freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
oh, gods, board schedule checking season. This is, as we know, always obnoxious and horrible and causes me to erupt into irritation and then crash into exhaustion and illness more or less annually. It transpires, however, that previous years of board schedule checking were in fact a kind of lost idyll, a Nirvana whose like we shall not see again. Because, see, in previous years the administrative section of the faculty office has been, while increasingly troubled, at least functional. This year it was not. This year has slid straight down the slick glass slippery slope into resentful, resistance-laden anarchy.

I have a hard deadline of 10am this morning, which is the time my large cohort of carefully-trained academics arrive to collect their giant chunks of printed board schedules for checking. In order to facilitate this, the administrators in the faculty office needed to produce the final files of student records by 4pm yesterday and send them off to the print shop in order to print overnight, as it's five or six hours of printing non-stop. At 9.30 this morning, unable to discover board schedules in any likely or logical place, I finally tracked down the deputy faculty manager, to find her frantically copying files onto a stick. For printing. To take to the copy shop now. Because apparently in her world five hours of printing fits into half an hour.

I have basically, in a mode comprised of a slightly worrying mix of dominatrix and mother, wrested the control of this unhappy printing process into my own hands, in order to correctly explain, prioritise and urge it along, as it appears that no-one else actually understands what they're doing here. I have emailed updates to academics, tracked down those weird metal-tipped string things we use to hold together the schedules, personally labelled and ordered them, generated a collection list, and triple-checked that everything is being printed. The copy guys have printed one batch twice, printed three files unnecessarily, lost another and printed the most recent one, the largest, without the punched holes which will enable us to actually use the weird metal-tipped string things. Halfway through they simply stopped printing because I wasn't standing over them and apparently the instruction "here's a list, print them in this order, I need them all by 11.30" is ambiguous and bewildering. If we're lucky, the whole thing will finally be finished by about 2pm.

None of this is my job. All of this is basic administration which administrators should be doing in support of my academic function. It is not being done because (a) no-one in that office has the institutional memory of the process, they're all new, and (b) the entire office is in a state of seething resentment owing to Hellboss, to the point where they refuse to take responsibility for anything at all. So I have to. With my copious emotional energy and in my copious free time.

Now I go into a week of continuous board schedule checking followed by continuous meetings. If the whole process works at all, it'll be because I have held it together with my bare hands. This faculty is going to be so completely screwed when I leave, it's not even funny. The whole thing is going to collapse. I'm not going to be here to see it. If I have to go and walk dogs for a living, I will be elsewhere when the debacle rolls around next year. Because I am done with this.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)

2016 continues to deliver, in the sense of delivering pain and loss and the removal of hope. I am surprisingly devastated by the death of Carrie Fisher: I hadn't realised how much her role in Force Awakens had meant to me. Her feisty princess was, of course, integral to our investment in the original Star Wars trilogy, and her role as a female character was uncommonly powerful for the time - the antithesis of a passive damsel, she had both the personality and the political/tactical power to hold her own against the men. (Also, as I persist in thinking of Trump as Jabba the Hutt, there is considerable vindictive satisfaction in imagining her choking him with a chain, the action which was the archetypal denial of the chain-mail bikini and the female role it attempts to define).

But it was the mature Leia of Force Awakens who was most interesting, and whose loss I really mourn. The film created a powerful narrative place for her - a woman who has lost everything, home and family and political hope, and yet who continues to fight. We are given precious few female cinematic icons who are permitted to be experienced, mature, battered by life, wise, flawed, powerful, authoritative, instrumental - defined, in short, by something other than their sexuality. But the role worked because of who she was outside it - a gutsy, unabashed, irreverent older woman who had no truck with societal expectation, who called out misogyny and objectification, and who was frank and unashamed about her own struggles with substance abuse and mental illness. There's a lovely quote from her in The Princess Diarist in which she says about Star Wars that “Movies were meant to stay on the screen, flat and large and colorful, gathering you up into their sweep of story, carrying you rollicking along to the end, then releasing you back into your unchanged life. But this movie misbehaved. It leaked out of the theater, poured off the screen, affected a lot of people so deeply that they required endless talismans and artifacts to stay connected to it.” In a lot of ways she could have been talking about herself.

I am sad that she has had her life prematurely ended, because she was making a marvellous and inspiring thing out of her own difficulties. I am heartsore that we have lost both her real-life presence and voice as an anodyne to Hollywood stupidities, and her character in future Star Wars films. If we ever needed an icon for continued resistance against fascist, misogynist systems in the teeth of the odds, it's now. Fuck 2016.

(My subject line is from one of Carrie's own autobiographical books, in which she describes George Lucas's insistence that she not wear a bra with the white dress because "there's no underwear in space" and with weightlessness your body will expand but your bra won't, so it'll strangle you. Which is terrible science and everything you need to know about justifying objectification by mansplaining right there, but the point is that Carrie wanted my subject line to be her obituary, so it is.)
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I did not expect to wake up this morning to a Trump victory. I also did not expect to have that victory hit me like an actual punch to the gut, since which I have been in on and off in tears. Even before reading Tumblr, with its intimate window into the pain and fear of the very liberal-skewing American bloggers I read, I was wandering around the house mumbling "But how could they do that?" in betrayed disbelief. What does it say about people that vast swathes of American voters can put any kind of stamp of approval onto that man and all he stands for? A ranting, blind, profoundly stupid, narcissistic and sociopathic man-child whose message is all about bigoted, divisive, ultimately venal hatred? Brexit was a faint shadow of this. Beyond any implications of the profoundly broken state of democracy in a media-driven world, I want and need to be able to believe better of people. But I can't.

And make no mistake, this is not just a crippling blow to values I hold very dear, decency and thoughtfulness and empathy. I am feeling it personally because this is also a particularly cruel and dismissive assault on women. Trump is a joke candidate: it is basically an insult to Hillary Clinton to be considering his "qualifications" in the same breath as hers. She is a mature, hyper-intelligent, accomplished and hard-working politician whose experience and skills have been honed across the entire course of her life to the fine point required by the presidency. If she were male, I think she would have won in a landslide. Her unpopularity, the media play with her "scandals", the characterisation of her as cold, or driven, or ambitious, are all the direct and instrumental result of her gender. If she were a man, her "scandals" would be negligible and her "flaws" would be strengths. It is beyond ridiculous, given her clear competence, that she should be so unpopular. It is sheer misogyny, woven into the fabric of media portrayals and voter responses. And to elect a shameless misogynist instead of her is a slap in the face to women.

Clinton in the White House would have been the rational choice, but also the hopeful one for more than feminism. It would have rejected the vile, destructive and asinine flailings of Trump, and it would have affirmed the idea that society is growing and maturing, that we are addressing racism and sexism and bigotry and unthinking greed, that we have learned. I don't even want to contemplate what it's going to do to our world to have a climate change denier as the American president at a crux point where we have an imperative and fast-closing window for instrumental change. We're fucked in that sense alone, even without the likely regression of American sexual and racial and economic politics and their knock-on effects in the global zeitgeist, and the non-zero chance that he'll nuke someone in a fit of pique because they insulted him on Twitter. Possibly it's a good thing I've been playing all this Fallout, I may yet need the skills.

But we can't have Clinton, because too many people voted in fear and hatred and ignorance. Which brings us to Terry Pratchett, the archetypal humanist, whose sense of humanity's failings is clear-eyed and acute and ultimately more forgiving than mine. He says it all in Night Watch, really. "The People tended to be small-minded and conservative and not very clever and were even distrustful of cleverness. And so the children of the revolution were faced with the age-old problem: it wasn't that you had the wrong kind of government, which was obvious, but that you had the wrong kind of people." Trump is a debased and dangerous idiot, but the wrong kind of people elected him.

One of the drawbacks of over-active empathy is that I need to feel connected to the world. I cannot imagine feeling connected to people capable of deliberately electing Trump, and it hurts. It means I am not part of the world. More than that, if this is what a significant portion of our world does, and wants, I do not wish to be.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
oh wait. I can't buy a new car because I don't have a valid driver's licence and the banks won't let you have the car without one. There is no way I can acquire one in the next month as my work life is wall-to-wall nightmare. I will thus negotiate this wall-to-wall nightmare on foot.

Rumours of my actual identity as a functioning adult are apparently wildly exaggerated.

as you were, then.

April 2019



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