Sunday, January 15, 2012

Saturday, January 14, 2012

That NYU Girl Everyone is Talking About ...

You know the one right? Sara Ackerman has been called everything from privileged to lazy and downright crazy. 

If you aren't familiar with the saga, the original emails can be found at

I came across the story initially through a new community for academics - - and I was instantly hooked - anger, betrayal, blackmail, threats, extortion - what's not to love? I spent 4 days following the story and watching Ackerman's FB page - transfixed by the fact that this girl seemed completely clueless to the fact that everyone was ridiculing her. Ok, so the odd post or comment sent out some solidarity but the majority of the general commenting public and media were having the time of their lives dissecting the extremely long (one email was over 2.5k), bizarrely formated, angry diatribe/s that Sara herself sent into cyberspace. As Ackerman had pushed the button to publish, there was a wholesale, free-for-all response from a wide range of e-media (I don't think she made in into print, but I could be wrong) and almost everyone concluded that the emails were coming from an entitled and spoilt young woman who was having a massive cyber-tantrum because she wasn't getting her own way. 

NYU remained silent throughout although Ackerman published some responses she had received to her original emails which showed the staff involved in this cyber-theatre of strange to be supportive, calm, articulate and .. substantiated and this seemed to push Ackerman even further into a rage. NYU finally responded to Ackerman's claims that NYU had offered to buy her silence with an A but it seemed no matter how many people tried to explain to her the rationale behind the assignment she was refusing to do the more she saw conspiracy. Ackerman's lack of personal awareness, constant threats to 'expose' NYU to the print media (where she apparently has close family contacts), tendency to invoke the US constitution (incorrectly) and sweeping, offensive statements regarding the personal social and political make-up of the citizens of OWS won her no supporters. A quick glance at her FB page showed that she 'likes' her own posts repeatedly and 'tags' her own posts to celebrities and Mass Media in an attempt to either garner support or publicity, or both, cementing her growing reputation. 

The initial emails were widely published online, had a growing and highly critical commentary which overwhelmingly decried Ackerman but she continued to rally against her perceived oppressors, comparing her situation and the players with both Harry Potter and 9/11:

She also threatened to go to the offending professor's house:

QUOTE: Anyway, I won't pretend I know where Zaloom and Klinenberg live, but since they are both NYU professors, I'm going to take a shot in the dark here, and guess that they live in faculty housing (, it's winter break, so I've got plenty of free time to spare and I am ready to picket, and protest outside of her house, just like her OWS cronies (

When a friend on FB intervened and tried to suggest that Sara consider how she was coming across and to seek some help for the anger she was experiencing, Ackerman responded by calling the friend a 'psycho liberal' and warning her "not to push me".  

It has been about 3 days since Ackerman published anything on her FB account, commentary has slowed down and she is losing currency on e-magazines everywhere. According to Ackerman she has been suspended from NYU (after she published an entry on FB where she asserts that NYU tried to buy her silence by offering an 'A' for the class), and I (and those like me who had front row seats for the past week) are left wondering - "What has happened to Sara Ackerman?" I sincerely doubt that she had an epiphany so I speculate that her parents finally became involved, but where does someone who has so spectacularly become the butt of every cyber-joke of the past week hide? What will happen to the '3 graduate jobs' she claims to have had lined up in her original emails - in fact, she won't be graduating at all now so that is compounded further - is there a potential employer who hasn't by chance seen or heard about Sara's meltdown? (and if they haven't, any google search is going to be very revealing). 

Spoiledrichkids was relentlessly chronicling the entire episode but has been shut down as of this morning (this smacks of legal wrangling and supports the theory that Sara's parents have finally intervened) and while this may limit the number of people who will now see every single email and FB post made by Sara, there are many screenshots already out there in forums and on blogs as well as in the mainstream e-media. This is not going to simply disappear however much Sara's family may like it to. I wait with interest to see if this is the end or, if there is a chapter 2 in the wings. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy(ish) New Year

I lost yesterday. Thing is, I was so determined to kick-start the new year with both practical and symbolic accomplishments on the day that I freaked out and stayed in bed for most of the day. I did take the dog to the beach for a swim (and what a beautiful day it was!) but my intention/s of completing some study, setting up my diary/ies (I haven't decided on my exact method as yet because I am not sure what my circumstances are going to be) and generally 'getting on with it', was so pressing, that 'it' became too much & after promising myself that taking a quick granny nap first would actually help my productivity (my self-delusion knows no bounds), I retreated and, of course, nothing got done. 

I keep telling myself that my stagnation has to do with indecision about my working situation - am I leaving current job or not? Am I going to study FT or not? Where will I be living? etc .. - but I am beginning to wonder if there are deeper issues. I do know that reading/note-making/writing was going great for a short while, I was loving it and I think I was making good progress so - what changed? Maybe admitting that I want to do this 'for real' is putting too much pressure on myself? 
Maybe my research on the state of the academic job market has deflated me? Perhaps the stress of the last year - at a job I all but hated - has taken a larger toll than I realised? Thing is, no matter what the reason, I have to somehow find the desire to do this. Because that is what it is all about right? We are propelled to do things due to desire - in the Lacanian sense. If I desire to re-enter academia then I need to finish my doctorate so the question has to be - do I really, truly desire this? I guess another question has to be - do I desire it enough to put myself through the stress, strain and hell that is a PhD?. 

If you think about it, every action I take or in this case don't, is a response to my desire, or lack thereof. 

So, my new year's resolution is this: Find the desire. 

What DO I desire? What am I prepared to do about that? How am I going to make that desire a reality? 

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dance LIKE Matt

I was watching the 'Dancing With Matt' videos today and they made me feel ashamed at my current lack of fearlessness regarding my current choices and decisions. In fact, watching Matt dancing all over the world in what had to be a huge project and decision makes my work and study problems seem insignificant - which is I guess the whole point. Time will tell if the impression is lasting - right now I just want to grab me some portion of the life pie - or whether fear (or is it common sense? this is the trick right? knowing which is which) settles in again. I admit it, I wanna Dance with Matt!!

If you have never seen the 'Dancing with Matt' videos, you can check them out at

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Another one bites the dust .. day that is

Although I had every intention of jump-starting my research again now that my kids have both gone back to their respective lives, I was up and down all night last night and didn't actually get up until 11am. Now, in my defense I watched a few episodes of S1 "The Wire" as I am restarting this great show from scratch because I have only every seen it through once .. there goes that uber procrastination again. It doesn't help that it's damn hot today - 37c (98f) .. ouch! My department of education house is not air conditioned and it heats up like crazy so it is too damn hot to work, or to do anything other that surf the web and watch "The Wire" (that's 2 plugs!). 

Apparently it's going to be cooler tomorrow & if so I pledge to complete the following:
  • Plan daily schedule for the next 7 days of study - and tweak during that time to complete maximum amount for the remaining 4 weeks of holidays.
  • Spend only 1 hours per day tracking down work/employment - although this is theoretically a good thing, I am spending far too much time on this for my own good. 
  • Organise for someone to help with my expression of interest to University 'X' for sessional/adjunct teaching.
  • No watching ANY film/TV until the above has been completed (or refrained from as the case may be).
I haven't spoken to my supervisor for about 6 weeks (I assume she is on holiday break which is fair enough) and I need to have some work for her when she returns. We agree for me to start a lit review but I think I need to start working on my proposal so that I can get candidacy underway. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My original blog ....

I originally started a website/blog at & I am still to-ing and fro-ing between the two (even more procrastination anyone?) so that there is crossover. Not sure which one I will ultimately decide on but if you are here and there are precious few postings, chances are I am there :)

Tips for procrastination

I consider myself to be an exceptionally talented procrastinator. I don't think this is an exaggeration - some people are talented singers or artists, mathematicians or writers - my talents lie in the ability to either a) ignore a situation - for years if need be, or b) to convince myself and others that I am 'thinking about' a situation & therefore NOT procrastinating nor ignoring.

For a PhD, or anything that has a component of thought built in, this technique works particularly well because 'thinking' about the task is an actual, real part of the process so one is able to kid oneself for a very long time that one is not, in fact, procrastinating. (Of course the immediate question that jumps to mind is just how much a part of the sophistication of my procrastination techniques is built into writing this very blog which is in fact is both revealing and engaging my ability at the same time).

At the moment I am facing a huge decision regarding my career. Although I have a well paid and permanent job that has no direct relationship to a PhD, I have always promised myself that I would, one day complete the degree and this was the year that I chose to start, three years into my shiny new high school teaching career. The two demands upon my time and intellectual resources were actually getting along quite well in the beginning, I was able to work on the PhD after (paid) job as well as on weekends. As my sons have both now left home, my time is my own and utilising in this way seemed a perfect fit for me and allowed me to procrastinate/consider my need to incorporate my need to do more exercise/quit smoking both of which I could legitimately ignore due to the new stress of 'the PhD' - see how committed I am to creating the perfect environment to ignore that which I don't want to deal with? - it really is quite an art in my hands. I should be clear that although I love teaching, whether HS or university, I have been stuck teaching English for the past three years, which is not my discipline. Not that there is anything wrong with English - for those that love it - but my degree is not in English and my postgraduate studies are not in English, I am not drawn to English - and yet I am expected to get up every single day and go and teach and enthuse secondary students in their English studies. You see my problem. When I accepted my current position, I was very clear that I did not want a full English load. They assured me, that if I spent 2011 teaching English for them then they would have some teaching in my real discipline in 2012. But, a couple of weeks before the end of the year, I was allocated another full English load and, just to rub some extra salt in the wound, they hired someone from outside and gave them the subject/s that I was assured I would have. It was a shitty situation.

Enter the opportunity for academia to seem like a viable alternative for employment even though I will be taking part-time, adjuncting work (if I get any) together with some relief/sub work in local high schools. I will also need to move back to the city if I want to do this so I will be leaving behind a reasonable salary for (at best) part-time contract work in a far more tenuous environment that I am currently in ... but, I will have my dignity intact right? And, I will get to 'show' my current job that I am not someone they can screw around with in this way .. right?

And, herein lies both my current problem and my current excuse extraordinaire for procrastinating. So while I am currently on holidays and in the perfect position to get some serious PhD work done, I am spending all of my time 'thinking', 'musing', considering' or .. the best one .. 'researching my options' (read spending hours upon hours online reading about how awful the academic job market is followed by one or two excellent blogs about 'following your dreams'). If I am not careful, I will have wasted 6 weeks in this way and STILL not made a decision and that is scaring the hell out of me.

So, my point is this: talent is not always a good thing. Or, maybe it's just that between the frying pan and the fire there is a scary netherworld on the rim.