31 January 2010

Paris Deax!

In 2002, my sister and I traveled around Ireland. It was an epic trip. We at cheese in a castle. I got my hair cut after a year of protesting. It was a lot of things.

Now, we are going to re-live the experience, only this time with slightly more money and better heads on our shoulders. We will be climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tour. We're going to eat some delicious bread. You know, this and that.

30 January 2010

Quiet Girl

I would liken you
To a night without stars
Were it not for your eyes.
I would liken you
To a sleep without dreams
Were it not for your songs.

Langston Hughes

My useful morning

It's always good when the house is clean, the garage is clean, the fuel bills are sorted, the bike is cleaned, you have run, and the sun it out.

This makes me so content, it's not even funny.

I looked in the mirror yesterday and I saw that my eyebrows were getting very bushy. I've never had this problem before, and I realized that it is one of the very small proofs that I am getting older. Luckily for me, in my chosen profession, getting older only benefits me until I die.

28 January 2010

Up late

My insomnia, fueled by crying babies, coffee, and a sense of urgency about my work, has me reading (about) Bakhtin.

This shit is heavy, but heavy in the right ways.

I became very much a materialist: what we see is what is. There is nothing out in the ether, no Platonian super form in the metaphorical sky. There is no love or truth or hate or anything, but the event or string of events that we arrange and organise in our minds to make meaning. There are only words: you and me talking and creating the world out of what we have available to us.

How much further down the rabbit hole with this PhD take me?

From Dialogism: Bakhtin and his world By Michael Holquist

How to do a PhD

  1. Do what you think you're supposed to do.
  2. Find out you did the wrong thing.
  3. Try again.
And repeat until you graduate.

27 January 2010

ee cummings

You are tired,
(I think)
Of the always puzzle of living and doing;
And so am I.

Come with me, then,
And we'll leave it far and far away—
(Only you and I, understand!)

You have played,
(I think)
And broke the toys you were fondest of,
And are a little tired now;
Tired of things that break, and—
Just tired.
So am I.

But I come with a dream in my eyes tonight,
And knock with a rose at the hopeless gate of your heart—
Open to me!
For I will show you the places Nobody knows,
And, if you like,
The perfect places of Sleep.

Ah, come with me!
I'll blow you that wonderful bubble, the moon,
That floats forever and a day;
I'll sing you the jacinth song
Of the probable stars;
I will attempt the unstartled steppes of dream,
Until I find the Only Flower,
Which shall keep (I think) your little heart
While the moon comes out of the sea.

e.e. cummings

Taking names

Today, in an effort to put my cold behind me, I road my bicycle to work. This seemed like a good idea at the time and felt very good as I was riding and showering, but I'm beginning to crash a little bit and dreading the ride home...

I have to complete several tasks today, including:
  • Reworking article for February 15th deadline
  • French homework
  • Reading and data analysis for ambiguous, increasingly unstable PhD project
My reworking of my article for the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue is forcing me to cut to a lot of the process bits of the article. I was very explicit about the process that I used and exactly how I did it, but this article needs to be a little more about what I found and what I think about what I found. A much, much different goal then my dissertation on the same subject.

Lying awake in bed last night, I was thinking that what I need to do at this point is gather up all the bits I've cut and look again at my dissertation, and make another process-oriented article for either the Journal of CMC or Language@Internet. Publishing something in either of those journals would be a big coup for me at this point in my career, so I am going to give it 132%. Give or take.

If I can do that, then I can cite both articles in my probationary report this summer and my examiners will be amazed.

On a completely unrelated note, we have to go to a birthday party on Saturday that starts at 2:25. '2:25?' I said to Yoko, 'Who the hell starts a party at 2:25?' Well, they expect that people will come a little later, at 2:30. 'Then why don't they just say 2:30?' I said. Well, because if they say 2:30, then people will show up at 2:40. They've done research on this. 'We're going at 2:25,' I said. 'If it's 2:25, we go at 2:25. We'll show them.'

26 January 2010

One hundred famous views of Edo; Hiroshige Ando, 1857

My eBay chat

15:54:58 Maxwell A.
You are most welcome.

15:55:03 Maxwell A.
After I close the chat, you may be asked to fill out a survey. I would really appreciate it if you could take a few moments and provide your feedback so I know how well I’ve been able to help you. If any improvement is required then will work on it so I can assist the members in the better way in the future.

15:55:43 mysonabsalom
Certainly, this has been great. You're a real person, not a computer?

15:56:04 mysonabsalom
Or are you a computer trained to answer that you're a person but you're really a computer?

15:57:03 Maxwell A.
Yes, I am real person..

I guess we'll never know.


This is a very simplistic write-up of my research, but I am happy it will see the light of day. Although it is an online journal, it is international and peer-reviewed, making it the best publication I have at this point. That's some good news, I think.

25 January 2010

Feeling awful

Halfway through four hours of teaching. Cold raging. Help me, Obi wan Kenobi. You're my only hope.

24 January 2010

Making choices

Someone asked me today, So do you want to go back to Japan? in relation to my future plans. Today I do, I said, but that's just today.

Today, I really wanted to be in Japan. I wanted to go to the hot springs with the wife and daughters, sit in the hot water in the middle of woods, naked and content. And then I wanted to eat hot soba, sitting on tatami while Naomi ran around.

That was what I wanted today, but I know that I wouldn't be happy working there and I would quickly revert back into my dreams of Europe.

We are facing a tough choice in a little under three years. Two and a half, really. We are going to have to decide where we are going to call home next. This choice would be less complicated if we had no children: we could go anywhere and if we didn't like it, we could move after two or three years. But when I graduate, Naomi will be five and Mei will be three and they will be getting ready to go to school full-time and, for as much as I would like to think we are going to be a permanently mobile family, I know that they probably need to go to school in the same language from about fourth grade on, and the language they attend jr. high and high school in will likely be the language they attend university in. Although I can see myself spending five years in Denmark, five years in France, and five years back in England, this is probably not the best thing for the girls.

I don't know what we do. Probably whatever feels right for the majority of us.

23 January 2010

Conan O'Brien says

To all the people watching, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me and I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask of you is one thing: please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism- it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere.

Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen.

Making the house a home, one frame at a time

Four years ago, tonight

I asked Yoko to marry me.

That day, I had gone to the department store to look at the ring and order the size Yoko needed, but they had it in stock. I bought it and remember the feeling of it in my pocket, like it was going to explode. I had no plan to give it to her. I hadn't really thought any of it through--in three weeks we had gone from talking about going to Europe together on a trip to suddenly having this ring. I don't remember much of what I was thinking except that I knew that it was right and it was going to work out and that if it didn't, it was a gamble I needed to take to prove something to myself. I'm not sure what that was. I loved her.

I went to my friend Neal's apartment, and put the ring on the table without saying anything and he said, 'You're fucking crazy' and we sat and talked about how crazy I was for about an hour. I called Yoko and told her that I had one more small birthday gift for her and would she be around later.

When I went to her apartment, I could contain it: I had her sit down and I said, Close your eyes and hold out your hands, and she did. I put the ring in her hands and said, '結婚しましょうか?' 'Let's get married?' She said, Yes, and suddenly, we were engaged. Reckless and silly and in love.
It had only been four months of dating. My Japanese was still quite poor. I was losing my faith and we were both trying to finish MAs. But it just happened to us — like the wave I was talking about earlier this month. We just had to stay in front of it to keep from falling.

I don't remember if I spent the night. It was a Monday, so I probably went home around 2, riding my scooter, because even though it was January, it was warm. And I remember being electrified by what we were making out of nothing. It's worked out, so far.


22 January 2010

Some Japanese math

(^ス^)/ + (^洋^) = (*ナ*) (O明O)

Another silly decade

I'm not feeling well. I've been trying to get into the analysis of one of my videos, but I'm sort of stuck in it, trying to get my analytic framework to make sense and get some definitions to describe what I am looking at. I had found a good definition for 'footing', which I thought (and according to at least one of the definitions I read) was about considering the relation between the identity of the speaker/ writer and the facticity of the version they produce, but when I went back to the original text, this seemed to be a bad reduction of a really messy idea. It all seems messy right now.

I also got my French homework back and I did okay, but my speaking is not improving at all, and if I don't improve on this, I am likely to do very poorly on the end-of-year exam. I was frustrated by it, frustrated that I haven't improved as much as I like or had the opportunity or courage to speak when given the opportunity. Well, this will hopefully be remedied as I hope to be in Paris twice in March —  once with my sister and once with Yoko's brother's family. All the language I do know will serve me well as the first book and half of my course has been all about the language you use when you travel.

Now, if only we could get those kids to sleep through the night...

20 January 2010

The piper

Not getting anything done

I spent the day with my descriptive/ analytic essay window open, but I'm not sure I've made any progress.

Talking it through

Edward Hopper tells it like it is.

Doing things as a family

This week I decided to give the British version of Netflix a try and our first DVD came yesterday. Wall-E, the heartwarming story of a little robot who cleans up garbage and falls in love with another robot. The whole family laid there on the living room floor and I thought, Oh no, I'm turning into that guy. Naomi spent the whole time asking Yoko and I, 'What's going on? What's he doing? What's he doing? What's going on?' Yoko, being more patient and caring than I am, kept trying to answer the questions, but I eventually said, 'I don't know, man. Just watch and you'll figure it out.' or something comparable to that in Japanese. We only got about 50 minutes into it before Mei had enough and had to be put to bed.

When I woke up this morning, there was news that the Democrats lost their big election in Massachusetts and that health care reform is in serious peril. I cared about this for a long time, but I don't think I do anymore. Americans don't want to change their healthcare system? Fine. You want to believe that nationalised healthcare will mean worse care for everyone? Fine. You think it's unfair to require insurance companies to not turn anyone away? Fine. Fine, fine, fine. I will stay here and you stay there and we'll both be happy.

19 January 2010

Warming up

January warmed up a bit yesterday, so I can ride my bike this morning. A mixed blessing. If I stare at a Rothko painting for long enough, perhaps my energy, my will to power, will return.

18 January 2010


It's the last, and most important day, of Yoko's birthday festival, as it is actually her birthday. Happy Birthday, Yoko! 愛してるよ~

17 January 2010

Paul Gauguin

I think I can appreciate this, although I feel uncomfortable with many of his West Indies paintings.

16 January 2010

Birthday Festival Day 3: The Turl St. Pub and cake baking

Today we had a good day in our celebration of Yoko's birthday, including a trip to Oxford: a favourite of both Yoko and me. We have dreams of making our way there one day, if there is something for us there.

We were planning to go to Oxford Castle, but after seeing that it was going to require some serious stair climbing, we opted out and decided to wander around, to get lunch.  We decided to eat pub food and at at the Turl St. pub, which wasn't especially good, but it didn't really matter.

In Oxford,  you can buy La Monde, the Parisian daily newspaper, off the rack.

It rained and all the snow is gone. My papers are marked and I have a moment before I need to start getting ready for my classes on Monday, but the wine is gone now.

15 January 2010

Is it Friday?

January for me has been like surfing a wave that, if I ride it properly and stay ahead of will not crash down on me, but rather eject me out on the other side, going quite fast and hopeful sending me into another big wave. However, if I am the least bit timid or I linger, it will crash down on me, swallowing me and my little surfboard whole.

On Monday, Yoko will hit the middle of her mid-thirties. A couple of things occurred to me in thinking about my wife's birthday and what it means for the both of us to have broken the five-finger rule (i.e., don't marry someone +/- 5 years your own age). For Yoko, it means going backwards in some ways, and not being with someone who has built a successful career and is starting to make money and can buy a house, etc. Instead, she finds herself with someone in their mid-twenties, still going to school. And although I sometimes think I am 56, I still behave emotionally like I am 27. I feel sort of guilty about it all, about making everyone in my family sacrifice so that I can sit at a desk with silly books titled Discourse and Identity piled on top of more books called 'Discourse and Identity'. It's all very self indulgent.

Thinking about all of this and finding myself with a bit of money from teaching, I resolved to get Yoko a birthday gift that would somehow speak to my albeit stereotypical and probably sexist husbandly desire to provide her with what she wants and needs, on material as well as emotional levels. The answer, it seemed, was a vacuum cleaner. Not just any vacuum cleaner, but a vacuum cleaner that Yoko has wanted for our whole marriage, one that is made in the UK and is particularly built for dust allergy sufferers. Her parents have one and love it, apparently. I, being still a student and in my student mindset, have been frustrated that the vacuum that we did buy, which was by no means the cheapest and which claimed to help allergy sufferers, was not apparently cutting it. It couldn't be that bad, I was thinking.

I spent the week going back and forth about buying the vacuum, but finally, yesterday, I decided that I would just do it, finances be damned. I went to CostCo and bought the vacuum and brought it home, in one single, thoughtless action. I carried it inside, and when Yoko came out to greet me, there I was standing with the box in my arms. The reaction was what I had intended: Yoko started crying and suddenly I was crying too, standing there with the vacuum in my arms. Yes, it was very expensive, and yes, I would have to work hard to pay for it, but it says what I want to say: I'm sorry this has been so hard and I understand all you've sacrificed to follow my dreams. I hope this in some small way makes up for it.

The vacuum has been nice enough: being 27 and not a dust allergy sufferer myself, I don't quite understand what the big deal is, but Yoko does and happily showed me all the dust it had picked up. The birthday festivities will continue now, with a trip to Oxford Castle tomorrow and some cake with friends on Sunday and something on Monday night, when I get back from Middlesex. I don't think I will be able to top the vacuum cleaner though.

14 January 2010


Thinking about Caravaggio for some reason this afternoon. I thought I knew some of these paintings from the Art Institute, but I must have seen these in London or Madrid.

Swilling vodka

I read this, by John Darnielle (Mountain Goat, proficient guitarist), and thought, This is something someone with a child could never write. I felt simultaneous very sad and very happy about that. Make of it what you will:
My wife has gone to California to visit her family and she won't be back for a week, and so I'm parked semi-permanently in front of the stereo, swilling vodka and chasing it down with hot black coffee. The music-at-high-volumes marathon lets up just long enough for twice-daily reruns of Law & Order, all of which I've seen at least three times each and can practically recite from memory; any remaining time is spent either writing songs about speed freaks who've locked themselves inside their south Pomona motel rooms and aren't going to come out unless they absolutely, positively have to go get more Cheetos, or constructing little handmade fetishes that pay tribute to the tenacity with which these extremely skinny people chase down their elusive dreams.

13 January 2010

Mapping connections

I did some positioning theory work today. By posting this, I accomplish some first order positioning: I as a hard-working student who understands positioning theory, and  you as someone interested in positioning theory.

I have no idea what I'm talking about, actually.

12 January 2010


I felt so competent in the States when I was there and talking about my research. Yes, I thought, I am a PhD student. Today, put in front of my supervisors again, I was a blathering idiot, essentially trying to answer the question, 'So why are you here?'  Not the right time to ask that question, people. Back to the drawing board, I guess.

France, in my heart and in my soul

I don't generally do well in the winter months. In Niigata, it was February that I found the most unbearable. Here, it is January. The snow is really killing me this year: I lose my appetite, can't sleep (confounded this year by screaming baby), dream about falling. It has me thinking that I need to winter in someplace more pleasant than where I have found myself in the last six years. The life of a bird, as it were. If I could somehow swing it, perhaps I want to work here, although I don't know anything about the school, can't really speak French, and have no idea what their linguistics department is like. Ah well: dream recklessly big, right? Paul Cézanne's Marseille, if you have eyes to see.

Come away with me

09 January 2010

07 January 2010

Until the danger's passed

A fitful return to Great Britain was marked by hardship and several small miracles. Travelling with children is never safe, especially when you are as prone to feeling guilty as I am. The children, they cannot be quieted and try as you might and bribe as you might, there are times when nothing can be done. Walking up and down the aisles only works when there are not fat, angry, middle-aged flight attendants glaring at you and holding you responsible for the endless misery their lives must be filled with. Look, I wanted to say, there is nothing I can do. She needs to be moving around now — I'll take my chances with the turbulence.

Getting off the plane, we were euphoric, but as you might suspect, when that asshole tried to blow up the plane last week, one of the things he did manage to destroy was quick passage through customs and immigration in any country. Britain's immigration is usually very reasonable, but yesterday it was not, and as we queued and saw that the queue was not moving and there were several thousand people in front of us, I tried to look for alternatives. One alternative was to go through the EU/ UK queue which seemed reasonable as we are residents and that one kid we have was born here, for god's sake. I went up to the only immigration officer I could see, a woman at the group tour counter. I asked her about it and she said no, I couldn't go in that queue, but then noticing Naomi who had come along with me, asked, 'Do you have small kids?' Yes! I said, a six month old too! and she agreed to take us through.

The car was the other miracle. The service I ordered brought the car around defrosted, running, and warm, so the drive home was fabulous, save Mei screaming and screaming, but even that didn't matter because we were the only ones who had to deal with it and if there is anything I can deal with, it's a screaming child. There was snow on the ground, but I relaxed, finally, in my car, with my family, and no one to defend my lifestyle choices against and no Christian radio quietly gnawing at me in the background. Rather, there was a Death Cab for Cutie song playing on BBC2, the one about heaven and hell being full and darkness all around, and I started to tear up as we pulled off onto the M1. Yes, I thought, yes, that's exactly right.

Snow covers everything here, but it doesn't matter — I regained the euphoric feeling I had when we stepped off the plane. I went to work and all my big thoughts were right where I left them, with my books and my coffee maker. I love my family and friends in the States, but I do not love being the car, and I do not love how I feel like I spend all my time going from one shopping center to another, where everything looks the same and the parking lots are so big. It feels like a pair of pants that do not fit anymore. To make peace with the US, I think I will need to return to a city there, and only leave to visit relatives, although I'm not even sure that would be enough at this point. Minneapolis was surprisingly hip, but still bitterly cold.


Yoko made some felt purses for the girls.

04 January 2010

A heavy rain is going to fall

I spent yesterday driving around Wisconsin with my father: to Baraboo and then to Easton and then to Friendship and then back to Baraboo and then back home. My parents have some land up in some of those places, some they are trying to sell and one place they are planning on building a cabin. It was so cold: my feet were almost taken off. We stopped in at the Walmart in Baraboo and I wandered around while my dad got an adapter for the trailer he had rented. There is a locked case of ammunition in the Baraboo Walmart, right across from a brand of BB guns with the slogan 'Take it outdoors'.

On one of the pieces of land my parents have, there are three small buildings overlooking a small pond. I walked through the snow and heard wind chimes, but nothing else. I tried to think that this is something I might want: to live in small cabin overlooking a small pond with wind chimes, surrounded by good Americans who just want to be left alone.

In London on Wednesday night, it will be raining as we drive home. We will come up the M1, and the kids and Yoko will have fallen asleep and I will be thinking to myself about all the choices I have made in my life. We will take the kids out of the carseats and put them into their beds. The house will be cold because we shut the heating off before we left. Yoko will start to unpack, but go to sleep before it's done. After everyone goes to bed, I will open one of the beers I have above the refrigerator and sit in the dark and drink it, wondering how I came to be sitting on that sofa in that part of the world and not another sofa in another part of the world.

I'll think this not because I want to be on another sofa in another part of the world, but because I know that my life has been full of other possibilities that never panned out and will still be full of possibilities that will never pan out. And although I feel so in control, I am not and this feeling that I am falling never seems to go away.  And I'll think that on Wednesday night, early Thursday morning, when I will finally get to bed. I will think about how lucky I am to have business in Oxford in the morning and to be sleeping next to a woman who understands me. I don't need much more than that.