Showing posts with label Culture as War. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Culture as War. Show all posts

Saturday, April 20, 2024

busy for a Saturday

Huck and Max were a bit lonely today. 

Nu was hosting six people for a sleepover and was way too busy for the littlest sibs. Amusingly brusque, as a matter of fact. It was a little glimpse of Nu as a host or perhaps a parent.

At was in Chicago for the Labor Notes panels. From the pic shared on family chat, I thought At was wearing a retro pantsuit--no, she was rocking a retro skirt-suit.

Big A was off to his 36-miler Barry Roubaix after a muffin-centric breakfast of champions.

And I was off to commencement--probably the happiest day in the academic calendar. I always clap for each of our ≈400 graduates, whether I know them or not. And then after the ceremony, we form a gauntlet for the graduates and it's just such a thrill and such a treat to see so many familiar faces from over the last four (or five) years and celebrate their big step up... and get goodbye hugs from some of them.   

Pic: In my robes for commencement. It always feels like I'm cosplaying as a medieval English cleric. Nicole had suggested angling up for full-length selfies. I guess this is an improvement from my previous selfie attempts as you can kind of see my plaid pants, but I need longer arms.

Friday, April 19, 2024

the kids are better than alright

I love how the the student protests on Columbia University's west lawn have grown despite the 100 arrests yesterday. I'm so moved by their celebrations of both Shabbat and Jumma this evening and exhilarated by the way the repression by school authorities is inspiring students on other campuses (UNC, Boston, CUNY, Yale, Princeton, Harvard, OU) to protest in solidarity.

Our own At is away in Chicago as an invited speaker at the Labor Notes conference. One panel is about "building a multigenerational movement for democratic unionism" and another is on "rebuilding the worker movement" by "salting" from the inside. At the Labor Notes conference, two anti-genocide protestors were arrested and then "de-arrested" after other protestors stood around the police vehicle and chanted for over two hours.

Pic: In the meantime, I attended (boo!) a fairly corporate event, but it was necessary and they were earnest and made me this personalized charcuterie board. (I don't eat salami (if that's what it is), but everything else was delicious.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

"bad idea, right?"

More meetings today, including two terribly fraught ones... including one in the boardroom where 99% of the portraits on the wall are of old, white men. But between prep meetings and debriefs and hallway chats and phone calls about these two meetings, the day went quickly. And all too soon it was academic social time where our very small group (at one point just our provost and me) made a good showing at trivia (although I will always want to kick myself for not coming up with "Echo" in relation to Narcissus). 

Pic: I've been taking more selfies than usual because I have to document wearing non-pants in academic settings for a challenge ("Skirtathon"). And I suck at taking them... how does one do a full-length selfie? I wanted to share the beautiful pattern on my (thrifted)  Rachel Roy dress here. 

Another bad idea is that inspired by all the beautiful ensembles people have put together for the challenge, I went on ThredUp and ordered a bunch of blazers. Blazers. When I already have too many. When the weather is warming up. When I won't have to wear formal work clothes until nearly September. Face-palm.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Spring Awakening

I'll admit it: I booked tickets to go see Spring Awakening because it sounded spring-y and the music was by Duncan Sheik (and "Barely Breathing" started earworming my head as soon as I saw that). I went into it not knowing anything about it, and it turned out to be pretty heavy (violence, self-harm, suicide, child sexual abuse, back-alley-abortion death, etc.). Oy. It took me a while to get into it as it wasn't at all what I imagined it would be like. 

But walking to the theater after a morning working on the pond, and seeing glorious daffodils everywhere, and hearing incessant birdsong, and knowing it was Tamil New Year... all that was suitably spring-like. 

Pic: Intermission pic of the Spring Awakening set since photos were prohibited during the show.

Friday, April 12, 2024


3:30 am: Big A and I get to bed and wish we didn't have to go to work in the morning. Not because we're getting to bed late, but because he's working in Milwaukee for the next three days and I won't be around to say goodbye when he leaves.

5:30-ish am: I wake from a nightmare in which I'm in my modeling days and the make-up artist is someone who appears to be a 14-year-old child. They somehow manage to fix my hair so it looks both straight and frizzy and when I demur, they threaten to call their dad.

6:55 am: I'm finishing up breakfast chores and Nu asks me if I could drop them at the school bus stop because it's drizzling and they just blow-dried their hair. Umbrellas and raincoats are too cumbersome to carry around at school (their locker is too far away from their classrooms).

8:30-ish am: I'm crying in the car because today's Story Corps was terrifying and beautiful.

9:15 am onwards: all my favorite work people are gathered to clap for a colleague who has just taught the last class of their career as they walk out of their classroom. Does anyplace else do this? The consensus is "no." I think this is a lovely tradition. Bonus: I get to have little chats with all my favorite people.

10:00 am-ish: I walk AK back to her building and we take in the Gaza exhibit the YDSA has put up.


Noon-ish: Two colleagues pop by my office to strategize some advocacy work. We're drinking tea and spilling all kinds of tea.


5:00-ish: Mostly work although there is some surreptitious texting during the meeting where I say goodbye to Big A and check in on Nu and then JD and LK are texting about "feeling a breakdown coming on" and how their "soul has left the building."

5:30-ish: I leave the meeting with SD for a work dinner. It's lovely to see all the wonderful work people have been doing. One of my favorite people who now works at the University of Michigan is visiting and has a beautiful handwritten letter for me.

7:00-ish: I'm on my way home and chatting to my mom.

8:00-ish: I get home. Big A has left for Wisconsin, Nu is out with friends, Max and Huckie are so happy to see me. 

The day is almost over for me at this point. The puppies and I share a banana--our evening treat--and then snuggle up on the couch. I finish up the book I'm reading and listen to music while I wait for Nu to get home. Their deadline is midnight.

Pic: YDSA's informational Gaza exhibit. I assumed that the rain had done some damage, but it seems some of the uprooted flags were human mischief. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Eid Mubarak

Showed up for moral support at a student advocacy meeting with the powers that be early in the morning. (I found myself picking pants over a skirt as I got dressed because I feel I'm taken more seriously when I'm in pants. This is probably true, but I hate the internalized femmephobia of this.)

I was so proud of and so moved by the students who showed up, spoke up, held space for others, held their ground, and held us accountable. I may have cried a bit when it was over--they were so brave and amazing. And also, so young and so deserving of not having to spend their time and energy and wellbeing on meetings like these. How is it that we're still working so hard for basic freedoms decades into the 21st century?

I got so much support from the fam on this. From BD supporting my decision to prioritize conscience over diplomacy and career security, Nu's disdainful anger and outrage, and At's organizational chops and doc review. I'm a lucky duck.

Pic: The moon at sunset yesterday. So much celestial activity this week! Growing up in Chennai I remember the Eid date determined by whether the local imam sighted the new moon or not. So friends wouldn't know if they were ending their fasts that day or the next!  This year, I'm celebrating the end of a successful Ramzan with friends across the globe. May there be hope and joy and goodness and good works. 

Monday, April 08, 2024

solar eclipse of the heart

I'd never seen a solar eclipse before... I've watched live coverage on television, but haven't looked directly at one. 

Like the Hopi Indians, Hindu Indians believe the eclipse is a time of meditation. So usually, I just sit in a dark room. But we were in the path of near totality (96%) and this could be my only chance in this lifetime unless I chase one down through travel (unlikely). So I decided to get solar eclipse-safe glasses and peek out.

I'm glad I did; it was pretty cool. Through the glasses, the eclipse progressed as though a set of illustrations in a science textbook. But when I tried to take pictures, it looked like a normal picture of the sun. 

I felt tense in the moments before the eclipse started... Big A was in a meeting with students and residents, Nu was in school, At was at work... I would see them all later in the day, but it was weird being the only human in the house knowing an event of cosmic significance was taking place. I sat with all the drapes shut in the rumpus room so Max and Huck wouldn't accidentally sear their retinas. L and some other GFs were texting to share our experience.  Nu came home just before peak totality (around 3:00 pm) and (superciliously 😛) helped me understand why my phone camera wasn't picking up the eclipse.

On social media people have been raving about how it was a transformative experience for them; I must admit I was underwhelmed. Since I'm transported by even fairly low-key natural phenomena like new grass or birdsong in the city or a regular sunrise, I was really expecting the eclipse to unlock something in me... but nothing happened. So that's my eclipse story: 4/8/2024; I was there.

Pic: The sun is about a quarter of the way through the eclipse here. (Not what I thought my eclipse picture would look like.)

Thursday, April 04, 2024

so very sari

I've been meaning to wear more saris to work, but it is almost always too cold during the teaching year in Michigan. But today was Honors Day, and I wanted to honor all the hard work by students by dressing up for their presentations + had to judge a set of awards + attend a child advocacy event + head to the fancy awards dinner later. (AND IT'S ALSO MY BOSS DAY!) 

So a sari it was.

Five yards of chiffon held together by some optimistic pleating-tucking into a petticoat, two safety pins, and prayers. It all held together great, but I did have to wake Big A up to button the back of my blouse for me. I have no idea how anyone could do that without help. 

Pic: My sweet colleague CP took a full-length pic of me in my office, crouching on the floor to "make me look taller." 💗 The sari and blouse came from my sweet aunt when we were in Bangalore last year. I may or may not have posted this on the secret Skirtathon page Sarah mentioned.

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

I'm just over here

...with Max's heart-shaped schnoz, reading everything I can get my hands on, and grading all the things because it's that time in the world and in the semester.

I'm also taking hope from the "uninstructed" voters in Wisconsin today. I am not alone, and I hope our politicians will listen to us. In the meantime, there are people to love, work to do, and Arabic to learn.

It was an easy day today, overall--the peskiest thing was spending an hour in the car to drop off "meal-train" food. Usually, it would take 20 minutes, but the family had requested it at 5, so I got enmeshed in rush-hour traffic. 

Pic: Max (and Huckie behind him) keeping me warm, soft, and sane. 

(Forgive the lighting... Big A and Nu like a red palette for the rumpus room lighting. It's a bit like being in The Shining in the evenings.)

Tuesday, April 02, 2024

As it turns out...

there was no ceasefire... there was never a ceasefire... And in the time I thought it was safe to look away, the last hospital in Gaza has been completely razed to the ground, bodies have been bulldozed, and more aid workers have been killed in deliberate, precisely targeted strikes. I remember the first time Al Shifa was bombed in November, and thinking it may have been accidental.

I think I will go mad with the children's voices. One says: Bury me with him... My dear brother... my dear brother... where will I get another brother like you? Another says:  I was beautiful before the war... so beautiful... but the war made us ugly... it's the corpses... the war ruined us all.

Gaza will need humanitarian help for a long time, and Big A and I are learning Arabic, hoping to do our part. His doctoring skills are more salient, but when Nu heads for college (fingers crossed) in a year, I'm sure there will be plenty I can do on the ground as well. A friend told me that when someone dies people will say "el bakia fi hayat hom" to their family, meaning "I hope you continue the life (of the person who died)." This is the only thing that makes sense to me now. 

Pic: Big A with his arm slung around Max and a Huckie blur. I kind of need to take Max's place for a while.

Monday, April 01, 2024

Ick and Yay

ICK: Something Engie mentioned in yesterday's comments made me wonder how I know of John Ruskin. It's almost all second-hand (save a few anthologized passages here and there), and from knowing people like William Morris, Tolstoy, and Gandhi revered him. I knew he was radical and sort of a socialist precursor and that he was a friend of the working class because Ruskin College in Oxford offers adult education. (Ruskin was an art prof at Oxford, Ruskin College is not part of the Oxford system, however.) I thought I'd read his Wiki to learn more... there were no big surprises except about his statement, "I like my girls from ten to sixteen" and learning he'd asked women whom he'd met when they were preteens to marry him. What is it with Victorians and the fetishization of prepubescents? That's already ruined Alice (Lewis Carroll) and Little Nell (Dickens) for me. And hurt who knows how many children in real life?

Pic: YAY for yesterday's egg hunt: Huck, Nu, At, and Max. 

I... we all.. missed Scout so much. We were so, so lucky to have him last year.  This was Max's first, and I hide puppy treats in the eggs as well, so he really got into this new game. 

This year the easiest clue rhymed "...arboreal" with "...Scout's memorial." They had a tough time with " could"/ "...birthday dogwood" (the dogwood tree my dear friends got me for my birthday). They didn't get it even after I explained it. "DOG WHAT? DOG WOOD?" They kept asking me. How do they not know what a dogwood is? Should I have taught them better? It made me laugh so much because they sounded so clueless! They're so sweet for still being all in about the egg hunt though.  

Saturday, March 30, 2024

a Wilde arrow

Other people probably already know this, but TIL John Ruskin taught Oscar Wilde at Oxford. In my head, they're very unlike each other: Ruskin a socialist political economist, and Wilde a socialite playwright--but ultimately, I guess, they're both social reformists. (It's a pity how much the whole homophobic case against Wilde weighs on my internal summary of his history.)

I looked Wilde up because of the beautiful lines "And flashing down the river, a flame of blue!/ The kingfisher flies like an arrow, and wounds the air." in his poem "Magdalen Walks." It made me want to check if Wilde had attended Magdalen College. (One of the first and lasting things I learned at Oxford was that you're supposed to pronounce it "Maudlin.") He had. He'd had three years in Trinity College, Dublin, and then another four years at Magdalen--which makes this the longest undergraduate journey I know. 

It kind of connected with my own day... EM joined us for dinner and one of the things we talked about was how we each got interested in Greek mythology. Someone EM knows got into it because its pansexual worldview was different from their own social environment, EM herself got into it because the women in it can be powerful, and I got into it because at some point I followed some childhood book about comparative mythologies and became enamored of Greek culture. Wilde read classics at Oxford--so that's how I'm going to close this loop.

Pic: Redbud beside the Red Cedar from a walk yesterday. Today was grey and rainy all day. (I didn't see a kingfisher, but I will think of them "wounding the air" the next time I do.)

Thursday, March 28, 2024

a day to be proud...

1) of my WGS students who set up 25 wonderful interactive booths to discuss subjects as varied as the female gaze in films, non-binary erasure, abortion access in MI, and mental health for athletes. At this point, all I had to do was backstage manage with tape and pens and flyers and fruit snacks.

2) of Nu who went out with friends for the second day in a row after mentioning their renewed depression. Knowing they understand friends can make you feel better and that they have friends to draw on and the energy to make plans, feels like progress. 

Pic: Students making me SO proud. We were all buzzing with that energy that comes from a performance even as we took the displays down. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

"I'm a weirdo/doofus/nerd/naif" (Part MXVIII)

I realized during my meditation this morning that my energy for contacting so many people yesterday (the "emotional labor" that Steph referenced) must be because of the ceasefire in Gaza making me feel like I could take a personal pause.

Also, I took Max to the vet for his one-year check; he was a champ. I was not a champ. The receptionist brightly asked if I'd brought Scout, and I immediately welled up like a doofus. And then she was so apologetic, I felt bad for her and worse overall. 

But I handily completed a paper proposal titled "Extra, Extra, Extra!: Improving Critical Connectivity in Higher Education" and am particularly chuffed by this: "In Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory, Patricia Hill Collins describes critical theory as critical in a triple sense: as offering critique, as essential, and as expository. In this paper, we similarly draw upon the triple use of the term “extra” to unpack the ways critical feminist practices may be viewed within Higher Education--namely as exceptional, as supplementary, and (in recent slang) as excessive."

Also, Nu's sleepover guests just arrived, and I love the giggly and infectious energy they've brought with them.


Pic: The Red Cedar from the new walking bridge. (Photo's from my walk this weekend. It's another grey and cloudy day here today, so it probably looks the same. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

Thursday, March 21, 2024

small planet, big feelings

Usually on teaching days, all I do--all it seems I can do--is teach and then head home to veg. But today, despite some kid-care challenges, I managed to have tea with BOL and then walk over to the Wharton to see Small Island Big Song with EM. 

When EM first asked if I wanted to go to "Small Island," I thought it was a dramatization of the Andrea Levy novel we both love--it isn't. It turns out to be a beautiful cross-cultural collaboration between musical artists from about 16 islands dotting the Pacific and Indian oceans. I didn't understand a single word... and I didn't need to... the music was so joyous and transportive. I loved the artists' camaraderie and synergism. And their final song about the danger to the Great Barrier Reef sounded sorrowful and (rightfully) angry and nearly brought me to tears.

Things I thought about during the concert: 

1) How my last set of season tickets at the Wharton was pre-pandemic and I need to see about getting tickets again. They have Six playing this weekend, and I would have liked to go. 

2) Because I couldn't understand the lyrics at the concert, I thought about how much my mom likes Nelly songs (esp. "Hot in Here" and "Ride Wit Me") although she probably only gets about 50-70% of the lyrics (because of slang and accent). The kids find this HILARIOUS. (I mean I do too... my mom has never smoked anything in her life let alone an "L.")

3) I hadn't yet finished The Bee Sting at that point in the evening, but its climate grief really connected with the music in Small Island Big Song. One of the characters in The Bee Sting rages about how strange it is that poets keep writing about birds and flowers and so on as though whole species aren't disappearing every day. That is SO true! (10/10 for The Bee Sting, BTW.)

Pic: Small Island Big Song in concert. I'm off to see if I can find their songs on the internet. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Poetry Hour: Mosab Abu Toha

I tuned into the Mosab Abu Toha event for an hour or so during a convenient break between classes and meetings. 

It was an amazing outpouring of solidarity and poetry. He read from Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear and talked about the new sounds he could add to his titular poem.

Pic: A friend grabbed a screenshot of me in a tile right next to Toha's. Something to treasure.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Prep time

So the Gaza talk is done. Honestly not sure how it went because I joined online and couldn't see the audience very well. I heard "outstanding," "beautiful," and "badass" (but all from people I kinda-sorta know). Anyway, I hope it was useful and landed well. 

I spent way too much time prepping the talk--I said as much to Big A this morning while I spent another hour tweaking, tweaking, tweaking... But he said that I should spend all the time I want because it's something that matters a great deal to me. I thought this was the perfect response and philosophy.

Pic: My kids are excited to be... delighted to be... doing some Easter prep. (I don't think anyone would accuse them of spending too much time on prep. 😂)

Saturday, March 16, 2024

polish and stories

Pic: The GFs got together for nail polish. (I'm the one bottom center with clear polish.) 

On the surface, everyone is okay. But as we talked, things about relationships, kids, jobs, coworkers, health, hopes, family, holidays, parents, and fears, kept coming up. And laughs. Plenty of laughs. 

Thursday, March 14, 2024

seeing red

Lysne Beckwith Tait, founder of Helping Women Period, presented to my WGS students today. She also set up a "menstrual products petting zoo" in class for people to check out. As she rightly pointed out, when menstrual cups, discs, and undies are in packaging, it is difficult to figure out if one would be comfortable using them.

I absolutely love the story of the growth of the organization--it started out after a conversation with friends and now influences, advocates, and educates--it was instrumental in repealing our tampon tax last year, for instance. Lysne's book Instigator: Creating Change Without Being the Loudest Voice in the Room comes out later this year, and I can't wait!

Pic: Saying goodbye to Lysne in the parking lot. Of course, the Helping Women Period van is red. Mid-cycle red.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

looking up

At the beginning of class, I make space for students to share what they're presenting/performing/playing and send shout-outs to classmates. Today, one of them mentioned that I would be on the panel for the Gaza teach-in on Monday and said it was a shout-out to me. It was such a small thing, but I felt so seen and supported. 

I also spent time today answering questions for an article on the "uncommitted" vote movement for the student newspaper. Students have been wonderful allies, and their idealism and outrage have helped me feel hopeful for the world. I'm convinced the push by our elderly lawmakers to ban TikTok is because that platform bypasses the hangups and hurdles of legacy media and makes it easy for young people to inform and organize amongst themselves.

Pic: Random, ultra-bright, volunteer crocuses that showed up on our driveway this morning. 

puppy condo rules

Although I don't spend much time in there, our puppy "condo" is one of my favorite spaces. Max and Huckie dislike being in the...