Labor Day in B & W

September 6, 2010

Thought I’d get out into the community this weekend.

Went to one event – mostly all white people. Went to another one- all black people. yup.

Other scenes from Memphis this weekend:

Piccadilly Cafeteria right after church time- Sunday, August 5, 2010


CTScan Academia

August 25, 2010

More adventures of a detour from big city life:

I entered a program of higher learning partly due to the fact that my program seemed to have a large population of women in the faculty and with students.  I was encouraged by this. I brought plants and a book for these women I was to meet who were to guide me on my journey of the mind.

It turns out my dealing with four female instructors/staff members turned out to be not what I expected. Keep in mind these four have never really left the ivory towers.

Contrast this to my classmate S.L. and I who are both in our early thirties and spent our twenties getting out there and living life. S.L. has been experiencing  similar problems in the department. She’s a funky gal with tattoos and short hair who doesn’t shop at Anne Taylor or Talbots. I, too, have short hair and I do not dress remarkably femininely. People in Memphis like to stare at two short haired gals dining together in s restaurant at night.  S.L.’s mom wants to put in a call to the department.

My first lady advisor pressured me to sign up for classes she’s teaching. I asked for clarification on having  to take 9 “required classes”. Even when I agreed to take her class for fall, she still wouldn’t meet me for further advisement or clear me to register during the course of the last month.  Classes begin this week and I still don’t have a complete schedule.

I had never heard of these requirements when I applied and couldn’t find evidence of them on the program’s web page or in any student handbooks.

The second woman told me in an email that if I didn’t sign up as they said, I would not pass my comprehensive exams (that happen at the end of 45 all but dissertation credits). She said to not listen to the other students who did pass theirs and never took them. When I asked for help from this woman via email at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon, not expecting a response right away, I got one. It said, “I need some downtime.”

This second woman told us a story during orientation about how she forgot to send in one student’s paperwork to the dean’s office and this student was almost not permitted to graduate on time due to the department’s error. This same second woman during orientation said that in her job she had to sink or swim and that she was “getting a little wet”. In the next sentence she said things had to be done “quickie”, then changed that to quickly after she thought about it for a second.

Now for the third woman. This woman wrote me an email a few days before classes were to start to tell me that I would be now teaching three classes. This email is entitled “changes to your contract work”.  I was expected to teach these classes despite the fact that faculty text books were not available for them and still are not.  I told this third woman that the first two wanted me to take a class that conflicted with this new teaching schedule- since these things were to occur during the same time slots. She said I’d better not take this class so I could “fulfill my contract”.  The department is short staffed and would need to clone me in order for me to do what these three women have decided I need to do in order not fail my comps and not be in breach of contract.

Keep in mind this department is the Communication Department.

I went to see the interim chair of this department. She told me I’d better get over it and teach these classes, despite my contract saying I needed 18 graduate hours that I don’t have in order to teach, as layed out by the regional accreditation board.

I asked for help from outside of the department. Upon being told to help me, this interim chair made me come back to her office for two hours of being yelled at.  When I came to this meeting, I shut the door behind me. The interim chair told me to leave it open as faculty and students walked around outside. Her new office is next to the department’s admin assistants and staff mailboxes.

This session with the interim chair included asking me repeatedly how old I am and comments like : if you mother’s so anxious about your schedule, your mother should come to school. When I said I respect my mother’s wishes because I owe her a lot and what she had to go through to bring me here from Vietnam for a better life, this interim chair said when she was 23 years old, she had to teach Vietnam vets how to speak again. I’m not sure what she was getting at here.

To round things up, the interim chair also told me to not talk to any students or ask for outside help again- that I was to only talk to her.

Very interesting. Who knew that someone who got a grant for a project called ‘We the People’ was into information control. Does this remind you of other forms of government that are not democratic?

This fourth woman then strongly encouraged me to withdraw from the program, after knowing that I spent a great deal of effort and money to move my entire life from cross country to go to school.

In a newbie academic’s estimation, it appears that women in this department aren’t really into helping younger women. In the mental Olympics, everyone wants the gold. It would seem like there are the academic Tanya Hardings out there. Why one cannot just glide with the wind in their hair and fresh thoughts on their mind still remains a mystery here in Memphis town.

Note: Beginning to see why universities are also called institutions. Lots of mental stuff goes on at this institution.

To all you academic Tanya Hardings, yes- everyone does want to sparkle, but sometimes being ice queen isn’t the best title.

Guess what? I’m staying and due to the intervention of someone called a Vice Chair, I’m getting reassigned to do work other than teach three classes my first semester. Never mind, the vice chair joined in on the bullying and forgot about the new job assignment. Turned into a wrongful termination, then reinstatement + extra discrimination and bullying so I leave “voluntarily”.

Forthcoming fiction: The Bitches of East Memphis, scarier than The Witches of Eastwick

Being a fan of Jim Jarmusch movies, I somehow got the romantic notion it would be “neat” to live in Memphis, Tennessee, ala his film ‘Mystery Train’. Memphis, home of good bbq, Elvis, Americana, what’s not to like, right?

Well- bugs: loud cicadas, mosquitos (unless you live in the rich zip codes that get sprayed – with no blood suckers even if there’s a huge swamp in the middle of your hood- ie. Chickasaw Gardens), fleas, bed bugs. Since Memphis is 99.9% super Christian, ala the Babble Belt, I think it’s best if they found out the plagues are upon them- lice (fleas/bed bugs), frogs (keep seeing them everywhere)- now I just need to borrow some of that red food coloring from the red velvet cakes to put in the river and we’re all set…

Did I mention there are bible verses running on the red digital display at the gas station? at the dry cleaners?

Did I mention that East Buntyn, the neighborhood is named after a slave trader who was upset that he lost The Civil War? and there’s a statue of Nathan Forrest, who helped start the KKK in the park over here in Memphis? Did I mention that public money goes to rich white people parks and public schools while the inner city kids get no grass and really bad schools?

The other reason I came here is because I got a full ride for a PhD program in Rhetoric & Communication at The University of Memphis. Here I am a week before school starts, having never taught during my master’s, and they want me to teach 3 sections of 25 kids each. They also want me to teach the stand alone class during a time slot in which they are trying to force me to take a particular class that no one wants to take. Therefore, there is a communication problem in this Communication department.

Three people from the same family from said university wrote a book that costs 90.00 each. The book is required for a class that is required of every single undergraduate that goes to said university.  Said university offers 40 sections of said required class per semester. PhD students are required to teach these sections. Start doing some math. “Non-profit” academia is not what I thought it would be.

The only consolation has been hiding out in a huge apartment with huge windows, after a narrow escape from renting a house where the landlord made racial comments, insulted my mother’s health problems and wouldn’t compensate for the mold, lead paint, and vermin that were our roommates. Don’t worry, we shelled out for a lawyer.

Being a Tarheel, I thought, how different could Western Tennessee be? Well, it’s very different from Eastern Tennessee (Nashville & Knoxville)- where people make fun of their counterparts next to the Mississippi.

So, kids, think twice before you watch indie movies and think it’s ok to live in certain parts of the South.

The train screams like a cat being fried alive and honks like a half dead goose loudly from anywhere in this small town, no matter what neighborhood you can afford.

Memphis makes you feel all ooey-gooey, not in a good way.

Met a man on Beale Street- he said, “Where ya from?”.

I says, “LA.”.

He says, “Lower Alabama?”.

I shoulda gone to NO-LA. People understand me there.

Kevin MacDonald and Ridley Scott came up with a project for us all to do called -Life in a Day-

They chose the day to be yesterday- July 24, 2010.

Here’s what we shot around where we live: