09 June 2006

file under misdirection, various guises of

guise the first:

angry black bitch has an awesome post up today that says in part:

"What if…oh, maybe a bitch had better stop…fuck it…

What if finding a cure for breast cancer was as crucial an issue as keeping some folks from getting hitched?

Oh no she didn’t!"

[pointless tangent: if a feral hat were here now, i would say something like "damn straight!" and then la's robot voice would chime in with "correct." and then there'd be a very slight pause before al asked, "is this the future?"]

oh, but she totally did, and so will i, and not only because i am hopping, spitting mad at the republican machine right now. i'll start with the being mad stuff, though. first thing: WHAT IS THIS 49-48 BULLSHIT?!? breast cancer is on abb's mind just now, but i can also think of about a trillion and one other things that i'd rather the senate be doing with its time. like clubbing baby seals.

i do not intend to claim that this is news, or that this represents some watershed moment in the conduct of american politics. i've been writing about misdirection for at least as long as george bush has been screaming, stuttering and smirking about this thing called the "war on terruh." but abb's piece this morning really touched a nerve for me. i've been trying to deal with my (monopolistic university-administered) HMO through some briefly scary (eek!), then merely annoying (woo hoo!), health issues, and it's been awful. how awful must it be for people whose problems are actually scary, and whose docs nevertheless refuse to (or cannot due to time constraints; there's an observational equivalence problem there) explain what the fuck is going on? how much worse must it be for folks without health insurance who don't have the money to find out whether their problems are scary or merely annoying in the first place?

...and so on. point being, i hope that there comes a day when "christian" conservative elites in this country repent of the fact that they've sacrificed queer folks directly, and many, many others indirectly (think: poor folks, sick folks, folks who gotta get to work at $3.00 a gallon 'cause there's no public transportation, kids trying to get an education, so on. i won't even mention women. oh wait, i just did.) in order to get and maintain power. i am still waiting for the data that say homosexuality is a greater threat to This Great Nation than localized endemic poverty. also still waiting for the copy of the Bible in which jesus finally makes it clear that it's more important for His disciples to punish sodomy than to feed the poor, house the homeless and care for the sick.

of course, while i wait, large chunks of the american population are being successfully misdirected. is it because they're dumb? (at this point, i refuse to rule such a thing out.) or is it because The Gays seem solvable while big questions like how-to-provide-health-care are confusing? cognitively, i guess it's a lot easier to hate on the sodomites than to endure your Hillary Clinton Flow Chart flashbacks. come to think of it, this is a pretty standard finding in american politics research: elites aren't going to waste their time actually solving problems when the solutions are incremental, complicated, and costly. given the choice, they're going to publicly denounce the loving relationships of my friends instead, because that is discrete, costless, and direct.

guise the second:

how 'bout those big fucking framed photos of deader-than-dead zarqawi? that shit is beyond fortuitous. the iraq war, it has always seemed to me, evolved as a highly sophisticated misdirection strategy. unfortunately, while the misdirection was highly sophisticated, the actual war was not, and now we need occasional misdirection from the misdirection. thus, when we finally kill this one evil dude, we get to see large colorful demonstrations of his deadness, and we get to hear about how this is a big victory, and we get to ignore even more successfully the tens of thousands of non-evil iraqis who have also died in the last three years and change. does this mean somebody's gonna win this conflict now?

guise the third, in which i tell you something you don't already know:

i think i might be moving to the left coast for a while come january. the last week has been an exercise in joyful confusion as i contemplate a really awesome offer from my really awesome advisor: go get trained in some quantitative techniques that are really important to one of my two possible dissertation topics. go get my hands on some data that are not only important but probably vital to this same topic. go have the opportunity to co-author pieces with great people. basically, get my dissertation started early and get the cash required to do so.

HOWEVER. there is this other dissertation topic, the one that i had been mostly contemplating for the last several months as the data i needed to move further on topic-the-first had been largely un-forthcoming. the other topic places me in a different subfield, sets me up for different sorts of jobs, almost completely changes the makeup of my committee, requires a very different set of technical skills. the two are nearly as mutually exclusive as it's possible for two topics to be. and now, well, now i need to decide quickly. i was telling la (who was, yay!, briefly in town this week) that this is a boring week, an average week, a week full of rain and domestic tranquility and reading and no obvious turmoil, and that it is the week that will likely determine the shape of my life for a pretty long time to come.

this third guise comes in the form of "what am i going to do about housing?" and "where will my cats live?" and "what about my teaching requirement?" and various other burning questions that should be completely insubstantial. the real question is really: which topic? but even "which topic?" has more and less important sub-questions. currently my "dimensions to consider" list includes

Interest Level
Primary Advisor/s
Time to Finish
Job Prospects
Subfield Placement
Possible Second Projects

...and so on. everyone is pretty sure that "interest level" should be the overriding consideration, but i'm having a very very hard time separating that from everything else. to me it makes sense that there is no independent, separable concept of "interest." i am *interested* in writing a good dissertation that will help me get a good job. i am *interested* in having solid, friendly, hands-on advising. so on and so forth. aside from putting the logistical cart before the which-coast horse, i'm finding plentiful room for misdirection in the list of actually-pertinent variables above. i need to make meta-decisions (decide on a decision rule) right quick, but most of the advice i've gotten is pretty squarely in the mushiness-prone "follow your heart" camp. arrrgh.

yesterday a realtor told me that i should pay attention to my stomach. if it feels bad i've made the wrong decision. a friend suggested that i consider which decision i am at peace with, but i'm not sure i have a working operational definition of being at peace these days. plus, i'd probably go for peace to church which, given the nature of the debate, definitely represents an unfair advantage for a particular path. it truly does put me in mind of the news: since i can't decide how to go about choosing a course, or which course will actually be best, i find myself extremely susceptible to simple, overstated pieces of advice.

please, somebody: give me a piece of simple, overstated advice.