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2004-10-12 - 8:33 a.m.

On Sunday evening, I sat down to write an entry and send off e-mails to Newgyptian and Tina Sparkle, when it occurred to me that I hadn't looked at the schedule of classes for next semester.

Now, I did have a preliminary list that had been given to me at the beginning of the year, and oh did I love looking at this list. Every time I thought about how much fun I wasn't having this year focusing on theory and on readings in Middle English, I looked at next year's list. There they were, the courses listed so simply, and yet so elegantly on the page: "20th Century Poetry," "William Faulkner, "Bollywood and National Identity," and the loveliest of them all, "Creative Writing: Fiction" taught by none other than Bharati Mukherjee. There have been so many moments this semester when I've been ready to throw my Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism out the window and hop on the next flight back to Austin, and I've comforted myself with the thought of spending a semester on Eliot and Stevens and Plath, or on "As I Lay Dying" and "The Sound and the Fury," or strolling home from class with songs from Lagaan stuck in my head. I knew that I'd have to narrow that list down to two, and, if anything, to pick only one and instead fulfill one of my requirements with the Romanticism or the Defoe course. However, no matter what, I'd lie, cheat, steal, or kill to get into that creative writing class. I only write well with deadlines, when it comes to fiction (I was going to say that I have no pretensions as to writing well compared to the general public, but then I took a look at myself, raised a disbelieving eyebrow, and admitted to myself that I have pretensions in shitloads). This time I was going to get my writing on track, and have an extremely cool author there to demand the best of me.

So, as I was writing to Tina and telling her how I was looking forward to next semester, I realized that I might just be jinxing myself. I headed over to the English department website and checked out the schedule.

The Bollywood class and the Faulkner class, the two that would be most useful to my areas of interest (Indian Lit and 20th Century Fiction), conflicted. And creative writing? Not being taught by Mukherjee. Being taught by some joker I never heard of named Farber, who I am sure is a great guy, but who is not the person I'd been pinning so many hopes on since orientation. Let me tell you, I was on the verge of tears. I had planned to get work done that evening, but I couldn't even send off my e-mails to Newgyptian and Tina, let alone write what was going to be a very fun entry on my desire to burst into Lerner and Loewe showtunes in the middle of the library. I just went home, got into bed, comforted myself with some Terry Pratchett, and went to sleep.

The next day, I was no longer tearful, just pissed off. I was pissed off when I got my coffee. I was pissed off when I got my new course reader. I was pissed off when I read the New Critics, but that probably would have happened anyway (I actually agree with a lot of what they say, but they're so damn smug about it). I was so pissed off that the fury seeped down past the whiny spoiled brat that I am 96% of the time and reacted with the civil rights activist DNA that I got from my mom. I decided to do something about it, in that rather than just bitching to my fellow students, I would bitch to the head of the department.

Lady Victoria, my intro lit teacher, is the department chair in these parts. After much preliminary bitching during lunch, I went to go talk to her, ostensibly to figure out which courses would fulfill which requirements (seeing as our requirements are organized by centuries, and some authors and movements straddle the centuries). I wasn't a spitting cauldron of rage, but I did ask what went in to the choosing and scheduling of classes, and how student input was taken into account. She pointed me in the direction of the English Graduate Association, which, as it happens, was having a meeting yesterday afternoon. She also said that she hoped the first years would take initiative where the EGA was concerned. I assured her that I could be just as opinionated outside of class as within. She believed me.

So four of us first years wound up at the EGA meeting. This, apparently, is considered a great turnout. There were also a couple of second years alongside the current committee members. Now, I had met the current chair a couple of hours before when she came up to me and asked me if I did karaoke. Apparently, I have a doppelganger somewhere in San Francisco who absolutely loves karaoke. This is very disturbing, and may necessitate me finding, killing, and eating him. I can't have other selves running around without my permission.

Anyhoodle, the meeting began with an explanation of what the EGA is and what it does. It is responsible for many victories in the past, including making the grad student lounge all snazzy and creating an admitted students weekend. They also explained that the department is like that guy from Memento, in that it forgets things very quickly. On the one hand, this means that, if grad students don't stay involved, they can lose a lot of what they've gained. On the other, it means that the department can forget that they've already said no to something, and they even forget that things like the grad lounge and the admit weekend were EGA projects at all, meaning that these wonderful things are taken care of and funded by the department itself rather than the students (well, the students still plan a lot of the visit weekend, but they don't have to fund it).

The conversation eventually turned to the fact that there are a number of committees that have no peeps. The chair, in fact, said that she could use someone to help her out and start learning all the mechanisms of being chair and doing all the crap that's involved. And I? Volunteered.

So, I'm sorta-pseudo-quasi-interim-co-chair-in-training-but-not-really. And I'm DRUNK WITH POWER!!!

Actually, I'm wondering how the Hell I'm going to accomplish fuck all when I have umpteen things to do this week and, rather than doing them, I'm writing this diary entry.

Last week, when Molly Ivins came, they honored as "Young Activist of the Year" the mayor of a town in New York. He was 27, and after two failed bids he won on the Green Party ticket. He also got enough of his friends to run to get a majority on the city council. Last year, he granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples and was prosecuted for it. He said that the real way to affect change in this country is not to vote. It's to run for office.

I think that's true. It's certainly worked well for the Republicans. If I had any ability or desire, I would run. I encourage anyone out there to run for office.

As for me, I have no office. I'm not even anything on the EGA board, just the person who's going to do shit with the chair. But the shit I'm going to do is not just going to be planning parties. I intend to start kicking some professors' asses until they start teaching classes. I didn't come to Berkeley to settle for my second choices.

So watch out, Mukherjee et al. You're going to be in the classroom before I'm out of it if it kills me. Well, if it kills that karaoke singing guy.

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The End - 2005-02-11
Let's Go on With the Show - 2005-01-30
The Curse, and This Bee's a Keeper - 2005-02-01
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