Thursday, July 01, 2010
Canada Day Miscellany
First of all, Happy Canada Day! I hope you’ll all be raising a frosty mug of some real beer (none of that watery American stuff) in honour of our national holiday. Then we can all do the same again for the 4th of July.
I haven’t been doing much around The Valve for a while, as I’ve been teaching a spring class (13 exams left to mark, but not, I promise, under the influence of my Canada Day celebratory beer) and trying my hand at some new editing work for Open Letters Monthly--and speaking of Open Letters Monthly, I know there are a number of Valve-ers who have been watching Mad Men, and the July issue of OLM features a thought-provoking analysis of Betty Draper in the context of Edith Wharton, Gloria Steinem, and Betty Friedan that you should check out:
In the person of Betty Draper, Mad Men has resurrected a beautiful neo-Victorian horror that brings to mind the cruelest moments of Wharton’s The House of Mirth or The Age of Innocence: the crushing weight of unearned privilege, the vanity, cruelty, and boredom of women always on display, the Puritanism and decadence of old money: all of it embodied in a type we thought had been deconstructed and clichéd into irrelevance: the pre-feminist suburban housewife. Even as viewers root for the rise of aspiring career girl Peggy Olson and trace Don Draper’s ambivalent and self-loathing ambition, the show transforms itself into an elegy for a long line of seemingly fortunate women suffering beautifully from the most gilded of cages. (read the rest here)
Also featured in the July issue is my own essay on Vanity Fair which began its life as a (much, much shorter) blog post here at The Valve.
With the spring course almost filed away, I’ve been starting to realize it’s summer, and this post by research consultant Jo VanEvery on “Summer Contradictions” struck a chord:
Many academics eagerly anticipate summer as a period free from teaching and service obligations in which they can finally get some Real Work (TM) done.
You are understandably peeved with acquaintances who think you get the Whole Summer Off.
At the same time, the summer feels like such a short period of time in which to do this work that carries so much weight in the rewards system. You feel it would be irresponsible to take any time off at all.
There is a happy medium.
Multi-tasking might be a myth, but some of the work you need to do mixes very well with gardening, going for long walks, biking, or sitting on the patio staring off into space.
Thinking big thoughts, for example.
There is no reason you have to sit at your desk to think big thoughts.
Indeed, sometimes sitting at my desk seems antithetical to thinking big thoughts: it’s just too distracting there, and it just feels too much like business as usual. Do you have summer routines that help you get in touch with your inner big thinker? And how do you cope with the academic anxiety about being caught having fun? I’ve been thinking about this issue lately specifically in the context of reading: I know I need to use the summer for some deep, specialized reading if I’m going to make progress on the kinds of research and writing projects that count professionally, but I feel an equally strong compulsion to use the luxury of time without teaching to broaden my reading. How do you choose your reading priorities for the summer?
Indeed, Happy Canada Day and although I’m a Texan, your beer IS BEER! :)