Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Comments on names

If you have any comments on the name poll that need to be bruited (if that's the word I'm looking for), then this is the place.

As an update: The baby isn't due until the beginning of March, but it looks like he might be born early. We're hoping not too early, but we'll see.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Google Ads

I shouldn't blow two posts in one day, but I just noticed that due to my many Ideas Girl themed entries, the ads for my site were for Dora and Nick Jr. products. This despite the fact that the most recent post had the words Penthouse, pornography, and David Mamet in it. You be the judge as to which is the least suitable for children.

David Mamet and Penthouse

I heard on Terry Gross once that before he became a renowned writer of snappy dialog, David Mamet wrote stories for Penthouse.

If I ever become a pornography writer --- I should interrupt at this point and mention that I have no plans to do so, not even in the very weak sense that I plan to win the lottery without hactually buying tickets, but one never knows the twists and turns that life throws at us. For example, I had planned on becoming a professor but that seems not to be panning out, so I need to have a plan for all the various exigencies life throws me way --- if, as I was saying I should ever become a writer of pornography, I would like to write porn in the manner of David Mamet.

"Where is it that you want me to stick it?"

"This is the place that I want you to stick it."

Etc. Etc.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Ideas Man on "The Fringe of a Fringe"

When I first went on the philosophy job market, I had an optimistic outlook. Sure, I didn't have the greatest CV on the planet, the kind that young children dream they'll have when they are in middle school and dreaming (as kids are wont to do) of their future in academia --- but for a junior academic it wasn't bad either. But I looked at the Jobs for Philosophers, saw jobs which seemed like a good fit for me and thought, "surely I'll hear from at least some of these." And I did. I heard from some of them that they wanted interviews and from many more that didn't that they didn't. I was surprised that from the vast majority I heard nothing at all (while it strikes me as somewhat impolite, I can understand not sending rejections to people who don't make the first cut, but even places that I had actually interviewed with have not always sent rejection letters, which I find tremendously gauche).

My dissertation adviser wanted me to have a more realistic outlook and so he pointed out to me that what I do, even in the world of philosophy, is "on the fringe of a fringe." At the time, I was somewhat offended (which is why I remember it three years later), but in the intervening three years, I have taken his point to heart.

I think what he meant to say was to suggest that I show my chops by doing research in more mainstream areas. And for a long time I tried to think of projects that were more mainstream, that showed the connection between my "fringe" and the broader world of continental philosophy, if not mainstream philosophy.

When I finally got a second round interview, which disintegrated in a witch-hunt for atheists (are atheists witches?), I got tremendously discouraged. Even if I could successfully present my work in a more mainstream way, the job market was still a crap-shoot, and the sorts of religious bigots (and to be fair, probably other kinds of bigots) also who had made me miserable in my pre-philosophical life were still capable of making me miserable.

But over the summer, I think I've come to terms with both of these discouragements in tandem. At a certain point, I had to realize that the job I lost because I wasn't willing to present myself as something I wasn't wasn't a job that I wanted. Now to anyone outside of the mad world of academia that should sound like a no-brainer. But in academia, where there are way too many intelligent people competing for way too few underfunded jobs, the mantra is that any job is a good job.

Once I realized that I didn't want a job that would require me to be dishonest about my core values I realized that I didn't want a job where I would have to pretend to be more mainstream than I was. In graduate school (and even more as an undergrad), I had realized that I was committing myself to a style of philosophy and a set of questions that were out of the mainstream. And I had abstractly recognized that this might make things difficult for me later. But I had been willing, in the abstract, to stay focused on the questions that I was interested in.

So over the summer I decided that I either had to revisit my earlier decision or else be willing to accept the compromises I thought I had been willing to make.

So I'm trying to take the notion of working on "the fringe of a fringe" to heart (which is not what I think my adviser intended). So be it. Hopefully I'll still manage to land a job. Looking at the experiences of my friends, there seems to be little correlation between the "plumness" of a job and the satisfaction one derives from it. I have friends who have jobs which objectively aren't particularly desirable, but where they are free to do their own work and where they have colleagues that they like. I have other friends who have "research" track jobs but are to busy worrying about politics to enjoy the freedom to research these jobs are supposed to provide.

Of course, none of this explains why I am writing this blog rather than applying for jobs, when the first round of deadlines is fast approaching.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Logic Lessons: Ideas Girl and the World's Worst Behaved Children

I love Dirty Sexy Money (both the noun accompanied by said qualities and the new soap operatic dramady).

But that is only tangentially what this post is about.

If you saw last week's episode, you might recall the gigantic, comically stout 11 year old girl who terrorizes Brian's illegitimate son. (Incidentally, one of the things that warms me to the show is that although all the Darlings are assholes, the only one who is irredeemably so is a priest --- I should also note in passing that childhood obesity is no laughing matter. Fortunately, I do not hold to a representational view of art so I need be troubled by such worries when laughing about childhood obesity ON TV).

Well, Elena and I met the five year old version of that child at the doctor's office yesterday.

We were there because Elena gave us quite a fright a few nights ago when she started coughing and wheezing in her sleep. We went into the room and she was purple. Fortunately, the ambulance came in a very short time and give her air.

It turns out she wasn't choking. She had the croup. You might have thought that the croup, like tuberculosis, could be found only in the Victorian Era and the South. This is untrue. And despite the fact that illnesses accompanied by the definite article are inherently funny (e.g. the rickets, the shingles, the clap), the croup, like childhood obesity is no laughing matter.

But thanks to the wonders of modern medicine and steroids that would put Barry Bonds to shame (I don't follow sports but assume the reference is still apropos), Elena was fine and her breathing is back to normal.

She was left with a cold which remained severe enough to require a trip to the doctor a few days later, however. Now, Elena is far from perfect (actually that's not true, but if I admit this, then the government will want to run tests on her just like 1980s children's movies convinced me that the government, principally the military, wants to --- and can --- run tests on all special children.) But sometimes she is far from well behaved. Frankly, sometimes she can be quite grumpy (lately, more often than not, I have been a "mistaker" if not "not nice" or a "silly goose.") However, when she gets sick she gets extremely sweet and oddly cheerful.

Thus was she at the doctor's office yesterday. Although we had to wait forever, things were going pretty well. We saw some newborn twins that Elena was interested in, we read some books, we played with toys.

And then, they came in.

The uncomical kind of desperate housewife and her two loutish children. We'll call them 4 years old and 20 months. The important thing to note, for reasons that will become clear below, is that the older girl (who really did look almost identical to the girl on Dirty Sexy Money, from her beer belly to her --- and I feel terrible for saying this --- puggish face) is certainly older than Elena and the younger boy certainly younger.

Now, Elena, being more attuned to the schoolyard bully than I, immediately sensed trouble. When the children came over to the play area, Elena said "I don't want him to throw things at me." "He won't," I said. He did. This was early on in the two children's rampage. The older sister (whose seven year older doppelgaenger appeared on Dirty Sexy Money) ran over and tried to take Elena's toy. Because her mother didn't say anything, I told the girl. "Actually, we're playing with that one." Once the girl was already leaving, her mother called over and said "Allie, leave that girl alone." She then turned to another parent and said "they're fine when they're alone, but when they get together ..." and went back to her ineffective, furtive glances around the room.

Meanwhile, the two savages, neither of whom, so far as I could ascertain, had logos, proceeded to actually tear the room apart. They didn't just run around and play with the toys. They were too busy removing every toy they could get their grubby little mitts on and simply throwing it. Well, the 20 month old was throwing them, while "Allie" was moving in front of the entrance to the office (I can only assume so that when her mother shrugged and gave into her request for matches, none of the rest of us would be able to escape the ensuing inferno alive).

Elena watched them in fascination and terror. Another family with two children was sitting across from us, and the father tarted reading his children and Elena a story. Both of us tried hard to pretend that we weren't somehow in the Heart of Darkness, but around this little outpost, apocalypse was in fact now. Then the other civilized family was called back, and Elena and I were left to fend for ourselves.

Elena went back to watching the damage unfold. At one point she said to me: "I don't want him to throw more things." I said to her, "I won't let him throw anything at you, but he is younger than you and sometimes littler children don't know how to play with toys as well as you do."

Elena looked over at Allie. Then she pointed at her: "Is she younger than me?"

She had me there.

"It's rude to point," I said.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ideas Boy, Junior

I don't know that any of my readership remains, but I am looking for good ideas for boy names.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Ideas Girl and the F-Bomb: Or what my Daughter Learned from Dora the Explorer

So, about a week ago, Heather was brushing Elena's teeth, when Elena announced: "fuck." Well, to be fair, the sound (at least the sound I later heard) was more like f-schwah-ck, but phonetically too distinctive to be much of anything else. Heather asked Elena what she said, and Elena again repeated: "fuck." Not wanting to draw attention, Heather left it at that.

Now, for the record, Elena has naturally heard curse words. There was, for example, the time we were driving home from the airport after we had just flown back from Europe, and Heather (jet-lagged) thought I had gotten on the freeway the wrong-way and repeated, several times, the word "shit" which Elena liked the sound of, until we convinced her Mommy was really talking about the ship you could see in the distance, floating down the Delaware River (those of you familiar with this stretch of I-95 will know that you cannot actually see the Delaware River at this point). Similarly, after we once slept through the alarm (yes, Elena usually ends up in our bed at some point in the night), I told her I had been dreaming about boats, something she told people for quite some time (for some reason, she always claims to dream about bees. Thus, a typical morning interaction would go as follows: "How did you sleep Elena? Good! I dream about bees, and Daddy dreamed about a big boat." This sentence is probably a point for Freud and Lacan. Eventually she forgot the boat and the bees.

But I'm pretty sure that we draw the line at "fuck." I am reasonably confident we don't use it (around her -- obviously we use it -- this is why I have to be careful not to hear W --- incidentally, I once argued that he shouldn't be re-elected because I wouldn't be able to control my tongue around my young daughter. If only sound reasoning had prevailed). Although she might pick up all sorts of things at school, mostly, so far as I can tell, pertaining to gender roles, I don't think this word is making the two and three year old circuit yet.

So, where did this word come from?

From a seven-year old explorer as far as we were eventually able to tell.

Now, it is fairly well known that one of the sometimes sinister characters (whose occasional cross-over to goodness makes him resemble Charles Emerson Winchester, more than, for example, Frank Burns) on Dora is named "Swiper the Fox." Swiper swipes things (this means he throws them a few feet away from Dora, Boots et al. unless he is stopped through the formula "swiper no swiping." Ideas Girl will adhere to this idea in her life, respecting that if someone says "no swiping" in time, there's nothing left to do but snap your fingers and say "Oh Man!" It's much more funny to hear her say "You're too late!")

What is less well known is that every country has its own Swiper. This is discovered in Dora World, a Dora Double-Episode Extravaganza, in which Swiper and Dora team up to return the Friendship Bracelets that Swiper has swiped from around the world (or at least whatever part of Latin America or the United States that Dora hails from, France, Tanzania, Russia and China -- note Dora's anti-Australian and anti-Oceania agenda). So, for example, France has "Fifi the Skunk," Tanzania "Sami the Hyena," Russia "Fom-ka the Bear" (pronounced foh-ka); and China "Ying-Ying the Weasel." Each of these most be thwarted by saying "Fifi no swiping," "Ying-Ying no swiping, etc.

It should also be known that I am Fom-ka approximately 18% of the time, and certainly the plurality of the time. I am sometimes Ying-ying, sometimes Daddy, sometimes Boots, sometimes June or any other character from a variety of children's programming. It should be noted, as I believe Ideas Woman, Esq. has commented on her blurty, that Elena and I can sometimes morph genders (she is usually Annie, but also often Tico or Rocket, whose gender is male and whose ethnicity is, I believe Hispanic -- more on this another time perhaps), but Heather's gender is always fixed (I take it this is one up for Irigaray as opposed to Freud and Lacan). So, "Fom-ka! No swiping [me into my car-seat or some object I am not supposed to be playing with]" is often heard in our household.

Finally, it should be known, if the previous examples don't make it clear, that Elena is not 100% clear on the meaning of swiping. It apparently involves any motion and melds with, for example, "sweeping" ["or swooping" or "brooming" --- all of which are synonyms.]

One day, not long after the f-bombs, we stopped hearing "Fom-ka, no swiping." I did not, however cease to be Fom-ka. This led us to our realization: "f-schwa-ck" is the verbal form of "Fom-ka" just as "swipe" is the verbal form of "Swiper." "Fomka fowks" just as "Sami Sams" "Fifi Feefs" and "Ying Ying (presumably) Yings." This of course warms my Heideggerian heart.

Suffice it to say that over the next few days, there were ample chances casually to mention that Fomka, Sami et. al. "swipe." Elena soon caught on, and the f-bomb has disappeared, hopefully at least until Kindergarten.

Now, I'm bracing for the very special Sesame Episode when the Count forgets the letter "O."

Thursday, May 17, 2007


A larger pack of lies you'll never read.

Return of Ideas Man,Ph.D, Part Two: Summer of George

I was probably foolish to try reviving a moribund blog whilst teaching at two different universities and looking for a tenure-track position, thus obviating the need to teach at two universities. The search for the tenure-track position having ended in failure (I was run out of the "great" state of Texas for being a relativist, which I wasn't aware that I was -- but that is another post) and the clock having run out on having to teach, the summer of George has begun. Actually, I have a translation to do, a number of articles to send off, and a book proposal to write, all of which strikes me as an ideal time to once again attempt to revive a moribund blog.