Going to Chicago for MLA! – A hypothetical budget

Good news! I am a hypothetical job candidate and I just got word of my first hypothetical MLA interview today on December 24th.  They’ve asked me to come on January 11th.

I live in Washington DC, attend one of the consortium schools, and make around $10-14,000 a year as a graduate assistant after taxes. I also have significant student loans, and have spent some money to travel to see my family.

I do not have a car, and pay around $750 in rent in the two bedroom apartment I share with my hypothetical roommate. Since this is the first notice I’ve received for an MLA interview, I’ll go ahead and make reservations and keep my fingers crossed that I’ll get a few more. I don’t have any hypothetical friends in Chicago, at least well enough to call and ask for a free hypothetical place to stay. The good news is that I live in a major city with two major airports, and I’m flying into another major city that isn’t unreasonably far away. Therefore, I’m in a good position overall, and my hypothetical budget is going to be on the cheaper end.

First I need to join MLA and pay for the conference.

joinmla

conferencerate

Not bad; I’m thankful I can pay the graduate rate. Next I need to get a flight.

dctochicagoprices

Much as I’d like to take a non-stop flight, I don’t want to be rolling into Chicago around 10 pm. Also, getting to Dulles (IAD) is expensive and difficult because it’s not metro-accessible. So, I’m going to Reagan at 1:30. Need to pick a return flight and here’s the damage:

prices3

Now I need a hotel room. If I want to stay at one of the conference hotels, here’s what I’m looking at:

rooms4

rooms

And here’s what happens when I do Expedia for hotels on the Magnificent Mile:

expediarooms

I can keep looking around, but I’m just going to assume that I can get a room for around 91 dollars a night after taxes. I’d love to stay at the hotel where the conference meets, but every cent matters, and likely one of these cheaper hotels will allow me free internet and perhaps a free continental breakfast. So while the conference rate will be cheaper than the prices listed above for the Sheraton and the Marriott, I’m going to choose to stay in one of the two star hotels that are (hopefully) conveniently located and are (certainly) cheaper.

To get to my hotel from the airport, I’ll need to take a shuttle, which I assume will be cheaper than a cab.

vanservices

I’ll give myself a budget of fifty dollars total for meals, and I’ll need about six dollars to travel to and from the airport on the Metro. Here’s how much I will (optimistically) be spending for the trip:

totalcosts

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I’ve presented this without qualification or commentary, but I do hope this puts things into something of a financial perspective for both potential job-seekers and those who are looking to hire them. Also, we should be aware that some students are given a stipend for travel expenses related to job interviews, but often that money is limited.

I present this as something of an ideal situation for the moment: that is, I’ve found out about two weeks ahead of time, and I’m flying from a major city to another major city close-by.  And yet, I realize this budget may be hopelessly naive – but keep in mind the graduate students who are just finding out about MLA interviews today. Or next week.

I welcome feedback from all participants in this process – those who are attending MLA as candidates and potential employers, and for alternate possibilities.

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This Song is Actually About Video Games

Full disclosure: for the last few months, I’ve been obsessed with Lana Del Rey’s song “Video Games.” I probably haven’t disclosed this because it’s a weird thing for a thirty-six year old man to listen to while jogging. And while “Video Games” fits my jogging playlist standards for inclusion (matches my breathing rhythms, rises to a crescendo after moments of repetition), I think my weird preoccupation with the song is based on a misinterpretation.

Because I’ve been meaning to write about the way song is the most damning critique of pre-and-post millennial hipster masculinity that I’ve heard at least since people started using the word “hipster” to describe people who know the names of all the members of Animal Collective. I based this reading primarily on the first verse:

I’m in his favorite sun dress
Watchin’ me get undressed
Take that body downtown
I say youre the bestest
Lean in for a big kiss
Put his favorite perfume on
Go play your video game

Now, perhaps it’s because I’d never actually looked at the lyrics before, and because I was usually jogging across a busy street when listening to it, but I assumed the lyrics were describing something different than those lyrics suggest: Lana is dressed for romance, while her dude just wants to play video games – a conflict that the rest of the song (I thought) plays out. Combined with Lana’s persona – a torch singer who would have been iconoclastic in the 1970s (her entire image construction seems impossible without the pre-existence of Joan from Mad Men), I assumed the song was laying into all the dudes drinking PBR and sitting on a bean bag chair and playing A Boy and his Blob as Lana Del Rey is wearing their favorite sundress. Lana is so hopelessly in love that she’ll reinvent herself again (I heard that you like the bad girls, honey / Is that true?), while some Dmitri Martin look-alike wanders around virtually to find out if there’s a way to get out of the dungeon without using the wizard key. Women continue to be awesome, while men have been increasingly ineffectual and detached. I thought that sentiment, savage yet exact, made the song damningly relevant.

But that doesn’t seem to be what’s going on here. It seems like Lana actually wants to play video games with her amour.  That’s her idea of a romantic evening, and it’s why she puts on a sundress. Or it’s a euphemism for sex, which is stupid. The consistent refrain doesn’t make sense in any other context, unless it’s ironic, and there’s nothing about the way Lana sings the song to suggest that. For instance:

He holds me in his big arms
Drunk and I am seein’ stars
This is all I think of
Watchin’ all our friends fall
In and out of Old Paul’s[?]
This is my idea of fun
Playin’ video games

In other words, Lana and her hunk snuggle up together and play ICE CLIMBER. That’s the romantic bliss the song is describing.

This blogger seems to affirm my reading, even though it has a different, empowering interpretation. She thinks it’s about a woman participating in a gendered setting, while I now assume it’s just a way of making the torch song culturally relevant. She says, “Despite all her lyrics about sundresses, perfume, and big kisses, ‘Video Games’ is mostly about playing video games” when I thought it was about sundresses, perfume, and big kisses and  heavily flannelled hippie-johnnies who would rather play video games.

When Lana Del Rey was widely mocked for her performance on Saturday Night Live, I assumed it was because this degree of anti-charisma combined with celebrity ambition was never going to work in this cultural moment. She wasn’t the kind of icon anyone was asking for, and that therefore she (and whoever else talked Lorne Michaels into putting her on) had made a huge miscalculation. But now I’m just baffled. Lana continues to be reasonably popular while remaining mostly out of the Top 10 List on Youtube. There’s room for her, in other words, but not at the top. But perhaps confusion – about what she’s trying to be and what her songs mean – is the most appropriate way to approach her. And I guess that’s why she remains on my jogging playlist.

(The video, by the way, explains nothing. Except that, like Lana Del Rey, it exists uncomfortably in the present and the past).