June 30, 2003

Mucking the stall

Ok... It's been a long time since I've written anything on my blog. It's true. It's not entirely my fault either... but keeping up with a blog was one way that I was attempting to get myself into a more disciplined routine for dissertating. So now, I have no choice. I need to start working again. And as a result... I need to clean my @$#% office! It's amazing to me how quickly semesters' worth of old notes, junk, notebooks, student exams, assignments... all kinds of things, begin encroaching on the little sliver of sanity space that you carve out for yourself to work in. I'm amazed to find that I have notes (good ones) that date back through college... even high school. My mother periodically calls and asks when I'm going to get up the guts to throw away my notes from 5th grade. Honestly. I don't know what I think I could actually *use* them for... I dunno... maybe one day my child will be sick and need to copy them in order to keep up? In any case, it's come down to the wire now... we need to make more room in our appartment, and I need to find new ways of making my office area leaner, meaner and more effective. But this leaves me with the following questions.

How long does someone save their notes? Where do you put them once the semester is over? I've got binders upon binders worth... but then there are notebooks, coursepackets... all kinds of handouts... Does anyone keep these? Have you ever found a use for them? I mean, I have this fantastic packet of post-colonial readings.... They're really good selections... but am I going to use them again? Maybe. I mean... Maybe if one day someone asks a really good question about a Derek Walcott... I can look up my post-colonial packet and say... "Ah... this is what Spivak would say to that!"

But then again, how likely is that? Or, is it assumed that if I haven't committed all of it to memory by now... that I'm never going to remember where it is anyway? I mean, I take some pretty good notes... I still have my Honors American Literature study guide for my high school American Lit final exam. Mind you... it was a good class... I learned more in it than I did in my 19th century American lit. class in college. But it's highly unlikely that I'm going to have to take that exam again... and yet... I can't seem to part with this relatively insignificant piece of paper.

There is another category of notes... these slightly more useful... that also seems like one of the largest self-created organizational nightmares ever. Qualifying exam notes. Now, some of these have, as you could guess, turned into disseration notes. Those have a special place. But at the same time, I went at taking background notes for this exam with a particular... shall we say... gusto. By background, I mean lists of facts, dates and publications for over 75 poets and 20 fiction writers. I have 14 spiral bound notebooks with background information/articles/fact sheets on various poets, poetic movements, literary movements, etc. I tried to use them to produce some of my lectures for last semester... the only problem was that my 10-minutes-at-the-beginning-of-class lecture turned into a 6-page, typed, single space lecture on topics such as realism, naturalism, lynching, the American Dream... so on and so forth. About mid-way through delivering one of these (admittedly) boring letures, I looked up and realized that I'd completely lost nearly half the student population to a bizarre condition that included nasal wheezing, drooling, and lack of eyelid control. Not my most astounding classroom performance.

So, I ask... what do you do with these, quite literally, tons of accumulated bits of paper upon which you have poured out your time, effort, energy... and one might hope learning. Do you admit to yourself that you're never going to be able to find the notes you need when you want them and simply resign yourself to looking it up again the next time you need it? Or, do you simply allow yourself to continue to be subsumed by pounds upon pounds of old notebooks, notecards, folders, and binders... hoping that if nothing else... they might provide the same function as barbells... something to lift, shift, and shuffle somewhere new at the start of each new term.

That's all I can handle for now. I'm off to throw out old exams (it's ok if they haven't picked 'em up in 4-5 years, right?) and perhaps even find a way out of this academic wasteland!

Posted by c_jane at 1:57 PM | Comments (8)

June 10, 2003

Calamity Jane

When I proposed this title to Jason, he asked, "Was there really a person named Calamity Jane?" In fact, Calamity Jane's biography, as Dave will be interested to hear, is a combination of folklore, fabrication, and that necessary element of the truth. Admittedly, the title came to me before any kind of rationale... but at the same time, I realize that perhaps there's a little bit more at work in the back of my mind here than I was willing to admit right away.

In any case, let's start with Calamity. Born Martha Jane Canary in Princeton, Missouri on May 1, 1852, Calamity Jane was orphaned at a young age and, as the legend goes, began roaming the western territories, especially mining districts. She was married to Clinton Burke in 1891, but he left her shortly after their marriage. Among her accomplishments, she has been credited with being a Pony Express rider, saving ambushed caravans, and coming to the rescue of one Captain Egan. Calamity describes her naming this way:

"It was on Goose Creek, Wyoming, where the town of Sheridan is now located. Capt. Egan was in command of the Post. We were ordered out to quell an uprising of the Indians, and were out for several days, had numerous skirmishes during which six of the soldiers were killed and several severely wounded. When on returning to the Post we were ambushed about a mile and a half from our destination. When fired upon Capt. Egan was shot. I was riding in advance and on hearing the firing turned in my saddle and saw the Captain reeling in his saddle as though about to fall. I turned my horse and galloped back with all haste to his side and got there in time to catch him as he was falling. I lifted him onto my horse in front of me and succeeded in getting him safely to the Fort. Capt. Egan on recovering, laughingly said: ``I name you Calamity Jane, the heroine of the plains.'' I have borne that name up to the present time. "(From "LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF CALAMITY JANE By Herself" at http://www.blackhills-info.com/calamity_jane/CALAMITY.htm)

Other biographers question the validity of Calamity Jane's account; however, most agree that her name emerges from one or a combination of these three phenomenon: her constant spells of bad luck, her unflagging willingness to help those who needed it, and/or the fate of her enemies (owing to her uncanny skill with a pistol).

As an anti-gun kind of girl, myself, I still wanted to pay homage to one of our most colorful and bold female historical legends. Calamity Jane has gone out of fashion. Unlike Pocahontas, she has no Disney film honoring her achievements. She is not a popular literary figure or acknowledged by feminist academics. This could be for a combination of reasons. Perhaps Disney, despite the Southern Baptist Convention's protest, is afraid of her cross dressing past (or maybe it's the spitting...). Or perhaps it is that praising the manifest destiny American past is hardly an academic hobby horse. So, Calamity Jane slips through the cracks.

Therefore, I've adopted the persona of Calamity Jane for my blogging. Most of the people who visit the site know who I am in RL. But for here... I'll be Calamity Jane, taking aim with words instead of bullets.

Just for kicks... You may enjoy the Calamity Jane site. If you know French, you may enjoy the French version of an American Western. I got a hoot out of it.
Posted by c_jane at 8:42 PM | Comments (6)

Tossing the lasso

I'm tossing my lasso out there to see how this goes. Hopefully, I'll be up and running soon.

Posted by c_jane at 7:50 AM