"That's like drinking a shot of vodka when you wake up."

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Change You Can Probably Believe In

So one of the weird quirks about my college is that you can turn in your keys over the break and not pay rent, which means that it's actually pretty cost-effective for me to go back to Fargo and live with my parents for six weeks over the break, and that I pretty much break even when I spend the breaks visiting friends and sleeping on their floors. You can justify a lot of discretionary spending when the alternative is spending twelve pounds a night to sleep in your bed.

Except this break I'm going to Greece in a week and then working on my thesis and preparing for exams during April, and kind of want to just spend time with people in Oxford. Since that mainly involves David, we moved in together for the break. Yay!

I'm aware that the ugliest parts of being a control freak resurface when I'm living in close proximity with somebody and start to get stressed about work, and this is why Lee and Cole totally have permission to think this is a terrible idea. The summer we lived together in DC was easily the closest I've come to being an objectively awful person, to the point where even I hated myself. (The problem is that I get work done by setting arbitrary goals for myself, goals which are just barely possible to meet if I work exactly according to schedule without any unexpected interruptions. Then life intervenes and I don't meet them and I just become psychotic. You can see where this creates tension while cohabitating.) So I'm trying to set reasonable goals for the next couple weeks and be a better person. I've abandoned my plan to read three books a day, I'm not going to tweak out about missing a few days at my gym, and I left my keys at my college so I can move back into my room whenever David feels tempted to smother me in my sleep. It helps that I've been trying to be more self-aware and comfortable with change this year, and that makes me optimistic.

(That said, I was called a kitchen fascist yesterday. I'm not off to a stellar start.)

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Minor Victories

- I started lifting weights today, something I've been meaning to do since one of David's housemates described my arms with a French phrase that she translated as "yogurt arms."
- We just played Top Chef: Playskool Kitchen Edition, and I made vegetarian chili with vegetarian beef, red kidney beans, and green lentils, with a bunch of other vegetables that more or less dissolved into awesomeness. David made rosemary biscuits with honey that were pretty much the best thing I've eaten, ever.
- I finally ordered an Oyster card, so now I'm obligated to go into London more often.
- I finished the New York Times crossword today on the elliptical in 45 minutes, in pen, with no mistakes, fully confident that I got all the answers right. As my regular Sunday oracle, that means that this week should be excellent.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Economy: 1, Ryan: 0

I turned in my application for my doctoral program yesterday. I have excellent timing. (To be fair, it's not like I'd fare much better in the workforce with my Women's Studies and Social Anthropology degrees. I'm going to take up subsistence farming as a hobby.)

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Another Procrastination Tool I Probably Do Not Need During What May Be the Most Pivotal Four Months of My Life

Whether I do the doctorate or not, it looks more and more likely that I'll be moving to New York or maybe DC in August. Exciting!

As a result, I'm becoming a Manhattan real estate junkie, and it does not help that things are getting crazy affordable in Midtown. If anyone has any leads on two bedroom apartments for under $2200, I will gladly stop focusing on civil society and governmentality to fantasize about floor plans and bathtubs and granite countertops for two hours. It's like when Aviva and I would look at the real estate section during our breaks at MTV, except this time I'm actually in the market to move someplace for a year and not a destitute intern getting peanut butter and jelly stains on my boss's copy of the New York Times. This is what we call growing up.

(I will still be eating peanut butter and jelly for all of next year, it's just that I'll be making it on a granite countertop.)

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Left and Leaving

I was going to stay up until about 2:30am to watch the L Word on Sunday, but as it got later and later I realized that I would be too emotionally fragile to handle such an epic goodbye that early in the morning. So instead, I woke up on Monday, took a shower, toasted a bagel and made a cup of coffee, and sat down to watch the episode. It felt like a funeral.

But even though pretty much everyone seemed to unanimously hate the finale, I actually thought it was kind of good. I wrote a review of the show last October where I said I thought the strength of the show was its manic, quasi-postmodern inconsistency, which perversely fostered a devoted viewership who identified with the characters and savaged the show when it was at its most awful. (The critics who talk about the show attracting viewers as a show about lesbians are only partially right; it was also that a show that everyone occasionally loved to hate. It's one of the few I've watched that generated genuine communities in its own right, either in viewing parties or on the many, many forums where people freak out about it on a daily basis.)

I thought the finale was kind of bittersweet. As they did the retrospective video montage, I remembered watching the first season as a first-year in college, all of the season premieres at the Avalon in Boston, trekking out to Giselle and Lizz's place to drink a bottle of beer and watch with their cat, the bootleg viewings in the Lowell Grille, catching up with Emma from across the Atlantic for the past two years, and always sort of secretly wanting to be Bette Porter when I grow up. I kind of realized that I'm irrationally attached to this show - not because it's in any way good, but because its occasional forays into wackiness made the experience of watching it in reality even better. I thought the last episode was good for precisely that reason - it tied up a couple of loose ends, but left the vast majority of them untied in a kind of nonchalant, let's not wrap up everybody's lives kind of way. Given the way the six preceding seasons played out, I think anything concrete or comprehensible would have been way too weird.

(Also, I think Weezy murdered Jenny.)

Monday, 9 March 2009

Scratch That

R: how'd you meet?
N: in the OR
R: ooh, that's hot
N: during vaginal histerectomies
R: okay, that is less hot

Sunday, 8 March 2009

This is What We Call 'Culture Shock'

When I'm in serious Type A mode - and I have been, for about two weeks - I fall into habits that are incredibly hard to break. I get stressed when I'm not working by 9:30am and when I finish before 10pm, and I stop buying groceries and put laundry on hold, so that I eat things like bowls of microwaved sweet potato and start dressing like a kindergartener. I pretty much cloister myself in my room. I only emerge to do angry masochistic workouts at the gym, where I run harder than I probably should to the tune of albums that were clearly recorded immediately after the singer broke up with someone. (Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway" is a favorite.) I put off answering emails until it is so absurd that it is embarrassing to answer them. On the rare occasions when I have to interact with others in a social situation, I panic because nothing interesting has happened to me and I've only been taking breaks to watch terrible television shows while I eat at my desk. This becomes apparent I resort to trying to slip new words and phrases like "lacrosstitute" and "that is washed" into daily conversation.

And now I'm free, and I'm kind of impressed because it only took me like 36 hours to start downshifting back into latent Type A mode. Usually, the transition is rougher because I remember how good it feels to just kick ass and take names, and I keep going at a manic pace for a couple days after all of my deadlines have passed. I'm trying to curb that tendency for the time being. I still have a sticky note full of things to do today and tomorrow, but my ability to function in a social situation improved tenfold between pies yesterday afternoon at Pieminister and brunch this morning, where I found myself having opinions about a panel I was on two days ago despite not being able to come up with one coherent thing to say about it less than 48 hours prior. I feel like this is a useful skill to cultivate.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Welcome Back to Humanity, Ryan

I just turned in a 35,000 word draft of my thesis. And now I'm going to go make ice cream sandwiches and watch a solid hour of 30 Rock and sleep for about twelve hours, because that is my idea of a good time.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Thanks for the Nightmares

I have to believe the New York Times could have worded that better.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

I'm a Delinquent

Wow, writing a 30,000 word thesis is harder than I thought. Despite having drafted four chapters already that totalled about 26,000 words, actually fitting all of these together, making the suggested edits, looking up all of the sources that I marked with question marks, and putting together an introduction and conclusion have taken me the better part of two weeks. (I'm launching into the last 48 hours, which is sort of terrifying.)

So despite being totally stressed and not fun to be around, I've still (inexplicably) spent the past week doing random things that severely impair your ability to write about globalization and sexuality.

- On Thursday, David and I went to the Abopalypse as same-sex marriage, which mostly confused people who didn't get the irony and thought we had just come to the party from a wedding. (I was going to go as coral bleaching and just wear all white and dye my hair white, but same-sex marriage was cuter.)
- On Friday, I went to the wine tasting in Hertford, had five glasses of wine, and made the mistake of going upstairs to check my email and impulsively bought train tickets to Windsor to meet up with Christina for her birthday. (Christina and I met kind of randomly in Brussels and ended up going out a bunch of times, and then bumped into each other when we were both living in DC, and now she's doing a master's program in Bath and we decided to rock another country in the Western Hemisphere. She is what I would be if I were a sorority girl from North Carolina, and is one of my favorite people ever.)
- On Saturday, I took the train to Windsor, had dinner with Christina and Anna, had a little celebratory champagne and a sizable amount of celebratory gin and tonic. After gearing up around midnight, we ended up spending most of the early hours of the morning on various stages and platforms at a large, crowded, humid, foggy, and wonderfully sketchy club called Liquid. After we closed that down, we got chips and started watching Ocean's 13 until I fell asleep fully clothed on Anna's couch around 4am. And three hours and forty-five minutes later, I got up and caught a train back to Oxford to meet David for brunch. I do crazy things for North Carolinians and Nutella.
- I spent much of Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday watching Gossip Girl and thinking about Marxism, as I agreed to present a paper on the show at the Oxford Radical Forum on Friday. This was also a bad idea that sounded totally fun at the time.
- So was agreeing to spend all of tomorrow night in Stratford seeing the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of the Tempest. Oops.

But by the time the week is done, I'll totally have a full 30,000 words off to my supervisor and then I can become a normal, likable person again and not get antsy and freak out when I'm not at my laptop by 9:30am every morning. Yay!