May, 2013

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Motivation

Last summer when I agreed to coordinate a tutoring program for the dreaded summer program, the tutorial center got me an iPad. Summer on our campus = construction, which means no space. Consequently, the tutoring groups are spread out around campus, and the iPad was very helpful for keeping in touch.

Our director and other staff members promptly got themselves Zagg Portfolioszagg portfolio

I was a little jealous, so after a year of thinking about it I finally bought a keyboard case of my own. I chose the Logitech keyboard case.

It will be helpful for work, but I am also hoping it will prompt me to spend some more time posting here. At least that is what I tell myself. ūüėČ

Tea Party

This weekend I had the rare opportunity to play dress up and meet up with the girls. Several good friends are getting married this summer, so this was my first weekend of bachelor-ette activities. Yesterday, we all met in Greensboro for tea and a nice dinner. ¬†While I realize it is probably nothing like the real thing, I love having the “British”tea at the O’Henry. The scones with clotted cream and lemon curd were extra yummy. Everyone wore cute dresses and we sipped our tea like ladies.¬†Dressed up for teaI don’t have a full length mirror so you can’t see the dress, but I like this picture because I feel like I’m finally showing my age a little more. ¬†Maybe no one else would notice how my smile lines have deepened or the crows feet around my eyes, but I like them. Later this year when I actually turn 40 I might change my mind about that, but for now I like looking a little older.

The best part of yesterday was just getting to hang out and chat with old friends and new.  Dr. Poet-pixie was at tea, and I finally got to meet her husband afterwards.  I even managed to squeeze in a quick visit with Dr. Ouiser. I think that is what I miss most about our new location is the ability to just go out with the girls.

It even made me feel a little better about academic life because I got to talk to other academics and realize it is pretty much the same everywhere.  Yes, that is oddly comforting.  Most importantly I learned about a new lipstick.  I need to get some Clinique Black Honey; apparently it has the Real Raisin property of looking good on everyone.

Floundering …

Arguably, I think my strangest reaction to finally graduating is feeling all dressed up with no where to go.

Brandy in regalia

Sure I have some fancy letters by my name and a little more time on my hands, but everything else stayed the same. Same job, same husband, same dogs, same projects looming …

The kicker is that now I have the time to research and write, but I don’t know what to write about. Do I start another big project (book length)? Do I try to get some articles out for review? Do I update my Vitae and get ready for the market? ¬†Do I chuck it all and really delve into a project about corpses on television? (Because, yes, I am interested in that.) Or, maybe I actually try writing that detective novel that keeps poking around my head? As usual for me, the more options or time I have the less I know what to do with myself.

At least I finally managed a mid-week post!

NBC’s Hannibal pt. 1

Regardless of what I ultimately decide about¬†Hannibal –¬†because the verdict is really and truly still out – the show does represent a remarkable step forward in network television. If a year or two from now you stumbled upon this show on Netflix you might think it was made by AMC, FX, or Sundance. There is the often visceral and gruesome nature of the show, but also just the cinematic quality of production. The show is beautiful, if nothing else. The other disclaimer I have to add here is that I have not seen the pilot. ¬†I have seen every other episode available through NBC, so I don’t think I have missed much.
As beautiful as the show is, and as much as I have always wanted to know more about Will Graham, I think the writers have made some serious mistakes along the way. The first and foremost is the title of the show,¬†Hannibal. ¬†The show is, and should remain, ultimately about Will Graham, and while I appreciate they wanted to ensure an audience for the show, insinuating that Hannibal Lecter is the center piece of the show is only reinforces the audiences expectations for the show to adhere to the established universe of the books and movies. ¬†And, about that universe …

In¬†Red Dragon¬†Hannibal Lecter has already been apprehended and tried. He is a bit character to whom Will Graham turns for help as he searches for this new killer. During their interactions the reader/audience learns that Lecter had served as a consultant for the FBI and that Graham was instrumental in catching him.¬†The television show functions essentially as back story for¬†Red Dragon¬†by showing the audience Graham and Lecter’s relationship while Lecter was killing.¬†As such, by choosing to make Hannibal Lecter the titular character and focus the show on his relationship with the FBI the writer’s have built in a finite timeline for their show. Eventually, within a season or two, Lecter has to be caught and the show either risks having to re-tell/revise Red Dragon, or trying to re-tell an already established book and movie. While Will Graham is certainly an essential element of this show, had the writer’s chosen to begin with him, to make his character or Jack Crawford, the central element of the show, they could have bought themselves a longer time line.

The other thing the writer’s have done is contemporized the story. Characters have cell phones and iPads, and that has led to other important changes that are problematic, and make the show a prime example of embedded feminism.¬†Red Dragon¬†and¬†Silence of the Lambs¬†were products of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, and while it might not seem that long ago, the period is important to their stories. ¬†Red Dragon¬†is a boys club of a novel. ¬†Jack Crawford entices Will Graham back to the FBI to solve one more case. Graham visits Lecter, consults with psychologist Dr. Alan Bloom, and works with a reporter Freddie Lounts to help entice the Red Dragon to attack in order to catch him. The only major female characters in Red Dragon are Francis Dolarhyde’s dead domineering Grandmother and his co-worker Reba McLane. This boys club is important for two reasons – one it is an accurate representation of the time, and two it lends importance to Clarice Starling’s appearance on the scene in¬†Silence of the Lambs.

Starling’s struggle to break into this boys club is one of the most essential elements of¬†Silence of the Lambs. For me, the two most striking scenes in the film the opening shot of Jodie Foster making her way to Jack Crawford’s office and entering the elevator with a crowd of men towering over her, and when she explains to Crawford that how he treats her in front of local law enforcement officials matters. ¬†His treatment of her is important because it demonstrates to the other men how to treat a woman in a male dominated field.

NBC’s show is populated by a nearly equal number of men and women. ¬†Dr. Alan Bloom has become Dr. Alana Bloom, Hannibal’s own psychiatrist is a woman, Freddie Lounts is also now a woman, of the supporting cast of technicians a woman has also been added, and in the FBI classes Will Graham teaches also represent a gender parity. This parity in representation functions as embedded feminism, making it appear that women have at the very least achieved significant representation in the work place. ¬†This is problematic for me because the universe this show is establishing does not pave the way for Clarice Starling in¬†Silence of the Lambs. Starling’s gender set her apart from the rest of the investigators, and it is what gave her the insight and ability to find Buffalo Bill. ¬†In the world this show is creating, those elements would not be essential in the same way.

Finding a muse

The most amazing thing happened this week! I met my good friend Dr. D, who is so like me it is eerie, for lunch. Apparently being born in 1973 led to some pretty twisted personalities. In addition to getting our Ph.D. in the same field (at different institutions with different specialties), Dr. D and I share a love of crime novels, BBC crime/mystery shows, Discovery ID, and a healthy fascination with serial killers.

The idea of a healthy fascination with serial killers could seem like an oxymoron, but hear me out. While she and I will both spend hours watching Discovery ID and Biography specials, reading mystery novels, etc, each of us maintains an empathy for the victims, and neither of us is going to start writing letters to prisons any time soon.

As I have written before, though perhaps not here, I believe my fascination with serial killers stems from having grown up in the Pacific Northwest. Although Bundy had been caught in Florida by the time my family moved to Washington, the stories about Bundy and his preference for girls with long straight hair parted down the middle were still omni-present. Those stories also held a particular fascination for a 10 year old girl with long straight brown hair that parted in the middle. I’m not saying any of his victims really looked like me,Bundy's Victims image from http://justmeinthisbox.tripod.com/BUNDY.jpg but they did present a window into what I could look like when I grew up. By the time we moved from Minnesota/Canada Bundy’s Washington¬†siege¬†was over; however, Green River Killer victims were being found at an alarming rate through a good part of my childhood.

Dr. D, I learned that first day we spent getting to know each other, grew up in Atlanta during the Atlanta Child Murders. While she did not fit the victim profile for those murders, the similarity between our likes and fascinations seemed to bolster my opinion that growing up in the shadow of an active serial killer leaves a mark. It is not any one thing I can describe clearly, but I do not¬†believe¬†the similarities between Dr. D and I are that odd when you take into account our formative environments. Children pick up on so much more than we give them credit for, and I couldn’t even guess at the consequences this contemporary melange of misogyny, sex, and violence will have.

Anyway, I think you can see why Dr. D told me I needed to watch Hannibal and tell her what I thought. It might also explain why I broke through my television ennui to actually do it. Dr. D’s recommendation, and my love of the characters in Thomas Harris’ series, led me to go so far as to get the NBC app to catch up to where the series is now. Having admitted to my love of this particular set of Harris’ characters, I also have to give this disclaimer – that love doesn’t extend to some sort of desire for utter faithfulness to Harris’s world or vision. While I enjoyed the book¬†Hannibal, I think there are some important ways the movie is better, which is also true of¬†Silence of the Lambs. All of which could be the topic of a different set of posts.

The television ennui I mentioned above extends over the whole of my life. ¬†Being truly done, having finally received my Ph.D., left me at some fairly significant loose ends. Sure, there is more time to fill, but I haven’t had the drive to fill it with anything. The last two weeks I have spent poking at things – starting crochet projects instead of finishing the ones I already have, whacking snakes in Tapped Out, looking at the mess of a desk I still need to clean up, and wanting to write a blog post here or there – but not feeling like I had anything to say. So, something pretty amazing happened as I began watching NBC’s¬†Hannibal,¬†I realized I had something to say. I won’t make any promises about the speed in which I will write these posts, but I do know there are at least two different posts coming about this show.

Slow re-entry

After re-posting my Rizzoli & Isles pieces, I’d hoped to jump back into posting. ¬†As you can see, however, that jump has taken a little longer than expected.

Perhaps it is the space I’m in. ¬†Once again on the threshold – graduating, but not done with formatting for the graduate school – which really makes it feels like stasis. ¬†Since the defense people have started referring to me as Dr., but it doesn’t feel like I am there yet since I’m still making corrections.

Well, I guess that leaks what could have been the first major announcement of this re-boot.  Yes, I successfully defended my dissertation! No, I have no idea what I will do now.

Here are just a few of the questions to which I have no answers:

  • What happens with my job? What about the significant budget cuts the state just announced?
  • Do I want to go on the market?
  • If I do, what kind of job do I want? Where do I want to be?
  • Do I want to stay in Academia?
  • What do I want to do with this blog? What do I want to write about? Do I want to continue to write with a pseudonym? Do I want to attach my name to this space?
  • What am I going to do with all my “free” time?

The only thing I can tell right now is that I need to keep writing. ¬†For at least two weeks now I have barely looked at my computer. Any online presence I’ve had has been through my phone or iPad, and the only writing I’ve done has been at work, for work.

While this abscence has been cathartic in a way, I also think it has led to my ennui in other areas. I haven’t really been crocheting or watching television or walking or anything but playing games on the iPad. None of that is good for me.¬†The other day, while the DH and I waited in the Dr.s office for 2 hours, I said to him I need to do something – take a dance class, try growing vegetables again, anything. What I realize now is that I also need to start writing again. ¬†As you can probably tell that means this space will probably be fairly introspective for a while as I try to determine where to go from here, but I will try to keep the navel gazing to a minimum.

To my surprise I have actually found myself returning to academic research. I expected at least a summer long¬†moratorium¬†on reading anything remotely academic. ¬†However, this week I have been to the library twice, and this morning started reading again. I started with¬†Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics: Landmark Essays and Controversies. ¬†I’ll let you know how it goes.