Tuesday, 31 August 2010

I'm getting the EebieFreebies!

I am not a fan of the ebook it has to be said, preferring the touch of the page in my hands, the smell of the glue and the whole heady world created once you start to flip through the pages, but it has to be said there are some advantages to ebooks - when they are of course FREE!

Catching up this morning on some of my subscribed blogs I spotted a free download for 'The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue'  which given my recent spate of expletive exploitation was an immediate draw!  The Book Depository has many free ebooks (over 11,000 in fact if their home page is to be believed) so it may well be worth a browse before once more reaching for the credit card and logging on to Abe or Amazon! You get a lot of the classics, which are well out of their copyright so any old shyster can publish a version, but a word of caution; sometimes these copies are not edited thoroughly, or contain errors - so always try to read a reputable edition! (Did you hear my teacherly tone there?) 

So if like me you want a dose of the EebieFreebies then here are some links to sites which may have a free version just for your delectation ...

Get Free Books
Free Ebooks
Ebook Directory
Project Guttenberg ( a must for scholars)
Many Books

Completely Novel (which is also a community for writers and is largely about new work)

The list isn't exhaustive but it should provide plenty of choice!

And just a final "heads up" to any stationery fetishists out there ...

 THE PAPERIE  HAS A SALE ON BUT IT ENDS TODAY!!!! So stock up on your new term notebooks and stationery now while prices are still low!
Right now it is back to the grindstone for me ...

Monday, 30 August 2010

Still Pending....

... for the BMB site... must be pretty lazy rigorous over there! Wonder if they are checking out my mothering credentials ... in which case I am f*cked! Never been left waiting for so long to join a forum - I am sure I'd have gained entry to MI6 more quickly! Still I suppose there must be a perfectly valid reason.

I have been incredibly productive today after I actually pulled my finger out and hence this rather late night, garbled entry.

I have upped my word count to 21k which is a bit of breakthrough and I feel as though I know where this chapter is taking me - hopefully by the end of the week I will get there.

I do have 'back to school' paperwork which must be completed and returned by the 10th September, so that is on the list for tomorrow.

It did dawn on me today that as I near the end of this time I am getting closer to having to find a real job - how scary!

Short and sweet and rather dull! But that's the cost of doing some 'actual' work I suppose - no time to get creative with the blogging!

Edited: Just to show you that blonde moments (being a natural blonde I can say this!) can occur at any time: I just totally confused myself because every time I tried to publish this post it said 'your post has been successful' and yet when I opened it it said 'Still Pending...' which I though was odd. Why would it be 'pending' if I had published it successfully??? My fevered little mind was beginning to work overtime wondering whether BMB had taken out some kind of Blogger fatwa on me, when I realised - that's the title of the bloody entry isn't it!!!!
Sheesh - I can be such a dumb ass! In all fairness it is late!

Friday, 27 August 2010

The Book of Genesis - Bill Gates Style

In the beginning Gates created Windows and 
The Windows was without form and void; and the darkness was upon The face of the computer and the spirit of Gates moved upon the void and said ...

LET THERE BE OFFICE! And it was good.

BUT! Not good enough apparently because we are now on version/incarnation 6, 355,567  10 and as yet there isn't a soul alive who holds the key to all its power!!!! 

Now a couple of days ago I was seen to be ranting profanely and in quite an unseemly manner at an integral component of Office, namely Word. I may well have jeopardised my initiation into British Mummy Bloggers (I am still pending approval!) with all my f*cking and fr*ing and all because WORD - the arch nemesis of any wannabee writer - was flagrantly disobeying me and putting images into my carefully crafted chapter willy nilly! 

Well I would like to take it all back because today I discovered something which has made me genuflect at the Alter of Bill Gates once more (see below) 

The Alter of Bill Gates 
(even though I am an "out of the closet" iMacophile but shhhh don't say anything - I wouldn't want to hurt Bill's feelings. Oh and please ignore the voodoo doll in that Picture - this isn't actually my alter - I stole borrowed it from Steve Jobs' blog - I think he is still a bit bitter!) 

I have lit a candle in his honour, retrieved the ubiquitous tome 'Office 2008 for Macintosh: The Missing Manual' from the dusty corner in which it landed when I last hurled it across the study, and I have reinstated Word on my 'All Time Greatest Inventions' list! (Please don't ask me what's on the list - I don't actually have 'a list'; it's a rhetorical trope that we writer's sometimes employ to make ourselves sound far more interesting and erudite than we actually are - aka BULLSHIT!) 

All this has been helped by the fact that yesterday I managed to place the images correctly! YEEEHHAAAAAA!

So ...

Are you ready for this little gem which I am about to share - it could revolutionise your essay writing!

It is a bit of a breakthrough ... BRACE YOURSELVES! 


You can actually put a little bookmark into your document, give it a little name and when you next open said document you can use the 'go to' function and locate the place you were last working!

Now this may seem a simple and ordinary thing for some of you out there who gloatingly know all there is to know about the behemoth of functions that is WORD... but when you have a document that is nearly 100 pages long with several sub headings and subsections, that you often have to jump back and forth to, basically using your scroll button, THIS IS A MAJOR REVELATION!!!!! Also by the time I finish I shall have approx. 80,000 words and probably around 500 pages to edit so this feature will be immeasurably helpful to me in the long run! 

Now the only problem is that once I discover a short cut to anything I tend to over use it ... so I must resist the urge to immediately insert 101 new bookmarks into my document, thus voiding them of any real useful purpose as a short cut!

In summary - from this post you can probably tell that I have actually managed to do some work on my thesis today! I deliberately stopped myself from blogging yesterday as it would have been an 'I did this, that and the other and blah, blah blah,' which is all very well but it is tedious to write and even tediouser  more tedious to read... Also I have a tendency to become obsessed if I haven't complied to that day's tasks (BLIP!) - of which blogging is threatening to become another victim. So I forced myself to go cold turkey! 

Should read I am an Idiot! 
Today wasn't without its major idiot moment, however. I had noted in the margin of my MSS that I should 'insert the quote from the letter X as quoted by Scholes  p.13' - so off I went to locate said quote - I looked on every page 13 of every book I have been using for the last few days - and no quote! I felt my irritation levels rising as looked again - I scoured p.13 of the Scholes book even though I had diligently scored out the name which to any sensible person would indicate it WASN"T in Scoles' book! 

Took me 45 minutes to realise I was referring to page 13 - OF MY OWN THESIS!!! 


To give you some idea of what I have been dealing with today get a swatch at this excerpt from Paul Edwards' Book BLAST: Vorticism 1914-1918 - if anyone can make sense of this sentence email me please ... because I'm f*cked if I can!

"Just as the conditions of 'life' prevent any self becoming, unalloyed, the true authentic self towards which it nostalgically aspires (wtf?) , so the condition of painting or any other signifying system prevents the work of art from becoming (it's about to get even whackier) the direct communication of that self or of any pure, transcendent world of spirit." (OK then?????? I want a shot at whatever he was drinking when he wrote this!) 

And finally - I have added a few extra features to the feedback/comments are of the blog - please feel free to express your opinion but if possible try to be kind (you can swear as long as you are swearing with me not at me!)  I may look like I have the hide of a rhino but that's only because I can only afford Nivea face cream! 

 And on that note I shall bit you adieu and go and play (sparingly I promise) with my bookmarks! 

Today's expletives were brought to you by courtesy of the letters 'F' and 'B" and the symbol "*' ! 

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Putting it out there...

... for all to see is a scary business.

A couple of days ago I changed my settings and made myself 'public' ... my cyber 'room of one's own' has become an open house; I should really have been serving canapes and champagne to make all visitors feel welcome (and to want to come back!). Up until now I had kept myself to myself and felt as though I was just blogging for me.

But that is the thing isn't it - you can't really just blog for yourself - can you?
Anything you do on the tinterweb is a form of display or exhibitionism, so surely to maintain the claim that I am doing it 'just for me' takes on a disingenuous tone?

Sooooooo,  this is why I have ripped off my security settings and laid myself bare to the public gaze - Lacan (le voyeur extraordinaire) would be proud!

As a result of this exposure I picked up a few followers yesterday (which makes me sound like some kind of cyber streetwalker but never mind) who seem to be in the same boat as me. We are all bobbing along on the Oceania Academia and I feel all pleased and smiley. Don't worry fellow passengers it's five star all the way!
The good thing about this is that I can now also cherry pick their blog listings for ones with similar interests to mine... I have a confession to make at this point; I am a very lazy cyber surfer, with a tendency to take whatever shortcuts are available to me ( as fellow blogger Typecast will confirm) so in order to repay a kindness check out Student Mum - because I shall be browsing through her entries for sometime. Ohh errr!

I have also become a member of British Mummy Bloggers. I am awaiting approval!

*heavy sigh*  I am slightly disgruntled that any parenting site or agency aimed towards mothers seems inclined to use the term 'Mummy' in its title! The only person licensed to utter the word 'Mummy' in my opinion is a child of said mother, who is still under the age of puberty! (Possibly an exception can be made for hairy Continental men involved in sex role play but let's not get onto that just now!)  However, needs must when the devil drives I suppose ... 'tis my own little bugbear and it will just have to fester silently whilst I reap the rewards of being affiliated, (let's call it a consequence of studying feminism and gender for so long) ... I am beginning to understand why Faustus was so easily led astray! 

However it looks like a very good site full of useful information and I am keeping my fingers crossed that they allow in renegades like me!


Now enough about that - more about ME! Yesterday after spending hours on Facebook, blogger, discussion forums and surfing the internet whilst quietly neglecting the housework and what to cook for the kids tea, I actually did some work - I edited at least 39 pages of this section - I am about to edit the rest which is in slightly better shape so should take less time...
But I hit a snag! I decided (oh why?? WHY???) to remove the typed versions of BLAST excerpts and insert page images instead. Bear in mind that I am inserting them into text which I have already gone through about a gazillion times for spacing issues .... yup! You have guessed it. They have sent my carefully aligned prose to the dogs! TO THE DOGS!

I said - well shouted - the word F*CK! a.lot. I do recall calling Word  - look away now if you are likely to be mortified at the use of the 'C' word (so mother that means you!) -  a...


Several times and often to be creative I put the words in a different order! I am clever like that! (I wonder how many of my new followers have just reached for the 'unfollow' button??) 

I even threw the  Office 2008 for Mac guide book (which is the size of a mature goat) across the room when I tried to do the sensible the thing and read up on how to insert pictures into text!

You would think that as I have written more papers than I care to remember (all of which I have filed neatly for posterity. Just in case fame should come knocking and some future scholar wishes to trace my tentative steps towards genius, that's the only reason you understand!) that I would have got a handle on WORD! I have only been using it professionally for best part of a decade. 

But no - I now have squinty pictures and squinty text and I know that the rest of the day will be said quietly muttering 'F*CK' under my breath whilst I try and sort it out!

Let's hope for those of you who have got this far, that your today is a lot better than my yesterday was!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Prometheus and the Ph.D Student; An elaborate metaphor in 3 parts.

So I am sat at my desk. Feeling like the lead female in some Hitchcock thriller ...


Yesterday I reorganised my desk so it feels a little unfamiliar. I thought a change would stimulate the grey matter - it just feels slightly weird! I am sitting with my back to the door - something I don't ever do not even in restaurants (I feel that in a past life I was clearly connected in someway to the mafia). I am not sure I like it.

I moved as I have a corner desk and I was positioned in the corner and this meant that the table legs and joining struts were digging into my feet and my thighs respectively and making sitting for prolonged periods pretty uncomfortable! Now I am sat at a straight piece of the desk and it is decidedly easier on the legs - but the whole  'back to the door' thing is creeping me out ... I feel like a character in my own horror film. It doesn't help that is pretty grey outside and dark enough to warrant a desk light, which casts a wandering shadowy glow over the desk. It is also deathly still, as I am alone in the house (for once!)  - all I can say is it's a good job I have on skanky underwear or I would be sure to be the first victim!!! Because everyone knows the first victim in any horror b-movie is always the pretty girl in the good undies! Any minute now someone is going to say - 'Don't look behind you!' Poor Janet Leigh!

Of course this entry is sheer procrastination - as my draft is sitting, covered in red ink marks, awaiting me to commit my edits to type! 
And what am I doing? 
Yes that's right I am here - talking to myself!

Of course, this blog provides me with a great opportunity to get my mind ticking over the unsurmountable perfectly conquerable problems that lay ahead of me today. To sort out the creative flow, and prepare myself for the arduous task of editing!

Taking the metaphor a little further ...

Perhaps it is my thesis that is the villain of this particular scenario ... ever lurking, waiting to pounce on me the minute my guard is lowered. Ready to consume me from the soul outwards... devouring my hot fevered mind, until I am nothing but a babbling shell, stuck repeating the phrase 'Rebecca West WAS a Vorticist' ... until my tongue swells and rots out of my mouth - at which point I will be left with blank vacant hollowed out eyes, silently mouthing the same phrase, in a grotesque manner ... suffering the same fate as Prometheus's liver!

OK so that may seem like the most unworkable metaphor ever - A Hitchcockian Heroine cast as an extra in the Homeric Odyssey. But bear with me ...  If we think of this metaphor in terms of me as Prometheus and my supervisor as the Eagle and my thesis as the liver, then this metaphor works surprisingly well. I present up my liver to the Eagle, she pecks at it until it resembles coarse pate (Ardennes of course) and I then crawl away to slowly regenerate it only for the cycle to be repeated ad infinitum...

Anyone know what happened to poor Prometheus - did he ever find any peace?

On a lighter note I must get back to regenerating my theoretical live - aka my thesis!
'Borrowed' from: 'Welcome to the Miserable World of Prometheus'

Monday, 23 August 2010

Life Interruptions...

...are never ending.
I am pulling out my hair with them all! Last Friday it was my daughter and her 'sore tummy' which remarkably turned out to be nothing judging by the very speedy recovery she made (she was scoffing sweets by 415!) and today it is the trials and tribulations of a teenage boy in his final year at school.
He wants to do - wait for this ground breaking revelations -NOTHING! Yes that's right during a conversation about his courses (the timetable's been altered yet again!) and what courses he wants to do next year, I frustratedly shouted 'You can't spend the rest of your life doing nothing!' to which the reply was 'I wish I could!'

How do you counter that? How do you instill a work ethic into someone? Do you do it by example? Was spending the largest portion of the last decade in full time study insufficient? Is the fact his father spends most of his life working not enough to show him how it's done? Or has all this excess of work ethic and ambition done the opposite and turned him off the thought of doing anything with his time? Does he look at us and think - sod that? Far too much effort?

I could relate to the idea of him being fed up of school, study and education and wanting to do something completely different to experience the world - but doing nothing is not an option. Even my socialist principles balk at the thought of society paying for lazy kids to sit and do nothing!
He is currently frustrating all of the people who care about him and want him to work out a how to obtain a decent, enjoyable life for himself. All we want is for him to have choices! And he is fighting us every inch of the way! He also seems to think that when he has a free period at school he can come home? This is not acceptable given my hours of peace and quiet at home are my work hours and it is hard enough when I have absolute solitude - him appearing at odd hours during the day is just not an option.

My to do list is growing, my patience is thinning and my ideas are bogged down in the here and now mundanity of constant interruptions! I need an Island somewhere - Isolated - to write! It seems a 'room of one's own' is never truly one's own when you have kids to consider!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Mamma Mia...

No I am not referring to the hit West End musical, nor the song by Abba! I am merely refraining from swearing!


Positive reinforcement for a bad day!

Nobody said it was going to be easy and I am not the first woman and mother to be faced with this challenge, but juggling the demands of a home life and children, especially as a single parent, with graduate study is the most challenging thing I have ever done.

I have negotiated the summer holidays by basically ignoring my work. The futility of sitting down whilst you have two adolescents lounging around the place, bickering, playing loud music, watching TV in a room adjacent to my study, was simply too much. So I threw up my hands and said 'fuck it! (yes academics do swear, often repeatedly and loudly!) They go back mid August so I shall merely knuckle down then and I can get what needs doing by the new semester done ready to move on to the next phase in October.

A good plan you may think? When the tide is pulling you in one direction why fight it - go with it and once it has calmed begin your journey once more.

So they went back Wednesday - I've had a full two days to sort out my office, my paper work, finish my reading and finally, today, to sit down and begin thinking again!

TWO HOURS! TWO MEASLY STINKING HOURS! Was all I was allowed before the shriek of the telephone interrupted my quite productive morning to inform me that my daughter needed collecting from school.

"The reason?" you ask. Broken limb? Vomiting? Diarrhoea? Fighting? Fits? Death? ... something serious surely, I mean the school doesn't phone you for without a good reason do they? I mean that is why they ask for 'emergency contact details' isn't it? Because they will only contact you in case of an emergency.

You would think so wouldn't you.

But no - apparently a 'sore tummy' is now sufficient reason to phone a parent, disrupt their working day, and demand, not ask, that you come IMMEDIATELY to collect your child, who is showing no symptoms other than she says SHE HAS A SORE TUMMY!!

I despair! When I was in school (cue music for a Monty Python sketch) your head had to be hanging off before they would send for a parent to collect you. I can only recall one time my mother came to fetch me and that was the day I ended up in hospital having my appendix removed! Now THAT was a sore tummy!!!

So of course as a dutiful parent I go and I collect said daughter from school and as I thought there is pretty much nothing wrong with her. A dose of aspirin and a bacon sandwich and she is back where she belongs - IN SCHOOL!!!

There will be some who read this and judge me, think I am harsh, unfeeling ... and yes sometimes I am all of these things, especially when a child who merely has had enough of school for the day decides to pull a sicky!

(Please be assured I checked her out, asked all the relevant questions about how her day had been, had anyone upset her, where was the pain etc etc etc)

But the consequence of all this is that now I am utterly discombobulated! My ideas which felt so solid and assured this morning in the tranquility of my empty home, seem wishywashy and unsubstantial now they have faced the challenge of being interruption!

I am not alone though! I googled 'motherhood and academia' and found that Berkley have a Parenting Network which has a lot of practical questions and experiences - though it is typically American and in someway this isn't really applicable to the British system.

I also discovered mamaphd, which made me feel nauseous as soon as the page loaded because it has kids' building bricks as its logo - please! I ask you! But I try to never allow my own 'issues' with the over-sentimentalisation of parenthood stand in the way of good advice, and it does look like a good enough resource to bookmark! There is also a facebook page, which may be useful although in the instances of most parenting forums and advice columns designed for women the advice tends to fluctuate between the saccharine and the downright condescending! I have also through the power that is the all knowing GoogleGod - found a blog called Dr. Write ( which initially made me smile for its punning with the sanitary towel brand Dr. White - whether it be intentional or not it was funny), which I am now following - not only as a reader but as an example!

What had started as a productive and writerly day has turned into well - a blip! I will forge ahead and try and regain some of the composure that I started out with and even if it turns out two hours is all I manage - then that is two more hours than yesterday!

Perhaps tomorrow I shall push the boat out and go for three!  Ah SHIT! It's the weekend!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Then the desire to accomplish something written swoops down...

... as Elizabeth Smart recorded in her journal entries for 1932.

Elizabeth Smart
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Cried.
I am not familiar with Smart's writing nor of her long term relationship with the poet George Barker (another new name to store in my literary index, another set of books to add to my Amazon wish list) but when reading about her I am drawn to her anxiety as a writer, it reads as something familiar, like my skin has been ripped open and my inner self revealed. Her words echo phrases and sentiments that I have often recorded in my own journals; they are my anxieties, my fears, my doubts about my own ability. Yet said so much more eloquently, with such poetry.

I often sit trying to find the words to say what I need to say, both in my private writings and in my academic ones and I am flabbergasted by my own ineptitude; my lack of vocabulary.  I am stunted compared to the likes of Mansfield, Woolf, West and Smart. And yet ironically I often find that their writing speaks to me in my own intuitive language and sometimes (when I am at my most delusional it has to be said) I wonder, maybe, just maybe I can write something like them. Something lasting and worthwhile, something that has integrity, meaning and above all truth. Something that speaks to another in our own language.

BUT - I have a thesis to write, ideas to formulate and a career to forge - I cannot afford to allow this self doubt cripple me. I have to merely 'get on with it' -  As Smart records - "Oh I need something but I don't know what it is ... I am cheating myself. I am not being myself ... All this pretending to get at the core. This must happen. It CAN. It WILL" [emphasis my own]

Now that the summer months are closing down and getting ready to greet the autumn, the children have returned to their routines of school and homework, perhaps I can begin to create some kind of routine (though I loathe that word and I am not good at sticking to any routines, even those I impose on myself).  It's a slow start. Reading is always good to get the inspiration flowing and the ideas percolating.

Then the desire to accomplish something written swoops down, with an even worse churning, and different yearnings all straining to begin, and remorse at beginning twenty and having done nothing.

The desire is strong but there are forms to be completed, formalities to be concluded and rewrites and new writes to be tackled.

Book Review

Currently reading (nearly finished) Lesley McDowell's 'Between the Sheets': The Literary Liaisons of Nine Twentieth Century Women Writers. It has been an interesting reading experience that has been blighted to a degree by the recurring typographical errors, such as misplaced commas, reversed letters, misspellings, grammatical faux pas. If I were Dr McDowell I would be having a word with my Editor as this has to be the worst proofreading I have seen in a published book for many years! There is also some sloppy research. McDowell claims that The English Review collapsed in 1910 after only a two year print run under the editorial hand of Ford Hermann Hueffer (later Ford Madox Ford) when in fact the journal continued to be published until 1920, under Austin Harrison's editorship - arguably the journal was never quite as radical as it had been under Hueffer, but nevertheless it didn't stop in 1910 when he left.  A full print run of ER as well as other  journals can be found at the Modernist Journals Project webpages where a comprehensive digital archive of little magazines, both American and British, is being compiled. 
It isn't as well written as I would have liked, given the subject matter and the author, who holds a Ph.D and of whom I would have expected slightly more competent prose. But it is a useful book that has introduced me to some new writers and facts that I was unaware of - though the slip up regarding the ER would possibly make me check her research, rather than rely on it. I am reading it mainly for the chapter on West which was useful for my research, but didn't give me anything 'new'. Arguably this book's originality lies in its compilation rather than its content. Much of the details are already common currency when talking about these women writer's. McDowell is attempting to reverse public opinion of these women as victims of male literary ego; the argument that their romantic/sexual literary couplings with prominent male authors was somehow empowering rather than damaging, is a little thin in places. Most of these relationships ended badly and involved a great deal of physical or mental suffering. McDowell would have us believe that despite this, their writing was somehow enhanced by the women's associations with literary men - as if their suffering was almost necessary to the creative process, and that the writing would never have achieved such heights without it... which I find to be quite a reductive and frankly dangerous message to peddle to young women artists. I would recommend this book, but would not recommend you take it too seriously, which is a shame and a disappointment for me as I had high hopes when I bought it.