Tuesday, August 26, 2008

When does 'dressing the part' become simply 'dressing'?

Classes start next week which means I've started my annual August ritual: staring into my closet wondering, "What am I going to wear when I teach?" Before anyone thinks that this really should be the least of my worries right now, let me point out that I've been working at my computer for the last three weeks, pretty much straight, stressing about getting my classes put together, so taking a break to stare at my closet isn't me being shallow, it's me trying to avoid carpal tunnel and the need for bifocals!

Actually, I hadn't really started thinking about my wardrobe until I saw a post on Stepcase Lifehack about work and style that is part of their summer giveaway. Part of the reason it caught my attention is that this IS something I think about every year. I've always 'dressed up' to teach; of course, in academia, 'dressing up' could mean simply not wearing a tee-shirt and flip flops, but for me, it usually means wearing nice pants or maybe a skirt, shoes with at least a little bit of heel, and a tailored sweater or top. I'm a Banana Republic/Ann Taylor kind of girl anyway, so it's not like this is a big stretch, but given my druthers, I'd still rather wear jeans or capris.

However, by some point in the semester, 'nice pants' does usually mellow out to include my dark jeans (note to any guys who are confused reading this: dark jeans are still dressier than regular jeans), and I get a little less anal about what I wear. What I've realized is that each year, that point - the point where I decide it's OK for me to dress a little less nicely - gets earlier and earlier. And this year, I'm not really sure that I even care. That's not saying that I intend to go to class next week in shorts and a tank top. But the main reason I've always dressed up to teach is that I think it helps me to establish my position of 'authority'. That is, since I look younger than I am, I've always worried about students not taking me seriously as a professor, and dressing up is one way I can make it clear that I am not 'one of them'. But as I get older, I seem to be worrying less about that. Duh, you're thinking, that only makes sense, since as I get older, I must look older so there's less to worry about. But I think it's more that as I get older, I am more confident and more comfortable being a professor. I feel less need to 'dress the part' because it's no longer a 'part' I'm playing, it's simply who I am. The upshot is that what I wear isn't about looking older or more authoritative, it's about looking like the competent professional that I am. Who happens to wear a lot of Banana Republic...

Related posts:
When do you become middle-aged?
Managing social media and multiple personalities

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Hirabayashi lie

I'm going to depart from the usual content of this blog to comment on something that is extremely important to me. In my profile description over there in the right-hand sidebar, I mention that I am 4th-generation Japanese-American, or yonsei. That means my great-grandparents came to the U.S. from Japan (in the JA community, 1st-generation, or Issei, refers to the generation that come over, not the first born here). For those who can do the math, my grandparents were born well before World War II and yes, my family went through the internment (and if you don't know much about the internment, I've written a short summary here). I've often thought that the ironic absurdity of the internment is exemplified in the fact that my mother was born in Mississippi, where my grandfather was doing his Army training. When he went off to fight with the 442nd in Europe, my grandmother went back into camp, since she didn't really have anywhere else to go. It's simply beyond comprehension that there were men fighting and dying for a country that was essentially treating their families like prisoners.

Of course, there are many things about the Japanese American internment that are appalling but yesterday I read something that reinforced just what a shameful period that was. Eric Muller has written a paper about Hirabayashi v. United States, a key case in which the Supreme Court basically said that the racially-based curfew imposed on Japanese Americans was allowable because of the severity of the threat of an invasion of the West Coast. Muller presents new evidence that the government lawyers lied to make their case. I'll let the abstract speak for itself:
While the government's submissions in Hirabayashi maintained that the curfew was a constitutional response to the serious threat of a Japanese invasion of the West Coast, new archival findings make clear that military officials foresaw no Japanese invasion and were planning for no such thing at the time they ordered mass action against Japanese Americans. Even more disturbingly, the archival record demonstrates that at the time that Justice Department lawyers filed their brief in Hirabayashi emphasizing a threatened invasion, they knew this emphasis was false.

The Article seeks to understand what might have led otherwise ethical Justice Department lawyers to present such a big and consequential lie, suggesting that the then-prevalent racial schema of the "Oriental" as an invading horde may have overpowered the lawyers' evaluation of the facts. And perhaps more importantly, the Article demonstrates that the Hirabayashi decision - which has never been repudiated in the way that the more famous Korematsu decision has been, and which remains a potent precedent for race-conscious national security measures - deserves to be installed in the Supreme Court's Hall of Shame, alongside Korematsu, Dred Scott, and the Court's other biggest mistakes.

There are many who want to believe that the internment was somehow justified, that the government must have had some reason to believe that the Japanese American community posed a threat to national security. But there is simply no evidence that that was the case; on the contrary, the only people who spied for Japan during the War were all white, there wasn't a single incident of sabotage perpetrated by Japanese Americans, and the 442nd, comprised entirely of Japanese Americans, is one of the most decorated military units in history. For reasons that should be obvious, I think it is particularly crucial that we keep this history in mind today...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Anti-Procrastinator

I have an odd problem: I refuse to procrastinate. OK, I realize that to most people, that doesn't sound like a problem, but let me explain... I am probably one of the only people who made it through four years of college and almost five years of graduate school without ever pulling an all-nighter. The closest I came was the night before my senior econometrics project was due when I went to bed at 3am and got up at 6am (so I did learn what people mean when they say that at a certain point, it's just better to stay up!). Ironically, the night before I was supposed to leave Madison to drive to San Diego, I stayed up all night to pack up my apartment (which I hadn't done because I was trying to get my dissertation turned in), but I feel like that doesn't count because it wasn't work-related and if my boyfriend weren't driving, I could have chosen to just leave a day later. But I digress...

The reason I've never had to pull an all-nighter is because I have a HUGE aversion to doing things at the last minute - for reasons I can't explain, it just stresses me out more than pretty much anything. As you might imagine, I've developed some pretty good time management skills, which is one reason why being an academic works so well for me. But lately, I've been wondering whether my obsession with not doing things at the last minute actually reduces my stress - I suspect it may just move the stress forward in time. For example, classes start in three weeks, right after Labor Day. Given what I need to get done, this should be plenty of time, especially since I know that I don't have to (and even shouldn't) have every single lecture planned out precisely (and really, given that I have my syllabus done and the first couple lectures nailed down, I could pretty much spend the next three weeks at the beach and the world would still not fall apart). And yet, I've been sitting here at the computer for four days straight now (yes, that would mean the weekend), and not sleeping all that well, going over and over my To Do lists, bizarrely worried that I'm going to run out of time.

I know this is partly because I'm basically prepping two new classes but it's also just what I do. I guess the upside is that chances are good that I probably will get everything done that I need to do with time to spare, and then I'll be able to truly enjoy those last few days of summer. And of course, I'm still managing to find some time to blog so I guess I can't be that stressed...

Friday, August 8, 2008

Friday fun

I don't like clogging up people's in-boxes with random things I just happen to find funny but that's the beauty of a blog - I can post them here instead (hmmm, maybe I need to make my dad set up a blog...). Anyway, here are some things that made me laugh this week:

Garfield minus Garfield - the creator of this site describes it as "...dedicated to removing Garfield from the Garfield comic strips in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle. It is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb." Some of the best bits are in this RWW blog post that led me to the site in the first place.

Paris hits back - never thought I'd ever write this sentence but Paris Hilton is hilarious in this!

And finally, during the So You Think You Can Dance finale (yay for Joshua winning!), Fox aired a commercial for a new game show called Hole in the Wall (I can't find a clip of the Fox commercial but the linked YouTube clip is from the Australian version).

Happy Friday!